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When Agnes Pratt discovered a shocking secret, she fled her hometown in search of a new life. Now, six years later, she has made a predictable life for herself as the lone school teacher in the rugged Dakota Territory town of Penance, which is devoid of romance but filled with work and friendship. But when her childhood sweetheart, James Harris, arrives on the scene, her life threatens to be upended by a man who must never know her secret.
James accepts a position as the town doctor with an ulterior motive—to finally get answers from the girl who left him behind. Undeniably still carrying a torch for “Aggie,” James can tell she’s desperate to keep her distance even if he doesn’t know why. Can James convince Aggie that her secret—and her heart—are safe inhis hands?A Life Once Dreamed is a beautiful story of love and healing that affirms that where you come from matters far less than where you are going.
|Title: A Life Once Dreamed|
By: Rachel Fordham
Number of Pages: 336
Publication Date: 2020
|Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)|
Weight: 11 ounces
Stock No: WW735395
Can you provide a brief description of your new novel, A Life Once Dreamed?
Six years ago, Agnes left James and the city behind and started a new life for herself in the Dakota town of Penance. James was left behind and brokenhearted, but he trudged on and became a doctor despite never truly
losing his desire to be with Agnes. A Life Once Dreamed is the story of these two people, who’ve grown and changed, coming back together and asking themselves if there is a way for them to share a future.
Both of your previous novels, The Hope of Azure Springs and Yours Truly, Thomas, take place in the fictional town of Azure Springs, Iowa. Why did you choose the Dakota territories as the setting for your
I’ll always be fond of Azure Springs, Iowa, and would love to set a million books there. For A Life Once Dreamed, I needed a setting that was a sharp contrast to Buffalo, New York, where the book begins. I wanted a place that would still be rugged and, in many ways, isolated for my heroine to start her new life in. Penance became that town. It’s full of heart and endearing characters, but it’s also a land that challenges the main characters and causes them to learn a new way to live and to look at life. I hope everyone will love this rustic town like I do.
What type of research was required for your book?
There were many small things that required research—the climate, vegetation, and industry of the Dakotas. I also read up on the rules of etiquette in small rural towns and the life of a teacher. But the issue that required the most digging was illegitimacy and adoption laws of that era.
One of your main characters faces stigma for being an illegitimate child. In the story, you explore how illegitimate children were treated during this time period. Can you expand on this?The idea for this novel came after watching the movie Blossoms in the Dust. It tells the story of Edna Gladney, who was a pioneer in the fight against the illegitimate stigma. I watched this and couldn’t stop
thinking about how sad it was that people’s lives were torn apart by something they couldn’t change. After doing research, I discovered that in the time period of my story it was still somewhat possible to keep illegitimacy a secret because birth certificates and official birth records were just starting. Often babies were
quietly claimed by someone else, but if their status was known they were often mocked, labeled, and legally discriminated against. In my main character’s case, her status would have been revealed because of who she was marrying and who knew about her birth. Rather than face the community backlash and public shame, she flees, sparing herself and James.
In the years following when my story takes place, the government required the status of illegitimate children to be listed on birth records, and it wasn’t long before those children were harder to adopt out and labeled asinferior. It became much harder to hide, and the stigma grew even worse until people like Edna Gladney fought to spare these kids.In today’s world, it seems foreign to most that illegitimacy was viewed with such scorn. Yet many of us, if we
dig in our family tree, will find that we have been touched by this in some way. Bringing a light to this oncepopular form of discrimination was not only a thrilling writing experience but one I think is important.
Do you have a favorite character from this story?
I’m fond of this whole cast. If I had to pick a favorite, I think I’d say Tommy, one of Agnes’s school
children, because he’s the perfect comic relief and you never know what will come out of his mouth.
A Life Once Dreamed offers readers a wonderful romantic tale that includes elements of hope and
healing.What do you hope readers take away from this story?
Like always, I hope readers end the book with a happy sign and all the good feelings that rush over you when you’ve been swept away in an engaging tale. Then I hope they pause and think about what they read and
realize they were more than merely entertained. I’d love to know that readers left this story more aware of those around them. Illegitimacy may have lost its stigma, but there are still so many times when we are quick
to judge someone based on factors out of their control. In addition, I hope readers will think about how sometimes the roads we travel in this life take us far away from what we were seeking but somehow take us to
exactly where we are meant to be.
Are you surprised by how your stories take shape, or is the finished product what you envisioned from
I’m always surprised! I typically begin a rough draft knowing where I want to start and where I think I want to get to, but the way I get their always surprises me. The good thing about this is that I tend to write my rough drafts quickly because I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
What are you working on next?
My 2021 book already has me giddy with excitement. This new book takes readers on a journey with a main
character who has a colorful past (years spent in a women’s reformatory), works in a brand-new career field
(dental assistant), and can’t help but think if she can clear her name she might have a shot at a real future.
How can readers connect with you?
Visit my website and sign up for my newsletter: rachelfordham.com
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