The Road Renounced
Packing up her father’s effects ahead of his funeral, Sam Ryan’s daughter discovers her grandmother’s diary. Her reading takes us on a twisting journey through history – WWI, the Spanish flu, prohibition, and the depression. Moving back and forth between the present and the past, from the USA to Belgium, Kaye Schmitz’s The Road Renounced straddles time and space. Finally, the worlds converge when her grandfather, an aspiring baseball player, goes to war and, once more, briefly, at her father’s funeral. By then, we know a whole lot about her grandparents’ life that the narrator wisely chooses not to tell the rest of the family.
One would expect a book that presents graphic scenes of war, alcoholism, spousal abuse, and suicide to be depressing. Not this one. The Road Renounced is a pleasure to read from start to finish. The opening “Letter to My Readers” pulls readers in immediately because Kaye Schmitz talks to them like an old friend, just like Maude writes in her diary. “Who would have thought a diary from a hundred years ago would have kept you glued like this?” (305) The narrator’s curiosity and compassion compel readers to read on. They might even do just as she did, for example, searching on Google for a song her father sang.
Weaving family history, homage, and meticulous research, Schmitz creates engaging scenes with a Forrest Gump effect – recognizable historical moments revisited with a fictional character present. Need to know where historical fact ends and fiction begins? Check out the detailed “Author’s note” at the novel’s end. The structure is masterful. Logical devices bridge the spatial gap till our Americans arrive in Europe. And then there is the trunk to link the past and present. There are concerns about women’s rights, war and patriotism, parental responsibilities, self-esteem, and mental health. Readers will be left with much to consider as they follow along on this journey with the protagonist.
The Road Renounced is a gripping drama and family saga that takes historical events and gives them a personal touch. Readers will find themselves drawn into the lives of this family as they learn about their past, good and bad, and are compelled to see the story through and learn who these people really are.
Pages: 440 | ASIN : B0BLVVVJYJ
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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Undying Love and Loyalty
The Consort Conspiracy follows Kate who travels to to Georgia to cover a story only to get embroiled in the towns dark history. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
The inspiration for this novel is actually one of my favorite parts of the story. While I have been a writer in some form or another my whole life, I had never done much with it other than a couple of short stories and poems. But I visited the Midway Cemetery in Georgia–yes, it’s a real place–in 1997 because I knew it contained the graves of signers of The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I went there for the history. But as I wandered the oldest part of the cemetery, I stumbled upon the Robarts family plot with death dates in the early 1700s. One grave was for the wife of William Robarts and right next to her grave was that of Ann Evelyn Robarts, listed as “The Consort” of William. My first thought was indignation, since I interpreted “consort” to mean “mistress” (my research later told me, however, that “consort” was simply another name for “spouse”). My second thought was of deep sorrow when I read the epitaph that stated she was only seventeen-years-old when she died and was buried with her two infant daughters. Immediately, my mind started spinning with a myriad of jumbled thoughts that ranged from “Oh how horrible to die so young with so much to look forward to,” all the way to “This happened so long ago…how could anyone today be certain that these deaths actually happened the way it’s written here…what if one of the little girls had lived?” I felt so strongly about it, it was as if Ann Evelyn, herself, had reached out from the grave. A story began to take shape in my heart…and it was one I knew I had to tell.
This book was filled with lots of great twists. Did you plan these or did they develop organically as you were writing?
The main twist about Kate’s ancestral roots was the first one I thought of and, in fact, in the very first iteration of this story–written long hand on four yellow legal tablet sheets for an early writing class–developed that one twist and only covered the crypt and its contents. As my writing instructor and friends encouraged me to expand on the story, I knew that more things needed to happen and be intricately woven together. I needed to figure out what caused Katherine to die at such a young age in the first place–yes, women did die of childbirth all the time back then, but that was too easy–and not very exciting in a thriller. So the reason Katherine died led to the story line of not only the circumstances prior to her death, but also of what catapulted the Penningtons into the most powerful political position in the world. And once that happened, the events that transpired to bring them karmic justice–family come-uppance, if you will–also spawned a story line. All of the other twists simply presented themselves to me “organically,” as you said, in the course of the writing.
I enjoyed how each character had their own voice and was meticulously developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing your characters?
I really love it that you asked that question because as a writer, one of my fears has always been that people will think my characters are shallow. I have been thrilled to find out that’s not the case. The characters in the two-hundred-year-old story were probably the easiest to write because I believe they follow typical character themes from the period–the strong, silent “leading man” who was a pillar of the community until he experienced his downfall, the sweet naïve young bride/mother who steadfastly refused to believe there was evil in any of her associates, the evil-doers who were only out to benefit themselves, regardless of the cost to others, and the salt of the earth folks–primarily Jewel, in this case–who kept things moving with undying love and loyalty and a steady hand. One of the characters I especially enjoyed writing was Lucilla, from the older story. One of my editors suggested I tone down her surliness and some other aspects of her character, but I fought to keep her the way she was. She needed to do everything she did in order to maintain at least semi-equal footing with Caleb in their sinister plot. Kate’s character had initially been written in a more literary style–more formal speech and fewer glimpses into her internal insecurities. But when I turned in a writing assignment in an advanced writing course using a “girlfriend ” type voice, my instructor wrote on the top of my paper that she really liked that voice and that I should incorporate it into my writing. So I did…which also led to a massive re-write to change Kate’s part of the story from third person POV to first person POV. And after that, Kate became much more fun to spend time with.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
My next book is the first in a new series about two new families–the Sinclairs and the Maguires–and takes place in North Carolina, just a few miles east of Asheville–I’ll pick back up on Kate and her friends in a later book. We are still negotiating on this one, but expect it to be out in 2018. Here’s a teaser:
In 1947, JEFFREY SINCLAIR, hidden in his family’s mansion, sneaks from his safe place on his eighth birthday and witnesses his father’s murder. Almost seventy years later, MATTIE MAGUIRE the fourth generation of the working class family whose lives have been intertwined with the wealthy Sinclair family, attempts to fulfill her lifelong fantasy of buying the old mansion. But her plans fall apart when she learns that the mystery shrouding the earlier murder has also clouded the identity of the property’s true heir. Worse, in her research to clear the title, she uncovers some troubling information that points to the involvement of her beloved grandfather, MICHAEL MAGUIRE, into the earlier murder that, if made public, would put her whole family in danger. Suddenly, nothing matters beyond protecting her loved ones and clearing her family name. It’s up to Mattie, accompanied by an unlikely source, to unravel her grandfather’s involvement, discover the true Sinclair heir–hidden away for decades–and return him to his rightful place, where together, he and Mattie finally reveal the family’s long-held secrets, along with the identity of the true killer.
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For almost two hundred years an ancient cemetery, deep in the lowlands of Georgia, has protected the identity of an infamous, brutal murderer, whose act of betrayal changed the course of the town’s history. Now, eight generations later, MIDWAY CEMETERY conceals the activities of international conspirators engaged in a fast moving counterfeiting ring operating right under the noses of the slow-paced Midway residents.
Thirty-one-year old Bostonian KATE COVINGTON travels to Midway to film a documentary intended to increase the favorability ratings for the current United States President, WILFORD PENNINGTON, who was born in Midway and descended from the murdered victim from two hundred years earlier. As she becomes enthralled with the town’s history, Kate uncovers the truth about the murder of the President’s ancestor. Her discovery also leads to her learning the truth behind her own mother’s death and eventually changes not only the town’s history, but Kate’s future as well.
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The Consort Conspiracy
Kaye Schmitz’s The Consort Conspiracy talks about an ancient cemetery deep in the Lowland of Georgia that has been there for over two centuries and protects the remains of the infamous murderer whose act of betrayal changed the history of the town and catapulted the descendants of the murdered victim into the nation’s highest political office.
Kate Covington, a thirty one year old intrepid journalist travels to Midway Georgia, the hometown of the current president Wilford Pennington, to film a documentary to help boost his favorability ratings after he could not keep his privates in his pants. The search for answers to her documentary brings her to the cemetery that has buried more secrets than bodies. But her curiosity almost gets her killed.
The book starts steadily but picks up the pace after the introductory. There are several story lines that are juggled and all are meticulously developed. Kaye Schmitz brings them together in surprising ways with twists that I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed the detailed writing style as well as the alternating perspectives, we even get to travel from the past to the present. All of it intricately weaving together story lines that seem to be separate but which culminate in a explosive piece full of suspense.
As Kate busies herself gathering information for her documentary, she unearths a secret about the first family that could lead to their undoing. The truth about the death of Dr. Aaron Pennington, a descendant of the president will also be uncovered. Mr. Wilford’s political career rests on this murder that happened more than two hundred years ago. This all lends to a thrilling joyride of a novel.
Kate has to deal with some highly emotional issues throughout the story, like when she discovers the truth about the death of her mother. A truth that will not only change the town’s history but Kate’s future as well.
The historical facts that have embellished the present tale and the vivid and compelling characters portrayed by the heroes and villains keep one turning the pages. You really can envision how the characters, as well as the locations, look through Kaye Schmitz detailed description.
When the two handsome men Dan Pennington and Joshua Warrington start competing for Kate’s attention the book becomes a can’t-put-it-down tale. By the end the outcome was both satisfying and unexpected. Just when you thought you figured it all out, you realize you don’t. It was well written and keeps one on the edge of their seat. It was one of those stories that you have to read word by word for fear of missing something crucial. It really was a page turner.
Pages: 331 | ASIN: B071G89PBW
Posted in Book Reviews, Five Stars
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