Ninety-one-year-old Patryk Rusek hides in his attic, hoping the searchers think he’s escaped. When Lucy finally bursts in, she discovers her beloved grandfather clutching a fat, hand-illustrated, antique book. In it is the story of Donora, the town that shaped America, its people and Patryk himself. Before long, Lucy and her son Owen lose track of their goal to get Grandpa Patryk somewhere “safe” as they’re drawn into the book, back in time, into stories that read like real-life fairytales born of purpose, hard work, and chance.
1910 Donora, Pennsylvania
In the early dawn of Donora, Pennsylvania, the mills make and shape the steel that builds America. Mary Lancos lives in a home on the hill overlooking the town and its mighty Monongahela River. That tiny house bursts with her siblings and boarders. Wind whipping through the walls and windows makes Mary determined to marry well and create a better life.
Shy Pole, Lukasz Musial, arrives in Donora seeking the clear blue skies, green lawns, and better life he’d seen pictured on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill. Life is set on course to achieve the American Dream. All he needs is a wife who believes in him, in his mighty, quiet, strength.
After a series of casual, friendly meetings, fate brings Mary and Lukasz to the river under a snowy, pink moonlit sky and everything changes. Their attraction is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents, she and Lukasz must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.
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“Kathleen Shoop has bejewelled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a romance that goes beyond looks and settles deep into the souls of readers. Every so often, a love story comes that your heart can’t let go. One of those love stories, for me, has been Mr Darcy and Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. Now Mary and Lukasz in The Strongman and the Mermaid will stay with me for a long time to come.”
— Ankita Shukla for Readers’ Favorite
“The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a gorgeous story, a gripping romance with a strong setting. The plot structure is unusual and it has beautiful twists. I love stories with great characters and a well-developed conflict and I always want to see characters evolve through the conflict. It is something that this author does impeccably well. The narrative is emotionally rich…The writing is cinematic, punctuated by exciting dialogue. The Strongman and the Mermaid will keep you awake through the night.”
— Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite
“I was hooked from the very start…The Strong Man and the Mermaid is skillfully plotted and written in beautiful prose. The reader is pulled into a fairytale-like world with strong and memorable characters. The love adventure between Mary and Lukasz is one of the key elements that add to the entertaining potential of this narrative. Kathleen Shoop keeps it real and human, succeeding in creating an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.”
— Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite
The Donora Story Collection Book 1 – After the Fog
Historic, environmental drama wrapped in a love story…
It’s 1948 in the steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous “killing smog.” Public health nurse, Rose Pavlesic, has risen above her orphaned upbringing and created a life that reflects everything she missed as a child. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her doting husband, loving children, and large extended family.
When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbours grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as grey as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harbouring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?
***2013 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist***
***Independent Publisher Awards: 2012 Silver, Best Regional Fiction–Mid-Atlantic***
***National Indie Excellence Awards: 2012 WINNER– Literary Fiction***
“Shoop masterfully details familial struggles, secrets, and consequences that keep the reader riveted till the end.” – Melissa Foster
“A great and satisfying read. Rose’s triumph over adversity touched me deeply. Ms Shoop truly knows how to tug the heartstrings. S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir.” – S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir
“This is a well-written story set authentically in a historic place and time, around an intricate plot which includes most of the elements that provide for a good “soap opera,” or a book that would be accepted by Oprah Winfrey.” – Historical Novel Society
About Kathleen Shoop
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. Kathleen coordinates Mindful Writing Retreats and is a regular presenter at conferences for writers.
I adore writing historical fiction (The Letter series, After the Fog and Donora Stories) but am having a blast writing romance like Home Again, Return to Love and Tending Her Heart (Endless Love series). Thank you so much for the time you take to read.
Guest Review Of The Strongman And The Mermaid By Carly Wilson
‘Strongman And The Mermaid’ is the first book I have read by Kathleen Shoop, and I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review, so here it goes…
Firstly, the book title made me think this was going to a story about something entirely different to what it actually was about, but when I found it was a historical romance I was absolutely thrilled. I absolutely love reading this type of book, and it was exactly the type of story I look for.
Secondly, it was incredibly well-written, a clever concept and felt unique to me as a story.
You learn the story through the narration/perspective of Patryk, an elderly man who is discovered hiding in his attic protecting a book. When he is discovered by his granddaughter Lucy and her son Owen, they notice the book which enables you to learn the plot as Patryk reiterates the story to them. He tells them the story of Donora, and the main characters Mary and Lucasz.
The book makes a compelling read and has me hooked. I love that it was a story within a story for me and it had a very ‘old fairytale’/ ‘tale as old as time’ for me.
I personally have not read a book set in this era, or like this story, so it felt very unique and refreshing which I cannot praise enough as sometimes romances can feel very generic.
I love that Lucasz is a Polish man who has travelled to Denora in the hopes of forging a successful career and to ‘live out the dream’, and I was rooting for the characters to obtain their happily ever after.
The book is believable, beautifully written and poses the question as to whether ‘love is enough?’. Mary and Lucasz meeting is fate and their romance is utterly swoon worthy and sweet.
After reading this book, I am very much looking forward to reading more of Shoop’s work, and would happily recommend this book to other fellow historical romance lovers, or romance readers. It makes for a good read and you will not be disappointed.