Robert W. Spencer Author Talk: A Review
In early April I heard Robert W. Spencer speak at the Bethel Library. It was an exciting
opportunity not only because Robert is a local author, but it was the first in-person adult program the library has held since the pandemic.
Robert spoke about his latest book, Francena Hallett’s Heart: A Novel of Romance and Revenge.
The book is the third volume of his historical fiction “Lizzie Millett Series.” The book concludes
a tumultuous and vengeful relationship between imprisoned murderer Aphia Stevens and Lizzie
Millett and her family. Robert draws on the rich mining traditions and mill life in western Maine
for his stories. His characters reflect how technology and industry affected the lives of people in
rural Maine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Robert is not a lifelong writer. In fact, he spent his career working in a very different field.
He graduated from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and Radcliffe Landscape Design
Seminars (now Boston Architectural College). He ran a design/build residential garden practice
in greater Boston for twenty years.
He only began writing after he retired and moved to Waterford where he volunteers at the
Waterford Library and the Waterford Historical Society.
Robert told us that the idea for the Lizzie Millett series began when he found a musty pressed-
board scrapbook at the historical society. As he leafed through the pages a small stained
envelope slipped out. It was a letter dated 1953 that recounted the family history of Lizzie
Millett. Robert spent the next three years researching her life and the history of the area. The
result was the Lizzie Millett series.
The first book in the trilogy, The Spinster’s Hope Chest, was published in 2018. The second
book, Prospects: Mining Maine for Riches, followed in 2020. Francena Hallett’s Heart came out
My favorite is Prospects, probably because the characters frequent Bethel and Newry.
On his website Robert says: “Research into history opens the door to so many stories. Stories
which add flesh and blood to historical facts. Thorough research is necessary to portray
accurately an era from the past whether it be two hundred years ago or just last year.”
Robert’s books can be checked out at the Bethel Library. You can buy copies of his books at
Bridgton Books, The Tribune, other independent bookstores, and on Amazon. Prospects is
available at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.
I hope Robert’s talk marks the resumption of the Bethel Library’s tradition of hosting meetings
where “Local Writers Speak.”
Nancy Brown, Bethel Library Trustee