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Ariel and her first husband, my great-grandfather Richard Shay.

Ariel in her early 30s.

Meet the real Ariel Atwell...


Ariel Evelyn Atwell was born in Kellettville, Pennsylvania in 1892, the eldest child in a family of staunch Methodists. According to family lore, she was a hell-raiser who rebelled early and often against her parents and their strict religious beliefs. Ariel drank liquor and drove cars in an era when respectable girls didn’t do such things. For some period of time, Ariel was a schoolteacher, but was also rumored to have done a little bootlegging during prohibition. She had epilepsy at a time when there was still a significant stigma associated with the disorder.


She had a fondness for the company of men and was married three times. She was less enamored with children (she had two) frequently leaving her young daughter (my grandmother) in the care of her elderly parents. In between her marriages, she was often forced to move back home for financial reasons, which was a bitter pill for her to swallow.


Ariel Atwell Shay Campbell Grubbs died in 1966 and is buried in an old cemetery in Starr, Pennsylvania not far from her parents, her daughter (my grandmother) and her granddaughter (my mother).


Although Ariel was born more than 60 years after the events depicted in Seven Days, and certainly had no title or wealth, her life in some ways was very similar to that of my heroine Catherine. Both lived in eras when “good” women were expected to be content with a life that revolved around home, family and church.


Ariel Atwell’s contemporaries are now deceased, and the memories of the three living grandchildren who knew her have faded with the passage of time. So we’ll never know whether she was reckless, selfish and self-centered, or just deeply frustrated by the constraints and expectations of her circumstances and the times in which she lived. I do sometimes wonder what she would have thought about seeing her name on the cover of her great-granddaughter's erotic romance novels.


It’s been said that well-behaved women seldom make history. To my great-grandmother Ariel, and all the hell-raising, joyful women throughout history and today, these books are for you!


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