Meet the real Audrey Harper, Music Critic #inspiration #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

Before I get to today’s post, I’d like to invite you to a Summer Picnic to celebrate the upcoming release of Notes of Love and War on July 28, 2020. It’ll be a virtual picnic on Zoom on Sunday afternoon, July 26 at 3:00 pm CDT, so you can set up your own snack or meal to enjoy. Prior to the picnic, I’ll send out to those who either RSVP below or Like the Facebook event an excerpt, photos, and recipes. I’ll read an excerpt from the book, and we’ll chat. You can ask me questions about the excerpt or any of my other books, if you’d like.

FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/271180240782200/ 

RSVP: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l0m5d2

I hope you’ll come help me celebrate this story that was inspired first by my parents’ correspondence courtship during and after WWII. They loved each for 41 years before my mother died of breast cancer in 1989. Come on, you know you want something fun to look forward to, right? See you there!

Now onto the inspiration for my main character. When I chose to write a story set in Baltimore, Maryland, I wanted my heroine, Audrey Harper, to be a musician of some kind. So one of the first things I did was find references to music in Maryland and to female musicians. While reading Musical Maryland: A History of Song and Performance from the Colonial Period to the Age of Radio and looking for inspiration, I read the following with relation to the musicians and music scene during WWII:

“Both music critics for the Sun, Robert Cochran and Weldon Wallace, were sent off as war correspondents. Flora Murray, a former Peabody student and Goucher College graduate assigned to cover women’s clubs, fashion, and the society columns for the Sunday Sun, took over for both men, signing her articles ‘FM.’”

Perfect! Using Flora Murray as a role model for my character seemed like a perfect fit. I did not do any research into Ms. Murray but used my imagination and my own musical background to craft the character of Audrey Harper. I echoed the college education to a point, too. Here’s a snippet from Notes of Love and War where she learns of the opportunity to become the music critic:

“Okay. I have another bit of news to share with you.” Gloria straightened to saunter to the window. “I’ve just heard that John Walker’s number was called.”

The music critic for the Daily had made quite a name for himself with his insights and connections. Audrey had read his pieces and while they were informative they lacked originality and narrative finesse.

“Who’s taking his place?” Audrey swiveled her chair to face Gloria directly.

“Maybe you?” Gloria turned her back to the window and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re qualified.”

Audrey considered the slim possibility. Mr. Banks didn’t seem impressed by her music appreciation background. Then again that was when she was applying for the society column job. Maybe… “Do you really think he’d consider me?”

“The worst he can say is no.”

Qualifying for the role as music critic would be easy with her background, her own musical ability and experience entertaining the soldiers at the USO. Which also gave her the right connections to access the movers and shakers of the music scene in the city. Plus she spoke their language and appreciated the music styles and musicians themselves. Facing Mr. Banks still frayed her nerves. But, if nothing else, she’d learned she must ask for what she wanted if she hoped to receive it.

“You’re right.” Audrey pushed slowly to her feet and smoothed her woolen skirt with damp palms. “Wish me luck.”

I really love finding actual historical tidbits that can inform my fiction in a way to make it authentic, too. Knowing a woman filled the positions of two men while they were serving their country makes for some great storytelling fodder even if I don’t use it exactly as in real life.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

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Getting to know Laurie Alice Eakes #author #contemporary #romance #suspense #fiction #amreading #books

A good romantic suspense is a fast and entertaining read, and I think my guest today can offer up some stories that fit that bill. Please welcome Laurie Alice Eakes! Let’s get to know a little about her and then we’ll dive right into the interview.

Laurie Alice Eakes thinks maybe she got her storytelling from her great-grandfather, who used to tell her sister and her stories of Beansy and Peasy. Or maybe she was always an early riser and lying still telling herself stories was the best way to stay out of trouble.

Whatever the root, the only career she ever truly wanted was to be an author. Knowing that was impractical, she received a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, taught English, managed a medical office, and worked in the human resources department of a soulless corporation. A month before she was laid off from this job and before her husband began law school, she sold her first book. Family Guardian won the National Readers Choice Award, and was the beginning of many sales and honors for her books, including as a finalist for the Rita Award, with her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, The Mountain Midwife.

Alice now writes full time from her home in Chicagoland, where she lives with her husband, two well-behaved dogs, and four mostly well-behaved cats. Her husband fears they are the crazy cat people of the neighborhood, but Alice doesn’t care if they are.

Website * Twitter

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Alice: I have written stories since I was able to write, so don’t know when to give it a date. I sold my first book in 2005. I sold my most recent books as of last Friday. I signed a contract with Harlequin for three more romantic suspense books. Due to some personal things going on, I haven’t gotten a new contract for a while.

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published?

Alice: This is difficult to answer. Either three years or three decades. I started writing while teaching school, decided I didn’t know what I was doing, and went looking for other writers. Many stops and restarts followed as life priorities took over.

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Alice: This makes me a nerd, and I will start with Charles Dickens. He taught me how to end chapters with a cliffhanger. So did Friday afternoons on the soap operas I wasn’t supposed to watch. Other than that, though deigning to say I write like them is being kind of prideful on my part, Laura Kinsale, Jo Beverley, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart…

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

My own brain prompted me to start. A few teachers along the way encouraged me to keep it up and keep trying.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Alice: I started with short stories and poetry, much of which got published in school literary magazines. Then I moved on to creative nonfiction that got published in anthologies, and some articles for magazines. I wrote my first novel sometime in the 90s, but kept rewriting it instead of doing much with it.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing?

Alice: As to genre? Suspense. Whether writing historical, contemporary romance, or women’s fiction, I want some kind of suspense. As far as part of the story, I love to write the meeting between the hero and heroine. Something about that moment is magical. Or maybe it’s the first kiss. Talk about special in a romance!

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else?

Alice: All of the above. Mostly I learned from books and in grad school, where my mentors were people like Barbara J. Miller and Victoria Thompson. They taught me how to take an idea and turn it into a novel.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Alice: How to manage my career and that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. I can’t really say more in a public forum so as not to bruise a few toes I’d be stepping on. I adore my current agent.

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Alice: Kimberley Cates and Jessica Douglass (writing names) encouraged me a great deal. Others followed. Those two are the most special, esp. Linda/Jessica, who told me to finish something.

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today?

Alice: I like playing the “What If” game. I look at a situation and think “What if that car that was carjacked held someone really, really important?” We have a problem with carjackings where in Chicagoland the car is taken and used to commit a crime, then abandoned. I kept hearing the stories on the news and…. Voila!

A kidnapper with deadly intentions

…and a US marshal who must come to the rescue

The carjacking that ended with Kristen Lang running for her life—and her federal judge mother kidnapped—was a nightmare. The ransom, however, is worse: Kristen in exchange for her mother. Deputy US Marshal Nick Sandoval will do almost anything to safely recover the judge—except trade Kristen. But can he shield the woman he’s falling for and bring her mother home?

Excerpt:

Carjacking was all too common. People stole cars to commit a crime, but they didn’t usually hurt the vehicle owners. They left them beside the road. It was unpleasant but not life threatening if they didn’t fight back.

But these men were taking her and her mother, not the car. They had deliberately wrecked her.

She yanked one arm free and struck out for the man’s face. Missed. She kicked one kitten heel into the man’s shin. Connected. He grunted, then picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Tires, a barely dented bumper on the SUV, wet pavement, Mom’s designer heels spun past in a nauseating blur. In another moment, she was going to be sick.

The man tossed her in to the back of the SUV. Her head hit the side. Stars exploded before her eyes. Dazed, she lay still for a fatal moment—a moment in which her mother landed beside her.

“Tie her up,” one man commanded.

He leaned into the back of the SUV and grabbed Mom’s hands.

Kristen surged up and bashed her head into his face at the same time Mom shoved both stilettos into his middle. He staggered back, fell against his companion, sending him reeling, but still held Mom’s hands.

“Kristen, run!” her mom cried.

Kristen ran, kicking off her pumps and speeding along the shoulder of the Eisenhower. Above the roar of traffic, she heard the slam of the SUV’s hatch—with her mother behind its tinted windows.

Buy links: Amazon * Harlequin

I think I’m hooked! What about you?

Thanks for sharing Laurie Alice! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit http://www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

What A Gown Says: Martha Washington’s Wedding Attire #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

British author L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between gives us a popular quote: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” In many ways that is true. On the other hand, there are similarities in those differences. The language of clothing is one of those areas where you can see similar desires and expectations between the 18th century and what we do today. For example, what we wear depends on what we’re going to do (workout at the gym, go to the office, graduate from college, etc.), how much we want to conform to society’s expectations of appropriate attire and modesty, and how much we can afford to spend on our apparel to meet that expectation. The same was true in the past.

I’d like for you to consider Martha Washington’s wedding attire as one example, but first let me share some insights into what clothing says about the wearer.

In the 18th century, how you dressed spoke volumes about your status in the community and society. The fashionableness of the style, the quality and hue of the fabric, as well as the wearer’s movements and stance combined to tell others the person’s status, whether high or low or somewhere in between. Keeping up with fashion trends then, as now, meant following the European fashion magazines which were sent to the colonies regularly. Indeed, it’s recorded that Thomas Jefferson sent Parisian fashion magazines to his daughter when he was visiting France.

The style could also indicate, though not always, where the person was from, either by American colony or another country. Clothing suggested the gender and occupation, how rich or poor, and what kind and amount of activity they engaged in. And much like today, what a person wears can also reveal their attitude toward the society they live in. Consider how differently a person would dress if she were a scullery maid versus a personal maid to a planter’s wife versus the planter’s wife, for instance. The same would be true of a field hand versus a dancing tutor versus a lawyer in town.

Image of Martha Washington as a young woman showing the lace, ruffles, bows, and hair decor.
Young Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Courtesy Library of Congress.

At the time of Martha and George Washington’s marriage on January 6, 1759, women of a higher status preferred silks brocaded with colorful flowers on a white background. (Brocade is an intricate design on fabric, often raised.) Martha was no exception in preferring silk, especially on her wedding day. Who wouldn’t want the gentle swish and sway of silk, right? Another aspect of choosing her gown is that she would have wanted something she could wear again for other special occasions. They didn’t buy a gown to wear once and put away as a keepsake then. Nor would she have considered a white gown; that fashion came later, in the 19th century.

According to the Mount Vernon historians, Martha’s gown was made of yellow silk damask (meaning reversible) with a petticoat of cream silk highlighted with interwoven silver threads with (perhaps Dresden) lace trim. Her dainty high-heeled shoes were made of purple satin with silver ornamentation. The historians interpret the message of her outfit as, “The combination of expensive, imported yellow and purple silks with silver and gold decorations would have produced a regal appearance that conveyed her elevated social and economic standing.” You can see a photo of the dress and shoes at the above link. I’ve been to the museum where the outfit is on display and it is far lovelier in person than in the photo. But I do agree with their interpretation.

Here’s a short snippet from the book where Martha is preparing for her marriage ceremony, waiting for her sister to come and style her hair:


Where was Nancy? Soon I must go downstairs. I checked the lay of my deep yellow brocade overdress, arranging the silver lace trim at the edge of the bodice until satisfied with its appearance. A white silk petticoat with silver woven into the fabric peeked through the split skirt of the overdress. I stepped into purple satin heels, smiling with pleasure at the silver trimmings. I didn’t often have reason to don such finery, but marrying one of the most distinguished and respected men in the colony certainly justified my choice. Fortunately, the outfit had arrived from London in time to tailor the dress to fit my small figure. Why couldn’t the London factors send clothing meeting the measurements sent instead of sending garments either too big or, worse, too small?

A light rap sounded at the door to my bedroom. I turned as it swung open and Nancy beamed at me. “You’re beautiful, Patsy.”

“I’m glad you’ve arrived. Come, dress my hair for me.”

“I’m sorry for being so late. Now we must hurry. It’s almost time for the ceremony. Everyone is so happy for you.” Nancy pranced into the room and then stopped suddenly to perform a quick pirouette. “What do you think of my gown?”

I inspected the rich green dress with rhinestones sewn across the bodice, a cream silk petticoat visible through the sheer material brushing the tips of her gold satin shoes. “It’s quite lovely. But then you always dress divinely.”


The cover of my historical fiction story of Martha’s life, Becoming Lady Washington, includes an artist’s interpretation of George and Martha’s wedding, an image housed in the Library of Congress. It is not accurate, though, in portraying her attire. In 1759, there were no photographs (obviously) and no sketch artist or portraitist hired to create an image, at least not one that has been found to date. I imagine the man who created the image based it on other similar weddings he’d attended. I particularly enjoy the group of women to the right, apparently oohing and ahhing over the proceedings!

The wedding attire of George and Martha Washington is typical finery of the 18th century but is not accurate since the dress she's wearing in the image is not the same one in the museum.
Artist concept of the marriage ceremony of George and Martha Washington. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Another portrait in the LOC comes from the C.M. Bell collection, dated between 1873 and 1916, and shows how fashionably dressed Martha was as a young woman. Please note that Martha died in 1802. The LOC dated this image based on the fact that it is contained in Bell’s collection and those were the years he was a photographer. I think he likely took a photo of an earlier oil portrait. You can see in the picture the fine fabric and bows and lace, her posture and hair style all speak to her status. Women wearing such attire would not be working in the kitchen, but have the wealth necessary to support a more leisurely life style.

So while the styles and fabrics we wear today have changed, the way we interpret another’s position in society hasn’t changed all that much. We still tend to believe the clothes make the man/woman, that we “dress for success,” or to reveal our rebellion toward societal expectations by wearing clothing others deem in appropriate. I think that attribute of people will likely never change.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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My Dearest: Letters of Martha and George Washington #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

I want to talk today about the three letters known to exist that were written between George and Martha Washington.

That number may surprise you, as back in their time letters were the only means of conveying information and news. No telegrams, or faxes, or cell phones, that’s for sure! So why only three? When I first started researching Martha Washington’s life and times, I was dismayed to learn that there are only three because she burned all the rest shortly before she died. Here’s why, taken from the opening scene in Becoming Lady Washington:


Our love nestled in my hands. Pen and ink applied to linen pages were the only tangible evidence remaining of the love I shared with my husband. He called to me, softly, urgently. I sensed him more than heard his voice, but he summoned me nonetheless. Alone in my chamber, I knew the time drew near for me to answer his command, but delayed doing so until I’d done what I’d come upstairs to my bedchamber to do. I owed him that and so much more.

Voices along with the parakeets’ incessant chatter floated up from the portico below, the reassuring sounds drifting up and into my room. Another more subtle voice in my mind urged me to follow George’s private secretary’s circumspect example for far different reasons than to protect that awful Jefferson. I’d left everyone below to escape to my private space, using my ailment as an excuse to rest. I didn’t tell any one my true intention because I’m sure they’d try to stop me.

I gripped one of the many packets of letters stacked on my bedside table, each tied with a red satin ribbon faded to dusty rose. The papers were creased and stained from their travels from one state to another, from the multitude of hands which passed on the letters, and from the repeated reading of their contents. Words of love. Of private jokes between a man and his wife. Words of anger and dismay, of fear and courage, all kept mostly secure from the eyes of strangers. Safe from being abused and published in the paper, their meaning twisted and contorted to suit nefarious aims by my husband’s enemies. Men like that blasted betrayer, Thomas Jefferson. I shall never forgive him for intentionally working to defame my precious life mate. The wounds from Jefferson’s actions never healed. How could Tobias Lear have wanted to protect that man’s reputation? Nonetheless, I’d defend George’s reputation until the day I died. Maybe longer.

I looked around my bedchamber. Not the one I had shared for so many years with my love. No, that one I’d closed up tight upon his death three long years ago before moving into this third floor chamber. I smiled at the sight of the four-post bed with its pink roses dominating against a cheery yellow backing. They brought a bit of my garden inside to keep me company, now that I no longer had the interest or strength to work among the flowers. My gaze rested on the dark wood dresser, a looking glass framed above it. The fire snapped and crackled, its flames dancing merrily along the logs. The sound of the greedy flames reminded me of my mission.

Pulling a chair away from the writing desk, I positioned it close to the fire with one hand, clutching the treasured missives against my chest. Sitting, I tugged on the ribbon, freeing the folded pages to tumble into my lap. I leaned forward, and began feeding the letters into the fire. Watched the ancient pages burn and curl as they blackened into ash. As each letter shriveled and disappeared, my mind drifted back over my life. A life of love, grief, and peril. Starting with the precocious decision that set the rest into motion.


Now, although she burned all of the private correspondence in her possession, others retained their letters so we do have a collection of letters written to and from Martha. Joseph E. Fields gathered them into a book, “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington which is invaluable as a source for understanding what her concerns and worries and joys consisted of.

I am going to share the three letters, or parts of them, to give you a glimpse into their relationship and what I tried to convey in my depiction of their love for each other. The spelling and punctuation used within “Worthy Partner” are retained as I have to believe that is how it was in the actual letters.

The only letter written by Martha to George, however, is short and sweet. It’s dated March 30, 1767. George had gone to Williamsburg to attend the House of Burgesses and then on to the Dismal Swamp area before returning to Mount Vernon:

My Dearest

It as with very great pleasure I see in your letter that you got safely down. We are all very well at this time but it still is rainney and wett. I am sorry you will not be at home soon as I expected you. I had reather my sister woud not come up so soon as May woud be much plasenter time than April. We wrote you last post as I have nothing new to tell you I must conclude myself

Your most Affectionate
Martha Washington

I wonder if George may have been a bit disappointed in this short note while he was away. Talking about the weather and to request that her sister hold off visiting for another month. In contrast, Martha’s other letters included in the book were sometimes long indeed.

No letters from George to Martha exist until one dated June 18, 1775 from Philadelphia. George is explaining why he will not be coming home to Mount Vernon for the foreseeable future:

My Dearest

I am now set down to write you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern – and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased, when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you – It has been determined in Congress that the whole Army raised for the defence of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the command of it. You may believe me my dear Patcy, when I assure you, in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the Family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my Capacity and that I should enjoy more real happiness and felicity in one month with you, at home, than I have the most distant prospect of reaping abroad, if my stay were to be Seven times Seven years. But, as it has been a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this Service, I shall hope that my undertaking of it, is designed to answer some good purpose – You might, and I suppose did perceive, from the Tenor of my letters, that I was apprehensive I could not avoid this appointment, as I did not even pretend to intimate when I should return – that was the case – it was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my Character to such censures as would have reflected dishonor upon myself, and given pain to my friends – this, I am sure could not, and ought not be pleasing to you, & must have lessend me considerably in my own esteem. I shall rely therefore, confidently, on that Providence which has heretofore preservd, & been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall – I shall feel no pain from the Toil, or the danger of the Campaign – My unhappiness will flow, from the uneasiness I know you will feel at being left alone – I beg of you to summon your whole fortitude Resolution, and pass your time as agreeably as possible – nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen. …

I shall add nothing more at present as I have several Letters to write, but to desire you will remember me to Milly & all Friends, and to assure you that I am with the most unfeigned regard,

My dear
Patcy Yr Affecte
Go: Washington

I left out two paragraphs in George’s letter. His is a much longer one than hers because he had important news to share and he wanted to console her as much as possible over the upcoming separation.

Enclosed in this letter was his will because as he says, “As Life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates” he wanted to ease her mind and any future aggravation of not stated his wishes should the worst happen. I can only image the mixture of relief and terror that swept through upon receiving a will from her beloved husband. Relief because she’d seen the outcome of having a husband who possessed a fortune die without a will, and probably hoped to never have to go through such an overwhelming situation again. Terror stemming from the fear she’d need to use the will, that her husband wouldn’t come home alive but in a box. If he came home at all.

Five days after that letter, George wrote again to Martha from Philadelphia…

My dearest,

As I am within a few minutes of leaving this City, I could not think of departing from it without dropping you a line, especially as I do not know whether it may be in my power to write you again till I get to the Camp at Boston – I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy Meeting with you sometime in the Fall – I have no time to add more, as I am surrounded with Company to take leave of me – I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change. My best love to Jack & Nelly and regard for the rest of the Family concludes me with the utmost truth & sincerity,

Yr entire
Go: Washington

In fact, he didn’t step foot on Mount Vernon until late in 1781 before the battle at Yorktown.

I so wish I had had more of their correspondence to refer to in order to better understand their relationship, their feelings for each other and the separation they endured. On the other hand, I can totally understand her need to protect her beloved husband’s reputation in a time when personal letters were being printed in the newspapers, or quote out of context. Even from these few samples, though, it’s obvious that they loved each other very, very much.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Cover of Becoming Lady Washington showing the marriage of Martha and George Washington

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Witnessing America’s First Aerial Flight #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

Can you guess when and where America’s very first aerial flight took place? I have to admit I was very surprised to come across mention of the balloon launch while researching for Becoming Lady Washington. I was reading a (to me) fascinating book by Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., entitled George Washington: A Biographical Companion. This book is comprised of encyclopedia-style entries on various topics and individuals important to George Washington. The entries provide some insights into the people and events associated with him. Under the “Balloons” entry, is the following:

“Washington was especially pleased when during his presidency another French aeronaut decided to fly a balloon in Philadelphia, offering him a chance to actually witness firsthand these amazing feats against gravity. The Frenchman, Jean Pierre Blanchard, appealed to Washington for a ‘passport’ on the day of his flight, 9 January 1793, which Washington gladly provided:

“To all to whom these presents shall come. The bearer hereof, Mr. Blanchard, a citizen of France, proposing to ascend in a balloon from the city of Philadelphia at 10 A.M. this day to pass in such direction and to descend in such place as circumstances may render most convenient.

“These are there to recommend to all citizens of the United States and others that in his passage, descent, return, or journeying elsewhere, they oppose no hindrance or molestation to the said Mr. Blanchard: and that on the contrary, they receive and aid him with that humanity and good will which may render honor to their country and justice to an individual so distinguished by his efforts to establish and advance his art in order to make it useful to mankind in general.”

During my reading about Martha Washington and her life and times, I found mention of her taking the children up to the roof to watch the fireworks for Independence Day while George was president. So, knowing the details of the balloon flight, I included her watching the balloon launch from the roof of the President’s House in Philadelphia. Here’s how I envisioned the scene:

The new year of 1793 brought a unique opportunity for the residents of Philadelphia. On a cold day in January, a French aeronaut, Jean Pierre Blanchard, launched a hydrogen-gas balloon from the center of the city. Actually, he launched from the center of the yard of the Walnut Street Prison a few blocks away from the presidential mansion. Although the ascension wouldn’t occur until ten in the morning, two field artillery pieces fired every fifteen minutes beginning at six to remind everyone of the event. I took the family up onto the roof of the kitchen, to listen to the brass band playing the martial music from within the court yard of the prison and to watch the yellow silk balloon inflated with gas. We had a wonderful view of the massive crowds gathered for the event.

George went in his coach to deliver a handwritten pass to Blanchard, asking on his behalf for any one he met to provide assistance as needed. The pass was a necessity since Blanchard spoke little English and didn’t know where exactly he might land. Once on the ground, he’d need help to bring the balloon safely back into the city. I suppressed a giggle as I imagined some startled farmer in a panic at the strange sight of a flying man in a balloon. What I wouldn’t give to witness such a sight for myself.

Fifteen cannon boomed, acknowledging the president’s arrival at the launch site. Another blast of the cannon several minutes later announced the launch of the apparatus, and in another minute we could see the yellow balloon gently rise into the air. Blanchard stood in the basket, waving a flag in one hand and holding his hat in the other as he nodded to the crowd’s exclamations.

Indeed, every roof and steeple surrounding us teemed with astonished people, waving and mouths open in awe. The streets appeared to be impassable with the thousands of onlookers. Blanchard rose slowly in a vertical fashion until a light breeze took charge and carried him toward the Delaware and eventually out of sight. January 9, 1793 would go down in the history books as the day of the first-ever aerial voyage in our young country’s history. The entire family relished witnessing history in the making. And yet my heart longed for our imminent journey home in a few short months.

While I do not know if this is indeed how she watched, or even if she watched, I do believe if given the opportunity she would welcome the chance to witness this amazing feat. She went to plays and curiosities and wax museums and to see the elephants on multiple occasions. So why wouldn’t she go up on the roof with the children to let them also experience the thrill of seeing a man fly in the sky?

It’s frequently surprising to me what I stumble across during my reading and researching. I hope you enjoy this tidbit of American history, too!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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Where to Hold a Ball in Colonial Williamsburg? #ballroom #dancing #formal #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #ReadIndie #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

One question I have to ask when visiting an historic site today is, what did it look like during the time period of my story. I’ve mentioned that in my book, Becoming Lady Washington, I chose to have Daniel Custis ask to begin courting Martha “Patsy” Dandridge during her presentation to society. (This was my editorial decision since it’s not known when and how they began courting.) Martha was 15 at the time of her presentation in 1746, rather young to my way of thinking.

If you visit Colonial Williamsburg today you will find that the Governor’s Palace has an elegant ballroom within its walls. It would be easy to assume that is where she had her presentation. As I said before, my husband and I took dancing lessons while on a research visit to Williamsburg. Before our lesson we visited the Governor’s Palace, where I learned that the ballroom wasn’t built when Martha had her debut. It wasn’t added until Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie renovated the palace during his tenure 1751-52. The disparity in those dates begged the question…

Where was the ball held?

Several possibilities came to mind but I needed to find out for certain which place. So after the lesson, I asked the instructor if she knew where the balls and formal gatherings would have been held in the 1740s. Thankfully, she did!

Turns out the Capitol building has an upstairs room large enough to have a ball. They would remove tables and chairs and set up refreshments in the outer hall. While not as elegant as the palace ballroom, it still had respect and dignity to lend to whatever gathering was held there.

Here’s how young Patsy views the scene in Becoming Lady Washington:


The first strains of the musicians tuning drew my attention away from the array of colorful and bedecked ball gowns of the older women to the festively decorated dance floor. The large table and chairs used by the lower and upper houses of the government to discuss the colony’s legal business had been removed from the upstairs of the Capitol. Not that I knew from my personal experience. No, my father had to tell me since women were not normally permitted in the upstairs meeting room. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind such a silly restriction, but defying it was not worth the effort. I had little to no interest in politics. I’d rather select fabrics and ribbons for a gown than worry about ordinances and laws. …

I made my way through the throng of guests to stand by the open window. A cool breeze bathed my cheeks, bringing the scent of dried leaves and the smoke of many fires to tickle my nose. Moonlight splayed across the formal garden and the buildings of the town in the distance. Naked trees stood starkly against the deep black of the starry heavens in the soft light. In a few months snow would blanket the land, but for now the ground remained hard and dry, making road travel possible if not pleasant. Aunt Unity had graciously invited us to ride to Williamsburg with her in a fine coach pulled by four matched black horses. Arriving in such a high fashion leant a different level of elegance to the ensuing events I hadn’t dreamed of. Maybe one day I’d have my own coach-and-four to take me places.

Turning my back to the window, I observed the crowd. Through the arched door to one side, I spotted tables surrounded by seated card-playing guests. The music changed to a lively tune, announcing the beginning of the less formal English country dances. My parents eased through the crowd, stopping often to chat. They knew most everyone in the room as a result of their involvement in the colony’s church and government.

I surveyed the other guests, feeling part of the society in an entirely new way. Not as a child looking through the window, but as an active member with my own role. Then my heart leapt into my throat when Daniel Custis separated from a circle of men, probably assemblymen of one rank or another, and strolled in my direction. What did he want? What would I say to him? Oh, how I wished my mother were at my side. I wasn’t as ready as I’d thought.


It’s fun to try to imagine what her life would have been like while I walk the same floors and see out the same windows. Try to imagine what she might have been thinking about, who she spent her time with, what her concerns might have been.

Before I go, I’d like to share that Charmed Against All Odds has been nominated for the Rone Award at InD’Tale magazine in the Fantasy category. This first round is a reader’s choice voting. To vote, you will need to be registered at www.indtale.com. Then you can see all the books entered in that category and vote by going to https://indtale.com/polls/fantasy-6-finalists. Voting is open from May 4 through May 10 at midnight. Thanks in advance!

That’s all for now. Until next time, thanks for reading! And for voting!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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Shall We Dance? Dancing lessons 18th century style #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Last week I described how Martha Washington, or rather young Patsy Dandridge, may have been courted by Daniel Custis. I also shared how I chose to set the scene in Becoming Lady Washington by introducing Daniel at the ball where Patsy was presented to society. Today I want to talk about dancing in the 18th century.

Dancing was vital to the middle and upper classes of Virginia society. Dance instructors traveled from one plantation to another to instruct the young people on the traditional and popular dance steps and also of the proper form and frame. Not only was dancing an excellent type of exercise, it also provided a means for socializing in acceptable ways. Families would gather at the plantation where the itinerant dance instructor would visit for several days at a time. I can imagine the youth flirting while they learned the steps, and in between!

George Washington loved to dance! It’s unclear to me whether Martha did as well, but she must have known how in order to meet the societal expectations of the time. You can watch a video produced for Mount Vernon showing the dancing and the music they danced to. That site contains a lot more about dancing in the 18th century, so if you’re curious, hop on over there to learn even more.

On my research trip to Williamsburg in 2015, one of the activities my husband and I enjoyed was taking a group dancing lesson. We learned to do circle dances, how to greet your partner, and how to move in unison around the circle. The music was provided by a flute player in period costume. Our instructor was a woman, also in period costume.

A flute player at Colonial Williamsburg

It was during the lesson that the instructor talked about why a man would greet his partner by extending one leg forward and bowing over it. In Becoming Lady Washington, I portrayed this small factoid from Martha’s point of view after Daniel has asked her to dance at the ball:


“I’d enjoy dancing with you.”

He held out a gloved hand with a smile on his lips. “Miss Dandridge.”

I accepted his arm and followed him onto the floor as the musicians started a new tune. I intended to thoroughly enjoy myself. The weight of the elder Custis’ glare threatened to make me stumble, but I ignored him, keeping my attention instead on his charming son. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my parents exchange a look before turning to witness the dance. Daniel extended one leg to bow—a movement designed to demonstrate the strength of his legs—as I curtsied and lowered my eyes. Daniel’s leg proved nice, indeed. Returning to a standing position, we regarded each other for a beat as the music wrapped around us. The dance soon drew my entire attention and had my feet flying. My heart raced with the touch of his hand guiding me to perform a turn in first one direction and then the other before parting for several steps.


See how I wove in my own experience learning how to dance into Martha’s point of view? It’s those kinds of details that I believe enliven the history. By experiencing the movement and sound, I was able to hopefully bring the history to life in my story.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington’s First Courtship #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

While I love to research for my stories, I do not claim to be a professional historian and I don’t write nonfiction histories. But I do read them, and try to vet my sources as best as I can. Even the professional historians run into blanks in the historical record. For a novelist, those blanks become opportunities. Let’s look at a couple of those that I exploited in Becoming Lady Washington.

First let me say that I relied heavily on Patricia Brady’s excellent biography Martha Washington: An American Life. Brady is a professional historian and has written several other biographies. I used this one as a kind of “roadmap” for laying out my story. If you want to read a factual account of Martha’s life, I highly recommend Brady’s book. Now, to the historical gaps…

Daniel Custis by Gabriel da Vinci

Martha’s first husband was Daniel Custis. We know that he lived in the same area as Martha, near Chestnut Grove, Martha Washington’s childhood home. According to Brady, “During the eleven years that [Daniel] had lived in New Kent County, running one of his father’s plantations just a few miles down the Pamunkey from Chestnut Grove, Patsy had come to know him well. His life had crossed her family’s at countless points—court days, militia musters, social events, church (he served on St. Peter’s vestry with her father), the Public Times at Williamsburg—and he had obviously noticed the little girl growing into a lovely young woman. At thirty-seven, he was only a year younger than her mother, but the age difference between him and Patsy was not an impediment; young girls often married older men.” (p28)

The gap here is just how and when he decided to court the pretty young woman. I found no mention of the where or in what manner they began to court. So I had to invent the beginning of their relationship based on what I did know. Picking and choosing from the proposed locations where they would have crossed paths, I decided to use the Public Times and Martha’s coming out to society ball as the best option for my fictional account. Here is a deleted scene from an early draft where I had fun imaging how she’d prepare for her presentation to society:


Over the next several weeks, we explored the nuances and construction of the perfect gown, along with other articles of clothing to make the desired impression of me and my eligibility. I never realized just how many decisions had to be made. Silk? Muslin? Satin ribbons? Bows? High waist or dropped? Off the shoulder or low neckline with a fichu? Then the shoes… Definitely I wanted heels to make my petite frame stand a bit taller, and thus easier to dance with. But what color? Style? New buckles? Then there was the very serious question of the perfect hat.

Christmas and then Twelfth Night arrived and passed in a whirl of fancy dinners with a continual stream of family and friends visiting. The giddy chatter and plans continued with Aunt Unity, as well as my mother, until the festivities ended. Then I sat down with Mother to make the decision and send to London for the gown of my dreams, and of course a new gown for my mother. After the order had been sent, I faced months and months of worry and anticipation. Would the London agents be able to locate the yellow silk taffeta brocaded with flowers in the latest fashion with fine gold satin ribbons? Who would make the dress? What about the sequin studded yellow satin shoes with Louis heels? Would it all fit, if the items even survived the hazardous ocean voyage? And then the most fearful question of all: what would I do if the order didn’t arrive?

My contingency plan centered on the remake of my mother’s best dress gown. Mother had ordered the gown from London. I fancied the flowered pattern in the English silk damask, the rich burgundy pattern against the cream background emphasizing the fact that I was entering society in high fashion. Since Mother is a little bit bigger than me, there was enough fabric to work with. We’d taken in the waist and shortened the flounced skirts by drawing them up with ribbons. Aunt Unity gifted me a delicate kerchief to soften the neckline. The result? The perfect dress for dinner with the governor and his wife. Or if need be, for my debut at the royal ball.


This scene didn’t make the final cut because I decided to skip the preparations for the ball and just show her attending. That is where Daniel makes his move, by the way. The entire account is based on the research I did into what clothing meant, what it said about the wearer, in the 18th century, and having visited the museum in Williamsburg where they have gowns from that era on exhibit.

You’re probably wondering what the other gaps are…the second one is there is little in the biography regarding what their courtship might have looked like. What did they do? How frequently would he wait upon her? Chaperone or not? (Probably!) What is known is that Daniel’s father, John Custis, did not approve (to put it very mildly) to the courtship, or engagement, let alone marriage. Brady tells us, “John Custis flew into a blind rage and demanded that his son forget Patsy Dandridge.” (p29) This went on for a long time, by the way. So that’s a huge gap to fill in a story. How did Patsy (Martha’s pet name) react? I tried to put myself into her shoes, and knowing how she behaved later in life, thought about how she’d have either already been or how she adapted to the situation. Either would serve as a lesson on how to negotiate and manage in the future. So, knowing what I do about courtship during the 18th century, I made up what they did and what they talked about to give the reader a sense of who she was and how she handled herself during emotionally stressful times.

There’s one more gap I want to talk about. That is, since we know Patsy and Daniel did marry, how did John change his mind? Brady tells us, “Never one to wait around helplessly, Patsy somehow contrived to talk with the crusty old tyrant herself. Just how she managed it, we don’t know. Like many bullies, Custis was impressed by strength of character: he actually found the spunky little lady engaging.” She also tells about a lawyer friend of Daniel, James Power, visiting John and learning that he now approved of the union. Power wrote in the letter that John was “as much enamored with her character as you are with her person, and this is owing chiefly to a prudent speech of her own.” (p32) Okay, so how did she in that day and age manage to speak to the old man who lived in Williamsburg? Again, we don’t know but this is a very revealing moment as to the kind of person Martha was. So I had to imagine how she might have gone about making the meeting happen. Is it factually accurate? No. Do we know what the “prudent speech” was? Again, no. So I stepped into her little shoes and tried to imagine what I would have done in her situation. Would you like a little excerpt to see what I decided to do?


“Are you certain this is a good idea?” My brother Jacky’s deep voice carried to my ears over the steady beat of the Pamunkey against the skiff’s quivering hull and the twitter of song birds in the trees and bushes. I clutched the wooden seat beneath me as I bit my lip to keep my unease inside.

As he went through puberty, his tenor had lowered in steps, creating an often fickle pitch to his voice until it reached its current manly tone. I would never tell him, but sometimes I had mentally played with the sound like a musical piece. I heard music in everything, the shouts of the overseers, the birds flitting by, the soughing of the wind, even the river after a heavy rain. I breathed in the warm spring air. The scent of wildflowers blooming along the banks mingled with the pleasing aroma of the river. I’d finally settled on my favorite dark green dress for our secret mission. Its classic lines and somber colors, along with the cute hat with its half veil and plume, made me feel confident and mature. Well, except for the fact that I really did not like being in a boat. Of any size.

I glanced at my brother’s worried expression and chuckled, though I quaked inside at my own audacity. I had thought about what I’d do if Daniel’s efforts failed. After two long years had passed, my patience ended. Two years of growing more and more fond of Daniel, and longing to become united to him as his wife and start a family. I’d had to summon all my nerve, determination, and anger to devise the plan my brother and I now engaged in. Taking the boat meant a quicker journey, but oh I wish we could have ridden. But then my father would have known what we were up to. “It’s the only way I can conjure which has any hope of success to secure a future with Daniel.”

“You should have told Father of your plan. He’ll be upset.”

“He won’t even notice we’re gone, what with his concern regarding Mother’s well-being.” Our mother was due to have another baby within the next couple of months, child number seven. Would it be a brother or sister? Either way, I’d love the little one as much as I loved all of them. I had been born first, followed by Jacky a year later, then William two years later, Bartholomew three years after that, Nancy two after Bat, followed by Frances five years after my favorite sister was born, and now this new addition, whoever it might be.

After I married Daniel, we could start our own family. I envisioned having quite a full house, perhaps seven or eight children. The joys and laughter we’d share would rock the house. I could picture it in my mind as if it were a fond memory. For now, I enjoyed the company of all of my kinsfolk. Jacky, in particular, had become my favorite brother because of his eagerness to engage in our secret missions.

I winked at him with a toss of my head. “Besides, I have you as my escort, my protector. What is there for him to worry over?”

Jacky huffed. “The fact that we’re going into Williamsburg without his knowledge or permission?”


What I love about writing fiction is looking for those kinds of opportunities where I can illuminate my subject and their situation using my knowledge and imagination combined. I try to make the scene authentic to the times to the best of my ability and education on the times in which they’re living. Ultimately, my aim is to tell a good story that’s entertaining, emotional, and enlightening. You’ll have to let me know if I’ve succeeded…

We are living through some historic times ourselves, folks. I imagine previous generations that suffered and struggled through a pandemic felt much like we do today. The catch phrase here in north Alabama is “stay safe; stay separate; and sanitize.” My heart goes out to everyone as we find our way through this pandemic crisis. Please listen to and follow the guidelines from the health experts so we can shorten the duration as much as possible. Take care of you and yours and I’ll do the same.

Thanks!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington’s Birthplace #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

With each book I write I do research. The extent and kind will vary depending on what I need to know to write the story accurately and authentically to the best of my ability. The longest book I’ve ever written, and the one that I had to do a ton of research to write, is my June 2 release, Becoming Lady Washington. Why June 2? Because that is Martha’s birthday. So today I’m going to talk about where Martha Dandridge was born.

Her parents, John and Frances Dandridge, welcomed her to their home called Chestnut Grove sometime between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on June 2, 1731. Chestnut Grove was located alongside the Pamunkey River in Kent County, Virginia. It was a two-story frame house with three rooms on each floor. Not a big house for a plantation in those days. You can see a sketch of what the house looked like here.

Historic marker about Chestnut Grove

My hubby and I visited the area back in 2015 when I first started researching to write Martha’s life story. Well, at least from her teenage years! I wanted to see the lay of the land and at least try to imagine what it would have looked like when she was a girl. It was disappointing to find we couldn’t even get close to the site as it’s private property. So online research and pictures had to suffice to inspire my imagination. Here’s a short excerpt from my book where she sees the house:

“As we neared Chestnut Grove, I studied the main house as the boat angled toward the dock. The central sturdy door had been made from poplar, like the window casings. At either end of the good-sized clapboard house rose two brick chimneys poking through the white oak shingled roof. A variety of flowering bushes and plants softened the appearance of the brick-and-board structure. Around it, smaller buildings stood: the kitchen, laundry, smokehouse, privy. Chestnut Grove was the only home I’d ever known. If I’d succeeded in my mission, the two-story frame house would become my childhood home. I’d move away, to a new home, a new husband, a new life.”

But just like Martha’s life, that was only one the beginning. Knowing where she was born and grew up was one piece of the history I needed to learn more about, then understand, and then put myself in her shoes. I really wish the home hadn’t burned down in the early 1900s so I could have seen it for myself. It’s far easier to feel like I’ve walked in my character’s place when I can roam around the same spaces she did. See what the view from the windows would have been. Hear the sounds of movement by others.

I’ve worked hard to write her story in order for others to find out what a remarkable woman she was in her own right. Not just as the wife of a great man. In fact, after all I’ve learned about Martha I don’t believe George would have reached the heights of greatness he did without her support and love.

Becoming Lady Washington is available in hardback, paperback, and digital formats for preorder now. Like I said, it will publish on June 2 in honor of Martha’s 289th birthday.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Available for preorders now! Releases June 2, 2020…

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Puppy Love – Mom’s real-life dog Frisk #dogsarefamily #collie #Baltimore #historical #fiction #books #inspiration #amwriting #amreading

I’ve been talking about the letters my parents shared and how they inspired my upcoming release, Notes of Love and War. But the story is not just based on the letters. I also include some references from my parents’ real life story that reflect life in the 1940s in Maryland.

Having spent so much time with my mother while she was dying from metastatic breast cancer, I was able to talk to her about her life. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye but we did spend quite a bit of time shopping and hanging out at home over my childhood to young adult years. And then I spent even longer with my father as he lived with me, my husband, and children for 17 years after Mom passed before moving into assisted living until he died 4 years later. We still talked frequently as long as he was able to, though, so I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. Lots of family stories and memories as a result.

One of Mom’s fondest memories was about a dog. Mom’s favorite pet growing up was Frisk, a blue merle collie. She talked about how smart and loyal he was. I have lots of pictures in the family albums of the two of them, or just of Frisk, scattered throughout the many other pictures of vacations and family gatherings.

Mom and her collie Frisk sitting on the grass together.

This picture is one that shows the coloring of a blue merle since all my photos are in black and white and I really wanted you to have an idea of how beautiful they are.

A blue merle collie with its distinctive white chest and legs, with a mix of tan, sable, and gray on its face, back and haunches.

So while writing my story, I decided to pay homage to Mom’s love of Frisk by including him in a fictional manner. As far as I know, Frisk didn’t live with Mom but lived on her grandfather’s farm. I’m the youngest of 5 children and all of my grandparents except my maternal grandmother had died before I was born. Mom was 42 years old when I was born; 60 when I graduated high school. So by the time I first remember my grandmother when I was a child she didn’t have any pets around the house. Probably because she was probably in her 60s by then. I don’t know if that was always the case, but in my lifetime I never saw any there. So I’m going to stick with my memory of what my mom said about Frisk being out on the farm.

However, in Notes of Love and War, Frisk is right at Audrey’s side whenever possible. Here’s a short excerpt to show you what I mean.


Audrey trotted the last few strides home to the front gate of the fenced yard. The hinges on the gate reluctantly let her through, their protest both loud and strong as she shut it behind her. Then she strode up the sidewalk leading to the steps to the front porch. Frisk galloped around the corner and came to let her love on him. He danced beside her on the sidewalk, joy plain on his face. She was glad she’d come home, too.

She’d toyed with how to approach her big assignment all afternoon, and it was only as she stepped off the streetcar and started the last leg of her trip to the sanctuary of home that she’d sorted the best way to proceed. She wanted to jot down her plan as soon as possible. Scurrying up the few steps to the shadowy porch, she was startled when Rae pushed open the door for her, waiting impatiently until Audrey slipped inside. Frisk yipped once as the door closed, shutting him outside.

“Audrey…”

“Wait.” Audrey opened the door again, cold air flowing past and chilling her bare legs. “Come on, boy.”

Frisk trotted inside and went to settle on his bed by the snapping fireplace. He seemed content to be inside in the warmth. Audrey turned away from the dog and regarded her sister.

“You’ve got a letter.” Rae’s eyes gleamed with intrigue and curiosity. “From him.”

“Who?”

“That soldier fella, Charlie.” Rae waved the letter at her, the airmail postage evident by the red and blue stripes along all four edges of the envelope. She slid a polished nail under the edge of the flap. “You’re lucky you got home when you did.”

Audrey quirked a brow at her sister. “You wouldn’t dare.”

A shrug and grin suggested Rae’s nefarious intent as she handed it to Audrey. “Open it before I do.”


Notes of Love and War will release in July 2020 but it’s available for preorder now. I’m super excited to share this story with you all, too! It combines some family memories with espionage and music. I hope you’ll enjoy the snippets I share occasionally between now and then to whet your appetite to read Audrey and Charlie’s story.

Happy reading!

Betty

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Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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