Meet Bess Crawford from Charles Todd’s A Forgotten Place

Thanks for joining us!

41GH+Si0kELPeople have described you as independent, steadfast, intelligent, and resilient. You always seem to find a patient who needs your help and you never turn your back on them, even if it means risking your life. You are a nurse who will not back down from a situation or a mystery.  But you also have scars from being on the front lines and seeing so many men maimed and killed during this Great War.

Elise Cooper: Why did you choose to become a nurse? 

 

Bess Crawford: After my father retired from the army we went back to England. Then war came. Of course, I couldn’t march off with the regiment to France, however much it meant to me. The next best thing was to be a nursing Sister, and save as many of the wounded as I could. Unfortunately, some of those we saved had to go back into the line and were killed. But we did what we could, and I believe we made their dying easier even when we couldn’t make them well.  It was difficult, not an easy task, there on the front lines. I saw some terrible things, and sometimes I dream about them. But I have no regrets. And I am so grateful to my parents for letting me train for the Queen Alexandra’s. They could have said no, but they understood why I felt I must do this.

 

EC: Do you think WWI brought more power to women, as many took on professions? 

 

BC: The answer must be no.  We didn’t achieve any power at all, not really. It was always made clear that we were replacing men who were needed in the field. Even the nurses knew that many Army officers were appalled at the thought of women so close to the Front, and they’d have been just as happy to have orderlies take over our work. The fact that we were trained to deal with wounds didn’t enter into it. We were women.  I’ve heard that some of the Australian nurses in Egypt were denied resources, to force them to give up. They didn’t, of course, but it was a rough patch, and it was the patients who suffered.  However, I think we showed our country that we could pull our weight when England was in danger, and she didn’t collapse from our mismanagement. (Bess smiles.)

We grew vegetables, we took over desks where men could be spared, we worked in factories and drove omnibuses—and we did it all well. That was what mattered. And after the war, some women will be allowed to vote, if the Government keeps its promise to the Suffragettes. There will be restrictions, I’m sure, and I probably shan’t be old enough.  Nor do I own property or stand as head of a household. Still, it will be a beginning. Although some men will go on claiming we aren’t emotionally capable of wise decisions. I ask you!

 

EC: When the War is finally over would you like to be a detective? 

 

BC:(Laughing.)  I don’t think so. Heavens, no.  I did what I had to do, out of duty and a sense of what was right.  But my cousin, Melinda Trent, also a soldier’s daughter, tells me that trouble always knows where to find me.  (Laughter fades.) That could be true. I was part of a regiment, however small a part that was. And I expect that will shape my life for a long time. When someone is in very great trouble, how do you shake your head and just walk away?  The Army never runs. How could I?

 

EC: How has your dad influenced you? 

 

BC: We call him Colonel Sahib, which is what the native soldiers called him. It’s a term of respect, rather like Colonel Sir. He was such a good officer, and the Army called him back during the war to do certain missions and deal with certain matters—my mother and I never knew what these were. But he continues to serve in any way he can. And that’s good, because he’s wise and experienced and level-headed. I have always admired and loved him, and I can speak to him on any subject, and he listens to me and gives me his honest opinion. He dealt with a regiment and he still found time for a small daughter.

 

EC:  Do you think he admired you for serving during WWI?

 

BC:Although he’s never said it, I think he was very proud of what I did in the war. Even though he must have been terrified for me there in the forward aid stations, he gave me permission to go. He didn’t want me to have my own motorcar, either, but he just shook his head and accepted it when I drove up.

 

EC: How has your mom influenced you? 

 

BC: My mother’s rather exceptional too!  As the Colonel’s Lady, she had a good deal of responsibility toward the wives and children of the men in our regiment, and she took that quite seriously.  She’s the daughter of a country squire, well-educated, brought up with great marriage prospects because there was money in the family. And then she fell in love with a handsome Army officer, and my poor grandparents were appalled!  But they had the good sense to see that it was really love, not just the uniform, and they agreed to the marriage. She insisted I learn to play the piano, draw, sew and cook and run a household, while I was more interested in riding and other exciting things.  And I am so glad she did, because even wild little girls grow up to be women. She’s warm-hearted, sensible, calm in emergencies, a good tennis player, and I love her more than I can say.  She married a man with responsibilities, grave ones, and she’s given him the support and love he needed to be his best. I hope I can do the same one day.

 

EC: How come you have not had any intimate relationships? 

 

BC:(Laughing).  This is early 1919, Elise, nice women don’t have “intimate relationships.” And I respect my parents too much to be anything but the woman they want me to be. I’ve had so many friends, many of them men because of my upbringing, and I enjoy working with them and talking to them. I didn’t expect Sergeant Lassiter to propose, you know.

 

EC:  Why didn’t you accept it?

 

BC:That was such a terrible moment, because I knew he meant his proposal, and I wasn’t ready to fall in love. Well, I couldn’t, could I? I’d have been dismissed from the Queen Alexandra’s. And this was my work, my duty–I’d taken it on and I wanted to keep serving as long as the wounded needed care. Several of my friends, including my flat mate, Diana, had to keep an engagement secret for several years, or lose her own place. I didn’t feel I could do that. I tried to let him down as gently as I could, but that’s painful all the same.

 

EC: How would you describe Simon and your interactions? 

 

BC(Smiling.)  Simon is Simon.  He lied about his age, you know. Tall and strong as he was, he got away with it, but he was just a wild boy. He exasperated my father, but the Colonel Sahib could see beyond the wildness, and he knew what Simon could be capable of.  He took him under his wing, made him a man, and he asked him to go back to England to train as an officer, but Simon refused.  I think my father knows something about him that my mother and I don’t, because he never insisted on Simon going back. My mother did something for Simon out in India that he owes her for. Something rather serious, I think, but I don’t know about that either. And it’s Simon’s secret, not mine. He’s become the son my father never had. And that’s precious to me.

 

EC:  So do you consider him a brother?

 

BC:Simon is also the brother I never had, in and out of my life since India, since I was small. (Looking away.) I’m terribly fond of him.  And he’s been such a rock…

 

EC: What effect has the war had on you? 

 

BC: There was fighting out in India, wounds, men dying, trouble with the tribes along the Frontier with Afghanistan. We saw that and I thought I’d seen war. But the Great War was so much worse. And I was grown, a nurse. No one spared me the bad news, as they tried to do in India when I was small.  I have nightmares, as I’ve mentioned. And I have had to learn to put my emotions aside and try to help a patient, no matter how terrible his wound might be.  A nurse must remain calm, no matter what. And the discipline I learned in India, where it could be so dangerous, and the discipline I learned in nursing, to be objective and sensible, have helped.  I hope some of what I’ve seen will fade with time. One day I’ll want to marry, have children, and I don’t want them to see the shadows of war in me.  My mother is a good model there—she never let me feel threatened or afraid of anything, even when she was most worried about my father out in the field in India.

 

EC: From your viewpoint what effect has the war had on the fighting men? 

 

BC: Of course, there are the dead, so many, many of them.  And the missing. Many men were taken prisoner during the fighting too. This is never good for morale, but they were all so brave, the men I worked with.  You know, they didn’t fear death as much as they did losing a limb or being terribly disfigured—burns, facial wounds, ugly scars. I have worked with so many amputees and burn victims, and I have sometimes seen them break. Especially when they realize they can’t support their family. The last thing they want is to be a burden. Even now since the war is over, we’ve lost too many to depression. I find it so sad.

 

EC:  There are emotional wounds?

 

BC:  These are the other wounds you don’t see. Of the mind. Shell shock. People who don’t know anything about war call that cowardice. I know too well that it is the shock of losing so many men in too short a time.  The officers felt this most particularly.  New recruits would arrive, and before anyone could learn more than their names, they were killed. And an officer had to send men back over the top even when he knew it was useless to try again. There were the men caught in shell blasts, who died without a mark on them. Others deafened or shocked senseless by the tunnels going up.  I was so proud of our Army. But when a battle lasts for months, as it did on the Somme, men will break. Some will be stronger afterward, though.  I have seen that too.

 

EC: What have you learned about yourself after serving in the War? 

 

BC: I went into nursing with great hopes of saving lives. I had to learn that one can’t save them all, no matter how skilled the doctors and nurses might be. I had to learn how to sit beside a dying man and keep his spirits up to the end, with smiles and a brave front.  I had to face German soldiers taking over my aid station and keep calm, keep my patients safe.  I had to watch over them in ambulances being fired upon from the air, or crossing countryside where there were no roads and my patients suffered. I’ve crossed seas where U-boats were waiting, and knew that if we went down, I might not survive, but none of my patients had a chance. I’ve had other problems to cope with, of course, helping people in various ways. I’ve learned to be braver than I thought I could be, but I try never to be foolish. Still, I hate injustice, I hate to see people being hurt or taken advantage of. I always have. The war hasn’t changed that.

 

EC: If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you want to go considering you have been to many places? 

 

BC: I’ve had an invitation to a wedding in Ireland!  A nurse I served with on Britannic. The ship sank, but we survived.  I’m so happy for her.  First, I must go back to France for a few weeks. Matron has something she wants me to help her to do there. And I want to go back to India. Melinda Crawford, my cousin, would like me to travel with her when it’s safe to go. We want Simon to come with us. He’s reluctant to return to India. But Melinda will persuade him, I think. And my parents would feel happier if we weren’t traveling so far alone.  Melinda was a heroine in the Great Indian Mutiny. Imagine that. She’s traveled everywhere. I’d like to see South Africa. Perhaps Canada or America. So much of the world is unsettled now, so perhaps I shall have to be patient. (Smiles.) Or I might marry and never travel at all. Who knows?

 

EC: What do you do to relax? 

 

BC: I used to ride quite often in India. Horses didn’t fare well in Africa, with the tsetse flies and other diseases, and so I didn’t learn to ride until I was in India. I enjoy a fast game of tennis. I enjoy reading. I had a very good governess who made reading exciting. My father taught me to play chess, too. As a child, I liked putting up fruits and jams with my mother and our cook, but my favorite thing was helping make our Christmas Puddings.  And eating them too, of course. (Smiles.) I love to drive my own motorcar but don’t have many opportunities at present. I’ve driven Simon’s—it’s larger and more powerful than mine, but I can manage it. Although the first time I turned the crank on that one, I thought my elbow would break!  My mother drives as well. I enjoy parties, but we haven’t had many since the war began. I’m quite a good dancer, and I rather enjoy that too. But so many of my dancing partners are dead now. So sad.

 

EC: If you had a crystal ball what would your life be like in five years? 

 

BC: Oh my!  In five years?  I shall surely have finished nursing. Unless there is another war, of course.  Married?  I shan’t even be thirty by then. Before the war I’d be considered a spinster now! (Laughs.) Ah well. Perhaps someone will still wish to marry me. Simon tells me that I’m too stubborn. Well, he isn’t married either, so there!

 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams? 

 

BC:For peace. I’ve seen enough death. It’s time the world learned to get along.

 

EC: Anything else you would like to say that has not been asked? 

 

BC:  You’ve been quite formidably thorough, you know. I’ve found myself thinking about things I haven’t put into words even to myself.  I just got back from a most beautiful part of Wales. There were some rather awful things going on there, but some happiness came of that too.  I’m glad. I’ve been summoned to London to the Queen Alexandra’s HQ to speak to Matron about an assignment in France. They’re talking about Peace there, but they don’t seem to be very friendly about it. I don’t know just what I’m to do there, but I’ll find out in London.  Wish me luck. But there’s the Irish wedding in June, that’s to look forward to. My parents are a little worried about Ireland, but I shall manage, After all, I’m an Army Nursing Sister. What harm could come to me in Ireland? I nursed Irish troops during the war…

 

BC: Thank you, Elise. It’s been a pleasure. (Laughs) I don’t believe I’ve ever been interviewed before. Life is always full of unexpected things. And there’s Simon, arriving to drive me home. He’s amused by all this. I shan’t hear the end of it, you know.

 

 EC:Thank you for doing this, much appreciated!

***

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels.CharlesTodd_7861_retouched

 

 

Interview with Heather Stewart of A Heart for Freedom by Janet S. Grunst

 

Heather, tell me something about Stewarts’ Green, the ordinary you and your husband run.  How does it compare to your previous home?

 Up until about four years ago, Matthew, his children, Mary and Mark, and I lived in the small cottage on the farm he and his late wife, Elizabeth, established in the Virginia countryside. We built Stewarts’ Green and live in part of it. Our tenant farmer and his family live in our old cottage. Stewarts’ Green is near a thoroughfare between Alexandria and the western settlements, and close to the Potomac River where a ferry provides transportation between Virginia and Maryland, so it seemed like a perfect spot for weary travelers to eat and get rest.

It certainly sounds like it! How would you describe yourself?

I’m thirty-four and a very happily married to Matthew Stewart. We have his two children, Mary and Mark, and our son, Douglas. We lost a child but are happily expecting another. I do have a tendency to worry with all the friction taking place between the colonies and Britain.

Your worry is certainly understandable. I’m sorry for your loss.

I heard you were once indentured. Is this true? How were you freed from that?

 I came over from Scotland in 1770 as an indentured servant, rather impulsively. My family were fabric merchants and my father had just passed. With little resources, I needed to escape a brewing scandal. I expected to start a new life at the end of my seven-year indenture in the Virginia colony, but life took an unexpected turn.I’ve shared that amazing story of God’s provision in A Heart Set Free.

Oooh, I am intrigued! I’m also glad to learn that you were able to be truly freed from your indenture.

 Would you please tell me about the unrest in the British-American colonies?

Ever since the fighting in Massachusetts, arguments have broken out between families, friends, and neighbors. Some people are loyal to the crown and others are talking about taking up arms against England. Our colonies are not equipped to go up against the most powerful army and navy in the world.

Has anyone close to you gotten involved in the rebellion against the crown?

Aye! Several of our friend’s sons have joined the militia or the Continental Army.

 If war breaks out are you concerned your husband, Matthew, might enlist?

More than once he has mentioned that the time is coming when all of us will have to align ourselves with the Loyalists or Patriots. Fortunately, he has not yet mentioned anything about joining either cause.

 Is there anything concerning you about your relationship with Matthew?

Matthew is a devoted husband and father, but lately he has seemed unusually preoccupied. I’m sure he is worried about the future and our safety during these troubled times.

 Do you feel your family is safe at this time?  

We live out in the country where the political bickering is not as widespread. I’m concerned though because Mary and Mark are traveling to Philadelphia where they will spend the summer with their mother’s parents. The Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia, so I’m certain it will be a contentious place and time.

 Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Please pray that the resolves or petitions between the colonies and England can settle this matter so that we can live in peace.  Having spent my first twenty-nine years in Scotland, I am well acquainted with the enduring consequences of war with England.

Of course, thank you for your time, Heather. It’s been nice getting to know you.

More about A Heart for Freedom:

He longs for freedom, but he won’t risk those he loves.

Matthew Stewart wants only to farm, manage his inn, and protect his family. But tension between the Loyalists and Patriots is mounting. When he’s asked to help the Patriots and assured his family will be safe, he agrees.

She’s seen the cost of fighting England, and she wants no part of it.

In Scotland, Heather Stewart witnessed the devastation and political consequences of opposing England. She wants only to avoid war and protect the family and peace she finally found in Virginia. But the war drums can be heard even from home in the countryside, and she has no power to stop the approaching danger.

The consequences are deadly.

When Matthew leaves for a short journey and doesn’t return, Heather faces the biggest trial of her life. Will she give up hope of seeing him again? Will he survive the trials and make his way home? What will be the consequences of his heart for freedom?

About the Author:

Janet is a wife, mother of two sons, and grandmother of eight who lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her debut novel, A Heart Set Freewas the 2016 Selah Award winner for Historical Romance. A lifelong student of history, her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith, as well as entertain, bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.

Questions for Jake Marcum from Secrets and Charades by Cindy Ervin Huff

S & C coverJake, where is your ranch located? How much land do you own?

My ranch is in Northwest Texas and covers about 1,000 acres. The ranch used ta be bigger. But Ben Mitchell, the previous owner, gave up some acreage so a town could be built. It was named after his late brother Charelton.

How long have you been a rancher? And how would you describe yourself?

I been ranching since my Pa settled near Ben Mitchell when I was ten. He taught my Pa and us boys all about ranching.

My Ma called me a man of few words. But, I’ve learned its necessary to use a few more when you’re dealing with ranch hands. And according to Cookie, my right- hand man, I need quite a few more when talking to women.

After I come home from the Civil War I was not in a good place. The woman I thought had promised her heart to me married my brother. I was carryin’ on in ways I ain’t proud of and going to work as Ben Mitchell’s foreman made a big difference in the man I am today. My pa wasn’t very religious, but Ben Mitchell had been a missionary before he came to ranchin’. I found faith and a new life working for him.  I married his daughter, but she died of consumption a few months later. I inherited the ranch because all his sons died in the war. It’s been big shoes to fill. I got me some good men and that makes all the difference.

I appreciate your honesty, Jake. I heard that you are having a bit of a time with your niece, Juliet. What’s going on?

Juliet came to live with me when she was six. That was the same year my sister-in-law died in childbirth and my brother died from falling off a horse. I’d just inherited the ranch. She was a healing thing for me. We’re very close. Juliet’s a bit of a tomboy. Shoot she’s a lot of tomboy. And lacks the education her ma would have wanted for her.  I don’t want to send her off to boarding school and I don’t have the time to teach her much myself. She can read and write and cypher some. She’d rather ride the range then sew a seam. She needs more genteel ways. The gal is growing up too fast.

It does sound like you need some help for sure. What made you decide to try finding a wife by getting a mail-order bride?

Cookie kinda talked me into it. There weren’t no one around here that suited. They was either too young, too old, or a soiled dove. And none of them had much education either. I wrote Miss Evangeline for over a year. All the other gals wanted to come right away. I at least wanted to feel like she wasn’t a complete stranger.

Can you share something about the process with the readers?

Well, land sakes, you women ask a passel of questions. There’s a paper called the Matrimonial Times. It can be had all over the country. I placed an ad there. As I said I got a heap of responses. Enough to make me want to change my mind. Cookie helped me sort through ‘em. Evangeline offered to write awhile. That suited me fine.

Well, I don’t mean to be nosey, Jake, but we don’t hear about mail-order brides every day and I find the subject rather fascinating. 

What do you think of Evangeline Olson? Is she the kind of women you’re looking for?

I hope so. She sent me a picture of her with her niece. She’s a beauty and it surprises me she’s still unattached. She was a nurse in the Civil War and from her letters she seems to have had a good education. She don’t need to know how to cook and such cause I got a housekeeper. But the other ladylike things are what I hope she’ll teach Juliet.

What are your hopes for the future of your relationship?

Cookie was right. I need to find a few more words to talk to a woman. Well, Kathy, I would hope we’d get along. I’d like us to come to love each other. I hope she’s of a kind nature. But then again she ain’t never married. So, I worry a mite. I pray she comes to love my home as much as I do. Mostly, I hope she and Juliet get close and Miss Evangeline helps her become a lady. I want the girl to find a good man someday who’ll take over the ranch when I’m gone.  If love grows betwixt Evangeline and I maybe we’ll have a son to inherit the Double M.

Are we done here? I got a lot of work to do before day’s end. You have a good day, ma’am.

Why, thank you for your time, Jake. I won’t keep you any longer. I’ve learned a lot and I think you had just the right amount of words. You have a good day as well!

cindy 2016

About the Author

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and her debut novel Secrets and Charades won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2014 and placed third in the Maxwell Awards in 2017 and first place Serious Writer Medal 2018. Her contemporary romance New Duetreleased in May 2018. She has been featured in numerous periodicals over the last thirty years. Cindy is a member of ACFW, Mentor for Word Weavers. founding member of the Aurora, Illinois chapter of Word Weavers and Christian Writer’s Guild alumni. Although she has been creating stories in her head since childhood it wasn’t until high school those imaginary characters began appearing on paper. After raising her family, she began her novel writing adventures. Cindy loves to encourage new writers on their journey. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois. They have five children and six grandchildren. Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff,follow her on twitter @CindyErvinHuff, or check out her blog at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

 

Interview with Reverend Benjamin David from To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe

Benjamin, where are you from? And what has brought you to the Cherokee Strip to claim a piece of property?

I’m originally from Hennessey in Oklahoma Territory. My fiancée and I had planned to come here, to build a church, and to find our own Promised Land. After my beloved died, I decided to still come and fulfill what we’d hoped to do together.

Just what is the Cherokee Strip? And what did you have to do to make a claim?

The US government resettled Indian tribes and during that process, part of the northern portion of Oklahoma Territory was given by treaty to the Cherokee Nation. Officially, it’s called the Cherokee Outlet, but most call it the Cherokee Strip. It’s only sixty miles wide and about 225 miles long, just south of the Kansas border.

The president opened the land for settlement. The sections were marked ahead of time. On September 16 at noon, nine different starting places along the Kansas and Oklahoma Territory border will provide the opportunity for people to race to claim a piece of property. Once you find your property, you need to go to a claim office to make it official. You have five years to improve on your claim before the land is truly yours.

How would you describe yourself?

A man who longs to do the Lord’s will. My ma would say I have blond curls and hazel eyes.

Rumor has it that someone else laid claim to the same piece of land. Can you tell me something about her?

She’s the most frustrating woman I know and she’s stubborn. Don’t let her long blonde wavy waist-length hair and blue eyes fool you.

How are things going between you and this Elsie Smith?

To be honest, it’s been rough. We have different ideas of what’s best for the land, and she gets uptight about the smallest things. I honestly don’t know why the Lord put her as an obstacle on my path to serving Him.

It’s worse than I thought, then. I hope you two will eventually learn to get along.

What is your plan for resolving this land claim you both made on the same piece of property?

Sigh. For now, we’ve decide to both live on the land until the courts decide who is awarded ownership. I tell you, that time can’t come soon enough for me.

Who do you think will wind up gaining the claim?

 I’m sure it will be me. I felt a peace in my heart when I saw this land, and I know God wants me to build a church and serve here.

After what you’ve told me about Elsie, I wonder what she would say about that!

 What are your hopes and dreams for the future? For your new congregation?

I eventually want a helpmeet to serve along with me as we minister to this little community. I pray the Lord will bring someone when I’m ready. I desire for my congregation to grow and develop a deeper knowledge of being in Christ.

Thank you, Reverend David. For your own sake, I hope you can work things out with that stubborn Elsie Smith. I hear she isn’t planning on leaving the land any time soon!

 The 125th anniversary of the settlement of the Cherokee Outlet was on September 16thand To Claim Her Heart is based on a true story which took place at the time of that event. If you’d like to learn more, here’s something about To Claim Her Heart and its author:

 Back Cover Blurb for To Claim Her Heart

 In 1893, on the eve of the great race for land, Benjamin David prays for God to guide him to his ‘Promised Land. Finding property and preaching to the lost are his only ways of honoring his deceased fiancée. He hasn’t counted on Elmer (Elsie) Smith claiming the same plot and refusing to leave. Not only is she a burr in his side, but she is full of the homesteading know-how he is sadly lacking.

Obtaining a claim in the Cherokee Strip Land Run is Elsie Smith’s only hope for survival, and not just any plot, she has a specific one in mind. The land’s not only a way to honor her pa and his life, but also to provide a livelihood for herself. She’s willing to put in whatever it takes to get that piece of property, and Elsie’s determined to keep it.

Her bitterness is what protects her, and she has no intentions of allowing that preacher to lay claim to her land . . . or her heart.

About the Author:

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) and has been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. She’s a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katie Stuckey Stopped By from Jan Drexler’s The Sound of Distant Thunder

The Sound of Distant Thunder-Book CoverName: My name is Katie Stuckey.

Parents: Papa’s name is Gustav, and Mama is Margaretta, but I only call them Mama and Papa.

Siblings: I have three brothers and two sisters. They are all married, and I have nineteen nieces and nephews. My siblings are much older than I am, and they were all born in Alsace-Lorraine, in Europe, before my family came here to Ohio twenty years ago.

Places lived: I have only lived here on our farm in Weaver’s Creek.

Jobs: I have never worked away from home, although I think it would be fun to be a mother’s helper for some family.

Friends: My friends are Millie Beiler and Rosie Keck. I’m also becoming friends with Jonas’ sisters, Ruby and Elizabeth, even though they are older than I am.

Enemies: I’ve never liked Ned Hamlin, but I rarely see him. And Elizabeth’s husband, Reuben Kaufman is just like him.

Dating, marriage: I’m going to marry Jonas Weaver. Isn’t that exciting? But Papa says we can’t marry until after my eighteenth birthday.

Children: I hope to have many children. I want to have two girls first, and then boys. Jonas wants to have boys first. Isn’t that just what a man would say?

What person do you most admire? Lydia Weaver, Jonas’ mother. My Mama is so demanding and in a bad mood much of the time, but Lydia always welcomes me into their home for a cup of tea or to share a receipt for cookies or one of Jonas’ favorite meals.

Overall outlook on life: I can’t wait for my life to start! When Jonas and I get married, it will be wonderful.

Do you like yourself? Most of the time. I try to have a fun time and help others have fun, too.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would like to be older. It is so difficult to wait until Jonas and I can marry.

How are you viewed by others? My friends like me, and Lena, my brother Hans’ wife says she likes for me to visit. Sometimes though, I think Mama considers me to be a little girl still. I wish she would let me grow up.

Physical appearance: I have brown hair and eyes, just like the rest of my family. I’m a little plumper than my friends, though. Millie says I take after Papa, but I’d rather be slim like Ruby and Elizabeth.

Strongest/weakest character traits: I don’t like to be alone with men, other than Jonas and my family. That’s my weakest trait. My strongest trait is that I will always be faithful to Jonas. He is my one true love.

How much self-control do you have? None. If there are fresh cookies on the table, I’ll eat them.

Fears: Strange men.

What people like best about you: I’m friendly to all the girls. Millie and Becky are my closest friends, but I get along with everyone.

Interests and favorites: I’ve recently begun making a quilt. It’s the first one I’ve made all on my own, and I have enjoyed choosing the colors and the pattern. I’m afraid Mama will say it’s too fancy, but it’s for me and Jonas.

Food, drink: I love pies of all kinds, and cookies. Hot tea is my favorite drink in the winter. I had lemonade one time in the summer, and I’d like to try it again. I think it could easily become my favorite.

Books: I liked to read when I was in school, and I remember enjoying Uncle Tom’s Cabin very much. I wasn’t able to finish it, though. Our teacher passed away suddenly and the school was closed.

Best way to spend a weekend: Sundays are my favorite day. We have church every other week, and the off-church Sundays are spent with our family.

What would a great gift for you be? Something for our new home. Jonas gave me a lamp for Christmas and it is very pretty.

When are you happy? I’m happy when I’m with Jonas.

What makes you angry? When Mama and Papa treat me like a little girl.

What makes you sad? Being the last one at home. I wish I had a brother or sister that was close to my age.

What makes you laugh? Being with Jonas. He likes to tease me.

Hopes and dreams: I like to go to the house Jonas is building for us and dream about what it will be like when we are married. I like to pretend I can see our children playing in the yard.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I killed a man – or at least he died because of me. But please, don’t tell anyone. I’d rather forget about it.

Wow!

Biggest trauma: My last day of school. It was terrible and embarrassing, and then Teacher Harrison… well, I don’t think I’ll say any more.

What do you care about most in the world? Besides Jonas, I care about my nieces and nephews. They are all so sweet and fun to be around, but each one is different from the other. I spend all year making Christmas presents for them.

Thanks for introducing yourself to us, Katie!

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 of several Love Inspiredhistorical novels, as well as Hannah’s Choice, Mattie’s Pledge (a 2017 Holt Medallion finalist), and Naomi’s Hope.

Drexler_Jan

 

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT LANGFORD FROM THE GLASS OCEAN BY BEATRIZ WILLIAMS, LAUREN WILLIG, and KAREN WHITE

Glass_Ocean copyThank you for doing this. You have had some hard knocks in your life. As a British gentleman who lives during the Victorian years you had to conform to your father’s wishes.  Now you are heading back to England, after taking some time away in America, on the lavish ocean liner, Lusitania.  I am sure there are times on that ship where you tried to put the world behind you, but I am also sure you understand the inherit dangers considering the Germans warned all passengers that they are sailing at their own risk. 

 

Let’s start out by going back in time.

 

Elise Cooper: Do you think your childhood impacted who you are today?

 

Robert Langford:  You want me to talk about my childhood.  You Americans.  Always so familiar.  Next, you’ll be wanting to call everyone by their first names.  Doesn’t everyone’s childhood impact who they are?  It was a normal childhood: growing up at Langford Hall, barley water with Nanny, being brought down to the drawing room once a day to see Mother and Father, that is when he was down from London, listening to the sound of my mother’s piano playing through the closed doors of the music room.  Just like anyone’s childhood.  Well, at least I had my brother Jamie…

 

EC: Why did you trail off, you appear deep in thought?

 

RL:  You haven’t heard about the accident?  I thought everyone knew.  My father certainly made sure everyone knew.  Jamie, my older brother, and I were sailing.  My brother was fearless and brave and very clever.  The perfect brother.  The perfect son.  Just perfect, really.  They do say whom the gods love die young.  Or perhaps it’s just easier to blame the gods than blame myself.  I was the one who should have drowned that day. I was the one who went overboard. When Jamie went after me….

 

EC:  Do you need a few minutes?

 

RL:Ahem.  I beg your pardon.  My glass appears to be empty, a lamentable oversight.  I must remedy it.

 

EC: Let me rephrase the question, while growing up, did you feel like a stepchild regarding how your father interacted with you?

 

RL:  Ah, that’s better. Mmmm, a stepchild?  There was never any doubt I was a true-born Langford, but I was a second son.  I was meant to be superfluous.  I never begrudged Jamie his place and I was content to live in his shadow.  Once he died, it was clear to everyone that I could never fill his shoes, so I selected the squeakiest shoes I could find.

 

EC: Is one of your hobbies playing the piano?

 

RL:  Hobby—what a quaint way of putting it.  I’ve been known to dabble.  If you want to hear a true virtuoso, you should listen to Caroline…pardon me, Mrs. Hochstetter.

 

EC: Any other hobbies?

 

RL:  Espionage, alcohol, and bedeviling my father.

 

EC: Espionage, is that why you want to be a spy novelist?

 

RL:  Have I spoken of this?  I’m not aware.  Unless you’re referring to those little pieces I wrote for the New York TimesandThe Spectator.  Those aren’t meant to be fiction.  I do enjoy the odd novel, but I sometimes find their plots too fantastical to be true.

 

EC: Being an Englishman it appears you like to tease your American friends about their different habits and culture?

 

RL:  When the Americans manage to acquire a culture, I will make a note to tease them. I do find this side of the pond quite refreshing.  One is freed from the heavy gaze of one’s ancestors.

 

EC: You are heading back home to England on the RMS Lusitania. Why travel knowing it would be dangerous?

 

RL:  Langfords laugh in the face of danger.  Have I told you about my ancestor the Admiral?

 

EC: If you are from a military family don’t you have some guilt about not enlisting to fight in WWI?

 

RL:Isn’t the pen meant to be mightier than the sword? We all serve in our own way.

 

EC: For those of us who never went on a cruise ship can you please describe it?

 

RL:  What is a… cruise ship?  Are you referring to an ocean liner?  It is a floating conveyance meant to mimic the sort of hotel frequented by debutantes, dowagers, and dandies who prefer to travel with all the comforts of home– assuming your home is in Mayfair or on Fifth Avenue.  I understand there may also be a second class.

 

EC: You were seen breaking some rules of class by offering a lower-class traveler first class privileges?

 

RL:Only those who have no class are concerned by it. Americans, for instance.

 

EC: Rumor has it you are attracted to two women on the ship, an old flame, Caroline, and someone you just met, Tess?

 

RL:A gentleman never tells.

 

EC: Do you see similarities or differences in these two women?

 

RL:Would you have me compare orchids and daisies? Each has its own charms.

 

EC: Someone told me one of the Schuyler women said this, “Mrs. Hochstetter is an orchid, elegant and rare, while Tess is a common daisy.” Do you agree or disagree?

 

RL:I try not to listen to the Schulyer women.  One usually exits discreetly when they enter a room.

 

EC: Do you think all these worlds collided on the ship?

 

RL:  Ships are like Continental hotels; one can never tell whom one might meet.  The difference is the only means of egress would leave one quite damp.

 

EC: If you had a crystal ball what would your life be like in five years?

 

RL:  Does any man know what the future holds?  My family only looks at the past, not the future.

 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

 

RL:  To get off this blasted boat.  Oh, bother. The Schulyer women approach.  Is that whiskey in that decanter?

 

EC: Anything else you would like to say that has not been asked?

 

RL:  Rule Britannia.  God save the King.  And put on that bloody life vest.

 

Thanks again for doing this.  It is much appreciated. Please stay safe!

3 WsBeatriz Williams: A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. 

 
LAUREN WILLIG:  is the author of several New York Times bestselling works of historical fiction,  She is a RITA Award-winner for Best Regency Historical for The Mischief of the Mistletoe. A graduate of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
 
Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty previous books, including The Night the Lights Went Out, Flight Patterns, The Sound of Glass, A Long Time Gone, and The Time Between

Interview with Eleanor Moskowitz From Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

 

NotOurKind hc c LRThank you for doing this.  It looks like you are trying to find your place in this post World War II world where anti-Semitism still looms large.  Yet, being a Jew collided with the WASP world of the Bellamy family after Patricia hired you to tutor her daughter Margaux.  Unfortunately, the father and husband Wynn sexually harassed you and you fell in love with Patricia’s brother Tom.  Both these caused conflicts within the New York societal norms; yet, there was a bond formed between you and the Bellamy women.

 

Elise Cooper: Now, a few years after the Holocaust, do you think American society in general still has covert anti-Semitism and attitudes?

Eleanor Moskowitz:No, I think that anti-Semitism in America is out front and on full display.  Apartment buildings, neighborhoods and even whole towns were proud to call themselves restricted.  Jews were not welcome in many places, and urged, as I was, to change their names.  There is nothing covert about any of that.

EC: Are you the type of person that wants to fight the restrictions against the Jews or will go along to get ahead?

EM:Sometimes I feel the need to fight; other times, to keep my head down and avoid attracting any attention. I think both strategies have their merits, depending on the situation.

EC: You were overheard saying that a Jew in a Gentile world remains on the margins in a deferential role-do you still feel this way?

EM:Yes, I do.  And that’s why I’m hesitant to marry Tom. He may feel there are no differences, no barriers. But other people won’t feel the same way and he’s naive if thinks they will.

EC : You were hired to tutor Margaux, did you enjoy it?

EM:I loved tutoring her more than any other student I’d ever encountered.  In part, it was because I had to win her over.  But I also loved her pride, her anger, and sense of herself as an exile—I realized these qualities reminded me of myself.

EC: Do you think you broke down the barriers inch by inch with Margaux?

EM:Yes, at least at the beginning.  But once I won her over, the floodgates opened and it became easy between us.  Her vulnerability was very touching.

EC: How did seeing someone with polio affect you and do you think that is why you bonded with Margaux?

EM:I came to see her disease as a badge of honor; it made her proud, it made her truthful.  And it set her apart from most of her peers and in that way, I felt she was a kindred spirit.

EC: Do you think teachers are the most important people in a childs life?

EM:Maybe not the most important, but certainly very important. Teachers represent a bridge between the world of home and family and the larger world that awaits just beyond.  A good teacher is a guide into that wider world and as such, is very precious.

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Patricia, Margaux’s mom?

EM:Our connection is deep and real but also complicated.  She had no idea of who I was when she invited me into her home and into her life; I think I upended all her ideas about what Jews were like.  She was conflicted about having me in her world, but her love for Margaux was stronger than her prejudices—which were passive rather than active—and so she accepted and even valued me.  It was when I stepped outside the role she had cast me in—a servant of sorts, beloved perhaps but still the hired help—that the trouble began. A romance with her brother and the possibility that I might become her sister-in-law?  A friendship with her daughter that transcended our teacher-student relationship?  These things were threatening to her, and she resented me for forcing her to confront them.

EC: Do you think when you were hired two worlds collided?

EM:Yes, but that was not immediately apparent to me. I didn’t realize the extent of my involvement with any of the Bellamys when I first went to work for them.  I couldn’t have imagined my growing attachment to Margaux, or that Mr. Bellamy would attack me.  And I couldn’t imagine Tom, and the effect he would have on me.

EC:It is disheartening what Mr. Bellamy did. Do you think he looked upon you as property?

EM:Perhaps not property.  But not a woman, or a person, who was his equal. I was to him a stereotype—a Jewess—and that allowed him to behave to me as if I were inferior.

EC: Do you get solace from your religion, like when you went to the Mikvah, a bath used for ritual immersion, after the encounter with Mr. Bellamy?

EM:I was not raised in an observant home, and in fact, those kind of rituals, were sometimes the source of conflict between my parents—my father tended to be nostalgic for the “old country” and the traditions that were part of that life.  My mother wanted no part of any of it and she couldn’t understand my father’s attachment to those old ways.  I was surprised that I derived as much comfort as I did from my visit to the Mikvah. But I was desperate, and willing to try almost anything.

EC: Do you consider yourself a religious person as far as your dress, eating habits, living quarters…?

EM:Not at all.  And yet I consider myself a Jewish woman. I couldn’t be anything else; being Jewish is an indelible part of me.

EC: So do you think this effects your relationship with Tom?

EM:Tom is smart, funny and above all charming.  I love him for his many virtues, and in spite of his many faults.  I want to be with him, but I’m not blind to the difficulties that a life with him would mean, and not entirely sure I would be able, in the long term, to tolerate them.

EC:Do you see a big difference between how the Bellamys led their lives with all their riches and how you led your life?

EM:Well, they had a kind of ease in the world that had been denied to me, as well as the insulation that having money provides. And they had not been forced to question the status quo in the way I had—it had served them well after all.  At times I admired them, at times I envied them, at times I disdained them.

EC: If you had a crystal ball what would your life be like in five years?

EM:I see a future that includes work I love—maybe in publishing, maybe a return to teaching—and a place of my own.  A husband and children are there too, but they are a little hazier, and harder to see.

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

EM:To find my place in the world and to be happy in it.

EC: What do you do for fun or to relax?

EM:I love to read, to dance, to go to the movies.

EC: Anything else you would like to say that has not been asked?

EM:No, I think you’ve been very thorough and far-ranging in your questions.

EC: Thanks again for doing this. 

Kitty Zeldis is the pseudonym for a novelist and non-fiction writer of books for adults and children. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY. Kitty Zeldis hat photo LR (002)

Meet Carrie Strahorn from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Everything She Didn’t Say

Everything She Didn't Say-Book CoverName:  Carrie Adell Green Strahorn

Parents: Dr. John W and Louisa Babcock Green

Siblings:  Mary Green Waters (older); Hattie Green

Places lived: Too many to mention!  Born in Marengo, IL.  We did have permanent homes for only short times in Omaha, NE; Caldwell, ID and Spokane, WA. But we lived in Denver, Bellingham, San Francisco, Butte, Cheyenne, etc.

Jobs: companion of railroad promoting husband traveling the west to identify locations for the Union Pacific Railroad to bring their tracks to. I wrote articles/letters for newspapers back east and had a pen name of A.Stray.  That’s a story in itself, don’t you think? I also helped start a Presbyterian church which was the work of my life.

Friends: My husband Robert and my sisters are my closest friends. It’s very hard to have long-term friendships when one travels all over the west by stage and train. Friendships take time and commitment. I am committed to helping my husband in his efforts.

Enemies: I don’t have any unless you identify some of the town fathers who disliked my husband because the railroad didn’t come to their town. I’m also my own worst enemy – my self-doubt desire not to disappoint Robert. I always go along with what he wants and that isn’t always wise.

Dating, marriage: Graduate of University of Michigan in the 1870s; I didn’t date much being busy with my singing. I traveled to Europe on tour. I met Robert as he was the fiancé of my college roommate who shared my name. When she died before their marriage, Robert and I found each other ut he called me Dell after that, perhaps not wanting to use the first Carrie’s name. We were married September 19, 1877.

Children: none though in later life I claimed the sons of our chauffer as my own on the census. Actually, the census recorder got it wrong but I let it stand. I adored them. And I almost adopted a set of twins Kate and Kambree — but Robert didn’t want that to happen, said it would be too difficult with our traveling life.

What person do you most admire? I admire Pace Caldwell. She’s the wife of former senator Caldwell who was removed from the senate because he bribed a competitor not to run so he could win. He lived in Kansas. Pace held herhead up high, continued to love and support her husband. She kept her dignity. That was admirable and I called upon that when Robert had his own financial fall. Pace kept getting up and starting again despite disappointments and betrayals.

Overall outlook on life: I live in a “happy lane” and see the adventure of  life as unique and full of grace. I want to celebrate it, downplay any personal disappointments. Presbyterians have a phrase about “seeing a way clear” that means we believe God has shown us a way forward, that we can “see our way clear.” I look for that.

Do you like yourself? Most of the time. I’m a bit overweight but it’s those rich dinners when we’re having to dine the bankers and politicians that Robert must engage with in his railroad promotion. I’d like myself better as a mother so I did find some ways in later life to be a surrogate mother to some college girls. And I adore my nieces. I like myself best when I’m with my sisters and my family.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Oh, I wish I’d insisted about the twins we could have adopted. We could have adjusted our traveling; in later life I stayed at home more anyway. So yes, I would have become a mother.

How are you viewed by others? They admire me, I know. Especially after the book came out, my memoir called Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage in two volumes covering 1877-1880 and 1880-1898. Some people said I was a better writer than Robert. I think I was more conversational. He had to write reports on soil conditions, landscapes, rail line routes, stuffier things. I wrote about people and I never complained. I never named someone in a story who had a negative role to play. I hosted wonderful parties and made people feel welcome and when I set my heart on something – like getting a Presbyterian church for Caldwell – I persevered. People admired my persistence and some said my grace in times of trial.

Physical appearance: I’m 5’5”, a tad overweight. Curvy, I’d call it.

Eyes: blue

Hair: frizzy chestnut color

Voice: melodious. I’m a singer

Right- or left-handed? right

How would you describe yourself? I’m a Victorian lady who wears my long skirts, corset, bustle, and a hat, usually straw with feathers and dried fruit as decorations when I’m out in public. But I’ll ride astride a horse (with a discreet skirt to put on over the split one as soon as I step off the horse). I have a pleasant voice, wear round glasses that are often dirty as I’m so busy engaging in life I doesn’t notice. I adore my husband, have a wry sense of humor, long for the roots of home and children and am grateful for the adventurous life God’s given me.

Characteristics: Strong-willed, people pleaser, passionate, will try anything once. Loving of family and my close friends.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Never quite once I’m committed; try to please people at my own expense.

How much self-control do you have? Lots.

Fears: Not being useful, not finding my life’s purpose

Collections, talents: I can sing and do in choirs of the west when we stay in a town for a few months. I collect treasures from some of our adventures like being the first woman to go into a gold mine. I saved a piece of ore.

What people like best about you: I’m game for anything. Once.

Interests and favorites: I love to read, that’s my greatest pastime when I’m not off on some adventure like riding on the cow chaser of a railroad engine over the Dale Creek Canyon. I’m also drawn to landscapes – the oceans, mountains, rivers and lakes of the West.

Food, drink: I don’t imbibe though have twice tasted champagne . Once when my memoir was published and another sip when we took our 6 month tour of Europe.

Books: Emily Dickinson’s poetry

Best way to spend a weekend: With Robert riding horseback in the mountains

What would a  great gift for you be? Diamonds. I do like diamonds.

When are you happy? When my sisters and parents come west to visit and I can show them the landscapes that I love.

What makes you angry? Seeing children suffering. And when Robert misled our friends in an investment. I was very angry about that.

What makes you sad? Not having a grandchild.

What makes you laugh? My dogs! Bulldogs are so funny!

Hopes and dreams: To be remembered as a generous, loving person.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Getting my husband on that cow chaser. He didn’t enjoy it one bit!

Greatest success: Convincing a pastor we’d called Caldwell to stay when he at first said he didn’t think he was up to the task. He was and he did.

Biggest trauma: Dealing with closed in spaces.

What do you care about most in the world? That children be treated with dignity and respect and loved by their parents.

Do you have a secret? I don’t always tell my husband what I’m thinking.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? They’re kind and generous people

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? That I don’t get to see them more often.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: I did it already. I wrote a memoir celebrating the west.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Humiliating thing? Having to escape at night across Puget Sound in a borrowed wooden boat because my husband had misled investors. We had to borrow money for the stage. Worst. Night. Ever.

Thank you, Carrie, for visiting with us here on PASTimes. We’ve learned a lot about you!

Jane Kirkpatrickis the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including All She Left Behind,A Light in the Wilderness,The Memory Weaver,This Road We Traveled,and A Sweetness to the Soul,which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, USABestBooks, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

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An Interview with Claire Clairmont from Claire’s Last Secret By Marty Ambrose

Claire Last Secret CoverWe are going to speak today with Claire Clairmont at the Palazzo Cruciato in Florence, Italy.  She is a nineteenth-century woman of “a certain age” and, most interestingly, the last living survivor of the Byron/Shelley “Haunted Summer” of 1816!  Welcome, Claire!

Q:  First of all, I want to ask about your connection to Mary Shelley.  Wasn’t she your stepsister?

Claire:  Yes, her father, William Godwin, married my mother when I was a young girl.  We grew up together, along with my brother, Charles, and her stepsister, Fanny.  It was an unusual “blended” family for the time, but we loved each other.  I miss them all very much.

Q:  Do you mind telling us about your relationship with Mary?

Claire:  It was . . . complicated.  We had so much in common, especially our love of books; and, when she fell in love with Shelley, I accompanied them on their elopement to Europe.  Mary and I were both barely seventeen when we traveled together with him through France, Switzerland, and Italy—rarely spending any time apart, sharing the good times and the bad.  But, later, I think Mary grew tired of always having me around; she wanted Shelley to herself.  I suppose that I cannot blame her.  Eventually, we grew quite distant—especially after Shelley drowned near Le Spezia. She returned to England with her sole surviving son and achieved fame with her novel, Frankenstein, while I stayed in Europe.  But we were always sisters in our hearts.

Q:  Speaking of hearts, you were involved with a famous poet yourself:  Lord Byron.  Do you want to tell us about him?

Claire:  It was such a long time ago . . . but he is not the type of man you could ever forget. Handsome, magnetic, brilliant—he was all of those things, but he could also be cruel.  What can I say, except that I loved him, body and soul?  We first met in London and, then, connected in Switzerland when he, Mary, Shelley and I spent the summer of 1816 on the shores of Lake Geneva.  It was truly a magical time.  Because of the violent thunderstorms, we were driven indoors to Byron’s Villa Diodati and would tell ghost stories at night.  One evening, Byron even proposed we all write a tale to frighten each other—and that’s how Mary came to write Frankenstein. When not trying to scare each other, we sailed the lake and read poetry together.  Unfortunately, our idyll did not last beyond the summer—and there were consequences: Byron and I had a daughter, Allegra. She was the greatest joy of my life.

Q: I know this part is a little difficult, but what happened to your daughter?

Claire:  Well . . . Byron and I could never marry since his wife would not grant him a divorce, so I sent Allegra to live with him in Ravenna, Italy.  It was a dark time politically, and Byron became involved with the Carbonari—Italian revolutionaries who fought to free their country from the Austrians.  Byron thought it was unsafe for Allegra to be there, so he sent her to a convent school at Bagnacavallo.  I wanted her to live with me, but he stubbornly refused my request.  After less than two years at the convent, Allegra caught typhus, and supposedly died in 1822.  It was the greatest tragedy in my life . . .

Q: Supposedly?  So, there’s a mystery surrounding her fate?

Claire:  Oh, yes . . . which I learned only recently!

Q: I am intrigued, especially since you spent many years believing she had not survived.  It must have taken a lot of fortitude to go on.  What do you believe is your strongest trait?

Claire:  My strongest trait is my ability to survive.  I had to live by my own wits for most of my life, yet I always tried to rebound quickly from even the most difficult of circumstances.  I had a child on my own, traveled the world, and always believed that a woman could have the same freedom as a man.  I embraced life wholeheartedly, even when my choices didn’t always produce the effects for which I hoped.   I lived life on my own terms.

Q:  Worst trait?

Claire:  Impulsiveness—but this quality has been tempered over the years.  I risked everything when I was young and I do not regret it, but now that I am the sole support my dear niece and her daughter, I find that their welfare must be considered first.  But I would not mind one more big adventure . . .

Q:  Really? At your age?

Claire:  Please.

Q:  All right. I hope you find the answers about your daughter, Allegra.

Claire:  Thank you . . . sometimes life takes one in a most unexpected direction; to know about Allegra’s fate has been one of my most cherished dreams. I know I will find the truth.

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College or creating her own fiction.  Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, Thomas & Mercer—and, now, Severn House.

Two years ago, Marty had the opportunity to apply for a grant that took her to Geneva and Florence to research a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets:  historical fiction.  Her new book, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth—the “almost famous” member of the group.  The novel spans two eras played out against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Italy and is the first of a trilogy.

Marty lives on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin.  They are planning a three-week trip to Italy this fall to attend a book festival and research the second book, A Shadowed Fate

Christmas, 2017 068

 

Review: Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

978-1-4964-1732-9In most dual-time period novels I prefer the historical line more than the contemporary one. In Melanie Dobson’s new novel, Hidden Among the Stars, I was deeply immersed in both. In the contemporary line we meet Callie, a bookstore owner who reads stories to children and is comfortable living in the secluded nest of Mount Vernon, Ohio. This appealed to me because I live nearby. The author has definitely been here as everything she described was completely accurate from the hiking trail to the Ohio State campus. That was a bonus, however, because the world of children’s stories and the compelling backstory of Callie and her sister and their mysterious but loving mentor Charlotte kept me turning pages.

Likewise the stories of Annika and the boy she admires Max and the girl he longs to marry Luzia set in Austria at the onset of WWII was so vividly drawn and compelling that I could not say which storyline I preferred.

The stories are tied together at the beginning. We know what the mystery is about: A bookstore owner discovers a cryptic list in an old book and finds herself linked to the story of a mysterious Austrian castle, where priceless treasures were hidden in the early days of WWII. We, along with Callie, suspect that Charlotte, who spent time in an orphanage in France during the war, has some connection to this old book that no one yet understands, not even Charlotte. All the characters, even Josh the man that Callie finds herself drawn to, have pasts that make it hard for them to trust and love again, and that makes a reader root for them all.

The faith element is clear in this novel and the characters cling to the hope that Jesus brings into their lives. If I have any complaint, it’s very slight. I thought the first time Josh tells Callie about his faith it seemed more like a sermon than a conversation. However, when it comes up later it flows naturally within the story. And when you are dealing with personal loss (contemporary) and persecution of the Jews (historical) clinging to one’s faith is expected. The novel did not come off preachy in my opinion.

In the Author’s Note, Melanie explains that she indeed has been to the places she writes about. From a bookstore in a small Ohio town to a castle beside a lake in Austria, these places spoke to her and they certainly spoke to me as I read the story, not just as interesting locations, but as places where common people lived, loved, and did the best they could to overcome obstacles and evil. I loved this book. I think you will too!

pic_FULL_Dobson_MelanieMelanie Dobson is the award-winning author of more than fifteen historical romance, suspense, and time-slip novels, including Catching the Wind and Chateau of Secrets. Three of her novels have won Carol Awards, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie loves to explore old cemeteries and ghost towns, hike in the mountains, and play board games with her family. She lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jon, and two daughters.

An advance copy of Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review without any requirements. I have given my honest opinion.

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Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books, including her newest novel, Enya’s Son, third in the Daughters of Ireland series based on ancient legends. Being a genealogy enthusiast, she has also written articles for Internet Genealogyand Your Genealogy Today magazines, and children’s short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. She has also co-authored a baseball biography. Most everything she writes reflects her belief that history has stories to teach. Cindy and her husband live in central Ohio near their three grown sons and their families, and can be found online at www.cindyswriting.com, on Facebook www.facebook.com/cindyswritingand on Twitter: @cindyswriting.