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Guest Post/Excerpt: What Was it Like to Be a Governess? by Regina Jeffers, author of Pemberley’s Christmas Governness (giveaway)

Today’s guest — just in time for holiday shopping — is Regina Jeffers with her latest book, Pemberley’s Christmas Governess. You’ll get to learn about the role of a governess and read an excerpt from the book.

There’s also a giveaway, so be sure to enter.

Book Synopsis:

Following his wife’s death in childbirth, Fitzwilliam Darcy hopes to ease his way back into society by hosting a house party during Christmastide. He is thrilled when his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam sends a message saying not only will the colonel attend, but he is bringing a young woman with him of whom he hopes both Darcy and the colonel’s mother, Lady Matlock, will approve. Unfortunately, for Darcy, upon first sight, he falls for the woman: He suspects beneath Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s conservative veneer lies a soul which will match his in every way; yet, she is soon to be the colonel’s wife.

Elizabeth Bennet lost her position as a governess when Lady Newland accused Elizabeth of leading her son on. It is Christmastide, and she has no place to go and little money to hold her over until after Twelfth Night; therefore, when Lieutenant Newland’s commanding officer offers her a place at his cousin’s household for the holy days, she accepts in hopes someone at the house party can provide her a lead on a new position. Having endured personal challenges which could easily have embittered a lesser woman, Elizabeth proves herself brave, intelligent, educated in the fine arts of society, and deeply honorable. Unfortunately, she is also vulnerable to the Master of Pemberley, who kindness renews her spirits and whose young daughter steals her heart. The problem is she must leave Pemberley after the holidays, and she does not know if a “memory” of Fitzwilliam Darcy will be enough to sustain her.

Without further ado, please welcome Regina Jeffers:

The life of a governess in the Regency period was certainly not a glamorous one. These young women were most likely from a gentile family. They would possess a thorough education. For a variety of reason, they became governesses, hired by an aristocratic family or even a well-to-do middle class family, who wished to provide their daughters a “leg up,” so to speak, in society.

Most of these young women were brought up with a certain degree of indulgence and refinement. They moved in the better circles of society until a sudden loss of fortune, a failed business, or a death reversed the “possibilities” of a fulfilling future.

A governess would possess no expectation of an offer or marriage. She was at the mercy of her employer, receiving room and board and, perhaps, a small salary (allowance). Generally, a governess was neither part of the upper echelon of household servants (meaning the housekeeper and butler) nor part of the lowest positions (meaning maids, etc.). Often, a governess’s life was lonely and isolated.

Mary Atkinson Maurice tells us in Mothers and Governesses [London: John W. Parker, Publisher; Harrison and Co., Printers, M.DCCC.XLVII], a governess is “not a member of the family; but she occupies a sort of dubious position. She is neither the companion of the parents, nor the friend of the children, and she is above the domestics; she stands therefore alone. She has too often to guard against the exactions of her employers—the impertinence, or coldness of her charge, and the neglect and rudeness of the servants, she must be forever on the defensive.”

Enjoy the excerpt from Chapter One when Elizabeth Bennet, working as a governess, is accosted by her employer’s son. Then comment to be in the drawing for one of two eBook copies of Pemberley’s Christmas Governess.

Thanks, Regina, for sharing this information about the role of the governess. Readers, please enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter One and then enter the giveaway below:

Mid-December 1818 – Gloucestershire

“I said to unhand me, sir,” Elizabeth Bennet ordered, as she shoved young Mr. Newland’s hands from her person. Ever since the man had returned home, he had dogged her every step. She had been serving as the governess for his two younger sisters for six months now, but this was the first time the lieutenant had been home since her arrival at his parents’ home.

“I just be luckin’ for a bit of fun,” Mr. Newland slurred as he attempted to kiss her ear, but all she received was a wet lash of his tongue across her cheek. He reeked of alcohol.

Elizabeth wished she had been more careful when she left her room a few minutes earlier, but she had briefly forgotten how the lieutenant seemed always to be around when she least expected it. She had thought him below stairs with his friends, both of whom had been excessively respectful to her. She shoved hard against his chest sending him tumbling backward to land soundly upon his backside. “If it is fun you require,” she hissed, “join your friends in the billiard room!” Elizabeth side-stepped the man as he reached for her.

Lieutenant Newland attempted to turn over so he might stand, but he was too inebriated to put his hands flat for balance and to rotate his hips. “I don’t be requirin’ their kind of fun,” he grumbled.

Elizabeth edged closer to the steps. She hoped to escape before Lady Newland discovered her with a torn sleeve and the woman’s rascal son doing a poor version of standing on his own. “You must find your ‘fun’ elsewhere, sir. I am not that type of woman.”

She had been a governess for nearly five years—five years since her dearest “Papa” had died suddenly from heart failure—five years since her mother, Kitty, and Lydia had taken refuge with Aunt Phillips in Meryton, and Jane and Mary had moved in with Uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth, too, had been sent to London with Jane and Mary, but it had been so crowded at her uncle’s town house, she immediately took a position as the governess to Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Sample’s daughters, Livia and Sylvia. She had remained with the Samples, who were a wealthy middle-class gentry family and friends of her Uncle Gardiner, for a little over two years before the Samples brought the girls out into society and married them off.

In Elizabeth’s estimation, Livia, barely sixteen, was too young for marriage, but the girl appeared happy with her choice of a husband. Sylvia, at seventeen, had been more reluctant to wed, but the girl had followed her parents’ wishes. Few women had the freedom to choose their husbands, even in the lower classes, and certainly not in the gentry.

Elizabeth had spent an additional two years with another wealthy, but untitled, family, preparing their daughter for an elite school for young women on the Continent. In mid-May, she had answered an advert with an agency to join the Newland household. Although she had often thought Lady Newland was too pretentious, Elizabeth had enjoyed the enthusiasm of her young charges: She had considered them to be very much of the nature of her sisters Mary and Lydia. Pamela wished desperately to please her parents, but to no avail, while Julia was as boisterous and as adventurous as had been Lydia.

Elizabeth sadly missed her family, but, essentially, she knew their current situation was her fault. Such was the reason she had sacrificed herself by going out on her own—removing the responsibility for her care from her family’s hands—one less mouth to feed and to clothe.

Jarred from her musings by Lieutenant Newland’s lunge for her legs, Elizabeth squealed and scampered down the steps before the man could catch her. However, the lieutenant’s momentum sent him tumbling after her and marked with a yelp of surprise—heels over head—to land spread-eagle on the floor, except one of his legs had been turned at an odd angle. A loud moan of pain escaped to echo through the hall.

The sound of running feet filled the open hallway. Instinctively, Elizabeth dropped to her knees to examine the lieutenant’s leg. “Permit me a look at your leg, sir,” she told the man as she swatted away his hands, still attempting to grope her. “Lay back!” she instructed.

Immediately one of the lieutenant’s fellow officers was beside her. “Lay back, Lieutenant,” he ordered in a strong voice of authority. “Permit the lady to examine your leg.” The colonel looked to her, and Elizabeth mouthed, “Bad break.”

After that, the colonel took charge. “Mr. Scott, send someone for a surgeon.” The butler rushed away. “You two, find some sturdy blankets and a board—a door, perhaps, so we might move Lieutenant Newland to his room.”

“Yes, sir,” the footmen scrambled to do the colonel’s bidding.

Before Elizabeth could extricate herself from the scene, she looked up to view Lady Newland’s worried countenance. It was all Elizabeth could do not to groan aloud. There was no hope her ladyship would take Elizabeth’s side in the matter. “Nigel! Nigel, darling!” Lady Newland screeched as she knelt beside her son. “What has happened?” She shoved Elizabeth from the way.

Colonel Fitzwilliam explained, “I have sent for a surgeon and a means to move Lieutenant Newland to his quarters.”

Lady Newland nodded her understanding as she caught her son’s hand to offer comfort. Unfortunately, for Elizabeth, the lieutenant rolled his eyes up to meet hers. “I’m thorry, Miss Bennet.”

Lady Newland cast a gimlet eye on Elizabeth. “Sorry for what, Miss Bennet?” she asked in accusing tones.

Even though she knew such would cost her the position she held in the household, Elizabeth refused to tell a lie. “For the lieutenant’s attempt to take liberties where they were not welcomed, your ladyship.”

Lady Newland stood to confront Elizabeth. “I see how it is. Evidently, you thought one day to take my place as viscountess.”

The colonel stood also. “I believe you are mistaken, ma’am. Both Captain Stewart and I have warned the lieutenant how it is inappropriate for a gentleman to take favors with the hired help. Your son’s ‘infatuation’ has been quite evident to all who chose not to turn a blind eye to his thoughts of privilege.”

Lady Newland pulled herself up royally. “I shall not listen to anyone defame Nigel’s character. I realize you are my son’s commanding officer, but I am the mistress of this house, and I say who is and is not welcome under my roof. I would appreciate it if you removed yourself from my home by tomorrow.”

Captain Stewart joined them then. “Your ladyship, surely you realize the colonel is the son of the Earl of Matlock,” he cautioned.

For the briefest of seconds, Lady Newland’s resolve faltered, but she looked again upon Elizabeth’s torn sleeve and stiffened in outrage. “You may stay, Colonel, if you wish to condemn the real culprit in this matter.”

The colonel’s features hardened. “Although it provides me no pleasure to say so, for the British Army holds a standard for its officers, even those of a junior rank, but I have named the culprit, ma’am.” He bowed stiffly. “I thank you for your prior hospitality. I, for one, will depart in the morning after I learn something of your son’s prospects for recovery so I might properly report the surgeon’s prognosis to my superiors. Captain Stewart may choose to stay or depart on his own.” With that, he extended an arm to Elizabeth. “Permit me to escort you to your quarters, Miss Bennet.”

Though in the eyes of Lady Newland, Elizabeth’s doing so was likely another mark against her character, she gladly accepted the gentleman’s arm, for she did not think her legs would support her without his assistance. She was without a position and had no place to go.

Wasn’t that thrilling and shocking?

GIVEAWAY:

If you’d like to be entered to win 1 of 2 ebook copies, please leave a comment below by Dec. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Mailbox Monday #659

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

The Drowning House by John Sibley Williams for review.

THE DROWNING HOUSE by John Sibley Williams is the winner of the 2020 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award. Contest judge, John A. Nieves, had this to say about it: “In the dark and shifting world of THE DROWNING HOUSE, Sibley Williams dives deep to try to understand the ghosts of our country and our historyóthe violence inherent in displacement, in wiping away. The poems that populate this doomed architecture reach out in every direction to try to find purchase on truths that often shift a quickly as tides. Whether music or fire or flesh, these poems find the worn seams of our nation and our world and lay them bare, or as Sibley Williams writes: ‘Skin can be its own broken republic.’ This collection explores the depths it engages and challenges us all not to look away.”

Your Words Your World by Louise Belanger for review.

Poetry For Your Soul – Stunning Photographs

Zoom to Heaven
The most beautiful love poem
Where God is not there
Promises…
A handful of cloud
Clowns…
During the night

These are some of the titles of the poetry you will read in this beautiful, inspiring collection complemented by captivating nature photographs.

Read poems about God and having a relationship with Him. Poems about trust, missing a loved one, childhood memories, Christmas, Heaven, Easter…

Other poems are lovely stories, the length of a page.

The poetry is easy to understand. It is for everyone whether poetry is your genre or not, you will enjoy it.

Ariadne Awakes, Instructions for the Labyrinth by Laura Costas for review.

Labyrinthian prose poems that question the Minotaur legend and who is the actual hero.

 

 

Useful Junk by Erika Meitner for review.

In her previous five collections of poetry, Erika Meitner has established herself as one of America’s most incisive observers, cherished for her remarkable ability to temper catastrophe with tenderness. In her newest collection Useful Junk, Meitner considers what it means to be a sexual being in a world that sees women as invisible—as mothers, customers, passengers, worshippers, wives. These poems render our changing bodies as real and alive, shaped by the sense memories of long-lost lovers and the still thrilling touch of a spouse after years of parenthood, affirming that we are made of every intimate moment we have ever had. Letter poems to a younger poet interspersed throughout the collection question desire itself and how new technologies—Uber, sexting, Instagram—are reframing self-image and shifting the ratios of risk and reward in erotic encounters.

With dauntless vulnerability, Meitner travels a world of strip malls, supermarkets, and subway platforms, remaining porous and open to the world, always returning to the intimacies rooted deep within the self as a shout against the dying earth. Boldly affirming that pleasure is a vital form of knowledge, Useful Junk reminds us that our selves are made real and beautiful by our embodied experiences and that our desire is what keeps us alive.

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya, purchased for my daughter.

Emilia Torres has a wandering mind. It’s hard for her to follow along at school, and sometimes she forgets to do what her mom or abuela asks. But she remembers what matters: a time when her family was whole and home made sense. When Dad returns from deployment, Emilia expects that her life will get back to normal. Instead, it unravels.

Dad shuts himself in the back stall of their family’s auto shop to work on an old car. Emilia peeks in on him daily, mesmerized by his welder. One day, Dad calls Emilia over. Then, he teaches her how to weld. And over time, flickers of her old dad reappear.

But as Emilia finds a way to repair the relationship with her father at home, her community ruptures with some of her classmates, like her best friend, Gus, at the center of the conflict.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden, purchased for my daughter.

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man”—a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods—bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them—the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden, purchased for my daughter.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Spider-Ham: Great Power, No Responsibility by Steve Foxe and Shadia Amin, purchased for my daughter.

Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham (and breakout character from Into the Spider-Verse), arrives in this all-new, original graphic novel for younger readers!

Experience a laugh-out-loud day in the life of Spider-Ham! After long being derided by the citizens of New York, Spider-Ham has finally been recognized for his outsized contribution to the city’s safety, and receives the key to the city from none other than the mayor (and, being a cartoon universe, the key actually unlocks New York City’s political and financial institutions). Sure, it’s just a publicity stunt for the beleaguered mayor-and yeah, maybe every single other super hero was busy that day — but an award is an award!

Of course, Spider-Ham isn’t paying attention to the fine print telling him he didn’t actually get to keep the key, and he swings off without returning the highly coveted oversized object. The next day, when the mayor’s office finally gets in touch to ask for the key back, Spider-Ham realizes he must have dropped it sometime in the last 24 hours. YIKES.

Now, our notoriously empty-headed hero must retrace his steps from the past day, following his own trail to discover where he dropped the key before it falls into villainous hands. Did he lose it during a rooftop chase with the Black Catfish? Drop it in the middle of a tussle with the Green Gobbler? Leave it behind while visiting Croctor Strange’s magic mansion? Accidentally store it next to May Porker’s vacuum cleaner? Who knows? You’ll have to read to find out! But one thing’s for sure — Great Power, No Responsibility is an action-packed, hilarious adventure perfect for younger readers.

Any Dumb Animal by A.E. Hines, which I purchased as part of the pre-sale fundraiser for The Trevor Project, as it toured with Poetic Book Tours.

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years. Editorial Reviews: “The poems in AE Hines’ debut collection, Any Dumb Animal, move deftly in time, like the best of memoirs, shuttling back and forth between past and present. I was amazed over and over at the bravery of these poems, never shying from the difficult moments in life, and all the while staying true to the clear-eyed, fearless vision of their author.” ~James Crews “AE Hines’s finely made memoir-in-verse explores the ways we inherit and overcome the lingering hurts of family, from a father grown “cold like the hood of his Pontiac,” to the isolation of a marriage in distress, to a “gay divorce,” in which the couple’s shared sock collection stands in for what cannot be neatly divided. With a strong gift for storytelling and an eye attuned to detail, Hines ultimately shows us the beauty and knowledge made of experience: “that’s how the light finally gets in / and the soul gets out.” ~Richie Hofmann “In riveting autobiographical poems, AE Hines tells of growing up gay in a homophobic, evangelical family that—in demanding conformity—can “only love a man / down on his knees.” And Hines “can never be that man.” No. Never. This compellingly candid work speaks the language of his courage, of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, Any Dumb Animal is a remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful lyric poet has emerged. Take note and rejoice!” ~Paulann Petersen

What did you receive?

Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together and share their gratitude. But it also has a dark history, that we shouldn’t ignore.

My love of this holiday honestly has to do with family memories and less with the “story” of the pilgrims. It was the one time annually that family came together and shared a meal. I got to see my cousins, we played, we got to know each other and complain about our parents. But mostly we got to see everyone all at once and eat some great food. This is still my favorite holiday, but the meaning for me is more personal.

I wish that the story of the pilgrims had been more like the truth of the experience, but we can now take the time to honor those Native Americans who lost their land and their families at the hands of genocide and strive to be better. If you have a moment, watch this.

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 366 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi is such a fun debute novel. While it is marketed as a modern Pride & Prejudice, it really is so much more than that. The women of Bennet House at Longbourn University are like a family – EJ, Jamie, and Tessa. EJ is an ambitious Black engineering student, and Jamie, her best friend, is a transgender woman who’s studying French and theater. Tessa is a Filipina astronomy major with serious guy problems. Bennet House is full of empowerment for these women, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in need of support. EJ, in particular, is a young woman who had to give up her ballet dreams and has fallen into a career path she’s not exactly sure she wants. She’s a very serious student and a caring RA for other women in Bennet House, but she needs to let loose and find herself.

“It was a truth universally acknowledged that a black girl at a mostly white college, in an even whiter college town, must befriend someone who can do her hair.” (pg. 19)

When her friend Jamie falls for campus heartthrob and all-around good guy Lee Gregory, EJ finds herself thrown in the company of his arrogant friend, Will. Jamie is balancing her new identity with her rocky relationship with her mother since her transition and EJ is the one friend who has stood by her. Jamie has issues navigating her new life because there’s a lot of uncertainty in her relationships, but she finds that her core support is her friends at Bennet House.

EJ’s relationship with Will starts off with a bang of an insult and a horrible follow-up encounter at her favorite diner. These two seem to be like oil and water. But things take a turn they don’t expect.

This novel does not shy away from the obstacles faced by blacks in America, nor the struggles of LGBTQ people. I also loved that the author based her writing in places she clearly knows well. As a local D.C. area writer, it was great to see the city and its suburbs portrayed in a way that isn’t focused only on gun violence. EJ’s family is stable and supportive, her sister’s ambitions are realized but she never forgets where she came from, and I loved the talk EJ’s father gives Will.

Appiah-Kubi is a delightful writer who has a firm grasp of what makes any situation humorous. I loved that she took an Austen classic and made it her own. EJ is a strong character and so are her friends, and they face similar trouble that all college students do. How to find their place on campus, how to navigate their courses to plan their future careers, and even how to balance it all with jobs and love.

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi should be on your holiday shopping list this year for the readers in your life who need a little hope, a little light, and some romance. This book was a read I couldn’t put down, and as many of you know, these last two years I’ve struggled with picking up fiction books and finishing them. I had no problem reading this book in just a few days.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Eden Appiah-Kubi fell in love with classic novels in fourth grade, when her mom read her Jane Eyre, chapter-by-chapter, as a bedtime story. She’s an alumna of a small New England university with a weird mascot (Go Jumbos!), and a former Peace Corps volunteer. Eden developed her fiction writing through years in a small Washington, DC critique group. Today she works as a Librarian and lives in the DC suburbs with her husband and hilarious daughter.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

Source: Gift
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is more than just a memoir of music and the powerhouses in it. This is a story of one man’s complete awe of where his life has taken him and what drives him to keep going even when tragedy rocked his world and threatened to upend it for good. From Grohl’s opening line about aging — “Sometimes I forget that I’ve aged. — readers know they have found a kindred spirit. Aging is a process of time, and more often than not, we’re too busy living to notice that time has passed and we are no longer as young as our heads and hearts may still believe we are. I know I feel this way a lot of the time.

Grohl’s musical career began in his bedroom with a couple of pillows and a dream, but his love of music was with him since birth. From singing in the car with his mother to sharing punk band music with his cousin and taking drumming lessons from a Jazz legend, Grohl was on the path of stardom long before he realized it was his dream.

“At an early age, I started to play drums with my teeth, sliding my jaw back and forth and chomping up and down to simulate the sound of a drum set in my mouth, doing drum rolls and grace notes as if I were using my hands, without anyone ever noticing.”

If you’re looking for gossip of the nastiest kind, forget it. This is a story of hope, perseverance, hard work, and a ton of coffee. That’s my kind of person, though I admit I have never drank pot after pot of coffee and thought I was having a heart attack.

There’s so much memory in this book, and I remember the great Olsson’s Books and Records in Bethesda, so when I saw that in this book (but the Georgetown store), it brought back a lot of memories of my early days in the DMV. Grohl’s writing mirrors the old storyteller who begins a tale, takes a tangential side trip, and gets back to the main thread. But I absolutely loved all the meandering.

When you get to the part about Nirvana, you realize that many fans know him because of this band and its music, but really, Grohl had lived a full musical life before and after Nirvana. He often talks about how he was a nerd/geek and it was clear that the people who grew to love Nirvana over time were those that used to bully him as a kid. The chapter on his grief after lead singer Kurt Cobain’s death is some of the most poignant and real chapters I’ve read on grief. Everyone grieves differently and grief is not the same for each person’s passing.

Grohl may have passed one of the most devastating moments in his life, but he still carries that with him. There are a great may takeaways in this memoir, but one of the best is this: “Courage is a defining factor in the life of any artist.”

Definitely a book that will live on the shelf with my other Rock Stars. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is one of the most open and heartfelt memoirs I’ve read in a long time. Would I fangirl if I saw Grohl in person – yes, yes I would. But I do that with anyone’s work I admire. Just ask all the poets I talk to and the ones I will meet someday into the future.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #658

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

The Great World of Days: A Collection of Poetry Published in Bourgeon 2007-2021 edited by Gregory Luce, Anne Becker, and Jeffrey Banks from Day Eight, tentatively scheduled to publish in March 2022.

This is a compilation of poems from Bourgeon Online, and one of my poems is included.

Mikko Hakon Valitut Runot by Aino Kukkonen (toim.), which I received from a Finnish relative.

It is a collection of Mikko Hakko’s poems. He is a distant relative in my family tree. I will need to find a translator, as all the poems are in Finnish. But Mikko is partially referenced in my poem, Family History, which was nominated for the 2021 Pushcart.

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner for review. You may remember my earlier cover reveal post.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

What did you receive?

Guest Post: Book Club Talk by Ann Marie Stewart, author of Out of the Water

Today’s guest is Ann Marie Stewart, author Out of the Water, and she’s here to give us a Book Club Talk.

This is another occasion in which I wish I had more time to read because I love generational stories, especially with family secrets and Irish immigrants.

Check out the book and the guest post, and consider buying this one for a loved one or yourself.

Book Synopsis:

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire.

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

Doesn’t this sound good? Without further ado, please welcome Ann Marie Stewart:

Whether searching for your book club’s next read or writing the next NYT bestseller you hope book clubs love, it helps to know what makes a good book club selection. Not only does a successful choice encourage great discussion, but for the author it guarantees the book is purchased in multiples.

In September 17, 1996, Oprah launched her online book club, with The Deep End of the Ocean, a novel about what happens to an American family when the youngest boy disappears. Jacquelyn Mitchard was a first-time author whose book went on to best-selling fame in what is now termed, “The Oprah Effect.”

A shout out from Oprah would be all any author needs, but even my friend Jacquelyn remarked that a great book club book should have multiple countries. She also added, “It most definitely should include people and situations that readers can DISAGREE about … if everyone likes everything or hates everything, it’s not much fun!”

But what else should spark interest? Ironically, I discovered the greatest draw to my author website was a review for Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which also included discussion questions, menus, and recipes. You can check it out here.

I grew to appreciate a comprehensive celebration of discussion over food during my years in That Leesburg Book Club later renamed The Pink Brains (long story and deserving of a separate column). The memoir The Devil in the White City covered a serial killer and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which introduced Aunt Jemima pancake mix, brownies, Cracker Jack, chili, hot dogs, Wrigleys Chewing gum, Pabst Blue ribbon beer, and Shredded Wheat. And so, these were included in our evening treats! When we read Water for Elephants, which detailed a traveling circus, someone brought in a cotton candy and popcorn machine. The memoir In the Presence of My Enemies took place in the Philippines so we dined on a catered Filipino dinner of pancit and spring rolls. Another novel told the story of a wedding and so each book club guest wore an old bridesmaid dress from her closet. (Can you tell the Pink Brains had fun?)

But one of our best discussions resulted from a book we actually did not like. Its problems prompted us to Monday morning quarterback as we came up with more realistic solutions for a better ending. That book was great fodder for discussion.

I asked my readers some of their thoughts about what makes a book club selection great, and we came up with these qualities:

Fodder for Discussion
Massive Twists in Plot
Literary Allusions
Setting in Historical Event
Controversial Characters
Characters to Care About
Characters Making Difficult Choices
Author’s Choices prompt discussion
Intriguing Locations
Multiple Countries
Thought Provoking
Meaningful Theme
Central Moral Dilemma

Those qualities feature in the following successful book club reads. In case you’re looking for classic choices, here is a short list. How many have you read? Educated, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, All the Light we Cannot See, The Help, The Glass Castle, The Book Thief, Little Fires Everywhere, A Man Called Ove, Unbroken, The Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Before We Were Yours, The Light Between Oceans, Orphan Train, The Fault in our Stars, The Girl on the Train, A Gentleman in Moscow, Water for Elephants, Cutting for Stone, When Breath Becomes Air, Being Mortal, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Sarah’s Key, The Language of Flowers, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Devil in the White City, The Great Alone, The Secret Life of Bees, The Alice Network, Small Great Things, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Brain on Fire, Middlesex, The Poisonwood Bible, Lilac Girls.

These stories have complex relationships, a deep moral question, a setting that introduces you to a new world, characters you care about, or a fascinating event in history. Of course, after finishing the read, the reader is propelled into discussion.

My latest novel OUT OF THE WATER is set in Ireland, Italy, France, and both US coasts (I’m covered on all locations). Because two estranged characters remain connected over decades through sharing books, there are over sixty literary references. Set primarily in Boston and the quirky prison town of Deer Lodge, Montana 1919 to 1931, the novel covers the 1918 Pandemic as well as the Great Depression. Five mothers make difficult choices worthy of scrutiny by any book club. When one young woman seeks out her biological mother, it threatens to unravel generations of secrets. The novel asks, is it better to know the truth?

I considered the needs of book clubs when I created my online Book Club Kit featuring potential recipes, menus, invites, and templates for a variety of parties. In addition, I’ve included maps, discussion questions, a music playlist, information about the time periods: 1919, 1931, and 1981, and party ideas.

With that kind of information added to my website, I hope that my website will have as many hits for recipes from MY book, as it did for another author’s and that Out of the Water can be added to the list of classic book club reads.

I’m curious, what are some of YOUR favorite book club reads and what made them great? With the temperatures dropping, we’re curling up by the fire and looking for our next good read! Of course, followed by great discussion with a book club!

Thank you, Ann Marie, for sharing this look at book clubs.

About the Author:

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and am a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. I originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, write the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, I’m now a huge HOO basketball fan. When I’m not writing, I’m teaching voice or taking care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.

What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 36 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is a slim chapbook of the emotions we hold inside as mothers and women from our parents, our children, and even ourselves. She opens the collection with a mother’s caring hands, wishing to scrape away the plaque in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and the dirt from the feet of children who are walking to the United States from Honduras. Each poem is searing with its heartbreak over things we cannot control and the truths that cannot be hidden for too long.

from "the cost of obedience" (pg. 3)

naked in a paper gown
I am without a voice
I nod and accept. I do not say no.
Nurses stare at monitors, their backs to me.

Miscarriages, infertility, and other heartaches are often internalized by women. Women are expected to hold these heartaches inside, especially the feeling of failure. In “Upon the birth of my daughter,” the narrator of these poems speaks to those early moments of birth. She says, “let me reclaim the first moment I held you,/handing you back so soon, arms too weak/let me reclaim, reclaim this passage/let me reclaim a tender moment/to remember to tell you again and again//”

In the title poem, Kropf speaks to what it means to protect our loved ones. How we sometimes push them away to protect them, but in some cases when we hide the truth, it’s only for a little while. There are moments when the truth has to be revealed. “as mothers have always withheld splinters of pain/unwilling to prick innocent skin/until the moment the child is ready to hold truth tenderly/,” she tells us.

The collection is not just about what we hold from our children, but also from ourselves. We withhold our dreams, put them off, waiting for that moment. But that moment is now. We need to learn to be more open, to break through the norms and anxieties that hold us back. What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf is less about what we withhold and more about what we need to break free.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Elizabeth Kropf earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is widely published in literary publications, including The Texas Poetry Calendar, The Penwood Review, and Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.  A dream called her from California to Texas where she now lives with her husband and daughters.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a book for readers between ages of 7 and 12. My daughter read this one to herself over a week or so, and we’re using it as an experiment to check her comprehension when she reads on her own. After each reading session, I asked her about what she read. While there were occasions when she had to refer to the text, rather than remember it on her own, my assessment is that the book is written in a way that kids in her age group can remember what happened.

There are illustrations of Anne and her family, a map of the Frank’s journey away from Germany during WWII, and even an illustration of Hitler. The back of the book also includes a timeline exploring when Anne received her journal and its journey to publication, as well as a timeline of Anne’s life. My daughter enjoyed learning about Anne and even has asked about the diary, which is now a book. I told her that we’ll have to dig up my copy to read together.

We also loved the inspiring quotes that were pulled out into separate bubbles for your readers. They were positive and focused on the good things in the journey, rather than the bad. That is not to say that the author avoided talking about the persecution of Jews,the War, or even Anne’s death.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anke Rega, is a great way to introduce young readers to Frank and her family. It will teach them about bigotry, persecution, Nazi’s, WWII, and more. The book also offers some things to think about or kids, though I wish at least one of those questions would have touched on what kids thought about the Nazi’s and their persecution of Jews.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #657

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

What Mothers Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf, which I purchased after it toured with Poetic Book Tours.

The poems of “what mothers withhold” are songs of brokenness and hope in a mother’s voice, poems of the body in its fierceness and failings. Elizabeth Kropf’s poems revel in peeling back silence, and invite us to witness a complicated and traumatic world that is also filled with love.

-Cindy Huyser, poet and editor, author of Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems

With these visceral poems, poet and mother Elizabeth Kropf has composed a chant of the vocabulary of vulnerability. From fertility to conception to birth-or not-and into motherhood, Kropf’s recounting of her experiences compels the reader to enter and acknowledge the power of what mothers endure and withhold.

-Anne McCrady, author of Letting Myself In and Along Greathouse Road

Water Shedding by Beth Konkoski for GBF.

“Water Shedding” is a chapbook of poems committed to a vision of marriage and family life that is real, sometimes even deeply lost and uncertain. The images do not avoid problems, do not create a façade in the way of our social media personas. Instead the poet journeys through the aging of her children, her marriage, and her sense of self with an awareness of missteps and a sense of joy for the small moments she can claim.

So Much of Everything by Jenn Koiter for GBF.

So Much of Everything is the debut poetry collection by Jenn Koiter, 2021 winner of the DC Poet Project. David Keplinger wrote, “In this utterly gorgeous debut collection, Jennifer Koiter has arrived as a poet whose voice is only matched by her remarkable intelligence.”

The Bennet Women by Eden Appiah-Kubi for review.

In this delightfully modern spin on Pride and Prejudice, love is a goal, marriage is a distant option, and self-discovery is a sure thing.

Welcome to Bennet House, the only all-women’s dorm at prestigious Longbourn University, home to three close friends who are about to have an eventful year. EJ is an ambitious Black engineering student. Her best friend, Jamie, is a newly out trans woman studying French and theatre. Tessa is a Filipina astronomy major with guy trouble. For them, Bennet House is more than a residence—it’s an oasis of feminism, femininity, and enlightenment. But as great as Longbourn is for academics, EJ knows it can be a wretched place to find love.

Yet the fall season is young and brimming with surprising possibilities. Jamie’s prospect is Lee Gregory, son of a Hollywood producer and a gentleman so charming he practically sparkles. That leaves EJ with Lee’s arrogant best friend, Will. For Jamie’s sake, EJ must put up with the disagreeable, distressingly handsome, not quite famous TV actor for as long as she can.

What of it? EJ has her eyes on a bigger prize, anyway: launching a spectacular engineering career in the “real world” she’s been hearing so much about. But what happens when all their lives become entwined in ways no one could have predicted—and EJ finds herself drawn to a man who’s not exactly a perfect fit for the future she has planned?

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog by Jenna Blum, which I purchased and may end up sobbing while reading.

Since she adopted him as a puppy fifteen years earlier, Jenna Blum and Woodrow have been inseparable. Known to many as “the George Clooney of dogs” for his good looks and charm, Woodrow and his “Mommoo” are fixtures in their Boston neighborhood.

But Woodrow is aging. As he begins to fail, the true nature of his extraordinary relationship with Jenna is revealed. Jenna may be the dog parent, but it is Woodrow, with his amazing personality and trusting nature, who has much to teach her. A divorcée who has experienced her share of sadness and loss, Jenna discovers, over the months she spends caring for her ailing dog, what it is to be present in the moment, and what it truly means to love.

Aided by an amazing group of friends and buoyed by the support of strangers, Jenna and Woodrow navigate these precious final days together with kindness, humor, and grace. Their unforgettable love story will reaffirm your belief in kindness, break your heart, and leave your spirit soaring.

What did you receive?