Opening in San Francisco in 1871, this novel ends in Pinal, Arizona in 1888. The first protagonist, Sadie Josephine Marcuse, daughter of a poor immigrant family, despairs of attracting an eligible husband. To improve her chances, she drops the ‘e’ from her surname. ‘Marcus’ sounds better.
A small deception, but it sets the tone for the rest of her life. If facts don’t help the situation, invent a better version. As she matures, makes her living in a whorehouse but always seeking love and respectability, Sadie relies increasingly on her ability to come up with necessary deceptions. Meeting the charming, handsome and apparently respectable Wyatt Earp increases the need for fabrication of fact.
At about the same time as Sadie worries about attracting a husband, the second protagonist, teenager Celie Blaylock, on an Iowa farm, despairs of her life with a narrowly religious father and the impossibility of making a happy marriage. She runs away but also ends up in a whorehouse. There she meets the debonair, irresistible Wyatt Earp.
Both women claim to have been married to the footloose, irresponsible Wyatt, each often having to sell her body to rescue him from his latest self-inflicted disaster. Only one survived as his wife, living to the mid-20th century.
Many of the scenes in this novel take place in whorehouses in the lawless West. The narration, whether told to us by Celie or Josephine, is folksy and natural, giving a strong sense of place and character. It is a rapidly paced book, with twists and heartbreaks maintaining interest throughout. The novel shows evidence of extensive research and a perceptive winnowing of truths, half-truths and deceptions. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, one wonders how close the author has come to the truth about Wyatt Earp.
—Historical Novel Society, Feb. 2022 (Valerie Adolph)
NEVER LET GO
With exquisite detail and a compelling narrative, Pamela Nowak has once again penned a remarkable story and has reset the horrifying events of Lake Shetek, Minnesota in 1862 in our imaginations. The women and their men in Never Let Go come to life as do their hopes and dreams and disappointments. One cannot read this book without wondering how we would have fared in the decisions required: How to survive, how to forgive and how to go on and when to say good-bye. Never Let Go is an extraordinary gift of story-telling.
—Jane Kirkpatrick, NY Times bestselling author of One More River to Cross
“Pamela Nowak, enters history to breathe life into characters. She also questions the events, prejudices, and what went wrong to create this epic cross-cultural conflict and disaster between the Whites and Dakota bands in Minnesota. This fine novel will do more than entertain you—it will move, frighten, and engage you with what likely happened in the hearts and minds of frontier women and children as they faced the worst ordeal of their lives.” –K Lyn Wurth, author of The Not So Quiet Life of Calamity Jane
“In this riveting novel, Pamela Nowak has captured the human spirit in vivid and heart-wrenching detail. The narrative in Never Let Go is wrought with human emotion, a classic story of historical fiction that demands to be read, not only for its historical significance but out of respect and admiration for the women of Lake Shetek. Never Let Go is a must read of the highest degree!” — Phil Mills, Jr., author of Where the Wildflowers Dance
“Rarely has there been such a horrifying book that is also an homage to the bravery of pioneer women. Never Let Go is the kind of novel you become lost in. Don’t miss this involving book.” –Mary Ann Grossmann, Twin Cities Pioneer Press
“Nowak’s precise research and vivid imagination splashes this historic tragedy on the page in stark brilliance. Never Let Go holds the reader’s attention to the very last sentence. It is a must-read.” —True West Magazine (Candace Simar, author of The Glory of Ordinary Time)
A young woman shows how far she’ll go to save her daughter from an awful fate. . . [the] love story is greatly enriched by the historical details Nowak (Changes, 2013) provides on the real-life Elitch’s Gardens, which existed from 1890 to 1994, when it was moved closer to downtown Denver. –Kirkus Reviews, August 1,2015
Nowak brilliantly weaves the history of the actual park into her story and skillfully paints a vivid picture of life there. She deftly handles the delicate topics of incest and PTSD without becoming maudlin. It’s easy to visualize the animals, rides and Caleb’s flowerbeds as conveyed by Nowak’s beautiful prose. –Romantic Times Book Reviews, September 2015, Four Stars
“…the story is heart-wrenching. Nowak is as skilled with settings as she is with emotional tone. Elitch’s Gardens was a real amusement park in Denver, and the rides, animals, and Mary Elitch Long and her husband Tom are brought to vivid life again.” –Historical Novel Society
Librarian Lise Dupree has a secret, one that cost her her last job: her mother is half-Sioux. In 1879, this is an unforgivable offense. Now the head librarian in Omaha, she hides her identity and passes as white. However, with the incarceration of her ailing, elderly aunt and the trial of an important chief looming on the horizon, Lise, though still not revealing who she really is, begins to show her pro-Indian sympathies. Zach Spencer, the prosecuting attorney in the Standing Bear case, disagrees with Lise but is impressed with her legal-research skills, and soon his admiration turns to love. The problem is Lise hasn’t shared her heritage with Zach, and given his beloved grandfather’s attitude toward Native Americans, she’s sure that when he finds out, their relationship will end. Nowak has captured the prejudices of the day in this well written historical romance and has avoided the seemingly omnipresent stereotypes many writers of historical westerns stoop to using. Standing Bear’s landmark trial, which determined whether American Indians were “real” human beings or merely ignorant “savages,” was a vital part of the path that eventually led to their enfranchisement.
— Shelley Mosley, Booklist 8/01/13 Starred Review
Nowak (author of Choices and Chances) earns high marks for creating excellent historical verisimilitude, deep characterization, and serious personal growth for both leads in this romance set during the 1879 trial of Standing Bear, which spurred U.S. legal recognition of Native Americans as people. Lise Dupree hides her quarter-Sioux heritage in order to keep her position as Omaha’s head librarian, but after her beloved aunt is imprisoned by the government, along with her Ponca family, Lise feels torn between doing everything she can to help her aunt and keeping her own secret safe. Meanwhile, D.A. Zach Spencer, obligated by his position to take the case against leader Standing Bear, begins to feel uncomfortable defending unfair laws, putting him in conflict with the mentor who is grooming him to become a Senator and who urges him to take a hard line against Indian rights. During the trial, Lise and Zach simultaneously navigate intense attraction, politics, and conflicted ideas of both what is right and what is personally possible, yielding a warm romance story is that is smart, thoughtful, and encouraging as well as utterly charming. –Publishers Weekly 6/07/13 Starred Review
Set under the backdrop of the famous Standing Bear trial, CHANGES tells the fictionalized story behind the scene, as Lise and her friends work tirelessly to help Standing Bear. An excellent historical novel, CHANGES is one book you will not put down before the end! —Romance Reviews Today
“Nowak’s latest historical romance is largely inspired by real people and events that surrounded the controversial trial of Ponca Indian chief Standing Bear in 1879. The novel is fast-paced, steamy when appropriate and accurately reflects the history of the trial and intended time period. Better still, given the characters’ ongoing smart and sassy dialogue, this novel will appeal to fans of both historical and contemporary fiction.” –Romantic Times Book Reviews, Four Stars
“Pamela Nowak’s Changes, which revolves around the true events of the trial of Ponca Indian Chief Sleeping Bear in 1879, tells the story of Lise Dupree, a librarian who is pulled into the controversial trial when her aunt is arrested. Offering to help Zach Spencer, the District Attorney, Lise finds her views of equality and justice changing. Readers will find the Lise’s job as a librarian refreshing and unique given the 1879 setting, a time when women were still trying to claim their place in the workforce, and will also be able to relate to the themes of adversity and equality.” –“Modern Flair: Historical Romances With Modern Issues” BY RT BOOK REVIEWS, AUGUST 01, 2013
A wicked mother and an ambitious, unethical suitor will stop at nothing to keep Miriam and the man of her heart apart in this gripping story of the Old West that is a cut above the rest. Westerns seem to be on their way back; this is a good one. —Library Journal, 8/01/09
CHOICES is a wonderful romance about thwarted lovers from different stations in life. Miriam has to grow up and see what is most important in her life, but she also has to help her family through their difficulties. Good research by Ms. Nowak shows how the officers and the enlisted men were treated in the 1800s. The enlisted men lived in very rough conditions. The tale will hold the readers’ interest with good dialogue, good pacing, and an appealing, romantic story. This is a romance that readers won’t want to miss. —Marilyn Heyman, Romance Reviews Today
An authentic feel for the times is a high point of Nowak’s compelling novel, which tells a dynamic story fraught with jealousy, misunderstandings and deception. Subplots add engaging characters with problems of their own. –Romantic Times (Four Stars)
“Sarah Donovan is willing to take on any battle. To show that a woman can do anything a man can, she has become a telegraph operator. Incensed that women don’t have the right to vote, she is active in the woman’s suffrage movement. When she sees a gang of bullies shoot a dog, she confronts them and comforts the girls who lost their pet. Undertaker Daniel Petterman doesn’t understand why Sarah doesn’t know her rightful place as a woman. Sure, he’s grateful that she was there for his motherless girls, and he’s begrudgingly thankful that she “borrowed” a horse to help him recover a misplaced body. But he just doesn’t know what to make of her. Nowak’s careful attention to historical detail and inclusion of historical figures who were part of the Colorado suffrage movement enhance the realism of the book. And she has successfully captured the essence of 1876 Denver, depicting it as more than just a shoot-’em-up Old West town. Most important, Nowak has come up with believable, non-stereotypical characters and a snappy plot to create a darned good book.” — Shelley Mosley, Booklist *Starred* review, December 15, 2007
“Nowak’s charming historical romance debut…captures courtship in the Rocky Mountains with flair…” –Publishers Weekly
“It is with a deft hand that Ms. Nowak creates a…satisfying story that is rich in historical detail and drama, and peopled with realistic, likeable characters.” –Romance Reviews Today
“Debut author Nowak’s fascinating tale is a blend of historical facts and fiction that gives readers a view into the fight for a woman’s right to vote, the novelty of being one of the first female telegraph operators and how gossip, jealousy and lies can injure the guilty and the innocent.” –Romantic Times (Four Star review)