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The Widows

Book 1 in the Kinship series

Now Available!

The Widows is a gripping historical mystery about two women whose lives collide when the man they both love is murdered.

When Lily Ross learns that her husband, Daniel Ross, the town’s widely respected sheriff, is killed while transporting a prisoner, she is devastated and vows to avenge his death.

But just hours after Daniel’s funeral, a stranger appears at Lily’s door: Marvena Whitcomb, a coal miner’s widow, is unaware that Daniel has been killed, and begs to speak with him about her missing daughter.

Soon Lily and Marvena realize that Daniel was not the man that either of them believed him to be—and that his murder is far more complex than either of them could have imagined.

Set in 1920s’ Ohio against the backdrop of coal mining, prohibition and women’s rights, The Widows is inspired by the true stories of two women: Maude Collins, the first female sheriff in the state of Ohio, whose husband died in the line of duty in 1925, and Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the prominent labor and community organizer.

Cool news: The Widows is on the Goodreads List for most anticipated thrillers of 2019!

Read an excerpt here.

Details about the inspiration behind the Kinship series, and the historical backdrop, will be on my blog shortly. Come back soon!


“Deeply felt…the feisty female protagonists do their real-life foremothers proud.”
Publishers Weekly

“Inspired by the true story of Maude Collins, Ohio’s first female sheriff, and prominent labor and community organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Montgomery’s debut novel features two tough-as-nails, strong-willed women whose empathy leaves a lasting impression. A simultaneous examination of women’s rights, coal mining, prohibition, and Appalachian life, make this a fantastic choice for historical fiction fans.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

“An engaging debut… Vivid historical details, an intriguing mystery, and strong female characters.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Jess Montgomery’s gorgeous writing can be just as dark and terrifying as a subterranean cave when the candle is snuffed out, but her prose can just as easily lead you to the surface for a gasp of air and a glimpse of blinding, beautiful sunlight. This is a powerful novel: a tale of loss, greed, and violence, and the story of two powerful women who refuse to stand down.”
—Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Ballad

“Set when coal was king and the Pinkertons its strikebreakers, The Widows is a gripping, beautifully written novel about two women avenging the murder of the man they both loved.”
―Hallie Ephron, New York Times bestselling author of You’ll Never Know, Dear

“In the hard-luck, homespun Appalachian town of Kinship, Ohio, in 1924, two strong women become unlikely comrades to solve a murder in this flinty, heartfelt mystery that sings of hawks and history, of coal mines and the urgent fight for social justice.”
―Julia Keller, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bone on Bone

“Two women, a murdered husband, and the secret life he lived. Set in Appalachian Ohio coal country in 1924, The Widows kept me on the edge of my seat. Jess Montgomery is a masterful storyteller. This is a novel about courage and the good hearts of women, and it builds, almost unbearably, to its stunning end.”
―Lee Martin, author of the Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Bright Forever

“With compassion and skill, Jess Montgomery deftly smashes stereotypes and puts a human face on the cost of coal mining in 1924 Appalachian Ohio. Rich with historical details, yet fast paced, The Widows revolves around a murder investigation. But it was the vivid voices of Lily Ross and Marvena Whitcomb that completely captivated my heart and kept me reading long into the night.”
―Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

“Pulling back the curtain on a time and place where women’s roles were too often overlooked, The Widows is full of characters who surprise those who underestimate them. A rich, empowering, and satisfying read.”
―Jessica Strawser, author of Not That I Could Tell

“You’ll be on the edge of your seat as Lily and Marvena fight for justice in a time and place where it hardly exists . . . they are heroes for every age…”
―Victoria Thompson, bestselling author of Murder on Trinity Place

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Awards & Recognition

  • Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts & Cultural District (MCAD) Artist Opportunity Grant (2018)
  • John E. Nance Writer in Residence at Thurber House (Columbus, Ohio) in 2014 (based on early chapters of The Widows)
  • Individual Excellence Award (2016) in Literary Arts from Ohio Arts Council (based on early chapters of The Widows)
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