This was a suspenseful and somewhat twisted read (and actually the second “nanny” book I read this month!). If you enjoy slightly unnerving suspense, don’t miss this one! Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my copy!
Nanny Dearest : A Novel Flora Collins On Sale Date: November 30, 2021 9780778311614 Trade Paperback $16.99 USD 336 pages
ABOUT THE BOOK: Compulsively readable domestic suspense, perfect for fans of THE TURN OF THE KEY and THE PERFECT NANNY, about a woman who takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father’s death, until she starts to uncover dark secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years. Set in New York city and upstate New York, NANNY DEAREST is the story of twenty-five year-old Sue Keller, a young woman reeling from the recent death of her father, a particularly painful loss given that Sue’s mother died of cancer when she was only three. At just this moment of vulnerability comes Anneliese Whitaker, Sue’s former nanny from her childhood days in upstate New York. Sue, craving connection and mothering, is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue begins to uncover the truth about Annie’s unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure – or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie’s care. Told in alternating points of views, switching between Annie in the mid-90s and Sue in the present day, this is a taut novel of suspense with a shocking ending.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Flora Collins was born and raised in New York City and has never left, except for a four-year stint at Vassar College. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching reality shows that were canceled after one season or attempting to eat soft-serve ice cream in bed (sometimes simultaneously). Nanny Dearest is her first novel, and draws upon personal experiences from her own family history.
Loved this one that I read at the end of summer! I loved how the characters changed over time and how there was a bit of a mystery wrapped up into the story. Most of all, I loved the story of fighting in the Civil Rights movement and what that was like. Such a memorable story!
This was my first book by Diane Chamberlain, but it won’t be my last! Thank you for my Net Galley copy!
A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.
Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.
Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.
Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.
I love Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series! This one was a good one: Georgie is trying to celebrate Christmas with her family and the Royal Family, but people keep having “accidents”. Will Georgie and Darcy (now married!) figure it out in time? This is the perfect cozy mystery to curl up and read during the holidays! Thank you for my e-copy via Net Galley.
Georgie is back and hanging the stockings with care when a murder interrupts her Christmas cheer in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen.
Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.
Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.
I love Elizabeth Strout’s writing and I so enjoyed her recent novel Oh William!. Lucy Barton narrates the story, telling of William’s family and his experience as she views it. I honestly did not pick this one up for a while as it sounded fairly dull, but Elizabeth Strout’s writing is so beautiful, so vivid. She has the ability to capture character in such a way that you find yourself shaking your head saying, “Yes, that is exactly how that is”. She is one of those rare writers who makes the ordinary extraordinary. When you read her books you feel better about life.
Thank you for my Net Galley copy.
Here’s the overview:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout explores the mysteries of marriage and the secrets we keep, as a former couple reckons with where they’ve come from—and what they’ve left behind.
“Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.
Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are.
So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret—one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Strout’s “perfect attunement to the human condition.” There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us together—even after we’ve grown apart.
At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. “This is the way of life,” Lucy says: “the many things we do not know until it is too late.”
I’m shouting it out today for a book that I’m enjoying right now: A Letter from Pearl Harbor by Anna Stuart. This is a story within a story, moving from present day to WWII and back again. I love these engaging reads where I have to keep going to see how it all turns out!
Here’s the overview:
Book Description: Ninety-eight-year-old Ginny McAllister’s last wish is for her granddaughter to complete a treasure hunt containing clues to her past. Clues that reveal her life as one of the first female pilots at Pearl Harbor, and a devastating World War Two secret.
1941, Pearl Harbor: On the morning of December 7th, Ginny is flying her little yellow plane above the sparkling seas when she spots an unknown aircraft closing in on her. She recognises the red symbol of the Japanese fighter planes almost too late. Somehow, she manages to land unscathed but the choices she is forced to make in the terrible hours that follow have tragic consequences…
2019, Pearl Harbor: Heartbroken RobynHarris is reeling from the death of the strong, determined grandmother who raised her. Her only comfort is a letter written in Ginny’s distinctive hand which details a treasure hunt, just like the ones she used to set for her as a little girl. Except this time, the clues are scattered across the beautiful island of Hawaii. Despite her grief, Robyn finds herself intrigued as she follows the trail of letters, revealing the truth about Ginny’s service during the Second World War.
But Robyn’s whole world is turned upside down when she’s faced with a shocking secret which has the power to change the course of her own life…
Inspired by true events, this is a heartbreaking and unforgettable WW2 novel about love, loss and bravery. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network,The Nightingale and Kathryn Hughes.
Author Bio: Anna Stuart lives in Derbyshire with her campervan-mad husband, two hungry teenagers and a slightly loopy dog. She was hooked on books from the moment she first opened one in her cot so is thrilled to now have several of her own to her name. Having studied English literature at Cambridge university, she took an enjoyable temporary trip into the ‘real world’ as a factory planner, before returning to her first love and becoming an author. History has also always fascinated her. Living in an old house with a stone fireplace, she often wonders who sat around it before her and is intrigued by how actively the past is woven into the present, something she likes to explore in her novels. Anna loves the way that writing lets her ‘try on’ so many different lives, but her favourite part of the job is undoubtedly hearing from readers. You can reach her on Facebook @annastuartauthor or Twitter @annastuartbooks.
I’m shining the spotlight today on a book which I’m currently reading: Our Trespasses by Michael Cordell.
Here’s the overview:
As a child, Matt accepted the powerful psychic connection he had with his twin brother, Jake. But as they grew up, and Jake’s adult choices led him down dark paths, Matt moved across the country to escape their connection. His plan works for ten years—until Jake’s violent murder.
Matt quickly realizes their connection is still alive and well, even if Jake isn’t, and this time, it presents a hell of a lot more challenges.
Determined to free himself from the terror of Jake’s afterlife and sever their fraternal link forever, Matt returns to his troubled rural hometown in Nebraska to confront the damage—and enemies—his brother left behind.
But when he realizes that the powers of darkness are aware of the link between their world and ours, finding a way to break the connection becomes a race against time.
Here’s the scoop from Amazon:
Deliver us from evil…
Drowning in a meaningless existence flipping burgers, Matthew Davis suddenly collapses from a powerful psychic connection he shares with his twin brother, Jake. The pain is violent and immediate, and Matt knows exactly what it means… hundreds of miles away, Jake has been viciously killed. But instead of severing their connection, the murder intensifies it and Matt begins to suffer the agony of Jake’s afterlife.
Hell bent on solving Jake’s murder in order to break the connection, Matt travels to his troubled hometown of Hatchett, Nebraska, where an old lover and savage new enemies expose the festering wounds that Jake left behind.
Matt tries atoning for Jake’s sins, but when a demon infests the connection between the two brothers, Matt must find a way to sever their bond before his world, and ours, become engulfed in the flames of hell.
Fans of Stephen King’s The Outsider, Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist will find this new paranormal thriller impossible to put down.
This is a suspenseful, paranormal thriller – perfect for Halloween!
Here I am today, chatting about this new suspenseful novel Find Me in the Dark by Dea Poirier. This was a mystery with a different twist – the serial killer is not just from the protagonist’s past, or an encounter long ago, he is her father!
She’d been running for so long, it felt like her legs were on fire. Her heart was pounding so hard, she was sure it would give out. Around her, the snow was falling, casting an eerie silence over the town. A crack behind her, a foot snapping a branch, it warned her that he was still coming. She whipped around and saw the knife gleaming in his hand…
As the snow begins to melt across Plattsburgh, New York, the body of a young woman is found buried in a snowbank. When Detective Harlow Durant arrives at the scene she discovers that the victim has lain there for months: her arresting beauty, brightly-coloured nails and a distinctive gold bracelet perfectly preserved in the ice.
Searching missing person reports, Harlow soon identifies the victim as college student Alyssa Trent. Her grieving family describe her as someone who had no enemies and was a dedicated student. But Alyssa’s tutor has a different view: they claim Alyssa had another life that she kept hidden. But who would want her dead?
Harlow knows all about secret lives. She has spent years running from her past and from her father, a convicted serial killer. As the only female detective at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Harlow has vowed to bring killers to justice. Now she needs to find justice for Alyssa.
When another female student is found in the thawing snow, Harlow knows that she is hunting a twisted killer. The victims knew each other but what dark secret connects them? With the small-town reeling in shock and more snow coming, Harlow knows she needs to stop a killer dead in their tracks before another innocent life is lost.
From the bestselling author of Next Girl To Die comes an addictive crime thriller perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Kendra Elliot and Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series.
Author Dea (D.H) Poirier is the author of NEXT GIRL TO DIE, which hit #1 in the Amazon charts. She was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses. She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp. She spends her days at her day job as a President of Digital Marketing, and her nights writing manuscripts.
I’m dishing today about this fun novel and really spoke to me. I just loved this story of Poppy as she tries to recreate herself in order to win back her boyfriend. She doesn’t think she’s anything without him, yet she learns how much she has to offer the world. Looking back on my younger self, I could relate!
Here’s the overview:
Book Description: On the first day of Christmas, my true love… dumped me.
Poppy loves Christmas and always goes all out to make this magical time of the year extra special for her boyfriend George. But George is strangely not in the Yuletide spirit this year. As Poppy wrestles him into her Christmas jumper built for two for a holiday snapshot, she finds out why.
He’s leaving her. With only twelve days to spend together until Christmas.
Poppy is heartbroken. George is the love of her life, and what would Christmas be without kisses under the mistletoe, his mum’s delicious homemade gingerbread or their super-competitive games of Pictionary?
She’s determined to win George back. So, anxious to prove to him she can be spontaneous, she signs up as a Christmas volunteer at the local community centre. What she doesn’t know is that there’s a festive surprise coming her way…
As Poppy throws herself into her new role – mulling vats of hot cider and hanging fairy lights off everything within reach – she discovers an inner strength she never knew she had. And there’s also Theo. Her new boss. Grumpy and opinionated, he’s everything she doesn’t want.
But as the snow starts to fall, she begins to notice other things about him – like his twinkling green eyes, how he makes her laugh, and how much he cares about the people he’s trying to help.
As the twelfth day approaches, Poppy might be about to discover that the most perfect Christmas might be the one that she didn’t plan at all…
Fans of One Day in December, Beth O’Leary and Mhairi McFarlane will be completely enchanted by this witty and warm festive story about friendship, love and finding yourself.
Elizabeth Neep was born in 1990 in Derbyshire and now lives in London Bridge. After studying Law at the University of Nottingham and the University of New South Wales, she worked in magazine journalism, most noticeably writing for Dazed and Confused and PETRIe. Elizabeth now works as a non-fiction Senior Commissioning Editor and writes and paints in her spare time.
I’m happy to be a stop today on the blog for Suzanne Feldman’s novel of WWI: Sisters of the Great War. This is an eventful and action-packed read of two sisters who choose to leave Baltimore for the front lines in England during WWI: one as an ambulance driver and one as a nurse who aspires to be a doctor. There are lots of plot lines in this story, from women’s rights to freedom of sexual expression. I enjoyed it!
Here’s the overview:
Two sisters. The Great War looming. A chance to shape their future.
Sisters Ruth and Elise Duncan could never have anticipated volunteering for the war effort. But in 1914, the two women decide to make the harrowing journey from Baltimore to Ypres, Belgium in order to escape the suffocating restrictions placed on them by their father and carve a path for their own future.
Smart and practical Ruth is training as a nurse but dreams of becoming a doctor. In a time when women are restricted to assisting men in the field, she knows it will take great determination to prove herself, and sets out to find the one person who always believed in her: a handsome army doctor from England. For quiet Elise, joining the all female Ambulance Corps means a chance to explore her identity, and come to terms with the growing attraction she feels towards women. Especially the charming young ambulance driver who has captured her heart.
In the twilight of the Old World and the dawn of the new, both young women come of age in the face bombs, bullets and the deadly futility of trench warfare. Together they must challenge the rules society has placed on them in order to save lives: both the soldiers and the people they love.
Suzanne Feldman, a recipient of the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize and a finalist for the Bakeless Prize in fiction, holds an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins University and a BFA in art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her short fiction has appeared in Narrative, The Missouri Review, Gargoyle, and other literary journals. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.
Thanks for my copy and for making me part of the tour!
Historical fiction novelist retells the history of Columbus’s second voyage, depicting the indigenous peoples’ resistance to conquest
NEW YORK, New York – Author Andrew Rowen retells the history of Columbus’s invasion of Española on his second voyage from a bicultural perspective in the historical fiction novel “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold,” releasing on Nov. 9, 2021—the sequel to his lauded 2017 bicultural presentation of Columbus’s first voyage, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold.”
“Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” dramatizes Columbus’s invasion of Española and the bitter resistance mounted by its Taíno peoples during the period and aftermath of Columbus’s second voyage. Based closely on primary sources, the story is told from both Taíno and European perspectives, including through the eyes of Caonabó—the conflict’s principal Taíno chieftain and leader—and Columbus.
Chief Caonabó opposes any European presence on the island and massacres the garrison Columbus left behind on his first voyage. When Columbus returns, the second voyage’s 1,200 settlers suffer from disease and famine and are alienated by his harsh rule, resulting in crown-appointed officers and others deserting for Spain. Sensing European vulnerability, Caonabó establishes a broad Taíno alliance to expel the intruders, becoming the first of four centuries of Native American chieftains to organize war against European expansion. Columbus realizes that Caonabó’s capture or elimination is key to the island’s conquest, and their conflict escalates—with the fateful clash of their soldiers, cultures, and religions, enslavement of Taíno captives, the imposition of tribute, and hostile face-to-face conversations.
As battles are lost, Caonabó’s wife Anacaona anguishes and considers how to confront the Europeans if Caonabó is killed. The settlers grow more brutal when Columbus explores Cuba and Jamaica, and his enslaved Taíno interpreters witness them forcing villagers into servitude, committing rape, and destroying Taíno religious objects. Chief Guarionex, whose territory neighbors Caonabó’s, studies Christianity with missionaries and observes the first recorded baptism of a Native in the Americas but ultimately rejects his own conversion. All brood upon the spirits’ or Lord’s design as epidemic diseases ravage the island’s peoples. Isabella and Ferdinand are disturbed when Columbus initiates slave shipments home, but they deliberately acquiesce—and the justification for the European enslavement of Native Americans begins to evolve.
The new novel is the sequel to “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold,” which portrays the lives of the same Taíno and European protagonists from youth through 1492.
“Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold”
Andrew Rowen | November 9, 2021
All Persons Press | Historical Fiction |
Hardcover | 978-0-9991961-3-7 | $32.95
Ebook | 978-0-9991961-4-4 | $12.99
Paperback | 978-0-9991961-5-1 | $19.95 (releasing in 2022)
Forty-two historic and newly drawn maps and illustrations are woven into the story, including portraits or sketches of Columbus, Caonabó, Isabella, and Anacaona and de Bry engravings from the 16th century.
About The Author
Andrew Rowen has devoted 10 years to researching the history leading to the first encounters between Europeans and the Caribbean’s Taíno peoples, including visiting sites where Columbus and Taíno chieftains lived, met, and fought. His first novel, “Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold” (released 2017), portrays the life stories of the chieftains and Columbus from youth through their encounters in 1492. Its sequel, “Columbus and Caonabó: 1493–1498 Retold” (to be released November 9, 2021), depicts the same protagonists’ bitter conflict during the period of Columbus’s second voyage. Andrew is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Harvard Law School and has long been interested in the roots of religious intolerance.
“…fascinating. Rowen’s research into the historical record is impressively thorough…He carefully depicts what happened or may have happened (experts disagree) and…fictionalizes the perceptions, beliefs, and decisions of the European and Taíno protagonists, affording them commensurate sophistication. While unprovable, the fictionalizations are one of the book’s great strengths, stepping beyond worn stereotypes to humanize the protagonists as individuals…the book adds to our understanding of the Taínos and Contact history.”
– L. Antonio Curet, Caribbean archaeologist; museum curator. Co-ed., Islands at the Crossroads: Migration, Seafaring, and Interaction in the Caribbean
“…succeeds on two levels, as all the best historical fiction must…With meticulous research and deft phrasing, Andrew Rowen brings the 1490s to life. At the same time, he tells a great story, carrying us on a narrative journey as skillfully…”
– Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, When Montezuma Met Cortés
“As a leader in the Taíno community, I am often skeptical of non-Caribbean people writing about our history, culture, and customs. Many who embark on this endeavor have only skimmed through the upper layers of our written story. On the other hand, Andy Rowen takes us on a deep journey that humanizes our ancestors and treats us as equals rather than passive victims. The dialogue between the Caciques and Spaniards is intelligent, meaningful, and extremely believable…His writing invokes vivid images of events that happened long ago, credibly weaving fiction and fact! I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject!”
– Kacike Jorge Baracutei Estevez, Higuayagua Taíno of the Caribbean
“…a feat of meticulous research, beautiful writing, and great imagination. Much of the early history of the Caribbean is irretrievably lost, but Andrew Rowen has given us a detailed and exciting glimpse.”
– Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Conquering the Pacific
In an interview, Andrew Rowen discusses:
Why it is important to retell the history of Columbus’s voyages from both Native American and European perspectives – Columbus’s voyages are one of history’s seminal events and part of our children’s education, but most histories of the events—whether pro- or anti-Columbus—remain focused on Columbus and European decisions and actions, i.e., the “Columbus story” or the “Spanish empire story.” But the Native peoples who opposed Columbus also made decisions and took counter actions—it’s their story, too—and presenting their perspective reminds us that the European conquest violated not only their sovereignty but their civilization’s honored ideals, traditions, and sacred beliefs. Rowen’s goal is to present both Native and European perspectives of the history, through protagonists of equivalent gravity and dignity, depicting the actions and beliefs of both peoples, all closely based on the historical and anthropological record.
What’s retold in “Columbus and Caonabó” – It’s the first book to depict the thoughts, strategies, and actions of the Taíno chieftains who fought against Española’s invasion alongside those of Columbus and Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. (Española is the island of the modern Haiti and Dominican Republic; the Taínos called it Haiti or Quisqueya.) It’s also the first to explore the animosity and face-to-face confrontation between Columbus and Chief Caonabó, who lead the resistance, becoming the first of four centuries of Native American chieftains to organize war against European invasion. Caonabó didn’t have the experience of the following centuries to draw upon.
Atrocities and enslavements – Historical accuracy does involve relating the atrocities Europeans committed, the first slave shipments of Native Americans sent to Spain, and Isabella and Ferdinand’s knowledge and oversight thereof, events ignored or erased in the educations of many of us. The novel carefully traces the beginning of the evolution of the European justification for the enslavement of Native Americans.
The initial Christian missionary efforts – Regardless of Isabella and Ferdinand’s heralding of their importance, the first baptisms on Española occurred only in September 1496, three years after the voyage sailed. The novel dramatizes the missionary effort leading to the first baptism, as well as Chief Guarionex’s (Caonabó’s equal, ruler of a neighboring chiefdom) study of Christianity with the missionaries and his rejection of Christianity.
Epidemic disease transmission and the staggering population decline from 1493 to 1498 – The novel explores the Taíno and European perceptions (pre-Scientific Revolution) of the causes of the epidemic diseases that beset the Taínos, including the role of Taíno spirits and Christ, and the relative extent to which the staggering population decline was caused by the diseases, collapse of Taíno society and famine, Spanish brutality, and suicide. (Experts debate such today.) Columbus himself observed the population decline (as recorded in his letters to Isabella and Ferdinand), and the novel depicts his absence of sorrow or sense of responsibility—his principal concern being that the decline jeopardized gold tribute payments.
Regardless of the decimation of Española’s Taíno population, the size and morale of Columbus’s settlement substantially deteriorated from 1493 to 1498 – Columbus’s settlement was racked by disease, hunger, his mismanagement and cruelty, and rebellion—so that, as 1498 dawns, the entire island hasn’t been conquered and resistance still boils in parts of the territory conquered. By the novel’s end, Taíno hope lingers that the European presence on the island can be contained, if not eliminated, and Caonabó’s wife Anacaona emerges to become a leader.
An Interview with
In 2017 when you released your first book, it was the 525th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage. Why is it still important for people to understand 1492 and its aftermath, and what do your novels add to our understanding?
The collision of European and Native American peoples that began in 1492 influenced the establishment of—and is fundamental to understanding—the world and societies we live in today. The history of the collision is neither just “a Columbus story,” “a Spanish empire story,” or a “European colonial usurpation story,” but the story of the collision of two proud civilizations—with different social norms and traditions, moral beliefs, and religions. My books are an attempt to tell both sides of that broader story and contribute to a more fulsome appreciation of it. The history includes enslavements and atrocities, and my books depict them based on the historical record.
Can your two novels be read independently?
Yes. I wrote them to be readable independently because there may be different audiences. “Columbus and Caonabó” depicts events from September 1493 to April 1498 that many people don’t know much about—Columbus’s invasion of Española and the initial Taíno resistance. Its first chapter contains the information a reader of the book needs to understand about both peoples prior to 1493.
“Encounters Unforeseen” dramatizes the lives of the same Taíno and European protagonists prior to their encounters in 1492—their childhood educations, love affairs and marriages, rises to power or prominence, and religious beliefs in creation and man’s origin—and then their astonishment, fears, and objectives in 1492 and 1493. It’s a deeper bicultural dive into a history most people think they already know.
Why did you choose to write the series as historical fiction rather than historical nonfiction?
I’ve written both as historical novels for two reasons. In my view, they had to be novels because the Taínos had no written history and a novel’s greater speculative latitude was necessary to achieve commensurate dignity and gravitas of the Taíno and European protagonists. Just as important, I wanted to write them as novels so that readers could experience the encounters through the eyes of each protagonist, not merely understand events.
I try to present each participant’s actions and thoughts consistent with my interpretation of the historical record to the extent one exists and—to the extent not—as I speculate likely could have occurred, fictionalizing detail. I stick to history rather than inventing an overarching literary story plot.
What research have you done?
I’ve spent 10 years researching the primary accounts written by the conquering Europeans who witnessed the events, knew the participants, or lived in the 16th century (to the extent credible) and, as they had no written history, studies of the Taínos by modern anthropologists, archaeologists, and other experts. The book contains a fulsome Sources section citing authorities and discussing interpretations of historians and anthropologists contrary to my presentation and issues of academic disagreement.
My research also included extensive onsite investigation, visiting the sites in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and other places where the protagonists lived, met, or fought. The onsite investigations both added to my understanding of the historical record and inspired creating scenes in the novel.
What can you tell us about the title characters of “Columbus and Caonabó”?
Caonabó was the supreme chief of Maguana, one of the six principal chiefdoms of Española in 1493. He had risen to chieftain before 1492 by virtue of his ability and valor in repelling Caribe raiders, and he was the first chieftain to recognize that the Europeans came to conquer and had to be expelled from the island. In Columbus’s own words, Caonabó was “the most important chief on the island and the most courageous and most ingenious;” “no one is bolder or more daring in war;” and “all the island’s chiefs watch what he does closely and no longer have any fear, being emboldened by his killing of Christians.”
One of history’s most controversial figures, Columbus was a sincerely religious Genoese commoner who rose to be a merchant, an expert mariner, and then nobleman. In the period 1493–1498, he doesn’t understand his geographical theory that one could sail directly from Spain to Cathay (shared by some others in his time) was wrong, and he believes in the right of a conqueror to enslave the conquered (a view shared by some others in his time). The novel traces his anguish and struggle to prove his geographical theory, find gold and Cathay, and bring slavery (in gold’s absence) to Española during this period, as well as his severity with his men and their rebellion.
How does “Columbus and Caonabó” stray from traditional Columbus narratives? Have you made any historical interpretation that is new or different?
Obviously, the novel differs in concept—presenting the Native story and civilization side by side with the European. Taíno resistance is not the focus of existing historical works.
The book is very complete thematically, presenting in one book a depiction of the political, social, and religious dimensions of the conflict, as well as the disease transmission and population decline.
I believe my depictions of Columbus’s actions and his men’s atrocities generally reflect the most current research.
Did you learn anything surprising while researching this time period?
I’ve researched the period and events in primary and secondary sources for 10 years now. While I’m occasionally surprised by specific events or thoughts I stumble upon in these sources, my abiding surprise is the extent to which my boyhood education unqualifiedly professed a rightfulness in Columbus’s invasion and the superiority of European beliefs and ignored or erased the atrocities committed.
How did the Taino people fight back against the settlers?
The Taínos’ principal weapons were spears, arrow-slings, bow and arrows, and wooden clubs. The Europeans had spears, swords, crossbows, muskets, cannons, a small cavalry of horsemen with lances, and twenty attack dogs.
What atrocities did Columbus’s men commit?
Collectively, Columbus’s men forced Taínos into servitude, raped them, destroyed their religious objects, and, when making reprisals against Taíno resistance, enslaved them, burned them at the stake, and butchered non-combatants.
How many slave shipments did Columbus send to Spain during the five-year period that the novel covers? Who were the enslaved? What happened to them?
Four shipments, involving about roughly eight hundred indigenous people. The first was of about two dozen Taínos and Caribes taken aboard in the Lesser Antilles—Guadeloupe and St. Croix—on the voyage to Española, largely with the intent they be trained in Spain to serve as interpreters and assist missionaries when returned to Española. The other shipments were largely of Taínos captured on Española, shipped to be sold into slavery in Spain to finance the settlement. However, at Isabella and Ferdinand’s order, their sale was conditional, pending a determination by theologians and lawyers whether enslavement of Indians was permissible—which determination wasn’t made during the period of the novel. Many died of European diseases on the ocean crossings to Spain, and many others died of diseases in Spain, either awaiting or after sale.
Columbus’s men in Española also took an unrecorded number of Taínos as slaves for themselves.
What was Isabella and Ferdinand’s reaction to the slave shipments?
In 1493, Isabel and Ferdinand anticipated that the “Indians” on Española would become their vassals upon the island’s conquest, not their slaves or slaves to Española’s European settlers. From 1493–1498, they consistently denied Columbus’s repeated requests to institute a general slave trade of indigenous peoples. But slavery existed on certain permitted bases in Spain and court financiers were interested in financing overseas conquests by selling conquered peoples. As the woes and financial losses of the Española settlement grew, Isabella and Ferdinand permitted the sales of the captives shipped but imposed the condition that the sales be subject to theologians and lawyers determining permissibility. In 1496, they acknowledged that war captives could be sold.
One of the stated purposes of Columbus’s second voyage was to bring Christianity to the natives. How did you depict the missionary effort and the first baptisms?
Of the 1,200 sailing on the second voyage, about a dozen were missionaries. Their leader, whose appointment was affirmed by Pope Alexander VI, deserted his post in 1494, and the first baptisms of Taínos on Española didn’t occur until 1496. Most contemporary observers, including Columbus and the famous chronicler Bartolomé de las Casas, thought the effort was meager.
That said, there were a few missionaries with genuine zeal, in particular a friar Ramón Pané, a Catalan. I wrote a number of scenes envisioning how Pané tried to surmount the language barrier to teach, how the first baptism unfolded, and Pané’s instruction of the Taíno chieftain Guarionex in Christian doctrine. Guarionex was renowned for his wisdom of the Taínos’ religion and spirits, and he rejected Christianity.
How did you research and depict the staggering Taíno population declines?
I read the views of historians, population experts, and epidemiologists, who continue to debate the basic magnitude and causes of Taíno death. Much is not agreed and speculative. There’s substantial disagreement over the size of Española’s indigenous population at the invasion’s inception—estimates generally range from one hundred thousand to eight million. Experts also debate the relative extent that its decline should be attributed to Spanish brutality (warfare and the harsh conditions of servitude and slavery), the collapse of the indigenous social system occasioned thereby (famine, flight to remote areas, and suicide), or the ravage of European diseases, and epidemiologists offer varied analyses of the diseases transmitted.
I don’t try to answer these questions, but the novel presents my interpretations or speculations of the protagonists’ perceptions of the underlying answers.
“Columbus and Caonabó” includes 42 historic or newly drawn maps and illustrations. Tell us about them.
There’s a newly drawn sketch of Caonabó set beside a historic portrait of Columbus, as well as portraits of Isabella and Ferdinand and a newly drawn sketch of Anacaona. There also are newly drawn maps to show where events took place, and the routes Columbus took at sea are marked on historic maps that were drawn between 1500 and 1516. There are famous de Bry engravings depicting the Spanish conquest of Española and elsewhere, woven into relevant scenes.
What is your opinion of Columbus? Should Columbus Day be celebrated?
In my books, I try to be analytical and portray what each Taíno and European protagonist—including Columbus—did and thought as validly as I can determine or speculate based on research of the historical record. I also try to present each protagonist’s thoughts within the context of his or her 15th century perspective and to leave moral judgments to each reader.
Columbus did have admirable qualities—perseverance through adversity, rising from a humble origin to nobility, and great skill as a mariner—and many scenes in my books depict those qualities. But he violated the sovereignty of and enslaved Native peoples and men under his command committed atrocities—all facts recorded by contemporaneous chroniclers. The latter actions often are excused on the basis that Columbus was simply a European man of his times; but regardless, from our 21st century perspective, as well as the 15th century Taíno perspective, Columbus did many bad things.
In my view, federal and state governments shouldn’t observe Columbus Day because doing so honors a historical figure whose legacy—while foundational to our present civilization and possessing some qualities and heritages we admire—is eviscerated by invasion, enslavements, and atrocities we and our governments in the 21st century condemn. Indigenous People’s Day should be celebrated instead. Non-observance of Columbus Day doesn’t deny his role in history; it reflects that our societies have progressed beyond honoring his legacy.
What’s next for you?
There will be at least one more sequel.
PRAISE FOR ANDREW ROWEN’S FIRST NOVEL,
“Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold”
“Amazing! The lives, loves, victories and defeats of the Taíno Indians are just as meticulously and poignantly brought to life as Columbus, his famous voyage and Queen Isabel’s court. A sprawling, globe-trotting, all-consuming tour de force illuminating all sides of the epic cultural clash that created the New World.” – Trey Ellis, Platitudes, Home Repairs, Right Here, Right Now
“The encounter of Columbus and Native Caribbean peoples set in motion events that created the modern world. History books provide brief accounts, but what was the Encounter really like, what did it mean, how was it expressed, in simple, human terms? Andrew Rowen transports us to this moment of creation, and does so by tracing the lives of the main protagonists. This is a fascinating story of enmeshed lives, and the consequences of new worlds. It is written with scrupulous detail to historical accuracy, and, even knowing how it will end, the prose is an imaginative and entertaining portrait of a past we could not otherwise experience.” – William F. Keegan, Curator of Caribbean Archaeology, Florida Museum of Natural History, Talking Taíno, Taíno Indian Myth and Practice
“Rowen’s research—a combination of scholarly investigation and travel conducted over six years—is nothing less than breathtaking. The sensitivity and originality of his portrayals are equally impressive, avoiding the trap of simply retelling a familiar tale from an exclusively European perspective or casting the explorers as nothing more than rapacious colonialists…A remarkably new and inventive take on a momentous episode in the 15th century.” – Kirkus Reviews