My historical novel, Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery, is the first in a planned series of mysteries that will illuminate the occupations that women held in the late nineteenth century and is based on my doctoral work and over thirty years as a professor of U.S. Women's history. I have wanted to write historical fiction since I was in high school, but family and a full-time teaching career kept me too busy. However, upon retirement, I have begun to fulfill my dream.
As a reader, I love books that expose me to new worlds, whether in the past or future, and as an historian I have always felt that telling stories about the past is the most effective method of engaging people with that past. In Maids of Misfortune (set in 1879 San Francisco) I tell the story of a young widow, Annie Fuller, who supplements her income as a boarding house keeper by giving business and domestic advice as the clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl. When one of Madam Sibyl's clients dies under mysterious circumstances, Annie Fuller, with the help of a local lawyer, Nate Dawson, investigates. In the midst of this investigation Annie goes undercover as a domestic servant. Boarding house keeping, domestic service, and, strange as it may seem, clairvoyance, were very typical occupations for women in the late nineteenth century.
In the next book in the series, which I am currently writing, Uneasy Spirits, Annie will enter the world of spiritualism in order to expose a fraudulent trance medium. A third book in the series will feature urban and rural teachers.
While my novels have serious historical themes, they are light, fun entertainment, and probably my strongest literary influence comes from the regency romances of Georgette Heyer.