This is one of the most outstanding and fascinating historical romance books I’ve ever read. The historical aspect of the story adds depth and dimension, while providing details of some the issues people faced post Civil War and during and after the Great Chicago Fire. The characters are as interesting and complex as the plot, and I felt as if I really knew them by the time I finished reading the book.
Meet the Characters:
Mollie Knox inherited the 57th Illinois Watch Company from her father, and her life has been totally focused on the business and its employees ever since. Her concern and sense of responsibility for her “family” coupled with her faith presses her forward to overcome the devastation caused by the tragic fire. One cannot help but admire Mollie’s tenacity as she struggles to rebuild her business and her life.
Some of the employees of 57th Illinois Watch Company:
Frank Spencer – The blind attorney for the 57th is like a second father to Mollie.
Ulysses Adair lost a leg during the Civil War and, like the other faithful employees of the 57th, depends on the 57th Illinois Watch Company for his livelihood.
Alice Adair, wife of Ulysses and artisan, creates stunning designs for the watches.
Declan McNabb, metal polisher for the company, has post-war panic attacks.
Zack Kasmarek has admired Mollie from afar for three years. As the powerful attorney for the prestigious Hartman’s department store, he knows how to get what he wants. His obligation to the rich owner of Louis Hartman may jeopardize his chances with Mollie when he’s required to make an offer to purchase the 57th from Mollie—“an offer she can’t refuse.”
Jozef and Joanna Kazmarek –Zack honors and protects his immigrant parents who have made it their life’s work to try to help restore autonomy to Poland, the country they loved and in which they were born.
Colonel Richard Lowe has his sights set on Mollie, is a handsome, cultured, heroic soldier. He intends to help Mollie rebuild her business—and win her heart.
Sophie, homeless and hungry, is rescued from the fire by Zack and Mollie. Stubborn, demanding, and impatient, I was conflicted as to whether I wanted to hug her or choke her.
Elizabeth Camden is author of four published novels and four non-fiction books. She has won RITA, Christy, and Daphne du Maurier awards for her writing. She was kind enough to allow me to interview her so you can get to know her better.
Elizabeth: I started writing fiction around seven years ago. Five of those years were “practice years” while I learned the ropes. It took a while before I had something that was ready for prime time. My first novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill, was published in 2011, and I haven’t had time to take a breath since.
Pat: Which do you prefer writing: fiction or nonfiction?
Elizabeth: Although they seem similar, writing fiction and nonfiction are very different art forms. I enjoyed the rigor of academic research that is necessary for nonfiction, but oh….the creativity, the adventure, the sheer exuberance of writing novels is surely my favorite.
Pat: What inspired you to write historical fiction?
Elizabeth: My background as a research librarian gave me a leg-up in this area. Research does not intimidate me, and I think I had a natural advantage when I tackled historical subjects, but I wouldn’t mind writing contemporary novels someday. Right now there are practical considerations in building an audience that require I continue writing historical novels for a while, but perhaps someday I’ll have the opportunity to release some contemporaries.
Pat: How do you choose what historical events you write about?
Elizabeth: I like the late 19th century because I am naturally drawn to heroines who are working in the professions. The late 19th century was an era where women were beginning to go to college and serve in respectable careers. It was also an era that has the whiff of glamour and nostalgia for an earlier era, but with attitudes that are not so alien to modern sensibilities.
Pat: How much time do you spend researching for a book?
Elizabeth: After I pick a topic (which is usually something hugely vague like “a late 19th century catastrophe” or “a medical mystery”) I’ll start reading books about the era until I can hone in on an interesting angle. Then I read more targeted books. All this takes around six months.
Pat: What resources do you use in your research?
Elizabeth: Are you familiar with Google Books? This is priceless for people writing in my era. A few years ago Google began the noble, somewhat quixotic quest to scan the world’s books into the internet. Because of copyright concerns, they began primarily with 19th century books, which means I can get my hands on what I need to know from the comfort of my living room. For example, my current book is set in Washington D.C., 1891. Low and behold, I was able to find a copy of the Rand McNally tour guide to Washington from that year (http://bit.ly/1eHNEmf) This guide book gives me maps of the city, rates for local streetcar service, local attractions, really….almost anything I need to know. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. I use Google Books to hunt down historically accurate cookbook recipes, medical beliefs, slang, and curious facts to pepper throughout the book.
Pat: What’s coming next?
Elizabeth: My next novel is called With Every Breath, and is due August 2014. Here’s the blurb:
Washington D.C., 1891. In the shadow of the nation’s capital, Kate Livingston has a respectable job as a government statistician when she encounters a rival from her past, the insufferable Trevor McDonough. A Harvard-trained physician, Trevor never showed the tiniest flicker of interest in Kate, so why did he track her down after more than ten years apart to recruit her onto his medical team? In a daring move, Kate agrees to Trevor’s risky proposal to work side-by-side in a quest to rid the world of tuberculosis, a disease so deadly it could kill anyone coming too close.
As Kate begins to unlock the mysteries of Trevor’s past, she begins falling in love with this fascinating man…but she soon learns his terrible secret. Meanwhile, a shadowy enemy lurks in the background, threatening to destroy everything they hold dear. A story of courage and betrayal, triumph and redemption, Kate and Trevor will risk everything to overcome the barriers between them.
Pat: Elizabeth, that sounds exciting and a book that I won’t want to miss. Thank you so much for visiting us here!