Utah author Sarah M. Eden had a few surprises as she wrote the historical novel “Longing for Home,” which was released last fall, and the story's conclusion in “Hope Springs” (Shadow Mountain, $15.99), which is scheduled to be released this week.
The story was initially going to be one book.
“But I created such a complex story that it just couldn’t be told in one book,” Eden said in an interview with the Deseret News. Both books are longer than 380 pages each. “I surprised myself on that one.”
The story shares Katie Macauley’s journey as she moves to a town in Wyoming Territory in 1870 that is sharply divided and prejudiced against the Irish immigrants. Katie has spent most of her 26 years earning money to go back to Ireland to restore the land they lost in the Great Famine and to buy a marker for her young sister’s grave.
She has no desire to be drawn into the feud, but she is the housekeeper for Joseph Archer, a non-Irish widower and the main landowner in the valley, and his two children, and her very presence in town fuels the ire of the non-Irish residents. She is a source of hope for the Irish.
Eden, who has Irish ancestry, had wondered what it was like for the Irish immigrants who came to the U.S. during that time period, and she wanted to write a book from an immigrant’s perspective, which would require a change of setting.
“I’ve actually wanted to write this story for a really long time,” Eden said. “It still has that very European flair as the characters are Irish. It’s set here in America, which gives it a different tone.”
Many of the events are based on stories she found that happened to immigrants in that era in Ireland and in the West.
And at the end of “Longing for Home,” Katie had a choice to make — to stay in Hope Springs and help her new friends there or go home to Ireland to be with her ailing parents. Also, a love triangle between Katie, who has no experience, the quiet and steady Joseph and the flirtatious yet hard-working Tavish O’Connor developed.
In “Hope Springs,” the tensions between the Irish and non-Irish continue to escalate as Katie tries to sort out her feelings as she sacrifices her meager savings to help the effort.
It’s a pleasant departure from Eden’s previous books, which have been set in Regency-era England. And the research has created other ideas for other stories set in the American West.
Eden is one of three authors who are regular contributors to the collections of six novellas in Timeless Romance Anthology collections. Eden’s story in the “Love Letter Collection,” which was released last month, is set in Omaha, Neb., in 1867.
A love triangle
Another unexpected element about “Hope Springs” was that two men were interested in Katie.
It wasn’t initially supposed to be a love triangle, Eden said, adding she did have a character who was going to be Katie's love interest.
“Then this other guy kept insisting he ought to get a shot,” she said, declining to say which one was the interloper.
“Both of these men would be a good fit,” Eden said. “I really wanted it to be a hard choice for her. She’s a person who has never really had choices in life. So I felt like it was important for her to have one and be the one to make the decision.”
At the end of “Longing for Home,” she wasn’t sure which one Katie would end up with. As Eden wrote “Hope Springs,” she wrote two versions simultaneously — each with her picking a different man. Then about halfway through, it was apparent which one she would choose.
And Katie also changes and grows as she takes courage and comes to terms with her sister’s death and other events in her past. Her choices and other events are emotional, so keep the tissues nearby.
“Longing for Home” and “Hope Springs” both have Shadow Mountain’s “A Proper Romance” label designating them as clean love stories. In both books, the romance doesn’t go beyond kissing, but there is plenty of emotional tension and longing as the perspective switches between Katie, Tavish and Joseph.
“Longing for Home” is also one of five finalists for the 2013 Whitney Award in the romance category. The Whitney Awards recognize books by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Eden has another book, “As You Are” (Covenant Communications, $15.99), that was published last month and is the next book in her series about seven brothers in the Jonquil family and set in Regency-era England.
“I’ve always been fascinated with Regency England,” said Eden, who is also a fan of Jane Austen. She had researched and read about the time period for several years before she started writing books in 2005. She initially self-published her books, and her Regency romances were picked up by Covenant Communications.
Ideas will come from an event, a social expectation or a character quirk that makes her wonder how life would have been then.
In “As You Are,” Corbin Jonquil, the third oldest brother, is painfully shy. “He can’t hardly speak to another, let along a woman he was interested in,” she said. “I wondered how would that even work? How would you even find somebody?”
The Provo resident is planning to write books about the four remaining brothers.
Writing novellas for the Timeless Romance Anthology collections has pushed her to write a few contemporary stories, too, which is out of her comfort zone, she said.
The novellas have to have a simpler and believable storyline so characters can have a happily ever after in about six chapters.
The challenges in writing extend beyond characters and settings.
Eden was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year and is still adjusting and adapting to it.
“I’m still in that initial stage of adjusting medications and treatments to try to control it,” Eden said of the chronic condition that runs in her family.
She dictates instead of types and has to make sure she rests enough. Most of the books that are being published now were written before her diagnosis, which is one reason why she’s managed to have five books and five short stories published since January 2013. But there were still constant revisions and edits to manage, along with being a wife and mother of two.
Both of her children are in school, so she would write during the day, and during the summer, she would write in the evenings.
“There is an Irish common phrase, ‘It is what it is,’ and that’s the approach we’ve had to take,” Eden said. “You learn to be patient with yourself.”
And that is something her character, Katie Macauley, had to learn, too.
Her next book is a stand-alone Regency-era novel due out this fall.
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