Inspirational Stories of Love, Faith & Family Set in 19th Century America

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Book Review, A Tapestry of Light and a Giveaway!

About the Book


Title: A Tapestry of Light
Series Info: Stand Alone
Author: Kimberly Duffy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Info: Bethany House Publishers, March 16, 2021, 433 pages 


Blurb

In 1886 Calcutta, Ottilie Russell is adrift between two cultures, British and Indian, belonging to both and neither. In order to support her little brother, Thaddeus, and her grandmother, she relies upon the skills in beetle-wing embroidery that have been passed down to her through generations of Indian women.

When a stranger named Everett Scott appears with the news that Thaddeus is now Baron Sunderson and must travel to England to take his place as a nobleman, Ottilie is shattered by the secrets that come to light. Despite her growing friendship with Everett, friend to Ottilie’s English grandmother and aunt, she refuses to give up her brother. Then tragedy strikes, and she is forced to make a decision that will take Thaddeus far from death and herself far from home.

But betrayal and loss lurk in England too, and soon Ottilie must fight to ensure Thaddeus doesn’t forget who he is, as well as find a way to stitch a place for herself in a cold, foreign land.

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My Thoughts

What. A. Book!

I was completely enchanted by A Tapestry of Light. Duffy does an excellent job bringing the sights and sounds of colonial India to life. Through crowded streets, lush gardens, and the scent of Indian spices, I was transported to another world. Beautifully woven with a sprinkle of Hindi words and customs, we see 19th century India through, Duffy’s heroine, Ottilie Russell, a young woman of Eurasian (Indian & British) descent.

Ottilie is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. As her story begins, she is swept up in a tragedy that brings the vivid memories of losing her father and two sisters to cholera years earlier. Ottilie relies on her talent to embroider with iridescent beetle wings to support her family. Apparently this was a fashion craze in the 1800s and I’d never heard of it, so I looked it up. As you can see, It’s just lovely. I’ve had no idea those were the casings for beetle wings, would you?

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Ottlie is guarded and fiercely protective of her only two remaining family members, her younger brother, Thaddeus, and her grandmother. While this may shy some readers away, I urge you to read on. Who hasn’t suffered in this world? Who hasn’t wondered where God is when the circumstances of their life overwhelm them? If our faith is so fragile that we cannot voice our doubts in our grief or despair and come out stronger on the other side, like Ottilie, I would question how strong it was in the first place.

Just like in her debut, A Mosaic of Wings, Duffy has once again created characters that leapt off the page into my heart. The story is told through Ottilie’s perspective, yet the entire cast of secondary characters were well thought out and developed. They were my friends and I was sorry to part with them when the story ended. Even the antagonists recognized their flawed thinking and seek forgiveness by novel’s end. But it was Everett Scott, Ottilie’s friend and eventual romantic interest, that took my heart by storm. Everett is a kind, honorable man, with a strong faith, who never looks down on Ottilie because she is of Eurasian heritage. As feelings grow between them, Everett is torn between the woman he loves and the responsibility he feels to carry on his father’s business and make him proud, thus redeeming himself from the sordid details of his own ancestry. But in order to do that, he needs a proper British wife, the kind that can open the right doors for him. Despite the fact I  wanted to shake him at times for putting societal expectations above his growing feelings for Ottilie, Everett is one of my favorite heroes of the year. This flaw only made him more realistic, not only as a man of his era, but as a human being who needed to grow and be stretched. Seeing Everett open his heart to God, to allow God to prune him, and him being willing to let go of what he thought he’d always wanted, made Everett’s journey all the more satisfying.

And Duffy doesn’t shy away from tough topics like prejudice and racism. As a white woman living in one of America’s most affluent counties, I really appreciated the opportunity to see the world through Ottilie’s eyes. Although both her and her brother are Eurasian, Duffy shows the disparity between the way people treated her because she looked Indian where as Thaddeus looked British (white). She never felt fully accepted by either culture in India, but when she arrived in Britain, she felt alone and alienated in her own home, while her brother was touted as the next heir of Hazelbrook Manor. Her search for belonging, to be accepted for who she was, not what she appeared to be, is a theme I find especially relevant for today’s historical fiction reader.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


Favorite Quotes

“You must look deeper beneath what a person shows. There is always a story. Things are never what they seem.”

“…since I arrived in London, I’ve learned family is made up of more than those related by blood. And before I left India, Dilip told me that home was never supposed to be a place. It is the people.”

“You’re not anything like I imagined, but so much more than I’d hoped for.”

“People will always see what’s easiest to understand.”


About the Author

Kimberly Duffy is a Long Island native currently living in Southwest Ohio, via six months in India. When she’s not homeschooling her four kids, she writes historical fiction that takes her readers back in time and across oceans. Her first novel was the highly acclaimed A Mosaic of Wings. You can find Kimberly at www.kimberlyduffy.com.

 


    Giveaway*

**This giveaway is now closed.**

Congratulations to our winner, Megan!

I’ll be giving away one paperback copy of A Tapestry of Light to one lucky Romancing History winner. To enter, let’s chat about exotic settings in novels. I must admit that India wasn’t high on my list of places to travel but now I really want to visit this country that Duffy has brought to life in her first two books. What book has made you want to travel to another city or country? Why?

**Giveaway ends midnight, Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Author Interview with Alton Fletcher and a Giveaway!

I’m so excited to introduce my friend, Alton Fletcher, to Romancing History readers today. Alton writes historical fiction and his debut novel, Find the Wind’s Eye, released earlier this month. Another exciting first for Alton, he is the first male author I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing here on Romancing History!

Find the Wind’s Eye is a Antebellum tale with a message relevant for today’s reader about equality, the evils of prejudice and discrimination, and the condition of the human heart. I personally think Alton’s novel sounds intriguing and hope to read it next month so stay tuned for a review post when I’m done.

Alton has geneoursly offered 3 print copies of Find the Wind’s Eye to 3 separate Romancing History visitors so make sure you see the Giveaway section at the bottom of the post for details on how to enter the drawing.

Before we get to the interview, let’s learn a little more about Alton and Find the Wind’s Eye.


About the Author

Alton Fletcher enjoys sailing almost as much as he enjoys writing and sometimes wishes he could do both at once. He became enamored with the sea, sailing ships, and books upon his first reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a boy. For the past twenty years, after retiring as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, he has made Virginia his home, where he continues to sail and write to his heart’s content.

 

 

Connect with Alton on his Website, Twitter, or his Amazon Author Page.

 


About the Book

In 1854 Boston, Third Lieutenant Andrew Gunn of the United States Revenue Cutter Service questions the President’s direct order to extradite a fugitive slave, Anthony Burns, back to Virginia aboard his ship—a lawful order that he believes is immoral and unjust.

Torn between his own reverence for freedom as an American and his sworn duty, Gunn suffers the hazards of hard choices that threaten his own life, liberty, and happiness. His first real exposure to the scourge of slavery brings chaos to his ordered life, despite his desperate attempts to control it.

Set aboard a small ship in the midst of a gathering political storm, Find The Wind’s Eye is a timely, moving story about a man of principle trying to find his way in a fast-changing, increasingly ambivalent world. He strives to do the right thing, while struggling with the ugly truth of his own complicity in the national sin of slavery.

Find the Wind’s Eye is available for purchase on Amazon.

 


Author Q&A

Fast Five

  1. Dogs or Cats? Dogs
  2. Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin? Chocolate Chocolate Chip
  3. Night Owl or Early Bird? Night Owl
  4. I Love Lucy or Get Smart? I Love Lucy
  5. Oldies or Country? Country Oldies, Sea Shanties, and Old Hymns

 

RH: Hi Alton, welcome to Romancing History. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long you’ve been writing? How many books you have published and what era you write about?

AF: Thank you for having me today. I look forward to meeting your readers. I graduated in 1977 from Geneva College, a Christian liberal arts college in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. My wife, Cheryl, and I were married in 1976, while still in college. We’ve been married ever since and have made our home in Manassas for the past 20 years. We honeymooned in Williamsburg, and we’ve always held a special place in our hearts for Virginia, so we were happy to finally settle here after the upheaval of seven cross-country military moves.

I had wanted to be a writer since high school, but after college, life happened. Work, kids (three daughters), more work, house payments, career, braces, college tuition, weddings, and so on. In addition to raising a family, I served for 22 years as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard, retiring in 2003. Though gratifying and exciting, my days in the military were often long and exhausting, with extended periods of travel and temporary duty in remote places. Hard to find time to write. I retired a second time after a very busy, productive, and successful life in private industry in 2015. Actually, I drove home from work in heavy Washington Beltway traffic one day and decided I’d had enough. It was a now or never kind of thing. At age 60, I quit my day job and started writing fiction. And I haven’t stopped.

After more revisions than I can count, I’ve recently published my first historical novel, set in the 1850s. It’s a fascinating period of major transitions in technology, philosophy, religion, science, politics, and psychology that caused enormous social upheaval and personal turmoil. That turbulent period shaped the modern world as we know it today. We can’t really understand ourselves if we don’t know how we got here. That’s what I like to discover. What were people thinking back then? How did those huge changes affect them in their daily lives? How different were they from us? Have we really made progress since then? Though we are much wealthier, generally speaking, than those who lived two centuries ago, in many ways we are much poorer, especially spiritually and religiously. We live in an age of materialism and apostasy, which stems directly from its mid-nineteenth century roots. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think that growth in the wrong direction isn’t progress.

RH: I totally agree with you about the relevance of understanding history and learning from the past. BTW, my daughter attended Geneva College as well. Now tell us something unusual about yourself. Something not in the typical back of the book author bio—something quirky.

AF: I suppose the quirkiest thing about me is that I’m a contrarian. I suspect that’s what those who know me best would say. As I was thinking about this question today, I looked up into a gray, overcast sky to watch a large flock of seagulls pass overhead, maybe fifty or so flying eastbound. A lone gull, apart from the others, was headed west. I had to laugh. That’s me.

One of my favorite phrases is, “Yes, but.” I love a good argument. Total agreement is overrated. I find it dull and boring and somewhat fake. Such a mindset didn’t serve me well in a military career, I can tell you. Neither does it make for conciliatory book club discussions. Yes, but … it might well suit me as a writer. At least, I think so, though I may be alone in that thought.

RH: Hmmm, I kind of resemble that remark. My mother used to tell me I’d make a good lawyer because I liked to argue. I’m not sure she meant that as a compliment. Which historical figure, other than Jesus (because who wouldn’t want to meet Jesus?), would you like to meet? Why?

AF: Mark Twain. He had a contrarian point of view about most things, from which derives his humor, I believe. I’d love to have a discussion with him about Huck Finn and white suits, among many other subjects. I wore a white tuxedo for my wedding. I’d like to meet Jesus for the same reason. Talk about being a contrarian. And James, his brother. (What must that have been like?!)

RH: Hahaha! Your comment about James made me chuckle. I wonder if Mary ever had to tell James to stop arguing with Jesus? Which 3 words describe the type of fiction you write?

AF: Timeless, thoughtful, and truthful. Also, historical, nautical, and literary, if such is at all possible.

RH: From the quote below, I’d have to agree with your description of your writing. I’m looking forward to reading Find the Wind’s Eye. What is your writing kryptonite?

AF: A favorite movie and a rainy day. I can’t pass up Master and Commander, if it is on TV. Or the arrival of a new book. Equally deadly to a writing day.

RH: I saw a recent tweet of yours about Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. I’ve added it to my list of films to watch. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

AF: Portraying intimacy (not sex). What do women actually say when out of earshot? I’ve long lived in a family of four women and still don’t know.

RH: This answer made me chuckle as well. I’d love to fill you in on what women talk about when men aren’t around but I’ld be breaking the sisterhood code. What was the inspiration behind your debut, Find the Wind’s Eye?

AF: I found the facts of the true story of the rendition of Anthony Burns both compelling and incredible upon reading James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, a remarkable history of the events leading up to the Civil War. McPherson features this event as being so volatile as to almost touch off a civil war in 1854. Our country was terribly divided over social and political issues. I was absolutely astounded to learn that the United States government was complicit in returning a fugitive slave to the horrible life from which he had recently escaped. It might have been lawful, but was it just? The story spoke to me, because I had experienced similar moral conflicts while serving on active duty in the Coast Guard. I wondered what I would have done in those circumstances and at that time. I had to find out.

RH: That is an intriguing answer. So now I”m wondering if your character’s response would have been the same as your own? That will be a question to follow up on after I finish your novel.When and where is your story set? (Any pictures you can provide would be nice for this question.)

AF: Find The Wind’s Eye is set in antebellum Boston in June of 1854. However, most of it takes place at sea aboard the government vessel that was ordered to return Anthony Burns to Virginia, sending him as a prisoner back to a life of slavery.

RH: Are you at liberty to share with Romancing History readers something that didn’t make it into the final copy like a deleted scene.

AF: I wanted to depict the courtroom trial of Anthony Burns, in which he was represented pro bono by Richard Henry Dana, a famous writer and civil rights attorney in Boston at the time. The outcome of the trial, which was all but pre-determined, depended entirely on the answers to two questions: (1) Was the man on trial Anthony Burns; and (2) Was Anthony Burns an escaped slave? Nothing else really mattered. Dana’s arguments for Burns to be set free during the week-long trial were eloquent and evocative, although he lost the hard-fought case. As I said, I’m enthralled by a good argument. However, I sensed that the opening chapters of my book required more dramatic action, which meant that it had to begin with the riots in the streets outside the courthouse after the judge passed the verdict that sent Burns back. So, I was forced to cut the first several chapters from the book. They were pretty good, though. It hurt to cut them.

As it turns out, the opening chapters depicting the riot outside the courthouse draw some interesting parallels to what happened on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol, even though they were written five years ago.

RH: Those scenes sound intriguing and might make a great giveaway for newsletter subscribers. Do you have a favorite quote from Find the Wind’s Eye you’d like to share?

AF: My favorite passage, I suppose, is the opening to Chapter 28, as the ship carrying Anthony Burns approaches the coast of Virginia after eight days at sea, headed to Norfolk. It speaks of arriving in this beautiful place with a purpose that wasn’t so pretty.

“As would any sailor worth his salt, [Third Lieutenant Andrew] Gunn sensed the nearness of land, like detecting the perfume of an alluring woman in the next room. Virginia beguiled them all, however, and kept them waiting just out of reach, her seductive scent borne on the light and variable breezes of late spring.”

“Meanwhile, the Morris labored on, her progress steady, but slow, standing up from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay under the expert guidance of the pilot. Both wind and current had conspired against the ship nearly the whole way, as though the entire natural world opposed her mission.”

RH: Those quotes gave me goosies. You are an excellent writer. What do you hope readers will take away after reading Find the Wind’s Eye?

AF: My book depicts the ageless conflicts between mind and heart, duty and conscience, self-interest and sacrifice that lie at the center of the quest for freedom, justice, and equality in American society. Many elements of the story are relevant to current events in our nation today. I hope it raises timeless questions that the audience is compelled to answer for themselves.

RH: I think that is our job as writers of  historical fiction and historical romance—to bring those questions to the forefront through an examination of the past. What are you working on now?

AF: Currently, I’m writing the sequel to Find The Wind’s Eye, which doesn’t yet have a title. I hope to complete a series of five novels, taking the same MC through the Civil War, depicting the devastating effects of divisive social conflict and war on him, his family, and friends over a period of ten years.

I’m told by agents and publishers that historical fiction doesn’t sell very well these days. Yes, but … we as a people have a lot to learn from our past. Those vital lessons could save us from a horrible future, if we will heed them.

RH: Unfortunately, I’ve been told the same but we must write what the Lord lays on heart. It is not our place to worry about the size of the audience because truly, we write for an audience of One.

Thanks for visiting with us today, Alton. I hope and pray that audiences will find your book. It definitely sounds like a wonderful read.


Giveaway**

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winners — Vivian Furbay, Emily Sellers, and Lori Altebaumer!

Alton has gracioulsy offered 3 print copies of Find the Wind’s Eye to three separate Romancing History winners. To enter please share your thoughts on current trends to either “whitewash” history or revise to fit better with today’s social narrative. Do you think we do ourselves a disservice to hide historical truths because they make us uncomfortable?

**Giveaway ends at midnight, March 3rd, 2021.

Author Interview with Tammy Kirby and a Giveaway!

I’m so thrilled to introduce Romancing History readers to my friend, fellow historical romance author, and critique partner, Tammy Kirby. Tammy writes edgy historical romance set in Victorian England. And ya’all, I love her books! She has a knack for infusing historical details into her stories that just bring the settings to life.

Tammy’s latest release, Hunt for Grace, the third book in the Haven House series, released earlier this week. You can see my review here. 

Before the interview, let’s learn a little more about Tammy and Hunt for Grace. And be sure to see the giveaway section below. Tammy has graciously offered a $15 Amazon gift card to one lucky Romancing History reader.


About Tammy

Tammy Kirby is an internationally published author. In 2018 she released her debut novel, His Grace Forgiven. This is the first book in the Victorian Inspirational Romance series, Haven House, which placed second in the 2016 Great Beginnings Contest. Since then, she has completed three consecutive books in the Haven House series and is working on the fifth and last book at present.

In between working as an ER nurse and writing Victorian Romance, she has authored two Scottish Time travel short stories and co-authored a third. Because she believes God has a sense of humor, and laughter really is good for the soul, you will always find humor in her works.

Most of the crazy things her characters go through already happened to her or someone in her family, occasionally a friend, and perhaps a villain or two might have taken on characteristics of someone who treated her with less than brotherly love. (wink, wink).

Tammy makes her home in NE Louisiana with her husband. In her free time, she drinks tea, eats orange slices, swears she’s going to get on the treadmill, and writes beneath the surface about broken people finding hope, happiness, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

You can connect with Tammy on her website, Facebook, Smashwords, GoodReads, BookBub, and Pinterest.


About the Book

Hunt for Grace, Book Four Haven House Series

Unworthy

Duncan Connor, English viscount and newly appointed Earl of Huntington, is unworthy. Past indiscretions keep him in turmoil. His only peace is found in the bottom of a bottle of spirits where he can forget what he did—for a time.

Now, not only is he saddled with a Scottish earldom complete with castle in the highlands, he has become sole guardian to a precocious five-year-old female. In a matter of minutes, he finds his new ward has an uncomfortable way of cutting to the truth with her honest observations. On top of this, the governess his sister hired to train the child just happens to be the one woman his demons will never let him forget.

Marisa Douglas has found freedom at Haven House, though she longs for a true home. But that’s a pipe dream her past will never allow because she is unworthy. When she is offered a job in Scotland as governess to an earl’s ward, she is ecstatic. She will be able to leave her past behind in England and make a life where no one knows what she has been.

Her dreams of anonymity disperse like the highland mists under bright sunshine when she meets her new employer. Duncan Connor is the very man who aided her despicable uncle in her downward spiral into the dregs of society.

Can two people find peace in the present when faced daily with their pasts?

Hunt for Grace is available for purchase on Amazon.

Other Books by Tammy Kirby, His Grace Forgiven, Joy to the Earl, Vengence is Mine Saith Mi’Lord, and Saving the McKinnon.


Author Q&A

Fast Five

  1. Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy? Matthew MacFadyen
  2. Sound of Music or Hello Dolly? Sound of Music
  3. Night Owl or Early Bird? Early Bird
  4. Oldies or Country? Oldies
  5. Dogs or Cats? Cats

Interview Questions

RH: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long you’ve been writing? How many books you have published and what era(s) do you write in?

TK: I’ve been writing since my early twenties-serious since about 2000. It took a few years before I got my confidence up to publish. I have 4 Inspirational Victorian Romance out there in the Haven House series. It is about forgiving the unforgivable. I asked God why He asked me to write this series and He told me: “Because I knew you would.” I also have a couple of Scottish Time Travel short stories published and a new anthology, I co-wrote with my friend, Carole Lehr Johnson, on the horizon that pulls them all together. Their Scottish Destiny will be published in the Spring of 2021.

RH: I love that your books center on forgiveness. Bitterness only hurts the one who fails to forgive. Now tell us something unusual about yourself. Something not in the typical back of the book author bio—something quirky.

TK: Action movies and Celtic music relaxe me. When I walk, I watch my feet instead of where I am going. I can laugh at myself. God talks to me in dreams.

RH: Being able to laugh at yourself is a wonderful quality. It helps keeps many of life’s challenges in perspective. Fans of romantic fiction love a cute meet. How did you and your significant other meet?

TK: Ok, so keep in mind we met each other before I sold out to Jesus. We went dancing, and he had a bit much to drink. He and his friend showed up at my apartment the next day pretty green around the gills. My dad arrived with tools to fix my toilet that had been on the blink for several days. (My two-year-old had flushed a full tube of toothpaste without my knowledge.) The friend, being a good ole boy, offered to help. In record time, he is on my front porch casting up his accounts and I can hear my dad snickering in the background. So, Roger had to fill in the gap. Dad saves the day, and Roger, who I later learned has the weakest stomach of anyone I’ve ever met, made it through without joining his friend on my porch. Dad told Mom on their way home. “She needs to keep that ole boy.” And I did. We celebrated our 36th anniversary last July.

RH: I love that Roger is a “good ole boy.” They are really keepers in my experience. Which 3 words describe the type of fiction you write?

TK: Christian, Humorous, Historical

RH: I do love the whit and banter in your stories. What does writing success look like to you?

TK: Success to me is that note or review that says, “Your book touched me and changed my life,” or “It made me rethink some things.” I guess I can sum it up with, success is about my readers drawing closer to God because of something I wrote.

RH: Oh Tammy, you really hit the nail on the head with that answer. Hearing from a reader that your book resonated with them makes all the hair pulling we do to get that story into print worth it. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

TK: I guess making sure I get their feelings and emotions correct. Men don’t think like we do.

RH: Boy is that ever the truth. My husband says men think blue and women think pink. What was the inspiration behind Hunt for Grace?

TK: God placed Haven House on my heart to show the world how important forgiveness is in our lives. If we do not forgive how can He forgive us? The first book, His Grace Forgiven, I bled because I had to put my own emotions in the heroine’s character. I had to forgive the unforgivable, and it wasn’t easy. I learned that forgiveness is not a gift, it is a choice. With each book, the characters just sort of evolved. In Hunt for Grace, Marisa has been used and abused by people who should have loved and protected her, and Duncan has done things under the influence of alcohol and pain that hurt others. He can’t forgive himself. These two people are lost souls that find redemption and healing by forgiving.

RH: You’re right, forgiveness is a choice and keeps our heart from growing bitter. When and where is Hunt for Grace set?

TK: 1865 The Scottish Highlands and Victorian England

RH: I’ve always wanted to visit the Scottish Highlands and you bring the area to life so beautifully in Hunt for Grace. If you were to pick a particular Scripture verse as the theme of your novel, what would it be? Why?

TK; Why? Because the scriptures say it plainly. I don’t want anyone to miss heaven because they held onto the bitterness or unforgiveness.

Matthew 6: 14-15 — “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

RH: That is such an excellent verse for this book, for the entire series really. What scene in Hunt for Grace was the hardest to write? Which is your favorite?

TK: I don’t think there is a hardest scene. I usually get to about 50,000 words and that’s when it gets hard. I have the bones of the story laid out and have to flesh it out with 25,000 more words to get to my designated 75,000-word novel. It is always daunting, but God never fails to pull it together. My favorite scene is the toothpaste scene.

RH: I find that initial draft the hardest to write. I like fleshing out the story through edits and layering with deeper POV and more description the fun part. What do you hope readers will take away after reading Hunt for Grace?

TK: I hope they will search within themselves to find any unforgiveness in their hearts and ask God to help them forgive those that hurt them. Not for that other person but for their own healing. Why? Because it is important to our heavenly Father.

RH: Amen! Thank for visiting with my readers today, Tammy!


Giveaway**

Congratulations to our winner, Joan Arning!

This giveaway is now closed

Tammy has graciously offered a $15 Amazon gift card to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, tell me if you’ve ever visited Scotland or England? If so, what was your favorite spot? If not, what would you like to see if you get the opportunity to travel there some day?

**Giveaway ends midnight on February, 24, 2021.**

Author Interview with Heidi Chiavaroli and a Giveaway

If you’ve been following Romancing History for a while, you know I”m a huge fan of timeslip (also known as dual timeline) fiction and no one does it better in my humble opinion than by guest today, Heidi Chiavaroli.

Heidi’s latest release, The Orchard House, will not only appeal to fans of timeslip novels but also to fans of Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women.

Now that I’ve got your curiosity peaked, let’s learn a little more about The Orchard House before we chat with Heidi. Oh, and don’t leave without entering to win a print copy of The Orchard House by leaving a comment (see giveaway section for guidelines).


About Heidi

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Her latest dual timeline novel, The Orchard House, is inspired by the lesser-known events in Louisa May Alcott’s life. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Website     Facebook     Instagram     BookBub     GoodReads


About the Book

Award-winning author Heidi Chiavaroli transports readers across time and place in this time-slip novel that will appeal to fans of Little Women.

Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong.

2001
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.

1865
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.

2019
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.

To purchase The Orchard House, click here.


Author Interview

Fast Five

  1. I Love Lucy or Get Smart? Considering I had to look up what Get Smart was, I’d have to say I Love Lucy!
  2. Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin? Chocolate Chip…chocolate anything. 😉
  3. Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy? Matthew MacFadyen (RH: If I’d known this it may have been a deal breaker for the interview, just sayin’!)
  4. Football or Soccer? Football, only to watch of course, and likely only on Super Bowl night. ;0
  5. Run, Bike, Hike, or Swim? Hike!

 

Author Q&A

RH: What five words best describe Heidi apart from being an author?

HC: Introvert, grace-clinger, nature-lover (hyphenated words count as one, right?), contemplative, creative.

RH: Hyphenated words, definitely count. Which historical figure, other than Jesus (because who wouldn’t want to meet Jesus?), would you like to meet? Why?

HC: This answer probably changes often for me, but this year it’d definitely be Louisa May Alcott. I’ve done so much research about her for the writing of The Orchard House that I would love to meet her. Maybe she could mentor me in my writing! 😉

RH: I think my answer would change as well. I think it would be very inspiring to meet Louisa May Alcott as well. What is your favorite historical romance novel and/or author? Why?

HC: A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. I loved this book because it didn’t ignore the gritty and the hard. Hadassah is the most admirable heroine I think I’ve ever met. Love her!

RH: Redeemeng Love, also by Francine Rivers, is my all-time favoirte story and one of the few novels I’ve read more than once. The Orchard House is your fifth book to release in five years. Can you give us a glimpse into your day? How early do you get up? Do you have dedicated writing time each day or is each day different? How do you juggle your writing life with work and raising a family?

 HC: I’m usually up by six and I spend some time reading and in prayer, followed by some yoga (spending all day at the computer is physically hard!). After my two teen boys are off to school (or these days, off to their rooms for classes), I get to work either writing, editing, or marketing. I have a trusty calendar with tasks to accomplish, and so I try to get something from each category accomplished each day, though that doesn’t always happen. Thursdays are designated cleaning days. I actually don’t schedule any writing-related things on Thursday so whatever I get done feels like a bonus!

When I’m on deadline, I will add in a word count for each day, and that always gets done first. (At least that’s the goal!) Before email, social media, etc.

I think the major key to juggling writing, family, and work, is to take my writing seriously. It is work. Then again, it’s just work. Family is more important and I try to set time aside (like Sundays and nights) where I don’t write. When I first got a contract, I didn’t do that. I would be on my computer trying to market in every conceivable way every night of the week. It was too much. Carving out time during the day while everyone else in my home is either at school or work and thinking of it as my “office time” at home is truly helpful. So are a lot of hikes in the woods. It’s downtime, but I’m still writing a story in my head. 

RH: True Confession: I’m very good about making schedules, but not so good about sticking to them. That is something I’ve been working on lately. I love to read time slip fiction. I’m curious to know, is it more challenging to write the contemporary or the historical thread in your novels? How do you weave them together so seamlessly?

HC: Each novel seems to be different. There’s no question the historical thread is more work, as it requires more research, and yet at the same time the research makes the writing easier because I’ve been immersing myself in the setting and characters for so long!

Weaving them seamlessly is definitely the hard part! I think starting off with an object that will connect the two time periods (like a book of poems in The Orchard House or like a tea chest in The Tea Chest) that definitely helps for me. It also helps to have my characters wrestling with similar inner struggles. So even though they may be centuries apart, they are coming alongside one another in their common problems.

RH: I’ve wanted to try my hand at writing timeslip fiction. Thank you for those tips. What is the inspiration behind your recent release, The Orchard House?

HC: Like so many girls and women around the world, I’ve always been captivated by the story of Little Women—a seemingly simple domestic tale that, with its timelessness, explores the complexities of family, friendship, and love. But there was something else that made this tale come alive for me—a childhood visit to the very place where Louisa wrote her beloved story. Orchard House brought Louisa and her novel alive in a new way. I remember being completely captivated by this place where these fictional (and real life) heroines lived, of beholding the very desk where Louisa wrote her masterpiece. For a child who loved this story, and books in general, this made a real impression on me.

Setting out to write a story involving Louisa and Orchard House, I dug through her biographies, journals, and letters for some interesting, lesser-known morsel about this famed author. When I learned about her time as a nurse in the Civil War, her experiences nursing a certain young blacksmith for whom she held strong feelings for but who would end up dying, and her subsequent near-death experience with typhoid shortly after, I knew I’d stumbled upon something. I thought it might be interesting to have my historical heroine, Johanna, be the sister of Louisa’s “prince of patients.” What if these two women struck up a friendship? What if Louisa offered her a way to Massachusetts? What if Louisa became a mentor to Johanna, who found herself in a difficult marriage?

From this storyline came the idea of women helping women, both in a contemporary story and a historical story. Themes of sisterhood, friendship, forgiveness, and helping the downtrodden—all themes in Little Women—were brought to the forefront of the book to further tie in and give honor to this much-loved story and author.

RH: I confess, seems I’m doing a lot of that in this interview, I haven’t read Little Women. I’ve only watched movie adaptions but I do love the characters. Hmmm, I better add that to my ‘to do’ list. Which scene in the The Orchard House was the hardest to write? Which was your favorite?

HC: The one hardest to write was at the end of Johanna’s storyline. I can’t really say more without a spoiler, but when readers get to it they will probably be able to understand why. I don’t often shy away from the hard, and that scene was definitely hard.

My favorite was actually the epilogue. Even though I knew how it would all come together, I felt it in that scene and thought it was special how Louisa played into it all.

RH: Oh I’m glad you didn’t give us any spoilers. I hadn’t thought of that when I posed the question and I’m currently listening on audio book,  which I highly recommend. Which secondary character in The Orchard House do you think will resonate most with readers? Why?

HC: I’m hoping Louisa May Alcott will resonate with readers! I did so much research, and really tried to do her character justice. I found out some little-known facts that I attempted to bring to light in the story, and so I hope readers find her as the interesting woman she was.

RH: I’m enjoying getting to know this literary icon as a woman. You are doing her great justice. Do you have a favorite quote from The Orchard House you’d like to share with Romancing History readers?

HC: I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but here’s one of my favorites from Louisa that is included in the book:

“When tired, sad, or tempted, I find my best comfort in the woods, the sky, the healing solitude that lets my poor, weary soul find the rest, the fresh hope, or the patience which only God can give.”

~ Louisa May Alcott

RH: That is a fine quote and one I whole-heartedly agree. I love to walk my dog and pray while enjoying His creation. What have you learned from writing The Orchard House? What do you hope readers will take away after finishing this book?

HC: I think this book has made me think a lot about my own spiritual walk. I’m hoping the themes of forgiveness, friendship, helping the oppressed, and finding a place to belong will resonate with my readers as these are all aspects found in Little Women and all things I’ve wrestled with over the last couple of years myself.

RH: I think those are timeless, universal themes that benefit us to visit over and over again. Thank you for visiting with us today, Heidi.


Giveaway**

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Sarah Taylor!

Heidi is graciously offering a print copy of The Orchard House to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, tell us which March sister (Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy) was your favorite and why?

**Giveaway ends at midnight, February 17th, 2021**

The Christmas Classic that Almost Wasn’t

I don’t know about you but I’m a HUGE fan of It’s a Wonderful Life. Every now and then I find someone who has never watched the movie or worse yet (she gasps in horror), doesn’t like it!

But few know the history behind the movie and how this much beloved Christmas classic was almost lost to modern fans!

Amazon.com: The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale (9781476778860): Van Doren Stern, Philip: BooksIt’s a Wonderful Life is based on the short story, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Van Doren Stern. After spending several years trying to sell his story to publishers with no success (boy, can I relate), Stern decided to have the story printed in pamphlet form and sent it as his Christmas card in 1939. Of the more than 200 cards sent that year, one found its way to RKO Pictures and into the hands of director Frank Capra who bought the rights to the story. Initially, Cary Grant had been tapped to play the beleaguered George Bailey but the project fell through and was shelved until  Capra revived it in 1945, this time with Jimmy Stewart in the starring role.

Although It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor, it failed to win a single one. Not only that, but the Frank Capra film was not a favorite with the movie going public who was hungry for movies about the Allied victory in World War 2. The movie was a total box office flop and wasn’t even able to earn back its $3.7 million dollar production cost. However, of the 400 movies released in 1947, it placed 26th in box office revenue, one spot ahead of another Christmas-time favorite, Miracle on 34th Street.

So how did this classic film rise to the level of the most beloved Christmas film of all time?

In the years following its release, It’s a Wonderful Life was forgotten by moviegoers and Hollywoood alike. So much so that the film’s copyright was allowed to lapse in the 1970s. Once the movie had been declared in the public domain, network television stations jumped at the opportunity to air a Frank Capra holiday film at no cost to them.

And air it they did. In the 1970s and 80s you’d have been hard pressed to find a time when it wasn’t airing on one network or another. As film historian Leonard Maltin recalls, “we literally kept changing channels and came upon it in different stage of its progress. And you can’t not watch. You can’t turn it off.”

What followed was a rebirth of the film as it finally hit home with a new generation of Americans who could relate to the struggles of George Bailey and cheered him on as he struggled to discover the blessings in a life that seemed to have gone hopelessly off plan. In 1990, nearly 45 years after the film’s release, The Library of Congress deemed It’s a Wonderful Life as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

So there you have it. One of the most treasured Christmas classics of all time, was nearly lost forever in a Hollywood vault. I don’t know about you but our family watches this movie several times each holiday season. Even though my children are grown we gather around the TV and as the film reaches it’s denouemnt we begin shouting the lines along with Jimmy Stewart as he discovers his mouth is bleeding and ZuZu’s petals reappear in his pocket. We laugh and shout along with George as he rediscovers the gift of life and wishes every building in town a ‘Merry Christmas.’ And then we shed tears of joy as all of Bedford Falls shows up in celebration and support of the man who had touched all their lives in so many countless little ways that made a huge difference. I get goosies just thinking about it!

I think I’ll go make a cup of tea, snuggle under a blanket and watch It’s a Wonderful Life!

And in my best Jimmy Stewart imitation, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!


Giveaway**

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Tarissa!

I’m giving away a hardback copy of Philip Van Doren Stern’s, The Greatest Gift. To enter, share your favorite line or scene from It’s a Wonderful Life in the comments below.

**Giveaway ends, midnight, December 23rd.

Christ is the Answer, Guest Post by Kathleen Bailey

I’m so excited to welcome fellow historical romance author, Kathleen D. Bailey, back to Romancing History. Kathleen has a timely message for us about how the Babe of Bethlehem is the answer the world needs, at Christmas, and throughout the year.

Kathleen’s newest release, The Widow’s Christmas Miracle, is part of Pelican Book Group’s Christmas Extravaganza. Here’s a little bit about her new release. Kathleen is also giving away an e-Book copy of The Widow’s Christmas Miracle and a New England Gift pack to one Romancing History reader. Give away details are at the bottom of the post.


From the Back Cover

Red Dawn’s world was shattered in a single vengeful act, an act that brought her to into the home of the enemy. She couldn’t love a white man, not after what they did to her people. Could she?

After losing a limb serving his country, Laban Jones has built a life from nothing. He’s got more than he dares ask for, but what woman would accept a one-legged husband? Can he offer Red Dawn three-quarters of a man, and will she be content with that? The answer they receive on a Christmas Eve is a miracle neither will ever forget.

“The Widow’s Christmas Miracle” is part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza” and is available at Pelican Book Group and Amazon.

 


Christ is the Answer

by Kathleen D. Bailey

 

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

The Babe of Bethlehem is placed under the Last Supper in the Chapel at Our Lady of La Salette, Enfield, NH.

It’s never been easy to be a Jew, and it wasn’t easy in 1 BC. Rome controlled Israel and every aspect of Jewish life, from taxes to burden-bearing. The people longed for deliverance. There was poverty, especially after the Jews paid their taxes. There was corruption, as the local and regional officials took a piece of those taxes. And those earlier days had their own plagues and diseases, including the dreaded leprosy, which could devastate a family for generations.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

But the Gentile world also longed for a deliverer. Many had had their fill of the made-up gods who weren’t any better than the humans who followed them…the gods who cheated and manipulated and rutted like animals and exploited humanity. They wanted something better. They wanted something real. Learned men from an Eastern land were pretty sure they’d found it. Or Him.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy.”

We live in a world with its own corruption and unfairness. The Coronavirus changed the world as we knew it, every facet of modern life, from ordering a coffee to visiting a loved one in long-term care. Our world has suffered a sea-change, which has left many of us struggling to reach a life preserver.

But He’s already here. He was the Jews’ hope as they lived under the humiliation and rapaciousness of a foreign power, as their dignity was stripped on a daily basis. He was the Gentiles’ hope as they searched for a better way than unscrupulous “gods” who didn’t exist in the first place.

The guest blogger with her family Nativity set some time in the 50s. The wonder never grows old.

I write historical Christian fiction, and I’ve made it my mission to establish Him as the Better Way for my characters. I write historicals because every human emotion, and condition, is magnified by the strictures of earlier times. People on the Oregon Trail didn’t have the CDC to tell them how to deal with cholera. They had to figure it out themselves. Regency heroines couldn’t just go out and get a job when Papa lost his fortune. They had to hope, pray and hang on for dear life until the right suitor came along. Women died in childbirth and desperate men ordered mail-order brides to care for their children. Christ was and is the answer, leading the pioneers to an understanding of that disease, leading the Regency spinster to the man meant for her, helping the lonely widower find love again in a woman he barely knew.

And, Christ was the answer for the young couple in my Christmas novella, “The Widow’s Christmas Miracle.” Red Dawn, the young Cheyenne woman, loathes the white race after two rogue Cavalrymen burn her village and kill her young husband. The last place she wants to be is with white shopkeeper Laban Jones, who takes her in while her brother-in-law tries to avenge their village. She hates whites, and hates gentle Laban by association. Laban lost a leg, ending his Army career, and while he manages on his trading post and homestead, he doesn’t think any woman, especially Red Dawn, wants to be saddled with “three-quarters of a man.”

Who can bring these two stubborn souls together, and help them to be more than the sum of their parts?

The Babe of Bethlehem, who will heal all our diseases – and our land.


About the Author

Kathleen D. Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other. Her first Pelican book, ‘‘Westward Hope,” was published in September 2019. This was followed by a novella, “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” in December 2019. Her second full-length novel, “Settler’s Hope,” was released July 17, 2020.

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.

Connect with Kathleen on her website, Twitter, Facebook or Linked In. Or if you prefer, you can email her at ampie86@comcast.net.


Giveaway**

This Giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Rebecca Waters!

Kathleen has graciously offered an e-Book copy of The Widow’s Christmas Miracle and a New England gift pack to one Romancing History reader. To be entered in the drawing, please comment below and tell us how, despite the many unique challenges that 2020 has presented, have you seen the light of Christ’s hope in the world reminding you that He alone is the answer?

**Giveaway ends at midnight, December 16, 2020.**

Book Review, To Steal a Heart by Jen Turano

2020 has been a difficult year for most of us but I’m delighted to bring you my thoughts on the latest release from author Jen Turano. To Steal a Heart is book 1 in her new series, The Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency. And folks, this romp through the Gilded Age is just what my weary heart needed.

I hope my review inspires you to pick up a copy or two and gift them to your reader friends. Believe me, they’ll thank you especially if they are fans of clever, witty historical romance.

Here’s a little bit about the book before I share my review.


About the Book

Title: To Steal a Heart
Series Info: Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency, Book 1
Author: Jaime Jo Wright
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info:  Bethany House Pubishers, November 17, 2020, 363 pages


Blurb

To Steal a Heart (The Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency Book #1) by [Jen Turano]

After a childhood as a street thief, Gabriella Goodhue thought she’d put her past behind her until a fellow resident at her boardinghouse is unjustly accused of theft. In the middle of breaking into a safe that holds the proof to prove her friend’s innocence, Gabriella is interrupted by Nicholas Quinn, the man she once considered her best friend–until he abandoned her.

After being taken under the wing of a professor who introduced him into society and named him as heir, Nicholas is living far removed from his childhood life of crime. As a favor to a friend, Nicholas agreed to help clear the name of an innocent woman, never imagining he’d be reunited with the girl he thought lost to him forever.

As Gabriella and Nicholas are thrown together into one intrigue after another, their childhood affection grows into more, but their newfound feelings are tested when truths about their past are revealed and danger follows their every step.

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My Thoughts

I was completely giddy about starting a new Jen Turano series and To Steal a Heart didn’t disappoint. The book grabbed me from the opening line: “It was becoming evident that she, Miss Gabriella Goodhue, might very well be arrested in the not-too-distant future, and all because she’d convinced herself that sneaking into a high-society costume ball would be a relatively easy feat, given her past life as a street thief.”

When Gabriella is reunited with childhood friend Nicholas, the chemistry between the pair is immediately evident. Although the romantic tension is palpable, both resist the attraction due primarily to their different positions in society. I love Gabriella. She is a smart, strong woman but learns that it’s okay to accept help on occasion. I think Nicholas maybe my favorite Turano hero yet. I loved how he used his wealth and position to help many of the people from Five Points. I gushed when he gut-punched one of the characters after he said disparaging things about Gabriella.

Set in the Gilded Age among the glitterati of the New York Four Hundred, Gabriella and the other women of the boardinghouse where she resides open the Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency. As the ladies investigate one mystery after another, hilarity abounds. The cast of characters adds to the humor and shenanigans in this story. My favorite secondary character was Daphne Beekman. She’s an author of mysteries who seems afraid of her own shadow and is always taking notes and thinking about her next story. However, the people were nearly upstaged by lovesick Wilson the pirate dog and a kleptomaniac parrot who can’t resist the urge to swipe shiny, sparkling objects.

Although Turano is known for her hilarious jaunts through the Gilded Age, the faith message in Gabriella’s story was not lost on me. Her childhood was rough, and she lived on the streets eventually ending up in an orphanage. She came to believe that God had forgotten all about her. As the circumstances of the story unfold, she realizes that God had provided for her all along and was an excellent reminder to me of how our loving Father is always working behind the scenes for our good.

To Steal a Heart is filled with love, laughter, intrigue, faith, romance, and plenty of antics to keep you turning the pages. Without a doubt, this is my favorite Jen Turano book yet!

I was a given a free copy of this book by the publisher but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Favorite Quotes

“You’ve always been confident of who you are and what you want. Isn’t that how we should all be as children of the King?”

“God might not have abandon me after all but sent me to Rookwood to keep me safe.”


About the Author

Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/ or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

 

Puritans verses Pilgrims, What’s the Difference?

As Thanksgiving draws near, I’ve been thinking about the Pilgrims and Puritans who traversed the Atlantic Ocean with the hope of practicing their religion without the fear of persecution. For the longest time I didn’t realize that these two groups while similar, were different. The Pilgrims were Puritans, or at least a distinct group of Puritans.

Let me see if I can make any sense of it for you.

The Puritans, also known as Dissenters, were Protestants who followed the teachings of John Calvin, a reformed preacher who was greatly influenced by the ministry of Martin Luther. They believed the Church of England should be purified of the ceremony, liturgy and practices that weren’t mentioned in Scripture and they rejected the ecclesiastical offices of Cardinal, Bishop, Archbishop, and Priest, but they did embrace church offices mentioned in the Bible–pastors, deacons, elders and teachers. The Bible was their sole authority in all areas of life and worship.

Depiction of an English Puritan family, 16th century.
The Granger Collection, New York

Some common beliefs of the Puritans:

  • Predestination: The Puritans believed that before the foundation of the world, God had determined who would be saved and who would be damned. There was nothing an individual could do during their life that could change that outcome.
  • Prayer: They rejected the Catholic and Anglican Book of Common Prayer, believing that prayer should be spontaneous and not scripted. They also believed that you could beseech God directly on your behalf and rejected the idea of a priest as their intercessor.
  • The Church Building: The building itself had no significance to the Puritans and was kept intentionally plain with no religious art, crosses, windows, fancy architecture or icons to avoid the sin of idolatry.
  • Sacraments: They rejected all but two of the holy sacraments–baptism and communion. All the rest (confession, ordination, marriage, annointing the sick and confirmation) they believed were inventions of man and therefore heretical or idolatrous.

As time passed and few reforms were enacted withing the Church of England, some Puritans felt the church was so corrupt the only course of action for true Christians was to break free from its authority altogether. Those Puritans who left the Anglican Church and established their own houses of worship were labeled Separatists. Rejecting the Church of England was considered a slap in the face to the monarch who was its head. This was a crime punishable by jail or death.

In 1607-08, about one hundred Separatists sought religious freedom in Holland. They settled in the Dutch industrial city of Leiden. While there they established churches which held to strict observance of the Sabbath by not performing any labor on Sunday. They studied the writings of earlier Protestants and Separatists, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, and they even established a printing press to illegally distribute new Separatist and Puritan books in England.

Henry A. Bacon – “The Landing of the Pilgrims”

The Pilgrims’ church flourished in the Netherlands as additional Separatists fled from England. Over time, many became concerned that they might lose their English cultural identity if they remained in Holland permanently so they arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. Members of this group later migrated to America in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Their journey to find a safe place to practice their faith without fear of retribution made them known to us today as the Pilgrims.

The Puritans who remained behind in England sought to reform the Anglican Church from within. This group, who reluctantly remained within the Church of England, is who history refers to as the Puritans. Many Puritans gained seats in Parliament and tried to influence the king to make reforms within the church. Their attempts failed and further angered the king. In 1630, John Winthrop lead 1,000 Puritans to settle in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. alongside the Pilgrims who by now had a flourishing community.

A 19th century bronze statue of Puritan John Winthrop, by sculptor Richard Saltonstall (Steven Senne, AP)

Although the Pilgrims and the Puritans now lived side-by-side in the Massachusetts colony, the outward expression of their faith in daily life was very different. The Pilgrims had left England to practice their faith in peace and solitude. Mercy, compassion and forgiveness became distinctives of their faith. The Pilgrims established peaceful relations with the natives who had taught them how to plant corn and to add fish heads to the soil to boost plant production.

The Puritans came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony believing they were to establish “a new Jerusalem” and sought both individual and corporate conformity to the teaching of the Bible, with moral purity pursued down to the smallest detail. They believed that man existed for the glory of God, that his first concern in life was to do God’s will. Although they sought religious freedom in the new world, the Puritans exhibited intolerance to the religious views of other immigrants and often hanged dissenters like Quakers, Anglicans and Baptists.

The Celebration of Christmas was banned in Puritan communities within the colony and punishment was dolled out for public drunkenness and adultery. The Puritan life was one of moderation. While they did dress according to their social classes and drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned those who would take these things to excess. Puritan Richard Baxter is quoted as saying, “Overdoing is the most ordinary way to undoing.” Undoing meaning your condemnation to hell. They also encouraged education of both males and females so the Bible could be read and understood by the masses.

The beliefs of both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were passed on to their descendants, many of whom pushed west and pioneered the American frontier, cementing their values in American culture. Both have left a legacy of courage and conviction on the American psyche.

Book Review: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

About the Book


Title: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus
Series Info: Stand Alone
Author: Jaime Jo Wright
Genre: Time Slip

Book Info:  Bethany House Pubishers, September 1, 2020, 400 pages


Blurb

Welcome to Bonaventure Circus where misfits come to hide.

1928
The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day
The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

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My Thoughts

I’ve been wanting to read a Jaime Jo Wright novel for quite some time and have nearly, if not all of them on my bookshelf or Kindle, but honestly, the title and cover of this book drew me in and thrust it to the top of my TBR pile.

As a lover of historical fiction, Wright captured my imagination and interest immediately with life in a 1920s circus as seen through the eyes of the disabled circus owner’s adopted daughter, Pippa. As Pippa grows increasingly curious about the circumstances surrounding her birth and adoption, she is drawn to the Watchman and deeper into the forbidden, secret and very dangerous world of the Bonaventure circus.

The contemporary thread introduces us to Chandler Faulk, a single mom with a demanding career who is struggling with Chronic Lyme disease. As Chandler works to renovate the old circus depot, she learns about a series of murders that occurred around the circus during its heyday in the late 1920s and accidentally stumbles onto clues that may shed light on who had actually committed them.

I found both the modern-day and historical mysteries thrilling, and Wright had me guessing to the end who the murderer actually was. I can honestly say, I hadn’t seen that coming!

I really liked both of these heroines. I give Wright great kudos for writing both of them with difficult physical disabilities that provided many challenges for them throughout the story. The two women also shared an intense inner struggle to be seen and heard, to figure out who they are. As the novel developed, each realized that their journey was really one of self-acceptance and to fully embrace themselves the way God created them, flaws and all.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Favorite Quotes

“You’re enough, Pippa. You’ve always been enough.”

“Sometimes God brought peace in the most unusual and outside-the-norm ways.”


About the Author

Jaime Jo Wright is the author of five novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. She loves to read—and write—fiction with elements of mystery, faith, and romance. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo; her husband, Cap’n Hook; and their littles, Peter Pan and CoCo. To learn more, visit her website.

 

 

 

 

Pastors, Patriots, & the Black Robe Regiment

Reverend George Whitfield

Unlike today, the church in colonial and Revolutionary America served as the hub for political debate, as well as for disseminating and discussing current events. And when it came to British oppression, they didn’t hesitate to call for independence. These fiery orators were dubbed by the British as The Black Robed Regiment in reference to their black clerical robes.

Defenders of the British crown found preachers’ support of the Patriot cause particularly detrimental to their efforts to maintain loyalty among the colonists. In the 1770s, most colonists still considered themselves aligned with England. Many parishioners questioned the legitimacy of revolution. From their pulpits, members of The Black Robed Regiment reassured their congregations that their revolution was justified in the eyes of God.

In fact, the British believed so strongly that it was the preaching from colonial pulpits that pushed its citizens into rebellion that many ministers had bounties put on their heads. Loyalists burned the homes and churches of the pastors who preached against British rule. Hatred by the British for the clergy ran so deep that on the battlefield wounded ministers were frequently executed rather than taken prisoner.

One such member of The Black Robed Regiment was the Reverend Samuel West, pastor of the Congregationalist Church of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. West was invited to give the prestigious Election Day sermon in Boston in 1776. In his message he proclaimed that the colonies were already independent and constituted a new nation. “Any people, when cruelly oppressed has the right to throw the yoke, and be free.” Reverend West  further declared, “To save our country from the hands of our oppressors ought to be dearer to us even than our own lives, and, next the eternal salvation of our own souls, is the thing of greatest importance–a duty so sacred that it cannot justly be dispensed with for the sake of our secular concerns.”

But the Patriot Pastors of the Revolutionary era didn’t just preach about liberty while encouraging their congregations to fight against tyranny, they led the way!

Reverend Peter Muhlenberg reveals his uniform to inspire his congregation to enlist.

Pastor Peter Muhlenberg, A Lutheran minister, ascended the pulpit on a cold Sunday morning in 1776 and preached from Ecclesiastes 3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…” Muhlenberg continued, laying the foundation for the point of his sermon. “In the language of the holy writ, there was a time for all things, a time preach and a time pray, but those times have passed away.” Imagine him standing before his congregation, his voice gaining intensity as he continued. “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come!”

Then, in dramatic fashion, Pastor Muhlenberg removed his clerical robe revealing his military uniform. He challenged his parishioners asking, “Who is with me?” Over 300 men from his church alone joined him in the fight for liberty, volunteering for what eventually became the 8th Virginia Brigade. Pastor Muhlenberg and his men fought in every major engagement of the Revolutionary War and wintered with George Washington at Valley Forge. A native Pennsylvanian, his statue, stands in the U.S. Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall–clerical robes draped over his right arm, sword firmly in his left hand.

The Reverend James Caldwell, minister of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, instructed his congregation that “there are times when it is as righteous to fight as it is to pray.” After the British put a bounty on his head, Caldwell went to the pulpit with two loaded flintlock pistols.

Like Muhlenberg, Caldwell also fought alongside his congregants. When the British captured Elizabethtown, Caldwell’s men were short wadding necessary to pack ammunition in their weapons. Without it they would surely be overrun. Caldwell rode to a nearby church and gathered as many hymnals as he could carry. Returning to his men, he instructed them to rip out the pages and use them as wadding in their muskets. Having stuffed the hymns of such classic writers as Isaac Watts down the barrels of their guns, he yelled “Give ’em Watts boys, put Watts into them!” The British referred to Caldwell as the “Fighting Chaplain” and his brave leadership was immortalized in verse.

“Who’s that riding in on horse-back?
Parson Caldwell, boys; Hooray!
Red-coats call him “Fighting Chaplain,”
How they hate him! Well they may!”

According to David Barton of Wall Builders, “modern historians have noted that not one single right asserted in the Declaration of Independence hadn’t been preached from colonial pulpits prior to 1763.” It wasn’t only the British who gave great attribution to the clergy but Founders like John Adams exalted the clergy’s role in stirring the hearts of the people to fight when he said, “the pulpits  have thundered.”

The call to educate the church on political and social issues didn’t end with American victory at Yorktown. The Black Robed Regiment of the Revolutionary era set a precedence that inspired pastors throughout American history to instruct their parishioners on what the Bible said about issues ranging from slavery to civil rights. Patriotic pastors have led troops into battle, ministered to the wounded, written laws and public policy, lobbied our government, founded universities and have been elected to local, state and federal government offices across the nation.

Sadly, today many pulpits are quiet when it comes to instructing the church on what the Bible has to say about the social and political issues of our day. According to Pastor Dan Fisher, author of Bringing Back the Black Robed Regiment,”Today the church has become marginalized almost to the point of cultural impotency and spiritual irrelevance.”

Pastor Gary Hamrick, of Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia, said in a recent Election Day sermon, “The church of Jesus Christ is God’s restraining force in the world today against evil. If we abdicate our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ and as agents of truth, then evil will prevail.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the movement underway challenging America’s pastors to speak up in this ever-increasing politically correct, cancel culture we live in or to obtain a Christian voter’s guide for your state, please visit the  National Black Robed Regiment and view the short video.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can pray for America, our political leaders, and important social issues facing our nation, visit Intercessors for America and click on their resource tab.

Join the Conversation: Do you think the church has abdicated its role in teaching and encouraging their congregations about the important social issues of our day?

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