The River Queen

River Romance book 1

Stephenia McGee

The Vine Press

October 10th, 2023

The River Queen by Stephenia McGee has readers experience the glitz and glamour of a showboat, along with an immigrant family and their flare for showmanship. There are River pirates, smuggling, some romance, showboats, and a setting of the Roaring 20s. 

Readers find Emmett Carter who is investing with his brother in their inheritance in a steamboat. The boat is attacked by river pirates, and he is thrown overboard. Left with nothing else but his wet and dirty clothes, he is rescued and accepted by the Flynn family who happen to be anchored right next to where he emerges in the water. Aboard the boat, he is accepted as a workhand while he reports his stolen boat and tries to reach out to his brother, who seems to have a dark plan related with the purchase of the boat.

Now aboard The River Queen he realizes that the running of the showboat is truly a family affair including parents, grandparents, and Anola Flynn. She is the lead singer of The River Queen, the family’s showboat. It travels along the Mississippi River to offer their show to different cities and towns along the river. With her dreams of saving the family legacy slipping away, she forges an alliance with Emmett to keep her family afloat and the business running. 

The story has danger and adventure, mystery and suspense, along with family drama.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the series and for this story?

Stephenia McGee: The series idea started with my fascination of the Mississippi River. There’s a lot of history surrounding what has been called the Wicked River, the Big Muddy, and the Mighty Miss, and I thought it would be interesting to highlight the different facets of river life. When I found an autographed copy of an autobiography written by a woman who had grown up on one of the most famous second era showboats, I knew I wanted to bring a life like that to the page. 

EC: What is the role of the pirates?

SM: The river pirates, (or 1920s gangsters, depending on who you ask!) show up in each book in this series. Their criminal empire touches all three sets of characters in the series and serves as the overarching plot thread for the series. 

EC: Describe the showboat The River Queen.

SM: The River Queen is loosely based on the real showboat Bryant’s Showboat, built in 1918. It could seat around 880 people in its theater and focused on family-friendly plays and vaudeville acts. This type of boat consisted of a large barge with the theatre on the bottom floor and the family’s and cast’s living compartments upstairs. It was pushed by a paddlewheel towboat, which also housed the crew.

Painted white with bold red lettering, The River Queen can’t be missed as it navigates the waters. And with a full-scale calliope to blast out a jaunty tune, visitors come from miles around to be whisked away into a night of enchanting entertainment. 

EC: How would you describe Anola?

SM: Anola is probably my favorite character I’ve ever written. She’s fearless in all the best ways. She knows who she is and takes on every day with a sense of adventure. Having lived her entire life on the showboat, she also has a flair for the dramatic. Something that pairs perfectly (and often quite humorously) with her accountant hero.  She can be excitable, exuberant, confounding, does not follow rules, mischievous, confident, frank.

EC: How would you describe Emmett?

SM: In many ways Emmett is Anola’s opposite. He’s lived an orderly, stationary life. At least until he gets entangled with river pirates. Anola turns his world upside down. She challenges him and makes him want to grow. And he helps ground her. Emmet is best described as steadfast, loyal, and true. Emmett likes numbers because numbers never change. There is a steady sense of structure to them. Accounting helps him put his talent with numbers to good use, assisting others with best practices to strengthen their businesses. He’s more cautious. He isn’t proud, but he is loyal. Even to a brother who doesn’t deserve it. Honesty is something he values highly.

EC: What about the relationship?

SM: Anola’s spirit captivates Emmett, and she pulls him out of his shell in ways he never expected. She possesses a light and exuberance for life that invigorates him. Emmett is not what she expected. She always thought she’d end up with an actor, but Emmett’s steady presence and kindness anchors her. She certainly keeps him off balance. Emmett makes her think, challenges her, and makes her feel safe.

EC: Interesting quote:  People hear what they want to hear?  Please explain.

SM: Anola lives a life of showmanship. She knows that people usually enter a situation with their own perceptions and tendencies. Sometimes, no matter what a situation truly entails, people will see what they expect rather than question what is actually true.

EC: Can you describe the importance of his brother and her family?

SM: Family plays a big role in this story. For Anola, family is everything. They are very close, and each decision is considered as a unit. For Emmett, the opposite is true. His brother’s schemes have landed Emmett in a heap of trouble, and to him, family life is frustrating and complicated. He is drawn to Anola’s family and their camaraderie. 

EC: Next book?

SM: Book two, Moonlight on the Mississippi, was released June 11th of this year. Here’s the book description: A lost treasure, a mysterious disappearance, and a deadly family secret—but winning her heart might be the real challenge.

Steamboat Captain Camilla Lockhart discovers a handsome stranger on board with an offer he claims she can’t refuse. If he thinks she will get involved in another hopeless treasure quest, he’s lost his sunbaked mind. Not after what happened to her father. But with her boat falling apart and her crew about to starve, Mr. Gray’s unusual proposal might be her only hope. With a criminal operation’s net tightening around them, the two must battle against time to uncover a lost family treasure and solve a mysterious disappearance before the men hunting them from the shadows discover the dangerous truth.




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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.