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Author Interview and Giveaway – The Lady with the Dark Hair – Erin Bartels

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I have for you a gorgeous dual-time book revolving around an art mystery chocked full of mostly set in Gibraltar–quite an unusual setting, not sure I’ve seen #ChristFic set there before. Welcome Erin to the Index! 

The Lady with the Dark Hair, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lady with the Dark Hair

Esther Markstrom and her artist mother have always been proud of their ancestor, painter Francisco Vella. They even run a small museum and gallery dedicated to raising awareness of his scandalously underappreciated work. But when Esther reconnects with her former art history professor, she finds her once-solid family history on shaky ground as questions arise about Vella’s greatest work–a portrait entitled The Lady with the Dark Hair.

In 1879, Catalan orphan-turned-fugitive Viviana Torrens has found sanctuary serving in the home of an aging artist in Southern France. It is in his studio that she meets Francisco Vella, a Gibraltarian merchant who sells artists’ pigments. When her past catches up to her, she is compelled to pose as Vella’s sister and join him on his travels or be deported back to Spain to stand trial. Along the way she will discover that the many parts she has been playing in order to hide her identity have far-reaching implications she never could have foreseen.

 Erin’s Website

Erin Bartels

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Questions about Erin’s Story

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The research! I have always been interested in art, both viewing and creating it. So to write a book focused on painters and painting was an absolute delight. I got to plunge myself into the biographies of female painters, both famous and (more often) obscure, and histories of particular art movements. I learned about the discovery and adoption of the pigments artists have used over the centuries (which is fascinating and occasionally horrifying stuff). I visited several special exhibits and collections of world-famous paintings and painters at top-tier museums (you know, the stuff you see in books and on posters, but the real thing). I did a lot of painting myself (more on that later).

It’s one of the things I like most about writing all of my novels: I get to go deep into subjects I’m curious and passionate about and all the while I’m also getting stuff done. Win-win.

 

Why did you choose the geographical location in which your book is set?

Much of the book, in both the past and present timelines, is set in Gibraltar, a setting I have not personally encountered in my own fiction reading. Beyond it being unique and not overdone as a setting, I chose Gibraltar for several story-based reasons. It is a crossroads of different cultures, a gateway to two seas and two continents, a geological structure that is both solid and riddled with caves and tunnels, and a piece of land that has been fought over for millennia. All of those characteristics are things I explore in my characters and the place itself becomes a metaphor and a touchpoint for my two main characters, Viviana and Esther. Its peculiar history also allowed me to consider issues of conquest, colonization, and control in both history and in my characters’ lives. I became interested in Gibraltar through conversations with a former professor of mine who is Gibraltarian, and I was able to rely on him to provide many books, conversations, and other resources that were vital to my research. I hope after reading this book you want to travel there!

 

What research did you do to make your character(s) authentic?

Beyond reading many, many books about Gibraltar, painting and painters, colors and pigments, and mental illness (one character in the story suffers from schizophrenia), I did a lot of hands-on research. For all of 2022, I painted one self-portrait a month since the story centers around a portrait and two characters (one in each timeline) paints self-portraits regularly. I shared these all on my social media channels—the failures and the successes. Though I’ve been painting since I was a child, I have been intimidated by the idea of painting people, so this was a fun, eye-opening, and ultimately successful experiment in learning how to accurately depict the human face. I also participated in a life drawing class, both as an artist and as a model, to understand what it feels like to draw a nude person or to sit for long periods, totally exposed, while strangers draw you. Oddly, it’s not as weird or uncomfortable as you might think.

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Questions about Erin’s Reading

If your job was to sell one author’s historical fiction (besides your own) which author’s wares would you want to peddle? And which is your favorite by that author?

Oddly enough, it is my job to sell other authors’ fiction! I’m a marketing copywriter for a Christian publishing house, so I get to read a lot of great books and write the back cover copy that is meant to make others want to buy the book. One of the best I’ve read is Sarah Sundin, who writes WWII historical romances. Sarah has meticulous attention to detail, but that never takes over the story. I think that is something that separates the best historical fiction from stories that are on the dry side. The best authors know how to use their research to transport you to another time and place, but they keep you focused on character and plot to drive you through the story. And Sarah Sundin is exceptionally good at this. Her When Twilight Breaks is the first in a loose trilogy (I say loose because they are standalones but there is some character crossover) along with Until Leaves Fall in Paris and The Sound of Light about American women in Europe (Munich, Paris, Copenhagen) in the early years of the war. You can’t go wrong with one of Sarah’s books.

What was the last Christian Historical Novel you read, and what was your favorite thing about it?

The last one I read is Until Our Time Comes by debut author Nicole M. Miller, which doesn’t actually release until July 2024, but you can preorder it now. What I liked about this book was that it opened up a true WWII story I knew nothing about and, in fact, had never heard of: the fight to save hundreds of Arabian horses bred at the world-famous Janów Podlaski stables in Poland from occupation by both the Russian and German armies. Since WWII is such a popular time and place to set historical fiction, it runs the danger of rehashing the same old stories. So to discover a completely new-to-me slice of the WWII pie was unexpected and exciting. Hopefully there will be additional novels from Nicole M. Miller in the future!until-our-time-comes

Erin is giving away either a paperback (USA Only). Enter the Rafflecopter below!

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Dreams With Faith by Shanna Hatfield

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1886 – Oregon

Can faith conquer their fears?

John Ryan is committed to his role as pastor in the quaint town of Holiday, Oregon. He values each member of his congregation, and aims to lead by example. However, his resolve is tested when a free-spirited woman arrives in town. John struggles with his growing attraction to her, determined to keep it from distracting him from his calling.

Following a devastating tragedy that leaves her isolated and shattered, Keeva Holt is eager for a new beginning. In need of consolation and clarity, she decides to seek refuge with her brother in Holiday. As she navigates through her grief and attempts to find direction for her future, Keeva’s vibrant spirit and exuberance challenge those around her, including the reserved Pastor Ryan. While logic tells her that John is beyond her reach, her heart urges her to pursue her dreams and embrace the possibilities of tomorrow.

Will John and Keeva learn to lean into their faith and let go of their fears?

Earning the Mountain Man’s Trust by Misty M. Beller

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1869 – Montana

In the wild mountains of the Montana Territory, the Coulter ranch is a place of family, second chances…and a hidden fortune.

Naomi Wyatt has finally given up on the man who once promised to love her for the rest of his life—then disappeared after a business trip, never responding to her letters. She’s now alone with a beautiful baby to provide for, a daughter whose red hair reminds her daily of the man she gave her heart to. She has to move on, though, and she did, going west with her sister. When Jonah Coulter asks for her hand in marriage, she knows she would be hard-pressed to find a better father for her sweet child. He’s a Coulter, after all, and he’s proven to be a good friend during her darkest hours.

Eric LaGrange thought he’d lost Naomi forever. But when he finally gets word that she’s in the Montana Territory, he drops everything to go after her…and their daughter? How could Naomi have kept their beautiful child from him? And how could she move on so quickly that she’s already engaged to another man? He loves Naomi so much that he’ll accept whatever choice is best for her, but is that him…or this settled rancher who clearly cares for them? No matter what, he’s determined to know his daughter and become the father he always wanted to be.

With Eric’s sudden appearance, Naomi’s heart is shredded once again. She barely has time to catch her breath before a new threat appears on the horizon. This time she has far more at stake than her heart, and only a Divine hand can turn this disaster for their good.

The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano

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1903 – England

Peter Driscoll, an underground investigator to the wealthy, has never met anyone like Lily Temple. The beautiful silent-film actress spins fairy tales and plays frivolous roles in front of the cine-camera, but beneath the costumes and stage makeup is a woman with a quick wit–and a murky past.

Peter has been tasked with locating the legendary Briarwood Teardrop, an exquisite sapphire, which Lily wears beneath her gown. In order to stay close to her and hopefully unravel the mystery of her story–and the sapphire–Peter employs Lily’s help on a case, which leads to a useful partnership. But as they are investigating together, Peter is also investigating Lily. The closer he gets to the truth, the more danger they face. And the closer he gets to Lily, the clearer it is that he needs her even more than she needs him.

Shoot at the Sunset by Kathleen Denly

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1873 – California

The British Booksellers by Kristy Cambron

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1913/1940 – England

Inspired by real accounts of the Forgotten Blitz bombings, The British Booksellers highlights the courage of those whose lives were forever changed by war—and the stories that bind us in the fight for what matters most.

A tenant farmer’s son had no business daring to dream of a future with an earl’s daughter, but that couldn’t keep Amos Darby from his secret friendship with Charlotte Terrington…until the reality of the Great War sobered youthful dreams. Now decades later, he bears the brutal scars of battles fought in the trenches and their futures that were stolen away. His return home doesn’t come with tender reunions, but with the hollow fulfillment of opening a bookshop on his own and retreating as a recluse within its walls.

When the future Earl of Harcourt chose Charlotte to be his wife, she knew she was destined for a loveless match. Though her heart had chosen another long ago, she pledges her future even as her husband goes to war. Twenty-five years later, Charlotte remains a war widow who divides her days between her late husband’s declining estate and operating a quaint Coventry bookshop—Eden Books, lovingly named after her grown daughter. And Amos is nothing more than the rival bookseller across the lane.

As war with Hitler looms, Eden is determined to preserve her father’s legacy. So when an American solicitor arrives threatening a lawsuit that could destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to preserve, mother and daughter prepare to fight back. But with devastation wrought by the Luftwaffe’s local blitz terrorizing the skies, battling bookshops—and lost loves, Amos and Charlotte—must put aside their differences and fight together to help Coventry survive.

The Songbird of Hope Hill by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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1895 – Texas

Driven by survival to a life at a house of ill repute, Birdie Clarkson now longs only for escape. So when Reverend Isaiah Overly and his son, Ephraim, appear and offer a better life, she jumps at the chance. Ignoring the furious raging of the madam, Birdie climbs into the back of the preacher’s wagon.

The men take her to Hope Hill, the haven the reverend and his wife, Ophelia, founded so women like Birdie can be taught skills to help them rise above their pasts. Soon a resistant Birdie finds herself singing in the choir Ephraim leads at revival meetings, even though she’s certain she’s the last person who should be representing God.

Reverend Overly teaches that no one is irredeemable, but even as Ephraim is falling in love with her, Birdie remains convinced that she’s past saving. After all she’s been through, can she ever believe that God’s redemption wipes every soul clean? And can Ephraim convince her that God loves her more than she can grasp—and that he does, too?

Night Falls on Predicament Avenue by Jaime Jo Wright

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1910/2010 – Iowa

As the walls of the house at Predicament Avenue reveal their hidden truths, two women–generations apart–discover that fear and foreboding are no respecters of time.

In 1910, Effie James is committed to doing anything to save her younger sister, who witnessed a shocking murder, leaving her mute and in danger of the killer’s retribution. Effie must prove what her sister saw, but when a British gentleman arrives, he disrupts Effie’s quest with his attempts to locate his wife, Isabelle Addington, who was last seen at the supposed crime scene in the abandoned house at 322 Predicament Avenue. Just as Effie discovers what she seeks, she finds that the blood staining the walls will forever link her to a scandal she couldn’t imagine, and to a woman whose secrets promise to curse any who would expose them.

A century later, Norah Richman grapples with social anxiety and grief as she runs her late great-aunt’s bed-and-breakfast on Predicament Avenue. But Norah has little affection for the house and is committed only to carrying out her murdered sister’s dreams until crime historian and podcaster Sebastian Blaine arrives to investigate the ghostly legacy of the house’s claim to fame–the murder of Isabelle Addington. When a guest is found dead, the incident is linked to Isabelle’s murder, and Norah and Sebastian must work together to uncover the century-old curse that has wrapped 322 Predicament Avenue in its clutches and threatens far more than death.

Wagon Train Hope by Linda Ford

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1880s – Traveling

Dreams for Courage by Shanna Hatfield

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1886 – Oregon

Will two lonely hearts find the courage to love?

A loner for most of his life, Rowan Reed wants nothing more than to be left alone. He buys a run-down farm near Holiday, Oregon, intending to turn it into a successful ranch through hard work and determination. When a nosy, albeit beautiful, woman shows up on his doorstep, the instant attraction he feels to her sets off nearly as many warning bells as her barrage of probing questions.

Private detective Rhetta Wallace always unearths the truth. Involved in a lengthy investigation into a man suspected of killing a politician’s son, her pursuit leads her to the town of Holiday. Accompanied by her adopted son, Rhetta finds herself squaring off against the grumpy, growling rancher she believes is the suspect. Whether or not Rowan admits his true identity, Rhetta is sure of two things: his innocence of the crime, and the deep affection he awakens in her heart.

Will their dreams for courage help them release the past and embrace a future together?

These Tangled Threads by Sarah Loudin Thomas

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1915 – North Carolina

Set in the shadow of Biltmore Estate, a poignant tale of friendship, restoration, and second chances.

Seven years ago, a hidden betrayal scattered three young friends living in the shadow of the great Vanderbilt mansion. Now, when Biltmore Industries master weaver Lorna Blankenship is commissioned to create an original design for Cornelia Vanderbilt’s 1924 wedding, she panics knowing she doesn’t have the creativity needed. But there’s an elusive artisan in the Blue Ridge Mountains who could save her–if only she knew where to begin.

To track down the mysterious weaver, Lorna sees no other way than to seek out the relationships she abandoned in shame. As she pulls at each tangled thread from her past, Lorna is forced to confront the wounds and regrets of life long ago. She’ll have to risk the job that shapes her identity, as well as the hope of friendship–and love–restored.

The Sleuth of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

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1887 – England

Wife. Mother. Homemaker. Detective. Kit Forge wears many hats, and if that’s not enough, she’s partnered with her father to open a new detective agency. It’s hard to be all things to all people, but Kit never shies away from the impossible. Despite her hard work and good intentions, some things fall through the cracks.

Namely, her husband.

But Jackson barely notices. He’s too busy putting out his own fires. As the new chief inspector of a busy London station, he must salvage the disaster left behind by the former police chief—an obstacle made all the harder when the superintendent breathes an ultimatum down his neck.

Against her father’s advice, Kit takes on a case involving a missing child, one in which she and Jackson become a little too emotionally involved. . . and end up endangering their own little girl in the process.

Can Kit and Jackson learn that just because they can say yes doesn’t mean they should?

Through Dust and Ashes by Lynnette Bonner

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1853 – Oregon

The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels

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1879/present – France/Spain

Esther Markstrom and her artist mother have always been proud of their ancestor, painter Francisco Vella. They even run a small museum and gallery dedicated to raising awareness of his scandalously underappreciated work. But when Esther reconnects with her former art history professor, she finds her once-solid family history on shaky ground as questions arise about Vella’s greatest work–a portrait entitled The Lady with the Dark Hair.

In 1879, Catalan orphan-turned-fugitive Viviana Torrens has found sanctuary serving in the home of an aging artist in Southern France. It is in his studio that she meets Francisco Vella, a Gibraltarian merchant who sells artists’ pigments. When her past catches up to her, she is compelled to pose as Vella’s sister and join him on his travels or be deported back to Spain to stand trial. Along the way she will discover that the many parts she has been playing in order to hide her identity have far-reaching implications she never could have foreseen.

Streams of Courage by Sandra Merville Hart

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1861 – Mississippi

In a world turned upside down by war and betrayal…will his role as a spy bring them closer…or tear their future apart?

The war that Julia Dodd prayed to avoid is now reality, and with it, her world has been turned on its head. Her fellow citizens, who stood with her in their support of the union, have crossed firmly to the side of the south. And her mother, lost in her grief over the loss of her husband and children, can think of nothing but protecting Julia’s brother’s inheritance. She insists that her daughter seek a wealthier husband than Ashburn Mitchell.

Ash knows what his fellow citizens think of him when he refuses to fight for the Confederacy. Shouldering the accusation of being a coward and refusing to hide behind his limp, Ash remains in Vicksburg to support his family as a saddler while his two best friends join the fight. Struggling to increase his business so he can marry the woman he loves, Ash becomes a spy in support of the Union. He can’t fight for the South but won’t raise a musket against them.

As tragedy instigates Ash to risk greater danger to speed the end of the war, Julia can only pray it won’t cost them everything. She’s already lost her father and two siblings. Must she lose the man she loves too?

More than Conquerors by Carole Towriss

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50AD – Greece

Dreams of Love by Shanna Hatfield

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1885 – Oregon

Will dreams of love lead to an unexpected future?

Weathered from too many years of apprehending outlaws, Marshal Dillon Durant is resigned to a life of solitude. The small community of Holiday, Oregon, offers the opportunity for him to build lasting friendships while discovering a sense of belonging. Then he encounters an exasperatingly beautiful woman attempting to break into the local school, leaving him to contemplate the possibility of a new chapter in his life.

Desperate to escape the arranged marriage her father is attempting to foist upon her, Zara Wynn accepts a job as a schoolteacher in Holiday. Intent on a fresh start, she doesn’t want anyone to discover she’s a runaway bride. But concealing her past proves difficult, especially when the astute and handsome Marshal Durant captures her heart.

When her father and fiancé find her, will Zara be forced to abandon her dreams of love? Or will Dillon make them come true?

Love’s Promise by Penny Zeller

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1897 – Wyoming

Can one man’s love win a fragile woman’s heart?

After Amaya Alvarado lost her fiancé to a senseless tragedy, she vows never to love again. Two years later, at her grandmother’s request, she travels to Poplar Springs to assist with the mercantile and help care for her ailing grandfather. During a stagecoach accident and a confrontation with nefarious outlaws, she crosses paths with a man named Silas McFadden who rescues her and the other passengers. A bond between them soon forms.

Silas is not the man he once was. After a stint on the wrong side of the law, he’s now a respectable rancher in Poplar Springs, Wyoming. After becoming a man of faith, he determines to live his life for the One who gave him a second chance. He just never imagined that second chance might include Amaya. Now all he has to do is ensure his past doesn’t return and destroy his and Amaya’s fragile relationship.

Amaya’s and Silas’s friendship soon grows, and she begins to trust him with everything but her heart. Can she push her growing feelings for him aside? After all, isn’t it betraying her fiancé to care for another man the way she has grown to care for Silas?

When the past comes back to haunt him and revenge is sought, can Silas protect the woman he has come to love?

A Noble Scheme by Roseanna M. White

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1909 – England

In the opulent and perilous world of high society’s most elite–and most dangerous–families, two investigators must set aside their broken hearts to uncover the truth.

Gemma Parks is known to the London elite as G. M. Parker, a columnist renowned for her commentary on the cream of society. Behind the scenes, she uses her talents to aid the Imposters in their investigations by gathering intel at events and providing alibis for the firm’s members through her columns. Yet her clandestine work would be more exhilarating if it weren’t for the constant presence of the gentleman who broke her heart.

Graham Wharton has never had eyes for anyone but Gemma, and she left his heart in tatters when she walked away from him. When the Imposters take on a new job to recover a kidnapped boy mistaken for his aristocratic cousin, Graham is determined to use the time with Gemma to not only restore the missing boy, but to also win back the only woman he’s ever loved. As they trace the clues laid out before them, Graham and Gemma must devise a noble scheme to save the boy’s life and heal their hearts.

Rip Tide by Lisa T. Bergren

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Time Travel/Medieval – Italy

Priscilla by Jenny Knipfer

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1946 – Wisconsin

ONE COOKBOOK CONNECTS THEM ALL…

In the post WWII era of 1946, Priscilla Hadley dreams of being a wife and homemaker, but there’s one big obstacle in her mind—Priscilla has been told she can’t cook to save her life. However, she’s out to prove that wrong, especially to handsome but annoying Aaron Johnson, her twin brother Jeremy’s friend and fishing buddy, who also happens to be the local police lieutenant.

In an effort to polish up her culinary shortcomings, Priscilla joins a local cooking club. A woman from the club gifts Priscilla a cookbook that could very well put her on the path to realizing her dreams. Much to their surprise, Priscilla and her family find much more than recipes within the cookbook’s pages. What will be its greatest blessing?

With an ailing father and the Wisconsin family farm to help keep afloat, in the absence of two brothers who died in the war, where will Priscilla find the time to learn to cook? Will she renew her faith in the presence of adversity or allow her present fears and past losses dictate her future?

If the Boot Fits by Karen Witemeyer

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1889 – Texas

One fateful night will change their destinies forever. . . .

Convinced that his stepmother and half brothers have been wrongfully evicted by cattle king Eli Dearing, Asher Ellis uses the cover of an extravagant ball to break into the Three Cedars’ ranch house to search for proof. On the verge of discovery, he flees, but a boy’s cry compels him to make a daring rescue.

Spunky and independent Samantha Dearing balks when she learns the ball her father is hosting is nothing more than a matrimonial ambush. Taking a break from unwanted suitors, Samantha spots a thief fleeing her home. When the stranger ends up saving her brother’s life, she hides the only clue to his identity left behind–his boot–and resolves to find him herself.

When Samantha encounters the older brother of a student she tutors, all thoughts of the bootless mystery man vanish. Asher values family above wealth, a rare trait that opens her heart. Afraid she will discover his past misconduct, Asher tries to keep his distance, but when a series of suspicious accidents befall her, he vows to protect her, even though saving her life could mean losing her love.

Seashells in My Pocket by Terri Wangard

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1943 – Brazil

Love’s Winding Road by Susan F. Craft

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1753 – Traveling

They were forced into this marriage of convenience, but there’s more at stake than their hearts on this wagon train through the mountain wilderness.

When Rose Jackson and her Irish immigrant family join a wagon train headed for a new life in South Carolina, the last thing she expects is to fall for the half-Cherokee wagon scout along the way. But their journey takes a life-changing turn when Rose is kidnapped by Indians. Daniel comes to her rescue, but the effects mean their lives will be forever intertwined.

Daniel prides himself on his self-control—inner and outer—but can’t seem to get a handle on either when Rose is near. Now his life is bound to hers when the consequences of her rescue force them to marry. Now it’s even more critical he maintain that self-control to keep her safe.

When tragedy strikes at the heart of their strained marriage, they leave for Daniel’s home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As they face the perils of the journey, Rose can’t help but wonder why her new husband guards his heart so strongly. Why does he resist his obvious attraction for her? And what life awaits them at the end of love’s winding road?

Set in Stone by Kimberley Woodhouse

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1872 – Colorado

To Speak His Name by Tara Johnson

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1816 – Barbados

Avalina is a woman trapped in silence. Stolen from her home in Ireland and sold as a slave to a Barbados plantation owner, the trauma of her past has left her mute, wrapped in a prison of loneliness and isolation amid an island of beauty. Though she longs to be free from the cruelty of her overseer, her heart yearns for a greater freedom…something just beyond her grasp.

Josiah Holland has been born into a South Carolina slave-holding family but all it takes is one trip to the island of Barbados to open his eyes to the ugly cruelty that abounds beyond the confines of his plantation. With the aid of fiery abolitionist Benjamin McGee, Josiah forges a new future, fighting the very ideals he was once a part of.

When Avalina and Josiah’s lives entwine, will their spark engulf them in destruction, or ignite a revolution?

Author Interview and Giveaway – A Lady’s Guide to Marvels and Misadventure – Angela Bell

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How many of you love a twist on your favorite genre? Steampunk is a delightful mix of history and fantasy, I think. And there’s a brand new one this month! Welcome Angela Bell to the Index!

Lady’s Guide to Marvels and Misadventure , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Lady’s Guide to Marvels and Misadventure

When Clara Marie Stanton’s ex-fiancé begins to spread rumors that her family suffers from hereditary insanity, it’s all Clara can do to protect them from his desperate schemes and society’s prejudice. Her family may be eccentric, yes, but they certainly aren’t insane. Then Clara’s Grandfather Drosselmeyer brings on an apprentice with a mechanical leg, and all pretense of normalcy takes wing.

Theodore Kingsley, a shame-chased vagabond skilled in repairing clocks, wants a fresh start far from Kingsley Court and the disappointed father who declared him dead. Upon returning to England, Theodore meets clockmaker Drosselmeyer, who hires him as an apprentice, much to Clara’s dismay. When Drosselmeyer spontaneously disappears in his secret flying owl machine, he leaves behind a note for Clara, beseeching her to make her dreams of adventure a reality by joining him on a merry scavenger hunt. Together, Clara and Theodore set off to follow Drosselmeyer’s trail of clues, but they will have to stay one step ahead of a villain who wants the flying machine for himself—at any cost.

Angela’s Website

Angela Bell

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Questions about Angela’s Story

What inspired this story?

This story was inspired by the grand adventure of Around the World in 80 Days and the enchanting whimsy of The Nutcracker. While Verne’s Phileas and Passepartout set forth on a race around the world, the characters in my book embark on a merry scavenger hunt across Europe. In every city they explore, my characters enjoy a regional dessert inspired by the confectionary citizens in the Land of Sweets who dance to honor young Clara in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. It was such fun to draw inspiration from these stories! I hope readers will enjoy finding the little head nods, easter eggs, and references to them I sprinkled throughout the book.

 

Which scene is your favorite, the one you never tired of working with? Give us a reason to look forward to it.

What a fun question! Let’s see…oh, there’s a delightfully funny scene in Chapter 27, which never failed to make me laugh out loud with every reading. It takes place in a magnificent European cathedral. All is hushed and somber until something rather unexpected happens thanks to the antics of my heroine’s animal-loving mum, Mrs. Stanton. Then the grandiose silence is abruptly shattered, and the fur quite literally flies as absolute hilarity ensues! Just thinking of the scene makes me smile.

 

Why did you choose the geographical location in which your book is set?

Like my heroine, I’ve always been fascinated by faraway places, especially Europe, but unexpected life circumstances have prevented me from traveling as much as I’d like. As I plotted the course of my fictional scavenger hunt, I specifically chose cities and landmarks I hope to see in real life one day, and through the magic of YouTube, travel blogs, and virtual online tours, I was able to visit them in my imagination. I learned about the cultures. Experienced the sights, sounds, smells, and local cuisine. Now, through this whimsical story, I hope to give readers a sensory experience that allows them to explore the world from the comfort of home.

**************************************************************************************

Questions about Angela’s Reading

What was the last Christian Historical Novel that made you cry?

Lost in Darkness by Michelle Griep. This gothic regency romance, inspired by the classic novel Frankenstein had me swooning and weeping in turn, necessitating the procurement of smelling salts and a proper handkerchief. With unflinching vulnerability, Griep’s tale explores the very depths of love and loss. Heartbreak and hope. Over the course of an achingly beautiful narrative, her complex characters bare their shattered hearts and weary souls without reserve, granting grief-stricken readers permission to do the same within the refuge of her story. The potent combination of raw honesty and resolute faith in God’s sovereignty makes for a tale that’s both gritty and utterly saturated with grace.

lostindarkness

What was the last Christian Historical Novel that surprised you with a plot twist you didn’t see coming?

When the Day Comes by Gabrielle Meyer. This innovative novel is an achievement in storytelling. As a writer and voracious reader, I can usually spot a plot twist on the horizon or at the very least, discern the general trajectory of a story. But somehow, Meyer managed to keep me guessing from the first page to the very end. And OH MY STARS, what an ending! I re-read it three times because it was so unexpected and astounding and breathtakingly beautiful! I should probably mention the sequel, In This Moment, as well because Meyer managed to pull off the incredible time-crosser premise a second time, after making it even more complex, AND completely blew my mind with yet another brilliant plot twist I never saw coming!

When the Day Comes

What was the last Christian Historical Novel whose characters stayed in your head days after you finished reading it?

The Weight of Air by Kimberly Duffy. This engrossing novel combines the emotional drama of Downton Abbey with the glittering spectacle of The Greatest Showman. I read it a year ago, and the characters still reside in my head rent free. Upon meeting Isabella and Mabel, it’s apparent that these characters aren’t merely figments of the author’s imagination. These characters are real people—flawed and fascinating, complex and compelling. Instead of crafting their stories, Duffy surrendered her pen to living, breathing souls and invited them to tell their tales of heartache, grief, and redemption. These two women—each strong, beautiful, and broken in unique ways—told their tales with a heart-rending honesty that unmasked a darkness the glitter of the circus had long concealed. In revealing their insecurities, anxiety, and depression, Mabel and Isabella issued their own invitation. Share your story. Unveil the shadows that have darkened your heart and mind too long. Don’t let shame and fear keep you silent and isolated. For it’s only when the darkness is exposed that the light can flood in . . . and with the light, comes the realization that we are never alone, not even in the shadows. This novel is an innovative triumph in the world Christian Fiction, but more importantly, it’s a beacon of hope for countless women, like myself, who are intimately acquainted with depression’s oppressive shadow.

Weight of Air

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A Love Discovered by Tracie Peterson

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1867 – Wyoming

Freedom’s Pride by Pegg Thomas

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1801 – North Carolina

The very day Mark Allen Teed obtains his freedom from indenture, he embarks on a journey to fulfill the promise he made to Gwen Morgan two years earlier. To find her sister, Faye Morgan, he needs the assistance of an old horse and a street urchin he meets along the way. But even with their help, nothing goes as he had planned.

Reverence in the Wilderness by Andrea Byrd

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1782 – Kentucky

Levi’s Vow by Penny Zeller

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1880 – Idaho

A man running from his past. A woman facing an uncertain future.

Wrongfully imprisoned for a crime and disowned by his family, Levi Callahan endeavors to put the past behind him. When he travels to the Idaho Territory and secures a job on a small farm, he has no idea he’ll once again be defending the vulnerable.

Norah Hammett knows what it means to suffer loss. After her husband leaves her and their children for a “better” life and her hired hand steals from her, she is left to run the farm alone. When ruthless men attempt to steal Norah’s Idaho farm, can Levi, a man running from his past, help her save it? Or will he prove to be disloyal like the rest of the men in her life?

Will God use desperate circumstances to bring two hurting hearts together?

When the Flames Ravaged by Rhonda Dragomir

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1944 – Connecticut

Will Faith Perish in the Big Top’s Flames?

Evelyn Benson’s husband perished in the Bataan Death March but not her faith. The World War II Gold Star widow is taken in by her brother and soothed by the love of his wife and children. Evelyn refuses to cower to grief. She may not understand God’s mysterious ways, but she has never questioned Him—until the circus fire.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus train chugs into Hartford, Connecticut, on a sweltering day one month after the Allies invaded Normandy. Among the roustabouts is a reluctant clown, Hank Webb. He may hide from his murky past behind grease paint as Fraidy Freddie, but God wants to offer Hank a chance to be found. Though first, what little Hank believes about God will endure a fiery trial.

On Thursday, July 6, 1944, a devastating blaze of unknown origins consumes the circus tent along with Evelyn’s hopes and Hank’s anonymity.

A Choice of Love by Alena Mentink

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1879 – Nebraska

For him, playing the role of rescuer was his duty.
For her, she would just as soon see him run.

Cowboy Matt Keath enjoys the perfect life. He has freedom, few responsibilities, and a dream job that lies just within his grasp. But when a letter arrives informing him of his brother’s death, he can’t escape the truth that family takes care of family. He saddles up and heads to his brother’s farm outside of Osceola, ready to rescue his sister-in-law from her troubles and then escape back west as quickly as possible.

Emily Keath can’t believe that her late husband’s farm-hating, kid-wary brother would have the audacity to consider himself her rescuer. He’s not equipped to take care of her farm, let alone her and her children. Perhaps if she can help him see his inadequacies, he’ll realize that she’s better off without him.

Between family arguments and barnyard trouble, the summer threatens to become one of sheer survival. Matt and Emily will need a stronger bond than necessity if they wish to work alongside one another–but anything stronger feels a little too permanent for either of their comfort.

Wagon Train Song by Linda Ford

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1887 – Traveling

Unexpected romance on journey west.

Haunted by a guilty secret, Marnie’s eager to leave her past in the dust of the trail. She embarks on a wagon train journey to reunite with her son, a North-West Mounted Policeman. What she doesn’t count on is Gabe, a widower and friend of her late husband coming along. He is a reminder of everything she yearns to escape.

But, Gabe sees this as opportunity to repay an old debt owed to her late husband. With unwavering resolve, he pledges to safeguard her journey. He’s weathered storms to raise his sons. He is sure he can persuade Marnie to accept his help.

The trail throws them together, weaving their joint efforts into more than they anticipated.

Amidst the rugged landscapes and trails of the frontier, can Marnie and Gabe overcome the shadow of their pasts and embrace the promise of a new beginning full of unexpected love?

Lady’s Guide to Marvels and Misadventure by Angela Bell

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1860 – England

Miss Clara Marie Stanton’s family may be eccentric, but they certainly aren’t insane.

When Clara’s ex-fiancé begins to spread rumors that her family suffers from hereditary insanity, it’s all she can do to protect them from his desperate schemes, society’s prejudice, and a lifetime in an asylum. Then Clara’s Grandfather Drosselmeyer brings on an apprentice with a mechanical leg, and all pretense of normalcy takes wing.

Theodore Kingsley, a shame-chased vagabond haunted by the war, wants a fresh start far from Kingsley Court and the disappointed father who declared him dead. Upon returning to England, Theodore meets clockmaker Drosselmeyer, who hires him as an apprentice, much to Clara’s dismay. When Drosselmeyer spontaneously disappears in his secret flying owl machine, he leaves behind a note for Clara, beseeching her to make her dreams of adventure a reality by joining him on a merry scavenger hunt across Europe. Together, Clara and Theodore set off to follow Drosselmeyer’s trail of clues, but they will have to stay one step ahead of a villain who wants the flying machine for himself–at any cost.

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