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

Tag: historical fiction

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.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Kimberly Duffy and a Giveaway!

I’m so excited to introduce my Romancing History readers to author and new friend, Kimberly Duffy. I discovered Kimberly’s debut novel, A Mosaic of Wings, quite by accident. She posted in the Facebook group, Avid Readers of Christian Fiction, that she was looking for people to join her launch team. When I discovered that her story was set in India during the latter part of the 19th century, I was all in. And when I reached out to her, she graciously agreed to do an interview on Romancing History.

And that’s not all! Kimberly is offering a paper copy of A Mosaic of Wings to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, see the Giveaway Section at the bottom of the post!

Before the interview, let’s learn a little about the author and her fabulous book. Click here to read my full review.


About Kimberly

Kimberly Duffy enjoys writing historical fiction that takes readers back in time and across oceans. Her books often feature ahead-of-their-time heroines, evocative settings, and real-life faith. When not writing or homeschooling her four children, she enjoys taking trips that require a passport and practicing kissing scenes with her husband of twenty years. A Long Island native, she currently resides in southwest Ohio.

You can connect with Kimberly on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 


About the Book

It’s 1885, and all Nora Shipley wants, now that she’s graduating from Cornell University as valedictorian of the entomology program, is to follow in her late father’s footsteps by getting her master’s degree and taking over the scientific journal he started. The only way to uphold her father’s legacy is to win a scholarship, so she joins a research expedition in Kodaikanal, India, to prove herself in the field.

India isn’t what she expects, though, and neither is the rival classmate who accompanies her, Owen Epps. As her preconceptions of India–and of Owen–fall away, she finds both far more captivating than she expected. Forced by the expedition leader to stay at camp and illustrate exotic butterflies the men of the team find without her, Nora befriends Sita, a young Indian girl who has been dedicated to a goddess against her will.

In this spellbinding new land, Nora is soon faced with impossible choices–between saving Sita and saving her career, and between what she’s always thought she wanted and the man she’s come to love.

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Author Interview

Fast Five

  1. Coffee or Tea? Tea, but only herbal because I’m, sadly, allergic to caffeine.
  2. Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy? Colin Firth, but I would choose him in every role so I’m not completely impartial.
  3. Sound of Music or Hello Dolly? Sound of Music
  4. I Love Lucy or Get Smart? I Love Lucy
  5. Dogs or Cats? Neither. Allergies make it hard to enjoy them

RH:  Welcome to Romancing History, Kimberly. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

KD: I’ve been writing since I was twelve, and seriously pursuing publication for about seven years. My debut released with Bethany House on May 5. My first three books are all set in the late 19th century and I’ll probably stick with that era for a long while since it’s my favorite (I might venture into early 20th, though.)

I’ve been married twenty years and we have four children. I grew up in New York, met my husband in India, married in Pennsylvania, and now live in Ohio. I’m a very reluctant homeschooler—I adore everything about it except the part where I have to actually be with people all day long. I’m going to write a book one day—The Introverted Homeschooler. There’s only going to be one sentence in it—“Your goal is to get your child as independent as possible as quickly as possible and then you will be okay.”

RH: That is so funny. I’m sure it would sell like hot cakes! Now tell us something unusual about yourself. Something not in the typical back of the book author bio—something quirky.

KD: I have the world’s ugliest handwriting. It’s embarrassing. And not at all correctable (I’ve tried but no amount of practice or focus improves it.)

I also have a truly awful memory. My husband teases me for it—he’s introduced me to his cousins dozens of times, but I still don’t recognize them if we run into each other. For the most part, I’ll forget the details of a movie or book almost the minute I’m done with it. I cannot for the life of me remember my youngest child’s birthday. If we get into a fight, just wait a couple hours, because I will have completely forgotten why I was mad at you.

RH: We’re opposites on the handwriting but only because my mother was a stickler for neat penmanship. No doubt a throwback from her Catholic school upbringing. She made me practice for hours each week. Fans of romantic fiction love a cute meet. How did you and your significant other meet?

KD: I LOVE this story. Okay…picture a kind of preppy girl from the rather well-off Long Island suburbs who excels at writing contests, youth group functions, and carrying very heavy Russian novels into the lunch room. Then throw in a boy raised in the projects of a dying Ohio industrial city who regularly dyes his hair blue, is in a punk rock band (she only listens to Caedmon’s Call and Newsboys), and has never eaten a real bagel. Send them to Bangalore, India where they are to do non-profit work (him teaching music and her teaching children) and make sure no one understands their jokes and movie references, there are rats and spiders the size of medium-size dogs (this is perfect for setting him up to be the hero), and the only place that feels like home is a restaurant literally called The Only Place. It’s a match bound to happen.

***Also—our first kiss happened while watching Aristocats during Everybody Wants to be a Cat.

RH: What a great story! I just love hearing how couples meet. I met my hubby when he crashed my birthday party to flirt with my friend hosting the party! What was the inspiration behind your debut novel,  A Mosaic of Wings?

KD: A Mosaic of Wings was inspired by my now thirteen-year-old daughter who has wanted to be an entomologist since she was five. When I told my family I was writing my first historical novel, she suggested I write about a female entomologist because “there probably aren’t any books like that.” Nora came to me immediately and almost fully formed. I knew a woman who lived in the 19th century and pursued what would have been a male-dominated profession would have to be smart, driven, and focused.

RH: I think its really cool that your daughter was behind the idea of Nora being an entomologist. I’m very curious to know if she’s still planning to pursue entomology herself. Back to Nora—I’m so glad that you brought up the fact that you wrote her character to be a smart, driven, and focused heroine. Not only is she a strong female protagonist, she’s quite flawed. From my experience, the flaws authors give their main characters are oftentimes not really flaws at all. What made you decide to portray your heroine with imperfections (willful, stubborn, and a bit self-centered) that might ruffle some readers feathers? How has she been received?

I am so happy you asked about this! ALL of my characters are flawed. Because that’s part of the human condition. I want readers to see Nora and think, “Well, I’ve been stubborn. And I’ve been self-centered at times. And I’ve been willful. Yet…God, in all of his grace and love and goodness, still yearns to bless me. Still desires my heart. And his plans are so much bigger than my mistakes.”

You can blame the Bible for that because it’s absolutely riddled with flawed people making terrible decisions. People like David and Paul and Moses. And God used and loved every one of them. I’m a big believer in the beauty of grace. And how can I show grace in my books if I don’t write characters who need it so desperately?

People are sometimes ugly. There’s a scene where Nora has a particularly bad attitude toward another character. It’s such a defining moment because after she thinks uncharitably, she recognizes her hypocrisy. And isn’t that life? We’ve all said and thought things and then the Holy Spirit does his work and nudges us toward forgiveness and restitution.

I’ve always been drawn to deeply flawed literary characters—Scarlett from Gone with the Wind, Angel from Redeeming Love, Mary from The Secret Garden—and I prefer books that portray real life. I like when a character grows, but in a way that is believable. People don’t make one mistake and learn from it. Usually we have a few characteristics we particularly struggle with, over and over and over again.

Personally, I love Nora. I relate to Nora. She’s capable, yet fully willing to climb a tree and embrace childlike glee over a nest of ants. She’s prickly, but when she trusts, her vulnerability is made more beautiful because of it. She’s driven to success, but love is a bigger temptation. Nora is complex and that’s so much more interesting than perfection.

This is a subject I’ve given a lot of thought to and when I began writing, I made a very conscious decision to write against the grain and not feature heroines who fit into the standard Christian fiction mold.

That means some people are not going to like my characters—if you’ve read my reviews, you’ll see that—but that’s all right. Because the people who do like my characters, relate to them on a deep level.

RH: Truth be told, Kimberly, I saw a lot of myself in Nora. I’m very stubborn and willful as well. I hope, like Nora, that I’ve grown and learned from my  mistakes, too. And just for the record, I did not think her flaws made her unlikeable. You did an excellent job bringing the sights, sounds, and smells of India alive on the page, not to mention the sweltering heat. Why did you choose an exotic location like India as the setting for a majority of your novel?

KD: I was having a brainstorming session with the amazing Kristy Cambron and she suggested I send Nora somewhere interesting. Because I had lived in India and had access to some wonderful Indian friends to help me along the way, and there is a massive diversity of butterflies in the country, it seemed a great place to send Nora to.

RH: It was an excellent decision in my opinion. You immersed me so completely in the setting I felt a part of the scene. Do you have a favorite quote from your recent release you’d like to share?

KD: I have a lot of favorite quotes and most of them are of the descriptive variety, but I think this one speaks to me most at the moment because I’m missing it so much:

“India, and everything that happened there, spoke to her in whispers that caressed her memories, wrapping everything in exotic perfume and sultry, cicada-song nights.”

RH: That is lovely. You are such a vivid writer. What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

KD: I hope they discover what an amazing country India is and perhaps decide to visit someday. I hope they notice God’s artistry and creativity, displayed in this vast, beautiful world he’s given us. And I hope, more than anything else, they recognize that that they are loved, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, by a God whose plans are always better and bigger and more amazing than our own.

RH: Amen. Before you leave us, can you tell us a little bit about what are you working on now?

KD: I am working on edits for book two which releases winter of 2021. It’s set in 1887 Calcutta and Wiltshire, England and is about faith and home. I’m also working on the draft of book three that is set in 1897 Poona that features some bizarre similarities to what is happening in the world today.

RH: Well they both sound intriguing, especially that little teaser about book 3. I look forward to reading them both. Thank you for visiting with us today on Romancing History.

KD: Thank you for having me. I enjoyed chatting with you and your readers.


Giveaway**

THIS GIVEWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

CONGRATULATIONS TO our Winner — KATHY BAILEY!!

Kimberly is generously offering one paperback copy of A Mosaic of Wings to one lucky Romancing History reader. (Sorry, but only U.S. residents are eligible). An electronic copy is available for international guests. To enter, tell us about the most exotic place you’ve been able to visit in person or through the pages of an amazing novel!

**Giveaway ends midnight, June 19, 2020.

Claiming Canaan & A Giveaway

I’m thrilled to welcome dear friend and fellow Pelican Book Group author, Barbara Britton, back to Romancing History today. The third book in Barb’s fabulous Daughters of Zelophehad series, Claiming Canaan, just released. Although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it is on my TBR pile and I’m anxiously awaiting the conclusion of this amazing series.

And, Barb has graciously offered to giveaway an Ebook copy of one of the books in the series, Winner’s Choice! Details to enter the Giveaway are below.


Saying Good-bye to Historic Girls

Guest post by Barbara Britton

Thank you for having me back on the blog, Kelly. I appreciate you faithfully reading my series on the daughters of Zelophehad.

The daughters of Zelophehad are five orphaned sisters who went to Moses and asked to inherit their deceased father’s land. Moses deferred to God, and God agreed with the girls. God said that if a man died without a son, his daughters could inherit his land (Numbers 27:1-11). The sisters’ “bold ask” was new to me a few years ago. Now, as the last book in the series releases, I am sad to say good-bye to Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

In “Claiming Canaan,” the girls receive their land. We know from Joshua 17:3-6 that the sisters approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua, and the leaders of Israel. The girls remind the powerful leaders of Israel about their historic inheritance. These girls had guts! But they also knew that it had been several years since God’s decree about their land, and at this point in time, Moses was long gone.

As an author, I had to decide what type of land the girls would receive. I placed them in the Jezreel Valley near Canaanite cities that were inhabited by idol worshipers. What would faith in action look like for these girls? I bestowed on Milcah, the protagonist in this final book, a (spoiler alert) vineyard. You could probably discern Milcah’s inheritance from the book cover. Would a vineyard be controversial?

I delved into Scripture and discovered that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” planted a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16-17). How had I missed this purchase? She also works vigorously which is something Milcah discovers comes hand in hand with owning a vineyard. Farming is not easy.

I placed the daughters of Zelophehad in the Jezreel Valley. The valley is lush and green. We see later on in Scripture in I Kings 21 that Naboth owns a vineyard in Jezreel. He does not sell his vineyard to King Ahab because it is part of God’s promised land. Tribal lands were important—a gift from God. God places restrictions on the daughters of Zelophehad and who they could marry in Numbers, chapter 36, so their land would not jump to the tribe of their husband. Land bestowed on the tribes needed to stay with that specific tribe. Naboth understands the importance of keeping his God-given land, but unfortunately it costs him his life. The sisters understand the importance of keeping their land within the tribe of Manasseh when they respond to their restrictions with faith.

Numbers 36:10 says, “So Zelophehad’s daughters did as the Lord commanded Moses.”

So, my series ends with girls staining their feet while stomping grapes and going forth with God into a land filled with hardship and unbelievers.

I hope the faith of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah inspires us all.

Are these brave girls new to you?


About the Book

When the tribal elders make marriage a requirement for claiming her land, Milcah bat Zelophehad must find a betrothed straightaway. The only problem in finding a husband is that all her suitors were slain while conquering the land of Canaan. Men avoid her in order to stay alive.

After praying to God to send her a bold suitor, a man from her father’s clan plummets from a tree right on top of her. Is this God answering prayer, or a foolish antic by Eli, the war-scarred brother from one of her clan’s rival families?

Will settling in Canaan sort out Milcah’s troubles, or have her woes just begun?

Find the finale on Amazon, Barnes&Noble and where books are sold.


Excerpt from Claiming Canaan

Who is stealing grapes from Milcah and Eli?

Traveling toward the road, they carefully counted the lines of grape plants until they had reached the seventh row. Eli tapped his sword and motioned for her to give him a berth to draw his weapon. He unsheathed his blade. Muted light gleamed on the worn iron.

From grape plant to grape plant, they slipped closer to the thieves. The width of the plants and bush-like thickness of the grape leaves and clusters, blocked their bodies from view.

Her palms dampened as they neared the pickers. She wished she had drunk her fill before hurrying into the field, for her tongue could not find a drop of saliva. Was Eli as frightened? Or did year upon year of battles, prepare one for a fight?

Eli stilled.

Branches rustled on the next planting.

With the stealth of a predator, Eli shifted into the middle of the path.

Someone ducked from under the grape leaves, basket in hand. A boy. Not much older than Jonah. Ten years of age at most.

The young man did not flee, or attack, or give a defense. He stared. Dropping his basket, he leapt backward and tripped, felled by the girth of the basket brimming with grape clusters.

“Where did you run off to, Yarrat,” a woman’s voice asked in a harsh whisper.

Suddenly, crawling from underneath the tall stalks of the plant, a babe appeared. A girl with cheeks darkened by Milcah’s grapes. The girl’s face crumpled. She collapsed onto the path and whimpered. Her round-eyed gaze fixated on Eli’s sword.

These bandits were a family. Milcah’s heart hollowed at the sight of the little girl’s torn covering.

“Answer me, son.” The woman ducked from the next row, tossed her grapes at a half-filled basket, and shrieked. A spooked lark catapulted toward the night sky.

The little girl wailed. The boy remained prone on the ground, feigning a corpse.

“Do—do not harm my children.” The woman dropped to her knees. Her words and her clasped hands begged Eli to spare their lives.

Eli remained a sculpture of flesh.

“We mean you no harm.”

Milcah approached and stood by Eli’s side. “This vineyard was given to us by the One True God. It is an inheritance from my father.”

The boy scrambled to his feet. Hands fisted, he yelled, “You killed my father.”

Finally, the little thief had spoken.


About Barbara

Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little-known Bible characters to light in her stories. Look for Barb to venture into Christian Historical fiction in June with “Until June.” Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barb’s books on her website: www.barbarambritton.com.

Barb is also on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.


Giveaway**

Barb is graciously giving away an Ecopy of one book in her Daughters of Zelophehad series (Lioness, Heavenly Lights, or Claiming Canaan) to one lucky Romancing History reader–winner’s choice. To enter, tell us which Biblical heroine inspires you the most!

 

**Giveaway ends at midnight on April 6, 2020.

Author Interview with Heidi Chiavaroli & a Giveaway

I’m so thrilled to welcome women’s fiction/split time author, Heidi Chiavaroli, to Romancing History today. I had the pleasure of getting to know Heidi when I snagged a coveted position on the launch team for her third novel, The Edge of Mercy.

Heidi’s most recent novel, The Tea Chest, released earlier this month and is a stand alone split time story. I’m sure my Romancing History readers won’t be surprised to learn that the historical thread is my favorite. I really enjoyed this book (see my review) and was tickled when Heidi said she’d do an interview with us.

Heidi has graciously offered a signed copy of The Tea Chest to one lucky Romancing History reader. To enter, see the details in the Giveaway section at the bottom of this post.

Before we chat with Heidi, here’s a little bit about her and her new book.


About Heidi

DSC_0282Heidi Chiavaroli (pronounced shev-uh-roli…like Chevrolet and ravioli mushed together!) wrote her first story in third grade, titled I’d Cross the Desert for Milk. It wasn’t until years later that she revisited writing, using her two small boys’ nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Despite a long road to publication, she hasn’t stopped writing since!

Heidi writes women’s fiction, combining her love of history and literature to write split time stories. 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.

Heidi loves exploring places that whisper of historical secrets, especially with her family. She loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her high-school sweetheart and husband of sixteen years. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Heidi

Website   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram   GoodReads   BookBub


About the Book

Boston, 1773
Emma Malcolm’s father is staunchly loyal to the crown, but Emma’s heart belongs to Noah Winslow, a lowly printer’s assistant and Patriot. But her father has promised her hand to Samuel Clarke, a rapacious and sadistic man. As his fiancée, she would have to give up Noah and the friends who have become like family to her―as well as the beliefs she has come to embrace.

After Emma is drawn into the treasonous Boston Tea Party, Samuel blackmails her with evidence that condemns each participant, including Noah. Emma realizes she must do whatever it takes to protect those she loves, even if it means giving up the life she desires and becoming Samuel’s wife.

Present Day
Lieutenant Hayley Ashworth is determined to be the first woman inducted into the elite Navy SEALs. But before her dream can be realized, she must return to Boston in order to put the abuse and neglect of her childhood behind her. When an unexpected encounter with the man she once loved leads to the discovery of a tea chest and the document hidden within, she wonders if perhaps true strength and freedom are buried deeper than she first realized.

Two women, separated by centuries, must find the strength to fight for love and freedom. . . and discover a heritage of courage and faith.

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Interview with Heidi

Fast Five

  • Dogs or Cats? Dogs most definitely.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea all the way.
  • Bookmark or Dog Ear Pages? And hurt the book?! Bookmark!
  • Kindle or Paperback? Paperback. I tried to get into digital reading but for me, there’s just something about the experience of holding a book with pages.
  • Night Owl or Early Bird? Early bird. I’m usually ready for bed by 9!

Q & A

RH: Heidi it’s been fun getting to know you through your launch team. Can you share something unusual about yourself with my Romancing History readers? Something not in the typical back of the book author bio—something quirky.

HC: I’m a bit obsessive compulsive about a clean house. I have one day a week that I set aside for cleaning and groceries, and I have trouble ignoring this day even when I’m on deadline. I simply can’t concentrate if it’s not done!

RH: I like a tidy house, too, but if I’m cleaning toilets either company is coming over, or I’m avoiding edits or writing a tough scene. Fans of romantic fiction love a cute meet. How did you and your significant other meet?

HC: The first time I saw my husband we were freshmen in high school. I will always remember that day because he looked just like a boy I dreamed about the year before. (Not kidding!) But we didn’t hang out much. He was a vocational kid and I was busy with my honors classes. It wasn’t until senior year that he came up to me at lunch and asked me out. The rest is history!

RH: Aww, that’s so cute. I love hearing how people meet their spouse. What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?

HC: I love to hike. I also love to quilt, cross-stitch, watch movies with my family, bake, dance in my kitchen, and sing.

RH: Wow! You have such a wide variety of hobbies and talents! I love to sing around the house as well but I “can’t carry a tune with a handle on it” as my mama always said (and my hubby would whole-heartedly agree). When did you know you wanted to write?

HC: Ever since early elementary school, when I discovered the library and the power of a story, I wanted to write. In third grade, I attempted my first novel, I’d Cross the Desert for Milk. A masterpiece! 😉

RH: I love that you still remember the title of a story you wrote in third grade! That’s adorable! What unpublished story do you have in your stash that you really hope sees the light of day someday? 

HC: The second story I wrote, which actually won ACFW’s Genesis contest in 2014, is a historical novel based on a leper colony off the coast of Massachusetts in the early 20th century. For so many reasons, that’s the story of my heart. It needs a bit of work, and I’m not really sure how many readers want to spend time in a leper colony (I would, but that’s another one of my quirks!), so who knows if it will ever actually see the light of day.

RH: Wow, what a unique idea. As a lover of history, I think that would be a fascinating read!What was the inspiration behind your recent novel?

HC: This inspiration definitely came slowly for me! Since I knew I wanted to write about the events of the Boston Tea Party, I dove into researching everything I could about the circumstances surrounding it. My historical heroine, Emma Malcolm, was birthed when I read an account of the brutal tarring and feathering of customs official John Malcolm. This servant of the crown was quite a character in his own right—very outspoken and stubborn with no patience for the antics of the Patriots. And yet I found myself feeling compassion for him. He was treated cruelly and inhumanely by those we find ourselves lauding as heroes today.

I imagined what it’d be like if he had a daughter—one who sympathized with the Sons of Liberty…one who sympathized with the very political side her father was intent on squelching. What if his daughter befriended those plotting to dump the tea? What if she aided them? What if she were even in love with one of them?

Once I had the historical story line down, I thought it might be fun to explore a contemporary woman who also longs to fight for her country and prove herself the best way she knows how. In my research about women in the military, I learned that in July 2017, it was announced that for the first time, a woman would enter the training pipeline to become a Navy SEAL. I imagined what this unidentified woman had gone through and what propelled her to enter such rigorous training. I decided to explore her story in fiction.

Emma and Hayley, my contemporary heroine, both long to serve their country despite broken families. They both long to prove themselves and seek a greater worth and identity.

RH: I really like the aspect that your heroines, though separated by nearly 250  years, were both seeking to belong and found that new identity in Christ. If you were to pick a particular Scripture verse as the theme of your novel, what would it be? Why?

HC: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

The Tea Chest explores what it means to find our worth not in our past, not in what we do or how well we do it, but in whose we are, and in who we trust in.

RH: Amen. When and where is your story set?

HC: Colonial Boston/1770s

RH: My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Boston a few years ago. They’ve done such a fantastic job preserving our heritage. Fans of historical fiction & romance love the details that your research provides. Was there anything particularly interesting that you learned while researching your book that you were able to use or not use in your story that you’d like to share?

HC: Before I did the research for this book, I really didn’t understand the concept of tarring and feathering. All the colonial cartoon pictures depicted it as an almost funny event—a full grown man with a coat of feathers being paraded through the streets. Sounded silly to me! Not until I dove into my research did I really begin to understand how humiliating and dangerously painful this experience was. Those Patriots could certainly be brutal!

RH: I had no idea either until I read The Tea Chest. That was the first time I actually thought about how painful tarring & feathering must have been. I thought you portrayed that very well. Which secondary character do you think will resonate with readers? Why?

HC: Sarah Bradlee Fulton was a real historical person, but in The Tea Chest she is a friend and mentor to my historical heroine, Emma. Sarah is given credit for coming up with the idea of Mohawk disguises the night of the Boston Tea Party. She also did some other pretty courageous things to help the cause of the Patriots. Her bold courage inspired me, and I hope she will inspire readers!

RH: I did love Sarah’s strength of character and commitment to help the cause of Independence. Her determination was definitely inspiring. What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

HC: I hope readers are touched by the ultimate hope the characters find. I hope they feel it is possible to break away from a troubled past, to make peace with it, and to find renewed hope in a God who loves them.

RH: Yes, I loved the theme that you are not defined by your past or your family, but by the choices you make. The most important being where you place your hope and trust. What are you working on now?

HC: I just finished edits for my next book with Tyndale, scheduled for release next year and tentatively titled The Orchard House. So I’m in the wonderfully beautiful place of dreaming up a new book!

RH: I’ve really enjoyed your stories, Heidi, and look forward to your next release. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to wait an entire year! I had so much fun chatting with you today. Thanks for visiting with my readers.


Giveaway**

 

This Giveaway is now CLOSED! Congratulations to Connie Porter Saunders, the winner of the signed copy of The Tea Chest!!!

In The Tea Chest, Heidi’s historical heroine, makes a choice to leave her loyalist family and join the Patriot cause defying not only her strict father, but societal expectations. But not all men and women of that day agreed with cause of liberty. Many identified as English subjects and chose to remain loyal to the crown. If you lived in Boston on the eve of the American Revolution, would you fancy yourself a Patriot and risk being labeled a traitor? Or would you feel the moral road led to working with the crown to resolve your problems and remain a Loyalist? Tell us why in the comments below to be entered to win the signed copy of The Tea Chest.

**Giveaway ends midnight, March 4th, 2020.

Book Review: My Dearest Dietrich

About the Book


Title: My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love
Series Info: Stand Alone
Author: Amanda Barratt
Genre: Historical Fiction with Strong Romantic Elements

Book Info: Kregel Publications, 360 pages, June 9, 2019


Tag Line

A staggering love illuminating the dark corners of a Nazi prison.


Blurb

Renowned German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for his resistance to the Nazi regime and for his allegiance to God over government. But what few realize is that the last years of his life also held a love story that rivals any romance novel.

Maria von Wedemeyer knows the realities of war. Her beloved father and brother have both been killed on the battlefield. The last thing this spirited young woman needs is to fall for a man under constant surveillance by the Gestapo. How can she give another piece of her heart to a man so likely to share the same final fate? Yet when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an old family friend, comes to comfort the von Wedemeyers after their losses, she discovers that love isn’t always logical.

Dietrich himself has determined to keep his distance from romantic attachments. There is too much work to be done for God, and his involvement in the conspiracy is far too important. But when he encounters a woman whose intelligence and conviction match his own, he’s unprepared for how easy it is to give away his heart.

With their deep love comes risk–and neither Dietrich nor Maria is prepared for just how great that risk soon becomes.

Based on detailed historical research, this true love story is at once beautiful and heartrending. My Dearest Dietrich sheds new light on a world-famous theologian . . . and the woman who changed his life.


My Thoughts

I’ve been looking forward to the release of My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love since I first saw author Amanda Barratt‘s post that she’d signed a contract for the novel. Well folks, the wait is over and I can honestly say the book was everything I’d hoped for and so much more.

The depth of research that Barratt undertook to write this novel is staggering. It takes a talented writer to bring the love story of a well-known hero of the Christian faith to life even when the ending is inevitably known. Using numerous excerpts from the private love letters exchanged between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his young fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, Barratt gives the reader a glimpse into the deep faith and tender romance between these ill-fated lovers.

Barratt doesn’t paint an overly-romanticized version of their relationship either. The nearly twenty year difference in their ages raises concern on the part of Maria’s mother as well as Dietrich’s involvement in subversive activities that, if discovered, could bring not only heartache to Maria, but danger for everyone she holds dear. Nor does the author avoid the dark circumstances surrounding Nazi Germany when the two inexplicably fall in love. She accurately portrays the horrific realities of WWII and life in Tegel prison—atrocities, heartbreak, endless interrogations, and constant surveillance, yet seemlessly weaves hopeful threads of triumph, strength, courage, endurance, and the ever present faith that carries the main players through all that stands in their way.

As a writer of historical romantic fiction myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous historical details Barratt employed throughout making the setting and time period come alive without bogging the story down. From black out curtains and rations, to air raid sirens and secret plots, Barratt never lets us forget who her characters were and what was at stake for them. I especially appreciated the sprinkling of German words—mutter, vater, kaffe, and kuchen (just to name a few), that were not overdone or distracting from the story. I often found myself reading many of the other lines with my own feeble German accent.

It’s not uncommon for characters to stay with me long after I’ve finished a novel, but My Dearest Dietrich is a story I cannot stop ruminating over. With heart-wrenching angst and gut-twisting turmoil, Barratt kept me turning the pages and left me completely undone. I can honestly say that I’ve only reread a few books in my adult life, but I’m confident My Dearest Dietrich has earned a coveted spot among those rare titles whose story I will want to revisit time and time again.


Favorite Quotes

“Always remember. It is only space that separates us.”

“I’ve given you so little, but if my unending love is worth anything, then it is yours. Know that whatever comes, it is and will always be…yours.’

“Our love was destined to begin just when we parted…You felt you ‘couldn’t go on.’ So tell me, can you go on without me? And if you feel you can, can you still do so if you know that I can’t go on without you?”

“You, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, are my gift. And I need no other.”

“Lives would be taken by the Reich. Who knew when each of them might be required to surrender theirs. But spirits would live on, and someday, someday their stories would not be silent.”


Spiritual Takeaway

“What was faith if it was not living fully and completely in all of life—its joys and sorrows, burdens and blessings? Taking hold of what one was given, instead of fearing what may come.”

I imagine the previous quote tells you more about the spiritual takeaway from this story than anything I will expand upon here. I was greatly moved by the depth of Bonhoeffer’s faith in the spite of such horrific circumstances. To see this great man of the faith, struggle with questions of morality in the face of such evil made me realize that just because we may wrestle over the “right” Christian response, doesn’t mean we are weak in our beliefs. Actually, its quite the opposite. When our faith is strong and our desire to seek God’s will is earnest, we will grapple with applying our faith to the challenges the world around us presents. All we can do is what we sincerely believe to be “right” in that moment.

I was also deeply moved by the portrayal of Bonhoeffer’s life inside Tegel prison. While having much on his own plate to worry about—the fate of his family and fellow conspirators, his fiancée, and whether or not his own life would be spared, Dietrich put others first—ministering to those in the sick ward, those injured when Allied bombs struck the prison, and even comforting the prison chaplain who felt the strain of shepherding so many souls sentenced to death for “subversive” activities. Sometimes I think as believers we feel we need to have experienced extreme circumstances to have a testimony. Perhaps Bonhoeffer’s true legacy, even more than the great works he authored, is that he was quite simply a Christian who ministered to others right where he was in spite of his own weariness and difficult circumstances. He stepped outside of himself, and put others first.

Through the pages of My Dearest Dietrich, we not only see the well-known theologian but Bonhoeffer as he saw himself—an ordinary man living his faith daily to the best of his ability. This book has left a lasting imprint on my soul to love those around me to the best of my ability, be a breath of encouragement no matter the circumstances, and to stand strong in my beliefs.

“Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen, Dietrich. Amen.


Links for purchase

Amazon           Barnes & Noble          CBD


About the Author

ECPA best-selling author Amanda Barratt fell in love with writing in grade school when she wrote her first story—a spinoff of Jane Eyre. Now, Amanda writes romantic, historical novels and novellas, penning stories of beauty and brokenness set against the backdrop of bygone eras not so very different from our own. Her novel My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love, releases from Kregel Publications in June 2019.

She’s also the author of My Heart Belongs in Niagara Falls, New York: Adele’s Journey, as well as seven novellas with Barbour Publishing. Two of her novellas have been finalists in the FHL Reader’s Choice Awards.

 

 

The History that Inspired A Love Restored (Part 1)

As a writer of historical romance, I’m often asked questions about how I research my stories. I thought today, I’d start a blog series that would give you some insight into how real-life history inspired many of the scenes in A Love Restored.

First, let me give you a little background on the story. A Love Restored is based on my real-life romance with my husband, Mike. I just set the story in the past because I’m a HUGE history nerd. If you’re one of my faithful readers, I’m sure you can relate.

I am blessed to live in northern Virginia, an area rich in our nation’s history. I knew if I set my story in post-Civil War Loudoun County, where I’ve lived since 1972, I would have plenty of historical details to give the reader that would draw them into the period and setting of my story. I decided to use my own home town of Purcellville at the time the Washington & Ohio Railroad arrived in the “sleepy little hamlet” so that my hero, Benjamin Coulter could be a surveyor planning the railroad’s route.

Negro Schoolhouse, Ashburn, Virginia

Since the story is based on my life, it was a natural choice to make my heroine, Ruth Ann Sutton, a teacher as well. While researching the post-Civil War history of my town and the county as a whole, I wandered off track down a historical rabbit trail so to speak and began reading about the life of the freed slaves in the area and the Freedmen’s Schools to educate them.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandon Lands, commonly referred to as the The Freedmen’s Bureau, was established in 1865 to help provide for the hundreds of thousands of freed slaves in the aftermath of America’s Civil War.

While researching, I discovered that Fannie Wood, a white woman from Middleboro, Massachusetts, came to the area to teach in one of the newly authorized Freedmen’s Bureau schools in the nearby town of Warrenton. This was a common arrangement at the time. Many northern organizations, frequently organized by Quakers, funded Freedmen’s Bureau schools in the South and provided the teacher’s salary as well as their room and board with local families. The Richmond Times, an influential newspaper at the time, referred to such teachers as “pretty Yankee girls,” and “missionaries” in an effort to diminish their noble purpose.

But in Reconstruction Era Virginia, Miss Wood’s tenure would not be without opposition from those who did not want the freed slaves educated. A Warrenton newspaper, The True Index, printed the first paragraph of a threatening letter sent to Miss Wood:

“We the young men of this town think you are a disgrace to decent society and therefore wish you to leave this town before the first of March and if you don’t there will be violence used to make you comply to this request.”

 

At this point I knew that my heroine would now teach a Freedman’s School providing plenty of tension for my story. While Freedmen’s Schools existed in nearby Leesburg, Waterford and Lincoln, no school for African Americans existed in my town, Purcellville, until the 1890s. At this point I decided to change the name of Ruth Ann’s town to Catoctin Creek after the little stream that runs through Purcellville.

My research further discovered reports in The True Index that Wood had been “serenaded” by “songs and expressions not intended for ears polite.” Federal troops, used to enforce the Bureau’s efforts to educate the freed slaves, were sent to Warrenton to prevent any escalation of hostilities. This calmed the tension for a while but after the soldiers left, her classroom was pelted with stones. Union Lieutenant, William Augustus McNulty, who was the head of the Freedman’s Bureau for the Warrenton area, continued protecting Miss Wood. In fact, he and his wife, Abbie, eventually helped her teach the adult students in the evening.

Can you just imagine the sight of a white Federal officer teaching freed slaves in post-Civil War Virginia?

I knew immediately that I wanted to capture this scene in A Love Restored. When Benjamin discovers the threatening letters Ruth Ann had been receiving, letters she took great pains to hide from him, Benjamin seeks the aid of Federal officers assigned to protect the Freedmen’s Schools in the area. My secondary story line really came to life now birthing the character of Union Army Captain John Reynolds who would aid Benjamin in the protection of Ruth Ann and her students.

In A Love Restored, the danger escalates to a dramatic raid on the Freedmen’s School by hooded-vigilantes. Although inspired by many real-life accounts of violence against Freedmen’s Schools throughout the South, nothing of that magnitude happened in my county.

Thank you for joining me on this little excursion through one of history’s interesting paths. You never know what you might discover when following a rabbit trail. For me, I found the glue that tied so many smaller plot lines together as well as a way to add historical depth to my story.

This post first appeared on Connie’s History Classroom  (July 10, 2018)

Your Turn: What interesting historical fact have you learned roaming the internet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Britton Brings the Bible to Life

Today I’m excited to introduce you to a new writing friend and fellow Pelican Book Group author, Barbara Britton. Barb writes Biblical fiction infused with rich details from  Hebrew Scriptures–the Old Testament. Her latest book, Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey, takes place during the time of Nehemiah.

AND, there’s a giveaway! Details at the bottom of the post!

Before we start the interview, here’s a bit about , “Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey.”

When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.

Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?

Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.

Welcome, Barbara. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your writing.

Hi Kelly! I am happy to be here talking about history and romance.

I’m a California girl who has lived in Connecticut, Texas, Illinois, and for the past sixteen years—Wisconsin. I’m celebrating thirty years married this month. Yahoo! I have two boys who are twenty-somethings. I love the Lord and I taught chapel for many years at a Christian school. Bible stories are the best. My husband gave me wonderful advice for teaching kids…don’t bore them with the Bible. It’s the most exciting book ever. I have to agree, that’s why writing Biblical fiction is so much fun. I say I write Bible stories with kissing.

What was the inspiration behind your recent novel?

“Jerusalem Rising” follows the narrative of Nehemiah, chapters 1-8. I always say, “God has the best story lines.” Nehemiah left the comforts of the palace at Susa and returned to the city of his fathers to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. This wasn’t an easy task even with the king’s blessing. Bad guys show up and the politics among the Hebrew people weigh on Nehemiah’s heart. The wall gets built in 52 days with God’s provision. Nehemiah was a man of prayer who boldly followed God in this task of restoring Jerusalem.

What historical facts did you learn in writing this book?

I have taught the story of Nehemiah many times, but the lessons did not include some of the women in this narrative. How did I miss Nehemiah 3:12 where Shallum and his daughters are listed as wall builders? Women construction workers? Yes, in the Bible. We don’t know how many daughters Shallum had, or their names, but I gave him two daughters Adah and Judith.

Also, there is a prophetess named in the book of Nehemiah. Her name is Noadiah (Neh. 6:14) and she works against Nehemiah. In fact, Nehemiah asks God to remember Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who “have been trying to intimidate me.” Whoa! That’s not very prophet—y. All those years of teaching and I missed these women who played important roles in God’s plan.

What are some other fun facts you’ve learned about writing Biblical fiction?

It’s difficult to write romance in Biblical fiction because there was no PDA in Bible times. Men and women did not touch, let alone kiss, in public. My characters have kissed in a dark cave, behind a door, and in a vacant shepherd’s pit. Not the most romantic of places!


Barb’s eldest son visited Israel in January and had his picture taken outside of Jerusalem with “Jerusalem Rising.”

Here’s an excerpt from “Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey.”

She reached for the mint-scented oil and dabbed a drop on a piece of cloth. The aroma of the crushed leaves usually calmed her spirit. One breath. Rest. A second. She opened her eyes and stood with insides wrapped tighter than a weaver’s thread. How was she going to stack stones when she could barely lift them?

She shuffled her jar back and forth over a flat knot in the table’s grain. “Lord, I need guidance,” she prayed.

“If you rub that bottle any faster it may break.”

Adah whipped around at the sound of Othniel’s voice.

He leaned against the threshold to her workshop, arms crossed and resting comfortably across his belt.

Had he heard her prayer? She glanced at her hand. A small tremor unsteadied her fingers.

“I’m mixing oils.” He can see that.

He strolled closer, his smile as content as a well-fed lamb. “May I?” He held out his hand for the vessel. No dust covered his skin this morning and the curls she spied escaping from under his turban were dark as charcoal. He hadn’t been in the fields digging in forsaken soil. Not yet anyway.

She offered him a different jar. “I hope you find this soothing.”

He breathed deep. “Ahh. I am in a shady grove with a sea of moss and buds aplenty.”

“Will you take me there, so I can flee humiliation?”

“You cannot leave.” He returned the fragrant mixture to her. “All around the market people are talking about how Shallum and his daughters are going to restore a section of the wall.”

Turning slightly toward her wares, she attempted to cap the bottle of tuberose and agar wood oils. Her fingers fumbled the carved poplar cap. Three tries later her mixture was stoppled and set with the others. “I would not doubt King Artaxerxes has heard of my madness.”

Her belly cramped. She had volunteered to rebuild the wall, so her family would be remembered not ridiculed. She faced Othniel and forced a reluctant grin

“Come now.” His voice calmed her soul more than the mint leaves. “Your father agreed to the work as did your family.”

“Alas, I am convincing as well as conniving. My father cannot labor like a young man. I will be the death of him.” Her heart beat as swift as the rhythm Othniel drummed on the table. She sighed. “I will speak with Nehemiah today.”

“Then he should refuse your appointment.” He opened his arms wide as if to embrace her.

She stood as still as a statue.

He stepped closer. “I am here to assist you.”

Could God have acted this swiftly in answering her plea? Or was Othniel offering his services out of pity? She shook her head. The gossip muttered among the barterers could not have been kind.


Barb’s Giveaway

Barb has graciously offered to giveaway one copy of any of her books in either E-reader or paperback format–winner’s choice. To enter, comment below by Thursday, May 10, and tell us which Biblical story inspires you the most and why?

The Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Deborah Hackett who will win a copy of any of Barb’s books!


Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb brings little known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. You can find out about Barb’s books on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

 

Christmas Novella, A Match of Sorts and a Giveaway!

I’m so excited to welcome Lucette Nel to Romancing History for the first time. “Lucy,” as she is known to friends and family, is not only a fellow Christian historical romance author, she is a dear friend and a critique partner. Lucy’s newest release, A Match of Sorts, released earlier this month with Harbourlight Books, an imprint of Pelican Book Group.

And, with Christmas just around the corner, she came bearing gifts! Lucy is generously giving away an Ebook copy of each of her novellas!  To enter, leave a comment or ask Lucy a question by Friday, December 15. I’ll choose one random participant to receive a copy of A Match of Sorts and another to receive The Widow’s Captive. Want to increase your chances? Sign up to receive Romancing History in your inbox and I’ll enter your name twice! Unfortunately due to a snafu with my IT department (aka hubby), I lost many of my subscribers. So if you signed up in the past but haven’t been receiving Romancing History in you inbox, this is a great opportunity to sign up again.

Before we chat with Lucy and learn more about her and A Match of Sorts, here’s a blurb about her latest novella.

As Christmas approaches, widowed Reverend Caleb Brennan needs a wife, or his vengeful father-in-law will take his young daughters. When his mail-order bride jilts him, Caleb grows desperate. During a storm, he finds an unconscious boy outside his home with signs of foul play. Despite his previous misfortune, obligation compels Caleb to lug the stranger inside. But as he provides first aid, he discovers more than he expected. Bounty hunter Grace Blackwell refuses to owe a debt to any man, especially one as charming as Reverend Brennan. To repay him for saving her life, Grace agrees to pose as his mail-order bride. If their ploy is discovered, Caleb could lose his daughters. But in their pretense, the reverend and the bounty hunter might just both lose their hearts.

RH: Welcome Lucy! Please 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? What are you working on now?

LN: Wow. I’ve been writing for 19 years this year, most of those years I refer to myself as a closet writer because I did it in secret. Only a selected few people knew I wrote.  In 2010 I started to actively study the craft. So far most of my works are or were historical romances set in pioneer America. Currently I’m published in novella length. My first novella, A Widow’s Captive, released in December 2016.

​I’m working on two full length novels​ ​at the moment and will be participating in February 2018’s #Faithpitch​ on twitter.

RH: What is your favorite historical romance novel? Author?

​LN: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers​

RH: That is an all-time favorite of mine. One of only a few novels I’ll take the time to re-read! What was the inspiration behind your recent novel, A Match of Sorts?

​I love marriage of convenience stories, and that was my inspiration for my recent release. And I wanted to match two very unlikely people.

RH: That is another thing we have in common. I am always fascinated by mail-order bride stories. When and where is A Match of Sorts set?

​Cedar Grove, Texas. It’s a fictional town. I sketched the town but let’s just say I should stick to writing and not sketching. LOL​!

RH: Who would you cast as the hero and heroine for this story?

LN: ​​I have a Pinterest board especially for A Match of Sorts where you can see all the images that helped inspire me! For Caleb Brennan I used Michiel Huisman from The Age of Adeline as inspiration! Beard and all! For Grace it was a little mix between Sharon Stone and Ingrid Bolso Berdal from Westworld.

RH: Were there any interesting historical facts you learned in your research you couldn’t work into your story?

LN: Not sure how it happened, but while I researched the treatment of wounds, I stumbled upon the history of the ice box. Let’s just say I love my refrigerator. Hee Hee!

RH: Anything else you’d like us to know about A Match of Sorts?

LN: On one side I wish I made it a novel and not a novella. I really enjoyed the characters.

Now that you’ve heard all about A Match of Sorts, Lucy’s provided a teaser. Here’s a snippet from Chapter One:

Cedar Grove, Texas

December, 1875

“She changed her mind.” Caleb Brennan dragged his fingers through his hair. His mail-order bride backed out of their agreement. After three months of corresponding with the young widow, she took one look at him and opted to marry a fellow passenger instead. Three months. Wasted! Numerous letters exchanged, arrangements made, money spent, and all to end with Mrs. Haddon heading to Austin in the very stagecoach that was meant to bring her to him.

“You can scowl at me all you want. It won’t change anything.” Trust his twin to state the harsh reality, without a touch of sugar.

“I’m still processing the sting, Luke.” Caleb scrubbed his face. His glower might intimidate Abby and Libby, his daughters, but it was useless on his brother.

“You should’ve told her sooner.” Luke collected the stack of wanted posters and thumped them thrice on his scarred desk to straighten the pages.

“I’m hardly a cripple.” Caleb rubbed his aching leg. The pain flared in concert with his frustration. He glanced at the far side of the room. Upright rusted bars like an iron fence separated the jail from Luke’s tiny office. The snores from the figure on one of the two bunks continued undisturbed.

Luke yanked a drawer open and shoved the papers in, and then rammed it. “She probably jumped to the wrong conclusion. Since you kept it a secret, she might wonder what other information you withheld from her.”

“Do you suggest I mention I’m a cripple in my next advertisement?”

“You’re planning to advertise again?” Luke frowned.

“I need a wife. What choice do I have?” And as far as he was concerned, whoever filled the position could have the face and personality of a fencepost, as long as her presence improved his chances of not losing his daughters to his embittered father-in-law.

“Miss Preston seems interested.” Luke studied the steam spiraling from the mug of coffee cradled between his hands.

“You’re loco. You know I can’t marry Miss Preston.” The seamstress might be the prettiest woman in town, but she was too young and too idealistic. His second marriage wouldn’t be one of love and companionship and his bride needed to understand and agree with the terms from the start. He’d experienced love once before. Almost from the moment he’d first laid eyes on Margaret, he’d loved her. And she’d returned his affections. Her death near destroyed him. Never again. His next union would be one of respect and remoteness. An alliance on paper suited him.

Luke drummed his fingers on his desk. “How about I ask Ellen to pose as your fiancée?”

“You want to ask your wife to pretend to be my fiancée?” Caleb blinked. The warmth in the sheriff’s office receded despite the old woodstove standing only feet away. “I can’t wait to hear what she’d think about this idea of yours.” He shook his head. He loved Ellen—as a sister—and she was exactly what Luke needed in his life. But she’d drive Caleb crazy with her endless chatter, even if it was only a fleeting charade. Her overtly bright personality would exhaust him.

“Don’t look at me like that. It’ll be a temporary solution. The girls love and know Ellen.” Luke shifted on the chair, scrubbing a hand along his jaw. “There will be certain rules, of course. Limitations. No kissing. No touching.”

“It was one thing swapping places as boys to play pranks on people. Having your wife pose as my fiancée is a different ball of wax.”

“She’d do it if it means you get to keep the girls.”

“She’s a saint. What did you do to deserve her?”

“Got the Lord Almighty to thank for that.” Luke grinned and dipped his head. “I’ll speak with her tonight. We don’t have much time—”

“Whoa. You expect the entire town to go along with it?” Caleb braced his elbows on the desk.

“We can try.”

“Will you throw those who refuse to play along in jail?” A rustle from the bunk drew Caleb’s gaze. The comatose drunk had rolled over, but audible snores still floated from the cell.

“Can you imagine the entire town in my cell? At least old Jeff would have company.”

“I’d rather not.” Caleb downed the last of his coffee. After putting so much effort into convincing his daughters how nice it would be to have Mrs. Haddon around, he now needed to tell them their plans had changed. He massaged his hip. The wound had healed, but the constant pain and distinct limp remained despite the doctor’s predictions that it would disappear.


Remember, to enter to win one of Lucy’s Novella’s leave a comment below!

Lucy’s debut novella, A Widow’s Captive is on sale for .99 cents! To Purchase any of Lucy’s books click please visit her Amazon author page or her publisher, Pelican Book Group.


Lucy Nel is a coffee addicted work-in-progress daughter of the Lord Almighty. She’s a mommy to a rambunctious toddler and wife to her best friend and real-life hero. Along with three spoiled Pugs, they make their home in Gauteng, the smallest of nine provinces in South Africa.

Lucy enjoys connecting with readers. To find out what Lucy’s up to, you can visit her at:

Quills and Inkblotts

Find me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Visit me at Pinterest

Amazon

 

New Historical Fiction, Mattie’s Choice

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and fellow historical fiction author, Gay Lewis. Gay’s newest release, Mattie’s Choice, released on September 15.

Before we chat with Gay, here’s a bit about Mattie’s Choice:

It’s 1925 in rural Oklahoma. A naïve seventeen-year-old Mattie chooses to elope with Jesse, leaving behind an ideal life with her wealthy and loving family. With hope for a happy future, she vows to stay with her husband through good times or bad, but the wonderful life Mattie dreams of is shattered by Jesse’s abusive nature and his refusal to allow her to see her family.

When Jesse’s brother, Joe, brings home his new wife–the vivacious Ella–Mattie believes Ella is living the life Mattie prays to have with Jesse. As the years grow harder and Jesse and Mattie’s growing family struggles to survive The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl and illness, Jesse’s abuse worsens.

Life also unravels for Ella and Joe as he begins to abuse his wife. Ella makes the choice that Mattie has never considered.

Will Mattie keep her vow to stay with Jesse at the risk of her own life and the life of her children or will she leave him despite the vow?

Welcome Gay! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing.

I’m a pastor’s wife and a mom. Before my writing career, I was an interior designer. I’ve always been creative and loved working with colors and words. When I retired, the first thing I did was to begin a book. The book was called Choices. I’ve written and rewritten it many times. It’s now Mattie’s Choice. I didn’t realize Mattie’s Choice was Historical Women’s Fiction, and I tried marketing it in the wrong genres. In the meantime, a kooky angel came to mind and I started writing Romantic Fantasy. The Sarah Series has been very popular. I’m hoping readers won’t mind the switch to this new genre for Mattie’s Choice.

I have 14 books listed on Amazon and other online book sellers. They are available in eBook. Many are available in print and audio. They’re all Christian and faith inspired. All my Sarah books are squeaky clean. So is my latest, Mattie’s Choice. Rather than list them all with blurbs, let me invite you to my Amazon Author Page.

What was the inspiration behind your recent novel, Mattie’s Choice?

My husband’s mother and his aunt. They lived during the days when women had no rights, weren’t considered equal, and most thought them inferior. These two women were married to abusive, controlling men and each made a different choice regarding their relationship with their spouse.

Why did you choose to set the story during the dust bowl/Great Depression?

This is the time when my husband’s mother and his aunt actually lived. I heard them tell stories about their lives, and many of those stories found their way into my book. Those years were difficult ones for people.

How do your character’s cope with the food shortages and unemployment that typify that era?

My story is set in Oklahoma. Will Rogers was able to raise $30,000 for the Red Cross during the Great Depression. These monies supplied wheat and a few other commodities for starving families. Many of the families lived in tent cities because they’d lost homes and livestock. People shared what they had with others. They had little, but they gave what they could spare. The construction of Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, put men to work during that time, and they were grateful for it, but not every man was chosen for the work.

Were there any interesting historical facts you learned in your research you couldn’t work into your story?

Too many to count. I found it difficult to believe Will Rogers could raise that much money during those times. I learned that women brewed coffee grounds over and over and the first pot was the treasured one of the day. I discovered people called the tent cities for the homeless, “Hoovervilles.” So named after President Herbert Hoover.

Anything else you’d like us to know about Mattie’s Choice!

The premise for Mattie’s Choice concerns choices, the way we interpret Scripture, right or wrong, and the choices we make based on what we perceive the Bible to say.  The choices we make have a ripple effect on the lives of others. I wrote this book to help abused women realize they have choices. Mattie Colby didn’t have many in 1925, but more exist today. Mattie believed her husband’s behavior was her fault. Women today often feel the same way. I’ve heard more than one say, “If I could only be a better wife, he’d love me more and he’d be kind.”

My mother-in-law was married to a controlling man. He refused to allow her to see her family—even her twin brother, but even this day-in-time, controlling men exist. One of my daughters married a man who physically attacked her. Talk about a shocker. That one was. I have a niece who also married a nutcase. Weirdos are out there. What choices can women make to change an ungodly situation? I hope this book will help them realize God has better plans for them.  There weren’t many resources in 1925 to help abused women, but they exist today, and I hope women will search for them. I’m also hoping that all of us females will bond together to help each other.

Here’s an excerpt from Mattie’s Choice:

“There’s just not enough decent food these days. Bobby, Adam’s friend from up the street, came over to play yesterday but he could barely move. I heard his stomach growl and gave him a bowl of beans. He wolfed them down in short order. Poor thing admitted he hadn’t eaten since the day before, I’m guessing their cupboard is bare. His father takes odd jobs and provides as much as he’s able. I sent biscuits home with Bobby. Where does it stop?”

Mattie enjoyed talking to Ella about current events. Many of Ella’s views differed from Jesse’s, but she liked hearing a different opinion and forming new ones of her own. “I didn’t mean to sound so dismal. Our house in Fossil Creek is gone, but we still have a roof over our heads. I ache for those poor homeless farmers who lost their homesteads.” Mattie sneezed into her handkerchief. “And these lollapalooza dust storms that never end. If the farmer wasn’t run off because of a lack of money, he had to abandon his farm because of the powerful dust storms. That prairie wind keeps blowing dirt everywhere.” Mattie shook her head and gazed about her as if to find a giant pile of mud in a corner.

“That’s true. Newspaper reporters are calling the Great Plains the Dust Bowl.”

Mattie grimaced. “I think Dirt Bowl is more accurate. Every time one of those gales blow in, we can’t even breathe. It’s like eating a mud pie.”

Ella nodded. “And about the time we get all that dirt out of the house, another one comes along.”

“Who will ever forget that storm a few weeks ago?”

Ella shook her head. “Black Sunday. They called it an ebony blizzard across the country. None of us could see five feet in front of us.”

“Dirt covered everything in this house, and I’m still finding it in odd places.” Mattie stood. “Let me get the pot so we can have another cup.”

Ella followed Mattie to the kitchen. “Children, you sure are making a mess. You’re supposed to put the oatmeal in your mouth, not on the table, and stop feeding Old Red.”

James spoke up. “Old Red is hungry too.”

“I know he is, but that food is for you. He’ll eat something later.”

Mattie smiled as Ella tousled James’s hair. They returned to the couch.

Ella sipped her coffee. “It’s been one disaster after another for seven long years. The Lord must have something in mind for these hard times, but I can’t imagine what it is.”

“Me either. We both know families who had to relocate to survive. It about broke Jesse’s heart when his parents had to move back to Kentucky. Did I tell you we had a letter from them the other day?”

“No you didn’t. How are they?”

“They’re doing okay.”

“How about your family?”

Mattie set her cup aside. “Mrs. Shuster wrote. She didn’t know what Mr. Winchester is doing these days since he lost the bank, but she assured me my father and Maury are all right. Papa never placed money in the bank.” Mattie gave a small chuckle. “Papa always said he’d never trust a bank.”

Ella sighed. “That’s good news. I’m glad to hear they’re surviving. Others must move but have no place to go. People are trying to make it to California, but they don’t have the means to get there.”

“Jesse talks to men at the station. Many of them are traveling around trying to find work. He heard that Oklahoma City has its own Hooverville. Those unfortunate folks are living in tents, boxes and rusted motorcar bodies.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that too. The Hooverville in Oklahoma City is huge. Tulsa hasn’t experienced as much suffering as Oklahoma City, but we have hobo villages too.”

“Have you seen those places?”

Ella brushed a tear from her eye. “I hear about them. It’s so sad. With no roof over their heads, people had to pitch tents, but folk in Tulsa aren’t the only ones. Tent cities have popped up all over the country. I’m a Republican who supported President Hoover, but he didn’t do enough to help the country’s economy. It seems fitting these drifter communities are named after him.” Ella glanced away and her lips trembled.

Mattie guessed Ella was envisioning the impoverishment she saw each day in the hospital.

Ella shook her head. “Families steal for food and clothes. We treat many cases of starvation at the hospital. Others, the elderly and babies, suffer from asthma due to the dust. If it weren’t for the Tulsa Chapter of the Red Cross, I don’t know what these families would do. The chapter helps with medical bills for destitute people.”

Mattie nodded. “Thank God for Will Rogers. He was a big help too.”

“Yes, and I do thank God for Will Rogers. That $30,000 he raised for the Red Cross with a benefit performance here in Tulsa a few years ago helped us immensely.” Ella sighed and water filled her eyes as if she had a bad cold. “The amount of human suffering overwhelms me.”

Mattie reached over and patted Ella’s hand. “You’re a first-rate nurse and patients benefit from your care and concern.”

Ella took a deep breath. “I just wish there was more I could do for them.” She finished her coffee and handed the cup to Mattie. “I’m off.” She walked to the kitchen, kissed her boys, and hugged the others. “OK, you big brood, be nice to Mattie today.”

The children beamed at her. When she wasn’t working, she brought fun and laughter to their midst.


 

A native Texan, Gay’s written and produced videos, and for over ten years, she used her imaginative insight in the interior design field. As a pastor’s wife, she writes Faith Features for various church periodicals. She also writes articles for Texas Hill Country.  Gay is a published author for Pelican Book Group in romance and fantasy fiction. Her current series is about a dyslexic angel who comes to earth to help humans, but Sarah, the angel, is more like Lucy Ricardo with humorous antics and bumbles. Her latest books, Mattie’s Choice, and Clue into Kindness are women’s fiction. The stories are about abusive men and women who are addicted to an unhealthy relationship.

Gay’s books are available in print, eBook, and audio. For more information, click here.

You can see Gay video trailers of her books and connect with Gay on her blog

on her Amazon Author Page, Facebook or Twitter.

Sarah has her own Facebook page. To follow Sarah, click  here.

Historical Fiction to Turn Your Heart Toward Christmas

joyful-christmas

As the song goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Goshorn household. Holly, lights, and the scent of pine and cinnamon signal that Christmas is near. The lighted manger scene adorns my yard, snowmen and angels abound in my family room, our tree is up with lights and red bead garland, and Christmas music fills the background whether at home or in the car. We have our Christmas movies out and have already viewed a few of our favorites. What’s missing besides the ornaments we still need to hang on the branches of our tree?

Snuggling up with a good book and a cup of Earl Grey tea (my personal favorite) in front of a crackling fire.

Here’s a list of excellent historical fiction, by classic and contemporary authors, to give you that warm and cozy Christmas-is-around-the-corner feeling. Not sure how you’ll squeeze in a book right now? No worries. There is a nice selection of short stories and novellas as well as novels for you to choose from.

I’ve made it easy for you to purchase the book for yourself or as a gift. Just click on the cover to go to amazon. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with any of these Christmas selections.

Classics

The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry— This classic short story of sacrificial giving is a Christmas must read as Henry’s characters, Della and Jim, sell their most treasured possessions to give a gift they know the other will love.

The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale, Philip Van Doren Stern— I have not read this story yet. In fact, I only discovered it doing research for this blog post, but I’ve already purchased it on my Kindle! This heart-warming short story, which came to Stern in a dream, became the basis for the classic Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens–Before you roll your eyes because you’ve seen the movie every year, pause and consider reading this classic first published in October 1843. While I love a good film, there is nothing like reading a classic. Charles Dickens, heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher, began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol is the imaginative and entertaining tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote–First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote’s rural Alabama boyhood in the 1930’s has become a modern-day classic. Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: “It’s fruitcake weather!” Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls–one young and one old–and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.

The Little Match Girl, Hans Christian Andersen— First published in 1845, this classic story tells the tale of a poor child who tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and is barefoot having lost her shoes. The girl lights the matches to warm herself. Seeing a shooting star, she remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. After running out of matches the child dies, and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook, frozen with a smile on her face, and guess the reason for the burnt-out matches beside her. They feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death. They have no way of knowing about the wonderful visions she saw before her death or how gloriously she and her grandmother are now celebrating the New Year in Heaven.

Contemporary Historical Fiction

A Light in the Window, Julie Lessman— This novel should come with a warning! Danger, you will get sucked into the entire O’Connor Family Saga! This beautifully told story follows Marceline Murphy in 1890s Boston. While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen, A Light in the Window, Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to the two men who are pursuing her, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the “light in the window,” meaning the message of Christ in his heart.

The Fruitcake Challenge, Carrie Fancett Pagels— This fun sweet romance novella is the first installment of Carrie’s Christy Family Lumberjack Series and was a Selah awarad finalist. The title grabbed me right away and Carrie’s storytelling won’t disappoint. When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on!

I Heard the Bells, Angela K. Couch— This heart warming short story was inspired by the Christmas carol of the same name and was the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Virginia chapter’s Short Story Contest winner. Angela is beautiful storyteller. Don’t miss this one! Three years ago, Gabriel Morgan left his home in Virginia to fight for the Union Army, despite his family and fiancee’s loyalties to the South. Now, with battle fresh in his mind, and the Civil War still raging, he chances a quick trip home with one prayer… to make peace this Christmas.

Although I haven’t read them yet, these books sound so good I had to include them because they are on my TBR pile!

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming, Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Hearne, Julie Lessman, & Anna Schmidt–Four historical romances featuring cowboys, small towns and the wide open range. These authors ALWAYS leave you wanting more!

The Widow’s Captive, Lucette Nel–You won’t want to miss this author’s debut novella. On the run with two small children and a third due within weeks, Adeline Spencer fears the approaching blizzard will seal their fate. An abandoned cabin is an answer to her prayers. She hopes it will shield them from both the storm and the enraged brother-in-law hot on her tail. But when a stranger knocks at the door, she is convinced they have been found by one of Ward’s lackeys.Blamed for the death of his friend, Sheriff Jonah Hale is determined to prove himself worthy of his badge, even if it means riding into a blizzard to check on a crazy miner. When Jonah reaches the cabin, he’s caught off guard by a pretty and very pregnant young woman wielding a skillet. Bound to a chair while the storm rages, and as Christmas settles in around them, he must find a way to earn Adeline’s trust…and perhaps her heart.

Hang Your Heart on Christmas, Heather Blanton–I’ve enjoyed all of Heather’s other novels and look forward to hours of entertainment form this book as well. As punishment for a botched arrest, U.S. Marshal “Dent” Hernandez is temporarily remanded to the quiet little town of Evergreen, Wyoming. Not only does his hometown hold some bad memories, but he is champing at the bit to go after vicious killers, not waste his time scolding candy thieves. And he most certainly should not be escorting the very pretty, but jittery, schoolteacher around. What is she so afraid of? Turns out, a lot of folks are keeping secrets in Evergreen. When the bank is robbed and Dent has to do what he does best, choices will be made, lies will be exposed, and hearts will break. Can Christmas bring love and healing to Evergreen? To Dent?

Where Treetops Glisten–Three Stores of Heartwarming Courage and Christmas Romance During World War II, Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin–Although I haven’t read this novella collection, these authors don’t disappoint! I’m looking forward to this World War II era collection of stories. Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

The Substitute Bride, Carrie Fancett Pagels–Carrie’s books always make my TBR pile and this Christmas novella sounds enchanting. The Substitute Bride is part of the O’ Little Town of Christmas novella collection and won Carrie a much coveted spot as a Maggie award finalist. A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride. At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return—where Christmas past was full of pain. A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so—will God bring healing and love to him this year?

Tidings of Peace, Tracie PetersonBestselling author Tracie Peterson presents four Christmas love stories from World War II. Moving from the homefront, to the front line, to the South Pacific, each story in Tidings of Peace features brave men and women trying to find meaning–and love–during the uncertainties of war. All the danger, difficulties, sadness, and hope experienced on both sides of the ocean is captured in these timeless novellas. the unique Christmas settings will put you in the spirit of the season, showing the miracles and mercy so often found during this time of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Just in case I haven’t given you enough choices, here are some wonderful historical romance Christmas novella collections. Although I haven’t read these either yet, they come highly recommended and I plan to read as many as possible!

What is your favorite book that turns your heart toward Christmas?

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