Amanda Dunn sails for North Carolina in 1864 to serve as her father's emissary. Dunn Mills needs cotton to stay in business, and the American Civil War has disrupted shipments. Amanda must deal with broker Jackson Henthorne, who eloped with her twin sister Abigail.
Amanda enjoys getting reacquainted with Abigail, but is dismayed by her sister’s acceptance and treatment of slaves. Abigail sees no difference between her slaves and the poorly paid servants in England. And Jackson and his father don’t take Amanda seriously. A woman doing business? Preposterous.
Amanda meets greengrocer Nathaniel Cooper and values his friendship and their quick-witted exchanges, but he feels entirely out of his league with her.
The Last Heiress is now available. Mary Ellis chatted with me about her writing and interests:
You live in Ohio, but your three Civil War books take place in southern states and your new series is Secrets of the South Mysteries. What's the allure of the South for you?
I have always been fascinated with places that don't get buried with snow every winter. I love my home state of Ohio, but life stands still here in terms of yard work and outdoor activities. I love being in the South as often as I can in the winter, so staging my stories there feels natural. Someday when my husband retires, we will move to Georgia.
What prompted your interest in the Civil War?
I believe my passion for Civil War history began when my mom took me to see Gone with the Wind. I loved that movie and have read the book several times. I no longer find war as romantic as I once did, but I'm still fascinated with that era. I'm very active with our local Civil War Roundtable and supportive of reenactments and historical activities.
If you had lived in Civil War times, what do you think would have been hardest about the lifestyle?
Both sides suffered during the war, but the South most of all. They had massive food shortages in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and in Vicksburg and New Orleans. The landscape took decades to recover after battles, troop movements, and destruction by the Union Army. War isn't pretty, but love will find a way to rise above any obstacle.
Is there a genre different from the ones you write in, which you particularly enjoy reading?
Let's see I've written Amish Inspirationals, historical romance, and now romantic suspense. That covers a lot of territory, no? I do love a good contemporary mystery too!
I write full time, so I'm in my office by 8:00 am. I emerge from the cave at noon for lunch and to walk the dog. Then I return at one o'clock (more or less) for another five hours. I usually take off Saturdays (unless under deadline) and always take off Sundays. One day I hope to cut back to only one book per year.
Do you have a question our readers can respond to?
The Last Heiress is about twin sisters who find themselves on opposing sides philosophically. Have you suffered any riffs with family members that took much prayer and person introspection to repair?