An Interview with Eliza Brooks from Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly

Good afternoon, miss. I can see you’re in a hurry, but can you spare a moment to answer a few questions for the readers of Novel PASTimes?

Yes, but only a few, I’m anxious to board my ship.

Of course, as are most of the people we’ve spoken with on the wharf today. Shall we begin with your name?

My name is Eliza Brooks—though some folks may know me as Eli. 

That’s a rather unusual name for young lady. 

Well, Aunt Cecilia doesn’t like me to talk about it, but I spent some time working the gold fields with Pa. He thought it’d be safer for me to dress as a boy while we were there. Using my full name would have given the pie away, so we shortened it.

I find it difficult to believe a woman as lovely as you managed to pass herself off as a boy. 

Well, that was a few years back. Things have changed a lot since then. 

Eliza is a lovely name. Is there a story behind it?

I was named after my grandmother—Pa’s ma. Her name was Elizabeth and at first my parents wanted to name me that, but grandma insisted it would be too confusing. So they shortened it to Eliza.

Are you close with your grandmother?
She passed on a few years back. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much more than her pretty smile and warm hugs. She lived in Ohio and my folks moved us out west when I was just seven because Ma had a hankering for adventure and Pa never could tell her no.

He must really love her.

More than you can know. I only hope I can someday find someone to love and who loves me as much they loved each other. You should have seen them waltz. It was like you’d imagine in the fairytales—the ones that fancy tutor read. He had a funny English accent and was supposed to be turning me into a lady, but I drove him so crazy, he finally gave up and started reading in the corner every day until my aunt caught him at it and fired him. Poor man. It wasn’t his fault I had no interest in things like serving a proper tea. Why a person can’t just fill the cups, pass them out, and let people add their own cream or sugar or honey or whatever, I’ll never understand. 

Is it safe to assume you and your aunt don’t get along well?

That’s putting it mildly. She’s been trying to get rid of me since the day we met. Lately she’s been trying to marry me off to anyone dumb enough to accept her supper invitations. 

I’m sorry to hear that.

Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about her anymore. She just did something… Look, Can we please just talk about something else?

No problem. It sounds like you’ve lived something of an adventurous life, traveling from Ohio, living in the gold fields, and now you’re in San Francisco. 

Pa and I lived in Oregon, too, before we came to California.

Were you homesteaders there?

We were and I loved it. It’s so beautiful, so peaceful. No dirty miners turning the rivers to muck and scaring off all the game. No noisy street vendors or drunks wandering the streets. Just the trees and the birds and the little cabin Pa and I built together.

Is that where you’re off to now?

No, I’m boarding the Virginia bound for San Diego. 

Where’s your escort?

I’ll be traveling with the captain’s wife. She’s waiting for me onboard. Speaking of which, I’d better get going. 

Please wait. I only have a few more questions.

*tapping her foot* Very well, but make it quick. This carpetbag is getting heavy. 

What draws you to such a small port town like San Diego?

My pa is there.

You appear anxious. What’s troubling you?

I haven’t received a letter from him in months. 

Is that unsual?

Yes! Why does no one understand that? Pa would never just stop writing me without explanation. Something has happened and I must find him. He needs me.

Find him? I thought you said he was in San Diego. 

Well, that’s where his last letter said he was going to look for work. 

But you said it’s been months since you received that letter. Wouldn’t he have moved on by now?

Of course, he may have moved on, but it’s the only clue I have and I’ve got to start somewhere. I can’t just keep waiting when he might be lying on his sickbed somewhere, wishing I would to come to him. Wouldn’t you go if you’re pa were missing?

My pa can handle himself. 

Well, mine can’t. Not really. He forgets to eat, to sleep. He works himself until he’s sick if I’m not there to remind him to take a break.

What if you don’t find him?

willfind him.

I say, who is that gentleman glaring down at us from the deck of the Virginia?

Oh, that’s just Mr. Clarke. He’s a carpenter who used to work for my uncle but Mr. Clarke’s headed back east now. Apparently his fiancée is waiting for him.  

He doesn’t appear pleased to see you.

There was a misunderstanding when he came to supper at my aunt and uncle’s house a couple weeks ago. I’d rather not discuss it. In fact, I really must board now. The captain’s wife will be wondering where I am.

Very well. Thank you for taking this time to speak with us, Miss. Brooks. I wish you a safe journey and will pray that you find your father healthy and happy to see you.

I appreciate that. Good day.

Kathleen Denly writes stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. She enjoys finding the lesser known pockets of history and bringing them to life through the joys and struggles of her characters.

Sunny southern California, a favorite setting in her stories, is also her home. She lives there with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories.

Kathleen’s debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness,released February 4, 2020 and is available wherever books are sold.

When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, she spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

Kathleen is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the San Diego Christian Writers’ Guild.

Always happy to hear from her readers, you can email Kathleen and follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest. You might also consider joining Kathleen’s Readers’ Clubto learn the latest updates, receive exclusive content and be eligible for KRC exclusive giveaways!

Meet Millie from Salt the Snow by Carrie Callaghan

Excuse me, Miss Bennett, I know you’re running to file a story with your newspaper, but do you have a minute to chat?

I get to be on the receiving end of an interview? You bet.

Thanks. Here, drinks are on me — let’s get two vodkas. Now, tell me, how long have you been in Moscow?

Swell stuff, this vodka. I showed up here at the beginning of this year. February. So it’s been six months now.

What do you make of Russia?

For starters, the winter is way too long. They were still chipping ice out of the river in June, and the building I’m living in only turns the heat on every other day. Though these white nights in summer are to die for. Not that I’m complaining. It’s hard work building a new kind of life here, and I’m glad I get to watch the rooskies try. I love their sense of humor and adventure — I think they have a lot in common with us Americans.

Miss Bennett, you’ve been married before, but aren’t attached at the moment. Is that right?

Ah, Mike Mitchell, that was my first husband. A swell guy, but we weren’t cut out for marriage. Or he wasn’t. 

But are you seeing anyone now?

Well, there is one young man. He’s an actor in the opera and he says he used to live in a palace when he was a kid (don’t tell the secret police about his class history). We do like to go on long walks around the city.

What do you want to accomplish in your time in Moscow?

Look, my friends back in San Francisco tell me that everything there is washed up. The Depression is eating them alive. I came here … for personal reasons but also because I wanted to see if the Soviets could find another way to do right by the little guy. I’m not sure they can, but I’m here to write some stories about how they’re trying. And maybe I’ll help the English-speaking workers here feel a little more at home.

There are English-speaking workers in Moscow?

Sure there are! The Bolsheviks have invited all sorts of foreigners in to help them learn the things that Russians couldn’t learn while stuck in feudalism. They’re industrializing, and it’s pretty swell to watch.

What do you do for fun?

You’d think with all the writing I do for work that I’d be sick of my typewriter, but an unanswered letter bothers me like a cherry stone under a saucer. And I do love keeping up with my friends back home, so I write a lot of letters. The lady I’m staying with is also one of the editors at the newspaper I’m working at, so she doesn’t have much time for socializing. But I think I’m meeting some new people to go to parties with. I hope.

And there’s that former palace-dweller of yours.

I’m not sure he’s mine! Though he is handsome.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of coming to Russia?

Bring a warm coat! And an open mind. I see so many high-minded people strutting through here who have already decided what we’re about before they even see Moscow. This city’s always changing, and you never know what you’re going to find.

We’re excited to see what you find, Milly! Now go file that story, and we can’t wait to read what you do next.

Carrie Callaghan is the author of “Salt the Snow,” (Amberjack, Feb. 4, 2020), her second novel. She lives in Maryland with her family, where she drinks altogether too much tea. She’d love to hear from you on Twitteror Facebook.

An Interview with Emma Malcolm from Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Tea Chest

Novel PASTimes:Welcome to Novel Pastimes, Emma. I see you had a hand in participating in the Boston Tea Party?

Emma: Party? I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Novel PASTimes: You know, the dumping of the tea on the night of December 16, 1773?

Emma: Oh, the dumping of the tea! Aye, though I can’t think of a more tension-filled party to be at. True, there was quite a crowd that night, but the silence while the men dumped the tea was almost eerie, so secretive—nothing at all fitting for a party. I remember the cracking and splitting of the chests echoing off the water. ’Twas so quiet we could hear the tea leaves falling into the frigid harbor. We could inhale their exotic scent. An odd party, indeed.

Novel PASTimes:Wow. Sounds like quite an experience. And yet, I’m confused, for it appears you are the daughter of feared customs official John Malcolm. How did you come to be a part of such a treasonous event?

Emma:Please know I didn’t enter into any of this lightly. My father is a man of the Crown, but after befriending the Fultons and a printer’s apprentice named Noah, I came to see their side of things. My own father stifled my voice much like the Crown attempted to do with the colonies. He wanted me to marry Samuel Clarke, a dreadful man. I suppose it only natural that I fell on the side of liberty. Still, it doesn’t make what some of the Patriots did to my father right. Tarring and feathering is a brutal business and I will never forget the horror of that night.

Novel PASTimes: I am so sorry, and what a difficult place to be caught in. Tell us, what part did you play in the dumping of the tea?

Emma:I came up with the idea of using Mohawk disguises. Most who participated adopted this, and I aided Noah in his masquerade. If only we had taken more care with the oath . . .

Novel PASTimes: Oath?

Emma: ’Twas a round robin to which the men signed their names. An oath of honor and secrecy. I was careless with it—I should have burned it the minute I realized Noah had left it behind. But I feared he had need of it. If only Samuel hadn’t found me with it! After that, I had no choice but to protect those I loved, even if it meant giving up the life I longed for, even if it meant marrying Samuel.

Novel PASTimes: How horrible for you. How did you bear it?

Emma: Mayhap we should save some of the enticing parts for the story?

Novel PASTimes: Oh, forgive me. You’re absolutely right. Maybe instead you could tell us of the tea chest handed down in your family over the generations?

Emma: Was it? That does make my heart merry. I found that chest the morning after the dumping of the tea. For me, it symbolized what I shared with Noah and the Fultons, something I could no longer embrace in a marriage to Samuel. ’Tis still very painful to speak of.

Novel PASTimes:Of course. Perhaps you could talk of your time at Bunker Hill, instead? Or your daring mission into enemy-occupied Boston?

Emma: None of these topics are for the faint of heart, I’m afraid. I will never forget how I worked alongside Sarah Fulton to nurse the men in that field in Medford after Bunker Hill. My eyes have never seen such horror, and I pray they never do again. And Noah . . . the remembrance of it is still too much to bear. Yet time has eased the pain in some ways as well. Looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand in the midst of our darkness. He never did leave us. And when freedom finally came for our country, I felt it mirrored the eternal freedom stirring in my soul as well.

Novel PASTimes: That is beautiful. Thank you so much for spending some time with us. We look forward to reading more of your story!

Heidi Chiavaroli writes women’s fiction, exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic TimesTop Pick and a BooklistTop Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and her two sons.

Meet Leah from Sarah Sundin's The Land Beneath Us

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

Tell us something about where you live.

I recently moved in to a boardinghouse in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where I live with other women who work at the Army’s Camp Forrest. After having lived in an orphanage since I was four, it feels decadent to share a room with only one girl and to have a bed all my own!

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

My name is Leah Jones, but it isn’t really my own. My parents named me Thalia, and I believe I was named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry. When they died and I was sent to the orphanage, my name was shortened to Leah. Jones comes from the couple who adopted me, only to abandon me to another orphanage shortly thereafter. My parents’ last name was long and Greek and sounded something like “Ka-wa-los.” More than anything, I’d like to know what my name was. Maybe then I could find my baby sisters.

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

I work as a librarian at the Army base library at Camp Forrest. Becoming a librarian has been my dream, and I’m thrilled that it’s coming true. I love everything about my work—the books, the soldiers who are discovering the love of reading, and the chance to earn my own way. If only the books were housed in the grand glory they deserve, rather than a bland white frame building.

Who are the special people in your life?

My roommate, Darlene Franklin, is fun—although she doesn’t understand me. But the person who intrigues me most is Private Clay Paxton, who’s training with the Army Rangers. He has a kind heart and a bright mind, and he understands tragedy and loss and fractured families.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find my twin baby sisters, Callie and Polly. After our parents died, I was separated from them. But I remember them dearly, and I know our parents would want me to find them. I spend my spare time at the library perusing books. Perhaps one day I’ll find a Greek name and know it’s mine. Perhaps I’ll see a photograph of a city and recognize where I came from. Then perhaps I could find my sisters.

What are you most afraid of?

Never belonging. Never having a family.

Do you have a cherished possession?

I have few possessions, so I cherish each one. With my new job, I was able to buy darling new dresses and suits and shoes to replace the charity barrel outfits from the orphanage. Someday I plan to even buy books of my own!

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

I dream of earning the money to attend library school so I can become a graduate librarian instead of only a circulation librarian. I also dream of being reunited with my sisters and recreating our family. As for love and marriage, I’m too odd to attract a man—although part of me hopes I could someday turn the head of a man like Clay Paxton. But some dreams belong in the realm of imagination alone.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

My dear friend Rita Sue Bellamy told me, “Sugar, if you want to belong, you have to join.” I may or may not ever find my sisters, but I can choose to belong with the people the Lord has placed in my life. I can also help those—like the children at the orphanage at town—who don’t belong.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

Perhaps it’s my poetic birth name, but I love to write poetry. As I told Clay, “Words make delightful playthings. They cost nothing, they never wear out, and no one can ever take them away from you.”

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Blurb:

In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Clay has little to live for. Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and to find the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago. A marriage of convenience binds Clay and Leah together, but will D-day—and a foreboding dream—tear them apart?

About the Author:

Sarah Sundin is a bestselling author of historical novels, including The Land Beneath UsThe Sky Above Usand The Sea Before Us. Her novel The Sea Before Uswon the 2019 Reader’s Choice Award from Faith, Hope, and Love, When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deepwas a finalist for the 2016 Carol Awardand won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.http://www.sarahsundin.com.

A Chat with Becky Campbell from Double Jeopardy by Donna Schlacter

It’s nice to meet you, Becky. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I am determined to be the success my father always wanted to be.

 I’m so sorry to hear you lost your father, but I hear he’s left you behind with a ramshackle homestead and a silver mine? How’s that going for you?

 Who knew that mining could be such hard work? I hired a local rancher and a couple of laborers to help with the heavy lifting, but those men can be so pigheaded sometimes. Especially that Zeke Graumann.

Have you learned anything about your father’s murder? Are you going to try and solve it?

I know that the sheriff isn’t looking very hard, so it’s up to me. I mean, leaving him lying there dead like so much trash is hard to accept.

How has the adjustment been to living in mining territory compared to living in New York City?

 Ah, New York City. I surely do miss the Big Apple. The theaters. The shopping. The parties. Oh, and my mother, too. Yes, it’s been an adjustment. At home, I didn’t have to lift a finger. Mother paid for whatever I wanted. Here, I have to work really hard just to make a few cents, let alone dollars. But there is a rugged beauty here that I find makes me long to stay here. To settle down. To call something my own.

 Have the people been very friendly?

 Absolutely. Almost right away, I met Polly, who works in the mercantile. She can’t read or write, and I’m going to teach her. My landlady, Mrs. Hicks, was very kind to me. Mr. and Mrs. Dixon at the mercantile are a sweet couple. And apart from two drunks who almost accosted me the first day I arrived, people have been nice.

 What about your foreman, Zeke Graumann? How do you to get along?

 “Get along” is the right phrase. If I didn’t need his help, I’d tell him to get along. Seems no matter what I say, he says the opposite. He has ideas about what a woman should do and shouldn’t do, and no matter how hard I try, I’m always in the ‘shouldn’t do’ camp. Then again, he is easy on the eyes, as Polly says.

 Do you think you’ll keep him on? Why or why not?

 Since I hired him, I’ve managed to pay all the bills and put aside a few cents each week. Before that, I was losing money every week. He’s increased production, keeps the laborers in line, and doesn’t quite eat me out of house and home. Will I keep him on? Hmmm. Did I mention he’s easy on the eyes?

 What do you think the future holds for you?

 The future? If that includes the next two weeks or so, I’m pretty certain I can keep my head above water. Beyond that, I don’t know. The laborers—and Zeke—complain constantly about my cooking. There’ve been all these accidents that don’t quite feel like accidents, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure I trust Zeke or the laborers, but if they aren’t trying to drive me out of business, I don’t know who is.

Thank you for spending time with us, Becky. I hope things work out for you!

About the Author:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Meet Tessa from Laura Frantz’s An Uncommon Woman

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today, Miss Tessa Swan. 

Much obliged. Pardon me as I trade my soiled apron for a clean cambric one. My flyaway hair and untied bonnet strings shall stay. 

Tell us something about your family? What’s it like living with five brothers?

Squirrely! Especially when you’re fifth in the family and the only girl. Let’s see, there’s Jasper, the eldest and the most hog-headed. Then there’s Lemuel, Zadock, Cyrus… And Ross, the baby, only he’s bigger than me now. I’m most partial to Ross given I helped raise him. Of all my brothers, Ross keeps his face to the sun. Always sees the bright side. He’s most like Pa, you see. Only Pa was felled by Indians awhile back. 

I heard tell of one Swan who’s been called a fearsome wrinkle of a woman in homespun. Who might that be? 

That would be Aunt Hester. She’d as soon spit at than speak to you. She fancies herself the spinster queen of Fort Tygart, if for no other reason than she’s likely the oldest woman in the territory. And surely the meanest. I say all this without rancor as I do love her, ornery as she is. 

Is there anything special about your name? 

Tessa? It sounds right pretty, some say, with Swan attached. ‘Twas my granny’s name. She hailed from Scotland. Our family Bible penned it Teresa but somehow it got shortened to Tessa. I like my name. The French and Indian War hero, Clayton Tygart, remarked on it, too, when we first met. He called it uncommon. In a territory of so many Janes and Marthas and Anns I’ll keep it, thank you. 

What do you like most about where you live?

Aside from it being uncommon dangerous, you mean? I liken western Virginia to the Garden of Eden after the fall, breathtakingly beautiful but spoiled by the serpent, by so many hardships and trials. The Buckhannon is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. Actually, it’s the only river I’ve ever seen. I’d like to remedy that.

I hear a lament in your voice. Would you like to live somewhere else?

I’ve heard tell of overmountain places like Philadelphia. Williamsburg. Where folks don’t have to watch their backs or fear for their very lives. I’d like to know what’s it like for a body to rest easy, to look in shop windows and partake of a meal they didn’t have to cook in an ordinary or sit in what’s called a pew in a church with a big bell that rings you right in. One day, maybe…

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find a man who is brave yet loves books. Most men I know can’t read nor write. I do both but have never met a man who manages both, too, except for the fort’s storekeeper, old as yesterday’s breeches. 

What are you most afraid of?

Being taken captive by Indians like my beloved childhood friend, Keturah Braam. We were out picking strawberries when she vanished, quick as a blink. I recall it clear as yesterday though more than a dozen years have passed since. She was my bosom friend. Nobody’s come close since. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Mighty kind of you. Thank you!

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Frontiersman’s DaughterCourting Morrow LittleThe Colonel’s Lady,The Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. Learn more at http://www.laurafrantz.net.

A Behind The Scenes Chat With Geoffrey Hagan of Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine

Mr. Hagan, those of here at Novel Pastimes are curious to know how a farmer in the 1920s survived the farm crisis that began in that decade and how the Great Depression later on affected your everyday life.

Well, truth is, the Depression had already hit folks like myself whose livelihood depended on crops. You see, an economic downturn happened in the rural south long before the Stock Market Crash in ’29, and it stemmed from the military’s need for high production during World War l. Those demands drove the market supply up, and that in turn caused prices to go up. But I have to say this: a lot of factors in addition to the economic depression tended to trigger rural communities to pull us together when we suffered. Take for instance the fire that broke out on my farm: neighbors came from all around to help. We connected as a community in the same way we did during the crisis that began in the 1920s. Families helped each other, and during harvest: the same thing. We’d give each other food. We helped each other with repair work. It’s the American way. I hope that will always be the case, that we pull together for each other, stand united. We have ourselves a mighty fine country, worth fighting for—dying for if it comes to that.

You have the one son, Simon, that we’re particularly interested in. He must have been a big help during those difficult times.

Ah, yes, you’re speaking of my eldest, but just for the record: I have eight sons and three daughters. I’m mighty proud of Simon, though, for following his dream as he did. Makes me smile to talk about him—flamboyant young man, tall, good looking. Yessiree, and a hard worker, too, but he wasn’t a farmer. Simon was a dreamer. He experienced an awful tragedy when he was seventeen, and circumstances turned him in a new direction. Odd as it seems, he might not otherwise have gone after his dream.

Sometimes it takes hard times to turn us around. And sometimes it takes a higher power.

That new direction must have taken Simon to Flagstaff. Tell us about the significance of his going out there. Did he have something specific to do, someplace that called him? 

Oh, indeed, he did have something that called him, but not so fast, my friend. When Simon left Elkton, he was bent on going to the big city of Detroit to find meaning for himself—struck out on his own at eighteen years old. He possessed foundational strength when he left here. Turns out, he needed it to survive.

Detroit offered a high life, alright, but life can throw us curveballs, can’t it? He started with a factory job at the Ford Motor Company and went from there to combatting the Mafia at the height of the Roaring Twenties, to falling in love with an unlikely soul. Prejudice, prohibition—all of that pretty well defines the Era of the Roaring Twenties, and it’s a far cry from the quiet life he knew here in Elkton. He experienced it all until Albuquerque, New Mexico became another chapter in his life. Not too far from there is Flagstaff, and Flagstaff held some very real dreams for Simon.

Was there someone who influenced his choice to go to Detroit?

You bet there was! Senator Maxwell. He’s a decent sort of fella—puffed a lot of hot air—but Simon sure looked up to him. I’d be safe in saying it was Senator Robert Maxwell alone who dangled the big city in front of my son’s eyes.

Simon wasn’t the only son of mine to leave Elkton, though. Alan—my spunky redhead with all the spitfire to go with it—that one sure looked up to his big brother. Alan made some bad decisions. California bound, he was, with an obsession, and obsessions have a cruel way of looking good before they suck you in. Nothing wrong with ambition as long as you don’t exchange ambitions for obsessions.

Might just add that Simon took on the world when he went up there to Detroit. If you want the whole story, you’ll see where Flagstaff and Albuquerque had very different reasons for calling two of my sons to the southwest. I gave ‘em roots, but I gave ’em the freedom to find their own way, too.

It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Hagan. Sounds like you’ve handed down quite a legacy.

 

Annette Valentine is an inspirational storyteller with a flair for the unexpected. By age eleven, she knew that writing was an integral part of her creative nature. Annette graduated with distinction from Purdue and founded an interior design firm which spanned a 34-year career in Lafayette, Indiana and Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette has used her 18-year affiliation with Toastmasters International to prepare her for her position with the Speakers’ Bureau for End Slavery Tennessee and is an advocate for victims and survivors of human trafficking and is the volunteer group leader for Brentwood, Tennessee. Annette writes through the varied lens of colorful personal experience and the absorbing reality of humanity’s search for meaning. Mother to one son and daughter, and a grandparent of six amazing kids, Annette now lives in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and their 5-year-old Boxer. To learn more about Annette’s life and work, please visit https://annettehvalentine.com

Meet Geoffrey Hunter from Rosemary Simpson’s Death Brings a Shadow

Geoffrey, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  I am glad I could catch up with you as you travel with Prudence MacKenzie from New York City to the Georgia coast. You must have many mixed feelings since you are originally from the South and saw how the Civil War devastated the area.  But, Prudence, your partner in the Investigative firm has tried to keep you on level ground.   Unfortunately, once the murder took place feelings began to unravel, especially with the death of the bride to be.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Geoffrey Hunter: Physically I’m tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed. My brief career as a Pinkerton sent me into dangerous situations and I learned early that in order to extricate myself I needed to be in the best physical shape possible. I took up amateur boxing and I’m an expert rider, dating back to when I was put on horseback as a child. We were also taught how to move silently, how to hide in a crowd, and how to disguise ourselves. I’m a gentleman.

EC: How has your Southern background influenced who you are today?

GH: It’s both who I am and who I am not. I have found it difficult to condemn everything Southern, as some would like me do, because I cannot entirely renounce family ties. But at the same time, I condemn a way of life that depended on the enslavement of an entire people based solely on the color of their skin. Slavery was wrong, no matter how hard or how often our Southern preachers tried to justify it. 

EC:  Do you ever feel conflicted between loyalties to your family, your culture, and the wrongness of certain customs?

GH: All the time. The only way I can deal with these loyalties is to compartmentalize them. In my heart and in my thoughts, I separate my family from the culture in which most of my relatives still live. I have to see them as individuals, not as representatives of a way of life I have renounced. Distance makes that easier. I have no wish to spend time in the South and my family has no desire to travel north.

EC: How would you describe Prudence?

GH: She is the most intelligent woman I’ve ever met, and certainly among the most challenging. I think she tries to be as honest and open as her upbringing will allow. She has a warm, generous heart and a terrible addiction she has to battle every day of her life. She’s also very beautiful.

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Prudence?

GH: I don’t know the exact moment when I fell in love with her, but I do know that what I feel is deep, sincere, and will endure for the rest of our lives. But Prudence is like a skittish horse who has to be won over without breaking its spirit. I dare not make demands on her that she cannot meet or that frighten her with their intensity. I proceed as slowly as I can bear. I respect her immensely.

EC:  Why did you choose Prudence as a partner in an investigative firm?

GH: I think we chose one another. Circumstance brought us together, chemistry binds us. On the practical side, having her as my partner means I have good excuses to be by her side for as many hours of the day as I can manage.

EC: Do you think the Bennetts who were the groom’s family, represent the best and the worst of the Southern culture?

GH: They may have some of the best and some of the worst characteristics, but taken all together I find them rather typical of their class. There was really almost nothing about them that surprised me.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aurora Lee and Maggie Jane, the sisters of the unfortunate groom-to-be, represent a certain type of woman who was found everywhere in the South for as far back as I can remember. These women play games in order to fulfill the only destiny they deem worthy of them—to marry well. They have little or no interest in anything else and if they do not marry, they consider themselves failures. So does everyone else.

The father, Elijah Bennett lives in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. His entire life was defined by a war his side lost. He doesn’t accept defeat but he also doesn’t know how to live in a new era without slaves and inherited wealth.

The groom-to-be, Teddy, and his brother, Lawrence, are two sides of a coin, the one epitomizing acceptance of change and generosity of spirit, the other a younger version of their father.

EC: You were the second for a duel-don’t you think that is an archaic tradition?

GH: Archaic only because it is against the law to duel. But it was once the only way a gentleman could preserve his honor in a dispute or after an insult had been dealt him. When I was growing up, it was made clear to me that every gentleman had to be prepared to defend his good name and reputation. Even though dueling may not have been as common then as it once was, it was nevertheless held up as the ultimate test of courage. So when Teddy decided it was the only way to resolve the wrong of Eleanor’s death, it seemed utterly right and fitting that he should choose to do it through a duel. Perhaps that’s difficult for you to understand, but it was so ingrained in me that I never doubted it was the right thing to do.

EC: Did you ever know someone like Aunt Jessa or Queen Lula?

GH: Mama Flore was our home plantation’s voodoo woman. I grew up around her incantations and I believed in them. Nobody dared challenge her powers.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aunt Jessa and Queen Lula were spirit sisters. Their main purpose in life was to link the world of the dead and the world of the living. They believed utterly that some people could cross back and forth between the two worlds, and that their curses, juju dolls, and spells were what made those passages possible.

EC: How would you describe Wildacre and did it bring back memories?

GH: Wildacre was very like my home plantation of Sandyhill in eastern North Carolina, in that it was the beating heart of a miniature society. Large, isolated, requiring the upkeep of at least a dozen house slaves. By the time Prudence and I went to Bradford Island, Wildacre was showing the effects of years of declining fortunes and neglect, but seeing it as it was then made it easy to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. Whitewashed brick, tall pillars, acres of green grass, a long alleyway of soaring trees. And the screech of peacocks. I’ll always associate that noise with how we used to live in the South.

EC: How would you compare New York where you currently live to the South?

GH: There is no comparison. It’s a different world entirely. One in which I now feel completely comfortable. It’s only if I meet a fellow Southerner and slip accidentally into the accent of where I was born that I am momentarily jarred into nostalgia.

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

GH: To live the rest of my life with Prudence beside me as my wife.

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

GH: Cynicism is just another word that tries to justify giving up. Not working for constructive change because you doubt it’s possible or lasting. I’m not a cynic. I’m not a pessimist. As a Pinkerton, I saw some of the worst in humankind. Choosing the life of a lawyer and private inquiry agent also brings me into close contact with the criminal element. I knew that when I chose it. I still have confidence that most men and women strive to be something better. 

THANK YOU!!

The fourth Gilded Age Mystery, “Death Brings a Shadow,” was published in November 2019, and the fifth book in the series will be out in late 2020. Rosemary is also the author of two stand-alone historical novels, “The Seven Hills of Paradise” and “Dreams and Shadows.”.”


She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

Book Review: Sara’s Surprise by Susan G. Mathis

About Sara’s Surprise:

Sara O’Neill, works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare.Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?

My Review

A Sweet Holiday Romance Novella

Sara’s Surprise is a sweet romance which will capture readers with its lovable characters. Tenacious and kind, Sara O’Neill desires to become an independent and a successful pastry chef. She doesn’t expect the obstacles set in her way by her demanding and sought after boss, but new friends support her in her endeavors. Feisty little Madison Graham, who needs a mother, charms Sara. And Madison’s dad, Sean Graham, is the kind of man who is worthy of her regard. Their story, set during America’s Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands, will warm your heart this winter. A fun Christmas-time read, so snuggle down in a chair by the fireplace, sip a cup of hot cocoa, and enjoy!

 

Book Review: Forever, Lately by Linore Rose Burkard

About Forever, Lately::

1816, England
Julian St. John needs a wife. An oath to a deceased guardian must be kept. Miss Clarissa Andrews, a vexatious beauty, has dangled after him all season but he has no intention of choosing such a she-devil.

Maine, Present Day
Author Claire Channing is desperate to write a bestseller to save her failing career. She moves into her grandmotherʼs abandoned cottage to write the book, but a local resort baron wants to raze the place. Without the deed, the clock is ticking on how long she can stay. She thinks she’s writing St. Johnʼs story. But when she discovers an old prayer shawl and finds herself in his Regency world, she falls in love with him, a man she thought she invented! Miss Andrews, however, is also real—and she’d rather see Julian dead than in another womanʼs arms!  Claire must beat the clock to prevent a deadly tragedy, but can love beat the limits of time itself?

My Review:

A wonderful romp through the world of the Regency England through the eyes of a modern-day woman. Truly fun time travel by supernatural means rather than a time machine. The romance is poignant and sweet with both the hero and the heroine having to make tough choices. Julian St. John and Claire Channing seem to be meant for each other. The only thing that separates them is time! Author Linore Rose Burchard adds clever plot twists and dialog. It’s the kind of book worth reading a second time. I truly enjoyed it. Highly recommend!