Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Historical fiction based on real historical people can be a tricky genre to pull off. I admire Callahan for taking on C. S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman. I knew little about her, and I expect that is the case for many fans of C. S. Lewis. She brought Joy to life while exploring her complicated relationships and her chronic health issues. I loved the way Lewis is shown as well, the way he depended on Joy emotionally and enjoyed their philosophical and theological discussions. From what I can tell, Callahan treated these historical people fairly. In the author’s note she explains how she did her research.

That alone is enough to give this book a high rating, but the writing is seller, captivating, and caused me to read this book quickly. I love a novel that pulls me in like that. If this was made into a movie, I think it would be better than the new one on Tolkien.

Highly recommended.

Meet Darcie from Ann Gabhart’s New Novel The Refuge

Name:           Hello, I’m Darcie Goodwin.

Parents:       Arvin and Hilda Wright were my parents. My mother died in the cholera epidemic of 1833 when I was nine. My father, burdened with grief, sent me to live with an older couple, the Hatchells. Granny Hatchell, not my birth grandmother but she became a grandmother of my heart, needed help with household and garden chores.

Siblings:       My little sister, Rosie, died of cholera at the same time as my mother. My father took my two little brothers to live at the Shaker village for a while after my mother died, but he then went back to get them and took them to Ohio with him. He came for me but I didn’t want to leave Granny Hatchell.       

Places lived: I grew up on a farm in Kentucky and then lived with the Hatchells on a different farm. Finally my husband and I went to the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, Kentucky to escape a cholera epidemic in 1849.

Jobs:  My father sent me to live with the Hatchells as a companion/helper to Granny Hatchell. You might think that was kind of a job although it felt more like being with family. My husband and I kept living with her after I married. In my time, most women are wives and mothers who worked alongside their husbands on farms. Not many paying jobs for us except as maids, seamstresses or maybe a schoolmarm.

Friends: Granny Hatchell was the best friend I could ever want. But then when I went to the Shaker village the three sisters who shared my sleeping room came to mean so much to me. Sister Helene, Sister Ellie, and Sister Genna were all very different but we became as close as natural born sisters.

Enemies: I don’t think I have any enemies. At first when I was at the Shaker Village I had some problems living the Shaker way and that caused some difficulties with Eldress Maria. However as time when along and after Anna Grace was born, Eldress Maria and I found a way to care for one another.

Dating, marriage:  I married Walter after he helped me bury Pa Hatchell. Walter was a wonderful man. Strong and loving. I couldn’t have had a better husband.  

Children:  I have a sweet baby, Anna Grace. I love her so much. I loved her from the moment I knew I carried her in my womb, and I’m so thankful the Lord helped me after she was born. 

What person do you most admire?  That would have to be Granny Hatchell who shared her faith with me and helped me know that even in our most desperate times the Lord walks along beside us, an ever ready help in times of trouble.

Overall outlook on life: I want to be optimistic and cheerful, but I’ve walked through some hard valleys where such an attitude is difficult to maintain. But you can’t curl up in a corner and give up on life. You have to keep going, keep trusting the Lord for comfort and help, and believe the sun will eventually shine through those dark clouds.

Do you like yourself? That’s an odd question and not something I have ever considered. If I can believe the Lord loves me and I do, then that is enough.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would, if I could, change the tragedies in my life. My mother and Rosie would have never died of cholera. But then if that had not happened, I wouldn’t have gone to Granny Hatchell’s. I would have never met Walter. I wouldn’t have Anna Grace. I suppose it’s best not to play God and simply trust him to guide us through life.

How are you viewed by others? Those who are part of my life know I am far from perfect but they are still ready to love me. It is such a blessing to be loved.

Physical appearance: I am short in stature and slender. Granny Hatchell used to say I wasn’t as big as a minute but with the energy of a hound dog pup. 

Eyes: A mixture of brown and green that sometimes looks golden.

Hair: Red and curly. I had a difficult time keeping my curly hair tucked away under my Shaker cap.

Voice: Not high and squeaky. Not low and growly. Just a normal voice.

Right- or left-handed? Right-handed.

How would you describe yourself? I don’t know that I should. I think it’s best to worry more about how we are inside than our outward appearance. But should I try to describe myself, I suppose I would say a small woman with a big spirit who is willing to attempt almost anything.

Characteristics: I am a willing worker. I hope for the best. I love easily. I have known sorrow that has made me have empathy for others. 

How much self-control do you have? A great deal. I lived with the Shakers for a while. They have many rules that require self-control.

Fears: I fear losing those I love, especially my sweet baby.

Books: The Bible is the best book for me. I have Granny Hatchell’s Bible and it is a great source of comfort to me. I do love reading other books as well but while I was with the Shakers, they didn’t allow reading of novels. You could only read the Bible and books written about their founder, Ann Lee. 

What would a great gift for you be? The gift of love and a good home where I can mother my baby and any other children the Lord gives me. That’s all I need. 

When are you happy? Happiness can be more an inner attitude instead of the result of outward things. The Bible tells us that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but sometimes it’s hard to have that happy heart when things aren’t going well in one’s life. But I am happy as long as I am with my family.

What makes you angry? I am angry if I see my friends or family mistreated. That doesn’t mean I don’t have flare ups of anger over silly things. I am a redhead after all. So if I draw a bucket of water and then trip over a cat, I won’t promise not to get cross. 

What makes you sad? Losing my mother and little sister to cholera made me sad. So did losing Granny and Pa Hatchell. And I was devastated when I lost my husband, Walter in an accident. 

What makes you laugh? My baby makes me laugh. Anna Grace is such a happy little girl.

Hopes and dreams: A happy family. What more could I hope for?

Biggest trauma: Losing my husband in a riverboat accident.

What do you care about most in the world? My family.

Do you have a secret? No. Well, I suppose I did have a secret in my early weeks with the Shakers after I discovered that I was carrying a baby. I had no idea how the Shakers would respond to that since they don’t believe men and women should live as man and wife. But that is a secret that usually can only be hidden for a short time.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I love my Shaker sisters. They were so kind and supportive while I was carrying my baby and after she was born. I love Leatrice and admire her spirit and the way she loves her father. I also admire her father, Flynn, for the way he would have walked through fire for Leatrice.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I prefer to concentrate on the positive. There are a few things about Mona that needs improvement, but the child has been through some difficult times. 

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: Raising my children to be strong and to know the Lord.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was often called on the carpet by Eldress Maria for times I did not properly remember the Shaker rules. Not exactly embarrassing since I cared nothing for learning the Shaker way, but such moments were uncomfortable at times.

Ann H. Gabhartis the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The OutsiderTheBelieverThe SeekerThe BlessedThe Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to RedemptionThese Healing Hills, Angel SisterLove Comes Home, and more. Writing asA. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills.  Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.

Meet Mandy Clark from Laura L. Drumb’s From Now Until Forever

The book From Now Until Forever is set in 1853 Indian Territory and tells the story of eighteen year old Mandy Clark who is captured by the Kiowa warrior Ken-ai-te and taken to his village to live. This exciting and fast-paced novel was meticulously researched with the aid of a Kiowa Elder to ensure it is historically accurate. The spiritual and emotional journey Mandy makes as she learns how to adapt to being a Kiowa woman and ultimately discovers the destiny God has planned for her make this award-winning tale one women, men, and even teens can enjoy. It is the first of three in the Foreverseries.

Q: Mandy, thank you for meeting with us. How was it you came to live with the Kiowa?

A: Delighted to do so! I was captured by a warrior named Ken-ai-te—pronounced keen-uh-tay— so it was not an easy time at first. I was terrified and lonely but God was faithful to encourage me every step of the way with comfort through His Word, making my new life more bearable. 

Q: What kind of tasks did you have to learn how to do in the village?

A: A big one was how to utilize every single part of the buffalo killed in the hunts, for everything from tools to utensils to clothing, and of course for foods of all kinds. I was amazed at how even the tiniest bones counted and nothing was ever wasted. It all started with how to butcher the massive beast and then get all the parts back to the camp before it rotted in the sun or wild animals stole the meat. An older woman Sleeping Bird taught me, and although I was not very cooperative at first, I soon learned how to get it all done properly. I resented her at first but soon came to see her as a friend and later as a second mother to me as she taught me everything.

Q: What were some of the less pleasant tasks you were required to do?

A: The first thing was one of the worst, in part because I was exhausted that day and in part because I was so repulsed by the smell. And when I learned what I was handling, my stomach lurched! It was a “green goo” made from—are you ready for this?—buffalo brains and the liver! All mushed up together and then I had to put my hands in it!

Q: Oh my! That must have been awful! What was it used for?

A: It was used to soften the hides, so they could be turned into a pliable piece of buckskin that was almost like velvet cloth, to make it suitable to wear. The goo was worked into the hide over and over while it was drying in the sun. I am not sure whyit worked, only that it did. I loved wearing dresses made from it because they were somehow comfortable all the time, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. But it was back-breaking, smelly work all right.

Q: What are some of the foods you learned to fix?

A: And eat, don’t forget that! I quickly realized that if I wanted to survive, I would need to find some way to get all of it down and keep it down. The Kiowa loved it of course but it took me some time to get used to most of it, believe me! Let’s see, bread cooked on a rock instead of in an oven, for one. Then there was a dried buffalo jerky of sorts called pemmican, with all types of spices and berries chopped up and added to it. It would last a long time and could be eaten anytime we couldn’t light a campfire because of the weather, or for the men when on a hunt or in a war party. And a third one was a type of sausage made, of all things, from the buffalo intestines! The meat was chopped very fine and lots of other spices added in and then stuffed into the long string, with rawhide used to tie off sections for cutting it apart later. Then the whole thing was put into the coals of the fire to roast slowly. After I finally got up my courage to try it, I discovered it was rather tasty! Their foods were quite interesting, to say the least!

Q: You were given a Kiowa name, is that not right? What was it?

A: Yes, that is correct. Ken-ai-te gave me the name Prayer Woman, daw-t’sai-mahin Kiowa. And perhaps that was one of the reasons I chose to respond to my captivity with faith rather than with anger. Well, much of it at least! Such as every time when I begged to be released so I could go home, my captor’s response was that I would belong to him from now until forever. So as I shared my faith in Christ, I often used that same phrase to explain to him the concept of eternity. What started out as a negative ended up bringing freedom to us both!

Q: When did you realize you were falling in love with him? 

A: Well, it happened very slowly over a long period of time. It wasn’t just that one day I woke up and knew I loved him! Far from it, in fact. I didn’t want to be Kiowa, as God did not make me an Indian. And he didn’t want to love a white woman, either. I cannot explain further without telling part of the story that is best left for reading about it, but suffice it to say, God proved with how He brought us together that He has a sense of humor!

Q: Did you ever fear being killed while you were living with the Kiowa? 

A: Oh, definitely, quite often in fact. I hated living in a tipi with a man to whom I was not married and I was frightened of him for some time. There was also an evil warrior in the village whose name I am no longer permitted to say by Kiowa tradition who threatened me on numerous occasions with death or even worse, life as his slave. I knew he had some kind of blood vengeance against me and so was forced to trust my captor would keep me safe from his threats. And if someone could die of loneliness, I believe I would have done that if it hadn’t been for Sleeping Bird. Eventually I had other friends there but for a long time I was pretty miserable. 

Q: What was your favorite thing about living with the Kiowa?

A: Well, I would have to say of course, meeting and falling in love with Ken-ai-te! But besides him and Sleeping Bird whom I came to love very much as well, I would have to say getting to meet Chief Tohausan. He was quite a character and something he told me changed my heart radically. I can’t tell you what that was, you will have to read the book and find out for yourself! But it was profound in its implication on my faith and in my future with the Kiowa, even though he was not a Christian, and I’m grateful my Heavenly Father allowed me to hear it from this man. As I said, He has a sense of humor, all right, but most importantly I am grateful to have learned from my unusual experience with the Kiowa that no matter what happens God loves all of us, no matter the color of our skin. He is so good!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Mandy!

About the Author

Laura L. Drumb lives in the Tulsa (OK) area with her husband of almost 47 years. They have two grown daughters and seven delightful grandchildren ranging in age from 14 to 8. With a passion born out of a father who ensured that even as a child she would recognize the value of learning about other cultures and peoples around the world, she has continued that commitment by traveling with her family for most of her adult life and now writing Christian historical fiction. In addition, she is active in her church, reads voraciously, does scrapbooking to preserve her memories of a long life well lived, shares better health and wellness through a natural approach with Plexus, and tries always to remember where she put her keys!

www.amazon.com/dp/B0722N1HKD

www.facebook.com/lauraldrumb

Interview with Alice from Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess

Elise Cooper: Do you like the nickname “The Other Washington Monument?”

Alice Roosevelt Longworth:I actually can’t recall who first dubbed me with that particular moniker—some newspaperman or other—but I’ve rather grown to revel in the title. After all, I’ve personally known every president back to McKinley and an invitation to my salons was considered mandatory for entrance into Washington society. A fossil of my age might as well be a monument to something!

EC: How would you describe yourself?

ARL: In one word, a gadfly. Someone has to make people question themselves—especially those politicians on Capitol Hill—and I supposed it might as well be me. 

EC: How would you describe your dad?

ARL:Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest man I ever knew. While far from perfect, he advocated living a strenuous life for himself, his children, and his country. It’s because of him that I wrung every last experience from my long life. 

EC: Did you sometimes feel like an orphan in your own family?

ARL: Certainly, when I was young I often felt somewhat removed, somehow “other.” After all, I was the only child of my father’s first wife—who died after my birth—and a constant reminder to my father of the love he’d lost. My stepmother did her best to raise me, but I didn’t make her job an easy one!

EC: Did you resent being sent as a young child to be raised by your aunt?

ARL: Never! I loved Auntie Bye with all my heart—she was often the one person in the family who really seemed to understand me. And once I was older, I understood my father’s need to recover from the grief that came from losing his beloved wife and his own mother on the same tragic day. 

EC: Were you constantly looking for your father’s approval and attention?

ARL:Always! Who wouldn’t want the undivided attention of Theodore Roosevelt? 

EC: How would you describe the relationship with your dad?

ARL:My father was larger than life and I sought to emulate him in everything I did. Unfortunately, that meant we were often at loggerheads—we’d have gotten along swimmingly had I been a boy, but smoking, shooting guns, and gambling were hardly considered proper behaviors for the well-bred daughter my father expected. However, all that changed with the 1912 election, when my father realized what an asset I was to his campaign. 

EC: Did you always enjoy confronting society’s norms by smoking, shooting a gun, driving a car…?

ARL:Of course! Who wouldn’t enjoy doing all that? 

EC: Do you agree with this quote, “A Roosevelt is never defeated, not in the polls, and not on the battlefield”?

ARL:The stark reality is that sometimes we do lose a battle—be it in war or the polls—but the important thing is to never give up. My father once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again and again…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly—my father never gave up in anything and neither did I. 

EC: How would describe your relationship with your husband Nick?

ARL:Ah, Nick, my darling little lamb. Nick was both my greatest friend and my greatest enemy throughout our marriage. I think we both challenged each other (and maybe made the other person crawl through hell on more than one occasion), but we emerged stronger on the other side for it. 

EC: Were you angry at your husband for not supporting your dad in the 1912 election?

ARL:Not especially, since I knew what a difficult place my family had put him in, what with forcing Nick to choose between his friend and home state supporter in President Taft versus my father. In fact, my father essentially commanded Nick to support Taft so he could save face in Ohio. That said, I was certainly upset with some of Nick’s extracurricular activities during the election!

EC: Was getting the Pekingese puppy Manchu the best gift ever given to you?

ARL:I certainly received many fabulous gifts over the years—my Cuban pearls and the gold filigreed fingernail sheaths from Empress Dowager Cixi rank right up there—but Manchu was by far my favorite! 

EC: Why did you like the saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone sit right here by me?”

ARL:While I’d never take aim at an innocent lamb, I certainly didn’t mind taking potshots at the powerful denizens of Washington. (Who, let’s face it, often deserved it.) Take my cousins Franklin and Eleanor as an example—Eleanor started the Roosevelt family feud with the Teapot Dome stunt she pulled while my brother Ted was running for New York’s governor and Franklin (whom I referred to as Feather Duster) grew power-hungry when he ran for an unprecedented third and then fourth term as president. If someone wanted to sit next to me and dish about them, who was I to argue? 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

ARL:I had so many over the years: that my father would return to the White House, that I would find love, and that my daughter and granddaughter would live happy lives. I suppose my greatest dream was to wrest every experience from this life, and I think I accomplished that with gusto. 

THANK YOU!!

Stephanie Marie Thornton is a high school history teacher and lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter. She has written many historical novels about strong women after becoming  obsessed with women from history since she was twelve.

photo by Katherine Schmeling Photography

Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War

By Susan Meissner

Berkley, 3/19/19

The story begins in 2010 as Elise, a woman who is aware that Alzheimer’s is stealing her away, flies alone to find her childhood friend whom she just located thanks to a new iPad with internet. Elise and Mariko became friends during WWII at an internment camp, but this story is unlike any WWII novel I’ve read. As I was taken back to 1943, I learned a lot about these camps I never knew, including the fact that they housed German Americans along with Japanese (and even some Italians.) While the camps accommodated families and allowed the residents to continue observing their cultural heritage through foods, activities, and language classes, they were still terribly unfair, especially to the children like Elise and Mariko who were born Americans and knew very little about Japan and Germany.

The way Susan Meissner presented the older Elise and her determination despite the terrible disease she struggled with was expertly done. The mystery of why Mariko and Elise were separated and unable to connect before kept me turning pages. Elise is a character you root for as she had to endure so many relocations to unfamiliar places—and unsafe places her family returns to Germany in the last year of the war—and the questions she inevitably had about who she was and where she belonged. And you will still root for the older Elise as well who married in order to find that sense of belonging and ultimately discovered she had to establish it for herself.

I love historical novels that teach you history, and this one certainly does that. But in my opinion, this is one of the best Meissner novels yet. Highly recommended.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author and publisher for the purpose of review. I have given my honest opinions.

Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include As Bright as Heaven, starred review in Library Journal; Secrets of  Charmed Life, a Goodreads finalist for Best Historical Fiction 2015; and A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Visit Susan at her website: http://susanlmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Meet Laurette from The Seamstress by Allison Pittman

When we think of the French Revolution, our minds often conjure images of violence in the streets of Paris. Peasants, lusting for revenge, storming the Bastille. And, reigning over all of it, the ferocious guillotine, dripping with the blood of the rich and the powerful. But there is another side to those days of fire and smoke. Quiet countrysides, rolling hills, blue skies, and peasants. So many peasants. Joining us today is one of them, a scrappy young woman named Laurette. 

NovelPASTimes: Thank you for joining us, Laurette. 

Laurette: Bonjour!

NovelPASTimes: May I offer you some tea?

Laurette: Yes, please.

NovelPASTimes: Something to eat? Sandwich?

Laurette: Yes, please.

NovelPASTimes: Fruit?

Laurette: Yes.

NovelPASTimes: This last bit of scorched potato soup scraped from the pan?

Laurette: Seems a shame to let it go to waste . . .

NovelPASTimes: So, it’s true what we’ve heard, about the extreme poverty. It extends beyond the city? Throughout the country?

Laurette: I only know about my village, Mouton Blanc. But I can tell you that the people there are hungry. Hungrier than they have ever been in my lifetime. 

NovelPASTimes: Because of the drought?

Laurette: That, and the fact that we have a corrupt system of government that allows the greatest amount of wealth to be concentrated among those who are already wealthy. It’s like feeding people who are already stuffed with food. But they must beware. Those who eat too much might find their insides erupting.

NovelPASTimes: Whoa—kind of graphic there for such a pretty girl.

Laurette: Sorry. Just something my friend Marcel said at dinner one night last winter.

NovelPASTimes: You sound like a revolutionary.

Laurette: Do I? I’m really just a girl, trying to survive. Would you like my recipe for thin-sliced bread?

NovelPASTimes: Sure.

Laurette: First, you take a loaf of bread. Then you slice it, papery thin. 

NovelPASTimes: And then?

Laurette: That’s it. Slice and eat. You use your hand for a plate so you don’t waste any crumbs. This is how our mothers are feeding our children. And some do not even have bread to slice. 

NovelPASTimes: Then you’ve heard what the queen said? When told that the people had no bread, Queen Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said, “Then let them eat cake.”

Laurette: Mmmmm . . . cake. 

NovelPASTimes: You’re not offended by her callousness?

Laurette: I don’t believe in her callousness. I do not believe that our queen—a mother herself—could stand to know her people are starving. Her country’s childrenare starving. So if the people want to take up arms to bring food to their tables, then that is what they must do. Let them be moved by their empty bellies, not by empty words.

NovelPASTimes: Are those Marcel’s words, too?

Laurette: No. They are mine. Trust me when I tell you, this war—if it comes to war—will come down to the women. As all wars do.

NovelPASTimes: Well, then. Can I get you anything else? Pudding? Jam and bread?

Laurette: No, thank you. Sometimes a little hunger is what you need to go on to greater things. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allison Pittman, author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels, is a three-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series and once for All for a Storyfrom her take on the Roaring Twenties. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike.

Meet Daisy from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Almost Home

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Today a character from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s newest novel stopped by to introduce herself!

Name: My name’s Daisy Dupree.

Parents: We’re not real close. Mama tried to marry me off again before any grass could grow on my husband’s grave. Can you believe that? And with the war on, all the young men around home are overseas. You shoulda seen some o’ those geezers she brought to my door.

Siblings: I’ve got four brothers. Most of ’em’s a lot older’n me, but I’m close to my brother Mack. He’s in the Navy. Don’t let me forget to drop this letter off at the post office soon as we’re done with this interview.

Places lived: Spent my whole life in the Mississippi Delta till my husband enlisted. Thought I’d lose my mind sittin’ in that farmhouse, wonderin’ what was happenin’ to Charlie over there. So I heard about jobs at an Army plant here in Alabama. That’s what got me to Blackberry Springs.

Jobs: I helped Charlie on our farm till he shipped out. Then I worked in the factory over in Childersburg till . . . well . . . till I got that telegram tellin’ me Charlie was gone.

Friends: If you’d told me a year ago that I’d find the best friends I ever had in Alabama of all places, I woulda said your biscuits ain’t done in the middle. But we’ve got us a regular little sisterhood goin’ here. Anna moved down from Illinois with her husband, Jesse—he works at the plant. Me and Anna’s about the same age, and we hit it off right away. You ever had a friend like that—one that’s completely different from you, but you can finish each other’s sentences? That’s me and Anna. And then there’s Dolly—she owns the boardin’ house where Anna and Jesse live—Dolly and her husband, Si. Dolly Chandler is one of a kind. She looks after all of us, not just her boarders. I don’t even live there, but she mothers me more than my mama did. Don’t tell her I told you, but Dolly lost her boy when he was just a little thing. Breaks her heart to this day. Breaks mine, too. I need to hush about that or I’ll cry, and I HATE to cry in front of anybody. Our other friend is the oddest one of all—Evelyn—an out o’ work college professor from up in Chicago. Can you believe that? An Illinois farm girl, a Chicago professor, an Alabama inn keeper, and this ol’ Delta girl—all the best o’ friends. War’s a funny thing, you know?

Enemies: Ghosts. At least I thought they were my enemies till I found out what they were tryin’ to tell me.

Dating, marriage: This is a touchy subject right now, but I’ll try. See, me and Charlie grew up together—knew each other our whole lives. It was just a natural thing to get married after we played together as kids, went to school together . . . I always loved Charlie, so it was easy to marry him. But now along comes Reed. We’re strangers, really, but Anna says there’s something between us. I just can’t let myself believe that. He’s a war hero, for heaven’s sake. And he looks every bit of it. Got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen—strange in a beautiful way. And I said that to him the day I met him—you ever heard of anything so stupid? I just blurted it out: “You’ve got the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen.” But he says he likes the way I say what’s on my mind. I’m tryin’ to help him get well. He got hurt real bad over there—and I don’t just mean the leg that got shot up. He got hurt real bad on the inside. Know what I mean?

Children: Me and Charlie didn’t have any.

What person do you most admire? Well, Dolly of course! I’ve never seen anybody with so much love in her heart—and such a longin’ to give it to other people.

Overall outlook on life: I don’t know any more. I was plannin’ to hide myself away here—spend my days sketchin’ on the creek bank. I like to draw—did I tell you that? It’s like I’m waitin’ on a storm to pass—sorta takin’ shelter. But then Reed came along . . . I don’t know. Let’s talk about something else.

Do you like yourself? I haven’t for a long time now because of something I did. But Reed and Anna say that what I did wasn’t wrong. Sure feels wrong.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wish me and Charlie had seen what was precious and what wasn’t before it was too late.

How are you viewed by others? You’d have to ask them. I just know the people here make me feel like I’m okay the way I am. There’s a real comfort in that.

Physical appearance:

Eyes: They’re green.

Hair: I say it’s mousy brown. Reed says it reminds him of caramel. I wear it short.

Voice: You tell me! You’re the one doin’ the listenin’.

Right- or left-handed? Right—why?

How would you describe yourself? I try to tell the truth, and I try to do my part. I’m pretty curious, which gets me into trouble sometimes. Dolly and them think I’m funny, but I don’t try to be. It just comes out that way.

Characteristics: Heavens to Betsy, girl! I don’t know. I just try to be honest about who I am.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Anna says I’m pretty and don’t know it. I am not pretty. Beauty queens are pretty. I haven’t put on makeup, well, ever. Not much anyway. And since Charlie died, I’ve worn these overalls every single day o’ my life. All that to say, I’m kinda hidin’ out, so I don’t think I’m very brave.

How much self-control do you have? A good bit till you put me in a situation—like church—that reminds me too much o’ Charlie. And then I have to get out o’ there or I’ll have a come-apart.

Fears: I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with Reed and he’ll fall in love with a beauty queen. And I’m scared to death o’ church.

Collections, talents: I don’t collect anything really. But I do love to draw. And people say I’m good at it. So I guess that’s my talent.

What people like best about you: That I say what I think.

Interests and favorites: Me and my brother Mack used play river pirate when we were kids, so you can’t begin to imagine how excited I was to find a diary that turned out to be . .  . Oh, wait. I need to hush. I’ll give too much away.

Food, drink: This is the South, so pretty much everything is good. I guess my favorites are Dolly’s chocolate cake and homemade lemonade, her sweet tea on a real hot day, fried chicken, catfish and hushpuppies, banana pudding, sweet potato casserole, fried peach pies, real creamy grits with lots o’ butter, hot biscuits with sawmill gravy, Delta tamales, chili dogs, collard greens . . . Is that enough?

Books: Catherine’s story of course!

Best way to spend a weekend: You gotta promise not to tell a livin’ soul. You promise? Okay, here goes: Best way to spend a weekend is with Reed. Doesn’t even matter what we’re doin’. But if you repeat that, I’ll swear you’re lyin’.

What would a great gift for you be? Nobody would ever guess this, what with me roamin’ the countryside in overalls, but I’d love to have a string o’ pearls. Don’t even ask me why.

When are you happy? I’m gonna let you guess the answer to that one.

What makes you angry? Anything that hurts the people I care about.

What makes you sad? Goin’ to church and listenin’ to all those old hymns Charlie loved so much.

What makes you laugh? The women at Dolly’s. We have the best time together.

Hopes and dreams: I hope that one day my black cloud goes away—that I feel like it’s okay for me to be happy again.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Anna and Reed know. I can’t talk about it with anybody else.

Greatest success: Finding the diary.

Biggest trauma: Losing Charlie.

What does you care about most in the world? People—the people I love. Don’t nothin’ else matter.

Do you have a secret? Everybody does.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book?
We’re all on a journey together, but we’re travelin’ for different reasons. And the people at Dolly’s, they’re the best kind—honest and carin’—and funny. We all stick together, but we’re all different, and that’s what makes it interestin’.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book?
I accept ’em for who they are, so I can’t really answer that.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be:
That’s another one o’ my secrets. Reed knows the answer, so you’ll have to ask him.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: How much time you got?

Haha! I guess we’ll wait on that one!

***

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently the senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.Luesse_Valerie_MAIN

A Conversation with Aimee Jarre of Amanda Cabot’s A Tender Hope

A Tender Hope-Book Cover
NOVEL PASTIMES: Good morning, Aimee. Did I pronounce your name correctly?

AIMEE: I’m afraid not, but don’t feel badly. Most Americans have trouble with it. It’s eh-MAY, not Amy.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course. You’re French.

AIMEE: You might not think so from my accent, but I was born right here in Texas. That makes me a Texan, doesn’t it? It is true, though, that until a couple months ago, I lived in France.

NOVEL PASTIMES: So, why did you come to America, or am I being presumptuous in asking?

AIMEE: It’s not a secret. I wanted to find my mother – my birth mother, that is. You see, when my parents died – my French parents, that is – I learned that I’d been adopted.

NOVEL PASTIMES: That must have been a surprise.

AIMEE: A surprise, yes. Also a shock, but it explained so many things.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Like what?

AIMEE: Like … Would you mind if we talked about something else?

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course not. Please believe me when I say that I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It’s simply that I’ve never met anyone who lived in France. What was it like?

AIMEE: Beautiful but old, and the people are more … how do you say it? Reserved. That’s the word. Reserved. I find Texans friendlier.

NOVEL PASTIMES: We pride ourselves on that. We’re curious too, which is why I want to know more about your trip here. I heard that you came to Cimarron Creek with our new midwife. What’s she like?

AIMEE: Thea’s wonderful. I’ve always wanted a sister, and she’s as close to one as I could ever have dreamt. Truly, God led me to Ladreville at the perfect time. If I’d arrived a month later, I might never have met Thea.

NOVEL PASTIMES: The ladies are all happy that we have a new midwife, but I heard some of them say that sometimes Thea seems sad.

AIMEE: That’s only natural, don’t you think? After all, she lost both her husband and her baby this year. Wouldn’t that make anyone sad?

NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course, but I sense that you think there’s something more.

AIMEE: I shouldn’t say anything.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Whatever you say, it’ll just be between you and me. A secret. I promise.

AIMEE: Thea says there are no secrets in Cimarron Creek.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Then she’s wrong. There are plenty of secrets. But if you don’t want to tell me more about her, I won’t press you.

AIMEE: One thing I can tell you is that I hope she finds another man to love and maybe even marry.

NOVEL PASTIMES: What about the Ranger who’s been spending so much time in town?

AIMEE: Jackson seems like a good man. He might be the right one for Thea.

NOVEL PASTIMES: What about you? What kind of man would be the perfect husband for you?

AIMEE: Me? I don’t plan to marry anyone.

NOVEL PASTIMES: You don’t expect me to believe that, do you? You’re a pretty girl and a smart one. I’m sure all the single men in town are standing in line to court you.

AIMEE: That’s not so, and even if it were true, there’s only one who’s caught my eye.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Who’s that?

AIMEE: It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t feel that way about me.

NOVEL PASTIMES: But he might change his mind.

AIMEE: Maybe, but I think it would take a miracle.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Miracles do happen.

AIMEE: Not to me.

Well, thank you, Aimee. We are eager to hear the rest of your story!

***

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of A Stolen Heart and A Borrowed Dream, as well as the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds series. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at www.amandacabot.com.

Cabot_Amanda

Book Review: Destiny of Heart by Catherine Brakefield

Destiny of Heart is the third book of Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s saga of the McConnell family, the Destiny series. This novel sweeps around the country, covering events in Colorado, Michigan, and Kentucky.

While Collina battles fever and illness at Shushan, Ruby and Stephen must head to the prairies in hopes of bringing him back to health from his battle with a strange lung disease. Collina’s husband has left her and all that remains to fight for is what is left of a dwindling Shushan and her mustard seed of faith. Eventually, Ruby faces her own tragedy and returns to her family in Kentucky. Then Franklin Long, former rough-rider and Collina’s lost sweetheart, unexpectedly runs into their sister, Myra, in Detroit. This sets into effect a chain of events that will test the McConnell family even farther, into the days of the Great Depression.

Brakefield has done her research and goes to great lengths to interweave historic events into the novels she writes and this one is no different. Her characters battle not only the difficulties around them but also wrestle with relatable spiritual issues within that can be understood in today’s culture as much as in the past. Destiny of Heart is also sprinkled with bright spots, past love fulfilled, and hope in God for the future.

For readers left wondering at the end of Destiny’s Whirlwind they will find some satisfaction in this third installment of the McConnell family saga. An enjoyable and hopeful Christian fiction read!

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield is an ardent receiver of Christ’s rejuvenating love, as well as a hopeless romantic and patriot. She skillfully intertwines these elements into her writing as the author of Wilted Dandelions, published by CrossRiver Publishing, an inspirational historical romance, along with her first Christian Romance novel, “The Wind of Destiny“, and her other history books,  Images of America,The Lapeer Area and The Images of America, Eastern Lapeer County. published by Arcadia Publishing.

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books; Extraordinary Answers to PrayersUnexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker Books, Revell, The Dog Next Door, and The Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Publishing, The Benefit Package, and Abba’s Promise; and Bethany House, Jesus talked to me Today.

Catherine lives in Addison Township, MI., with her husband Edward of forty-four years, and her beautiful Arabian horses. She enjoys horseback riding, swimming, camping, and traveling the byroads across America. Her children are now grown and married with families of their own. Catherine and Edward are now the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and one preciously adorable granddaughter.

Introducing Ada from Ronald H. Balson’s The Girl From Berlin

Thank you for doing this.  It seems you have experienced a roller coaster ride of guilt, anger, fear, and redemption while having to deal with a treacherous Nazi regime. Because you and your family are Jewish you were deprived of careers/businesses, then property, basic rights, and ultimately, for many of them, their lives. I am sure many times you got a reprise from your music skills. 

Elise Cooper: Why did you want to become a violinist?

Ada Baumgarten:I think it was always a given.  My father was first chair for the Berlin Philharmonic.  On my fifth birthday, he gave me a bench made violin, crafted by a one of Germany’s finest violin makers.  My father taught me well and from then on, my dream was to play next to him in the orchestra.

EC: Do you harbor any hard feelings toward Wilhelm Furtwangler?

AB: None.  Maestro Furtwangler was badly misunderstood and received unjust criticism after the war because he chose to stay in Germany with his orchestra, which had the collateral effect of lending cultural prestige to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  But he was never a Nazi and he abhorred their policies. He stood up to Hitler and did his best to protect his Jewish players, including my father.  In defiance of Goebbels and Hitler, he continued to conduct music from Jewish composers and he featured Jewish soloists.  When my father was arrested during Kristallnacht, it was Furtwangler that contacted me and attempted to make arrangements for his rescue.

EC: What do you think of Rafael Schachter?

AB: He was a remarkable man.  With an old piano, he found in a damp basement, he brought music to prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  He gave them pride and a purpose – a way to temporarily escape the dread of their confinement.  He assembled and taught 160 inmates to perform the technically difficult Verdi Requiem by rote memory.  

EC:  Can you tell us about Hitler’s plot?

AB: In June 1944, Hitler devised a fraudulent plot to fool the International Red Cross.  He boasted that Theresienstadt was a Jewish spa and invited them to inspect. The Nazis quickly beautified the camp and when the Red Cross came to inspect, Rafael’s chorus performed the Verdi Requiem.  The prisoners proudly and loudly sang to the Red Cross and the Nazis.  Their secret joy was that the Nazis didn’t understand the words that were sung in Latin.  The inmates were singing words that condemned the Nazis on Judgment Day: “Day of wrath, day of wrath, when the wicked shall be judged!”  Today we call that performance “The Defiant Requiem.”

EC: Did you ever fathom that the German people as a whole would turn their backs on the Jews who were their neighbors, friends, and business partners?

You were overheard saying “Perhaps the most hurtful and inimical result of the campaign as the pervasive acceptance of Nazi policies by German society…while the law did not require our non-Jewish friends to shun us, it became apparent they would no longer stand up for us.” 

AB:In the years preceding the war, there was a much smaller Jewish presence in Italy.  Forty thousand lived in Italy and five hundred thousand in Germany.  Jews were prominent in prewar Germany in several disciplines: the arts, science, finance, medicine.  Many middle-class Germans who had suffered during the severe depression years were resentful.  Most importantly, Germany had Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, a master at controlling the media and public opinion.  As a result, the German people were manipulated into accepting, or ignoring their government’s policy of Jewish persecution.  The Italian people did not harbor such prejudice and hatred.

EC: Do you wish your family had the foresight to get out sooner?

AB:Of course, but it’s a mistake to think that the failure of Jews to leave Europe was a lack of foresight.  In many cases, they were trapped. Where could they go? Immigration visas were tight or non-existent.  Borders were closed.  And if we could leave, where do we resettle?  How do you pick up and leave everything you know?  No one anticipated extermination camps.  In my family’s case, we could have resettled in another city with a new orchestra, but my father was loyal to his conductor.

EC: What was it like for you to have Hitler and Heydrich approach after your playing?

AB:I was young and conflicted.  They were the two most powerful men in Germany and well-known music lovers.  Heydrich was an accomplished violinist.  To receive praise for my artistry was flattering for a teenageer, but I also realized that the compliments were coming from detestable human beings.

EC: What are your feelings for Kurt, your childhood friend who stayed a friend?

AB:I always loved Kurt.  He was a good person.  He never bought into the Nazi ideology.  Like many boys growing up in Germany, he was forced to join the Hitler youth and ultimately the army.  When the chips were on the table, he proved his goodness.

EC: Are you haunted, bitter, and angry for a life stolen from you as well as loved ones?

AB: As I wrote in my memoir, I have no regrets.  I have led a rich and fortunate life.  I played music on the finest stages beside the most gifted musicians.  My family life was warm and satisfying.  I am sad for what happened to my loved ones, but my life was not stolen.

THANK YOU!!

Ronald H. Balson has also written Once We Were Brothers, Saving Sophie, Karolina’s Twins. As an attorney, the demands of his trial practice have taken him into courts across the United States and into international venues. During the early 2000s Ron spent time in Warsaw and southern Poland in connection with a complex telecommunications lawsuit. While in Poland Ron was profoundly moved by the scars and memorials of World War II, which inspired him to write Once We Were Brothers, his first novel. Inspiration for his other novels were provided by his extensive travels to Israel and the Middle East. He also has been inspired by talking with, and meeting Holocaust survivors.