Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Family as a Blessing and Bane
Author Guest / November 18, 2020

As we approach the (much different this COVID year) Thanksgiving holidays, traditionally a time of fetes and family gatherings, this month’s selection of novels explores families and family-like relationships that can be either blessing or curse. We begin with THE WRIGHT SISTER by Patty Dann.  While everyone is familiar with the famous brothers who made the first flight at Kitty Hawk, few know about the sister who supported and took care of her famous brothers for most of her life.  After Wilbur’s death, at age 52, Katherine married a widowed friend of the family, Harry Haskell.  Furious and feeling betrayed, Orville remained with a housekeeper in Dayton, Ohio, while his married sister began a new life in Kansas City.  The story is told via her (unanswered) letters to the brother who never forgave her for “abandoning” him and her “marriage diary,” detailing her joy in her new life, her enthusiastic support for the suffragette cause, and her never-realized hopes to reconcile with her brother. A vivid portrait of a woman who was long restrained from becoming all she could be by the demands of her restrictive family. We continue with a better-known woman in LEARNING TO SEE: A NOVEL OF…

Juliette Fay | A Star – the Very First – Is Born
Author Guest / May 3, 2019

The Rise and Fall of Florence Lawrence, the World’s First Movie Star What makes a movie star? Today we’ve got the general recipe down: mix bankable films with broad popularity. Add a healthy social media following and sauté in critical acclaim. Garnish with head-turning red carpet appearances. And if you’re very, very lucky, pair with a performance of your blockbuster movie’s Oscar-winning theme song … But in 1909 no one knew. The concept of stardom didn’t exist because early movie studios didn’t want anyone to know. The thinking went like this: the more popular and “known” actors became, the more money they would demand. Studios kept their performers anonymous—no acting credits were listed—so that if a particular actor became too demanding or difficult, he or she was more easily replaced. Disposability served the bottom line. Then Florence Lawrence came along, and all hell broke loose. She was attractive, but no more so than many other actresses of her day, such as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, both of whom would go on to be far more successful and well-remembered. What Florence was, besides anonymously popular, was prolific. From 1908 through the middle of 1909, she was featured in over 100…

Enterprising Women
History / June 21, 2017

For many historical fiction fans, one of the draws of the genre is watching woman of past confront challenges and restrictions to open up new opportunities for themselves.  In honor of the recent birthdays of some extraordinary women—my mother-in-law, my stepmother and my daughter—this month I showcase a group of enterprising women who dare to dream of doing something more than filling a woman’s conventional place in society. We begin chronologically with THE DARING LADIES OF LOWELL by Kate Alcott.  Searching for independence and a better future, in 1832 farm girl Alice Barrow moves to Lowell to become one of the “mill girls.”  Though the hours are long and the work grueling, she finds a new best friend in outspoken, feisty Lovey Cornell, camaraderie with the other mill girls, and intellectual stimulation in attending lectures at the Lyceum and working on the mill’s literary magazine—where she catches the attention of mill owner’s son Samuel Fiske.  As working conditions become more dangerous and the workers protest, Samuel invites Alice to represent the other mill girls at a meeting with his family.  But when her friend Lovey is found strangled and she suspects the Fiske family of withholding information about the crime,…