I can think of no better way to celebrate than to give you a personal interview with the main characters. I had the pleasure of interviewing Secret Service operative Andrew Darlington on Reading is My Super Power a couple of Saturdays ago. You can read Andrew’s interview HERE. Then come back here and read my interview with Lu. (Or read Lu first and then jump to Andrew.) I had such a blast getting to talk to these characters. And for those who wonder if our characters really talk to us, their authors? Yes. Yes, they do. In my head, my characters are almost as autonomous as my children. I created them (by God’s power and grace), but they have each taken on lives of their own.

Before I introduce Lu to you properly, let me introduce you to her story. (And don’t forget to check out the giveaway opportunities at the post’s bottom.)

Counterfeit Hope  by Crystal Caudill

Trapped by their pasts, is there hope for a future?

When Secret Service operative Andrew Darlington is brought in to support a US Marshal case involving counterfeiters in rural Indiana, he thinks it’s simply the next rung on his climb to the top of his career. But liars can only climb so high–and Andrew is keeping a dangerous secret he doesn’t ever want to get out. When he clashes with the criminal family that took over the town of Landkreis and killed the Marshal he was sent to assist, his past life is in danger of being exposed.

Widow “Lightning Lu” Thorne has only one goal: escape the clutches of the Thorne family with her son. Her decision to be an informant and testify against the Thornes looked like the perfect answer. Until the Marshal ended up dead. Now the tether keeping her tied to her felonious family is tightening, and a forced marriage to someone else in the Thornes’ clutches threatens to kill any hope of escape.

Andrew and Lu find themselves on the same team–unwillingly. They each believe the other to be the enemy to their future plans. And even if they could learn to work together, the secrets they hold could shatter all hopes and dreams. Despite the encouragement of the local preacher, they’re not even sure God can be trusted–much less other humans. Can either of them escape their past–and the family that is willing to kill their own when they smell betrayal?

Purchase Links: Amazon  |  Baker Book House  |  Barnes and Noble  | Books-A-Million  |  Book Depository  |  Bookshop.org  | Christianbook

Now on to our interview with Lu.

Crystal: This story is quite a bit different from Counterfeit Love, and a lot of that is because of who you are and your very challenging past. So why don’t you start off by telling my readers about yourself?

Lu: I’m not exactly your sweet and innocent little lady. In fact, if you saw me while on the same sidewalk, you’d probably cross the street to avoid me. You can pretend you wouldn’t, but I’ve got twenty years of people looking at me in my bold and revealing dresses to combat the lies you tell yourself. There are lots of names they use for my type. Some are a little nicer than others–lady of the night, soiled dove, harlot . . . you get the picture. Not that I am actively a part of that life anymore. I just let people believe that I am. It’s easier that way. Then they won’t look too closely and discover truths I don’t want them to see. 

Crystal: That isn’t exactly the type of heroine I envisioned for Counterfeit Hope. In fact, ALL I envisioned was you being a pickpocket. The other stuff completely blindsided me when you finally chose to trust me with your story. Why did you choose that path to begin with?

Lu: Choose? You think I chose that life? Ha! There are a few who willingly enter that life, but most of us enter because we have no other choice. I was just like any other girl when I was young. I lived in Tennessee with my Ma and Pa. I even went to school for a year. Then the War hit. Ma died, and Pa took me and fled to Colorado to search for gold and silver. Anything he found, he exchanged for drink. When the gold and silver dried up, he exchanged me instead. Finally, he sold me to a brothel where I lived and worked for over ten years. Ain’t much choice for me on that path.

Even getting out I didn’t have much choice. Clint and Irvine Thorne were regulars, and when they had to hightail it out of Colorado, Irvine offered to marry me and take me with him. I wasn’t getting any offers elsewhere, so it was in my best interest to say yes. The Madam wouldn’t allow it, but Ma Frances paid a price for me, and off I went to join them. Had I known what that life would entail, I’m not sure I would have followed Irvine. But then again, I wouldn’t have my son, Oscar, and Oscar is worth everything I’ve been through.

Crystal: Are you hoping that Oscar will grow up to be just like his dad?

Lu: The only thing I want Oscar to share with his father is his looks. While the sweetest of the Thornes, Irvine was only as sweet as a rattler dipped in honey and poised to strike. Cross him when he was drunk or angry, and there was a price to pay. When he was in a good mood, he was sweet as could be and I generally enjoyed being with him. He was good at protecting me from his brother, Clint, and I had high hopes that if I could get him away from his family, there might be a better future for us.

And that’s what I hope for Oscar. If I can just get him away from the Thorne family, maybe he can grow up to be a good and honorable man. One like Pastor Newcomb. I want a future for him as far from the crime life as I can get him, and I’m willing to do anything to get him away. I just have to bide my time for the right moment. Ma Frances would kill me if she knew I was trying to take Oscar away from her.

CC: Why are you afraid of her? Isn’t she just a sweet, old grandma?

Lu: *Snort* A sweet old grandma with poisoned food, talons for fingers, and a derringer at the ready. All the Thornes are scared of their mother, even Clint. Cross her and you ain’t gonna forget it. She regularly poisons our meals just to keep us in line and remind us how much we need her. She keeps a tight rein on her family and whip at the ready if we even get a thought of rebelling. If she finds out I plan on escaping with Oscar, she’ll either sell me to the local brothel to make her money back and watch me suffer, or she’ll just flat-out murder me and bury me next to Irvine.

Crystal: That sounds like a rough existence.

Lu: You got that right. But it’s not forever. Pastor Newcomb tells me that I can leave my past behind and become one of those new creatures. And that’s what I intend to do. For both Oscar and me. And I was so close to succeeding too. But I’m not giving up yet. I can’t. Oscar deserves a better life with friends, an education, and a safe home. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

Cyrstal: What if that “whatever it takes” includes Andrew? I mean you haven’t mentioned him yet, but I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with him lately. 

Lu: That so-called “Doc”? Don’t get your hopes up too much. He’s as much a doctor as I am a saint. I’d bet all the money I’ve ever picked that he’s a con man and thief. I ain’t never been caught picking someone, and that man called me out AND picked ME without my notice. I tell you, he’s not what he seems. If it weren’t for the fact that my only ticket out of the Thorne family was stupid enough to eat a poisoned pie from Ma Frances, I wouldn’t care one wit about Doc Andrew. But until I can make a new plan to escape this family with Oscar, he’s a fun distraction. I pick Doc’s wallet every time I see him, and every time he comes to collect it, he sticks his foot so far in his mouth that I give it a shove so he’ll choke on it. Although, the man does have a bit of a hero streak, the poor fool. He thinks he can cross Clint and save me from Clint’s advances. All that is going to do is tick Clint off and put a target on his head. And Clint doesn’t miss a shot. For Doc’s sake, I hope he wises up. I like him too much to see him as a corpse.

Crystal: I suppose that’s a good thing since he’s the hero of the story.

Lu: What do you mean he’s the hero? I may not be able to read, but I know enough about books to know a heroine and hero end up together in the end. I tell you, there is no way I’ll ever willingly marry again.

Crystal: Willingly being the keyword.

Lu: What do you mean by that?

Crystal: And I think that is a good place to end this interview. If you want to find out what–

Lu: This interview is NOT over. What do you mean by willingly?

Crystal: You’ll just have to read the book to find out . . . or rather you’ll get to experience every time someone reads the book. . .  Over and over and over again. This probably shouldn’t make me so happy. Just trust me, Lu. I have your best interest in mind.

Lu: Trust you? I don’t trust you as far as a can throw you.

Crystal: Probably wise, but you have no choice. Readers, I hope you will pick up Counterfeit Hope and give Lu the chance to have her entire life changed. If you have already read Counterfeit Hope, would you mind leaving a review? Below are the direct links to leave a review, just to make it easier. Thanks so much.

Question for Comments: Is there anything about Lu or Andrew that you found surprising? Anything you’d like to know?

Purchase Links: Amazon  |  Baker Book House  |  Barnes and Noble  | Books-A-Million  |  Book Depository  |  Bookshop.org  | Christianbook

Review Links: Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  | Books-A-Million  |  BookBub  |  Christianbook  |  GoodReads

About Crystal Caudill:

Crystal Caudill is a tea-drinking, book-hoarding, history nerd. Her award-winning stories are ripe with history, danger, love, and hope. When not writing, Crystal can be found playing board games with her husband and boys, caregiving for loved ones, hiding in a book, drinking copious amounts of hot tea, or connecting with readers. You can connect with her at www.crystalcaudill.com or by joining her newsletter crew at bitly.com/CaudillNews.


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Giveaway: Bookload of Hope (LAST CHANCE)

Runs: January 15 – February 15, 2023, 11:59 pm EST

Prize: 1 winner – 8 paperbacks, 2 ebooks

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Giveaway: International Readers ONLY Giveaway

Runs: February 1 – February 28

Prize: 2 Winners – A print copy of Counterfeit Love or Counterfeit Hope to one winner outside of the US. Bookmarks and a signed bookplate will be mailed separately.

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Launch Party Prizes (LAST CHANCE)

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