Contact the Author |

Book Reviews


Lovell, in her debut biography, recounts the real-life courtship of her maternal grandparents through a treasured set of letters sent from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Jamaica in the early part of the 20th century.

In this well-structured work, Lovell produces an intimate portrait of her family members that encompasses broader themes of immigration, race, religion and community. After a devastating earthquake struck Jamaica in 1907, an educated young man named David Clarence Hurd made a decision to seek his fortune in America, the fabled land of opportunity, “[a]rmed with his Bible, $50, and a letter of introduction.” Six years later, Hurd (the “Papa” of the title) began a correspondence with Avril Louise Cato (who later became Lovell’s “Grandma”). Papa’s letters, presented here as one of the book’s five chapters, were originally published as a four-part series in New York City’s Carib News newspaper in 2010. Readers of that series provided feedback and questions that inspired Lovell to expand the scope of the project; this book includes four chapters of supplemental materials, including photographs, maps, historical context, additional research and reference notes, plus an introduction written by the author’s aunt, the youngest of Papa and Grandma’s six children. Toward the book’s end, Lovell intriguingly looks at her son Kwame’s experiences as a member of “Generation Y,” and compares her grandparents’ experience with current norms of courtship, including recent developments in technology and social media. In this context, readers may marvel at the fact that Lovell’s grandparents didn’t meet or even hear each other’s voice until the day before their wedding in 1914. (Telephone service had not yet been established in Jamaica.) Overall, readers will likely agree with Lovell’s description of Papa’s words: “I actually feel the loneliness of a Jamaican immigrant, miles away from home. I imagine the pain of a black man striving desperately to be successful in America, a foreign and often hostile place. I understand the excitement and anxiety of a fiancé planning for the first meeting of his beloved bride-to-be.”

A remarkable tale of love, faith and perseverance that underscores the importance of preserving family history.

Book Review: Papa’s Letters by Judith C. Lovell | Blogcritics

In Papa’s Letters: Love via First-Class Male by Judith C. Lovell, the author shares her grandparents’ story of love and perseverance. The book is a combination of handwritten letters from “Papa” to his future wife, Avril, along with some history of this time period. The photos included give the book a personal touch that helps the reader to connect even more with the Hurd family.

It was just before World War I, and David Clarence Hurd (Papa) moved to America in hopes of creating a better life for himself. He told Avril in his letters that America was full of hope and promise, while Jamaica was a poor country. His opportunities in America were much greater, which is why he wanted her to come to America instead of him going back to Jamaica. I enjoyed learning about the history of Jamaica, and I was inspired by the strength of the Jamaicans even during so much adversity.

The author found the letters her grandfather had written to Avril Louise Cato and put them together beautifully in this book. I felt connected to the couple even though there were no letters from Avril included. The traditions of the time were evident in his words, he being a gentleman and putting God first in his life and their relationship. I could relate to his longing to be with his love, as anyone who desperately wants something and is forced to wait can understand. The living conditions of the time for immigrants with few resources was tough and “Papa” got along well with no complaining; instead, he saw the positive in America and in his situation. He said that in America, the word “can’t” has been removed because anyone can do anything. He had a very hopeful and positive attitude during his hard times.

Papa’s Letters: Love via First-Class Male is full of sweet and tender moments when “Papa” pours his heart out to the love of his life whom he meets in person for the first time the day before their wedding. It shows how the power of the written word and a shared belief in God can lead to a beautiful and wonderful marriage. They were married nearly 50 years, and this story is an inspiration for all. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read about a real life romance.

Author Judith Lovell Reveals PAPA’S LETTERS – BWWBooksWorld

This June marked the eighth anniversary of National Caribbean American Heritage Month, a time for America to remember that Caribbean immigrants helped shape the United States. One of these immigrants, David Hurd, recorded his experiences through multiple handwritten letters to his long-distance pen pal love. These letters have been collected by his granddaughter, Judith C. Lovell, in the new book, Papa’s Letters: Love via First Class Male.

Papa’s Letters is a book filled with the honesty and charm of private letters, along with a look into life in 20th century America for immigrants. Through family accounts, photographs and the letters, readers follow the remarkable international relationship between Lovell’s grandparents from the beginning to the present.

This book provides readers with an interesting look into the life of immigrants – in particular Caribbean immigrants – in bustling New York City. Some of the letters detail life in the workforce, living arrangements and personal struggles of a new environment.

“I wrote this book to be a gift to the world, so that everyone can share in this extraordinary true story of love,” said Lovell. “It is a tribute to family, my grandfather’s experiences as an immigrant, and his enduring words of wisdom.”

Readers with an interest in history, immigration or romance will find Papa’s Letters to be a revealing look into one man’s challenge to create a better life in Brooklyn, New York, through hard work and love.

Papa’s Letters: Love via First Class Male

By Judith C. Lovell

Hardcover: $23.99

Paperback: $14.95

E-Book: $3.99

ISBN: 9781477299760

Available at, and

About the author

Judith C. Lovell began writing in the 1980’s after an inspirational trip to Africa. Since then, she has written many poems, skits and educational plays, including the award-winning drama “Moore Than we Bargained For.” She was Poet-in-Residence at St. Philip’s Church, has an extensive background in community involvement and currently teaches business courses at ASA College and St. Joseph’s College. Lovell lives with her family in New York City.

# # #

Brooklyn writer unearths her grandparents’ 100-year-old love letters – NY DAILY NEWS

An international tale of passion that blossomed before the age of social media has one granddaughter questioning whether love really comes at first sight.

Judith Lovell remembers her grandfather as a strict man, a disciplinarian and church leader in Brooklyn who had a soft spot for his grandkids. Her grandpa was her lovable “Papa,” but to everyone else, David C. Hurd was a stately and serious man. He died when Lovell was just 13 years old. So she had no idea how deep and passionate her grandfather’s love could be until she discovered the letters he wrote to his bride-to-be nearly 100 years ago.

“I know there’s such a thing as true love because I had grandparents who were in love,” Lovell told the Daily News.

As a child, Lovell always sat on the outskirts, listening furtively while the grown-ups talked about the past. After Lovell had begged her relatives for years her for a peek at the letters, her aunt finally handed her just 15 of the love notes that her grandpa wrote while courting her grandma.

The letters, written in her grandpa’s even and elegant cursive, took Lowell back to New York in the early 1900s.

David C. Hurd immigrated from St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, to New York City in 1907. When the 22-year-old disembarked, he was directed to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where there was a strong immigrant Caribbean community. Even though he was trained as a teacher in Jamaica, he was forced worked a number of odd jobs in New York just to get by. He was tailor and then a custodian at a pool hall. At one point, he operated the search-light on a pleasure boat that headed up and down the Hudson River. He also worked as a salesman at a luxury car dealership.

But he was missing a companion. His elder brother Tom Hurd convinced him to start writing to a lady from the Caribbean. At first, Hurd was against the idea. But after seeing a photo of Avril Cato, he decided to give it a try.

Starting in October 1913, the couple wrote letters to each other, poking and prodding until they got a full, round version of each others’ characters. Hurd would test his potential soulmate by asking her how she’d respond to a number of different scenarios—would she get angry? Would she try to work it out?

He wrote to his faraway friend about the culture shock he’d experienced in America. He told her about his frigid walks to the outhouse, how his landlady placed him on an 11 p.m. curfew and how he’d have to schedule baths in advance.

Although he’d never seen his pen pal, Cato went from being just another lady to his “dearest Avril” and finally to his “only love.” Lovell’s grandpa was falling hard.

In a letter dated Jan. 1, 1914, he responds to Cato’s Christmas card with these carefully written words: “Why should the ocean stretch its vast expanse between us? That is the only thing that makes our courtship difficult. Let us however not rebel. Our destiny will work itself out. There is nothing (that) can successfully stop the mighty rushing flow of love.”

In another undated letter, he writes, “Remember that I am saving the kisses for you and more—that I know how to give them. Hoping to hear from you soon and to see you soon. I remain with tenderest love, your dearest D.”

These letters would be sealed with kisses and dabbed with cologne. Receiving each one was like receiving a gift, Lovell said.


Read more: