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

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The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga

Image Courtesy of Library of Congress

Every now and then I stumble on some little footnote of history that absolutely fascinates me. This summer while on vacation, my husband and I toured the Chickamauga Battlefield and learned about a young soldier named Joseph Klem. And, by young, I mean very young. During the Battle of Chicamauga, Klem, who was now known as “Johnny Clem,” was a mere 12 years old.

Our story begins in May of 1861 when little Joseph, age 9, ran away from his home in Ohio to sign up with the Union Army only to find out the Federal Army (3rd Ohio Regiment) wasn’t in the business of  “enlisting infants.” Determined to find his place, Clem approached the commander of the 22nd Michigan and was again rebuffed. Undeterred, Clem tagged after the regiment acting out the role of a drummer boy. His persistence paid off and Clem was allowed to remain with the unit performing various camp duties for which he was paid $13 a month. Since he was not officially enlisted in the Union Army, Clem’s salary was paid collectively by the regiment’s officers.

John Lincoln Clem, Facts

Image courtesy of American History Central

In April of the following year, Clem’s drum was struck by an artillery round during the Battle of Shiloh. This garnered the boy some minor attention from the press who dubbed him “Johnny Shiloh, The Smallest Drummer.” Not long after, Clem was officially enrolled in the Federal Army, received his own pay, and was promoted to the rank of sergeant—the youngest non-commissioned officer in U.S. Army history at the unbelievable age of 12.

But it wasn’t until September of 1863 that young Johnny came to national attention. During the Battle of Chickamauga, he joined the 22nd Michigan in the defense of Horseshoe Ridge wielding a musket that had been sawed down to his size. As the Rebels surrounded Union forces, a Confederate officer is reported to have shouted at Clem, “Surrender you damned little Yankee devil!” Johnny stood his ground and shot the colonel dead. This demonstration of fortitude earned Clem national recognition and the moniker, “The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.”

Following the Civil War and a failed attempt to attend West Point, Clem made a personal appeal to President Ulysses S. Grant, his commanding general at Shiloh, for an appointment to the Regular Army. On December 18, 1871, Clem became a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and in 1903 he attained the rank of Colonel and served as Assistant Quartermaster General. After 55 years, Clem retired from the Army as a Major General in 1916—last Civil War veteran to actively serve in the U.S. Army.

General Clem, The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga, died in San Antonio, Texas on May 13, 1937, exactly 3 months shy of his 86th birthday. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Beyond These War-Torn Lands by Cynthia Roemer & a Giveaway

I’m so excited to welcome friend, fellow author, and critique partner, Cynthia Roemer back to Romancing History today. Cynthia’s latest novel, Beyond These War-Torn Lands, releases next Tuesday, August 3rd and I know y’all are gonna love Drew and Caroline’s story as much as I did!

As you can imagine, writing historical romance requires an author to delve into the time period—the clothes, speech patterns, foods, tools, and events of the era in which they write. Today Cynthia is going to share some of the behind-the-scenes research she did to bring her Civil War novel to life on the page.

And, Cynthia is giving away a signed, print copy of Beyond These War-Torn Lands, too! So make sure to see the Giveaway section at the bottom of this post and leave a comment!


When I decided to write a Civil War novel, I knew I was in for a lot of research. I’m not sure how I settled on The Battle of Monocacy Junction to start the novel off (timing, placement), but I soon found myself engrossed in learning about this lesser-known battle along the Monocacy River in Maryland. This battle, though a loss for the Union, turned out to be an ultimate victory for the men in blue.

Here’s why:

The Monocacy River, Maryland

The day-long battle began early in the morning of July 9, 1864 and lasted well into the evening. General Lew Wallace commanded the Union troops, while General Jubal Early led the Confederates. The two sides volleyed back and forth throughout the scorching heat until they landed smackdab in the cornfields and yards of some of the neighboring residents—the Best family, Thomas family, and Worthington family.

Several of the residents, such as six-year-old Glenn Worthington and his older brother Henry, hunkered in their cellars watching the battle through cracks in the walls. Glenn later wrote an account of the experience in his book, Fighting for Time.

Waves of skirmishes ended with Wallace’s men fleeing, leaving a horde of dead and wounded in their wake. The Confederate army had intended to storm Washington and take over the city. However, the delay at Monocacy Junction allowed the Union time to send for reinforcements and spare their Capital a takeover. Therefore, the battle at Monocacy became known as The Battle That Saved Washington.

As I was delving into my research, our hostess, Kelly Goshorn, and I had just become friends and critique partners. When I found out she lived within an hour of the very battle I was researching, and that the site had been preserved for visitors, I was ecstatic! Though Kelly hadn’t visited the site herself, she graciously offered to house me if I was able to make the trip out. I had high hopes of doing so and then … the Pandemic hit.

Followed by a cancer diagnosis.

Between the two unexpected challenges, I knew I would be unable to make the trip. But thank the Lord for carrying me through my health ordeal and for all the wonderful online resources available. Via the internet, I was able to access so much information about the National Battlefield at Monocacy Junction, among other historical events and people that found their way into my novel, Beyond These War-Torn Lands. Kelly proved a help as well, for she had visited some of the sites included in the book.

In the opening scene of Beyond These War-Torn Lands, my hero, Sergeant Andrew (Drew) Gallagher, is injured at the Battle of Monocacy Junction and would have become a casualty of war had my heroine, Caroline Dunbar not happened upon him while on her way to aid wounded Confederates at her neighbors—the Worthington and Thomas families.

 How I relished weaving my characters into history during one of America’s most challenging and fascinating eras. I’ll leave the rest of the story for you to discover, but I assure you, Drew and Caroline have quite a journey ahead of them before their happily ever after!

**One other historical tidbit I found in my research. If you’ve read or seen the movie, Ben Hur, you might find it interesting that it was written by none other than the retired Union General Lew Wallace!!


About the Book

The War brought them together ~ Would it also tear them apart?

While en route to aid Confederate soldiers injured in battle near her home, Southerner Caroline Dunbar stumbles across a wounded Union sergeant. Unable to ignore his plea for help, she tends his injuries and hides him away, only to find her attachment to him deepen with each passing day. But when her secret is discovered, Caroline incurs her father’s wrath and, in turn, unlocks a dark secret from the past which she is determined to unravel.

After being forced to flee his place of refuge, Sergeant Andrew Gallagher fears he’s seen the last of Caroline. Resolved not to let that happen, when the war ends, he seeks her out, only to discover she’s been sent away. When word reaches him that President Lincoln has been shot, Drew is assigned the task of tracking down the assassin. A chance encounter with Caroline revives his hopes, until he learns she may be involved in a plot to aid the assassin.

Beyond These War-Torn Lands is available on Amazon

About the Author

Cynthia Roemer is an inspirational, bestselling author with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the hearts of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the mid-1800’s prairie and Civil War era. Her Prairie Sky Series consists of Amazon bestseller, Under This Same Sky, Under Prairie Skies, and Under Moonlit Skies, a 2020 Selah Award winning novel.

Cynthia writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband of almost thirty years. They have two grown sons and a daughter-in-love. When she isn’t writing or researching, Cynthia can be found hiking, biking, gardening, reading, or riding sidesaddle with her husband in the combine or on their motorcycle. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. To learn more about Cynthia and writing journey, sign up for her author newsletter or visit her online at: her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, or GoodReads.


Giveaway**

Cynthia is giving away one signed print copy of Beyond These War-Torn Lands to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, tell us what your favorite period of American history is to read about and why.

**Giveaway ends midnight, August 4th**

Perilous Beauty

From the Harvard Art Museum collection: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, circa 1750

Unlike the tanned skin I desired in the 1980s, throughout much of history, pale skin was considered the highest standard of beauty. A woman with porcelain skin announced to the world that she came from wealth and privilege and didn’t  have to work in the fields like a common peasant.

However, many who sought a prized alabaster complexion unwittingly poisoned themselves with a lead based make-up paste known as ceruse that was mixed with vinegar. The paste would be applied to their skin in an even layer with a damp cloth. Oftentimes, the paste was mixed with egg whites to make it last longer. Because hygiene regiments weren’t exactly the same standard as today, it would be common for the ceruse paste to remain on a woman’s skin for weeks at a time. The egg whites would stiffen against their skin, so smiling was strictly off limits as the egg white had a tendency to crack.

Beginning in the 1500s, wealthy women used ceruse to lighten their skin. Made with white lead, ceruse was also used in making paint. It was highly toxic to humans and often caused skin irritations and insomnia, the evidence of which would be hidden by, you guessed it, applying more ceruse paste. Women who wore the toxic make-up often suffered from lead poisoning with symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal problems, nausea, and kidney issues to cardiovascular and nervous system troubles, muscle pain, and even hearing loss. Wearers often lost their eyebrows and compensated by applying fake ones made from moose fur.

Ceruse was still available in France throughout the 1700s. While American women of the same time period also esteemed pale skin, they typically wore less makeup than their European counterparts. There is no evidence that American women applied ceruse to their faces.

Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry; Wallace Collection London

But ceruse wasn’t the only toxin women of the era applied to their skin. Cinnabar, known today as mercury sulfide, was a pigment used for painting pottery and would be applied to the cheeks as rouge to give women a healthy, rosy appearance. Wearers often suffered neurological disorders, emotional problems, and peeling skin. The latter causing the afflicted to apply even more makeup to cover up the skin irritation.

England’s Queen Elizabeth I used ceruse to hide her facial scars after contracting small pox. Prolonged use of the poisonous paste is generally believed to have caused her death in 1603. Renowned for her beauty, Maria Gunning, the famed countess of Coventry, also wore ceruse regularly. As it gradually ate away at her skin, she wore even more. She died of lead and mercury poisoning in 1760 at the tender age of twenty-seven.

While it can be easy to judge these cosmetic rituals of the past as preposterous, ore even farcical, many people today turn to injections of Botox, botulinum toxin, a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium clostridium botulinum. Botox paralyses facial muscles to diminish the appearance of wrinkles. Use of these products could cause respiratory failure and death. Some studies show a link between these injected toxins and autoimmune diseases, yet according to industry data, more than 6 million Botox treatments are administered each year.

Perhaps we still haven’t learned our lesson.

Join the conversation: What crazy beauty regimens (hopefully not toxic ones) do you subscribe to?

 

 

Book Review: The Heart’s Charge by Karen Witemeyer & a Giveaway!

About the Book


Title: The Heart’s Charge
Series: Hanger’s Horsemen, Book #2

Author: Karen Witemeyer
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: Bethany House Publishers,     June 1, 2021, 381 pages


Blurb

For Years They’ve Been Nomads for Justice, but a Final Mission May Just Lead Their Hearts Home.

Members of the legendary Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they’d help deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he nearly married a decade ago.

After failing at love, Katherine Palmer has dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold, being illegitimate and of mixed ancestry. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her by defying all her stereotypes of men, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.

When the Horsemen hear rumors of missing children, they stay to investigate, sticking close to Harmony House and its beautiful owners. As they work together to uncover the truth, love and danger grow hand in hand until a final sinister scheme threatens to destroy them all.

CBD    Barnes & Noble   Amazon


My Thoughts

Karen Witemeyer’s books keep getting better and better! Just call me a sucker for handsome, strong, godly soldier types. I wasn’t sure about reading a story with four points of view. I wondered if one of the couples would take center stage while the other lingered in the background but that wasn’t the case with The Heart’s Charge. Both Jonah and Eliza’s story line, as well as Mark and Kate’s, were well-developed, compelling romances nestled in a mystery about missing children. And I didn’t see the culprit coming either!

I also want to give Witemeyer a shout out for writing such endearing children. Oftentimes children in romance novels are just underfoot and underdeveloped characters. Not so in The Heart’s Charge. Kate and Eliza run a home for Foundling Children and these sweet children, especially Abner, stole my heart. The boxcar children, orphan boys who ride the rails, were also well thought out characters that added to the story.

With The Heart’s Charge, Witemeyer delivers another solid dose of scriptural truth, humor, mystery, and romance that is sure to delight every reader. My only complaint was I wanted more of Matthew and Josie Hanger and Preach from book one.

I’m definitely looking forward to book number three in the Hanger’s Horseman series!


Favorite Quotes

“But if each man and woman were defined solely by their greatest sin, what hope would there be for any of us?”

“Regrets are heavy, son. The fewer you carry around the better off you’ll be. But when they come, and they will, remember you got a Father who will carry them for you if you let him.”

“God don’t need fancy words,” Jonah encouraged, “just true ones.”


About the Author

For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Recently voted #1 Readers’ Favorite Christian Romance Author by Family Fiction Magazine, Karen is a two-time winner of the ACFW Carol Award and three-time RITA® finalist. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.

Facebook     Website     Pinterest     BookBub     GoodReads


Giveaway*

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Lori Smanski!

I’m giving away a Kindle copy of The Heart’s Charge to one commenter. To enter, tell us your favorite Karen Witemeyer book!

**Giveaway ends at midnight, Thursday, June 24th

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.

Amazon     CBD     Barnes & Noble


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?

https://doxiequeen1.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/dsc_3810-2.jpg?w=820&h=312&crop=1

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.**

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