Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm excited that my second book, Courting the Doctor's Daughter, released May 12. I love the book's pretty cover!
Courting the Doctor’s Daughter continues the stories of children who rode the orphan train into Noblesville, Indiana and turned lives upside down, as children are apt to do.
Mary Graves is the town doctor’s daughter, a widow with three sons—two from her marriage and one from the orphan train. A handsome stranger blows into town peddling his “elixir of health.” Mary is outraged by the claim’s Luke makes for his phony medicine. Or so she sees his tonic. Worse, she soon suspects Luke has an interest in her foster son, Ben. That’s when the real trouble begins.

The research that’s necessary to write a novel, especially a historical, is both fascinating and frustrating. Especially when I discover a plot element in my book won’t work…though I can sometimes find a way around it.

To write the first book, Courting Miss Adelaide and Courting the Doctor's Daughter, I researched Noblesville, a real town in Indiana, and the “orphan train.” The history behind the orphan trains fascinates me. Between the years of 1853 and 1929, 250,000-some say, 350,000, orphans or half orphans rode trains from New York City to new homes. The idea to place out orphans originated with a Methodist minister, Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society. Brace saw children working in sweatshops, peddling newspapers and living on the streets in abject poverty, as many as 30,000 at any one time. He decided relocating these children to homes in agricultural areas would give them a chance for a better life. For some, it did. Others lived more like indentured servants than members of a family.

Courting the Doctor’s Daughter also required researching medical practices in 1898, focusing on the use of herbs or medicinal plants in treating illness. I learned many medicinal plants are dangerous if improperly used. Several plants are used in modern medicines. Digitalis comes from foxglove. Horehound eases sore throats and coughing. Horseradish is a potent diuretic. Licorice was used as a laxative. St. John’s Wort helps mild cases of depression. I was surprised to learn that herbs I use in cooking, such as oregano, sage, thyme, also contain healing properties. It’s been fun to see that God created the first medicines.

I needed an ingredient with medicinal properties that fit the image I had of my hero’s medicine. In Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, I found what I sought—catnip. Not only cats appreciate this herb. Uses for humans include: digestion and sleeping aids that also eases colds, colic, nervous headaches and fevers. Catnip was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1842-1882. In more recent times, Varro Tyler, Ph.D. at Purdue, author of The Honest Herbal found a bit of evidence that catnip may be a sedative. Health food stores carry catnip in capsule form. Today it's mostly used to calm fussy infants.

I love history and find research fascinating. Thanks for allowing me to share some of the process.
Blessings, Janet Dean

1 comment:

Pat Davids said...

I love stories about the orphan trains. One of my ancestors arrived in Kansas aboard the train. I look forward to reading your book.