“Denise Heinze has written a stirring novel about America’s first pioneers, with particular attention to the women whose pluck and forbearance made it all possible. Temperance Flowerdew’s ‘Brief and True Report’ retells the story of America’s first colony, established by English settlers in 1609, all but destroyed by Powhatan Indians twenty years later, then rescued from oblivion by remnants of Britain’s exploratory fleet. In that saga, Heinze manages to preserve the formal language of the period with a storytelling appetite for narrative, complete with native savagery, thwarted romance, the harsh realities of seventeenth-century ocean travel, and the unpredictable currents that made such explorations so daunting and so frequently fatal.” —C. Michael Curtis, fiction editor emeritus, The Atlantic
Determined to set the historical record straight, and clear her conscience, Temperance Flowerdew—the wife of Virginia’s first two governors—puts quill to paper, recounting the hardships that nearly brought the Jamestown colony to its knees, and the extraordinary sacrifice of her servant girl, Lily.
When she steps aboard the Falcon in 1609, Temperance Flowerdew is not only setting sail from England to the distant shores of America, she’s embarking upon a future of opportunity. She doesn’t yet know how she will make her mark, but in this new place she can do or be whatever she wants.
Willing as she is to brave this new world, Temperance is utterly ill-equipped to survive the wilderness; all she knows is how to live inside the pages of adventure and philosophy books. Loyally at her side, Lily helps Temperance weather pioneer life. A young woman running from lifelong accusations of witchcraft, Lily finds friendship with Temperance and an acceptance of her psychic gifts. Together, they forge paths within the community: Temperance attempts to advise the makeshift government, while Lily experiences the blossoming of first love.
But as the harsh winter approaches, Lily intuitively senses a darkness creep over the colony and the veneer of civilized life threatens to fall away—negotiations with the Indians grow increasingly hostile and provisions become scarce. Lily struggles to keep food on the table by foraging in the woods and being resourceful. Famine could mean the end of days. It’s up to Lily to save them both, but what sacrifice will be enough to survive?
A transporting and evocative story, The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew is a fiercely hopeful novel—a portrait of two intrepid women who choose to live out their dreams of a future more free than the past.
“With a poet’s tongue and painter’s eye, Denise Heinze summons the wonder, horror, and selfless grit of the women who pioneered a new world. Temperance Flowerdew makes compulsive reading.” —Elizabeth Cobbs, bestselling author of The Hamilton Affair
“With careful research, and lyrical and evocative writing, Denise Heinze’s The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew transports the reader to the harrowing seventeenth-century Jamestown settlement. The richly imagined story of two pioneering women who escape a stifling old-world existence, only to face a tempest at sea, and land in a new world of hunger, thirst, and desperation, is captivating from first page to last. Temperance and Lily represent the untold stories of the heroic American Founding Mothers.” —Tracey Enerson Wood, author of The Engineer’s Wife
“The Brief and True Report of Temperance Flowerdew by Denise Heinze is a vivid novel about the winter of 1609–10 in Jamestown, Virginia, America’s first colony. A relentless drought preceded the winter, and a siege by natives of the region blocked access to food. Through the voices of Temperance and her housemaid and friend, Lily, Heinze takes us into the desperate days of what became known as ‘the Starving Time’ in sometimes ruthless detail. This richly researched novel, in an elegant narrative using the vernacular of the seventeenth century, is a must-read for those who love historical fiction and for all who enjoy a compelling drama well told. I read this captivating book straight through.” —Anna Jean Mayhew, author of Tomorrow’s Bread, The Dry Grass of August, and a third novel in progress
“A literary thriller. This remarkable novel infuses the history of the Jamestown experiment with the tale of two women, a mistress and her servant, who find in one another the full measure of sacrifice and survival. This story is spun of silk and rendered in blood.” —Elaine Neil Orr, author of Swimming Between Worlds
Denise Heinze, a former literature professor and a PhD graduate of Duke University, writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She is the author of a scholarly work on Toni Morrison, and the eco-thriller Sally St. Johns. A descendant of Louisa May Alcott, she lives in North Carolina.