Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini
Publisher: Mill City Press (Nov 17, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction, Romance, Pioneer Woman, Strong Female Character, Western
Tour date Mar/Apr, 2017
Available in Print & ebook, 560 pages
IN THIS EPIC TALE of love, loss, and redemption, the year is 1861, a time when women are expected to be married by a certain age. At 26, spinster Emily Wainwright has no reason to believe her sheltered life will ever change—until the charming Samuel Todd unexpectedly crosses her path.
Samuel yearns to homestead and start a family in Oregon, but he first needs to find a wife. Blinded by Samuel’s good looks, and grasping at her final chance to have a husband and children, Emily accepts his marriage proposal. However, Samuel is not the man she thought he was, and her marriage becomes a cold, cruel prison, offering her no solace amidst the hardships of farm life.
When Samuel dies and a second chance at love and happiness arrives in the form of farmhand Cole Walker, Emily must overcome her bitter past—or risk losing Cole and the life she has always dreamed of having.
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Praise for Blue Hour by Vicki Righettini
“All of Righettini’s characters are well-rounded, in particular Emily herself, whose personal growth throughout the novel is richly detailed and memorable.”-Historical Novel Society
“This novel is about second chances and the courage needed to take them. The most compelling aspects of The Blue Hour are not the vivid, expansive descriptions of life on the vast (and seemingly never-ending) Oregon Trail or the well-drawn characters who dance (and often trudge) between hardship and hope. Instead, the brightest lights burst forth from nuanced moments tucked throughout the story.
Read this book if you want to immerse yourself in the wilds of western America in the 1860s or get lost in the even denser wilderness of love and loss. Maybe this recommendation needs to be simplified even further – read this book. It’s exhilarating to root for a character who is trying to navigate uncharted territory and make the greatest discovery of all.”-Underground Book Reviews
“The Blue Hour is one of the finest historical novels I’ve ever read. You will love the author’s writing and the detailed historical references. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I felt as if I knew them well. Long after I’d finished reading, I still thought about the story. It’s part adventure, part love story, and part survival. Highly recommended.”-Ann Creel, Author
In 1861 when women were expected to be married by 18, 26-year-old Emily Wainwright was considered a spinster. She had accepted her fate until the handsome, gallant, and charming, Samuel Todd, began courting her. She couldn’t believe a gentleman, such as him, could be interested in her. After a brief courtship, he persuaded her to go out west to receive acres of land to farm and develop. Little did he know how much in error his information could be.
Totally misled by Samuel, Emily would soon discover the type of man who stole her heart. What would she do?
This tale is of the extreme hardships early pioneers suffered in traveling across such rugged country to get to the western U.S. It is the story of courage, fortitude, abuse and self discovery. It was truly a period in time which tested and separated te strong from the weak. This book portrays the difference in social standards between the Mid- western/Eastern and the rugged West.
The book had plenty of adventure and occasional suspense. The character were formulated very well, as were the background scenes. The only time I had a problem with it is in the very beginning and then again about midway through the book when the detail and drama seemed a little excessive, causing it to slightly drag.
Beware, there are some sexual references and some crude language.
This earns a strong Four Stars rating.
*This book was gifted me. I am not required to post a positive review. This is my honest review.
My Interview with Vicki Righettini:
Vicki, you were raised in Los Angeles. Please share with us a couple of childhood memories which you feel had an impact on your future years.
Los Angeles is a fine city, but it isn’t my scene. Growing up, I always believed I’d been born in the wrong place. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, when I moved to Oregon, that I felt I’d found my true home.
There is one thing from L.A. that has stayed with me: the need to have mountains visible in the distance. On a clear day, we could see the magnificent San Gabriels (if you’ve ever watched a Rose Parade broadcast, you’ve seen them). Perhaps it was wondering what was on the other side; perhaps it was the hopeful feeling that there was something out there beyond my highly dysfunctional family life. But every place I’ve lived since then and been happy, there were always mountains in the distance.
You became a singer & actress. What were those years like?
Those were great years. As a kid I was obsessed with music, and when in high school my voice suddenly matured and it turned out I could sing, I ran with it and never looked back. I started singing professionally at the age of sixteen, but my family had their hearts set on my going into medicine, so I took pre-med courses to keep them happy while I sang in clubs at night. Finally I’d had enough – of L.A., of medical courses (which were interesting, and which later helped me in my teaching, but it wasn’t my passion) – and I moved to Oregon to finish my degree, this time in music.
As a performing artist and teacher, I was lucky to work in a field I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve traveled to places and met people I would never have been in contact with otherwise, and who influenced my work and my career. But most of all, it was a blast!
But after forty years, with the onset of early menopause, I developed devastating, chronic migraines. Because they could strike at any time without warning, I was suddenly no longer reliable. I tried gutting it out, trying everything I could think of to continue to work, but eventually it was clear I had to let that life go. I’d had a forty year run, and a good one. I’d done pretty much everything I’d wanted to do, and I left without regrets.
You are an award-winning national playwright. What were a couple of plays you wrote? Please tell us a little about each.
My most popular play is The Importance of Being. The structure is based on Oscar Wilde’s famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest. The year is 1950 and Chloe Landsdowne, a young actress of sixteen, is playing the role of Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest at the venerable Hawthorne Theatre. Her dresser, Min, has a thing or two to say about her chances as an actress, but once she sees that Chloe has her heart set on a life in the theatre, she takes her under her wing, mentoring her through a lifetime of professional ups and downs.
We see their friendship develop over the course of forty-four years, as Chloe returns to the Hawthorne to play the remaining female roles in Earnest. The play ends with Chloe’s final performance as Miss Prism, the smallest role. By now, Min has passed on, and Chloe is left to determine for herself the extent of Min’s legacy, and how much she owes her. The Importance of Being explores how we mature, the forces that influence our maturation, and the losses that occur in the wake of our gains.
Another play that did well is I Saw a Bird, about two women on the one-thousandth day of their shared incarceration. They find they can no longer tolerate the others’ vastly different coping mechanisms: one woman keeps the past alive with her fanciful imagination; the other carves marks into the floor to count the days, believing only in what she can touch and see. In the course of their conflict, each enters the world of the other, ultimately discovering a new language for living. Because of its spareness, the play has been called Beckettsian. I know we’re supposed to love our children equally, but this is my favorite of the plays I wrote.
As a retired singer-actor, what do you miss the most about that lifestyle? What do you miss the least?
Truthfully? I miss the adrenalin rush. I miss the thrill of the chase – auditioning and rehearsing – the creative process of immersing myself in a role while putting my own stamp on it. At first, I missed seeing friends and colleagues every day, writing is so solitary. But since my set point is introversion, I got over it pretty quickly.
I don’t miss performing, which surprises people, but I always preferred rehearsing to performing. I don’t miss the life: the odd hours, always on the go, never at home. I don’t miss how hard the work was on my body (I got more injuries from acting than anything I’ve ever done), and I don’t miss freaking out over every cough and sniffle. I still love music and theatre, it’s just that now I enjoy them from a different side of the footlights, as a knowledgeable viewer.
After writing plays, what have you found the most challenging [about writing novels]? How is it the same and how is it different, other than the obvious?
Well yes, the obvious is that unless you’re Shakespeare, novels are much, much longer than plays. But the beauty of writing plays is that the form is so flexible. In a sense, a play is a recipe, and each time it’s performed, it’s with a new set of ingredients: a new theatre, new cast, new director and stage crew, new audience, a new part of the country, even another country. So each time it’s done, the result is particular to that time and place, with those people. But it will still be the same play: you won’t end up with a cinnamon roll if the recipe is for spaghetti sauce.
But as a playwright, I had to accept that my job was to provide a framework, a scaffold, on which the play is performed. A lot of what happens on the stage is at the discretion of the director, actors, and designers. I was lucky to see The Importance of Being performed three times in different parts of the country, and each version was unique. They all used my recipe, but each sauce was distinct in its own way.
The challenge for me when I switched to novel writing was not being able to workshop the material to see how it played and sounded. I now had to set the scene in words without relying on stage directions, or actor imagination, or a set designer. Dialog comes easily for me; but descriptive passages are my nemesis. Those are the sections I end up revising over and over. Also, as a solitary writer, there’s no applause, no audience cheering you on as you work, as there is in performing. I’ve had to learn to cheer myself on, and as a result it’s made me stronger.
Why did you choose this historical novel to write?
As a kid I was always fascinated by the pioneers. There’s a history of pioneering in my family, with my mother’s side coming from Germany in the 1700s to settle in Pennsylvania, then moving to Kentucky and Illinois, then finally coming to California in the 1940s. Growing up I always imagined I’d have been one of those hardy pioneers. But after researching The Blue Hour, I’m no longer so sure!
The germination of this book began with a trip my husband and I made to Eastern Oregon in the late 1990s, when we visited the newly-opened Interpretive Center outside Baker City at Flagstaff Hill. Nothing I’ve ever seen brought the Oregon Trail to life like that exhibit. You didn’t just learn about the Trail, you were there.
Later, as we drove around the spectacular Blue Mountain area, seeing the wagon ruts that still exist, looking at old homesteads and settlements, my mental wheels started turning: why would anyone settle here? Why not go all the way to the Willamette Valley which is more fertile and where the weather is much milder? They’d already traversed nearly 2,000 miles. What made them stop here, instead of going the rest of the way to Oregon City?
I wanted to know the answers, and I wrote the book to find out.
What type of research did you do before you began writing?
Given my family background and my life-long interest in the pioneers, I feel as if I’ve been researching this book all my life.
When I started writing The Blue Hour in 2001, I set down the prologue and the first couple of chapters before doing any formal research. Once I realized I had a story, I knew I had to put it into historical context, and to get my facts right. I began by visiting the End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City, where at the time they had a wonderful exhibit on childbirth practices of the era, home building, and details of daily life. I took copious notes and came home with a stack of books from their bookstore, including maps of the Oregon Trail, 1860s cookbooks, and books on Victorian era customs and style of dress.
I also raided local bookstores for herbalism manuals, 19th century poetry, and more books about the Trail. My great-aunt also shared a journal from a family member who lived back then, which gave me a feel for the daily life and speech style of the period. In all, I spent about six months poring over these materials and cataloging my notes before tackling the manuscript in earnest.
How prevalent do you feel this type of marriage relationship was in earlier days? Do you feel it has gotten better or worse now? Explain.
Abusive marriages have been around ever since men and women began tying the knot. In the days when husbands literally owned their wives as chattel and had complete say over their lives, I believe abuse was more likely. Society accepted corporal punishment as a man’s due, as a way to keep his wife in line, or as a means to take out his frustrations.
I saw that kind of conflict with my own parents: my father had been raised with Old World values; and my mother was beginning to enjoy the first freedoms of the women’s movement. The more she tried to live her own life, the more violent he became. Other family members saw this, but refused to intervene, believing – as they’d been taught – that he had a right to control his wife. I’d like to think that in our time, half a century later, we’re more enlightened; that someone would step in and challenge such behavior. But sadly, wherever women are treated as property, abuse within marriage will persist.
- What is your next “big project”? Please share with us a little about it.
I’m switching genres and working on a mystery series that takes place in Portland, Oregon, a city I know and love. My amateur sleuth is Camilla Reed, a free-lance singer and voice teacher. Camilla is a transplanted Texan: funny, earthy, and smart, with a heart as big as her home state. But she can’t seem to get her love life together, and she falls for all the wrong men. Her next-door neighbor, Ted Sullivan, a retired Boston cop and fellow transplant, would like to be more than just a friend, but he seems to mainly end up helping her with espionage and house repairs.
An added detail is that Camilla is prone to migraine headaches. This puts her at a disadvantage, but it also gives her unusual powers of perception. Her heightened sense of smell, hearing, and other sensitivities, especially right before an attack, become remarkable sleuthing tools.
I’m planning a series of three books. The first manuscript is finished, and the second is underway. Writing these stories is tremendous fun, and allows me to use my background to “write what I know.”
What goals do you have set which you would like see fulfilled in the next five years?
I’d like to see the first book in the Camilla Reed mystery series in print, but there’s a lot that has to happen before then: editing and revisions, querying agents, weighing publishing options. In the meantime, I’m enjoying making the rounds with The Blue Hour, introducing my baby to the world.
And I continue to work on my craft. I’m fortunate to have a new passion that fits perfectly with this stage of my life. A lot of performers don’t know what to do with themselves after they retire – we identify so completely with our art – we are what we do. Writing has given me a new voice, an expressive outlet that disappeared when I stopped performing. I couldn’t be more grateful.
About Vicki Righettini
Vicki Righettini is an award-winning, nationally produced playwright, and her recently-published historical novel, The Blue Hour, was a badge winner and Pitch Perfect Pick at Underground Books. Originally from Los Angeles, Vicki lived in Oregon for over twenty years, where she developed an abiding love of the land and the Oregon way of life. Before turning to full-time writing, she worked for forty years as a singer/actress and performing arts instructor. Her blog, Between a Book and a Hard Place, focuses on the ups and downs of the creative process (http://www.vickirighettini.com). Vicki lives in San Diego with her software-developer, Jeopardy!-champion husband, and the world’s shyest cat.
Winner’s choice of one Print or ebook. Print is open to Canada & the U.S. only. ebook is open world wide.
Hour by Vicki Righettini Tour
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