Book Review: A Feigned Madness by Tonya Mitchell

By Wendy Stanley

In 1887, 23-year old journalist Elizabeth Cochrane, under the assumed name Nellie Bly, feigned mental illness in order to report undercover from a women’s insane asylum for the New York World newspaper.

Once committed to the asylum on Blackwell’s Island, Nellie is stunned by the daily depredations the women must endure at the hands of cruel staff and from the inhumane conditions forced upon them. Nellie’s ten-day stay becomes a horrifying ordeal of abuse and survival, with riveting details throughout. [Review continues after clicking Read More under image...]


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1894 Mirror


Finding Elizabeth's Husband: A Cross-Atlantic Tale

By Wendy Stanley
May 28, 2020

A month ago, a researcher in Scotland wrote to Graeme Park. Elizabeth’s husband, Henry Hugh Fergusson, had been FOUND! This was fascinating for those of us who have wondered what happened to Elizabeth’s husband 241 years after he left Elizabeth to languish at Graeme Park in the middle of the American Revolution. Graeme Park shared the exciting news on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GraemeParkHorsham

Finds like this are the stuff of history nerds’ dreams!

After all, an academic historian, Anne M. Ousterhout, had spent years writing a serious biography of Elizabeth Graeme and couldn’t find any mention of the rest of Henry Fergusson’s life, or his remains, anywhere. Her 1997 book, The Most Learned Woman in America: A Life of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson said that all trace of Fergusson ended after 1801. The paper trail went cold on the historians looking for him. 

Until now. So where was he? [Story continues by clicking Read More after the image below.]

Henry Fergusson's gravestone, circa 1997. Archival photo provided courtesy of Ken Nairns.
The Auld Kirk of Ayr, Scotland


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Book Review: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Book Review by Wendy Stanley
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Viking, 2020

“All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night. That my husband bent his heart to mine on our thin straw mat and listened was the kindness I most loved in him.”

This begins The Book of Longings, story of Ana, wife of Jesus, in the first century. [Review continued by clicking Read More after the image below.]

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Happy 339th Birthday to Pennsylvania!

March 11, 2020

I had a wonderful day this past Sunday at Graeme Park helping celebrate Charter Day. [Article continues, please click link under the second image below.]

So much fun talking history with friends!

Pennsylvania Charter, 1681

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Love Letter from the Past: My Dear Child

February 13, 2020

Yesterday I was in author heaven. I spent the day in Philadelphia for several reasons: to gather more research for book signings I have coming up for The Power to Deny; to visit the Betsy Ross House for my grad course research; and to visit The Rosenbach Museum and Library for the first time and attend an event there.

Over the course of the day a theme was emerging: letters about love, and unrequited love. When I realized tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a blog post was calling my name.

An exciting discovery: a letter I found in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Ann Graeme wrote to her daughter after William Franklin (Ben Franklin’s son) jilted Elizabeth and married someone else in London. Elizabeth had waited for him in Philadelphia for five long years. Years without email, texts, FaceTime, telegrams, telegraphs, radio communication, landlines, or cell phones. Hard to believe, isn’t it? All they had was letters sent by boat that took weeks to arrive and often went missing. [Continued by clinking the link below]

A page from Ann Graeme's letter to her jilted daughter, 1762

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Guest Post! Author P. K. Adams Presents Silent Water

I am thrilled to welcome guest author P.K. Adams to my blog this month! 

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The Tudor era is one of the most popular in historical fiction, and for a good reason. The 1500s were the century of the Renaissance, a time when hundreds of years of philosophy and art were turned on their head. The European worldview shifted from the pursuit of earthly perfection and the focus on the afterlife to celebrating the temporal world and its beauty, as well as the possibilities of the mind and pleasures of the body.

It was also the century during which the monopoly of the Catholic Church ended in the religious sphere. Henry VIII in England and Martin Luther in Germany both turned their backs on Rome, and millions of people followed their example. In many ways, it was an age of a radical transformation that laid the ground for the modern world as we know it.

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Book Love Day 2: CIRCE by Madeline Miller

Day #2
Today's book love is for Madeline Miller's *Circe*.

"In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not obviously powerful like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power - the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves."

I read Madeline Miller's first novel, The Song of Achilles, went it came out in 2011. I fell deeply in love with her re-telling of Greek mythology. I agree with Margaret George, this is "as close as you will ever come to entering the world of mythology as a participant." Stunning. When Circe was published last year, I snatched it up in hardcover without waiting for the paperback.

Not only is Madeline Miller a beautiful author, she's a super person. I went to a book signing of hers in March 2018 and she was wonderfully (surprisingly) supportive of my own hopes for publication. I was surprised to see what she wrote in my book: "For Wendy, I can't wait to see your book on the shelf! Best wishes." Thank you, Madeline. Truly. And please write faster.

Circe is a wonderful read. @madeline.e.miller





Books I Love

Books have shaped my life. Since the time I was a young child, they have lifted me, transported me, inspired me, forced me to think deeply, had me laughing, scowling, made me a better person. For the next few days, I will be posting the books that that made me stop along the way and marvel at their power. In the run up to the holidays, if you feel inspired to order them for yourself or a loved one, they might sprinkle some joy for other people too. Some are old, some are new. There are dozens I've loved over the years; of course this a brief sampling.

Peek back for the next few days and check out my daily book love. These are being posted in no particular order, and I have no affiliation with the authors or the publishers.

My first choice is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I first read this book when I was 16. I loved it so much I acted a portion out by candlelight for my high school English class. Since then it has not left my book shelves. Marion passed away twenty years ago, but her books will carry on and wield her magic.

The Mists of Avalon is the story of Camelot's court through the eyes of women. "From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim." - Amazon






It's Publication Day!


It’s publication day! My first one ever!

In 2008, I was living in Toronto, Canada with my husband and our two girls, then aged 2 and 4. Malcolm came home one day and said he had a job opportunity in Pennsylvania and would I like to move to the US. Yes! Why not? Another adventure.

We arrived in Horsham, PA in September 2008. That first year, we got to know our new hometown. We visited Graeme Park, a local historical site. I was taken with the beautiful old house on the property, which was almost 300 years old and retained a haunting elegance. It seemed time had forgotten the house, which was virtually unchanged since the 1700s. When I learned about one of its occupants, Elizabeth Graeme, Dr. Thomas Graeme’s youngest daughter, I was even more intrigued.

Elizabeth was an exceptional writer, a prolific writer actually, and probably one of the most educated women in colonial America. She was beautiful, smart, and could hold a room captive. Once engaged to Ben Franklin’s son, William, she was jilted and then went on to marry a man who changed the course of her life. I won’t put spoilers here with the hope that you’ll check out my book. It’s fair to say that Elizabeth Graeme had an incredible life. She grew up against the backdrop of the French and Indian War, followed by a headlong stumble into the American Revolution. My novel, The Power to Deny, is an attempt to reimagine her story. Elizabeth deserves to be remembered.

I spent eight years researching and writing The Power to Deny. I loved crawling through archives and digital newspapers from the eighteenth century to view original documents. Sometimes it was tough going, as I was also working in comms, raising kids, being a wife, and juggling life, some of which was messy. But I had a dream.

And this year I FINALLY FINISHED my book! I plan to keep writing, although hopefully my next novel won’t take eight years! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter on this website to stay updated on future books, author events, book reviews on other historical novels, and general book love.

I want to say thank you to the Historical Novel Society for inspiring me and guiding me; and to Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial for my stunning cover design and her savvy editing. Jenny is exactly the rigorous, impressive professional you want supporting you on your journey. (All errors in the book are my own.) Thank you to Danielle Soloff for my gorgeous author photos, taken at Graeme Park. And a big thank you to Beth MacCausland, President of the Board of Graeme Park, who for years has been supportive and enthusiastic. Thank you.

And thank you most of all to Malcolm, my husband, who puts up with me, the crazy writer, and loves me in spite of it. The Power to Deny is available as an e-Book and paperback around the world thanks to his technical wizardry.

If you read my book, I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to contact me! Thanks so much!