I’m pleased to share a chat with Bob Kroll, whose The Punishing Journey of Arthur Delaney appeared from ECW Press on June 7, 2022. Inspired by a little-known 19th century court case, the novel concerns a Canadian man who places his three children in an orphanage after the death of his wife. (Though it may surprise us today, this wasn’t an unusual decision for 19th- and even some 20th-century widowers without relatives or servants who could raise their families.) Delaney fights for the Union in America’s Civil War, spends three subsequent years incarcerated as a prisoner of war, and then works his way back to Canada. His mission now is to find his children, but both they and the orphanage are gone. Kroll’s narrative captures the complexity of family bonds and the challenges that confront us as we try to repair—or even just face—the mistakes we’ve made in the past. I loved the novel’s rich characters, haunting evocation of the Canadian landscape, and nuanced portrait of 19th-century life. You can check out The Punishing Journey of Arthur Delaney as well as Bob's other ECW titles on the press's website and buy the book through your local independent bookstore and platforms including Bookshop, Amazon US and Amazon Canada. With warm thanks to Bob for his time and ECW for its always-efficient coordination, here’s our conversation.

Q. You’ve written in many forms and genres over your decades as an author. Could you give readers some background on your career?

I studied history at Providence College and at the University of New Brunswick. I worked on farms and in the woods until embarking on a forty-year writing career. I cut my teeth writing television and radio ads, as well as history-based radio dramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. I wrote shipwreck documentaries for the Discovery Channel and docudramas for Canadian and American museums. I’ve published two anecdotal histories with Nimbus Publishing and three contemporary crime novels with ECW Press.

I realized years ago the one thing I could do reasonably well was write. For better or for worse, I stayed at it for a long time.

19 ON 19: The British Library's UNTOLD LIVES Blog

Written by a variety of scholars, the British Library's Untold Lives blog highlights quirky historical moments, images, documents, and, of course, people in richly illustrated mini-essays that range from the heartbreaking to the hilarious. The list below synopsizes just a few of my favorite C19-related posts from this extraordinary resource.

1. The Bookbinders' Provident Asylum is built in 1843 to provide a refuge for aged and incapacitated book trade workers and their widows, as well as "females who have worked at the business for at least ten years." 


Today I’m delighted to share my conversation with biographer and literary critic Robert Morrison about his most recent book, The Regency Years: During which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love and Britain Becomes Modern. My So19 essay on the book appears here. My conversation with Rob about his edited and annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion appears here and our chat about his biography of Thomas De Quincey can be read here.

Robert Morrison is British Academy Global Professor at Bath Spa University and Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. The Regency Years was shortlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Crown Award and named by The Economist as one of its 2019 Books of the Year. Morrison’s biography of Thomas De Quincey, The English Opium Eater, was shortlisted for the James Tait Black prize. His annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion appeared from Harvard University Press, and for Oxford University Press he edited a selection of De Quincey’s writings. You can hear Rob read from The Regency Years here, read his recent essay on Jane Austen and Netflix's Bridgerton here, and find out more about Rob and his work on his website. The Regency Years is available for purchase through,, or your local bookstore.

Q. The Regency Years conveys a huge amount of information from a huge array of different sources. Before we jump into the content of the book, tell us a bit about your research and writing process.

When I began the book I thought I knew the Regency period quite well. It is brief, beginning in 1811, when George III lapses permanently into some form of insanity, and ending in 1820, when George III dies and his eldest son, who had been ruling Britain as the Prince Regent, becomes George IV. The Regency falls right in the middle of the broader literary movement known as “Romanticism,” about which I have taught and researched and written for many years, and which is typically said to begin with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and to end at some point in the 1830s with the passage of the Reform Bill, or the rise of Charles Dickens, or the crowning of Queen Victoria.

So19 Art: A Startling Event in Regency London

I made this image as a homage to Rob Morrison's The Regency Years, the subject of our latest interview. The view of Regency-era Leicester Square is from the periodical commonly known as Ackermann's Repository, more properly the Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics. (The Internet Archive has digitized a number of volumes should you want to browse this splendid publication.) The hot-air balloon I floated above the scene started as a digitized version of a period engraving before getting some additional decoration in the form of the book cover, which I placed into a circular frame and superimposed onto the balloon. An old wood frame and tongue-in-cheek caption seemed like the perfect finishing touches. Thanks to Rob for a spectacular book—and some delightful inspiration for an afternoon of art-making. 

A So19 SPECIAL: a conversation between JULIE DOBROW and KIMBERLY A. HAMLIN

Most white women in the 19th century had one basic choice in life: whom to marry. Those who dared not marry or, worse, those who chose the wrong husband often faced dire consequences. The worst fate of all, however, was that of what the 19th century and some of the 20th called a fallen woman, the woman who had sex outside of marriage. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, things were starting to change for American women—especially for and because of those who were willing to defy convention—but the sexual double standard remained firmly in place.

Today, So19 is delighted to share a chat between biographers Julie Dobrow and Kimberly Hamlin, both of whom have written vivid biographies of fascinating women, tarred with the “fallen” brush, who were born in the 1850s. Their subjects probably didn’t meet, though Julie and Kimberly like to think that there could have been a chance encounter when each attended the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Whether or not they ever encountered each other, Julie and Kimberly are sure that they’d have had a lot to talk about—and I definitely concur.

So19 readers will know Julie Dobrow from our review of her book After Emily, as well as the lively interview she was generous enough to give us on the book. Kimberly A. Hamlin is new to So19, but we'll be running interviewing Kimberly on her book Free Thinker at the time of its softcover publication this summer. You can find brief bios of both Julie and Kimberly at the end of this piece—but before that, here’s their conversation. Enjoy!

JD: It would make sense to start with a bit of background on our subjects.

KH: I agree. Why don’t you begin?

So19 Interviews: KATE BELLI

I'm so pleased to share an interview with Kate Belli, whose Gilded Gotham mysteries explore fascinating aspects of New York City just before the turn of the twentieth century. Intrigued by history from an early age, Kate earned a PhD in American art and has variously worked as an antiques appraiser, a museum curator and a college professor. Kate has lived many places, among them Florence, Italy; Brooklyn; the American Deep South; and in a cottage next to Monet’s gardens in Northern France. Today she lives and works in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and son. Betrayal on the Bowery, her second Gilded Gotham book, appeared in Fall 2021 from Crooked Lane and can be purchased on Amazon, Bookshop, or at your local independent bookstore; a third installment of the series is slated for publication in October 2022. Find out more about Kate on her website and follow her on Instagram and Facebook. All that said, here's our chat!

Q. You’ve done so many interesting jobs! When did you begin writing fiction? What drew you to writing mystery novels rather than fiction in some other genre?

I started writing fiction some time ago, when I was in graduate school for art history. I think it began both as a reprieve from academic work and as a way to do something more creative with all the interesting history I was researching. When I started writing fiction, I was inspired by Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books, and the Gilded Gotham series began its life as a Gilded Age historical romance, but I found it worked much better as a mystery. While there’s still a romantic subplot, I’ve become more drawn to writing murder than kissing.

So19 Interviews: ANDREA PENROSE

I’m delighted to share my interview with author Andrea Penrose on her fifth Wrexford and Sloane Regency-era mystery, Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens. With a satirical artist and an amateur chemist as protagonists, the series makes rich use of the era’s complex scientific and cultural innovations. While such innovations rarely resulted in real-life murders, Penrose’s novels offer a vivid and realistic sense of the tensions that arose around them. Reading her books, I’m always introduced to a new aspect of the intellectual life of the period and also reminded that our own is far from the only historical period in which conflicts around the interpretation, communication and commercialization of new discoveries reached fever pitch. A voracious reader who’s been fascinated by the Regency ever since she first picked up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Penrose received her undergraduate degree in art (though she also took enough history courses for a major in that as well) from Yale and earned her MFA in Graphic Design from the Yale School of Art, concentrating in publication design. In addition to the Wrexford and Sloane mysteries, she’s the author of seven Lady Ariana books, which she describes as being about “danger, devilry, deception—spiced with a dash of chocolate.” (Let me just add that if more danger came with chocolate, I’d be much less risk-averse.) She blogs at The Word Wenches, which is always a delightful read; you can find out more about Andrea and her work on her website and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens can be purchased on Amazon, Bookshop, and through your local independent bookstore. With warm thanks to Andrea for taking the time to chat with me, here’s our conversation.

Q. What inspired you to choose Regency London as the setting for a detective series? Were you always drawn to that time and place, for example, or did it just allow you to write about particular issues that interested you?

I love the era because it was a fabulously interesting time and place—a world aswirl in silks, seduction and the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars. Radical new ideas were clashing with the conventional thinking of the past. People were questioning the fundamentals of society, and as a result they were fomenting changes in every aspect of life. Politics, art, music, science, social rules—the world was turning upside down.

Romanticism was taking hold, bringing a new wave of individual expression. You had Beethoven composing emotional symphonies, Byron composing wildly romantic poetry about individual angst, Turner dabbling in impressionistic watercolors and Mary Wollstonecraft writing the first feminist manifestos.

Technology was disrupting everyday life as the Industrial Revolution began cranking into high gear. Interest in science was exploding as people were suddenly wanting to understand the world around them and how it worked—geology; the workings of the heavens; the mysteries of the sea. People like Alexander von Humboldt, now considered the father of ecology, and Charles Darwin of evolution fame were starting to look around at flora and fauna and ask Why, Why, Why?

In so many ways, it was the birth of the modern world—and for me, its challenges, its characters and its conflicts have such relevance to our own times.