Greater Lehigh Valley

Writers Group

3650 Nazareth Pike, PMB #136
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Fern J. Hill

Novel: Charley’s Choice


Synopsis of Charley’s Choice:

A fictional biography of a well-respected stagecoach driver during the California gold rush era, who, upon death, was found to be a well-endowed woman and one-time mother. Known by most as a quiet loner, the discovery of her true gender astonished many long-time friends and acquaintances.  

As a member of the all male Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Charley was the only woman known to have voted in California during the 1868 federal election, fifty-two years before women won the right to vote. 

Author’s Biography:

Like her protagonist Charley Parkhurst, Fern J. Hill fell in love with horses at a young age and showed Morgans throughout her youth. While she still rides, time for all things horses is now limited due to a different passion—her writing. While working on her own fiction over the past decade, she has served in a variety of positions on the board of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and is a sustaining member of Women Writing the West. Fern has degrees in Equine Science and Business Management and owns a business that edits and formats doctoral dissertations and masters’ theses. Charley’s Choice is Ms. Hill’s first published novel.

 Miss Hill is available for interviews, speaking engagements, workshops, and readings. Contact author through her website:

 Endorsements and Reviews:

“American history is filled with stories of courageous women who served as soldiers, gold miners, spies, and powerful business leaders—in a time when women were forbidden such roles. CHARLEY’S CHOICE is the masterful tale of a frontier woman brave enough to spit in the eye of the Devil himself. Fern Hill’s portrait of Charley ranks as one of the finest characterizations I’ve read in a very long time.”

—KATHLEEN O’NEAL GEAR, author of The Betrayal: The Lost Life of Jesus 

“Fern J. Hill’s debut novel, Charley’s Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst, reveals a remarkable and memorable character. While one may not always agree with Charley’s choices, one can understand them because Fern J. Hill takes us inside Charley’s life in telling this fascinating story. There can be no doubt that here was a person with a great passion for horses and for driving big stages in an era when doing so meant both adventure and danger; and it was clearly not the purview of women. Fern’s fictional biography reminds us of what must be sacrificed to live a full life enduring the trials and triumphs that a dream demands; and of the friends we all need along the way. Kudos to Fern for bringing Charley Parkhurst to life!”

—JANE KIRKPATRICK, best-selling author of A Sweetness to the Soul, winner of the Wrangler Award for the Outstanding Western Novel. 

“Charley Parkhurst’s life might seem unbelievable, but Fern J. Hill makes it not only credible but fascinating. I really loved this book, read it in one sitting because it was impossible to put down. But Charley’s exploits linger—an inspiration, a woman with a mind of her own who did what she wanted and showed ’em all! Thank you Fern J. Hill.”

—JANE CANDIA COLEMAN, author of The White Dove and Tumbleweed

“The story of Charley Parkhurst does not fall easily into place. Details of her life are scarce, yet Fern Hill artfully weaves them like golden threads among the warp and woof of a tale spun from fact and fiction. The result is a seamless tapestry with the rough texture of the old west depicting a woman’s struggle for equality in a world dominated by men. Charley’s Choice is my choice for the best fictionalized biography. A must read.”

—JOHN EVANS, author of The Cut. 

“Charley Parkhurst has long been an enigmatic figure in the Old West. In her first novel Fern Hill has skillfully blended historical research with fiction to give Charley a unique and entirely believable voice. And anyone who loves horses or understands driving them will be doubly rewarded.”

—PERSIA WOOLLEY, author of How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction 

“A richly detailed, vividly imagined, and sympathetic life of the mysterious Charlotte Parkhurst, who courageously defied her gender’s destiny to, literally, become her own man.”

—JOANN LEVY, author of They Saw the Elephant: 
Women in the California Gold Rush

“CHARLEY’S CHOICE by Fern J. Hill is one of those charming historical novels that make you yearn for a time machine. Beautifully written and thoroughly accessible, this novel is also a celebration of the freedom of choice and the importance of equality. Brava!”

—JONATHAN MABERRY, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Bad Moon Rising and Patient Zero

Charley’s Choice: The Life and Times of Charley Parkhurst is a fascinating tale of a well played lifetime masquerade and a good read. The basis in fact and the placement of the tale in the events and social structure of the time fit together to make the narrative whole. The author’s knowledge of horses grounds the story to make it believable for the reader. The inclusion of the few feminine friends adds to the realism as the need is part of the feminine psyche.”

—JO-BREW, author of Marge, Back on Track 

“With lots of pluck, and a little luck, Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst dared to lead a life denied to women of the 19th century. Fern Hill’s excellent grasp of the historical context provide vivid details of daily life, and intimate insights into family structure and the relationships between men and women. Although little is known of the real Charley, Fern Hill’s account of what Charley’s life could have been is fascinating and entirely plausible. In Charley’s Choice, the reader experiences vivid intimate details of one woman’s choice to overcome extraordinary difficulties in a man’s world.”

—JANE W. BORG, archive volunteer, Pajaro Valley Historical Association

“If you liked Forge Books’ “Women of the West” series, you’ll love Fern Hill’s Charley’s Choice. With her passion for historical detail and a good story about a strong, independent woman, Fern spins a fascinating tale that’ll make you want to find out which parts are fictional and which are historical.”

—MELANIE GOLD, writer, editor and amateur historian

The author gives Charley Darkey Parkhurst—a character ripped from the pages of American history—a voice so frisky that you can’t believe she’s been dead for more than a century and a half.  You can feel the broken in leather of her coach driving gloves and smell the manure clinging to her boots and see the determined set of her jaw as she finds a way to buck discrimination against the weaker sex by living as a man. ... Good for Fern J. Hill for resurrecting this remarkable character—I won’t forget Charley, and what she sacrificed to live a life of her own design.

—KATHRYN CRAFT, writer and manuscript editor 

Last night I couldn't sleep after 2 p.m., so I picked up your book to read and I know I won't be able to read anything else till I've finished it.  I am up to Chapter 7!  You have done a marvelous job—


To everyone on the GLVWG list, I just want to say how much I enjoyed reading Fern Hill's book, Charlie's Choice. I bought a copy from her at the meeting after hearing her read the first chapter.  I finished it on Tuesday.  I could not put it down. I think there is a movie here Fern......


“An inspiring story about a strong and determined women who started with nothing but a dream.”  


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