This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Oct’19 Wrap Up!

As I sit here high on life and leftover Halloween candy, I’m reflecting back on the month of October. It went almost as quickly as the Milky Way bars out of my Halloween candy stash!

My reading slowed down quite a bit in October. Part of that was ending my old job and starting the new one (it’s going fabulous so far!), but mostly it was because I was in the mood for some historical mysteries and those take a little longer for me to read and listen to. Here are some great books from my October reading list.

OCTOBER- BEST READS!

Yes, this was NOT a historical mystery! LOL. My favorite fantasy duo released the next installation in the Innkeeper Series and I rushed to read this one. It was as good as was promised! Review has been written and scheduled!

Click this link to purchase!* Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles)

This is the 5th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. Our Viscount Devlin likes to solve mysteries utilizing his position in society to go where Bow Street can’t. There are a LOT of novels left in this series and I’m listening to them instead of reading. The amazing Davina Porter is the narrator and she makes me forget that I’m living in Tennessee and not in 18th century England. Her characterizations are incredible. For those of you who have listened to the Outlander series, it’s the same narrator.

Click this link to purchase the audiobook!* What Remains of Heaven

My recommendation is to really give yourself time to read this one continuously. It’s take about 30% in before I was fully invested, but when I hit that point I didn’t want to stop. It was really good!

Click this link to purchase!* Ninth House

THIS CHICKS SUNDAY COMMENTARY

November 1st was the start of the ebook embargo by MacMillan publishing. They are limiting our local libraries to an 8 week wait on newly published books and then only allowing them to own it for a specifies length of time. For most of us who can’t afford to buy every single book we want to read this is a HUGE deal! I wrote a post notifying my fellow book lovers about the details of what was going on and asked you all to sign a petition. If you missed those details, please click the link below.

Should Publishers be Allowed to Limit ebooks to Libraries?

If you missed any of my posts in September I wrote up a brief wrap up. Please click the link below to check it out!

Sept’19 Wrap Up!

I always look into the next month to see what books are being published and which one’s are on my own radar. If you missed my post, please click the link below!

My Top 5 Nov’19 Book Releases

WHAT’S ON TAP FOR THIS MONTH?

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I have a lot of reading in front of me! Whereas I don’t have a lot of reviews that must post in November, I have quite a few in early December! I’ll try to wrap those up and get them written early so I can relax around the holidays!

Enjoy your own month of reading and let me know if you read a really great book. I’m always looking to add to my TBR!

Deb

This Chick Read: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

I’ve sat on this review for a couple of days because 1) I couldn’t decide how I’d be able to write one and 2) I couldn’t figure out how to describe my thoughts and feelings. Let’s start with the back of the book synopsis.

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

The above synopsis is accurate but totally different than I would have described this novel. Yes, January Scaller is a curiosity. She’s of mixed race and is the ward of a wealthy white businessman. In his social world, she is a curiosity, but she is also biased against, treated pretty abominably by Mr. Locke, and has an absentee father who occasionally visits but has his own agenda that isn’t explained until the end of the book. January lives in a very black and white world. If not for the friendship of the grocer’s son, she’d be unbearably alone and her life would be pretty bleak.

One day she goes delving into a chest in Mr. Locke’s office and finds a book about these Ten Thousand Doors. When she reads this book she can escape from her dismal life through the story of another young girl. That story is about love at first sight and her journey to find a mysterious young man who had stepped through a door from another world. Doors that may or may not be real. This tale is certainly brighter than January’s own story, and for me more interesting. It’s not until the two stories intertwine that I really became invested in The Ten Thousand Doors of January and the character in her own world.

This novel mixed several genre’s creating a kind of hybrid, atmospheric historical fantasy. I would even say it bordered gothic and was very dark. The elegant prose with which it was written, while beautiful, created an emotional barrier that made it really hard for me to immerse myself in the story and care strongly for January. I did have feeling’s for Her and some of the other characters, but I didn’t feel involved or invested in what happened to them. Am I the only person who’s read this novel that feels this way? It feels like it! Other reviews have waxed lyrical about the writing, and it was certainly all that, but for me, there was a piece missing that kept it from being a great novel. Can I pinpoint what that may be? No. Not to say that I hated all of it, I didn’t! I loved how there were doors into other worlds and the possibility of journeys into those worlds. Unfortunately with a couple of exceptions that I can’t go into without spoiling the outcome, those weren’t avenues that were explored much in this novel.

I did like the alternate storyline. It was a wonderful journey of exploration and self discovery. January’s storyline was a bit more subversive, her story was about wanting something strong enough to change her circumstances and go after it. She did do that, I just wish I had cared more for that self exploration than I did. ❤️❤️❤️❣️

I received a free copy of this ARC for my honest review and it was honest.

Click this link to purchases!* The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Copyright 2019 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

This Chick Read: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Destitute daughter of a vicar, Annabelle Archer earns a place as one of the first female students at the illustrious University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship she must join the women’s suffrage movement and try to gain the backing of a man of influence. Her target? Sebastian Devereaux, Duke of Montgomery and political advisor to the queen. Her beauty catches his eye and despite her fellowship with independent women he’s drawn to her. Can she hold him at arms length while still earning his backing of their movement? Can he convince her to become his without the promise of marriage? Evie Dunmore’s debut novel is atypical of other historical novels in that it dives into the politics of this time and the societal divide a lack of income and good background creates between a man and woman. Bringing Down the Duke was an intricate love story, but also a historical eye opener.

Despite the fluff that the word “Duke” brings to a historical romance title, this novel was anything but. The intricate love story between Sebastian and Annabelle was revealed a piece at a time and was enthralling, don’t get me wrong, but it was the history of the time and how that impacted these two characters that held my attention. I can only recall having read one other novel set during the women’s suffrage movement and as an independent woman myself (even though American), I’m very interested in how and when women’s rights were fought and granted In England. The fact that Evie Dunmore chose this time for a romance gave it a more modern feel.

Sebastian started off the novel as you would expect. Frigid Duke taking all of his responsibilities very seriously gets upended by a beautiful woman. BUT because of the setting we get to see how his thoughts change about women’s rights as Annabelle is threatened through her actions while fight for them. That makes Sebastian different than other historical romance heroes giving the story more impact. In real life a Duke couldn’t consider a woman for his wife if she wasn’t in the correct societal rank without throwing away his own livelihood and lands. Of course in romance novels there are no rules and Dukes marry whomever they want, but this novel doesn’t seem to throw away those societal rules and the Duke’s decisions propel not just the romantic side of the story but the historical plot as well.

I liked Annabelle a lot. She was smart, educated, pretty, but also had a head on her shoulders. She was no innocent and new how her actions would affect her future, but also the future of those around her. She was always thinking ahead. Her attraction to Sebastian was HUGE, but she was no ninny. She knew what it meant if she became a mistress or a wife. Her decisions were based upon real life plot lines and not romance novel plot lines. That made her so much more interesting and real!

Bringing Down the Duke is one of those novels where you pick it up not knowing what you are going to get. The only hint is from the picture on the front where the woman is seated in the saddle of the horse and the Duke is behind her when usually their placement would be in the reverse. A very subtle hint at her independence. I don’t want to give the impression that there isn’t any tension or romance between these two characters. There is plenty of food for the bodice ripping romantic! These two have heat, and their romance was riveting. Even more so because of everything that was happening that I mentioned above! Also, Annabelle’s friends in the movement were interesting and fabulous and hopefully their stories are to come in future novels in the series.

Bringing Down the Duke was everything I love in a historical romance. Riveting characters, sexual tension, and interesting details about the time they are living in. This is a novel that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoys a great historical romance!

❤️❤️❤️❤️❣️

I received a free copy of this ARC through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!

Opinions from around the Blogosphere!

“Bringing Down The Duke is one of the best debut’s I have read, it is simply stunning! The character’s are beautifully written, each one sparkles with life, the story is fun and original, it is an exciting, gorgeous and mesmerising love story. Evie Dunmore captivates and enthrals the reader with her intelligent, passionate and dazzling writing.” Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Click this link to purchase!* Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women)

Copyright 2019 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

This Chick’s Audio Review: What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr #1) by C. S. Harris

I read this novel and a few others in the series a long time ago and I’ll admit that with the amount of books I read in a year that if some time has gone by I can pick up a book again and read it like it was new with only a hint of familiarity. I am currently listening to the Outlander series and LOVE that narrator Davina Porter. I wanted to see if there were any other books that she’s narrated that sounded interesting and was surprised to see that she narrates this wonderful historical mystery series. Of course, I used my Libro.fm credit to purchase this book.

Set in the early 1800’s a young woman is found murdered on the altar of a church. It is a particularly gruesome crime and the only evidence is a dueling pistol and piece of jewelry that belongs to Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Accused of the crime, Sebastian escapes the police and decides to investigate to clear his own name. 

This novel introduces us to characters that will reappear in future books. As Sebastian investigates this twisted mystery the characters morals and motivations are unveiled surprising even the jaded Viscount Devlin. Davina Porter who narrates these books does an amazing job with her characterizations of each character. You are never in doubt as to who is speaking as their voice is immediate clear. I am in awe of her ability to voice an accent from a number of different countries. It is in large part her portrayal of these characters that allowed me to fall into the story as quickly as I did. 

I love historical mysteries and What Angels Fear was an excellent one. The pacing wasn’t slow as some are and the story held a lot of action sequences that moved the plot along quickly. Sometimes while listening to a novel I get frustrated and wish to speed it along, but this was a novel that I relished and enjoyed as the author C. S. Harris and the narrator, Davina Porter, portrayed it. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Click this link to purchase!* What Angels Fear: Sebastian St. Cyr, Book 1

Copyright 2019 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? (3/11/19)

Happy Monday everyone! I ran across this post on Book Date and liked the idea of sharing what I’m currently reading, so here goes!

JUST FINISHED

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4) by Deanna Raybourn

Synopsis:

A bride mysteriously disappears on her wedding day in the newest Veronica Speedwell adventure by the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey series.

Lured by the promise of a rare and elusive butterfly, the intrepid Veronica Speedwell is persuaded by Lord Templeton-Vane, the brother of her colleague Stoker, to pose as his fiancée at a house party on a Cornish isle owned by his oldest friend, Malcolm Romilly.

But Veronica soon learns that one question hangs over the party: What happened to Rosamund? Three years ago, Malcolm Romilly’s bride vanished on their wedding day, and no trace of her has ever been found. Now those who were closest to her have gathered, each a possible suspect in her disappearance. 

From the poison garden kept by Malcolm’s sister to the high towers of the family castle, the island’s atmosphere is full of shadows, and danger lurks around every corner. 

Determined to discover Rosamund’s fate, Veronica and Stoker match wits with a murderer who has already struck once and will not hesitate to kill again.…

LAST SENTENCE READ: I grabbed his hand and raced with him into the westering sun. “Excelsior!”

CURRENTLY READING

You’d be Mine by Erin Hahn

Synopsis:

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

Erin Hahn’s thrilling debut, You’d Be Mine, asks: can the right song and the perfect summer on the road make two broken hearts whole?

FIRST SENTENCE READ: If I die, it’s Trina Hamilton’s fault.

I have so many other great books on tap for this week and I can’t wait to read them!

What book are you reading today?

Deb

This Chick Read: Scandal Above Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery #2) by Jennifer Ashley

When Kat’s employer asks for her help in solving the disappearance of some artwork from her friends home, Kat discovers there are a series of thefts occuring in the upper echelons of society. While investigating she is surprised to find her friend (and love interest) Daniel McAdams ensconced in a pawn shop fencing stolen goods. When a man turns up dead in his shop Kat ends up investigating more than stolen goods and once again finds herself in the drawing rooms of the elite, when all she wants is to be quietly cooking in her kitchen.

This series takes place at the turn of the century in London, in a time where upstairs downstairs lines are drawn severely. As the head cook responsible for feeding not only the family that lives there, but the 20 or so servants who work in that house, I am amazed that Kat can find the time to investigate the crimes she finds herself embroiled in. A couple of months have passed since the previous novel and she has not heard a word from Daniel. When she finds him at the center of her investigation, she’s pretty relieved and we see how much she is starting to care for him. The mystery that is Daniel McAdams is slowly being unveiled, but we still don’t know exactly who he is working for, but I’ll admit to loving his roguish charm and the twinkle in his eye as he makes Kat forget she’s mad at him.

This mystery was very well plotted out, but it’s the characters that keep me coming back to these novels. As I learn more about them, I care more about how their lives are enmeshed and I’ll admit that I find it fascinating to read about the lives of the servants in a big London house. It’s very Mansfield Park, although not as boring. LOL.

If you love historical mysteries and haven’t read the first novel Death Below Stairs, please read it! These are not lively books, but the mysteries are very good and Jennifer Ashley really knows how to write great characters. I know you’ll get caught up in their daily lives and will want to see how all of the relationships will pan out- oh, and you’ll also help catch a killer or two. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Death Below Stairs

Click this link to purchase!* Scandal Above Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery)

Copyright 2018 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

This Chick Read: A Murder in Time (Kendra Donovan #1) by Julie McElwain

Our heroine Kendra Donovan is an FBI profiler. She is on the task force that is taking down two drug kingpins when she finds out her team was undermined from the inside, men on her team killed, and one of the criminals goes free.  Kendra goes rogue and decides to take care of this criminal herself. She tracks him down to a castle in England but before she can kill him she gets thrown back in time to the 1800’s where another murder quickly takes place. Is this the reason why she has traveled through time?

Another book blogger wrote about being excited that the third novel is coming out soon and made me curious enough to look this one up. THANK YOU! I’m sorry I can’t remember who you are, but this was a fabulous recommendation! A time traveler mystery is a bit of a stretch but this author set it up so well. Kendra was a child prodigy and is quite young, only in her early 20’s when she gets thrown back in time. Thank goodness because she’s not seen as an old maid. She is briefly thrown by the time traveling, but kind of rolls with it hoping she can find her way home again. It does help that the Duke whose castle she finds herself in was progressive and a scientist of sorts and is fascinated by this brilliant young woman. When the first young woman shows up dead Kendra puts her profiler skills to work and the Duke puts his societal standing behind her giving her gravitas, and allows her to investigate. I love it when a woman enthralls men with her intelligence instead of her beauty!

A Murder in Time is part mystery with a hint of romance. The Duke is not Kendra’s romantic partner, but instead it’s his nephew that she ensnares. The tension between the two of them is intense but really the story revolves around solving the mystery of who among their peers is the killer. This novel held my interest and truly I didn’t want to put it down.

If you love a good mystery and don’t mind a little time traveling, then please pick up this book! I do not think you’ll be disappointed. The great news is that the second is available in book stores and the third is being released soon. Yeah! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

A Murder

Click this link to purchase*! A Murder in Time: A Novel (Kendra Donovan Mysteries)

Copyright 2018 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

This Chick Read: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Bellewether tells the story of two women living in different times. Lydia Wilde lives with her family during the war in the colonies between the French and the English. During that time if a battle was lost and soldiers surrendered, they would be billeted in homes until they were exchanged for their own soldiers that were being held. Lydia, her father and two brothers “hosted” two French Lieutenants. Charley is in present time and has been hired as historian and curator of the house Lydia lived in with her family. that will soon be a museum. As Charley unearths historical facts about the family that lived in that house, Lydia’s story is told. When Charley hears about a forbidden love story between Lydia and one of the French Lietenants, she wants to make their story part of the museum.

I loved the back and forth between Charley revealing a new item and Lydia’s history playing out. It was so easy to fall in love with both of these women and watch them live through very similar emotions. Susanna Kearsley writes as a historian. You read the descriptions of the clothing they are wearing and can fell the weave of the cloth running through your own fingers. She has a real talent. Both heroines had stories unfold in a very loving and gentle manner, dealing with grief in different ways. Charley’s story was more humorous as she is helped along by a spirit and Lydia’s a little more stoic as being the only female managing a family of men. What they had in common was heart, each defined by their own circumstances but at their core very similar.

I love the flow of a Susanna Kearsley novel. They’re not something you speed through, but savor slowly. The language unfolds and every sideways look has a meaning. She has a deft hand with description and doesn’t get bogged down with the details in a sewing basket. You are able to enjoy the story without needing to skim through pages. I was enmeshed in the story and actually wanted a few more chapters of Lydia’s story to end the book. That is the sign of a good book! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I was given an ARC of this book through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!

Bellewether

Click this link to purchase!*

Copyright 2018 Deborah Kehoe The Reading Chick All Rights Reserved

*Amazon Associate

Blog Tour and Review! The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall

The Daughter of River Valley Full Banner

SYNOPSIS:

The Daughter of River Valley

Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?

The Daughter of River Valley

REVIEW:

The Daughter of River Valley is a true romantic historical novel. Written with descriptive prose, Victoria Cornwall imbues her characters with the language of Cornwall and the proper spoken language of that historical period. It has been awhile since I have read a true historical novel and once I got used to the flow of her words, I enjoyed the moving story of these two characters.

Beth Jago was an independent woman before independence was allowed for women. The fact that she wanted to work and survive alone without leaning on a man gave her character a modernity that enabled me to identify with her. When she finds an intruder in her home and knocks him over the head she definitely creates a rocky start to their relationship. His lost memory means that he doesn’t know who he is, but his feelings for Beth grow and they soon create a partnership that goes beyond the bounds of border and caretaker. With Beth, he finally finds a happiness he hasn’t felt in a long time, a happiness that he wants to continue.

This novel is not just a sweeping historical drama, there is also a bit of a mystery. It becomes apparent that someone is watching Beth’s cabin and Beth isn’t sure if it has to do with her secret she’s been keeping or if it is someone from the village. This small bit of tension escalates and helps move the plot forward quickly reaching a satisfactory conclusion to both the mystery and their relationship.

If you enjoy true historical’s then you should pick up The Daughter of River Valley. It’s sweeping tale will take your imagination on an adventurous journey to the Cornwall countryside. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

I received a copy of this book for my honest review and it was honest.

To purchase this book, please click the link:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughter-River-Valley-Cornish-Tales-ebook/dp/B07DHWTH5T

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Victoria Cornwall. Profile Picture JPG (1)

Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Social Media Links –

Website: http://victoriacornwall.com/

Blog: http://victoriacornwall.com/news-blog-2/

Facebook (Author Page if you have one): https://www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickieCornwall

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16069968.Victoria_Cornwall

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/vickiecornwall/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx/

This Chicks TBT: Review of Eliza Waite and Interview of Author Ashley E. Sweeney

It is the two year anniversary of the historical novel Eliza Waite by author Ashley E. Sweeney. This novel is now in it’s third printing and won the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award. I thought it would be fun to help this author celebrate her anniversary by re-posting my review and interview with the author. I hope both the review and interview intrigues you into trying or re-reading this fabulous novel.

REVIEW:

This is a fascinating story of a young woman who survives tragedy and reinvents herself at the turn of the 20th century.  The setting changes from the Missouri social scene, to living a tough life on one of the San Juan Islands, to Skagway Alaska during the Goldrush of 1898.  Eliza Waite, as did many women of her time, had very little control over her life living under her fathers roof.  It was only after her marriage and the tragic loss of her husband and son that she started to make her own choices on the type of life she wanted to lead.

First time author Ashley E. Sweeney paints a historically accurate view of a woman on a journey of self discovery.  In a time where the Woman’s Suffrage Movement was just beginning, and only a few states allowed women the right to vote, I was fascinated with the idea of a woman striking out alone amidst unruly and rough men, surviving relatively unscathed, and in fact, building a thriving business.  You can tell that the author researched each area and the people who lived there pretty thoroughly.  She even starts out each chapter with a recipe for an item that Eliza has baked, or will bake that seems, without my trying to bake one of them, to be a real recipe.  The measurements using teacups instead of cups.  A touch, that adds charm and realism to the story.

I loved the every day accuracy of this novel.  This was not a book that created a false warmth for the Alaska winter.  This book had Eliza, dressed in threadbare clothing freezing as the wind whipped through her clothing, had miners smelling just awful, dirt squishing through toes and sores becoming infected.  The contrast on my senses when Eliza wI as able to buy a new pair of gloves and her fingers were warmed.  The smell of cinnamon permeating the air when she was baking, and light flashing from the fireworks helped set the scene in a realistic manner.  The good and bad were contrasted so spectacularly, that even though every moment was not fun to read about, it made the end game that much more enjoyable.

As a woman, I enjoyed seeing Eliza come to the realization that life’s experiences may not be easy, but it is better to take on the unknown alone, make her own choices and possibly make her own mistakes.  This ultimately led her to a growth and happiness that she otherwise wouldn’t have known.

Eliza Waite

The following was an interview I did with Eliza Waite author Ashley E. Sweeney in 2016.

Me: Hi Ms. Sweeney, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview you about the release of your new novel Eliza Waite. When I read your bio on your website, ashleyesweeney.com, I was not surprised that you had a journalism background because of how descriptive you wrote Eliza’s journey. That must have taken an incredible amount of research. How long did it take you to prepare yourself to write about Eliza and her life in three such disparate settings?

AES: The genesis for Eliza Waite came to me after discovering an abandoned cabin on a cross-island hike on uninhabited Cypress Island in Washington’s San Juan Islands in the fall of 2008. Near the cabin, a plaque commemorates a Mrs. Zoe Hardy, who lived alone at Smuggler’s Cove in the 1930s. A recluse, Mrs. Hardy died mysteriously and her body was never found. I decided that day that a novel set in that locale could be equally mysterious and intriguing. I developed a character study and plot arc soon afterwards. The core of the story evolved over the first two years. The story grew with Eliza and Eliza grew with the story. It was especially interesting researching the Alaska portion of the novel; I traveled to Skagway and Anchorage to conduct interviews and pore over archival media: books, photos, essays, magazines, diaries, and cookbooks from the late 1800s. I finished Eliza Waite in late 2014. So it’s been an eight-year journey from conception to publication!

Me: As I read your novel, Eliza Waite, I identified the most with the Eliza that lived in Skagway Alaska, because by that point she was well on the way to self discovery, as I am in my own life. Which Eliza did you identify with the most? Why?

AES: I identify most with the Skagway Eliza. After Eliza makes the move to Alaska on her own, she blossoms from an ungainly, unattractive woman into a confident, beautiful one. Her unlikely friend Pearly and her growing sense of accomplishment and success help her along. By the end of the novel, Eliza has evolved in many ways while still retaining her innate persona. I believe that her transformation would not be as inspiring had she not had such a difficult past.

Me: Eliza had to overcome a lot of adversity; taken advantage of by her uncle, forced to marry and move to a reclusive island, and living on her own in the Klondike where lawlessness was the rule. Through it all, baking was how she found peace. The recipes that started out each chapter, were they real? Where did you find them? Did you ever test one out?

AES:  Yes! As Eliza is a baker first as avocation and later as vocation, I felt the need to bake and taste all the authentic pioneer recipes included in the novel. Many of the recipes came directly from 1880s newspapers. Because pioneer recipes do not include oven temperatures or baking times, much hilarity ensued as members of my book club, neighbors, family, and friends tried to replicate recipes in modern kitchens. But the results turned out surprisingly tasty, and I invite readers to try these recipes for themselves. My favorites are Miner’s Snickerdoodles and White Vegetable Soup.

Me: Even as a young woman living under her fathers roof in Missouri, Eliza had a strong will and liked to exert her independent thinking about women’s rights. As she moved across the country, the movement became stronger, as did Eliza’s opinions. How hard was it to write a fictional tale about a woman during that time, that included the Women’s Suffrage movement, and not force the story to be about the movement itself?

AES: Eliza represents an “everywoman” of the late 19th century because of the restrictions on her marriage prospects, finances, and careers. What sets Eliza apart is that she defied convention and struck out on her own. I was never enticed to make the novel into a women’s suffrage novel, although this cause was important to Eliza and all women in the late 1800s. I wanted to expose all the barriers a woman faced at that time. When we look at myriad issues that face women today—notably reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, glass ceilings—these issues are part of the whole of our collective culture, and a novel set today might touch upon all of the those issues.

Me: Eliza faced evil in each place that she lived, yet she was able to draw from a core of strength, and move past it. Many authors would have used this theme of good vs. evil to make a religious statement. Yet, you chose to have Eliza draw strength, not from God, though she believed in him, it was her belief in herself that carried her through those difficult times. That resonated with me so strongly. Did you draw on a situation in your own life that made you write about Eliza’s strength of character in this way? Or was it just Eliza’s natural progression?

AES: In the spring of 2005 I suffered a tremendous blow to my personal and professional psyche when a superior at work wrongly judged me. I faced a crossroads at that time: Do I stand up for my integrity and move on? Or do I accept the false accusation and continue on in the status quo? It was both the easiest and the most difficult decision of my life; easy because I could not accept a smear to my integrity for something I did not do, and difficult because in doing so I was forced to leave a job I loved. I drew on strength that I did not know I possessed to get through the next two years, which included major transitions in my life. Faith played a large part in this journey. In this same way, Eliza also had to dig very deep over a five-year period, both personally and through prayer, to muster the courage and energy to take her life on a new, different, and exciting pathway.

Me: I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by asking about the end of the book, if you think otherwise, please let me know. It seemed that after everything she’d been through, and how much she had protected herself from men throughout the book, that she fell in love so quickly at the end of the book. I believe in timing, the right man, and love at first sight, and maybe all of those things apply to Eliza. Why did you decide Eliza should find happiness so quickly?

AES: It wasn’t that quick, if you span the years. Eliza loses her husband and son in 1893, and she finds happiness at the cusp of 1899, more than five years later. Eliza did much soul-searching during this time. I also believe that when the right partner appears, it’s important to seize the moment. Joseph Burns represents everything that other men in Eliza’s life have not: he is kind, funny, complementary, loving, and supportive.

Me: Ms. Sweeney, thank you so much for your time and this opportunity to let my readers see inside your mind as you were writing Eliza Waite. My last question is about the future, and what you may be working on next. If you have another book in mind, or have already started one, can you give us a hint of what’s on the horizon?

AES: I am currently researching for a novel about the first white woman to arrive in the Oregon Territory in the early 19th century, tentatively titled The English Mistress. I hope to be finished with the novel in 2018.

AES: Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on your blog!

About Ashley E Sweeney

Ashley Sweeney is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., the Stanford Publishing Course, and City University in Seattle, Wash., where she earned a Masters of Education degree. As a seasoned journalist, teacher, and community activist, Sweeney served as a VISTA volunteer in the late 1970s and continues community service today as a member of Soroptimist International, one of the largest women’s advocacy organizations in the world.

While juggling a large household complete with four children, various pets, and all the chaos that accompanies a life dedicated to raising a family, Sweeney found an outlet as a humor columnist and features editor for The Lynden Tribune in Lynden, Washington, where she garnered numerous awards for her writing over the span of a decade. Sweeney also taught English, Journalism, English as Second Language, and GED prep at both the high school and community college levels. She now lives in La Conner, Washington and writes for the hometown newspaper, The La Conner Weekly News.

Eliza Waite is her first novel.