About the Book
Book: The Purple Nightgown
Author: A.D. Lawrence
Genre: Christian Historical Suspense
Release date: March, 2021
Marvel at true but forgotten history when patients check into Linda Hazzard’s Washington state spa in 1912 and soon become victim of her twisted greed.
Book 10 in the True Colors series—Fiction Based on Strange-But True History
Heiress Stella Burke is plagued by insincere suitors and nonstop headaches. Exhausting all other medical aides for her migraines, Stella reads Fasting for the Cure of Disease by Linda Hazzard and determines to go to the spa the author runs. Stella’s chauffer and long-time friend, Henry Clayton, is reluctant to leave her at the spa. Something doesn’t feel right to him, still Stella submits herself into Linda Hazzard’s care. Stella soon learns the spa has a dark side and Linda a mean streak. But when Stella has had enough, all ways to leave are suddenly blocked. Will Stella become a walking skeleton like many of the other patients or succumb to a worse fate?
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About the Author
A.D. Lawrence makes her home in Northeastern Nebraska. She has been passionate about writing and true crime for years, and her two obsessions melded into the goal of authorship. She is an active member of the ACFW, writes a true crime blog, won the 2019 Crown Award and was a 2019 First Impressions finalist.
More from A.D. Lawrence
Times have changed. And like so many things, health retreats have experienced their own metamorphosis. Sure, they’ve always catered to people with both spare money and time, but aside from similar clientele, the face of the health spa is nothing like its early 20th century sister.
If you could afford a getaway to a modern-day health spa like The Golden Door, you’d be treated to the luxury of rest. Yoga on the beach. Deep tissue massages. A much-needed break from technology and life’s constant pressures. Mental well-being is valued almost as highly as physical health, and the two are thought to be connected. After days or weeks of pampering, you would return home relaxed, recharged, and ready to dip back into the hustle of the real world.
In 1911, during the time of The Purple Nightgown, the medical community took a diametrically different approach to health. Weight equaled health. The prevailing assumption was that any ailments were directly connected to weight. Thus, ‘fat camps’ grew in popularity. Men and women checked into sanatoriums where the aides put them through grueling exercise regimes and provided them with just enough food to sustain life. No coddling. Not many of us would subject ourselves to the treatments early health spas required.
In this era of already extreme health measures, Linda Hazzard made her mark in Washington State. Obsessed with fasting, she ran her patients through an unfathomable course of ‘diet and exercise’ that proved the undoing of many. She did give massages though, which you’ll learn more about when you read The Purple Nightgown.
Although it’s fun to long for a simpler time while reading historical books and watching shows like Little House on the Prairie, there are some modern ways of thinking and advances in human comfort I’d rather not give up. One of those is the vastly superior spa experience we have today. Somehow, a facial with soothing background music sounds much more appealing than running mile after mile every day with nothing to look forward to but a glass of orange juice or a bowl of canned tomato broth.
Hot stone massage anyone?
A.D. Lawrence is a girl after my own heart with her passionate interest in true crime, and I am so glad that her debut novel is part of Barbour’s True Colors series. From the time that I first heard about the series, I knew that I would read every book; it can be difficult, if not downright impossible, to find a Christian approach to this genre, which mollifies the otherwise horrifying details and adds hope. Even though the stories are fictional, their basis stems from historical American crimes, some perhaps more disturbing than others. In my opinion, The Purple Nightgown fits into the “more disturbing” category, although Lawrence handles it very well, balancing the story with a beautiful romance and life lessons.
Surprisingly, I was not familiar with this particular crime story prior to reading The Purple Nightgown. I will be completely honest and admit that if this was not part of the series, which can be read in any order since they each cover a different crime, I may not have picked it up. As someone with a history of negative medical encounters, this was a difficult story to read at times, but that testifies to how incredibly well Lawrence has translated the experiences of the characters to the reader. I felt a connection to Stella Burke, who suffers from nearly daily debilitating migraines, because I have had long periods of uncontrolled chronic migraine throughout my life, and I empathized with her desperation to be well and to make a difference. Her close friend and chauffeur, Henry Clayton, is my favorite character for his steadfast loyalty and devotion. Certain scenes are so beautifully evocative that I had tears in my eyes.
As for the Institute of Natural Therapeutics run by Linda Hazzard, it at first seems to stretch credulity to consider that people voluntarily submitted themselves to strict fasting regimens and tortuous treatments in order to achieve the promised perfect health. However, in some respects, not much has changed today, as people still search for the latest diet plan or take incalculable risks for the potential of improvement. Gaslighting, as we now call it, also continues to be a problem, contributing to an already burdened system. Perhaps the most shocking element is that Hazzard’s book, Fasting for the Cure of Disease, is available on Amazon in various formats, and the Kindle version is only $0.99! I definitely cannot recommend it.
Despite how full of premonitions the first half to two-thirds of The Purple Nightgown is, the last fifty or so pages proves to be nothing short of harrowing. The edge-of-your-seat suspense bears down as the forces of God and the enemy collide and Stella finds herself forced to “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13,14). Stella is portrayed realistically, with the flaws of her wealthy upbringing as an only child, as is Henry, her opposite in status but a champion when it comes to helping others. Stella finally comes to the realization that “Though she’d chased her own pursuits, God hadn’t changed—His love hadn’t changed. He’d waited for her at the very spot she’d wandered away and welcomed her back with open arms as the father of the prodigal had his errant son.” The use of the color purple and the nightgown is inspired and significant throughout the story.
Recommended for those who enjoy true crime and who don’t mind some details thereof; while lacking anything graphic, there is necessary context within the story that may be disturbing to sensitive readers. The nickname of Linda Hazzard’s institute was Starvation Heights, after all.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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To celebrate her tour, A.D. is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.