The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull portrays the love story of an Irish immigrant, James O’Hara (1752-1819), and Mary Carson of Philadelphia. James sailed to America in 1772. He first met Mary when she was only 13, but already a beauty. James was smitten, but waited until Mary was much older to wed her. Ambitious to succeed in this new county, James journeyed to the wilds of Western Pennsylvania where he survived the dense forests, rugged mountains, and sometimes hostile Native Americans. Gradually he found success as an Indian agent, businessman, and Captain in the American Revolutionary War. Ultimately, he was appointed Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army by President George Washington. Because the Native Americans trusted O’Hara, he was able to provide the army with crucial supplies. James made frequent trips back to Philadelphia where he wooed the young Miss Carson. The couple married in 1783, settled in Pittsburgh, and raised six children. There James amassed a fortune. Together this devoted couple helped to transform Pittsburgh from a rough frontier backwater into the beginnings of a real city.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the formation of Pittsburgh as a city in 1816. So much history has rolled under our many bridges. There must be something creative in the water because of all the abundant books that have been set in or near Pittsburgh. And they number in the hundreds! They include adult, teen, and children’s books as well as several plays. There are romances, mysteries, and historical fiction…enough to appeal to any discriminating reader.
What follows is just a sampling of the many titles Set in the Burgh!
Escaping from a local orphanage in Pittsburgh in 1852, twelve-year-old Owen Burke steals aboard a floating circus called the River Palace to view a little of the show. But a free black man named Solomon offers to take him on as an assistant animal keeper, and Owen discovers a family among the ragtag members of the circus, including a young elephant named Little Bet. Owen forges friendships with the crew and performers as the showboat sails down the Ohio River and into the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans. Yellow fever and a devastating storm threaten the boat and its crew, but it is the threat of slave catchers that poses the greatest danger of all, and that will put Owen’s loyalty to Solomon and Little Bet to the test. This is an unforgettable tale of prejudice, race, and the relationships that transcend them. Although written for children, The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer will appeal to readers of all ages.
In Seducing Mr. Darcy by local romance author, Gwyn Cready, the reader travels through time from contemporary Pittsburgh to the England of Jane Austen. Flip Allison is a fan of Austen. When she visits a therapeutic massage parlor run by the enigmatic Madame K, Flip is promised the opportunity to “Imagine yourself in your favorite book.” A curious Flip falls asleep and awakens to find herself in Regency England and dangerously close to the handsome Mr. Darcy. There Flip discovers a sensual side to Darcy that Austen only hints at in the pages of her famous novel. When Flip returns to the present, she remembers every detail of her relationship with Darcy. At the next session of her book club where the members will be discussing Pride and Prejudice, she discovers that pages in her copy of the book have been rewritten to include a new character, Flip Allison, and her blissful liaison with Mr. Darcy. Every copy of the book that Flip frantically scans has the same new content! Knowing that this is disastrous, Flip has 24 hours to put the story back on course. She persuades a visiting Austen scholar, Magnus Knightley, to help her right the wrong she has created. Magnus is arrogant, sexy, and handsome; in fact, very much like Mr. Darcy himself. Can these two travel back to Regency England in time to recreate the original plot and undo the damage done by Flip’s first visit? Or will they only make matters worse? And what will happen to their relationship when they return to the present? Cready’s time travel romances are smart and fun. This one is a delightful romp!