Sunday Dinner with Crystal Caudill

Apr 23, 2023 | Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Crystal Caudill. Crystal is the author of “Dangerously Good Historical Romance”, a wife, mother, caregiver, book hoarder, history nerd, and tea snob. She lives outside of Cincinnati with her family, where they play lots of board and card games.

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 something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.

Despite writing historical romance books—with apparently a developing reputation for kiss scenes????—I can’t watch even cartoons kiss. I am not a romantic person—my husband is the one who is the romantic one. I love to experience, but coming up with it on my own is not a natural thing.

Can you tell us about your latest novel?

Counterfeit Faith is probably my most romantic story thus far. It was hard to avoid with flirtatious Josiah Isaacs as the hero. Once he met the matron of Final Chance House of Refuge, Gwendolyn Ellison, it was a war with himself not to fall hard and fast.

Gwendolyn Ellison has spent her life serving children the public has deemed delinquents. Sent to Final Chance House of refuge, the children are supposed to be given a safe place to be reformed from their criminal ways and given a second chance at life. However, someone is trying to hide the abuse occurring inside, and when Gwendolyn tries to expose them, they target her with threats to her life.

Widower Josiah Isaacs gets pulled into Gwendolyn’s troubles when he rescues her from a knife blade, but he soon discovers more than abuse is going on. Someone is using the children for their counterfeiting operations. As a Secret Service operative, he has the jurisdiction to step in and rescue the children. As he and Gwendolyn work together, they both fight against their growing affection for each other. After all, Josiah doubts God, and Gwendolyn relies on her faith to endure each ordeal. Even if they can survive this case, can they really have a future together when their beliefs are so at odds?

Why did you choose to write a story set in Philadelphia?

In Counterfeit Love, I’d mentioned that Broderick Cosgrove and Josiah Isaacs had pursued their case from Philadelphia to Cincinnati. So it only made sense that once Broderick Cosgrove’s and Andrew Darlington’s stories had been told, Josiah would continue to work where he initially started. It also allowed me to bring Hayden Orton back into the story and give the series one final connection to my novella, Counterfeit Truth

Besides, I’ve always desperately wanted to visit Philadelphia. I’m a huge history nerd, and who wouldn’t want to walk the streets where our founding fathers did? Of course, my travel to Philadelphia didn’t happen until after the book was almost ready to go to print. However, I loved diving into the history of Philadelphia and seeing a different period than most people think of when the city is mentioned. Philadelphia was the perfect example of a Gilded Age city. I got to bring in touches of the upper class while still thoroughly wandering through the underbelly of what society wanted to ignore.

Have you lived in or visited Philadelphia? What research was required to set a book there in the late 1800s?

I actually didn’t get to visit Philadelphia until the story was almost ready to go to print. Most of my research was done online, through interlibrary loans, and talking to people who had actually lived in Philadelphia. I read a lot of illustrated guides from the 1880s about Philadelphia, lots of newspaper articles from the 1880s, and researched historical maps and photos. I did a lot of research as I wrote, but I front loaded as much of my research before beginning the process as possible. I wanted to know Philadelphia as well as I knew Cincinnati, and that takes a lot of time. Especially when you don’t live 20 minutes from downtown. I was pleased to discover that after I visited, I only had to make only a few minor tweaks for the story to be more accurate. For instance, I had NO IDEA that all that stuff I researched and used was essentially crammed into a space of two square miles.

Your female main character is the matron of a House of Refuge. Can you tell us more about what those are?

Houses of Refuges were institutions where the courts sent juveniles who had been arrested, pulled from the street as vagrants, or even turned into the courts by parents as “unmanageable.” These houses of refuge were meant to protect “criminal” children from the hardened adult criminals by giving them their own form of jail and a place to be reformed. Essentially, they were the precursor to our modern day juvenile jails.

The idea was that if these children were given a religious upbringing, an education, a strict routine, and taught a trade, they would become productive and upstanding citizens. In these institutions, children’s lives were structured from the moment they woke up to when they went to sleep, with little time for the freedoms of childhood. A good portion of their day was spent making a whole host of products from clothing, to furniture, to book binding, and another number of things. Inmates—as they were referred to—resided in these institutions for a minimum of one year. Then they would be transitioned to positions at businesses or farms as indentured servants for an agreed upon amount of time or until they were 21. Parents had to give permission for this, which they often did as it provided room and board for their children, or if they did not have parents the institution placed them on their behalf.

As you can imagine, although the institution had good intentions, these houses of refuge often suffered from overpopulation, corrupt administration, and a lack of funds. Despite all of this, most of the children did go on to live better, productive lives than when they entered the institution.

The male main character is with the Secret Service. Can you tell us more about what being an agent was like in the late 1800s and the challenges your character faces?

The main purpose of the Secret Service at that time was to identify and arrest counterfeiters. Operatives (as they were called at that time) conducted a lot of their investigations through the purchase of counterfeit money. This allowed them to develop relationships that led them to the producers of the counterfeits. It was the only way to truly stop the production and distribution of counterfeits money. If you couldn’t get to the manufacturers of the money, all the other arrests only slowed the distribution. The purchase of counterfeit money was an essential strategy that directly correlated with their success. 

However, when President Grover Cleveland came onto the scene, he brought with him a new solicitor who banned the Secret Service from purchasing counterfeit money. This was because he felt it led people to commit a crime that they might not have otherwise done. For a year, this ban stayed in place and crippled investigations while the head of the Secret Service fought to have it repealed. Most investigations came to a standstill, which is where we find the hero at the beginning of the story.

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

You would not believe how difficult it was to find resources for the early days of the Secret Service. Most books focus on their days protecting the president, mostly from JFK forward. However, I did find a couple of resources that are priceless to the creation of these stories. The book Illegal Tender by David R Johnson was one of my favorites. True Detective Stories by A.L. Drummond (former Chief of the Secret Service) included stories published in the newspapers of real cases he participated in. I really enjoyed that resource. And honestly, the Secret Service’s history section of their website was amazing. I also dove into actual Secret Service reports from the 1880s through the Freedom of Information Act and the Library of Congress. (I think it was from there I accessed the files. It’s been a while.)

What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?

This perhaps might be a morbid fact, but I love it. On April 14, 1865, Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCullough brought it to Abraham Lincoln’s attention that a permanent, continuous, and aggressive organized effort was needed to bring an end to the rampant counterfeiting of US currency. Abraham agreed and authorized him to move forward in the creation of the Secret Service. What’s morbid about that? Well, do you recognize that date? This was one of the very last things Abraham Lincoln did as a president before being assassinated later that night.

Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?

In September, We Three Kings: A Christmas Novella Collection will be releasing with Kregel Publications. I am excited to join with Cara Putman and Angela Ruth Strong in this collection following the family legacy of the Weise men (pun intended). My story “Star of Wonder” kicks off the three stories with Aldrich Weise, a steamship magnate who must choose between taking over the family business’s German branch and the woman he loves, Celestia Isaacs. . . Josiah Isaacs’s little sister. Originally, this story was supposed to come out before Counterfeit Faith, and so the story actually takes place chronologically before Counterfeit Faith. Cara’s story takes place just after WWII, and Angela’s story has a contemporary timeline. I really can’t wait for readers to dive into that story collection. It is really neat to get to see the legacy of one of my characters through the generations.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

For those who would like a free copy of my prequel novella to the series, Counterfeit Truth, you can sign up to receive it at bit.ly/CounterfeitTruth. 

I wrote the story of Secret Service operative Hayden Orton and Felicity Richmond as a way to introduce readers to the series and a few of the characters. Felicity is a reporter determined to prove that the Secret Service is corrupt by catching a former operative selling counterfeit money. Hayden is annoyed by Felicity’s constant interference and concerned about her reckless pursuit of the very man the Secret Service is trying to capture. When Felicity’s life becomes threatened by the corrupt former operative, Hayden is assigned the task of protecting her and distracting her from pursuing the former operative by having her join him on a case involving the burglary of the Philadelphia Mint. Lots of danger, spunk, and romance are mixed into this novella, and it’s the perfect way to dip your toes into the series. Plus, you’ll get to see them again in Counterfeit Faith. You can also purchase it on Amazon, but why pay when you can get it for free. ?


The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Crystal, thank you for joining us today!

If readers would like to purchase a copy of Counterfeit Faith where might they be able to do so?

Amazon | Baker Book House | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Christianbook 

If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?

The best way is through my website. I send out a monthly newsletter that you can sign up for here. And I spend way too much time hanging out on Faceboook and my reader group.

You can also find me below, just not as frequently:
Instagram | Twitter | GoodReads | BookBub | Pinterest

Want to read Crystal’s Interview about Counterfeit Love? Find it here.

Over Sunday Dinner next week, romance author Cathy McDavid will join us. See you then!