Sunday Dinner with Crystal Caudill

Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Novels, Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited historical romance author Crystal Caudill. She is the author of “dangerously good historical romance,” with her work garnering awards from Romance Writers of America and ACFW.

Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!

Without further ado … Crystal, can you tell us something readers would enjoy learning about you?

Howdy ho neighbor (think Wilson from Home Improvement (Insert wink) ), I’m Crystal Caudill from Northern Kentucky, and I’m such a tea snob.

I’ve never liked cheap tea, but when my husband traveled to London for work and brought me back some REAL tea, I was ruined. Since then it’s only teabags from London, or good loose leaf teas. I travel with a ton of tea and my own personal electric water kettle.

Your next book, Counterfeit Love, released in March from Kregel. Can you tell us about it?

My personal quick version is Counterfeit Love is the second chance romance between a woman entangled in a counterfeiting ring and the Secret Service operative sent to arrest them.

The official blurb is:

Can this undercover agent save the woman he loves–or is her heart as counterfeit as the money he’s been sent to track down?

After all that Grandfather has sacrificed to raise her, Theresa Plane owes it to him to save the family name–and that means clearing their debt with creditors before she marries Edward Greystone. But when one of the creditors’ threats leads her to stumble across a midnight meeting, she discovers that the money he owes isn’t all Grandfather was hiding. And the secrets he kept have now trapped Theresa in a life-threatening fight for her home–and the truth.

After months of undercover work, Secret Service operative Broderick Cosgrove is finally about to uncover the identity of the leader of a notorious counterfeiting ring. That moment of triumph turns to horror, however, when he finds undeniable proof that his former fiancée is connected. Can he really believe the woman he loved is a willing participant? Protecting Theresa and proving her innocence may destroy his career–but that’s better than failing her twice in one lifetime.

They must form a partnership, tentative though it is. But there’s no question they’re both still keeping secrets–and that lack of trust, along with the dangerous criminals out for their blood, threatens their hearts, their faith, and their very survival.

What made you choose to have your male hero be a part of the Secret Service?

I don’t exactly remember when or how I stumbled across it, but it all started with finding first person accounts of the early Secret Service. Specifically, articles written by Andrew L. Drummond. I loved reading his experiences and it sparked the idea of what if I had a character like him?

What research was required to make his story authentic? How did the historical nature of the story affect that research?

Oh man. You would NOT believe how hard it is to find information on the early Secret Service. Doing research meant wading through tons of books that focused on the Secret Service’s history basically from JFK forward. It was incredibly frustrating.

I found a select few books to help with the historical organization and management of the Secret Service. I also dug into newspapers from the time period, sought out as many memoirs from former agents as I could, and even found digitized reports from the Secret Service operatives. That was particularly difficult as not only had a ton of records been lost in a fire during the early 1900s, but what they had digitized was digitized from microfiche back when it was like looking at a piece of paper with Vaseline over your glasses. My eyes got tired really quickly as I tried to squint and read the distinct handwriting of that time.

Beyond that, I did a lot of research in to police work, how counterfeiting operations worked, life in general during the 1880s, and Cincinnati’s 1883/1884 flood history. Being so close to Cincinnati, I was able to visit the huge historical society library before it was shut down for years and years of renovation, and the city’s library has a decent selection of research books as well. I also spent a lot of time learning about printing presses and I actually using a printing press. There are so many details that will never make it into a book, but the research was fascinating and something I greatly enjoyed.

Were resources easy or difficult to find? Do you have a favorite resource?

As I said above, some of the resources were very difficult to find. Everyone wants to know about protecting the president, but it seems those early days were very hush hush. My favorite resource for really diving into the nitty-gritty was a book titled Illegal Tender. It went into great detail for both counterfeiters and the Secret Service up to 1900. I really think without that resource, this book would never have become realistic or even into existence. It really was fascinating all the scandal involved in the early years and then what the department did to fix itself and to become an autonomy entity within the government. For just general interesting research, I highly recommend visiting https://www.secretservice.gov/about/history.

How has the Secret Service changed from 1884, when Counterfeit Love is set, and today? What are some of the (major) differences?

A great deal has changed over the years. Not only have their duties been expanded from ferreting out counterfeiters to other financial criminal charges, but with all the ways technology has changed, the way they function is different too. They work on a global level, fighting electronic crimes. 

Then of course, you have the addition of all their protective duties, which they are most famous for now. They also used to be a part of the Treasury department, but in 2003 they were moved to the new Department of Homeland Security. It is a far more complex and expansive department than when it was first established on July 5, 1865.

What was your favorite nugget of research that did not make it into the story?

I wasn’t able to use it in THIS story, but watch for it in book two, Counterfeit Hope. Although the Miranda rights did not come into existence until 1966, the Secret Service had been required to inform their suspects of their right since 1879, almost 90 years before the Miranda rights case. 

This came about because of a standard practice of criminals getting arrested, telling the police all sorts of valuable information voluntarily, and then being released out of custody. It was basically their “get out of jail free” card. It wasn’t asked of them. They offered it freely. Chief Washburn (1874-1876) enacted a department policy that required operatives to inform arrested criminals that anything they did must be done “voluntarily and without any promises whatever.” This policy was further emphasized by Chief James Brooks (1876-1888). Beginning in 1879, operatives were also to warn to suspects about their rights. Everything they said would be documented and used against them in court, and they did not have to answer any questions until they had consulted a lawyer.

What do you wish readers knew about the historic Secret Service?

I wish readers knew what sacrificial men these operatives were. While they were paid $7 a day on average, putting them in the middle class, they worked relentlessly and with few resources. From 1865 to around 1900, the most number of operatives they had to work the entire country was 48, although the number was closer to 25 during the 70’s and 80’s. They generally worked six days a week and half days on Sundays, received no vacation or sick leave, had to record their every expenditure and movement—being forced to retrieve a penny’s overcharge on one recorded occasion because funds were that tight, and were expected that his service belonged to the government twenty-four hours of every day.

Do you have another book the works? What can you tell us about that book? Will it also feature the Secret Service?

Counterfeit Love is book one in a three books series. In book two, Counterfeit Hope (releasing early 2023), readers to follow Operative Andrew Darlington as his secret past catches up to him and he’s forced to marry a criminal who could expose him at any moment. Book three, Counterfeit Faith (releasing in early 2024), is Operative Josiah Isaacs’s story. When his nieces and nephews are sentenced to a house of refuge that has counterfeit ties, Josiah must work with the institution’s matron to bring the truth to light before any more children are hurt . . . or she ends up dead.

I’m also working on edits for a novella “prequel” called Counterfeit Truth that I hope to offer as a preorder bonus come this fall. In this story, you get to dive into the story of Secret Service operative you meet in book two, Hayden Orton. He is working on solving the robbery of the Philadelphia Mint while also protecting the nosy journalist who is bent on proving the Secret Service is corrupt.

Oh, and did I mention I will be a part of a three-book novella Christmas collection in 2023? We Three Kings doesn’t focus on the Secret Service per say, but they do get their moment as the heroine is Josiah Isaacs’s younger sister. So yep, there is lots of things in the works that I can’t wait to share with readers. I’m going to shamelessly plug that if you want to keep up with all that is going on as well as get a free short story, Banking on Love, then sign up for my newsletter at https://bit.ly/CaudillNews.

The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw today’s conversation to an end. Thank you, Crystal, for joining us today to talk about Counterfeit Love and the history of the Secret Service! Readers, if you would like to purchase a copy of Counterfeit Love, Crystal says … I am blessed that it can be found at almost any major retailer where books are sold. Here are my top six places (in alphabetical order):

If you would like to learn about Crystal or her books, you can find her at the following places: Newsletter, Facebook Page, Facebook Group, Amazon, Instagram, GoodReads, & BookBub.

Over Sunday Dinner next week author Christina Sinisi will be joining us to talk about Charleston, South Carolina, and her latest release. See you then!


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