Tuesday, March 12, 2019

SAND CREEK SERENADE by Jennifer Uhlarik, Reviewed by Trixi Oberembt WITH INTERVIEW

Trixi's Review:
I love stories about women in history who bucked tradition and made their path in life outside of what society expected. In this case, Sadie Hoppner practices medicine alongside her brother Ben at Fort Lyon in the Colorado Territory circa 1864. Treating illnesses and mending wounded men has it's own degree of satisfaction for her. Convincing the soldiers of her skill and experience will take a bit more time. Things get even trickier when she encounters a Cheyenne brave named Five Kills and then later treats his injuries after he was attacked by the same soldiers. With tensions already at an all-time high and peace negotiations between both Indians and the Army, these two walk a fine line when they feel an instantaneous draw to one another. How can their opposite polar worlds come together for the good of their people and their hearts?

I have to say I was super impressed with this work of fiction! I found it well-written, engaging and drew me in right away. Not to mention my emotions were running on high throughout the whole thing. My heart definitely ached for both Sadie and Five Kills as they try to navigate the rough waters of what life has thrown them into. My heart also hurt for so many Indians who were senselessly slaughtered, many of them defenseless women and children. There were places in the book where I tears in my eyes as I read the account of the Sand Creek massacre. So many innocent lives lost just because they were viewed as an inferior people, it definitely tugged at my heart!

Jennifer Urlarik did her research and it shows through, so many vivid historical details made for a richly satisfying story that sticks with you long after you finish. All with an underlying love story to smooth the rough edges and made me root for Sadie and Five Kills to find a way to be together. I can't honestly say enough good about this book! There was so much to it for me and ticked so many boxes of what makes a great story. I really hope the author has more coming, they would be my automatic must-read-now.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end where she gives more detail about this story, some of the characters in history she portrayed and shares her research. I found it fascinating and made the book come more alive for me!

*I received a complimentary copy from the author and was under no obligation to leave a review. All opinions are my own. *


Trixi's Interview with Jen:
T: What sparked your story for Sand Creek Serenade? 
J: This story came about because I was brainstorming a novella collection with a theme of “women doing men’s jobs.” I thought a woman doctor would be unusual—there were not very many of them in the Civil War era and the decades immediately following. Then I started searching for a historical event that would allow my heroic female doctor to really show off her medical skills, I came across the Sand Creek Massacre. However, the further into the research of the massacre itself, the more I realized that I could NOT do the story any justice if I wrote it as a novella. So I expanded the story into a full-length novel size story.  

T: Any surprising nuggets you learned when you did your research? 
J: Oh, yes! There were so many interesting and surprising nuggets in my research. I love learning about the Native American cultures, and I discovered little factoids like where the different tribes liked to make their camps. One tribe preferred to make camp in the woods while another preferred open land but with trees nearby. Yet another tribe might want to camp at the river’s edge while others preferred to be back a ways. Little details like that fascinated me. And that was just within the research for the Indian culture. I also enjoyed finding out about the history and origins of certain medical procedures (yes, I’m a nerd. I admit it!), the history of the various historical figures included in the story. There was a TON of research that went into this novel, and I found it all just enthralling.
T: Did you visit the area where you set this story? 
J: I have been to that area of Colorado before, but it was probably fifteen years ago or more. When I was there, I had no idea I would one day write a story about the Sand Creek Massacre, so unfortunately, I have not been to the National Historic Site where the event occurred. But the time I spent in that area long ago is still vivid in my mind as far as the terrain and so forth.  

T: Or, have you ever traveled to a place you wrote about?  
J: I wish this was a little easier for me. I love writing about the Old West above any other genre, but getting to my particular setting for any given book is a bit hard because I live in the eastern half of the US! ROFLOL But when we travel west, I always attempt to combine a little research into whatever area we go to, just in case I’ll ever write a story there in the future.

T: Up to this point, you've only written novellas. How did it feel to write your first full length novel and can readers look forward to more of these from you?  
J: I really enjoyed having the expanded word count to be able to explore the characters, the plot, the setting—all of it. The novellas are great, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many things you can’t explore fully in 20,000 or even 30,000 words. Having 75,000 words to dive into a story gave me room for so much more depth, and it was a refreshing change. I look forward to more novels!

T: What is the hardest part of writing for you?  
J: Getting focused! It takes a while for me to settle into “work mode” and drown out the distractions of emails, instant messages, phones and doorbells ringing, and just sink into that story world I’m trying to create.   

T: The easiest? 
J: Is any of it really easy? LOL No, not really, but I think I do typically reach a point in each story where I’ve gotten to know the characters pretty well and I have a firm grasp of the plot ahead, so things just begin to flow. That’s the “sweet spot” in the storytelling that I love! Of course, that sweet spot shows up at different points, depending on the story. Sometimes it is very early in the plot, and the whole thing pours out easily. Other times, I don’t hit the sweet spot until 9/10ths of the way through the tale. But I always reach that spot, and then I know the rest is going to come more easily.

T: Writers block, do you ever get it and how do you deal with it?  
J: Every writer experiences writer’s block from time to time. My best go-to for breaking the writers blog is to go brainstorm some ideas with my husband or another writing friend. Sometimes it’s not possible to get to them the instant I feel stuck, so I other alternatives are to read a book or do some other creative thing that takes my main focus off the story. I think for me, the trick is to let my brain rest in those blocked moments. The story is still simmering in the background, even when I’m not giving it my full attention, and often, the breakthrough comes when I quit trying so hard.

T: Outside of writing, what are some of your hobbies or interests?  
J: I’m a fairly creative sort, so I enjoy anything from coloring in my collection of grown-up coloring books to sewing to paper quilling and beyond. My husband and I also enjoy traveling, frequenting craft and/or antique shows, or poking around various museums and historical sites. When I want to just unplug and do something mindless, I’ll watch a movie, play games on my computer, or…take a nap!

T: Tell us a little about your family and where you live. 
J: My husband Dave and I met at our little church in 2005, which is kind of a funny story. There were probably about 75 regular attenders on any given Sunday at this church, but we’d both been regular members there for at least a year before we ever began to notice and get to know each other. You’d think in a church that small that you’d know everyone—but somehow we missed each other week after week for a year, maybe more. LOL But once we finally met in the Spring of 2005, we became friends, then romance bloomed, and we married a few years after that. I’m so blessed to have him! Together, we’ve got two children and a grandchild—my husband’s 32-year-old son, my 21-year-old son, and my step-son’s 9-year-old boy. And of course, the fur babies—two cats and two dogs. We live in Central Florida, and Dave and I are “part-time empty-nesters.” My 21-year-old son is a junior in college, so he lives with us when he’s not in school.

T: Is there someone in your life who encouraged you to first write...ie:teacher, parent, friends, etc? Or have you always wanted to be an author?  
J: The writing bug was always in me, I’m pretty sure. I was fascinated with pens, pencils, and paper from my earliest days. But I didn’t really realize I wanted to tell stories for the rest of my life until I was twelve. At that point, I was very fortunate to have my parents encouraging me to chase my dream, as well as a few great middle and high school English teachers who took me under their wing and found some things to praise in the awful early stories I wrote. LOL I feel very blessed that God put so many encouragers in my path. Not just parents and teachers, but great friends who clamored to read my spiral notebooks full of scribblings every day. Knowing that I was entertaining so many kept the creative fire burning. 

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BackCover Blurb:
"Uhlarik's research is sound and her characters are intriguing [in]...this well-constructed story..." ~ Publishers Weekly

Dr. Sadie Hoppner is no stranger to adversity. She’s fought to be taken seriously since childhood, when her father began training her in the healing arts. Finding acceptance and respect proves especially difficult at Fort Lyon, where she’s come to practice medicine under her brother’s watchful eye.

Cheyenne brave Five Kills wouldn’t knowingly jeopardize the peace treaty recently negotiated between his people and the Army. But a chance encounter with the female doctor ignites memories of his upbringing among the whites. Too intrigued to stay away, tension erupts with the soldiers, and Five Kills is injured.

As he recuperates under the tender care of the pretty healer, an unlikely bond forms. However, their fledgling love is put to the test when each realizes that a much greater danger awaits—a danger they are wholly unable to stop, and one which neither may survive.
Available as digital ebook and paperback:


  1. Oh goodness this was so fun to read your answers to my questions Jennifer! Thanks for allowing me to "interview" you, I love learning more about authors. I honestly hope you do write more full length novels in the future because they would be an automatic want-to-read :-) Thanks Debra for this idea and posting both my review and Jennifer's interview. We need to do more of this, I think!

    1. I had a blast, Trixi! Thank you so much. I've got LOTS of other novel-length pieces to come, so stay tuned.


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