Finding Joy

by | Jul 24, 2017 | Historical Fiction, Romance | 3 comments

Hamilton Frenzy

Have you succumbed to the Alexander Hamilton frenzy? Do you belt out the show tunes in the shower, and are you willing to give a left arm for a ticket to the Broadway show?

I’d like to keep my left arm, but this week’s book crush may have me calling in all kinds of favors in an attempt to get tickets to Alexander Hamilton when it comes to The Fox theater in St. Louis next year. The book I’m crushing on is Melissa de la Cruz’s Alex and Eliza, the fictionalized love story of Alexander Hamilton and his sweetheart, Elizabeth Schuyler. The author was inspired to write the novel after seeing the musical with her daughter.

Penniless “Alex” is George Washington’s aide-de-camp when he first meets middle Schuyler daughter “Eliza” at a ball hosted by the Schuyler family in 1777. A prank threatens their romance from the start, but when the two meet up two years later in Morristown, New Jersey, their romance slowly blossoms. Complicating matters, Alex was forced to prosecute Eliza’s father for a war crime, and the Schuyler family is facing financial ruin, meaning poor Alex isn’t a sensible match.

This book is humorous, suspenseful and just plain delightful. Eliza is no delicate flower; she’s opinionated and feisty, and I admired her progressive attitude and desire to support the revolutionary soldiers in any way possible. Because Alex is such a formidable soldier, his love-sick behavior is particularly hilarious. If this isn’t the true love story of Alex and Eliza, I can’t think of a better one.

Giddy Up

I have to admit that I struggled to come up with a plot driven experience for this book. Most of the books I’ve read so far have easily impressed upon me an idea for an experience. For this book, I had to do some serious storming of the brain. In fairness, much has changed since 1777, and I didn’t feel like donning petticoats for the day or getting a smallpox vaccination. Instead, I focused on the idea that Alex and Eliza had to rely on horses for long-distance transportation– whether by riding them or using them to draw carriages. Never having ridden a horse outside of a barn, I invited my friend Mernie to join me for a guided horseback trail ride in Bourbon, Missouri.

Mernie and I picked the hottest day of the year so far for this plot driven experience. Temperatures in Bourbon were predicted to hit 101 degrees Fahrenheit by the afternoon, so we were more than happy to make the hour and half drive to Bourbon to start our trail ride at 8:00am. We met our guide and ranch owner, Carol, who introduced us to our trusty steeds for the day: Mernie rode Dove, a Tennessee Walker, and I rode Joy, a Missouri Fox Trotter. Carol rode Strider and wasted no time in getting us on the trail, a path of her choosing through acres of picturesque property her family has owned since 1811. We walked along the banks of the Meramec River, navigated some rocky terrain through brush, and trotted along a shaded gravel road with two of Carol’s dogs following us the entire way. Mernie and I both repeatedly talked about how peaceful and scenic the experience was, and we had a lovely conversation with Carol about the beauty of making your own path and intentionally enjoying nature.

Our guide Carol helping Mernie mount Dove.

Dove was a true character, and boy was she gassy! I rode behind them for most of the trip. BIG mistake.

I learned I am not a natural horseback rider. I’m sure my mom is cringing as she’s reading this because she once owned her own horse and loves to ride. As Carol rightly pointed out, I likely spent more time un-training Joy than training her to my commands. And I was nervous. I had never ridden western style before, and there is a lot to remember when you first get on that horse! And Carol might have scared the pants off of me, too. . . Nevertheless, I’d like to ride again with Carol to overcome my fear and become more comfortable at riding. I hope Joy will forgive me for being so terrible the first time!

Can you see my forced smile? I was thinking, “Joy, please don’t kill me.”

If you’re ever near Bourbon and want to ride, please go see Carol Springer at Meramec Farm.

It took only three hours to get this staged shot!

This was a way-out-of-my-comfort-zone experience. It was scary but fun, too! Mernie is always positive and happy, and I’ll never forget her laughter when Dove interrupted the silence with her musical farts. Maybe she’s an Alexander Hamilton fan, too? It was a memorable day!

Thanks for reading,





  1. Chall

    Awesome experience! I love this idea . . . doing, based on reading and is inspired me to add a few books to my list of reads.

  2. Shannon Steimel

    Good for you for getting out of your comfort zone!

  3. Mernie Maestas

    I had a great time, and kudos for the daily exercise regime in the 1700s. I was exhausted while Dove did all the work…gas powered! Thanks so much for the invite, Kelly!!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.