Steele Secrets



THE BOOK: Steele Secrets


  Andi Cumbo-Floyd

: Laurie Jensen

: Independently Published Through CreateSpace.

SUMMARY:  When Mary Steele mysteriously finds herself in an old cemetery down the road from her house in a tiny mountain town, she’s not concerned. She’s not even frightened when a ghost named Moses approaches her, or when she has a standoff with a bulldozer. But when her inquiries into the history of the cemetery and the people buried there begin to draw out the worst in the members of her community, Mary begins to be afraid. Will she be able to recover history while keeping the people she loves safe?

Steele Secrets is a story of American history and racism, slavery and family, and the way mystery can lead us to healing. While completely fictional,the book is drawn from real life events where cemeteries have been destroyed – or under threat – because people do not know who is buried in them or do not care. Whether the cemeteries are in urban neighborhoods or in rural countryside, many slave cemeteries in particular and African American cemeteries in specific are under threat.  These themes, historical and current events, and questions about whose responsibility it is to save these historic places are drawn together in the novel.

THE BACK STORY: The idea for Mary Steele’s story came to me after I visited ther cemetery at Neriah Baptgist Church in Buena Vista, VA. Some of my husband’s ancestors are buried there, so we had gone to visit the beautiful graveyard. In the cemetery, I saw several unmarked graves, and I knew that those stones could mark the graves of slaves, people who had been considered the property of other people in that area.

When I got musing about that idea and took what I knew from my work as a historian of slavery, I began to build a story about a slave cemetery under threat . . . and that’s how Mary Steele’s voice reached me.
The book is based on many years work researching, writing about, and working to recover and save the stories and places that were part of the lived experience of enslaved people.  It took me a full year to write the book and then another three months to revise it from third-person to first-person point of view.
WHY THIS TITLE? The book got its title from its protagonist and narrator, Mary Steele, and her name is taken from my husband’s great-great grandmother, whose maiden name was Steele.
The secrets part? Well, that comes up because Mary quickly learns that a lot of people in her hometown have lots of secrets – secrets that have been kept purposely hidden and also things that are secret because of the nature of American history.


“Here’s what I know: Ghosts don’t show up for just anybody.

When it comes to fiction, it’s important to me that an author do her research—and Andi Cumbo-Floyd shined bright in this area. There’s so much history in this book, so I truly commend her for presenting it beautifully.

Mary Steele is definitely a heroine after my own heart because of her courage—something that young adult readers need more of. While in a cemetery, Mary meets Moses, a ghost with a past. The cemetery is supposed to be bulldozed; but as Mary uncovers the secrets of the cemetery, she knows she has to put a stop to it . . . as well as finding justice for those long gone.

“From the moment I met 17 year old Mary Steele, the heroine of Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s new novel Steele Secrets, I wanted to know more about her. This is a young woman of uncommon intelligence and integrity, of gentle courage and a strong heart filled with deeply sensitive emotions. Through a series of strange-but-true circumstances, Mary is moved to take a stand against racism and injustice in the small town she calls home. True to her name she demonstrates nerves of steel as she uses her intelligence and her determination to prevent the town from destroying an old and forgotten cemetery, one that holds the remains of slaves from a local plantation.” — Becca Rowan.

“Cumbo-Floyd has woven so many lovely themes throughout this book, one that she is marketing for young adults, but one this definitely older adult could not put down. These themes are vitally important for people of all ages: appreciation of our heritage, tolerance for those who are different, honoring the past, learning from our mistakes, and combatting evil with good. This would be a great book for classroom reading, or for families to read together, with much to think about and discuss.”

“Steele Secrets was a completely un-put-downable story, and inspired more than a few tears along the way. I’m so glad I got to know Mary Steele, and I’d love to read more about her and where life might take her next. Somehow, I have a feeling wherever it is and whatever she does, she’ll make it matter.”

“A secret calls out to Mary Steele. And as she follows, it opens up an unexpected world of history and danger as Mary and her friends struggle to integrate a new-found history, both hopeful and terrifying, into their small-town world.

This story addresses racial history and the legacy of slavery in a way that’s honest and constructive without ever preaching or convicting. Reading Mary’s story not only entertained me, but also helped me to better understand history and have a greater empathy and understanding for racial issues in our culture today.”
A young girl finds herself confronting racism and prejudice as she uncovers town secrets long buried …and meant to stay buried. Steele Secrets provides excellent prompts for conversations on the legacy of slavery, racism, life after death, and even gender issues. The author weaves history and genealogical research techniques throughout the well researched book. The twists and turns of the plot kept me reading deep into the wee hours of the night. The characters (past and present!) are likeable and the dialogue is believable.”

“I have appreciated Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s previous books and was looking forward to this one, despite the change of style. I was not disappointed. Because while this is not the same kind of book that Andi has written before, it was still one that reflected her kind heart and her desire for racial reconciliation.

“Andi created a cast of strong female characters, which was my favorite aspect of this book. Mary Steele is a relatable, kind teenage girl who can just happen to talk to a ghost. She discovers that a local slave cemetery is about to be bulldozed, and she, along with her mother, friends, and other people in her town, work to save it. I appreciated that while help came in many forms, the women in the book didn’t need to be rescued, but were able to stand on their own feet to do the necessary work.

“I loved the end of the book in particular. It didn’t have the kind of resolution that one might expect, but I felt like it was honest and true, and that resonates more with me than anything else.

“Andi doesn’t back away from the harsh realities of what it meant to own people as property, and how this still has an impact on the way that many view race relations today. But she also included much hope in the narrative, and that hope allows us to accept things that are still not as we might want them to be.” — Alice Chaffins.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m an writer, an editor, and a farmer, and my husband and I steward a beautiful 15-acres at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  I write in the former summer kitchen, where an enslaved woman once cooked for the people who owned our house, and when I’m not writing, I help care for our 4 dogs, 4 cats, 6 goats, and 22 chickens.  My other books include The Slaves Have Names and Writing Day In and Day Out, and folks can get information about those books over at my website,

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My first hope with anything I write is that it captures the imagination and the heart of the reader. If I do that, everything else is just cake.  But in this book, of course, I’m also hoping people become more aware of the threat to enslaved people’s burial places, and I’m hoping that people come to see that racism – as much as we wish it wasn’t so – is still quite alive and well and active today.  Perhaps, Mary Steele’s voice will echo with her readers for a while, and perhaps they will love her and come to love who and what she loves.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Readers can download the first chapter right here on my site – 

LOCAL OUTLETS: Locally in Virginia, the book is available at Fork Union Pharmacy and the Fork Union Village Restaurant.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords

PRICE: $9.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I’d love to hear from people. I can be found over on Facebook, on Twitter, or through my website,






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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

2 thoughts on “Steele Secrets”

  1. Steele Secrets sounds very interesting and also piques my interest in the paranormal. I will be adding this to my “To Read” list. I also will check out the website and other books. Great luck with Steele Secrets!


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