Today on PASTimes we welcome a character from the latest book by Sarah Sundin!
Name: Second Officer Dorothy Fairfax
Parents: Reginald and Margaret Fairfax, but my mother was killed in the London Blitz in 1940.
Siblings: My older brothers, Arthur and Gilbert, both served in the Royal Navy and they both died serving the crown.
Places lived: I’ve lived in London all my life.
Jobs: I’m proud to serve as an officer in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. As a “Wren,” I work in Allied Naval Headquarters in London, where I use civilian snapshots and reconnaissance photos to help create maps and diagrams for the upcoming Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.
Friends: I simply adore my friends! Gwen Hamilton and Muriel Shaw serve in the Wrens with me, and my dear friend Johanna Katin works for my father.
Enemies: She isn’t quite an enemy, but I’m not fond of my commander, First Officer Julia Bliss-Baldwin. And she certainly isn’t fond of me.
Dating, marriage: The man I’ve adored since I was a schoolgirl is serving in my command, Lt. Cdr. Lawrence Eaton. I’m finally turning his head. However, a certain American naval officer, Lt. Wyatt Paxton, is making me reconsider my lifelong dream.
Do you like yourself? Not particularly. I’m too loud and enthusiastic and boisterous, and I’m cursed with freckles.
What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I dearly long to be suave and sophisticated, the kind of woman Lawrence Eaton could love. But most of all, I wish I could change my father’s life. He is so melancholy that he barely eats or goes to his office. And he never looks at me if he can help it.
Strongest/weakest character traits: My friends say I’m very loyal and caring, and they enjoy my daredevil spirit. However, I’m also too dramatic and boisterous, simply not proper for an English lady.
How much self-control do you have? Practically none. I’m far too impulsive.
Fears: Heights and flying.
Collections, talents: I do enjoy drawing and painting. I’m quite an amateur, but it relaxes me. Also, my artistic skill helps me create maps and diagrams for the Allies.
Food, drink: All my life I’ve had a horrid sweet-tooth. Wartime rationing has allowed me to have a trim figure for the first time.
Best way to spend a weekend: Going out with my friends, dancing, seeing the sights in London, and walking Bonnie Prince Charlie, my Scottish terrier.
What would a great gift for you be? More oil paints! They can’t be found with the war on, and I’ve had to resort to watercolors, which are too wispy and ethereal for my taste now.
When are you happy? When I’m with my friends.
What makes you angry? Very little.
What makes you sad? When others are sad, especially my father. The only person who can lift his spirits now is Wyatt.
What makes you laugh? So much. I laugh far too often for a proper lady.
Hopes and dreams: I’ve always dreamed that Lawrence would fall in love with me. Wyatt is becoming a dear friend, but how could I fall in love with an American and leave my father?
Biggest trauma: The deaths of my mother and brothers, all within one year.
What do you care about most in the world? Doing my part to bring this beastly war to an end.
Do you have a secret? That my father doesn’t love me. He can’t bear the sight of me, because I only remind him that he’s lost all the people he did love. However, I’m all he has left and I love him, so I’ll fight for him.
What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? Wyatt has become a dear friend. He’s kind and honest, and he does the right thing even when it hurt. He’s humble enough to admit his sins and dedicated enough to make amends. And I enjoy his company immensely.
What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? Wyatt is always present, and my father prefers him over Lawrence. At first I barely noticed Wyatt, but the more I do notice him, the more attractive he becomes. That simply won’t do. I need to marry an exciting man, and Wyatt is the quiet sort.
Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you: It happens in this story, when my desire to win Lawrence’s heart clashes with my fear of flying. Simply dreadful.
About the book:
In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, who pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France—including those of her family’s summer home—in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt turns into naval bombardment plans for D-day.
As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn into something more. But both of them have too much to lose to give in to love . . .
Sarah Sundin is the best-selling author of ten historical novels, including The Sea Before Us. Her novels When Tides Turnand Through Waters Deepwere named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deepwas a finalist for the 2016 Carol Awardand won the INSPY Award.A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.Please visit her at http://www.sarahsundin.com.
My name is Violet Channing. Orphaned at a young age, I found myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me died.
I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors at his death.
In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire was my greatest fear.
My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor.
“It’s just a cold,” she said.
But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee. “Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”
Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”
Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her.
Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory. At the corner grocery, I buy a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. In the corner of the Classifieds, an ad catches my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”
I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Can this be the answer?
Before I grow fainthearted, I pen an application and mail it off to the address.
A week later, I receive a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulses through me as I withdraw the note which requests that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dress carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invites me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson describes the job.
Her granddaughter, Jenny, was recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother had died, and the girl’s father needs a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.
The job offer sounds too good to be true until she tells me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!
Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I know about the Yukon is that it is wild and frigid. Do I have the courage to go there?
I think of my shabby apartment. I have nothing to keep me here, but will I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox?
I decide to take the leap. Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fall in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.
ANNALEE CONTI’s experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties provide inspiration for her writing. She has published numerous short stories, devotionals, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House, as well as four books. Beside Still Waters is the third novel in her Alaskan Waters Trilogy that tells the life and death saga of a Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.
AnnaLee is also a teacher and ordained minister, who resides with her husband in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. Together, they have pastored churches in New York State for more than 35 years and are now retired. Learn more about AnnaLee and her books at www.annaleeconti.com and sign up for her blog at http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/.
It’s our pleasure to welcome Austin Goddard to PASTimes today!
NOVEL PASTIMES: It’s a pleasure to meet you, Austin. Perhaps I shouldn’t presume, but since your name is Austin, I assume you’re a native Texan.
AUSTIN: No, ma’am. I’m afraid I can’t claim that honor, but I will say that I’m grateful the Lord led me to Cimarron Creek. The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.
NOVEL PASTIMES: That sounds as if you’ve lived in a lot of places. Where else have you called home?
AUSTIN: Well …
NOVEL PASTIMES: I can see that I’ve made you uncomfortable. That wasn’t my intention, but I am curious about where you’ve lived.
AUSTIN: You won’t repeat what I’m going to tell you, will you?
NOVEL PASTIMES: Of course not. This is just between us.
AUSTIN: All right. I’ll trust you. I was born in Oklahoma, but I’ve lived in Philadelphia and Paris.
NOVEL PASTIMES: Paris, France? The city with the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral, and the river Seine?
AUSTIN: That’s the one.
NOVEL PASTIMES: Is it as beautiful as I’ve heard?
AUSTIN: I don’t know what you’ve heard, but it is indeed a beautiful city.
NOVEL PASTIMES: And yet you left it.
AUSTIN: It was time to bring my daughter home. I wanted her raised in America.
NOVEL PASTIMES: The ladies at church are all talking about her and how quiet she is. I can’t help but wondering whether she’s always been that way.
AUSTIN: Not always, but it was difficult for Hannah to leave Philadelphia.
NOVEL PASTIMES: Then why didn’t you stay?
AUSTIN: There was no choice. I had to keep her safe. And, please, don’t ask me to explain. There are some things I can’t talk about, and that’s one.
NOVEL PASTIMES: I’m sorry. Once again, I’ve made you uncomfortable, and that wasn’t what I had intended. I just wanted to get to know you. Before today, all I knew was that you were a widower and the most eligible bachelor in Cimarron Creek.
AUSTIN: Eligible bachelor, bah! When you talk to the other ladies, do me a favor and tell them that I’m not looking to remarry.
NOVEL PASTIMES: But surely Hannah needs a mother.
AUSTIN: Maybe so, but I don’t need a wife. Especially not one of the young ladies that have been paraded before me. If I wanted a wife, I’d pick someone like …
NOVEL PASTIMES: Don’t stop there. Like who?
AUSTIN: Like … nobody.
NOVEL PASTIMES: Not even Catherine Whitfield?
AUSTIN: Catherine’s different from the simpering misses. I’ll grant you that. She’s a wonderful teacher, and Hannah loves her, but the simple fact is, I’m not planning to marry her or anyone.
NOVEL PASTIMES: So you say. So you say.
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of A Stolen Heart, as well as the Texas Crossroads series, the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers’ Best Awards. She lives in Wyoming. Learn more at www.amandacabot.com.
Aileen Doherty is a young Irish girl who accompanies her father and brothers on a trip to work in Scotland picking tatties. She meets Jimmy Walsh who is there doing the same, and they fall in love. But a tragic accident pulls them apart. Stung by grief and abandoned by her mother, Aileen begins working on an abandoned garden. At the same time, disfigured by burns he suffered in the accident, Jimmy falls deeply into the underworld of London. Both have to work through their grief and find their way back home.
I enjoyed this book very much. The story was about healing and continuing on by creating beauty and love in the pieces of the characters’ lives they had left and also in new adventures they found. The author writes from the west of Ireland, and although the story is set just post WWII, the setting comes alive, as do the quirky characters. The style is different from what I usually read. The author writes from an omniscient point of view, so the reader gets to know what each character is thinking and feeling in every scene. She does this well, and once I got to used to it, I was totally emerged in the story. It felt like pure Irish storytelling.
For those of you who read strictly Christian fiction, this is not that genre. However, even the harsh world of prostitution and drug use was handled with care, and for me it was not at all offensive. There were several allegorical images, such as the ashes from the fire where loved ones perished growing a never-before species of flower. This gave the book an overall literary feel that reminded me of novels by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian author. If you enjoy her novels, I think you’ll also like Kate Kerrigan’s. Visit her website here.
Thanks to the author from providing a free electronic copy of this book for review. I have given my honest opinion.
When confronted with a forced marriage, Travay Allston flees her stepfather’s Jamaica plantation and dives into the sea. Death would be preferable to life with Sir Roger Poole, a drinking, gambling, scoundrel whose advances make her skin crawl.
Lucas sails the high seas as the dreaded Captain Bloodstone. He is on a quest to find his mother, a woman last seen clapped in irons by the Spanish. As his ship slips past Jamaica, he spies a young woman plunge into the sea. A prize of such beauty must be saved and Lucas dives in to rescue her. The last thing Lucas needs is to get involved with Travay, a childhood friend who caused him nothing but trouble. Especially now that she’s become a stubborn, alluring young woman.
Lucas delivers Travay to her aunt in Charles Town and washes his hands of the affair. Or so he thinks. But when Sir Roger shows up demanding that Travay marry him or face the wrath of Charles Town’s newest council member, Lucas feels that familiar boyhood tug on his heart. Will this wanted pirate of the crown risk his life to save Travay a second time? Betrothed to a man she hates, will Travay repay her debt to a pirate by marrying Sir Roger in exchange for his promise to pardon Lucas? And if she does, will such a rascal keep his word? Falling in love with the pirate was never part of her plan …
Travay Allston literally falls into the hands of Captain Bloodstone as she does her best to escape from marriage to the scoundrel, Sir Roger Poole, by diving off the edge of a cliff on her horse.
She doesn’t know that the young and handsome pirate, Captain Bloodstone, is Lucas, someone she knew and cared about as a child. He has been her protector before and will learn that to be Travay’s protector is no easy task. After all, he is busy seeking recompense from the Spanish and on a quest to find his mother, whom they captured. He doesn’t have time to become involved with the beautiful and haughty Travay any more than she is interested in romance with a pirate. Their voyage to romance is filled with troubles at every turn!
While Lucas is a fairly new believer and works hard to live a godly life, Travay wonders where God is. There is a strong faith thread as both hero and heroine wrestle with their questions of faith and life. Even though pirate stories aren’t my usual read, I highly enjoyed Elva Cobb Martin’s In a Pirate’s Debt. Her characters come to life in their detailed historical settings. More than just a romance, it’s a page-turner filled with adventure on the high seas. I highly recommend this enjoyable read!
Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (2014-2017). Her first two inspirational novels, a romantic suspense, Summer of Deception, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt, released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, have both spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Elva is represented by Jim Hart, of Hartline Literary.
Today we have the pleasure of meeting a character from the Bible, Hannah, as told in Jill Eileen Smith’s novel A Passionate Hope.
My name is Hannah, which means “favor or grace”. Looking back on my life, I can say now that God has shown me both.
My father is Hyam. My mother is Adva. I am their only daughter, though I have many brothers and sisters-in-law.
My brothers are Barukh, Chaim, Dan, and Gilad.
I have lived all of my life in the hills of Ephraim.
I do not understand this foreign word.
Ah, work. My work is to do the daily tasks of womanhood—to care for our home, keep us clothed and fed and to meet my husband’s needs. My husband, Elkanah, is a Levite and I do what I can to help him carry out his duties in that role. I also sell some of my weaving in the marketplace. This helps my husband and makes me feel useful.
My husband’s sister Meira used to be my closest friend, but once she married, we rarely saw each other. My sister-in-law Dana has become my only friend and confidant in our large and often contentious household.
I wish I had no enemies, but my sister-wife Peninnah has done her best to not live at peace with me. I find her presence trying.
I have no children—at least I did not in the early years. That is why Elkanah married Peninnah. But God blessed us later with Samuel and many more sons and daughters.
What person do you most admire?
I have always loved and admired my husband. To think that Elkanah loves me as he does…I never dreamed he would care for me.
Overall outlook on life:
Life…we are here such a short time and then we rest in Sheol. But I have always believed that one day I would see God. He is the one I long for, and when life has been at its worst, He has carried me through each struggle. What would I do without Him?
Do you like yourself?
I find this question confusing. We do not spend time thinking about liking ourselves. This sounds like someone who is focused too much on the wrong things. When I think of Adonai or Elkanah, I do not think of Hannah, though I will admit, sometimes I feel sorry for myself when Peninnah is near.
What, if anything, would you like to change about your life?
I would have chosen a path that kept our marriage between Elkanah and me alone. Sharing a husband is not God’s best and it has made life miserable for everyone at times.
How do others view you?
I have no idea what people think of me.
I fear, rather I used to fear never bearing a son, never outliving my shame. But as I said, God has shown me favor and grace. I praise Him for His goodness to me.
When are you happy?
When I am alone with Adonai. I love to walk in the hills and pray. They say we should pray at the Tabernacle, and I try…but I feel more of God’s presence in the creation that surrounds me. I do love to sing in worship with the serving women in Shiloh though.
What makes you angry?
I grow angry at the corruption of the priests in Shiloh—sometimes to the point of despair. When will God answer? When will He restore worship to what it is meant to be? Yet there is nothing to be done but wait and pray.
What makes you sad?
I will admit, every time Peninnah birthed another child, I wanted to run far from home. The joy over her success reminded me all over again of my failures.
What makes you laugh?
Elkanah. We manage to find humor in the strangest places. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself or you will see life as too difficult.
Hopes and dreams:
I hope my children grow up to follow Adonai all of their days.
Facing the fact that I had to release Elkanah to marry another woman. I couldn’t let him know how hard that was for me, but a piece of my heart broke away that day and I never felt the same again.
What do you care about most in the world?
Adonai. Pleasing Him. And then…having children consumed me until it no longer did.
Do you have a secret?
Yes, but I can’t share it, lest it stop being a secret.
Thank you, Hannah, for giving us this glimpse into your life.
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the Wives of King David, the Wives of the Patriarchs, the Loves of King Solomon, and the Daughters of the Promised Land series. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.
Today we welcome Lady Elisabeth from the novel The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz.
Novel PASTimes: Welcome, Lady Elisabeth. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Lady Elisabeth: I would walk through the gardens of Ty Mawr and Ty Bryn and spend the day with my twins in the fresh Virginia air. We’d enjoy a picnic of my husband’s favorite Welsh bara brith and tea and the like. I’d pick flowers for the foyer and bedchambers of Ty Mawr.
Novel PASTimes: What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
Lady Elisabeth: Hmm…my dear husband, Noble, told me he first thought me pretty in a pale sort of way. I think people once viewed me as the spoiled only daughter of an overbearing aristocrat and believed me to be timid and vapid. Appearances are deceiving!
Novel PASTimes: What’s your idea of a good marriage?
Lady Elisabeth: Trust. And friendship. Both make a firm foundation. Noble first noticed me when my life turned upside down. Though it was a terrible trial at the time, if that was what led to marriage, my downfall was worth the price if that was what brought us together. At first, with others questioning whether or not I was a Tory spy, he had to determine whether to trust me. His life was on the line. Mine, too. I knew I could trust him from the outset when so many proved false. I trusted him with my life when my own father and supposed friends failed me. Most importantly, a shared faith is paramount. That has helped us weather a war and far more.
Novel PASTimes: What are you most proud of about your life?
Lady Elisabeth: Using the skills as a lacemaker learned from my mother and grandmother to help me through a tumultuous time. Remaining a lady when my title and lifestyle were stripped from me. Remembering who I belong to as the daughter of an eternal king if not an earthly earl.
Novel PASTimes: What do you believe about God?
Lady Elisabeth: I believe He holds all the world and events of history in His mighty hands. People of my day often refer to God as a distant being and call Him ‘Providence’ but I believe in a personal God who has a plan for my life, always bringing good from evil, always giving me hope. Sometimes His protection and leading are best seen in hindsight.
Novel PASTimes: What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life?
Lady Elisabeth: Losing my home and family at the start of the American Revolution. Yet God has brought tremendous good out of heartache. I mean, here I am with a true, happy family in a beautiful house of my own with children and a loving husband. Before I had an unhappy, estranged family always at odds.
Novel PASTimes: Tell me about your best friend.
Lady Elisabeth: Once upon a time I would have said my former friends in Williamsburg, but few have stayed true. My husband is my best friend. He was my best friend since first meeting though I didn’t know it back then. He proved his friendship time after time, standing by me even at the risk of losing his own friends and fellow Patriots who suspected me of being a spy. Novel PASTimes: What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Lady Elisabeth: I rather like my old friend’s, Mister Benjamin Franklin:
The body of B. Franklin,
Like the cover of an old book
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,
lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be wholly lost,
for it will, as he believed, appear once more,
in a new and more perfect edition,
corrected and amended
by the Author.
Novel PASTimes: What a unique and thought-provoking epitaph. What are you most afraid of?
Lady Elisabeth: Losing my children. So many young ones don’t live beyond childhood in this day and age. They’ve brought such joy to my life. I’d like to keep them little forever, but in health and prosperity. But I also know, if the Lord were to take them, that heaven is far better than here.
Novel PASTimes: What advice would you give to those in times of war?
Lady Elisabeth: Live as simply and gratefully as you can. Help in practical ways. Pray. Let no one who comes to you go away hungry or ill-clothed. Be the hands and feet of our Lord.
Thank you, Lady Elisabeth, for giving us that inspiration.
Laura Frantz is a Christy Award finalist and the ECPA bestselling author of several books, including The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, The Mistress of Tall Acre, A Moonbow Night, and the Ballantyne Legacy series. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.
Today we have the pleasure of meeting Tressa Harlowe from Joanna Davidson Politano’s A Rumored Fortune.
Supposedly there’s a fortune hidden somewhere on your estate. Is it true?
Of course it is. Just because we haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I know my father, and if he claims he has hidden his fortune, then he’s done exactly that. Besides, if there’s no hidden fortune, it means we have nothing.
You say you know your father, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t you know where he’d hide his fortune?
That’s none of your concern. I know the man better than anyone does. Do the women of Her Majesty’s court not know the queen, even from a distance? I know the sort of man my father was, and I know he’d never lie about his great fortune.
How would you describe the man, then?
(After a pause)—He was strong and true and good, the best father a girl could have. I admired him so, and felt a sort of hero worship for him. Such wisdom he had about a great many things. Most of our conversations centered around vines, for his vineyards were the great love of his life. We talked of grapes and branches, but in doing so we talked of deeper things too, without saying the words. He understood vineyards the way physicians understand the human body and accountants understand sums. I never would have cared a whit for vines or grapes except that it was who he was. To love his vineyards was to love him, so these rows of winding branches and vines have become dear to me.
You know, vines are such a mystery. They burst forth with wonderful sweet fruit, but only if the conditions are perfect—pruning, weather, season, protection and drainage. Father was something like that, only the conditions were never right.
There have been a great many visitors to your estate lately. What should happen if one of them were to find the fortune before you?
Let them all search in the nooks and crannies forever, learning the intricacies of Trevelyan. They could spend years looking for the fortune on an estate of this size. In the meantime, I’ll be studying the man who hid the fortune. Understanding my closed-off Father is the key to finding the fortune he hid. I just know the answer is somewhere in his vineyard notebooks, written in some kind of symbolic riddle.
Now that I’ve found someone who speaks Welsh, I’ll be able to translate his notebooks and unlock the pages he poured himself into all these years. I only have to work up the courage to hand the notebooks to that vineyard manager.
The vineyard manager, Donegan Vance. He’s new to the estate, isn’t he? You are brave to trust a newcomer with the secret to your father’s fortune.
I haven’t any choice now, have I? No one else about the place speaks Welsh. Trust is coming slowly where this man is concerned. He may be a bit too forthright and lacking in certain gentlemanly restraint, but his brashness does have one advantage—total honesty. Everything that comes from the man’s mouth is honest to a fault. I don’t have to enjoy the man’s company to believe him trustworthy.
It’s been said you’ve spent a lot of time together, both in the vineyard and out about Welporth. Have you been searching for the treasure together?
He’s become a partner of sorts in the treasure hunt, out of necessity. I will say, though, that from the moment he pounded up the path to Trevelyan on his massive black stallion, he’s been nothing but a rescuer for me. Mother may say what she likes, but the man is a solid rock. He’s bold and opinionated, which truly unsettles me at times, but he’s been a pleasant cool breeze of truth as well. Sometimes I regret partnering with him, but so far he’s proven to be nothing but a help. He seems to have a natural wisdom about vineyards too, and the deeper meaning behind the way the plants work.
He said something to me once about the Scripture passage, “speaking the truth in love.” I think perhaps he can teach me a bit about that, and maybe I can help him with the rest—speaking the truth in love. That’s the way I think of our partnership right now—opposites that work well together. If it weren’t for the secret I see shadowed in his eyes, perhaps I could trust him completely and tell him everything I know, but with the way things are going now, there’s not a single person among my acquaintances I’d trust to that extent.
What of Andrew, your fiancé? One would assume you could trust him.
First of all he’s no longer my fiancé. That courtship died a painful death over a year ago when his parents pressured him to end our association. Yes, he’s come to stay at Trevelyan, but it doesn’t mean anything. Mother convinced him to come help us grieve Father’s passing, and I wish he’d simply take himself home again. I cannot bear to see the face of my deepest rejection every day in my own house. I want to trust him, to seek his help with this fortune hunt, but after all that’s happened between us, I simply cannot trust the man. I suppose the only one a person can trust is God.
Are you a very religious person?
I suppose I am. I’ve attended church since birth and I’ve always felt a peace there. I believe there’s something more to it, though. Don’t think me mad, but sometimes I feel as if God tries to connect directly to me, even outside of a sermon. It happens when I paint. Ever since I was small, I’d sink into this creative outlet and at the same time sink into conversation with God. I let my thoughts flow free and unhindered with each sweep of my brush. Life splashed through my soul as color splashed over white canvas. I always thought it was because I had no one else I connected deeply with, and it was my imaginative, artistic heart’s invention.
Lately it seems He’s been trying to reach me again, though, and it’s always through color, through artwork. From the orangey glow of dawn on morning fog to the sunlight shining through stained glass, color seems to be His specific way of reaching me. It’s as if He’s speaking my language to ensure His words sink directly and deeply into my heart. Perhaps it’s only the wishful thinking of a little girl who has grown up around the hole my earthly father left in my heart. I cannot deny, however, the taste I’ve had of life and the hope I’ve felt.
Thank you for visiting with us today, Tressa. We hope you find your treasure!
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears. She freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.
Today we welcome Em, a character from The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham.
Name: Growing up my parents and sister called me Emmy but that seems like a very long time ago. For seven years I’ve been simply Em.
Parents: My parents were John and Viviette. I say were but even with them both dead I still think of them as my parents. I’ve missed them so much. It hurts sometimes just thinking of them and how things used to be.
Siblings: For many years my whole world was my sister. We rode the orphan train together. I helped her not be afraid by telling her stories. I never thought we’d be separated. It’s been seven years now since perfect Lucy found a home and I was put back on the train. Dreaming of being reunited with her is what kept me going all those hard and lonely years.
Places lived: I was born in New York. I moved with my parents from shared tenements to a little apartment and then with their passing I lived on the streets. I don’t like talking about that though. Those were dark days. After the orphan train ride I lived with George until being rescued and taken to Azure Springs.
Jobs: The only job worth mentioning is what I’m doing now. I work for Margaret Anders at her boarding house. She’s an eccentric woman but I adore her. She’s a dear friend.
Friends: Margaret Anders and all of the Howell family. I’ve also gotten to know Caleb Reynolds the sheriff. I like to think of him as a friend.
Enemies: I came into Azure Springs with a wound in my side. I suppose it’s safe to say I have enemies. I’d love to put a name to them but I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on.
Dating, marriage: I stood on train platforms as an orphan. No one ever wanted me. I was too plain as a child and even now with food in my belly and a little meat on my bones I’m still not much too look at. I can’t imagine that a man would ever want to marry me. But there was a time when I hoped. Perhaps someday, no, it’s foolish to hope.
Children: I’ve always adored children but I’ve none of my own.
What person do you most admire? That’s a hard question to answer. I’ll always admire my mother. Now living in Azure Springs I find myself wondering if I could ever be like Abigail Howell or Margaret Anders. It’s strange I’d pick those too. They are both very different, but they are both so good and kind. Only one is quiet about it and the other loud. Their kindness has changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful.
Overall outlook on life: At first I was living only to survive but the longer I’m in Azure Springs the more I believe and hope for brighter things ahead. I’m not one to wallow in my miseries. I aim to make the most of what I’m given.
Do you like yourself? I like that I’ve a body that I can use to work hard but I’ve never cared much for the way I look. There are days when I feel weighed down with regrets and I can’t help but blame myself. But I keep trying and I think that counts for something.
What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I’d change so much. But most of all I wish I could have found a way to stay with Lucy.
How are you viewed by others? When I lived at George’s I don’t think anyone thought much of me. In Azure Springs I think those that have sat by my bed and spoken to me consider me a friend. Some take pity on me. There are others though that judge my appearance or gossip about my history. I wonder how the Sheriff would describe me. He looks at me sometimes like he is trying to decide what he thinks of me.
Physical appearance: I was frail and skinny when I first arrived. I hadn’t eaten enough for a very long time. I also have burns on my arm that I try to hide. Some call me waifish or plain. But one of my little seven-year-old friends told me I was beautiful and for a moment I felt I was.
Hair: Dull yellow
Voice: Often quiet
Right- or left-handed? Right
Characteristics: Hard working, loyal, forgiving, gentle, kind and loving
Strongest/weakest character traits: self- worth
How much self-control do you have? I’d say this is one of my stronger traits. I could ration my food for weeks or months even when I was so hungry at George’s place. I can wait when I must. I can also teach myself things even when it means doing something over and over again.
Fears: Never seeing Lucy again, being hungry or cold and failing to keep my promise to my mother.
When are you happy? I was happy the other day when I was racing Caleb up a tree. It sounds so childish telling you about it, but it was a beautiful escape from reality. For a moment it was just us and the vast sky. I could almost forget about the threats and unknowns that were in my path.
What makes you sad? I’ve been alone so much I often dreamed of friendships and family. I overheard girls my age gossiping about my past. It was lies and it hurt. I wondered in that moment if I was worth befriending. Why me? I didn’t understand, and it hurt.
What makes you laugh? I share a room with two seven-year-olds so laughter is easy to come by. They are always telling me the most adorable things. The other day they suggested that Caleb was the Prince of Azure Springs. We all laughed but the title stuck, and they’ve referred to him as such often since. I laughed with them but the more I think about it the more I think he is rather princely.
What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why? I told Lucy I’d always be there for her. I remember looking into her round little face and telling her that I’d always take care of her. Days later we were torn apart and I’ve regretted it since. I blame myself.
Do you have a secret? Everyone keeps trying to put together the clues of my past and why I arrived with a wound in my side. Poor Caleb is forever pestering me to remember more. I try to tell him that I lived in the barn and I don’t understand it myself. I do have secrets, but the ones people are after I can’t seem to figure out myself.
Thanks for letting us get to know you, Em!
Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing, and she hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.
Novel PASTimes: We’re talking today with Pete McLean, who lives in a little farming community not too far from Birmingham, Alabama, which we all saw on the news a few years back when Dr. King and civil rights marchers protested there. Welcome, Pete.
Pete: Thank you. I ’preciate you havin’ me.
Novel PASTimes: Tell us, Pete—how old are you?
Pete: I’m seventeen.
Novel PASTimes: But you were eleven when you met the field hand Isaac Reynolds?
Pete: No, ma’am, I was eleven when my Daddy passed. I’d always known Isaac.
Novel PASTimes: Before we talk about your friendship with him, tell us about his relationship with your father.
Pete: I’m not sure I can explain it. They just had something special between ’em, you know? Like they understood one another. Respected each other. They liked to sing together when they worked—ol’ gospel quartet songs and spirituals—on accounta Daddy was a tenor, and he could harmonize real good with Isaac’s baritone.
Novel PASTimes: But your father was Isaac’s boss, correct?
Pete: Yes, ma’am, but they didn’t act like it. Daddy didn’t feel right bein’ nobody’s boss ’cause he didn’t come from money. But Mama did. And then when they got married, Daddy started workin’ her family farm with Daddy Ballard—that’s my Granddaddy. But I don’t know—sometimes I think Daddy was prob’ly more at home with Isaac than he was with Daddy Ballard. I saw him slip Isaac some extra money one time, and when I asked him how come, he said it was because he knew what it was like to want things you couldn’t have. I think about that a lot—and I try to do what Daddy woulda wanted me to—helpin’ other people that ain’t got as much as I do.
Novel PASTimes: So tell us about your friendship with Isaac Reynolds.
Pete: Well, he’ll always be my best friend—except for Dovey I mean. But that’s different. Isaac was like the best big brother you could ever imagine. ’Course when I was little, I didn’t understand how hard his life was or what it was like for somebody that dreamed o’ bigger things to be trapped on a cotton farm. I just loved spendin’ time with him. After Daddy passed, well . . . I don’t know how I woulda made it without Isaac. He taught me so much and took up so much time with me. Helped me get past the fear o’ bein’ without my Daddy. And he taught me how important it was to look after Mama. If I live to be a hundred, I won’t ever have another friend like Isaac.
Novel PASTimes: Tell us about Dovey.
Pete: (Smiling) She’s the most beautiful girl in the whole world. And I don’t just mean on the outside. Dovey’s beautiful on the inside, too. And she can see things—feel the currents in the river, you know? What’s so amazin’ is that you can walk from my house to hers, but if I hadn’a gone lookin’ for Isaac in the backwoods, I never woulda met her. And when I think about life without Dovey—well—I don’t wanna think about life without Dovey.
Novel PASTimes: So her father and your mother are both widowed?
Pete: Yes, ma’am.
Novel PASTimes: Any chance the two of them . . .?
Pete: Um, I reckon you’d need to ask them about that if you don’t mind.
Novel PASTimes: Do you feel like you learned anything from your search for Isaac?
Pete: In a way, I learned everything while I was lookin’ for him. I found Dovey. So I learned how to love somebody like I never loved anybody else. I saw how hard her fam’ly has to work for not much money and how that wears on people like her Daddy, who’s got a lotta pride and just wants to make a good life for her. And Dovey taught me that people like me and her and Isaac—we come from different worlds, and you gotta know something about somebody’s world if you wanna understand ’em.
Novel PASTimes: Pete thank you so much for your time.
Pete: Thank you for havin’ me. We got an all-day singin’ comin’ up at the church if y’all wanna come. There’s gonna be a ton o’ food, so come on by if you get the chance. Everybody’s welcome.
Novel PASTimes: Thank you for the invitation! That sounds delightful!
Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others. As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society.
Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.
Find Valerie here: https://www.facebook.com/valeriefraserluessebooks/, or www.MissingIsaac.com
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