Meet Lt. Shirley from Lynne Basham Tagawa’s A Fallen Sparrow

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

Tell us something about where you live: 

Hello, Lt. Robert Shirley at your service. My home is in Leicestershire. I was living with my uncle before I purchased a commission in the British Army. It’s a beautiful place, really. Sheep grazing in peaceful pastures. I have pleasant memories of it. But I cannot return.

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

Robert is common enough, I think. Shirley was a noble house at one time. Some of its members were notorious, like the Earl of Ferrar, who was hung for murder. The Countess of Huntingdon is revered by all, however. She supports Methodist ministers, including the late George Whitefield. You might have heard of Francis, Lord Rawdon, who is a grandson of the countess. He acquitted himself well in the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, though I regret to say that Dr. Joseph Warren met his death by his hands. Warren was a good man. It was a horrible day.

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

I still believe that the Army is a noble career. At least in theory. As for my own role in the late war, that was most difficult. Lord Dartmouth asked me to become an observer for him. Looking back, I think he meant well. He’s a good and godly man. But in truth, I was a spy, and it was not an honorable task. Major John Andre had a somewhat different view. He compared it to killing in combat. Definitely unsavory, but sometimes necessary.

But in preparation for this role, I was forced to learn a trade. Bookbinding. At first I was horrified, but in truth, I have come to love the labor of ink and paper and leather. 

Who are the special people in your life?

My godmother, the Countess of Huntingdon, supported me in many small ways. She undoubtedly prayed for me throughout. I am sure she prays for that rogue, Lord Rawdon. Who knows if he will repent of his ways one day.

I am also connected to an American family, the Russells. It is a most amazing development. Not something I could ever have imagined.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

My deepest desires are none of your business. But I will say that I would desire peace between this infant country and Great Britain. I wish to be able to go home. Though truthfully, I have found a new home here, a new life. Maybe it’s for the best. 

What is your deepest regret?

Oh, that is hard. I regret Major Andres’s death. Hanging is dishonorable, especially for an officer. It is the death of a spy, and he met his end with great bravery. I hear a hymn was found on his person. Some have great hope for his soul. It gives me comfort.

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

Well, now, that would take quite a bit of time. Besides, I do not wish to give anything away! 

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


Lynne Tagawa is a wife, mother, and grandma to five sweethearts. She’s an educator, editor, and author of an eighteenth-century historical fiction series, the Russells. She loves to include gospel truth in her stories. The Shenandoah Road, first in the series, was a Selah Awards finalist.

Lynne loves good coffee and sugar-free treats. She and her husband live in South Texas.


A Fallen Sparrow: A Novel of the American Revolution is Christian historical fiction with a good helping of romance.

A Chat with Mabel from The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy

In 1911, at her father’s unexpected death, Europe’s strongest woman Mabel MacGinnis loses everything she’s ever known and sets off for America in hope of finding the mother she’s just discovered is still alive. When aerialist Isabella Moreau’s daughter suddenly appears, she is forced to face the truth of where, and in what, she derives her worth.

The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy
ISBN 9780764240386; Ebook ISBN 9781493440672; February 7, 2023; Paper, $16.99

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

Tell us something about where you live.

That’s a little difficult to answer as I don’t live in any one place, unless you count the tents that go up and come down regularly. Or the train I sleep in as it shuttles us to another place. I live in the dreams of children, as they are tucked in at night after a day at the circus. And I live in the papers as someone to be ogled, prodded, and studied. Mostly, though, I live in between what is acceptable and what is not. 

What is your favorite memory?

Our circus wintered in Bologna, Italy. We spent most of the year traveling all over Europe, but come the cold weather, we would settle into a more normal life. During the day, there was practice—always practice—but as the sun set over those ancient bricks, Maman, Papa, and I would sit beside the deep well of window in our apartment eating sardines and piadina and squacquerone. Papa would sing Scottish ballads as Maman and I danced, our feet pounding the old stone floor. Maman would laugh then, her hair floating as she spun me round and round. I remember her laugh. It was such a rare thing to hear. 

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

I am a circus strongwoman, though not a very good one anymore. I was once Europe’s strongest, but then my father (whom I’d worked with for years) died, and nerves got the best of me. There isn’t much a strongwoman who grew up in the circus and is no longer strong can do. So now I’m traveling across the world to try and find my mother, who I’ve just discovered may not be dead after all. I enjoyed most things about being in the circus—it’s a family of sorts, which comes with a lot of good and a bit of bad—and it feels safe. Familiar. I’m not sure what I’ll do now that I’ve humiliated myself publicly. Perhaps I’ll become a shop girl. I do love fashion. But I know, deep down, the only place I’ll ever really belong is in the ring. 

Who are the special people in your life?

Before I left Manzo Brothers Circus, I would have said Jake Cunningham, as well as the clown, Lorenzo; sisters Imilia and Giulia Manzo; and Alyona, an equestrian—all of them players in the circus. But then I learned they had been keeping the truth from me for years, and I left for New York. I would have felt very alone save for Jake, who traveled with me. When we arrived here, I met a child named Katie Grace who lost her father not long ago. She’s a wild thing and perhaps too smart for her own good. Through her I met her mother, Alice, who is kind and gentle and good. Those two have become dear to me and I feel, once more, surrounded by love. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I could say all manner of deep and insightful things here, but my deepest desire is for Jake to notice me in a romantic way. I’m not sure he ever will—he’s still entirely in love with his wife, who died years and years ago, and I am so different from her—but I know Jake. And I know that he deserves to be happy. He deserves to feel safe in love. I can give him that. But I’m afraid he will only ever view me as something of a little sister, which is ironic given I stand inches over him. 

What are you most afraid of?

I was always most afraid of failure—specifically failing to measure up to my father’s expectations. He raised me to be strong and capable. To need no one else in my bid for success. He was larger than life and beloved. He left a horrifying childhood to make a name for himself as the world’s strongest man, and he trained me, poured into me, for years. And then, one day, I dropped someone during a lift, and everyone realized all my accomplishments were built on shifting sand. My father had propped me up for years, and I became nothing more than that moment of failure. Since I’ve faced that fear, I’m now afraid I won’t find my mother. Because without her, and once Jake moves back home to his family ranch, I will truly be alone in this world. 

Do you have a cherished possession?

My most cherished possession was a doll my grandmother sent to us from New York when I was a small child. It had belonged to her when she was a girl and traveled from France to the United States. The doll’s name was Isabella, and she went everywhere with me. Even when I was going on stage, my mother would tuck her into my sleeve and tell me it was for courage. When I was young, my mother traveled to America to take care of my grandmother, and I gave her Isabella “for courage” because she seemed so afraid of something. I miss Isabella sometimes, and I wonder if I had her back, would she have given me the courage to push through my fears after my father died, and I was facing life without him? 

What is your favorite thing about New York City?

I’ve spent most of my life in ancient European cities and small towns. There’s something wonderfully brash about New York City. It’s new and changeable, and everyone is on the way somewhere. It feels like a place where you can reinvent yourself. Become anyone you wish to be. And the circus is a big deal here. Travis and Wells kicks off their season at Madison Square Garden for six weeks every year. There are parades and parties and interview and big shows. Someone can go from being completely unknown to a star in a matter of weeks. The best thing about New York, though, is that no one knows me as Bram MacGinnis’s daughter. They have no expectation of what I can do because of what he did. 

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

I’ve learned that there are many, many ways to be strong, and the least important is physical. Jake has shown me there is strength in loyalty. My mother has demonstrated strength in vulnerability (does that sound like an oxymoron? It takes immense strength to open yourself up to others when you’re all but certain of rejection). And I’ve learned that my strength isn’t bound up in other people—I am fully capable of doing what I’ve been created to do—but it also isn’t a weakness to lean on those you love. 

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

I’m tall. I know that sounds like a silly thing to come straight out and say, but when I first meet someone, they are often startled by my height and size, so I just thought I’d get that out of the way. Despite my work, I don’t like being stared at. I certainly don’t enjoy being poked and prodded, which people seem to do without thought. I want to be known for more than my height, yet it always seems as though that’s what people focus on. Also, the man I love is shorter than me. Yes, it’s unconventional. No, he’s not threatened by me. Not even when we wrestle, and I trounce him. In fact . . . I think he may enjoy it. 

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

Kimberly Duffy is a Long Island native currently living in southwest Ohio. When she’s not homeschooling her four kids, she writes historical fiction that takes her readers back in time and across oceans. She loves trips that require a passport, recipe books, and practicing kissing scenes with her husband of twenty-three years. He doesn’t mind. Learn more at

Meet Milosz from Beth M. Stephenson’s Expelled

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Question: Are you enjoying growing up in Poland?

Milosz: I’ve never been anywhere else, but I can’t imagine a better place. Sometimes, when my feet are especially hurting me, I get up early and watch the sun come up. From our farmhouse window, the town is silhouetted on the horizon. When the rising sun hits the bell in the church tower just right, it casts a red beam across the fields. It’s like a special message from God.

Question: You mentioned your feet: Why do they hurt?

Milosz: I was born with what most people call ‘club feet.’ My feet and ankles didn’t form properly so no shoes fit. Custom made shoes are too expensive for us, so I wear shoes made for normal feet and they rub bleeding blisters in five different places. Plus, they ache. But someday, I’m going to have surgery in Krakow and then I’ll be able to walk normally. I sometimes dream of how it would be to run without pain.

Question: Do you go to school?

Milosz: I used to. Our new schoolmaster, Mr. Nowak is a Nazi. Since I’m part Jewish and I have club feet, he was often cruel to me. One day, Mr. Nowak beat me because he said I was late to school, but I wasn’t! My big brother, Jakub, knocked him down. Even if Mr. Nowak would have let us come back to school, Jakub and my parents would never have let me go after that. 

Question: What was your favorite subject in school?

Milosz: I suppose Mathematics was my favorite. But I could get the assignments done in a few minutes when most of the class would take ten times that long. That used to make Mr. Nowak mad, too. He said I was showing off.

Question: What are you doing about your education now?

Milosz: Aleks is Jakub’s and my best friend. His grandfather, Mr. Wojcik, lets us read anything we want from his library. The Wojciks are rich and Mr. Wojcik is always buying books. When Aleks had to stay indoors to heal for several weeks, (I’m not supposed to tell anyone what happened to keep him in bed all that time,) I liked to go and sit with him. I helped him with his studies and in the free time, I read piles of books.

Question: Did you have a favorite?

Milosz: Yes, I read about this man who is also a Jew. His name is Albert Einstein. He had a theory about mass, time and velocity. He named it the Theory of Relativity. I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t agree with his belief that the speed of light was the limiting factor in the universe. 

Question: I don’t quite understand. 

Milosz: Sometimes I get an answer to a question before I even finish asking it. I think God can use energy that travels at the speed of thought. Maybe someday there will be a famous theory called “Milosz’s Theory of the Speed of Thought.” 

Question: What have you done or do you do that you don’t want others to know?

Milosz: Well, I’d be stupid to answer that, wouldn’t I? But I guess if you won’t tell on me, there are two things. First I hide my vegetables. I put them in my stockings, or I toss them in the stove: anywhere to get rid of them. The other thing is that sometimes I fake my pain. Mother will let me rest when I’m in a lot of pain, so sometimes I cry when I don’t want to do a chore. The problem with that is that Jakub can always tell when I’m faking and he tells our mother. 

Question: Which of you does your mother believe?

Milosz: Haha! Usually me! She’ll tell Jakub that he should have more compassion. Then he calls me a crybaby. 

Question: Does that hurt your feelings?

Milosz: No, not really. Jakub is telling the truth. When I’m crying to get my way, I’m being a crybaby, aren’t I? I don’t think anyone should get mad when someone tells the truth. Even if it’s something we don’t want to admit.

Question: What about Jakub? What are his secrets?

Milosz: Jakub is perfect. He doesn’t have any faults.   

Question: What is your greatest fear? I suppose with war coming, you’re afraid of Nazis?

Milosz: Not exactly for myself. I have night terrors where the swastikas turn into spiders. But they’re chasing my big brother, Jakub, and our friend Aleks. I’m chasing the spiders, but I can never catch them because I’m so slow. I yell and scream to try to get the spiders’ attention away from Jakub and Aleks. 

Question: What is your family doing to get ready in case the Nazis invade?

Milosz: We’re poor and we don’t have much extra to store up. But Aleks’ grandfather is buying food and blankets and tools and all sorts of stuff for us to keep in our secret hideout. Once, Jakub and Aleks and I had to stay in the hideout overnight. I didn’t have night terrors at all that night, even though the hideout is totally dark. If we have to go to the hideout to keep safe from the Nazis, I think it will be fun!

Question: Do you have a prize possession?

Milosz: Not in the way most people think of a possession. But I would do anything in the world to protect my brother. He’s my prize possession. Our friend Aleks is another of my prize possessions. 

Question: Thank you for your time, Milosz. Is there anything you would like to say before we close?

Milosz. Yes, I think that most people let bad things happen as long as they don’t bother them. But I want to do everything I can to stop evil, even if I am just a little boy. If evil isn’t stopped, it grows until it does affect us and the people we love. Love should give all of us courage to try to stop evil as soon as we can. 


The stories that emerge from pages of true of history, recent or distant, demand to be told. My job as an author of fiction is to tell the stories of lives, places and events that history did not quite record. As a successful newspaper columnist, I’m fastidious about accurate research.

As my husband and I travel the wide world, stories whisper to us from the ancient buildings, ruins of civilizations, and battlefields grown green with wildflowers. Mountains and meadows, rivers, plains and seas: what a fascinating world the Lord has given us!

As a mother 7 children, some of my favorite memories are gathering my children around the wood stove on winter nights and telling them stories of magic, courage, and faith.

I also love the thrill of riding a bike on a mountain trail or a raft on an Amazon river. I love paddling a kayak in the Boundary waters or northern rivers. I’ve swum in many seas, been bitten by a wild sea turtle and held a shark in the ocean. I’ve climbed the Pyramids and floated the Nile. I’ve seen the palaces and battlefields of the world. I’ve visited Auschwitz and Rome and hiked the Great Wall of China. I’ve seen the northern lights. I’ve eaten live termites in Ecuador, fried silk worms in Thailand, a full Scottish breakfast in the Highlands. I tried and failed to walk on the Sea of Galilee and I touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I haggled with merchants in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and stood on Mars Hill in Athens.

I celebrate the first garden sprouts of my melons, tomatoes, and beets. I count the fruit on my trees, and feel the pinch of thinning the fruit in my own body. I built a playhouse for my grandchildren, and love to watch them grow.

How grateful I am for Jesus Christ! I love Him! I love my family, I love America and this whole wonderful world.

Meet Gwendolyn Brinley from Jen Turano’s A Match in the Making

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

Bethany House; ISBN 9780764240201; February 21, 2023; Paper, $16.99, The Matchmakers, #1 of 3

Jen Turano: Thank you so much for having me. It’s always delightful to talk about my characters, so on to Miss Gwendolyn Brinley. I find myself curious as to how she’s going to answer your questions because one never knows what will come out of her mouth.

You seem to have found yourself, Miss Brinley, employed in the unusual position of assistant matchmaker. Is that a position you have a lot of experience with?

Gwendolyn – “I must admit that I have absolutely no experience with matchmaking in general, and in all honesty, I took up a paid companion position with Mrs. Parker for the Newport Season never imagining my duties would change. However, because Mrs. Parker broke her leg during a rather robust three-legged race and is no longer mobile enough to fulfill her obligations to the two young ladies she’s sponsoring this Season, I’ve now been given a rapid tutorial in what is required within the field of matchmaking. Mrs. Parker is convinced I’ll rise magnificently to the occasion, whereas I am not as confident.” 

Was it intentional on your part to disclose to society that you’re an assistant matchmaker, given that matchmaking in general was something that was never publicly spoken about until you arrived on the scene? 

Gwendolyn – “I fear I was unaware that matchmaking was a hush-hush topic and merely disclosed my participation in it after I had a bit of an altercation with a young lady who was determined to see me fired. I may have interrupted a bit of skullduggery on her part that involved a deliberately tossed glass of fruit punch intended to land on a completely innocent, and need I add, adorable young lady by the name of Miss Adelaide Duveen.”

Were you surprised when Mrs. Parker didn’t terminate you on the spot after this altercation? She’s not known to be a lady who stands for her employees making scenes. 

Gwendolyn – “Indeed I was. In fact, I was intending on packing my bags and heading back to Boston the very next morning, but Mrs. Parker was having none of that since I, unintentionally of course, had somehow turned into the talk of the summer, and not in an unfavorable manner. Mrs. Parker believes in seizing what she sees as opportunities, so here I am, still employed as an assistant matchmaker.”  

You mentioned you were intending on returning to Boston. Is that where you’re from? 

Gwendolyn – “I grew up there, but I’ve spent years as a paid companion to my cousin, Catriona. Catriona enjoys traveling, so I’ve been all around the world of late, only returning to Boston this past spring because Catriona was missing our family and wanted to spend the summer with them in the Berkshires.”  

Surely you’re not talking about Catriona Zimmerman, the former opera singer, are you? 

Gwendolyn – “One and the same, and she, before you ask, is as difficult as rumor has it.  That’s why I accepted Mrs. Parker’s offer to become her paid companion, believing it would allow me a nice reprieve from my cousin, as well as allowing me to experience a relaxing summer for a change.”   

Have you managed to find time to relax as of yet?

Gwendolyn – “Not at all, especially not since Mr. Walter Townsend decided to ask Mrs. Parker to take him on to sponsor this year. I’ve now been charged with the daunting task of finding him the perfect wife, one who can take his slightly unruly children in hand.” 

Society is all aflutter about the Walter Townsend situation. From all accounts, he is a most genial gentleman as well as possessed of a great fortune. I wouldn’t think it would be daunting in the least to find him a suitable wife. 

Gwendolyn – “It wouldn’t be difficult to find him a wife, but one who is suitable? That’s the problem. Even though I am a reluctant assistant matchmaker at best, I take my job seriously. I would be derelict in my duties if I don’t find Walter a wife who will be the perfect mother to his children. They deserve a lady who genuinely adores them, which means I need to ascertain that the ladies I’ve been having Walter escort around town are just as interested in his children as they are in him.” 

You do realize you’ve taken to referring to Mr. Walter Townsend as simply Walter, don’t you?

Gwendolyn – “Do I? How silly of me, although know that Walter and I decided to abandon formality after he tried to save me when he thought I was drowning at Bailey’s Beach, but usually we maintain formality at a society events.” 

With such chivalrous behavior toward you, may I assume there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to find Walter a wife?

Gwendolyn – “I was under the impression you wanted to question me about my role as a matchmaker, not try to pull salacious remarks from me regarding my feelings toward Walter.”

Do you have feelings for Walter? 

Gwendolyn – “He’s a complicated man who is struggling with his relationships with his children, of which, to remind you, he has three. Of course I can empathize with the gentleman, which I suppose is a type of a feeling, but I’m going to leave it at that.” 

What do you feel for his children?

Gwendolyn – “They are simply too precious for words and are somewhat misunderstood because, while they have been known to cause more than their fair share of mischief over the past few years, I believe they’ve only done so because they’re desperately trying to attract their father’s attention. He, as so many gentlemen of society, has approached fatherhood in a somewhat distant manner, something I’m determined to correct.” 

By finding him the perfect wife?

Gwendolyn – “Perhaps, or perhaps simply by helping him see that what his children might actually need isn’t a mother to take them in hand, but a father who will see them for the wonderful gifts they are and will begin to build a relationship with them that will benefit all of their lives.” 

A lofty goal to be sure, but tell me this – are you intending on continuing on as Mrs. Parker’s assistant matchmaker after the Newport Season ends?

Gwendolyn – “I’m afraid one Season as an assistant matchmaker is all I’m willing to take on. I was hoping to have some leisure time over the summer to decide where I want to go in life next. Clearly, leisure is not on my agenda at the moment, so after the Season winds down, I’ll repair to Boston and do a lot of contemplation.” 

  1. You won’t be returning to your position as paid companion to your cousin?” 

Gwendolyn – “My cousin was suffering dreadfully after the unexpected death of her husband, which is why I agreed to travel the world with her as her paid companion. She’s much better now but needs to stop fleeing from her past with one trip after another. She needs to confront her own future, which she won’t do if I’m around, so it’s time to set her free and hope she’ll be able to rediscover her wings.” 

You seem to have a rather managing way about you. Would you say that’s a strength or a weakness of yours?

Gwendolyn – “I suppose that depends on the situation. With my cousin, getting her to put her grief behind her by managing her life over the past few years, would be a strength. Convincing Walter, on the other hand, that he won’t find his perfect spouse unless he spends time with numerous young ladies—something he’s balked at doing because of his work schedule—may be a flaw of mine because I’ve had to resort to nagging, which is not an attribute anyone appreciates. Frankly, I know Walter is finding the punishing schedule I’ve set for him overly ambitious on my part. Nonetheless, the Newport Season is only eight weeks long, so I really have no choice in the matter, not if I want to find success with matching him up by the end of summer.”  

Would you be overly distraught if you’re unable to find him that perfect wife?

Gwendolyn – “I’m competitive by nature and have a wager with Walter about finding him that beacon of perfection. He doesn’t believe I’ll be successful, whereas I, well, I don’t care to lose our wager. Because of that, I can say I would be distraught if I don’t find him a wife, but not, before you ask this next, because I have an eye on Walter for myself.” 

You seem to want to reiterate that a lot, which begs more questions. However, since you clearly don’t seem keen to divulge more about your feelings, or lack thereof about the oh-so-eligible Mr. Walter Townsend, is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? 

Gwendolyn – “Nothing is springing to mind, but since I know you want to swing the conversation back to Walter and my feelings for the man, allow me to thank you for your time in interviewing me today. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve promised Walter’s children a special trip to the beach, and I really wouldn’t care to disappoint them.”  

Which speaks volumes about your affection for the children, even if you’re rather cagey about holding Mr. Townsend in any great esteem. Nevertheless, since I certainly don’t want to have you believe I make a habit out of badgering the people I interview, allow me to thank you for answering my questions, as well as bid you a good afternoon. I wish you all the best in Newport this summer, and hope that you’ll eventually find time to figure out where to take your life from here, although . . . if I were a betting person, I’d bet your future life will most assuredly have Mr. Walter Townsend and his children involved in it in some manner or other. 

Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by BooklistJen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from RT Book Reviews, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado. Readers can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at