The Modern Law Library

Lawyer explores English family's ties to Nazi Germany in 'The Mitford Affair'

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The Mitford Affair book cover

When it comes to taking on stories about larger-than-life women, lawyer and author Heather Terrell, who writes under the pen name Marie Benedict, has a long track record.

She has written about novelist Agatha Christie in The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, and in Lady Clementine, she looked back on the life of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine Churchill. Now, in her historical novel The Mitford Affair, she has turned her attention to three English sisters—Unity, Nancy and Diana Mitford—with the rise of Nazi Germany as a backdrop.

Terrell, who once worked as a corporate lawyer in New York, used the research skills that she picked up as a litigator to dig deep into the aristocratic Mitford family and to tell the story of how Nancy is forced to choose between family and country because of her sisters’ ties to Adolf Hitler.

Terrell told the ABA Journal’s Matt Reynolds in this episode of The Modern Law Library podcast that she has no plans to return to law. But she sees parallels between working in legal and writing bestselling novels.

“Previously, I would research [and] craft briefs or arguments on behalf of a client. Now, I write novels as opposed to briefs or arguments, and I advocate on behalf of my historical women. I advocate to write them back into the historical narrative,” Terrell says.

Terrell also explains how she sorts fact from fiction and how she approaches writing about titans of history, including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein—whom readers have seen many times depicted on screen and in books.

Fans of Terrell won’t have to wait long for her next book. The First Ladies, a novel that she co-wrote with Victoria Christopher Murray about the friendship between former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Black educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, will be released June 27.

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In This Podcast:

<p>Heather Terrell. Photo by Anthony Musmanno Photography.</p>

Heather Terrell. Photo by Anthony Musmanno Photography.

Heather Terrell writes under the pen name Marie Benedict, and she is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eight works of historical fiction. A lawyer with more than 10 years of experience, Terrell found her calling in unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. She is the author of several books, including The Only Woman in the Room, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, Carnegie’s Maid, The Other Einstein, Lady Clementine and The Mitford Affair. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

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