Book Review: Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee

Come back tomorrow for the character interview of Rena and Frankie!

Tyndale House Publishers, September 8, 2020, Pages:400, ISBN:978-1-4964-4607-7

The story begins with the stock market crash of 1929 when Rena Leland is about to celebrate her sixteen birthday. Because her father is a banker who mismanaged his assets, their lifestyle takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

For me, this beginning was slow. The real story gets going when we leap forward seven years as Rena, out of work at a newspaper office, takes a job with the WPA interviewing former slaves. (If you find the beginning slow, stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.) I knew about these slave narratives and have read a few of them. With all the stories and movies out there on slavery and the Civil War, readers might be tempted to think it’s all been done before. However, the author drew me in as Rena is engrossed in hearing the story of Frankie Washington, a woman who said God told her she couldn’t die until she told Rena her story. I was engrossed too. It kept me turning pages as the book is partly told in Frankie’s point of view from the past.

Uncomfortable at times (how can it not be?), readers are taken back to the horrors, the heartbreak, and the incredible endurance of those who lived through it. Frankie’s story takes place in Nashville before and during the Civil War. Frankie and other slaves are held in a contraband camp when the Union Army takes control of the city. She is allowed to work and be paid for washing officer’s clothing. During a battle she cares for injured soldiers. And then she is asked to do the same for the Confederate soldiers, something she struggles against, blaming them for all the pain and suffering she endured as a slave. How she deals with this and what she learns will also teach Rena some incredible lessons.

Rena feels regret for her family having owned slaves in the past, but she thinks all that is in the past. Then she realizes that between her mother objecting to the neighborhood she must visit for the interviews and her own anxious feelings when she travels there without a companion and is stared at, there is still a vast difference in the white/black culture and much mistrust on both sides. With the supporting characters of her grandmother and a handsome co-WPA worker, Rena learns things about the past that she never learned in school. More importantly, she learns about the life-long spiritual journey of the former slave, and this changes Rena’s outlook on her own life and on her family she previously had trouble tolerating, and also on the man who has been transporting her to Hell’s Half Acre to conduct the interviews. This transformation flows perfectly. It’s not rushed for the sake of the story or preachy at all. The ending held a surprising twist that will cause this story to stay in readers’ minds for a long time.

I really enjoyed this book, and having recently read Lisa Wingate’s The Book of Lost Friends, I found Under the Tulip Tree a fitting companion. Highly recommended.

Cindy Thomson, Novel PASTimes

I received a free advanced reader copy from the publisher with no obligation to review.

Meet Ana and Rachel from The Lines Between Us by Rebecca D’Harlingue

NPT: Welcome! Today we have a guest interviewer, Rachel Pearson Strand, from The Lines Between Us, in conversation with co-character Ana Torres López.

Rachel: Ana, I’m so excited to be able to talk to you today! I know so little about you, but yours was one of two names that my mother spoke on her deathbed. When I later found her papers, there was still only the letter you wrote to your niece, Juliana, whose diary I also found.

Ana: Thank you, Rachel. I am also grateful for this opportunity to speak with you, without the encumbrances of temporal or geographic limitations.

Rachel: Yes, I live three centuries after you, and in a place that you would have generally referred to as the New World.

Ana: My dear husband had a particular interest in the New World, and so I am curious about that faraway land.

Rachel: Well, Spain doesn’t seem as far away to us now as it would have been in your time. Despite the difficulties, though, your niece, Juliana, managed to make the journey, and that is how I know anything at all about you or her.

Ana: I understand that you found a diary of hers, isn’t that so? I also discovered a journal that she had kept hidden in her desk in my brother’s home here in Madrid. Until she wrote to me years later, however, I never knew what had become of her after she disappeared at only sixteen years of age.

Rachel: I imagine that the diary that I found took up where yours left off. While I have you here, I wanted to ask you about what my mother said when she was dying. She said, “ I am like Ana. I have failed Juliana.” From what I’ve read in Juliana’s diary, and in the letter that you wrote to her, I’ve had a hard time deciding how my mother felt you were to blame. My best guess is that perhaps she thought you should have kept looking for her when she disappeared.

Ana: It could be that, I admit, and I have at times deeply repented that decision. However, as you know from my letter, once I learned the reason for my niece’s flight, I feared that seeking her further might have caused her to be in greater danger. To this day, I ask God whether I did what was right. There are other things I have accused myself of over the years. Perhaps I should have told her sooner what had become of her mother. I must confess that I did not do so partly because I was afraid that my brother, Juliana’s father, would have cut off all communication with me, and I needed them in my life, especially after my own dear husband passed on to Our Lord.

Rachel: If it’s of any help, I don’t fault you for your decision to abandon your search. You just did what you thought was best at the time.

Ana: Thank you for that. Your understanding means a great deal to me.

Rachel: I know Juliana only through the diary that I found, after the event that drove her to leave Spain. What was she like before that?

Ana: She was a loving, serious young girl. My brother was generous with her, allowing her to study as only boys are usually allowed. He showed her a loving father’s kindness, and she was happy in his household. I think it was that fact which made it all the more tragic when he so dangerously turned against her. 

Rachel: She does seem to have felt his betrayal very deeply. Is there anything that you would like to ask me?

Ana: Yes. I have so longed to know whether Juliana had a happy life after she fled Spain. All I know is the little that she told me in her letter decades after I last saw her. Can you tell from the papers you found how my beloved niece fared in the New World?

Rachel: I think she found some contentment, but she had dark moments, too. Maybe she wasn’t so different from most of us. 

Ana: Indeed, the Lord gives tribulations to us all. 

Rachel: And you, Ana, what happened to you after Juliana left?

Ana: Having lost those whom I held most dear, I found that I even questioned my faith for a time. Finally, I had the strength to continue with my ministering to the poor and sick. If it had not been for that, my life would have been without meaning. 

Rachel: I’m so sorry. It sounds like you were really lonely.

Ana: Can I ask you, how did your mother think that she had failed Juliana?

Rachel: I’ve asked myself that so many times. All I can think of is that she wasn’t able to pass on the papers in the way she’d promised to do.

Ana: Still, you found them. 

Rachel: Yes, but that was just luck. You know, I’ve thought a lot about family secrets, those kept in my family and those kept in yours. I sometimes wonder whether there is ever a case when they’re more protective than destructive.

Ana: I cannot give you the answer to that. I know that secrets within my family caused great harm, and I am sorry to hear that it seems that continues in your time, too.

Rachel: I’m afraid it does. Well, thank you so much for talking with me, Ana. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

Ana: I would say the same, my dear. Thank you!

About the book

IN 1661 MADRID, Ana is still grieving the loss of her husband when her niece, sixteen-year-old Juliana, suddenly vanishes. Ana frantically searches the girl’s room and comes across a diary. As she journeys to southern Spain in the hope of finding her, Ana immerses herself in her niece’s private thoughts—but when, after a futile search in Seville, she comes to Juliana’s final entries and discovers the horrifying reason for the girl’s flight, she abandons her search for her. 

In 1992 Missouri, in her deceased mother’s home, Rachel finds a packet of letters and a diary written by a woman named Juliana. Rachel’s reserved mother has never mentioned these items, but Rachel recognizes the names Ana and Juliana: her mother uttered them on her deathbed. She soon becomes immersed in Juliana’s diary, which recounts the young woman’s journey to Mexico City and her life in a convent. As she learns the truth about Juliana’s tragic family history, Rachel seeks to understand her connection to the writings—hoping that in finding those answers, she will somehow heal the wounds caused by her mother’s lifelong reticence. 

About the author

Rebecca D’Harlingue has done graduate work in Spanish literature, worked as a hospital administrator, and taught English as a Second Language to adults from all over the world. The discovery of family papers prompted her to explore the repercussions of family secrets, and of the ways we attempt to reveal ourselves. She shares her love of story both with preschoolers at a Head Start program, and with the members of the book club she has belonged to for decades. D’Harlingue lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, Arthur, where they are fortunate to frequently spend time with their children and grandchildren. 

Daniel Chambers from Mail Order Rachel by Kathleen Lawless

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? I would spend the day with my new wife and son, making them happy because their happiness is my happiness.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? I hope I come across as honest and sincere, because that’s who I am.  

What’s your idea of a good marriage? That changes throughout the course of this book.

What are you most proud of about your life?  Being beholden to no one.

What are you most ashamed of in your life? Being an orphan.  

What do you believe about God? That He is always there and willing to help

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? I’m a simple man with simple wants.  At the beginning of the book I long for the family life I never experienced as a youngster

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? What did you learn from it? I almost lost my wife because of my pride and stubbornness. I learned to be more accepting and to listen to His guidance.

Tell me about your best friend. He came from means, but is no better off than I am because of it.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone? That I was a fair and good man.

Describe your ideal mate. This too, changed over the course of the book.  From expecting someone meek and obedient, to appreciating my wife’s strengths, capabilities and loyalty.

What are you most afraid of? Losing my family

What do you like best about yourself? I am fair and loyal.  Least? False Pride

What do you like best and least about the other characters in your book?  I try to surround myself with good people and loyal employees.  I don’t like being betrayed.

Grab your copy of Mail Order Rachel now or read for free in Kindle Unlimited.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathleen Lawless blames a misspent youth watching Rawhide, Maverick and Bonanza for her fascination with cowboys, which doesn’t stop her from creating a wide variety of interests and occupations for her alpha male heroes.    

Her hero, Steele, in UNDERCOVER, is a modern-day cowboy, so when she was wooed by a man called Steel— while he’s not a cowboy, he is an Alpha male and her forever hero.  Which is why all of her stories end Happily Ever After.

Not that she can ever stick to just one genre.  So many stories to tell—never enough time.

With close to 30 published novels to her credit, she enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional romance into historical romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction and stories for young adults.         

Sign up for Kathleen’s VIP Reader Group to receive a free book, updates, special giveaways and fan-priced offers.

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A Conversation Between the Characters of Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

1793 Pennsylvania

Once upon a muggy summer twilight I came upon a solitary traveler, camped along the road. With darkness falling, fireflies lighting the verge, and nary a public house in sight, he kindly welcomed me at his fire, introducing himself as Mr. Cameron, lately come from Boston. While our horses grazed at the firelight’s edge, we fell to talking of ourselves—or I did. Realizing I’d been doing the lion’s share, after a pause of flame-crackling silence, I began to question him. 

“Might I have your given name?” I asked, having provided him mine. 

“It’s Ian,” he said. “Ian Robert Cameron. I’m called after my da—that’s the Robert. Ian is after one of his half-brothers who fell in battle at Culloden—the Jacobite Rising in ’45. Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that.”

“That was in Scotland, right? But you said it’s Boston you call home?” Ian Cameron had taken off his cocked hat, baring tailed hair, dark blond in the firelight that cast his features in shadow. Still I caught the wry glint in his blue eyes.

“Where I call home? Ye’d think that easy enough to answer, but I’ve lived so many places—beginning with Scotland, though I was barely more than a bairn when Da sent for us—Mam, my brother, and me—to join him in Boston, where he’d set up as a bookbinder. It was Boston through the war and beyond. But until this spring I spent the past five years in Upper Canada with my mam’s younger brother, a fur trader. Now…”

“Now?” I urged when he hesitated.

“I’m headed to North Carolina, to another uncle. His farm’s called Mountain Laurel. I’m reckoning to take up a planter’s life.”

“A planter? Had you some experience farming tucked in there somewhere?” 

At that Ian Cameron laughed, a little ruefully. “Not a bit of it. I failed to mention I also lived in Cambridge—near enough to Boston—from the time I was apprenticed to the age of eighteen, when I hied off to Canada. I learnt the cabinetmaking trade.” 

He nodded at a heap of baggage piled nearby. The tools of said trade, I presumed. “Why Canada? Why didn’t you set up for a cabinetmaker after your apprenticeship ended?”

Ian Cameron shifted where he sat. “Aye. Well… my apprenticeship didn’t exactly end. I mean, it did, but… it was complicated.” 

“Complicated?” I suspected a story there, but he merely shook his head when I pressed. I let it be. Perhaps this uncle in North Carolina would get that story from him. “Does this uncle you’re headed to have a family?”

“He does. A wife and two stepdaughters.”

“No son?

Ian Cameron reached for a stick and stabbed at the fire’s edge. “Not anymore. He hopes to make of me a fitting heir.”

“You sound doubtful of the prospect. Is there some catch?” 

His eyes flicked to me, alert and wary. “If ye must know, he doesn’t farm alone. He owns slaves—they do the work, along with an overseer.”

“And you don’t hold with slavery?” I asked. 

He wasn’t comfortable with the question. “I suppose I haven’t thought much about it. I never had to—until lately. My parents are against slavery.” 

That surprised me. “Did they approve this North Carolina venture?”

“Aye. That says something, doesn’t it?” When I merely stared, he added archly, “It speaks to the level of my Da’s disappointment—in me. Not that I can fairly blame him, after all my false starts at settling to a useful life. Thomas would say…”

“Thomas? Who’s that? Your brother?”

“In a manner of speaking—” 

Out in the darkness a stick cracked. One of the horses whickered. The way he gazed around, it seemed Ian Cameron suspected something—or someone—was out there beyond the fire’s light, creeping about. 

“Thomas is a friend,” he said. “I left him behind.” 

Still his glance strayed toward the dark. “Are you worried about something? You seem a little jumpy.”

“I am worried,” he said. “About a good many things. Whether my uncle or his wife or anyone at Mountain Laurel will approve the man they’re getting. Whether I’m suited for the life or doomed to find it fits me like an ill-made coat.”

Not wanting to ruffle his feathers further, I transferred my attention to a garment folded beside his bedroll. “Speaking of coats… might I have a look at that one?”

“That? I suppose.” He handed it to me, careful of the flames between us. While I spread it across my knees he asked, “Have ye never seen quillwork? That’s what that is, the red, white, and black designs. Made by an old Chippewa woman. It’s generally known as a half-breed coat.” 

The coat—cut little different from those one might see on the streets of Philadelphia—was made of tanned hide and heavily fringed, besides the colorful quillwork adorning it. I looked at him, tanned himself, with more experience than his years should account for staring from his eyes. “I suppose you’ve had your share of adventures, on the Canadian frontier?” 

“Aye,” he agreed. “I’ve hunted elk and bison to help feed a village. I’ve tracked a panther—and been tracked by one in turn. I’ve watched wolves take down a bull moose and—with my uncle’s help—driven them off it long enough to take a portion of the kill. I’ve feasted on bear, fished for sturgeon, and harvested rice from an elm bark canoe at the edge of a lake so vast ye cannot see its other side—though I paddled my way to it more than once. I can use a bow and arrows, tan a hide, and boil maple sap for sugar. I’ve learned to make my way by stars and to count the months by other names than June, July, and August. I’ve four times run a trapline in the depths of a winter more brutal than ye can imagine and survived an attack by an Indian warrior that nearly cost my life. And while I cannot shake the notion that none of that has prepared me for what I’m walking into at Mountain Laurel,” he finished with a prodigious yawn, “I think I’m done with talking and ready for sleep. If ye don’t mind.”

I didn’t, and told him so. In short order he’d checked his horses, his rifle, and lay down on his bed roll with his back to the fire, and me. 

I followed suit, thinking that whatever challenges awaited him in North Carolina, I suspected he’d find the wherewithal to meet them. Even so, as I lay beside his fire that night, I said a prayer for the soul of Ian Cameron, who was gone from camp by the time I stirred next morning, having slipped away as silently as the panther he claimed to have tracked. 

Lori Benton was raised in Maryland, with generations-deep roots in southern Virginia and the Appalachian frontier. Her historical novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she expertly brings to life the colonial and early federal periods of American history. Her books have received the Christy Award and the Inspy Award and have been honored as finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year. Lori is most at home surrounded by mountains, currently those of the Pacific Northwest, where, when she isn’t writing, she’s likely to be found in wild places behind a camera. Her latest novel, Mountain Laurel, releases in September. 

Lori’s Website | Instagram | Facebook

Original photography by author Lori Benton

Meet Abigail from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today. I’m happy to be here too! I travel a lot despite the stagecoach discomforts, the sometimes-smelly trains and of course, on horseback and walking, so it’s nice to have a little respite here with you today and put my tired feet up. Thanks for asking me to stop by.

Tell us something about where you live. I live in Oregon but I was born in Illinois and crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852 with my parents and siblings. I was asked to keep the diary of our crossing (I was 16 and love words!) and later I used the diary to help me write my very first novel. I’ve written over 20! My husband and six children have lived on farms (one I named Hardscrabble and it was!) and then we moved to Lafayette, Oregon where I taught school and later Albany, Oregon where I ran a millinery and owned a school and then Portland where I was one of the few women in the country to start and operate a newspaper supporting women’s rights for 17 years. We lived on a ranch in Idaho for a time too. We Duniways did get around, sometimes because of poor choices we made.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? My name is Abigail Jane Scott Duniway. My family called me Jenny. I never knew why my parents gave me that name but my mother did admire Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, a signer of the Constitution and later President of the US. Perhaps she indirectly affected my life with that name as women and the rights of other minorities became my life’s calling in response to Micah’s question what does the Lord require?  “To seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.”  I have to work on the humbly part though. That name, Abigail, gave me a sound base from which to seek justice for women.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? My most important occupation is being a faithful wife and mother. But my calling is to help the downtrodden especially women. My husband and I both felt strongly that helping women get the vote would be the best way of helping women deal with the way the laws discriminate against us. There are laws forcing us to turn over our egg money to husbands or fathers who may well drink it up; or making us pay the debts of fathers and husbands who deserted us. Or not being able to take jobs to support our families because we’re women or like my sister, who was widowed, becoming a teacher but who got paid half of the previous teacher – who was a man. My work of fighting for women’s rights is invigorating, frustrating, inspiring, draining but most of all rewarding.  I get to travel to other states and territories, speak before legislatures; listen to the stories women tell me about their lives. Sometimes I go to court with them. Sometimes I visit them in prisons to offer hope. I also write for a living: novels, articles and then editing my newspaper.

I have a full plate. Novels are considered ideal ways to change people’s hearts and minds so writing them an hour at a time at 4:00am before I get ready to serve the boarding house girls who live with us and then off to work on the paper or off to give a speech, or listen to my one daughter Clara Belle play the piano while I’m stitching a dress for the millinery – I rarely have a minute to myself. In your time, you’d call me a workaholic I guess. In my time, I was often considered strident, maybe a little pushy, but absolutely passionate about my cause to change the lives of women for the better. By the way, I traveled around the Northwest with the famous suffragist Susan B. Anthony and she camped with my family at the Oregon State Fair in 1871. Now that was an adventure!

Who are the special people in your life? My mother was…but she died on the trail along with my youngest brother. Both of Cholera. My mother hadn’t wanted to go west but my father had the bug as they called it. She gave birth to 12 children and I think she was weakened on the journey. She told me once that she was sorry I was a girl because girls had such hard lives. She inspired me to do what I could to make girls’ lives easier.

The other special person in my life is my husband Ben. He is the kindest of men, generous, puts up with me. He invented a washing machine! He has a beautiful singing voice and he’s the diplomatic one who has to smooth over his wife’s sometimes intemperate tongue. I wrote a column for awhile called “The Farmer’s Wife” that was funny and pointed about martial life etc. It was published widely in Oregon and surrounding territories. Sometimes he was the brunt of my stories and he never complained. He was also badly injured in a horse accident and his chronic back pain affected our lives. But he was always there for the family when I traveled and was sometimes gone for months at a time, he was the father and mother of the household. I never could have accomplished what I did without his support.

I have friends, too, of course. Shirley is one such friend though she lives in California. I get to see her on my buying trips for the millinery. And we are both suffragists. And my children are incredibly special to me. One girl and five “potential voters.” I know, I can be a bit much about the voting. 😊

Do you have a cherished possession? My mother’s earrings. I had my friend Shirly and two of my sisters pierce my ears on the trail after my mother died. It was a way of stating I would try new things despite the pain, especially if it meant working on behalf of women trying to make a woman’s life better. It was how I keep her with me and honor her life.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? A big challenge I have is convincing my brother – who is the editor of the largest newspaper in the Northwest and my business competitor– that he should support the right for women to vote. My newspaper, The New Northwest, strongly supports that effort and we have our first vote (only men get to vote!) in 1883. Pretty exciting. My sisters and I are meeting with Harvey, the only surviving boy in our family, to try to convince him to endorse the petition. If the vote fails, we will keep trying. That’s what my future holds – working on behalf of women getting the vote. Falling down and getting up again.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? I confess, I have a hard time learning from past mistakes. I work at it, I do. And I’ve discovered that I am at times envious of my brother and others who seem to have an easier life which is not very Christian of me. I have come to see though, that it’s in the challenges that we discover who we really are. I’ve had a rich, full life and while I always thought I’d want easier days, when we moved to the ranch in Idaho and I had all the time in the world to rest and write, I found myself missing the excitement of what I called “the still hunt” working for rights without losing my femininity or credibility as a woman. I never participated in a parade or rumbled through a saloon decrying men. I worked quietly and encouraged the same in the organizations I helped start and run. I have few regrets and that to me means a great deal as I grow older. And I can see looking back that it was in the trials that I discovered who I really was.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? At a time when women were not supposed to be public, I began giving speeches.  I gave more than 1500 in my lifetime from New York to California and in between. Some of them are now posted on this thing called the internet. I never read them when I delivered them, hough I wrote them out. But my passion for the subject enabled me to talk for more than an hour, inspiring, encouraging and praising the work of women as wives, mothers, daughters, workers. You can read some of them at www.asduniway.org

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! It’s my pleasure! I love chatting with people. I hope you’ll find my story Something Worth Doing worthy of your time. I 

About the Author 

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including One More River to CrossEverything She Didn’t SayAll Together in One PlaceA Light in the WildernessThe Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com

Meet Miranda Barton from Mail Order Miranda

Name: Miranda Barton

Parents: Deceased

Siblings: 1 sister, Elizabeth

Places lived: Lake Hope, Pennsylvania

Marriage: Mail Order Bride to Cade Tanner.

Children: None of my own, but charged with taking care of my niece, Eleanor.

What person do you most admire? Cade, he’s a hard worker with a kind heart.

Overall outlook on life: If you put your mind to something, you can do anything.

Do you like yourself? For the most part. I wish I could control what I said more than I do.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wished my family didn’t have to die. 

How would you describe yourself? Strong, determined, and kind

Fears: Not being a good enough mother for Eleanor or the twins.

Talents: People say I’m good with kids

Interests: I enjoy baking-especially pies.

When are you happy? When my kids are behaving and I get some time alone with Cade.

What makes you sad? When Cade won’t tell me what he is thinking. He often keeps his feelings and thoughts to himself.

What makes you laugh? When the twins doing something funny, like fall in the mud trying to catch frogs.

Hopes and dreams: To be a good wife to Cade and mother to the children we have and will have.

Do you have a secret? Not on purpose, but Cade didn’t know I was bringing my niece with me when I traveled out West. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t have a choice.

What does you care about most in the world? My family-I’ll do anything to protect them.


Grab your copy of Mail Order Miranda or read for free in Kindle Unlimited.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenna Brandt is an international bestselling and award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance. Her historical books span from Victorian to Western eras and all her books have elements of romance, suspense and faith. She has her own best-selling historical series, Window to the Heart Saga and Civil War Brides, as well as contemporary series, Billionaires of Manhattan and Second Chance Islands. Additionally, she has created two best-selling multi-author series, The Lawkeepers and Disaster City Search and Rescue based off the life of her husband in law enforcement as well as Border Brides and Playing for Keeps. Both of her books, Waiting on the Billionaire and Lawfully Treasured, were voted into the Top 50 Indie Books of 2018 on Readfreely.com.

She has been an avid reader since she could hold a book and started writing stories almost as early. She has been published in several newspapers as well as edited for multiple papers. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Bethany College and was the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper while there. Her first blog was published on The Mighty website, Yahoo Parenting and The Grief Toolbox as well as featured on the ABC News, CNN Health, and Good Morning America websites. She’s also a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) association. 

Writing is her passion, but Jenna also enjoys date nights with her hubby, cooking from scratch, watching movies on Netflix, reading books by her author friends, and engaging in social media with her readers. Jenna’s three young daughters keep her busy with Girl Scout activities, going to the mall, and playing at the park where they live in the Central Valley of California. Jenna summers on the Golden Central Coast where she finds endless inspiration for her romance books. She is also active in her local church where she volunteers on their first impressions team.

To find out more about Jenna, to sign-up for her newsletter, or to purchase her books, visit her website at http://www.jennabrandt.com

Jenna’s Joyful Page Turners Reader’s Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/844819802336835/

Heroes and Hunks Reader’s Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/430422374043418/

Her books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Jenna-Brandt/e/B0711MSFXW/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1497269877&sr=8-1

Like her on Facebook www.facebook.com/JennaBrandtAuthor

Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/JennaDBrandt

Stalk her on Instagram www.instagram.com/jennnathewriter/

Pin her on Pinterest www.pinterest.com/jennnathewriter

Look her up on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16847426.Jenna_Brandt

Check her out on Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jenna-brandt

Meet Diana from The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

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

Tell us something about where you live.

 London is the most beautiful city in the world.  Its ancient Roman history –especially in the City proper –is a favourite place for me to roam. I love how the ancient walled city gates are still visible even after centuries. 

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

My first name, Diana, is special because my father (like myself) was obsessed with history, churches and the architectural legacy of Christopher Wren. It is said that St. Paul’s Cathedral, Wren’s magnum opus, was built on what was once a statue of the goddess Diana in the Roman occupation of the city…way back when it was known Londinium.  My maiden name, Foyle, is special to me because it is the same as my favourite bookseller’s in Charing Cross Road. 

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

Before the war, I  was a graduate student in King’s working toward a doctorate in architectural history.  Now that the war has come, I am working for the foreign office in translation at a manor house in Bletchley Park –a few hours from London in Buckinghamshire ( I can’t really speak of it, but the Foreign Office translations role is one we feed the public,  what I really do is intercept messages, and hold up a listening station in Hut 3 where under my supervisor, Simon Barre, I am charged with making out patterns from Luftwaffe Air Signals).

Who are the special people in your life?  

I have two close friends here at Bletchley: Simon Barre and Sophie Villiers.  My husband Brent Somerville is a professor of theology at King’s College and is currently a stretcher bearer at the front. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?   

To be home with Brent. Our honeymoon never happened. Our wedding night was spent in a Tube shelter as the bombs fell around us. 

What are you most afraid of? 

A telegram telling me he is taken from me. 

Do you have a cherished possession? 

My father left me a book of Ditchfield’s Cathedrals of Great Britain.  I hold fast to it. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you?  

Part of me wants it to hold my finishing my doctorate and rebuilding the churches that the bombs have felled. Here, we call the bombs Blitzkrieg (or Lightning War, in German) or just Blitz. There are volunteers on the Paul’s Watch who have badges and pledge their lives night after night to protect the cathedral at Churchill’s behest.  I hope my future holds a standing St.Paul’s: it is the tallest building in our skyline… 

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

 I always thought I wanted to end the war and go back to being a wife and eventual mother. To finally get to keep house and tend to Brent but now that I’ve been given the opportunity to use my degree in a new way I wonder if that will ever be enough. I’ve learned that while I love Brent and while he compliments me, he does not consume me. I need to be my own woman as well.  What I am doing in Bletchley for the war is as important as his role at the front. He knew when he married me that I was a strong, intelligent woman (he told me this was part of the reason why he married me) I just hope this lasts beyond the war. 

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

I come across as someone who talks too fast and too much.  But that is only because I talk when I am nervous and it takes a certain special person to decode that facet of my personality. Fortunately, Brent did. As did Sophie Villiers and Simon Barre when I arrived at Bletchley Park. 

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


Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. She is also the author of the London Restoration and The Mozart Code.  Her non-fiction includes Dream, Plan and Go and the upcoming A Very Merry Holiday Movie Guide. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure

website: www.rachelmcmillan.net/
Twitter: @rachkmcinstagram: @rachkmcfacebook: rachkmc1
The Herringford and Watts SeriesThe Van Buren and DeLuca Series The Three Quarter Time Series Dream Plan Go (May 2020)The London Restoration (Aug 2020)

Meet Lena from Amanda Tero’s A Strand of Hope

Well Lena, it’s nice to meet you at last! I just have to ask, what book is a comfort read for you? If I remember correctly you don’t have favorites. 😉 

That’s true. Books are like flowers–they’re all wonderful in their own sense. But if I were to choose a comfort read, it would be A Little Princess. It was not only the first book I read; it also accompanied me during my time grieving Aunt Melba Lynn’s death.

Oh, that’s so sad and sweet at the same time…losing loved ones is a hard thing to go through. On a happier note, as a horseback librarian, you obviously ride a horse! Do you enjoy the company of Kirby?

I love spending time with Kirby! He’s a horse I can fully trust and rely on. And, he doesn’t ask me questions.

That’s something I like about animals…they just listen and don’t judge 😉 Pastor Stuart seems like a kind, caring minister. What do you think of him? Do you enjoy his preaching?

Pastor Stuart is very kind. Sometimes with his sermons, I wonder if he really does know all about everyone in his congregation. So often it’s just what I need to hear.

Pastors do seem to know all at times! Do you ever see your fellow librarians at church?

Yes; even though I don’t always speak to them, Lilian, Ivory, and Edna Sue all attend church (we only have one church in Willow Hollow).

That’s wonderful! Do you ever bump into them at the library? I know you don’t often talk to strangers, but Who do you think you would get along with the best?

I prefer to be on my own and leave for my route before the others, but there are library meetings and such when we are all together. I probably get along best with Lilian; she’s not as reclusive and opinionated as Edna Sue yet not as bubbly and energetic as Ivory.

They all sound intriguing in their own way! Okay, now a more serious question. Do you ever wish you knew your grandparents?

I sometimes wonder… I wonder if they’re at all like Mom, or if maybe she changed after she left them. But then I think, maybe they are kind of like her. After all, they didn’t want her after she became pregnant. So, maybe it’s just better that I don’t know them and have Homer and Nora as my surrogate grandparents.

Yeah, I can understand that. Homer and Nora! They are such a sweet couple! If you could put them in one of your many favorite books, 😉 which would you put them in?

I think I would put them in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. They seem like they’d fit well in Milton.

Oh, great choice! Now a fun question! What is one book you have heard of but never read?

There is a new publication out there: Nancy Drew. I’m very curious what her story is about.

Oh! I love Nancy Drew! I think you will enjoy them when you get the chance! Lena, thank you so much for chatting with me! I really enjoyed it and I hope you did too! Happy reading and horsebacking!

Thank you. Maybe I’ll see you along my route sometime.

About the Book

Lena Davis is the daughter her mom never wanted.

But she survived. Through stories. Because books didn’t judge. Books weren’t angry she was alive. Books never expected her to be anything but who she was.

As she grows up, her beloved library becomes her true home.

So when the library is designated part of President Roosevelt’s Packhorse Library Project, Lena is determined to get the job of bringing books to highlanders, believing she’ll finally be free of her mom forever.

But earning the trust of highlanders is harder than she imagined, and her passion for books might not be enough to free her from her chains.  
Readers can get a free short story prequel, “Finding Hope,” by signing up to Amanda’s newsletter: amandatero.com/newsletter


Amanda Tero grew up attending a one room school with her eleven siblings—and loved it! She also fell in love with reading to the point her mom withheld her books to get her to do her chores. That love of reading turned into a love of writing YA fiction. Amanda is a music teacher by day and a literary guide by night, creating stories that whisk readers off to new eras and introduce them to heroic but flawed characters that live out their faith in astonishing ways.

Meet Destiny McCulloch from Carole Brown’s Caleb’s Destiny

Hi, Destiny. It feels as if I know you personally after all the contact we’ve had for the last three months. Thank you for agreeing to this interview to help promote the book, Caleb’s Destiny.

Destiny:  I’m glad to do it. 

Let’s get started. Why did you come to the wild west? I mean, you had it nice back in Boston.

Destiny:  Why? Ever since I was sent east, I’ve wanted to come back west and find a little boy I knew years ago. He was such a good person who cared for me like no one else ever has. We lost touch, so I figured if we were going to unite, it was going to come from me. 

That’s interesting. But why were you sent back east?

Destiny (tears in her eyes):  I lost my parents when just a child. The young boy who rescued me—his  father couldn’t raise me by himself because his wife was dying. I think he felt helpless in raising a girl child.

That’s so sad, but understandable. I understand you’re engaged. Can you tell me a little bit about your fiance?

Destiny:  Hmm. What to tell? We’re not actually engaged, just almost there. He’s very good-looking and well liked in Boston. Many parents there wanted him to notice their daughters. Oh, yes. He’s a minister too. So very proper.

What did your fiancé, excuse me, the man back east think of you traveling west?

Destiny:  He really didn’t say much. I know my own mind, so I don’t usually ask for permission. But he didn’t protest too much. (Under tone):  It wouldn’t have done any good if he had.

So, do you think you know what you want in a man?

Destiny:  Well, I’m not thinking I’ll get married any time soon. I like my freedom too much.

(Smiling)  I guess we’ll see how that goes, won’t we? But if you were choosing a man for marriage, what would be the character traits you’d like to see?

Destiny:  Since you insist, I would say I like to see a strong man—not just in bodily strength, but in knowing his mind. A man who is also gentle and not afraid of what others think, but will do what he thinks is right. Of course, I’d like him to be handsome, but the other traits are more important. 

So, have you met anyone lately that attracts you? That tempts you to open your heart?

Destiny:  Maybe. There’s Bert Bottoms who’s handsome and has a very good job as president of the town bank. Then there’s Mr. Michael, who makes me angry, but I know he’s a really good man. And he can be charming if he tries. 

You’re saying you have three men to choose from, is that right? 

  • Richard, who is a minister, and loves you, and will probably give you a good and safe life;
  • Good-looking, financially stable Bert Bottoms, and;
  • Mr. Michael, who makes you angry, but can be charming and you think is a good man.

So who will you choose?

Destiny:  Oh, I can’t say. If readers want to know, they’ll have to read my story in Caleb’s Destiny. I think they’ll love it. It’s very romantic, if I do say so myself. 

Well, then, if you won’t tell, I want to thank you for sharing just a bit of your life, Destiny. I’ll be sure to encourage everyone to read your story. 

Thank you for visiting!


Mr. Michael, Destiny Rose McCulloch, and Hunter have a mysterious history. Why were three fathers, all business partners, murdered under suspicious circumstances while on their quest to find gold? Hunter, who is Mr. Michael’s ranch manager, is determined to find the answers and protect the precocious young lady who he suspects holds a key answer to his questions. Mr. Michael wants only to be left alone to attend to his property, but what can he do when Destiny refuses to leave and captures the heart of everyone of his employees? Destiny almost forgets her quest when she falls in love with Mr. Michael’s ranch and all the people there.And thenMr. Michael is much too alluring to ignore. The preacher man back east where she took her schooling tried to claim her heart, but the longer she stays the less she can remember him. She only came west to find a little boy she knew years ago. A little boy all grown up by now…unless, of course, he’s dead.

Readers, you can find Destiny’s story on Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Carole-Brown/e/B00EZV4RFY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

and on Barnes&Noble here:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/calebs-destiny-carole-brown/1137072312?ean=9781941622636


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

Personal blog: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleBrown.author

FB Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/183457429657732/

Amazon Author Page:  https://amzn.to/38Ukljnhttps://amzn.to/38Ukljn

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/browncarole212

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/carole-brown

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/browncarole212/?hl=en

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sunnywrtr/boards/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5237997-carole-brown

Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/carole-brown-79b6951a/

Book Review: An American Duchess by Karen Harper

I regret taking so long to read a book by Karen Harper. I have no excuse, but I suppose I was hesitant because I thought they were mostly romance and that’s not my usual reading choice. I’m not a huge fan of reading fiction about historical figures either, but there have been exceptions, so why not? I’m not sure why I hadn’t tried, like I said.

I met Karen Harper numerous times at Ohioana Book Festivals and events put on by the Historical Novel Society. We both lived in suburbs surrounding Columbus, Ohio. I had many conversations with her. She recommended one of her older titles to me, and even though I have yet to read that one, I plan to.

When I saw An American Duchess was available on audio at my library, I downloaded it. I remember sitting next to Karen at a panel on historical fiction at Ohioana in 2019. She talked about An American Duchess and lovingly patted the cover as she spoke. I know that feeling. The books you spent so much time on are your babies.

At first I was afraid I was right about the romance focus but I kept reading and as I did I realized a master storyteller was at work. Yes, Consuelo had a head full of romantic dreams and was even a bit shallow. At the start. Things changed for her and she grew stronger and wiser. We get to meet the young Winston Churchill and learn about how aristocracy changed in England before, during, and after WWI and WWII. (Yes, I was on the Downton Abbey bandwagon, so I liked this.)

The suspense as Consuelo and her second husband (no spoiler here as she is a historical public figure) are racing to leave Europe and flee the Nazis added another element to this novel that I didn’t expect.

I am glad I read it. There are many Karen Harper fans out there, but if you were like me and reluctant to try her books, wait no longer. There is a new novel out as well. Sadly, Karen passed away earlier this year. She was battling cancer, but I heard that it was this nasty 2020 virus that cost her her life. She’s left a great body of work written over many years. If you’re a Karen Harper fan, which book is your favorite?