Meet Sunday from God, Send Sunday by Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

Q. Welcome, Sunday Duval. We are fortunate to have you stop in today. The name “Sunday” is beautiful and riveting. How did you come about it?

A. It would be necessary for you to ask my mother, who is now-deceased, about that—which I never did—at least that I recall. What I do know is that the lion’s share of bad things that have happened to me seems to have happened on Sundays.

Q. As a slave during the Civil War period, would you tell us a bit about your unplanned travels?

A.  I’m originally from Virginia, and I had no desire to leave. Why trade one bad situation for another? Wasn’t that the way of it for black people in America? But after having been forced from my home state via a coffle—walking all day and sleeping in the open air or in a rat-infested barn at night—and a trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, I finally ended up in Vicksburg, Mississippi where I now live.

Q. That must have been traumatic.

A. It’s almost too painful to discuss, since I had gone to every length to be an obedient slave. By doing so, I was actually trying to make sure I was never sold downriver, and I must say that traveling hundreds of miles as the only woman chained to a group of surly and sometimes overprotective male slaves was a nightmare that still occupies many of my sleeping hours. 

Q. Pardon my lack of sensibilities, but you are quite articulate for an ex-slave.

A. Both of my fathers saw to it, and that is all I will say about that.

Q. As an African descendant during the era of slavery in America, what event most impacted your life?

A. Again, this type of question gives me pause because even though I still have nightmares, I try during my conscious hours not to dwell overmuch on the exceptionally hard times of my life. But I can state, without equivocation, that watching my parents murdered in our front yard when I was six—simply because they were free people of color—impacted me as nothing else has and put my life on a projectile of nearly unmitigated suffering, the scars of which I bear today. 

Q. Hmm. I can only imagine. As I understand it, you are married, but you did not marry for love. Why do slaves marry in the first place when it’s rarely, if ever, legal, and why wasn’t yours a marriage for love and affection?

A. Many slaves do marry—or at least simulate the ritual—simply because, like other human beings, they fall in love and want the relationship blessed by their Creator, but as you say, my marriage was different.

Q. Understandable. And how was your marriage different from other slaves?

A. I did not consider love when I married Noah. The word was meaningless to me. I married solely to give birth—to bring a child into this world whom I could call my own, at least until he or she was sold from me.

Q. Did you count the cost of what it would be like when or if you ever had to see your child sent to the market?

A. No.

Q. No? No further explanation?

A. What else is there to say? Planning too far into the future is not a sensible option for a slave. Slaves live in the moment by the grace of God

Q. What would you do if you had life to live over? 

A. Love my good-looking husband from day one of our marriage the way he deserved to be loved.

Q. If you had just one prayer—sure to be answered from God in a positive way—what would it be?

A. That people of African descent could one day travel the streets and roads of these United States and frequent public places of worship, entertainment, and buying and selling without fear.

Q. Well, this about concludes our interview. Thank you for further insight into your life and mindset as a slave. Is there anything else you are urged to comment upon?

A. I cannot say it was a pleasure discussing my past, but I can say that I thank you for the opportunity. I believe open discussion is necessary for the growth and health of the country, and I’m happy to advance that cause any time.

Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock is a multi-genre author whose works range from Christian-based historical novels, short stories, and devotionals to a memoir of growing up during and after segregation. Her novels share the narratives of African American women seeking their identities in the difficult setting of the old South. 

A former high school and college English teacher, her first novel, A Most Precious Gift, debuted in 2014 and made Amazon’s Best Seller list in African American Historical Fiction. In 2017, she released its sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald. In January of 2022, she published The Lords of Wensy Wells, and on August 2nd of the same year, she released her latest novel, God, Send Sunday.  

Published multiple times by University Press of Mississippi, she has been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers for over a decade. Jacqueline and her husband Donald have two married adult children and two granddaughters.

A Conversation with Emily Leland from After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot


A brighter future awaits—if she can escape the shadows of the past 

Emily Leland sheds no tears when her abusive husband is killed in a bar fight, but what awaits her back home in Sweetwater Crossing is far from the welcome and comfort she expected. First she discovers her father has died under mysterious circumstances. Then the house where the handsome new schoolteacher, Craig Ferguson, and his son are supposed to board burns, leaving them homeless. When Emily proposes turning the family home into a boardinghouse, her sister is so incensed that she leaves town.

Alone and broke, her family name sullied by controversy, Emily is determined to solve the mystery of her father’s death—and to aid Craig, despite her fears of men. The widowed schoolmaster proves to be a devoted father, an innovative teacher, and an unexpected ally. As they work to uncover the truth, they just may find the key to unlock a future neither could have imagined.

Welcome to NovelPASTimes. For those who haven’t met you, please introduce yourself.

I’m Emily Vaughn. No, that’s not right. I’m Emily Leland now.

That’s a common mistake for newlyweds. Is Leland your married name?

Yes. I was married for over a year, but fortunately I’m a widow now.

Fortunately? Most women wouldn’t find being widowed fortunate.

That’s because they weren’t married to George Leland. Marrying him was the biggest mistake of my life. If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about him.

Certainly. Let’s discuss something more pleasant. Sweetwater Crossing seems like a nice town.

I love it. Oh, we have our share of problems, but I’m convinced it’s the most beautiful town in the Hill Country, maybe in all of Texas.

I couldn’t help noticing that one of the houses on Creek Road appears out of place here.

You’re not the first person to say that. That’s my home, Finley House. There’s a long story about it and why it’s as large and elaborate as it is. The abbreviated version is that Clive Finley, a man from Alabama, built it for his fiancée shortly before the War Between the States. Sadly, he died before he could bring her here. He asked my father to take care of the house until he returned from the war, which is why my family has lived there ever since. And, yes, it’s much bigger than we need and the taxes have taken much of my father’s stipend as the town’s minister, but my sisters and I consider ourselves fortunate to live there.

Sisters, as in plural. I always wished I had at least one. Tell me about yours.

I’m the oldest of the three of us, and no matter what my sisters claim, I’m not bossy. Not very often, anyway. It’s just that growing up, they sometimes needed guidance. But you asked about the others. Joanna – she’s the one in the middle – can make even an out of tune piano sound good. Right now she’s in Europe studying to be a concert pianist. Louisa hates being called the baby of the family, even though she is. She can’t bear to see anyone in pain. That’s why she plans to be a doctor.

What wonderful aspirations. What is yours?

I thought I was going to be a good wife and mother like my own mother, but …

Oh, Emily, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry. I only have one more question. I saw a fresh grave outside the cemetery. Who’s buried there?

I’ll try to say this without shedding too many tears. That’s my father’s grave. His death was considered scandalous, so he wasn’t allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, but don’t believe the stories you may hear. My father did not take his own life. I’m as certain of that as I am that the sun sets in the west, and if it’s the last thing I do, I will discover who murdered him.

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than forty books and a variety of novellas. Her books have been honored with a starred review from Publishers Weekly and have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. 

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An interview with Jakob Schmidt from The Prodigal Sons by Aubrey Taylor

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

Thank you for having me.

Tell me about your name, Jakob. 

I don’t actually like to be called Jakob. It was given to me at Christening, but my full name is Jakob Helmuth Wilhelm Schmidt, and these days my comrades all know me as Helmuth.

Why the change?

Well, Jakob is too religious. God’s never done much good for me. Besides, if you know anything about the times I’m living in, it’s just not a good name to have. On the other hand, Helmuth is a combination of two old German words. “Helm” is a covering or protection, and “muth” denotes spirit or courage. 

Sounds like that’s the image you want to portray.


Fascinating. Well, Helmuth, tell us something about where you live.

I was born in Munich, Germany in 1916 and lived there until 1934 when I left for training in Berlin. I have been stationed at the Lichterfelde Barracks ever since. 

What goes on at Lichterfelde?

It’s just the base I’m stationed at. I’m sort of a bodyguard for the Führer. Not that I’m one of his closest bodyguards—not yet anyway. I do other functions like stand guard outside his residence, for parades, and so on. Sometimes I do have waiter duty. I have to put a white jacket over my uniform and serve his meals. I emphasize the word duty because it’s not my favorite part of the job.

Wow. Well, what did you do before all that?

[Chuckles] Oh, that’s an interesting topic. 

How so?

Well, I had to kind of reinvent myself over the years. I wasn’t much more than a church mouse when I was growing up. I played piano and led the music at church services. I wrote hymns but also a few cantatas, oratorios… you get the idea. 

You must be quite talented.

Yes, actually.

Why the change?

It didn’t suit me. I was quiet, bookish, and got beat up a lot when I was in my early teens. I finally decided I no longer wanted to be a victim. 

So the name change kind of went along with everything else.

Indeed. My wife doesn’t like it too well though. I’m still her Jakob.

Tell me about your wife. 

Ach, Emma. I haven’t seen her in months.

Uh oh. Are we treading into volatile territory here? 

Well, she doesn’t exactly… approve of my life choices, so she’s still down in Munich. 

Are you happy with the arrangement?

[Hesitates] Can we go off the record for a few minutes?

As in not printing this part of the conversation? I can’t make any guarantees…

Eh, whatever. For the sake of the readers I’ll do it. I love Emma, and of course I’d rather be with her. I used to go home to visit, but it just resulted in her berating me, my beliefs, and every decision I’ve made since I was 15. I still can’t figure out why she went through with marrying me except that she felt bound by a vow we had made.

Would you try to work things out if you could?

Absolutely. I’m not asking her to believe the same things I do, but I do wish she’d stop slamming the door in my face. Do you know she didn’t even congratulate me or come to the parade the day I was supposed to be sworn in? A man has his pride, you know.

Thank you for being so honest with us, Helmuth.

It felt good to get it off my chest, honestly.

Maybe she’ll read this and think about what you’ve said. 

Ja. I haven’t written to her or anything. I don’t think I can handle any more direct confrontation. It’s easier to just go about my business here. 

After creating stories prolifically as a child, Aubrey experienced a renewed interest in writing as she entered her 40s. She lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three children, and enjoys reading, playing music, crafting, sketching, exploring the outdoors, and traveling whenever possible. She is a lover of Jesus, the Bible, history, German culture, tea, and cats, and has a special heart for those who struggle with severe anxiety and depression.

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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

Meet Shell from The Lapone Sisters by Barry Walker

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to drop by. Tell us about yourself!

First off, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog; it’s an honor. My given name is Schmellda Radmilla Lapone. I know . . odd, right? Please call me Shell. You’re right in thinking it’s a strange name. There is definitely a story behind it. My mother’s family emigrated from Bucharest, Romania toward the end of World War II. On April 4, 1944, the allies bombed Bucharest to curtail the Nazi invasion of the country. My mother and grandmother survived the attack while out to shop. Unfortunately, my grandfather along with my mother’s sisters and brother perished when their apartment building took a direct hit. My sisters and I were all named in honor of my mother’s sisters who died that day. I only recently started using my nickname. It’s definitely easier for people to remember.

So where is your family now?

We all live in Nashville, Tennessee. My grandmother passed some time ago. My mother met my father when both families settled in the city. My parents are still very active. My two younger sisters are pursuing their dreams. I graduated recently with a degree in home economics and rented my first apartment. My passion is floral design and without giving too much away, I’ll just say I enrolled at our city college in an effort to pursue a career in that field.

I’m sure you remain close to your family. Are there any other special friends you can share?

There are so many special people in my life. You’re quite right. I’m especially close to my two sisters. We all three have a very strong bond with our parents. Mom and Dad provided the most loving and nurturing home for us growing up. I have a few girlfriends I hang with. And there’s a new man in my life but that’s as much as I can say for now. If I start blabbering on about him I’ll be over-sharing. You’ll just have to read the book for more. Tell us about your hopes for your future. My deepest desire is to live fully in the here and now. For my future? I want to have children and raise them the way I grew up. I want to instill in them to care about others, be passionate about life and have the desire to accept people as they are. I don’t have a crystal ball that is working right now but if I could see into the future, it would be the beginning at the end of a fairy tale: “And she lived happily ever after”.

What causes you to experience anxiety of fear?

For one, I am terrified that I will stumble and fall. Literally and metaphorically. I worry about my sisters. My parents are aging so there’s that. For that matter, I’m aging and you know how hard it is just to take care of yourself! I want to be successful in my career. I want the people I love to be happy and successful.

Is there something you hold especially dear?

My most cherished possession is life and the freedom in being me. It’s taken me a while to learn to breathe without hesitation. I cherish I have the opportunity to work for everything I have ever wanted. I don’t have any special talisman or object I couldn’t part with.

Since you came to life on paper, what have you discovered about yourself?

Through this entire journey to the ripe old age of 22, I guess I have learned to be myself. To not be afraid of what others think of me. To follow my instincts and let things happen like dominos falling into place. One right after the other. To love and be loved. I’m elated how Barry narrated my story. It was a trek and he nailed it up to this point. I cannot believe how intricate his details are from my perspective and that of my family and friends. It’s been a great ride for all of us and I hope your readers will enjoy it as well.


Barry Wilker spent forty-three years working as an interior designer for myriad clients across the United States. Retirement provided Wilker with ample time to assemble the amalgam of wild ideas, clever stories, and figments of his active imagination, which he has oh-so-stylishly fashioned into his debut novel, The Lapone Sisters. He lived for a number of years in the Los Angeles area and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Interview with Robin Carter from Wendy H. Adair’s The Broken Hallelujah

1969 Martin Carter’s plan is to survive his tour in Vietnam and return to his wife and newborn daughter. He refused his commission to keep from lying to his men but ultimately becomes a leader to his team and to a small group of Vietnamese villagers. He must find whoever is running drugs through the camp before he can safely get home.

2019 Robin Carter’s plan is to care for her grandmother and restart her career after a disastrous divorce. Martin’s footlocker is unexpectedly delivered to their home—he’s been missing in action since1969. His journals record his harrowing sixteen months in Vietnam. Robin is determined to find the grandfather she never knew before her grandmother’s memories fade.

The Broken Hallelujah is a heart-wrenching tale of family, the lasting impact of lies, and the human consequences of truth.

Tell us something about where you live:
I live in Houston, Texas, in the Heights neighborhood, one of the oldest in Houston. I grew up here and recently moved back, to help my grandmother. Our home is a 100-year-old bungalow. I am renovating the garage and garage apartment to build my office and living space. I believe eventually this space could house live-in nursing help if my grandmother’s early Alzheimer’s diagnosis requires it in the future.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
I understand that my author, Wendy Adair, named me for her older sister, who died when she was 19. It was a way to honor and remember her. I think my mother, Adriana, liked the idea of naming me Robin after a favorite bird. Gram says I was born with a head full or red hair, and the connection to a Robin Red Breast was made.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?
I just gave up my job as head of PR at University of Texas/Dallas, following a painful divorce from my philandering professor husband. I am in Houston to develop a PR/Marketing consultant business. I already have two accounts, including my previous university. I enjoy working with faculty as well as others, translating what they do in a way that others can understand and appreciate it. And when it results in a donation to support the program, it is particularly gratifying. I am currently working with the music program at UT Dallas to develop a giving program to raise $10 million to help build a new concert hall.

Who are the special people in your life?
My grandmother, Susanna, raised me after my mother left when I was four. She died a year later from an overdose, and I grew up in this same bungalow. Maryam Davila, who I call MC, has been my best friend since grade school. We weren’t as close after I married Greg Henderson and moved to Dallas. Greg liked to focus on his friends and people who could help in his tenure search. But coming home to Houston reconnected us like we’d never been apart. MC was the one who tagged Greg as “He Who Must Not Be Named” and was the first to warn me he was in Houston for the summer to teach at Rice University. In the course of my quest to find my MIA grandfather, I began to consider him a friend—the kind of man I’d always dreamed I’d meet.

I met a number of people who helped in the search, including a group of 70-year-old Vets and musicians, who are all now close friends. My serendipitous meeting with Brian Outland on my 30 th birthday was invaluable in our quest and may grow into something wonderful in the future.

Why did you undertake this daunting quest to find your grandfather missing in a warzone for 50 years?
My grandmother’s health and memories are fading. She only had Martin in her life for a few years before he enlisted and never came home. He never met his daughter, my mother. When the government dropped his army footlocker on our front porch, it opened a world of information about someone who should have been in my life and my grandmother’s life. Reading his journals and examining the contents of the teak box gave me a look into his harrowing
experiences in Vietnam. They also showed me his humanity in working with the Vietnamese villagers. The underlying mystery of drug running and his disappearance intrigued me and pushed me to find answers.

What are you most afraid of?
Not completing my journey to find Martin. Watching my grandmother deteriorate without answers. And not trusting anyone enough to get close after my experiences with my ex-husband.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?
Now that we’ve found some answers and completed our quest, my hope is that the experimental trial drugs that Gram is now taking will slow the progression of her disease. I can now focus on expanding my growing consulting business. I think I’ll work with Brian, the investigative photojournalist who helped with our search, on a book about our adventure.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?
My grandfather was a great man, but he had a rigid view—good vs. evil; right vs. wrong. Without ever knowing him, I had many of those same characteristics. I learned through this process that some things are not an either/or proposition. People can be both good and bad. Situations can be neither all right nor all wrong. My grandfather may never have seen the nuances in the world, but my search for him and the overwhelming support I got from old and new friends, taught me that allowing for some flexibility on that spectrum is where truth most often lies. I think I am now ready to connect with people. Maybe my new friendship with Brian will grow into something more.

I began a lifelong love of reading before kindergarten. My earliest memories include going to the library or bookmobile and bringing home a box of books…every week. I was raised on Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty, and other works of mystery and wonder. Not surprising I would work to solve mysteries and answer questions in my own writing. 

My connection to words led to a career in public relations and marketing. Armed with degrees in communication, business and library science, I held senior management positions in higher education, winning numerous local, regional and national marketing awards while working at both the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. 

After forty years writing non-fiction, including a 175-page history of the University of Houston, I retired and finally turned to creating fictional worlds. With the help of a Writer’s League of Texas five-day retreat and the eighteen-month long Online Certificate in Novel Writing program at Stanford University, I embraced both retirement and novel writing. The result of which is The Broken Hallelujah. 

When I’m not slaving over my computer, I spend time in my backyard garden and with my crazy fur babies, Jade, my yappy but huggable white schnauzer, and her best friend, Yara, a gorgeous and unflappable Russian blue feline. 

Currently, I’m working on a couple of mysteries. One is set at a university…involving three generations of strong women determined to clear a friend of a murder/suicide charge. I’m have a great time sending up some favorite academic places and people in my fictitious university. My forty years in academe opened many doors, introduced me to an amazing variety of characters, took me around the world from Houston to Alaska and Nigeria to Beijing, and offered many an outrageous tale to provide a plethora of plots. The second is story of a foundling who is searching for her past. She works at a tabloid newspaper searching out Elvis sightings,

I’d love to let you know when they ready to release. Include your email in the feedback section if you are interested in hearing news about this and future books. Until then, I wish you good times and good reading.

Facebook Link: Bungalow Books Publishing | Facebook

Website Link: Bungalow Books Publishing – New Books, Women’s Fiction and Mysteries

Review: When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner

Harper Muse; 1st edition (October 18, 2022)
Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 18, 2022

Set in 1941 in the Philippines, three nurses from different backgrounds (a US Army nurse, a US Navy nurse, and a Filipina nurse) become friends. Each author took a character, but honestly you can’t tell. The story is well blended with one voice.

While the circumstances were dire, each nurse ended up being imprisoned by the Japanese in different places and witnessed horrifying things not to mention starvation, there were signs of hope to hold on to. It all seemed very real. Not surprising since the fictional characters were based on real women, the first female POWs.

Each of the women experienced hurt in their previous lives that needed healing. Caring for others while still being held as prisoner delayed their ability and capacity to heal those wounds. After their releases they saw each other briefly but not the three of them together. Their ultimate reunion would have to wait. While no longer the women they were before the war due to their experiences, they still had to deal with the things they had try to avoid by becoming nurses. The way they manage to face what they’d previously avoided is inspiring, and not easily predictable. Nothing is rushed. No artificial happy conclusions, which is what I like about how these authors write their stories. But like I said, there is hope and a satisfying ending.

Historical fiction buffs will enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

To read more about this story visit Amazon. Affiliate links are used, which help support our blog.

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson,

I was given an advanced copy by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review, although no review was required.