I absolutely love character interviews. There is just something so fun in getting to know the characters you read and love in a whole different way. Today’s character interview comes from the duel-time novel Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik. Dani Sango is the heroine of the contemporary timeline. Before we dive in getting to know her, let’s take a moment to get familiar with the story.
An Epic Love Story From the Past Brings Closure to Dani’s Fractured Family Root
When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. Among his effects is a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek the help of museum curator Brad Osgood to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it just another forgery?
Brad Osgood’s four-year-old niece, Brynn, needs a safe home, and Brad longs to provide it. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.
Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving God on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians arrive in St. Augustine, God changes their plans. Then when friendship develops between Sally Jo and Broken Bow and false accusations fly, it could cost them their lives.
Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?
CC: Hi Dani! I’m so excited to meet you. Would you please introduce yourself to my readers?
DS: I’m the contemporary heroine of the novel. So what does that mean in terms of the story? Well, I am the estranged daughter of an art forger. I haven’t seen my dear ol’ dad since the day he was arrested when I was two years old. But here we are, twenty-six years later, and I get contacted by an attorney who regrets to inform me that my father has died and left me some kind of an inheritance in St. Augustine, Florida. When I drive up here from my home in Tampa, the attorney hands me a set of keys and an address and tells me Franklin Sango left me his house as part of that inheritance. Needless to say, I’m really confused and more than a little gun shy! Franklin never gave me the time of day, and now he leaves me his house? As if that’s not enough, he’s decorated the place with tons of his forgeries—and he’s got some weird ancient book of Native American artwork in his studio, and an odd message on his answering machine from a museum curator asking about that artwork. I think he was up to no good! The official reading of the will won’t be for a few days yet, so I’m stuck here to poke around the creepy place, ponder why the jerk finally decided to acknowledge my existence, and wonder whether this Native American artwork is his next big con or what. Oh joy!
CC: Oh my! Talk about complicated family relationships. I take it family gathers were not your favorite thing?
DS: Oh, goodness, no! My family is a hot mess. With me being the daughter of a convicted art forger, I’m pretty much treated like an outsider by my mom Jessica, step-dad Neil, half-siblings, and especially my grandfather. Somehow, they all overlook the half of my DNA that comes from Mom and see only the half that comes from Franklin, so they all make me feel like I’m somehow less than them. Family relationships have been hard, and get-togethers are not fun or emotionally healthy for me.
CC: Ugh. That is so hard and heartbreaking. Is it just your family? Or how do you think others view you?
DS: You’d think being raised in the home of my well-respected neurosurgeon step-father and my socialite mother, I’d have had all the benefits that such an upbringing could afford. But my life wasn’t quite so neat and tidy. If you’re talking to my rich, elitist family’s inner circle, who all know I’m the daughter of Franklin Sango, I’m either pitied or treated like a pariah. Growing up in that kind of an environment led me to make some out-of-the-box choices. In order to get away from the toxic private prep school environment, I made the choice to transfer to a public school and make a new circle of friends. I worked in preschools during high school and college, turned down Mom and Neil’s offers of expensive cars and a private university education so I could live the life I wanted to, without their strings attached. Yeah, I’ve got school loans to pay off, but at least I can look myself in the mirror and know I’m being true to myself. I hope, with all of that, that people who aren’t aware of the specter of my questionable parentage see me as a kind, hard-working, semi-responsible woman who’s trying really hard to hold her life together…and managing to succeed some of the time.
CC: That is so hard, but you have achieved much to be proud of. Who is your least favorite person to deal with?
DS: Okay, so this one’s really hard to answer, because nothing and no one in St. Augustine is as they seem at first. Obviously, my family is a problem, as already stated. Beyond that, I could say my least favorite is the tattooed biker dude who sneaked up on me when I first entered Franklin’s house to look around. The guy scared the bejeebers out of me and threatened to call the cops when I had every right to be in Franklin’s house, per the attorney who gave me the keys. Or I could say it was the even bigger Viking wannabe guy who called the biker dude off just a minute later. But then, it turns out, they’re both former business associates of Franklin’s who were just watching over his house since his passing. Good night! They both scared the tar out of me. And that Viking wannabe—Matty Joie—he’s too persistent for my comfort! I mean, he was Franklin’s boss… Not exactly the person I feel like cozying up to. I don’t know if I can trust him, given he was Franklin’s friend. But at least he seems helpful…not exactly the creeper type, even if he does look a little terrifying! In case I didn’t mention it, the guy is huge, tattooed, and looks pretty rough…but like I said, he seems helpful, even if I don’t know whether to trust him.
CC: Yikes! That is definitely an uncomfortable situation. But certainly, not everyone’s questionable. What about the hero of the story? How would you describe him?
DS: Well, there’s the bright spot in all of this. Brad Osgood. He’s…amazing! Tall, sweet, good-looking. He’s the art museum curator I mentioned, and we met in the most unusual way, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how. What I really like about Brad is—he’s got a beautiful heart. His younger brother and sister-in-law got themselves in a bunch of trouble, and Brad’s four-year-old niece, Brynn, needed a safe place to live. Someone to love and raise her. Without batting an eye, Brad stepped up to the plate. He’s so sweet with her, and she trusts him completely. My heart melts every time I watch them together. Yet in spite of all their own turmoil, Brad has taken time to help me ferret out the truth behind some of Franklin’s forgeries—including that Native American art I mentioned. He’s really patient with me, a non-art lover. Well, I shouldn’t say I’m a non-art lover. I’ve always avoided fine art because of Franklin. Never set foot in an art museum and took very few art classes in high school or college because I didn’t want anyone associating me with my father’s crimes. But Brad took all that in stride and is slowly helping me understand and fall in love with art in ways I never thought I could. What can I say, he’s an all-around wonderful guy!
CC: Awwww. He does sound like a wonderful guy. With such a challenging childhood, I’m curious, do you have any happy memories? What’s your favorite one?
DS: Contrary to how I’ve made my life sound so far, it hasn’t been all bad. My best friend, Rachel, and her parents have helped make it bearable. I met Rach after I transferred to the public high school, and we’ve been friends ever since. As stupid as it sounds, going over to her house, spending the night in her middle class neighborhood, binge-watching movies, and just dishing with a girlfriend…it was so deliciously normal! I’ve loved hanging with people who didn’t treat me like I was a leper because of my father’s crimes. Rachel’s family accepted me for exactly who I am and let me be a normal person for a little while. Their place quickly became a safe haven, a place of unconditional acceptance, and their house is one full of good memories.
CC: They sound like a really great family, and I look forward to finding out all the mystery behind these creepy men, the art forgeries, and that Native American journal.
Readers, head over to your favorite retailer to check out Love’s Fortress and what is the truth behind the strange inheritance.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list several times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, electrical engineer son, and four fur children.