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All Inspirational Romance Coverage

Karen Barnett takes readers on a vintage vacation in Ever Faithful. In 1933, Yellowstone park ranger’s daughter Elsie Brookes is saving money for her dream of attending college. The arrival of men from the newly established Civilian Conservation Corps—particularly Brooklyn–born Nate Webber—looks to spice up the coming months. While he might not think he’s good enough for Elsie, they are drawn together and soon hope a seasonal romance might extend into forever. There’s much to enjoy in Ever Faithful, from descriptions of the park’s beauties that provide a distinct sense of place to the lingo particular to the park service (pillow punchers, gear jammers and pearl divers). This kisses–only read includes a thread of danger but is most memorable for its charming picture of a bygone world.

Karen Barnett takes readers on a vintage vacation in Ever Faithful.

One Thing I Know is the first book by New Zealand author Kara Isaac I’ve read, and this sweet romance easily captured my heart. The wizard-behind-the-scenes premise is always a crowd-pleaser, and when done well (like this), it’s a winner.

Rachel Somers wrote the book on relationships, literally, as Dr. Donna Somerville—while her Aunt Donna serves as the face of the operation. But late-night radio star Lucas Grant is on the hunt for the truth about Dr. Donna, and he’s not above using his attraction to Rachel to get the story.

But truth is a funny, and often relative, thing. Of course the truth is important, but there’s no denying it occasionally benefits from being bent just a little bit. For Rachel, keeping up the ruse is necessary because the bestsellers pay for her father’s healthcare (and being in a coma for a decade is pricey). And if Lucas can get close to Rachel and unearth Dr. Donna’s secrets, he’ll get a contractual bonus. His family, like Rachel’s, also needs financial assistance. On the one hand, it’s a ruse for a ruse. But on the other, do the ends justify the means when two people so clearly love each other, yet let ego and self-righteousness keep them apart?

Isaac is a great storyteller with smooth pacing and believable character development. It’s easy to connect to Rachel, and the realness of her situation reaches through the page and grabs you by the heartstrings. Lucas is a little tougher because he is so driven by the anger he feels as a result of Rachel’s betrayal. It blinds him, and I kind of wanted Isaac to make him suffer just a little longer.

But One Thing I Know is, in the end, a lovely romance. Isaac is a real-life preacher’s wife, and she does a fine job of balancing the very human realities of emotion and love while developing a kisses-only romance that’s believable and intimate. Kudos to the Kiwi with the heart of gold!

One Thing I Know is the first book by New Zealand author Kara Isaac I’ve read, and this sweet romance easily captured my heart. The wizard-behind-the-scenes premise is always a crowd-pleaser, and when done well (like this), it’s a winner.

Top Pick in Romance, October 2018

A most intriguing romance is found in the pages of Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd. In Victorian England, Eleanor Sheffield continues the family business of appraising art and antiquities. But times are hard—her father has died, her uncle is ailing, an employee seems deceptive, and the man she thought she loved, Harry Lydney, has been in Italy far longer than expected. But Eleanor is determined to earn the trust of her clients and to repair her relationship with Harry when he finally returns from Europe. Told in first person, this standout romance is spiced with fascinating descriptions of treasures and the details of how such items are evaluated. Cameos by real historical characters add another layer of interest. Eleanor is a stalwart heroine who works through the steadily compounding tension as she wrestles with her Christian faith. Readers will root for Eleanor to overcome her difficulties and for Harry and her to find their ultimate reward in each other.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

A most intriguing romance is found in the pages of Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd.

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Susan Anne Mason begins her Canadian Crossings series with The Best of Intentions, an inspirational romance between two grief-stricken people following the end of World War I.

Grace Abernathy is journeying to Canada from England, hoping to reunite with her sister, Rose, and young nephew. She aims to bring them back home since Rose lost her husband in the war. Grace also believes that reuniting their family in England will be the key to turning their ailing mother’s health around. By the time she arrives in Toronto three weeks later, Grace is dismayed to learn that her sister has passed away from the Spanish flu and her nephew, Christian, has been given over to Rose’s in-laws, the very same people who disowned their son for marrying Rose.

Panic sets in at the thought of her nephew in the hands of the Eastons. She aims to claim guardianship over Christian, but she hopes to watch over them a bit first. She discovers the Eastons are in need of a nanny and, assuming an alias, she takes the job.

Andrew Easton’s world has been turned upside down with the presence of this adorable baby. Since his brother died during the war, he feels personally responsible for the child, especially after his parents decided to disown his older brother. It’s the only way he can try to make it up to his late brother. He’s understandably overcome with guilt at the rift in their relationship, especially now that there’s no way to fix things. But Andrew is all too familiar with his parents’ sense of duty and the sacrifices they expect from him to maintain their stature within the community. They believe that Andrew’s sole focus should be on wooing Cecilia, the very fine woman his brother previously jilted.

Mason sets up a very complex web of relationships between the Easton and Abernathy families, but they are seamlessly woven into the story. Each character is distinct and memorable as Andrew and Grace try to fight against their forbidden attraction. Andrew is promised to another, after all, while Grace isn’t who she says she is. That both protagonists are managing grief plays a large part in this romance and especially how they deal with its suddenness. What do you do with things left unsaid? How do you process the regrets you may have? But grief can also be something that brings people together, and Andrew and Grace learn that they don’t have to deal with their heartbreak alone. And Grace’s faith propels her to keep Rose’s memory alive through her quest to gain guardianship over Christian. It grounds her, and those who find peace in spiritual connection or scripture will find Grace to be a kindred spirit.

The Best of Intentions is a moving examination of the emotions of mourning, complicated family dynamics and the way love can be a powerful, healing force.

Susan Anne Mason begins her Canadian Crossings series with The Best of Intentions, an inspirational romance between two grief-stricken people following the end of World War I.

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Gilded Age America, with its railroad barons, brash city life and old money rivalries, is an era perfectly suited for fresh and fast-paced historical romance. Elizabeth Camden’s smart, heartwarming new romance, A Dangerous Legacy, hops between the upper-class milieu of Sir Colin Beckwith, head of the New York City Reuters office, and the legal struggles of Lucy Drake, a telegraph operator at the rival AP news service. When Lucy suppresses gossip about Colin that could wreck his chances of marrying an heiress, she asks for his help in winning a generation-spanning family lawsuit. We spoke to Camden about the appeal of the Gilded Age, how telegraphs are like chat rooms and why she doesn’t use misunderstandings as plot points.

Describe your latest book in a sentence.
A desperate aristocrat, a wronged heiress and old secrets collide in this Gilded Age romance.

There are quite a few interlocking plot lines in A Dangerous Legacy, from Lucy and Colins work at rival news organizations to Lucys family lawsuit to Colins quest to marry into money to save his estate. Was one story thread in your head from the beginning, or did you write the book knowing that all of these ideas would eventually come into play?
I was inspired to write this novel after reading a terrific book by Tom Standage—The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s Online Pioneers. The book describes how news agencies telegraphed stories all over the world, and how the telegraph operators who staffed these machines around the clock often got bored and began chatting with one another during slow times. They also eavesdropped on one another. I immediately knew this would provide a great setting for a novel. Although we tend to think of online friendships and internet hacking as very 21st century, all of this was occurring during my 1903 timeframe. All the other storylines grew out of that initial inspiration.

Recently, Ive been seeing a lot of historical romances set in turn-of-the-century New York City as opposed to Regency or Victorian England. What do you think is the appeal of Gilded Age America?
I think the Gilded Age is appealing because you can still include the glamour, pageantry and romance of an earlier era, but it isn’t quite so foreign as Regency or Victorian times. Most importantly for me, the Gilded Age had realistic opportunities for women to move into the professions. All of my novels feature working women: scientists, artists, translators and in the case of A Dangerous Legacy, a telegraph operator. This gives me the chance to have my heroines interact with men outside of a ballroom or tea party. I can have my heroines engaged in storylines that have huge stakes, such as the quest to cure a deadly disease (With Every Breath) or translate military communications (Against the Tide). The potential for plunging my heroines into these interesting settings is what attracts me to the period.

Both Lucy and Colin place enormous importance on enjoying life and having enthusiasm for their work. I found this interesting given that journalists are usually portrayed in media as quite cynical. Was that a conscious choice on your part?
One way to write engaging characters is to have them be deeply passionate about their profession. In this case, both Colin and Lucy are news junkies. They went into the newspaper industry because of their insatiable curiosity and it provides an immediate touchstone between them. I get a little tired of bitter or cynical characters. Give me a hero who is willing to fight and die for an important cause, and I am immediately engaged.

Something I really appreciated about this book was that Lucy and Colin are very open with each other from the beginning, and the plot isnt driven by misunderstandings between them. Did you find that choice opened up the story for you? Among romance writers there is a plot device called “The Big Misunderstanding,” which is an easy way to create conflict. I never do this. . . frankly, I can’t respect a character who jumps to conclusions when a simple, honest conversation will clear it up. The barriers between Lucy and Colin’s relationship were real and painful. There wasn’t an easy or obvious solution to their problems, so they had to fight, sacrifice and earn their happy ending. I think readers respect characters who tackle the hard stuff.

Which side character did you most enjoy writing?
Lucy’s brother, Nick! When I wrote A Dangerous Legacy, I intended for it to be a stand-alone novel, but Nick was one of those larger-than-life characters who had such a big and generous heart that I didn’t want to say goodbye to him. By the end of the novel, I knew he was worthy of his own book, so I crafted an ending that leaves him wide open for a sequel.

Lucy and Colin have a disagreement near the end of A Dangerous Legacy over whether its better to pursue justice and duty above all else, or to let go and pursue ones own personal peace. Do you come down on one side or the other?
This one is tricky. There is a reason people who fight for justice and accept heavy burdens of duty tend to go down in history as heroes. I am a big fan of those “duty, honor, country” type of people. . . but sometimes the quest to pursue justice can warp a person and knock their priorities out of whack. I always try to weave some of these ethical dilemmas into a plot, as it adds a bit of richness to a story. Although the goal in my novels is always to deliver a rich, heart-pounding romance, the ethical dilemmas help ratchet up the emotional heft of the novel.

If you could go to one place or event in turn-of-the-century NYC, where would you go?
I get ridiculously emotional when I see old photographs of immigrants arriving on Ellis Island. I love looking at the expressions on their faces—anticipation, exhaustion, curiosity, trepidation. They risked everything for a chance at a better life and I admire their bravery. They were the people who built America, and it would be amazing to sit in one of those balconies at Ellis Island and watch as thousands of people funnel through the doors, lining up for their shot at a better life. I would really love to see that.

Whats next for you?
Nick’s story, A Daring Venture, will be released mid-2018. The heroine is a doctor who’s dedicated her career to fighting waterborne disease. She is part of a research team that proposes a controversial solution for supplying water to the cities. This puts her in stark opposition to Nick, who is the newly appointed Commissioner of Water in New York. It is based on a real life court case from 1908, and I loved the chance to research the courageous scientists, businessmen and engineers who participated in this landmark case. Decisions this big are rarely easy, so it was a wonderful story tailor-made for a novel.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of A Dangerous Legacy.

Author photo by Ginger Murray Photography.

Gilded Age America, with its railroad barons, brash city life and old money rivalries, is an era perfectly suited for fresh and fast-paced historical romance. Elizabeth Camden’s smart, heartwarming new romance, A Dangerous Legacy, hops between the upper-class milieu of Sir Colin Beckwith, head of the New York City Reuters office, and the legal struggles of Lucy Drake, a telegraph operator at the rival AP news service. When Lucy suppresses gossip about Colin that could wreck his chances of marrying an heiress, she asks for his help in winning a generation-spanning family lawsuit. We spoke to Camden about the appeal of the Gilded Age, how telegraphs are like chat rooms and why she doesn’t use misunderstandings as plot points.

Interview by

BookPage IcebreakerThis BookPage Icebreaker is sponsored by Thomas Nelson.


Zoe Collins wasn’t planning on returning to her hometown of Copper Creek—a place she associates with painful memories and burned bridges. But when her beloved grandmother dies, she knows she can’t miss the funeral. As soon as she steps foot back on Blue Ridge soil, she feels the pleasing pull of small-town life and is surprised to find that her old friends and estranged family members welcome her with open arms.

What’s especially surprising are her intense feelings for her first love, Cruz Huntley, who is still just as handsome and caring five years later. When Granny’s will is read, Zoe is shocked to hear that Granny wanted nothing more than for Zoe to return to Copper Creek in order to take over the family peach orchard. But is Zoe willing to leave her life back in Nashville—and the increasingly toxic, but familiar relationship with her boyfriend, Kyle—behind her? And what's the best decision for Zoe’s 5-year-old daughter? As Zoe and Cruz feel a familiar spark begin to ignite, the two must make peace with their mistakes and stop hiding secrets. Can first love triumph after they’re given a rare second chance? We caught up with bestselling author of Blue Ridge Sunrise, Denise Hunter, to find out more about this sweet, inspiring story.

Hilli: First of all, do you just want to tell me a little bit about your inspiration for this story?

Denise: There’s a country song: The guy is singing about a woman he used to know really well. She’s come back into his town and she’s different—she’s with another guy, and she’s just not herself. You can tell that this guy has beat her down. That’s what got me thinking about Zoe. I wanted to tell that woman’s story.

And this is also a small town story. It seems like you’re really drawn to small towns. What’s so special to you about these communities? Are you from a small town yourself?

I am. Originally I’m from a Southern Ohio town called Madison. I think the more spread out we become as a culture in the U.S., and the more impersonal we become with social media, I think there’s a large part of us that longs for small-town roots and the community and the support you get in a community like that, where friends are like family. We’re so isolated today. I think a small-town read really makes readers feel connected.

What drew you then to romance?

I’m a romantic at heart, there’s no doubt about that! I think what I love most is diving into the psychology behind why we do the things we do. A lot of times when there’s a problem with a couple, the problems stems from something that happened to them either with a former relationship or in their childhood. It keeps them from having a healthy, loving relationship in the present. That’s my favorite thing—to sort that out for the character: What’s causing them to have these problems? Is it abandonment? Is it abuse? I think that really connects with a lot of readers. You don’t escape this life unscathed. We all have issues and it’s my goal to help readers see their own issues in themselves. And I even use it as a method of working on my own sometimes! I really think fiction can be a great tool in that way.

Absolutely. I should mention then that this book deals with some pretty heavy issues, like domestic violence. Was it important for you to handle this in a really sensitive way? How did you go about that?

Of course I want to be sensitive to issues as serious as abuse. In this case, it was more control than [physical] abuse. I really wanted to show the way that Zoe ended up attracted to that kind of a controlling person. It stemmed directly from the way her father treated her. And I like to make those connections for readers so that they can see the connections in their own lives and hopefully find healing through the story.

And as a result, maybe understand some other people and their experiences. Put themselves in their shoes so to speak.

Absolutely! Sometimes people in this life do crazy things. And it really does help when you’re able to look and say: “Well, maybe they do this because of that.” It helps you have a little more empathy and more grace for that person.

What do you love most about your two main characters, Zoe and Cruz?

Ah, Zoe and Cruz. I think what I like most about them is that it’s a story about their first love. They’re getting a second chance. I think everybody appreciates a second chance because we all mess up, and Zoe really messed up [laughs]. But sometimes we do, too! I think it’s encouraging to see a couple that has made mistakes in the past, and they’ve paid for those mistakes. Now they’re getting a fresh opportunity. I think that’s encouraging and inspirational.

And maybe a little more realistic than some other romance stories these days.

Bad choices often lead to consequences!

Yes. What would be your best piece of relationship advice? You’ve written a lot of romances at this point, and I know you also have a very strong relationship with your husband. What kind of wisdom can you impart?

Oh wow. There are so many things I could say. I would say that we’re all fallible. I’m going to mess up. My husband’s going to mess up. The person you’re with is going to mess up. I just think it’s really important to stick with it. [With] love and relationships, the romance kind of takes a back seat as time goes on and you have to make a choice to love that person. If you’re both striving toward a healthy relationship, I think the main thing is to give each other grace.

Oh, I love that. Did these characters surprise you at any point in your writing process for this book?

Yes! I only had about a paragraph or two of the story going in.

Really!? Wow!

Oh yeah. It leaves quite a bit of wiggle room. It’s always a journey of finding out what these people are going to do and what’s going to happen to them. More if I don’t outline it all up front. All of that is part of the fun and surprise of writing. I enjoy that.

What’s the biggest takeaway for your readers with this novel?

With this novel and with all novels, my purpose in writing the story is to make the reader feel. I want my books to have all the good feels, that’s why readers read romance. I also think that when you open yourself up to really empathizing with characters—when you’re in their heads and you’re understanding what they’re doing (and maybe not liking it, but knowing why they’re doing it)—I think you can open yourself up to learning and growing because you’re so emotionally involved.

And how do you go about weaving in faith with your novels?

Every main character in a book needs to have some form of growth. In the case of a spiritual thread, there’s something in there, something in Zoe’s past that’s holding her back spiritually. Not just, you know, [holding her back] emotionally from love, but also spiritually. It might be connected to what’s holding her back from having a healthy love relationship. So they’re sometimes very intertwined, that’s just how life is.

Can we expect a new novel soon?

The follow up to Blue Ridge Sunrise comes out in May of next year! It’s called Honeysuckle Dreams, and it features Brady and Hope. I think it picks up less than a month after Blue Ridge Sunrise ends. That was a really fun one to write, too!

Denise Hunter, author of Blue Ridge Sunrise, a sweet and inspiring romance, talks with Assistant Editor Hilli Levin. Sponsored by Thomas Nelson.

Interview by

BookPage IcebreakerBookPage Icebreaker is a publisher-sponsored interview.


In Regency England, handloom weavers and textile millers are at war. The Industrial Revolution may bring progress, but it also threatens a simpler way of life—and the livelihoods of the villagers of Ambledale. Kate Hathaway is the daughter of a weaver; Henry Stockton returns from war as the heir to his family’s mill. In The Weaver’s Daughter, Sarah E. Ladd’s new kisses-only romance, love between Kate and Henry grows—but so does animosity between the village’s opposing sides. Kate’s brother has already chosen the side of the millers, splitting Kate’s family in two. Which side will Kate choose?

In this heartfelt tale of loyalty and forgiveness, love has the power to bridge any divide—but how do we begin? Ladd shows us the way.

Cat: Your Regency romances often explore spaces other than just your standard drawing rooms and ballrooms. Take us back to this world for The Weaver’s Daughter—why did you choose this moment of industrial change?

Sarah: For the Regency period as a whole, I’ve always been drawn more to the social structure of the time period, more so than to the balls and the parties and the gowns. I’ve always been more fascinated with the changes happening and the social structure.

Just for a little bit of background, this is a time when the middle class is emerging. We have the Napoleonic Wars, there were a lot of economic problems—just a whole bunch of changes really impacting the way people lived. The Industrial Revolution was obviously in full swing during this time period. I stumbled across some research years and years and years ago that just stuck with me. It was the Luddite movement that happened in the early part of the Regency. Basically, a bunch of the people who made their living by weaving were getting wind of newer technologies, and these new machines were taking their jobs. So they started revolting.

Anytime there’s change, there are adjustments all around it. Both sides of this argument really felt that they were in the right, and they were both fighting for it. I just thought, man, what a great setting for a story!

Within this feud, we discover sort of a Romeo and Juliet love story but not nearly as tragic or sad. The prologue gives us a glimpse of how far back this family feud and its pain go. It’s not just patriarch versus patriarch—it affects Kate’s former best friend, Frederica, who ditches Kate as the battle lines are drawn. What do you think makes it even remotely possible for Kate and Henry to come together? What do you see in their hearts?

If we start with Henry, I think that war changes people. When you are brought to a brink where you are literally dealing with life and death as opposed to something like a machine, it really shifts your perspective. I think Henry being removed from that community and that environment gave his mind space to become free a little bit. So when he did return, it seemed almost petty to him. He was almost able to rise above some of the preconceptions and start to see things from a different vantage point. He had dealt with life-or-death situations, and this just wasn’t one of them. He was able to bring a bit of an outsider’s perspective (he’s not an outsider, but almost) to the situation.

As far as Kate goes, I think that the fact that her brother had already defected—I guess is the word we would use!—she really didn’t want to break that relationship. In order to keep that relationship alive, she had to open her mind up to what he was saying. If you really listened to his argument, it is valid. It was a good business decision, it was the way the industry was moving, and there was no way to get around that. I think that being of that younger mindset, she wasn’t as ingrained in it as her father was. She was able to be swayed.

You’ve set them up in such a way that it is possible for Henry’s and Kate’s minds to change, but it’s still a difficult process.

You’re choosing basically family over family. Your father over your brother. It seems to us, in our day and age, almost silly, because it’s over wool. But you’ve got to keep in mind, that for the master weaver—her father was a master weaver, very well respected—that was their life. Everything in their community circled around the way that they produced cloth. Anything that threatened that, anything that wanted to take away from their quality of life was seen as very, very bad.

Part of revisiting those long-held preconceptions is forgiveness. That seems to be a really big part of that process.

When I first set about to write this book, I wanted it to be a book about loyalty. Why are we loyal to the people we’re loyal to? What happens when loyalties change? What happens when people on either side change? Or what happens when we find ourselves being loyal to something that maybe isn’t right? As I dove deeper into that, it comes back to just what you said, it comes back to forgiveness. We’re all human, and everyone has their own free will, and everyone is going to hurt somebody at some point—not necessarily meaning to, but that’s just the way, when you love somebody, that’s the risk you take. We always assume that the people we love are going to be loyal and behave the way we think they’re going to. But at the end of the day, that loyalty will lead us to forgiveness. If we really love those people, we have to accept those people for who they are, accept that they’re flawed, accept that we’re not necessarily always right either. It goes both ways.

Progress and loyalty don’t seem, in my mind, to be mutually exclusive. But in the story of this community, it can be. Advancements like Henry revisiting working conditions, and Henry and Kate’s decision to leave behind the sides they were on and to not take quick offense without knowing the whole story—these are things that help bring the community together. But even still, the community did resort to violence and tremendous heartbreak. Which begs the question: What is the best way to bridge a divide like this?

In the weaving community, before the machines came, weaving was done in the homes. Every single person was involved, from the children to the wives. Everybody worked together. We think, you know, what would bring us to violence? What would make them resort to that level when they saw their children leaving their homes? . . . But they were not only fighting for their livelihood, they were fighting for what they believed to be morally correct. When you add that level on top of basic livelihood, people are going to react, people are willing to be violent and face consequences to preserve what they believe is right. The weavers really did believe that they were fighting the moral battle.

And the millers really believed they were fighting the right battle by improving industry, because the economy was horrible in England at this time. Anything that could be done to provide for the community was seen as a plus.

So they both have valid arguments. It’s just so central to this story that those emotions are understood, because it really provides the motivation for why everyone is doing what they’re doing.

There’s one line in the book that seems to sum it up: “They were two people fighting the same battle on different sides of the war.” I felt like that was happening throughout the book—everyone, despite the bad behavior, were all just trying to do what they believed was the right thing for their community.

Yes, and that was really something I wanted to convey, because it goes back to the research that struck me as so poignant. We see this in other times in history and different settings. I think by looking back, there’s so much that can be learned to see how this was handled. In the end, the government stepped in, and machine breaking is wrong. [laughs]

What are the great joys and great challenges of writing historical fiction? Especially when you’re writing smart women who are trapped in powerless situations. Frederica is just as trapped as Kate is, and Henry’s sister, Molly, is about to have a child out of wedlock.

I am intrigued by the idea of human emotions. Over time, basic human emotions do not change. Everyone, regardless of the time period you’re in, knows what it’s like to be jealous, what it’s like to hate, what it’s like to love. These are basic things that make up human character. We enjoy a lot of freedoms here in America, but what I find interesting is to think that women in the past have the exact same emotions that we do, the basic human emotions, but they were under a different set of rules. So that’s what I really like about historical fiction—I like exploring those emotions and seeing how applying different sets of rules affected the outcome. It’s easy to say how we would respond in our modern society, but to be told that every single thing about your life has already been pretty much been dictated and you have basically no rights, what would women do to get around those rules? I find that extremely fascinating, because it can vary so much from one personality type to the next.

We’re drawn to these strong characters because they teach us something about ourselves, because we can identify with those basic human emotions.

One of the areas in the book where we saw willingness to listen was with Henry and his sister, Molly. I thought that was a beautiful relationship. She’s was one of my favorite characters.

What I really wanted to show with her character was the restraints put on women at the time, to put a little backdrop of what the Fredericas and the Kates were facing. She took part in an action that resulted in a child, and she was so ashamed of it that she resorted to lying. It was a very fine line for me to walk, because it is a Christian publisher. Lying’s a sin. It would’ve been really easy for Henry to be like, you are going to tell the truth, you are going to come clean or you are going to hide this. But that was a journey that Molly needed to come to on her own.

Another reason for her was I really wanted to show Henry’s family. It’s not just him and his grandfather working the mills. There is more to it. There are more lives at stake—not just the mill owners but his own family.

She was a fun character to write. She was so vivid in my mind. I did have a different ending planned for her originally, but when you’re writing the story, the story takes over and the path becomes her own. I wanted to stay true to the time period she was in. Her journey’s not going to be an easy one. It will never be an easy one, as long as she’s unmarried with a child. But that’s one of the truths and the realities of that time period.

Things are wrapped up beautifully, but there’s a future ahead that makes me wonder, will there be more stories for some of these characters?

One thing before I answer that question, that I just thought about Molly that is super important. I also wanted to show how important it was to be able to forgive yourself for making mistakes. This idea of forgiveness is not just bestowing forgiveness on someone else or accepting it from someone else. It goes beyond that—not only accepting God’s forgiveness, but letting God forgive. Do you know what I mean? Not holding on so tightly to the guilt and the shame, that there’s freedom in forgiveness. That was another role of her character, was to show another dimension of forgiveness.

Regarding if we’ll see them again, The Weaver’s Daughter is a standalone story. It’s my seventh book, but I had a different connection with these characters than I had with the other ones. It was a deeper connection. I’m not quite ready to let them go yet. There’s not a book planned, but I would love to see a novella or something that wraps up especially Molly’s story.

She got to you.

She did. She’s the one that readers are really relating to, either cheering for her or against her, but she’s really the one causing a discussion. It’s really interesting to see what resonates with people, because I always think I know what’s going to resonate, and then I’m always surprised. Initially, she had a romance of her own that happened, but it had to be cut. I would love to revisit that.

I love that you’re open to people’s reactions to her, that you’re accepting of the fact that a strong reaction to a character, whether they really like or really don’t like her, that is the sign of a great character. She hasn’t just tapped your mind, she’s tapped every reader’s mind.

Isn’t that life? It would be easy to write perfect characters who never do anything wrong, but that’s not life. Life is messy and has a lot of layers. I like that people are talking about it and have opinions about it. Her issues and that idea of forgiveness are real. Regardless of how you feel about what she did. At some point, it was her story, and that’s the story that came out. I like her!

I do, too.

Sarah E. Ladd, author of inspirational romance The Weaver’s Daughter, talks with Deputy Editor Cat Acree.

Interview by

BookPage IcebreakerThis BookPage Icebreaker is sponsored by Thomas Nelson.


Rachel Hauck’s bestselling inspirational romances include The Wedding Dress and Once Upon a Prince. Her new novel, The Love Letter, shares the emotional and spiritual journeys of two women connected through the centuries by an heirloom letter.

The Love Letter offers sweeping historical romance along with an intriguing look behind the scenes of a modern day Hollywood set. Esther Kingsley is a strong-willed young aristocrat whose plans for marriage are upended by the American Revolution. In another storyline set in the present, actress Chloe Daschle has finally landed the perfect role to reverse her typecasting as “the girl who always dies.” It’s a screenplay about Esther’s star-crossed romance with her neighbor-turned-revolutionary Hamilton Lightfoot—written by Lightfoot’s descendant, the magnetic Jesse Gates.

Stephanie: Would you tell our readers a little bit about The Love Letter and how it came to be?

Rachel: It’s a split-time romance novel set in 1780 upcountry South Carolina and contemporary Hollywood and a little bit of contemporary South Carolina as well. It’s about a love letter that inspires a young screenwriter to complete the story of his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. The question that resonates throughout the book is what happens to unfinished love. I really wanted to explore two people who were descendants of another set of people who were in love but were never able to make it happen.

What did you find inspiring about the loyalist and rebel conflict in the American Revolutionary War? I thought the perspective of a family struggling with their financial and personal ties to the British monarchy and how that conflict affected relationships with their neighbors was super interesting.

I love the world of “Poldark.” It’s a BBC show on PBS about a guy who’s coming back from the Revolutionary War—of course he fought for the British. It’s in Cornwall, which is in southern England so the scenery is extraordinary. And I just loved this world. I was sharing with Debbie Macomber how much I wanted to write kind of an American “Poldark” and she goes, “You have to do the opposite of dark, so why don’t you do something with light?” So that’s how I got the name Lightfoot.

When I started looking at 1780, I knew I was going to deal with the Revolutionary War. I wanted to be in the South because most of my stories are in the South. Plus we don’t talk a lot about the Southern [Revolutionary War battles] and what that looked like. We always think of Lexington and Boston. But the Battle of Cowpens, which I used, was a pivotal battle in the war.

You just really had to know that whole families were divided. I would read testimonies where sisters wouldn’t see each other anymore because one was a loyalist and one for the American rebels. I can’t imagine not talking to my sister because she’s pro-Democrat and I’m pro-Republican or whatever. You know what I mean, like to be so divided that we would never talk to each other again?

What were some of the tools that you used in researching the period?

Most of it came from books. Also YouTube. I wanted to see what the field in the Battle of Cowpens looked like. I read up on colonial life. I read the letters of John Adams to Abigail Adams. That’s how I knew they were on a tea fast and they refused to drink tea. So they were complaining about having to drink coffee all the time.

It was a lot of reading to get the tone. I watched a lot of “Poldark” to get the cadence of the language.

That’s awesome!

So when I was writing Hamilton and Esther scenes, I would have “Poldark” in the background to get me into their mindset, because then I would have to flip to modern Hollywood or modern South Carolina.

Do you enjoy writing letters? Do you have a cherished letter that you've been holding on to?

I do enjoy writing letters, and I wish I would do more handwritten letters. But I have letters from my childhood. I have one from my dad where he wrote to me a college and told me, “Rachel, you’re a writer. Be a writer.” He just really always encouraged me to be a writer. So I love that letter, and I hang onto it. And it’s one of those, when you’re in your dark days going, “Do I know what I’m doing?” that echoes in the back of my mind.

That’s beautiful. And it’s echoed in the story, the idea that people’s thoughts and desires on paper can go on to influence people later.

Yeah, very much so.

How does your characters’ relationship with faith influence their thoughts as they search for love? I felt like that was really present, that you would get an internal monologue of faith as they go through the story.

You know, it’s always a challenge for us as Christian authors. . . . We come from a biblical worldview. I don’t ever try to draw conclusions for the reader. So [we] put those [beliefs] in characters that are seeking faith. Chloe—throughout her journey after [her embarrassing] video—comes to faith, and so she’s trying to reckon her faith with her life. I try to show that their faith is influencing their decisions. That either comes in dialogue or internal thought. Always in my mind is how I can make it organic to the thought process of the character. How do I invite God in without sounding like I’m sending the reader to a church meeting?

Chloe is from the modern period and Esther is from the past—they’re such different heroines. One thing I noticed is that Chloe seems to have so many fears. She’s afraid of being typecast or not finding her true love. But on the other hand, in the 18th century, Esther rarely wavers in her conviction. She seems very sure about the different choices that she makes. What is the relationship between those two women in your story?

Well, that was really cool insight. Actually, I love that about Esther. I wanted her to really be determined because I think our ancestors were. I don’t think we would have had this country if we hadn’t had strong women. And we tend to—in the lens of time and then through our own lens of how we live today—we look back and we think, oh, those women must have just been so oppressed. But I don’t think they were. I think a lot of them were very incredibly strong, and I wanted Esther to be really strong. She had to be to fight her father. She loved him so much, and he was her best friend. But yet: I have this love, and I’m willing to lay down everything for it. I think there were a lot of women who fell in love with men, and they went across the country never to see their families again.

I just felt that our ancestors are incredibly strong. And I got that from Abigail Adams’ letters to John Adams. She’s home with the farm and the kids by herself, and she’s making it happen, and she’s serving the community as well.

I think today we almost have so many choices and we have so many luxuries that we get trapped in, I don't know what to do with myself, I don’t know who I’m going to be, because we have so many choices. I think fear is something very prevalent in our society today. We’re afraid of a lot of things. And so I think Chloe is very real to a young woman today and to a young Christian woman.

What are you working on now?

I just finished The Memory House which comes out early 2019. It’s about two women, one from New York, one from West Texas, who find their home in this house on Memory Lane in Fernandina Beach Florida. It’s another split-time romance but a really fascinating story.

So lastly, your dad wrote you a letter in college saying, ‘You’re a writer, just be a writer.” How are you feeling about being a writer today?

I’m a writer for sure. I love it. I know this is what I was called to do. And that is something that you need to know on the hard days. Writing is a lot of work. I often tell people who want to be writers, “OK, go for it, but it is hard!” Put in 10 exclamation points [when you transcribe this]. It’s lonely. It’s what you do by yourself. Your writing community is out there across America. Facebook is my water cooler. While you’re sitting there plowing through the weeds of your novel, someone else is getting a lot of acclaim, and you think, oh, that’ll never be me. And then while you’re getting acclaim, someone else is going, why can’t I be like her? It’s a job that requires years to mature and find success. So stick with it.

And that was my dad—stick with it. Give everything you’ve got to what you want to be.

Rachel Hauck, author of The Love Letter, talks with Editor Stephanie Koehler.
Interview by

American author Sandra Byrd’s Lady of a Thousand Treasures is a finely detailed, slow burning Victorian romance with just the right amount of shivery gothic touches. Heroine Eleanor Sheffield is poised to take over her family’s art appraisal firm despite her gender, but her uncle’s failing memory and their precarious finances might destroy their business before she gets a chance. Painfully complicating matters is the dying bequest of Lord Lydney, who gave Eleanor complete control over his dazzling collection of art and antiques. She must decide whether to donate the pieces to a museum, or give them all to his son Harry, the man she once loved and who may or may not be trustworthy.

As Byrd follows her determined heroine through the muddle of her professional and personal lives, she paints a moving depiction of spiritual faith as well as an infuriating portrayal of the obstacles placed in front of competent, talented women.

What was your initial inspiration for Lady of a Thousand Treasures?
My husband and I are devoted fans of British television and film, and we are especially partial to the early seasons of “Jeeves and Wooster.” In one episode, the older men are after one another’s silver collections, stooping to all manner of shenanigans to acquire them. Wodehouse uses humor, as always (the lowly silver cow creamer!) to wryly remark on an upper-class habit, the collecting of things and envy of others’ possessions.

I do admire the many collections the British have amassed over the years, though. Some are in country houses, as in my book and the Wodehouse episode, but some are in tiny cabinets of the middle class, and others consist of large numbers of pieces that have been donated to museums. I have always loved the Victoria & Albert Museum just for its sheer size, and I loved learning a wee bit about its predecessor, the South Kensington, and how some collections came to partially populate museums.

I think that we are all collectors of sorts. I moved recently, and one of my friends noted how many baking pans I had collected—Bundt pans in 10-inch, 9-inch, 8-inch and 6-inch sizes, for example. Why? Baking is a way I provide affection to my family, and therefore it wasn’t so much about hoarding as what those pans meant to me. Jewelry, tea sets, artwork, even pennies and empty perfume bottles all carry an emotional value for those of us who treasure them.

This is a historical romance novel in addition to being a mystery with a lot of moving parts and suspicious side characters. What was the biggest challenge in terms of plot for you?
Keeping all those moving parts straight is the challenge, and I find I must plot in layers. I research extensively, and those learned bits get put on my outline. Dates and the mystery’s clues and outcome are layered on next, and then the various threads: romance, character arcs, spiritual aspects. When I have the house framed, as it were, then I feel free to let my creativity loose because—hopefully—I haven’t forgotten anything. I don’t think I could write historicals without setting a plot and a timeline ahead of time. It’s too much for me, personally, to keep in my head. Then once the math is done, so to speak, I relax and let my character command the pages.

I was impressed with the book’s realistic treatment of religious issues, such as going through a dry spell or a period of doubt in one’s faith. How do you approach writing something as internal and specific as an individual’s own spiritual experiences?
In my own faith life, I’ve had the benefit of a “long walk in the same direction,” to paraphrase the inimitable Eugene Peterson, and that walk has included breathtakingly beautiful experiences as well as plenty of skinned knees and dark nights of the soul (St. John of the Cross)—I draw insight from both. Friends and readers have shared their insights with me along the way, too, and their honesty bolsters me in my dry times, or even times of despair and God’s seeming silence. Fiction is not the place to teach or preach, but it’s an amazing format to explore the inner workings of an individual’s heart. God promises never to leave us or forsake us, and He reminds us that He’s a very present help in times of trouble. However, God is not a helicopter parent. He lets us work things out because He trusts us, and we are adults. I like exploring that in my novels.

How did you research Victorian appraising techniques? And what was your favorite thing that you learned?
When researching, I always use a mix of experts in the field, as well as books and articles. I visited several collections in the U.K.; my favorite is the Wallace Collection. I love it not only for its beautiful objects but also for its history. It has a few more than five thousand objects, and one of the conditions of the bequest was that the collection remains intact forever—no sales, no loans, nothing. That allowed me to see a whole collection and how the collector’s interests varied.

I spoke with curators and experts in the U.K. and right here at home. I have a friend who is a museum curator, and when I asked a few questions that stumped her, she gave me the contact of her go-to girl. That woman has been an evaluator and estate liquidator (and a collector in her own right) for nearly 30 years. She answered many of my questions—like how to see if a piece of glass is blown, because it has a putty mark on the underside, or how to tell if a statue has been broken and repaired or faked. She also shared her book research collection with me. We’ve grown to become friends; I call her my Friend of a Thousand Treasures!

My daughter’s mother-in-law knew the trick for testing pearls against your teeth; she also gifted me a lovely set of family pearls when our children married. I think my favorite learned fact was how gelatin from fish intestines could be used to falsely “age” contemporary treasures. Fish guts! Forgers are clever, if dishonest.

Eleanor is an excellent example of a heroine who is dynamic while still operating within the historical constraints of her era and class. How do you put yourself in the mindset of a character who has much fewer options in her life than we do as women today?
Victorian women had major constraints, and the heroines in my books cannot just solve their problems as you or I might—but I love them the more for that. They are forced to cleverly use the tools at hand. Truthfully, all of us, then and now, are constrained in some way from the full self-determination we would prefer, and perhaps that is one way we identify with them. And yet . . . the human spirit—a strong woman’s spirit—faces those challenges head-on, tries to think through what she wants and then plots a way toward it. When roadblocks occur, she finds a way over, around or through. That was true a thousand years ago, and it is still true now.

Also, we must all be risk-takers to gain what we want: love, respect, a meaningful life and personal fulfillment. Today’s readers certainly have that in common with yesterday’s women, my historical heroines.

Which of the treasures and artifacts in this book would you most like to own?
An adore ring. My husband and I looked for an authentic Victorian adore ring when we were last in London, but they were so, so tiny. I have the thicker fingers of a 21st-century woman who types for a living and washes up after dinner. These ladies had like, size four hands. I will keep looking, though. Or maybe my own hero will have one crafted for me one day.

There are a few real-life, fascinating historical figures that appear in this book—how did you decide which ones you wanted to include?
I work hard to ensure that my heroines are actually of the era, so I don’t allow one to take on a role for which I can’t find an actual Victorian woman to emulate in some capacity. I wanted Eleanor to be a curator and collector, to be an appraiser, to be good in her field. To ensure that she is not anachronistic, I first had to make sure there was such a woman in Victorian England. There was! Lady Charlotte Schreiber. Lady Charlotte was an amazing woman in her own right—she married the younger man she wanted the second time around, dyed her hair, pursued professional interests. As such, she made an excellent friend and mentor to my Ellie. You can see some of Lady Charlotte’s donations to the V&A and the British Museum online.

Dante Rossetti was well-known as both a man who enjoyed curiosities—a very Victorian pastime—and an artist in many mediums. He made a perfect addition to my book. I seek cameos, or even more substantive roles, by people who were not only of the time but organic to my book.

Your last series also took place in Victorian England, but your previous was set in the Tudor era. Why did you return to the Victorian period, and why do you think that era is such a popular setting?
The Tudors were my first English loves, and I adore them still. You can often find Tudor material in my pleasure reading. I only wanted to explore three women of that era: Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr and Queen Elizabeth I. So when I was finished with Elizabeth’s book, I knew it was time to move forward. I mean, who can follow Queen Elizabeth I?

I skipped forward a few hundred years because I love the 19th century, too. A friend asked me why I hadn’t written Regencies, and I teasingly told her I wasn’t interested in picnics, to which she replied, unless they are set at midnight or in a cemetery. Exactly! That led me to the gothics of the Victorian Era.

I think the elements of a good Victorian—a mysterious hero of whom we are not quite sure till the end, a heroine without parental support so she must stand on her own, the commingling of dark and light—all make for a compelling read. It doesn’t hurt that it was such a long reign. Lots of decades’ worth of good material to discover.

What’s next for you?
Another Victorian, of course, the second book in the Victorian Ladies series. It will publish in spring 2020. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it!

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Lady of a Thousand Treasures.

American author Sandra Byrd’s Lady of a Thousand Treasures is a finely detailed, slow burning Victorian romance with just the right amount of shivery gothic touches. Heroine Eleanor Sheffield is poised to take over her family’s art appraisal firm despite her gender, but her uncle’s failing memory and their precarious finances might destroy their business before she gets a chance.

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