Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mary Ellis Character Interview: Amanda Dunn

A hearty welcome to bestselling author Mary Ellis! 

Mary Ellis has written twelve bestselling novels set in the Amish community and recently completed several historical romances set during the Civil War. The Last Heiress is her latest release. She is currently working on a new mystery series, Secrets of the South, for Harvest House Publishers. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut book was nominated for a 2010 Carol Award. Living in Harmony, won the 2012 Lime Award for Excellence in Amish Fiction while Love Comes to Paradise won the 2013 Lime Award. She can be found on the web at: or

The Last Heiress is a stand-alone historical romance, also set during the American Civil War. My heroine, Amanda Dunn is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. When the blockade of southern ports curtails the supply of cotton, her father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton factor, and also lives in Wilmington. When Amanda falls for a local shopkeeper, class distinction, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance.

Without further ado, here is the interview conducted with Amanda Dunn, Mary's heroine in The Last Heiress.

Has anything significant happened in your life in the past two weeks?
I recently landed in North Carolina during the American Civil War. I’m supposed to restore shipments of cotton to my family’s textile mills and repair the riff with my sister. Abigail happens to be married to a slave-owner, a practice I refuse to tolerate. I find myself at odds with my host and hostess at every turn. Everything seems to have become significant lately.

Your most embarrassing moment?
Thus far my protected and insulated life in England has produced few embarrassments. Since arriving in Wilmington, I’ve had plenty. Look no further than the next question.

What is your first reaction when you meet a handsome gentleman?
Usually I blush, and this time was no exception. After all this is the nineteenth century. Then I engage the gentleman in witty or intelligent conversation. However, since I’m a fish out-of-water here, especially with a war going on, I can’t find any common ground. So I don’t think I’ve impressed this young man in the least.

What happened the last time you spoke to a large group of people?
I had to address the Wilmington business leaders to request a lift of trade restrictions to Great Britain. The session did not go well, needless to say. Southern gentlemen do not take kindly to women conducting business.

What are your hobbies?
Well-born ladies during the Victorian Era had few acceptable hobbies. I read, do needlepoint, and take long walks in the garden in fair weather. I’m enjoying my stay in North Carolina where conventions have been relaxed due to the Civil War.

Siblings? How many? Do you get along?
I had a brother who unfortunately was killed at our textile mill, making me next in line to inherit my father’s company. I also have a twin sister. We used to get along just fine until she eloped with an American.

Any current romantic interests?
I have fallen in love with Nathaniel Cooper who charmed me the moment I entered his store. He’s not what my family would consider acceptable for a mate, yet I can’t imagine my life without him.

Where were you born? What other significant happenings surrounded this event?
I was born in Manchester, England. My identical twin, Abigail, was born minutes after me. Physically, we look exactly the same. However, philosophically we have become complete opposites.

What is your worst fear?
My worst fear is that I will fail at the enormous task I’ve been given due to my father’s illness. Women of my class didn’t dabble in business during the 1860’s. I do wish to make my father—and myself—proud.

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?
The last good meal I had since landing on the shores of America was cooked by my new beau! Nathaniel might be a shopkeeper of humble means, but he has won my heart based on his skills in the kitchen alone!

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?
I am living in my sister’s home. Abigail is married to an American cotton broker and slave-owner. I am vehemently opposed to slavery, an institution that England abolished during the last century. Jackson Henthorne and I barely speak to each other which places my twin sister smack-dab in the middle.

Thank you, Mary, for bringing us this interview. What fascinating insight it brings to your character Amanda!

Mary is offering a SIGNED PAPERBACK copy of The Last Heiress! Enter using the Rafflecopter below. *Giveaway open to residents of U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. How does Amanda reconcile her disapproval of slave owners with the fact that she is purchasing cotton grown by slaves?

  2. Hi, Anonymous! Thanks for commenting!

    Very good question. This may be a part of Amanda's character arc that plays out in the book. I guess you'll have to read the book to find out. ;)

    Also, it's important to note (Mary can probably elaborate on better than I) that with Union blockades, the South was unable to export most of her cotton. Under the "Captured and Abandoned Property Acts" of 1863 and 1864, Union armies could acquire the slave-grown cotton and sell it to Europe. I haven't read TLH yet, so I'm not sure, but Amanda may have been buying the cotton from the Union, and thereby supporting her cause.

  3. Unusual for a father to send a woman to deal with an issue period, let alone of such far reaching consequences.
    It could definitely be an interesting read!
    Thanks for introducing Mary and her novel, Natalie. And to Mary, Thankyou for offering your generosity.


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