Delayed Summer Reading

Life has been a continuous craze lately, but I’ve determined I have to read more. I’m aiming for a book a week, but I know that is far-fetched considering my kids are home all day. However, I am going to try. And when I read a book that I think needs sharing, I’m going to post about it.

Up first: Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover

From Amazon:

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

My take (SPOILERS):

Wow. 

Educated is not a light memoir. Tara Westover talks about the brutal reality of her childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. Raised by radical parents (which do not represent mainstream members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by any means)—survivalists and doom’s day preppers—Tara was taught that anything associated with the Federal Government was corrupt and infiltrated by the devil. She did not have a birth certificate until she was nine years old, she never received immunizations (until well into her graduate programs), she never stepped foot inside a classroom until college, and her parents believed the medical establishment was evil—so no school (public nor home schooled really) and no doctors or hospitals. 

The story that follows is heartbreaking. The Westover family ran a junkyard. Their practices fell short of every safety precaution known to man. The injuries were insane—impalements, serious burns, disastrous falls, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, lots and lots of wounds that should have been treated in the hospital. Instead, Tara’s mom treated everything with oils and herbs (and subsequently founded the Butterfly Express Essential Oil Co.). And, to make matters worse, besides the hazards of working with her father, Tara suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of one of her brothers. 

Against all odds, Tara miraculously got into BYU.

And an education changed her life.

I am so impressed with Tara’s tenacity and drive to learn and defy the odds that were thrust upon her. However, I cringed reading about how judgmental she was… She believed 99% of those she met at BYU were “gentiles” or fallen or of the world. I get it—she was a product of her childhood, her parents’ strange ideas. If anything, Tara’s story inspired me to be less judgmental of those I deem “judgmental”. Honestly, we have no idea of another person’s background nor the lens that they see the world through. 

My favorite parts of the book came near the end. 

In a particularly discouraging time, one of her professors (Dr. Kerry at BYU) urged her to continue her schooling. He said, “You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were. It was always in you. Not in Cambridge. In you. You are gold. And returning to BYU, or even to that mountain you came from, will not change who you are. It may change how others see you, it may even change how you see yourself—even gold appears dull in some lighting—but thatis the illusion. And it always was.”

Another idea she presented was from Isaiah Berlin’s two concepts about freedom:

  1. Negative liberty: freedom from external obstacles or constraints
  2. Positive liberty: freedom from internal constraints

I loved this! I need to read more about these two concepts. She quoted Bob Marley, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” 

Lastly, she spoke about a question sprawled against one of her class boards (Dr. Kerry again): Who writes history?  Throughout her education, she had learned that historians were no different than her—SHE wrote part of history. And so can we. 

Tara Westover writes a compelling tale of growing up, family loyalty, learning and growing, and how—or if—all of those things can be reconciled. Definitely worth a read 🙂

<3 H

For Andrew, I mean, Amanda.

A Provision for Love is LIVE!!! I am so thrilled about this book, how it finally came together in a fun way.

However, let’s talk dedication. I’ve already gotten a few questions about it. In order to understand this, let’s travel back in time to London, circa Sept. 2018. My friend Amanda and I were lost. The tube dropped us off at a different station than we were accustomed to, and our phones (due to a storm) were not working in the slightest! 

So, along came Andrew. He offered to help us find out way to our hotel, and we accepted his help gratefully! However, along the way, we found out that Andrew was perhaps the grumpiest, most bitter man we had ever met. He seemed like a character from one of Jane Austen’s novel–perhaps even a grumpier Mr. Darcy. That’s stretching it; Andrew was not nearly as dreamy or rich or kind. 

He was just grumpy. 

Anyway, the next day Amanda and I missed our train to Paris. After a sequence of misfortunes, Amanda turned grumpy. 

Trying to lighten the mood, I said, “HEY, ANDREW.” 

She did not think I was funny. 

And so, our first friend fight ensued, which is HILARIOUS now. So, being the obnoxious friend that I am, I decided to dedicate this book to her but only after calling her Andrew first. 

There, our first friend fight immortalized. 

Love you, MANDY!

12 Years.

Today is my 12-year anniversary of marriage to this great guy! As I’ve thought a lot (and I mean, a lot) about marriage and love and everything in between, some words came to me. (Did you expect anything different, coming from a romance writer?!)

I sat down to write him a love letter, as I do every year on our anniversary, but this time…it was less like a letter and more like thoughts. So, for vulnerability’s sake, I’m sharing with you, my dear readers (Brene Brown is to blame for this. You should watch her ted talk on vulnerability).

Thoughts from an imperfect wife:

***

Marriage is not a sunrise nor sunset; neither is it a flower nor a snow-capped peak. 

Love does not roll in like an ocean surf nor blow with the breeze. Marriage is words whispered on a pillow in the silent darkness, a hand to hold when life gets rocky. Marriage is a smile at the end of a long day, laughter when everything seems to go wrong. Marriage is a knotted rope, the security and strength that catches one another each time one falls. The joining of two lives is forged by the sweat of one’s brow, found in heartache’s silence and triumph’s joy.

Marriage is built in the bending and breaking and building again. Then breaking and bending and building once more. 

Marriage is the masterpiece of what we can become, like sunshine shining through the cracks of imperfection and into the cathedral of a devoted heart. 

***

And…in case you thought my life was a fairytale…this is the anniversary text I got from my husband today while he sat in the hall at church with our grumpy three-year-old.

“Happy 12 Year!”

A Provision for Love

My newest story is part of a series, entitled ENTANGLED INHERITANCE. The series will include four stand-alone regency romances, all written by talented authors, authors I am fortunate to call friends. Really, writing is often a solitary journey… but then you meet other authors and editors and I want to jump for joy. Sally Britton, Ashtyn Newbold, and Rebecca Connolly are all incredibly kind, talented, and FUN!

Remember that photoshoot I mentioned on instagram? Well, I could not be more pleased with the results (along with Amanda’s AWESOMENESS!). Look at this beautiful cover:

The only place Ivy Linfield feels truly uninhibited is within the walls and gardens of Bridgestone. There, she is free of society’s expectations and her worries of the future. With the death of Lord Percival Barrington, the only grandfather figure she’s ever known, Ivy is torn between the grief of losing him and her beloved summer home. 

Losing Bridgestone, even to one as worthy and handsome as Percival’s great-nephew Henry, seems cruel and unfair. So when Ivy learns of a provision in the will, she is more than willing to go to great lengths to secure the inheritance for herself. The only catch? Ivy must marry a man that fits a list of requirements before the season ends. 

She quickly learns, however, that love has its own set of rules–rules that are not so easily defined nor understood. What if her opponent is actually the man she’s been searching for? Can Ivy secure a match before her time runs out, or will surrendering her heart mean losing all that was intended for her?

A Provision for Loveis part of the ENTANGLED INHERITANCE series, a set of stand-alone regency-romance novels. Look for the complete collection of stories by these incredible authors: 

A Provision for Loveby Heather Chapman (June)

His Unexpected Heiressby Sally Britton (July)

The Rivals of Rosennor Hallby Rebecca Connolly (August)

An Unwelcome Suitorby Ashtyn Newbold (September)

The Man in the Arena

Brene Brown is changing the way I see everything. From her ted talks to her Netflix special, Brene’s words and stories have a way of sinking to my heart. So, if you haven’t checked out her Youtube speeches or her Netflix special, you are missing out on some profound wisdom.

In a few of her speeches, she quotes Theodore Roosevelt and “the man in the arena” quote. These words are applicable to everything, yes–but as a writer, these words breathe confidence and courage to my soul.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Brene Brown goes on to speak about vulnerability. Vulnerability is courage. Without being willing to be seen– for our good and bad and everything in between– we are incapable of innovation, creativity, and change (Brene!). If we are waiting to be perfect before we write our first story (or whatever it is you feel deficient at), we will never see results; we will never live a courageous life. So… with that… I will keep writing–imperfectly, yes, but with vulnerability and courage.

It’s not the critic that counts.

Believe Him

Have you ever felt the whispering of your maker, telling you to create? If so, have you listened? Or, like me, does it take a few years and a few different impressions to catch your attention and confidence?

At seventeen, my two high-school best friends told me to take AP Literature, and, like a teenage follower, I agreed. 

I had zero experience reading classical literature. I had zero experience analyzing and discussing reading like the rest of the class. The teacher was stern, a bit scary even; she picked the most difficult books she could have, and she made us discuss uncomfortable elements of those books.

17-year-old Heather felt like an underdog. I had to read with a dictionary as a companion. I struggled to understand symbolism (like why the dress was red instead of orange or which biblical story the author was alluding to). The discussions usually went over my head, as did much of the reading (for example, I had no idea that Tess in Tess of the D’Urbervilleshad been raped until the class was discussing it…). 

Also, there were two girls in the class that brought 2″ binders FULL of their own novels. I remember feeling like a complete outsider. I felt like I faked my way through each essay, faked my way in the discussions, faked my way in every single aspect of that class.

And then, one morning after I’d arrived, a thought screamed at me. “Heather, you will write books one day.” The thought did not come from me. If you have ever heard God speak to your heart, you understand what I mean. However, I argued. “Me? Write books? That’s the most egotistical thought ever. Who am I to write books?” 

The impression came again, and I argued again. 

These thoughts persisted. For ten more years, I would have similar experiences before I actually tried to write a novel. And, in those times that I felt discouraged with my attempts, Heavenly Father would speak to me again—this time in a burning in my chest, a confirmation that I was following the path he wished for me. 

Hindsight is everything. I see how he laid the foundation for my writing from a young age—much younger than 17. Stories have always held my heart. 

My point in sharing this… Believe God when he speaks to you. Believe Him when He tells you He has things for you to create, things for you to do. The only one we fool when we argue with such impressions is ourselves. 

Bermuda hat to Regency Bonnet

I am thrilled by a project I have in the works… a multi-author series with some of the greatest regency writers– Sally Britton, Rebecca Connolly, and Ashtyn Newbold! The ideas we have for this one-time series (which will consist of stand-alone novels linked by a common theme) is a lot of fun!

In preparation for this project, I am headed to a college town with the most amazing photographer out there (Amanda Conley Photography) for a photoshoot. In preparation for this shoot, we’ve collected a handful of gorgeous models, props, studio space, and costumes! The one thing we’ve struggled to find, however, are regency-period bonnets.

Enter: creativity and a dollar-store Bermuda hat.

If ever you are in need of regency bonnets– say for that house party you’ve been secretly planning–Bermuda hats are just the thing. With a bit of deconstructing, steaming, gluing and sewing, you too can be fit for a Jane-Austen outing.

I can’t wait for the photoshoot! I’ll post some sneak peaks tomorrow!


Stories: the reason we travel

Sometimes I get stuck, looking through all my Europe pictures. Mark says I need to move on. But…The days were full of stories, entertainingly silly and serious ones.

We met amazing people… and strange people. I made friends I keep in contact with via social media. I was mistaken as a home wrecker (ahhh), an 18-yr old American that went to London to drink (because we were stranded in London at 1am, but hey….18?!), and a local Parisian more times than I can count (I played along until my non-french speaking abilities became way too obvious). I bonded with Pat (the best tour guide, also about 80 yrs old), was serenaded by a bus driver (because we shared chocolate), made a dear friend in Jess Harnell (see you in a few weeks, buddy!), and saw the most incredible sights! We learned how to mime when we couldn’t communicate, and I learned that kindness is universal (as is grumpiness…).

There were also the not so great things… blisters galore, scary uber drivers that said they wanted to keep me forever (and kind of did keep us hostage in the car for forever…), long bus rides with my traveling buddy after she ate ice cream (bahhhhhahah, dooooozy if you know what happens to lactose intolerant people), missing my family, getting lost in London (multiple times), and in my friend’s case, getting trapped in an elevator…

but even the not great things ended up as GREAT STORIES.

One time, on an overnight flight to Ireland, I met a friend named Colum. He grew up in Ireland and told me all about the land and his wife and his kids and where he lived in the states, and we got on marvelously. I was in heaven listening to him speak with his Irish accent.

Meanwhile, my friend was sitting in the row behind me. A while later, I fell asleep (naturally, that’s what you do on these flights). I guess dinner arrived. And so, Colum turned around and WOKE UP Amanda Conley and said “Should I wake Heather up for dinner?”

hahahaha.

Amanda, as you can imagine, was super bugged. She whopped me on the head, which made me jump, and said, “Hey, wake up for dinner.”

I die every time I think of this, especially, because I can see Amanda’s ticked expression… fluttery eyelashes and all.

Oh, Colum. So considerate.

The Fairest Heart

My newest ramblings are about to go out into the world. The Fairest Heart, a regency fairytale retelling of Snow White will be up for preorder on Amazon tomorrow!

But, before that happens, I wanted to pay tribute to inspiration, particularly one of my greatest loves– IRELAND.

When I travelled to Europe this fall, I had no idea it was possible to FALL IN LOVE with a place. But, Ireland stole me heart, and by the time I got on the plane for London, I was heartbroken. I cried. And, so naturally I got out my keyboard and penned a love letter.

The notion seems so silly now, but the emotions were real. And so, readers and friends… Here is my love letter. I hope you giggle and laugh, but I also hope you dream a bit about a faraway place.

It was on the steps of the Blarney Castle that I thought of fairytales and regency-style retellings.

Dear Ireland, 

I didn’t expect you. Not fully anyways. Growing up, I always imagined you’d be beautiful and dreamy. I saw movies depicting your countryside and landmarks. I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and felt drawn to the music and folklore.

But… you’re kind of like Clark Kent. Don’t get me wrong— Clark Kent is appealing and all, but once I got here, you whipped your shirt and glasses off, revealing a perfect picture of beauty and strength. 

I love your culture, your historic buildings and festive streets, your statues and bridges, your silly city signs and funny pulsing crosswalks. 

I love your warmth, your constant “are you well”s and “are you ok?”s, your “love”s, your laughter, and your quick smiles. I love the way you speak, and I’m not just talking about the accent (though seriously!). Your phrases are poetic and lovely. Your tones are musical and alluring. 

I love your music, the way everyone joins in at the pubs and becomes one family, the way tradition continues to live on in a time of forgetting, the fact that manliness isn’t lessened by singing or dancing, and the way you’ve embraced everyone into your arms. 

I love your cities by the sea and your castles on the outskirts, your motorways and manners, and your ice cream. My gosh, doesn’t anyone in the USA understand how to make real ice cream?! 

I love your Sunday’s and Monday’s and how you know how to lay low. I love your lighthearted people and religious vibe. I love that God makes his way into most conversations. I love how the airport gate is empty until ten minutes before. You’ve got life figured out. 

No phones nor iPads are anywhere to be seen—except for in the hands of tourists like me. You breathe life in, deeply and fully, with both eyes wide open and arms stretched out wide and willing to embrace those in need. 

Basically, you’ve stolen my heart, dear place. I will forever dream of you, and I’ll probably write volumes about your details.

But for now, my heart flutters in a strange and irregular way, like it’s rolling in a bed of sewing pins. The pricks are small, but there are many. So many things I love that I will miss. So many things I wish I could keep forever. 

And so, my darling land, I finish this love letter, hoping you reciprocate— even the tiniest slice. 

Until my dreams,

H. Chap