For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Julie Brookman. Julie started her career after college as the manager of a Waldenbooks. Her career took her a lot of places, from small-town journalist to a public relations specialist for a major healthcare organization before she returned to her first love – Romance novels. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and three kids and writes sweet contemporaries and historical romances.
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, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I just moved back to my home state of Michigan and bought a lovely historical home! I’ve always wanted to live in an old house within walking distance to town. I’m so looking forward to curling up next to my fireplace and reading this winter.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Their Business Betrothal is set during the height of the wagon train era. John Butler’s positive his old friend is the perfect person to open a general store in his new settlement out West—but first he must convince the man’s daughter. The last thing Clara Morehouse wants as she takes over her family’s general store is to uproot and move out West. And her family won’t go without her. But after a rejected suitor tarnishes Clara’s reputation, a fake engagement for her protection brings Clara and John closer. Can John show her that a new beginning is just what she needs…starting with making their pretend betrothal real?
What made you choose 1800s Independence, Missouri as your setting?
I’ve read so many great romance stories about wagon trains that I wanted to delve into that time period for a story. When I was doing research about the trains, I learned that many of them had their starting point in Independence, Missouri. It made me wonder about what it was like for the people in the town that launched so many adventures. What kind of businesses thrived off of preparing settlers to head West? And thus the Morehouse’s general store was born.
Have you lived in or visited Independence, Missouri? What research was required to set a book there in the 1800s?
I’ve never been, to be honest! My grandmother was originally from Missouri, but I’ve only driven through the state on a road trip from time to time. I did a lot of research about wagon trains and what supplies were needed to head West, and about the town itself. I had to look into everything from what kind of homes they had to what people wore. The town grew quickly, so I wanted to make sure I caught that energy in my book.
Can you tell us more about Independence’s importance as part of the Oregon Trail?
Independence was not only the departure point for the Oregon Trail, but for a few other major wagon train routes heading west including the Santa Fe Trail. It became the hub of activity in the spring, outfitting travelers with what they needed for their journey to their new homes. People from all over the world traveled to the small frontier town for the opportunity to start a new life.
What was life like for those who stayed and lived in Independence?
The town grew quickly with businesses ready to outfit travelers. Before settlers moving west, it was also an important part of the trade route for transporting goods on wagons. In the height of the wagon train era, thousands of people would gather in the small town to prepare for their journeys – and it was quite a hopping place. I imagine it can closely be compare to one of today’s tourist towns that seem completely different in the summer versus the winter.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
Thankfully we live in the times of the Internet, where you can access so much information at the tip of your fingers! The Oregon/California Trails Association has a lot of good information on its website. Someday, I would love to visit Independence myself, because they have the amazing Merrill J. Mattes Research Library and National Frontier Trails Museum, where you can see a lot of original documents from that time period.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
I made an offhand comment in dialogue talking about life on the trail and the difficulty for ladies to go to the bathroom when they were always moving and everything was so public and open. They use their skirts to hide a lot of things! But my editor deleted it because it wasn’t really ideal to include in a romance novel, which totally makes sense.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I have a contemporary romance coming out in April 2023 from Love Inspired called His Temporary Family. It’s about a firefighter who has to take in his two little nieces when his brother is in an accident. His matchmaking grandmother lives next door to a case worker and “volunteers” her to help him
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Julie, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Their Business Betrothal where might they be able to do so?
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
Over Sunday Dinner next week, Donna Schlachter will be here to talk about her Christmas novel.