Book Review: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner


As Bright as Heaven

Susan Meissner

Berkley (February 6, 2018)

From Amazon:

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.


My review:

I am a fan of Susan Meissner’s books. This story did not disappoint. I found it totally engaging and enjoyed the different points of view. I thought Meissner did a wonderful job writing from the perspective of a child, while also telling the story in the words of the mother and the other daughters. It was heartbreaking to read about how people had to deal with the disease while still trying to carry on. The topic of death is difficult to ponder in any book, but especially difficult to deliver in a work of historical fiction (where we know what happens: there will be tragedies for the characters to deal with.) But with skill the author tells a tender story that ends with hope. I really enjoyed this book and thank the author and publisher for sending me an ARC to give my honest review. Highly recommended.

Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books. Pages of Ireland is the sequel to her popular novel Brigid of Ireland. She is also the author of the Ellis Series, and writes for genealogy magazines. The past is her passion as she writes from her home in Ohio. Visit her at, on Facebook at and on Twitter: @cindyswriting.

Meet Charles McIntyre, hero of Heather Blanton’s Romance in the Rockies Series


romance in the rockies

Please, tell us a little bit about your story.

My name is Charles McIntyre and I used to be a bit of a scoundrel. Used to be? Does a man who has hoed the rows I have, ever really let go of his dark-side? I built the lawless, godless mining town of Defiance practically with my bare hands, using some pretty unsavory methods. A past like mine does not stay buried.

During the war, I spent five years covered in blood and guts for my beloved South, only to walk away from everything in the end. I don’t mean just my family plantation, our wealth, our culture. I walked away from civility, from the ideals of honor, chivalry, and simple decency. Demoralized by the brutal conflict, I told myself there would be no more lost causes. Going forward, I would rule in hell rather than serve in heaven. I hacked Defiance out of the Colorado wilderness and allowed in only those souls willing to accept this was my town. I was king. I was the law.

And I was lost.

A few years into my reign over Defiance, three good, Christian sisters showed up at my doorstep. I allowed them to stay because I wanted a spur line. Unless some civility was restored to this godless-free-for-all, the rail road, however, would never agree to it. I could not have guessed how three women could impact the town. How one could turn me into a new man. Was it Shakespeare who said, “And though she be small, she is fierce?” The bard knew women and their earth-shaking influence over us.

Where did your Author come up with this idea?

Well, now, that is an interesting tail. The whole Defiance concept was born of Miss Heather’s love of three things: westerns, old movies, and her sister Susan. Miss Heather is the youngest of three sisters and when her sweet middle sister died in 1999, she found herself pondering the loving relationship they had all shared. These reflections gave way to daydreaming (which writers are known to do) and that led to a story of three good, Christian sisters stranded in a very bad town run by one very handsome, but hard, ambitious scoundrel.

I am an anti-hero. I am the best and the worst of men like Rhett Butler, Quirt Evans, Wyatt Earp, and yes, Han Solo.

Do you feel like she portrayed you well?

Generally speakin’, yes. My fan mail attests to the popularity of a bad man trying to be strong and tender, firm but gentle, a follower of Christ, but the Lord of one mean town. I would like to see more of my background story thrown into Book 4. I often speak lovingly of my mother, yet it is never relayed to the reader how, when, or where she died. I have expressed my great displeasure with Miss Heather over this deficiency and she has promised to alleviate my concerns in the next novel.

Do you have any hobbies?

Prior to the sisters’ arrival in Defiance, my hobby was building my kingdom and making money. I owned every gold stake, cathouse, saloon, and mercantile in Defiance. My priorities began to change not long after, of course, and now I find myself trying to figure the ins-and-outs of building a family. Recently I went fishing with my son, an activity I have not engaged in since I was boy in Savannah.

Who is your enemy and why?

Ah, Miss Heather knows me so well. Perhaps better than I know myself. In all three books, she has provided me with a nemesis of profound depth and darkness. However, she has woven the real truth throughout all the stories—I am my greatest enemy. My personal demons turn and fight more often than I have them retreating. And, yet, somehow, Miss Heather manages to provide me with a happy, if not ideal, ending in each book.

Who do you most trust?

Naomi Miller McIntyre. I will never have the words to express my gratitude at the salvation she has afforded me, both through her tenacious love and her fearless expression of the gospel. She has never once expected me to be perfect, merely willing to believe both she and the Lord care about me, no matter what I have done. In my past, I have committed the darkest, the most profane acts. Nothing was sacred to me. Nothing. Or so I thought, until I realized I would do anything to save Naomi. Surrendering myself for another person revealed an amazing truth to me: True love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Not even at the door of my worst failure.

What annoys you?

I suppose it is my pride that bedevils me here, but I hold great disdain for men who think they can ignore a direct request from me. Regardless of my personal journey to faith, the fact remains Defiance is my town. I run it now to the benefit of others, as opposed to simply garnering personal gain. That said, the rowdies, the belligerents, the trouble-makers are not welcome and they will only get so many warnings.

Will you be in another story?

I believe there would be a small riot if Miss Heather chose to right a Defiance novel without me. In fact, nearly ALL the correspondence that has come in since the release of Book 3 has been kind but clear—the ladies want more of Charles McIntyre. She has promised she will oblige.

Thanks for joining us today on Novel PASTimes, Charles!

heatherI write Christian Historical Western Romance. Yes, that often entails the use of firearms in a threatening manner. Sometimes there are fistfights. There may even be politically incorrect but historically accurate language. But also, there is always an inspirational message and strong allusions (at least) to the gospel. A former journalist, I am an avid researcher and endeavor to skillfully weave truth in among fictional story lines. I love exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. I have walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw’s note in my hand. I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne Westerns. My most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to my daddy, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester! My daddy also taught me to shoot and, trust me, I can sew buttons on with my rifle.
“Heather Blanton is blessed with a natural storytelling ability, an “old soul” wisdom, and wide expansive heart. Her characters are vividly drawn, and in the western settings where life can be hard, over quickly, and seemingly without meaning, she reveals Larger Hands holding everyone and everything together.” MARK RICHARD, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, AMC’S HELL ON WHEELS, and PEN/ERNEST HEMINGWAY AWARD WINNER

Introducing Stephenia H. McGee’s character, Ella, from her latest release, In His Eyes

In His Eyes: A Civil War Romance By Stephenia H. McGee

In His Eye coverHer heart sought shelter. Her soul found home.

Ella Whitaker rescues a newborn from the dying arms of a woman of ill repute and at long last she has someone to love. In need of a wet nurse, she arrives at Belmont Plantation just as Federal soldiers demand to speak to the owner. Thinking quickly, Ella masquerades as a Yankee officer’s widow in order to have a roof over her head and a home for the child.

Major Westley Remington has dedicated his life to serving his country. The Civil War has divided his family, torn his thoughts of glory, and left him with a wound that may never heal. Westley returns home on medical furlough to settle his father’s estate at Belmont Plantation, only to find his home is being run by a fiery and independent woman—one many believe to be his wife. Now he is faced with a conflict he’s never been trained to fight, and one she has yet to conquer.

Hi there, Miss Ella. It’s nice to finally be able to sit down with you and get to know you. This is such a beautiful home here at Belmont Plantation. From what I hear and see, you’re a true Southern lady. Can you tell me what your life was like growing up?fun pic Stephenia w model for IHE

Ah, yes, my Momma was a proper Southern lady and would be so happy knowing I haven’t forgotten everything she taught me before she passed. She and my Papa met when he was breeding horses at my Momma’s family plantation. It didn’t take long before they fell in love. Since he was a Scottish immigrant and working with horses, my grandfather wasn’t too pleased they wanted to get married, so they ran off and started a small horse farm of their own. Although it was a struggle for my Momma to have to work so much on the farm, she did it out of pure love. That’s the kind of love I’ve always dreamed of.

What happened to your parents?

Momma got sick with a terrible cough, and there just wasn’t anything the doctor could do to stop it. Papa missed her so much after she passed that he took to the bottle. And then the War Between the States began and Papa died. The farm was destroyed. I took the train as far north as I could go. I ended up in Parsonville and worked at the Buckhorn Inn scrubbing the kitchen just for food and a place to stay.

Wow, you’ve really had a lot happen before coming to Parsonville! Of course, I’ve read your story about how you ended up here at the Remington’s Belmont Plantation. It sounds like God directed your steps with that little wee one you call your son.

Praise God! As soon as I caught Lee coming from his birth mother’s womb, I knew he would be a special child. Why, he was the most beautiful boy on earth! Then I started doubting my ability to be responsible for this little child when I couldn’t even take care of myself! But from the moment I met him, not once have I doubted my love for my son from the heart.

So what did you think of this beautiful home, the Belmont Plantation, when you came with baby Lee to seek a wet nurse?

Why, for heavens sakes, it was the finest of homes! Well, until I saw those Yanks banging on the front door. That’s when Sibby and I met. Oh my, that was frightening. She needed to be rid of the Yanks and I needed a wet nurse. Definitely a scary moment for both of us.

What do you think you’ve learned by telling others your story about your baby boy and Major Remington coming home to a wife he didn’t marry? What would the theme of your life be?

I think we all struggle with feelings of inadequacy at times. Sometimes we forget who we are and whose we are, and it can lead to all manner of insecurities. In the telling of my story, God encouraged me to never forget that no matter what else goes on in life—good or bad—my identity is always grounded in Him.

About the Author:

Stephenia H. McGee (1)

Winner of the 2012 RONE Best Inspirational Book of the year (2012) and author of six Historical novels, Stephenia H. McGee has a fascination with hoop skirts and ball gowns, Greek revival homes and horse-drawn carriages, quirky Southern sayings, and home-grown recipes. She currently lives in Mississippi with her husband and two boys, (accompanied by their two spoiled dogs and mischievous cat) where she writes stories of faith, redemption, and stories steeped in the South.

Social Media Links:

Visit her website at and be sure to sign up for the newsletter to get sneak peeks, behind the scenes fun, the occasional recipe, and special offers.

FaceBook: Stephenia H. McGee, Christian Fiction Author

Twitter: @StepheniaHMcGee

Pinterest: Stephenia H. McGee


Meet Ruth Brown from Under Fire by Linda Shenton Matchett

Small Under Fire Cover

Journalist Ruth Brown’s sister Jane is pronounced dead after a boating accident in April 1942. Because Jane’s body is missing, Ruth is convinced her sister is still alive and follows clues to war-torn London. By the time she uncovers the truth about Jane’s disappearance, she has stumbled on black marketers, resistance fighters and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead for what she has discovered.

We’re excited to be sitting down today with Ruth Brown. It’s such a pleasure to meet you and hear about you and your book, Under Fire.

Quick Facts:

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Auburn

Right or left-handed: Right

Parents: Mel and Deborah Brown

Siblings: Younger sister Jane

Younger Brother Chip

Favorite Color:  Turquoise

Favorite Actor: William Powell, I love his sassiness

Hobbies: Kayaking, Hiking, Snow shoeing.

Home town: Hazelton Falls, NH

Job: Reporter for The Gazette

Novel PASTimes: Tell us about your best friend, and what would she say about you?

Ruth: My very best friend is Varis Gladstone. We met in the nursery at church when we were just babies! I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s no bigger than a minute and really sweet, but strong-willed, and she has amazing faith. She’s beautiful, too and a real fashion plate. (Looks off into space). What would Varis say about me? Hmmm. She accepts me as I am, but she would probably say that I’m too curious and impetuous for my own good. She’s had to help me out of more than a few scrapes. (Laughs) But isn’t that what friends are for?

Novel PASTimes: What person do you most admire?

Ruth: That’s an easy one-Nellie Bly. No matter what it took, she got to the bottom of the story. Did you know that she went undercover in an insane asylum as a mental patient to unearth the fact that conditions were appalling? I want to be just like her-reporting the truth and bringing news to the public.

Novel PASTimes: What makes you happy?

Ruth: Being outside. Nothing brings me greater joy than to be in the woods or on the lake under a crystal clear blue sky filled with puffy white clouds.

Novel PASTimes: What makes you angry?

Ruth: Injustice and sneakiness are a tie.

Novel PASTimes: What is your greatest accomplishment? Being taken seriously as a journalist. When I first started working for the newspaper, Mr. Isaacs only let me work on the society pages and fluff pieces, but I exposed some corruption in the school board, and when it came time to follow clues about Jane to London, he signed me up with the AP.

Novel PASTimes: Speaking of London, you experienced some terrible things over there. How has that changed you?

Ruth: It has been awful. Bombing raids and the constant fear of invasion creates unending tension which makes it difficult to sleep, so everyone is exhausted. And there is such deprivation. The Land Army is running the farms, but in the city we eat a lot of tinned food. I can’t tell you the last time I saw an orange or an onion. I no longer take my safety or my food for granted. I thank God every day I am still alive and have something to eat. I also live in the moment, because you never know when it’s going to be your last. Relationships also are more precious. (shakes her head) I’ve seen some awful things I will never forget.

Novel PASTimes: You spoke of rationing, and a great number of items are either rationed or not available. What is the one thing you are finding difficult to do without?

Ruth: Fresh vegetables! It is very rural where I live in New Hampshire, and everyone had a garden of some sort. My mom loved to grow flowers and vegetables, and a huge portion of our back yard was a garden even before Victory gardens were the thing to do. Her butter beans were the biggest, sweetest bean I’ve ever eaten. (rubs her stomach). I’m making myself hungry just thinking about them!

Novel PASTimes: You’ve been in England several months now. What is your favorite place?

Ruth: Any of the parks, but Hyde Park is probably my favorite. There are benches along Serpentine Lake, and I can sit and watch the water for hours. It’s very peaceful and somewhat reminiscent of home.

Novel PASTimes: If there was one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be?

Ruth: I wish I could be sweet like Varis. I am a candid person and sometimes that can seem abrasive. But I’m working on changing!

Novel PASTimes: Where would you like to go next with your career?

Ruth: Even though it has been difficult to live in a country devastated by war, I have loved my time in England. It is a beautiful country, and the people are gracious and stalwart. I’d love to stay as a foreign correspondent, although there are rumors that once the war is over there will be a trial, and it would be very good for my career to cover that.

Novel PASTimes: Totally different subject…what traits do you hope your future husband will have?

Ruth: (laughs) Well considering that I’m not in the market for a husband, that’s a tough question. But if I had to pick a couple I’d say that he had to accept that I want to work for a living. I don’t want to stay home as “the little lady.” I want to continue to pursue a career in journalism or writing. And of course he would have to be a believer in Christ. Everything else is gravy!

Novel PASTimes: Thanks for spending time with us today. If you’d like to help solve the mystery of Ruth’s sister’s disappearance, get her story on /dp/163213408X/ or!/Under-Fire-Paperback/p/88329129

linda-eLinda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, speaker, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. Active in her church, Linda serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.





An interview with William Louis Redskin from The Red Hawk by Ellen Porter



NOVELPASTIMES:  Tell me about you and your friends:

WILLIAM:  As a young boy, I lived in Shehamniu, a village of the Chaushilha tribe. There were about 100 of us living there when I was a child, including my father and I, my aunt, uncle and their children, and the families of my friends Guyape and Sahale.

One day in 1851, a White man named Ralph Eastman set up a tent on the land just outside our village. I helped him plant his first wheat field that day. He then left it for several months, so our village helped ourselves to it, which made him angry.  Even though he was angry, when he returned he allowed me, Guyape and Sahale to help him build corrals for his livestock. My father had forbidden me to contact White men, as he thought they were dangerous. When he found I had disobeyed his orders, he gave me a whipping so bad I could not join Guyape and Sahale when they went to help Ralph Eastman the next day. My father also convinced my friends’ fathers to discipline them, but their discipline was not as severe.

When Ralph ascertained from my friends what my father had done, he became even angrier. He left without finishing anything but the corral. When he came back, it was with two sheriff’s deputies and a legal order to remove all three of us from Shehamniu. The deputies threatened to kill everyone in the village if my people did not allow them to take the three of us. So, we went, and became the indentured servants of Mr. Eastman. He changed our names to William Redskin, Guy Redskin and Sam Redskin.

Redskin was a term he called all Indians. He never meant to insult us. It’s just what some people called us in those days. I didn’t really like that name as a boy, but I came to accept it and now it’s just who I am.

After several years, my friends ran away and let the people in Shehamniu know we were alive and doing well. My friends never returned to the Eastman Farm, but my father did. He spoke English well by then, to the amazement of Mr. and Mrs. Eastman. They quickly became friends with my father, who then introduced them to everyone else in the village.  Meanwhile, I developed an even better friendship with Eliza, the Eastmans’ daughter. But if I told you more, that would spoil the ending.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you have any enemies?

WILLIAM:  You would think Mr. Eastman is my enemy for much of the book.  But he came to be my good friend.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Are you involved with anyone?

WILLIAM:  Eliza eventually becomes more than a friend. That is all I can say.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What person do you most admire?

WILLIAM:  I would have to say my father, for being brave enough to venture over to the Eastman Farm after what had happened to me several years before. I also admire Ralph for his willingness to admit what he did was wrong, and for later becoming one of the biggest defenders of my people. Eliza is the one who understood the error of their ways first, and for that and other reasons, I greatly admire her.



NOVELPASTIMES:  What’s your overall outlook on life?

WILLIAM:  Looking back, I have learned even when bad things happen, good things can come from them. So, if faced with a challenge, you work hard to get through it, you advocate for what is right, and you take what blessings come with that challenge.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you like yourself?

WILLIAM:  I am not a perfect man, by any means. But I come from a proud people, and I am very proud of myself, and what I have accomplished. What’s not to like about me?

NOVELPASTIMES:  What, if anything, would you change about yourself?

WILLIAM:  At the end of The Red Hawk, my life seems perfect. But The Red Hawk is a sequel. In The Last Chief of the Chaushilha, and even more so in another sequel yet to be named, I come to see how I’ve let much of my knowledge of Chaushilha traditions and culture slip away from me.  I can blame that on the kidnapping, somewhat. But I’ve also got to blame that on myself, and make sure I remember and pass on to my descendants what I still know.

NOVELPASTIMES:  How are you viewed by others?

WILLIAM:  Guyape and Sahale saw me as the ring leader of the adventures we found ourselves in, most of the time. To my father, my aunt and my uncle, I was a beloved son. The Eastmans saw me at first as a savage in need of civilization, but eventually came to value me as a wise young man and a friend.

NOVELPASTIMES:  How much self-control do you have?

WILLIAM:  I know in my childhood, and even as a young man, I sometimes got into trouble because of curiosity, because of passion, because of anger. But the Chaushilha do not take pride in impulsive behavior, nor do the Eastmans. So I have learned to be much more self-disciplined.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is your worst fear?

WILLIAM: I think I have already lived through that, which is losing my self-identity. Seeing how working through that adversity brought me great blessing, I am confident there isn’t anything out there I cannot handle, at least with the help of our Creator.


NOVELPASTIMES:  What do you like to eat and drink?

WILLIAM:  I enjoy some of the finest food a man can eat in the 19th century. I also still love my Aunt Macha’s acorn mush, there is none better. But, I deeply love what Aunt Macha has done with the flour from the wheat we grow on the Eastman Farm, the vegetable seeds Clara Eastman gave her, and the livestock we gave the village. She has infused all that with her own Chaushilha ways of cooking. You know, someday, 100 or more years from now, I bet people will still want to eat roasted beef the way she makes it.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is your favorite book?

WILLIAM:  I am not much of a reader, although Mr. Eastman taught me how. Since most of his lessons were from the Bible, I guess you could say that is my favorite book.  But the Chaushilha do not have a written language, so I never read anything until I was 12.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What would be a great gift for you?

WILLIAM:  Saddles and tack, guns, or other practical things a man can use. When my father and I reconciled, he brought me a bear rug for my wiki-up.

NOVELPASTIMES:   When are you happy?

WILLIAM:  When I am around family. Father, Aunt Macha and Uncle Achachak, and my cousins were originally the people I most loved to be with. But, as you will see in The Red Hawk, I have come to know the Eastmans as family too.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What makes you angry?

WILLIAM:  I still despise how some White men act, with the attitude their race is superior to all others. Some of them don’t even like Eye-Talian people!  You read Last Chief of the Chaushilha when it is published, because in that book I’m going to have even more of a reason than in The Red Hawk to feel this anger towards racist White men. But in both books, you will learn men usually act the way they do from ignorance, and only sometimes from pure evil.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What makes you laugh?

WILLIAM:  When we were children, Sahale did some crazy as a loon things. After he and Guyape ran away, I didn’t see them again. But I did go back to Shehamniu after that, and got to know my cousin Gosheven better. Oh, my goodness! He was completely off his chump at times. All I could do was laugh. And then, just wait until Last Chief of the Chaushilha starts. He plays a big role in that book and his antics get even better.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What is the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?

WILLIAM:  It would be hard for me to answer that without giving away too much of what happens in The Red Hawk. But I can say Ralph Eastman was the recipient of my “worst thing,” and it had to do with how he perceived me at the time.

NOVELPASTIMES:  What was your biggest trauma?

WILLIAM:  Being kidnapped and taken away from my village at the age of 12 was, by far, the worst thing that ever happened to me. But ultimately, it was also the best.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Do you have any secrets?

WILLIAM:  I learned a few customs pertaining to tribal ceremonies that have to be kept secret because of their sacred nature. Even the women of Shehamniu did not know these things. My father and Uncle Achachak passed these things on to me, and I have vague memories of the men engaging in these ceremonies before I was kidnapped. After I was kidnapped, the influence of White man was so pervasive, we stopped our sacred ceremonies lest we be persecuted for engaging in them.


NOVELPASTIMES:  What do you like best about the other main characters in the book?

WILLIAM:  As we discussed earlier, my father and Mr. Eastman are both admirable men. My father was a brave man to risk his life to reconcile with me, and Mr. Eastman for admitting he was wrong. These are the men who made me who I am today. As for Eliza, I like everything about her.

NOVELPASTIMES:   What do you like least about the other main characters in the book?

WILLIAM:  I had a lot to not like about Ralph Eastman at first, obviously. I am so thankful he admitted he was wrong for thinking about the people of Shehamniu as savages who can’t even take care of their own children properly. I also didn’t like how my father beat me that one day, but I completely understand his reasons now. I would not spare the rod with my own children in such a situation, but I cannot see beating a child so severely as I was that night.

NOVELPASTIMES:  Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

William blushes and lowers his head as he thinks about that time.

That one was a doozy. You really are going to have to read The Red Hawk to know. I’d get too poked up with embarrassment if I told you here.


Quick facts:

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Black, worn long as a child, collar length after Mr. Eastman started cutting it

Voice: I spoke with authority, even as a child. Even more so in the sequels.

Right or left handed? Right

Parents: Father, Tachi. My mother was Kaliska, but she died when I was only 3 years old, before the story begins. Aunt Macha, Kaliska’s sister, lived next door, and even at the end of Last Chief is still more like a mother than an aunt to me.

Siblings: None, but I have 10 cousins, all children of Achachak and Macha, by the end of The Red Hawk

Places lived: Shehamniu and the Eastman Farm

Job: Indentured servant and hired man for wheat farmer

professional photo of meEllen Porter is a former journalist and the author of The Red Hawk, which is a fictionalized look at the historical events impacting the first settlers of her hometown, Chowchilla, California. The first settlers are some of the Native Americans whose tribe now shares a name with her hometown, but long ago used a different spelling, possibly Chaushilha as she spells it in her book. Ellen wrote this book as the first in a series to honor the memory of Reddy Redskin, a legendary character who served as Chowchilla High School’s mascot from 1916 when the school first opened until 2016, when the school was forced to abandon the mascot under 2015 legislation. Ellen began writing The Red Hawk a few days after the legislation was approved by the governor.


Ellen now lives in southern California in the state’s newest city, Jurupa Valley. Besides working on her next book, Ellen offers book editing and writing services (primarily business communications) through her company, Pen Porter. She also serves on the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District governing board. In addition, she is the founder and leader of walking club Jurupa Valley Motion, and a member of running club Riverside Road Runners.






Fictional Character Interview: Helena, Her Encounter with Jesus Terrified Her

Today we will meet Helena, a 1st century biracial character from Regarding Tiberius by Bartholomew Boge.
Novel Pastimes: Thank you for taking time to be with us today, Helena. First off, what language would you prefer we conduct this interview in?
Helena: I am perfectly fluent in Greek, Latin, and Persian and have a basic conversational fluency in Aramaic and Armenian. I know a few basics in a handful of others. Will Greek work for you?
Novel Pastimes: Certainly.  (the rest of the interview is translated from Koine Greek). Let’s begin with your name: Helena Mithridates Kleopatra.
Helena: My first name is, of course, an homage to the great character of Greek legend and history, Helena of Sparta. It is said that she was so beautiful that hers was “the face that launched a thousand ships,” which, of course, refers to the siege of Troy by the forces of Menelaus when Helena was stolen from him. Now I do not claim to have such beauty, as scarred and lean as I am, but I do share Helena’s experience with the arts of war, as it is supposed that she trained with the men as a Spartan warrior in her youth.
Novel Pastimes: And the middle name, “Mithridates”?
Helena: That is my family name. I am from the line of Mithradates VI, the last great Pontic king to defy Roman rule in Asia Minor. After his demise, all of his descendants were to have been executed by Roman law. An exception was made in my case, obviously. In fact, rather than rebel against Roman rule as my ancestors have, I have logged years of service in Rome’s Third Gallic Legion as a translator and transcriptionist of Persian documents, mostly receipts for goods purchased by the legion.
Novel Pastimes: “Kleopatra”?
Helena: That was just a pet name given me by my father, Nikophoros, King of Eupatoria, which means “Glory of Her Father.” I am of Ethiopian and Persian descent, and have no relation to the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra who ruled Egypt.
Novel Pastimes:  So you are of royal descent?  That explains your high level of education.
Helena: Indeed. My parents bore no male heirs, so I was thoroughly trained in law, rhetoric, history, geography, and the arts of war—all critical fields of study for a would-be monarch.
Novel Pastimes: And languages?
Helena: That was more a family tradition than preparation for rule, although being a polyglot holds many advantages for a queen. In fact, my ancestor, Mithradates VI, was said to have been fluent in all 26 languages of his realm.
Novel Pastimes: Where were you born?
Helena: A small principality called Eupatoria, a city-state under Roman jurisdiction in the province of Pontus (editor’s note: modern north central Turkey). The Romans sacked it in 20 AD, smashing every structure to rubble and killing the entire population. Today only ruins remain.
Novel Pastimes: The Romans destroyed your homeland, yet you served in their legions?
Helena: Not by choice, initially. I was the only member of the royal family spared, and one of only a handful of citizens left alive after the slaughter. A centurion, Tiberius, orchestrated my clemency and took me as his slave.
Novel Pastimes: This is the same Tiberius you wrote your account about?
Helena: Yes. We had met once, prior to the sacking of Eupatoria, when I was a princess and heir-apparent to the crown. He took me as a war captive, but generally treated me more like a colleague than a slave. He was a brilliant tactician, Tiberius. He made a way for the governor of Bithynia, Pontus Pilate, to negate my slave status and restore my Roman citizenship.
Novel Pastimes: Wait—THE Pontus Pilate? The one who had Christ crucified?
Helena: The same. Before he became governor of Judaea, he was first given command of a lesser province in Asia Minor, Bithynia, just west of Pontus. I’ve had several run-ins with him over the years.
Novel Pastimes: Did you ever meet Jesus of Nazareth?
Helena: Twice. Once before his crucifixion, once after.
Novel Pastimes: What were your impressions?
Helena: I was never more terrified of another human being in all my life.
Novel Pastimes: Terrified? Why?
Helena: I’m a strategist at heart. Being a woman, I am usually underestimated as such, and I typically benefit from mistakes made by adversaries who don’t take me seriously. Jesus of Nazareth was different: he knew me to the core of my being, even my every thought and feeling. How can one ever hope to best a foe who knows your every whim?
Novel Pastimes: You were adversaries?
Helena: Not in a military sense, but in an emotional and spiritual one. He cut through my every defense and exposed my deepest, darkest longings for vengeance. It was unsettling. I avoided him after our first meeting as best I could, but was confronted by him once again, after his resurrection.
Novel Pastimes: And how did that go?
Helena: Better. (smiles)
Novel Pastimes: You are from a royal family in Asia Minor, yet you have a very dark complexion.
Helena: My family line comes from Ethiopia and Persia. I bear more a resemblance to my African ancestors.
Novel Pastimes: You mentioned scars earlier.  What from?
Helena: Some are from minor hand-to-hand combat wounds, simple scratches. The worst are on my stomach, where I bear disfiguring scars from being mauled by a Caspian tiger in my youth.
Novel Pastimes: You survived a tiger attack?
Helena: I was wearing leather armor at the time, which is the only reason I’m still here to engage in this interview. My private security detail managed to dispatch it before it could finish me off, but I am fortunate to be alive. As are my men—my father was quite displeased that none of them got so much as a scratch while his only daughter was bloody and torn open like a sack of grain!
Novel Pastimes: Well, Helena, thank you very much for your time.  One final question; what would you say is your best quality, aptitude, or gift?
Helena: The ability to think rationally under pressure. That may sound like an incredible gift, to think with perfect logic and clarity under stress, but rest assured that it’s often as much a curse as a blessing. On more than one occasion it has been a horrible quality to possess—particularly when the stakes are life and death.
Thank you, Helena, for this fascinating look at the life of a woman in Biblical times.
image3Originally known for applying his creative vision to the composition of Christian art-rock epics, Bartholomew Boge has found a new niche writing historical fiction. Whether it be through music or literature, Bartholomew challenges his audience to examine the depravity of man and the redeeming grace of God, bought with the shed blood of Christ.

In his debut novel, Regarding Tiberius, Bartholomew explores questions of justice, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Set during the time of Christ, this fast-paced story moves through several locations within the Roman Empire, including Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Judea. Confronted with the brutal death of her parents and the destruction of her kingdom, Bartholomew’s female protagonist, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, undertakes a clandestine mission to avenge the slaughter of her people by assassinating the Roman commander who ordered their pitiless liquidation. Success would mean death for herself, her lover, Tiberius, and her only son, Marcellus. Will she do it? Should she? Which is more righteous–justice or mercy? How can one forgive an unforgivable crime, or receive forgiveness for one? Helena must answer these timeless questions along the way to fulfilling her bloody destiny.

Bartholomew Boge lives with his family in northcentral Wisconsin.


Meet Eleri of The Fury of Dragons by Renee Yancy

smallestNovel Pastimes: Good morning, Eleri. So nice to have you with us. I know it isn’t easy to get time off from working in the Fortress of the Britons.

Eleri: Thank you. God’s greetings to you this morning. May I correct your pronunciation of my name?

Novel Pastimes: Certainly.

Eleri: It’s Ah-LAIR-ee

Novel Pastimes: Very good. So where were you before you came to the fortress of the chieftain Coroticus in Roman Britain?

Eleri: I was a slave in the household of Lorcan, in Eriu, until the day I was abducted by pirates on a slaving raid and taken back to Britannia, where I was born.

Novel Pastimes: And where exactly were you born?

Eleri:  In a small village called Maia, at the far western edge of Hadrian’s Wall.

Novel Pastimes: Who were your parents? If you don’t mind my asking?

Eleri: My father was Rogatos, a Roman British decurion. My mother was Deira, one of the Deer people of the Carvetti tribe, a branch of the Brigantes. I never saw them again after I was abducted and sold into slavery in Eriu.

Novel Pastimes: By Eriu, you are referring to Ireland?

Eleri: Yes.

Novel Pastimes: And how did you end up in Roman Britain?

Eleri: I was abducted by British pirates on a slaving raid, on the same day that Patrick baptized me.

Novel Pastimes: What education have you had? Did you have a favorite subject?

Eleri: My father taught me some simple Latin as a child. I never went to school, until my master Coroticus graciously sent me to Whithorn to receive instruction in Latin at the monastery there, under the supervision of Father Ninian.

Novel Pastimes: Are you married, or dating anyone?

Eleri: What is dating? I am not married. Slaves generally do not marry.

Novel Pastimes: Who do you most admire?

Eleri: Patrick, who led me to salvation in Christ, Viventius and Mavorius, my teachers at Whithorn. And Father Ninian, my mentor.

Novel Pastimes: Is there anything about your life you would change if you could?

Eleri: It depends on what period of my life you are speaking about. In the beginning, I would have given almost anything to return to Ireland and my mistress, Ciara. She was with child when I was abducted, and I have no way of knowing if all is well with her.

Novel Pastimes: That sounds difficult.

Eleri: It was, until Viventius pointed out to me that I will see her in the next life, when all Christians are reunited in heaven with Jesus.

Novel Pastimes: What are your duties in the fortress of the Britons?

Eleri: Maid, cook, and I read letters for Coroticus.

Novel Pastimes: Do you have any enemies?

Eleri: Coroticus was my enemy in the beginning. No longer.

Novel Pastimes: What can you tell us about Coroticus?

Eleri: He has an imposing, formidable appearance, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

Novel Pastimes: He sounds a bit scary.

Eleri: He certainly can be.

Novel Pastimes: If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get that scar on your wrist?

Eleri: It’s a brand on the underside of my wrist with the Latin letters CQ, for my master Coroticus Quintillius. It marks me as his property.

Novel Pastimes: Wow! That must have hurt.

Eleri. It did. I swooned from the pain. But there are worse brands. There is a slave in the fortress with FVG branded across his forehead, for ‘Fugitivus,’ to mark him as a runaway slave.

Novel Pastimes: What would you say is your strongest and weakest character trait?

Eleri: I work hard to please my master. Sometimes, however…I have trouble controlling my tongue. It’s gotten me into trouble several times lately.

Novel Pastimes: What is your greatest fear?

Eleri: I fear being sold again.

Novel Pastimes: Let’s talk about something a little more fun. What collections or hobbies do you have?

Eleri: I don’t know what you mean by hobbies. Slaves don’t collect anything. But I do possess a wax tablet and stylus, a gift from Ninian. And a parchment with a verse he wrote for me.

Novel Pastimes: Favorite food?

Eleri: The honey and poppy seed pastries Tarian the cook makes are my favorite things to eat. And wild boar stuffed with dormice is quite nice, if there’s any left over after the master’s feasts.

Novel Pastimes: Books?

Eleri: I do not own any books. That would be unlikely for a slave. But since I have learned to read Latin, occasionally I can read one of my master’s scrolls.

Novel Pastimes: Favorite color?

Eleri: The tunic of purple silk that Primus bought me in the market at Luguvalium has a very pleasing color.

Novel Pastimes: Best way to spend a weekend?

Eleri: Slaves never have a day off.

Novel Pastimes: Most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?

Eleri:  I can think of several humiliating moments in my life. Standing naked on the auction block and being whipped in front of the household of Coroticus.

Novel Pastimes: What is your relationship with God?

Eleri: My relationship with God has been the saving grace of my life.

Novel Pastimes: What is your overall outlook on life?

Eleri: In all things I try to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing.

Novel Pastimes: What do you hope your readers will learn from your story?

Eleri: That I am a weak and vulnerable girl who chose to walk out her faith in difficult circumstances, trusting that the Lord would work out all things for good in my life.

Thanks for joining us today, Eleri!

renee-posedRenee Yancy is a history and archaeology buff who works as an RN when she isn’t writing historical novels. She traveled to Ireland, Scotland, and England to research the sites in her first ancient historical. She loves most periods of history but has a special love for the ancient civilizations of the Irish, the Egyptians and Roman Britain.

Meet Tyrell and Emma Jaine from With Music in Their Hearts by Carole Brown


Book Cover Front -Centered (2)

I understand you two are the main protagonists in With Music in Their Hearts. Could you describe each other for readers please?


1940s mens outfits2 freeTyrell Walker:  The first thing that struck me about Emma Jaine Rayner was her hair and color-changing eyes. That red hair certainly goes along with her personality! Spunky, as well as caring, smart and a hard worker, she’s been called bossy by her sisters. The fact is she has a good reason to be. When the sisters’ mother died, Emma Jaine stepped in to care for them and her father. Starting a boarding home was a good idea too. It keeps her busy and provides needed housing for those needing it during WWII. It’s too bad I suspected her—reluctantly—as a spy.


Emma Jaine Rayner:

Tyrell is definitely a tease. At first, he was very annoying with his 1940s outfits 2 freeself-assurance, but as I got to know him better, and once I got over what I thought of as a love affair with a budding actress in my boarding house, I realized his worth. He was gentlemanly, fun to be with, a good cook—smile—and a wonderful preacher and Christian. I’m so glad he showed up in my life.




Tyrell, why didn’t you enlist for service during WWII?

Tyrell: That’s still a sore topic for me. But even though I was rejected for service, I was asked to serve as a civilian spy and specifically in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sometimes it seemed as though it was harder than enduring the hardships of fighting the enemy overseas because I couldn’t let anyone know what was going on. I had to keep my spying secret, and I knew others wondered at my non-service.

Emma Jaine, why did you open a boarding house in your family’s home? Didn’t that make for an awkward situation at times? 

Emma Jaine: I longed to do more for my country, and with our big house, it seemed appropriate to provide housing for those needing it during this time period. I insisted on it being a homey place, with music—my sisters and I all love music—books and arts and as little conflict as possible. For the most part it worked fine. 

Emma Jaine, what did you think of Bette Williams?

Emma Jaine: Oh, dear, must I answer this one? All right. She wasn’t a very likeable person, but I tried to do what Tyrell urged me to do: pray about her, which didn’t seem to do much good. I do understand she was a girl all alone in a big city and not very successful in getting her acting career going, so I could forgive her for some of her actions.

And, Tyrell, what about you? How did it make you feel when you saw Hamilton Blake courting Emma Jaine?

Tyrell:  Grrr. He was such a loser, so built up with his own personal worth, I found it hard to like, let alone get along with him, well, I would hardly call us best friends. Still, I suppose women found him attractive enough.

Now, a fun question for you both: who was/is your favorite boarding house guest?

Emma Jaine (laughing): That’s easy. I love Gertie Hanover. Outspoken and seemingly rich—we’ll probably never know the truth about that!—she’s a fun person. She brooks no stupidity and dislikes petty people, but she has a good heart and is faithful to church even if she does like to sit in front and wear large hats that prevent the view for those behind her.

Tyrell:  And my favorites are the Rayner sisters, Josie and Claire. I had no siblings, so taking an interest in Emma Jaine’s family is a special favor to me. They’re both so interesting and vocal, in their own ways, about their special talents and others’ opinions. I find them quite entertaining.

Could you give us a brief excerpt from your book?

Both:  Love to!

And one last thing. Would you two share the blurb for your book and a link to buy the book?

Both chorus together:  Sure.

Angry at being rejected for military service, Minister Tyrell Walker accepts the call to serve as a civilian spy within his own country. Across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, a spy working for a foreign country is stealing secret plans for newly developed ammunition to be used in the war. According to his FBI cousin, this spy favors pink stationery giving strong indications that a woman is involved.

He’s instructed to obtain a room in the Rayner Boarding House run by the lovely, spunky red-haired Emma Jaine Rayner. Sparks of jealousy and love fly between them immediately even as they battle suspicions that one or the other is not on the up and up.

 While Tyrell searches for the murdering spy who reaches even into the boarding home, Emma Jaine struggles with an annoying renter, a worried father (who could be involved in this spy thing), and two younger sisters who are very different but just as strong willed as she is.

As Tyrell works to keep his double life a secret and locate the traitor, he refuses to believe that Emma Jaine could be involved even when he sees a red-haired woman in the arms of another man. Could the handsome and svelte banker who’s also determined to win Emma Jaine’s hand for marriage, be the dangerous man he’s looking for? Is the trouble-making renter who hassles Emma Jaine serving as a flunky? Worse, is Papa Rayner so worried about his finances and keeping his girls in the style they’re used to, that he’ll stoop to espionage?

 Will their love survive the danger and personal issues that arise to hinder the path of true love?

Buy the book here:

carole-brown.jpg About Carol Brown

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here:

Personal blog:







Amazon Author Page:

I also am part of several other blogs:

Stitches in Time:

Word Sharpeners:

Thank you for joining us today!

Welcome to the New Novel PASTimes!

What’s New?

We will be posting lots of character interviews from some of your favorite historical novels. This behind-the-scenes look will give readers more insight into the characters and should be lots of fun!

In addition, you will find some historical tidbits, book reviews, and articles on historical topics. We know you’re here because you love the genre, and so do we! Much of what we blog about will be inspirational and from a Christian worldview. Therefore we will not feature novels that go against that worldview. It’s simply the readership that we are appealing to. If you want to know more about that, go to our “Disclaimer” page.

Who Are We?

We are historical novelists but also readers. We love history and if we’re not reading or writing about it, you’ll probably find us at bookstores, museums, lectures, or perhaps antique shops. All time periods, all countries, all sub-genres (romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy…) have a home here at Novel PASTimes. You can learn more about the contributors by clicking on our photos to the right under “Contributors.” Questions? Go to our contact page.

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