Tag Archives: colonial america

Review of Puritan Witch, Circa Salem Witch Trials, and Interview with Author Peni Jo Renner

Today I have a review of Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebeckah Eames, by Peni Jo Renner, as well as an interview with her about her writing. Check it out if you are a fan of Colonial History, Salem Witch Trails, or novels based on family history. And in the black circle on the cover….that is really her ancestor’s signature!



I just finished a short novel called Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebeckah Eames, by Peni Jo Renner, which was a true-life account of the authors ninth great grandmother. I enjoy colonial-era literature quite a bit, though most traditional publishers won’t yet publish them, so anytime I see a book come along from this era I am more than happy to take a read. Generally, though most of self-published, they are well-researched and well-written as this one was also.

Taking place in 1692 Massachussetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials, Renner’s debut novel follows Eames’ life and struggles in this tumultuous time period of history. As Eames is wrongly imprisoned during the trials, what she and her fellow captives had to endure was enough to make you feel nauseous, let alone those women who were actually killed.  The portion of the book dealing with the imprisonment and death sentences were emotional, especially as Rebecca lived through the dreadful day.

The novel is authentic in feel, the history fairly accurate, and as I already noted, the research was obviously done. With it being based on the author’s ancestral line, it makes it feel even more real. The dialogue was realistic for the time period and yet still easy to read and you felt connected to most of the characters and their feelings. I did appreciate how Renner gave us an account of how all family members and other felt during this time, not just those sentenced.

It’s a very quick read, at just over 200 pages. With such depth of history, I felt that she could have easily added more intrigue or background information and details in order to not only tell her family member’s tale but to educate reader on the Salem Witch Trails. I hope she considers giving her novel more room to grow the next time around and adding more character developments and historical information. However, if you are looking for a fast read you can breeze through in a night due to length and subject matter, this novel would allow for that.

Renner’s writing style flows well and is easy to read. It’s absorbing and harrowing. It isn’t like reading Katherine Howe (one of my fave authors who wrote The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane), but it is a definite addition you’ll want for your book library if you enjoy colonial history. I enjoy family history and genealogy myself, tracing my ancestors back to 1600s early America as well, and think it was amazing of her to put her family’s history into words.  I look forward to checking out Renner’s next book.

Interview, Peni Jo Renner~

Hi Peni! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am pleased to have you here with us to chat about your book and life as a writer. It seems your book, The Puritan Witch, has been well-received in the indie book world. What has this been like for you, as you sit back and take it all in?

Peni: Thanks, Erin. I’m happy to be here! This is just a dream come true for me, having my book published.

Erin: I look forward to talking about it with you more. Let’s have a seat. May I offer you a drink? I’ve been offering so many hot drinks in Ohio as we had that horribly cold winter, but suddenly it is 80 degrees, so I’m having peach iced tea myself. What can I get for you?

Peni: I’ll take blackberry merlot if you’ve got it. 🙂

Erin: I’ll pour a glass! Let’s get started with some questions!

Q: The Puritan Witch is your first novel, I believe, and based on a family story. What was the inspiration behind your novel? Can you tell us about the family history behind it?

A: I have always been interested in genealogy, and I took advantage of a free 2-week trial offered by www.ancestry.com . I met some cousins online I didn’t know I had, and one of them—her name is Sandi—and I really hit it off. We started emailing and chatting often, and she told me how she has come across some very interesting ancestors. One of them was Rebecca Blake Eames, who happened to be one of the over 140 accused and/or imprisoned during the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. It had been over 20 years since I tried to write anything, so I commented to Sandi, “It’s a shame I don’t write anymore; that’d make a great historical novel!” To which Sandi replied, “So write one,” or something to that effect. In any case, it was all that I needed to rekindle my passion for writing and—here we are!

Q: There also seems to be a resurgence of interest into the Salem Witch Trials. The question is raised if magic truly was being performed or if the acts were innocent traditional rituals and apothecary treatments. What do you believe? What types of things did you uncover in your research?

A: Personally, I don’t think there was any actual witchcraft involved in colonial Massachusetts. I think some bored girls were afraid of getting into trouble and so accused their slave woman of bewitching them. Then other girls followed suit to get the attention of adults. This followed to the adults accusing one another, until it got dangerously ridiculous. Some of the court documents and testimonies do leave me scratching my head because they’re so bizarre, like witnesses claiming the “afflicted girls” could contort their bodies in ways that weren’t humanly possible; maybe one of them was double-jointed? There was also the ergotism theory I considered exploring. It’s been suggested that the local crops had been infected by the fungus, ergot, and if ergot is consumed, it can produce hallucinations. For a time I considered using this angle to explain the hysteria, until I spoke to a very helpful archivist in North Andover, Massachusetts. She gave very compelling reasons why the ergotism theory couldn’t have been the reason.

Q: How did you conduct your research? Where did you find information? Did you use books, Internet, travel, or all of the above? Any techniques you found that you might share?

A: I used all of the above! It had been a long time since I’d studied the witchcraft trials so I had to brush up on my facts. I scoured the Internet and read every book I could find. I was fortunate to travel to Boxford, Massachusetts (Rebecca’s hometown) in August 2012. I spoke to the librarian and town archivist and—most exciting of all—I got to visit Rebecca’s grave! It was really important to me to visit the area so I could get a feel for the place.

Q: What do you hope that readers will take away after they read your novel? What issues do you raise, social warnings, or emotional concerns? In other words, do readers learn something about history from your book on an emotional level or is it strictly historical education?

A: Oh, this certainly isn’t “strictly historical education!” I’m not writing a textbook here. I hope the reader will get emotionally attached to the characters and really feel for them. Maybe the reader will stop and consider the truth of a matter before jumping to hasty conclusions. I want to show that greed and corruption is as old as humanity itself, but so is familial love.

Q: What was your most challenging part of writing your novel? What was your biggest success to you personally?

A: The legal process. I would have liked to had more detail with the court scenes, for example, but since I didn’t have the facts, I left things a little vague.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring historical authors? If so, what would you say to them encourage them or do you have any tidbits of knowledge, you know, those that you said “I wish someone would have told me that…!”?

A: What discouraged me from writing for so long was rejection from traditional publishers, so my advice is, go the self-publishing route! I did have to pay a few bucks to get my dream realized, but it was SO worth it.

Q: What other time periods or people of history are you interested in? Will you write a book surrounding the places or people?

A: Well, the colonial period wouldn’t have been my first choice to write about, I guess. The mid- to late- nineteenth century always appealed to me (GONE WITH THE WIND is my all-time favorite novel, just FYI). I always liked to learn how people did things “back then.” Maybe colonial is “my period,” since I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to Puritan Witch, and then researching for a third book to take place in 1689 New Hampshire, I might just stick with the colonial thing for awhile.

Q: Are you interested in writing other types of fiction? If so, what would you write? Do you have any story ideas already percolating or are you writing a second book as we speak?

A: Writing historical fiction was always my dream, and I seem to have answered your second question already…:)

Q: What authors do you read yourself? Who inspires you? Who do you learn from? Who makes you feel lost in a far off land?

A: Like I mentioned earlier, Gone With The Wind is my all-time favorite novel. I have read it over twenty times and each time it’s like revisiting an old friend, so Margaret Mitchell is a big inspiration. I also like James Alexander Thom, Ken Follett and Dan Brown. I try to analyze how they work their craft and get those images so vivid in my head.

Q: If you could tell a room full of people three words that describe you, what might those be?

A: Oh gosh, I dunno. Descriptions depend so much on the observer…think I’ll pass!

Q: Great question of the day given your subject matter, have you watched the new show SALEM on WGN?? I don’t get that channel but watched online on Hulu!

A: My husband Dave and I watched the premier episode, and I gotta tell you, my expectations weren’t all that high. First of all, due to my research, I spent the whole hour finding inaccuracies in Puritan life (i.e. Men and women did not sit together during church services). I realize they gotta do what they gotta do for ratings, but it’s just so far-out I don’t plan to watch any other episodes.

Erin comments: Ah, I liked it! Regardless of inaccuracies, it was a fun show to watch.

Q: Where can readers and writers connect with you? Where can they learn more about the Salem Witch Trials?

A: They can Like my Facebook author’s page: http://www.facebook.com/PuritanWitch and email me at puritanwitch@gmail.com. They can find out all sorts of information by just Googling “Salem Witch Trials.” I would have loved utilizing the Internet when I was younger. And hopefully someday I’ll have a website but I gotta figure out how to do that first!

Erin comments: I am sure anyone can find anything by doing an Internet search, but most authors are happy to share a few resources they’ve found that they think are great for learning about a subject.

Erin: Thank you so much, Peni, for joining us today. I wish you the best of luck with your book and upcoming work. I’d love to have you back for a guest post one day when you have the time.

Peni: Thank you, Erin. I enjoyed it very much. I’ll be happy to guest post again when my second novel is out. ‘Bye, now!

Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, Synopsis~

????????????????????????Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Formats: Ebook, Hardcover, Paperback

On a cold night in 1692, two young girls are caught up in the divining games of a slave woman-and then begin to act very strangely when the game goes wrong. Suddenly, Salem Village is turned upside down as everyone fears that witches may be involved. Six months later, as news of the girls’ strange behavior becomes known, fear and suspicion overwhelm a nearby farming community, pitting neighbors against neighbors and turning friends into enemies. When Rebecca Eames makes one careless utterance during a verbal attack on her family, she is falsely accused of witchcraft. After her fate is decided by three magistrates, Rebecca must endure a prison sentence during which she and her fellow captives have no choice but to valiantly struggle to find humanity and camaraderie among dire conditions. In this novel based on a true story, a woman wrongly imprisoned during the seventeenth-century witchcraft trials comes full circle where she must determine if she can somehow resume her life, despite all she has endured.

Praise for Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames~

“Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames is a story of the fear, suspicion, and accusations as they permeate the surrounding communities. The narration was exquisite, really painting a picture in my head and bringing to life the language of the Puritans much better than it usually is done. I loved that it was based on a true story and that the story really expands on a piece of the darkest of American history. Such a cool read!” – Katelyn Hensel, Readers’ Favorite

“Elegantly written, meticulously researched, and historically accurate, the author’s work rings true. … Renner’s vast talent as a writer is enhanced by the fact that she’s telling the story of her own family, completely captivating from beginning to end.” – Kelly Z. Conrad, award-winning author of Shaman

“In the colonial-era tale Puritan Witch, the plight of Rebecca Eames and her family plays out against the backdrop of one of the most intriguing periods in American history.” – Julie Castillo, writer and editor

Buy the Book

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

About the Author, Peni Jo Renner~

03_Peni Jo RennerPeni Renner is the author of “Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames,” an award-winning historical novel based on the true-life account of Peni’s 9th great grandmother. The book is Renner’s first published work, and follows Eames’ life and struggles in 1692 Massachussetts during the Salem Witchcraft Trials.

Writing historical fiction has always been a lifelong dream of mine. I was discouraged for many years after receiving multiple rejection slips, and turned to other creative outlets like crocheting, quilting and cross-stitch for many years. Then I met a 3rd cousin of mine online who is also into geneology and history. She told me we shared a common ancestor who was involved in the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, and her story had never been told. My love of writing was rekindled and I began to research this ancestor, Rebecca Blake Eames. In August of 2012 I had the privilege of visiting her grave in Boxford, Massachusetts.

After months and months of research, writing, rewriting and revising, Puritan Witch came into being, featuring a lovely sketch done by my sister-in-law, Jane Sisk.

I have several other story ideas I am working on at the moment, all pertaining to interesting ancestors my 3rd cousin has introduced me to.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Facebook Page. You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

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

Tour Hashtags: #PuritanWitchTour #PeniJoRenner #VirtualBookTour

Twitter: @PeniJoRenner @hfvbt

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Anna Belfrage Brings her Graham Saga into late 1600s New World Drama with Book Four, A Newfound Land

Anna Belfrage’s cast of characters are unforgettable in her Graham Saga historical fiction series of books. I’ve read novels 1-3 (Rip in the Veil #1, Like Chaff in the Wind #2, and The Prodigal Son #3) and reviewed books 2 and 3.  To start if you haven’t read the series, you can read my review of Like Chaff in the Wind by clicking HERE and my review of The Prodigal Son HERE. I’ve had an interview with Belfrage you can read HERE. Anna is funny as just about anyone I know, her humor is priceless and I can imagine that she herself emulates the strength and humor found in her main protagonist, Alex(andra).  She’s even wrote a guest post about how her characters take over life that you can find HERE.

Now that I’ve given you a ton of back content to read, I hope you’ll stick around for my review of the recently published book four in the series, which she called A Newfound Land.  Her characters of Matthew and Alex Graham, and family, head to the New World for woodland outskirts set near the Maryland colony in the 1600s, after leaving Scotland to get away from all the religious strife.

A Newfound Land

I love these covers!! Love the feathers in this one!

I highly recommend for the best reading experience possible that at least book two (Like Chaff in the Wind) and three (The Prodigal Son) are read before starting four, though starting with the first (A Rip in the Veil) and continuing would be best as readers learn about Alex slipping back into the past (from the 2000s to the 1600s).

I feel book two can be read stand alone, but as a reader delves further into the series, I feel the story would lose its value to most readers if not read in its entirety. Definitely, I do not recommend reading book four without the background of at least two and three.  I believe books two and three had more action, which will grab readers more and make them feel a connection to the series, and by reading those they can understand what the family went through at various times, why they relate to each other as they do, the decisions they’ve made, and they get a more well-rounded view. I think readers would have no idea what is going on with Alex’s son Ian if they hadn’t read book three, or why her past comes back around (and why it matters) in book four without reading the previous books.

I also believe that book four is more of a “breather” of some sorts as opposed to all the action and drama in books two and three. Alex and Matthew are 14 years post book three now and learning to live with the hardships of a newly formed territory and having to live off the land.  Not only is Alex a new mom many times over, she is still getting pregnant. She is still her free thinking and impulsive self, but less so. I find her a bit more reserved (unless her children or a woman in need are involved), more in tune with preserving her current family–husband and children–and being content in her new time period that includes, of course, none of the luxury of our millennium from whence she came, but also none of their former life either. Life is hard in the New World and we as readers see how it has hardened and aged them both. Not to mention we get to see the drama that ensues as other people keep dramatically dropping back into their lives. I thought a little that maybe it seemed far-fetched that they all would just “happen” to meet up here in the New World, but I see how Anna was trying to bring the past back into the story and for all unresolved to be…well, resolved. It worked with the story, because the life of Alex and Matthew, of course, is nothing BUT surprises.

Though the plot seemed more laid back to me, it did move quickly from one “happening” to the next. There was always something going on with someone. A mystery, a crime, a family occurrence–something sad, something happy. Things moved along sometimes too slow while also moving too fast. Does that even make sense? Maybe I feel it lacked some focus on part of a story line. I did enjoy that Belfrage brought into the story, due to the time period, the historical aspect of indentured servants, slaves, rogue residents, and the Native American conflicts.  I liked how she showcased Alex and Matthew (even though both from different times) to be NOT racist or biased. Her portrayal of Matthew to be a strong man of the time, but one that was fair and just in his treatment of others was phenomenal. I really liked how she told the underdog’s story and how he always considers her opinion in matters of major decisions.

I am more of a subtle romance person…i.e. a light touch of hand or a look…so Belfrage goes a little overboard for me this time in terms of their sexual relations. Maybe she wanted to prove how much they still want each other even though they are now around 40 (which is old for that time period!) and fertile. But they would be so overworked and fatigued, I would think! I found myself skipping those parts. Due to her superb writing and characterization over all her books, I can already imagine in my own mind how they are with each other without all the detail. But for other romance readers, it might not be a big deal. I am more a historical reader though, than reading for the steamy romance.  With them, and others in the story, it did seems to center a little too much on sex relations between many parties, mainly in the woods, but maybe that is because back then that was most of the entertainment they had? ha!

Overall I think this book read a lot like a journal depicting their lives or a narrator sharing each day of their current lives with us. I am a huge fan of colonial period history and I enjoyed that aspect of it best. For fans of Matthew and Alex’s life, this gave even more great detail into their personalities and how they conform to any situation and learn to survive. It wrapped up past questions and haunts and moved the family into the future and a new life. For all those reasons it worked within the Saga. It was almost like a bridge. At least I am hoping so and look forward to what new adventures lie in Belfrage’s next Graham series books, of which I think there will be a few more.

It’s a great set to own in its entirety as this family is one that you’ll grow close too and not soon forget. If you love historical fiction with great character development–a strong female lead who is incorrigible, sarcastic, loving, and determined, then The Graham Saga is a set to start on from the beginning (when you learn why she slipped into the past in the first place). The series covers many different locales, challenges, and historical issues that make it a great social read. I find myself many times laughing out loud at Alex when I read Belfrage’s books. I love that about them!

A Newfound Land, Synopsis~

A Newfound LandPublication: November 1, 2013
Matador Publishing Paperback;
ISBN: 978-1781321355

It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland.  Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to  religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if  harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and  the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate  moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected  reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the  screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers  enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between  colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.

Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?

A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip  series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth  century husband, Matthew Graham.

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography~

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.  You can find many extras and more information on Books 1-3 in The Graham Saga!  You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/anewfoundlandtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #NewfoundLandTour

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The Immortal American by L.B. Joramo is a Well-Researched Colonial America Paranormal Romance

The Immortal AmericanBeing a writer and researcher herself, I am not surprised that L.B. Joramo’s The Immortal American was both well-written and nicely researched. Taking place in Colonial America during the American Revolution, I found another fiesty female character in her protagonist, Violet Buccleuch. It seems I’ve been reading alot of books lately that star wonderfully independent and intelligent women, with Violet also fitting that description.

Though educated by her Quaker father, who encouraged Violet in her actions, when she becomes the provider for her family she feels she must marry Mathew, who she’s known since they were little. He’s nice and kind and would be a good husband, but then he introduces her to his mysterious friend, Jacque and her passions begin to lie elsewhere.

What turned into a complicated situation for Violet between the two also allowed us to enjoy her characters emotional depth.  The historical aspects of the book were authentic and the dialogue well-done. Joramo obviously takes pleasure in learning about the historical aspects of the late 1700s and her knowledge shows through in her writing.

This is an entertaining historical romance with a touch of mystery that will force you to begin to turn the pages to find out Jacque’s secret and to know if it could effect Violet too. In this way, The Immortal American is not only a historical novel, but a paranormal romance too. I haven’t come across very many of these that take place during the Colonial Period in American History, so that made it a bit more original in a myriad of these types of novels.

If you like historical and paranormal romance, I would recommend you check out this book for some vacation time pool side reading. Joramo sets the reader up with some memorable characters and an entertaining plot.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with L.B. Joramo and a giveaway!


The Immortal AmericanPublication Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback; 304p
ISBN-10: 1484015924

As black clouds gather for America in 1775 Violet Buccleuch transforms from simple colonial farmer to become the Immortal American.

While Boston roars with protests, Violet Buccleuch fights to survive. The lone provider for her mother and sister, Violet knows that soon enough she must surrender to the only option a woman of 1775 has: marriage.

For two years she’s delayed a wedding to Mathew Adams, her fiancé. He’s loved her since they were children, and Violet knows he will be a good husband. But he’s gone and committed the most dangerous mistake a man can make: He’s introduced her to his friend, Jacque Beaumont, a Frenchman and a spy, a dark, dangerous man Violet can’t stop herself from wanting.

Then Violet’s life is shattered–brutality, death, and the threat of debtor’s prison surround her. Both Jacque and Mathew come to her aid–one man rescues her farm, the other rescues her heart. As the Battle of Concord rages at her door, Violet is entangled between her loyalty to Mathew, even as she’s drawn further into Jacque’s shadowy, mysterious world – perhaps a world from which there’s no return.

Author L.B. Joramo, Biography~

Lanita JoramoI live in the Big Sky state, where I write, research, and love watching my son grow. I do live a bit of a fairy tale right now. Even with all the stress of deadlines, I live in a home where birds serenade me every day, my son amazes me with his humor, and I am doing exactly what I want—writing.

For more information, please visit L.B. Joramo’s website and blog.

 Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theimmortalamericanvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #ImmortalAmericanTour

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