My Impressions of The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali  #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali which is one of my favorite reads so far. This story is not a romance, but is a love story between two people who should have been together all along but obstacles prevented them from sharing a life. Those obstacles include political and personal forces, but I won’t elaborate as that would count as giving away the story. The hardback I read was 308 pages long without any supporting elements like glossary, maps, or pronunciation guide. But it didn’t need any of those to help me follow the story.

The story begins in 2013, then jumps back to 1953 and progresses back up to the present day. There is one other flashback to 1916 to show the foundation for the rest of the story elements, plot twists, and character motivations and reactions. Ms. Kamali deftly handles these transitions using not only transitional language but guideposts in the form of titles and dates at the beginning of each chapter. The use of these flashbacks to previous years allowed me to see the cause and effect that events from the past had on the story present-day events.

The story is divided into five parts, with Part 1 consisting of 13 chapters; Part 5 has 8; and Parts 2-4, 9 chapters total. As you might suspect, Part 1 carries the weight of the story, with transitioning through the middle parts. Part 5 naturally provides the wrap-up, the explanations as to what has transpired throughout and what it all ultimately means for the characters. I enjoyed seeing how Ms. Kamali varied both scene and chapter lengths, as well. The combination helped the story pace to flow right along.

Ms. Kamali also uses several devices to augment the meaning and substance of the story. One of those devices is short but important exchanges as separate scenes. Another is the use of stream of consciousness sentences without punctuation to interrupt the flow. The resulting effect worked to make the moment more immediate and vivid, at least to me.

I was intrigued by life in Iran back in the 1950s and how girls/women were treated then. How they were expected to behave even as those expectations began to shift to be more Western in nature. Dealing with change is never easy, especially for those who resist new ideas. I haven’t studied this time period nor this country so experiencing Kamali’s story gave me a level of awareness as to the culture and the politics of the time in an easy to understand form.

Next up on my tour is Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. I’m sure many of you have heard of Ondaatje since he wrote The English Patient. Mr. Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka and then moved to Canada. I’m looking forward to finding out just what kind of ghost is in this tale.

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.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)! Sales ends February 28!

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 Impressions of My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk #Turkish #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

Now that I’ve finished Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red I’d like to share my impressions of the story and the writing. As I mentioned last week in My Initial Thoughts the format of the story is unique. For a murder mystery, having multiple points of view, all written in first person, opens up some interesting and humorous options. Some of those characters included pictures of things rather than living, breathing people characters.

It took me 11 days to read the book, with breaks here and there to do some other things like write my own book and drive to Virginia for vacation. I can’t say I enjoyed this story as much as some others. Part of that is some of the content was rather offensive to my taste. I don’t consider myself a prude, mind, but there seemed to me more than necessary mentions of the male member and various uses for it by the owner and by others, some willing, some not.

I feel like I learned more about the mindset, or expectations, of the Turkish people in the story. How much did the representation in the story reflect the reality of those times? I don’t know. Some of those sensibilities worried me, made me wonder if that was really how men in those times viewed the world around them. The people around them. Or perhaps the author views others in this way? I don’t know that either…

I also didn’t get a real sense of life in the 16th century. Most of the descriptions of place and character seemed universal instead of specific. Instead of describing what houses looked like in that time, it’s only mentioned whether they were large, or neat/messy, etc. For me, the closest to anchoring the story in the past came from the frequent mention of a dagger, of walking or riding a horse, some of the foods mentioned. Still, the overall sense I gleaned from the narrative left the setting rather vague instead of incorporating it into the story.

I applaud Mr. Pamuk on his creativity and willingness to delve deeply into the world of art, illustration, and illuminations. The latter is what intrigued me most about the story. I think the people, men actually, who did the illuminated texts were some fine artists! I’ve been lucky enough to see several tomes while in Dublin years ago.

So overall, the story was well written and creative, funny and insightful. I have a few reservations about some of the content and world view expressed within its pages, but perhaps that’s my own foible and not something others would even notice.

For my next selection, I’ll read Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. I hope you’ll read along. 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.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)! Sales ends February 28!

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 impression and lessons learned from The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings which turned out to live up to expectations of being a great story. I shared last time a few stumbling blocks I encountered, but eventually overcame them. In order for me to enjoy the story, I had to make a few adjustments to my approach. I also got a little help from some new Twitter “friends” after my last post.

First, let me mention that the tweet sharing the last week’s blog topic was retweeted by the Dorothy Dunnett Society, which I was unaware even existed. How fabulous to think of the impact one author has had on so many readers! In fact, according to their site, their mission includes to “advance the education of the public concerning the history, politics, culture and religion of the 11th, 15th and 16th centuries by promoting the study of and research into such subjects generally and into such subjects particularly as they related to the works of Dorothy Dunnett.” I must thank the Society for retweeting my tweet so that other fans could share their experience and appreciation for The Game of Kings with me.

In my last post, I mentioned that the story is set in Scotland in 1546, when Mary Queen of Scots was 4 years old. And that I inferred that fact from knowing Mary is 4 years old in the story. I looked up when she was born but couldn’t pinpoint the time period more closely. Thanks to Max A. Ess, I now know:

Max.A.Ess @Nigel333

Replying to @BettyBolte @DunnettCentral

1/ The book is set from 1547-48 not 1546. The battle of Pinkie occurs close to the beginning of the book. It was on September 10th 1547. Mary was born in December so she was still four years old then. The capture of Sir Thomas Palmer near Haddington was in Summer 1548.

I really appreciate Mr. Ess weighing in on the exact time frame of the story. It may seem a trifling thing, but I do try to keep historic events in context as much as I can. Granted, I’m still learning about 16th century history and have a very long way to go. One of the reasons I’m broadening my historical fiction reading is to also broaden my knowledge of history.

Several other Dunnett fans told me about how much her stories meant to them, how they learned to skim the unfamiliar terms and perhaps take time to look them up later. But basically what I gleaned from their comments is to read first, analyze second. So I had to take off my editor and author hats and put on my reader hat. Step away from reading critically in order to read for pleasure. Only then was I able to truly enjoy the story, the storytelling, and absorb the history. This is a technique I used while working on my BA and MA in English when reading the classics. I often had to just try to read it for the story and not critically, at least the first time before I reread for critical analysis. So thanks to the folks who reminded me to read first!

Going back to the slew of foreign terms and quotations peppered throughout the story. The main culprit, if you will, of using most of them is Lymond, but others also do. I had to wonder about why they were included. Ms. Dunnett must have had a reason for going through the seemingly immense effort to locate appropriate quotes from all of the various languages. What purpose did they serve? I sincerely doubt that she was “showing off” her own intellect or accomplishments by including them. As I read, I kept wondering and pondering until I reached a place in the text where I think she revealed the true reason. The main character, Lymond, is having a conversation with Gideon (on page 340 in my copy of the book) who in exasperation exclaims, “I wish to God…that you’d talk—just once—in prose like other people.” In Lymond’s reply he says, “I echo like a mynah” bird, pulling all of these quotations from books he’s read. He’s a very well read man, that’s certain, and I think he uses language as a weapon or a tool to deflect and confuse or to create a delay while he thinks through the situation at hand. I think when Lymond says he’ll talk in prose like others, it’s a turning point in his growth arc. I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to ruin another’s enjoyment of the story.

My main takeaways from reading this book are varied. Keep an open mind about the writing style. Immerse myself in the story first. Absorb the history as well as the story by putting my inner critic in the back seat while reading. Perhaps jot down or highlight the unfamiliar terms to explore later, but even that I think would pull me from the story itself and detract from enjoying the read.

Are you reading along? What did you think of The Game of Kings, if so? I’m open to having a discussion about what you think of each of these stories, too!

Up next for me is another book off my personal bookshelf: A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 by C.C. Humphreys. Humphreys was born in Canada and has lived in the USA and the UK. Again, I know very little about 15th century history and Constantinople. We’ll see what I learn from reading this one…

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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 must balance her business with caring for her two young children. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has much more to learn. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, she’s convinced he’ll be a loving husband and father for her children.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Rockingham #history #Princeton #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

The last of the war-time headquarters was in Princeton, New Jersey, or more precisely Rocky Hill, at a house known as Rockingham. According to the Rockingham site, the house was built around 1710 with two rooms and a lean-to. Judge John Berrien added on to the house in the 1760s, making the house first known as the Berrien Mansion. The original location of the house had it on a hill overlooking a river, but it has been moved several times to its current location.

George managed the final tasks of the army over several month in 1783. In fact he wrote to his nephew George Augustine Washington the following on August 18, 1783 from Newburgh: “I shall set off for Princeton tomorrow… I carry my baggage with me, it being the desire of the Congress that I should remain till the arrival of the Definitive Treaty…which…is every day expected.” He had no idea just how long he’d be cooling his heals upon his arrival, but from reading his correspondence during this period of time he became evermore antsy for the treaty to arrive so he could finally put finish to the war and go home to his beloved Mount Vernon. He had rarely visited his home over the duration of the hostilities beginning in June 1775 when he left for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

Remember from last week’s post that he had to move on to this location even though Martha was still laid up with a fever back in Newburgh, NY, until she recovered in late August 1783. When she arrived at Rockingham, she found a two-story clapboard house overlooking a river. My hubby and I were fortunate to be able to tour the home with the caretaker and ask questions. Martha’s bedchamber, he said, was upstairs while George slept downstairs. I’m not sure I believe that, though, since the couple was very close and loved each other. The stairs leading to the second floor were rather narrow and steep, so I find it unlikely she’d want to have to traverse them frequently. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but the house is furnished with reproductions of furniture and furnishings of Washington’s time spent there.

On October 31, 1783, George Washington and Congress were informed of the signing of the final treaty declaring that the American States were now independent from Britain. Can you imagine the huge sigh of relief he must have let it out at such wonderful news? He could finally go home! Only not just yet. There were a couple more details that had to be handled. It was at Rockingham that George wrote the Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, which were delivered to the Continental Army at West Point, and probably his farewell speech he gave on his way home to Virginia.

Martha left for Mount Vernon early in November while George stayed behind. On December 4, 1783, he officially bid farewell from his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Then he headed south, first stopping for a time in Philadelphia to wrap up personal and public affairs. But while he longed to be home, he understood his role in the new country’s future. In a letter to John Ewing dated December 13, 1783, from Philadelphia he wrote: “Tho the military Scene is now closed, and I am hastening with unspeakable delight to the still and placid walks of domestic Life; yet even there will my Country’s happiness be ever nearest to my heart—and, while I cherish the fond idea, I shall retain a pleasing remembrance of the able support the Public has often received from the learned Professions; whose prosperity is so essential to the preservation of the Liberties, as well as the augmentation of the happiness & glory of this extensive Empire.” Keep in mind Martha was probably anxiously awaiting him at Mount Vernon by this time.

I find it very interesting that there are no letters from Martha during this entire period. I would think she corresponded with her family and friends at least occasionally, but none are included in the compiled collection of her papers I have on hand. Was she busy with household concerns or ill? I don’t know. It’s only my speculation. I would hope that George had written to her as well, though if you recall one of the things Martha did before she died was to burn all but a few letters between her and George.

He wrote at least a dozen letters while in Philadelphia before telling George Clinton on December 15, 1783, “I am within a few Minutes of setting off for Virginia—passing thro’ Annapolis—where I shall stay two or three days only…”

He passed through Wilmington, then Baltimore, and finally stopped in Annapolis, Maryland, by the 20th of December to officially resign his commission to quash any rumors that he wanted to reign as king. One of my sources claims that Martha went to Annapolis to hear the speech. She might have as her son’s wife’s family lived in that area and she may have wanted to visit with them. But after being on the road so long, I have my doubts that she’d want to travel during December.

In George’s correspondence online his official resignation is dated December 23, 1783 in which he opens with, “The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress & of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.” In a subsequent letter he noted that the resignation went into effect at twelve that day. You can read his Address to Congress on the day of his resignation, too.

His satisfaction and relief are so apparent in every letter of his that I read it’s obvious to me he wanted nothing more than to retire to private life again. He and Martha looked forward to spending quiet days at Mount Vernon entertaining their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Out of the public eye and safe from any further hostilities or vitriol.

And yet we all know how well that worked out, right?

In case you’ve missed the other posts, I’ve covered these sites:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

Back to Pennsylvania and the John Penn House in Philadelphia from 1781-1782.

Next to last war-time HQ was at Newburgh, NY during 1782-1783.

That wraps up my Martha Washington Slept Here series of the American Revolution headquarters sites.

Until next time, may your reading take you many places!

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Hasbrouck House in Newburgh #history #NewYork #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

The next stop on the Martha Washington Slept Here tour is in Newburgh, New York, the headquarters from March 1782 through around July 1783. The Hasbrouck House had a good view of the Hudson River and was conveniently located near town. George and Martha left Philadelphia in late March 1782 to move the HQ to this location, which was apparently a very tight fit for George’s household and “family”—the military aides supporting him.

In July 1782 Martha left New York to go home to Mount Vernon. On the way through Pennsylvania, the Assembly presented her with a coach and when she arrived back in Virginia, the city of Williamsburg gave her gold medals and the freedom of the city. Keep in mind that at this point in the American Revolution the war was practically over, though skirmishes continued in various places and Charleston was still besieged by the British. (The British left Charleston mid-December 1782, an event depicted in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series at the end of Samantha’s Secret (#3). The lavish gifts bestowed on Martha showed the people’s great esteem of her and her husband in the effort to win freedom for the country.

George stayed in Newburgh, eventually realizing he wasn’t going to be able to go home as he’d hoped. In October, he wrote to Martha asking her to return to the camp. So in November, she got in her coach and headed north. Little did she realize just how long she’d be away from home! Naturally, upon her return to camp she slipped into familiar routines of socializing, sewing, and she reportedly even planted a garden.

In February 1783, they marked the fifth anniversary of alliance with France by George pardoning all military prisoners. I suspect Martha attended the release or at least was in the room when the freed prisoners came to thank George. I think she’d want to celebrate along with her husband in every way possible on such an auspicious day.

It wasn’t until April 18 that the day’s General Orders announced the cessation of hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain. Only then could George begin the work involved in ending the army’s engagement and sending the enlisted men and officers home. That effort would take several months and include another change of the headquarters location.

But that summer of 1783 Martha became very ill with a fever. While she suffered and slowly recovered, George was forced to move the headquarters to New Jersey. From what I’ve read of her illness, she seemed to suffer a great deal over the hot summer months. As soon as she was well enough in late August, Martha also moved to New Jersey, the topic of next week’s post.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

Back to Pennsylvania and the John Penn House in Philadelphia from 1781-1782.

I often find myself thinking about the life Martha led and how different it must have wound up being from what she’d imagined as a girl growing up on a middling plantation. She went from obscurity to renowned and reverenced by a nation. What a concept, eh?

Until next time, may your reading take you many places!

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: John Penn House in Philadelphia #history #Pennsylvania #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Let’s continue with the series on Martha Washington Slept Here by visiting Philadelphia. Following the pivotal capture of Lt. General Earl Cornwallis at Yorktown in September 1781, George Washington became concerned about a “relaxation” of intensity in pursuit of winning the American Revolution. He wrote many letters to officials and officers encouraging diligence and actively pursuing the enemy until a cessation of fighting could be treated. He didn’t want the country, least not the army, to let their guard down and reverse the tide.

One personal casualty of Yorktown was young John Parke Custis, 26 years old, who died in early November 1781. Jacky, as he was nicknamed, was Martha Washington’s youngest child from her previous marriage. He left behind a wife and four children after dying from camp fever.

After burying her son, Martha did not want to stay at Mount Vernon while George headed north to Philadelphia for the winter at Congress’ request. When they arrived on November 27, 1781, in that city, they set up housekeeping at 242 South 3rd Street. This red brick home had been built by John Penn, the last Colonial governor of the state in 1766. Another important figure followed who lived in the house, Benjamin Chew, the final Colonial Chief Justice. When the Washingtons stayed in the house, it had been lent to them by the Spanish diplomat, Francisco Rondon. The original house has long since been torn down, but another lovely home has taken its place. As a result, I don’t really know much about what the house featured when Martha stayed in it. It was apparently a three-story house which may have had a kind of turret to one side. You can see a picture of it here, the one in the background to the right, which was taken from The City of Philadelphia as it appeared in the Year 1800.

It is interesting to me that in the compilation of Martha Washington’s papers, there are no letters from or to her during the period of October 1781 to October 1782. The last letter is one in October 1781 from her son, writing to her from the encampment outside of Yorktown. Without any first hand account of her experience it is a matter of conjecture that she likely did similar things during her stay in the by then familiar city. They had friends who lived there as well as army colleagues because they had been there before. How much they attended parties or balls while in mourning for Jacky is also a matter of conjecture. Perhaps George felt an obligation to attend but Martha did not? Or maybe she did accompany him.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

Next in New Windsor, NY from 1780-1781.

I can only try imagine how sad Martha and George must have felt that winter. Despite the very wonderful news of the success at Yorktown, Martha had buried all four of her children and her first husband. Jacky’s wife was faced with raising four children on her own. However, George and Martha essentially adopted two of them to help out with raising them.

Until next time, when we’ll venture back to Newburgh, NY, 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.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Martha Washington Slept Here: New Windsor #history #NewYork #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Martha Washington had not traveled much if at all before she married George Washington. Her move from southern Virginia to northern Virginia, to Mount Vernon, was the farthest she’d journeyed. Until the American Revolution started and George was appointed as Commander of the Continental Army. The next location for the Continental Army’s winter camp and George Washington’s headquarters was in New Windsor, New York, in 1780-1781.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

Next at Morristown, NJ from 1779-1780. 

I don’t know much about this winter camp in New Windsor, to be honest. In fact, although I strive to be as accurate as I possibly can, when I wrote Becoming Lady Washington I made an error as to its location, confusing it with a later encampment in the same area in 1782-83. I’ll get to that in a minute.

What I have found in doing the research for this post is that while George Washington wrote many letters from “New Windsor” in December 1780, he didn’t specify where his headquarters was actually situated. Could he have used tents instead of residing in a house? It’s possible but wouldn’t be ideal to winter in New York in tents. I would think he would be in a house. I don’t know that for certain. I did find one mention related to his headquarters in a December 14, 1780 letter to the Marquis de Lafayette:

“I am in very confined Quarters—little better than those at Valley Forge—but such as they are I shall welcome into them your friends on their return to Rhode Island.”

This implies he may have been in a house since he was in a stone house at Valley Forge. I suspect he didn’t specify the location of the headquarters to protect everyone from the British surprising them. However, I also know that during this encampment the British intercepted letters from George and Martha and as a result a gift was sent under a flag of truce to Martha, who had been ill, so they (the British?) already knew the location.

Martha arrived at the camp by December 15, 1780. George was fretting about the mail route because his letters kept being “taken” by the enemy and the army didn’t have the money to replace the horses for Express riders to carry the mail. As I mentioned above, a lady, Mrs. Martha Mortier, the widow of a British army paymaster, sent quite an extensive amount of foods to Martha because she learned Martha suffered from an illness, which was a gall-bladder attack.

I can’t help but be amazed at the array and quantities of these items! According to the editors of “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington, the gift consisted of “a box of lemons, a box of oranges, four boxes of sweetmeats, one keg of tarmarinds (medicinal seed from tamarindus indica), 200 limes, two dozen capillaire (to prepare a syrup from maiden hair fern), two dozen orgeat (used to prepare a syrup made from barley, almonds, or orange flower water), two dozen pineapples, and two pounds of Hyson tea.” George ordered for nothing to be landed but the detachment offering the gift under a flag of truce be sent away immediately. The editors go on to say that if George had permitted the gift to even have landed on shore he would have been subjected to “criticism in the tory and patriot press for having accepted favors from the enemy.”

These were tense times in the winter headquarters. Not only was the enemy trying to trick him into missteps, the supplies and clothing for the troops were nearly nonexistent.

As to my gaffe, which I apologize for again, this headquarters was not located in the William Ellison House as noted in the following excerpt. I have not identified the actual house or place where the camp was located. Please forgive me for confusing these two winter camps. I obviously made an assumption that, since the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the National Park Service only referred to the Ellison and Hasbrouck houses, both winter camps occurred in the same locations. Lesson learned! However, my description of the house being “tiny” apparently was accurate.

The following takes place in June 1781. From Becoming Lady Washington:


I laid in my bed, a light cover keeping me warm enough, wondering whether the bilious fever and jaundice I suffered would end me. The tiny William Ellison House where headquarters had been established provided little comfort in its cramped interior. Not a place where I’d ever thought I’d die. Yet, at that moment, it seemed a distinct possibility. I didn’t want to die, of course. Not really. But I’d been ill for weeks and didn’t know how much longer I could tolerate the illness. I had intended to leave camp for home in May, but I fell ill around the twenty-first while George was away in Connecticut.

The doctor told me the abdominal pain searing through me was likely caused by a stone in my gall bladder. The biliousness and yellowing of my skin did nothing to make the strain and discomfort more bearable. Five long weeks dragged past with me fearing for my life.

George had agonized about acquiring the proper medications to ease my suffering, writing the last day of May to both Jacky and Lund to see what they could do to assist. Unfortunately, those letters along with a few others from George were intercepted. How did I know? Because a letter arrived on the twenty-first of June, dated the fifteenth, from Mrs. Martha Mortier.

She not only baldly stated that his letter had been intercepted. She had the audacity to send a gift of lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, sweetmeats, tarmarind seeds, capillaire to make a medicinal syrup from maiden hair fern, orgeat to make another syrup, and two pounds of Hyson green tea from China. A bribe or war prize. Either way, we could not accept it. Fortunately, I had recovered my health by then so could with all honesty refuse it as no longer needed. Or wanted, but that was another matter.

“The vast amount of delicacies must have cost a small fortune, what with the outrageous inflation for even common articles.” I could see George’s concern in the set of his jaw and the anger in his eyes.

As the war had dragged on, his health had become more my concern. He brushed aside my worries, but I have eyes and could see the subtle changes. While we both wanted to be safely at home on our beloved plantation, his duty was to his role as commander of the army. Mine was to be by his side to support him and care for him through good and bad, sickness and health.

“I cannot tolerate this blatant attempt to trick me or any one on my staff to accept favors from the enemy.” George paced the office, rage pouring from him in waves. He stopped suddenly and glared at his staff member, standing rigidly at attention awaiting orders. “Major General Robert Howe, you will thwart any thing and any one from landing under such a flag of truce. I shall reject the items as politely as I can. I shall send a note thanking Mrs. Mortier but telling her you, my dear Patsy, have recovered and thus no longer need such assistance.”

“That is a wise plan.” In truth, while the whisper of temptation to enjoy the fruit existed for two heart beats, I’d never have succumbed.

The reason for George’s tirade stemmed from learning Lund, back home at Mount Vernon, had given refreshments to the enemy in April. Lund’s desperate measures proved misguided. The British had sailed up the Potomac, threatening to burn our beloved home to the ground. In order to save it, he’d offered food and drink on board the ship. He’d dared to ask for the surrender of some of our Negroes, asking a favor from the enemy! I had rarely seen my old man so livid and embarrassed in the twenty-two years we’d been married. He sent a reprimand to Lund, telling him of his displeasure with Lund’s ill-judged actions. We both feared that unhappy consequences and animadversion of the General would result. I hoped no one would criticize him, not after all our sacrifices in the cause, but we’d experienced naysayers already. Then to add to that outrage his concern for my welfare, and he proved troubled indeed.


I’ve checked my sources and they do not mention a site for the 1780-81 headquarters either. George only puts “New Windsor” or “Hd Qtr New Windsor” on his letters. I won’t make excuses for my error, only say that I will strive to avoid further errors in the future.

Until next time, when I’ll talk about Philadelphia, 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 depicting the marriage of George and Martha.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Ford’s Mansion in Morristown #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’m continuing my series of locations where Martha traveled to be with George during the American Revolution. On a side note, some of you may remember that there used to be signs posted declaring “George Washington Slept Here” at various hotels and houses and such, which is why I decided to also share where Martha slept as well. At least during the war years. So this week we travel back to Morristown where she stayed at Ford’s Mansion on this trip.

In case you’ve missed the earlier posts, so far I’ve covered these camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

Then Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Next at Middlebrook from 1778-79.

During November 1779, Martha began gathering items and preparing to leave to join George at his winter headquarters. Sometime around the end of November, he sent for her and she headed to Morristown, New Jersey. This time the widow Theodosia Ford invited George to stay at her house. Her husband, Jacob Ford, Jr., had died a few years earlier. Theodosia and her children occupied two rooms in the house while George, Martha, his aides, and their servants occupied the remainder. You can find out more about Ford’s Mansion here.

Note: The above images are all taken from the archives of the Library of Congress. They were taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1901.

In my notes, I estimate she left around December 1 and arrived around the 28th. Apparently it was one of the coldest winters ever, too, which could have only made traveling even more stressful and exhausting. All the layers of clothing to help keep warm would have weighed a good bit. Shivering would also wear on a person. I imagine they used hot bricks or stones to help keep the coach warm inside, perhaps placing them under the ladies’ skirts?

While Martha was in Morristown, several remarkable events happened. Nathaniel Greene’s wife, Kitty, gave birth to a son in January. In April, foreign emissaries from France and Spain visited, calling for a review of the troops and a ball. Apparently, Don Juan de Mirailles of Cuba fell ill that month and Martha helped to nurse him but by the end of the month the man had died. George had to break the news to the governor of Cuba. In May, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived with the news that his son was named George Washington Lafayette and that a fleet of six thousand men were on their way. This was a good thing as two of George’s regiments were near to mutinying due to the lack of supplies. Also in May, George was informed that Lord General Cornwallis had seized Charleston, South Carolina.

Martha finally headed for Mount Vernon in June 1780. After she arrived home, she wrote to her brother-in-law Burwell Bassett on July 18, 1780. In her words:

Dear Sir

            When yours and my dear Fannys letters came to my hands – I was in expectation of leving Camp every week – I left the General about the Middle of June – the last I heard from him he was going up the North river – I got home on Fryday and find myself so much fatigue with my ride that I shall not be able to come down to see you this summer and must request you to bring Fanny up – as soon as you can – I suffered so much last winter by going late that I have determined to go early in the fall before the Frost set in – if Fanny does not come soon she will have but a short time to stay with me – we were sorry that we did not see you at the Camp – there was not much pleasure thar the distress of the army and other difficultys th’o I did not know the cause, the pore General was so unhappy that it distressed me exceedingly

            I shall hope to see you soon after the assembly rises, with Fanny – please to give my love to her and the Boys who I should be very glad to see with you… I am dr Sir your affectionate friend & hmble sert

                                                                        Martha Washington

The Fanny she refers to is the daughter of Burwell and Anna Marie “Nancy” Bassett. Nancy was Martha’s sister who had died on December 17, 1777. Burwell was a lawyer and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Martha is asking him to visit after the current session ends.

I do not know specifically what was distressing George, but if his troops were threatening to mutiny because they didn’t have the supplies they needed, that would be a huge concern. I do know he wrote to Congress frequently requesting and demanding food, uniforms, ammunition and guns, etc. The other possibility is that he’d become aware of Benedict Arnold’s dissatisfaction with how he was being treated, leading up to his defection to the British in November of 1780. That would have worried him as well in the first half of the year. In fact, he tried to placate him by acknowledging Arnold’s contribution to the American cause, but it ended up not being enough for Arnold’s ego.

This stay in Morristown is the last time Martha goes to that lovely city. Next week, I’ll share some pictures I took when I got to visit New Windsor, New York where the headquarters and the cantonment were located in 1780.

Until then, I hope you find a good story to read by the pool or lake! 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 image of Becoming Lady Washington depicting the marriage of George and Martha 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.

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Martha Washington Slept Here: Middlebrook #history #NewJersey #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

In honor of America’s Independence Day, Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union historical romance series Book 3) is on sale for only $.99 through July 8. This series is set in Charleston, SC, mainly during the occupation by the British in 1782.

Healer Samantha McAlester faces the occupation of Charles Town by the British and the town’s new sexy doctor, Dr. Trenton Cunningham, who wants a hospital staffed with educated doctors. When a friend develops an infection, Trent is stumped. The only treatment will expose Samantha’s secret, risking all she’s come to hold dear… including Trent.

Amazon

I hope you give that series a try. It was one of my first set of linked stories, originally a planned trilogy of Emily’s Vow, Amy’s Choice, and Samantha’s Secret. Later I added Evelyn’s Promise at my publisher’s request. Elizabeth’s Hope was the last installment, a prequel novella. I hope you enjoy their stories!

Every fall, Martha waited for George to summon her to the winter encampment of the Continental Army. Again, I was surprised to learn that she ultimately went to him every winter. But once I understood her better I was no longer surprised. It was who she was.

So far I’ve covered three camps:

The first winter headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775.

The second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776.

The third at Valley Forge in 1777-78.

Today let’s explore Middlebrook, NJ, during the winter of 1778-79. This camp was located at what is now the north edge of Bound Brook on Mountain Avenue in Somerset County. According to Revolutionary NJ the army “encamped from the vicinities of Bound Brook and Somerville northward to Pluckemin.” You can learn more about the importance of the location at that previous site as well.

On November 2, 1778, Martha wrote to her brother Bartholomew Dandridge about her concerns. In her words:

“I received your kind favor by Mr. Posey and should have wrote to you long before this but have everyday expected everyday Jack would be ready to set out, I am very sorry to hear that my mamma has been so unwell and thank god that she has recovered again – I wish I was near enough to come to see you and her. I am very uneasy at this time – I have some reason to expect that I shall take another trip to the northward. The pore General is not likely to come to see us from what I can hear – I expect to hear seertainly by the next post – if I doe I shall write to you to inform you and my friends.”

Martha was leery of the trip north due to memories of the bad roads and bad weather she’d encountered before. It didn’t help that her mother had been ill and she was worried about her health. But of course she did go, meeting George in Philadelphia the middle of December 1778. They stayed in that city until February 2 to go to Middlebrook, arriving on the 5th.

I’m sure she fell right back into the routines of camp life, forming the sewing circle with the other wives and socializing in the evenings. She even reportedly had her own regiment, Lady Washington’s Dragoons, to accompany her and keep her safe. But this time was different because she didn’t receive letters from her family as often as she might like. Indeed, she wrote to her son Jack and his wife Eleanor on March 9, 1779:

“My Dear Children,
            Not having received any letter from you, the two last posts – I have only to tell you, that the general & my self are well, all is quiet in this quarters; It is from the south ward that we expect to hear news. – we are very anxious to know how our affairs are going in that quarters Colo [Robert Hanson] Harrison is not yet arrived at camp we have heard that he is in Philad several days ago –
            I hear so very seldom from you, that I don’t know where you are or weather you intend to come to Alexandria to live this spring or when – The last letter from Nelly she now says Boath the children have been very ill, there were she hoped getting better – if you doe not write to me – I will not write to you again or till I get letters from you – Let me know how all friends below are they have for got to write me I believe.”

Martha was concerned about Eleanor because she was with child. In fact, Jack and Eleanor had a daughter on March 21, Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis. Her concerns proved well founded, because when she left Middlebrook and went to see Eleanor at her home Abingdon in Virginia the mother was ill and unable to feed the baby. Martha took Nelly to Mount Vernon to care for her while Eleanor recovered. But that reunion didn’t occur until around September.

In 1779-80, the camp returned to Morristown, but this time they set of HQ in a different place. 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.

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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Martha Washington Slept Here: Valley Forge #history #Pennsylvania #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’ve talked about the first winter headquarters Martha Washington traveled to in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775, and the second winter headquarters in Morristown, NJ, in 1776. But did you know that she also was at Valley Forge during the winter encampment there in 1777-78?

I was fortunate to have a close friend take me to visit this historic site several years ago. There is a good bit of history at the above link if you want to delve deeper into everything that occurred at this place. My aim is to talk about what my sources say Martha did over the months she stayed with George at Valley Forge.

Martha didn’t start out to join George until January 26, 1778 and she had much difficulty traveling due to bad weather and an overall bad trip. Her entourage was forced to stop at Brandywine Creek due to snow and then she had to hire a sleigh to travel the rest of the way. She didn’t arrive at camp until sometime between February 4th and 10th, so you can tell it was a long and difficult trip, encompassing 10-16 days of travel. (As a comparison, if you drove the 152 miles from Mount Vernon, Virginia to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, it would take a little more than 3 hours today.) Try to imagine riding in a coach and then a sleigh for that many days in the cold and snow. Hotels didn’t exist then, so they had to stop at taverns or welcoming houses along the way. All of this because she knew her place was at his side, to support and love him during the dangerous times they lived through. Keep in mind that if the Revolution failed, George faced charges of treason and would likely be hanged. In her own words:

“I had nothing but kindness everywhere on my journey. The travelling was pretty rough. I found snow in crossing Delaware, and at an inn on Brandywine Creek, at a ford, where I lodged, the snow was so deep in the roads in some places, that I had to leave the chariot with the innkeeper and hire a farm sleigh to bring me here. The General is well, but much worn with fatigue and anxiety. I never knew him to be so anxious as now, for the poor soldiers are without sufficient clothing and food, and many of them are barefooted. Oh how my heart pains for them.”

While she was in camp, she reportedly organized a sewing circle with the other wives in camp and even found some musicians to play a concert for George’s birthday on February 22, 1778. She did what she did best by starting the social life in the evenings with as much formality and gaiety as the camp conditions allowed, although she didn’t throw any balls, just dinner in the log cabin built onto the headquarters for dining. Again in her own words:

“The general’s head-quarters have been made more tolerable by the addition of a log-cabin to the house, built to dine in. The apartment for business is only about sixteen feet square, and has a large fireplace. The house is built of stone. The walls are very thick…”

(Note that there is some question as to the authenticity of the previous letter’s entire contents, but it is believed that the log cabin was built as a dining room.)

Spring not only brought warmer temperatures but mud. The thawing of the frozen camp led to a muddy mess, awash in sewage. In May George received word that the French government had recognized the independence of the American colonies, then states, and George declared a day of celebration. Shortly thereafter, it was time for Martha to go home to Mount Vernon, but at least the roads were better since they were no longer snow covered.

Next time I’ll talk about Middlebrook, NJ. 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.

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