On Being Honored

Edith here, writing from Amesbury, Massachusetts, where carriages no longer traverse the roads and paths. But where one happy author is delighted to announce that Charity’s Burden, my fourth Quaker Midwife Mystery, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel! It’s the fourth nomination for the series, and my seventh Agatha nod (hint, the paperback is on sale over on Amazon). Read on for a giveaway.

Only five authors are nominated, and once again I share the slate with four talented friends: Rhys Bowen, Susanna Calkins, LA Chandler, and – in his first Agatha nomination – friend of the Wickeds, our Boston neighbor – Gabriel Valjan. (I’m inviting them all over to the blog in April to share their books with you.) The winner is announced May 1 at the Malice Domestic conference in North Bethesda and gets to take home a teapot. If you’re going, you can vote there.

Today I’d to refresh your memory about Charity’s Burden. It came out last April, and we all know how many other historical mysteries have released since then. I hinted at the theme and plot here on the blog. I thought I’d give you a bit more.

Kirkus said this about the book: “Murder poses difficult challenges for a compassionate 19th-century Quaker midwife in Massachusetts . . . Because [Rose Carroll’s] actions are motivated by her faith, she won’t let threats keep her from doing the right thing as she seeks the truth. Plenty of suspects keep the pot bubbling as Maxwell examines the roots of the abortion controversy that continues to this day.”

Yes, the story addresses the issues of contraception and abortion in late 1880 New England, matters which have always been fraught for women. As part of my research I read Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth Century America by Janet Farrell Brodie and My Notorious Life by Kate Manning, a novel based on the life of Madame Restell, a nineteenth-century midwife and provider of abortions in New York City. I hadn’t known of the 1870 highly restrictive Comstock law, which made talking about preventing pregnancy a federal crime. Massachusetts and other states enacted even more severe versions.

Midwife Rose’s clients of course come to her for help with their pregnancies and births. When a woman bears seven children in nine years and her body can’t handle having more; when her husband has lost his job and they can barely feed the children they have; when she’s pregnant as a result of assault? Women ask Rose for help in preventing or ending a pregnancy, as they have asked midwives for centuries.

Rose’s remedies are limited to herbs and condoms, which are largely ineffective, and she does not recommend abortions, which can imperil life, but her heart goes out to the women she she is committed to serve. I included an herbalist based on Madame Restell. The book opens with a malnourished mother bleeding heavily. Mix in greed, jealousy, revenge, and passion, and you have the recipe for an Agatha-nominated historical mystery!

I would love to send a signed copy of Charity’s Burden to a commenter who missed it the first time around or who wants to give it as a gift.

Readers: Which historical controversies have you read about? Do you have a favorite era in the past?

34 Thoughts

  1. Fascinating topic, Edith. When we think of this era in history, we tend to forget how many women died, not only in childbirth, but in making valiant attempts to control their bodies at a time that control was socially and legally outlawed. That time continued well in to the twentieth century and is in danger of returning in the twenty-first.

    The Victorian era fascinates me. So much changed in those years. In a sense, our modern world was born.

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  2. Congratulations on the nomination, Edith! I confess I haven’t read this one yet, but I have it on my Kindle and have bumped it to the top of my to-be-read list along with all the Agatha nominees I’ve missed up until now. MUST READ BEFORE MALICE! (I always work better with a deadline!) See you in Bethesda in May!!!

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  3. Congratulations on the nomination! Love this series and loved Charity’s Burden. Since I’ve read this one, I will leave the giveaway to others so that another may have the opportunity to read this fabulous book.

    Love to read about all eras, but seem to be pulled to the early 1900’s and the middle to late 1800’s. I think this is because of the glimpse of what it might have been like for my parents and grandparents. I think we can’t see ahead unless we can see the past and how we got to where we are.

    Have a fabulous week!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  4. Wonderful book and ongoing dilemma. As my mother said once, “Those people need to keep their noses out of other women’s bodies.”
    Women’s rights have such a perilous history. One fact that surprised me was that the Louisiana Purchase resulted in the loss of property rights for women as French laws were replaced by U.S. British-based laws.

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  5. Congratulations! The setting and years you research and use are the most interesting to me–including real places and some historical figures along with the social issues, dress styles and care of animals as well as people. I can imagine these mysteries being used in HS history classes as they open eyes also to means of civil justice, incarceration and even sanitary conditions of the times. And then, the characters. I never understand the forces of progress more than when rounded characters are alive and dealing with them. The only fiction reading I find equal to it is Scifi–projections into the future of choices we make now.

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  6. Congratulations! I always enjoy reading about WWII and the small daily heroics of everyday people but the time of Charity’s Burden is also fascinating. There were so many contradictions. It was nearing the turn of another century, so many modern ideas and dress and yet still so many restrictions, especially for women. And sometimes the distance we’ve traveled isn’t that far yet. Congrats again and thanks for the giveaway.

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  7. Congrats, Edith, on another well-deserved nomination. The Victorian era has fascinated me ever since I started reading Sherlock Holmes at a young age.There were so many restrictions on women and yet, they persevered and accomplished a lot of amazing things.

    I love this series, but don’t have Charity’s Burden, yet. I would love to win a copy.

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  8. Congratulations on your nomination, Edith. I love reading historical fiction and always learn something new. Would really enjoy reading “Charity’s Burden”.

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