A Chat with Raina from Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano

Name: Raina Bretton      

Parents: Poor working class, and now deceased.

Siblings: None living

Places lived: Spitalfields, London; Rothburne Abbey in Somerset

Jobs: Restorer and seller of rags

Friends: Sullivan McKenna, fiddle-playing Irish transplant who’s the son of the local vicar in Spitalfields.

Enemies: Victor Prendergast, solicitor and lady’s maid, Simone (although I’m not sure why we’re enemies)

Dating, marriage: Secretly in love with childhood best friend Sully, Sullivan McKenna

Children: None yet

What person do you most admire? The little old widow who shares my flat. She has more spunk than ten men.  

Overall outlook on life: it’s tough, but I’m tougher. Yet there’s a lot of beauty to be found outside these crowded slums, and plenty to appreciate right here, too, if you’ve an eye for it.

Do you like yourself? I’m a restorer of rags, and I cringe at that part of myself, but I’m also a restorer of castoff people. That alone makes a soul worth keeping on this earth, in my opinion. 

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Anyone could stand to have a bit more coin in her hand. Yet more than that, I secretly wish to be rid of these terrible rags that are a label and a barrier to people seeing the true me. I’d never admit it out loud, but I’d love to be swathed in vibrant colors and lush fabrics that match my artistic heart.

How are you viewed by others? I’m a thief if I’m hanging about too close, a schemer if I stand too long staring at a gent, and a dirty, common woman to be avoided if I’m anywhere near respectable folk. I’m as much an outcast as the rags I peddle, but one day that’ll all change. Maybe not this side of eternity, but it will.

Physical appearance: People always look twice at my face when I’m not in rags, and that’s the best mirror I have. I’m the rag woman, but a young one with a fresh face. With a good wash and fresh clothing, you’d think me a lady. Spending hours trapped indoors has left me as pale as the rich, and my aristocratic bloodlines have given me high cheekbones, delicate features, and soft, thick hair that begs to be piled high.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Long, thick waves

Voice: Low and firm, with an edge when it’s needed.

Right- or left-handed? Right

How would you describe yourself? I’m loyal to a fault—count me a friend once, and you’ll find it hard to be rid of my help. I gravitate toward the abandoned, the castoff and the broken, drawn to repair as much as I can. I wear nothing of beauty on the outside, but do all I can to shore it up inside.

Characteristics: Made strong by adversity, plucky and independent, wary of everyone yet childishly eager to trust.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Natural ability to see the good in people—whether or not I actually should.

How much self-control do you have? A great deal—mostly because I set few limits on myself. I obey the rules that make sense and focus on people over laws. I obey my own set of rules quite nicely.

Fears: Becoming as worthless as society at large thinks I am.

Collections, talents: Rags find their way into my hands and no matter their condition, I can make something useful of them. I am the giver of second chances, of renewed life.

What people like best about you: Sully once told me I had the oddest combination of pluck and delicate beauty, and that I always stand out among the rich and the poor. I liked that. Those who have come to know me have experienced firsthand the restoring influence I bring to both rags and people.

Interests and favorites: A lifetime of restoring rags has given me a great variety of opinions on fabrics, embellishments, flounces, and ribbons. I love color and rich fabrics, and a well-done trim.

Food, drink: I’d be in heaven if you gave me a bowl of raisin pudding.

Books: I’ve devoured every written page I’ve ever come across in my life. I’m never above losing myself in a good story, be it ha’penny novels or rich scholarly work.

Best way to spend a weekend: Lying on the roof of my tenement with Sully, staring up at the stars and giving them names. The only words between us are the ones Dickens has penned that we’ll read together.

What would a great gift for you be? A luscious, vividly colorful gown with no trimmings, so I may adorn it with all the embellishments I’ve enjoyed creating on gowns that are not mine.

When are you happy? When I am with Sully—that’s when I most know who I am.

What makes you angry? Total disregard for any human on this earth.

What makes you sad? Knowing that no matter what I accomplish or know or do, I will always be simply, “the rag woman.”

What makes you laugh? The songs Sully creates on his fiddle. With the right words and a silly little grin, he never fails to make me laugh.

Hopes and dreams: A life outside of Spitalfields, where I can see the sky beyond the buildings and walk through the streets with the respect of a normal woman.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I gave the Vicar a tongue-lashing once—the vicar! Near as bad as saying it to the Almighty himself. 

Greatest success: Bringing something cast away back to life—once it was a lovely red gown, another time a widow who’d lost all hope.

Biggest trauma: I’ll never forget the day I received word that my Sully’s ship had been lost. I’d sent my heart out on that boat, and it sank with him. I never had the courage to tell him of my love for him.

What do you care about most in the world? Finding life everywhere—in little hidden pockets throughout the slums, in the rags that are cast aside, in the people whose spark has gone.

Do you have a secret? Everything I am is about to become a secret, if I choose to accept the new life offered to me. No one can know I was ever Raina Bretton the rag woman.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Victor is charming and so different than the rough Spitalfields men I know, even if he scares me a little. Sully—dear Sully—there’s no one more dear to me than my fiddle-playing, star-gazing, best friend who taught me to read.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I don’t feel I know them thoroughly, but neither do they know me. In Spitalfields, everyone sees me as “merely the rag vendor.” In Rothburne, I’m something entirely false.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be? Rescue Sully the way he’s rescued me from a lifetime of scrapes. That’s what best friends do.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was arrested once. I never like to talk about it, and I’m ashamed it happened. Everyone assumes, when you’re the rag woman, and no one stops to ask why you carted off with the clothing left on the curb. Even if you had perfectly good intentions, those bobbies will assume and drag your hide off to prison anyway. I never want anyone to know about the night I spent there.

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.

Interview with Victoria from Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Victoria, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  Since you are in constant danger, I promise I will not publish this until after the war. I hope we can meet up again if you survive the war. It is very brave of you and your four counterparts to be willing to be sent by the OSS into Nazi occupied Paris. Dragonfly is an interesting code name for the group since they are almost impossible to snare and have no blind spots with the ability to escape.Collectively each of you are smart, capable, innovative, honest, resourceful, and of course you are all loyal patriots.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Victoria Grayson: “Put-offing” because of my natural reserve and the assumption that outwardly beautiful people of wealth and education are unapproachable.  To my great regret, I do not possess the nature by which to convince them otherwise. 

EC: Why the code name Liverwort?

VG: It’s a plant that people do not give just due because of its ugliness. It is similar to how beautiful people are often denied appreciation for their inner qualities because of being blinded by outward appearances.

EC: Do you consider yourself a non-conformist?

VG: No. I would consider myself a traditionalist.

EC: Why did you take up the hobby of fencing?

VG: Because of a natural skill and my attraction to the grace, discipline, and civility of the sport.

EC: Did you ever think your beauty can be used to your advantage?

VG: Of course! 

EC: Did you ever truly love someone?

VG: Ralph DuPont, my fiancé who was MIA, with all my heart.

EC: Besides wanting to find your fiancé was there another reason you joined the OSS?

VG: I wouldn’t have gone to France had it not been for my fiancé, so I doubt that I would have joined the OSS.  I would have sought another way to serve my country to do my part as my fiancé and brother were doing theirs. 

EC: Do you think good people can be caught up doing bad things?

VG: Yes.  I’d like to think that the Nazi SS Colonel Albrecht was essentially a good man misled beyond escape by a corrupt leader he believed in.  Lots of people make bad choices for what they believe to be the right reasons, but eventually, we pay for those mistakes.  

EC: Do you think Colonel Derrick Albrecht was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

VG: Oh no, because Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had dual personalities resulting from some erratic brain disorder.  Colonel Albrecht was a rational man in control of his thoughts and actions.  His deeds were deliberate and calculated, not generated by dysfunctional urges.

EC: What happened in your youth?-Has it influenced you?

VG: I had a perfect childhood, not only because it was one of great privilege but because I was loved by my family.  There was, however, the “Grayson code” that my brother and I were expected to live up to, a set of principles.  We were to live with the honor and courage set forth by our ancestors.  Sometimes that type of set rules results in a rigid exterior which perhaps explains mine.

EC: What did you learn about the French culture?

VG: That is a difficult question to answer since I was only in Paris, at a time when the pleasures, gaiety, and delight thought of as part of French culture had been snuffed by the German occupation.  The French could not “be themselves.”  Their city has become dark. 

EC: Of your other four co-patriots who did you feel closest to?

VG: Well, of course, being a woman, I was closest to Bridgette who became the sister I never had. I adored her.  But the boys . . . such fine men.  Who could not love them, treasure their goodness and kindness, enjoy their humor and fun-loving natures.  As we came to know one another, I was protective of them as if they were my siblings. 

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

VG: That the world would learn to live in peace, that the money to wage war and outfit armies would be converted to feed the hungry, care for the sick and elderly and poor, provide shelter for the homeless, and educate people to love thy neighbor.  Think what a wonderful world that would be.

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

VG: I certainly do not consider myself a cynic.  Cynics are people who are ungrateful for the blessings they have, especially the blessing of living in the United States.  Living in Paris and seeing what I have seen, has made me grateful that I am an American.

THANK YOU!!

Photo: Marie Langmore_Langmore Photography.

Leila Meacham is a writer and former teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. She is the author of the bestselling novels Roses, Tumbleweeds, Somerset, and Titans.  She started her writing career in her 60s, publishing her bestseller “Roses” at 70.

Dr. Elizabeth Carlisle from Diagnosis Love by Martha Rogers

Dr. Carlisle, would you prefer I call you “Doctor” or something else?

Oh, I’m Dr. Carlisle in the office, but I’m Libby to my friends, and Cactus Creek is so friendly that I have a number of friends after only a week.

If you don’t mind, I will call you Libby then. Libby, what made you decide to leave your father’s thriving practice in Indiana?

My father is a well-known physician in Muncy, Indiana, and when I tried going into practice with him like he wanted, most of the patients preferred a man and asked for my father. Then my mother decided I should be married and have a family instead of trying to be like my father. She even had an older friend of the family picked out for me to marry. When I saw the ad in our city newspaper, I hopped all over it like the frogs in our garden pond. I wanted to prove to my parents that I am a good doctor and can make it on my own.

 How was your journey?

I came by train and had to stop over for several hours in St. Louis. The trip gave me the opportunity to meet people and see parts of the country I’d never see otherwise. Even though I traveled in the middle of July, and it took me nearly five days, I loved every minute of the adventure. My clothes suffered a little as did my energy, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

 Well, I must say, I’m glad you arrived safely at your destination after such a trip. What do you think of Cactus Creek and its people?

 At first the town utterly dismayed me by its size, but the hills in distance and the groves of trees gave it a beautiful backdrop. I had to laugh because the good people of Cactus Creek called them mountains, but they were nothing like the mountains I’d ever seen. I expected a lot of cactus and dry land with that name, but very few cactus plants grow anywhere. I learned that the people who settled here came expecting a desert and lots of cacti. That’s the name they decided to give it. My hometown isn’t that large, but we have electricity and motor cars, and many more people, so I’m adjusting to small town life, and I think I like it.

 Cactus Creek is a prickly sounding name for sure. I think I would definitely miss electricity and motor cars if I were in your shoes. How have you settled in there? 

 After the wonderful people of the town helped me clean up the clinic and get it ready, I moved into the upstairs rooms where the former doctor lived. I will say this. Dr. Forrest must have been an excellent doctor because the equipment left behind after he died is some of the best I’ve seen. He was up to date with everything. I thought I might have a little problem with the town accepting me as both the new doctor and a woman, but it hasn’t been like that. They all wanted a doctor after being without one for five months.

That must have been a relief for you!

 You seem like an eligible young lady. Are you looking for a husband any time soon? Why? Or why not?

I didn’t come to Texas to get married. I came to be a doctor, and until I find a man who is willing to let me be both a wife and a doctor, I prefer to remain single. Of course, I would love a home and a family, but I see that as far down the line in my future.

 I heard that Deputy Sheriff Garrett Lofton may have taken a shine to you. How do you feel about that?   

Oh mercy, my cheeks are getting warm. That is the most handsome man I’ve ever met, but he’s a little ornery and stubborn, and he teases me something terrible. However, he’s been very nice and showed me the way out to some of the people who live on ranches and farms outside the town. He even arranged for me to have a buggy available at the livery for when I needed to make those trips. I suppose if I were looking for a man right now, Garrett Lofton might be the one to interest me.  I fooled him one time. He thought he was going to teach me to ride, but I already knew how. I took lessons when I was a young girl and rode with my father a lot. I learned side saddle, but it didn’t take long for me to catch onto riding astride, and I must say I do love it.

About the Author:

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.

Find Martha at:  www.marthawrogers.com, http://www.hhhistory.com                           Twitter:  @martharogers2                             Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarthaRogersAuthor

 

Meet Madeleine from Wolves at Our Door by Soren Paul Petrek

We’re thrilled to be talking to Madeleine Toche from Soren Paul Petrek’s Wolves at Our Door.  It is a pleasure to have her with us today!

Thank you for your interview, Madeleine.   How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I’m 22 years old and I am an agent for the British Special Operations Executive.  I am French and therefore work under cover in my home country. I target high ranking Nazi Gestapo and SS officers and I kill them.  I may be called an assassin, but like my deceased brother, I am a soldier.  If captured, I would be shot like so many of my brothers and sisters in the French military and Resistance.

Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?

Like my mother, I’m considered attractive with dark features and dark brown eyes.  My heritage is a mixture of Algerian and French Provencal. I love to wear my hair long.  It’s so curly that I can’t do much with it anyway.

What would I love the most about you?

If you’re my friend, I will do anything for you.  I am a loving and loyal person.

What would I hate the most about you?

I can come across as cold. It takes me a while to warm up to new people.  I am also stubborn.

Where do you go when you are angry?

To a dark place inside me. I first experienced it when I was raped by a Nazi SS officer.  I waited for the right time and killed him.

What makes you laugh out loud?

Simple things.  My family runs a restaurant, nothing fancy but good food and local wine.  When my brother and I were young we begged our parents to let us keep a stray dog. To our surprise they agreed, but the dog jumped on the counter in the kitchen and stole scraps.  Eventually, he got so fat he couldn’t jump up to steal food anymore.  I think my father expected that to happen.  I can still see his face watching our dog try.  That silly grin makes me laugh out loud.

What is in your refrigerator right now?

I like to work with fresh meats and produce.  The best dishes are simple ones.  I always have onions and garlic, tomatoes and stock.  We eat what we serve at our restaurant and grow our own herbs.  I grew up by the sea, fish is essential.

What is your most treasured possession?

The crucifix that hung around my brother, Yves neck when he was killed during the Nazi invasion of France.

What is your greatest fear?

The death and torture of people that I love.

What is the trait you most not like about yourself?

That killing has become so easy for me.  I’m not the same person that I was.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Yes, he provides a balance between my light and dark sides.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A picnic in our back garden, with family friends and a bit of shade from the fierce Provencal sun.

What are three must haves when shopping at the grocery store?

Wine, cheese and fresh baguettes.

I’m opening up your cabinet.  What foods do I see?

I like to pickle things from our garden.  I love dill pickles and beets.  I could eat them all day.

If you could change one physical thing about yourself, what would that be?

I’m petite.  I think that I’d like to be an inch or two taller.

Are you a loner or do you prefer to surround yourself with friends?

I’ve spent so much time alone that I treasure being among the people I love.

Who is your best friend?

She was Gabrielle. She and her toddler, Antoinette were burned alive by the Nazi SS during the mass murder of civilians at the village of Oradour-sur-Glane.

Do you have children?

Not now, but I love children. Before I became an assassin, I helped Jewish children escape from the Nazis as part of a local Resistance group.

What is your favorite weather?

Blue skies at the beach with a cooling breeze.

What’s your idea of a perfect meal?

Daube, a simple French beef stew, a hearty burgundy, and a crisp salad to finish.  I’d sneak in a big piece of chocolate torte too.

Someone is secretly in love with you.  Who is it and how do you feel about that?

Men look at me all of the time as a sex object.  The real me might terrify them.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to stay and grow old at Chex Toche, our family restaurant.  It’s been open for more than two-hundred years.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring. It is very expensive and a gift from my husband’s father, a feared gangster who runs the London docks.  He refused to allow his son to follow in his footsteps.

Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to cook?

I am a professional cook. Anything lamb is a treat and so easy to prepare.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

My mission is so dangerous that I expect to die every day.  In preparation I would destroy the largest Nazi headquarters that I could locate.  Nazis are evil.  Never forget that.

Soren Petrek is a practicing criminal trial attorney, admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1991.  Married with two adult children, Soren continues to live and work in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Educated in the U.S., England and France Soren sat his O-level examinations at the Heathland School in Hounslow, London in 1981.  His undergraduate degree in Forestry is from the University of Minnesota, 1986.  His law degree is from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota 1991.

Soren’s novel, Cold Lonely Couragewon Fade In Magazine’s2009 Award for Fiction.  Fade Inwas voted the nation’s favorite movie magazine by the Washington Postand the L.A. Timesin 2011 and 2012.

The French edition of Cold Lonely CourageCourage was published January 2019, by Encre Rouge Editions, distributed by Hachette Livre in 60 countries.  Soren’s contemporary novel,Tim will be released along with the rest of the books in the Madeleine Toche series of historical thrillers.

His latest book is the historical action adventure novel, Wolves at Our Door. Website: https://www.sorenpetrek.com/

Interview with Nessie MacDonald from Recipe for a Husband by Anne Greene

Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Nessie. What is something important about yourself you would like to share?

 I have New England grit, and do what must be done. I decide against needing love in marriage. I must be pragmatic. Since my father’s recent death, I need a man to do the heavy work maintaining the lighthouse, especially since this is 1940, and the government tasked lighthouse keepers to patrol our Bar Harbor, Maine shores for German spies secretly landing.

 I hear you’re in quite a predicament and I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. What are you going to do to find extra help at the lighthouse this year?

With the eligible men my age signing up to join the war effort, and myself overwhelmed with work, I felt I had only one option. I advertised for a husband in the local Bar Harbor paper. I plan to prepare a special meal for each man who answers my ad. I realize most men my age have either been drafted or have enlisted to serve in the war effort. Of those men left, I shall choose the strongest one with the least drawbacks.

Tell us about the strange heirloom cookbook you found. What is the most interesting thing about it?

I’ve lived in the house attached to the lighthouse all my life. But one day, while cleaning the lighthouse windows—there are one hundred stairs to the light at the top and each bend in the circular staircase has a window—I discovered a leather-bound cookbook. I’ve cleaned those windows many times and never seen this lovely heirloom, Lady Jane’s New England Cookbook. Besides being filled with delightful, authentic New England recipes, this cookbook contains a sage saying and a Bible verse that relates to each recipe. I discover how amazing that each saying and Bible verse relates to each man for whom I make the recipe. For instance, one talks about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The ulterior motive for each man wanting to marry me.

That sounds like some cookbook! I heard you have a “guest,” an injured and stranded sailor. Who is he and what is he like?

 What can I say about Kyle? I, at the risk of my own life, dragged the ship-wrecked Australian from the sea with a broken leg. He became the torment of my life.

He lies in my small kitchen as I cook and serve dinners to the prospective husbands who answer my ads. He refuses to keep his mouth shut about each man who applies. He points out their flaws. He prods me to realize that any man who answers an ad like mine islooking for a sugar-mama and an easy life. He uses Lady Jane’s New England Cookbook to point out why each man is unsuitable to become my husband.

I do trust Lady Jane’s advice. The mysterious cookbook seems to know exactly what each applicant wants.

 Do you think he would be right for the job of husband by Thanksgiving? Why or why not?

With his undeniable great appearance, his sense of humor, and his being the first Christian man I’ve ever met, he is way too attractive for a woman looking for a husband. He’s strong enough to do any job on and around the lighthouse.

If he were not responsible for his parents and the upkeep and production of his Sheep Station in Perth, Australia, he would make the perfect husband. But I had to cross him off my prospective husband list immediately. So, he lies in my kitchen and jokes about each man who applies to be the future lighthouse keeper.

How do the two of you get along?

 If Kyle would stop baiting the men who come to my dinners, we would do well together. But he does torment me with how much more suited he would be as a husband than all the men who answer my ads. I can’t help comparing what I image his kisses might be with the few actual kisses I receive. And the idea of being snuggled in his arms sends me into a heat wave. Yes, we get along. I enjoy his company, his banter, and what help he can give while confined to his cot with his broken leg in my kitchen.

What will you do if your scheme to find a husband doesn’t work out?

My scheme must work. There is no plan B.

Well, then I hope it works out for you, Nessie. Thank you for being my guest.

About the Author: 

Anne Greene loves writing about alpha heroes who aren’t afraid to fall on their knees in prayer, and about gutsy heroines. Her Women of Courage series spotlights heroic women of World War II, first book, ANGEL WITH STEEL WINGSHer Holly Garden private investigating serie sblasts off with RED IS FOR ROOKIE. Enjoy her award-winning Scottish historical romances, MASQUERADE MARRIAGEand MARRIAGE BY ARRANGEMENT. Anne hopes her stories transport you to awesome new worlds and touch your heart.

Her home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas. Her husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. Her little gold and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares her writing space, curled at her feet. She has four beautiful, talented children, and eight grandchildren who keep her on her toes and running.

Connect with her here:

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Book Review: Waltz With Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

51teoT5RTyLAs Hitler and his Nazis march across Europe…

The splendors of Detroit’s ballrooms spin Esther (McConnell) Meir around like a princess in a fairy tale Here she meets junior engineer Eric Erhardt. But will Eric abandon his playboy ways for Esther?

When war comes to America’s shores, Esther questions whether she has the grit to carry on the McConnell legacy. Meanwhile, Eric comes face to face with death when he’s drafted into the Army and shipped to fight in Italy.

Once again, war separates a McConnell woman from the man she loves as the Destiny saga reaches a page-turning conclusion.

Award-winning historical fiction author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield weaves fiction with real-life events to create this inspirational fourth book of the Destiny series.

My Review:

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s Waltz with Destiny is the crown jewel of the Destiny series!
Brakefield brings 1940s Detroit to life, along with the WWII battlefields of Italy.

Esther Meier, daughter of Ruby (McConnell) Meier, has a legacy of faith to live up to and an unsure future with war looming and her annoying attraction to a man who seems to flirt with every girl who glances sideways at him.

Eric Erhardt is studying to be an engineer but also wants to win his father’s approval. Handsome and talented, he can’t see it in himself. When he meets Esther at the Vanity Ballroom, he finds there’s something different about her with her faith and the way she conducts herself. She captures his heart like no other girl. Though love grows between them, both are afraid to admit it and commit themselves to the relationship, especially with the war in full swing.

Brakefield has outdone herself in bringing to life battles of WWII as seen through Eric’s eyes: the angst, fear, deprivation, bravery, death, and injury that surrounded the men of the United States Army. It’s a good read to remind us of the sacrifices of those that have gone before us that have maintained our freedom at sobering cost, along with God’s grace and answered prayer.

Yet Esther is never far from Eric’s thoughts while he is away. And while she is faithful to write encouraging words to him she wonders … should she wait for him? It’s worth reading to find out! You won’t want to put this one down!

Interview with Milady from Laura L. Sullivan’s Latest Novel

Milady thank you for sitting down and doing this interview. You are no longer a teenager, but now a woman who has seen and been through so very much. Some claim you are a devil, but others see you as a heroine fighting for justice. You have overcome life’s challenges against incredible odds, especially by those who call themselves The Three Musketeers.  Hopefully anyone reading this they can see the true you.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Milady De Winter: I think I’m a pragmatist who hides a tender heart. I think I see the world for what it is even as I hope for better. In my person I am in the later stages of my prime. (At least, in this age, where a woman is ripe at 16 and stale merchandise by 29.) 

EC: Describe Milady versus Clarice.

MDW: When you read my tale, you will meet me both as an ingenue and as a mature spy and assassin. Clarice – my younger self – knew a great deal about everything except herself. That kind of knowledge can only come from years of hard experience. As Milady I have learned bitter lessons, but I am a more complete person for that. The world sees me as hard and impenetrable, but in truth I’m like a porcupine, my devilish spikes protecting a soft belly. Young Clarice had yet to grow her spikes.

EC: Do you consider yourself a non-conformist?

MDW: In many ways I conformed perfectly to what was expected of me. It’s only that the expectations were much different than they are for most girls. I freely conformed to Maman’s expectations that I grow wise and strong. I did my best to conform to my father’s expectations that I become his beautiful tool and weapon. And when I served Cardinal Richelieu, I conformed to his idea of a perfect spy. But conformation is a mask, and when at last I ripped it off I discovered the woman beneath. 

EC: Do you resent the laws that do not give any power to women?

MDW: How could one not resent such inequality? I will tell you how: rote and survival. Although I’ve seen great goodness and great evil in humanity, I’m left with one overwhelming impression of human nature: it is lazy. We tend to stick unquestioningly on the path our ancestors and circumstance set us on. We accept. Women are told to marry, to serve, to bear, and most do. Peasants are told to labor and obey, and they do. A rut is a comfortable place to be – the going is easy. That’s why the rut is there. Then too, most of the population is too concerned with surviving to concern themselves much with changing the system. Bellies cry louder than brains.

EC: You seem almost philosophical? 

MDW: Well, you need only give a cake to the eldest of four children and see what portion the younger ones ever get. What a rare thing for a noble to say “I will share my money” or a magistrate to say “I will dole out justice equally to rich and poor” or a priest to say honestly “my every action is God’s will and not my own.” 

EC: Have you ever regretted anything you have done?

MDW: No one who has even a modicum of happiness in their present lives should ever suffer with regret. I would not change a moment of my life even if I could. Any alteration and I might not have the threefold happiness I have now – my lover, my son, and my darling friend. I have done great wrongs and I have suffered great sorrows, but I would not undo them. Each moment in a life, good or bad, leads to the present moment. If I changed my past I would be another person.

EC: Did you ever truly love someone?

MDW: I love Denys deeply and truly, as a friend, an equal, and a constant in my life. His love is like rawhide, only growing stronger and tighter when battered by the elements. But I think you are really asking whether I loved George, or Olivier. The man falling off a cliff may truly believe he is flying… for a time. But oh, how glorious it feels before the laws of nature reassert themselves and the imminent ground proves one a fool! Of course I loved them. My love was a currency ill-spent, and it did not buy me what I hoped it would. But much as I would like with the cleverness of hindsight to say I never loved either of those two flawed men, it would be a lie. 

EC: Describe Denys versus George versus Olivier

MDW: Despite any good characteristics, George and Olivier are fundamentally selfish. They lack the imagination or compassion or humanity or desire to envision anything beyond the compass of their own selves. Denys, however, sees himself as part of a greater whole, and is the better man for it.

EC: What happened in your youth-has it influenced you?

MDW: When a bone is broken, it is weak and useless for a while, no? But properly tended, when it heals it knits together more strongly than ever. The trauma of my youth crushed and rendered me. I lost the ability to trust. I lost the ability to love. But I found that when at last I healed enough to regain those precious gifts, I felt them that much more strongly for the people who were actually worthy of them. I could not love Denys half so well had my heart not first been twice shattered. Only when something has been broken do you understand its value. 

EC: You were overheard saying that you have faced a life of “betrayal and vengeance, of hate and murder, of darkest peril.” Please explain.

MDW: The first two men I trusted not only let me down but turned on me completely. One ruined my life, the other tried to take it. But I’ve learned (though it took a very long time) that I don’t want to be defined by the wrongs done to me. I’m not saint enough to forgive the most serious slights, so I got revenge on both of those men. Now, they are behind me, and I hope all of those things are merely the story of my past, not the story of my life. 

EC: Having been beaten in the convent-did it turn you off to religion?

MDW: I don’t think I know my own mind on the subject well enough to speak with any conviction on religion as a whole, but of one thing I am absolutely convinced: men are men and not god. The Church can be a bastion of charity and kindness. Or it can be a place of abuse and cupidity. Humans are flawed and faulty, and if the church is plagued with cruelty or greed, well, then, so too is every profession. I would not cease eating carrots because a farmer struck me. 

EC:  And you gave a “carrot” to those women in need?

MDW: As soon as I had the means I established my own convent as an example of what faith, hope, and charity can do for a woman. There, women of all classes work and enjoy the fruits of their labors. They learn, they help each other. For now, this freedom and equality are only possible in the cloister, guarded, as it were, by God. Perhaps one day women can live like this everywhere.

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

MDW: Once one is a mother one never gets personal wishes anymore! Every wish is for my son, that he grow up happy and strong and safe, that he find or create a world where no one need fear, and where those who stumble are lifted up. There is a tender place in my heart that holds out the most ludicrous hopes for myself and all of humanity.

EC: Anything else you would like to add that I have not asked?

MDW: At that rate the world would never change for the better. I can bear slander, but what example does that set for other women who read my tale as told by the Musketeers? They’ll feel hopeless and helpless. They’ll feel like no one will ever believe them when they tell their own stories. It is for them that I tell my true tale. So that they can tell theirs in turn. 

If my tale accomplishes anything, I hope it gives readers the courage to find their own voices and tell their own stories – no matter how much time has passed. Don’t allow the story of YOU to be told by anyone else!

THANK YOU!!

Laura L. Sullivan is the author of five books for middle grade and young adult audiences. Milady is her adult debut. She lives in Florida with her son.

Character Interview with Cassie Kendrick from Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today. I’m not sure what to call you. Your situation is so unique . . . a woman dressed as a man to serve in the Union Army. Would you like me to call you Cassie?

Cassie is fine. I enlisted as Thomas Turner, but we’re alone at the moment. You’re the only one who knows my secret. If another soldier walks in on us, just refer to me as Thomas.

All right, Cassie, who is your role model, and why?

My granny Ardie. She always believed in me when no one else did. It was like she saw me, the realme, for exactly who I was and loved me all the more for it.

Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings?

I have four sisters. All of them are married except me.

It must have been hard on your parents when you chose to enlist, especially since it entailed playing the part of a young man.

They didn’t know. I left in the middle of the night. I’m sure they assumed I ran away.

Why didn’t you tell them?

My father was attempting to arrange my marriage to a horrible man. He was well-known in the community for his philandering, as well as his foul temper and abusive ways. Much like my own father. When I couldn’t convince him to change his mind, I fled.

What is your earliest memory?

I don’t know if it is my earliest memory, but one of the first was the Christmas Granny Ardie gave me a doll. I named her Elizabeth. She had a beautiful pink dress with lace trim and a porcelain face. She went with me everywhere. One day I was playing in the kitchen and my father arrived home in a drunken rage. He picked up Elizabeth and threw her into the wall. Her face was shattered. I was inconsolable.

What a horrible memory!

There were many others similar to that one but something about that moment replays over and over in my mind. And I was so upset because my mother watched it happen and said nothing. Did nothing.

Let’s talk about your work in the Michigan Second. It must be so taxing. Have you found any friends that make the strain easier to bear?

I try to keep to myself. You know, the less investment in relationships, the less likely my identity will be discovered. But there are two fellows I consider my chums. One is a young errand boy named Jonah. Talk about precocious! I’ve never seen a child who can talk so much. Half of the soldiers shoo him away like a pesky fly and the rest find him an endless source of amusement. 

And the other soldier you’ve befriended?

He’s not a soldier. He’s a photographer, sent by Mathew Brady to capture war images. His name is Gabriel. At first, I found his chatter vexing, but he’s proven himself to be a loyal friend. Easy to converse with, intelligent and kind.

Does Gabriel know your true identity?

No! I’m afraid if he knew, it would ruin everything.

What is it you fear the most?

Captivity. And perhaps a life wasted. I only have one life to live. I need to make each day count. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than a life of insignificance.

What is your dream?

To be free, truly free. Able to go where I want, do what I want without looking over my shoulder. Prisons are everywhere. I left one when I ran away from home, but I’m finding emotional prisons follow wherever I go.

That’s what I’m doing. Fighting for freedom . . . for the nation’s as well as my own.

What a thrilling adventure. Thank you for chatting today, Cassie!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tara Johnsonis an author, speaker, and passionate lover of stories. She loves to travel to churches, ladies’ retreats, and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

From the time she was young and watched Gone with the Wind with her mother for the first time, the Civil War has intrigued her. That fascination grew into all aspects of American history and the brave people and stories who make up its vibrant past. 

She says, “History is crammed full of larger-than-life characters. Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Amelia Earhart, and Frederick Douglass are just a few examples of flawed, wounded humans who battled their demons with determination and left an indelible mark on the pages of history. I suppose that’s why people are so fascinating. No matter the era, we all battle the same wounds. Abandonment, abusive fathers, overprotective mothers, loss, grief, rejection, addiction, crippling anxiety, loneliness, or the yearning for unconditional love, to name a few. We all battle the same junk and have to decide whether to fight or cave. Run or stand. Cry or smile. That’s what great characters do. They are a reflection of our struggles, our own wounds. Our own need. And, when written well, they remind us whom we need to turn to for healing.”

Tara has written articles for Plain Truth magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth Radio and Enduring Word Radio. Tara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Todd, live in Arkansas, and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, and Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane, who are with Jesus. 

Visit her website at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com and connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor) and Twitter (@TaraMinistry).

Introducing From Yours Truly, Thomas by by Rachel Fordham

Name: Penelope Ercanbeck but please call me Penny. Only my mother calls me Penelope. 

Places lived: I live in Washington D.C. I used to live in one of the biggest houses in the area but that was years ago. Now I live in a small rented apartment. It’s all we can afford but I’m grateful we’ve a roof over our heads.

Jobs: I work at the Dead Letter Office. Most postal workers aren’t allowed to open mail but we’re allowed to if it helps us figure out where the mail should go. You should see some of the letters people mail. My goodness! Some are so boring and others are downright devilish.

Friends: Dinah’s my best friend. She’s a clerk too. Other than that we don’t have a lot in common. She’s so serious and I’m a little more prone to imagination and daydreaming. But she’s a good friend and she’s there for me when I need her. 

Dating, marriage: I dream of marriage. Especially when I open a romantic letter. In my mind I like pretending the words are meant for me. In real life though I don’t even know who I would court. I’m not a wealthy woman any longer and yet my roots keep me from feeling completely comfortable in the working class. 

Overall outlook on life: I try to be practical but sometimes I still dream of something more ahead. Something romantic and meant just for me. No matter how bad life gets I seem to just keep hoping and wishing for brighter days ahead.

What people like best about you: I’m honest and hard working. Those attributes pay the bills. But I like to think there’s someone out there that will like me for all of who I am.

What would a great gift for you be? That’s an easy one. I’d love a letter written to me. Something sincere and full of heart. I want my name on it. I’m tired of reading other people’s mail. I want my own. 

When are you happy? I have a dog name Honey that had shaggy long hair and a troublesome disposition. My mother hates her but I am always happiest when I am with my dog. She seems to understand me better than most of the people in my life.

Biggest trauma: Losing my father. He was the backbone of our family. The world had been better when he was alive. With him gone our lives have fallen apart. Our money was lost and our house. Now we barely manage to get by. But mostly I miss his smile and his laugh and all of his wisdom.

Do you have a secret? I read people’s mail. I know many secrets but part of my job description is to keep those secrets, secret. 

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I’ve always though letters could contain windows to the author’s soul. I suppose what I like best about the other main characters is their heart and soul. I feel I know them very deeply even though we’ve never met in person. 

About the Author

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.

Follow her online at facebook.com/rachelfordhamfans

Talking with Logan McGregor from Bachelors and Babies by Margaret Tanner

Logan front cover with baby shoesNovel PASTimes: Tell me why you’re in the situation you are in.

Logan: I find an abandoned baby near my ranch and decide to keep her. I’m going to name her Alice after my dead wife.

Novel PASTimes: What are looking for?

Logan: I need to find a woman who is lactating and can feed baby Alice.

Novel PASTimes: What is this other person using you for?

Logan: Missie has lost her memory and in exchange for a roof over her head and food she will breast feed Alice.

Novel PASTimes: How do you feel about that?

Logan: I don’t like the idea of having a woman like Missie, who doesn’t even know who she is, or where she comes from, living in my house, but I’m desperate. She has the milk that I need for Alice.

Novel PASTimes: Assuming you and Missie work out your differences, what’s gonna keep you from living happily ever after?

Logan: Missie has too many secrets.

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing [other character] could do to you?

Logan: Take Alice from me.

Novel Why would that be so bad?

Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing you could do to Missie?

Logan: Banish Missie from my house and have her sent back to jail.

Novel PASTimes: Why would they deserve it?

Logan: Because if Missie gets her memory back, I think she will refuse to tell me the dark secret she is carrying around.

Novel PASTimes: Why on earth do you want a relationship with this person?

Logan: I don’t. But Alice needs a woman’s care. As an unmarried man it wouldn’t be right to have a woman living under my roof who isn’t a close blood relative. I’m going to ask her to marry me.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for spending time with us, Logan. We hope everything works out with Missie.

GET YOUR COPY OF BACHELORS AND BABIES, LOGAN NOW

BLURB: Logan – Bachelors and Babies Book 2

A baby is discarded in the wilderness of South Dakota.

Rancher, Logan McGregor, finds an abandoned baby and decides to keep her. He names her Alice after his dead wife. This child will fill the void in his lonely heart.

Missie, a woman with no memory, is incarcerated in a local jail. She is crazy according to the Marshall, but she can provide the one thing Logan desperately needs – milk for baby Alice. Against his better judgement, he takes Missie to his ranch.

When Missie’s memory finally returns, will her explosive recollections bring them all together

Margaret TannerMargaret Tanner is an Award Winning Historical and Contemporary Romance Author who has now added Western Historical Romance to her writing repertoire.

She lives in Australia, is married and has three grown up sons and two gorgeous little granddaughters.

Margaret now enjoys writing Western Historical Romance. Frontier Australia and frontier America, have many similarities, isolated communities, a large single male population and a lack of eligible women. This leads to many interesting plots.

She has always loved Westerns, soaking up all the Western TV shows and movies when she was young. Bonanza was her all-time favorite show. Little Joe Cartwright was her hero. Western Author, Zane Grey was her favorite author at that time.

Amazon Author Page   http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003T5216E

Website:   http://www.margarettanner.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/margaret.tanner.399