Getting to Know Captain Ben Coleridge from Regina Scott’s A Distance Too Grand

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! It’s a pleasure to meet the man who will be the first to survey the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. How did you manage that assignment?

I’m proud to be a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, ma’am.

So that means you must be a graduate of West Point. What class?

The class of 1866. Since then I’ve completed surveys in the field, helping Wheeler out west, and then worked on monuments in our nation’s capital.

From the Wild West to Washington D.C. Which did you like better?

The frontier, hands down. I couldn’t wait to get back into the field. Although this wasn’t exactly the assignment I had been hoping for.

Oh? Why do you say that?

For one thing, my father the Colonel disappeared in that area two months ago, and no one knows what happened to him. For another, the moment I arrived at Fort Wilverton to meet my team, I discovered Meg Pero was going to be my photographer.

A lady photographer? I didn’t know the Army allowed such things.

Normally we wouldn’t, but there’s another lady along, our cook and the wife of our cartographer. And Meg’s good at what she does. I’ll give her that. But she was the last person I wanted along on this expedition. We’re running late in the season, it’s critical our survey align with another going on down in the canyon proper, and it may be dangerous. No reason to bring along the woman I once thought I was going to marry.

Did you just say you were going to marry Meg Pero?

I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor, ma’am.

You mentioned danger. What concerns you about the North Rim?

It’s said to be a most stunning display of natural beauty, but we’ll be facing wildly fluctuating temperatures, scant water, predators like mountain lion, vermin like rattlesnake.  We might meet flashfloods, wildfire, and lightning storms. Meg would be safer heading back east.

So, are you going to turn her away?

No. I can’t leave without a photographer, and she’s the only one available. Like it or not, I have to take her with us. 

What did she say when you told her?

She just smiled in that way she has and claimed her photographer father had always said nature would kill him if man didn’t do it first. 

“I’m not afraid, Ben,” she told me. “This is a grand adventure. Think of the vistas we could capture.”

All I could think about was how easily she could recapture my heart.

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.

Yes, ma’am, and I better get to it. You’ll be able to learn how Meg and I, and the survey, came out in A Distance Too Grand, by Regina Scott.

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

Regina Scott is the author of more than 45 works of warm, witty historical romance. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the prestigious RT Books Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma, Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier.

An Interview with Etta Collier of Mail-Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer

Nice to meet you, Etta. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I desperately wanted children and long wondered why the Lord didn’t share that blessing with my husband and me. After a while, I stopped begging and simply accepted the situation for what it was. Yet later, I realized how difficult it would have been to provide for even one child once I was on my own.

What did you like about your job as a dressmaker?

I loved the smiles of women and girls when they tried on what I crafted for them and I saw that oh-I-feel-beautiful look in their eyes. That’s how I knew I’d given them exactly what they wanted.

That is a special talent, Etta. That must have given you much satisfaction!

I hear you were recently widowed. I’m so sorry for your loss. What were your greatest fears when you found yourself alone?

Many fears run through a woman’s mind when she finds herself suddenly alone. Not that loneliness hadn’t been creeping into my heart with William’s distractedness over his debts and failures at erasing them. But when one’s husband is shot in a brawl it is somehow a more devastating loss than an illness or accident. It is more of a theft. A blatant robbery of one’s hopes and dreams. Add to that the inappropriate advances of the banker who held the note on our home, and I wasn’t quite sure which I feared more—the man’s insinuations of how I could pay that debt off or the temptation to lace his tea with strychnine the next time he darkened my door.

What an awful situation to be in! I heard you received a letter from a little girl, Gracie, who wanted you to be a mail-order bride for her widowed father. It’s kind of a crazy idea. How did you feel about it before you left?

You are right. It was absolutely a crazy idea. Crazier still when my own pastor suggested I be the one to answer the child’s letter. However, I was about to lose my home because my dress-making was not earning any more than what it took to keep body and soul together. If I answered Gracie’s letter, I could relocate away from the repugnant banker, find at least a temporary home, make a fresh start, and help ease a little girl’s loneliness. With my agreement to merely visit the family I was free to leave if her father were a rogue or ruffian. If not, well, that was a chance I was willing to take.

 What do you think of Sheriff Bern Stidham since you’ve met him?

The man has the most unusual gray-blue eyes—oh, pardon me, you didn’t ask about his appearance.  Well, he is all man. What I mean is, um, he does the best he can where keeping house is concerned. I’ve never seen such dust. But he loves Gracie more than life. He cares also for the townspeople, some of whom attend Sunday morning where he fills in as interim pastor for a small congregation. I enjoy his sermons, for he makes God sound approachable. Reachable. And, well, if I were quite honest, I can see myself as more than just his cook and housekeeper and Gracie’s nanny. I can see … Ah, dreams again. One must not get ahead of one’s self in that matter.

 Do you think there is a future for the three of you as a family?

 I truly hope so, but I’ve not been completely open with Bern about my past—fairly fleeing from Independence, leaving my home behind, and defaulting on my debts. I should have told him at the very beginning of our arrangement. But I’ve learned that should have doesn’t do anyone any good at all. I’m afraid I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Gracie—the little girl I always wanted. And, well, her handsome father is so strong yet gentle. At times stern and ill-tempered, but always kind. Yes, I admit, my dreams are spinning in a family direction.

Then I wish you the best of luck, Etta! Sounds like it would be the right fit for all three of you.

About the author:

Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she writes romance for those who enjoy a Western tale with a rugged hero, both historical and contemporary. She holds the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, teaches writing workshops, and plays the keyboard on her church worship team. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing, she’s wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with Davalynn athttps://davalynnspencer.com. and at Facebook, Twitter,and Pinterest.

A Chat with Clarissa Kliest from Denise Weimer’s The Witness Tress

Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother.

Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets.

Novel PASTimes: It’s autumn 1805, and the fields are lined with corn and dotted with pumpkins here at the Springplace Moravian mission in Cherokee Territory, located on the plantation of Chief James Vann. We’re sitting down to tea with Clarissa Vogler Kliest, heroine of The Witness Tree. We’re gratified for this moment to catch up with her, since so much has changed in her life since August. Do you feel comfortable to tell us about what happened in August, Sister Kliest?

Clarissa: Please, call me Clarissa. *nervous giggle* I’m afraid I’m not quite used to my new last name. I’m married, but, well, my husband and I … that is to say, we’re taking our time to get to know each other.

Novel PASTimes: That is because your marriage was an arranged marriage or a marriage of convenience, is that not correct?

Clarissa: We prefer to call it marriage by the lot, but yes. Would you like a ginger cookie? They are delicious with this autumn spice tea, made in the paper-thin Moravian style from the bakery back home in Salem, North Carolina.

Novel PASTimes: They sound wonderful, but I’m most interested in this marriage by the lot. What does that mean?

Clarissa: Well, we Moravians believe that for major church and life decisions, we can seek confirmation of God’s will through the lot. This is based on Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. After we pray for guidance, our church elders will draw a piece of paper out of a bowl or tube. The paper will read either “yes,” “no,” or “wait.”

Novel PASTimes: And that is what happened with your marriage?

Clarissa: Yes. John Kliest was the builder and surveyor for our town of Salem, but he always wanted to work at the Cherokee mission here at Springplace. Our church was founded and expanded from Germany to America with the focus on missions. But the elders said he must have a wife first.

Novel PASTimes: My, that seems unusual to those who are not familiar with Moravians. Did the elders pick you, or did John?

Clarissa: *blushing* John mentioned my name as a possibility. The elders agreed, and then the lot confirmed. You see, before the Revolutionary War, my father shared the Gospel with the Cherokees. He had told me what he knew of their language and customs.

Novel PASTimes: From what I understand, language is an important part of what you are to do here at the mission.

Clarissa: True. I am uniquely qualified because not only am I to help the other brothers and sisters here teach the children of the chiefs, but the church hopes I will be able to record their language. So far, there is no Cherokee alphabet. 

Novel PASTimes: Despite all that, did you have any say at all in marrying John?

Clarissa: Oh, women can refuse the lot, but to do so would be to refuse the will of God. Although, when my choir helper came to tell me of the proposal, I thought it was from John’s younger brother, Daniel.

Novel PASTimes: You had an understanding with Daniel?

Clarissa: *ducking her head* Please forget I mentioned it. We not to have understandings with members of the opposite sex.

Novel PASTimes: As you wish. Do you find that the lot was correct? You are a good match for John?

Clarissa: John and I are … very different. He is not the most expressive person, and he longs for adventure. In fact, I sometimes wonder how long he will be content here at Springplace. The Vann family is mixed-blood, wealthy, and has learned European ways.

Novel PASTimes: And you?

Clarissa: I loved my comfortable life as a teacher in the girls’ boarding school in Salem. I am not a good Moravian. I like beautiful things. Traveling. I must admit, I pictured traveling to Philadelphia, though, not to the frontier. 

Novel PASTimes: Why Philadelphia?

Clarissa: There is a Moravian painter there, a master, who was to have taught me and D—. *shakes her head* I am an artist, you see. I once thought that using my talent was part of God’s plan, but apparently, it was not. Instead, I am here. I must apply myself to my new purpose. And my marriage.

Novel PASTimes: What challenges do you see before you, Clarissa?

Clarissa: Besides Rosina?

Novel PASTimes: Who is Rosina?

Clarissa: *covers mouth* Did I say that aloud? A fellow missionary who came here with us. She is so very … perfect. I am afraid John would like me better if I were more like her. 

Novel PASTimes: I’m sure that isn’t true. You seem like a lovely woman.

Clarissa: Thank you. In all seriousness, we are not sure how the Cherokees will respond to our teaching. And to my assignment of setting down their language. Some are very progressive and embrace European ways, while others feel their society is being corrupted by outside influences. It was not very many years ago that their warriors scalped settlers in the Cherokee-American Wars.

Novel PASTimes: Well, Clarissa, we pray that God will bless your time here in Cherokee Territory and your new marriage as well. We look forward to a report of how it all turns out.

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored over nine novels (including her contemporary story, Fall Flip, new with Candlelight Romance in September 2019!) and a number of novellas. As a managing editor at Smitten Romance, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.

Meet Mary Sullivan from Jane Kirkpatrick’s One More River to Cross

In 1844, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri hoping to be the first wagons into California. Mostly Irish Catholic, they sought religious freedom and education. All went well—until October when a heavy snowstorm forced the party to separate in four directions. Each group risked losing those they loved as they planned their escapes, waited for rescue . . . or even their own deaths.

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

Thank you!  The men and women in this story chose me to be the main speaker today. I’m Mary Sullivan, but you should know that there are nine other women who are a part of this amazing story based on real people and a real incident in 1844-45.

Tell us something about where you live.

So, where do I live?  I lived in Canada before heading west and I spent a grueling winter in the Sierra Nevadas. Now I live in California but getting there wasn’t easy! This story is set mostly, though, in the mountains. Now the pass where we wintered is known as Donner Pass. A couple of years later that disastrous party had a terrible time. We were there before them in an equally terrible winter near Lake Tahoe but we had a very different outcome.

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

Many in my family were named Mary or derivatives of Mary like Maolisa. One of my fellow travelers bore that name. It has an Irish connection which most of us on this Stephens-Murphy-Townsend wagon train have. Many, like Maolisa Murphy, came from Ireland to Canada then to Missouri and finally to those incredible mountains in the west. We all wanted a new life and an opportunity to worship freely in what was known as Alta California.

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

 Like most women of my time, I am a homemaker and had to make adjustments in being my mother’s helper after she and my father died of dysentery just days before we headed west from Iowa. My brother John and two little brothers and I were left orphans.  John, however, wanted me to be sure I behaved like a proper lady. But my real skills are not in knitting or cooking but in working with the oxen and in solving problems and using my physical strength like walking long miles in snowshoes to reach help.  Women can do those things and still be a lady. And I love to read and I helped another young woman — a wife — learn to read. Very gratifying. So is making sure my little brothers have night time stories of encouragement and faith

Who are the special people in your life? 

My brother John who is two years older than me and my two little brothers ages eight and ten. I’m a little shy but because of this journey I’d made new friends including Sarah and Ailbe and Ellen and Mrs. Patterson and…and then I also met Peter. That’s a whole new story!

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I want to make my mother proud even though she isn’t on this earth anymore. And I want to do that by being true to myself, by speaking up and offering ideas even when others might say a woman should be silent. I also want to keep my brothers and the other children who are waiting for rescue to trust that they are not alone. I want to keep their spirits up.

What are you most afraid of? 

That we will die here in these mountains before I have a chance to live.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

The Aron wool sweater that Sarah showed me how to knit. I took apart the sweater my mother made for me to learn how to do this “womanly” thing, to make my mother pleased that I did learn a woman’s art.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? 

I may not be able to wait for rescue but rather will start out to bring a rescue team to us. The risk is great but I will do what I must for my brothers and my friends.

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

Oh my goodness!  I’ve learned that friendships are the fuel that keep us warm in time of trials. I’ve discovered that leadership involves listening more than talking. I’ve witnessed the power of faith in struggle and how helping others in a challenging time is a way to help oneself. I’ve also come to accept that I can be different from other women — liking the outdoors more than cooking and sewing, being physically strong and still be a lady. I also realize that tending and befriending is a better response to stress than fight or flight!

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

I was in the background when this story began. Ellen Murphy, a real beauty, was important in this story of One More River to Cross  but she chose a different route out of this winter deluge. Then Maolisa was pretty important because she didn’t realize that she was about to deliver a baby. Now there’s a story! She thought she had another two months! Then Sarah Montgomery’s story took front stage as she came to terms with being abandoned by her husband who stayed behind to guard his weapons. At one point, all the women had moments of abandonment. I came to love each of these women (and a couple more I haven’t even told you about). When we shared things like where our feet had taken us or how we prepared a memorable meal, all ways to help us deal with starvation and the cold and the eight feet of snow, and our fears, I realized how tragedy had brought me into a family of women whom I didn’t know I needed. Now, when things get difficult I pray and I reach out to friends who help to support and sustain me until I can hear God calling me to a new direction. 

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

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than 30 books, including Everything She Didn’t SayAll She Left BehindA Light in the Wilderness,The 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 Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

Introducing From Yours Truly, Thomas by by Rachel Fordham

Name: Penelope Ercanbeck but please call me Penny. Only my mother calls me Penelope. 

Places lived: I live in Washington D.C. I used to live in one of the biggest houses in the area but that was years ago. Now I live in a small rented apartment. It’s all we can afford but I’m grateful we’ve a roof over our heads.

Jobs: I work at the Dead Letter Office. Most postal workers aren’t allowed to open mail but we’re allowed to if it helps us figure out where the mail should go. You should see some of the letters people mail. My goodness! Some are so boring and others are downright devilish.

Friends: Dinah’s my best friend. She’s a clerk too. Other than that we don’t have a lot in common. She’s so serious and I’m a little more prone to imagination and daydreaming. But she’s a good friend and she’s there for me when I need her. 

Dating, marriage: I dream of marriage. Especially when I open a romantic letter. In my mind I like pretending the words are meant for me. In real life though I don’t even know who I would court. I’m not a wealthy woman any longer and yet my roots keep me from feeling completely comfortable in the working class. 

Overall outlook on life: I try to be practical but sometimes I still dream of something more ahead. Something romantic and meant just for me. No matter how bad life gets I seem to just keep hoping and wishing for brighter days ahead.

What people like best about you: I’m honest and hard working. Those attributes pay the bills. But I like to think there’s someone out there that will like me for all of who I am.

What would a great gift for you be? That’s an easy one. I’d love a letter written to me. Something sincere and full of heart. I want my name on it. I’m tired of reading other people’s mail. I want my own. 

When are you happy? I have a dog name Honey that had shaggy long hair and a troublesome disposition. My mother hates her but I am always happiest when I am with my dog. She seems to understand me better than most of the people in my life.

Biggest trauma: Losing my father. He was the backbone of our family. The world had been better when he was alive. With him gone our lives have fallen apart. Our money was lost and our house. Now we barely manage to get by. But mostly I miss his smile and his laugh and all of his wisdom.

Do you have a secret? I read people’s mail. I know many secrets but part of my job description is to keep those secrets, secret. 

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I’ve always though letters could contain windows to the author’s soul. I suppose what I like best about the other main characters is their heart and soul. I feel I know them very deeply even though we’ve never met in person. 

About the Author

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs. She started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally, she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing and hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

Follow her online at facebook.com/rachelfordhamfans

Meet Darcie from Ann Gabhart’s New Novel The Refuge

Name:           Hello, I’m Darcie Goodwin.

Parents:       Arvin and Hilda Wright were my parents. My mother died in the cholera epidemic of 1833 when I was nine. My father, burdened with grief, sent me to live with an older couple, the Hatchells. Granny Hatchell, not my birth grandmother but she became a grandmother of my heart, needed help with household and garden chores.

Siblings:       My little sister, Rosie, died of cholera at the same time as my mother. My father took my two little brothers to live at the Shaker village for a while after my mother died, but he then went back to get them and took them to Ohio with him. He came for me but I didn’t want to leave Granny Hatchell.       

Places lived: I grew up on a farm in Kentucky and then lived with the Hatchells on a different farm. Finally my husband and I went to the Shaker village of Harmony Hill, Kentucky to escape a cholera epidemic in 1849.

Jobs:  My father sent me to live with the Hatchells as a companion/helper to Granny Hatchell. You might think that was kind of a job although it felt more like being with family. My husband and I kept living with her after I married. In my time, most women are wives and mothers who worked alongside their husbands on farms. Not many paying jobs for us except as maids, seamstresses or maybe a schoolmarm.

Friends: Granny Hatchell was the best friend I could ever want. But then when I went to the Shaker village the three sisters who shared my sleeping room came to mean so much to me. Sister Helene, Sister Ellie, and Sister Genna were all very different but we became as close as natural born sisters.

Enemies: I don’t think I have any enemies. At first when I was at the Shaker Village I had some problems living the Shaker way and that caused some difficulties with Eldress Maria. However as time when along and after Anna Grace was born, Eldress Maria and I found a way to care for one another.

Dating, marriage:  I married Walter after he helped me bury Pa Hatchell. Walter was a wonderful man. Strong and loving. I couldn’t have had a better husband.  

Children:  I have a sweet baby, Anna Grace. I love her so much. I loved her from the moment I knew I carried her in my womb, and I’m so thankful the Lord helped me after she was born. 

What person do you most admire?  That would have to be Granny Hatchell who shared her faith with me and helped me know that even in our most desperate times the Lord walks along beside us, an ever ready help in times of trouble.

Overall outlook on life: I want to be optimistic and cheerful, but I’ve walked through some hard valleys where such an attitude is difficult to maintain. But you can’t curl up in a corner and give up on life. You have to keep going, keep trusting the Lord for comfort and help, and believe the sun will eventually shine through those dark clouds.

Do you like yourself? That’s an odd question and not something I have ever considered. If I can believe the Lord loves me and I do, then that is enough.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I would, if I could, change the tragedies in my life. My mother and Rosie would have never died of cholera. But then if that had not happened, I wouldn’t have gone to Granny Hatchell’s. I would have never met Walter. I wouldn’t have Anna Grace. I suppose it’s best not to play God and simply trust him to guide us through life.

How are you viewed by others? Those who are part of my life know I am far from perfect but they are still ready to love me. It is such a blessing to be loved.

Physical appearance: I am short in stature and slender. Granny Hatchell used to say I wasn’t as big as a minute but with the energy of a hound dog pup. 

Eyes: A mixture of brown and green that sometimes looks golden.

Hair: Red and curly. I had a difficult time keeping my curly hair tucked away under my Shaker cap.

Voice: Not high and squeaky. Not low and growly. Just a normal voice.

Right- or left-handed? Right-handed.

How would you describe yourself? I don’t know that I should. I think it’s best to worry more about how we are inside than our outward appearance. But should I try to describe myself, I suppose I would say a small woman with a big spirit who is willing to attempt almost anything.

Characteristics: I am a willing worker. I hope for the best. I love easily. I have known sorrow that has made me have empathy for others. 

How much self-control do you have? A great deal. I lived with the Shakers for a while. They have many rules that require self-control.

Fears: I fear losing those I love, especially my sweet baby.

Books: The Bible is the best book for me. I have Granny Hatchell’s Bible and it is a great source of comfort to me. I do love reading other books as well but while I was with the Shakers, they didn’t allow reading of novels. You could only read the Bible and books written about their founder, Ann Lee. 

What would a great gift for you be? The gift of love and a good home where I can mother my baby and any other children the Lord gives me. That’s all I need. 

When are you happy? Happiness can be more an inner attitude instead of the result of outward things. The Bible tells us that a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but sometimes it’s hard to have that happy heart when things aren’t going well in one’s life. But I am happy as long as I am with my family.

What makes you angry? I am angry if I see my friends or family mistreated. That doesn’t mean I don’t have flare ups of anger over silly things. I am a redhead after all. So if I draw a bucket of water and then trip over a cat, I won’t promise not to get cross. 

What makes you sad? Losing my mother and little sister to cholera made me sad. So did losing Granny and Pa Hatchell. And I was devastated when I lost my husband, Walter in an accident. 

What makes you laugh? My baby makes me laugh. Anna Grace is such a happy little girl.

Hopes and dreams: A happy family. What more could I hope for?

Biggest trauma: Losing my husband in a riverboat accident.

What do you care about most in the world? My family.

Do you have a secret? No. Well, I suppose I did have a secret in my early weeks with the Shakers after I discovered that I was carrying a baby. I had no idea how the Shakers would respond to that since they don’t believe men and women should live as man and wife. But that is a secret that usually can only be hidden for a short time.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I love my Shaker sisters. They were so kind and supportive while I was carrying my baby and after she was born. I love Leatrice and admire her spirit and the way she loves her father. I also admire her father, Flynn, for the way he would have walked through fire for Leatrice.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I prefer to concentrate on the positive. There are a few things about Mona that needs improvement, but the child has been through some difficult times. 

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: Raising my children to be strong and to know the Lord.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was often called on the carpet by Eldress Maria for times I did not properly remember the Shaker rules. Not exactly embarrassing since I cared nothing for learning the Shaker way, but such moments were uncomfortable at times.

Ann H. Gabhartis the bestselling and award-winning author of several Shaker novels—The OutsiderTheBelieverThe SeekerThe BlessedThe Gifted, and The Innocent—as well as historical novels—River to RedemptionThese Healing Hills, Angel SisterLove Comes Home, and more. Writing asA. H. Gabhart, she is also the author of the popular Hidden Springs Mysteries series. She has been a finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year and the Carol Awards, has won two Selah Awards for Love Comes Home, and won RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love Award for These Healing Hills.  Ann and her husband enjoy country life on a farm a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.

Meet Carrie Strahorn from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Everything She Didn’t Say

Everything She Didn't Say-Book CoverName:  Carrie Adell Green Strahorn

Parents: Dr. John W and Louisa Babcock Green

Siblings:  Mary Green Waters (older); Hattie Green

Places lived: Too many to mention!  Born in Marengo, IL.  We did have permanent homes for only short times in Omaha, NE; Caldwell, ID and Spokane, WA. But we lived in Denver, Bellingham, San Francisco, Butte, Cheyenne, etc.

Jobs: companion of railroad promoting husband traveling the west to identify locations for the Union Pacific Railroad to bring their tracks to. I wrote articles/letters for newspapers back east and had a pen name of A.Stray.  That’s a story in itself, don’t you think? I also helped start a Presbyterian church which was the work of my life.

Friends: My husband Robert and my sisters are my closest friends. It’s very hard to have long-term friendships when one travels all over the west by stage and train. Friendships take time and commitment. I am committed to helping my husband in his efforts.

Enemies: I don’t have any unless you identify some of the town fathers who disliked my husband because the railroad didn’t come to their town. I’m also my own worst enemy – my self-doubt desire not to disappoint Robert. I always go along with what he wants and that isn’t always wise.

Dating, marriage: Graduate of University of Michigan in the 1870s; I didn’t date much being busy with my singing. I traveled to Europe on tour. I met Robert as he was the fiancé of my college roommate who shared my name. When she died before their marriage, Robert and I found each other ut he called me Dell after that, perhaps not wanting to use the first Carrie’s name. We were married September 19, 1877.

Children: none though in later life I claimed the sons of our chauffer as my own on the census. Actually, the census recorder got it wrong but I let it stand. I adored them. And I almost adopted a set of twins Kate and Kambree — but Robert didn’t want that to happen, said it would be too difficult with our traveling life.

What person do you most admire? I admire Pace Caldwell. She’s the wife of former senator Caldwell who was removed from the senate because he bribed a competitor not to run so he could win. He lived in Kansas. Pace held herhead up high, continued to love and support her husband. She kept her dignity. That was admirable and I called upon that when Robert had his own financial fall. Pace kept getting up and starting again despite disappointments and betrayals.

Overall outlook on life: I live in a “happy lane” and see the adventure of  life as unique and full of grace. I want to celebrate it, downplay any personal disappointments. Presbyterians have a phrase about “seeing a way clear” that means we believe God has shown us a way forward, that we can “see our way clear.” I look for that.

Do you like yourself? Most of the time. I’m a bit overweight but it’s those rich dinners when we’re having to dine the bankers and politicians that Robert must engage with in his railroad promotion. I’d like myself better as a mother so I did find some ways in later life to be a surrogate mother to some college girls. And I adore my nieces. I like myself best when I’m with my sisters and my family.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Oh, I wish I’d insisted about the twins we could have adopted. We could have adjusted our traveling; in later life I stayed at home more anyway. So yes, I would have become a mother.

How are you viewed by others? They admire me, I know. Especially after the book came out, my memoir called Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage in two volumes covering 1877-1880 and 1880-1898. Some people said I was a better writer than Robert. I think I was more conversational. He had to write reports on soil conditions, landscapes, rail line routes, stuffier things. I wrote about people and I never complained. I never named someone in a story who had a negative role to play. I hosted wonderful parties and made people feel welcome and when I set my heart on something – like getting a Presbyterian church for Caldwell – I persevered. People admired my persistence and some said my grace in times of trial.

Physical appearance: I’m 5’5”, a tad overweight. Curvy, I’d call it.

Eyes: blue

Hair: frizzy chestnut color

Voice: melodious. I’m a singer

Right- or left-handed? right

How would you describe yourself? I’m a Victorian lady who wears my long skirts, corset, bustle, and a hat, usually straw with feathers and dried fruit as decorations when I’m out in public. But I’ll ride astride a horse (with a discreet skirt to put on over the split one as soon as I step off the horse). I have a pleasant voice, wear round glasses that are often dirty as I’m so busy engaging in life I doesn’t notice. I adore my husband, have a wry sense of humor, long for the roots of home and children and am grateful for the adventurous life God’s given me.

Characteristics: Strong-willed, people pleaser, passionate, will try anything once. Loving of family and my close friends.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Never quite once I’m committed; try to please people at my own expense.

How much self-control do you have? Lots.

Fears: Not being useful, not finding my life’s purpose

Collections, talents: I can sing and do in choirs of the west when we stay in a town for a few months. I collect treasures from some of our adventures like being the first woman to go into a gold mine. I saved a piece of ore.

What people like best about you: I’m game for anything. Once.

Interests and favorites: I love to read, that’s my greatest pastime when I’m not off on some adventure like riding on the cow chaser of a railroad engine over the Dale Creek Canyon. I’m also drawn to landscapes – the oceans, mountains, rivers and lakes of the West.

Food, drink: I don’t imbibe though have twice tasted champagne . Once when my memoir was published and another sip when we took our 6 month tour of Europe.

Books: Emily Dickinson’s poetry

Best way to spend a weekend: With Robert riding horseback in the mountains

What would a  great gift for you be? Diamonds. I do like diamonds.

When are you happy? When my sisters and parents come west to visit and I can show them the landscapes that I love.

What makes you angry? Seeing children suffering. And when Robert misled our friends in an investment. I was very angry about that.

What makes you sad? Not having a grandchild.

What makes you laugh? My dogs! Bulldogs are so funny!

Hopes and dreams: To be remembered as a generous, loving person.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? Getting my husband on that cow chaser. He didn’t enjoy it one bit!

Greatest success: Convincing a pastor we’d called Caldwell to stay when he at first said he didn’t think he was up to the task. He was and he did.

Biggest trauma: Dealing with closed in spaces.

What do you care about most in the world? That children be treated with dignity and respect and loved by their parents.

Do you have a secret? I don’t always tell my husband what I’m thinking.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? They’re kind and generous people

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? That I don’t get to see them more often.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be: I did it already. I wrote a memoir celebrating the west.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: Humiliating thing? Having to escape at night across Puget Sound in a borrowed wooden boat because my husband had misled investors. We had to borrow money for the stage. Worst. Night. Ever.

Thank you, Carrie, for visiting with us here on PASTimes. We’ve learned a lot about you!

Jane Kirkpatrickis the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including All She Left Behind,A Light in the Wilderness,The Memory Weaver,This 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, USABestBooks, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

Kirkpatrick_Jane

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Book Review: Swept Into Destiny

Swept Into Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Released May 24, 2017 from CrossRiver Media Group

Book Description from Amazon:

One brave decision leads to serious consequences. Maggie is secretly educating the slaves at Spirit Wind Manor. But the manor’s serenity is soon threatened by abolitionist John Brown. A new republic looms on the horizon and with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, her countrymen’s anger escalates as secession spreads across the southern states. With the fires of civil war glowing on the horizon, Maggie is swept into its embers realizing she is in love with the manor’s hardworking, handsome Irishman Ben McConnell. Ben joins the Union Army and Maggie is forced to call him her enemy. An unexpected chain of events leads her into choosing where her loyalties lie. Conscience and consequence—did she care more for Ben or for her beloved South? As the battle between North and South rages, Maggie is torn. Was Ben right? Had this Irish immigrant perceived the truth of what God had predestined for America?

My Review:

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s flowing descriptions pull you into Swept Into Destiny and keep you immersed in the world of the Antebellum south and beyond. This isn’t just a world of beaus, belles, and balls, but of moral ambiguity and searches for truth. As much as the readers are shown the beauty of Spirit Wind Manor, deep struggles are also revealed.

Maggie Gatlin secretly teaches the slave children to read and cares for them in real ways. The kindness she and her mother show to the slaves wins them more enemies than friends amidst the southern economy.

Enter Irish immigrant, Ben McConnell, who values freedom and principle above wealth and ease. Treated like dirt by those who hire him, his father, and friends for menial labor, such as clearing the swamp, he readily identifies with the plight of those enslaved.

As Maggie and Ben become attracted to one another, the war separates them as Ben fights for the Union Army. Maggie struggles with the questions of unity versus secession; all the while clinging to the Savior they share. Will the war separate Ben and Maggie forever?

Brakefield has researched the era well and adds details to evoke the reality of suffering at the time of the Civil War, bringing actual historical events and people into play through much of the novel. With a romance as tumultuous as the war that divides Maggie and Ben, Brakefield doesn’t leave any loose ends. Fans of historical fiction with a strong faith message will greatly enjoy Swept Into Destiny.