All About Reggie from Rachel McMillian’s Murder at the Flamingo

Flamingo9_8_1Name: Regina Van Buren (but I only get Regina from my mother’s bridge club. I go by Reggie).

Parents: William Van Buren and Patricia Van Buren

Siblings: an older brother who is a stock broker in New York, Richard.

Places lived: New Haven Connecticut, Charlestown/Boston

Jobs: debutante (is this a job? No wonder I ran away), secretary to Luca Valari

Friends: Hamish DeLuca, Nate Reis, Vaughan Vanderlaan ( though I currently would like to throw a glass of chardonnay in his face, we are still friends).

Enemies: every other socialite at my parents’ tea socials who wish Vaughan Vanderlaan was on their arm instead of hers.

Dating, marriage: Vaughan proposed out of nowhere, in front of an entire garden party.  Obviously, I slapped him across the face and then hopped the first milk train run to Boston. Haven’t heard from him since so unsure if we’re still dating.

Children: none

What person do you most admire?  I’d love to have the panache and guts of Myrna Loy. She and William Powell just run headfirst into mystery and mayhem and adventure—and she does it with such style.  But speaking to people of my personal acquaintance, I would have to say Hamish DeLuca.  He has these episodes of nerves, see. Sometimes I think he is even having a heart attack. They can stutter his voice and cause his hand to shake but he is still determined to overcome and to see us to the end of our first amateur sleuthing opportunity. I admire his loyalty to his cousin Luca, too. Even if Luca doesn’t deserve it.

Overall outlook on life: I want adventure! And romance! And dancing! Life is exceptional, isn’t it? All the interesting people you meet and the corners to be turned … and the friends to be had.  Why, just the past Summer I met two new friends—Nate and Hamish.  Hamish of course looks at me in a way Nate never would… but he’s a dear, dear friend. Something in the tingles I feel down to my toes when we dance at the Flamingo make me wonder just how dear a friend…

Do you like yourself? I would rather be inimitable me than anyone else in the world! I mean look at the adventures I am having!  Cannoli every day, an office in the North End, a glistening world of night clubs and enough mystery to keep me jogging in my oxfords around the cobblestoned streets of Boston’s North End during the day.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wish that I didn’t feel guilty about the amount of wealth I had while so many have had nothing. Of course, Roosevelt’s New Deals are going a long way and I mean to start volunteering at Mildred Rue’s Temporary Employment Agency: but I have never known loss or suffering. I wish there wasn’t such a great divide between those who have and those who have not.  I am seeing it more and more as I work in the office for Luca Valari while he gets his Flamingo Club up and running.

How are you viewed by others?  I suppose as another New Haven debutante.  As someone who ought to be more graceful than she is. I feel like a dandelion at the end of a long line of roses.  But I am trying. I know that Hamish thinks me trustworthy and Nate thinks I am smart and Luca thinks I have the taste and class to help him manage before his club’s opening.

Physical appearance:

Eyes: brown

Hair: brown. I try to set it in finger waves carefully but the Boston humidity can wreak havoc on all my efforts. And unlike home when there was always someone to do it for me, it’s gotten harder.

Voice: Hamish says I have a bit of the Brahmin about me. Crisp glass like Clara Bow or Katharine Hepburn.  Alto.

Right- or left-handed? Right.

Characteristics: I have freckles.

When are you happy?  The first bite of Mrs. Leoni’s cannoli, ripping up the dance floor with Hamish.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I like Luca’s suave sophistication and the way he can Clark Gable a room, I like that Hamish has a good heart and a need to see everything right. Not to mention his loyalty to Luca.  I like Nate’s sense of humour.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I don’t trust Luca Valari as far as I can throw him.

Thanks for visiting with us today on PASTimes, Reggie!

Rachel McMillan is a history enthusiast, lifelong bibliophile, and author of the Herringford and Watts series. When not reading (or writing), Rachel can be found at the theater, traveling near and far, and watching far too many British miniseries. Rachel lives in Toronto where she works in educational publishing and is always planning her next trip to Boston. Facebook: RachKMc1; Twitter: @RachKMc; Instagram: RachKMc.

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An interview with Kate Burkholder from Linda Castillo’s A Gathering of Secrets

Thanks to Elise Cooper for conducting this interview!

Editor’s note: While this is a contemporary novel, we are including it here because of the historical background it offers readers.

For those who do not know Kate Burkholder she helped to break the glass ceiling by becoming Chief of Police in a small town whose community consists of Amish and “Englishers.” Some cases she has to solve are more personal than others.  Chief Burkholder has had to deal with her own Amish MeToo Moment, but also wonders if many of the Amish girls have a similar experience.  Kate has spoken many times of her struggles with this peaceful and deeply religious community that at times appears to be conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about. Kate has agreed to open up about her personal and professional experiences.

 

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Elise Cooper: Having left the Amish community are there any parts of you that you consider were influenced by your Amish upbringing?

 

Kate Burkholder: Every part of me was influenced by my Amish upbringing.  Good or bad or somewhere in between, I think that’s true for most of us.  The Amish influence on my life was mostly positive.  I was raised in a very traditional family with a lot of rules (some of which I didn’t follow) and structure.  I was close to my siblings.  As kids, we worked hard, but we played just as hard.  My father was the disciplinarian.  I was close to my mother.  Everything changed in the summer of my fourteenth year, and I never saw my family—or the Amish community—in quite the same light.

 

EC: What do you miss most and least about the Amish? 

 

KB: What I miss most about being Amish is the sense of belonging, of being part of such a close-knit community.  I also miss the closeness I once had with my family.  That said, there are a couple of things about being Amish I didn’t like and ultimately couldn’t live with.  One is that it tends to be a patriarchal society (not always, but generally speaking.)  And one of the Amish tenets is to be compliant and accepting.  I couldn’t always abide.  Even when it came to something as final as death, I would not readily accept it and I would rail against the unfairness of it.  The Amish are also pacifists.  I am not.

 

EC: Do you ever want the approval of the Amish community or your Amish Family? 

 

KB: That need for approval is important to a young Amish person growing up. Your family and the Amish community are the center of your universe.  But I do still find myself craving the approval of my brother, Jacob, and my sister, Sarah.  And then there’s Bishop Troyer, one of the elders who has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember.

 

EC: Do you think having been Amish helps or hurts you as police chief? 

 

KB: Being born and raised Amish in the town of Painters Mill (where one third of the population is Amish) has definitely made me a better and more effective police chief.  I understand the culture, the religion, and I also speak Deitsh, the language. All of those things have gone a long way toward bridging the gap that exists between the Amish community and the “English” government.

 

 

EC: One of those you interviewed, Milo Hershberger, is under the bann.  Can you tell us what that’s like for an Amish person?

 

KB: The bann is the Amish practice of social avoidance.  Basically, when an Amish person breaks the rules set forth by the church district, that person is called out and excluded from the entire community, including his or her family members.  No one will speak with them or associate with them or even take meals with them.  What many non-Amish people don’t realize is that the practice is intended to be redemptive. A way to bring the person back into the fold.  With the family and community being the nucleus of an Amish person’s life, taking away those associations can be devastating.  Most often, if an Amish person wants to get back in the good graces of the community, all he or she must do is confess their sins and follow the rules. Some of the Old Order practice excommunication, which, depending on the offense, can be permanent.

 

EC: Because the Amish are somewhat a “closed society” and keep to themselves, are crimes more difficult to solve? 

 

KB: Sometimes an investigation is much more difficult if it involves the Amish, mainly because of the “tenet of separation” many of the Amish practice. They try to remain separate from the rest of the world.  Sometimes they try to protect their own.  The reluctance of some Amish to come forward makes information hard to come by.  In the course of any case, information is the most important commodity.

 

EC:  You once told me about the Amish rule of forgiveness?

 

KB:  An Amish boy who does something terribly wrong, even raping someone, can get off.  If he confesses before the Church congregation, he is forgiven.  This is why many of the girls do not speak up, some committing suicide, because they knew the boy would have been forgiven and they would be caught up in the stigma.

 

EC: Are you content with your life?

 

KB: I’ve come a long way since the first major case I worked as chief of police in Painters Mill.  I attribute that mostly to my relationship—and love—for BCI agent John Tomasetti.  My love for my small department of officers plays a role, too.  They are my family when my own aren’t there for me.  I would be remiss not to mention my love for the community as a whole—both Amish and “English”—all of those souls who call Painters Mill home.

 

EC: Through the years what has made you stronger?

 

KB: You’ve heard the axiom: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s the way life works and I’m a stronger and a more centered person because of the curve balls life has thrown my way, some in the form of difficult cases and various investigations. On a more personal level, I’ve worked through the trials and tribulations of being formerly Amish and a female chief of police in a small town.  All of that combined has made me a stronger person.

 

THANK YOU!

 

LINDA CASTILLO is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels centering around the Amish community. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and a nomination for the RITA. In addition to writing, Castillo’s other passion is horses. She lives in Texas with her husband.

Linda Castillo_credit Pam Lary 2017 BB copy
photo by Pam Lary 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee Chat with Ariadne from Tessa Afshar’s Thief of Corinth

978-1-4964-2865-3We are sitting down this morning for a latte and chocolate cake with Ariadne of Corinth, who is the main character from the book Thief of Corinth. Ariadne has never tasted coffee or chocolate. How do you like your first taste?

 

Ariadne (swallowing a large mouthful): I am sorry. I am too distracted to conduct an interview. How did we survive in the first century without these delicacies?

 

Interviewer: I feel for you. So you are from the first century. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

 

Ariadne: I was born in Corinth, but when I was eight, my mother divorced my father and took my brothers and me to Athens to live with our grandfather. Like my grandfather, Athens was strict and conservative. Life became intolerable when my grandfather threatened to marry me to a cruel man. So I ran away to join my father in Corinth.

 

Interviewer: We are told you won an award. Could you tell us a little about that?

 

Ariadne: I ran the short race in the Isthmian Games and was declared a champion. The Isthmian Games were similar to the Olympic Games, though they were slightly smaller. In the footraces, men and women competed against one another. (Washes down an enormous mouthful of chocolate cake with a gulp of latte.) I fear I might not have managed that feat if we had this ravishing pastry in my time.

 

Interviewer: Was it common for women to participate in national games?

 

Ariadne: In Corinth where the Isthmian Games were held, there was more tolerance toward female athletes, though it was unusual for women of good families to participate.

 

Interviewer: Speaking of unusual, you open your story by mentioning that you are a thief. Surely that is not a common occupation for women of good family either.

 

Ariadne: That is true. I convinced myself it was the only way I could help my family. It is not a chapter of my life I am proud of. But I admit it was an exciting time.

 

Interviewer: You fell in love in the midst of difficult circumstances.

 

Ariadne: Didn’t one of your famous poets say that “the course of true love never did run smooth?”

 

Interviewer: His name was William Shakespeare.

 

Ariadne: He was a wise man. There were many obstacles in our path that had to be overcome. I confess, some of those obstacles were of my own making.

 

Interviewer: Speaking of wise men, what did you think of the Apostle Paul when you met him?

 

Ariadne: I did not like him. He annoyed me with all his talk of love being patient and kind. My brother Dionysius was very fond of him, which only annoyed me further. (The physician Luke wrote the story of how Paul met my brother in Athens in his famous tome called Acts.) In time, I came to realize that Paul was a brilliant man. I finally understood that I needed the unfailing love of his God more than anything.

 

Interviewer: What did you think of Tessa Afshar, the scribe who wrote down your story?

 

Ariadne (polishing off the cake): She can’t run to save her life, poor thing.

 

Interviewer: Why did you want her to tell your story?

 

Ariadne: I wanted the scribe to talk about the lingering wounds of divorce. My parents’ divorce left a mark in my life that affected me for many years. Because of the divorce, my father was absent from our lives, and my mother grew hard and distant. I tried to fill that void in my life by trying to win affirmation, affection, and admiration.  In spite of all my efforts, I found that love fails; it is imperfect and broken. Paul and my brother Dionysius taught me that the sole solution to all my struggles was God Himself.

 

To read Ariadne’s full story, look for Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar.

TESSA_A_FULL-235-3109650834-OTessa Afshar is the award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction whose work has received the prestigious Christy and Inspy Awards. Her novel, Land of Silence was chosen by Library Journal as one of top five Christian Fiction titles of 2016, and nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in fiction, and chosen by World Magazine as one of four notable books of the year. Tessa was born in the Middle East to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life before moving to England and eventually settling in the United States. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School.

 

Character Interview with Serena Winthrop from Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller.

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Today we have the pleasure of hearing from the protagonist of Carolyn Miller’s new novel!

 

Q: Miss Serena Winthrop, welcome. I’d like to start by asking about your pretty name, Serena, and whether it is a family name passed through generations of Winthrops.

 

A: Thank you. Serena is not a family name as such, but a name my father chose, as he was hopeful it would prove indicative of a calm and temperate character. I believe some might think it well chosen, although those who know me well would likely beg to disagree.

 

Q: Would you mind telling us more about your family?

 

A: I am the younger daughter of Lord and Lady Winthrop. My father, the Baron, died last year, and circumstances led to a distant cousin inheriting the title, which proved quite shocking at the time. Now, however, my mother and sister are reconciled to the situation—and to him. My sister, Catherine, recently married Jonathan, so I am very pleased to have someone so kind and generous as Jon look out for me as an elder brother.

 

Q: I’m so sorry to hear about your father. That must have been extremely trying. Would you mind telling us about where you went to school and your time there?

 

A: I attended Miss Haverstock’s Seminary for Young Ladies in Bath, Somerset. Beyond that, I have nothing more to say.

 

Q: Oh! Well, now that you to graduate from the school room, I imagine you will be embarking upon your first London season soon. Could you please tell us about what you most look forward to?

 

A: While I understand it is the usual thing for young ladies to look forward to such things, I have no great desire to attend balls or dinners or engage in the sorts of flirtations most people seem to think appropriate. In fact, the only thing in which I would take any real pleasure would be a visit to Somerset House for the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art.

 

Q: Yes, I understand you are something of an artist. Would you care to tell us about your interest in this field?

 

A: I loveart. I love to draw, to paint, to see how a scene of beauty or an image in my mind can be translated to the page. I find myself getting lost to all else when I am in the throes of sketching or painting, much to my mother’s chagrin. I like both portraits and landscapes, but I’m afraid I have no patience for still life. I know it can prove helpful for developing my technique, but truly, I cannot take any great pleasure in painting a bowl of fruit. A bowl of fruit? I ask you!

Whilst I have worked mostly with watercolors, I would love to try oils even though some consider it an unladylike thing to do; there is something so rich and vibrant about the colors and textures of oils. And while my art never feels like it reaches that sense of truly being complete, in the process of creating, I imagine it must be a tiny bit like what our Heavenly Father must feel in His creation of the world. Not that I think I am like God, though. Far from it!

 

Q: You sound like you do have faith, though.

 

A: Of course! I might live in Christian England, but I would call myself a Christian, someone who not only believes in God and in His forgiveness of sins through our Savior Jesus Christ, but someone seeking His direction and guidance every day, through reading the Bible and prayer. I certainly am aware that I need God’s help, as my blunt manner of speaking canlead to trouble sometimes.

 

Q: Oh my! I hesitate to enquire, but would you care to share an example?

 

A: I’m afraid I have at times been rather too candid in my assessment of Lord Henry Carmichael’s character. He was dining with my family one time and made one of his usual tiresome remarks which I dared to point out. My mother hushed me to not bother him, and I mighthave said something about his not being bothered by what anyone might say, but rather always feels a sense of superior amusement. I believe my mother despairs at my prospects at ever contracting an eligible match.

 

Q: Forgive me, but were you truly so bold to the most eligible bachelor in England?

 

A: (Sniffs) He might be the heir to the Earl of Bevington, and some might call him charming and handsome, but I mistrust gentlemen of manners too smooth; one never really knows where one stands with such a man. And his reputation as a flirt and a gambler does not impress me one jot.

 

Q: After the gambling debts incurred by your own poor father such a sentiment is understandable. But truly, you do not consider the Bevington estate in Derbyshire something to aspire to? I understand the house and gardens are extremely beautiful, and possess something of a mysterious treasure.

 

A: I have heard the estate is very grand, but I hold no desire to evenseesuch a thing if it means marriage to a man of Lord Carmichael’s character. However, as he is one of my brother-in-law’s best friends, avoidance of him will likely prove impossible. So I shall just have to grit my teeth for Jonathan and Catherine’s sake, and try to remember to practice charity.

 

Q: To love one’s enemy?

 

A: It would be amiss to say Lord Carmichael is my enemy, perhaps better to admit he is merely someone I find intensely irritating. But I am hopeful that I shan’t have much to do with him, and can concentrate on my artwork instead. My dream is to one day have a painting exhibited in the Summer Exhibition, so such a thing demands my full attention.

 

Q: Our best wishes for your artwork, Miss Serena, and for all your future plans. Perhaps in time your mother’s wishes for your matrimonial success will come true.

 

A: Thank you. Though I think such an event unlikely, one must surely possess the promise of hope, mustn’t one?

 

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. E 011 copy 2 square.jpeg

A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Winning Miss Winthrop and Miss Serena’s Secret, all available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong, etc

 

Connect with her:        website | facebook | pinterest | twitter| instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with CeeCee from Karen White’s Dreams of Falling

Thanks to Elise Cooper for providing this interview. You can find more from Elise here.

For those who do not know CeeCee Purnell she is a reflection of her times, growing up during the 1950s and 1960s in the South.  Her life is a plateau, with many ups and downs. Growing up and living in Georgetown, South Carolina, she raises her late friend’s daughter, Ivy, and her daughter, Larkin. CeeCee is grateful that Larkin has returned home after nine self-exiled years to help locate her missing mother, Ivy. Larkin finds out that in 1951 three best friends, Ceecee, Margaret and Bitty have just graduated from high school with all their dreams ahead of them.  CeeCee has agreed to open up about her experiences and what happened during those turbulent years.

It must be bittersweet for you to have your granddaughter returning home, while your daughter, her mom, is trying to survive a horrific accident. It must have brought back memories from 1951 when your life changed forever. Thank you for consenting to this interview because you can be an inspiration as someone who had hard knocks but survived.

 

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NPT: Do you see yourself as a product of the 1950s?

CeeCee:Definitely.  Especially Southern small-town 1950s.  Being the only daughter of a pastor, I was definitely sheltered from the realities of the world outside of Georgetown, South Carolina.

 

NPT: Do you regret going on the road trip after graduating high school?

CeeCee: No.  I wish I could go back and change a few things, but if I hadn’t gone, I never would have met the love of my life, Boyd.

 

NPT: Do you think writing on ribbons and sticking them in a tree is rather nerdy?

CeeCee: I’m not sure what you mean about the word ‘nerdy’?

 

NPT:  A geek?

CeeCee:If you mean fanciful or even a little far-fetched, then yes.  It’s like blowing on a dandelion and making wishes on the seeds—we know it’s not real, but we can’t help but believing there’s a small part of truth in the legend.

 

NPT: Were you, Bitty, and Margaret considered The Three Musketeers?

CeeCee:We were never called that, but I felt that way many times throughout our childhoods together.  We were rarely apart, and believed we really were “all for one, and one for all.”

 

NPT: How would you define friendship?

CeeCee:A good friendship can be defined as loving someone unconditionally—even when things in your own life are sliding into the ocean and all has been stripped away, you can still be loving, giving and kind to your friends.

 

NPT: How did it feel to be a surrogate mother to Margaret’s daughter Ivy and a surrogate grandmother to her daughter Larkin?

CeeCee:I don’t feel as if you need to be related by blood to feel a kinship with someone.  I was raised with two younger brothers, but always felt as if Margaret and Bitty were my blood sisters.  My mother was a wonderful example of how to mother, and I suppose that’s why when I saw two children who needed mothering, it was easy for me to step in.

 

 

NPT: Do you agree with your granddaughter’s friend, Bennett’s attitude about Carrowmore and developers?

CeeCee:Absolutely.  Few people seem to realize anymore that our history lives on in old buildings, and that once they are gone, along with the stories and memories that are contained within their walls, they are gone forever.

 

NPT: Do you wish Bennett and Larkin hooked up?

CeeCee:When, while back in high school?

 

NPT:  Yes?

CeeCee: No. They were friends first.  It’s only when they became adults and Larkin could see Bennett with adult eyes did it make sense for their relationship to move into something deeper.  And neither Larkin nor Bennett are the ‘hooking up’ kind of people—their relationships are meaningful.

 

NPT: Do you think it is good or bad to keep a secret?

CeeCee: It depends on the motive.  If it’s to protect a loved one, then it can be excused and/or forgiven.  If it’s used for subterfuge, or to keep hiding something that might help another person, then no.

 

NPT: Does Bitty still play an important role in your life?

CeeCee:I think it’s natural for people who’ve known each other for so long to get on each other’s nerves sometimes, just as it’s natural for your love to grow to something deeper.  There is something special about someone who’s known you your whole life, knows all your secrets and flaws, yet loves you anyway.

 

NPT: After the accident and Ivy unconscious, was it hard to see her physically there, but unable to communicate with her?

CeeCee:Of course—she’s always been like a daughter to me.  The one thing that got me through those early days was believing she would wake up and be able to answer all the questions we had for her.

 

NPT: Do you think dreams really do come true?

CeeCee:Only when hard work and determination are added to the dreaming!

 

NPT: Who taught Larkin how to shag dance?

CeeCee:I’m thinking probably her mother, or Bennett.  They used to have impromptu dance/ barbecue parties when they lived near each other.

 

NPT: What do you do for fun?

CeeCee:I love to work in my garden and of course I love to bake.  I always make sure I have something in the freezer waiting to be defrosted in case of unexpected company.

 

NPT: What are your interests besides baking and gardening?

CeeCee:I love keeping in touch with my friends and being an active member of my church and community.

 

NPT: Are you content with your life?

CeeCee:Absolutely.  I’m surrounded by family and loved ones.  I’ve had losses, but I’ve also had a great deal of love and blessings in my long life.

 

NPT: If you could put another ribbon in the tree what would it say?

CeeCee:I wish Larkin would stay in Georgetown forever!

 

NPT: Is there anything you want to add, if so please do?

CeeCee:Be kind to one another.  And honest. Those two things alone will guide you through life.

 

NPT:Thank you for your time and insight!

Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty previous books, including The Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between, and a coauthor, with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig, of The Forgotten Room.

Karen White credit Marchet Butler
Karen White credit Marchet Butler

Penelope Howard from Jennifer A. Davids’ A Perfect Weakness

Today we welcome Penelope Howard from Jennifer A. Davids’ A Perfect Weakness

A Perfect Weakness_Front CoverHello Miss Howard. Won’t you tell us a little about yourself?

Of course. I live in the village of Woodley with my brother, Thomas, our housekeeper Hannah Trull and Fanny our maid-of-all-work.

Woodley? Where exactly is that?

In Hampshire, England.

Ah I’ve been to England several times but never Hampshire. I have been to London and enjoyed myself very much. Have you or your bother ever been to London?

Well, yes…but I’m afraid we did not enjoy ourselves as much as you must have. Although perhaps my brother would not agree.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you go there together?

No. No we did not. They were quite separate occasions.

What do you do in Woodley?

I help manage the Home Farm for Ashford Hall as well as visit it’s tenants on behalf of the lord of the Hall. I also help our reverend, Mr. Gregory with a number of church related activities. And then there is my work as a volunteer nurse at our cottage hospital.

You do keep yourself busy.

Yes, it helps…well it helps pass the time.

I see. What is the lord of Ashford Hall like?

Lord Turner has very recently inherited. My brother has been bringing him up to date with everything. Thomas is Ashford Hall’s estate agent. He manages all the Hall’s properties. From what we can tell, Lord Turner is a very good man. An American, actually. He was cousin to my uncle, the late Lord Renshaw.

So you’re related to Lord Turner?

Not exactly. The late Lord Renshaw was our uncle by marriage; my aunt being my mother’s sister. Lord Turner is a cousin to my uncle by blood. Otherwise he could not have inherited the barony.

I’m surprised an American could have inherited at all.

As were we. But the solicitor, Mr. Smith assures us it is legal. Though he cannot sit in the House of Lords unless he renounces his American citizenship. He has surprised me though.

Oh? How?

He is a doctor. Or was. I’m not sure which. He gets so very odd when someone mentions medicine. Tense. We were under the impression that he would be very involved with the cottage hospital but we have lately heard he will not. He says Hall business will keep him busy. But I cannot see how since Thomas is so very good at managing things. It’s as if a great pain keeps him from practicing medicine. But then he served in the recent conflict in America. Perhaps that is why.

The recent conflict? Do you mean the Civil War?

Yes. I believe he was a doctor in the field or something like that. I wish he would tell me what is wrong. I could help, perhaps.

Well thank you for sharing with us Miss Howard. 

 

Jennifer A. Davids is a self-professed book nerd. The shelves of her office are overflowing with books and there are stacks of them by her bedside.Jennifer A Davids When she’s not reading, she’s dreaming up a new story to tell her readers. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband, two children, and two cats.

 

Website: www.jenniferadavids.com

Blog: jenniferadavids.wordpress.com/

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Interview with Keziah Montgomery from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

Today we’re meeting Keziah Montgomery from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson.

engraved on the heart cover photoNovel PASTimes: Thank you for visiting with us today. I love your name! It’s quite unusual.

 

Keziah: It is definitely that. Keziah is a family name, but not many people know it’s also from the Bible.

 

Novel PASTimes: Really? I had no idea!

 

Keziah: Yes. Keziah is one of the three daughters born to Job after he’d endured his time of suffering. It’s a derivative of Cassia and means “a sweet-scented spice”.

 

Novel PASTimes: Interesting. So would you consider yourself sweet? Tell me about yourself.

 

Keziah: Some would call me sweet. Others shy.  I think most people, especially my family, would consider me compliant. My brother Nathaniel and my father have the big personalities in the family. I’ve always been bashful, especially considering my medical condition.

 

Novel PASTimes: If it’s not too intrusive, may I ask what condition you struggle with?

 

Keziah: Epilepsy. Please don’t tell anyone else though. It shames my father and mother terribly. I’m so thankful they’ve not cast me into an asylum like so many others with the same malady. They’ve sternly instructed me not to tell a soul within Savannah’s social elite. Mother fears it will compromise my chances for a good match, though I have little desire for such a thing.

 

Novel PASTimes: Why not?

 

Keziah: There are far greater concerns than finding an eligible suitor. Men—friends, cousins, even my own brother—are fighting on bloody fields to decide the future of the Union. And there are others…men, women and children who are trapped in slavery. Some of them are abused and whipped to ribbons for no reason.

 

Novel PASTimes: Pardon my forwardness, but you sound like an abolitionist.

 

Keziah: (whispers) That’s because I am. I beg you, don’t tell my family. It was my friend Micah who helped me understand the horrors of slavery.

 

Novel PASTimes: I take it your family doesn’t share your beliefs.

 

Keziah: Not in the slightest. They are a staunch Confederate family. If they knew of my involvement, they would disown me.

 

Novel PASTimes: Your involvement with abolitionists, or something more?

 

Keziah: I’ve already said too much. I cannot speak on it further.

 

Novel PASTimes: I’m intrigued.

 

Keziah: You and most of Savannah. My cousin Jennie is rabid to sniff out as many abolitionists as possible and turn them over to the authorities. So you see why discretion is vital.

 

Novel PASTimes: Clearly, you disagree with your family on the issue of slavery. What people have had the most influence on you?

 

Keziah: I’ve always been close to our family’s house servant Hiriam. He’s like a grandfather to me. I so admire his kindness and wisdom. My childhood friend Micah has played a critical role in my life. He’s a physician now and has taught me much about fighting for others’ freedom. He’s the bravest man I know.

 

Novel PASTimes: You sound very fond of him. What is the best advice he’s given you?

 

Keziah: Upon seeing the scarred back of a former slave, I was horrified. I’ll never forget Micah’s words to me. He said, “Let his suffering teach you. Remembering will give you a greater compassion. A deeper love for those trapped in darkness.”

 

Novel PASTtimes: What is one thing you would change about yourself if you could?

 

Keziah: I used to be ashamed of my illness. I thought being ill, broken, if you will,  meant I had no worth. I suppose in many people’s eyes, I don’t. But God has shown me how valuable I am to Him. He gives me my worth. His strength moves in when my failures loom large. That’s a good place to be, because whether I’m muddling through daily thrum of life or fighting for fugitives’ freedom, I cannot boast in my own strength. Any praise goes to God alone.

 

Novel PASTimes: It sounds as if you’ve learned much from your struggles. On a different note, who do you think will win the war? The Yankees or Confederates?

 

Keziah: I have no idea. Both the Union and the Confederacy feel God is on their side. Strange, isn’t it? And I have loved ones fighting for both. For the sake of those trapped in darkness, I pray the Union will prevail. Either way, as long as the Almighty gives me breath, I’ll fight to make my life mean something. I’ll not sit idly by. If you’d seen the fear etched into the thin faces of the runaways, you’d know why I can never go back to the way things used to be. How could I when so many are desperate for one taste of freedom?

Thanks for speaking with us today, Keziah. You seem like a very brave young lady.

tara 2017Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people pleaser.

Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018 and is the first of a three part series set during the Civil War. Follow her at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com.

Twitter: @TaraMinistry

https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/

 

 

 

 

Meet Ruth Ann Sutton from Kelly Goshorn’s A Love Restored

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Thank you for inviting me to Novel Pastimes to share with you a little of my story. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I’m Ruth Ann Sutton from Catoctin Creek, Virginia. I’m twenty years old and the youngest of two daughters born to my parents, Charles and Hannah Sutton. My father died suddenly when I was thirteen and I miss him terribly. I can usually be found wearing the locket he gave me. My older sister, Sarah, was married by my age. She is beautiful and petite—just like mama. I’m quite the opposite. With broad shoulders, round hips and a head full of unruly curls, I haven’t had many suitors.

Sometimes that is for the best, too much heartache. But I understand you are engaged. Would you like to tell us about your fiancé?

 

Oh, my heavens! Where did you hear that? From Tilly Hirst I imagine. That woman is always gossiping. The truth of the matter is I am not engaged—yet. James has not proposed, nor have I indicated that I will agree to such an arrangement. There is an understanding between our families, however, and mama is hoping we will be married within the year.

 

What are your reservations about marrying James? Is he unkind to you?

 

My, you are direct, aren’t you? I think we would get along splendidly if I lived in your century. When I marry, I will be expected “to take my place in society,” which is a fancy way of saying I have to join stodgy organizations like the Women’s Benevolent Aid Society and terminate my teaching position at the Freedman’s School. Married women are not allowed to hold such positions.

 

If you don’t mind me being frank, which I am prone to be, the real reason I’m hesitant is that I believe he’s more interested in my familial connections than me, as a woman. James is the son of a prominent Virginia politician. Although we get along just fine, I find him a bit dull. Mama says I should be grateful for his attention. I’m not sure how long I can postpone our nuptials, but what I want more than anything is for a man to love and accept me as I am—fuller figure and strong opinions included. But I’m not sure such a man exists. Look at me prattling on and I barely know you. If mama were here, she’d remind me that “young ladies should be seen and not heard.”

 

Is there perhaps another man who has caught your eye? If so, was it love at first sight or did he have to grow on you?

 

I did have this chance encounter with Benjamin Coulter at the creek the other day. Although I thought his eyes were a delightful shade of amber, like honey drizzling on a warm biscuit, there was hardly an immediate attraction. His dirty, disheveled appearance startled me (I can’t abide a man with whiskers). He was one of those railroad men mama had warned me about. Concerned he had nefarious intentions, I grabbed a rather large stick and threatened to pummel him if he didn’t keep his distance. One thing led to another and I fell into the creek. It truly was a disastrous first impression.

 

I think I sense a growing interest in this gentleman as opposed to James?

 

You are very perceptive. But mama disapproves because he does not come from a family of means and has “nothing to offer me.” I disagree. He likes to read Jules Verne and he supports my teaching the Negro children. Although he thinks I’m stubborn, he seems to like my feisty personality. Something just comes alive inside when I’m around him.

 

You mentioned you teach at a Freedman’s School. Do your family and friends support you?

 

Although my family has always taken a more liberal view toward Negroes, my pending nuptials are placing a great burden on me to sever myself from the position early. My hesitancy to do so is straining the arrangement mama has made with James and his family.

 

That sounds like a dangerous occupation for a woman in post-Civil War Virginia. Have you had much opposition?

 

At first the community was very supportive of the school and its mission. When the Freedman’s Bureau was unable to find a qualified male teacher I was asked to take the position temporarily.That’s really when the trouble began.I’ve received threatening messages and the school has been vandalized on several occasions. Once I was even accosted outside the mercantile in broad daylight. When Benjamin learned that Silas Hench put his hands on me I thought he would insist I resign. Instead, he organized security patrols to guard the school whenever classes were in session.

 

You sound like a strong woman! Are you happy with yourself?

 

At times, yes. Although mama says my opinionated nature is my biggest fault, I like that I express my thoughts and stand up for what I believe. My fuller-figure, however, has been the source of significant self-doubt and heartache, especially when it comes to suitors. Many unkind things have been spoken to me regarding my appearance. I repeated things to myself over and over again until I no longer saw much of anything to esteem. A Love Restored chronicles my journey to self-acceptance and how I learned to see myself as our heavenly Father does—fuller figure and all.

 

What can the reader learn from your struggle to overcome self-doubt?

 

A Love Restored is not only a story of love, romance, heartache and restoration, but also a story about the power of words over our lives. It is a story about the struggle each of us faces to take our thoughts captive to the truth of Scripture so we may experience the fullness of God’s unequivocal love for us. As Benjamin and I discover, it is only then that we are truly able to give and receive love, unconditionally. Our prayer for you and your lovely readers is that you will not allow the enemy to steal the joy that is rightfully yours as a child of God. Speak the truth of the gospel over yourself every day and ask God to give you His eyes to see yourself as He does. (1 Samuel 16:7b)

Author Bio Pic1_smallKelly Goshorn weaves her affinity for history and her passion for God into uplifting stories of love, faith and family set in nineteenth century America. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Kelly has been enjoying her own happily-ever-after with her husband and best friend, Mike, for 28 years. Together they have raised three children, four cats, two dogs, a turtle, a guinea pig, a gecko, and countless hamsters. Thankfully, not all at the same time. When she is not writing, Kelly enjoys spending time with her young adult children, scrapbooking with friends, board gaming with her husband, and spoiling her Welsh corgi, Levi. Her debut novel, A Love Restored, releases June 29thfrom Pelican Book Group.

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Interview with Mary Coffin Starbuck from Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Minding the Light

Minding the Light-Book Cover

 

Novel Pastimes:

Today we have a very special guest. In her day, this woman was likened to Nantucket’s Deborah, the Judge of the Old Testament. Today’s guest is Mary Coffin Starbuck of Nantucket Island. Mary, like Deborah the Judge, lived during a time when women were not given much respect, yet she managed to rise above and stand apart. Welcome, Mary.

 

Mary: ‘Tis a pleasure to be here.

 

NP: Your last name is quite famous. Are you related to the Starbuck coffee company?

 

Mary: Nay. Tea is my preference, strong tea, like most of my countrymen.

 

NP: Ah, but of course! We’re jumping back in American history quite a few centuries. Mary, would you remind readers what year this is?

 

Mary: The year is 1663, and I live on Nantucket Island. My father draggedmoved us to the island a few years ago, with several other families from the mainland. It was rather a barren place, filled only with Wampanoag Indians who ignored us and generally kept to their side of the island.

 

NP: Why did your father choose to move to Nantucket?

 

Mary: ‘Tis a long and involved story. Suffice to say that my father, Tristram Coffin, left England to seek a better life the colonies. That worked for a while, until the Puritans’ invasive grasp drove him to seek a place where no one could tell him how to live. Hence, we now live on a cold and foggy island thirty miles off the coast, far, far away from the reach of the Puritans. Father seeks Utopia. Oddly enough, in his search, I have found my own version of Utopia.

 

NP: Don’t stop now. Tell us about your Utopia.

 

Mary (blushing): A young man named Nathaniel Starbuck also came to the island with his family. We married not many months ago. Currently, we are living with his family, but I have a hope that we might soon construct a home of our own, closer to my trading store. I do believe his mother has a hope for that, as well.

 

NP: How do you enjoy living with your in-laws?

 

Mary: My father-in-law, Edward Starbuck, is a dear man, though not often at home. He spends much time Christianizing the Wampanoags on the other side of the island. Nathaniel is frequently with the Wampanoags as well, but for different reasons. They are teaching him to capture whales. That leaves much time together with Catherine, my mother-in-law, and Esther, Nathaniel’s youngest sister. Esther is a thorn in my side.

 

We have very different views, Catherine and I. She would prefer that I not continue working at my trading store. Happily, Nathaniel disagrees. ‘Tis not often that he contradicts his mother, but in this case, he has supported my desire.

 

NP: It’s known that your husband was illiterate, yet you are a learned woman.

 

Mary (visibly stiffening her spine): There are many kinds of intelligence. ‘Tis in my husband’s blood to be a seaman. The ocean is his book. He reads it as well I can read any book.

 

NP: Tell us about your trading store.

 

Mary: ‘Tis my greatest joy. Apart from my husband, of course. With the store, I am able to interact with nearly everyone on the island. Everyone is in need of something. My brothers sail back and forth to Cape Cod quite often, so I send along with them items to trade and a long list of things to procure. It is has been quite a successful venture. I have no intention of giving it up, even after this babe is born.

 

NP: We’ve seen pictures of your accounting book. You certainly have a head for math.

 

Mary: Aye, I do!‘Tis nothing. Though I will say that keeping track of trade accounts takes a careful attention to detail. More importantly, the trading store has become the heart and hub of our community. As people come in and warm themselves by the fire, there is time for important conversation. Many tell me their troubles, and I do my best to help them.

 

NP: So what’s this about your journal? And tell us about the secret buried under the oak tree.

 

Mary (smile quickly fades until she is stone-faced): How did you happen upon that knowledge? Did Eleazer Foulger speak to you of this? I feared this very thing!

 

NP: No, no. We read about it in Phoebe’s Light, and more of it in Minding the Light. Can you tell us the end of the story? How do things wrap up in The Light Before Day?

 

Mary (indignant): Nay. Not a word will you get from me. A secret ‘tis a secret. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off and tend to my customers.

 

Suzanne Woods FisherSuzanne Woods Fisheris an award-winning, bestselling author of more than two dozen novels, including Phoebe’s Light,the Amish Beginnings series, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peaceand The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Facebook @SuzanneWoodsFisherAuthor and Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Bonus pictures:

Mary Coffin Starbuck’s Accounting book…credited to Nantucket Historical Association.

All other pix…take by Suzanne

 

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Interview with Adria Starr of River to Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart 

River to Redemption-Book CoverHello, Adria. What a pretty name! Do you know why your parents named you that?

No, I’m sorry I don’t. My parents both died in the 1833 cholera epidemic. Since I was only seven at the time, I didn’t realize my name was a bit unusual. I never asked my mother about it. Her name was Ava and my father Edward. No clues there. My mother wrote some names of her family and my father’s family down in her Bible, but no Adrias. It’s not a Bible name either. Perhaps my mother found it in a book and liked it because it has a melodic sound. I do remember that my mother liked to sing.

That must have been really hard to lose your parents when you were so young. I don’t mean to ask hard questions, but can you tell me what it was like living through a cholera epidemic?

Just the word cholera strikes terror in my heart and it did for the people in our town in 1833. Cholera was an epidemic that year all over the country. Thousands died, but of course, you always hope the disease won’t come to your town. We weren’t that fortunate in Springfield, Kentucky. I was young so I really didn’t know that much about cholera, but I saw the fear on my parents’ faces when they found out someone in town had cholera. They say it’s caused by bad air because of rotting vegetables in the summertime. So everybody tries to get away from the bad air. My mother was packing to escape to the country but then my father was too sick to leave. Before the day was over my little brother became ill and then so did Mama. They all died. I don’t know why I didn’t die too, but Louis said it must be because the Lord had more for me to do here on earth. He found me in my house and took me to the hotel where he and Aunt Tildy took care of me. They were both slaves, but they were so kind to me. I don’t know what would have become of me if not for them. They helped me find a new home with my Aunt Ruth.

You lived with your adopted aunt for many years. What was Ruth like? She must have been strong to take you in without a husband to help her. Women didn’t have many opportunities or rights in 1833.

Women still don’t have many rights here in 1845. We can’t vote. We can’t even stand up in public and express our opinions about how things need to be changed in our country. If we try, we get shouted down. And not only by men but by other women too who think a woman should keep to her place. I say what place is that. I certainly don’t believe allowing a woman to be educated the same as men will make a woman go insane the way some people say. More likely the other way around.

I’m sorry. You have to forgive me. I didn’t intend to get on my soapbox. Aunt Ruth says I have a problem with that. She is every bit a lady. Her husband, who died in the cholera epidemic, was the school teacher. Aunt Ruth took over that job and has taught many Springfield children. She also learned to bake to supplement our income since teaching doesn’t pay that well. When I came of age I took a job at a general store much to my friend, Carlton’s distress. But having a job and drawing a wage does give a woman some freedom of choice. I can only hope that someday women will have the same freedoms to express their opinions and work at various jobs as men do today.

I may get you back on that soapbox, but we want to know how and why you became an abolitionist in a Southern town where slavery is legal and accepted by most people as how things are meant to be.        

Surely you don’t think it is right for a person to own another person. To be able to sell that person like he or she is no more than property. Anybody who examines with an open mind the institution of slavery has to see that everything about it is wrong. Everything. And it is not the way things are meant to be. Aunt Tildy helped me understand that when I was just a child. She deserved freedom. Louis deserves freedom. We all deserve freedom.

Tell us about Louis. I hear he became something of a hero in your town of Spriugfield during the cholera epidemic.

Louis is a wonderful man. Gentle and strong. Committed to the Lord. He found me after my parents died and he and Aunt Tildy took care of me. From the very beginning, I knew he meant nothing but good for me. During the cholera epidemic, he did what no one else could or would do. Even though he was a slave who might have taken advantage of the cholera epidemic to escape to the north and find freedom, instead he stayed to help those who were sick and to bury all those who died. Over fifty people died in 1833 in our little town of Springfield. He dug graves to give each of them a proper burial. He is just a genuinely good man. The safest I have ever felt was when I was a little girl with my hand in his.

He must be quite a man to have been able to do all that. How do you think he did it?

Louis has ever depended on the Lord to help him handle whatever comes his way. He has a deep faith. He taught me the value of praying with the belief the Lord will answer. The Bible does tell us that is true. Ask, and it shall be given to you, seek, and ye shall find. That’s in Matthew 7. Louis says we should listen to the Lord and put our faith in his plan for our lives.

What are your goals in life?

I have such conflicted thoughts at times. I would love to be married to a good man and have a houseful of children. At the same time, I would like to have the freedom to write and speak my opinions the same as men can do. I suppose my goal is to somehow combine those two desires and be a wife and mother while also being an independent woman. Do you think that is even possible?

I do hope so, Adria. For you. On a lighter note, have you ever had any pets?

Yes, I once wanted my own horse. Doesn’t every girl want her own horse? But we had no place or money for a horse. Aunt Ruth was right when she said we could walk everywhere we needed to go. So Aunt Tildy brought me a kitten. He was so sweet. All black except for a spot of white on his neck and a little touch of white on the tip of his tail. I named him Gulliver because Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World was one of the first books Aunt Ruth read to me. I loved those stories. Actually Gulliver turned out to be aptly named because once the cat got older, he took off for travels just like Gulliver in the stories. He did come home on occasion to let me pet him and to catch a few mice out in the shed.

So books helped you and your Aunt Ruth connect. I can almost see the two of you sitting on the couch reading by the light of the oil lamp. Why do you think reading together was so important to the two of you?

We did enjoy our reading times. Aunt Ruth loves books and the poetry of words. She opened up the world beyond our little town to me by sharing her love of reading. Those stories helped get me through the sad times early on when I missed my family so much. I do believe our many hours of reading together cemented the loving relationship Aunt Ruth and I eventually had.

After I learned to read, Aunt Ruth and I would take turns reading to one another. We still do sometimes. It’s wonderful how you can string words together to make a picture in someone’s head. Reading is good any way you do it, but when you read aloud, you can put feeling and music to the words of the writer and make those imagined pictures even better. I can’t imagine my life without books. Or without Aunt Ruth.

Thank you for answering our questions, Adria. We wish you the best as you seek love and independence. 

Ann H. GabhartAnn H. Gabhart is the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, The Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as These Healing Hills, Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, Love Comes Home, Words Spoken True, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series, as A. H. Gabhart. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, and has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home. Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.