Meet Richard Stevens from Kathleen Denly’s Sing in the Sunlight

After hearing several interesting rumors about Richard Stevens, I decided to track him down for a few answers. I found him on Montgomery Street.

Good afternoon, Mr. Stevens. I was wondering if I might have a moment of your time to ask a few questions on behalf of our Novel PASTimes readers. 

I was just about to dine at this restaurant. If you don’t mind joining me, I’m happy to answer your questions. Although, I can’t imagine why your readers would be interested in me.

I followed Mr. Stevens into the restaurant and we were seated at a long table beside several other hungry men. It was a bit noisy, but I managed to speak above the din as we waited for our food.

Well, to begin, someone informed me that you have a connection to one of our previous interviewees—a Miss Eliza Brooks. Is that so?

She’s Mrs. Clarke now, but my connection isn’t so much with her as with her husband. We grew up together in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Did the two of you come to California together? 

No, he came years before I did. Do you mind if I pray before we eat?

Of course not. Go right ahead. 

Richard bowed his head to silently pray before nodding that I could continue.  

I’ve heard rumors of scandals involving your family back east. Something about your father’s drunken temper and your mother falling down a flight of stairs. 

Who told you that? 

It’s true then? Did you come west to get away from your father?

Listen, I agreed to answer your questions about me. Leave my family out of it or this interview is through.

Of course, my apologies. I was just trying to establish your reason for coming to California.

I escorted my sister here, but before you ask, I’m not going to talk about why she came. I stayed because of the opportunities available to me here that I couldn’t find back east. The people here, the life…it’s very different from the parlor visits and society dinners I grew up with. I know I can make a difference here, but…

Stevens’s words trailed off as our food arrived. Once the waiter had gone, I encouraged him to continue.

But what?

Forget it. What’s your next question?

I understand you’re now the owner of the Prosperity Mine in Nevada City. Can you tell me how that came to be?

There was an accident last year that took the previous owner’s son. Mr. Pollack and his wife decided to move back east and sold me the mine. 

Why you? Certainly there were others able to offer a better price for such a valuable enterprise. If you’d been working for them you couldn’t have saved up that much money. Unless you have family money…?

That wasn’t it. Mr. Pollack didn’t trust another investor not to cut corners. He was a good man who cared about the men that worked for him. He knew that, having worked there for two years, I knew what changes were needed to see that another accident didn’t happen. He trusted me to get it done.

That says a lot about you. Tell me, is it true you’ve hired a female as your secretary?

Yes. I encountered Miss Bennetti on a trip to San Francisco a few months ago. She was in need of a job and I was in need of a secretary. She has proven herself to be an excellent employee. I couldn’t be more pleased with her work. 

There are several who think you hired her with ulterior motives. Your miners claim they aren’t allowed to even speak to her because you’re planning to propose marriage to her.

When did you speak with my men? Forget it. Wherever you heard that nonsense, it simply isn’t true. My relationship with Miss Bennetti is strictly professional. In fact, I’ve recently learned she’s formed an attachment with…well, I’d better not say. I’m not sure they’ve made their announcement yet. 

Hmm. If not your secretary, perhaps you’re romantic interests lay with this Miss Johnson you’ve been searching for? I hear you’ve been knocking on doors all over the city. 

I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed again. I’m looking for Fletcher Johnson—a man. 

Hmm. Just a moment while I check my notes. Ah, yes, my apologies. It’s a Mr. Johnson and a Miss Humphrey whom you’ve been asking about. Is she the one—?

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, but I thought you were going to ask questions about me, maybe about the mine or…I don’t know, what. But so far you’ve insulted my family and continued to poke your nose into topics that are none of your business. I think this interview is through. 

But you didn’t answer—

My food’s getting cold. 

I tried several more times to get Mr. Stevens talking again, but he just kept eating in silence. When he was through, he smiled politely, thanked me for my company, and took his leave.


Kathleen Denly writes historical romance stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com.

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A Conversation with Dorothy Clark from Amanda Cabot’s Dreams Rekindled

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

DOROTHY: Thanks for inviting me. Others, including my sister-in-law Evelyn, have told me how much fun it is to chat with you.

NOVEL PASTIMES: She had quite a story. When I talked to her, she and Polly were living in the apartment you now call home. I was surprised when I learned that you’re living there alone. 

DOROTHY: You’re not the only one who was surprised. My mother wasn’t thrilled by the idea of my leaving the ranch and moving into the apartment, but with Evelyn and Wyatt gone, someone had to keep the restaurant running. Oh, I see the questions in your eyes. You know that Evelyn’s the owner of the restaurant, but you may not know that she recently married my brother Wyatt and that they’re in East Texas taking care of some business.

NOVEL PASTIMES: I hadn’t heard that congratulations were in order, but I’m not too surprised. When Evelyn and I talked, I thought there was a special man in her life. But back to you. You must be a wonderful cook if Evelyn left you in charge of her restaurant. 

DOROTHY: You’ve obviously never tasted my cooking. Fortunately, my best friend Laura is an accomplished chef. I just help her. 

NOVEL PASTIMES: If cooking isn’t your passion, what is? 

DOROTHY: Writing. I don’t know whether you’ve read Uncle Tom’s Cabin – after all, it’s banned here in the South – but more than anything, I want to write something that will change people’s lives the way Mrs. Stowe’s book did.

NOVEL PASTIMES: That’s certainly a worthy goal. Why haven’t you done it?

DOROTHY: I could say it’s because I’ve been too busy, but the truth is, I haven’t had a single idea that’s important enough to be turned into a book. The only writing I’ve done was an article to help my brother publicize his first horse sale.

NOVEL PASTIMES: That sounds interesting. Did it bring more people to Mesquite Springs?

DOROTHY: It did.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Then maybe you should write more articles.

DOROTHY: Are you a mind reader? I’ve been thinking about that ever since Brandon Holloway came to town. Laura’s convinced he’s the man she’s going to marry, but what attracts me is the fact that he’s starting a newspaper here.

NOVEL PASTIMES: So you don’t find him attractive?

DOROTHY: I didn’t say that. Brandon’s handsome, but more than that, he’s kind and thoughtful and doing something important. Mesquite Springs needed a newspaper, and he’s giving us one.

NOVEL PASTIMES: That makes him sound like the perfect man for you. Would you consider marrying him if Laura weren’t interested in him?

DOROTHY: No! I won’t ever marry.

NOVEL PASTIMES: Oh, Dorothy. You surprised me before, but now you’ve shocked me. I can see you believe it, but I don’t understand. Why won’t you marry?

DOROTHY: I can’t.

NOVEL PASTIMES: You can’t? Why would you believe you can’t marry?

DOROTHY: It’s more than believing. I know I can’t. Please don’t ask me to say anything more, because it’s not something I talk about to anyone, not even my family. 

NOVEL PASTIMES: And nothing would change your mind?

DOROTHY: No. It’s too great a risk.

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of Out of the Embers, as well as the Cimarron
Creek Trilogy and the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and Westward Winds series.
Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and
the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at www.amandacabot.com.

Interview with Johanna Suhre from Heidi Chiavaroli’s The Orchard House

Novel PASTimes: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Johanna. I see you are acquainted with great literary genius Louisa May Alcott. That sounds fascinating!

Johanna: Yes, I’ve been privileged to know Louisa for several years now. Though it was only recently she has become so well-known to so many.

Novel PASTimes: Would you mind telling us the story of how you met?

Johanna: Oh, certainly. You see Louisa nursed my brother after he was injured at Fredericksburg. God rest his soul, dear John was the light of my life and it seems, for a moment in time while Louisa nursed him, he was the light of hers too. She was the one who wrote out John’s last words to us, along with sending on his ring. I’ve read that letter over and over again, as has Mother.

Novel PASTimes: I can’t imagine your heartbreak. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Johanna: Thank you. We miss John terribly, but we are so very proud of him. Even in the depths of his suffering, his wisdom and loving spirit were evident. Louisa called him her “Prince of Patients” and wrote honestly of him in her memoir Hospital Sketches. I have no doubt she was a comfort to him in that time. 

Novel PASTimes: It sounds as if she cared for him greatly.

Johanna: Yes, she did. John lives on, though. He is a part of so many, including the characters Louisa writes.

Novel PASTimes: I understand you traveled to Concord to work for Louisa?

Johanna: Yes, I was ready for my own adventure. In Louisa’s words, “change of scene is sometimes salvation for women who outgrow the place they are born in,” and I felt change of scene was precisely what I needed, especially with both Father and John gone.

Novel PASTimes: And now that you have been in Concord for some time, are you happy with your decision?

Johanna: Oh yes! Especially since meeting Nathan. We are planning to be married very soon. If only . . . well, never mind all that.

Novel PASTimes: You are among friends here, Johanna. Feel free to share your thoughts. Do you have some hesitation about coming to Concord?

Johanna: About coming to Concord? Most certainly not. It is a beautiful place full of Revolutionary history, a birthplace of literature and art. It stirs an inspiration within me to create my own poems, which I’ve greatly enjoyed and which Louisa has encouraged me in, busy as she is with her own writing. She has become a great friend. I only wish she could see Nathan as I do.

Novel PASTimes: Miss Alcott does not care for your husband-to-be, then?

Johanna: They have some . . . history between them. But don’t we all? Nathan can be a bit passionate about his work, and when it is met with Louisa’s verve . . . well, the two don’t always see eye to eye, is all. Nathan has many a good side. He truly does. We all get angry at one time or another, but real love bears with the ugly. I firmly believe that. Louisa is strong in her ways, and I will be strong in mine by loving unconditionally the man who loves me, in spite of his faults.

Novel PASTimes: You seem determined then, Johanna. We wish you the very best. Thank you so much for spending some time with us and we look forward to reading more of your story in The Orchard House!


Heidi Chiavaroli (pronounced shev-uh-roli . . . sort of like Chevrolet and raviolimushed together) wrote her first story in third grade, titled I’d Cross the Desert for Milk. It wasn’t until years later that she revisited writing, using her two small boys’ nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Despite a long road to publication, she hasn’t stopped writing since!

Heidi writes women’s fiction, combining her love of history and literature to write split-time stories. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Heidi loves exploring places that whisper of historical secrets, especially with her family. She loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her husband. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. Visit her online at heidichiavaroli.com.

Book Review: A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

Feb. 2, 2021, Revell, Paperback, 352 pages.

First of all, can we just agree that this is a gorgeous cover! This historical romance takes place in 1921 when Moira Doherty moves from Boston to her deceased mother’s hometown in County Donegal to take the job of village teacher. There is a secret about her mother that Moira doesn’t figure out until the end. The story explores the theme of trusting God in the face of adversity even when you’d rather run the other way. A strong concept worth exploring.

I liked this book. What I loved most was the depiction of Ireland. The author lived there for several years and described the dialect, the people, the landscape so much more accurately and vividly than many other books set in Ireland I’ve read.

I thought the romance between Moira and Sean was sweet and genuine and the ending satisfying. Midway through the story slowed down a bit for me and there were some plot aspects that either didn’t make sense to me or seemed somewhat forced. That being said, read A Dance in Donegal if you’re eager for a pleasant trip to Ireland, a sweet romance, and an inspiring and satisfying ending.

A note if you don’t normally read Christian fiction: This story has a lot of scripture, characters reading the Bible, and inter dialogue about trusting God. I’m fine with that, but if you’re sensitive to it you should understand that it’s meant for readers of Christian fiction.

Novel PASTimes received an Advanced Copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest, unbiased review with no obligation.

Meet Moira and her Friends from A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

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

Moira, you recently moved to Ireland after your mother passed away. Why did you move there?

Thanks for having me! I had always dreamed of seeing my mother’s home country of Ireland. She used to tell me all about the céilí dances they would have in the town hall. I loved to hear about all the crazy people from her village, and the antics they would get into. But, I never expected to go live there.

However, when Mother died, I started to sense God leading me there. Mother, in fact, had implored me to go just before she passed. I didn’t want to go so far away all by myself, but the more I fought it, the clearer it became that I was meant to go there. 

There seems to be a theme of dance running through your story. Why is that?

I’ve always loved to dance. My favorites were the old style céilí dances our community used to do a few times a year back home in Boston. I used to imagine I was back in the halla of Mother’s village in Ireland as I swirled around the dance floor, and dream of one day visiting there. I had no idea just how much of her hometown I would end up getting to experience.

But, also, I find that a life of faith is much like a dance—with a rhythm and flow all its own. And we can fight the music so we can lead our own way…or we can listen to the One who created the dance—steps, music, and all—and let Him lead us in something more beautiful and joy-filled than we could ever do on our own.

Your mother put your name forward to replace the old school teacher. Why did you decide to go into teaching?

Oh, I just adore children. And I’m highly curious by nature, so education was a natural fit for me. Now that I think of it, Mother used to speak so highly of her childhood teacher in Ireland, Mrs. McGinley, I’m sure that influenced me as well.

You see, there’s truly nothing like that moment when everything falls into place for a student who has been struggling with a certain concept. When they’ve worked so hard, and fought for understanding, to see it all finally make sense is the most wonderful feeling in the world. There’s nothing like it!

So, you moved almost halfway around the world to a new country, a new job, a new culture. How did you combat the loneliness of being so far from home?

Oh goodness, that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done! In truth, it was so painfully lonely at times that it almost brought physical pain! But, God, in His kindness, brought me good friends.

Bríd, who runs the Guest House where I stayed my first days in town, became one of my closest friends. Her companionship, cultural insight, and—let’s be honest, her tea—was a balm to my grieving, homesick heart. She understood the loss of my mother, and seemed to understand my cultural struggles before I did.

Then, you look at Colm and Peg, and…well…of course, Sean. With a group of friends around you like that, anyone would be hard-pressed to fail.

Yes, it seems Colm and Peg, you played a big role in the adventures Moira ends up taking. How did you meet Moira, and what possessed you to take her in the way you did?

Ah now, ‘tis easy to see Moira’s a lovely lass, so ‘twasn’t difficult to “take her in,” as ye say.

We met through Sean here, my apprentice. Our wee village was hit by a rather nasty gale, and poor Moira’s chalet took some damage. Sean brought me over to help him with the repairs. Moira had a spread o’ tea and cakes set when we arrived, and that was it. I was smitten.

To be fair, though, once the missus and me got to know Moira, we could see she was special. The Laird gave her some mighty tricky tasks, and we wanted to be there to help and support her in any way we could.

Well, she seems very lucky to have friends like you. Sean, you introduced the Colm and Peg to Moira. How did the two of you meet?

Me and Moira? Ah, well…we, ah, bumped into each other a few times afore we were properly introduced. But, I used to help auld Mrs. McGinley at the school, so I wanted to make sure the new teacher was up to the task.

The moment I clapped eyes on Moira in that schoolroom, I could tell she was where she was meant to be. She looked at that space as if ‘twas her own sanctuary. I was drawn to her respect for the profession, and her compassion for the wee ones. But that doesna mean I wasn’t goin’ to give her a bit o’ jest along the way.

Well, thank you all very much for joining us today! Moira, is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Just that Donegal is truly an enchanting place, boasting some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in all of Ireland—and home to the most boisterous, beautiful, artistic, warm and loving people on earth.

There truly is nothing and no place like Donegal.

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

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on
(in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others. With
firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine
home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of
living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their
three children. You can find her online at www.thisgalsjourney.com.

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Hardcover | $26.00
Published by Berkley
Feb 02, 2021 | 384 Pages | 6 x 9 | ISBN 9780451492180

Set in 1906 during the great San Fransisco earthquake, this new novel by Susan Meissner follows Irish immigrant Sophie Whalen who chose to leave poverty in New York City to become a mail order bride for widower Martin Hocking and his young daughter. But make no mistake. This is not your traditional mail order bride story. This is a mystery to be solved with characters to sort out. Nothing is as it first seems.

Before the earthquake Sophie learns about Martin’s secrets and is forced to make a decision to save the daughter Kat she’s become so fond of. The daughter doesn’t belong to her, however, and the events that unfold deliver twists and turns that made this book extremely hard to put down. The ending wasn’t predictable but like Meissner’s other stories, was satisfying and redemptive. Perhaps more so than in her previous stories, this main character pushes the fringes of good moral behavior, but her motivations gradually become clear, making Sophie a real, raw, character readers will root for.

The historical details are so vivid and detailed that readers will be swept into the story much like watching a film unfold on a big screen. When I read the ending all I could say was, “Wow!” Highly recommended.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions in this review are mine alone.

Cindy Thomson, http://www.cindyswriting.com

Introducing Evelyn Brand from Sarah Sundin’s When Twilight Breaks

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! The job of a foreign correspondent is to report the news, not create it, but girl reporter Evelyn Brand is known for not following the rules. Today, Miss Brand is here to tell us about her shocking adventures in Hitler’s Germany, to be revealed in her much-anticipated book, coming in early 1939. Miss Brand, please tell the curious readers of Novel PASTimes how you came to be a correspondent in Germany.

Thank you for this interview. After I graduated from college, I did my stint at a copy desk at a major newspaper in New York City. Since I’ve always loved travel and adventure, I leapt at an opportunity to report in Paris with the American News Service. After two years, I was transferred to Germany.

There’s a story floating around among the correspondents about an incident in Paris. Would you care to elaborate?

That story will follow me forever. One of the French government ministers had banned female reporters from his press conferences. To say this inhibited my work is an understatement. How was I to write my assigned stories if I was banned from the main source of information? Never afraid to break the rules, I dressed up as a man, wearing a man’s suit with my hair pinned under a fedora. However, I failed to use enough pomade and pins. Early in the press conference, my curls began to spring out from under the fedora. I was expelled from the room, and I’ve been teased about the incident ever since. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

That leads us to your assignment to Munich. From what we’ve heard, you were less than pleased. Why is that?

Berlin is where everything happens in Germany. It’s where Hitler governs, where Goebbels gives his press conferences, where the generals and officials and everyone of importance works. Although Munich is beautiful and rich in culture, it seemed like a dead-end assignment for a correspondent.

Of course, that’s why my bureau chief wanted me there—to keep me out of trouble. He hoped to keep this “girl reporter” quiet covering “feminine” topics like concerts, Mother’s Day festivities, and interviewing American students at the University of Munich. Little did he know—

Before we proceed, that article on the American exchange students was my introduction to your writing. I was surprised to hear our “junior year abroad” students were having such an enjoyable experience in Nazi Germany.

That’s a common experience among American and British tourists and students in Germany. As much as it pains me to admit, Hitler’s harsh policies have brought security at home and low unemployment, even in the middle of the Great Depression. Clean streets, new roads, and new museums cause many to overlook the brutal oppression of the Nazi regime.

From what I understand, that particular assignment at the university led to an interesting personal development for you.

Yes, it introduced me to Peter Lang, an American graduate student teaching at the University of Munich, a man who became entwined in the adventure and danger of the past year. And—although I dread sounding coy—the rest of that story will be told in my book.

At least something interesting came out of your assignment to Munich.

Many interesting things. Little did my bureau chief know that being in Munich would give me a front-row seat for the most important events of 1938.

It has been a momentous year. Germany’s annexation of Austria, the Munich Conference, and Kristallnacht—and you were able to report on all of these. Which event was most important for your career?

That’s a hard question to answer. The annexation of Austria was the first solid news story I was able to write in Germany, the Munich Conference was definitely my break-out story, and Kristallnacht—well, I wasn’t able to report on it, but—

But you dread sounding coy, and it’ll be in your book. Yes, we understand. Are there any particular challenges you face as a girl reporter?

As a woman, I do face greater challenges in my job. My mentor, Mitch O’Hara, told me, “Your dues are twice as high as a man’s, and the penalties are twice as high as a man’s. It isn’t right, but that’s how it is.” If a man hunts down a lead, he’s called bold. I’m called pushy. If a man finds an unconventional way to get a story, he’s called clever. I’m scolded for breaking the rules.

However, I’ve found some advantages too. I’m forced to be more creative in seeking angles and sources, which has led to some interesting opportunities. Also, women are more likely to open up to me, and I’ve found some juicy story leads that way, like my scoop for the Munich Conference.

What other challenges did you find reporting in Nazi Germany?

When you’re raised in a nation with freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it can be difficult to learn how to report in a police state. Although the German government doesn’t directly censor our articles, they effectively do so. They read our outgoing mail and telegrams, and they confiscate any they don’t like. Most of us phone our articles in, but the Germans listen in on our calls. In addition, their embassy staff in the US reads our newspapers and reports back on unflattering articles. The German government has the right to expel foreign correspondents from the country, which can damage a reporter’s career.

Also, on occasion the Gestapo has tried to frame correspondents for espionage. Plus, we have to consider the safety of our informants, who risk their lives to bring us information. We walk a thin line between reporting the truth and endangering our own lives and the lives of brave men and women.

Thank you, Miss Brand. We’re all looking forward to your new book. After the tumult of 1938, here’s hoping your book is the most—and only—memorable event in 1939!

Sarah Sundin’s novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library
Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The Sky Above Us received the Carol Award, her
bestselling The Sea Before Us received the FHL Reader’s Choice Award, and both
Through Waters Deep and When Tides Turn were named on Booklist’s “101 Best
Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” Sarah lives in Northern California. Visit
www.sarahsundin.com for more information.

A Chat with Cadence Piper from All Through the Night by Tara Johnson

Where are you from?

I just moved to Washington D.C. Everything is so different. Especially now that war has broken out between the states. The city is a crowded, muddy mess and getting worse every day.

Parents? Siblings?

My mother died, so it’s just me and my father now. We moved to Washington to put the bad memories from Boston behind us. And as far as siblings go, I have one brother named Tate, but we haven’t seen him for quite some time. He took Mother’s death exceptionally hard. I worry about him and where he might be.

What is your dream?

I want to be a nurse. More than anything. 

What is holding you back?

Dorothea Dix turned me away. She said I was too young and too comely to serve. I confess her refusal left me dispirited, but I recently met renowned poet Fanny Crosby, who has encouraged me greatly to simply ‘do the next thing’ until Providence reveals His plan for me.

Who do you enjoy spending time with?

If I could spend a day with anyone, it would be my father Albert Piper, but he’s so busy setting up his new toy shop, he rarely has time. Otherwise, I love children and donating my time to charitable endeavors. More than anyone else, I miss my mother. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to escape the ache of losing her.

Who frustrates you?

The head surgeon at Judiciary Square hospital. Dr. Ivy is an insufferable oaf! He seems to think the worst of me, yet I watch him pray with the wounded soldiers. Somewhere beneath his twitchy temper, he must have a good heart. It seems to me like he’s hiding a secret.

Do you have any unique talents?

People tell me I have a lovely singing voice. I’m often asked to sing for the soldiers in the hospitals to rouse their spirits, as well as singing for various benefits around Washington. I’m a rather shy person, and singing is the one time when I can cast off my fears and feel bold. Perhaps it’s because my stuttering issues disappear when I sing. I don’t know. Or maybe it’s because those moments are the rare times when Father seems especially proud of me. 

What do you fear the most? 

I most afraid of living a life of unimportance. Of wasting my life. Sometimes, late at night when I’m all alone and can no longer escape my thoughts, I fear the true reason I sing is for applause. For approval. Is approval the same as love? 

I’ve been seeking the latter my whole life. 

To read more of Cadance’s story in All Through the Night visit these retailers:

ChristianBook: All Through the Night: Tara Johnson: 9781496428394 – Christianbook.com

Amazon: All Through the Night: Johnson, Tara: 9781496428394: Amazon.com: Books

About the Author:

Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and finaled in the Carol and Christy awards. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.

Website: www.TaraJohnsonStories.com

Celia Percy Introduces Us to Granny Chree from Cathy Gohlke’s Night Bird Calling

Good morning. My name’s Celia Percy, eleven-year-old sister of Chester and daughter of Gladys and Fillmore Percy—who’s doing time down to the state penitentiary, caught red-handed running moonshine. That’s not much of an introduction, I’ll grant, but it’s the only one I got.

I aim to better myself, to become the world’s most famous female investigative reporter—like Nellie Bly—by the time I’m twenty-two. To that end I’ve started up a newspaper, The Permanent Press. That’s a good name. All the other newspapers I’ve started folded for one reason or another, but this one’s here to stay.

My first interview is with Granny Chree, the most ancient person I know—over a hundred and a granny woman, herb doctor, and midwife—that lives in an old cabin up the side of the mountain just a ways. I really wanted to interview the mysterious stranger dressed in dark tweed that stepped from the train without one piece of luggage in near the dead of night last March—well, at least dusk—but Mama said I’m not to pester Miz Hyacinth’s companion with personal questions. I don’t know how a person’s supposed to investigate without asking personal questions, do you?

CELIA: So I reckon I’ll start with you, Granny Chree. Is Granny your real first name? How could you be born with a name like Granny?

Granny laughed, the faint wrinkles on her brown face wreathing into a smile. “I was born Alma Tatum, but I ain’t heard that name in years. My married name is Chree.”

“I never knew you were married, Granny Chree.”

“Never did a better man walk this earth than my Shadrach, but he passed on too many years ago now. Since then I’m known as Granny Chree. Suits me fine.”

“You helped birth near every baby in No Creek, didn’t you?”

“Every colored baby, and quite a few white ones, though they might not admit it now. A woman in travail don’t much mind the color of a person’s skin long as they can get some relief.”

“Reckon not. Did you birth Miz Hyacinth? She’s near as old as you.”

“She’s old, that’s true, but not old as me. Yes, I did help God bring that baby girl into this world—prettiest baby ever born up to Belvidere Hall. I’d been a slave there in the years before the war and afterward I just kept on working in the Big House for wages, though Shadrach and I lived right here in this cabin, thanks to Miss Minnie.”

“Miss Minnie?”

“You never knew her, child, long before your time. But you know her niece, Hyacinth—Miz Hyacinth to you—took care of her from the time she was born, every minute her mama wasn’t with her.”

“That’s why you two are such good friends?”

“Like family, but you can’t say that in your paper, Celia. It wouldn’t be safe for Hyacinth or for me.”

“That don’t seem right, not if you near raised her, if you lived every day with her.”

“Lots of things in this world not right, but they be what they be—for now.” Granny sat back in her rocker.

“I been thinking about that.”

“Mmm-hmm, here it comes. What you spinning in that brain of yours, Celia Percy?”

“Well, I’m thinkin’ about Miz Hyacinth’s library—you know, all those books the Belvidere family’s collected over the years—way more than a hundred years and more than a thousand books in those bookcases she’s had us cleaning floor to ceiling. Can you imagine?”

Granny shook her head. “I can’t comprehend it, though I’ve seen that room with my own eyes.”

“Don’t you reckon they’d make a great public library? Open to everybody who wants to read? Ever since Miz Hyacinth had her stroke and retired from schoolteaching here in No Creek and they sent us on the bus over to the big school, we’ve been without a library. I miss the books Miz Hyacinth used to bring to school, the ones she read to us and the ones she let us borrow to tote home. I was always real careful with them—never tore a page or bent a corner and always brought them back directly I finished reading. Don’t you think a public library’s a good thing?”

“Sounds like a mighty good thing, sounds like somethin’ Hyacinth might cotton to.”

That was a relief. I wanted Granny’s approval. “You know, Granny, when I said everybody, I meant it—including the folks down to Saints Delight. I believe they’d like some good books, too. The colored school only ever gets the county’s castoffs. Think what it’ll mean to them to get new books!”

“You talk about bringing coloreds and whites together in the same room, you’d best get Miz Hyacinth’s approval on that. Belvidere Hall—I mean, Garden’s Gate—is her home. It’s a good idea, but I don’t know that No Creek is ready for it. You might just be ahead of your time, Celia Percy.”

“That’s another thing, Granny. Why did Miz Hyacinth change the name from Belvidere Hall to Garden’s Gate?”

“It was after her daddy passed on, but you got to ask her that if you want to know. And you need to think about Grace when you go speculatin’ about a public library there.”

 “Miz Hyacinth’s new companion? What about her?”

“She’s the one would need to do the work. Hyacinth’s too old and blind since her stroke—you know that.”

I sighed. “I don’t know about Miss Grace. I don’t know what to think about her. Did you know she stepped off the train in near the dead of night without one speck of luggage? Did you know she had a faint line on her ring finger like she maybe just took off a wedding band? Why would she do that? You reckon she was running away from something—or somebody?”

“What I reckon most is that it’s none of your business.”

“That’s what Mama said, but I do love a good mystery. Investigatin’ that would make for a great story in my newspaper.”

“The truth will out when it’s God’s good time. You don’t need to go proddin’ and pokin’ where you don’t belong. I ’spect the good Lord can handle His business in human hearts just fine.”

“Maybe so, but—”

“You might hurt Miss Grace gossipin’ so, or Hyacinth herself. Hyacinth wants her here. No newspaper story’s worth hurtin’ the people we love . . . now, is it?”

Granny Chree looked at me with her one good eye and I knew squirming would do no good. I just didn’t know how the tables on this interview had gotten so turned around. “No ma’am. I reckon not.”

“Then I believe this interview’s come to an end, child. I look forward to seein’ your story in print by and by. I like the idea of havin’ my name in the paper.”

I felt my grin spread till it near split my face. “And I like the idea of my very first byline.”

From award-winning author Cathy Gohlke, whose novels have been called “haunting” (Library Journal on Saving Amelie) and “page-turning” (Francine Rivers on Secrets She Kept), comes a historical fiction story of courage and transformation set in rural Appalachia on the eve of WWII.

About the Author

Four-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she and her husband, Dan, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. 

Visit her website at cathygohlke.com and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.

A Chat with Selah Hopewell from Laura Frantz’s Tidewater Bride

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today. ‘Tis a pleasure to make your acquaintance, thank you. And such a windswept day it is! This calls for a warm cup of tea, surely. And two quilted petticoats if you don’t mind my saying so. 

Tell us something about where you live. My family resides in the Tidewater region of Virginia, namely James Towne, the first settlement in Virginia Colony. A picturesque place despite the ongoing leadership squabbles and Indian unrest. A great many settlers have died since landing on our shores. Somehow I and my family have survived. God be thanked!

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? Mine is a Biblical name. Selah occurs 74 times in Scripture, 71 times in Psalms, and 3 times in Habakkuk. ‘Tis a bit of a mystery, the meaning. Some think it denotes “pause” or “interlude.” I know of no other woman with that name. It seems to sit well with my surname, Hopewell. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? There are few women in Virginia Colony, sadly, and so I’ve been placed in charge of bringing brides here, an entire boatload! These fair maids who are coming are referred to as King’s Daughters or Tobacco Brides. They hail from England and are of good reputation, industrious women who will make good wives and mothers and help keep the men from going over to the Indians and taking Indian brides. I dislike having to visit these brides with a questionable escort, the French physic and swordsman, Helion Lattimer. Oh, there’s a story for you!

Who are the special people in your life? I adore my little brother, Shay. I am the eldest and he is the youngest. Once there were three other siblings in our family – two boys and a girl (Phoebe, John, and Prentice) – but they succumbed to fever and other maladies that continually wrack Virginia. I also think the world of my parents. My mother is a master gardener, have you heard? She is known throughout Virginia as having a most beautiful garden, both vegetables and flowers. My father is Cape Merchant which simply means he is in charge of all the goods coming in from England. I help him at the colony store as does Shay. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire? To have women friends. I lost my dearest friend, a Powhatan princess, not long ago. I still have not recovered from that. Alas, being one of the few women amid so many oft unruly colony men is quite demanding betimes. I dream of marrying and having a family of my own someday but the clock is ticking and no man suits me. Well, once there was a sea captain…

What are you most afraid of? Indians. The Powhatan nation is vast and fearsome. Our colonists came under attack a few years back and many were killed but it was not without cause. English settlers – the Tassantassas – are invaders and land stealers to the Indians. My desire is to live in peace, learn from each other, share our bounty. But matters continue fractious and we must always watch our backs, both Indians and whites. 

Do you have a cherished possession? Aye, indeed, I do. A shell necklace a little Powhatan girl gave me. Her name is Watseka and she is one of the most delightful children I’ve ever met. The shell necklace has deep meaning for me and I plan to keep it for always. I have it on right now beneath my bodice. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you? I am quite smitten with a certain tobacco planter here in the Tidewater. He has a plantation up the James River with the most poetic name. But my, he is a force to reckon with! And terribly handsome and fiercely tempered, to boot! 

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? Pride and hasty judgements are my downfall. I repent of them daily but they still plague me. On a brighter note, I love the natural world. Virginia’s rivers and landscapes. The utter solitude and endless beauty. I hope to someday escape the stench and noise of James Towne. 

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? I love to read and pen letters. And bake. My quince preserves are second to none, some say. And I love flowers, especially roses. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! Pleased to have chatted with you on this bitter winter’s day. Thank you!

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of eleven
novels, including An Uncommon Woman, The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting
Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, The Lacemaker, and A Bound Heart. She is a proud
mom to an American soldier and a career firefighter. When not at home in Kentucky,
she and her husband live in Washington State. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.