Tag Archives: American History

Review+Interview: My Dear Hamilton with NYT Best-selling Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I’m so excited today to be back with a new post on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Why am I jumping for joy? Because New York Times best-selling historical fiction authors, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie are here!! Right now, they are not only physically touring to various events in numerous states, but they are also dropping by around the online world to author and blogger sites. Anyone knows me, knows I love history! Following my review below of MY DEAR HAMILTON: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, we sit down for an interview!

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I’m always very happy to feature Stephanie, as I adore her work, her style, her sense of humor, her intellect, and her supportive nature for other authors, but I’m very happy she’s clued me in to Laura as well. Together, they are a dynamo writing duo of historical fiction of early America, something I love to study and read about, but as well, most of my followers know how much I focus on women in history overall. I’ve always loved Stephanie bringing women of the ancient world to light (her book on Cleopatra Selene is one of my favorite all time books), but now, in the past two years, with Laura, she’s been diving into women of the American Revolutionary period and it’s been refreshing!

I’ll be offering my review here for the book, in short form, first, but please then stay and read the wonderful interview I had with them both. I think you’ll find it as interesting as I did. If you scroll beneath, you’ll find an excerpt too, and further, a giveaway, and all the information you can imagine. Enjoy!

Review –

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, exceeded even my high expectations! It was finely tuned, detailed, flowing as movie screen for the mind, rich, conveying, and just overall, a beautiful story of a woman relying on her own inner strength to blossom into a very influential and intriguing female of the time – one readers deserved to know more about!

I sit back in awe of their mastery of the art of historical research and being able to dissect information and facts in order to imagine real people from history in such a way as we feel as if we truly can visualize them. They are believable, relatable, and engaging in such a way that it propels the reader through the story. Characterization is key in novels, and with this novel, I feel their legacies coursing through me. I almost feel I know so much more about the soil of America, the tapestry of people, place, and time, and to know how it felt to be a part of the building of this country. I feel drawn to know more of those featured in the book, but more so, to learn more about others of the time not featured in the book, if that makes sense. It’s a good book that won’t let you forget and draws you in so much.

My Dear Hamilton is around 600 pages, which could seeming overwhelming, especially if you are used to other various kinds of historical fiction and have not yet read work by these authors, but trust me, it won’t feel like you just read that big of a book. It flows so well, with a seamless voice so that you won’t even remember you’re reading two authors, and you’ll find it senseless to put down. I’d earmark a whole weekend in before your summer festivities start, or else take a very long day at the beach. This book will absorb you, but you’ll also absorb it. If you look at it critically, you’ll realize that there is so much factual information needed to be known to write it, but as your reading it, that will ease off you in a way that just lets you get lost in the story. After reading it, you’ll realize you learned so much, but having a lot of fun doing so!

Having a history degree myself, though not a scholar especially in regards to Hamilton, I can tell that most of this book is seeped in real events and written with painstaking formulating, based on reading of real letters, documents, informational sources, etc. in order to create an image of Eliza, Alexander, and other cast of people in the book. Once you immerse yourself in so much information on a person, people, or place, or all, you can then begin to project an image. I feel that is what this book does. Of course, with fiction, you can create scenarios, based on conjecture, encounters that *could* have occurred, but many that are provable as well. With dialogue, it’s always fiction, hypothetical in many cases, though can also be seeped in fact based on the way a person talks in letters or so forth. Anyway, it’s my best guess for anyone wondering how factual this book is for learning, then absolutely it’s very biographical and a great way to learn history in a more relaxed environment; however, there are lots of juicy details too!

The excellent thing is that while writing using the information, these writers do it so well, they infuse passion into the pages. There is drama, struggles, adventures, romance, intrigue, conflict, sadness, and so much emotion. I had a great time laughing actually as they infuse quite a bit of underlying humor into the prose.

Word choice, imagery, descriptive and flowing sentences all will carry the reader away to another time and place. It’s a stellar portrait image of a view of what it was like at this pivotal time in the forming of our country, full of fervor and igniting wills and minds, and Dray and Kamoie are able to show all this to the reader written through the eyes of Eliza. But not only that, we are able to see more clearly the roles of women at this time, not just the group of men known as the Founding Fathers or those surrounding them. More personally, we see Eliza’s struggles with her marriage, with the ups and downs that so many of us can feel, to the downright secrets and critical thinking some of us have had to do. I can appreciate Eliza’s determination, which made me pull for her throughout the novel!

I’m not a huge fan of Hamilton in general, myself, but I certainly am now of Eliza and I did learn a lot about Alexander Hamilton as well! I know about the whole Hamilton musical craze, and would like still adore seeing it, but this book really propelled Eliza’s story to the forefront for me. I want to know more of the women of this time period and how they trail blazed the way for independence early on, even long before ever gaining being able to even vote. So, what am I saying? Basically, that reading this book should be as exciting for you as going to the theater to SEE Hamilton!, because for me it gave me the euphoria of one, minus the music of course. If you’ve seen, or are a fan of the musical, then it’s definitely a great accompaniment to your pleasure of all things the musical brings too.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning that Eliza came from Dutch heritage in New York in the 1600s, as some of my maternal ancestors were of Dutch descent living in New York as well. I wonder if their paths crossed – most likely! I really enjoy learning about Dutch culture, especially in early America, and have been researching it, and I appreciated the nuggets of description from it interspersed in the book. It just is another example of all the little touches that make this book glimmer.

Of note also is that I think it’s wonderful they include so much in their author’s note, a Q and A, notes about how the book differs from the musical, discussion questions, and such. It’s a wonderful way to round out the book into a real experience. And that you can find so much more online on their websites is so much fun.

Dray and Kamoie make Eliza shine. This book is polished. This will be one of my top historical reads of the year, no doubt. I appreciate their detailed research, elegant writing, dancing story line, and the infusion of vigor and heart that their own passion for history brings to the pages. This is bench-mark for historical fiction novels, and undoubtedly, for American History fiction. I highly recommend for money well-spent. I’ll be dropping 5 stars on online sites.

-Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book
Author of Breathe. Breathe.

And now for the interview…..

Interview –

Hi ladies! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I know you are on a whirlwind tour currently to bookstores and libraries in various states, so thank you for swinging by here for a few moments. I’ll put on the teapot, but I know you’re both so busy with the book launch, I’ll be sure to make it a short chat.

What type of tea would you prefer? Did they drink something special in colonial America? Whatever it was, I’m sure it was with sugar or Washington might still have his teeth!

SD: They were fond of rum punch, and we’re fans of it too, but not while on tour! So we’ll settle for a cup of Paris tea from Harney & Sons. Vive La Revolution!

Erin: Stephanie, I love Harney & Sons tea, but you know, I see no problem in sneaking in the rum punch at all – I have a feeling it’s needed! And what better way to celebrate your release!

I almost feel as if I’m overwhelmed with questions to ask, and I’m also trying not to ask things you’ve already talked about a bunch of times, but I’m sure I will. The good thing is, maybe my readers haven’t read the answers yet.

For Stephanie, I’ve known you awhile and been reading your work for some time, watching this unfold, but how difficult was it when you migrated toward writing American History as compared to ancient historical fiction or other categories you’ve written in? Did you feel it less when writing My Dear Hamilton after writing America’s First Daughter?

SD: I had this crazy notion that writing early American history was going to be easier than writing ancient world history because more information was available and I’d have to make less stuff up. So. Wrong. Not only are there a lot of blanks that still exist, but the Founding Fathers kept pretty excellent letters, so there’s a deluge of information and research that you have to get through. Fortunately, it’s all fascinating and I love it! As for writing My Dear Hamilton after America’s First Daughter, I thought it would be easier because Hamilton wrote fewer letters than Jefferson. Little did I know, they were all at least twice as long.

So the moral here is, and let me channel author Kate Quinn for an instant, with my hand on my hip, is that you should never think anything you write will so easy because these historical figures just LOVE to wreak havoc.

For Laura, since you have been teaching American History and have written non-fiction, comparatively, can you talk about how your plunge to historical fiction has been for you?

LK: It’s been really exciting. I’m not new to fiction–I’ve authored over thirty novels in other genres–but America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton were the first books that allowed me to bring together my historical training and my love of writing fiction. Generally, historians readily acknowledge that even writing non-fiction history requires a recognition of the gaps in the historical record and offers at least a little room for (clearly labeled) speculation or imaginings. So nothing about dramatizing the past or extrapolating unknown moments and scenes from sources about a similar event at another time, for example, made me uncomfortable. Just the opposite was true, in fact. Through writing these novels, I’ve become convinced that historical fiction can make valuable contributions to our understanding of the past and can reveal universal truths even when the facts aren’t completely accurate. So it’s been an intellectually interesting experience and I’m completely hooked!

Erin: I totally agree with you! And you can still learn so much!

You write so seamlessly, how is this achieved when I imagine you probably had different writing styles starting out? What have you learned from each other and what do each of you feel the other brings to the projects?

SD: One thing we both share is agility. We’ve both written several other genres. We can write funny, we can write contemporary, we can write suspense or romance or fantasy. And that meant that we were able to adapt to each other’s writing voice. But we also edit each other’s words freely, which means that our words are all interspersed and that helps to smooth out any seams. But we each have complementary strengths that we play to. And we’ve definitely learned from each other. We talk about that a lot. Just one very small example out of many others that I could give is that Laura is the queen of clarity and heartfelt moments. I’ve learned from her when to be less abstract as a writer, when to linger in an emotional moment longer than I might otherwise, and to spell it out. She also makes brilliant connections all the time, and we fire back and forth on how to exploit them!

LK: Hearing that the writing feels seamless is one of our favorite compliments! It was important to us that the books read as if they’d been written by one author, not two. And we were thrilled that none of our friends nor family nor even our editor could tell which of us had written what parts of the books! The way we trade chapters, revise freely, and work together at the same laptop when we get toward the end and are working on revisions and copyedits means that there’s no page in the book that we both haven’t touched, which we think is key to creating that seamlessness. Stephanie’s right–we talk a lot about what we’ve learned from each other. I’ve learned so much from her about crafting the most impactful narrative structure, which includes everything from finding the right prologue to organizing the scenes in a chapter in a way that best highlights the conflict and draws the reader in. And Stephanie is the queen of identifying and playing up themes in a way that makes a book really resonate. So our writing is a true collaboration from beginning to end!

Erin: Yes, I feel I need tissues now, seriously, this is amazing to see writers connecting with such joy and bringing such a labor of love to the readers. I’ve read some of Stephanie’s work already, so yes, I do feel it’s seamless but I can also see knowing this, what each of you added to it to become a single, new author.

Many years ago, when I started my site and working on projects in publishing and in my own writing, all the agents were saying no to American History and especially Colonial History themes. That saddened me, because I wanted to read more from this time period, but not only in non-fiction reading. I was thrilled to see not only more biographical historical fiction start to be published about women, especially women who stood in the shadows of history’s men, but also in American History. When America’s First Daughter hit big last year, I knew maybe the tide would start to turn even more. Besides your book, what else do you contribute to the change in publishing and reading American/Colonial fiction?

SD: Oh gosh, you might be giving us too much credit there, but we certainly would love to think we played a positive role in it! I think right now the country is having a reflective moment; we’re trying to come to terms with who we are and what direction we should be going. It’s difficult to do that without remembering where we came from. So early American history is a natural place to look.

LK: I agree. And early American history is also having a bit of a cultural ‘moment’ with (much more influential!) things like Hamilton: An American Musical, the Outlander TV series, and the recent AMC series, TURN: Washington’s Spies, just to name a few. Really, historical TV series from all eras seem to be doing really well. Think of The Crown, Victoria, Downton Abbey, the White Princess/White Queen series, The Last Kingdom, or even the new The Terror. Clearly, popular culture is opening some doors where historical stories are concerned.

Erin: Oh yes, and I love all those shows, even Sleepy Hollow and Salem!

Do you feel that we need this more than ever now with the political climate? How does this change history’s views of women besides finally memorializing these women more properly?

SD: I’ll let Laura answer the question on memorializing women, but I’d say in terms of the political climate that both parties like to lay claim to the Founding Fathers. But part of our mission has been to demonstrate that no modern political party owns them and that very little about their ideas or their accomplishments was as simple as we like to pretend.

LK: Stephanie and I feel strongly that centering historical women in their own stories is an important enterprise that makes a real contribution–because stories like ours make it clear that the Revolutionary War wasn’t won by white men alone, and the new nation wasn’t built by white men alone, either. All groups in society–enslaved persons, free black people, Native Americans, and women–played important roles in, made sacrifices for, defended, and contributed to the founding of the United States. Certainly, we saw how much Patsy Jefferson and Eliza Hamilton did to make possible the work and contributions of the important men in their lives. Neither Thomas Jefferson nor Alexander Hamilton would’ve been able to achieve all they did without the assistance and contributions of these women. That’s a story that deserves to be told.

Erin: *More Kleenexes please!* Yes, absolutely!! And I just love that you are telling these stories too. Please keep doing so!

As Stephanie I think knows, my 18-year-old American history buff of a son has George Washington plastered completely all over our home and doesn’t go a day without speaking of him – in fact he drinks from a Valley Forge mug every morning. He was this way BEFORE the craze – you know the Hamilton craze, but now it seems it’s cool to like American History! How do you feel the craze for the Hamilton musical, music, the Founding Fathers, and so forth, got its foot-hold, but further, how is it being sustained so dramatically? Did this make your book more fun to write? Did it influence it at all?

SD: I love that your son drinks from a Valley Forge mug! That’s so fantastic. Tell him that I see that I need to up my game when it comes to Founding Father bric-a-brac. We are totally screaming fangirls of the musical and think it is that special and rare kind of art that did a genuine public service. And continues to do so! Laura just saw it again, so she can speak more about that.

LK: Our new My Dear Hamilton was in part inspired by the musical–I doubt this is any surprise! I happened to see it during its first week on Broadway, and the next morning Stephanie and I talked about Eliza and decided to make her our next heroine. And we pitched the idea to our editor that very afternoon–that’s how sure we were! Now, we were already searching for the perfect historical figure after writing about Patsy Jefferson, and we loved the idea of writing next about a founding mother of the north. While writing–or driving to book events–I can’t tell you how often we listened to the musical’s soundtrack, but suffice it to say that we both know the lyrics by heart! That definitely did make it fun. As did discussing the storytelling choices that Lin-Manuel Miranda made in the musical and how we might be making some different choices in our book. We thought readers might find those differences interesting enough that we wrote an essay on the subject that’s available in the back matter of the book!

Erin: I will tell him Stephanie! He’s always inspired by you though and your glee for cool stuff and locations. He just thinks there needs to be a George Washington musical. haha!

I absolutely love to think about travel to all the historic sites in America that have something to do with early American History. I am sure, and I think I saw, that you traveled places in your research for My Dear Hamilton. What was the favorite place each of you visited and why? Did it make it into the book?

SD: Laura can tell you about our favorite that made it into the book, but I’ll tell you my favorite that didn’t. When we were visiting Fraunces Tavern, they had an exhibit that included a sash worn by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Battle of the Brandywine where he was injured in our cause, and it was still stained with his blood! Fraunces Tavern makes it in, but there was no good way to mention that sash!

Erin: WOW!

LK: In writing My Dear Hamilton, we actually visited a number of historical sites. But I think our favorite–in that it was so impactful to us and on a particular scene in the book–was the Trinity Church graveyard. First of all, we found some humor in the fact that there’s a check cashing business on the other side of the street directly opposite Alexander’s tomb. And that seemed…oddly appropriate in some way! But more seriously, when we visited the graveyard for the first time, the Trinity Root sculptor was still there–a huge 9/11 memorial of the trunk and root system of a tree that’d been knocked down on that terrible day. The sculpture was both sad and haunting and powerful and hopeful–because the roots show all the things beneath the surface that you don’t normally see, but which are vital to sustenance and stability. And that made us think a lot about Eliza Hamilton’s character. It felt, at least in part–in both its sadness and its strength–like an analogy for our book. And that sculpture absolutely influenced the tone of the scene we wrote in My Dear Hamilton that takes place in that graveyard.

Erin: That’s totally amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that!

I know there is a gigantic amount of research that goes into writing a book of this magnitude. How did you complete it so quickly together? What are your tips for researching and writing historical books based on true people’s lives like this? Where did a majority of the research come from?

LK: Since Eliza appears to have destroyed most of her own letters, we had to pull resources from everywhere we could find them. That involved significant usage of the Founders Online website via the National Archives, as well as archival research in New York and Albany. We also used a wide variety of papers from other people and institutions of the era, including, for example, Tench Tilghman’s journal, the papers of other members of the Schuyler family, papers of an investigation from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the published recollections of the Washington National Monument Society. That’s just the basics of what you have to do when you choose to write about a real person, though I’m not sure either of us would characterize the research work as having been quick!

Erin: No, it’s NOT quick, and I can certainly understand how time consuming all the research was – but that’s what I mean, to me, I feel it would take 10 years to sift through and also write a book like this, and you both did it all in less than a year! I love hearing the different places you found your information to formulate your characters and book. I’ve been researching a historical fiction book for what seems like forever. I always thinks it’s clever fun to see all the things you can uncover and from where!

In continuing on that, how do you keep on schedule? (Notice I didn’t ask how you stay sane haha)

SD: Hah! Good thing. Keeping on schedule is tough. I’d say between the two of us I’m the more schedule-oriented in that I plan everything out on multiple calendars. But Laura’s scratch it on the back of a napkin method works okay for her too.

Erin: I wish I had your planning skills, Stephanie. Always in awe. I am more of a napkin person myself, Laura. haha. I always hope I’ll get divine advice to change to be more organized to get done more efficiently, but then, I guess it’s all what works for each individual. 

I was so happy for all your success of America’s First Daughter and I’m rooting for you to have as much or more success with My Dear Hamilton. So, what’s next? Will you endeavor to write another next year together or get busy on separate projects?

LK: We’re currently collaborating on a novel on the women of the French Revolution and are having a lot of fun jumping to America’s “sister revolution.” Stay tuned for more on that–we’ll be excited to share when we can!

Erin: Ooooh! I look forward to it!

If you could do a cross-over book featuring a person from American History time-traveling to an ancient civilization, who and where would you choose to feature?

SD: You get bonus points for asking us a question we’ve definitely never been asked before. I’m gonna say Thomas Jefferson to the ancient kingdom of Meroe where the Kandake might have taught him some useful and important things.

Erin: Yay! Very clever!

Bonus question – I mean what was it like to present at the SMITHSONIAN!!?? *drops mic*

SD: AMAZING! Dream come true.

LK: It totally brought out both of our inner history geeks!

Erin: With that, though I’d love to pick your brain more, I’ll let you head out for your next event! Best wishes again for the success on My Dear Hamilton and congratulations to you both for all your hard work! Stop again anytime. Thank you both!

SD: It’s been a pleasure as always, Erin. Can’t wait to hear what you (and your son) think of the new book!

Erin: Thanks, Stephanie. Of course, you can read what I thought here now, and I’m passing along the book to Nassem now. He’s been anxiously awaiting it since the day you announced!

LK: Loved your thoughtful questions, Erin! Can’t wait to do it again!

Erin: Thank you, Laura, I look forward to it!

*Passes more rum punch all around, because…we can…for Liberty!*

Enjoy an Excerpt!

The night before our wedding, the ball at our house was attended by all the best of Dutch Albany society. The Van Rensselaers and the Van Burens, the Ten Broecks and the Ten Eycks, the Van Schaicks and the Douws, and so many others. Neither snow nor ice nor howling wind seemed to deter our New Netherlander friends and neighbors from coming out to the Pastures for the celebrations.

Amidst boughs of holly and the light of countless candles, the grand hall on our second floor hosted festivities that included food and drink, dancing and music, and games and toasts. We danced minuets, cotillions, and Scottish reels until my feet ached and my heart soared. Alexander never seemed to tire, and I determined to keep up with him through every bar and set. I danced with Mac and my brother-in-law, Mr. Carter, a man eight years Angelica’s senior, whose business supplying the army for once permitted him time to join in the festivities. But Alexander could never wait long before declaring himself impatient and claiming me again.

My fiancé appeared more at ease than I’d ever seen him before, and perhaps that wasn’t a surprise, as these days of rest and merriment were the first break from military service he’d had in five years. Indeed, his eyes sparkled as he asked, “May I steal you away for a moment?”

“By all means.” I’d been hoping for a quiet opportunity to give him my gift. He took my hand and led me around the edge of the dance floor as we were stopped again and again by well-wishers, until we finally escaped down the stairs and into the cooler air of the dimly lit sitting room, which afforded us a modicum of peace and privacy. There, Alexander asked me to wait. And while he ducked away I seized the moment to pull my gift from its hiding place in the cabinet next to the fireplace. Alexander returned before I’d barely completed the task—and held a large sack of his own.

“Whatever is that?” I asked.

“He grinned and nodded at what I held in my own hands. “I could ask the same.”

I smiled. “A wedding gift for my husband.”

He feigned a frown and stepped closer. “Your husband, madam? Do I know him?”

Playing his game, I said, “Oh, you know him very well, sir. And your gift is for?”

He came closer yet. “For my wife-to-be. And before you ask, indeed, you know her well. She has a good nature, a charming vivacity, and is most unmercifully handsome”—he arched a brow and closed the remaining space between us—“and so perverse that she has none of those affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty.”

How did he always manage to set my world a-tumble with his words? “Oh, you must be a lucky man, indeed. I hope you’ve shown her your appreciation.”

He barked a laugh. “You saucy charmer!”

I sat in the chair closest to the fire so that I could see by the greater light there, and Alexander pulled up a chair of his own so that our knees touched. With a nervous smile, he placed the heavy sack onto my lap. I untied the its string and worked the coarse cloth over the solid object inside. Impatience rolled off him so forcefully that I had to tease him further by taking great pains to slide the sack evenly off, a little on this side, and then a little on that.

“And to think someone once told me you were the Finest Tempered Girl in the World,” he said with a chuckle.

Jenoff Quote Card

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest for a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

Order your copy of MY DEAR HAMILTON today!

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A Founding Father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her

✭✭✭ ORDER MY DEAR HAMILTON TODAY✭✭✭

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Stephanie Dray, Biography –

 

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year.

Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Stephanie Dray Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter | Dray & Kamoie Website

 

Laura Kamoie, Biography –

Laura Kamoieis a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, and the author of two non-fiction books on early American history.

Until recently, she held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction under the name Laura Kaye, also a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels.

 

Laura Kamoie Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter |
Dray & Kamoie Website

 

 

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#WomeninHistory: Esther de Berdt Reed -An American Lady of Liberty, by Nassem Al-Mehairi

Today, I have the delightful pleasure of introducing the next author in my Women in History series is my son Nassem! Those who know Nassem understand that though he’s just 18, he’s quite the history prodigy, with a love for American History. Not to mention he’s an extraordinary author. His article below on Esther de Berdt, who formed the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and raised money to clothe the Continental Army in time of dire need by General George Washington, is well-researched and written. I know I learned something! If you liked the article or want to discuss please feel free to leave him comments below. Take the floor, Nassem!

Esther Reed portrait by Charles Peale.png

Esther Reed, Portrait by Charles Peale / Wikipedia

 

Esther de Berdt Reed: An American Lady of Liberty

by Nassem Al-Mehairi

War had been raging on for five years by May of 1780. The Continental Army had just suffered the worst defeat of the war in Charleston, where, after six weeks of siege, Major General Benjamin Lincoln was forced to surrender his forces. General George Washington, taking stock of the present state of his army, worried that the patriots would not have the strength to fight on. Washington wrote to the Continental Congress near the end of May in 1780 that his soldiers were forced to sustain themselves on rotten and limited rations and were clothed in torn, dirty, and poorly-made clothing. Many men were eternally loyal to the Patriot cause, but some grew wary of enduring these conditions in the pursuit of a goal that eluded them and remained abstract. Washington knew something needed to be done to prevent mutiny among his men and continue the fight against the British.

The answer to this call to action came from an unlikely source. A broadside entitled Sentiments of an American Woman appeared on the doorsteps of Philadelphia’s war-weary citizens. The broadside proclaimed that it was time for women to be “really useful” like “those heroines of antiquity” and act on “our love for the public good.” The author of this broadside, Esther de Berdt Reed, just having recovered from a bout of smallpox, founded the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and saved the Continental Army.

Esther de Berdt was born in October of 1746 in London to English businessman Dennis de Berdt and Martha Symon de Berdt. Esther, a charismatic girl who loved books, grew up near the Houses of Parliament. At the age of seventeen, Esther met Joseph Reed of Philadelphia while he was in London to continue his education in law. The duo, by now in love, sought to marry but Dennis refused to consent. Dennis, though partial to Joseph, was not enthusiastic about his daughter moving to Philadelphia with him if they married. Over the next five years, Esther and Joseph, separated by the great Atlantic, nevertheless remained in contact and did not break their engagement. In 1769, Joseph returned to London and reconciled with Esther. Dennis de Berdt had died, leaving his family with substantial debts. Joseph dedicated himself to settling the family’s finances before marrying Esther in May of 1770 at Saint Luke’s Church. The couple decided, then, to move back to Philadelphia together, bringing Martha with them to ensure her financial stability.

Esther and Joseph quickly moved up the social ladder. Joseph became a successful lawyer and political leader. The political uproar that had lingered as a whisper over the colonies soon grew to grip every facet of life. As a native Englander, Esther was initially wary of rebellion against her birth nation. Her views resembled that of many in the colonies, dismayed by the actions taken by the British and the lack of representation in decision-making but also afraid of what open rebellion may cause. Her husband, on the other hand, was an ardent patriot. After the conflict at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, Joseph facilitated the sending of sums of money to the rebellious colonists in New England. He was elected as a member of the First Continental Congress and he and Esther became close friends with the likes of George Washington and John Adams. Esther, during this time, came to see the revolution as one seeking to reaffirm the right of liberty for all in the colonies. In July, she wrote to her brother that “every person [is] willing to sacrifice his private interest in this glorious contest” and that the revolution was about “virtue, honor, unanimity” and “bravery.” With both Reeds united in the Patriot cause, they soon were forced to separate.

In 1775, Joseph left his law practice in Philadelphia to join his friend, the newly appointed General George Washington. Washington personally requested the industrious and honorable Reed join his staff as an aide and a military secretary, appointing him to the rank of colonel. Esther during this time cared for her family, which would eventually grow to include six children, and handled the affairs of the family. Esther was forced many times during the war to leave Philadelphia with her family and always had an escape plan in her back pocket. When the British took over Philadelphia in September 1777, Esther had evacuated her family to Norristown. Joseph spent that cold and bitter winter of 1777-1778 in Valley Forge working with General Washington.

Throughout this winter that tried many souls, Esther, her mother, and her children endured both the separation from Joseph and one of the most dangerous periods for the Patriots. By the time the Battle of Monmouth proved that Washington had built a disciplined and determined army at Valley Forge, Esther’s young daughter Theodosia had died of smallpox.

The spirits of the Reeds soon changed when Joseph was elected as President of Pennsylvania and the family reunited in Philadelphia. Esther, known now as Mrs. President in Pennsylvania, had gained the position she needed to make a real impact on the war effort. She simply needed her chance.

General Washington soon provided that chance in 1780 after the British captured Charleston in South Carolina. Washington reported to Congress in May of 1780 that the men in his army had long sustained themselves on rotten food and were forced to wear ragged clothing. He warned Congress that at this rate his men would not be able to fight on long enough to drive the British from the colonies. Esther, having just recovered from smallpox herself, seized the chance and founded the Ladies Association of Philadelphia. Because of her position as Mrs. President, she had gained the trust and friendship of many of the wives of influential men and women powerful in their own right in Philadelphia, including Benjamin Franklin’s daughter Sarah Franklin Bache.

Now that Esther had built the Ladies Association into a group of illustrious and influential women, she needed something to unify and focus the group’s efforts. She went to work soon writing a broadside to persuade more women to join the cause of liberty. Sentiments of an American Woman was published on June 10, 1780. The broadside warned women that their “barren wishes” for success were no longer enough and, in the spirit of “those heroines of antiquity,” the women of the colonies must fight to reaffirm that all are “born for liberty.” She assured that their “courage” and “constancy will always be dear to America.” She finished by asking women if any material possessions mattered if they did not truly live with their liberty unviolated and issued a call to duty for all Patriot women to donate what they could to ensure Continental soldiers had the supplies they needed.

 

Sentiments-of-American-Woman.jpg

Taken from the Monticello Website

 

A team of thirty-nine women canvassed door-to-door to every household in Philadelphia, distributing Esther’s (anonymously-published) broadside and soliciting donations to the cause. These women broke almost every social convention of the time but did not think twice. They were willing to do whatever it took to affirm their natural right to liberty.

The efforts of Esther and her Ladies Association of Philadelphia exceeded all expectations. Esther, no doubt proud of her fellow women of Philadelphia, reported to General Washington that they had raised over $300,000 continental dollars. When this amount was converted to hard coinage, it stood at the large-for-era amount of $7,500.

Esther believed that the money should go directly to the soldiers, but General Washington thought differently. Washington worried that soldiers might use their money for unnecessary luxuries and responded to Esther asking for the money to go directly to more useful items. Washington wrote on July 14th asking Esther if he is “happy in having the concurrence of the Ladies” he would ask that the much-needed donations go to “purchasing course Linnen, to be made into Shirts.” He wrote that “A Shirt extraordinary to the Soldier will be of more service, and do more to preserve his health than any other thing that could be procured him.” After a series of letters, Washington persuaded Esther to the prudence of his request and she enthusiastically moved to the next phase of her efforts.

The Ladies Association of Philadelphia, having purchased the linen, quickly went to work sewing shirts for the soldiers of the Continental Army. Esther, wanting the contribution of each woman not forgotten, had each seamstress sew their name into the shirts they made. Esther by this point juggled being away from her husband once again, who was back with the army, raising her children, caring for her aging mother, and running the operations of the Ladies Association. When she was struck with acute dysentery when an epidemic swept through Philadelphia in 1780, she no longer possessed the health to recover.

Esther de Berdt Reed died on September 18, 1780, a month before her thirty-fourth birthday. All the citizens of Philadelphia mourned the death of the woman who had organized a grassroots effort to save the Patriot cause but her efforts did not die with her. Sarah Franklin Bache, a pioneering and powerful woman in her own right, assumed Esther’s position and the Ladies Association finished what Esther had started. By Christmas of 1780, over two-thousand shirts were delivered to the Continental Army, supplying them with a necessity they had lacked for a long time. Newly-clothed and with the alliance with the French formalized, the Continental Army was ready to drive the British from the colonies forever.

Joseph Reed returned to Philadelphia after Esther’s death to serve his final term as President of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, while wearing the shirts made by Esther and her Ladies Association, the Continental Army emerged victorious at the Battle of Yorktown in October of 1781. After the war, Joseph returned to England for his health but died in 1785, at the young age of forty-three.

 

Esther Reed grave.jpg

From findagrave.com

 

Esther de Berdt Reed’s journey from British subject to passionate Patriot in the course of a decade demonstrates the power of liberty for all people. Esther saw the fight for the Republic as an affirmation for the inviolable and inherent rights the new government would protect. She refused to abide by societal customs when the fate of her cause was on the line and organized a major association of illustrious women in Philadelphia to save the war effort. Esther persuaded women of all ages in the era that they had the right and the responsibility of being equal to men in patriotism. She forged a new path of passionate patriotism not only for women but for all citizens no matter their position. Her life was dedicated to that fundamental idea of a republic: liberty.

Nassem Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Nassem.jpgNassem Al-Mehairi is a senior at Ashland High School. Born and raised in Ashland, Ohio, he has a deep love of history and America, with plans to further his studies in college and run for political office one day. He’s an honors student, voracious reader, enjoys writing, and serves in various ways in his community.

Volunteering with and on substantial political and awareness campaigns since he was 12, he appeared in the video introducing President Bill Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and went on to serve as a Fellow for the Hillary for Ohio campaign in 2016. Besides being passionate about historical stewardship, liberty, and patriotism, he’s also an advocate for women’s liberation and educational opportunity.

You can read more about him on his blog, Seize the Moment, or follow him on Twitter.

Thank you for joining us for this installment of the Women in History (or Making History) series. Watch for more articles to come! If you’d like to participate, please let me know. 

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Interview with Eva Flynn on Victoria Woodhull, Reconstruction, & Equal Rights

Yesterday, I had a review of Eva Flynn’s The Renegade Queen, about the first woman to run for President of United States during our Reconstruction period. Today, I sat down with Eva to discuss the book, women’s rights, this period in history, and more. Enjoy!

02_The Renegade Queen

Interview

Hi Eva, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Happy to have you here to discuss your new book, “The Renegade Queen,” which is about Victoria Woodhull—a forgotten feminist, and yet, so much more. I believe this is your first novel? How does it feel to launch such a unique book to the world? To do your part to help Victoria be remembered?

Eva:  Thank you Erin, and thank you for your kind review, it is much appreciated. I’m happy to be here. Also, I really enjoyed your interview at The Scary Reviews. So much of what you said about writing and editing resonated with me.

Yes, this is the first novel I have published. I’ve written some other ones that aren’t quite ready to see the light of day! It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve received so much positive feedback from readers. For years I have wanted to call attention to Victoria Woodhull and other unsung reformers. This novel started out as a movie script and I talked to several Hollywood producers about it, but ultimately they passed because they were concerned that there wasn’t a market for it. I hope that this novel will sell well and that Hollywood will see that there is a market. But the ultimate goal is for people to know Victoria and understand the sacrifices that so many people have made in pursuit of a better country, a better life for all of us. So much of today’s society seems to be inwardly focused on achieving prestige or wealth and we forget that we all have something to contribute to society and the current political discourse.

Erin: A movie would be wonderful! And I agree about our society. That’s why what you have done with this book is so important. Thank you as well for reading my own interview as well, I’m honored! It’s fitting you’ve stopped by my home on your tour, as I’m in Ohio, the birthplace of Victoria! Come in and let’s sit down for tea or coffee? Which is your pleasure and how do you take it? I’ll go pour and bring out some freshly baked blueberry muffins as well. I hope you like those (if not, I’ll whip up your choice!).

Eva: I’m happy to be in Ohio! My husband was born in Cincinnati and we never pass up a chance to visit. Earl Grey and a blueberry muffin please. Yummy.

Erin: That’s amazing! Cincinnati is such a historical hub! And Earl Grey is my favorite tea so I’m happy to oblige that!! Now that we are all settled, let me ask you some further questions. I’m very interested in women’s rights and feminism so this book was right up my alley. I’ve studied so much on some of the women in history, such as those who championed for the right to vote, that I was astounded to learn of someone like Victoria, who was the first woman to fun for President of the United States.

I’m sure you get asked this often, but my readers might like to know. How did you learn of Victoria? And how did your inspiration grow to write and collect history about her?

Eva: I am an only child and I was always pestering my parents to entertain me. One day they bought me a set of World Book Encyclopedias. You may not remember hardbound encyclopedias, but these were divided up alphabetically, so the “M” for example would have two big books. The subjects that begin with WXYZ were all in one slim volume. My parents told me to entertain myself by perusing these books. I picked up the “WXYZ” volume and I turned to the two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull. I was amazed as I had never heard of her, and this is as a child of a political science professor (father) and a staunch feminist (mother). I took these paragraphs to both of my parents and they had never heard of her either. From that point on I have been fascinated not only with Victoria Woodhull but about those who the history books leave out.

And then I majored in political science myself and became fascinated by the political process and those who are live on the fringes of the political process. I admire anyone who has the courage to stand up for their beliefs (whether I agree with them or not), and my admiration for Victoria only grew as I realized how difficult life for women was during Reconstruction.

In the intervening years between hardbound encyclopedias and now, a wealth of resources from the 1870s have been placed on the Internet which makes research so much easier and less time consuming then it used to be. For example, one can find several issues of her newspaper online. Additionally, the Library of Congress has digitized thousands of newspapers from the era. Not everything I’d want is online, but enough of it that I don’t feel the need to travel to remote archives.

Erin: Yes, I do remember the encyclopedia and often spent my own time at home reading them! I so wish we still had them quite honestly! It’s a bit different than being overwhelmed to pick out info from so much content on the Internet. I’m glad you turned your “find” into a pursuit!

victoria-woodhull-1-sized

Above: Victoria Woodhull

Victoria’s childhood that you wrote about in your book was just heartbreaking. How did you research her early years, since so little is written about her, and formulate her life story?

Eva: Excellent question. Her childhood is tricky for biographers because we do only have Victoria’s stories as told to Theodore Tilton for her campaign biography, a few quotes from Tennessee about their childhood, and the Emanie Sachs biography which includes interviews from some of Victoria’s contemporaries. In addition to the above sources, I was able to track down census records, newspaper records, and read general histories about the time period to piece her childhood together. In terms of the rape by her father, which is something that readers ask me about often, she said to Theodore Tilton “my father made me a woman before my time.”

Although this is labelled historical fiction, I spent countless hours on research to make it as accurate as possible.

Erin: From then on, her story is so astounding. Do you feel her life was erased from history because of her voice for the social good for those less fortunate during the Reconstruction such as immigrants, former slaves, the poor? Or further thoughts?

Eva: Susan B. Anthony, both loved and hated, was the most powerful woman in America in the 1880s when she started publishing her four-volume, 5700 page history of the woman’s movement (History of Woman Suffrage). Victoria Woodhull is not mentioned once. Anthony also does not mention other leaders such as Belva Lockwood who was the second woman to run for President. Anthony effectively cemented her reputation as the leader of woman’s suffrage and erased the others with her publication. Her publication was not challenged until very recently in history. To be fair to Anthony, the other women (Woodhull included) did not make an attempt to correct or place themselves in the historical record. Woodhull published volumes of her speeches and political beliefs but did not publish anything that discussed her accomplishments or place in the movement. In absence of conflicting views, The History of Woman Suffrage became the definitive guide to the movement and the one that history authors turn to when they write the history books for this time period. The history of Reconstruction and the woman’s movement should be re-examined and more primary sources should be included.

Another problem with the historical record is that we do not have record of the votes that Victoria received when she was a presidential candidate. The paper ballots were not kept for third parties. So we only know how many votes Grant and Greeley received. Historians have tried to guess at the number, but it isn’t something we could look up at the national archives and determine. Stories of votes being destroyed by the poll workers were rampant at the time as well.  

Erin: Why did she have such a feud with Susan B. Anthony? Did she just like control or feel that things weren’t progressing as they should be? Why couldn’t the women work together for a similar cause?

Eva: Another excellent question. In working on the sequel, I found an interview with Victoria that was conducted when she was living in England and she said that women will never get what they want politically if they cannot get over their petty squabbles. And at times I feel that this is still true today.

I have all the sympathy in the world for Susan B. Anthony. She gave her life for the cause, and then at the age of 50, a younger, richer, more beautiful woman comes onto the scene with an appalling  background and becomes more popular, and wins more support from politicians and the newspapers in a few short months than Anthony did after years of campaigning. Anthony felt that her place in the world was displaced and that she was losing control of the movement.

Victoria was more radical and wanted immediate action to alleviate the inequities for women, the poor, and the immigrants. Victoria knew in her heart that she was right and did not understand why a social revolution could not occur immediately. Anthony, being older, wiser, and perhaps more cynical felt that small, incremental gains were the only way to get to a state of equality. Anthony was focused on the right to vote, thinking women could become a powerful voting group and make these other reforms happen over time. Victoria wanted everything immediately, for she knew that there would be male politicians that women would not cross the street to vote for.

victoria-woodhull-presidential-flyer-1872

Erin: Victoria chose to announce her candidacy for President of United States fifty years before women even had the right to vote. How did this go over during this time and did she have any supporters? Why did she choose Frederick Douglass as her running mate?

Eva: What is heartwarming to me about this story is that Victoria did have supporters. Powerful men such as Commodore Vanderbilt, Benjamin Butler, Theodore Tilton, and George Francis Train may not have voted for her, but they agreed that she had the right to run for President. Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported her. Beyond that you have the free lovers, the communists, the psychics, and the immigrants who pinned their hopes on her. Thousands of people would turn out for her speeches. Of course, she also had her enemies which is why she ended up in jail on Election Day.

The Frederick Douglass question is an interesting one. Douglass and Anthony were friends for years and had a public split on whether the former slaves should be the first to “earn” the right to vote or if women should. So part of me thinks that Victoria picked Douglass to get under Anthony’s skin. But part of me also thinks that she chose him because it was the “Equal Rights Party,” and she knew that she wouldn’t win so she wanted to further the Civil Rights efforts of African-Americans by having an former slave on the ticket.

NYPL Woodhull.jpg

Above: From the New York Public Library

Erin: If she WOULD have been elected President, what do you think might have happened? How different would the reconstruction era have ended up, or even our country today?

Eva: To be honest, I have not allowed myself to even imagine such an occurrence. I’d like to say that a whole host of reforms would have been enacted. But sadly she probably would have been blocked by Congress legislatively or assassinated. In terms of reforms that she would want, female suffrage, a forty-hour work week, punishment for marital rape, and liberal divorce laws would be at the top of her agenda.

Erin: How do you feel about the United States yet having a woman for President? Do you think we are closer than ever before? Would Victoria have liked Hillary Clinton?

Eva: To be blunt, I’m disgusted that we have never had a female president. But I do think we are closer than ever before, and it is wonderful to have both parties have a female candidate. Victoria would support Hillary on many issues, but she would not like the amount of money Hillary makes giving speeches or her relationship with Wall Street (even though Victoria had a cozy relationship with Wall Street).

Erin: What exactly were Victoria’s main motivations? If it was not money, or prestige, or control, what inspired her to work hard every day and toward what goals?

Eva: Victoria spent her entire life blaming herself for her son Byron’s severe mental disability. She felt that if she had not married an addict that Byron would have been born healthy. Her guilt, in her second part of life, turns into eugenics when she lobbies the British government not to allow addicts to reproduce. Victoria believed that if she had been given a choice as to who to marry then Byron would have been spared and she wanted all women to have that choice. I also think she was fighting years of shame from treatment by her parents that she wanted to prove to society that she was a Child of God and deserved respect and that all other women did as well.

Erin: I can take it from your book that though Victoria appalled the dealings of her father, or her husband, or others, in their manipulation of people to make a buck, that ultimately she was a survivor herself and would do anything to get what she needed? How did her relationship with James Blood, a civil war general, hinder or complement that motivation?

Eva: I agree, Victoria is a survivor and her survival instincts go into overdrive when she moves to England. She could be appalled at behavior and simultaneously justify the same behavior in herself. James Blood complemented her motivation because she could do no wrong in his eyes. James was the type who searched his entire life for a cause, something to believe in. His first cause was saving the republic and so he fought in the Civil War with distinction. But once he witnessed the great carnage of war, he questioned his country. And then Victoria became his cause.

Erin: Did you find much research on her first female-owned brokerage firm or the newspaper she owned? Can you tell us a little more about them?

Eva: Yes, the information on her brokerage firm was gathered through the Archives of the Library of Congress newspaper collection, as well as biographies of her and Commodore Vanderbilt. There is some confusion as to whether the sisters conducted trades (or just pocketed the money), but I believed they did conduct trades because I came across articles where Victoria was in court and asked to answer for her trades. Wall Street did not keep great records during this time and they would have had to have a man conduct trades for them since women were not allowed on the trade floor. The chapter on opening the brokerage firm is based on newspaper accounts and interviews. She was frequently referred to as the “queen of finance” and was asked for financial advice by the newspapers. She also advertised in Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper The Revolution.

You can find many of the issues of the “Woodhull and Claflin” weekly here: http://www.iapsop.com/archive/materials/woodhull_and_claflins_weekly/

There is a wonderful scene in My Wife and I by Harriet Beecher Stowe in which the character “Audacia Dangyereyes” which is based on Woodhull is going door-to-door “browbeating” men into subscribing to her newspaper and I imagine Victoria doing just that. The paper’s motto was “Progress! Free Thought! Untrammeled Lives!” So many characters in the book had newspapers back then, that I think of newspapers being what blogs are not. Susan B. Anthony, George Francis Train (for a short time), Henry Ward Beecher, and Victoria all had competing papers. Victoria had a good subscriber base (I believe it was 3000) in that she was also President of the Spiritualists and received support from them, and she was a leader in the Communist movement. Victoria was the first American to publish The Communist Manifesto in English which I think is remarkable for a Vanderbilt protégé.

A character that I do not discuss in the novel is Stephen Pearl Andrews who was her editor. He introduced Victoria to communism and other liberal thoughts. He was a brilliant man and wrote several of the articles in the newspaper.

Woodhull paper

Erin: How after all these many years have women lost such power as some of these women from that time period exuded?

Eva: I don’t know if we have lost power or if we are just more complacent and stratified. Victoria and Susan had a whole host of issues to fight for that affected women at every socio-economic level. I think many women in the middle or upper classes do not feel as affected by the challenges that women in the lower classes face and are therefore satisfied.

And there is something to be said in having a central, consistent leader. Women then had Susan B. Anthony who carried the same message, lobbied for the vote, for 60 years until her death. I cannot think of one woman that the majority of women would support or one central piece of legislation that the majority of women would work towards.

Erin: Why do you call your website “Rebellious Times?” What does this say about the Reconstruction period you study in your efforts to publicize Victoria Woodhull?

Eva: The website name is a play on the fact that so many people then owned and published a newspaper as well as the number of people who were trying to fight the government and remake the laws. Historians seem to dismiss Reconstruction as a big failure for this country, but I’m awe inspired that so many risked everything to start these vital conversations around the role of women, former slaves, the laborers, and immigrants in this country. It’s true that we did not see life improve overnight for those outside the political process, but this time period started the conversation on who we want to be as a country.

Erin: How long did it take you to write your book after compiling your research? Has it been well-received now since so much time has passed or is it still a taboo topic?

Eva: I wrote the movie script first which was really a helpful tool for the novel. Between the script and the book it took about eighteen months. The novel has been out for a month and it has been well-received. The Historical Novel Society just published a fantastic review.

I do get a few emails from readers who think it is wrong that I included the scene of Victoria being raped by her father, but I feel that the incident was integral to Victoria’s life and that sexual abuse is important to discuss. It is also indicative of that time period. In the 1880s, one-third of all prosecuted rapes were against girls from 1-9 years old. It’s just disgusting and heartbreaking to think about.

Erin comments: I completely AGREE with you putting that part in, how else would we know how deeply she was hurt and why she fought so hard for what she fought for? We should not cover these things up and make it easy for it to keep occurring still to this day. I’m glad you put it in, in my opinion.

Erin: You like to travel. Did you travel when researching your book? If so, where?  Where else have been you really enjoyed? Finally, where is somewhere you have on your bucket list?

Eva: I only traveled the Internet in doing research for this book, although I will be traveling for the sequel. I enjoy visiting Europe although I haven’t been since before the kids were born. I did study at Oxford for a year which was the experience of a lifetime. Italy, the French Riviera, and Greece are my favorite destinations.

Erin: You like reading too. What books do you like to read for pleasure? What are some good books you’d recommend?

Eva: I enjoy a wide variety of books. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite books. Right now I’m reading West With the Night by Beryl Markham. And I’m also reading Henry James for he wrote one novel and one short story with a character modeled after Victoria. For light reading I love anything by Anne Lamott or David Sedaris.

Erin comments: Henry James is amazing. I’ll look into those.

Erin: Where can anyone find more books or information on Victoria Woodhull?

Eva: The Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress is a wonderful resource for newspaper articles. You can find Victoria’s newspapers at: http://www.iapsop.com/archive/materials/woodhull_and_claflins_weekly/

And Amazon has a great selection of biographies on Victoria Woodhull including Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel, Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith, The Scarlet Sisters by Myra McPherson, The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull by Lois Beachy Underhill.

The only book that adequately explains Victoria’s relationship to early American communism is: The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition.

And then Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin also published their own books of speeches. These do not provide autobiographical information but you can read what they said about issues at the time.

Erin: The ending of your book is not the ending for Victoria. Do you have a second book planned?

Eva: Yes, I am writing the sequel! And I’m having so much fun with it. I had to take some time to wrap my head around why Victoria does some of the things she did during the second part of her life but after research I’m starting to understand her better. The second book is really about her struggling with her identity in terms of who she is versus who she wants to be. She is being harassed by those in England who are appalled by her political stances and she has to choose if she wants to continue to fight for women or if she simply wants to retire and be happy.

Erin comments: I look forward to it!

Erin: Have you thought of other women in history you’d like to write about? If so, who? If not, why?

Eva: So many books I want to write! After my sequel to this one, I’d like to go back in time and write a book on Susan B. Anthony. She started fighting for equal pay in 1848! And we’re still not there! The sacrifices she made and the conflict she must have felt between her religion and her sexuality all make for a compelling story. I’d also like to write about Belva Lockwood, another female presidential candidate that Anthony did not support! And I’d like to write a book about the Beecher family. I touch on many of them in this book, but taken together they made immense contributions to this county. And by the time I have all that finished I may be ready to retire. HA!

Erin: Thanks so much for joining me, Eva. It was my pleasure learning about your work and your book. I’m glad you decided to make Victoria a place in history. Best of luck with your new endeavors and please come back in the future! More tea before you head out?

Eva: It’s been a real pleasure! I’ll have a cup to go. Thank you for hosting, you are the hostess with the mostess!

Erin: Thank you! Keep me updated on your next book!

02_The Renegade Queen

A Lovely Cover

The Renegade Queen (Rebellious Times Book 1)

by Eva Flynn

Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Omega Press
eBook & Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History

Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.

She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.

He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.

Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.

Who were they?

This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.

Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.

It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.

But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.

When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.

Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

About the Eva Flynn, Author

03_Eva FlynnEva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.

Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at eva@rebellioustimes.com, and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/therenegadequeenblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheRenegadeQueenBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #VictoriaWoodhull

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @EvaFlyn

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Absorbing and Visual: Seventh Book in Graham Saga Time Slip Series to the 17th Century

01_Whither Thou Goest

Review~

Let me start this review by saying that if you don’t follow this blog, this is the sixth review (not counting the guest articles and interviews) that I’ve written for Anna Belfrage about historical novels in her Graham Saga Series–the latest being the seventh book (I missed reviewing book one!) called Whither Thou Goest.

I have to say, I’ve grown quite fond of reviewing Anna’s books every six months or so. I feel very possessive of the characters in her books, with their quite strength, devotion, loyalty, love, and most of all humor. The humor and courage that Anna’s main time-slip character Alexandra Lind exudes over hundreds and hundreds of pages reminds me now of Anna (and she’ll either love or hate I said that–but she’s extremely strong and super funny herself). I can’t imagine not having Alex and Matthew in my life, so I pleasantly urge Anna to soon enough make them immortal. Hey, it happens, it could happen!!

Since I am not the type of reviewer that regurgitates plots, as I feel you should experience them for yourself and I never want to accidentally spoil anything, what can I say in a review for a seventh book in the series? Well, speaking of plot, and that it IS the seventh book, I can tell you that no matter what adventures that Alex has been on since time-slipping back in time from 2002 to the 17th Century, where she meets her soul mate Matthew Graham, Anna has twisted, turned, and intertwined plots in such a fashion, while keeping characters and historical facts in check, with not only grace, but with flawless precision. Also, with less long-winded sentences than the one I was just compelled to write.

No seriously, she writes with a flowing ability, filled with every ounce of love she’s squeezed from herself and put onto the page. I DO think that with each book, I enjoyed her writing more and felt it increasingly absorbing, captivating, and beautiful. The details she presents with each location in time, history, or as in this book their travels (yep, back aboard a ship) make me feel as if I’ve time slipped myself and traveled back in time. In this book, Anna’s personal experiences with Latin American culture shine through. I felt as if I landed on a beach and was observing that section of the book while sipping mango juice.

With Anna’s characters, as by now Alex and Matthew are older and much of the plot surrounds their children or extended family, she creates such distinct, vivid, and dimensional characters. There are those we love and those we hate. There are the normal issues for the time periods and locations, in this seventh book they are in the Colony of Maryland, and as a reader I feel the hardships as well as the love, the heartbreak as well as the joys. But also, there are the ghosts of their past to deal with, which keeps it extra interesting.

Anna does a tremendous job of balancing that all out within her novels, but especially this one in particular. And what I love most about Alex, besides her humor, is her unwavering desire to protect her children and make them happy. Second most, I love how she “keeps it real,” you know when she is hurt and why, and so does her family, but I adore their respect for her and how they appreciate her undying love and devotion. In other words, we feel her emotions are true and authentic and so her character is one that most readers can relate to easier.

As for Matthew, he does also shine in the novel, as this book’s plot takes him deep within himself to a place and time he probably wishes not to remember, as he helps his brother and nephew, at the peril and danger of himself and family. But that’s what he does, isn’t it? Always helping others? He does always somehow seem to find himself taking issues of the decade on with full speed. It’s his involvement that allows Anna to show us the social and religious undercurrents of the times they are in. I’m curious what decision he is about to make at the end of this seventh novel…ah, the suspense!

As for Matthew and Anna together, what a match made and watching their relationship and life unfold before my eyes is a pleasure. That’s why I like this title, Whither Thou Goest, as it truly is Alex’s motto to Matthew. “After all, where you go, I go, right?” said Alex.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the story line in this book about Samuel, or White Bear, who is Alex’s son that was “adopted” by a Native American tribe. It was so touching and very well-done. I appreciated her portrayal of Native Americans. It reminded me of a story in my own heritage, when my ancestor was captured by the Native Americans during the American Revolution. He lived with them for a year before escaping back to where I live now and setting up a homestead. A story is told about meeting one of his fellow tribe members years later and it still being cordial. I often wonder what it was like for him to live with them and how he felt later in life about the experience. Somehow Anna channeled not only a mother’s emotion of this to Alex, but also she handled it well from all sides–Samuel, his adopted tribe, and Matthew–giving them all a voice in the matter that seemed realistic.

Anyway, I digress. Anna has many plot points to tie-up in this novel, new plots to move forward, old vendettas and issues to resolve, as well as new ones to decipher, and I am looking forward to seeing what her next, and most likely, final novel will hold in store. She seamlessly writes each and every one in a way that you are engaged and moved along in the story without any hindrance or comment. That’s why I think as I reader I most feel as if I am walking in a new place myself, removing myself from my world as I know it, and entering into a new adventure. I do hope she continues on with the series though, through the Graham children, if I must be selfish.

Anna writes Whither Thou Goest with flowing pen, flawless structure and sentences, intriguing and engaging plot, dimensional characters filled with emotion and authenticity, and gorgeous imagery. This is an excellent series worth the money so you should splurge on the entire set, as you’ll want to read this series from the start.

Whither Thou Goest, Synopsis~

01_Whither Thou GoestPublication Date: November 1, 2014
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip
Series: The Graham Saga

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

03_Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates, and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half-grown, the house is at times eerily silent, and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/whitherthougoestblogtour/

Hashtags: #WhitherThouGoestBlogTour #GrahamSaga #Historical #TimeSlip

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Chatting with Jodi Lew-Smith on American History, Flax, and Constructing Plot and Characters

Today, I am chatting with Jodi Lew-Smith, author of her debut novel, The Clever Mill Horse, which showcases American History, the history of flax and the flax-mill, and societal issues. We talk about how she writes, makes time to write, and since she lives with over 100 apple trees, who from history she’d choose to apple pick with her. And nope, it wasn’t George Washington!

Hi, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! You’ve just released The Clever Mill Horse this year, as your debut work. What’s that been like for you?

Jodi: It’s been challenging in every possible way and a dream come true. Mostly it’s wonderful to at last talk about my book with readers.  So thank you for asking!

Erin: I appreciate you stopping by during your busy blog tour. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Come in and let’s put on the tea pot. What type of tea do you enjoy? Or perhaps you’d like another drink? I’ll be having some new gingerbread tea, since it’s that time of year.

Jodi: Is there another drink besides tea? I think it says somewhere in The Clever Mill Horse that tea cures all ills—and I stand by that statement. In my house we order bulk teas from the Upton Tea Company and the arrival of a new box is a day of celebration. I generally take mine black and pretty basic, but gingerbread does sound quite festive. . . I’d love some.

Erin:  Wonderful! I’ll set up the drinks on the coffee table. Have a seat in my comfy library….one of those comfy reading chair over there…and we’ll chat. I’m interested in asking you about your writing.

Q: You have a job that is, of course, considered scientific. Have you always used the right side of your brain too, or was it calling to let the creative out?! When did you first nab the writing bug?

A: I think I’ve always had the writing bug. I majored in English in college and dabbled in writing,  but I wasn’t really ready— I had a strong gut feeling that I was too young, that I had to live more before I had anything to say. Science was the backup option and I’ve always found it fun. I’m grateful that I was able to do that while I was “living more” and was able to find a niche that I continue to enjoy, but I don’t have the same passion for it that I have for writing. I sure do like plants, though.

Q:  You must also have a love for history. What inspiration did you have to write about a time when the flax-mill might have been used if the cotton mill wouldn’t have been more productive (or maybe it was the cotton was easier to mill….)? Are you interested in the history of inventions?

A: No! I kicked myself many times for finding a @$^!#*#^% machine to write about! I do love history, however, and I love agriculture, and somehow the flax engine emerged in my mind and refused to leave.  I’m drawn to flax as a plant because it’s useful in so many ways and also amazingly beautiful both in flower and as a golden field of stalks. I think the machine that made it easier to mill into linen was a natural extension of that.

Q: Why was it an important turning point in American history that the cotton mill was able to produce cloth faster than a flax-mill? Can you explain how this impacted life and commerce?

A: The flax plant grows best in cooler climates—such as the Northeastern states of America—whereas the cotton plant requires heat, such as is found in the South. At the time of the book, farm people in the North grew flax to make their summer clothing from linen, while people in the South used cotton for that purpose. The fact that the cotton gin made it cheap and easy to process cotton meant the cotton textile industry was starting to mushroom, which (apparently) required an increased slave labor force. If flax had become equally cheap and easy to produce—via a machine such as the one in The Clever Mill Horse—this might have introduced competition for cotton that would have depressed the commodity price and lessened the impetus to import more slaves. Which might also, theoretically, have lessened the tensions that led to the Civil War.

As it was, cotton continued to get cheaper while linen (from flax) continued to remain difficult to grow and process, until eventually people in the North ceased growing it and bought cotton instead. But if the machine had been invented, imagine the magnificent fields of flax we might have seen!

Erin Comments: It’s so interesting. I was speaking to my mom about your book over Thanksgiving. Then, she was telling me how my grandmother had some fabric made from flax and she found out that many farmers in the area I grew up (and her family farmed) in Polk, Ohio, grew flax!! I love finding all these connections. Now, I ‘m curious why they quit growing flax.

Q: Your book also forged past a plot about a flax-mill invention, and into many societal issues, such as racism between settlers and Native Americans, domestic violence, rape, and more. How did you have such a strong handle on these issues in order to write about them with such depth of feeling?

A: You ask tough questions, Erin! I’m not sure I know the answer to this but I think it lies somewhere within my love for our country. As do many people, I have a deep and abiding passion for America that doesn’t quite rest easy with the societal issues you mention. It’s all mixed up together into a colorful and spicy blend that’s impossible to separate. Which means I had to write about all of it if I wanted to write about any of it. I hope that begins to answer your question?

Q: You have some great characters in your book. Which character was your favorite and which one was the hardest to write? Why?

A: I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say Ella was my favorite, however I’m awfully fond of Jenny, Janet, and Zeke. I’m also fond of Pete but he was BY FAR the hardest one to write. I wrote and re-wrote his dialogue many times over, and I’m certain it’s still not right.

Q: Do you write with an outline, since you have so many twists, turns, and plot points, or did you employ a tactic many use, and write as your mind led you? After you state which, tell us why and how it worked for you?

A: The plotter v. pantser question!  The short answer is that early on I tried to be a pantser (i.e. write by the seat of your pants—no outline) and it went horribly wrong. I wrote many thousands of words that went mostly nowhere. By that experiment I learned that I am most definitely a plotter—I need an outline. That said, I make certain to remain unwedded to the outline in cases where the story takes itself somewhere else. I think of the outline as a map that shows you where you’re going but doesn’t show you which route to take or what any of it actually LOOKS like. That you have to discover along the way.  

Q: What did you learn most about the process of writing a novel now that you’ve written your debut? What do you feel is the biggest success you had and what will help you grow for when you write the sequel?

A: I think the question you just asked above regarding “to outline or not to outline”  is one thing I learned best in the course of writing my first book. I hadn’t worked out my own process yet. The other major piece was simply the long and arduous process of finding my own voice for fiction. I’ve done so much writing in other arenas—from scientific papers to poetry—that it took me a number of tries to find the voice that felt right for me. Not a character voice, but more a style, a way of crafting scenes and characters that felt most my own.

Q: With another career, and a family, how did you allocate time to be dedicated to writing your book? How long did it take and how did you keep on track?

A: It was hard and it took a long time. (Ten years!) At first I could only steal an hour at a time, usually after my kids were in bed. But I’m a morning person so I need daytime hours to have a prayer of doing good work. As my kids grew I was able to carve out little blocks of hours for writing, and over time those have grown to a few days a week. I don’t follow the writer’s rule of writing every day because it would make me grumpy with my family and I’m not willing to do that. But having such limited time actually helps me because I can’t procrastinate. Use it or lose it. And it’s the same with my other career—I have limited time so I do my best to use it well.  It helps that I’m a chronic multi-tasker! I stay on track because I’m stubborn and writing is something that’s not optional for me. I can’t  NOT do it. (How’s that for a double negative that says what a positive cannot?)

Q: If you could have one person from history come and help you to pick apples from your home orchard, who would it be? Also, what would you hope to talk about?

A: Another tough question! For some reason the person who comes to mind is Ulysses S. Grant. I read a recent biography that left me fascinated with the enigma of a man who was failing at everyday life—could hardly feed his family before the war—but then had the confidence and strategic vision to step in and take command of a massive operation. I’d want to ask him where that spine came from. (But you can be certain a man that humble is unlikely to tell me!)

Q: Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, what was your favorite food from any feast you attended or made? What were you most thankful for this year?

A: Pecan pie. It’s a turkey-day treat once a year and what I save room for. Mostly I am thankful every day for the people in my small-town community. We are one another’s accumulated wealth.

Q: I know you are working on a sequel to The Clever Mill Horse, correct? What else do you hope to write in the future?

A: Correct! I’m working on the second book in what I expect to be a five-book series that will cover roughly the next ten years. After that I have no idea what I’ll actually write, but I have a long list of ideas for things I might write!

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: I send a monthly newsletter with articles on historical topics that I think are fun. I’m also happy to get emails at jodi@jodilewsmith.com.

Erin: Thank you so very much for coming by and talking about your writing and your work today, Jodi! I wish you all the best success in the future with your writing!

Jodi:  A huge thank you right back for hosting this interview and for writing such personal and thoughtful questions—you really made me think hard to answer them! I very much hope our paths cross again some time. Best of luck to you as well.

Erin: Sure, happy to hear or host you here anytime!

The Clever Mill Horse, Synopsis~

01_The Clever Mill Horse CoverPublication Date: August 15, 2014
Caspian Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 424

Genre: Historical Fiction

A young woman’s gift could weave together the fabric of a nation…

1810, upstate New York. 21-year-old Ella Kenyon is happiest gliding through the thick woods around her small frontier town, knife in hand, her sharp eyes tracking game. A gift for engineering is in her blood, but she would gladly trade it for more time in the forest. If only her grandfather’s dying wish hadn’t trapped her into a fight she never wanted.

Six years ago, Ella’s grandfather made her vow to finish his life’s work: a flax-milling machine that has the potential to rescue her mother, brother, and sister from the brutality of life with her drunkard father. The copious linen it yields could save her struggling town, subjugate the growing grip of southern cotton. Or it could be Ella’s downfall. If she’s not quick enough, not clever enough to succeed, more than her own life rests in the balance…

Praise for The Clever Mill Horse

“Jodi Lew-Smith’s The Clever Mill Horse is that rarest of all contemporary novels: an authentically old-fashioned adventure story, in all the best senses. Full of drama, humor, plot surprises, and, best of all, memorable characters, The Clever Mill Horse had me hooked from page one. Best of all, there’s a sequel coming. I can’t wait.” – Howard Frank Mosher, author of Where the Rivers Flow North

“In this delightful debut novel set in the early 19th century, a young woman fights to patent her flax-milling machine. . .An assured, cleverly plotted piece of historical fiction with an irrepressible female protagonist.” – Kirkus Reviews

“. . .intricately plotted and exceedingly well paced. . . filled with danger, science, and suspense, the story rings true with historical and natural detail. . . a complete and finely polished first novel.” – Foreword Reviews

Buy the Book~

Amazon
Nook
Google Play
Kobo

Author Jodi Lew-Smith~

02_Jodi Lew-Smith AuthorJodi Lew-Smith lives on a farm in northern Vermont with her patient husband, three wonderfully impatient children, a bevy of pets and farm animals, and 250 exceedingly patient apple trees which, if they could talk, would suggest that she stop writing and start pruning. Luckily they’re pretty quiet.

With a doctorate in plant genetics, she also lives a double life as a vegetable breeder at High Mowing Seeds. She is grateful for the chance to do so many things in one lifetime, and only wishes she could do them all better. Maybe in the next life she’ll be able to make up her mind.

For more about Jodi and about the lives and world of the characters in the novel, visit her website or blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theclevermillhorseblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheCleverMillHorseBlogTour #HistoricalFiction

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December 1941 Changed America: How and Why? Historical Non-Fiction Book Surrounding Month during Pearl Harbor

In his newest book, author Craig Shirley takes on the important topic of the month surrounding Pearl Harbor.  December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World is a book that delves, as no other book has done previously, into how the days leading up to Pearl Harbor during WWII and the days after, completely changed American society as it formerly was known.

Taking numerous, if not thousands, of newspaper and magazine articles and linking them together in research allowed Shirley to give readers a clearer picture of the way that life in 1941 America was over-turned as women went to work, cities grew, and paranoia over Japanese abounded. The mood of country shifted as the Great Depression came to an end and the family lifestyle completely changed forever.  American culture changed forever.

However, some of his facts seem a little off and I wonder why his editor didn’t fact check. Though this is of course a non-fiction book, it also seems to have quite a bit of his personal thoughts in it, which I suppose he is allowed to voice since it is his book. However, it might offend those leaning more to the left. It is all how you take it, I suppose.  I might not agree with it all either in regards to conservative vs. leftist politics, but it is his opinion and readers shouldn’t take it all as fact. He’s a conservative person, this truly comes through in his book. I won’t judge him for that.

The book jacket cover gives a good explanation of the book’s agenda:  “Relying on daily news reports from around the country and recently declassified ed government papers, Shirley sheds light on the crucial diplomatic exchanges leading up to the attack, the policies on internment of Japanese living in the U.S. after the assault, and the near-total overhaul of the U.S. economy for war.

Shirley paints a compelling portrait of pre-war American culture: the fashion, the celebrities, the pastimes. And his portrait of America at war is just as vivid: heroism, self-sacrifice, mass military enlistments, national unity and resolve, and the prodigious talents of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley aimed at the Axis Powers, as well as the more troubling price-controls and rationing, federal economic takeover, and censorship.”

The book is thick in page number, as well as in research and details and gives the reader not just a glimpse, but an abundance of information regarding this pivotal era in our history. Teenagers and middle-aged persons as myself could never begin to understand completely the emotions and life-changing events surrounding WWII and the events of December 1941. Our lives are so completely different because of them, but as our lives are completely different in this modern age due to that, we also have a hard time relating to the structure of life as it was during WWII. This poignant novel is so very important to not only readers of history, but to every generation who did not live through this era and does not have grandparents still living and able to pass down the stories of this time.

The book is intricately well-written and Shirley is knowledgable on his topic. I appreciate him writing this book as it will forever condense history of December 1941 in one volume and be a history book for scholars and students to look back on years from now to understand this most pivotal event in American History.

For fans of history, and especially WWII era, I would definitely recommend this book from that perspective.  As a reader, you will be able to feel the emotions of the people and the country as they are on the brink of a change in all business, economics, government, and lifestyle structures.

To see a YouTube video with the author, a “peek” into the book, and more information about the book, click on this link to Thomas Nelson publishers:  http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/product_detail.asp?sku=9781595554574.

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I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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