REVIEW: September 28, 2017

Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen
by Nancy R. Hinchliff

She Writes Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-631-52194-2.
Reviewed by D Ferrara
Posted on 09/28/2017 Nonfiction: Memoir
(click on book cover or title to buy from
Who hasn't fantasized about running a bed and breakfast? These daydreams generally pop up right after a weekend in a charming little place, or after touring through an old mansion. A misty film falls over reality and visions of fresh baked scones float past, It must have been something like this that inspired Nancy R. Hinchliff to switch gears—and climates—at a time when most people are looking forward to cruises, punctuated with a little gardening. At age sixty-four, thrice divorced, she moves out of Chicago and heads for Louisville. Does she know anyone in Louisville? Only an on-again, off-again friend, Maggie, who barely seems to notice her friend's relocation.
Inevitably, the dream of a bed and breakfast crashes almost at once. Not only is the house Hinchliff buys—a once elegant mansion—woefully unsuitable for a modern bed and breakfast, but the neighborhood is not-quite-ready-for-gentrification. Her first employee is a junkie. Her first guests eat her out of many days worth of food—in one day. She needs five rooms to break even, but only has four.
Although she has the energy of a cyclone, Hinchliff is not a natural at being a hotelier. In her own words, she's "asocial" and a "perfectionist with OCD tendencies," who proves a demanding boss. With candor, she admits to some monumentally dumb moves: opening a bed and breakfast without knowing that the neighborhood is unsavory, getting contractors without contracts, hiring that first employee—the junkie—from a chance encounter on the street. No references even requested. Still, she soldiers on.
In the twenty years she owns the inn, she runs through a lot of employees. Bryan, the lovely young man with a gentle touch for divas; Kari who can't seem to finish a single task, but wants to buy the inn; Quentin, a spoiled momma's boy, and others. As with many small business owners, Hinchliff can't keep the good ones and hates to fire the bad. In her spare time, she writes, blogs and networks. She breaks her foot, finds some more employees, soldiers on. Then, in her eighties, she packs it up—but keeps writing.
The book has some interesting stories and even some recipes. What it lacks is a sense of joy or connection. Hinchliff came to Louisville with little sense of the city, and aside from learning about the Kentucky Derby, she never seems to want to be a part of the place. Her inn could be anywhere.
I never got the sense that she liked the city or running a bed and breakfast. Louisville was a place, and the inn was a challenge, an Everest to climb, and she did it. Her guests were more necessary inconveniences then welcome visitors. Even the ones she professes to like, like the befuddled Mr. Block, are ultimately more nuisance than anything else. She loved learning about Victorian and decorating the inn, which was, apparently, reason enough to do it.
This sense of disconnection is exacerbated by the structure of the book. It is episodic and non-linear, common enough for memoir. The author shares little of her life before or even during her time as an innkeeper. She mentions she has two daughters, is estranged from one and "best friends" with the other, and that's about it. Married and divorced three times. she gives us no sense of her marriages. She spends several chapters sniping about Maggie, her Louisville friend. Why did she pack up thirty years of Chicago life to move to a city where Maggie was the only person she knew? (Maggie and Nancy's friendship ends in a fight over a comforter.) Instead of exploring that, she spends a chapter assessing the multiple failures of a housekeeper, Jason.
She never shares why she was planning to move to Austin with her daughter, or much of anything else about her family. We never learn her other daughter's name, let alone what caused the rift between them.
The last few chapters are largely complaints and self-congratulations, and the assertion that she would do it all again. Why? Because she did it once, she beat the odds. Almost as an afterthought, she picks up a thread from the first chapter—how she passed on her mother's poor parenting to her own daughters—but by this point, we've already formed our impressions. Don't get me wrong: I admire a woman who takes her retirement fund and plunges into a new venture. I want to like her. At least, I'd like to know about her. Hinchliff, however, plays it close to the vest.
In the end, I settled for some interesting stories and pretty good recipes that left me wanting more.

At age 64, Nancy R. Hinchliff retired as a Chicago teacher and opened a bed and breakfast in Louisville. With little money and no business experience, she managed to create an elegant inn. While running the inn, she was an active writer, blogger, and member of Louisville's business community.

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New Book Pre-Sale

Operatic Divas and Naked Irishman: An Innkeeper's Tale, by Nancy Hinchliff, is now available for pre-sale.  It describes the author’s experiences running a B&B in Old Louisville.  Publication date is June 6, but you can preorder it by going to Amazon.  After June 6, look for it at Carmichael’s and other major book outlets. (Old Louisville On The Go Newsletter, 5/4/2017).

by the author

2/18/17.......From Blogging to Memoir

 Nancy Hinchliff talks about her memoir Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen, An Innkeeper's Tale, Available June 6, 2017 at all good booksellers and on

Nice endorsement from Chris Brogan

Video: Click here


Writing Tips to Naked Irishmen: Short Reads on Vermont Books by Margot Harrison, et al.
In: 7 Days Newspaper, Vermont
Re: Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale by Nancy R. Hinchliff, She Writes Press, 240 pages. $16.92.

“The streets and even the sidewalks were frequently littered, and unsavory-looking characters lurked around every corner — homeless people and drug addicts, as well as an occasional prostitute or two.”

In this passage from her memoir, Nancy R. Hinchliff describes the historic Louisville, Ky., neighborhood where, at the age of 64, she purchased an elegant Victorian hoping to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast. A retired schoolteacher with little relevant experience, she nonetheless ended up running her inn for two decades, gathering plenty of stories along the way. From rehab nightmares to unhelpful help to eccentric guests (the title alludes to two particularly memorable ones), Hinchliff weathered plenty of misadventures. An independent-minded, lifelong urbanite who minces no words — — "Moving to Vermont," she writes, "was like moving to a third-world country for me" — she tells her tales in brisk, readable chapters. Each one includes a delicious-sounding recipe from Hinchliff's B&B repertoire.

Hinchliff launches her book on Tuesday, June 13, 7 p.m. at Phoenix Books Essex.
— M.H.

1.       "For anyone who has ever thought about running a Bed & Breakfast, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishman offers a hilarious birds-eye view behind the Victorian curtains…"  (Katharine Hollister, editor, Beatdom Books). 

2.       “A witty and moving story that captures the sense of wonder, self-discovery, and adventure that unfolds when one throws caution to the wind and ventures out alone” (D. Cameron, Editor, Stone Head Press)

3.       “Vivid storytelling with a great purpose…you’ll love this! (Chris Brogan, author and CEO owner of Media Group Inc.)

4.       “When Nancy Hinchliff opens a bed and breakfast in Old Louisville, Kentucky, she soon discovers the Victorian neighborhood she will call home comes with an assortment of curious residents---quirky locals, and unsavory characters--- Her memoir is an all-around enjoyable and amusing read.” (David DominĂ©, author of Voodoo Days at La Casa Fabulosa)

5.       "A light and fun read, often heartwarming and inspiring with a look into what it is like to be a strong, independent woman facing life’s challenges one guest at a time. Wonderful, historical information about Old Louisville,,,with an honest, behind the scenes look at an often glorified business.” (Nina Burns, business owner:  Hoosier Doggy Pet Sitting)

6.       ”Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen is brave, funny, entertaining and educational. I loved her wit, marveled at her courage and tenacity, and routed her on throughout. Great story." ( Teresa Rhyne, author: The Dog Lived (and so will I)

January 7, 2017
John and I actually finished my interview video. We did it at his house in front of the fireplace. It went pretty well, although I was quite nervous about it to begin with. He's editing it this month, so I think it will be ready some time in February. As soon as it is, I plan to post it here, as well as on the many social media sites I'm on.

I also tried to do an audio reading of one of my chapters, but I don't think it turned out so well. John thinks he can piece it
Christmas, 2016
together, so I'll just wait and see.

November18, 2016
The video (book trailer) questions have been worked out and I've been practicing answering them. We've decided to work on the project over Christmas vacation (from U of VT), where John (who is now my publicist) works. We will also be taping an audio piece of me reading from a chapter in my book, a good way to practice for book-signings and readings in local bookstores and libraries.

 November 1, 2016
We are preparing to create a video about my new memoir. My son-in-law, John, will be creating interview questions for me and filming the event. I will post it on my social media and blog sites, as well as here on my new author website. I invite all of you to take a look and post any comments or questions you may have about it , my book , or me.

September 17, 2016
John sent me some interview questions last week so I can start coming up with answers and practice responding to him on camera. The thought of it makes me very nervous. I have always had problems with extemporaneous situations, being a little shy and introverted as some writers are.

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