Meet Milosz from Beth M. Stephenson’s Expelled

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Question: Are you enjoying growing up in Poland?

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

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

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

Question: Do you go to school?

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

Question: What was your favorite subject in school?

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

Question: What are you doing about your education now?

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

Question: Did you have a favorite?

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

Question: I don’t quite understand. 

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

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

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

Question: Which of you does your mother believe?

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

Question: Does that hurt your feelings?

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

Question: What about Jakub? What are his secrets?

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

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

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

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

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

Question: Do you have a prize possession?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have feelings for Walter? 

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

What do you feel for his children?

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

By finding him the perfect wife?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Shell from The Lapone Sisters by Barry Walker

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

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

So where is your family now?

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

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

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

What causes you to experience anxiety of fear?

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

Is there something you hold especially dear?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook Link: Bungalow Books Publishing | Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical fiction buffs will enjoy this one. Highly recommended.

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

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson,

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

Introducing Julie Morgan from Drawing Outside the Lines by Susan J. Austin

I’m a little surprised you agreed to this interview, Miss Morgan. You have always been reluctant to speak about yourself in public.

That is true. I have always refused interviews. I’ve never sought the limelight. I leave that to others, with egos far greater than mine. However, I think it’s time for me to open that door, even if only a crack. I recognize that by being silent, people may have an inaccurate picture of me, and accuracy matters, don’t you agree? 

Absolutely! Speaking of accuracy, little is known about your early years before you became a legendary architect.  I know you were born in San Francisco, and as a young child your family moved across the bay to Oakland. You attended Oakland public schools before enrolling at the university in Berkeley. What were those years like, growing up in Oakland in the late 1800s’s?

 (JM smiles for the first time, leans back in her chair) Oakland was so beautiful then, and true to its name, oak trees were plentiful, growing in front of houses, on street corners, spreading their green splendor throughout our neighborhoods. Charming Victorian houses lined the streets. Travel was by horse and buggy mostly on dirt roads, as well as on a growing number of paved streets with actual sidewalks which made roller skating so much more fun. The houses in my neighborhood were surrounded by low-set iron or picket fences connecting one to the other. As a child, I preferred the pickets. The narrow wood crossbeams nailed along their backside turned into a raised sidewalk, a perfect fit for small feet. Besides the oaks, there were a few towering Monterey pines that provided another wonderful childhood diversion. A low hanging limb made an easy first step. The rest of the way was like climbing a ladder. I loved being up there, high above the ground. The higher, the better.

Your dream of becoming an architect at a time when the Victorian Era was near its end, must have been challenging? 

Oh my, yes. The expectations for young girls always created problems for me. While I never fit the mold dictated by society, I did manage to avoid drawing too much criticism by staying quiet and respectful. However, there is something you must understand. The realization that I wanted to become an architect developed slowly. I didn’t wake up one morning with a clear picture. It was a gradual unfolding, much like watching a building go up—a little at a time. 

The opportunity to watch the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was one of those pieces. After 14 long years of dangerous and stunning engineering work, it finally opened to the public in 1883. I had been watching it develop from before I could walk. My mother’s parents, my grandparents, lived within walking distance from this engineering marvel. My family made frequent trips from Oakland to the east coast on the transcontinental train. I was there shortly after the grand opening of the bridge. What a thrill! When I first stood on that bridge beside my architect cousin, Pierre LeBrun, I knew that I wanted to create something extraordinary in my life, I just did not yet know how.

And by the way, during those early years of my life in Oakland, the city was in the midst of a building boom, construction everywhere. In fact, my family built its own magnificent home. I followed that project with great enthusiasm.

Oakland High School played a significant role in your life. Can you tell us something about those years and how they influenced your path to architecture? 

My early school years were easy for me. I was always at the top of my class, but survived being teased by staying quiet, almost invisible. Everything changed in high school, mostly because I chose what was called The Science Track, filled with arrogant boys and a sprinkling of girls. That was where I met Miss Mollie Connors, the school’s memorable and influential drafting teacher. And that was also when the boys began to show their true colors. They had little patience for a girl sitting next to them, especially one who had caught Miss Connor’s eye. What a force! She inspired many future architects.

When you enrolled at the University of California, you majored in engineering. What was behind that unusual choice? 

I had no choice. By that time, I knew I wanted to become an architect, but the program had not yet been established. Even so, both my cousin, Pierre LeBrun and Miss Connors supported my decision to major in engineering They rightly believed that it would give me a sound grounding for my future study of architecture. They were right! Many of my buildings stand today of my buildings’ ability to withstanding earthquake and fire.

What was your college experience like?

College at Berkeley was a mix of experiences. I studied hard, dealt with arrogant male students and antagonistic professors, most who believed that a woman’s place was in the home. The smartest thing I did was join the first sorority on campus, Kappa Alpha Theta, which, by the way, we still refer to as a fraternity. Without these smart, caring, energetic women in my life I probably would have spent all four years in the library buried under my pile of books.

Did your parents support you in this dream?

What an interesting question. Yes and no. The truth is, while my mother was proud of my achievements throughout my lifetime, during those high school years she was deeply worried about how my ambition could disrupt my path to happiness. Most girls and their parents in well-off families had but one dream. To ‘come out’ as a debutante, to be courted by attentive young men, to select one as a mate, and to live happily ever after as a wife and mother. By the time I became of age, I knew my dream was to become an architect. I also knew that having both marriage and a career would never be possible. But of course, I did not use that argument with my mother. Instead, I convinced her to focus her energies on my younger sister, Emma, who was known in the family as the ‘beauty’ while I was considered to be ‘the brain.’  Needless to say, although Mama was devasted, in the end she permitted me following my dream. 

Papa, on the other hand, supported me from the beginning. He and I would frequently visit the construction site of our new home, and he even escorted me to San Francisco to purchase my drafting equipment for high school. I believe he had some experience with deferring dreams. 

You succeeded in achieving the dreams of your youth. Your path was challenging as well as rewarding. As you look back to those early days, what essential elements helped you most?

Two personal attributes paved my way from the beginning—courage and persistence,. These characteristics will always play an important role in achieving one’s dreams, which has been especially true for women.  

As an educator, Susan J. Austin knows the minds of young readers. Her first novel, The Bamboo Garden, is set in Berkeley, California, 1923, and describes an unlikely friendship between two girls that is tested by a fierce fire that threatens to destroy their town. Currently, she is writing about twelve-year-old Goldie, a whiz kid in the kitchen who hopes that her culinary magic can help her family’s delicatessen out of a pickle in 1928 Hollywood. Her characters are always brave, strong willed risk-takers. Writing historical fiction offers her a way to educate and excite her readers about the past. She and her husband live in Northern California, surrounded by family, their splendid but fussy rose bushes, and a lifetime collection of books. Learn more at

Meet Vivienne Mourdant from Joanna Davidson Politano’s The Lost Melody

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Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Miss Mourdant. Won’t you tell us a little about your performance background?

Of course. I’ve played classical pianoforte since I could stand, learning from my father. I wouldn’t know what it was like to have a day—an hour, even—without music. I rehearse and perform so much that when I lift my hands from the keys, I still hear music playing. I feel the tremble of a beat, I think in terms of measures and tempos. Of rising and falling melody lines.

So is it true that you hear music when none is playing?

Yes, I suppose I’d claim that. But it’s not so much a recognizable composition out of thin air, but a symphony of everyday sounds. My brain is so accustomed to measuring seconds by beats and making patterns out of notes that it naturally filters everything about me into an orderly rhythm that becomes a sort of song. The world sings, and I hear music.

But I suppose you’re talking about the song. The one I used to hear at night as a child. Quite a lovely piece, with the rhythmic calm of Mozart yet the more robust and textured style of Liszt as well. I’ve heard it off and on throughout the years, and even though no one else admits to it, I’d be willing to wager they’ve heard it too. There’s just something enchantingly spooky about the song. Its minor trills, the other-worldly cadence of it… Call it a dream. Call me crazy. I know I’ve heard it, and it has something to do with that woman.

We’ve heard you spent time at a local asylum, possibly as a patient. Is there truth to this?
Vivienne: Very true, but it wasn’t because of hearing that song. Well, not only that. I entered Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum voluntarily—as an aid. Between you and I, though, the aid position was merely a ruse. You see, I inherited the guardianship of a mysterious woman who, as it turns out, was a patient at Hurstwell. At least, I think so. No one would give me straight answers about her, so I had to see for myself. And I did find out the truth, and I managed to find a bit of music in that creepy old place.

So being a professionally trained classic musician, why did you take work as an aid in the asylum? What good is your profession there?

More than you could imagine, actually. There’s a natural rhythm at the very core of our created bodies—a steady beat in our chest that starts before we’re even born. And music offers an irresistible invitation to engage with it—despite melancholia tugging one down, madness wrapping itself around your mind or age eating away at your memories. No medicine or treatment can reach the places a familiar song can go, sneaking life back into dying bodies and broken hearts. It’s far more than a spa for the senses, though, believe me. There’s a science to it—the way our bodies, our minds, respond to music, almost against our wills, and imagine what might happen if we allowed ourselves to explore the possibilities. A therapy of music—just imagine.

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady
Jayne Disappears, A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, The
Love Note, and A Midnight Dance. She loves tales that capture the
colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear
anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their children in a
house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her online at

Meet Cassie Barton from Tracie Peterson’s Under the Starry Skies

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My name is Cassandra Barton, but people just call me Cassie.  I live in San Marcial, New Mexico which is on the Rio Grande River.  It’s a hub for the Santa Fe Railroad beings it’s about half way between Topeka and Los Angeles.  I work as a seamstress with the bulk of my work coming in from the railroad men.  I like this kind of work because I am my own boss and can do as much or as little work as I need to do. This turns out to be a very good thing because right off the bat, I break my wrist in a little accident and can’t sew for six weeks.

Brandon Dubarko makes sure I don’t suffer too much. He was a good friend and co-worker of my father’s. He works for the Santa Fe Railroad (just like my father). Brandon is soft-spoken and a deep thinker.  He’s got a world of sorrows to deal with, but he never talks about it. I’m not at all sure what’s weighing him down. I know he really misses my father…and so do I. 

My father died earlier this year when his train derailed. Brandon thinks there was foul play and that someone actually caused the derailment, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  Trains have accidents all the time and it doesn’t take much to derail a train. But, if someone did cause the derailment, then they murdered my father and his fireman.

My father and I were really close, especially after Mother died and my sister Melissa moved to Denver. My deepest desire is that Melissa and I can be close again. After she moved off and married, we aren’t nearly as close as we used to be.  Of course, now she’s a mother and that is bound to take up a lot of her time. 

My future, once my wrist mends, is questionable. A part of me wants to stick around San Marcial, but another part thinks about going to Denver to be closer to Melissa. Of course, at my age (32) I would like to think there was still a chance for romance, but I’m not sure that’s true. It would be a dream come true however, if someone decided I was worth loving.  There was one man…a long time ago.  We were in love and planned to marry, but then my mother died and I needed to care for Melissa.  I don’t know but that it might have been my only chance for love.

I’ve always felt I had to be strong for my family, but now that Mother and Father are dead and Melissa’s married, it’s just me and I’m not real sure what I’m going to do. I know that God has a plan for me, however.  I’ve put my trust in Him since I was little, and I’m not about to stop now. My relationship with the Lord is the thing I value most in life.  He will always see me through.

Award-winning novelist, Tracie Peterson, has been praised for
her captivating historical fiction novels. While each novel weaves
a different tale, Peterson packs her signature elements of history,
action, and romance into each work while also offering
underlying life lessons. In her newest novel, Under the Starry Skies,
Peterson crafts a story about facing your past and learning to
forgive others and yourself.

Meet Nora Fenton from Stephenia H. McGee’s The Secrets of Emberwild

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

Hello and thank you for having me. I am Miss Nora Fenton, of Emberwild Horse Farm. 

Tell us something about where you live.

I live on the most beautiful farm in Mississippi. In the early mornings, when the sun first kisses the sky, the pastures stretch out in waves of green that beg for exploration. On those mornings, my colt Arrow and I get to be free. The pressures of life slip away as we soar, his hooves barely touching the ground. 

Do you have an occupation? 

I am a horse trainer. Now, before you point out that women are to keep to skirts and the kitchen, let me inform you that I am quite adept at my work. No matter what my father, uncle, or that sour stable master Roger has to say about it. 

I have been working with Arrow for his entire life, and he is the fastest colt I’ve ever seen. I’ll be training him for the harness this summer, and come time for the Neshoba County Fair, he will be ready to race. The hope of Emberwild rests on his back, but I know he won’t let us down.

You mentioned you’re training him to harness race. Can you tell us a little about that?

We raise trotting horses here at Emberwild. For a harness race, the horses are hooked up to a small cart called a sulky. The jockey sits in a single seat on the axel above two wheels with his feet propped on the rails. They are very light. The horses race at a trot. All trotters have to complete a time trial around the track in under two and a half minutes in order to make the breed registry.

I see here that there is a new trainer at Emberwild. How do you feel about that?

Mr. Silas Cavallero, yes. He is quite unneeded, I assure you. I am capable of handling Arrow on my own. Though I do have to admit, he’s quite unlike any of the other men who have tried to get Arrow under control. Arrow seems to like him. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Will you be racing Arrow at the fair this year?

For some unfathomable reason, women jockeys are frowned upon. But, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? 

Other than Arrow’s race, what other plans does Emberwild have for the future?

My father is very ill, and I’m afraid Mother and I will have to start thinking of our future without him. I’m confident that we will be able to run the farm on our own. Widows can own property, after all. I see no reason why we can’t continue on as two independent women. Once Arrow completes his runs, the buyers will flock to Emberwild to secure breeding rights and purchase our foals. 

We are so sorry to hear about your father, Miss Fenton. We wish you the best. One more question. Did you name your colt? Why Arrow?

I was there when Arrow was born. I shouldn’t have been, of course, and Mother was most displeased. Soon after he was born, he stood up on these long, spindly legs with the tiniest hooves. I told him he looked like he was trying to hold himself up on four little arrows. As he got older, I realized how perfectly the name fit. Not only does he have long, straight cannon bones, but Arrow can truly fly. You really should come watch him run. There’s nothing better.

That would be delightful. That’s all the time we have for today, Miss Fenton. Thank you for allowing us to get know you a little better!

My pleasure, truly. I must and get back inside and out of these men’s trousers before Mother sees me. Feel free to come visit Emberwild any time!

Stephenia H. McGee is the award-winning author of many stories
of faith, hope, and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not
reading or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a writer,
dreamer, husband spoiler, and busy mom of two rambunctious boys.
Learn more at

Interview with Julia Schultz from A Gem of Truth – by Kimberley Woodhouse

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

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Tell us something about where you live.

I just moved to the Grand Canyon, and I think it’s the most beautiful place on earth. There’s so much to explore here, I think I could spend a lifetime hiking around and not see the entire thing.

Where did you grow up?

Mostly Texas.

Texas is a large state… I’ve been through Dallas. What was your favorite part of growing up there?

There were a lot of cattle. There’s not a lot of cattle here. Some people think of the Grand Canyon as dry and desert like, but there’s so much life and beauty here. I like this much more than Texas.

I can tell you really love your new location. What brought you there?

I’ve been a Harvey Girl for a while now and have always wanted to work at the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. You could say it’s been a dream of mine. When I received word of my transfer, I was ecstatic.

Sounds like a dream come true. But isn’t it difficult to start over again in a new place?

Not as hard as you might think. I actually am enjoying this fresh start. New people, new job. I might even be up for a promotion which is very exciting.

That is very exciting. You must have a lot of experience as a Harvey Girl.

I do. I’ve met some of the most fascinating people doing what I do.

Tell us about someone fascinating that you’ve met. 

Oh, there’s so many! But I did meet the richest man in the world. 

You don’t say. You’ve met Mr. Rockefeller?

Yes! And he gave me this coin. It’s actually a wonderful story… but… I should save that for another time.

All right. Who are the special people in your life? You must miss them a lot.

My parents have been gone for a while. So it’s just me. 

Do you hope to meet someone special someday?

By the twinkle in your eye, I can see that you are quite the romantic. Like the other girls, I’m always hopeful. But I’m content to relish all the interesting people I meet until then. In fact, the other day, I met a man named Chris—he’s a jeweler by trade. I’ve also met some of the Hopi people. They are incredibly talented and showcase their skills and wares at the Hopi House. 

I’ve wanted to visit the Hopi House, I hear it’s very unique.

It was designed by a woman. Did you know that? Ms. Mary Colter. Another amazing story.

You do have so many interesting stories, don’t you? For my last question, I’m sure our readers would like to know if you have any dreams for the future?

There are so many! But I really want to find people who care about me for me. People have always been fascinated with my stories, but I wish they would find me fascinating. I long to be somebody. I don’t know how I’ll accomplish that, but I can always dream. 

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

Kimberley Woodhouse has won multiple awards for her
historical novels, which are filled with adventure and romance.
In A Gem of Truth, book two in the SECRETS OF THE CANYON
series, Woodhouse plunges readers deep into the recesses of the
Grand Canyon in search of a legendary treasure. Themes of
honesty, love, and one’s worth regardless of their past are
intricately woven together in this captivating historical narrative.