A Chat with Becky Campbell from Double Jeopardy by Donna Schlacter

It’s nice to meet you, Becky. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I am determined to be the success my father always wanted to be.

 I’m so sorry to hear you lost your father, but I hear he’s left you behind with a ramshackle homestead and a silver mine? How’s that going for you?

 Who knew that mining could be such hard work? I hired a local rancher and a couple of laborers to help with the heavy lifting, but those men can be so pigheaded sometimes. Especially that Zeke Graumann.

Have you learned anything about your father’s murder? Are you going to try and solve it?

I know that the sheriff isn’t looking very hard, so it’s up to me. I mean, leaving him lying there dead like so much trash is hard to accept.

How has the adjustment been to living in mining territory compared to living in New York City?

 Ah, New York City. I surely do miss the Big Apple. The theaters. The shopping. The parties. Oh, and my mother, too. Yes, it’s been an adjustment. At home, I didn’t have to lift a finger. Mother paid for whatever I wanted. Here, I have to work really hard just to make a few cents, let alone dollars. But there is a rugged beauty here that I find makes me long to stay here. To settle down. To call something my own.

 Have the people been very friendly?

 Absolutely. Almost right away, I met Polly, who works in the mercantile. She can’t read or write, and I’m going to teach her. My landlady, Mrs. Hicks, was very kind to me. Mr. and Mrs. Dixon at the mercantile are a sweet couple. And apart from two drunks who almost accosted me the first day I arrived, people have been nice.

 What about your foreman, Zeke Graumann? How do you to get along?

 “Get along” is the right phrase. If I didn’t need his help, I’d tell him to get along. Seems no matter what I say, he says the opposite. He has ideas about what a woman should do and shouldn’t do, and no matter how hard I try, I’m always in the ‘shouldn’t do’ camp. Then again, he is easy on the eyes, as Polly says.

 Do you think you’ll keep him on? Why or why not?

 Since I hired him, I’ve managed to pay all the bills and put aside a few cents each week. Before that, I was losing money every week. He’s increased production, keeps the laborers in line, and doesn’t quite eat me out of house and home. Will I keep him on? Hmmm. Did I mention he’s easy on the eyes?

 What do you think the future holds for you?

 The future? If that includes the next two weeks or so, I’m pretty certain I can keep my head above water. Beyond that, I don’t know. The laborers—and Zeke—complain constantly about my cooking. There’ve been all these accidents that don’t quite feel like accidents, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure I trust Zeke or the laborers, but if they aren’t trying to drive me out of business, I don’t know who is.

Thank you for spending time with us, Becky. I hope things work out for you!

About the Author:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Meet Tessa from Laura Frantz’s An Uncommon Woman

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today, Miss Tessa Swan. 

Much obliged. Pardon me as I trade my soiled apron for a clean cambric one. My flyaway hair and untied bonnet strings shall stay. 

Tell us something about your family? What’s it like living with five brothers?

Squirrely! Especially when you’re fifth in the family and the only girl. Let’s see, there’s Jasper, the eldest and the most hog-headed. Then there’s Lemuel, Zadock, Cyrus… And Ross, the baby, only he’s bigger than me now. I’m most partial to Ross given I helped raise him. Of all my brothers, Ross keeps his face to the sun. Always sees the bright side. He’s most like Pa, you see. Only Pa was felled by Indians awhile back. 

I heard tell of one Swan who’s been called a fearsome wrinkle of a woman in homespun. Who might that be? 

That would be Aunt Hester. She’d as soon spit at than speak to you. She fancies herself the spinster queen of Fort Tygart, if for no other reason than she’s likely the oldest woman in the territory. And surely the meanest. I say all this without rancor as I do love her, ornery as she is. 

Is there anything special about your name? 

Tessa? It sounds right pretty, some say, with Swan attached. ‘Twas my granny’s name. She hailed from Scotland. Our family Bible penned it Teresa but somehow it got shortened to Tessa. I like my name. The French and Indian War hero, Clayton Tygart, remarked on it, too, when we first met. He called it uncommon. In a territory of so many Janes and Marthas and Anns I’ll keep it, thank you. 

What do you like most about where you live?

Aside from it being uncommon dangerous, you mean? I liken western Virginia to the Garden of Eden after the fall, breathtakingly beautiful but spoiled by the serpent, by so many hardships and trials. The Buckhannon is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. Actually, it’s the only river I’ve ever seen. I’d like to remedy that.

I hear a lament in your voice. Would you like to live somewhere else?

I’ve heard tell of overmountain places like Philadelphia. Williamsburg. Where folks don’t have to watch their backs or fear for their very lives. I’d like to know what’s it like for a body to rest easy, to look in shop windows and partake of a meal they didn’t have to cook in an ordinary or sit in what’s called a pew in a church with a big bell that rings you right in. One day, maybe…

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find a man who is brave yet loves books. Most men I know can’t read nor write. I do both but have never met a man who manages both, too, except for the fort’s storekeeper, old as yesterday’s breeches. 

What are you most afraid of?

Being taken captive by Indians like my beloved childhood friend, Keturah Braam. We were out picking strawberries when she vanished, quick as a blink. I recall it clear as yesterday though more than a dozen years have passed since. She was my bosom friend. Nobody’s come close since. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Mighty kind of you. Thank you!

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Frontiersman’s DaughterCourting Morrow LittleThe Colonel’s Lady,The Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. Learn more at http://www.laurafrantz.net.

A Behind The Scenes Chat With Geoffrey Hagan of Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine

Mr. Hagan, those of here at Novel Pastimes are curious to know how a farmer in the 1920s survived the farm crisis that began in that decade and how the Great Depression later on affected your everyday life.

Well, truth is, the Depression had already hit folks like myself whose livelihood depended on crops. You see, an economic downturn happened in the rural south long before the Stock Market Crash in ’29, and it stemmed from the military’s need for high production during World War l. Those demands drove the market supply up, and that in turn caused prices to go up. But I have to say this: a lot of factors in addition to the economic depression tended to trigger rural communities to pull us together when we suffered. Take for instance the fire that broke out on my farm: neighbors came from all around to help. We connected as a community in the same way we did during the crisis that began in the 1920s. Families helped each other, and during harvest: the same thing. We’d give each other food. We helped each other with repair work. It’s the American way. I hope that will always be the case, that we pull together for each other, stand united. We have ourselves a mighty fine country, worth fighting for—dying for if it comes to that.

You have the one son, Simon, that we’re particularly interested in. He must have been a big help during those difficult times.

Ah, yes, you’re speaking of my eldest, but just for the record: I have eight sons and three daughters. I’m mighty proud of Simon, though, for following his dream as he did. Makes me smile to talk about him—flamboyant young man, tall, good looking. Yessiree, and a hard worker, too, but he wasn’t a farmer. Simon was a dreamer. He experienced an awful tragedy when he was seventeen, and circumstances turned him in a new direction. Odd as it seems, he might not otherwise have gone after his dream.

Sometimes it takes hard times to turn us around. And sometimes it takes a higher power.

That new direction must have taken Simon to Flagstaff. Tell us about the significance of his going out there. Did he have something specific to do, someplace that called him? 

Oh, indeed, he did have something that called him, but not so fast, my friend. When Simon left Elkton, he was bent on going to the big city of Detroit to find meaning for himself—struck out on his own at eighteen years old. He possessed foundational strength when he left here. Turns out, he needed it to survive.

Detroit offered a high life, alright, but life can throw us curveballs, can’t it? He started with a factory job at the Ford Motor Company and went from there to combatting the Mafia at the height of the Roaring Twenties, to falling in love with an unlikely soul. Prejudice, prohibition—all of that pretty well defines the Era of the Roaring Twenties, and it’s a far cry from the quiet life he knew here in Elkton. He experienced it all until Albuquerque, New Mexico became another chapter in his life. Not too far from there is Flagstaff, and Flagstaff held some very real dreams for Simon.

Was there someone who influenced his choice to go to Detroit?

You bet there was! Senator Maxwell. He’s a decent sort of fella—puffed a lot of hot air—but Simon sure looked up to him. I’d be safe in saying it was Senator Robert Maxwell alone who dangled the big city in front of my son’s eyes.

Simon wasn’t the only son of mine to leave Elkton, though. Alan—my spunky redhead with all the spitfire to go with it—that one sure looked up to his big brother. Alan made some bad decisions. California bound, he was, with an obsession, and obsessions have a cruel way of looking good before they suck you in. Nothing wrong with ambition as long as you don’t exchange ambitions for obsessions.

Might just add that Simon took on the world when he went up there to Detroit. If you want the whole story, you’ll see where Flagstaff and Albuquerque had very different reasons for calling two of my sons to the southwest. I gave ‘em roots, but I gave ’em the freedom to find their own way, too.

It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Hagan. Sounds like you’ve handed down quite a legacy.

 

Annette Valentine is an inspirational storyteller with a flair for the unexpected. By age eleven, she knew that writing was an integral part of her creative nature. Annette graduated with distinction from Purdue and founded an interior design firm which spanned a 34-year career in Lafayette, Indiana and Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette has used her 18-year affiliation with Toastmasters International to prepare her for her position with the Speakers’ Bureau for End Slavery Tennessee and is an advocate for victims and survivors of human trafficking and is the volunteer group leader for Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette writes through the varied lens of colorful personal experience and the absorbing reality of humanity’s search for meaning. Mother to one son and daughter, and a grandparent of six amazing kids, Annette now lives in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and their 5-year-old Boxer. To learn more about Annette’s life and work, please visit https://annettehvalentine.com

Meet Geoffrey Hunter from Rosemary Simpson’s Death Brings a Shadow

Geoffrey, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  I am glad I could catch up with you as you travel with Prudence MacKenzie from New York City to the Georgia coast. You must have many mixed feelings since you are originally from the South and saw how the Civil War devastated the area.  But, Prudence, your partner in the Investigative firm has tried to keep you on level ground.   Unfortunately, once the murder took place feelings began to unravel, especially with the death of the bride to be.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Geoffrey Hunter: Physically I’m tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed. My brief career as a Pinkerton sent me into dangerous situations and I learned early that in order to extricate myself I needed to be in the best physical shape possible. I took up amateur boxing and I’m an expert rider, dating back to when I was put on horseback as a child. We were also taught how to move silently, how to hide in a crowd, and how to disguise ourselves. I’m a gentleman.

EC: How has your Southern background influenced who you are today?

GH: It’s both who I am and who I am not. I have found it difficult to condemn everything Southern, as some would like me do, because I cannot entirely renounce family ties. But at the same time, I condemn a way of life that depended on the enslavement of an entire people based solely on the color of their skin. Slavery was wrong, no matter how hard or how often our Southern preachers tried to justify it. 

EC:  Do you ever feel conflicted between loyalties to your family, your culture, and the wrongness of certain customs?

GH: All the time. The only way I can deal with these loyalties is to compartmentalize them. In my heart and in my thoughts, I separate my family from the culture in which most of my relatives still live. I have to see them as individuals, not as representatives of a way of life I have renounced. Distance makes that easier. I have no wish to spend time in the South and my family has no desire to travel north.

EC: How would you describe Prudence?

GH: She is the most intelligent woman I’ve ever met, and certainly among the most challenging. I think she tries to be as honest and open as her upbringing will allow. She has a warm, generous heart and a terrible addiction she has to battle every day of her life. She’s also very beautiful.

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Prudence?

GH: I don’t know the exact moment when I fell in love with her, but I do know that what I feel is deep, sincere, and will endure for the rest of our lives. But Prudence is like a skittish horse who has to be won over without breaking its spirit. I dare not make demands on her that she cannot meet or that frighten her with their intensity. I proceed as slowly as I can bear. I respect her immensely.

EC:  Why did you choose Prudence as a partner in an investigative firm?

GH: I think we chose one another. Circumstance brought us together, chemistry binds us. On the practical side, having her as my partner means I have good excuses to be by her side for as many hours of the day as I can manage.

EC: Do you think the Bennetts who were the groom’s family, represent the best and the worst of the Southern culture?

GH: They may have some of the best and some of the worst characteristics, but taken all together I find them rather typical of their class. There was really almost nothing about them that surprised me.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aurora Lee and Maggie Jane, the sisters of the unfortunate groom-to-be, represent a certain type of woman who was found everywhere in the South for as far back as I can remember. These women play games in order to fulfill the only destiny they deem worthy of them—to marry well. They have little or no interest in anything else and if they do not marry, they consider themselves failures. So does everyone else.

The father, Elijah Bennett lives in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. His entire life was defined by a war his side lost. He doesn’t accept defeat but he also doesn’t know how to live in a new era without slaves and inherited wealth.

The groom-to-be, Teddy, and his brother, Lawrence, are two sides of a coin, the one epitomizing acceptance of change and generosity of spirit, the other a younger version of their father.

EC: You were the second for a duel-don’t you think that is an archaic tradition?

GH: Archaic only because it is against the law to duel. But it was once the only way a gentleman could preserve his honor in a dispute or after an insult had been dealt him. When I was growing up, it was made clear to me that every gentleman had to be prepared to defend his good name and reputation. Even though dueling may not have been as common then as it once was, it was nevertheless held up as the ultimate test of courage. So when Teddy decided it was the only way to resolve the wrong of Eleanor’s death, it seemed utterly right and fitting that he should choose to do it through a duel. Perhaps that’s difficult for you to understand, but it was so ingrained in me that I never doubted it was the right thing to do.

EC: Did you ever know someone like Aunt Jessa or Queen Lula?

GH: Mama Flore was our home plantation’s voodoo woman. I grew up around her incantations and I believed in them. Nobody dared challenge her powers.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aunt Jessa and Queen Lula were spirit sisters. Their main purpose in life was to link the world of the dead and the world of the living. They believed utterly that some people could cross back and forth between the two worlds, and that their curses, juju dolls, and spells were what made those passages possible.

EC: How would you describe Wildacre and did it bring back memories?

GH: Wildacre was very like my home plantation of Sandyhill in eastern North Carolina, in that it was the beating heart of a miniature society. Large, isolated, requiring the upkeep of at least a dozen house slaves. By the time Prudence and I went to Bradford Island, Wildacre was showing the effects of years of declining fortunes and neglect, but seeing it as it was then made it easy to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. Whitewashed brick, tall pillars, acres of green grass, a long alleyway of soaring trees. And the screech of peacocks. I’ll always associate that noise with how we used to live in the South.

EC: How would you compare New York where you currently live to the South?

GH: There is no comparison. It’s a different world entirely. One in which I now feel completely comfortable. It’s only if I meet a fellow Southerner and slip accidentally into the accent of where I was born that I am momentarily jarred into nostalgia.

EC: If you could make a wish what would it be?

GH: To live the rest of my life with Prudence beside me as my wife.

EC: Do you still have hopes and dreams or do you consider yourself a cynic?

GH: Cynicism is just another word that tries to justify giving up. Not working for constructive change because you doubt it’s possible or lasting. I’m not a cynic. I’m not a pessimist. As a Pinkerton, I saw some of the worst in humankind. Choosing the life of a lawyer and private inquiry agent also brings me into close contact with the criminal element. I knew that when I chose it. I still have confidence that most men and women strive to be something better. 

THANK YOU!!

The fourth Gilded Age Mystery, “Death Brings a Shadow,” was published in November 2019, and the fifth book in the series will be out in late 2020. Rosemary is also the author of two stand-alone historical novels, “The Seven Hills of Paradise” and “Dreams and Shadows.”.”


She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

Book Review: Sara’s Surprise by Susan G. Mathis

About Sara’s Surprise:

Sara O’Neill, works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare.Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?

My Review

A Sweet Holiday Romance Novella

Sara’s Surprise is a sweet romance which will capture readers with its lovable characters. Tenacious and kind, Sara O’Neill desires to become an independent and a successful pastry chef. She doesn’t expect the obstacles set in her way by her demanding and sought after boss, but new friends support her in her endeavors. Feisty little Madison Graham, who needs a mother, charms Sara. And Madison’s dad, Sean Graham, is the kind of man who is worthy of her regard. Their story, set during America’s Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands, will warm your heart this winter. A fun Christmas-time read, so snuggle down in a chair by the fireplace, sip a cup of hot cocoa, and enjoy!

 

Book Review: Forever, Lately by Linore Rose Burkard

About Forever, Lately::

1816, England
Julian St. John needs a wife. An oath to a deceased guardian must be kept. Miss Clarissa Andrews, a vexatious beauty, has dangled after him all season but he has no intention of choosing such a she-devil.

Maine, Present Day
Author Claire Channing is desperate to write a bestseller to save her failing career. She moves into her grandmotherʼs abandoned cottage to write the book, but a local resort baron wants to raze the place. Without the deed, the clock is ticking on how long she can stay. She thinks she’s writing St. Johnʼs story. But when she discovers an old prayer shawl and finds herself in his Regency world, she falls in love with him, a man she thought she invented! Miss Andrews, however, is also real—and she’d rather see Julian dead than in another womanʼs arms!  Claire must beat the clock to prevent a deadly tragedy, but can love beat the limits of time itself?

My Review:

A wonderful romp through the world of the Regency England through the eyes of a modern-day woman. Truly fun time travel by supernatural means rather than a time machine. The romance is poignant and sweet with both the hero and the heroine having to make tough choices. Julian St. John and Claire Channing seem to be meant for each other. The only thing that separates them is time! Author Linore Rose Burchard adds clever plot twists and dialog. It’s the kind of book worth reading a second time. I truly enjoyed it. Highly recommend!

Getting to Know Captain Ben Coleridge from Regina Scott’s A Distance Too Grand

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! It’s a pleasure to meet the man who will be the first to survey the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. How did you manage that assignment?

I’m proud to be a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, ma’am.

So that means you must be a graduate of West Point. What class?

The class of 1866. Since then I’ve completed surveys in the field, helping Wheeler out west, and then worked on monuments in our nation’s capital.

From the Wild West to Washington D.C. Which did you like better?

The frontier, hands down. I couldn’t wait to get back into the field. Although this wasn’t exactly the assignment I had been hoping for.

Oh? Why do you say that?

For one thing, my father the Colonel disappeared in that area two months ago, and no one knows what happened to him. For another, the moment I arrived at Fort Wilverton to meet my team, I discovered Meg Pero was going to be my photographer.

A lady photographer? I didn’t know the Army allowed such things.

Normally we wouldn’t, but there’s another lady along, our cook and the wife of our cartographer. And Meg’s good at what she does. I’ll give her that. But she was the last person I wanted along on this expedition. We’re running late in the season, it’s critical our survey align with another going on down in the canyon proper, and it may be dangerous. No reason to bring along the woman I once thought I was going to marry.

Did you just say you were going to marry Meg Pero?

I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor, ma’am.

You mentioned danger. What concerns you about the North Rim?

It’s said to be a most stunning display of natural beauty, but we’ll be facing wildly fluctuating temperatures, scant water, predators like mountain lion, vermin like rattlesnake.  We might meet flashfloods, wildfire, and lightning storms. Meg would be safer heading back east.

So, are you going to turn her away?

No. I can’t leave without a photographer, and she’s the only one available. Like it or not, I have to take her with us. 

What did she say when you told her?

She just smiled in that way she has and claimed her photographer father had always said nature would kill him if man didn’t do it first. 

“I’m not afraid, Ben,” she told me. “This is a grand adventure. Think of the vistas we could capture.”

All I could think about was how easily she could recapture my heart.

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.

Yes, ma’am, and I better get to it. You’ll be able to learn how Meg and I, and the survey, came out in A Distance Too Grand, by Regina Scott.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Regina Scott is the author of more than 45 works of warm, witty historical romance. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the prestigious RT Books Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma, Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier.

A Chat with Ruby Weaver from The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

Gideon Fischer’s only desire is to get his family far away from the disastrous effects of the Civil War, find a peaceful place to live, and mourn the death of his wife. However, he has grown to enjoy Ruby’s company and appreciates her help with the housework and the children. But is she the right person to spend the rest of his life with? 

Ruby Weaver is content being single in her 1863 conservative Amish community. However, Ruby’s ailing friend Lovinia has other ideas. Lovinia makes her husband, Gideon, promise to marry Ruby and has Ruby make a similar promise. With both Ruby and Gideon reluctant to keep their promises, a compromise must be reached. Ruby agrees to be a housekeeper and nanny to the children. Unfortunately, this arrangement raises eyebrows in the community. It soon becomes clear that Ruby must make a decision—marry Gideon or break her promise to her friend. Will Ruby accept Gideon’s proposal or turn her back on the family she has grown to love?

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Help us get to know you – What do people notice about you when they first meet you?

It has to be my red hair. Not just red, but wiry and curly. It never lies flat and never does what I want it to. Especially on humid days! Most Amish women have straight brown hair that lies smoothly under their kapps. My hair is always in my way.

What would someone notice about you after they learn to know you?

That I’m not the typical Amish woman. I don’t like to do quiet things like quilting or sewing. I’d rather be working outside. I like the open sky, and the wind blowing, and the smells of the earth. I enjoy spending a day in the woods hunting for a bee tree or an evening watching the stars come out.

Tell us about your family and where you live.

I don’t think my family is anything special. After all, we’re much like the other families in our community. My grandparents settled along Weaver’s Creek here in Holmes County, Ohio in the early 1800’s. They were the first Amish settlers here. I remember Grossmutti’s stories of bears and other wild animals in the forest, but now, sixty years later, this is a peaceful and settled area.

In my family I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and three sisters. Two of my sisters are married and live away in Berlin Township. My younger sister is my best friend. We’re having fun keeping house together while her husband is away fighting in the War Between the States.

You said your sister is your best friend. Who are your other friends?

I didn’t have any other close friends until recently. The girls I grew up with have all married and are busy with their husbands and children. Since I don’t plan to marry, we have even less in common than we did when we were growing up.

But when Gideon and Lovinia Fischer came to Weaver’s Creek, I found a kindred spirit in Lovinia. I long for the day when she finally recovers from her illness and we can do more than sit in her sickroom and visit. She is a true friend and I love her dearly.

You made an interesting comment earlier, that you don’t plan to marry. I thought all Amish girls wanted to get married.

That’s probably true. Every girl I know wants to marry and have a family. But in my experience, most men – except for my Datt and my brothers, and maybe Lovinia’s husband Gideon – are selfish pigs who only think about themselves. I had a bad experience with a boy when I was younger, and then I see my sister Elizabeth’s unhappy marriage. I’m not going to take a chance on any man when things can turn out so badly. 

There I go, being too outspoken. It’s a good thing I don’t plan to marry because I can’t think of any man who would put up with my temper and my opinions. Mamm says that both of those things go with my red hair!

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

I would be careful to think before I speak. Mamm is so wise and good. Everyone comes to her for advice and help. I’ve never heard her say anything unkind and she is always patient, even when Salome Beiler is visiting.

There I go again! I should never have said that about Salome, and yet I can’t seem to stop myself. Forget I said anything, please.

But back to your question, if I could change anything about myself, I would want to be more like my mother. She is as strong-willed and opinionated as I am, but she tempers it with a gentle spirit. I can’t seem to learn to do that.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

Even though I say I will never marry, I would marry the right man if I could find him. All I want is to meet a man who will love me for who I am and not try to change me. Is that too much to ask? 

What are you most afraid of?

I did something very stupid when I was younger, and because of me, Elizabeth married the wrong man. I didn’t realize how much influence my actions and my words would have on her. My greatest fear is that another younger girl would follow my stupid, sinful life. I don’t fit in with the others at church, and that’s all right. I’m used to it. But I fear that someday one of my nieces or another girl will think that kicking the goads is a good thing to do. I fear that I will unknowingly influence one of those girls to be like me.

What do you think your future holds?

I hope I will spend the rest of my life surrounded by my family and friends. I would like to watch Lovinia’s children grow, and to reach the end of my days being useful to them and to my nieces and nephews.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author The Sound of Distant ThunderHannah’s ChoiceMattie’s Pledge (a 2017 Holt Medallion finalist), and Naomi’s Hope, as well as several Love Inspiredhistorical novels.

An Interview with Etta Collier of Mail-Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer

Nice to meet you, Etta. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I desperately wanted children and long wondered why the Lord didn’t share that blessing with my husband and me. After a while, I stopped begging and simply accepted the situation for what it was. Yet later, I realized how difficult it would have been to provide for even one child once I was on my own.

What did you like about your job as a dressmaker?

I loved the smiles of women and girls when they tried on what I crafted for them and I saw that oh-I-feel-beautiful look in their eyes. That’s how I knew I’d given them exactly what they wanted.

That is a special talent, Etta. That must have given you much satisfaction!

I hear you were recently widowed. I’m so sorry for your loss. What were your greatest fears when you found yourself alone?

Many fears run through a woman’s mind when she finds herself suddenly alone. Not that loneliness hadn’t been creeping into my heart with William’s distractedness over his debts and failures at erasing them. But when one’s husband is shot in a brawl it is somehow a more devastating loss than an illness or accident. It is more of a theft. A blatant robbery of one’s hopes and dreams. Add to that the inappropriate advances of the banker who held the note on our home, and I wasn’t quite sure which I feared more—the man’s insinuations of how I could pay that debt off or the temptation to lace his tea with strychnine the next time he darkened my door.

What an awful situation to be in! I heard you received a letter from a little girl, Gracie, who wanted you to be a mail-order bride for her widowed father. It’s kind of a crazy idea. How did you feel about it before you left?

You are right. It was absolutely a crazy idea. Crazier still when my own pastor suggested I be the one to answer the child’s letter. However, I was about to lose my home because my dress-making was not earning any more than what it took to keep body and soul together. If I answered Gracie’s letter, I could relocate away from the repugnant banker, find at least a temporary home, make a fresh start, and help ease a little girl’s loneliness. With my agreement to merely visit the family I was free to leave if her father were a rogue or ruffian. If not, well, that was a chance I was willing to take.

 What do you think of Sheriff Bern Stidham since you’ve met him?

The man has the most unusual gray-blue eyes—oh, pardon me, you didn’t ask about his appearance.  Well, he is all man. What I mean is, um, he does the best he can where keeping house is concerned. I’ve never seen such dust. But he loves Gracie more than life. He cares also for the townspeople, some of whom attend Sunday morning where he fills in as interim pastor for a small congregation. I enjoy his sermons, for he makes God sound approachable. Reachable. And, well, if I were quite honest, I can see myself as more than just his cook and housekeeper and Gracie’s nanny. I can see … Ah, dreams again. One must not get ahead of one’s self in that matter.

 Do you think there is a future for the three of you as a family?

 I truly hope so, but I’ve not been completely open with Bern about my past—fairly fleeing from Independence, leaving my home behind, and defaulting on my debts. I should have told him at the very beginning of our arrangement. But I’ve learned that should have doesn’t do anyone any good at all. I’m afraid I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Gracie—the little girl I always wanted. And, well, her handsome father is so strong yet gentle. At times stern and ill-tempered, but always kind. Yes, I admit, my dreams are spinning in a family direction.

Then I wish you the best of luck, Etta! Sounds like it would be the right fit for all three of you.

About the author:

Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she writes romance for those who enjoy a Western tale with a rugged hero, both historical and contemporary. She holds the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, teaches writing workshops, and plays the keyboard on her church worship team. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing, she’s wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with Davalynn athttps://davalynnspencer.com. and at Facebook, Twitter,and Pinterest.

A Chat with Clarissa Kliest from Denise Weimer’s The Witness Tress

Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother.

Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets.

Novel PASTimes: It’s autumn 1805, and the fields are lined with corn and dotted with pumpkins here at the Springplace Moravian mission in Cherokee Territory, located on the plantation of Chief James Vann. We’re sitting down to tea with Clarissa Vogler Kliest, heroine of The Witness Tree. We’re gratified for this moment to catch up with her, since so much has changed in her life since August. Do you feel comfortable to tell us about what happened in August, Sister Kliest?

Clarissa: Please, call me Clarissa. *nervous giggle* I’m afraid I’m not quite used to my new last name. I’m married, but, well, my husband and I … that is to say, we’re taking our time to get to know each other.

Novel PASTimes: That is because your marriage was an arranged marriage or a marriage of convenience, is that not correct?

Clarissa: We prefer to call it marriage by the lot, but yes. Would you like a ginger cookie? They are delicious with this autumn spice tea, made in the paper-thin Moravian style from the bakery back home in Salem, North Carolina.

Novel PASTimes: They sound wonderful, but I’m most interested in this marriage by the lot. What does that mean?

Clarissa: Well, we Moravians believe that for major church and life decisions, we can seek confirmation of God’s will through the lot. This is based on Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. After we pray for guidance, our church elders will draw a piece of paper out of a bowl or tube. The paper will read either “yes,” “no,” or “wait.”

Novel PASTimes: And that is what happened with your marriage?

Clarissa: Yes. John Kliest was the builder and surveyor for our town of Salem, but he always wanted to work at the Cherokee mission here at Springplace. Our church was founded and expanded from Germany to America with the focus on missions. But the elders said he must have a wife first.

Novel PASTimes: My, that seems unusual to those who are not familiar with Moravians. Did the elders pick you, or did John?

Clarissa: *blushing* John mentioned my name as a possibility. The elders agreed, and then the lot confirmed. You see, before the Revolutionary War, my father shared the Gospel with the Cherokees. He had told me what he knew of their language and customs.

Novel PASTimes: From what I understand, language is an important part of what you are to do here at the mission.

Clarissa: True. I am uniquely qualified because not only am I to help the other brothers and sisters here teach the children of the chiefs, but the church hopes I will be able to record their language. So far, there is no Cherokee alphabet. 

Novel PASTimes: Despite all that, did you have any say at all in marrying John?

Clarissa: Oh, women can refuse the lot, but to do so would be to refuse the will of God. Although, when my choir helper came to tell me of the proposal, I thought it was from John’s younger brother, Daniel.

Novel PASTimes: You had an understanding with Daniel?

Clarissa: *ducking her head* Please forget I mentioned it. We not to have understandings with members of the opposite sex.

Novel PASTimes: As you wish. Do you find that the lot was correct? You are a good match for John?

Clarissa: John and I are … very different. He is not the most expressive person, and he longs for adventure. In fact, I sometimes wonder how long he will be content here at Springplace. The Vann family is mixed-blood, wealthy, and has learned European ways.

Novel PASTimes: And you?

Clarissa: I loved my comfortable life as a teacher in the girls’ boarding school in Salem. I am not a good Moravian. I like beautiful things. Traveling. I must admit, I pictured traveling to Philadelphia, though, not to the frontier. 

Novel PASTimes: Why Philadelphia?

Clarissa: There is a Moravian painter there, a master, who was to have taught me and D—. *shakes her head* I am an artist, you see. I once thought that using my talent was part of God’s plan, but apparently, it was not. Instead, I am here. I must apply myself to my new purpose. And my marriage.

Novel PASTimes: What challenges do you see before you, Clarissa?

Clarissa: Besides Rosina?

Novel PASTimes: Who is Rosina?

Clarissa: *covers mouth* Did I say that aloud? A fellow missionary who came here with us. She is so very … perfect. I am afraid John would like me better if I were more like her. 

Novel PASTimes: I’m sure that isn’t true. You seem like a lovely woman.

Clarissa: Thank you. In all seriousness, we are not sure how the Cherokees will respond to our teaching. And to my assignment of setting down their language. Some are very progressive and embrace European ways, while others feel their society is being corrupted by outside influences. It was not very many years ago that their warriors scalped settlers in the Cherokee-American Wars.

Novel PASTimes: Well, Clarissa, we pray that God will bless your time here in Cherokee Territory and your new marriage as well. We look forward to a report of how it all turns out.

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored over nine novels (including her contemporary story, Fall Flip, new with Candlelight Romance in September 2019!) and a number of novellas. As a managing editor at Smitten Romance, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.