featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

REPURPOSING THOSE FIREPLACE ASHES

If you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home, you’ve probably been using it quite a lot this winter. And that means you’ve had to deal with disposing of the ashes that accumulate after each fire. Instead of tossing those ashes, here are a few clever uses for repurposing them. Just keep in mind that ashes stay hot well after a fire burns out. Store and cool ashes in a metal container for at least four days before using.

Instead of salt, which contaminates the soil, sprinkle ash on driveways to aid in tire traction. You can also keep a bucket of ash in your car for emergencies when you get stuck in the snow or on ice.

Summer will be here before you know it. Do you have problems with slugs in your garden? Those pesky critters just love to attack my tomato plants. Turns out you can sprinkle ash evenly around your garden beds to keep slugs away from your flowers and vegetables.

And speaking of gardening, ash tea is a great fertilize for your houseplants. Make a “tea bag” by filling a cloth bag with ashes. Tie securely with string. Steep the “tea” bag in 5 gallons of water for a few days. Use the “tea” to water your plants.

Ashes can also be used to polish metal. Mix up a cup with a little bit of water to make a paste, and rub it on the metal.

Have you ever spilled cooking grease or oil from your grill on your cement or stone patio? Wood ashes to the rescue! Pour ashes on the spill, then rub it into the stain with a cloth. The ash will absorb the grease or oil. Finish by wiping off the ashes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JOANNE GUIDOCCIO AND QUICK SALMON FOR ONE

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio took advantage of early retirement from a 31-year teaching career and decided to launch a second act that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

In Search of a Quick-And-Easy Salmon Recipe (For One)
At my last appointment with the specialist oncologist, I struggled to pay attention. After ten months of treatments, I longed to leave the whole cancer experience behind me. While that wasn’t possible in the short-run—I still needed to report for check-ups every six months for the next five years—I believed that all the hard stuff was behind me.

In spite of my restlessness during that appointment, I did pick up three nuggets of information: spinach, salmon, and yoga.

Spinach wasn’t a problem. Each morning, I add several handfuls to my smoothies. I also enjoy spinach salads.

Once I recovered from radiation, I started a yoga practice that I have maintained since 2005.

Salmon presented the greatest challenge of all. I prefer white fish such as halibut and tilapia. I have several foolproof recipes that appeal to my non-foodiness (I don’t enjoy cooking or baking), a quality I share with the protagonist of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. Unfortunately, none of those foolproof recipes work with salmon.

Friends and colleagues eagerly shared their recipes. Grateful, I did experiment with all their suggestions but found myself rebelling against the lengthy list of ingredients and prep time involved.

My goal: A quick-and-easy recipe (for one) that appealed to my taste buds.

Last year, I discovered the following recipe (that’s closer to a hack) while eavesdropping on a conversation at the beauty salon. With only three ingredients (four if you count the water) and six minutes of cooking time, it’s the ideal solution for non-foodies.

Ingredients
Half a lemon
One salmon fillet
Greek seasoning

Thinly slice the lemon. Cover the bottom of a small microwaveable dish with the lemon slices.

Sprinkle the salmon fillet with Greek seasoning. Place the fillet on top of the lemon slices. Add two tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on High for five to six minutes.

Murder & Mayhem
A boxed set featuring six murder mysteries from the following Wild Rose Press authors: J L Wilson, Misty Simon, Michelle Witvliet, Vicki Batman, Cindy Davis, and Joanne Guidoccio.

My contribution: A Season for Killing Blondes. A teacher wins a $19 million lottery and returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes. Can she prove her innocence and solve this case?

Monday, February 26, 2018

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--5 MINUTE FLORAL CENTERPIECE

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick of winter by now and can’t wait for those first signs of spring to emerge through the soil—crocuses, daffodils, early blooming tulips. The other day I was so depressed by the ongoing frigid temperatures and all that white stuff covering the ground that I decided to take matters into my own hands. If spring wouldn’t pop out of the ground, I’d force it to make an indoor appearance.

All it took was a quick trip to the craft store. This project took me less than five minutes and is a craft project that every person who claims not to have any crafting talent can accomplish just as quickly.

I chose a large, hinged-lid canning jar as my container, primarily because I happened to have one, but you can choose any clear glass jar or vase.

I always save the crinkle paper that comes in gift baskets I receive, but if you don’t have any, you can purchase some at a party or craft store. Excelsior will also work, or you can just crinkle up a few sheets of colored tissue paper.

Choose any floral stems from the craft store. For the size container I used, I purchased three bunches of tulips. You may need more or less.

If you don’t have any fabric you can use, purchase a “fat quarter” at your local craft store or fabric store.

Materials:
A glass jar or vase
Multi-colored excelsior, crinkle paper, or tissue paper
Several spring floral stems in your choice of color
Small remnant of complimentary fabric

Fill jar with excelsior, crinkle paper, or crumbled tissue paper.

Size of jar will determine length and width of fabric. Cut a piece long enough to tie into bow around neck of the jar.

Fill jar with floral stems.

Could anything be easier?

Friday, February 23, 2018

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY DECKER, HERO OF ROBIN DEETER'S CHANCE CITY SERIES

Today we sit down to talk with Johnny Decker, hero of Robin Deeter’s Chance City series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
It was both good and bad.  My ma and I were always close, but my father wasn’t a nice man.  We were always happiest when he wasn’t home. They were killed in a tornado and I was alone for a while until Robin brought me to Chance City.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
My loyalty to my family and friends.

What do you like least about yourself?
I’m always in a rush, and that sometimes gets me in trouble.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Be contacted by a spirit who disappeared when she went behind some bushes to relieve herself.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
We argue about lots of stuff. What I’m gonna do next or how I’m gonna handle something.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing the people I love.

What makes you happy?
It sounds boring, but I love being with my family and running my woodworking business. I’m a pretty simple fella and that’s all I need to be happy.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
My mother’s death. I miss her and wish she were still alive. She’d have loved Chance City and meeting our other family.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
I’m not real fond of Hector Ruiz. He sometimes works for my cousin Cy, who is a detective. There’s just something about him that rubs me the wrong way.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Honestly, I’m really happy being me. I love my friends, but I don’t want their lives. 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 
I argue with Robin (so do the other characters) because she wants to put out the best stories possible for all you readers. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t fight with us so much. You can visit her website, to find a list of all her books and links to her social media sites, too.

What's next for you? 
Well, I’m working on finding a wife, so hopefully I’ll find Mrs. Decker soon since my story, A Very Decker Christmas is coming out soon. Thanks for visiting with me a little while. I really enjoyed it and I look forward to “seeing” you all again.

A Very Decker Christmas
Chance City series, Book 7

Johnny Decker has been searching for a bride for two years but has struck out at every turn. What is he doing wrong? He's a decent, kind man, with a thriving business and a home in which any woman would be proud to live. None of that has helped him snag the next Mrs. Decker, though, and he despairs of finding her. Can some assistance from an unlikely source bring him the happiness he craves? Will the magic of the Christmas season come to his aid or is he doomed to a solitary life?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

#TRAVEL TO THE BERKSHIRES WITH GUEST AUTHOR LESLIE WHEELER

Leslie Wheeler’s mystery fiction includes three novels in her Living History Mystery Series, and short stories that have appeared in several anthologies. Rattlesnake Hill is the first book in a new series of Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries. Learn more about Leslie and her books at her website.  

Location, Location!
Location is important in books, as well as real estate and movies. For me, setting, rather than character, is where a book begins. I choose settings that interest me or that I love because I know I’m going to spend a lot of time there.

For my current book, Rattlesnake Hill, the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts was an obvious choice. I not only love the area but know it well, having lived there for many years. But which Berkshires? The one that draws tourists and wealthy weekenders in the summer for numerous cultural attractions, as well as chi-chi shops and restaurants, and again in the fall for brilliant foliage? Or the Berkshires of small towns and villages off the beaten track, where people whose families have been there for generations eke out of lives, not necessarily of “quiet desperation,” but sometimes close to it?

 I chose the latter. As a resident of a small backwater town myself, it’s the Berkshires I know best. As my main character, Kathryn Stinson, herself a city dweller as I was and still partly am, describes the difference between these two Berkshires:

“Main Street [of Stockbridge] was decked out with boughs of holly, pine wreaths, and Christmas lights in readiness for another holiday a la Norman Rockwell . . . Even on a weeknight in December, visitors strolled along the sidewalk or sat, bundled in fur and down, on the porch of the Red Lion Inn, sipping hot chocolate and hot buttered rum.

 But it was the other Berkshires she was traveling to—the Berkshires of lonely towns perched high on hills, of narrow back roads whose winding darkness come nightfall never ceased to amaze an urban dweller like her. She’d been away less than a day, but already she’d half forgotten what it was like to turn off the main thoroughfare and plunge into a world of blackness, broken only by the lights of an occasional house, or if the sky was clear like this evening, a crescent moon and a pinprick pattern of stars. Past experience had taught her to drive these roads with care, because you never knew when a deer might dart out, or when rounding a bend, you might find yourself on a collision course with a wrong-sided vehicle.”

Of course, setting isn’t just about place; it’s about the time—centuries, years, months, days. Rattlesnake Hill is set in the present, with forays into the past, and despite the Christmas holiday references above, the novel actually begins in November, a dark time of dwindling light when the foliage is gone and with it the tourists. I chose this month, because I wanted to focus on the tension between my main character and the locals, who are suspicious of her. As one local, who especially resents her presence, puts it, “Nobody moved here in this off-season time before the last of the foliage and the first snowfall.”

Which brings me back to another important element of setting: people. Small towns in rural areas are places where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and strangers are not readily welcomed. Kathryn Stinson discovers this when she starts asking questions about an event in the distant past. And when she seeks answers to a more recent mystery: the murder of a woman who once occupied the house she’s renting, her neighbors become openly hostile.

So why does she stay? In part because she’s stubborn and is determined unlock the secrets the locals are withholding from her. But another part has to do with the area’s great natural beauty. From her very first view of the landscape outside the house she rents, Kathryn is enchanted by its loveliness.

Throughout the novel, Kathryn finds peace but also draws inner strength from her surroundings. It’s why I’ve stayed in the Berkshires, too.

Rattlesnake Hill
A Berkshire Hiltown Mystery

It’s November in the Berkshires, a dreary time of dwindling light when the tourists have fled along with the last gasp of fall foliage. So when a stranger shows up in the sleepy hilltown of New Nottingham and starts asking questions, the locals don’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.

 Bostonian Kathryn Stinson is on a deeply personal quest to solve a family mystery: the identity of a nameless beauty in an old photograph an ancestor brought with him to California over a century ago. But, as Kathryn quickly discovers, the hills possess a host of dark secrets – both ancient and new – that can only be revealed at the price of danger and even death.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

AN INTERVIEW WITH POSTMISTRESS AND AMATEUR SLEUTH JEAN FLOWERS

Small town postmistress and amateur sleuth Cassie Miller, star of the Postmistress Mysteries by Jean Flowers, sits down with us today for an interview.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was happy in Boston, working at the main post office, engaged to a great guy (until my author turned him into a jerk who texted me our breakup).

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I'm a dependable worker.

What do you like least about yourself?
I'm a pushover for whoever's nice to me.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Solve three murders, putting my life in danger!

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
See above, putting my life in danger. Also see above, turning my fiancé into a jerk.

What is your greatest fear?
Ending up alone and unloved.

What makes you happy?
Reading about postal history and trivia, like the fact that at one time you could mail children!

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I'd probably stay in Boston because there's more going on after sundown.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My friend Linda, because she bugs me about returning to Boston. And it bothers me because I'm still not sure I did the right thing moving away from the city.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
My friend Sunni, the chief of police because she has the most interesting job, most of the time.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Jean Flowers is really Camille Minichino. I think. She may be in witness protection because she has two other names, too – Margaret Grace and Ada Madison. They all hang out at www.minichino.com and blog every Thursday at www.minichino.com/wordpress. Sign up for her monthly newsletter. She always has a puzzle or riddle and constantly declutters by turning everything into swag for her readers.

What's next for you?
I don't know exactly what Jean Flowers has in mind for me, but after writing 25 novels in 20 years, she's having a great time with shorter pieces. I may appear in a novella soon.

The Magnesium Murder
In this novella addition to the Periodic Table Mysteries, freelance embalmer Anastasia Brent is summoned to prepare the body of a young woman—a bride-to-be, and a suspected murder victim. Anastasia is pressed into service by her mortuary employer to investigate the suspicious death. Anastasia overcomes her own personal stress of moving in with her boyfriend, to follow the trail that leads to justice.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--SPICE UP YOUR HOME AND BODY WITH CINNAMON

Two weeks ago I wrote about various clever ideas for using orange peelsToday I have some suggestions for spicing up your life with cinnamon, a very versatile spice that’s not just for baking snickerdoodles and apple pie.

Just as orange peel can be used as a natural insect repellant, cinnamon, combined with a couple of other spices, can be used as a natural moth repellant.

Natural Moth Repellant
You’ll need small sachet bags (available at craft stores), 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup whole cloves,1/2 cup black peppercorns.

Mix cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns together. Fill sachet bags. Hang bags in closet or place in dresser drawers.

Natural Athlete’s Foot Soother
Did you know cinnamon is an antimicrobial? If you’re plagued with athlete’s foot, boil ten sticks in a quart of water. Allow to cool. Soak your feet for twenty minutes. Dry completely.

Natural Hair Therapy
Cinnamon also increases blood flow. Some people believe it helps stimulate hair growth. To give your hair a boost, mix together 1/4 cup honey with 1/4 cup cinnamon. Apply to your scalp and allow to sit for fifteen minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Natural Furniture and Floor Repair
You can use cinnamon to hide scuffs in wooden floors and furniture. Just use a cotton swab to rub some ground cinnamon into the scratch marks.

Monday, February 19, 2018

ANASTASIA'S THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENTS' DAY

Today is Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday meant to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, which is actually February 22nd, and all the other U.S. presidents. Why, you might ask, have I chosen to illustrate this post with the cover of a biography of Alexander Hamilton, a man who was never president of the United States?

I do so because I’m currently reading the book, and although we’ve never published book reviews on the blog and don’t intend to start now, I wanted to talk about Presidents’ Day in terms of what I’ve learned from this book, given that many of the men involved--Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe--did become future presidents.

Back in the Stone Age, when I studied American history, I thought I was receiving an excellent education. I took Advanced Placement U.S. History at a high school with a reputation for being one of the best in the state of New Jersey. It wasn’t until I began reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton that I realized how little I actually knew about the men who founded our nation.

I, and I’m sure many other students of my generation, as well as previous generations, were taught that the Founding Fathers were high-minded patriots who worked together toward a common goal--independence. We were taught to respect these men. They were icons. Subsequent presidents are often compared to them and more often than not, fall short of these great men. How often have you heard people lament, where are the great leaders of today?

Yes, we knew these men had their differences, the biggest being the states rights vs. federal rights argument, and of course there was the slavery issue, which pitted the colonies of the south against the colonies of the north. But we were taught that these men put personal feelings aside to work on compromises to unify the colonies and create a great nation.

What we were never taught (and maybe what high school students today are still not taught) is that these men were just as human and just as flawed as any politicians who have followed. Yes, they reached compromise but not without intense animosity and hostility that led to broadside screeds, Machiavellian maneuverings, and constant backstabbing. Fake news? It’s been around from the very beginning, and you’d be surprised by some of the biggest perpetrators.

The book, which is documented up the wazoo with footnotes referencing actual writings from the people involved, is 800+ pages long. I’m only a little more than halfway finished, given my crazy life. If you know anything about me, you know I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone carve out a few minutes of “me” time now and then. I’m juggling two teenage kids, a communist mother-in-law, a boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and all those dead bodies—not to mention debt greater than the GNP of your average Third World country. Still, I’ve managed to get in a chapter or two once or twice a week.

I don’t believe in using this blog as a political platform. I believe we are all entitled to our opinions and beliefs. It’s what makes our nation great. I have friends who believe what I believe and friends who have opposite beliefs. I respect their views and don’t let our differences compromise our friendship. However, no matter on which side of the aisle you find yourself aligned, I think we all agree that we’re living in a time of political turmoil. Many would say it’s unprecedented.

Or is it?

What I’m learning from this book is that today’s political turmoil is anything but unprecedented in the history of our nation. That insight has put quite a bit of our current political climate into perspective for me, giving me hope that eventually, as has often happened in the past, our better angels will prevail. And that's why I wanted to talk about this book on Presidents’ Day.

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paperback
ebook
audio

Friday, February 16, 2018

#BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--OOPS! HEROINE ACCIDENTALLY ELOPES WITH WRONG MAN!

Today we sit down with Katherine, niece of Earl Quamby, from author Beverley Oakley’s The Accidental Elopement.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

Believe me, I had my life all mapped out. The pinnacle of my ambition was to make the most illustrious marriage possible during my London season. I was beautiful, from a well-connected family (if you disregard my mother’s pre-marriage scandals) and I had three suitors. Then my author threw me together with my childhood friend, Jack – a boy from the foundling home – and we fell madly in love.

I was furious that she should do that to me – for about five seconds – because truly, I was prepared to cross shark-infested waters to be with Jack. In fact, I nearly did (well, not shark-infested but raging seas). Unfortunately, I got into the wrong carriage. The one that wasn’t taking me to those raging seas I was prepared to cross. And that’s when my life took a very dark turn.

Excuse me if I don’t go into the details right now. The trauma is still quite fresh in my mind.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I shouldn’t need to tell you that a well brought-up young lady doesn’t advertise her good qualities which should be evident to all her eligible suitors. However, if there’s one thing I secretly like about myself, it’s my love of adventure. I was so lucky to have been able to climb trees with Jack and join him on adventures when we were seven. This was when Jack would be brought over from the foundling home to be a playmate for my cousin, George. But it was Jack and I who found some mischief to get into – and Jack always defended me and took the blame – even if it was my fault. Sorry…I didn’t mean to get tearful but I do miss Jack. Or rather, the fact that he is lost to me and…the fact we’re doomed to be apart.

What do you like least about yourself?
My impulsiveness. Oh, yes, definitely that! If I hadn’t been so foolish and impulsive, I never would have made the biggest, most terrible mistake of my life. I never would have…I’m so embarrassed to admit it because who would do such a thing? Who would accidentally elope with the wrong person?

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Strangest? Or do you mean most terrible? Because, there’s no getting around the fact that my author utterly ruined my life! That carriage I got into? How was I supposed to know it had been sent by someone other than whom I assumed had sent it?

But I can’t blame anyone other than myself. All this happened seven years ago and I’m not the feather-brained, impulsive debutante I was then. I’m older and wiser – lonelier, too, though I deserve it. But I have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and she’s my treasure.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I argued about the fact that I thought it wasn’t that Jack and I couldn’t be together again after we’d been apart for seven years. After all, I was widowed and Jack was not yet married. But my author said honour had to prevail. She said it was one thing that I’d only just been widowed but quite another that Jack was honour-bound to marry the daughter of his dying mentor whom he’d promised, in the West Indies, he would protect. He’d just brought Odette back from across the seas so how could I expect he’d leave her to marry me? Even though I knew Jack loved me?

I suppose I can’t blame him. I was the impulsive one. I brought all my troubles upon myself. It’s hardly any wonder Jack thought I had forsaken him.

But I did ask my author if I couldn’t just tell him everything about what had happened and how I felt about him. She said I could but only if I wanted to put him in the impossible position of choosing between his heart and his honourable soul. I’m still trying to find a way to get around that one.

What is your greatest fear?
That Jack will never know how much I love him. And that he will never learn my secret. I want him to know it – yet I know it would destroy him.

What makes you happy?
Being with my child makes me happy. I lead a quiet life after my late husband ruined my reputation and gambled away our worldly goods so I take pleasure in simple things.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would rewrite the end because I think Jack deserves to be happy but I think I do, too. And we can only be happy together. But Jack is about to marry and then he will be lost to me forever.

My author found me in tears this morning. She told me my story isn’t finished yet but I don’t believe her. Jack is marrying so soon. It’s set in stone. His bride-to-be is sweet and worthy and her father is dying. My aunt thinks she has a plan to make her fall in love with someone else, but it won’t work.

I must accept that Jack and I are doomed to be forever apart.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My cousin George, for sure! He was spoiled and whiney when we were children and he hadn’t changed much when we were eighteen which is when he suddenly decided he wanted to marry me – even though he knew Jack and I were soul mates.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Odette, Jack’s betrothed. Because she is the one who will have Jack for the rest of her dying days. But she won’t have his heart. I thought I would take comfort from that but I can’t. I don’t want her to suffer as much as I have for the truth is that she’s a good person. Better woman than I am. It’s just that Jack loves me. And I love him.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Beverley Oakley is an Australian author who grew up in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, married a Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and started writing historical romances to amuse herself in the 12 countries she’s lived as a ‘trailing spouse’. She writes historical romances laced with scandal and intrigue and Africa-set romantic suspense as Beverley Eikli. You can read more at www.beverleyoakley.com.

What's next for you, the author?
She’ll be writing book three in her Fair Cyprians of London series. Each story features a courtesan at Madame Chambon’s elite Soho establishment. Keeping Faith, like the other stories in the series, is based on fictionalized versions of the interviews of the ‘fallen women’ nineteenth century journalist Henry Mayhew included in his study of Victorian vice, London’s Underworld. Sacrificing Charity is about a courtesan who’s been groomed by her protector to be her ‘beautiful weapon’. It highlights hypocrisy and has at its heart a revenge and redemption theme.

The Accidental Elopement
Today we sit down with Katherine, niece of Earl Quamby, from author Beverley Oakley’s The Accidental Elopement.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

Believe me, I had my life all mapped out. The pinnacle of my ambition was to make the most illustrious marriage possible during my London season. I was beautiful, from a well-connected family (if you disregard my mother’s pre-marriage scandals) and I had three suitors. Then my author threw me together with my childhood friend, Jack – a boy from the foundling home – and we fell madly in love.

I was furious that she should do that to me – for about five seconds – because truly, I was prepared to cross shark-infested waters to be with Jack. In fact, I nearly did (well, not shark-infested but raging seas). Unfortunately, I got into the wrong carriage. The one that wasn’t taking me to those raging seas I was prepared to cross. And that’s when my life took a very dark turn.

Excuse me if I don’t go into the details right now. The trauma is still quite fresh in my mind.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I shouldn’t need to tell you that a well brought-up young lady doesn’t advertise her good qualities which should be evident to all her eligible suitors. However, if there’s one thing I secretly like about myself, it’s my love of adventure. I was so lucky to have been able to climb trees with Jack and join him on adventures when we were seven. This was when Jack would be brought over from the foundling home to be a playmate for my cousin, George. But it was Jack and I who found some mischief to get into – and Jack always defended me and took the blame – even if it was my fault. Sorry…I didn’t mean to get tearful but I do miss Jack. Or rather, the fact that he is lost to me and…the fact we’re doomed to be apart.

What do you like least about yourself?
My impulsiveness. Oh, yes, definitely that! If I hadn’t been so foolish and impulsive, I never would have made the biggest, most terrible mistake of my life. I never would have…I’m so embarrassed to admit it because who would do such a thing? Who would accidentally elope with the wrong person?

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Strangest? Or do you mean most terrible? Because, there’s no getting around the fact that my author utterly ruined my life! That carriage I got into? How was I supposed to know it had been sent by someone other than whom I assumed had sent it?

But I can’t blame anyone other than myself. All this happened seven years ago and I’m not the feather-brained, impulsive debutante I was then. I’m older and wiser – lonelier, too, though I deserve it. But I have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and she’s my treasure.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I argued about the fact that I thought it wasn’t that Jack and I couldn’t be together again after we’d been apart for seven years. After all, I was widowed and Jack was not yet married. But my author said honour had to prevail. She said it was one thing that I’d only just been widowed but quite another that Jack was honour-bound to marry the daughter of his dying mentor whom he’d promised, in the West Indies, he would protect. He’d just brought Odette back from across the seas so how could I expect he’d leave her to marry me? Even though I knew Jack loved me?

I suppose I can’t blame him. I was the impulsive one. I brought all my troubles upon myself. It’s hardly any wonder Jack thought I had forsaken him.

But I did ask my author if I couldn’t just tell him everything about what had happened and how I felt about him. She said I could but only if I wanted to put him in the impossible position of choosing between his heart and his honourable soul. I’m still trying to find a way to get around that one.

What is your greatest fear?
That Jack will never know how much I love him. And that he will never learn my secret. I want him to know it – yet I know it would destroy him.

What makes you happy?
Being with my child makes me happy. I lead a quiet life after my late husband ruined my reputation and gambled away our worldly goods so I take pleasure in simple things.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would rewrite the end because I think Jack deserves to be happy but I think I do, too. And we can only be happy together. But Jack is about to marry and then he will be lost to me forever.

My author found me in tears this morning. She told me my story isn’t finished yet but I don’t believe her. Jack is marrying so soon. It’s set in stone. His bride-to-be is sweet and worthy and her father is dying. My aunt thinks she has a plan to make her fall in love with someone else, but it won’t work.

I must accept that Jack and I are doomed to be forever apart.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My cousin George, for sure! He was spoiled and whiney when we were children and he hadn’t changed much when we were eighteen which is when he suddenly decided he wanted to marry me – even though he knew Jack and I were soul mates.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Odette, Jack’s betrothed. Because she is the one who will have Jack for the rest of her dying days. But she won’t have his heart. I thought I would take comfort from that but I can’t. I don’t want her to suffer as much as I have for the truth is that she’s a good person. Better woman than I am. It’s just that Jack loves me. And I love him.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Beverley Oakley is an Australian author who grew up in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, married a Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and started writing historical romances to amuse herself in the 12 countries she’s lived as a ‘trailing spouse’. She writes historical romances laced with scandal and intrigue and Africa-set romantic suspense as Beverley Eikli. You can read more at her website.

What's next for you, the author?
She’ll be writing book three in her Fair Cyprians of London series. Each story features a courtesan at Madame Chambon’s elite Soho establishment. Keeping Faith, like the other stories in the series, is based on fictionalized versions of the interviews of the ‘fallen women’ nineteenth century journalist Henry Mayhew included in his study of Victorian vice, London’s Underworld. Sacrificing Charity is about a courtesan who’s been groomed by her protector to be her ‘beautiful weapon’. It highlights hypocrisy and has at its heart a revenge and redemption theme.

The Accidental Elopement
Book 4 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwell series

A seven-year secret. A tragic misunderstanding. Can love outwit fate in this tale of misadventure and thwarted dreams?

Earl Quamby’s niece, Katherine, and Jack, a foundling home lad adopted by a local family, have been loyal friends for as long as they can remember. 

As Jack is about to leave England to make his fortune and Katherine is being courted by two eligible suitors, they unexpectedly realise their friendship has blossomed into passionate love. A love, they are warned, that has no future.

Despite a brave attempt to defy the forces keeping them apart, tragedy results and the pair is separated.

When chance throws them together seven years later, Katherine, newly widowed, is being pressured into a marriage not of her choosing to avoid scandal and Jack feels he must honour his pledge to the worthy Odette whom he met in India and whose father is dying.

Katherine knows that revealing a long-held secret may win Jack to her but she also knows conflicting obligations from past and present may tear him apart.

Can master matchmakers, Fanny, Antoinette and Bertram Brightwell, outwit fate in its latest attempt to keep these star-crossed lovers apart and deliver them the happiness they deserve?