Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Finding Romance in London, Part 2

Sometimes finding romance in London means going to Edinburgh and Paris first.

American Tiffany Gallagher flies to London, joining her family for Christmas. Brother Nick, a television actor, is happily in love with Cara Talbott, whom he met at the Pettett & Mayfield Department Store on Oxford Street (Believe in Me). Twin sister Zoe, the “serious” sibling, is studying psychology and working for a university in London. Tiffany, the “lightweight” one known for her ability to shop, is determined to be taken just as seriously as the rest of the family. She’s been showing her fashion designs to the big houses and designers in Paris and London.

Except no one seems interested. About the only thing she’s able to achieve is to go to fulfill a dream to attend the Edinburgh Hogmanay, the big New Year’s Eve celebration. But to do it, she has to accept the invitation from Colin Maclean, the cynical photographer helping Nick and Cara. “Mac,” as he’s called, invites her to stay with his parents at a large parsonage in Edinburgh. Mac’s family is delighted, believing Tiffany is his new love interest.

Mac has his own set of issues, including recovering from a serious leg wound while being an embedded photographer with a British military unit in Iraq. All he wants is to be pass his physical to be allowed to return to the unit. He’s not interested in anything, or anyone, else. 

You can see where this is headed, but the fun is watching it unfold..

A Model Bride by British author Autumn Macarthur is Tiffany’s and Mac’s story, a sweet romance about wo unlikely people developing an interest in each other, even when they’re determined not to. 

Sister Zoe Gallagher has her set of problems. She’s doing research in Paris, determined to prove that romance is based on hormones and never lasts. She even has a study to prove it, and she’s in the process of validating it by interviewing people on the Pontes des Artes, a place where lovers place locks to symbolize their eternal love. The bridge is busy; it’s Valentine’s Day and lot of couples are out. 

It’s on the bridge that she meets a man by himself, Gabe Ross, a fellow American who’s there to carry out a wish from his recently deceased parents. Zoe asks him for an interview, and he agrees, even though he doesn’t fit the type of people she’s studying. Then her purse is stolen, he accompanies her to the police station, and both begin to sense an attraction. But it’s not going anywhere, because she has to return to London, and he’ll be returning to America.

Gabe is returning to America, but it’s by way of an extended stay in London. He’s been engaged to undertake a project at a local university but finds himself asked to fill in for six weeks for a professor who suffers a heart attack. And, yes, it’s the same university and the same department where Zoe works. The ailing professor is, in fact, her boss. 

Autumn Macarthur
Macarthur’s Forget Paris is the story of Zoe and Gabe, an anti-romantic and a romantic gradually and not so gradually falling in love, regardless of what the psychological studies say. The nuts and bolts of psychology and romance get some hefty explanation in the story, but Macarthur manages to keep the love story on track and engaging.

Macarthur has written numerous books in the Christian inspirational romance genre and inspirational non-fiction. Her novels include The Macleans series, the Together for Christmas, series, the Billionaire Protectors series, the Sweetapple Falls series, the London Loves series, the Come to the Lake series, and the Huckleberry Lake series. She lives in London.


Top photograph by Emmanuel Appiah via Unsplash. Used with permission

Monday, August 10, 2020

“Mavericks, Misfits, and Mystics” by Arthur Hoyle

Europeans came to America for a variety of reasons. The Pilgrims and Puritans sought the freedom to worship. Others were looking to make their fortunes. Some wanted to escape the smothering class structure of European society. To survive and flourish in the New World, these immigrants, says author Arthur Hoyle, had to be both dissatisfied and ambitious, hardy of body and strong of mind, hard-working, resourceful, inventive, and practical. 

“The two seemingly contradictory traits that enabled survival in the New World – independence and cooperation – have unfolded in a dynamic tension across American history,” he writes. These traits continue to play out in contemporary society; you have to look no farther than the growing conflict between red states and blue states, urban populations and rural populations, and populists and the elites. 

In his recently published Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain, Hoyle chronicles the lives of 12 Americans who have exhibited these enduring qualities of “being American” even while they often went against the grain of the society around them. In 10 chapters (two of the subjects are actually married couples), he provides fresh and highly readable accounts of who they were, what they did, and why it continues to matter,

Roger Williams was initially part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony but found the ruling Puritans to be as oppressive as the king left behind in Britain; he insisted upon a complete separation of state from the Church of England and the mingling of civic and religious authority. A contemporary, Anne Bradstreet, was the first American poet, at a time when poetry was the exclusive province of men. She evaded criticism by writing passionately religious poetry.

A fuller picture of Thomas Paine is presented than what one usually finds in the history textbooks. He was arguing against injustice long before he wrote Common Sense, but it was that pamphlet that started the tipping of the balance in opinion in favor of independence. During the French Revolution, he veered close to finding himself guillotined in Paris. Josiah Gregg was a merchant, explorer, author, news correspondent, and several other occupations; his wanderings on the prairies, the Southwest, and California, and his writings about his travels, would help feed the idea of Manifest Destiny.

William and Ellen Craft were slaves who escaped their Georgia plantation using a most ingenuous ruse. Ellen was fair enough to pass for white, and she disguised herself as a man, traveling mostly by train with her “slave” William all the way to Massachusetts. The son of a Norwegian-American farmer, Thorstein Veblen became an economist and sociologist and a major critic of capitalism. Thomas Merton was the Cistercian monk was a man of “contradictory and passionate character” Hoyle says, who sought spiritual meaning by distancing himself from society. 

Arthur Hoyle
Brummett Echohawk was a Native American, a member of the Pawnee Tribe, who set out to prove that Native Americans could be just as patriotic as anyone else, and he proved it in World Wat II. Judith Baca is a Chicana muralist who uses her art for social change. Husband and wife Warren Brush and Cynthia Harvan-Brush work in agriculture, creating small, self-sufficient farms that are “thoughtfully and deliberately integrated with the conditions and features of their local ecosystems.”

None of the Americans featured were comfortable with their society’s majority and prevailing thought. Each sought to change both their individual worlds and the worlds around them. Some ended well; some did not. But they all displayed aspects of what we might call the classic American character. 

Hoyle received his B.A. and M.A. dsgrees in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. He’s a writer, educator, administrator, naturalist, independent filmmaker, and author of The Unknown Henry Miller: A Seeker in Big Sur (2014). He lives in California. 

Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits is a delightful and highly readable collection of essays about Americans who often infuriated their contemporaries, followed their individual stars, and yet still displayed the traits we understand and recognize as “American.”

Top illustration: Drawing of Thomas Paine.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Poetry of the Interview

It was the strangest interview I’ve ever participated in – on either side of the table.

A friend had talked me, or conned me, into interviewing for a job with St. Louis Public Schools – the director of communications. 

The school district was in chaos – an outside management firm had been brought in to run the district, schools were being consolidated and closed, services were being outsourced, central office layoffs had emptied more than half of the headquarters building, and protests by parents, students, employees, former employees, teachers and the teachers’ union were daily. School board factions were fighting each other through the news media. The news media was already showing up early each morning at the district’s administration building – knowing there would always be a new crisis to report.

And I wanted to insert myself into that?

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Photograph by Marten Bjork via Unsplash. Used with permission.

The chorus of don'ts

After Ephesians 5:1-20

Don’t be immoral,
and don’t kid yourself
that you don’t know
what it means because,
yes, you do and you are.

Don’t be impure,
a form of covetousness,
a form of desire
for what we don’t have
but think we should.

Don’t partner with those
who are either; darkness
mixing with light
begats murk and gloom
and only more darkness.

Don’t walk in acts
of darkness, acts
of destruction, and
instead expose darkness
to the light.

Make the best use 
of these days,
these evil days.
Give thanks.
Sing the songs.

Photograph by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday Good Reads

For the first time it is 108 years of publishing history, the Poetry Foundation is deliberately missing an issue of Poetry Magazine. It will not publish a September issue, while it learns how to become an agent of antiracism. In recent months, the foundation has been rocked by the resignation of its president and vice president, and Don Share, Poetry’seditor, has resigned as well. This happened because of a furor over the use of a word in a poem by Michael Dickman published in the July/August issue. The poem, submitted by the poet a year ago, runs 25 pages in the issue, with 6 or 8 lines per page. I’ve read the poem, and all I can say is: So, this is how cancel culture works.

Nothing is safe from cancel culture, and especially the past. But possible candidates for safety include examples of English tomb poetry, poems inscribed on the stones of the deceased, especially those buried in cathedrals. James Tweedie at the Society of Classical Poets has four examples – three from Canterbury Cathedral and one from Exeter Cathedral

Back in the 1970s, I read all of the crime novels by American noir writer Dashiell Hammett, including The Maltese Falcon, The Continental Op, Red Harvest, and more. I’m thinking about re=reading them, to see if I would enjoy them as much now as I did then. Susanna Lee at Crime Reads explains how Hammett’s Continental Op became a Depression-era icon

More Good Reads


The Church Forests of Ethiopia: A Mystical Geography – film by Jeremy Seifert, essay by Fred Bahnson at Emergence Magazine.

On Hamilton, Criticism, and the Power of Creativity – Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition.

A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory – Tim Keller at Life in the Gospel. 


Tolkien’s Errantry – Paul Hughes at Poet and Priest.

What makes the Silver Age of Russian poetry so important – Alexandra Guzeva at Russia Beyond.

Stilling – Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.

Federico Garcia Lorca Blues – poems read by Justin Hamm. 

Writing and Literature

Best Books: Global Greats List – Mark Makin at The Scriptorium.

The Humanization of Authors – Kacen Callender at Medium. 

American Stuff

Some Thoughts on the Status of the Lost Cause – Sean Michael Chick at Emerging Civil War. 

British Stuff

The Villages of Great and Little Ouseburn—the Forgotten Stops on the Brontë Trail – Finola Austin at English Historical Fiction Authors. 


The Princeton Faculty’s Anti-Free-Speech Demands – Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic

Promises – Maverick City / TRIBL

Painting: Reading Woman, oil on canvas (circa 1866) by Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887)

Friday, August 7, 2020

Loving children

After Ephesians 5:1-20

Children are loved,
and children imitate.
Being loved is walking
in love, with a holy love,
a fierce love,
the same love given
to us, the love
of faithfulness even
to death, a love
which amazes,
which terrifies,
and we ask how,
how are we loved,
how are we to love?

Photograph by Lebin Yuriy via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

“The Secret of Dunhaven Castle” by Nellie Steele

Dr. Catherine (Cate) Kensie teaches history at Aberdeen College, a small liberal arts college in the American Midwest. She loves teaching and her subject, but her department is tiny and declining. She’s been promised a tenure-track position, but the promise is getting old, and she knows it’s not worth much if anything. Her department chair has dangled the promise to keep her accepting the times and courses no other professors want. She has little extracurricular life, except for much-loved dog, Riley. And she has no family, being an only child of parents who died in an automobile accident.

At home, she finds a telephone message. The voice refers to a letter she’s never received. Someone named William Smythe, a London attorney, is arriving that evening. He refers to the letter he’d sent, and says he has a fast turnaround and must return to Britain early the next day. When Smythe arrives, to obtain a DNA sample, she learns that she may be the only heir to a title and a castle in Scotland. Cate is stunned; she has no knowledge of family in Scotland or anywhere else. 

Two weeks later, she hears the results of the DNA test. She’s the heir, and she is now a countess. With her job at a dead-end, she decides she’s going to Scotland. She learns of a few odd requirements; the now-deceased previous countess is requiring she wear a watch on a chain around her neck at all times. But that seems a relatively minor obligation. And it’s off to Britain, first to London and then to Scotland.

Nellie Steele
And Dunhaven is indeed a castle, replete with battlements and legends and stories. Cate decides to use the castle’s large library and the village library and archives to figure out her connection to the MacKensie family, perhaps to write a book about the family history. And in the meantime, there are those strange people who keep showing up in period dress, the people who seem as real as Cate herself.

The Secret of Dunhaven Castle by Nellie Steele is the story of Cate Kensie discovering who her family is and was and the secret that’s harbored by the castle. It’s a mystery with a dash of science fiction and even a hint of romance (one suspects Cate’s estate manager might become something more than an employee). It’s written almost like the narrative in a journal, with a precise accounting of what happens each day over a several-week period. 

Nellie Steele is the pen name for the Melissa Sovak, who lives with her family in Pittsburgh and teaches statistics at a local university. She’s also written The Murder at Dunhaven Castle, the second in the Cate Kensie series, and two novels on the Shadow Slayer Series, Shadows of the Past and Stolen Portrait, Stolen Soul

If you like a story of a castle in Scotland, an unexpected American heiress, and odd things happening (and I do), The Secret of Dunhaven Castle is a great and almost-addictive read.