Meet Ruby Weaver from The Roll of the Drums by Jan Drexler

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

Help us get to know you – What do people notice about you when they first meet you?

It has to be my red hair. Not just red, but wiry and curly. It never lies flat and never does what I want it too. Especially on humid days! Most Amish women have straight brown hair that lies smoothly under their kapps. My hair is always in my way.

What would someone notice about you after they learn to know you?

That I’m not the typical Amish woman. I don’t like to do quiet things like quilting or sewing. I’d rather be working outside. I like the open sky, and the wind blowing, and the smells of the earth. I enjoy spending a day in the woods hunting for a bee tree or an evening watching the stars come out.

Tell us about your family and where you live.

I don’t think my family is anything special. After all, we’re much like the other families in our community. My grandparents settled along Weaver’s Creek here in Holmes County, Ohio in the early 1800’s. They were the first Amish settlers here. I remember Grossmutti’s stories of bears and other wild animals in the forest, but now, sixty years later, this is a peaceful and settled area.

In my family I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and three sisters. Two of my sisters are married and live away in Berlin Township. My younger sister is my best friend. We’re having fun keeping house together while her husband is away fighting in the War Between the States.

You said your sister is your best friend. Who are your other friends?

I didn’t have any other close friends until recently. The girls I grew up with have all married and are busy with their husbands and children. Since I don’t plan to marry, we have even less in common than we did when we were growing up.

But when Gideon and Lovinia Fischer came to Weaver’s Creek, I found a kindred spirit in Lovinia. I long for the day when she finally recovers from her illness and we can do more than sit in her sickroom and visit. She is a true friend and I love her dearly.

You made an interesting comment earlier, that you don’t plan to marry. I thought all Amish girls wanted to get married.

That’s probably true. Every girl I know wants to marry and have a family. But in my experience, most men – except for my Datt and my brothers, and maybe Lovinia’s husband Gideon – are selfish pigs who only think about themselves. I had a bad experience with a boy when I was younger, and then I see my sister Elizabeth’s unhappy marriage. I’m not going to take a chance on any man when things can turn out so badly. 

There I go, being too outspoken. It’s a good thing I don’t plan to marry because I can’t think of any man who would put up with my temper and my opinions. Mamm says that both of those things go with my red hair!

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

I would be careful to think before I speak. Mamm is so wise and good. Everyone comes to her for advice and help. I’ve never heard her say anything unkind and she is always patient, even when Salome Beiler is visiting.

There I go again! I should never have said that about Salome, and yet I can’t seem to stop myself. Forget I said anything, please.

But back to your question, if I could change anything about myself, I would want to be more like my mother. She is as strong-willed and opinionated as I am, but she tempers it with a gentle spirit. I can’t seem to learn to do that.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

Even though I say I will never marry, I would marry the right man if I could find him. All I want is to meet a man who will love me for who I am and not try to change me. Is that too much to ask? 

What are you most afraid of?

I did something very stupid when I was younger, and because of me, Elizabeth married the wrong man. I didn’t realize how much influence my actions and my words would have on her. My greatest fear is that another younger girl would follow my stupid, sinful life. I don’t fit in with the others at church, and that’s all right. I’m used to it. But I fear that someday one of my nieces or another girl will think that kicking the goads is a good thing to do. I fear that I will unknowingly influence one of those girls to be like me.

What do you think your future holds?

I hope I will spend the rest of my life surrounded by my family and friends. I would like to watch Lovinia’s children grow, and to reach the end of my days being useful to them and to my nieces and nephews.

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

About the Author Jan Drexler brings a unique understanding of Amish traditions and beliefs to her writing. Her ancestors were among the first Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, and their experiences are the inspiration for her stories. Jan lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with her expanding family. She is the author of The Sound of Distant ThunderThe Roll of the DrumsHannah’s ChoiceMattie’s Pledge (a 2017 Holt Medallion finalist), and Naomi’s Hope, as well as several Love Inspired historical novels. 

Interview with The Love Note’s Willa Duvall by Joanna Davidson Politano

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

I’m honored to speak with you!

We heard you’ve found a love letter in an old desk—what are you going to do with it?

Reunite two lovers, of course. Anyone who writes that way deserves to be united with the person who inspired such words. This is no ordinary love story, and I intend to see it through—as long as it isn’t too late, that is. I cannot bear for the person who wrote that letter to wonder why he or she never responded. It’s been buried in a crack of my old desk for who knows how long, and it’s still sealed. Someone needs to fix it, and the letter’s in my hands, so it falls to me. The world is sorely lacking in authentic love, and I’ve found it in this letter—such love should never go to waste.

You do, however, seem like a rather unlikely candidate. What interest does a medical professional have with family drama and old, broken romances?

There’s no one more perfect to find that letter than me. As a soon-to-be-doctor, I’m in the business of mending. Nothing moves me more than repairing what’s broken, whether its bodies or love stories. Besides—and don’t print this–I’ve turned down four proposals, so I’ve had a bit of experience in love. I may be a scientist, but I’m deeply fascinated by love stories—as long as they’re not my own. 

What started you down the path of medicine?

My father serves as a doctor, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn from him and his progressive thinking on medical care. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered I have a unique combination to bring to the medical world—the education of a man and the keen perception, the warm heart, of a woman. There’s a huge lack in the medical world, and I can help fill it. People are dying who needn’t perish. Every time I think of the lives written off by an overworked doctor or a contaminated hospital, I can think of doing nothing else with my life. 

We’ve heard your next assignment is a long-term one at Crestwicke Manor, serving one Golda Gresham. How does this fit into your goals for the future?

Crestwicke is exactly where I need to be. You see, I signed a contract with my father that if I can successfully complete one nursing assignment, he’ll lay off pushing me into a match. He’ll let me pursue a medical degree, as long as I can find a school to take me on. I have agreed to marry the man of his choosing, should I fail. But I never fail. 

Then there is my other goal—the love letter. The desk where I found that letter came from Crestwicke, and the manor house is mentioned in the lines. The person who wrote it has to be there, and I will not leave until I find out who it is, and who he or she wrote the letter for.

Lady Gresham has a reputation for being demanding. How can you be so certain of your success?

I have a habit of taking on the impossible, so her reputation does not deter me. I’m a capable practitioner, and I have no reason to believe I cannot resolve her complaints, whatever they may be.

To be honest, I find the letter more of a challenge. There is not a single person at Crestwicke with even a trace of romantic flavoring to them. Who could have written such a letter? How will I ever find the truth? I’ll have to use my medical skills of observation and digging to the heart of a matter to unearth the truth of what went on in that house. Certainly someone there wrote the letter—and someone else earned the writer’s love. If there’s an ounce of authentic love in that house, I’ll find it and fan it into a flame.

What is your biggest fear as you embark on this project?

The same thing I fear in every patient visit—that I’ll fail. I’m afraid of failing those who depend upon me as a doctor, failing to notice or investigate or understand, fail to keep myself out of an obligatory marriage and lose myself in the process. I have so much riding on this assignment, but I’ve had so many cases—what could possibly go wrong?

Thanks for visiting with us today!

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne DisappearsA Rumored Fortune, and Finding Lady Enderly. When she’s not homeschooling her small children, she 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 children in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.

Meet Brandulf Rex from Bryan Litfin’s The Conqueror

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! If I may, I’d like to ask some questions to get to know you.

Very well. As long as you are not a spy of Maxentius.

First, please tell us something about where you are from.

I am the son of a warrior, King Chrocus of the Alemanni. Our homeland is far away along the Rhenus frontier with the Romans, in the region they call Germania. My mother is an innkeeper in Britannia – beloved to my father, though not his queen. For some years, I sojourned in that rainy land at Eboracum, near Hadrian’s Wall. But then I entered the legions, and my parents were lost to me.

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

My name has two parts—one Germanic, the other Latin. My father named me Brandulf, predicting that I should have the skill of a swordsman and the character of a wolf. Many friends have agreed with that—and some enemies, too, as the light dimmed from their eyes.

When Constantine sent me to the army school to train as a speculator for the legions, the other cadets learned that my father was a king in Germania. So they called me Rex, which means ‘king’ in Latin, more to make fun of me than to affirm me. But perhaps some day they shall bow before me and recognize my lordship in truth!

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

I am a soldier of Rome, yet no ordinary legionary. The speculators are the scouts who operate behind enemy lines. We are elite forces who know the ancient art of pankration, the Greek method of fighting and wrestling that no man can withstand. We are expert with the lance and the sword and bow. The most skillful burglars are spared from crucifixion so they can teach us to infiltrate buildings unseen. We are masters of disguise and experts in the assumption of secret personalities. No army in human history has had elite operatives like us. That is why Rome rules the world. And Constantine is its rightful lord.

Who are the special people in your life?

There are none. I let no one draw near.

Surely there must be someone.

Well, I will admit that Lady Junia Flavia has become a friend. A kind of confidante, I suppose you could say. Perhaps like a sister. Yes, like a sister, and nothing more.

Not a romantic relationship?

Surely not! Although, I will say—

Go on . . .

She is beautiful. That, I cannot deny. She attracts me. No man thinks that way about his sister.

Tell me about her.

Flavia is the daughter of a senator, descended from an ancient and noble family of Rome. Her wealth and status are the opposite of my own humble background. Yet between us, that does not matter. Our friendship transcends such things. The same is true of our religions. I am a follower of Hercules, a mighty hero and conqueror. Hercules is the Roman form of our god, Thor. But Flavia follows the Christian god. He is called Jesus, and his way is peaceful. Clearly, such a god could not be for a man like me. Yet he fits well in Flavia’s world. The Christians are good people, wrongly hated by the Romans.

But you would never convert to Christianity?

I think not. It would require bowing my knee to Jesus the Christ. You know what the Christians say? “Jesus is Lord.” Well, I will tell you this: Brandulf Rex has no lord but himself! Christianity is a religion for a different kind of person than me. And yet . . . 

Yes?

There is something that I like about their Jesus. I cannot define it. He intrigues me. I shall say no more.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I would never reveal that to someone unknown, lest it be used against me.

Just give me a general idea.

Fine. To serve Constantine as a faithful soldier. To rise in the ranks, gain victory in battle, and retire with military honors. Then I shall live somewhere along the Rhenus, perhaps along its upper reaches near the Alps. I shall marry and have children, and be happy.

What kind of woman would you marry?

Someone like Flavia, I suppose. Someone with her sweetness, her wise insights, her bravery in the face of adversity. Beautiful, as well. Captivating, one could even say. But not Flavia herself, of course. That would be strange. She is noble, and I am merely a common warrior. It could never happen. She would not want such a thing.

What are you most afraid of?

I do not understand your question.

Alright, let’s move on. Do you have a cherished possession? 

Look at this pendant around my neck. It was given to me by Constantine when I embarked upon his mission. Do you see the sign of the cross? It is a Christian symbol. Because I wear this amulet, I believe the god Jesus protects me, along with Hercules, too. They are the same god, I suspect. Perhaps also Apollo. And Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun.

The Christians would never agree with what you just said.

Definitely not! Flavia would rebuke me for such a statement. I surely do not understand those Christians. Everyone knows there are many gods! How can there be just one? Only the Jews believe such a thing. I am very curious about this new faith. I think it will benefit many people, except those of us in the army, who need a the patronage of a victory god.

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

As the years go on, the name Brandulf Rex will be one of renown in the empire. My sword is strong, and the arm that wields it is even stronger. Yet I am no tyrant! My sword is not to be used for domination. I will be known as one who fights injustice, who protects the downtrodden and the weak. These things I believe about myself—and I know them to be true even more so now than in years past.

How come?

Because Flavia has affirmed them in me. She says that she sees these traits too. She wishes that my abilities could be brought into the service of her catholic church. 

But that will never happen?

No one knows the future except the gods.

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

Farewell. And as you go, let me advise you: you can read more about me and my story in The Conqueror, releasing October 2020 from Revell. 


Bryan Litfin is the author of the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr StoriesAfter Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently an acquisitions editor for Moody Publishers. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at www.bryanlitfin.com.