Character Spotlight: Judith Miller’s Hope & Luke (with giveaway)

The Chapel Car Bride



Meet a musician and a miner in

Judith Miller’s

historical romance

The Chapel Car Bride

Bethany House


The Story

Intriguing Glimpse into the Past by Bestselling Historical Author Judith Miller

With her penchant for seeing the best in everyone, Hope Irvine sees a world full of good people in hard places. When her father accepts a position traveling in a chapel car as an on-the-rail missionary, she is determined to join him in his efforts and put her musical skills to good use by serving the mining families of West Virginia, saving their souls, and bettering their lives.

Luke Hughes shares Hope’s love of music and her love of God, but as a poor miner he knows he can offer her no future. Still, the notes she sings resonate in his heart. When she begins to travel with a young mine manager to neighboring counties, Luke can hardly suppress his jealousy. It isn’t until he begins to suspect these missions of mercy might be the mine manager’s cover for illegal purposes, though, that Luke feels justified in speaking up. But how can he discover the truth without hurting Hope or, worse, putting her in danger?

Introducing Hope & Luke

Brief physical description

Hope IrvineHope

Hope has reddish-brown hair, rather unruly curls and hazel eyes. She is a kind-hearted young woman, an only child, who longs for a closer relationship with her father.

Luke Hughes

Luke is a broad-shouldered young man with bottle green eyes and light brown, sun-bleached hair. He works in the coal mines, is protective of his mother and younger siblings, and yearns to serve God.


Luke HughesI usually find pictures, print them and keep them on my desk for reference while I’m writing.

Strengths and weaknesses

Hope has a deep love for children and desire to help others, but she can be wilful. She loves the Lord, but doesn’t always wait on Him for answers—sometimes to her own detriment.

Luke can be overly protective at times and can occasionally be quick to judge others. He has a deep desire to serve God, but sometimes lacks a genuine confidence in his abilities.

Your inspiration for the character

My own father died when I was only six weeks old and I can remember the longing I possessed for a father figure in my life. This was many years before single parent families became more common, so I grew up surrounded by two-parent families. I wanted to reveal some of the yearning young women develop when they have been separated from their fathers for either a few years or a lifetime.

Behind the story

Many years ago a woman in Sunday School gave me an article that had been published in the Roto, a small news magazine published and distributed with Sunday newspapers. The article highlighted chapel cars that had been used during the late 1800s and early 1900s. These churches on wheels provided preachers an opportunity spread the gospel to remote areas of the country. The cars were outfitted as small chapels with living quarters by train manufacturers. Upon completion, the chapel cars would be attached to trains moving throughout the country. (Below is a picture of the Herald of Hope chapel car after a children’s service.)


Since the railroad companies pulled the cars without charge, the cars were sometimes pushed off onto spurs for days or weeks before moving onto their final destination. During those times, the preacher and his wife, if he had one, would hold church services if the town didn’t have a preacher or offer to assist the local preacher wherever needed.

I tucked the article away in a file of possible book ideas that I’ve developed over the years.

Then, about eighteen months ago, I received a call from Tracie Peterson telling me she’d had an e-mail from a woman about chapel cars. I had spoken with Tracie on several occasions about the chapel car concept, so she sent me the email so I could contact the lady. Long story even longer, this lady, Carolyn Poe, had conducted monumental research on chapel cars when she was in the process of writing a thesis for her Master’s degree. She offered to send me her research material if I was interested in the subject. Needless to say, I gave her a resounding “Yes,” and set to work on my proposal for the project. (The picture below shows the interior of the chapel with the preacher at the pulpit and his wife playing the small organ.)


In most of the books that I’ve written, somewhere along the way I’ve felt God at work in the project. Whether it’s how I discover a new idea, something that unexpectedly develops with one of my characters, or a spiritual concept I hadn’t intended, I feel His presence in the project.

As I worked on this book, I was once again awed by how this all came together. From a tiny magazine article I received many years ago, to the kindness of Tracie Peterson sending me the e-mail, to the generosity of Carolyn Poe lending me her mounds of research books and commentaries, a snippet of an idea developed into The Chapel Car Bride.


Living in those tight quarters and conducting many, many church services for both railroad workers (the picture above shows some of the many railroad workers who attended church services as often as possible) and families who were living in sparsely populated areas while facing difficult circumstances, was both challenging and rewarding for the men and women who dedicated themselves to the chapel car ministry.

Discovering the in-depth history of the early chapel cars provided me with more facts and history than I could put in one book, but I hope that The Chapel Car Bride provides readers with a new and interesting glimpse into life on the rails for these preachers and their families.

Thanks Judith!

Relz Reviewz Extras
All Things Miller @ Relz Reviewz
Visit Judith’s website and blog
Buy from Amazon: The Chapel Car Bride or Koorong

RR The Chapel Car Bride

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Share This!

20 Responses to Character Spotlight: Judith Miller’s Hope & Luke (with giveaway)

  1. Yes I have attended Church in an out of the ordinary location. We took a vacation in Tennessee and attended ‘Cowboy Church’ in a theatre and it was AMAZING!!!! Our friends, who happened to be friends first and then ‘he’ was our preacher when we lived in Kansas, they really enjoyed it too.

    wfnren at aol dot com

  2. Every year our church has a church campout where we go to a campsite twenty miles from town and have services there.

  3. I attended church in a small chapel near where my grandfather grew up near Interlaken in Switzerland. It was in the middle of the Alps near the Jungfrau.

  4. I really can’t recall attending anything other than a church .

  5. I have attended church services in the middle of a city park. Very interesting! The church held services there every Sunday until they got a building of their own.

  6. The church we attended when I was little was an old historical building. It used to be a funeral home, and there were also claims it used to have a passage for the underground railroad.

  7. I don’t remember ever attending church in anything other than a church building.

  8. Carrie Turansky

    This sounds like such an interesting story! When we lived in Hawaii our church had baptisms in the Ocean. Those services with singing and then the baptism were always very special. We had church in our home one time when a huge snow storm closed all the roads. We invited the neighbors in and had a great worship time and then a potluck lunch.

  9. Connie Saunders

    As a child, I often went to “camp meetings” and these were held outdoors during the summer. Our county had two denominations that had their own camp and these meetings often occurs nightly for two weeks. My own church held theirs in another County so we weren’t able to go every night.
    I love that you are sharing about the Chapel Cars ministry.

  10. oh this book sounds so wonderful. I love inspirational history novels. Our family was a part of Willow Creek Church when they started in a movie theater. This is where I met my husband. Later my husband and i helped start a church that started in a high school. We joined Christ Community church 25 years ago. Five years ago, we helped start up a new campus for this church in a community center. This campus now has its own building that was at one time a roller rink. (Which I took my kiddos skating to many times) It has been a fun adventure for us. we look forward to how God will be using us next.

  11. I have attended outside church services. I like the sound of this book and I’m looking forward to reading the book.

  12. No, I have never attended church in a building or location out of the ordinary that I would remember. This was a very interesting post.

  13. When our church started out about 25 years ago we met in a high school auditorium . I suppose that’s not totally unusual , but it was certainly different for me .

  14. Yes, we attend church each summer up in the Adirondacks on Chapel Island. You have to take a boat to get there. It is beyond beautiful! :)

  15. Yes, I’ve attended church outdoors under a tent and also at a local park. I’ve also attended church in my pastor’s home.

  16. We lived on Guam for four years in the 70’s . Our Church had lovers on both sides to let the balmy breezes in. But sometimes it let the loud airplane noises in. This was during the last ov the Vietnam years. My husband was in the Navy. We also had services on the beach occasionally. Beautiful place!

  17. I forgot– when I was a kid we had service in a funeral home! I was invited by a friend to go to her church! It was temporary of course.

  18. No I haven’t gone to a church in an unusual location.

  19. yEs we attended church in a theater that was closed down.

  20. I attended church for a year in a Beer Garden. My church was damaged in an earthquake in Mt. Angel OR. It smelled like stale beer but we were there until our church was repaired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *