Hello, reader friends! We are celebrating the release of The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli with a quick visit, my review, and a giveaway!
about the author
Heidi Chiavaroli (pronounced shev-uh-roli . . . sort of like Chevrolet and ravioli mushed together) wrote her first story in third grade, titled I’d Cross the Desert for Milk. It wasn’t until years later that she revisited writing, using her two small boys’ nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Despite a long road to publication, she hasn’t stopped writing since!
Heidi writes women’s fiction, combining her love of history and literature to write split-time stories. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Heidi loves exploring places that whisper of historical secrets, especially with her family. She loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her husband. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.
Share five of your favorites.
H: outdoor activity: Most definitely hiking!
food: Lasagna, ice cream cake, and cheesecake. (I just couldn’t pick one!)
movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
place to visit: the beach
quote: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Mary Lou Kownacki, often used by Fred Rogers
B: Those are some great favorites! I’d love to take your favorite foods on a beach retreat right about now!
Do you have a favorite bookish habit?
H: If the temperature is above 55 degrees, I write outside. Our house is small and I don’t have an office, so during the summer and much of the spring and fall, my office is my porch, which oddly makes a pretty good hiding spot.
B: Wow! Humidity or insects or winter keep me inside most of the year, but I do love my windows!
Share your inspiration behind The Orchard House.
H: Like so many girls and women around the world, I’ve always been captivated by the story of Little Women—a seemingly simple domestic tale that, with its timelessness, explores the complexities of family, friendship, and love. But there was something else that made this tale come alive for me—a childhood visit to the very place where Louisa wrote her beloved story. Orchard House brought Louisa and her novel alive in a new way. I remember being completely captivated by this place where these fictional (and real-life) heroines lived, of beholding the very desk where Louisa wrote her masterpiece. For a child who loved this story, and books in general, this made a real impression on me.
Setting out to write a story involving Louisa and Orchard House, I dug through her biographies, journals, and letters for some interesting, lesser-known morsel about this famed author. When I learned about her time as a nurse in the Civil War, her experiences nursing a certain young blacksmith for whom she held strong feelings for but who would end up dying, and her subsequent near-death experience with typhoid shortly after, I knew I’d stumbled upon something. I thought it might be interesting to have my historical heroine, Johanna, be the sister of Louisa’s “prince of patients.” What if these two women struck up a friendship? What if Louisa offered her a way to Massachusetts? What if Louisa became a mentor to Johanna, who found herself in a difficult marriage?
From this storyline came the idea of women helping women, both in a contemporary story and a historical story. Themes of sisterhood, friendship, forgiveness, and helping the downtrodden—all themes in Little Women—were brought to the forefront of the book to further tie in and give honor to this much-loved story and author.
B: I love the themes of sisterhood, friendship, and forgiveness and I am a long-time fan of Little Women!
What are some of the challenges you faced while writing The Orchard House?
H: While I loved writing Louisa’s character, it was also a bit intimidating to take on such a well-respected woman. I wanted to give her character due justice and not bend her into something for the sake of my story or for convenience. That required a lot of research, which was super fun but it also made me extra cautious. She was a real person—not one I could completely make up in my head!
Louisa was bold where it counted, so very insightful, and cared about the deep struggles of humanity. I can relate to her desire to do something great, to stand up for what she believes in, but to also struggle with her flaws.
B: Thank you for giving us a closer look at her life and personality!
What book(s) are you reading right now?
H: I just finished Amanda Wen’s beautiful debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone (so good!) and am currently enjoyed Charles Martin’s The Water Keeper. I think that man could write a telephone book and it would be amazing. Next on my list will be new-to-me-author Irene Hannon and Hope Harbor.
B: I’m familiar with all of those yet haven’t had a chance to read any of them! Such a sad state of affairs over here!
What is your next release and/or what are you working on now?
H: Right now I’m working on my first series! I found myself pretty sad to think of leaving the world of Louisa May Alcott, so I found a way I didn’t have to. This series will be Little Women meets contemporary coastal Maine with a few surprising twists and turns. While this will be a bit of a departure from my time-slip stories, I’m already falling in love with these characters and I hope readers will too. I’ll be releasing the first book in the series April, 2021. I hope readers will enjoy!
B: Oh yay! How exciting! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Heidi!
about the book
The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli
Two women, one living in present day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong.
Abandoned by her own family, Taylor is determined not to mess up her chance at joining the home of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. But despite attending summer camp at Louisa May Alcott’s historic Orchard House with Victoria and sharing dreams of becoming famous authors, Taylor struggles to fit in. As she enters college and begins dating, it feels like Taylor is finally finding her place and some stability . . . until Victoria’s betrayal changes everything.
While Louisa May Alcott is off traveling the world, Johanna Suhre accepts a job tending Louisa’s aging parents and their home in Concord. Soon after arriving at Orchard House, Johanna meets Nathan Bancroft and, ignoring Louisa’s words of caution, falls in love and accepts Nathan’s proposal. But before long, Johanna experiences her husband’s dark side, and she can’t hide the bruises that appear.
After receiving news of Lorraine Bennett’s cancer diagnosis, Taylor knows she must return home to see her adoptive mother again. Now a successful author, Taylor is determined to spend little time in Concord. Yet she becomes drawn into the story of a woman who lived there centuries before. And through her story, Taylor may just find forgiveness and a place to belong.
As a long-time fan of Alcott’s Little Women (and the many versions and retellings and screen adaptations), I was at first intrigued then completely fascinated by Chiavaroli’s modern-day application of the story and historical portrayal of Louisa herself.
This story’s contemporary cast is authentically flawed and so realistic that they could be the family down the street. A thread of mystery and discovery held my interest captive as my stubborn heart softened from indignant to a reluctant yet wholehearted state of forgiveness on one character’s behalf. The author’s skillful storytelling brought my emotions to life in a precious soul-deep experience.
Masterful points of intersection between the two casts of characters highlight the special connection of past and present so eloquently demonstrated by split-time novels. Louisa is carefully and respectfully portrayed as a supporting character in the historical cast, giving readers a historical insider look while a fictional protagonist takes us deep into the story.
The Orchard House is an emotional and inspiring story that will delight fans of Louisa May Alcott and split-time novels. I highly recommend this book!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own.
Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader friend will win a print copy of The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli.
US only | ends 02/26/21 | giveaway policy
Are you a Little Women fan, reader friends?!
Be sure to add The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli to your tbr!