Meet Bella from Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell

Hello Bella. I hear you’re about to move to Italy?

You heard correctly! I’m moving to the beautiful coastal town of Portofino to open a very special hotel. Not just me, of course. My family will be accompanying me: my husband, Cecil, and our grown-up children Lucian and Alice. 

Why are you opening a hotel?

It’s always been a dream of mine. And our lives in London had begun to feel rather stale and unprofitable. I’ve loved Italy ever since I was a girl and… to tell you the truth, we all need a change. Lucian was badly wounded in the Great War. Alice’s husband lost his life. I’m hoping this new venture will restore us and bring us closer together.

You and your husband included?

[Blushes] That’s a difficult subject. It’s true, we don’t always see eye to eye. And Cecil can be quite unpleasant when he’s had too much to drink. But he’s been very supportive of my hotel idea… I don’t know. People are complicated, aren’t they?

Tell me about your guests.

We’re fully booked all through the summer, which is quite an achievement. We have Cecil’s old flame Julia Drummond-Ward coming with her daughter, Rose. She’s supposed to be very beautiful and we’re hoping she might prove a suitable match for Lucian. Then there’s Lady Latchmere, a grand old dowager who I must admit is rather demanding. (I say ‘old’ – she can’t be much older than me.) We have a couple of Americans arriving next week: an art collector called Jack Turner and his wife, Claudine. At least, I *think* she’s his wife… She’s a singer in Paris. I hoped we might attract some Italian guests and I’m pleased to say we’ve had a booking from one Count Albani and his son, Roberto. The Count is something of an Anglophile and studied at Oxford, I believe.   

With so many guests, there can’t be much room for friends.

That’s true, though we do have Lucian’s close friend Anish staying. He’s a charming Indian gentleman. Very clever and kind – it’s no exaggeration to say he saved Lucian’s life. In a funny sort of way I count our cook, Betty, as a friend. I know one shouldn’t say such a thing, but she’s been with the family for such a long time. Sometimes I feel I know her better than my own children.

How are you finding Italy so far?

It’s exquisite – the climate, the view, the people. The political situation troubles me, of course. Mussolini is a thoroughly unpleasant character. But I’m an optimist by nature. As far as I’m concerned, Italy has always stood for truth and beauty and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

JP O’Connell is a writer and editor. He lives in south London with his wife and two children.

JP O’Connell has worked as an editor and writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines including Time Out, The Guardian, The Times, and the Daily Telegraph. JP has also written several books including a novel, a celebration of letter-writing, a spice encyclopedia, and, most recently, an analysis of David Bowie’s favorite books and the ways they influenced his music.

Publication Information
Title: HOTEL PORTOFINO
Author: J.P. O’Connell
Format: Trade Paperback Original
ISBN: 9798200875047
Pub Date: January 18, 2022
Price: $17.99
Genre: Fiction/Historical

Meet Jennie Hamilton from All That Is Hidden  by Laura DeNooyer-Moore

Welcome, Jennie. I’m so glad you could join us today for an interview.

Jennie: The pleasure’s all mine. Granny sakes alive, I’m glad to be taking a break from a hot day of weeding in the garden, snapping beans, and watering my azaleas and buttercups. There’s always a slew of chores awaiting, but I love it. The kids and I dug up dandelion roots for coffee. We wash and peel them, then roast and grind them. We’re fixing to scrub sassafras bark, then peel and boil it for tea. And add a right heap of sugar, of course.

Sounds like you keep quite busy.

Jennie: As busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger with the seven-year itch. If not the garden, it’s the cooking and cleaning and other chores around the farm. Today I’ve a hankering for pork stew, beans with bacon, and hushpuppies—my husband Drew’s favorite meal. And I reckon I should practice our clogging routine for the town’s Fourth of July Festival. 

I’ve heard that you favor doing things the traditional way. 

Jennie: Perhaps to my detriment. I’ll blame my mother for that. She says I do her proud because I still cling to the old ways, the home remedies, and spring tonic that cures whatever ails you. I take it over to the neighbors, too, every week. The kids and I string beans for leather breeches, and I fancy an old fashioned potato hole for winter storage. I still plant by the signs, too. And in 1968, that’s saying something.

Seems like Nick and Tina help out a lot, too.

Jennie: Nick’s eleven, and he’s a right smart helper when he’s not wearing out his arm trying to master the fastball with his friend Todd. And Tina, well, she’s ten and not given to much hard work yet. She preferslollygagging. But kids need a lavish of play time. As her Uncle Ross says, he does more work by accident than Tina ever does on purpose. Sometimes she claims she doesn’t hear us at chore time. Things rose to such a pitch last week, her daddy took her to the doctor to have her ears checked. That cured her. 

No doubt it did. 

Jennie: Truth be told, I kinda hope she’s deaf to all the goings-on around here. I mean all the talk about the proposed theme park. Folks are buzzing like bees in a tar tub about Phil Kepler and his new-fangled ideas.

Who’s Phil Kepler?

Jennie: He’s a northerner, from New York City, the getting-aroundest man I know. He’s been living down here for a spell but has all those connections up north. The trouble is, Phil Kepler could talk a fellow into buying a heater for the desert. Why, last year he convinced me to ignore the signs and plant my beans on the new of the moon. The few beans that did grow plumb rotted and specked. Did you ever hear tell of that? That’s the last time I’ll abide such an addlepated notion.

Why, there’s Tina now, traipsing in the back door. Two hours late for chores like usual, and probably wants a molasses cookie to boot. Tina, come on over and talk to the nice lady while I check on those squawking chickens. I’ll be right back.

Hello, Tina. You seem out of breath. Where are you coming from in such a hurry?

Tina: I just rode my bike home from the sandlot, down the road apiece. I’m the only girl on the team ’cause they were one short. The boys tease me, especially that bully Stan Randall.

Sounds rough, all that teasing. What do like about being on the team?

Tina: I love baseball, and I’m a good hitter. And not everybody’s mean. Todd’s gonna owe Nick an ice cream sundae at Simpson’s Ice Cream Parlor come autumn if Denny McLean gets thirty wins this season. He’s a Detroit Tiger, in case you don’t know. Oh, man, I gotta sit down. I’m all tuckered out.

Baseball and bicycling will do that to a body.

Tina: It’s not just the bicycling . . . it’s . . . well, since Mom left the room, I’ll tell you. Don’t go telling nobody, but Nick and I, we’re all wore out from visiting Ole Joe yonder on the mountain. We got up in the middle of the night to swipe the neighbor’s vegetables and deliver them to Ole Joe in a wheelbarrow. It’s our secret, and we’ll be in big trouble if anyone finds out. We didn’t get home till six in the morning. 

Why do you do that?

Tina: We don’t rightly have a choice. No telling what Ole Joe will do if we refuse. He’s good to us, though. He tells us stories and he’s gonna—never mind. I can’t tell you that part. Nick and I swore not to tell anybody. But we have mighty fine visits with him.

So long as Mom and Dad don’t find out, we’ll be okay. It beats getting caught after that egg pitching contest in the chicken coop last summer. That was Nick’s idea, not mine. Oh—never mind. Mom’s back. I’m going outside now. 

Jennie: I’m back! And off she goes. That girl . . . she’s always flitting about, like she knows I’m gonna get after her for missing chores. 

Glad you could return, Jennie. Are you worried about the proposed theme park?

Jennie: Just a smidgeon. Drew’s on town council, and he’s given out to be the best one for talking sense into folks. Some say Phil doesn’t have a chance, like a bug arguing with a chicken. 

How would this park affect the small town of Currie Hill?

Jennie: The park would swallow us up, like a fox after chickens. Phil says the experts  studied on the situation and found this area to be best suited for such a park. Plus, good for the economy and all. Providing much-needed jobs. But that would be the end of Currie Hill as we know it. And most folks don’t want such drastic change. Fortunately, Drew’s been serving this town for twelve years now. Folks listen to him.

Twelve years? That’s about as long as he’s been back from New York, right? What do folks think about his time up north?

Jennie: Nowadays, nary a soul makes mention of it anymore. But back then, folks didn’t know what in the Sam Hill to make of him. It took a powerful long time to win back their trust. Nobody here confidences someone who’s spent time in the big city, and he was gone a coon’s age. Fifteen years, to be exact. Four years serving in the Army, then eleven more attending school and working as an architect.

What did people say when he got back home?

Jennie: Everything you can think of. Speculations and assumptions flung all over the place, most of it slack talk for certain. Some say Drew was surely living high on the hog, or living a life of crime. Y’all know how the city corrupts. 

My parents cautioned me about courting him. “As fickle as the wind,” they said. “Taking up city ways and coming back here. Those who succeed in the city don’t belong to the mountains anymore. Those who fail don’t belong to either them or us.” 

But I latched onto Drew like a cocklebur in sheep’s wool. With no regrets. Loving him is as easy as falling off a log.

Folks aren’t bothered anymore by his previous absence?

Jennie: He’s proven he’s one of us. But—well, I have to admit . . . I fear there are folks on both sides of the fence. And sometimes his mother shakes her finger at him about those mysterious years of his as if he were still a little boy, as if it were as simple a matter as returning stolen cookies from the cookie jar. 

The thing is, he won’t talk about his time away, never did. It’s behind him now. That’s how it is. . . . We can only look forward. One day at a time. 

It’ll be a relief for certain after the town council votes in a few weeks. Then I reckon Phil Kepler and that park will hightail it out of town. For good.

************************************

Author bio:

Laura DeNooyer thrives on creativity and encouraging it in others. She spotlights creatives of all kinds on her blog, Journey To Imagination, and highlights authors and their novels in her Standout Stories blog. A Calvin College graduate, Laura taught middle school and high school for nine years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and currently teaches writing to home schooled students. Between those two jobs, she and her husband raised four children as she penned her first novel, All That Is Hidden. An award-winning author of heart-warming historical and contemporary fiction, she is president of her American Christian Fiction Writers chapter. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, walking, drinking tea with friends, or taking a road trip. Visit Laura at https://lauradenooyer-author.com or on Facebook, BookBub, and GoodReads.

Book Blurb:

Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep? 

Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way. 

She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed.

Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father. 

A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.

********************

Website:

Standout Stories blog with author interviews and book reviews:

Book trailer:    www.All-That-Is-Hidden-book-trailer.com

Buy link:    https://amzn.to/2HF4UB9   

Newsletter signup:    www.StandoutStoriesNewsletter.com

*********************

Facebook, BookBub, & Goodreads links:

https://www.facebook.com/LauraDeNooyerAuthor/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/all-that-is-hidden-by-laura-denooyer-moore

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59632481-all-that-is-hidden

Book Review: The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson

Affiliate link used. I receive a small compensation if you purchase through this link.

Release: January 11, 2022

Hardcover | 978-1-4964-4421-9 | $25.99

Softcover | 978-1-4964-4422-6 | $15.99

400 pages | Tyndale.com

A stunning cover to go with a stunning story. I love learning history I wasn’t familiar with before. I love time slips when a lesson is learned from the past. I love it when an author dares to write something a bit different from typical wartime fiction. Just when I thought I’d read all the WWII fiction I cared to, this book comes along, not about Nazis, not about soldiers, not about the Holocaust, although all those things are mentioned because all those things affect the characters greatly. This is a story about how the people who were affected, the innocents, dealt with what they experienced for the rest of their lives.

Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker working to rescue Jewish children in France during the war. Decades later Addie Hoult is looking for the Tonquin family because her mentor is dying from a genetic disease. But these women from the different storylines and time periods also need rescuing in ways they don’t truly grasp until the end of the story. All the characters are deeply wounded from both what they did and what was done to them. Restoration doesn’t come easily, but there is hope.

I think it’s fair to say no one does time slip novels better than Melanie Dobson. Many times I prefer the historical timeline to the contemporary one but this one had me totally engaged with both. I highly recommend you read this one!

*I was given a copy by the publisher for the purpose of review without compensation or expectation. I have given my honest opinion.


Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

www.cindyswriting.com

Book Review: Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Published October 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks

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Affiliate link used. If you purchase through the link, I will receive a small kickback but it won’t cost you any more.

This story, told mostly as an epistolary novel, was so well done and so touching that I was completely engrossed by the characters of Evie and Thomas as they corresponded throughout the war. The letters are filled with humor and fun banter between childhood friends and as the war progresses they turn more serious at times and deep with soul-searching thoughts and ideas and finally with desperation. Sprinkled throughout we see the elderly Thomas in 1968, obviously without Evie but it isn’t until the end we understand why he’s come back to Paris to read all the letters they had exchanged plus a new one he doesn’t open until he finishes the wartime letters. The description of the agonies the characters endured plus their hopes and dreams feels so real as I imagine they were, although not usually spoken, for those who lived through those times.

I can imagine these two authors, quite successful as solo novelists, took on particular characters as the voices are as distinct as they would be with real people, and that is the strength of this novel, in my opinion. It’s a love story, but not just a love story. It’s filled with history, as we who love to read historical fiction look forward to when we open a book.

Highly recommended!

—Reviewed by Cindy Thomson

From Sydney Williams’s Princes & Kings Meet Llywelyn

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

Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be here. 

Tell us something about where you live: 

I live in Gwynedd Wales in Great Britain in the 13th century. It is cold, and wet. Wales has the most rain for all of Britain. I live in a castle with servants, where the source of heat is a fireplace in every room which the servants keep going all the time to make sure none of us freeze. Beyond the castle there is a small town and beyond that a village that  supplies everyone with food. To keep the castle safe from people breaking in there are a  number of guards that patrol the grounds dressed in armour and carrying pikes and swords. 

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? 

I don’t know if there is anything particularly special about my name. I was named after my grandfather, Llywelyn the Great who was ruler here until he died at a ripe old age. Maybe my parents named me after him because they thought I shared some similar characteristics with the old man. I have never asked my parents about it though so I don’t know for sure. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? 

I am a warrior and I am the ruler of Gwynedd Wales.  My job is to help keep the people of the land safe from  invaders. I love being able to help my people, but having to deal with the small day to day   problems of the people can  feel a little tedious sometimes. 

Who are the special people in your life? 

I am very close to my family. I always looked up to my grandfather and my father is very like him. My mother is kind and noble and she has always taught me to trust my instincts. I love my younger brothers, Dafydd and Rhodri.  Dafydd is very witty and is very mature for his age and Rhodri  is sweet.  My older  brother, Owain, is an interesting person. He is very hot headed and often speaks when  it would be better to keep  quiet. It is  probably because he is so    passionate. He has never had any trouble making himself heard. Now my uncle on the other hand, well I wouldn’t say I am close to him. My uncle, Dafydd, is a strange man. I never really know where I stand with him and so I have never been  able to trust him. Oh, and I can’t forget my man-servant, Olan. My father found him at an orphanage when he was a child and brought him back  to the castle to be my servant and companion. He is my only  true  friend and I can talk to him about anything and everything. Even things I can’t talk to my family about. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire? 

My heart’s deepest desire is to do the best I can for my family and my people. 

What are you most afraid of? 

I think what I am most afraid of is letting people down. 

Do you have a cherished possession? 

The one possession I cherish above all is my horse, Arling. I found her wondering in the woods when she was no more than a few months old and I took her back to the castle and trained her myself. She has carried me through many battles over the years  and is my closest companion next to Olan. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you? 

I don’t know if that is  a question I can answer. I  am sure i will  still be a warrior. I never expected to become the ruler of Gwynedd. Being a warrior has its elements of danger, but being a ruler has even more. The future of any ruler is unknowable. All I can do is do my best to   keep from falling  into trouble so I can continue to take care of my  people to the best of my abilities.

Thanks for telling us a bit about yourself!


In the year, 1240 Ad, the land of Gwynedd Wales found  themselves without a  leader when their king, Llywelyn The Great, died at a ripe old age. The natural successor to the king was his son Dafydd,  who took on the job  of ruler after his death.   Soon after taking on the job he was forced to sign a treaty with the king of England and send his brother Gruffudd and his nephew Owain  to England to be imprisoned in The Tower of  London in exchange for keeping his land and his title. His other nephew, Llywelyn, became the new head warrior after his father’s imprisonment, traveling the country and patrolling the borders to the north and the south. 

            After four years imprisonment in The Tower of London, Gruffudd died while  attempting to escape his tower cell, and his son Owain was released  by the king himself. He wanted Owain to help him start a civil war in Gwynedd. Meanwhile after finding out about his brother’s death from a letter sent by his nephew Owain, Dafydd declared war on England. Prompting Owain to escape Winchester Castle where he had been recovering from  his time in prison to find  his brother Llywelyn and help him in the war between England and Gwynedd. 

During the  course of the war, Dafydd was killed  in battle, leaving the Welsh army without a leader.  Being the brave and noble man that he was, Llywelyn called the men to him and with his leadership they   managed to send the English packing. With the new weight of responsibility thrust upon his shoulders Llywelyn, rode home at the head of the army to find that his world had changed. Now not  only was his father gone, but his mother as well  and the land of Gwynedd was once again without a leader. It became clear that the best  man for the job was  Llywelyn himself and he decided that there was nothing else to do but to become the new ruler. He would do anything to keep his people safe, even if that  meant taking on a responsibility that he felt he was to young for. He would never abandon his people for anything and let the English take everything from him. 


Sydney has a big imagination and has been writing and performing from a young age. After going blind from Leukemia at the age of three, she found release from the medical part of her life through her music and her writing. In high school she excelled in English and history and after she left school she continued to write and to create her music. She formed her band, The Undercurrents with her best friend and drummer, Alex Nacci at the age of 22 and has been playing music with the band ever since.

Her book, Princes and Kings, is her first professional novel and it is book one of the historical fiction series she is writing titled, A Rose in A Thorn Bush about the last king of Wales. She was introduced to her main character in high school and with the encouragement of her Business Abilities coach she finely decided to write his story. Splitting the story into three books. Sydney has always enjoyed reading historical fiction and has found it an interesting genre to write in. After her series is finished she plans to continue writing about different historical British characters for as long as she can. Being Welsh on her father’s side and Scottish and English on her mother’s Britain is a place that interests her greatly and she has enjoyed writing about one of its characters. Giving her a chance to explore her heritage in a fun and exciting way and she looks forward to sharing her passion for the genre and the history of the British Isles with the world.

CONNECT WITH SYDNEY

WEBSITE: https://sydwilliamsauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21888149.Sydney_Williams

Meet William Parker from Gail Kittleson’s Land That I Love I Love

Hello, Mr. Parker. Albert Fritz of the Fredericksburg Standard—so good of you to take the time for an interview with me today. I hear you are new to our area, straight from Nottinghamshire, England. Welcome to our isolated corner of Texas!

How do you do? Pray do not let my accent put you off—one might think me a bit standoffish at first. Being a butler in the 1920’s and 30’s for an important figure in our city required a rather formal exterior.

Hmm…did this cause you problems here in the United States? 

Since I traveled with my employer’s grandson, the way was paved for us in New York city. Our time there and the long train ride provided a taste of the many dialects and personalities in this large country. But when we arrived in Texas Hill Country, people surely saw us as an oddity.  

Still, they welcomed us with great kindness—greenhorns like us needed a lot of help. For one thing, it was nearly winter, and we had no harvest to rely on. 

The area’s isolation surprised us somewhat. We knew we were bound for an agricultural locale, but Loyal Valley is…ahem…quite distant from any major city. Our first visit to a church three miles away made all the difference. 

From one member, we might purchase a regular supply of milk and cheese. Another had an ample egg supply, and a third just butchered, so we purchased enough hams and beef to last the winter. Having reliable food sources close at hand, we entered our first cold season. 

Is that cows mooing—you must have developed your own herd? 

Oh yes, as soon as possible. You see, I come from a long line of cheesemakers. Soon, we acquired laying hens, too. Let me show you our barn. See here—even a small horse for Donnie, Everett’s son, plus geese and ducks galore. 

And out there, behold the orchard Everett cares for. The trees produce plenty of fruit and nuts. He makes jams and butters to sell and has developed a good business. To the South, you will note . . . 

You have a garden—why, it’s enormous! 

Yes, with its produce and good pastureland for the herd, we have everything we need. If only our people back in Nottingham could say the same. 

Ah yes . . . what a terrible time in England right now, with the Luftwaffe bombing many cities.  So much danger and destruction. I imagine you listen to the war report on the radio nightly? 

Indeed. That plus newspapers and letters from friends back home keep us informed. Who would ever have thought this war would last so long?

Certainly not your American neighbors. Why, it’s been three years since the Pearl Harbor attack, and our boys still face such obstacles. 

Indeed they do. I daresay, did you hear that? I believe t’was my new prize bull, so I had best go and check on him. A right testy old fellow. He bears watching. 

Thank you for your time. So glad to see how well you’re adjusting to your new homeland. 

            Perhaps some did, but most accepted us immediately. We provided an interesting diversion, I suppose, but this area is so isolated, they soon came around. Since we arrived just before winter and had no vehicle, everyone realized our need. 


After missionary work in North Africa, Gail taught English as a Second Language and college expository writing. She and her retired Army Chaplain husband of forty-four years live in North Iowa where they enjoy grandchildren, gardening, and historical research. 

Dare To Bloom, Gail’s website, comes by its name honestly—it took time to acquire the courage to put her writing “out there.” Eventually, her memoir developed, which led to writing World War II fiction. 

Her Women of the Heartland brand honors the era’s make-do women and men, and includes eight novels, two novellas, and three non-fiction books. Despite daunting trials, her heroines and heroes embrace their strengths, contribute to the war effort and reveal the determination, loyalty, faith and tenacity so needful in our society today.

Gail hosts other authors on her Author Visits page and enjoys encouraging writers through facilitating workshops and retreats.

http://www.gailkittleson.com/
www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthorhttp://amazon.com/author/gailkittlesonwww.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson@gailkittlesonauthor (Instagram)
Purchase link: 
https://www.amazon.com/Land-That-Love-Gail-Kittleson/dp/1952474841

Meet Manny and Abby from Paula Peckham’s Story in the Anthology Christmas Love Through the Ages

Welcome to you both. Please introduce yourselves.

MANNY: Hello. My name is Manuel Blair, but folks call me Manny. 

ABBY: Hi, I’m Abby. This handsome example of manhood is my husband.

I overheard you both talking about babies a moment ago. May I assume you have children of your own now?

ABBY: Yes. Thank God we made it through that period. Being “in the family way” was horrible for me. I think I was sick every single day for six solid months. It was a rough time, but Manny was my rock.

MANNY: I tried to help as much as I could. I felt so helpless watching her suffer so. Didn’t seem like there was much I could do for her except make her tea to soothe her stomach.

ABBY: Blech. If I never drink another mug of ginger tea again in my life, it’ll be too soon. 

I can understand how scared you must have both been. Bearing children is not an easy task in the year of 1868.

MANNY: Besides Abby’s sickness, I was dealing with some old feelings of insecurity that showed back up once fatherhood loomed. I lost my dad when I was five, so I didn’t have an example to follow. No mentor to show me the ropes. I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. Lucky for us, Gabe showed up one day when I was chopping wood and offered to help. He stuck around and helped me complete the construction of the extra room on the house. I don’t know if I could’ve done it all on my own.

ABBY: You didn’t need to build that room. We would’ve managed without it.

MANNY: I wanted the best for you. And being able to bathe in a tub instead of a small bucket certainly made things easier for you. Plus, you didn’t have to tramp outside in the freezing sleet of February to use an outhouse. Admit it, Abby. The extra room was a good idea.

ABBY: You’re right. It was a good idea. And I’m glad Gabe was there to help us both. He turned out to have some hidden skills.

Sounds like Gabe has a story of his own. I can’t wait to hear more. So, Christmas ended up being a good time for your new family?

ABBY: Very good. We are so blessed. Christmas this year turned out to have more surprise gifts than ever in my life. And all of them were perfect. God showed us once again that he always has his eye on us and will never leave us.

MANNY: Right. A gift doesn’t necessarily come in a box. Sometimes, the best gifts of all are relationships.

What an awesome concept. I think we would all be happier if we focused more on the intangible gifts in our lives.


A fifth-generation Texan, Paula Peckham graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington and taught math at Burleson High School for 19 years. She and her husband, John, divide their time between their home in Burleson and their casita in Rio Bravo, Mexico. Her debut novel, Protected, was an ACFW Genesis semi-finalist in 2020. She also writes short stories, novellas, and poems. 

She has contributions in the 2021 release Christmas Love Through the Ages, and Texas Heirloom Ornament.

She will take on the job of president of ACFW DFW in January, 2022, leaving the job of treasurer, and is a member of Unleashing the Next Chapter. 

She has spoken at ACFW, Unleashing the Next Chapter, and the Carrollton League of Writers. For more about Paula and her books, follow her at paulapeckham.com.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaulaPeckham

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paulajopeckham/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@paulapeckham?lang=en

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ppeckham/books/

Interview with Colleen Sullivan from Colleen’s Confession by Susan G. Mathis

Welcome, Colleen, we’re so happy to have you here at Novel PASTimes today. How did you come to work on Comfort Island? And where is that?

My aunt Gertie is the cook for the Clarks on Comfort Island and secured a position for me. I grew up in an orphanage, but just before I aged out, they found Aunt Gertie and contacted her, so Auntie had the Clarks hire me.

That was very kind of her.

Comfort Island is in the Thousand Islands in upstate New York in the St. Lawrence River. It’s a small island the Clark family owns, and there’s a beautiful cottage on the island that’s almost as big as the orphanage I grew up in.

Wow! I’ve heard the Thousand Islands area is very picturesque. Tell us about your job.

I’ve been doing laundry at the orphanage for nearly a decade, so that’s what I continue to do. I hate it.

Laundry isn’t my favorite thing to do either. Do you like your employers, the Clarks?

The Clark family are wonderful people. Mr. Clark is deceased, and Mrs. Clark is very nice. So is her son, Alson Skinner Clark, who is a famous Impressionist artist. He painted murals all over the cottage. I love to draw, so he helped me develop my skills.

To have mentorship from a famous artist is very fortunate for you!

I heard you were engaged. What became of your fiancé?

Goodness…poor Peter Byrne perished on his way to meet me when The Empress of Ireland sunk in the St. Lawrence. Aunt Gertie arranged a marriage between him and me with his mother, but I never met the man. 

I’m sorry for your loss. 

What or whom do you like least on Comfort Island?

That’s easy. The Ogre. Oh, I mean, Mrs. Marshall, my supervisor, who is a cruel taskmaster. 

Yikes, Colleen! She must be pretty awful to nickname her the Ogre!

I heard about a handsome groundskeeper from Austria. What can you tell us about him?

Jack Weiss is more than handsome. He’s become a trusted friend and confidant. Maybe more. 

Do you think you and he have a future together?

With World War I looming, Jack keeps talking about going back to Austria and fighting in the war. I hope he doesn’t. He’s the only friend I’ve ever known. To be honest, he’s more than that…

He sounds like a good man. I hope he won’t have to leave.

 I’ve heard you’re artistically talented. Tell us what and how you like to draw.

Awww…I love to sketch and draw anything and everything. It’s my way of sharing and experiencing the world more fully. Jack says I’m gifted. Mr. Alson does too. But I have so much to learn. 

Want to know the whole story? Susan G Mathis has put it all down in her book, Colleen’s Confession. Here’s a glimpse:

Summer 1914

Colleen Sullivan has secrets as she joins her aunt on Comfort Island to work in the laundry and await the arrival of her betrothed. She loves to draw and dreams of growing in the craft. But tragedy strikes when her fiancé perishes in the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland on his way to meet her. With her orphan dreams of finally belonging and becoming a wife and an artist gone, what will her future hold?

Austrian immigrant, Jack Weiss, enjoys being the island’s groundskeeper and is smitten by the lovely Irish lass. But Colleen dismisses him at every turn, no matter how much he fancies her art, tries to keep her safe, and waters the blossoms of love. When Jack introduces her to the famous impressionist, Alson Skinner Clark, Colleen seems to find hope.

But rumors of war in Europe prod Jack to choose between joining his family’s Austrian army and staying safe in the Thousand Islands to make a life with Colleen. Will she finally embrace his love for her, or will Jack lose the battle and join the war? With the Thousand Islands’ summer ending, he hopes she will.

You can get it here at Amazon.

About Susan: 

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, comes out May 2022. Colleen’s Confession is her newest title, andRachel’s Reunion is coming soon. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas CharitySara’s Surpriseand Reagan’s Reward are also award winners. Susan’s book awards include two Illumination Book Awards, three American Fiction Awards, two Indie Excellence Book Awards, and two Literary Titan Book Awards. Reagan’s Reward is also a finalist in the Selah Awards. 

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world but returns each summer to the islands she loves. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com/fiction for more.

Social media links: Website |Author Central  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Blog | Goodreads l Instagram  | CAN | 

Book Review: The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

Tyndale House, Sept. 2021

Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab—since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.

If you’ve read Lynn Austin’s If I Were You (reviewed here) you’ll recognize the characters Audrey and Eve. You might even have wondered what happened to them. While this novella helps to answer that question, it’s also a wonderful nostalgic story. Who doesn’t remember looking at toy catalogs at Christmas time and circling the things you most wanted? Parents often struggle with how to balance their children’s wishes with what is most important about the season, and Audrey and Eve are no different. Having struggled through WWII in England, these characters now have children who have no experience to compare, and little understanding of what it’s like to go without. The lessons learned in this story, however, are not just for the kids. Audrey and Eve learn something as well.

Grab some hot cocoa and a Christmas cookie and snuggle down for this delightful read!


About the Author:

Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full- time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

A Candid Talk with Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson from Lynn Austin’s The Wish Book Christmas

Welcome, ladies. Please tell us a little about yourselves.

Eve: I’ll go first. My name is Eve Dawson, I’m single, and I have a five-year-old son named Harry. We share a little bungalow with my best friend Audrey, who is a widow, and her son, Bobby. As you can probably tell from the way I talk, I’m originally from England. Audrey and I are fairly new to America. We both came over after the war, but we lived very different lives growing up. Mum and I were servants at Wellingford Hall, which is Audrey’s family’s manor house.

Audrey: That’s true—we are very different, but we’ve been friends since we were girls. And during the war, we enlisted in the women’s army together and learned how to drive ambulances.  My husband Robert died in a car accident when Bobby was still a baby. He just started kindergarten this past fall.

What about your Christmas celebrations in the past? What were they like for you?

Eve: Mum and I never had much, so I was grateful for a few simple gifts. I would hang my stocking on the bedpost for Father Christmas to fill, and I would find a doll or a toy or maybe an orange inside in the morning. The orange and maybe some candy were always real treats. I didn’t know it, but Mum saved for months to buy me those things. My granny Maud would always knit something for me, a new hat or maybe mittens. Mum had to work at Wellingford Hall on Christmas, but we always spent Boxing Day together.

Audrey: Our gardener would cut greens and holly branches from the estate grounds to make Wellingford Hall look and smell splendid. My brother, Alfie, and I would awaken on Christmas morning to see a huge tree in the main hall, beautifully decorated. He would be home from boarding school, and we would unwrap our presents together. Our governess likely chose them, not our parents.

Eve: During the war, we were grateful just to get through Christmas without being interrupted by air-raid sirens, right, Audrey?

Audrey: Right!

What are your thoughts about celebrating the season as Christmas approaches?

Eve: To be honest, I’ve a lot on my mind lately, and I haven’t felt much like celebrating. I have a full-time job as a typist and I’m pretty tired by the time I get home from work. I have a really huge debt that I’m trying to pay off, so money is always tight. I want Christmas to be lovely for Harry, but I’m worried that Santa Claus won’t be able to bring him much.

Audrey: I haven’t had time to think about the holiday, either. I’ve been taking a few courses with the hope of becoming a nurse, and my exams are coming up soon. Before my husband died, we talked about living a simple life and raising our son to value hard work, even though Robert and I both grew up in wealthy families. He would want me to keep Christmas simple and not spoil Bobby with mountains of expensive toys.

What do you think of the Sears Wish Book?

Eve: I wish Audrey had tossed it into the rubbish bin the day it arrived! Harry has been circling every toy in the book and pinning his hopes on Santa bringing him everything he wants. I can’t afford even half of the toys on his list.

Audrey: I agree with Eve. The Wish Book is stirring up Bobby’s greed. He knows that Grandma and Grandpa Barrett can afford to buy every toy in the book, and they have been very good to us these past few years. But I wish Bobby wasn’t so obsessed with getting new things.

Eve: To make matters worse, the boys are also asking Santa to bring them a dog for Christmas!

Audrey: Yes, and fathers! All the other children in kindergarten have fathers, so they’ve decided they each want one, too.

Eve: Neither dogs nor fathers are for sale in the Wish Book.

Do either of you have someone special in your life?

Eve: No.

Audrey: What about Tom? I can tell that he cares for you, and I thought—

Eve: I can’t think about Tom or anyone else until my debts are paid.

Audrey: But that makes no sense—

Eve: Why don’t you answer the question, Audrey? Why isn’t there anyone special in your life?

Audrey: Let’s go on to the next question, please.

All right. What are your hopes for your family and for yourself this Christmas season?

Eve: I want Harry to have happy memories of Christmas, but most of all, I want him to understand the real meaning of Christmas

Audrey: I want that for my son, too. And I wish my in-laws would help in this regard. They don’t understand why I don’t want a life of wealth and privilege. Or why I want to become a nurse and work to support Bobby and myself.

Eve: We need to put our heads together, Audrey, and come up with a plan. We need to teach the boys that there’s more to Christmas than choosing every toy in the Wish Book.

Audrey: I agree. We need to show them that Christmas is about giving, not getting. Let’s give it some thought, Eve, and start doing something about it. Before it’s too late.

Come back tomorrow for Cindy Thomson’s review of The Christmas Wish Book!


The Wish Book Christmas

Lynn Austin

From the bestselling author of If I Were You comes a nostalgic and endearing holiday story that reminds us that sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones we least expect and don’t deserve.

Best friends Audrey Barrett and Eve Dawson are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in postwar America, thrilled at the prospect of starting new traditions with their five-year-old sons. But when the 1951 Sears Christmas Wish Book arrives and the boys start obsessing over every toy in it, Audrey and Eve realize they must first teach them the true significance of the holiday. They begin by helping Bobby and Harry plan gifts of encouragement and service for those in their community, starting by walking an elderly neighbor’s yellow Lab—since a dog topped the boys’ wish list for Santa. In the charming tale that follows, Audrey and Eve are surprised to find their own hearts healing from the tragedies of war and opening to the possibility of forgiveness and new love.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.