April 21, 2013

Kate Rothwell and Alter Ego Summer Devon—Neither Can Imagine Living Anywhere But Connecticut



When most people think of Connecticut, they think “bedroom communities for New York City” Yup, we got that. But that’s not all--we’re also a suburb of Boston.  Hartford is in the center of the state and it’s a two hour drive to Boston and two to New York.  This reveals another fact about Connecticut: there isn’t a lot of state here. We might be huge compared to Rhode Island, but that’s not saying much. 

Property currently for sale in Greenwich CT for 32million dollars. (No, I am not kidding—it’s not even the most expensive I’ve found. )
I was also guilty of thinking Connecticut meant rich people who take the train to New York every morning. When I first moved here almost fifteen years ago, I was surprised by how much of the state has cows and farmland. Even at the southern part of the state there are parts of Connecticut that isn’t crowded with houses or suburbs. We might not be Vermont when it comes to trees and country, but we have a nice selection of rolling hills, lovely small towns, and places that feel uncluttered by people, especially in the western part of the state. E.B. White and other New York writers loved Litchfield County.  Oh and don’t forget, when you head east, we have the ocean. I think we deserve ten extra state points for grabbing a stretch of the Atlantic coastline.  

The contrasts in the state are startling. Fairfield County is one of the wealthiest areas in the country, but Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven are cities with huge financial woes and many poverty stricken citizens.

In some parts of the state, you can find urban blight, multi-million dollar homes and idyllic farmland in a twenty-minute drive. Some of the contrasts are hard to see unless you’re a resident. Hartford public schools are struggling. A few years ago, they nearly lost their accreditation. Go a few blocks--and with no significant change to alert you to the fact you’ve crossed a border--you’re suddenly in West Hartford, which is known for having some of the best schools in the country. West Hartford (called WeHa by hipsters) also has more upscale restaurants than is completely necessary. 

Mark Twain house in Hartford. During his seventeen years in Hartford (1874–1891), Twain wrote many of his classic novels, among them The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).
Hey, in some ways, we are just like the rest of the country. I’ve noticed people in other states—I’m looking at you, Illinois--bragging about their money-grabbing politicians who end up in jail and I’m proud (?) to say we have just as many corrupt politicians around here as anywhere else. Although we tend to specialize in corrupt mayors, our former governor Rowland spent ten months in federal prison.

Mystic River in Mystic.
I would never have guessed I’d end up in Connecticut. Grumbling and whining, I followed my spouse when he got a job here. More than a decade later, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. I feel possessive of our wonderful destinations like the Mark Twain House and Mystic. And yeah, I might be mocking my state, but I grow defensive when any outsiders sneer about it.  

I grew up D.C. and lived in Boston and Maryland before settling in Connecticut.
I’ve written many romances, featuring all sorts of sub-genres, under my own name and as Summer Devon. You can find both of us all over the internet

Please stop by both websites (pick one—they’re connected) and browse the many novels available and, read some pretty humorous bits from Kate and Summer.

I have one book that’s very loosely based on life here in Connecticut. It’s also a romance that has every romantic trope I could think of: sexy billionaire, amnesia, mistaken identity, secret baby. I’d like to give Unnatural Calamities away to a lucky visitor who comments.  

In the 1880's, the New York Police department acted as a money-making arm of the city's corrupt government. Patrolmen collected graft from brothels, bar halls and gamblers. The police pocketed some of the loot, but most of the money made its way into Tammany Hall's coffers. Systematic corruption encompassed nearly every aspect of life in the department: cops had to buy their promotions. If they didn't have ready cash, Tammany politicians would lend them the amount, and charge interest, of course. The promotions weren't cheap - a captain's position went for as much as $15,000.
The press occasionally demanded that the city to clean up the police force but the era of the flagrant kickbacks and corruption declined only until 1894, when a new police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, began a dramatic and well-publicized clean up of the department.
(photos provided by author)

19 comments:

Karen H in NC said...

Well, here's another state I've never visited. Thanks for the travelogue today.

Kate, I liked reading a bit about your NYC books. Have you seen COPPER, the BBC America TV program about the life of cops in 1860's in the Five Points area of NYC. Very good program.

Kate Rothwell said...

Hi Karen,
No, and I want to! I only recently watched Gangs of New York and was sort of disappointed. I'd read the book and thought it would be more like that (but then it would have to be as complicated as the movie Ragtime)

Fran Orenstein said...

I've been in and through CT more times than I can remember. As a New Yorker, we drove up there for great food along the Atlantic Coast, to shop for antiques, to take the kids to Mystic, and four years of traveling back and forth to Boston when my son attended college up there. As part of a magazine job in the 70s, I went to the Coast Guard base in Groton and then to Hartford (of course to an insurance company) to do interviews. So thank you for triggering nice memories of CT. Well, except for the time I missed the collapse of the I 95 bridge by minutes.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I fell in love with Mystic when my husband and I were there in the 1970's. What a picture perfect town by the sea.
I also hear there are bigfoot roaming the rual areas. Who knew? LOL
You really captured the beauty of Connecticut. Lordy, I hope I spelled that right.
All the best to you, Kate and I wish you huge success with your wonderful books.

Tori Scott said...

With a daughter in school in Boston and another who graduated from college in Groton, I've got a special place in my heart for Connecticut. While Texas has wide open spaces, Connecticut has so much history and such cool architecture that it's one of my favorite places to visit.

Not to live, just visit. :) Enjoyed reading your post.

Doug said...

I passed up the opportunity to practice in one of those really, really wealthy communities in Connecticut (Greenwich, maybe?) I was fresh out of residency, though, and thought I wanted to be an academic. Would have had a young partner (his partner unexpectedly died of a heart attack). We hit it off on the phone. But, yeah, I wanted to do research, and it took three years of that before I got my head on straight.

I've read you as Kate and as Summer, and I'm always impressed by how much effort you put into your technique. You really care about the craft, and you never, ever dash off a pile of steaming words.

Unnatural Calamities sounds great, by the way.

Allison Knight said...

Oh, I loved this. Thank you for taking such a delightful look at a little state. Been there, loved the Atlantic, have relatives there, but I've never spent that much time in CT. I'm a little sorry now.

Kristan Higgins said...

I'm a Connecticut Yankee through and through! To me, that means hardworking, polite, excellent driver, unlike our crazed neighbors to the east (Bostonians, I'm looking at you) and the west (New Yorkers, for the love of God, slow down!). I'm one of those who grew up in a farm town; we had more horses than humans. Now, it's definitely suburban, but you can still pet a cow and see a flock of wild turkeys wandering through the yard.

Sugar Jamison said...

I'm a native New Yorker who went to school in WeHa. I worked in the Hartford schools and I couldn't help but to think that that place wasn't what I had in mind when I thought of Connecticut. CT is one of those states that is more than meets the eye.

Meg Allison said...

I'd love to visit the Mark Twain house! So beautiful. :)

Meg Allison said...

I'd love to visit Connecticut -- especially the Mark Twain house. So beautiful!

Kate Rothwell said...

Hi Sugar, Did you go to Hall or Conard? We're still working our way through Hall (when a kid goes, so does the whole family as it turns out).

Kristan! Yeah Boston drivers. Only New Yorkers are as crazy. And us, so polite in the middle.

Allison--CT is still here come visit any time.

I am going to use your quote, Doug. Not a steaming pile of words is really, truly what I aim for. Also, sometime, correct punctuation.

Tori--you should be the Texas rep. Your books are so thoroughly and appealingly TEXAN

Kate Rothwell said...

whoops, my dog started barking at a helicopter and I had to go out and save her from it. Or at least save my neighbors from having to listen to her try to chase it away.

Fran, yeah, insurance agencies! More in Hartford than anywhere else in the world. We are America's filing cabinet! That's a claim to fame. Submarines in Groton, filing cabinets in Hartford--we have it all.

Sarah, bigfoot? Here? really? I'd never heard that. I thought he was a Western state resident. But cool--we could use a good mythical monster.

Kate Rothwell said...

Meg, Envy me. I went on a tour of it last fall with Theresa Stevens when she came to visit our local RWA chapter.


Fiona McGier said...

Psh! A politician in jail for 10 months? That's it? We've got our former governor doing 14 years for corruption! We REALLY know how to do corruption here in the great state of Illinois!

As for driving, there's a billboard often seen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that states some car is "faster than a car with Illinois plates"...so we drive way too fast also! I like to think of our highways as "auto-bahn lite".

Never been to Connecticut. We don't get vacation time much, and have no relatives out that way. Maybe if we ever get the kids' student loans paid off and get to retire, we'll drag our pop-up camper around to visit the states we've never seen, which is most of them! Thanks for sharing your love for your chosen home.

Kate Rothwell said...

Fiona, I admit, I read your state portrait back when you posted it, and I was impressed. You guys have always had some interesting personalities (read "criminals") out there in Illinois.

ANNETTE!! Thank you for doing this. I've gotten a big kick out of reading the state descriptions. They're way more interesting than any official travel guide site. Who knew???

William Kendall said...

It's been awhile since I've been in Connecticut. I must go back.

Karen H in NC said...

Just wondering if Kate ever pulled a winner for the book she was giving away for this post.

Annette Snyder said...

I believe so...last month..an e-book or pdf--thanks