Well Lena, it’s nice to meet you at last! I just have to ask, what book is a comfort read for you? If I remember correctly you don’t have favorites. 😉
That’s true. Books are like flowers–they’re all wonderful in their own sense. But if I were to choose a comfort read, it would be A Little Princess. It was not only the first book I read; it also accompanied me during my time grieving Aunt Melba Lynn’s death.
Oh, that’s so sad and sweet at the same time…losing loved ones is a hard thing to go through. On a happier note, as a horseback librarian, you obviously ride a horse! Do you enjoy the company of Kirby?
I love spending time with Kirby! He’s a horse I can fully trust and rely on. And, he doesn’t ask me questions.
That’s something I like about animals…they just listen and don’t judge 😉 Pastor Stuart seems like a kind, caring minister. What do you think of him? Do you enjoy his preaching?
Pastor Stuart is very kind. Sometimes with his sermons, I wonder if he really does know all about everyone in his congregation. So often it’s just what I need to hear.
Pastors do seem to know all at times! Do you ever see your fellow librarians at church?
Yes; even though I don’t always speak to them, Lilian, Ivory, and Edna Sue all attend church (we only have one church in Willow Hollow).
That’s wonderful! Do you ever bump into them at the library? I know you don’t often talk to strangers, but Who do you think you would get along with the best?
I prefer to be on my own and leave for my route before the others, but there are library meetings and such when we are all together. I probably get along best with Lilian; she’s not as reclusive and opinionated as Edna Sue yet not as bubbly and energetic as Ivory.
They all sound intriguing in their own way! Okay, now a more serious question. Do you ever wish you knew your grandparents?
I sometimes wonder… I wonder if they’re at all like Mom, or if maybe she changed after she left them. But then I think, maybe they are kind of like her. After all, they didn’t want her after she became pregnant. So, maybe it’s just better that I don’t know them and have Homer and Nora as my surrogate grandparents.
Yeah, I can understand that. Homer and Nora! They are such a sweet couple! If you could put them in one of your many favorite books, 😉 which would you put them in?
I think I would put them in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. They seem like they’d fit well in Milton.
Oh, great choice! Now a fun question! What is one book you have heard of but never read?
There is a new publication out there: Nancy Drew. I’m very curious what her story is about.
Oh! I love Nancy Drew! I think you will enjoy them when you get the chance! Lena, thank you so much for chatting with me! I really enjoyed it and I hope you did too! Happy reading and horsebacking!
Thank you. Maybe I’ll see you along my route sometime.
About the Book
Lena Davis is the daughter her mom never wanted.
But she survived. Through stories. Because books didn’t judge. Books weren’t angry she was alive. Books never expected her to be anything but who she was.
As she grows up, her beloved library becomes her true home.
So when the library is designated part of President Roosevelt’s Packhorse Library Project, Lena is determined to get the job of bringing books to highlanders, believing she’ll finally be free of her mom forever.
But earning the trust of highlanders is harder than she imagined, and her passion for books might not be enough to free her from her chains. Readers can get a free short story prequel, “Finding Hope,” by signing up to Amanda’s newsletter: amandatero.com/newsletter
Amanda Tero grew up attending a one room school with her eleven siblings—and loved it! She also fell in love with reading to the point her mom withheld her books to get her to do her chores. That love of reading turned into a love of writing YA fiction. Amanda is a music teacher by day and a literary guide by night, creating stories that whisk readers off to new eras and introduce them to heroic but flawed characters that live out their faith in astonishing ways.
Hi, Destiny. It feels as if I know you personally after all the contact we’ve had for the last three months. Thank you for agreeing to this interview to help promote the book, Caleb’s Destiny.
Destiny: I’m glad to do it.
Let’s get started. Why did you come to the wild west? I mean, you had it nice back in Boston.
Destiny: Why? Ever since I was sent east, I’ve wanted to come back west and find a little boy I knew years ago. He was such a good person who cared for me like no one else ever has. We lost touch, so I figured if we were going to unite, it was going to come from me.
That’s interesting. But why were you sent back east?
Destiny (tears in her eyes): I lost my parents when just a child. The young boy who rescued me—his father couldn’t raise me by himself because his wife was dying. I think he felt helpless in raising a girl child.
That’s so sad, but understandable. I understand you’re engaged. Can you tell me a little bit about your fiance?
Destiny: Hmm. What to tell? We’re not actually engaged, just almost there. He’s very good-looking and well liked in Boston. Many parents there wanted him to notice their daughters. Oh, yes. He’s a minister too. So very proper.
What did your fiancé, excuse me, the man back east think of you traveling west?
Destiny: He really didn’t say much. I know my own mind, so I don’t usually ask for permission. But he didn’t protest too much. (Under tone): It wouldn’t have done any good if he had.
So, do you think you know what you want in a man?
Destiny: Well, I’m not thinking I’ll get married any time soon. I like my freedom too much.
(Smiling)I guess we’ll see how that goes, won’t we? But if you were choosing a man for marriage, what would be the character traits you’d like to see?
Destiny: Since you insist, I would say I like to see a strong man—not just in bodily strength, but in knowing his mind. A man who is also gentle and not afraid of what others think, but will do what he thinks is right. Of course, I’d like him to be handsome, but the other traits are more important.
So, have you met anyone lately that attracts you? That tempts you to open your heart?
Destiny: Maybe. There’s Bert Bottoms who’s handsome and has a very good job as president of the town bank. Then there’s Mr. Michael, who makes me angry, but I know he’s a really good man. And he can be charming if he tries.
You’re saying you have three men to choose from, is that right?
Richard, who is a minister, and loves you, and will probably give you a good and safe life;
Mr. Michael, who makes you angry, but can be charming and you think is a good man.
So who will you choose?
Destiny: Oh, I can’t say. If readers want to know, they’ll have to read my story in Caleb’s Destiny.I think they’ll love it. It’s very romantic, if I do say so myself.
Well, then, if you won’t tell, I want to thank you for sharing just a bit of your life, Destiny. I’ll be sure to encourage everyone to read your story.
Thank you for visiting!
Mr. Michael, Destiny Rose McCulloch, and Hunter have a mysterious history. Why were three fathers, all business partners, murdered under suspicious circumstances while on their quest to find gold? Hunter, who is Mr. Michael’s ranch manager, is determined to find the answers and protect the precocious young lady who he suspects holds a key answer to his questions. Mr. Michael wants only to be left alone to attend to his property, but what can he do when Destiny refuses to leave and captures the heart of everyone of his employees? Destiny almost forgets her quest when she falls in love with Mr. Michael’s ranch and all the people there.And thenMr. Michael is much too alluring to ignore. The preacher man back east where she took her schooling tried to claim her heart, but the longer she stays the less she can remember him. She only came west to find a little boy she knew years ago. A little boy all grown up by now…unless, of course, he’s dead.
Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
I regret taking so long to read a book by Karen Harper. I have no excuse, but I suppose I was hesitant because I thought they were mostly romance and that’s not my usual reading choice. I’m not a huge fan of reading fiction about historical figures either, but there have been exceptions, so why not? I’m not sure why I hadn’t tried, like I said.
I met Karen Harper numerous times at Ohioana Book Festivals and events put on by the Historical Novel Society. We both lived in suburbs surrounding Columbus, Ohio. I had many conversations with her. She recommended one of her older titles to me, and even though I have yet to read that one, I plan to.
When I saw An American Duchess was available on audio at my library, I downloaded it. I remember sitting next to Karen at a panel on historical fiction at Ohioana in 2019. She talked about An American Duchess and lovingly patted the cover as she spoke. I know that feeling. The books you spent so much time on are your babies.
At first I was afraid I was right about the romance focus but I kept reading and as I did I realized a master storyteller was at work. Yes, Consuelo had a head full of romantic dreams and was even a bit shallow. At the start. Things changed for her and she grew stronger and wiser. We get to meet the young Winston Churchill and learn about how aristocracy changed in England before, during, and after WWI and WWII. (Yes, I was on the Downton Abbey bandwagon, so I liked this.)
The suspense as Consuelo and her second husband (no spoiler here as she is a historical public figure) are racing to leave Europe and flee the Nazis added another element to this novel that I didn’t expect.
I am glad I read it. There are many Karen Harper fans out there, but if you were like me and reluctant to try her books, wait no longer. There is a new novel out as well. Sadly, Karen passed away earlier this year. She was battling cancer, but I heard that it was this nasty 2020 virus that cost her her life. She’s left a great body of work written over many years. If you’re a Karen Harper fan, which book is your favorite?
Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
Will you introduce yourself?
Of course, thank you for asking. My names is Agnes Pratt and I am the only school teacher in all of Penance. Teaching has been my life since I left Buffalo, New York, six years ago. I find great satisfaction from working with my school children but there are days when I wish there was more…
Why did you leave Buffalo?
Oh, um…I came here to teach. I wanted a fresh start.
I feel like there’s more to your story than you are sharing. I’ve heard you were well to-do back east. Weren’t there schools there you could have taught at?
You are correct. My family was well to-do and they were so good and kind to me. I love them and miss them dearly. But…well, I couldn’t stay. I have a secret that I can’t share right now and maybe never but it forced me to leave the city, family and man I loved.
His name is James Harris. He was my dearest friend when we were little and then one day we realized we were in love. I don’t want to talk about him. It’s been so long but even now it hurts my heart to think of him and all I left behind. Wondering what might have been is too painful.
Very well, we’ll talk about other things. Do you have friends in Penance?
Yes! I have such dear friends. The children of course but also the townspeople. I have a loud and obnoxious friend named Minnie. She says the most outrageous things but I love her and I know that if I were ever in a pinch she’d be there for me. I have a gentle friend too. Her name is Hannah. She suffered a great loss recently but is still so full of hope. I do wish you could meet her. I think you’d find her as amiable as I do.
Penance is a small town and we’re so isolated in the Black Hills that we’ve all grown close and despite our differences we care for each other.
I know you have a lot to do so I’ll only ask one more question. What are you most afraid of?
That’s a difficult question. When I was young, I would have said I was most afraid of living a life without James but now that is my reality. I’m much braver here in Penance than I was before, perhaps, because I have to be. There are still nights when I find myself afraid that this is all there is. That I’ll never see my family again, that I’ll never have a child of my own or feel the rush of emotion that comes from love.
That’s a silly fear. Forget I said it. I don’t have time for fears or daydreams anymore. My life is full and for that I’m grateful.
I thought we were done but I have one more question. If James were to walk back in your life what would you do?
James…I, well, I would tell him that the same reasons I ran still exist and then I’d lock myself in my room and hide my tears from him. Some things can never be.
Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! I hope you get to be more than just the teacher and that somehow your broken heart can heal.
When Agnes Pratt discovered a shocking secret, she fled her hometown in search of a new life. Now six years later, she has made a predictable life for herself as the lone school teacher in the rugged Dakota Territory town of Penance—one devoid of romance but filled with work and friendship. But when her childhood sweetheart, James, arrives on the scene, her life threatens to be upended by a man who must never know her secret.
James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor with an ulterior motive—to finally get answers from the girl who left him behind. Undeniably still carrying a torch for “Aggie,” James can tell she’s desperate to keep her distance even if he doesn’t know why. Can James convince Aggie that her secret—and her heart—are safe in his hands?
A Life Once Dreamed is a beautiful story of love and healing that affirms that where you come from matters far less than where you are going.
Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs. She started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally, she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing and hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.
I listened to the audiobook and I thought the voices were amazingly good. It reminded me of The Help.
I’ve become a fan of Lisa Wingate’s books, and this one did not disappoint. Moving between time periods to tell the stories of Hannie seeking to reunite with family in 1875 during Reconstruction in the South, and a young woman called Benny in 1987 who takes a teaching job in a poor rural area and struggles to make local history matter to her students. The story was inspired by ads that were placed with the help of a church by former slaves seeking “lost friends.”
The story is expertly woven and engrossing. At times I promise myself I’m not going to read any more stories about slavery and its aftermath, but then I find really good books and I’m always glad I read them. The Book of Lost Friends features compelling characters that I rooted for throughout the story. While there was a plot twist at the end that helped to explain the teacher’s motivations but seemed a bit convenient, it didn’t take anything away from the story that will touch your heart and help drive home the point that we absolutely must learn from history. Highly recommended.
Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Certainly. It’s so nice of you to ask me in to talk about what I’ve been doing in 1933. My name is Piper Danson. I grew up in a nice home in Louisville, Kentucky, where one of my very favorite things to do was go horseback riding with my friend, Jamie. My father is an attorney and my grandfather founded a bank that managed to keep its doors open during the economic crisis after Black Tuesday destroyed so many banks and businesses. I’m happy we are beginning to see signs the country is coming out of the depression thanks to President Roosevelt’s programs to get people back to work. The soup lines in town were terrible to see and some of my dearest friends’ families lost everything in the market crash. That’s one reason I was not very excited about my debutante season and my debut ball in May. It simply seemed wrong to spend so much money on a party I really didn’t want when others were in need, but my mother insisted I had to be a debutante whether I wanted to be or not.
The Depression was a terrible time and we do want to know more about that and about your debutante year. But first, Piper is an unusual name? Is it a family name?
No, I wasn’t named after anybody in my family. When I was younger, I did wish I might have been so I’d have an ordinary name like Sally or Elizabeth. But now, I like having a different sounding name. Especially after I discovered how I came about the name. I was born during a terrible snowstorm. At home, of course, as was the custom when I was born. My father happened to be away on business when I decided to make my appearance a few weeks early. His sister, my aunt Truda, had been standing in for him to make sure my mother had whatever she needed. There were servants to help, but a family member needs to be in attendance too, don’t you think? So, when I was born and turned out not to be the boy my parents had hoped for since they already had one daughter, my mother had no ideas for names. Father said she should have never asked Truda for suggestions. After all, Truda doesn’t exactly have a common name either. Truda claims she had no reason for suggesting Piper and that she was surprised when my mother agreed to the name. Perhaps Mother did think it was a family name. Truda says my mother letting her name me was one of her most precious gifts since Truda has no children of her own.
When I went to the mountains to volunteer with the Frontier Nursing Service, the first thing they did was give me a nickname. I have to admit I was very glad they didn’t choose Pip.
That’s so interesting. It sounds as though you have a special relationship with your aunt Truda? Is that so?
Oh yes. Truda and I have always been close. Some say I’m so much like her that I could be her daughter. My mother is petite and delicate. Truda and I are tall and slender but no one would call us delicate. That’s fine with me. I like being strong enough to handle a horse while not looking like a shrinking violet. Of course, looks can be deceiving when it comes to my mother. While she has always seemed happy as a devoted wife and mother, I found out she was one of the suffragettes who wore white dresses and marched down Louisville’s streets demanding the vote for women. So perhaps I get my independent thinking from both my aunt Truda and my mother.
But you did say it was your mother who insisted you have a debut party, wasn’t it?
Yes. Mother does like to keep up appearances, and Father thought it was a way I could make a proper match. My father had the perfect man, according to him, picked out for me to marry. I thought he might have a stroke when I told him I wanted to do something different before I settled into married life.
I thought most young women loved being debutants. That’s something like being a princess for a season, isn’t it?
I suppose so, although I can’t really answer for other girls. Perhaps if I’d had my debut when I was younger, I would have been more excited about the process. Due to the economic downturn, we thought it best to delay my debutante season. So, I was already twenty when I had my debut, a bit older than most. You’re right about the princess feeling. Debutantes wear elaborate white gowns and are given many bouquets of flowers on their big night. Emily Post has whole sections in her etiquette book of how such parties are supposed to be done along with how a debutante should act and what she should or shouldn’t say. Each girl must have her own special event with all the other debutantes in attendance. A debutante season can be a round of one party or tea after another with all the new dress fittings in between. Some girls do love it all, but I found it tiresome. I’d much rather be riding my horse. Perhaps not everyone is cut out to be a princess.
What can you tell us about the Depression?
I don’t know what exactly caused it. Truda said people were riding too high thinking the good times in the Twenties were going to last forever. Then Black Tuesday hit in 1929. People lost everything. Banks ran out of money. Factories closed. There weren’t any jobs. My best friend’s family lost everything. Their house. Their money. Everything. He even lost his father. A sudden heart attack partly attributed to the stress of the market crash. My family was able to continue with some semblance of the lifestyle we were used to, but many were not as fortunate. I think knowing how so many were suffering may have been the reason I couldn’t embrace the idea of my debutante season. I wanted to do something different. Something more than dancing away the nights while others no longer had any reason to dance. Something that mattered.
You keep mentioning doing something different. So, did you find something different to do rather than go to those debutante parties?
I did. Something very different. My aunt Truda gave a tea for Mary Breckinridge who founded the Frontier Nursing Service in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. I was very impressed with her talk about the nurse midwives who rode up into those hills to help mothers give birth and to do their best to improve the families’ health. Then when she said young women like me often volunteered weeks or even months of their time to take care of the nurses’ horses, run errands or do whatever was needed to give the nurse midwives more time with their patients, I knew that was the something different I wanted to do. I have always loved horses and while I had never had to do much actual work, I was not afraid of getting my hands dirty if it was doing something worthwhile. So, I got on a train and went to Leslie County, Kentucky to volunteer as a courier with the Frontier Nursing Service. Believe me, I found my something different.
What did your parents think about that?
They weren’t happy. Especially my father who thought I was throwing away my chances for a good marriage. Mother, surprisingly enough, seemed to understand and although not happy about me casting aside my debutante season, was very supportive.
Tell us something about the Frontier Nursing Service. It sounds very interesting.
Actually, the Frontier Nursing Service is proof of what one determined woman can accomplish when she has a vision. Mary Breckinridge had that vision of helping mothers and children who lacked access to proper healthcare due to their isolation and poverty. She had seen how nurse midwives served people in France after the Great War in 1918. So she went to England to train as a midwife since there were no midwifery schools in America. Then she talked some of those English midwives into coming to Eastern Kentucky to start her nurse midwifery service in Leslie County, Kentucky. She recruited nurse midwives by promising them a horse, a dog and the opportunity to save children’s lives in a rugged but beautiful area of America. Dedicated women came to the mountains from across the sea to do just that. Mrs. Breckinridge managed to get a hospital built in Hyden, Kentucky.
She was from a socially prominent family and she used those contacts to speak to groups of women who supported her work in the mountains through contributions of money and supplies. I met her at one of those teas. She never asked for money. She merely told about the amazing work of her nurse midwives and how the mountain mothers needed healthcare. The donations came in and young women like me volunteered to be the hands and feet of those nurses. The Frontier Nursing Service has a record of healthy births as good or even better than anywhere in the country. One woman. One vision. Hundreds of healthy babies and mothers.
That is inspiring. I can see you were impressed by Mary Breckinridge and her nurse midwives. But what about you? What happened once you got to the mountains?
I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the things I experienced. Babies being born. Horses needing care. Seeing stars that seemed almost close enough to touch. Hearing whippoorwills and learning mountain trails. Crossing swinging bridges. Getting to know the nurse midwives. Doing things I could have never imagined doing before I volunteered as a courier and some I find hard to believe even now that I did manage to do. Then aunt Truda came to visit and both the man my father wanted me to marry and my old friend, Jamie, followed me to the mountains. Needless to say, things got really interesting then.
It sounds like you had a busy summer.
I had a wonderful summer. An unforgettable experience. If I ever have a daughter, I’m signing her up on the waiting list to be a Frontier Nursing Service courier as soon as she’s born. Working with the midwives in the mountains changed my life and it would surely change hers too. They have a saying at the Frontier Nursing Service that nobody comes there by accident. I think it was no accident that I heard Mrs. Breckinridge speak and then headed to the mountains. The Lord knew I needed this summer.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? What’s next for you?
I have no idea what’s next, but I am so ready for the adventure of life now that I’ve witnessed babies taking their first breaths, explored new places and dared new things. I want to rejoice in the gift of each day and keep looking for that something different to do.
Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!
Thank you for inviting me over. I’m always ready to talk about my Appalachian summer.
After the market crash of 1929 sent the country’s economy into a downward spiral that led to the Great Depression, the last thing Piper Danson wants is to flaunt her family’s fortune while so many suffer. Although she reluctantly agrees to a debut party at her parents’ insistence, she still craves a meaningful life over the emptiness of an advantageous marriage.
When an opportunity to volunteer with the Frontier Nursing Service arises, Piper jumps at the chance. But her spontaneous jaunt turns into something unexpected when she falls in love with more than just the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains.
Romance and adventure are in the Kentucky mountain air as Gabhart weaves a story of a woman yearning for love but caught between two worlds—each promising something different.
Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, TheBeliever, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to Redemption, These Healing Hills, Angel Sister, Love Comes Home, and more. Writing as A. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won Selah Awards for River to Redemption andLove Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills. Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.
My local bookstore recommended this book because I like novels about family legacies. I admit, this book flung me out of my comfort zone. I did not read this book because of what happened to George Floyd and the resulting riots. I had started it long before. It’s a difficult read, especially the chapters on the slave experience, so I read it slowly. It turned out to be a very timely read as it takes readers into the lives of several families and their hardships. For some the struggle was slavery, but for others it was something else. Some struggled against the elements as they eked out a livelihood from the land. Others try to overcome mental issues and the resulting shunning by their community. Some suffer physical abuse. The characters lead tough lives as they cope with the memories of their ancestors. We follow the descendants as some come to America and then struggle because of the color of their skin. This book was published in 2016. What it describes is certainly not new.
“The news made it sound like the fault lay with the blacks of Harlem. The violent, the crazy, the monstrous black people who had the gull to demand that their children not be gunned down in the streets. Sonny clutched his mother’s money tight as he walked back that day, hoping he wouldn’t run into any white people looking to prove a point, because he knew in his body, even if he hadn’t yet put it together in his mind, that in America the worst thing you could be was a black man. Worse than dead, you were a dead man walking.”
It’s an emotional story that made me uncomfortable, but taught me a lot about the African-American experience.
Warning: there are some sex scenes and f-bombs. They are brief, but if you’re sensitive to that you should be aware.
The best part of this book, I think, is the ending. All the stories come together as two descendants meet and go together to Ghana. One has been before visiting her grandmother. The other has not. But both feel a connection as they face an inherent fear (one is afraid of water and the other afraid of fire, and by the end you understand why.) The characters express the idea that so much has been overcome by those who came before them that now they can be set free.
I think so much of what we know about history has been written by the white man. It’s refreshing to read another point of view, and certainly educational. If that interests you, read this book and be prepared to be changed.
“How many hours could he spend marching? How many bruises could he collect from the police? How many letters to the mayor, governor, president could he send? How many more days would it take to get something to change? And when it changed, would it change? Would America be any different, or would it be mostly the same?”
Today’s interview complements of the author’s son Scott.
As the character I’m interviewing today for Novel PASTimes, is featured in one of my dad’s, as yet, unpublished novels, let me set the stage for our discussion.
Part One of “Bluebell” opens in 1939, with Willis Jefferson approaching the town of Drewsport. An adult black man, Willis was saved, as a child, by Rowena Kramer, a kindly white woman, just 12 years earlier during a violent storm on the plains of Kansas. Miss Rowena introduced Willis to education, and instilled in him, a love for all.
As he nears the town’s first house, a woman’s scream startles him. Realizing it would be suicide to go to her aid, he tries to ignore the sounds of the beating, but is stopped by the memory of Miss Rowena’s teachings. He rushes to the house where he finds a viciously beaten white woman. Though his actions are heroic, he doesn’t become the beloved of Drewsport and pays the ultimate price for his actions.
The subject of my interview, Carl Schenfield, is an investigative reporter and novelist who kicked off Part Two of “Bluebell”, by going to Drewsport intent on seeing it pay for its crimes. As we spoke, we took much delight commenting, when possible, with excerpts from the novel, which I’ve set aside in quotation marks.
Scott: Thanks for meeting with me Carl. My research shows you were a correspondent in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and it was there you met someone that greatly impacted you. Can you tell me about that meeting?
Carl: He was a “young man, a gunner’s mate from a PT squadron, at an airstrip on Leyte. They were there waiting for transportation north. The boy was being reassigned after having been hospitalized for injuries incurred when his boat was blown from beneath him.”
Scott: And you talked with him for a long time?
Carl: No, it was “a brief encounter…war rarely leaves time for proper introductions. Such meetings might be no more than sharing a slit trench, a life raft, foxhole, or being slung over the shoulder of some guy who’s risking his life to save your butt.”
Scott: That doesn’t sound like ideal circumstances for investigative reporting.
Carl: Actually, “these situations, and the myriad of others created by war, make room for an openness that is seldom achieved in more refinedcircumstances. Maybe there’s an attraction, maybe there isn’t; it’s of little consequence. In the next minute either, or both of you, could be dead. It had been that way with…Jeremy.”
Scott: Other than what he told you, what stands out about your time together?
Carl: We “were together less than an hour” but even in that short time, I “learned a great deal about the boy, his family, friends…and his hometown.”
Scott: Being a reporter during the war, you probably “had seen more death than a hundred men would see in a lifetime. In the midst of such wholesale slaughter, why would hearing about the death of one man make such a lasting impression?“
Carl: During my time in the Pacific, “there had been atrocities enough on both sides to foster grave misgivings concerning the state of the ‘civilized’ world.” Then the kid told me what his town had done, and “I was forced to acknowledge the truth: Ignorance, and the fear it breeds, will always combine with hate to produce the same crop.”
Scott: According to my dad’s synopsis of the book, your role in the story covers approximately two weeks and you learned as much about yourself as you did about the town, but very little of either offered much hope for humanity.
Carl: Well, if I may be allowed to quote the same synop, “Bluebell, however, is not a tale of gloom and doom. There are more than enough moments of tenderness, love and actual brotherhood to give the reader reason to search, expectantly, for the tunnel’s light. It is there, and Bluebell points to it, but not in a way that all will see.”
Scott: Wow…thanks Carl. That makes me want to get this book published even more.
W.D. McIntyre has been writing since the 1950’s and is still working on new novels or performing rewrites of old ones. His publishing dream though, died many years ago and now, any hope that this 94 year-old WWII Navy veteran’s writing will get published rests almost entirely with me, his son.
In earlier years, Dad worked hard to get his writing published. I have documentation showing over 115 submissions of his work to multiple publishing sources. But that effort only produced one short story being printed in a 1981 issue of Virtue magazine.
This lack of achievement could explain why submitting work stopped years ago and, to some, serve as evidence that the writing wasn’t good enough to make it to the public. I disagree. I’ve learned, from studying TV talent competitions, that ‘Lack of Success isn’t necessarily tied to Talent’.
For instance, consider Kelly Clarkson, the first season winner of American Idol. My research showed this incredibly talented and successful singer had nearly given up on her dream of making it in music, until a friend talked her into trying out for American Idol. Her victory proves she was gifted but it was the exposure on national TV that propelled her to fame.
With that thought in mind, my goal has been to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of who his dad is and what he has written. In essence, I’m trying to duplicate the success experienced by Kelly Clarkson through getting my dad’s talent well known.
Welcome to Novel PASTimes. Please tell us a little about yourselves as an introduction.
Meg: I’m so happy to be here talking with you! My name’s Meg Giry, and I live in Paris with my mother. We came to Paris six years ago when I was twelve. The city was confusing at first, but I love it now. I’m a dancer in the corps de ballet at the Opera Garnier.
Erik: I don’t like talking to strangers. Or anyone, actually. So I’m not that happy about being here, but…I don’t know, sometimes I think maybe I need people. Mostly, though, I’m certain they’re not going to be friendly to a man in a mask. This may be why I live alone under an opera house and make people believe I’m a phantom. Maybe that’s why. I’m admitting nothing.
I’m hearing a connection with the opera house. How do you two know each other?
Meg: We don’t, actually—not yet, at least, but I keep hoping we will. We met once by chance when I first arrived at the Opera Garnier, and he was kinder than all the spooky stories about the Phantom of the Opera claimed. I haven’t believed those stories ever since, and I’ve been looking out for a chance to bump into him again.
Erik: I don’t exactly remember meeting, but if she says so, I guess it’s true. Mostly I just know she’s the daughter of my boxkeeper, Madame Giry.
Meg: Oh, we have a mutual friend too! Christine Daaé is my closest friend, and lately she’s claimed an Angel of Music is teaching her to sing. I’m fairly sure I know who’s behind that.
Erik: I’m still admitting nothing.
You both seem to be involved with the arts.Meg, you mentioned the ballet, and that your friend is a singer. Erik, are you a singer?
Erik: I sing, yes. Not for anyone to hear but yes, I can sing. I identify more as a composer, possibly the greatest there’s ever been.
You think well of yourself.
Erik: I really don’t.
So what other interests do you each have?
Meg: I love the ballet, but it’s not my only focus in life, like many of the women I dance with. I’m so interested in everything else going on at the Opera Garnier – the singing, the productions, and everything happening in the lives of the people there. I also like exploring Paris, walking by the Seine or attending Easter mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. I’d love to be able to travel and visit more of the world, but that’s not easy to do in the 1880s!
Erik: I never leave the Opera. Almost never. Sometimes I have to buy food, but then I go out in the twilight when there are plenty of shadows. Haunting the opera house keeps me very busy anyway: spreading frightening stories, giving advice on the productions, dripping fake blood down the walls. I spend much of my time composing music too. Sometimes I enjoy a good book; two of my favorites are The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein. It’s possible I identify too closely with certain characters in those books.
Are there things you’d like to change in your lives?
Erik: Most things. But I doubt very much that’s possible. I have my music and my opera house and that should be enough. If I’m tangled up with Christine Daaé—and I’m still not confirming whether I am—I’m sure it can only end badly.
Meg: I’d like people to stop thinking of me as just my mother’s daughter or Christine’s friend. I want to have a role that matters in something important. I want to be the heroine of my own life, because I often don’t feel that way.
Erik: I’d like to stop feeling like the villain in my life.
I hope the story will bring you each what you’re looking for. Thanks so much for sharing with us!
Cheryl Mahoney lives in California and dreams of other worlds. She is the author of the Guardian of the Opera trilogy, exploring the Phantom of the Opera story from a new perspective. The first book, Nocturne, was published June 5, 2020, and can be found on Amazon and Goodreads. Cheryl also wrote the Beyond the Tales quartet, retelling familiar fairy tales, but subverting expectations with new twists to the tales. She loves exploring new worlds in the past, the future or fairyland, and builds her stories around characters finding their way through those worlds – especially characters overlooked or underestimated by the people around them. Cheryl has been blogging since 2010 at Tales of the Marvelous (http://marveloustales.com).
War changes people. We may be more aware of that today than in the past when many people tried to act as though it didn’t. WWII was one of the times when Americans returned home and vowed to leave it all in the past. However, as Lynn Austin says in her author’s note, that was not so easy for those living in England after WWII where war and devastation had landed on their doorstep. Reminders remained for years due to so many bombed areas.
This story is about the lives of two women who met as girls and became friends. It was a friendship that could not be in those days because they came from very different social classes. Eve Dawson’s mother was a lady’s maid and Audrey Clarkson was that lady’s daughter. But WWII changed British society, not to mention individual lives. Eve and Audrey became friends again during the war through the various ways they served their country and the losses and hardships they endured. No one was spared no matter how wealthy they might have been. In the process they learned just how strong they were. And then after the war events altered their lives once again and threatened to destroy their newfound faith in God.
I really liked how this novel was structured. It opens in 1950 with Audrey discovering Eve had impersonated her and taken over her life with the family of her deceased American husband. The mystery of how that could have happened and what they will do about it now that they are together again drives the story because going back in time we see Eve and Audrey as very tight friends.
I also loved the historical background and events, which is something you can always count on Lynn Austin to provide. If you liked the television series Land Girls, you will love this book. And I will say the book is better because it’s inspirational. We get to follow each girl on her spiritual journey during a time when no doubt everyone involved had his/her faith tested. Eve and Audrey are flawed characters, as we all are. They make mistakes, huge ones that affect not only themselves but many others. We can see how a web of lies can entrap someone, and what’s more compelling, when it seems as though the scenario cannot end well we learn with the character that there is always a new beginning for those who repent.
Historical novels that slip back and forth in time can be tricky to read. I’ve struggled with several. Sometimes the cast of characters is difficult to keep track of. Sometimes the motivations are confusing. Sometimes how the character changes because of the challenges he/she faces in each time period becomes disjointed due to flipping back and forth. Not so in this novel. It flowed so well and kept me turning pages.
I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction, and that’s everyone who reads Novel PASTimes.
I received an advanced copy free of charge from the publisher with no requirements for a review. All opinions are mine alone.
Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books, including her newest, Finding Your Irish Roots. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at CindysWriting.com, on Facebook: Facebook.com/Cindyswriting, Twitter: @cindyswriting, Pinterest: @cindyswriting and Book Bub: @cindyswriting.