The Cast of Unmistakably Yours:
My newest release, Unmistakably Yours, is set in 1887, in Mountain Home, Colorado. Because this novel is set in town, where many characters interact with one another, and as the novel is full length (435 paperback pages), I had room for a richer, deeper plot, with more characters. I’ll do my best to not give away the story here, as “plot spoilers” are no fun. I’d rather let you discover the characters and the story as it unfolds (though I did give away a few secrets in a Character Spotlight recently published at A Baker’s Perspective when I shared Oscar Harris‘s back story and the photograph I used for inspiration while writing his character).
Heroes and Heroines:
This was my first novel including two separate but a little bit connected romances. Per the book’s blurb (back cover content), it’s evident that Hank Murphy, who owns the new Grocery Emporium in Mountain Home will be our hero and Jane Vancoller, proprietress of the new Tea Room, the woman he’ll fall in love with. As the story told in Unmistakably Yours is primarily Hank’s and Jane’s, I’ll begin with them here.
Hank and Jane:
I LOVE having a cover to work with while writing a book, rather than purchasing a book cover from the designer after the story has been written. Having the cover in advance of much of my writing process, made all the difference. You’ve seen Hank and Jane before, simply by glimpsing the cover.
Oscar and Ina:
Jessica Baker, at A Baker’s Perspective, published a character spotlight on Oscar Harris, complete with the picture that sparked my imagination. That post also touched on Ina Dimond, the woman who might not be perfect, but to Oscar, she’s the perfect woman for him. Learn MUCH more about this second couple on A Baker’s Perspective. But in that article, I did promise to share more about Ina. So I won’t shortchange anyone here. (Given the notes I’ve received from readers, Oscar and Ina have proved popular!… more so, even, than Hank and Jane.)
When choosing an image for Ina Dimond, I knew, from having included her in an important secondary role in a previous novella, The Gunsmith’s Bride, who Ina is. I knew her heart, and a glimpse of her physical appearance. I’d already come to understand Ina well. I had to find just the right image. I stumbled across this true-to-history etching of Marie Calm (pseudonym) Marie Ruhland (1832-1887, a German author and feminist). I chose the picture because it’s era-appropriate and captures very much what I’d tried to cobble together mentally. [Be aware this is an almy.com stock photo and under copyright.]
The facial features, imagined facial expressions, ear bobs (earrings), hair style, and perceived hair color, were all significant parts of Ina’s appearance. When I grasp a character’s individuality, it’s far more about who they are in their thoughts, hearts, and heads than what they look like… that’s why the pictures and photographs do so much good for me.
If you’ve ever laughed at Disney’s clever scene with Gaston signing in his hunting lodge about how he consumes five dozen eggs every morning, but laughed at his sidekick who let Gaston pummel him… then you certainly know secondary characters can steal the show.
I doubt my secondaries did that, but some of them did have a lot of screen time… and much of that occurred intentionally. Other times (that pesky Mrs. Ann Abbott, in all her self-importance), she showed up, asking– ah, no– telling me where she would stand and to point the camera at her.
Here she is, now. She’ll take her turn first, thank you, very much.
She insists her husband, the mayor follow her in introductions. He is a very important man, and has other places to be than waiting in line. I can hear Ann’s voice rising now. See, I’ve misplaced the original and much larger image of Mayor Abbott to show you his high cheekbones and charming smile. All I can locate is the image within my Scrivener character file… and that’s just not good enough for Mrs. Abbott’s preferences. “Yes, ma’am,” I tell her. “I understand. I’ll keep searching for the original.”
Wait– Mrs. Abbott insists upon introducing their four-year-old daughter, Virginia Abbott. Miss Abbott doesn’t appear in this story (because children should be seen and not heard), but we know Miss Virginia Abbott from her role in The Marshal’s Surrender. Besides, the Abbotts hire quality people who look after the children, freeing their important parents to see to social occasions, work, and personal interests.
Immediate Family Members:
Let’s start with widowed Hank’s first wife. Obviously this woman existed, as Hank is the father of a brood of boys we meet in the opening scenes. I needn’t say one word leaning leaning toward spoilers, and we all know the fact that there was a wife before contributes to the troubles in this story… one way or the other.
Hank’s sons, who play a significant role in this story’s plot (though the book is still significantly a romance) are ages 8 (Austin), 6 (Russell), 4 (Clyde), and 2 (James “Jimmy”). If you’ve already read Unmistakably Yours, you’ll say, “Hey! No, way. The Murphy boys do not look like that.” And I’d have to agree with you. The image served to illustrate LATE 19th century clothing, though boys in 1887 did wear short pants. I’m not sure photography could capture those boys, in their lighter hair than here pictured, freedom to run and disinterest with proper clothing. But still, the image worked as a general reminder of size and ages. And no, though the boys have stair-stepped ages (2, 4, 6, and 8), they do not have birthdays very near one another. Some are quite close to an upcoming birthday and some are not.
Hank’s kid brother, Elias Murphy, became one of Hank’s “boys” when Elias’s mother died, leaving him an orphan. Elias is blond like his mother, and Hank is dark like his, but the brothers (okay, half-brothers) resemble each other strongly. In Unmistakably Yours, Elias is thirteen (in his fourteenth year). Elias grows up to be one of the sheriff’s deputized assistants in The Marshal’s Surrender as a young adult, so I couldn’t help but find the right image to capture Elias in that grown-up role.
Jane’s relatives are just as involved. Here’s Jane’s seventy-two year-old mother:
Jane’s former fiancé plays a role, too. Here’s an era-appropriate cabinet card I labeled “Lawrence Riddle.” Isn’t he handsome?
Other Significant Characters:
Mrs. Carrie Gilbert, wife of the pastor, Kenneth Gilbert, plays more of a role (though very small) in Unmistakably Yours. They contribute a little more in This Noelle, and play small roles in various other series titles. Pastor Gilbert first makes an appearance in Courting Miss Cartwright in 1879 (first title, chronologically), when he filled Pastor Cartwright‘s vacancy. He continues to play a role (minor) in every book in the series, through the current final title in the timeline, The Drifter’s Proposal.
I was pleased to give Rocky and Felicity (Cartwright) Gideon cameo roles in Unmistakably Yours. Just little pieces, a few lines (like they had in The Gunsmith’s Bride), as this couple’s story in Courting Miss Cartwright still lingers with me. Don’t tell Mrs. Ann Abbott, but I quite prefer Mrs. Felicity Gideon‘s company.
Quiet, unassuming Miss Harriet McCormick (whom you’ve met long before Unmistakably Yours, but she won’t remind you) thought she’d get by without an introduction. She’d rather quietly keep the Tea Room running smoothly. She needn’t be in the center of conversation.
One more female matron of Mountain Home, then I’ll leave my photographic inspiration for another time. Remember Bab? Babette Terrell (with her husband Arch) lives next door to the Hudson family (the gunsmiths), where she and her husband were tending the garden (and a wet grandson) one day and met their new neighbor (George Hudson‘s conspicuous mail-order bride in The Gunsmith’s Bride). Bab makes insecure (and obnoxious) Zylphia “Zee” Speare Hudson feel wonderful about herself, hence Bab becomes a dear friend of Zee’s.
Speaking of Zee Hudson, we can’t leave her out. The woman can hold a grudge through the ages. Allow me to introduce Mrs. George Hudson (Zylphia). She won George’s heart through letters, and came to Mountain Home as his bride-to-be, and no matter what that Ina Dimond has to say, George W. Hudson always loved her, Zylphia. First, last, and always.
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