Thousand Islands in the Gilded Age

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Historically Speaking, Susan G. Mathis takes us back to the Gilded Age. Come along on the journey to the New York/Canadian borders as I interview her about the Thousand Islands during the USA’s golden era called the Gilded Age…

Saras Surprise book cover
Sara’s Surprise by Susan G. Mathis

Angie: Why did you choose the Thousand Islands as your setting for each book?

Susan: I grew up in the Thousand Islands and there are so many wonderful stories to tell. The Thousand Islands Gilded Age is full of wonderful islands and characters like George Pullman, Frederick Bourne, and hundred of famous people like J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt and others. So I aim to tell at least some of them. You can see photos of the Thousand Islands here:

Angie: Tell us more about the Thousand Islands, please.

Susan: Historically, the U.S. Gilded Age and the Thousand Islands Gilded Age dates from 1870 to the early 1900s. It was a time of great economic growth, a time when European immigrants flooded into the U.S., and a time of railroads expanding America at an alarming rate.

Mark Twain first coined the term in his 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. In it he used satire to show this time period as one of masking social problems with thin gold gilding.

He had a point. It was a time of rich and poor, servant and served, beauty and trouble. In my Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, I show what those days were like through the history and setting of the beautiful Thousand Islands in Upstate New York. My stories are a kind of Downton-Abbey-meets-the-Thousand-Islands, but from the perspective of the servant girl.

In 1872, George M. Pullman invited President Grant to visit his small island during the reelection campaign. In so doing—and thanks to hungry journalists—he launched a season of the rich and famous buying lots of the Thousand Islands and building castles, mansions, and magnificent summer homes. Those islands, those homes have delightful, intriguing, and often poignant stories to tell. And I aim to tell a lot of those stories!

Angie: Isn’t Katelyn’s Choice about President Grant’s visit to the islands?

Susan: Yes! In Katelyn’s Choice, The Gilded Age comes to life in this first installment of the Thousand Islands Series!

Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy.

Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.

Angie: Tell us about Sara’s Surprise.

Susan: In Sara’s Surprise, Sara O’Neill, works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare.

Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?

Angie: What are you working on now?

Susan: I’m having a blast writing stories of the Thousand Island Gilded Age. Book two of the Thousand Islands Gilded Age series comes to life in Devyn’s Dilemma. It’ll release in April 2020.

Here’s the summary of the story: 1910, Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart.

Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her.

Angie: How can readers find you on the Internet?








Author bio: Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit for more.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her wonderful husband, Dale, and relishes each time she gets to see or Skype with her four granddaughters.

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Published by Angela Breidenbach

Angela Breidenbach is an author, genealogist, screenwriter, speaker, and radio personality.