Meet Hazel from Rachel Fordham’s A Lady in Attendance

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

After spending the last five years in a New York state reformatory, Hazel is
desperate to begin life anew, but she knows that a tarnished name could ruin her
chances. She accepts a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts’ lady in attendance but does
so under an alias so she can hide her shameful past.
Dr. Watts has come to enjoy the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, but
he senses her sadness and wonders if there is more to her story than she’s shared with him. As their friendship deepens, Hazel must grapple with her desire to trust him.
Can Dr. Watts and Hazel’s friends help expunge her record? And can Hazel possibly find hope and love
along the way?

Thank you for having me. 

Tell us something about where you live.

Currently, I am living just outside of Buffalo, New York in the much smaller village of Amherst. I moved into a boarding house and have already made a friend here. Not so long ago, I lived in a reformatory (like a prison, but with the goal of rehabilitation). While living there I learned to make friends quickly due to its ever changing dynamic. 

I am getting off subject. You asked about where I live and now, I’m talking about my time behind iron gates. I don’t normally talk about those five years. When I do everyone judges me. My five-year sentence feels like a lifetime one. Even now I have taken to using a false name so that I can get a job without anyone knowing my past. I would love to leave all that’s happened before behind me but it follows me. I no longer dream of romance or family, but I do hope that here in Amherst I will be able to put bread on my own table. 

You say you’ve taken a job. Can you tell us about that?

I was only just hired by the quiet dentist, Dr. Watts three weeks ago. He does not know my real name and for that I feel immense guilt. I do work hard and he seems satisfied with my efforts. When I was first hired, I believed him a very shy man, and he is, but he is also kind and has wit that many would miss but I find it delightful. 

I do not find the teeth or saliva particularly appealing but I enjoy the patients. You never know who will come in each day. Some make me laugh and others are very afraid. It’s hard to explain but I find it all rewarding and Gilbert (he allows me to call him that when there are no patients there) is always kind. I fear he is my superior in piousness. He is good to a fault but that is far better than working for someone who does not believe in the virtues.

Despite my looming past, I enjoy my days and find them rewarding. It is also a blessing that I can afford my rent at the boarding house. I fear desperation would have pushed me to taking any job, but Providence has led me to a job I actually enjoy.  

It sounds like you’ve had a very rough life. What of your family? Can they help you with your troubles?

My family raised me well. I can not blame them for anything that has happened. If I had listened to my mother when I was younger, I would have been able to avoid many of the hardships that have befallen me. 

It’s difficult to talk of them. I ache for them so badly, but I can’t turn to them, not now and perhaps never. I have already brought enough shame to them. 

Can you tell us about your past? What is it that brought you from high society to a reformatory and now to separation from your family?

That is a very long story. But I will say that I am innocent of the burglary charges that were brought against me, but my past is far from innocent. 

I would rather not dwell on it. 

I understand. Thank you for spending time with us today. After listening to you talk, I find that I am now hoping you will find a future that is hopeful and happy. 

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


Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas,
and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving
deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves
connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future
projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy
mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate
about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of
Washington.

Meet Agnes Pratt from Rachel Fordham's A Life Once Dreamed

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

Will you introduce yourself? 

Of course, thank you for asking. My names is Agnes Pratt and I am the only school teacher in all of Penance. Teaching has been my life since I left Buffalo, New York, six years ago. I find great satisfaction from working with my school children but there are days when I wish there was more…

 Why did you leave Buffalo?

 Oh, um…I came here to teach. I wanted a fresh start. 

I feel like there’s more to your story than you are sharing. I’ve heard you were well to-do back east. Weren’t there schools there you could have taught at?

You are correct. My family was well to-do and they were so good and kind to me. I love them and miss them dearly. But…well, I couldn’t stay. I have a secret that I can’t share right now and maybe never but it forced me to leave the city, family and man I loved. 

A man? 

His name is James Harris. He was my dearest friend when we were little and then one day we realized we were in love. I don’t want to talk about him. It’s been so long but even now it hurts my heart to think of him and all I left behind. Wondering what might have been is too painful.

Very well, we’ll talk about other things. Do you have friends in Penance? 

Yes! I have such dear friends. The children of course but also the townspeople. I have a loud and obnoxious friend named Minnie. She says the most outrageous things but I love her and I know that if I were ever in a pinch she’d be there for me. I have a gentle friend too. Her name is Hannah. She suffered a great loss recently but is still so full of hope. I do wish you could meet her. I think you’d find her as amiable as I do. 

Penance is a small town and we’re so isolated in the Black Hills that we’ve all grown close and despite our differences we care for each other. 

I know you have a lot to do so I’ll only ask one more question. What are you most afraid of?

That’s a difficult question. When I was young, I would have said I was most afraid of living a life without James but now that is my reality. I’m much braver here in Penance than I was before, perhaps, because I have to be. There are still nights when I find myself afraid that this is all there is. That I’ll never see my family again, that I’ll never have a child of my own or feel the rush of emotion that comes from love. 

That’s a silly fear. Forget I said it. I don’t have time for fears or daydreams anymore. My life is full and for that I’m grateful. 

I thought we were done but I have one more question. If James were to walk back in your life what would you do? 

James…I, well, I would tell him that the same reasons I ran still exist and then I’d lock myself in my room and hide my tears from him. Some things can never be. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! I hope you get to be more than just the teacher and that somehow your broken heart can heal. 

When Agnes Pratt discovered a shocking secret, she fled her hometown in search of a new life. Now six years later, she has made a predictable life for herself as the lone school teacher in the rugged Dakota Territory town of Penance—one devoid of romance but filled with work and friendship. But when her childhood sweetheart, James, arrives on the scene, her life threatens to be upended by a man who must never know her secret.  

James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor with an ulterior motive—to finally get answers from the girl who left him behind. Undeniably still carrying a torch for “Aggie,” James can tell she’s desperate to keep her distance even if he doesn’t know why. Can James convince Aggie that her secret—and her heart—are safe in his hands?

A Life Once Dreamed is a beautiful story of love and healing that affirms that where you come from matters far less than where you are going.

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.

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

Interview with Em from Rachel Fordham’s The Hope of Azure Springs

Today we welcome Em, a character from The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham.

Name: Growing up my parents and sister called me Emmy but that seems like a very long time ago. For seven years I’ve been simply Em.

Parents: My parents were John and Viviette. I say were but even with them both dead I still think of them as my parents. I’ve missed them so much. It hurts sometimes just thinking of them and how things used to be.

Siblings: For many years my whole world was my sister. We rode the orphan train together. I helped her not be afraid by telling her stories. I never thought we’d be separated. It’s been seven years now since perfect Lucy found a home and I was put back on the train. Dreaming of being reunited with her is what kept me going all those hard and lonely years.

Places lived: I was born in New York. I moved with my parents from shared tenements to a little apartment and then with their passing I lived on the streets. I don’t like talking about that though. Those were dark days. After the orphan train ride I lived with George until being rescued and taken to Azure Springs.

Jobs: The only job worth mentioning is what I’m doing now. I work for Margaret Anders at her boarding house. She’s an eccentric woman but I adore her. She’s a dear friend.

Friends: Margaret Anders and all of the Howell family. I’ve also gotten to know Caleb Reynolds the sheriff. I like to think of him as a friend.

Enemies: I came into Azure Springs with a wound in my side. I suppose it’s safe to say I have enemies. I’d love to put a name to them but I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on.

Dating, marriage: I stood on train platforms as an orphan. No one ever wanted me. I was too plain as a child and even now with food in my belly and a little meat on my bones I’m still not much too look at. I can’t imagine that a man would ever want to marry me. But there was a time when I hoped. Perhaps someday, no, it’s foolish to hope.

Children: I’ve always adored children but I’ve none of my own.

What person do you most admire? That’s a hard question to answer. I’ll always admire my mother. Now living in Azure Springs I find myself wondering if I could ever be like Abigail Howell or Margaret Anders. It’s strange I’d pick those too. They are both very different, but they are both so good and kind. Only one is quiet about it and the other loud. Their kindness has changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful.

Overall outlook on life: At first I was living only to survive but the longer I’m in Azure Springs the more I believe and hope for brighter things ahead. I’m not one to wallow in my miseries. I aim to make the most of what I’m given.

Do you like yourself? I like that I’ve a body that I can use to work hard but I’ve never cared much for the way I look. There are days when I feel weighed down with regrets and I can’t help but blame myself. But I keep trying and I think that counts for something.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I’d change so much. But most of all I wish I could have found a way to stay with Lucy.

How are you viewed by others? When I lived at George’s I don’t think anyone thought much of me. In Azure Springs I think those that have sat by my bed and spoken to me consider me a friend. Some take pity on me. There are others though that judge my appearance or gossip about my history. I wonder how the Sheriff would describe me. He looks at me sometimes like he is trying to decide what he thinks of me.

Physical appearance: I was frail and skinny when I first arrived. I hadn’t eaten enough for a very long time. I also have burns on my arm that I try to hide. Some call me waifish or plain. But one of my little seven-year-old friends told me I was beautiful and for a moment I felt I was.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Dull yellow

Voice: Often quiet

Right- or left-handed? Right

Characteristics: Hard working, loyal, forgiving, gentle, kind and loving

Strongest/weakest character traits: self- worth

How much self-control do you have? I’d say this is one of my stronger traits. I could ration my food for weeks or months even when I was so hungry at George’s place. I can wait when I must. I can also teach myself things even when it means doing something over and over again.

Fears: Never seeing Lucy again, being hungry or cold and failing to keep my promise to my mother.

When are you happy? I was happy the other day when I was racing Caleb up a tree. It sounds so childish telling you about it, but it was a beautiful escape from reality. For a moment it was just us and the vast sky. I could almost forget about the threats and unknowns that were in my path.

What makes you sad? I’ve been alone so much I often dreamed of friendships and family. I overheard girls my age gossiping about my past. It was lies and it hurt. I wondered in that moment if I was worth befriending. Why me? I didn’t understand, and it hurt.

What makes you laugh? I share a room with two seven-year-olds so laughter is easy to come by. They are always telling me the most adorable things. The other day they suggested that Caleb was the Prince of Azure Springs. We all laughed but the title stuck, and they’ve referred to him as such often since. I laughed with them but the more I think about it the more I think he is rather princely.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I told Lucy I’d always be there for her. I remember looking into her round little face and telling her that I’d always take care of her. Days later we were torn apart and I’ve regretted it since. I blame myself.

Do you have a secret? Everyone keeps trying to put together the clues of my past and why I arrived with a wound in my side. Poor Caleb is forever pestering me to remember more. I try to tell him that I lived in the barn and I don’t understand it myself. I do have secrets, but the ones people are after I can’t seem to figure out myself.

Thanks for letting us get to know you, Em!

Rachel Fordham 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 she hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

https://rachelfordham.com

https://www.facebook.com/RachelFordhamFans/