A Place Called New HopeSweetwater Books
Publication Date March 13, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Clean Romance
Setting: England Victorian Era – UK – 1837 – 1901
Main Character Ages: 18-24
Written for: Adults
Letty Leighton wishes to use her wealth to found a utopian society, New Hope. All she needs to access her fortune is a husband. Luckily, Patrick Marlowe, a penniless explorer, has agreed to marry her just before leaving on a long African expedition. At first, New Hope seems to be a success, but despite Letty's best intentions, not everything in her utopia--or in her marriage--turns out as she planned.
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Utopian communities were not something I was familiar with until I read this novel. Apparently, there were more than a few attempted in the middle of the 19th century, both in England and the United States.
The historical aspects of the story are interesting. The idea of establishing a community with the goal of helping the poor is admirable, but the execution of this story is a little lacking and got boring through the establishment of the community.
I didn’t connect well with Letty. She was okay, but I didn’t care for her as much as I could – possibly because of the callous way she married to get access to her money and her dream. She was certainly eccentric and passionate about her dreams. Patrick was better, but I didn’t like how indifferently he behaved towards Letty through most of the book.
10 Behind the Scenes Facts about the Book
- Letty is my younger, more idealistic self, when I too thought something should be “done” to cure the ills of the world, and naively believed that the darker side of human nature could be easily curtailed by good intentions.
- The setting, Victorian England, was inspired by my love of gothic novels growing up. I devoured them like popcorn. Most of those stories were set in England, with a lovely young heroine living in a moldering old manor house, threatened by some male villain. I always wanted to write one of those books myself.
- Researching Utopian communities for this story showed me that the roots of this movement were much more widespread than I’d expected. The Victorian era was much less stodgy and restrictive than it has been unfairly reported to be. Many currents of imaginative and idealistic thinking flourished during this time although utopians, such as Letty, certainly experienced push-back and persecution.
- What I saw and learned during several visits to England over the years appears in this novel. For example, the gaol in which young Simon finds himself is modeled after an old prison in York, and I strolled through plenty of beautiful old manor houses like Blackgrave Manor.
- When I began my writing career, everyone said that “series” were popular with readers, but I had always envisioned each of my stories as stand-alone tales. It occurred to me that using the same setting and families for each novel would make them a sort of series. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that Blackgrave Manor and members of the Marlowe family show up in several of my historical novels.
- Related to #5: If you’ve read “A Gardener’s Tale,” you may guess correctly that Patrick Marlowe is the grandson of Jonathan Marlowe, and Henry is the son of Lemley, the old gardener.
- Unlike many writers in this genre, I prefer my main characters to be commoners. This is probably because my ancestors, many of whom came from Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall) were all ordinary, hard-working people. As a patriotic American, raised by a diplomat who endorsed the ideals that make the United States unique, I embrace the notion that all men are created equal. This idea, juxtaposed against the strict class system of Victorian England, lends itself to interesting conflicts.
- The exploration of Africa during this period was just beginning. People in Europe had never seen animals such as gorillas before, and at first refused to believe they existed. Researching this part of the story was fascinating!
- Patrick Marlowe is partly modeled on Sir. Richard Francis Burton, an amazingly accomplished man who was one of the first explorers of Africa.
- Originally, this story had an important subplot involving the discovery of a diamond mine in Africa. I took it out to focus more on Letty’s struggles to make New Hope succeed.
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Respond to the following question: Which of Letty and Patrick’s dreams about improving society have come true since the time in which they lived?
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