Tag Archives: historic

New Release: THE COUNTESS INTRIGUE by Wendy May Andrews

The Countess Intrigue is a 60,000 word sweet, regency romance with a thread of suspense. It is a standalone sequel to The Duke Conspiracy.

TheCountessIntrigue500x750Engaged to a rumored murderer – what’s a lady to do?

During her second Season, Lady Elizabeth Castleton is found in a compromising situation with Lord Justice Sinclair, the Earl of Heath. Despite her attraction to him, she is dismayed to find herself betrothed to the man who is rumored to have killed his first wife. Her parents refuse to lend credence to the rumors, so she is soon married and on the way to her husband’s estate.

She cannot decide what to make of the handsome earl but after an attempt is made on her life, Elizabeth is terrified that history is about to repeat itself. She determines to find out once and for all if she is married to a murder.

Can she stay alive long enough to find her happily ever after?

Purchase The Countess Intrigue on Amazon Kindle.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The evening had already been harrowing with the abduction of her dearest friend from that very ballroom mere moments earlier, but it already felt like eons. After she had left it in the Duke of Wrentham’s hands there had been nothing she could do to help. She had no desire to stand about wringing her hands so she was making every effort to remain calm, keeping up appearances in order to prevent Rose’s absence from becoming common knowledge, in an effort to preserve her reputation. The last thing Elizabeth needed was to be seen conversing with the controversial earl. But despite every instinct shrieking for her to leave the man’s presence on the instant, she forced herself to meet his eye as she bade him good night.

His handsome face always made her blink. Well defined, with a sharp jaw and angular cheekbones. His skin looked smooth, as though he had just left the ministrations of his valet. His wide set eyes were a unique color, somewhere between blue and green, and leant an air of watchful intelligence to his beauty. She wondered if he found it amusing to be constantly faced with wide-eyed women or if he had become immune to it. Perhaps he took it as his due, Elizabeth thought absently, before she refocused her attention. She ought to be keeping her wits about her. Exhaustion from the evening’s turmoil was dulling her senses.

About the Author:

WMAndrews author picWendy May Andrews has been reading whatever she could get her hands on since the age of five. She has been writing for almost as long but hasn’t been sharing those stories with anyone but her mother until recently. Wendy lives in Toronto with her own real-life hero. When not writing or reading, they love to travel wherever the mood takes them.

Learn more about Wendy May Andrews and her writing at:

| Website  | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

A Captivating Window into Time

Journey_of_an_American_Son_full_cover-3_copyIn Journey of an American Son, Ben Albert marries Catherine, goes to war, loses his left hand, and finds himself caught in an international web of deception, intrigue and murder. In this book, John Hazen employs a technique of dual narrative, following Ben’s story and Catherine’s in separate chapters. When Ben is framed for murder, Catherine must step in and take charge of the investigation in order to prove her husband innocent.

I liked Journey of an American Son. Though the dual narrative is awkward at first in that it tells of the journey of the so called “American son” in third person and his wife, Catherine, in first person, the choice to do this begins to make more sense midway through the novel when Catherine emerges as the true protagonist. In following Catherine, Hazen is able to portray the role of women in society just after the turn of the century with interest. But Catherine is no ordinary early twentieth century woman. Rather, she is a modern woman transplanted into an early twentieth century world, which is what makes her character so interesting.

Though I enjoyed Hazen’s novel, and found myself often immersed in the pages, I do wish there was a better balance between narrative and dialogue throughout. I would have also liked for the story to be a bit more streamlined to eliminate the overlap in narrative and the repetition throughout as a result of the dual narrative format.

That aside, Hazen’s Journey of an American Son provides the reader with a captivating window into a time when the economy was less global, people used snail mail, telegrams and land telephone lines to communicate, and, outside of fingerprinting, there was no such thing as forensics.  Hazen’s story documents the rocky path one immigrant family travels while trying to attain the American dream in the New World. In Journey of an American Son, whether or not the Albert family ultimately meets that elusive dream is subject to the reader’s interpretation.

Mamabear gives this book


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with author John Hazen

Hello and welcome to John Hazen, author of Journey of an American Son, for an interview in today’s author spotlight.

From Amazon’s book description:

Journey_of_an_American_Son_full_cover-3_copyIn 1920, the chance to travel to India on a business trip is a great boon for a smart and talented young man. Until he wakes up in a Calcutta jail, framed for murder.

Benjamin Albert is a brilliant rising star at his firm, a war hero and a loving husband and father. But when his own government turns its back on him and leaves him to rot in prison 8,000 miles from home, his wife Catherine must take matters into her own hands and battle a ruthless and unscrupulous corporation abetted by a corrupt colonial government.

Timeless issues like racism, anti-Semitism, nationalism and women’s rights are exposed during Catherine’s race to save Benjamin.

Buy Journey of an American son on Amazon and Black Rose Writing.

Buy John Hazen’s suspense-thriller Fava on Amazon and Black Rose Writing.

Buy Dear Dad by John Hazen on Amazon.

Hi, John. Tell us about your inspiration for writing Journey of an American Son.

The inspiration for Journey of an American Son literally fell into my lap. Some time ago, my wife and I were going through some boxes and came upon a diary my grandfather had kept on a business trip he took from Boston to Calcutta India in 1920. I remember my grandmother telling me about the trip and the set of teak wood elephants he had brought back that she prominently displayed in her home for years. This, however, was a day-by-day accounting of the journey. As you can imagine, such a trip back then was rather arduous involving trains, steamers and even rickshaws as he worked his way across Canada, across the Pacific to Japan and then around the rim of Southeast Asia. The diary itself is rather dry—my grandfather was a somewhat puritanical New Englander after all—but it did have the occasional nugget to keep it interesting such as an encounter with a group of lepers and being on ship with a silent film starlet. Reading through the diary planted a seed in my brain that this would provide an ideal setting around which I could build a story.

Sounds like a wonderful premise for a novel. All of your novels are based in historic times: Fava deals with events on 9/11; Dear Dad, the 1960s and 1860s; Journey of an American Son, the 1920s. From where does your interest in history come?

To tell you the truth, I never really thought about where my love of history came from; I can’t remember not having it. I recall sitting through World and U.S. History in high school where, while some of my classmates were bored out of their skulls, I sat there taking it all in and writing copious notes. If I had to pinpoint a source, I’d have to say my parents, my father in particular. He was a nut about the presidents and their times. Both of my parents would also talk about our personal history as ancestors on both sides came to America in the 1600s.  My father was especially partial to the story about his great-grandfather who was killed in the Civil War, three days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Did you have to do much research when writing Journey of an American Son? What was the most interesting thing you discovered?

I had to do a fair amount of research to try and make the feel for the times accurate. The book spans a generation, starting in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, through the immigrant-clogged streets of America to the Far East and colonial India. Having the diary helped a lot, but I had to do a lot of extra reading to provide authenticity to the book. I think the most interesting things I learned that I didn’t know before pertained to colonial India and the First World War. What I knew about colonial India I’d gathered from the film Gandhi and, while I’ve always been a bit of a fanatic when it came to the Civil War and World War II, I was rather uninformed when it came to the Great War. It’s always fun for me to learn about new historical eras.

Do you ever have to travel to scope out a location for a scene? Describe one such trip and what you learned from it.

My wife and I have traveled throughout the years and I try to weave in my observations and experiences into my writing. Our favourite place on earth is Paris and you’ll find Paris scenes gleaned from our travels in both Fava and Aceldama. I’m sure Paris will find its way into my future books. I can’t say that I ever set out to a place with the idea that it would someday be a part of one of my novels. Rather, I’ll observe wherever I may be and store incidents and observations for later use in my books.

Back to Journey of an American Son. How would you classify it with respect to genre(s)? Why do you choose to write in this genre?

All of my novels, including Journey, would be categorized as suspense, more specifically historical suspense. It just seems to be the genre I’m most comfortable with. There are times I think I’d like to shift gears and try something a bit lighter, but overall I’m generally a serious person and this genre fits my personality. I also want my books to be something more than just a “good read” (which coincidentally many people have advised me they are), but I like them to have some deeper meaning. Journey, for example, even though it’s set in the 1920s tackles timeless issues that we still grapple with, such as racism, anti-Semitism, women’s rights, nationalism and immigration. For me, the genre of historical suspense provides me an opportunity to get this across.

What about the main character(s) in Journey of an American Son? What makes s/he/them so special?

Whenever I can, I like a character to have characteristics of someone I know. It tends to provide authenticity. The main character of Journey, Benjamin Albert, is an amalgamation of the personalities of my father, my father-in-law and my grandfather. His parents, Molly and Harry Albert, were created from various stories my wife has told about her grandparents. Other characters, Ben’s wife, Catherine, for example, come completely from my imagination. I also like to create people that I would want to know. Catherine is one of my favourite all-time characters, mainly because of the way she grows throughout the book. Several people have told me that they appreciate the strong women characters I present in my books. Well, I believe that Catherine is one of my strongest. It’s not that she starts off weak, but even as her world crumbles around her, she becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Tell us about Aceldama and Fava 2, your next projects. From all of your books, why choose Fava as the one with which to write a sequel?

Aceldama is actually the first novel I wrote, over a decade ago. But when I couldn’t get any takers from the publishing or agent worlds I just kept on writing. For some reason I shelved Aceldama as I self published Dear Dad and then Black Rose Writing agreed to publish Fava and then Journey. It’s time to dust off Aceldama and get it ready for publication. A summary of Aceldama is:

After returning from a romantic trip to Paris with Anna, his wife, Tim Harrington’s life slowly ebbs away. His doctors are baffled. Anna comes to believe an ancient curse may be the cause.  Desperate to save her husband, against all logic, she embarks of an extraordinary journey that leads back to Paris and across the centuries to a Roman soldier, a twelfth century sailor, a French Revolution-era nun and a mysterious unseen man. Ultimately, armed only with love and conviction, Anna comes face-to-face with a power far beyond her—or anybody’s—comprehension.

I’d like to say that I completely planned that Fava would be a series but unfortunately I’m not that organized. It just happened that some of the plot and character lines were left open enough at the end of the book that a follow-up book seemed natural. Also, the lead characters—news reporter Francine Vega and FBI Special Agent Will Allen—lend themselves to ongoing adventures in the spirit of Bones and Castle.

Speaking about the book world, what have you found to be the most powerful tool when publicizing your books and building your author platform?

I have to admit that I’m absolutely terrible at publicizing and promoting myself. I have a website that is desperately in need of updating and revamping. I’m trying to get a presence in social media by building up Twitter following and have joined numerous Facebook groups. I also appreciate forums such as the one you offer here to get my name out there. However, a part of me is naively old-school and I’m still counting on the quality of my work to carry the day, but alas, I do realize that the books aren’t going to sell themselves.

Since you mentioned it, do you prefer to read (old-school) hardcopies or(newfangled) eBooks and why?

All-in-all I love the feel of a book in my hands and the physical act of turning pages. But, given that much of my reading is done during my commute to and from work and I’m going to have an iPad along with me anyway, eBooks have a certain appeal in that I’m not having carry the additional weight of a book in my bag.

Is there anything else you’d like for us to know that wasn’t covered in this interview?

Nothing really. I just want to thank you, Elise, for the opportunity to chat with you today.

My pleasure, John. I’m looking forward to reading the books.

Here’s where readers can learn more about John Hazen and his writing:

| Website | Facebook | Twitter |

John_HazenJohn Hazen came to writing novels relatively late in life, but once he started he hasn’t looked back. Degrees from Rutgers, The New School and New York and NYU buttress a lifelong passion for learning and a love of history. Inspired by Lynn, his wife of over thirty years, he pursued the dream of becoming an established author and is now working on his fifth book. John and Lynn love to travel, and the experiences of those travels find their way into his writing. John’s reading tastes are eclectic, ranging from histories to classic novels to an occasional piece of modern trash. His absolute “must reads” are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time.

Interview with author Joe Swope

Please join me in welcoming fellow Black Rose Writer Joe Swope to Britbear’s Book Reviews. Today I interview Joe and his novel, Pleasant Valley Lost for my author feature. 

swope pleasant valley coverFrom the Amazon description:

Set amid the turbulent times of the late 1960s, Pleasant Valley Lost chronicles the last days of a family dairy farm condemned to destruction by a federal dam project. As the family struggles to find a new home and build their future, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves into Pleasant Valley, ruthlessly destroying a community and its history. Pleasant Valley Lost is based on the true story surrounding the author’s childhood farm. Originally part of the estate of Pennsylvania’s fifth governor, the farm had been in the Swope family since 1939 and was located in one of the most fertile areas of the region. Pleasant Valley Lost also recounts the family’s long- suffering devotion to baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies. Following many years of losing seasons, the Phillies finally provided cause for celebration when they claimed their first World Series title in 1980. Today, Pleasant Valley and the Swope farm are submerged under the Blue Marsh Dam.

Buy Pleasant Valley Lost by Joseph J. Swope at Black Rose Writing.

Welcome, Joe.

Your website describes Pleasant Valley Lost as “a work of narrative non-fiction, a family memoir written in the format of a traditional novel”. What inspired you to write about this topic?

Our historic family farm, handed down from my grandfather to my father, was originally part of the estate of Pennsylvania’s fifth governor. Our farm was in the heart of Pleasant Valley, an agricultural community with roots that dated into the early 1700s. In the early 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated the area as the site of a federal dam project. The Corps allowed the area to hang in uncertainty for more than a decade, but when they did begin the condemnation and acquisition proceedings, they did so ruthlessly and heartlessly. The Corps did their best to erase the history of the community. I’ve been trying to find the right way to tell this story for more than 30 years. Finally, in 2013, a local gallery ran an exhibit on the lost landscape beneath the Blue Marsh Dam that drew record crowds. At that point, I finally found the voice I needed to tell the story this region deserved.

Your homepage displays some amazing photographs and paintings. Can you talk a little bit about the selection process for the graphics on your site?

I’ve been really fortunate in locating the images that represent the Pleasant Valley region. The watercolor painting of our farm, which is also on the cover of the book, was done by a local artist in the early 1970s when it was clear the area was doomed to destruction. The painting has graced my mother’s living room wall for more than 40 years. There’s an aerial photo of the farm, which I didn’t even know existed until the gallery exhibit.

I also have a pretty extensive photographic background, and it’s come in handy. A number of photographs from the farm were in pretty bad shape until I copied and enhanced them. I also took a number of original images as part of my master’s degree project on the American independent farmer, and they’re represented on my website as well.

Your story sounds like an incredible personal journey. What about the characters you created. Are they fictional or based in reality? Talk a bit about the character you describe as a “mentally-challenged handyman”.

Adam was indeed real. He came to our farm at about the same time I was born and lived with my parents into the 1990s. Adam is an amazingly complex character and represented one of the real challenges in writing my book. He was incredibly strong, gruff and rough-hewn, but capable of surprising acts of kindness. There’s a scene in the book – which is based on a real incident – where my younger brother is attacked by a hive of bees far from the farmhouse. Adam carried him from deep in the fields to the house, reassuring him the entire time.

The real difficult aspect of portraying Adam was his language. When my 81-year-old mother read the first draft of my book, she asked: “Can you use words like that in a book?” Then, she acknowledged that “Adam never did say a sentence without swearing.” Adam’s profanity – in both English and Pennsylvania Dutch – was an integral part of my childhood and his relationship with my family, especially my father. You just can’t realistically portray Adam without swearing  nearly every other word. It may become a sticking point with some readers, but there was no other way to paint a realistic picture of him.

It’s great that you stayed true to his character.

You describe the late 60s and early 70s as “turbulent times”. What did you experience during this time (besides the events chronicled in the book) that lead you to describe the time period this way?

My parents weren’t particularly political, but there was no way to escape the realities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Nixon and Watergate, the suburbanization of America that led to the decline of the inner cities . . . there was no escaping the cataclysmic shifts taking place in the United States and across the world. It was the first time that the definition of what was “right” was subject to argument, and it seeped through every part of society: in school, in church, at home. Pleasant Valley Lost isn’t directly about these cultural shifts, but they are used as a backdrop to the events occurring in our community.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? What’s the first thing you remember writing about?

I was fortunate to discover my love of writing early. As early as sixth and seventh grade, my writing skills began to shine. By eighth grade, I had fully learned the power of words. We had a demerit system in our school, and one of our teachers would come into class and read off a list of students with the number of demerits each had received. It was a ridiculous number – some received 30 or 40 demerits at a time without explanation. So I wrote a parody story for the school newspaper that turned the demerit system into a race, listing the leaders and their strategies for winning. The story got censored, but the system got changed. That was when I knew I could make a difference with words.

Talk a bit about your career as a public relations professional, educator and writer and how (or if) it’s influenced your writing.

I always wanted a career where my writing skills played a major role, and the public relations profession has been the perfect avenue. One of the best things about a public relations career is that I never have two days that are the same. I think my career as a PR professional and my adjunct university teaching efforts have influenced my writing in complementary ways, since in many cases I’m teaching at night what I practice during the day.

A couple of specific lessons come through in my writing style. First, be clear and to the point. There’s an old journalistic axiom that says: “The Declaration of Independence, the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the Gettysburg Address are all less than 1500 words.” In fact, the Gettysburg Address is less than 300 words. You can say a lot in a short amount of time.

Second, bring your scene to life. You very quickly learn that the man wasn’t driving a car fast. Instead, a 37-year-old clean-shaven white man with medium-length brown hair was driving a red 2007 Chevrolet Impala at over 80 miles per hour. Details are everything.

Third, satisfy the reader with an appropriate ending. I’ve always found that I can’t write a story without having the beginning and the end. I’ll figure out the middle along the way.  But too many great ideas go unfulfilled. One of the things about journalism and public relations is you tell the end of the story up right up front. You tell readers what happened, then go back and explain why in the trusty inverted pyramid style of writing. I don’t write my books that way, but it does remind me of the importance of the ending!

That’s great advice.

You recently posted on Facebook that your publisher, Black Rose Writing reported that Pleasant Valley Lost has shattered all of the previous pre-order records for sales on their website. What marketing tactics did you use that helped you to accomplish this amazing feat?

While my campaign was a solid public relations campaign, I really didn’t do anything remarkable.  The biggest thing that contributed to the success of Pleasant Valley Lost is that it has tremendous appeal to those who remember the area before the dam. As I mentioned earlier, the gallery display in 2013 attracted record crowds and had to be extended three weeks to accommodate the demand. One of the great things about Berks County, Pennsylvania is that its residents take great pride in local history, and a number of people have thanked me for this contribution.

That being said, I launched a Facebook author page, a website and promoted Pleasant Valley Lost on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+. One thing that most people don’t recognize about Google+ is that it significantly helps your search ratings on Google (marketing secret revealed!).

I had bookmarks printed and distributed them freely, trying to enhance word of mouth. I shot a short video trailer that I’ve received a lot of compliments about as being genuine and heartfelt. That’s on YouTube and linked to all my other social channels.

I also have a good relationship with a number of local media, and I received coverage on the local community access channel as well as a chain of weekly newspapers. The biggest boost, however, was a section-front story in the Reading Eagle, the daily newspaper in Berks County. They focused on the local history angle, and the story came out three days before the book’s release. The tremendous coverage served as an amazing catalyst for the launch of the book.

That’s amazing. I think the print media and press are great tools that so many of us either forget about, or have difficulty accessing.

Another of your Facebook posts says it took you two years to see Pleasant Valley Lost from start to finish. Describe your writing process for us.

I have to ruminate on my story for a long time before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). As I mentioned earlier, I have to know my beginning and ending before I start, plus some vague direction of how I’ll get from A to B. I have a lot of handwritten notes laying all over the place, then I finally sit down and start writing. One of the things I discovered in writing a book was there was too much to keep in my head (old age, I guess), so I started doing a chapter outline, which grew and grew as the book progressed. It kept me on track.

The thing about Pleasant Valley Lost is it actually took much longer to write than two years. I started writing about Pleasant Valley in my freshman year in college, and there’s a couple of lines from that initial essay that made it into the book. I did a lot of research on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an Environment Science class, and more when I wrote my master’s degree project. After graduating from college, I wrote several pieces on the Blue Marsh Dam for local newspapers and magazines. I started a book numerous times, but never could get very far.

After the gallery exhibit, which actually used a number of materials I had collected, I started again. I made two major decisions that made the book work. First, I decided to write in first person (which I NEVER do!) to give the story the intimacy and emotion it deserved. Second, I compressed the time frame to focus primarily on 1968 to 1972. The book actually extends to 1980 (the dam was completed in 1979), but the major action takes place in four years. It took me 37 years to get it right, but I finally had a vision that worked!

What research did you have to do while writing Pleasant Valley Lost? What is the most interesting thing you learned as a result of your research?

I actually needed to do a ton of research. As I mentioned, I had extensively researched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and discovered that Pleasant Valley was not the only victim of their voracious appetite to flood America. They have left a string of questionable dam projects that have destroyed communities across the country.

In writing the book, I had to go back and research the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a history-changing time – the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; the election of Richard Nixon as president and the subsequent Watergate scandal; Vietnam; the civil rights movement; the first Moon landing . . .All these things happened in the timeframe of my book.

The second thing that took some work was the cultural changes across the country. There’s one scene that depicts New Year’s Eve 1968 leading into 1969. Who was on TV that year? Guess what, it wasn’t Dick Clark. It was Guy Lombardo and his big band. When did suburban shopping malls begin to carve into the shopping meccas of the inner cities? My mother is a devout Catholic – when did Saturday night Mass start? Again, all these things came into place during that timeframe, and I tried to get as much right as possible.

What’s next for Joe Swope, author? Tell us about your current work in progress.

Well, as usual, I have multiple projects and not enough time to tackle them. I’m working on a children’s book , something that I’ve always wanted to do since I have six kids ranging from ages 5-24 I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life, so I’ve recruited my oldest daughter, an artist and architect, to illustrate it.

I’ve also been approached by a publisher of professional books to consider writing a book on public relations practice for beginners. I’m on the outline stage of that project.

I have a fantasy book in various stages of construction and a pretty solid outline for a science fiction novel. Fantasy and Sci-Fi have always been my first loves, so at some point, I want to re-visit those genres.  I also have an idea of a re-telling of the Arthurian legend.

Finally, I’d love to re-visit Pleasant Valley one day and write a prequel. I’d call it Pleasant Valley Alive and show the community while it was flourishing, before the entrance by the Corps of Engineers. But I have to interview people soon. Most of the people who remember Pleasant Valley at its height are in their 80s and 90s, and won’t be around forever. My uncle will turn 97 this spring. He’s still sharp as a tack. He’d be a great resource.

So all in all, I have enough projects for the next 10 years. Now just to find the time.

Best of luck with Pleasant Valley Lost and all of your future endeavours, Joe. How can interested readers discover more about you and you work?

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest |

Amazon Author Page |  Goodreads |

About Joe Swope (from Amazon Author Page):

swope author picJoseph J. Swope has been writing both fiction and non-fiction since high school. Swope has enjoyed an award-winning career in public relations spanning more than 30 years in both higher education and corporate settings.

He is currently the Communications Manager for UGI Utilities, Inc., a natural gas and electric utility based in Reading, PA. Swope has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Alvernia University since 1982.

Pleasant Valley Lost is Swope’s first book, and it chronicles the last days of his historic family farm before its condemnation and acquisition for a federal dam project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Swope farm and the rest of Pleasant Valley eventually became the Blue Marsh Dam in 1979.

The story also documents the family’s long-suffering devotion to the woebegone Philadelphia Phillies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a loyalty that finally paid off in a World Championship in 1980.

Swope is a lifelong resident of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and he and his family reside outside Bernville, just a few miles from the Blue Marsh Dam. He never visits the complex.




Book Review: The Invention of Wings

the-invention-of-wings-sue-monk-kiddWhen Sarah Grimke, in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, is gifted ten year old slave Handful for her eleventh birthday, her first order of business is to set her free, an act that horrifies her parents. It is the first step Sarah takes on the road to becoming a full-fledged abolitionist. Set in Charleston in the early 1800s, Sarah not only believes her family’s insistence at keeping slaves is wrong, she also believes the subjugation of women wrong as well. Young Sarah wants to be a lawyer like her father and brothers. She refuses to believe all that was meant for her in life is marriage, having children, and socializing with Charleston’s upper class.

Sarah’s story alternates with that of Handful who, like Sarah, refuses to accept her lot in life. Handful believes herself better than the way she’s treated, in large part due to Sarah’s inculcating her beliefs about equality in her. While Sarah lives in fear of losing her father’s approval, Handful lives in fear of being whipped or worse, but both women persevere in their attempts to change the world and promote equality for women as well as people of colour.

Sue Monk Kidd’s story is told with a parallel structure. At first, the two protagonists are hard to tell apart. But as Sarah ages, her diction changes and it is easier to discern between the two. One might think an upper-class teenage white girl would have nothing in common with a slave of comparable age, but Kidd manages to find common ground. Sarah and Handful are portrayed for all intents and purposes as sisters, in an effort to demonstrate no matter your skin colour or walk in life, we are all related as members of the human race, each and every one of us worthy of respect.

Of especial interest is the afterword, for that is where Kidd shares her research with her reader. Though Kidd took poetic license with some of her research, much of the plot is based on a true story. I was surprised to learn Sarah Grimke and her blood sister, Angelina, were real people who sacrificed their positions amongst the Charleston elite to speak out against slavery and women’s rights. Both of them were revered speakers and activists who fought for equality for most of their lives.

The Invention of Wings is an incredible read. At times light-hearted, at times tragic, Kidd’s narrative is gripping and straightforward, weaving together real-life with fiction in this tale of the roots of the human rights movement in America.

Mamabear gives this book: