Interview with Tressa Harlowe of A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

Today we have the pleasure of meeting Tressa Harlowe from Joanna Davidson Politano’s A Rumored Fortune.

A Rumored Fortune-Book CoverSupposedly there’s a fortune hidden somewhere on your estate. Is it true?

Of course it is. Just because we haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I know my father, and if he claims he has hidden his fortune, then he’s done exactly that. Besides, if there’s no hidden fortune, it means we have nothing.

You say you know your father, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t you know where he’d hide his fortune?

That’s none of your concern. I know the man better than anyone does. Do the women of Her Majesty’s court not know the queen, even from a distance? I know the sort of man my father was, and I know he’d never lie about his great fortune.


How would you describe the man, then?

(After a pause)—He was strong and true and good, the best father a girl could have. I admired him so, and felt a sort of hero worship for him. Such wisdom he had about a great many things. Most of our conversations centered around vines, for his vineyards were the great love of his life. We talked of grapes and branches, but in doing so we talked of deeper things too, without saying the words. He understood vineyards the way physicians understand the human body and accountants understand sums. I never would have cared a whit for vines or grapes except that it was who he was. To love his vineyards was to love him, so these rows of winding branches and vines have become dear to me.

You know, vines are such a mystery. They burst forth with wonderful sweet fruit, but only if the conditions are perfect—pruning, weather, season, protection and drainage. Father was something like that, only the conditions were never right.


There have been a great many visitors to your estate lately. What should happen if one of them were to find the fortune before you?

Let them all search in the nooks and crannies forever, learning the intricacies of Trevelyan. They could spend years looking for the fortune on an estate of this size. In the meantime, I’ll be studying the man who hid the fortune. Understanding my closed-off Father is the key to finding the fortune he hid. I just know the answer is somewhere in his vineyard notebooks, written in some kind of symbolic riddle.

Now that I’ve found someone who speaks Welsh, I’ll be able to translate his notebooks and unlock the pages he poured himself into all these years. I only have to work up the courage to hand the notebooks to that vineyard manager.


The vineyard manager, Donegan Vance. He’s new to the estate, isn’t he? You are brave to trust a newcomer with the secret to your father’s fortune.

I haven’t any choice now, have I? No one else about the place speaks Welsh. Trust is coming slowly where this man is concerned. He may be a bit too forthright and lacking in certain gentlemanly restraint, but his brashness does have one advantage—total honesty. Everything that comes from the man’s mouth is honest to a fault. I don’t have to enjoy the man’s company to believe him trustworthy.


It’s been said you’ve spent a lot of time together, both in the vineyard and out about Welporth. Have you been searching for the treasure together?

He’s become a partner of sorts in the treasure hunt, out of necessity. I will say, though, that from the moment he pounded up the path to Trevelyan on his massive black stallion, he’s been nothing but a rescuer for me. Mother may say what she likes, but the man is a solid rock. He’s bold and opinionated, which truly unsettles me at times, but he’s been a pleasant cool breeze of truth as well. Sometimes I regret partnering with him, but so far he’s proven to be nothing but a help. He seems to have a natural wisdom about vineyards too, and the deeper meaning behind the way the plants work.

He said something to me once about the Scripture passage, “speaking the truth in love.” I think perhaps he can teach me a bit about that, and maybe I can help him with the rest—speaking the truth in love. That’s the way I think of our partnership right now—opposites that work well together. If it weren’t for the secret I see shadowed in his eyes, perhaps I could trust him completely and tell him everything I know, but with the way things are going now, there’s not a single person among my acquaintances I’d trust to that extent.


What of Andrew, your fiancé? One would assume you could trust him.

First of all he’s no longer my fiancé. That courtship died a painful death over a year ago when his parents pressured him to end our association. Yes, he’s come to stay at Trevelyan, but it doesn’t mean anything. Mother convinced him to come help us grieve Father’s passing, and I wish he’d simply take himself home again. I cannot bear to see the face of my deepest rejection every day in my own house. I want to trust him, to seek his help with this fortune hunt, but after all that’s happened between us, I simply cannot trust the man. I suppose the only one a person can trust is God.


Are you a very religious person?

I suppose I am. I’ve attended church since birth and I’ve always felt a peace there. I believe there’s something more to it, though. Don’t think me mad, but sometimes I feel as if God tries to connect directly to me, even outside of a sermon. It happens when I paint. Ever since I was small, I’d sink into this creative outlet and at the same time sink into conversation with God. I let my thoughts flow free and unhindered with each sweep of my brush. Life splashed through my soul as color splashed over white canvas. I always thought it was because I had no one else I connected deeply with, and it was my imaginative, artistic heart’s invention.

Lately it seems He’s been trying to reach me again, though, and it’s always through color, through artwork. From the orangey glow of dawn on morning fog to the sunlight shining through stained glass, color seems to be His specific way of reaching me. It’s as if He’s speaking my language to ensure His words sink directly and deeply into my heart. Perhaps it’s only the wishful thinking of a little girl who has grown up around the hole my earthly father left in my heart. I cannot deny, however, the taste I’ve had of life and the hope I’ve felt.

Thank you for visiting with us today, Tressa. We hope you find your treasure!

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








Interview with Em from Rachel Fordham’s The Hope of Azure Springs

Today we welcome Em, a character from The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham.

Name: Growing up my parents and sister called me Emmy but that seems like a very long time ago. For seven years I’ve been simply Em.

Parents: My parents were John and Viviette. I say were but even with them both dead I still think of them as my parents. I’ve missed them so much. It hurts sometimes just thinking of them and how things used to be.

Siblings: For many years my whole world was my sister. We rode the orphan train together. I helped her not be afraid by telling her stories. I never thought we’d be separated. It’s been seven years now since perfect Lucy found a home and I was put back on the train. Dreaming of being reunited with her is what kept me going all those hard and lonely years.

Places lived: I was born in New York. I moved with my parents from shared tenements to a little apartment and then with their passing I lived on the streets. I don’t like talking about that though. Those were dark days. After the orphan train ride I lived with George until being rescued and taken to Azure Springs.

Jobs: The only job worth mentioning is what I’m doing now. I work for Margaret Anders at her boarding house. She’s an eccentric woman but I adore her. She’s a dear friend.

Friends: Margaret Anders and all of the Howell family. I’ve also gotten to know Caleb Reynolds the sheriff. I like to think of him as a friend.

Enemies: I came into Azure Springs with a wound in my side. I suppose it’s safe to say I have enemies. I’d love to put a name to them but I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on.

Dating, marriage: I stood on train platforms as an orphan. No one ever wanted me. I was too plain as a child and even now with food in my belly and a little meat on my bones I’m still not much too look at. I can’t imagine that a man would ever want to marry me. But there was a time when I hoped. Perhaps someday, no, it’s foolish to hope.

Children: I’ve always adored children but I’ve none of my own.

What person do you most admire? That’s a hard question to answer. I’ll always admire my mother. Now living in Azure Springs I find myself wondering if I could ever be like Abigail Howell or Margaret Anders. It’s strange I’d pick those too. They are both very different, but they are both so good and kind. Only one is quiet about it and the other loud. Their kindness has changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful.

Overall outlook on life: At first I was living only to survive but the longer I’m in Azure Springs the more I believe and hope for brighter things ahead. I’m not one to wallow in my miseries. I aim to make the most of what I’m given.

Do you like yourself? I like that I’ve a body that I can use to work hard but I’ve never cared much for the way I look. There are days when I feel weighed down with regrets and I can’t help but blame myself. But I keep trying and I think that counts for something.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I’d change so much. But most of all I wish I could have found a way to stay with Lucy.

How are you viewed by others? When I lived at George’s I don’t think anyone thought much of me. In Azure Springs I think those that have sat by my bed and spoken to me consider me a friend. Some take pity on me. There are others though that judge my appearance or gossip about my history. I wonder how the Sheriff would describe me. He looks at me sometimes like he is trying to decide what he thinks of me.

Physical appearance: I was frail and skinny when I first arrived. I hadn’t eaten enough for a very long time. I also have burns on my arm that I try to hide. Some call me waifish or plain. But one of my little seven-year-old friends told me I was beautiful and for a moment I felt I was.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Dull yellow

Voice: Often quiet

Right- or left-handed? Right

Characteristics: Hard working, loyal, forgiving, gentle, kind and loving

Strongest/weakest character traits: self- worth

How much self-control do you have? I’d say this is one of my stronger traits. I could ration my food for weeks or months even when I was so hungry at George’s place. I can wait when I must. I can also teach myself things even when it means doing something over and over again.

Fears: Never seeing Lucy again, being hungry or cold and failing to keep my promise to my mother.

When are you happy? I was happy the other day when I was racing Caleb up a tree. It sounds so childish telling you about it, but it was a beautiful escape from reality. For a moment it was just us and the vast sky. I could almost forget about the threats and unknowns that were in my path.

What makes you sad? I’ve been alone so much I often dreamed of friendships and family. I overheard girls my age gossiping about my past. It was lies and it hurt. I wondered in that moment if I was worth befriending. Why me? I didn’t understand, and it hurt.

What makes you laugh? I share a room with two seven-year-olds so laughter is easy to come by. They are always telling me the most adorable things. The other day they suggested that Caleb was the Prince of Azure Springs. We all laughed but the title stuck, and they’ve referred to him as such often since. I laughed with them but the more I think about it the more I think he is rather princely.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I told Lucy I’d always be there for her. I remember looking into her round little face and telling her that I’d always take care of her. Days later we were torn apart and I’ve regretted it since. I blame myself.

Do you have a secret? Everyone keeps trying to put together the clues of my past and why I arrived with a wound in my side. Poor Caleb is forever pestering me to remember more. I try to tell him that I lived in the barn and I don’t understand it myself. I do have secrets, but the ones people are after I can’t seem to figure out myself.

Thanks for letting us get to know you, Em!

Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing, and she hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.


Meet Pete McLean of Glory, Alabama, from Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse


Novel PASTimes: We’re talking today with Pete McLean, who lives in a little farming community not too far from Birmingham, Alabama, which we all saw on the news a few years back when Dr. King and civil rights marchers protested there. Welcome, Pete.


Pete: Thank you. I ’preciate you havin’ me.


Novel PASTimes: Tell us, Pete—how old are you?


Pete: I’m seventeen.


Novel PASTimes: But you were eleven when you met the field hand Isaac Reynolds?


Pete: No, ma’am, I was eleven when my Daddy passed. I’d always known Isaac.


Novel PASTimes: Before we talk about your friendship with him, tell us about his relationship with your father.


Pete: I’m not sure I can explain it. They just had something special between ’em, you  know? Like they understood one another. Respected each other. They liked to sing together when they worked—ol’ gospel quartet songs and spirituals—on accounta Daddy was a tenor, and he could harmonize real good with Isaac’s baritone.


Novel PASTimes: But your father was Isaac’s boss, correct?


Pete: Yes, ma’am, but they didn’t act like it. Daddy didn’t feel right bein’ nobody’s boss ’cause he didn’t come from money. But Mama did. And then when they got married, Daddy started workin’ her family farm with Daddy Ballard—that’s my Granddaddy. But I don’t know—sometimes I think Daddy was prob’ly more at home with Isaac than he was with Daddy Ballard. I saw him slip Isaac some extra money one time, and when I asked him how come, he said it was because he knew what it was like to want things you couldn’t have. I think about that a lot—and I try to do what Daddy woulda wanted me to—helpin’ other people that ain’t got as much as I do.


Novel PASTimes: So tell us about your friendship with Isaac Reynolds.


Pete: Well, he’ll always be my best friend—except for Dovey I mean. But that’s different. Isaac was like the best big brother you could ever imagine. ’Course when I was little, I didn’t understand how hard his life was or what it was like for somebody that dreamed o’ bigger things to be trapped on a cotton farm. I just loved spendin’ time with him. After Daddy passed, well . . . I don’t know how I woulda made it without Isaac. He taught me so much and took up so much time with me. Helped me get past the fear o’ bein’ without my Daddy. And he taught me how important it was to look after Mama. If I live to be a hundred, I won’t ever have another friend like Isaac.


Novel PASTimes: Tell us about Dovey.


Pete: (Smiling) She’s the most beautiful girl in the whole world. And I don’t just mean on the outside. Dovey’s beautiful on the inside, too. And she can see things—feel the currents in the river, you know? What’s so amazin’ is that you can walk from my house to hers, but if I hadn’a gone lookin’ for Isaac in the backwoods, I never woulda met her. And when I think about life without Dovey—well—I don’t wanna think about life without Dovey.


Novel PASTimes: So her father and your mother are both widowed?


Pete: Yes, ma’am.


Novel PASTimes: Any chance the two of them . . .?


Pete: Um, I reckon you’d need to ask them about that if you don’t mind.


Novel PASTimes: Do you feel like you learned anything from your search for Isaac?


Pete: In a way, I learned everything while I was lookin’ for him. I found Dovey. So I learned how to love somebody like I never loved anybody else. I saw how hard her fam’ly has to work for not much money and how that wears on people like her Daddy, who’s got a lotta pride and just wants to make a good life for her. And Dovey taught me that people like me and her and Isaac—we come from different worlds, and you gotta know something about somebody’s world if you wanna understand ’em.


Novel PASTimes: Pete thank you so much for your time.


Pete: Thank you for havin’ me. We got an all-day singin’ comin’ up at the church if y’all wanna come. There’s gonna be a ton o’ food, so come on by if you get the chance. Everybody’s welcome.

Novel PASTimes: Thank you for the invitation! That sounds delightful!

Luesse_Valerie -Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. 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.

Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.
Find Valerie here:, or




Supreme Court Rules on the Amistad Mutiny

On July 2, 1839, illegally captured Africans aboard the slave ship Amistad bound for Cuba escaped their bonds. They killed Captain Ferrer and one of the crew members. Two other crew members either escaped or were thrown overboard. The two remaining crew members were forced by the Africans to sail back to Africa.

Except they didn’t. They sailed east during the day but turned the ship back to the west at night. After two months of this see-sawing across the Atlantic, the ship was spotted by U.S. Navy Brig USS Washington. Escorted to New London, Connecticut, the two crew members were freed, and the Africans were imprisoned pending a hearing.

The importation of slaves had been illegal in the States since 1807. Northern Abolitionists came to the defense of these displaced Africans, demanding that they be given free transport back to their homeland. President Martin Van Buren was against this and favored sending the Africans on to Cuba, who was demanding their return. He appealed two lower court rulings on the matter.

The case when all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Former president John Quincy Adams joined the Africans’ defense team. On March 9, 1841, the court ruled that the Africans had been illegally taken from their homeland and exercised their natural right to fight for their freedom. They were returned to West Africa where some founded a Christian mission at Sierra Leone.

Pegg Thomas – Writing History with a Touch of Humor

Managing Editor for Smitten Historical Romance, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

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The Horse Dancer-Book Review

The Horse Dancer by Jo Jo Moyes


Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
This story is about a young English girl, Sarah, being raised by her French grandfather who gives her a horse named Boo. I enjoyed it because it opened up a world for me that I knew nothing about: elite horsemanship skills. Her grandfather left a promising career in France to marry an Englishwoman and he hopes to pass on his skills to his granddaughter. But before he can do that, he is stricken with a stroke and hospitalized. Sarah is taken in by a lawyer who is struggling with a failed marriage. The couple is changed by being flung into a parenting role they are not prepared for.
I loved Sarah’s determination to continue what her grandfather was trying to teach her, even though the odds stack up against her. The parallel story of the lawyer with her own life struggles kept me turning pages. While not strictly historical, the novel looks back to the time of an elite French calvary skilled in an art form of dressage dating back over 250 years. That’s the historical part that drew me in, but the characters made me root for them.
Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books. Pages of Ireland is the sequel to her popular novel Brigid of Ireland. She is also the author of the Ellis Series, and writes for genealogy magazines. The past is her passion as she writes from her home in Ohio. Visit her at, on Facebook at and on Twitter: @cindyswriting.