[ ASK THE AUTHOR ] Dorothy Love
Latest project: The Bracelet (9781401687601, $15.99, Dec. 9).
How would you summarize your new novel, The Bracelet?
When newly engaged Celia Browning receives a bracelet that spells out a deadly message, she sets out to uncover the truth about her family’s tragic past before long-buried secrets ruin her brilliant future.
What is the setting of the story?
The story takes place in Savannah, Georgia, in 1858-1859.
What are some of the actual events that inspired this book?
In Victorian times, gentlemen would sometimes send messages to their sweethearts through precious jewels. This charming custom first inspired the story. Later, I learned of the tragic death by suicide of a young Savannah matron and of the myths surrounding her death that still persist in Savannah today. Combining the two gave me the complete story of a young woman about to become engaged who finds her happiness threatened by old secrets she does not understand.
Tell us about your main character, Celia Browning.
Celia is privileged, but far from spoiled. She lost her mother at a young age and adores her father, who is a prominent shipping magnate in Savannah. She is highly loyal to her city and to those she loves. She is generous, sometimes impulsive, but unwavering in her quest to protect her family’s name from an unscrupulous newspaper reporter.
What are some of the themes you explore in this story?
I was interested in writing about the limits of loyalty, the effects of secrets, the way in which secrets change us, how little we sometimes know the people we think we know best, the pressures of notoriety and the power of forgiveness.
What topics did you research to write The Bracelet?
I read at least a dozen books on various aspects of Savannah’s history, both antebellum and postbellum. I studied the history of the Sorrel-Weed House, which served as the model for Celia’s fictional home. I studied dressmaking, ship building, blockade runners, 19th-century medicine, antique weapons, the Chatham Artillery, shipping routes, the transatlantic cable, baseball, the slave ship Wanderer and horse breeding in Jamaica, among other topics. That’s one reason I love writing historical fiction. I love learning about this stuff and sharing it with my readers.
Is this novel similar to and/or different from your previous works?
All of my novels are about strong fictional women inspired by real-life events or real-life women. Last year’s novel, for example, was inspired by the life of Elizabeth Allston Pringle, a woman rice planter in the South Carolina low country. I relied on her journals and numerous biographies of her family to tell my story. The Bracelet is inspired by actual events in the Sorrel family of Savannah and by the custom of the jewels described above.
The Bracelet is a stand-alone novel, but will readers have an opportunity to see the main character, Celia, again?
Celia has an important secondary role in my 2015 novel tentatively titled Indigo Point. In Indigo Point, Celia comes to the aid of my lead character, India Hartley, a beautiful young actress unjustly accused of shooting her leading man during a performance at a Savannah theater. I had so much fun reuniting with Celia. I grew to love her during the writing of The Bracelet.
What else should Christian retailers know about The Bracelet?
In the 19th century, a large number of the most prominent families throughout the South belonged to the Episcopal Church. Church members were highly engaged with their communities and involved in numerous charitable activities. In Savannah, many Episcopal ladies supported orphanages, hospitals, libraries and the arts, just as I have described them in The Bracelet. Faith was considered personal and private. Though some wrote about their faith in private diaries, journals and letters, they didn’t often speak of it in public.
As an author of historical fiction I take seriously my responsibility to portray the past as accurately as I can. This includes matters of faith and the way faith was expressed in that time. To insert overt messages into the mouths of these characters would not be accurate. Instead I have created characters who, when confronted with moral decisions, choose to act in ways consistent with their religious values and consistent with their understanding of what it meant to be Christian. This is the context in which the story should be read and, I hope, enjoyed.