A Chat with Raina from Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano

Name: Raina Bretton      

Parents: Poor working class, and now deceased.

Siblings: None living

Places lived: Spitalfields, London; Rothburne Abbey in Somerset

Jobs: Restorer and seller of rags

Friends: Sullivan McKenna, fiddle-playing Irish transplant who’s the son of the local vicar in Spitalfields.

Enemies: Victor Prendergast, solicitor and lady’s maid, Simone (although I’m not sure why we’re enemies)

Dating, marriage: Secretly in love with childhood best friend Sully, Sullivan McKenna

Children: None yet

What person do you most admire? The little old widow who shares my flat. She has more spunk than ten men.  

Overall outlook on life: it’s tough, but I’m tougher. Yet there’s a lot of beauty to be found outside these crowded slums, and plenty to appreciate right here, too, if you’ve an eye for it.

Do you like yourself? I’m a restorer of rags, and I cringe at that part of myself, but I’m also a restorer of castoff people. That alone makes a soul worth keeping on this earth, in my opinion. 

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? Anyone could stand to have a bit more coin in her hand. Yet more than that, I secretly wish to be rid of these terrible rags that are a label and a barrier to people seeing the true me. I’d never admit it out loud, but I’d love to be swathed in vibrant colors and lush fabrics that match my artistic heart.

How are you viewed by others? I’m a thief if I’m hanging about too close, a schemer if I stand too long staring at a gent, and a dirty, common woman to be avoided if I’m anywhere near respectable folk. I’m as much an outcast as the rags I peddle, but one day that’ll all change. Maybe not this side of eternity, but it will.

Physical appearance: People always look twice at my face when I’m not in rags, and that’s the best mirror I have. I’m the rag woman, but a young one with a fresh face. With a good wash and fresh clothing, you’d think me a lady. Spending hours trapped indoors has left me as pale as the rich, and my aristocratic bloodlines have given me high cheekbones, delicate features, and soft, thick hair that begs to be piled high.

Eyes: Blue

Hair: Long, thick waves

Voice: Low and firm, with an edge when it’s needed.

Right- or left-handed? Right

How would you describe yourself? I’m loyal to a fault—count me a friend once, and you’ll find it hard to be rid of my help. I gravitate toward the abandoned, the castoff and the broken, drawn to repair as much as I can. I wear nothing of beauty on the outside, but do all I can to shore it up inside.

Characteristics: Made strong by adversity, plucky and independent, wary of everyone yet childishly eager to trust.

Strongest/weakest character traits: Natural ability to see the good in people—whether or not I actually should.

How much self-control do you have? A great deal—mostly because I set few limits on myself. I obey the rules that make sense and focus on people over laws. I obey my own set of rules quite nicely.

Fears: Becoming as worthless as society at large thinks I am.

Collections, talents: Rags find their way into my hands and no matter their condition, I can make something useful of them. I am the giver of second chances, of renewed life.

What people like best about you: Sully once told me I had the oddest combination of pluck and delicate beauty, and that I always stand out among the rich and the poor. I liked that. Those who have come to know me have experienced firsthand the restoring influence I bring to both rags and people.

Interests and favorites: A lifetime of restoring rags has given me a great variety of opinions on fabrics, embellishments, flounces, and ribbons. I love color and rich fabrics, and a well-done trim.

Food, drink: I’d be in heaven if you gave me a bowl of raisin pudding.

Books: I’ve devoured every written page I’ve ever come across in my life. I’m never above losing myself in a good story, be it ha’penny novels or rich scholarly work.

Best way to spend a weekend: Lying on the roof of my tenement with Sully, staring up at the stars and giving them names. The only words between us are the ones Dickens has penned that we’ll read together.

What would a great gift for you be? A luscious, vividly colorful gown with no trimmings, so I may adorn it with all the embellishments I’ve enjoyed creating on gowns that are not mine.

When are you happy? When I am with Sully—that’s when I most know who I am.

What makes you angry? Total disregard for any human on this earth.

What makes you sad? Knowing that no matter what I accomplish or know or do, I will always be simply, “the rag woman.”

What makes you laugh? The songs Sully creates on his fiddle. With the right words and a silly little grin, he never fails to make me laugh.

Hopes and dreams: A life outside of Spitalfields, where I can see the sky beyond the buildings and walk through the streets with the respect of a normal woman.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I gave the Vicar a tongue-lashing once—the vicar! Near as bad as saying it to the Almighty himself. 

Greatest success: Bringing something cast away back to life—once it was a lovely red gown, another time a widow who’d lost all hope.

Biggest trauma: I’ll never forget the day I received word that my Sully’s ship had been lost. I’d sent my heart out on that boat, and it sank with him. I never had the courage to tell him of my love for him.

What do you care about most in the world? Finding life everywhere—in little hidden pockets throughout the slums, in the rags that are cast aside, in the people whose spark has gone.

Do you have a secret? Everything I am is about to become a secret, if I choose to accept the new life offered to me. No one can know I was ever Raina Bretton the rag woman.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Victor is charming and so different than the rough Spitalfields men I know, even if he scares me a little. Sully—dear Sully—there’s no one more dear to me than my fiddle-playing, star-gazing, best friend who taught me to read.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I don’t feel I know them thoroughly, but neither do they know me. In Spitalfields, everyone sees me as “merely the rag vendor.” In Rothburne, I’m something entirely false.

If you could do one thing and succeed at it, what would it be? Rescue Sully the way he’s rescued me from a lifetime of scrapes. That’s what best friends do.

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: I was arrested once. I never like to talk about it, and I’m ashamed it happened. Everyone assumes, when you’re the rag woman, and no one stops to ask why you carted off with the clothing left on the curb. Even if you had perfectly good intentions, those bobbies will assume and drag your hide off to prison anyway. I never want anyone to know about the night I spent there.

Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.

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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Meet Charles McIntyre, hero of Heather Blanton’s Romance in the Rockies Series

 

romance in the rockies

Please, tell us a little bit about your story.

My name is Charles McIntyre and I used to be a bit of a scoundrel. Used to be? Does a man who has hoed the rows I have, ever really let go of his dark-side? I built the lawless, godless mining town of Defiance practically with my bare hands, using some pretty unsavory methods. A past like mine does not stay buried.

During the war, I spent five years covered in blood and guts for my beloved South, only to walk away from everything in the end. I don’t mean just my family plantation, our wealth, our culture. I walked away from civility, from the ideals of honor, chivalry, and simple decency. Demoralized by the brutal conflict, I told myself there would be no more lost causes. Going forward, I would rule in hell rather than serve in heaven. I hacked Defiance out of the Colorado wilderness and allowed in only those souls willing to accept this was my town. I was king. I was the law.

And I was lost.

A few years into my reign over Defiance, three good, Christian sisters showed up at my doorstep. I allowed them to stay because I wanted a spur line. Unless some civility was restored to this godless-free-for-all, the rail road, however, would never agree to it. I could not have guessed how three women could impact the town. How one could turn me into a new man. Was it Shakespeare who said, “And though she be small, she is fierce?” The bard knew women and their earth-shaking influence over us.

Where did your Author come up with this idea?

Well, now, that is an interesting tail. The whole Defiance concept was born of Miss Heather’s love of three things: westerns, old movies, and her sister Susan. Miss Heather is the youngest of three sisters and when her sweet middle sister died in 1999, she found herself pondering the loving relationship they had all shared. These reflections gave way to daydreaming (which writers are known to do) and that led to a story of three good, Christian sisters stranded in a very bad town run by one very handsome, but hard, ambitious scoundrel.

I am an anti-hero. I am the best and the worst of men like Rhett Butler, Quirt Evans, Wyatt Earp, and yes, Han Solo.

Do you feel like she portrayed you well?

Generally speakin’, yes. My fan mail attests to the popularity of a bad man trying to be strong and tender, firm but gentle, a follower of Christ, but the Lord of one mean town. I would like to see more of my background story thrown into Book 4. I often speak lovingly of my mother, yet it is never relayed to the reader how, when, or where she died. I have expressed my great displeasure with Miss Heather over this deficiency and she has promised to alleviate my concerns in the next novel.

Do you have any hobbies?

Prior to the sisters’ arrival in Defiance, my hobby was building my kingdom and making money. I owned every gold stake, cathouse, saloon, and mercantile in Defiance. My priorities began to change not long after, of course, and now I find myself trying to figure the ins-and-outs of building a family. Recently I went fishing with my son, an activity I have not engaged in since I was boy in Savannah.

Who is your enemy and why?

Ah, Miss Heather knows me so well. Perhaps better than I know myself. In all three books, she has provided me with a nemesis of profound depth and darkness. However, she has woven the real truth throughout all the stories—I am my greatest enemy. My personal demons turn and fight more often than I have them retreating. And, yet, somehow, Miss Heather manages to provide me with a happy, if not ideal, ending in each book.

Who do you most trust?

Naomi Miller McIntyre. I will never have the words to express my gratitude at the salvation she has afforded me, both through her tenacious love and her fearless expression of the gospel. She has never once expected me to be perfect, merely willing to believe both she and the Lord care about me, no matter what I have done. In my past, I have committed the darkest, the most profane acts. Nothing was sacred to me. Nothing. Or so I thought, until I realized I would do anything to save Naomi. Surrendering myself for another person revealed an amazing truth to me: True love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Not even at the door of my worst failure.

What annoys you?

I suppose it is my pride that bedevils me here, but I hold great disdain for men who think they can ignore a direct request from me. Regardless of my personal journey to faith, the fact remains Defiance is my town. I run it now to the benefit of others, as opposed to simply garnering personal gain. That said, the rowdies, the belligerents, the trouble-makers are not welcome and they will only get so many warnings.

Will you be in another story?

I believe there would be a small riot if Miss Heather chose to right a Defiance novel without me. In fact, nearly ALL the correspondence that has come in since the release of Book 3 has been kind but clear—the ladies want more of Charles McIntyre. She has promised she will oblige.

Thanks for joining us today on Novel PASTimes, Charles!

heatherI write Christian Historical Western Romance. Yes, that often entails the use of firearms in a threatening manner. Sometimes there are fistfights. There may even be politically incorrect but historically accurate language. But also, there is always an inspirational message and strong allusions (at least) to the gospel. A former journalist, I am an avid researcher and endeavor to skillfully weave truth in among fictional story lines. I love exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. I have walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw’s note in my hand. I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne Westerns. My most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to my daddy, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester! My daddy also taught me to shoot and, trust me, I can sew buttons on with my rifle.
“Heather Blanton is blessed with a natural storytelling ability, an “old soul” wisdom, and wide expansive heart. Her characters are vividly drawn, and in the western settings where life can be hard, over quickly, and seemingly without meaning, she reveals Larger Hands holding everyone and everything together.” MARK RICHARD, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, AMC’S HELL ON WHEELS, and PEN/ERNEST HEMINGWAY AWARD WINNER
 
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Introducing Stephenia H. McGee’s character, Ella, from her latest release, In His Eyes

In His Eyes: A Civil War Romance By Stephenia H. McGee

In His Eye coverHer heart sought shelter. Her soul found home.

Ella Whitaker rescues a newborn from the dying arms of a woman of ill repute and at long last she has someone to love. In need of a wet nurse, she arrives at Belmont Plantation just as Federal soldiers demand to speak to the owner. Thinking quickly, Ella masquerades as a Yankee officer’s widow in order to have a roof over her head and a home for the child.

Major Westley Remington has dedicated his life to serving his country. The Civil War has divided his family, torn his thoughts of glory, and left him with a wound that may never heal. Westley returns home on medical furlough to settle his father’s estate at Belmont Plantation, only to find his home is being run by a fiery and independent woman—one many believe to be his wife. Now he is faced with a conflict he’s never been trained to fight, and one she has yet to conquer.

Hi there, Miss Ella. It’s nice to finally be able to sit down with you and get to know you. This is such a beautiful home here at Belmont Plantation. From what I hear and see, you’re a true Southern lady. Can you tell me what your life was like growing up?fun pic Stephenia w model for IHE

Ah, yes, my Momma was a proper Southern lady and would be so happy knowing I haven’t forgotten everything she taught me before she passed. She and my Papa met when he was breeding horses at my Momma’s family plantation. It didn’t take long before they fell in love. Since he was a Scottish immigrant and working with horses, my grandfather wasn’t too pleased they wanted to get married, so they ran off and started a small horse farm of their own. Although it was a struggle for my Momma to have to work so much on the farm, she did it out of pure love. That’s the kind of love I’ve always dreamed of.

What happened to your parents?

Momma got sick with a terrible cough, and there just wasn’t anything the doctor could do to stop it. Papa missed her so much after she passed that he took to the bottle. And then the War Between the States began and Papa died. The farm was destroyed. I took the train as far north as I could go. I ended up in Parsonville and worked at the Buckhorn Inn scrubbing the kitchen just for food and a place to stay.

Wow, you’ve really had a lot happen before coming to Parsonville! Of course, I’ve read your story about how you ended up here at the Remington’s Belmont Plantation. It sounds like God directed your steps with that little wee one you call your son.

Praise God! As soon as I caught Lee coming from his birth mother’s womb, I knew he would be a special child. Why, he was the most beautiful boy on earth! Then I started doubting my ability to be responsible for this little child when I couldn’t even take care of myself! But from the moment I met him, not once have I doubted my love for my son from the heart.

So what did you think of this beautiful home, the Belmont Plantation, when you came with baby Lee to seek a wet nurse?

Why, for heavens sakes, it was the finest of homes! Well, until I saw those Yanks banging on the front door. That’s when Sibby and I met. Oh my, that was frightening. She needed to be rid of the Yanks and I needed a wet nurse. Definitely a scary moment for both of us.

What do you think you’ve learned by telling others your story about your baby boy and Major Remington coming home to a wife he didn’t marry? What would the theme of your life be?

I think we all struggle with feelings of inadequacy at times. Sometimes we forget who we are and whose we are, and it can lead to all manner of insecurities. In the telling of my story, God encouraged me to never forget that no matter what else goes on in life—good or bad—my identity is always grounded in Him.

About the Author:

Stephenia H. McGee (1)

Winner of the 2012 RONE Best Inspirational Book of the year (2012) and author of six Historical novels, Stephenia H. McGee has a fascination with hoop skirts and ball gowns, Greek revival homes and horse-drawn carriages, quirky Southern sayings, and home-grown recipes. She currently lives in Mississippi with her husband and two boys, (accompanied by their two spoiled dogs and mischievous cat) where she writes stories of faith, redemption, and stories steeped in the South.

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