Ready to Read

Ready to Read
Historical Novels -Bobi Andrews

Monday, October 14, 2013



--This is as entertaining a book as I’ve ever read.  
The story itself is captivating, drawing the reader 
into the struggles,  triumphs, and tragedies of Hetty’s 
life.  She is a charming, lovable, frustrating
young woman.  My heart was touched in so many 
ways by her journey.  -- Grannylin, Richmond, TX.

--Haunting, redemptive story that never dilutes its 
strength in faddish fantasy.  Realism and grit integrate 
with deep caring for lovely things of the heart. 
--Carol Menges, Boise, Idaho

--The themes of overcoming adversity, struggling 
with mental illness, and enhancing and using a 
God-given talent, provide the reader  with not only 
enjoyment, but thoughtful reflection.  – Meg E. Lewis

--The descriptions of the characters are so vivid 
that each of them comes to life for the reader.  Hetty’s 
trusting nature and her desire to attain her goal as 
a singer are so heart-warming that the reader is
aching for her to succeed.  -- Tutor

--Really like the setting of the story.  Hetty was a very 
sheltered girl and the world just overwhelmed her.  
In today’s society, this happens. I would recommend 
this book very highly.  –Farmer’s Wife.

--I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but 
had read one of Mrs. Andrews other books.  The prologue 
was a little airy for me (probably because I’m a guy).  
I really didn’t know if I was going to get into this one.  
Within two pages of chapter one, I was sucked in and
by the time I had to stop for dinner on page 50 I didn’t 
want to put it down.  –Louis Epstein

--In Hetty’s Song, author Barbara  Andrews tells the 
story of a young girl’s journey from sheltered backwoods 
innocence to urban womanhood in late-18th-century 
America.  The book is full of vivid characters and
evocative settings so rich in detail that it feels almost 
as though the author is giving us an eyewitness account. 
– GayCee

--Ms.  Andrews develops the ideas of human frailty, 
courage, and self fulfillment through believable, well 
defined characters whose choices and motives drive the 
storyline.  Her vibrant descriptions of rural Virginia and
the cities of Cincinnati and Omaha add authenticity to the
story, and her use of imagery, particularly the evil skylark, 
enriches the reader’s understanding of Hetty’s struggles.   
This is an engrossing, fast-paced book which engages the
reader throughout.  I highly recommend it.  –thosmw

*Representative Amazon reviews.  October, 2013

Plain, in gray homespun and prayer cap, gifted teenaged Hetty has one desire in life. To sing. But the Brethren tradition in the mountain village of Singer’s Glen, Virginia, forbids a girl to perform in public.

Tragedy forces Hetty to live with her austere grandmother until catastrophe pushes her to run away and seek shelter with an eclectic group of Christian ladies living in a former Madam’s house in Ohio. Under the tutelage of a noted maestro she becomes a famous singer, the new Nightingale of Cincinnati.

Naïve and vulnerable to the ways of the world, Hetty fears the curse of an ancient evil skylark which is ever present, ever threatening to send her into a spiral of illness and disorder.  She falls under the spell of a man, finds herself pregnant, and at his mercy. She must decide whether to marry this man, the father of her unborn child.

The skylark sings as her tormentor cruelly forces her into his life of lies, gambling, and crime. At the breaking point, to avoid succumbing to his evil, she fights with her one last weapon:  she wills her voice to silence. Will the skylark’s curse triumph or will she be the greatest singer to come from the Shenandoah Mountains?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Editorial - Hetty's Song, the Death of the Skylark

There are many aspects to writing a story from the
Shenandoah Valley, particularly Singer’s Glen.  The
area is a beautiful spot in the American landscape
and the traditions and uniqueness of Singer’s
Glen something to not be forgotten.

I’ve received a number of responses to the advanced
reading copies made available from the publisher
and have been astounded by the many individuals
who relate to similar circumstances in their own
lives or found in those of their kin. In a contemporary
sense, although Hetty’s Song is a fictional historical
novel, many of her experiences are mirrored in life

More important than the commercial side of writing a book, I wanted readers to get to know Hetty for her talent and courage set in a time when women’s achievements may have been discouraged and/or 
hidden from proper acknowledgement.

As one of my friends related after reading the book, “I’ve met Hetty, and I like her.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


How lucky can an author get when a neighbor across the street lived in the area where your 17th century story took place.   The Sotweed Smuggler began in Modbury, Devonshire, on the southern coast of England.  Not far to the north was the city of Exeter.  I am pleased and honored to interview Alan Burt.  (The only thing missing with this virtual chat is his delightful accent and great humor.)  So without further adieu, 



Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you lived in England before coming to the United States:

I was born November 1957 in the City of Exeter.  We moved from St. Thomas to Beacon Heath around 1960.  I had a good childhood as the estate was on the edge of Exeter so I had plenty of woods and fields to play in.

If you were to picture in your mind, historical Ermington and the villages nearby in Devonshire, what would you describe?

Winding steep banked lanes and roads, small villages and hamlets.  Rolling hills and fields of the South Hams dotted with woods and the river Erme.  White washed cottages with thatched or slate roofs, and at the center of each village the parish church and local pub.  

With the story of The Sotweed Smuggler set at Mothercombe Bay, what was the Devon shoreline like?  Deserted?  Beaches for pleasure? Fishing or merchant ships?

The Devon shoreline is a mix of rugged cliffs with small beaches.  Wide estuaries  of sand and mud covered each side with woodland.  Small fishing towns and villages with a jetty or breakwater, and houses crammed on the hillside.  In the villages would be a mixture of fishing and merchant ships.

You’ve said some of your ancestors were gypsies.  How interesting.  Paint us a word picture about them.

On my mother’s side of the family we are descended from the Romany gypsy.  I can remember as a boy visiting my Aunts who were in fact my grandmother’s sisters.  Aunt Misses and Aunt Ruby wore their hair in plaits.  She had a chrome-sided caravan full of cut glass.  I found both of them hard to understand because of the dialect and the Romany language.  I do remember seeing an old photograph of my great grandmother sitting on her painted, horse-drawn caravan smoking her clay pipe.  My grandfather told me stories about the lurcher dogs that would run along side the wagon when they traveled the country.  I know they would go to the County of Kent to pick hops every year.  I also remember my gram reading my tea leaves and on New Year’s Day, I had to carry a lump of coal in my pocket, and be the first to enter a house for luck.

Back in the old days, what would have been the typical supper?  Anything unique to the area.  Did your Mum teach you to cook?

My mum did teach me to cook.   She was very good at baking cakes.  For supper we would have things like sausage and mash, pork chops or lamb chops and on Sunday, we always had a roast, beef, pork or chicken.  My mum would sometimes make a Romany dish of beef cooked over sliced potatoes in gravy.  We would have a treat now and then of fish and chips bought from the traveling fish and chip van which would be parked at the end of King Arthur’s road every Friday night.

What was the main occupation of the residents?

My dad worked for the Local Council in the refuce department and my mum worked for my uncle (her brother) in his pet shop.  I remember my next door neighbor worked at a school teaching cello and music.  Most people worked for local businesses in Exeter, shops, warehouses, etc. 

If I were a tourist and you the guide and had one day to spend in Devonshire, where would we go?

If we had only one day to see Devon, I would first take you on a tour of the capitol city of Exeter.  We would visit the cathedral and its close surroundings.  Then, I ‘d take you down to the river Exe and see the old customs house and wharf buildings beside the river.  Then show you the old timber-framed house called the “house that moved.”  It was put on a flat bed with wheels and moved to make way for the ring road in the early 1960’s.  Next we would visit Dartmoor National Park.  This is the high moorland in the center of Devon.  A place of much beauty with open moorland, granite outcrops of rocks featuring small villages and rivers of clear water nestled among the woods. 

What do you miss most about Devonshire?

Family, of course, but besides that I miss the moor and clotted cream and  being able to just go out in the fields for a walk with very few restrictions.  And Texas being mostly flat, I miss the Devon rolling hills and the coast being so close.  I miss sandy beaches or standing on the cliff path watching the boats coming and going.  But most of all I miss the tranquility at Dartmoor. 

From The Sotweed Smuggler, there is a scene where William and Dewance are walking to Ermington to help his mother move back to their ancestral home from Modbury.   He looks back frequently and marvels at the beauty of Mothercombe Bay.  Dew threw rocks and whistled jingles, and they both nursed a certain melancholy from leaving, even briefly, what had become home.   Somehow, maybe through time-travel, I can envision Alan walking with them.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Two longs and a short.  Why would anyone remember that?  Well . . . 
in the middle of the night anything can happen and my midnight muse 
remembered it and somehow ZINGO.  FACEBOOK.
Painting by Rose Nuernberger

Back when there were no dial-up phones, the big thing was to have a big thing hanging on your wall—a contraption first timers called a “telephone.”   It worked like this:

When electricity finally came through to small towns and rural areas, a telephone company was born which grouped an entire community or rural group on party lines and provided a phone
box to the end user with his own specific  ring.   Our family’s ring to call out was to crank the handle two full circles (longs) and then a short crank. Incoming calls had the same designation as the bells at the top of the phone box rang the longs and shorts.

Privacy, no.  The ring for incoming calls was heard by everyone on the party line so not only would you answer your ring,  but everyone else could “rubber” in.  If you wanted to call out and the line was busy, nothing kept the one waiting from listening in on the on-going conversation.

Ah-h-h Facebook!  Once a week, the local newspaper would call to get the latest news items on where you went, who had a birthday, what did you eat, new babies, parties, illnesses, deaths, etc. etc.  Everyone on the party line could listen in . . . and did.  Some people (maybe grandmas) with idle time made a habit of rubbering and then ringing up their neighbor or kin to spread the gossip.    Of course “Central” the switchboard operator back at the company telephone board, was on a first name basis with everybody and knew the latest. On the merit side, she often called the doctor or the fire department in emergencies.  But did she spread gossip?  Ahem, of course not!

Sometimes when the party you called didn’t answer, a “rubber” would fill you in and tell you where the missing party was. If someone was ill, a rubber or group of rubbers would organize a food mission for the afflicted family  and would certainly call every day to see how the ill person was doing.  Lost children, dogs, cows, and sheep were found and reported to rubbers to contact missing parents/owners.  “Central” hunted you down when there was an emergency you needed to know about.  Ladies inviting people for coffee or announcing they were the next hostess for the Ladies Aid Society would often find the whole neighborhood unexpectedly attending.  Feuds and arguments were maliciously carried on with parties shouting  down others “to get off the line.” More than one offender was dubbed a gossiper and a nosy busybody, a reputation never to be lived down.”

In fairness, farm wives were usually far too busy to rubber.  However, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t rubber at one time or another. Despite an over abundance of abusers to the party lines, lives were saved by timely notice of emergencies, many lonesome people comforted, family communication strengthened,  cohesive communities established and maintained.  Not too much different from the goals of social media today.  Thank heavens Facebook fixed some of the possibilities for abuse when they brought their service on line.  But if you think about it, the only thing missing back in those days was the ability to send pictures over a telephone line and of course, you couldn’t carry your big box around.  More importantly, you couldn’t find the little box to check  “unlike” for anyone rubbering. 


Saturday, August 24, 2013


I have a number of very good musicians in my family, perhaps originating from the travelling genes of the singing ancestors in Singer’s Glen.   While researching “Hetty”, I became intrigued with shaped-note music script and shared my enthusiasm with my sister knowing she would have expertise on the subject from the viewpoint of a musician as well as an elementary school teacher who taught many young kids to read.    I asked her to comment.  At the end, I’ve added a little home-made shape-note script for the reader to experience this unique form of song writing and to guess what the tune is. 

By the way, I think our ancestors were pretty bright to figure all this out from Joseph Funk’s compositions.  Somehow, I think if I were there, I would be singing off-key more than on-key. 

– Contributed by Rose Nuernberger, Bettendorf, Iowa

Does that seem to be a rather odd question?  In our earlier history most of the common people learned to sing by having a leader sing a line, and then they would repeat the line . . . learning by rote.  But perhaps they were impatient like my granddaughter, Sarah, as a three-year-old.  “I do it mysef.” 

Thus the beginnings of shaped-note music were born.  Different shapes indicated whether the tones went up or down the scale.  I presume it was like a first grader learning how to decipher “all those fancy squiggly marks” in learning the different alphabet sounds mastering reading skills.  But if my tuition guides me correctly, I can’t help but believe that those early pioneers in our lives had the same philosophy as my granddaughter . . . “I do it mysef.”

Does this all somewhat compare to the invention of the wheel (in the music world)?  You’ll be intrigued as to how Barbara Andrews weaves the shape-note process in her latest book, soon to be released, “Hetty’s Song, the Death of the Skylark.”  And you’ll probably never look at another note without telling yourself, “There’s a lot of history behind that note.”



Need a hint:   email

10/9/13  Note

For those asking, the music bar above was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!

Monday, August 5, 2013

WOMEN'S HATS (What Happened to Them?)

You know how it is.  You wake up in the middle of the night and your mind goes wandering through strange places and old memories.  Mine ended up thinking about hats, the millinery kind that women used to wear in the fifties.

I grew up in a small farm town in northeastern Nebraska.  From early on, I “worked” not so much for the money, but because Dad said it developed a certain kind of character.  I remember working in his creamery on Saturday nights writing out “cream checks” to farmers who brought their eggs and cream to sell.  Then it was manning the popcorn counter at the Gay Theater where we’d sneak peeks at the Sunday afternoon matinees (Remember, “Three Coins in the Fountain?”);  and then clerking at Felber’s Drug Store where I made fantastic Superdupers (three dips of icecream, layered with caramel sauce and chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream, cashew nuts and a cherry), but couldn’t get the hang of all the pharmaceutical names.  I particularly didn’t understand why college boys became jittery when they asked for condoms.  They needn’t have worried—I didn’t know what the packages of “Big Boar” were for.

Swan’s Women Clothing on Main Street was considered to be the best store for the “better” clothes.  To be more fashionable, you’d go out of town to Norfolk or Sioux City to shop; and vice versa, their customers would come to Swan’s.  During my last year in high school and two years at Wayne State College, I worked at the store (my purchases always exceeded my pay).   New clothes from the Chicago markets for June would come in the latter part of January, Christmas merchandise arrived in July. 

Swans sold garter belts and nylon stockings with seams (seamless were just becoming available, and of course, no fashionable woman would wear seamless stockings—too casual, too radical).  The stockings came in thin, flat boxes and we’d spread our hand in the top of the stockings to show how sheer they were. Girdles were another matter—not just the kind that held your tummy in, but tight monstrous armor that took a full measure of imagination to help a lady into one in the dressing rooms. 

And voile dresses—soft, colorful print, dressy.  When sweater dresses were introduced, ladies were amazed and gobbled them up.

Then the millinery.  

What fascinated me were women’s hats.  Beautiful, elegant creations of finely woven straw, soft felts, satin, veils--colors to die for.  The hats were displayed on manikin heads along a room-wide mirrored wall.  Although the hats were meant for women and not a teenager, as they were unpacked I’d try each one on dreaming of the day I’d be old enough to wear one.

The hat I wanted most was a dark navy straw that fit snugly on the head with a long magnificent, multicolor pheasant feather sweeping wide from the front and a dark veil that reached to the chin.   I’d try it on several times a day until one Sunday, I saw it in church on the head of a lady sitting in the next pew.

So here’s the picture of Mrs. Hitchcock, with tight perm curls spilling over her forehead, fanning herself with the church bulletin:

A woman in her late forties, her body reformed (significantly) by a 
girdle, dressed in a navy and cream flowered, full-skirted voile 
dress with a round neckline and satin binding, nylons with the 
seams “straight”, navy pumps and matching gloves, and topped 
with my pheasant-feather hat!  

Ah . . . such dreamy memories.  Oh, Oh. I think I just heard a noise. It’s my alarm going off. Time for me to wake up, pull on my jeans and tee-shirt and get on with my day.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

THE SOTWEED SMUGGLER --By Barbara A. Andrews

Historical Novel Society Review (7/2013)

This is a tale of sailing, smuggling and the volatile, violent relationships between the English, the Scotsmen and among the latter themselves in the late seventeenth century. William Sherewill, at the reading of his father’s will, discovers he is now the sole owner of his father’s ship. Expecting a fine vessel, he discovers a much smaller, locally well-known smuggling vessel that carries contraband between Devonshire and Scotland. With no experience, and against his ‘proper’ mother’s wishes, he decides to follow his father’s career.
His journey begins as a novice enduring ridicule, a lying first mate, insubordination, storms, pirates, and hostile Scotsmen to eventual maturity and the discovery that his father’s activities also included spying, treachery, border battles and intrigue that led to a position of honor from service to Scotland. The story is well written, with empathetic characters, and it provides an interesting look at a section of history not often explored. The dialogue also tends to conjure up nicely a flavor of the time.                      -John Manhold, Reviewer

(See Blog Tour Schedule - Facebook.  Bobi Andrews, Writer