Introducing Bell Night from Bell of the Night by Allison Wells

Tell us something about where you live: 

You would never guess it from the plush furnishings and the opulent décor, but I live in a prison where a few dollars will buy you more than a pound of flesh. It will purchase a piece of my torn-apart soul. 

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

Madam Knight erased the name my parents had given me and replaced it with Bluebell. We all have flower names because we’re all her precious flowers. Most of the girls call me Bell. I think she just has a rotation of names that she works through – Daisy, Rose, Lily, Poppy, Clover, Jasmine – Bluebell is just part of the rotation. It means nothing to her. Or to me.

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

I live and work in Storyville. Do I have an occupation? Sure. I’m what they call a soiled dove. What you don’t know is that a soiled dove is just a pigeon. A plain old pigeon. Do I like it? Of course not. Who would choose this life? I was sold into this slavery when I was a child, but I’ve become numb. I just count the days until I’m used up and cast out.

Who are the special people in your life?  

My best friend, Astrid. She’s also my roommate. She talks about her faith in God, and while I don’t get it, her hope gives me hope. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?   

To get as far away from the brothel and Storyville as possible.

What are you most afraid of? 

Nothing. I’ve lost it all already.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

Only the memories of my parents before the fire. Before I was handed over to my greedy uncle who sold me for two dollars to Madam Victoria Knight. Those memories are all I have left. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

I have no idea. Part of me wants to fight and run, but the other part of me is tired to the bone and weary.

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

There’s this guy who came in the other day. A religious type, spouting on and on about Jesus loving us. But he doesn’t do it to condemn us, he does it to give us – me – hope. I don’t know, I actually felt like he saw me. The real me. Not only did my heart give a little flutter, which it’s never done, but it also felt hopeful. 

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

People think we chose to do this. Live like this. This is a last resort for some who had no other way of staying alive or caring for their children. Or some like me who were sold to a hardened madam who went through this herself. We don’t choose or love this. We don’t relish in it. We don’t enjoy being leered at, let alone being abused. We want a better life. And I will fight tooth and nail to give that to these girls, even if it means I don’t get it.

Allison Wells is a wife, mother, and sweet tea addict. Allison writes in two genres – Christian Women’s FIction and Sweet Romance. She writes what she calls “gritty Christian fiction,” books that show the hard truths of life but ultimately are stories of redemption in the end. Her sweet romances are clean and fun with a dose of laughter (the best medicine). She loves to bring a word of hope to readers worldwide. Her motto is, “Life is short, eat the Oreos.” Visit her website at

Interview with Jack from Ann H. Gabhart’s In the Shadow of the River

In the Shadow of the River 
by Ann H. Gabhart
May 9, 2023; ISBN 9780800741723; Ebook ISBN 9781493441327; $16.99; Paper. Amazon Affiliate link used will benefit the blog but not cost you any more.

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! Today we are talking to Jacci Reed, an actress on the Kingston Floating Palace. Thank you for stopping by today, Jacci, to tell us about your life on a river showboat. That has to be amazing.

Thank you for inviting me here. I love to talk about my showboat life, but I do have to say that oftentimes people think my life is more glamorous than it really is.

Really? In what ways? It seems being on stage almost every night would be a dream come true for most actresses.

Oh, I do love putting on the shows. I fell in love with the stage when I was five years old. But doing a show every night no matter how tired or sometimes sick you might be can be taxing. Then we have to work hard in rehearsals to get the shows right. Costumes and stage props have to be made. Plus, at times the crowd can be rowdy and ready to do catcalls no matter how well we think the show is going. I’m afraid not every person who comes to our shows is a lover of the arts. So it’s not all song and dance although those are definitely the parts I love best–those songs and dances with my grandfather and with Gabe.

I guess we don’t always think about the behind the scenes work that goes into a show or how hard it is to please everyone in the audience.

Most of our crowds are wonderful and love the shows. The people run to the river to see the showboat tie up as soon as they hear the calliope playing. Have you ever heard one? Yes? Then you know that they make a unique kind of music using steam valves and pipes. Some call them a steam piano. Marelda Kingston, she and her husband, Captain Dan own the Kingston Floating Palace. Anyway, Marelda is the best on the river at playing the calliope. The music carries for miles and is wonderful advertisement for our showboat. Since we usually tie up early in the afternoon, people out in the country have time to finish their work and make their way down to the river for our evening show.

Can you tell us more about this Gabe you mentioned a moment ago? 

Oh yes. Gabe Kingston is the best friend a girl could ever have. He is Marelda and Captain Dan’s son and was actually born on a showboat. Their showboat has always been a family affair. Duke, my grandfather, has been with them so long that he seems part of their family now. In 1881, when I was five years old and came aboard to live with him due to some tragic happenings, I became part of their showboat family too. Gabe was thirteen then, but he seemed so old to me at the time. He watched over me like a big brother, but now he’s always telling me he is not my brother. But he is definitely a friend I treasure. I can’t imagine my life without him. On the showboat, he directs the plays and is master of ceremonies. He can get the crowd laughing with his jokes and that makes the show even better. People do love to laugh.

Can you tell us about those tragic happenings when you were five, or would you rather not talk about it?

So many years have passed. Fifteen. Much about what happened then lurks in the shadows of my memories. Some of it I remember too well and some I’ve never understood. I do know my mother was trying to protect me from a man who was trying to steal me from her. In the confrontation, she was wounded. She did love me so much. I do know that much. She said it was a miracle from the Lord that the steamship she was working on as a maid was tied up next to the very showboat where my grandfather was part of the cast. We were able to escape from the man and find safety on that early Kingston Floating Palace. The showboat we are on now is much larger and has been beautifully updated.   

Your showboat does look impressive. I can’t wait to go aboard for your show. But let’s go back to what happened when you were five. Do you know why someone was trying to kidnap you?

More truth that hides in the shadows. My grandfather never wanted to talk about it. He avoided answering my questions while I was growing up and continually told me I should concentrate on the present rather than worry about the past. I suppose he is right, but sometimes what you don’t know about your past can come back to haunt you in the present and bring fresh troubles.

But enough about that. Can we talk about something more pleasant?

Certainly, although there does seem to be more we need to know.

And more I need to know as well, but as my grandfather says, it’s better to think on the here and now. Besides, I can’t tell you what I don’t know. I do feel I will pull the truth out of those shadows someday. But don’t you want to know more about the show tonight? 

Yes, of course. Can you tell me about some of the cast members or the specialty acts?

I would love to. I play a character named Penelope and the leading male character, Cameron Drake, plays Penelope’s love interest, Sterling. Cameron is an excellent actor and very handsome, but he’s not very happy on the showboat. He thinks his talents are being wasted. He thinks mine are too, but I love putting on the dramas on the Kingston Floating Palace. 

Then we also have some great variety acts. Perry Wilson is a very accomplished ventriloquist. The Loranda family does all sorts of acrobatic tricks including a tightrope walk. Captain Dan and Marelda do a magic act. Duke does a dramatic monologue and then there are those dances and duets I have with Gabe. We do aim to entertain.

What do you love most about being on the river?

The river feels like my home. I love to feel the water rolling along under my feet, taking me somewhere new each day. I love watching for birds and animals along the river. The sunlight has a way of glancing off the water and brightening the air. I even love the damp smell of the water, especially after a rain. But I suppose most of all I love being part of the showboat family of actors. 

Can I ask one more question about the unknown of your past you mentioned earlier?

Certainly. Ask whatever you want.

All right. How do you think your own personal life story is going to end? Aren’t you nervous that all those shadows you spoke about earlier might swallow you?

You make it sound so dramatic and a bit dangerous just like one of our plays. I suppose things could happen to make it so, but real life is different than shows. One can’t always know how things might end, but you can always whisper a prayer that you will get through the shadows and find happiness and joy. I want to believe that is how my life story will go.

I certainly hope so as well. Thank you so much for doing this interview, Jacci. Do you have any final comments for us?

I am so honored you wanted to know more about my showboat life. I might add one thing. If you ever hear a calliope playing to let you know a showboat is coming to a landing near you, drop everything, hunt your quarters and dimes, and come enjoy a night of fun with a showboat family.  Maybe it will be mine on the Kingston Floating Palace.

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of many novels,
including When the Meadow Blooms, Along a Storied Trail, An
Appalachian Summer, River to Redemption, These Healing Hills,
and Angel Sister. She and her husband live on a farm a mile from
where she was born in rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the
everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm’s fields and
woods with her grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley.
Learn more at

A Chat With Grace Walker from War-Torn Heart by Allison Wells

Tell us something about where you live: 

  • I live in a tiny South Caroline town you’ve never heard of, but we’ve right at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and we’re very close to Clemson College. 

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

  • When I was born right before the turn of the century, my father named me Grace because he was certain I would be full of it, and because he thought I’d be full of the Lord’s abundant grace. I try to live up to my name.

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

  • I’m a momma to several blessings. I love every minute. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard, it surely us, but our reward is in heaven.

Who are the special people in your life?  

  • My husband, Nathan, and our children – Peter, Abigail, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Jacob, and Gabriel. Oh, and Michael, God rest him. I’m also close to my sisters and our extended family.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?   

  • For my children to grow up knowing the Lord.

What are you most afraid of? 

  • Losing my children. After we lost Michael, I didn’t think I would recover, but God brought my heart through it.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

  • I have a music box that had been my own grandmother’s, brought over from Scotland. I’ll pass it along to Abby, and hopefully on and on. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

  • I won’t even pretend to guess. It’s in God’s hands. But I do hope for grandchildren one day. 

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

  • My story is for the Father to write. He is the creator and perfector.

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

I have tried to raise my children to be strong, resilient, believing people. I think Nathan and I have done a good job. Abby’s a little headstrong, but then, what teenage girl isn’t. I’m sure Eliza and Jake will give me a run for my money, too. They run with the wind, those children.

Allison Wells is a wife, mother, and sweet tea addict. Allison writes in two genres – Christian Women’s FIction and Sweet Romance. She writes what she calls “gritty Christian fiction,” books that show the hard truths of life but ultimately are stories of redemption in the end. Her sweet romances are clean and fun with a dose of laughter (the best medicine). She loves to bring a word of hope to readers worldwide. Her motto is, “Life is short, eat the Oreos.” Visit her website at

Introducing Grace Mockingbird from Cindy Morgan’s The Year of Jubilee

book cover image

My guest today for Novel PASTtimes is an exceptional young lady named Grace Mockingbird. Grace, thank you for agreeing to talk with me today.

You’re welcome.

Wow, Grace, don’t knock me over with enthusiasm (wink wink).

Oh, I’m sorry. I guess the truth is, I don’t always feel comfortable talking about myself.

Well, I think that’s perfectly understandable. Even though the teen years are way back in the rearview mirror for me, I remember it being a tricky time. 

Yes, you can say that again.

(Interviewer pauses for a sip of water… thinking, This is gonna be tougher than I thought.

So Grace, tell me a little bit about yourself—your interests, where you live.

Okay, well, I just turned fourteen. I live in Eastern Kentucky in a place called Jubilee. It’s a coal-mining town, but believe it or not, we have a nice little downtown area with a movie theater, a diner, and some nice shops on Main Street. I like to ride my bike downtown sometimes. As for my interests, I like to read fiction and sometimes poetry. I also like to journal and write poetry. 

Oh, I also love to read, Grace! Something we have in common. And how wonderful that you’re a writer! I know that lots of people who are creative find that writing can be a very therapeutic exercise for dealing with difficult experiences in life. I understand that this has been a tough summer for you and your family?

Yes, a very sad year. We lost my younger brother, Isaac.

I’m so sorry, Grace. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Yes. Sometimes it’s surreal to think that he’s no longer here and that I can’t play with him in the backyard anymore. He had a pet rooster name Rojo that he loved. I can tell Rojo really misses him too. 

How old was Issac when he passed? 

Seven, almost eight. 

So young. (Interviewer pauses and takes a deep breath to calm her emotions) Grace, I practice a tradition of keeping the memories of those we have lost alive by sharing things about them that were special. Would you mind sharing the thing that you remember most about your brother? 

That’s a cool tradition. I think I remember his curiosity the most. He was extremely intelligent. Genius IQ actually. He read constantly. Anything he could get his hands on. He loved to learn. I really miss the conversations we used to have. Even though he was young, he was so wise for his age.

It sounds like you had a very special relationship with him. Thank you for sharing that special memory you have of him. Grace, I also hear that there are some very special things going on in the town of Jubilee that you live in. Could you share some of those things?

Yes, 1963 is a strange time to be living in our part of the world, obviously, with all of the marches that Dr. King has been leading for equality and integration. Many Southerners are not in favor of this. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t really thought very much about it until my English teacher, Miss Adams, challenged me and my other classmates to think outside of the traditions that we have been raised in.

She sounds like a really special teacher. 

She definitely is. She’s very different from the other people in Jubilee. My dad also likes to hear Dr. King speak. My Aunt June loves his preaching. But a lot of people in Jubilee are afraid of the changes that it might bring. 

Yes, people often like for things to stay the same. Grace, I was going to ask you about your last name, it’s very unusual. Can you tell me about its origin?

Yes, Mockingbird is from my dad’s Native American heritage. He’s very proud of it. His dad was Rowdy Mockingbird. He’s kind of infamous in this area. 

Well, with a name like that, I’m not surprised. (Takes another sip of water) Do you have other siblings?

Yes, my sister, Sissy. She’s sixteen and very bossy.

Oh my! I had one of those too. What are her interests?


Ouch! I guess that’s a point for the little sis, eh? Grace, not to return you to a difficult topic, but how are your parents dealing with the loss of your brother?

I mean, that’s a pretty personal question for me to answer on my parents’ behalf, but I guess I think they’re trying to work through all of it the very best that they can. My aunt June says that beautiful things come from suffering. My mom cries a lot. She’s also creating a beautiful garden in his honor. She says she likes to have her hands in the dirt. She says something about it is healing.

Oh yes, I agree with that. 

My dad works a lot. There were so many hospital bills from Isaac’s treatment. Aunt June, she’s the bright spot. She tries to cheer us all up. We love having her around even though she’s a terrible cook.

Oh! Well, I’m not much of a chef myself. Grace, I’m glad Aunt June is there to encourage you. I also had a favorite aunt. Her name is Doris. She also lives in Kentucky.


Any last thoughts about what your family has been through? And speaking of Aunt June and the words of wisdom on beauty coming from suffering she shared with you, can you talk more about that?

Can I have a drink of your water first? My throat is so dry…

Oh, of course! (interviewer slides water glass across to Grace, who drinks every last drop of water)

Thanks! Okay…. I guess when I think about what my family has been through— losing Isaac has forced us to deal with things we had avoided for years. In some strange way it has brought us closer together. I also think it has given us more compassion for other people who are going through difficulties. 

Yes, Grace, if there is ever a silver lining in tragedy, it is that suffering can soften our hearts to be more sensitive to what other people are going through. 

Yes. Before, I only thought about myself, and my own worries and struggles. But now I think it’s easier for me to notice when other people are struggling too.

Grace, I want to thank you for being so transparent today and sharing these very special things with me and with our audience. I have a feeling we will be hearing more from you in the future. You keep reading those good books and writing poems in your journal. Maybe we’ll see one of them in print.

I certainly hope so. 

Thank you again, Grace Mockingbird, for sharing a little part of your journey with us today. 

The Mockingbird family has always lived peacefully in Jubilee, Kentucky, despite the divisions that mark their small town. Until the tense summer of 1963, when their youngest child, Isaac, falls gravely ill. Middle sister Grace, nearly fourteen, is determined to do whatever it takes to save her little brother. With her father and mother away at the hospital, Grace is left under the loving but inexperienced eye of her aunt June, with little to do but wait and worry. Inspired by a young teacher’s mission for change, she begins to flirt with danger—and with a gifted boy named Golden, who just might be the key to saving Isaac’s life. Then the unthinkable happens, and the world as she knows it shifts in ways she never could have imagined. Grace must decide what she believes amid the swirling, conflicting voices of those she loves the most.

 About the Author

Singer/songwriter Cindy Morgan is a two-time Grammy nominee, a thirteen-time Dove winner, and a recipient of the prestigious Songwriter of the Year trophy. An East Tennessee native, her evocative melodies and lyrics have mined the depths of life and love both in her own recording and through songwriting for noteworthy artists around the globe, including Vince Gill, India.Arie, Rascal Flatts, Amy Grant, Sandra McCracken, and Glen Campbell. Cindy is the author of two works of adult nonfiction—the memoir How Could I Ask for More: Stories of Blessings, Battles and Beauty (Worthy Inspired, 2015) and Barefoot on Barbed Wire: A Journey Out of Fear into Freedom (Harvest House Publishers, 2001)—and of the children’s picture book Dance Me, Daddy (ZonderKidz, 2009). The Year of Jubilee is her debut novel. Cindy is a cocreator of the charitable Hymns for Hunger Tour, which has raised awareness and resources for hunger relief organizations across the globe. Cindy has two daughters and splits her time between a small town near Nashville and Holly Springs, North Carolina, with her husband, Jonathan. For more information visit 

Helpful links: 

Cindy’s website

Her Facebook

Her Twitter

Her Instagram

To order The Year of Jubilee

Introducing Lillian from The Swindler’s Daughter by Stephenia H. McGee

Welcome! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Hello everyone! My name is Lillian, and I am the reluctant heroine of the story The Swindler’s Daughter. You see, I always believed my mother to be a widow and my father long dead. Turns out, that isn’t quite the case.

That sounds troubling! What else can you tell us about your story?

I’ve lived my entire life with a mother who wants nothing more than to achieve high-society status. Up until a few days ago, I thought my father had died a long time ago. But then news arrived that my estranged father only recently passed away—in jail. He left a business and all of his possessions to me, but…well, he’s made me a rather unusual heiress.

Then on top of all of that, when I went to take possession of my father’s house in a backwoods Georgia town, the dilapidated structure was already occupied by another woman who claims it was promised to her son! It’s quite the mess.

How has this revelation affected you?

It’s caused quite the topsy-turvy in my life, let me tell you. Mother and I already had a strain on our relationship—what with her wanting to marry me off to the highest bidder and all—and the revelation of my new inheritance hasn’t helped matters.

Now that you are an heiress, will your plans change?

Everything has changed. My father left me little more than a mystery and house without answers. There’s a lot I need to do to settle the estate—a challenge that has become even more difficult since there are other people trying to lay claim to my father’s home. Jonah insists that the house should go to his family, but my father’s will left it to me.

Tell us more about Jonah. Who is he?

He is the stubborn cowboy who has apparently taken it upon himself to make everything more difficult for me. It seems my father’s family prematurely gave the house to Jonah’s mother, and Jonah is determined to make sure his mother and sisters aren’t tossed out. As if I would do such a thing! 

So what are you going to do now?

To discover the truth and take hold of the independence I’ve secretly always dreamed of, I’ll have to figure out the truth about what my father left behind. It’s a mess for certain, but there has to be something good at the end of this tangle of secrets. Right?

We certainly hope so! Thank you for letting us get to know you a little better. One final question to leave our readers with. If there was one thing you could tell someone reading your story, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to reach for your dreams. The best things in life often come on the other side of difficulty. It might be hard to face your calling or take a leap of faith, but it’s a risk worth taking!

Pre-order the novel here:

*40% off paperback preorder with free shipping at Baker Book House:

Christian Book:


Barns & Noble:

Stephenia H. McGee is a multi-published author of stories of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. She lives in Mississippi, where she is a mom of two rambunctious boys, writer, dreamer, and husband spoiler. Her novel The Cedar Key was a 2021 Faith, Hope, and Love Readers’ Choice award winner. A member of the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), she loves all things books and history. Stephenia also loves connecting with readers and can often be found having fun with her Faithful Readers Team on Facebook. For more on books and upcoming events and to connect with Stephenia, visit her at

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