Message From The Author

Author's Message


As I write this, I've just come from London where I did a few of my favorite things: standing in the midst of the royal tombs at Westminster, prowling about the Tower of London and walking through the Jack the Ripper tour.

Abroad, I admit to a passion for graveyards, cathedrals and the majesty and corruption of all the ancient royalty. When I'm home, it's an insatiable appetite for the "Discovery" and "Arts and Entertainment" channels for their fine programming, especially those featuring autopsies and forensics. However, English history was my first love-thanks to Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Eden and Anya Seton. In addition, world history, mayhem, mystery and murder are what I love to read and what I love to write. Sometimes, if we're lucky, the two combine.

It was my mother's novels that gave me my fascination for different times and places. Long before I was grown, I could see Catherine Howard running along the hall at Hampton Court, screaming for Henry VIII, screaming to keep her head. Novels made people real-made them laugh, cry, try, fail and even in failure, be noble.

When I started writing, there was one thing I really wanted to do, and that was to pass on what I had received: visible, almost tangible pictures created out of words, making real people come alive within the pages, and inventing real worlds that the reader will want to visit. After novels, I discovered non-fiction-histories and biographies-and I learned that opening a book can truly open the world.

My mother was born in Dublin and as I grew up in South Florida, I thought that surely the history from her native land was far more fascinating than any history I could find at home-their houses were simply so much older! But as I began to travel, I learned that I was an American, and the history of my home could be just as fascinating-as fine, as ignoble, as honorable, as proud-as any. In forging the United States, our founding mothers and fathers braved impossible odds, risked life and limb and behaved with incredible courage. They also did some despicable things-and it's all the same history, our history. Learning from our mistakes is what will make us great.

Traveling through Pennsylvania in the summertime and discovering that there were no rooms for the next hundred miles was what first introduced me to the Civil War on a personal level. It's an era that continues to intrigue me. After that awful night spent in the car (we decided that the Gettysburg Sheraton had the best parking lot), my husband Dennis and I, and two of our five children, Jason and Shayne (perhaps four and five years old at the time), somehow wound up at our first battle re-enactment. I've been hooked ever since.

I had never imagined what courage it must have taken a soldier to march through a day made gray by black powder of cannon fire to face the roar of hundreds of rifles aimed right at him. Yet what really captured my heart about the American Civil War was that brothers fought brothers, fathers fought their sons, and women were left to shed tears for all of them. There were so many larger-than-life characters involved, such as Robert E. Lee, who knew he was giving up his home at Arlington (his wife's, really) when he turned down Lincoln's offer to lead the Union Army. He didn't believe in secession, but in his heart, he felt himself a Virginian first, and therefore his duty was to fight with his state. There was Joshua Chamberlain, the Maine school teacher who fought with nothing but courage when he ran out of ammunition in mid-battle. Not to

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