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Robyn R. Pearce

Historical Storyteller

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New Release

They Said I Couldn’t Do It: John Mercer Langston, Young Black Lawyer in a White Man's World. A Historical Biographical Novel.

Book 2 in The Freedom Series

‘Black boys don’t need schoolin’,’ said the orphan’s guardian.

t’s 1843, Ohio. Blacks can’t vote, have almost no rights, and as for going to school! What’s the point? But John Mercer Langston yearns to learn. His heart is set on attending college.His illiterate older brother finally relents. John enrols at Oberlin, the most radical college in Ohio.

But what can he do with that education? Be a lawyer? Ridiculous! Law schools slam their doors in his face. And anyway, who would hire a black man?

John and his town are a great match―fighters against ignorance, injustice, and racial persecution. Oberlin is an abolitionist town. Supports runaways. Prevents captures. Rescues captives. Has many conductors and safe houses on the Underground Railroad.

Their actions bring danger from the highest in the land. A David and Goliath battle of wills erupts when John and his tiny town defy the hated Fugitive Slave Act. Legal battles rage. For ten months, September 1858 to July 1859, they remain front-page news across the nation.

Over time, John Mercer Langston has faded into the folds of history. It’s time to honor him again.

Grab your copy now to discover inspirational John Mercer Langston’s first thirty years, and help him take back his rightful place in American history as one of the outstanding black leaders of his century.

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Order Now

This fast-paced and meticulously researched novel is an excellent introduction for young adult readers to the story of the Underground Railroad in the United States. Alternating between the voices of modern-day New Zealand teen Abi and her 19th-century ancestor Alf (who lives in America), the story connects the two protagonists via the magic of time travel. The courage displayed by runaway slaves and their abolitionist allies is brought to vivid life in these pages. Reading Abi and Alf’s stories, one gets both an immersive history lesson and a thrilling tale that keeps the pages turning. Highly recommended.

NW Reading Maven - Amazon


Reviews for the first book in the

Freedom Series:

It Happened on Fifth Street

1800s slavery in what would become the United States is an emotive subject. If handled badly, or deliberately ‘Hollywood-esque’ stereotypical, a novel can be at best an uninteresting read, at worst, bordering on racism. It Happened On Fifth Street, however, is neither. It’s a super novel with a delicate subject matter sensitively handled. Equally, the timeslip element is well done, in a believable manner.

The author takes us into a different world, where attitudes towards slaves, slavery and prejudice are very different to our own today, and helps the modern reader to make sense of these pre-Civil War attitudes. Suitable for boys as well as girls (and don’t we all welcome a novel which will attract young male readers!) and probably a cliché, but this is the sort of novel which should be compulsory reading in all schools, worldwide. Very enjoyable.

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Helen Hollick, Discovering Diamonds Blog

Secrets, intrigue, mystery - all told/explored over 2 different eras, and come together to be solved via time travel. This is an excellent story of the Abolitionist movement, a family involved and the secrets that must be kept. The story is tense and gripping. The characters are so well developed that the reader feels they must know them, or at the very least, want to know them!

A well written, coming of age story, full of intrigue and mystery. Once you start, you won’t be able to put the book down! Great news - it’s the first in a series, so there’s more good story to come! This should be on everyone’s list to be read! It does not disappoint!

Brooks Bjur - Amazon

In the Media

Virtual Book Launch of 'It Happened on Fifth Street'

In conversation with Roman Travers, Magic FM

Magic Talk with Roman TraversRobyn R. Pearce
00:00 / 12:16

Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon show. Robyn discusses how she came upon the story with Kathryn Ryan.

Robyn is an experienced podcast guest. If you’d like her to appear on your podcast or radio show, just ask!

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About Robyn R. Pearce

What makes a novelist?

My hunger for the stories hidden behind well-known historical events was ignited by a much-loved history teacher. She had us read Josephine Tey’s ‘Daughter of Time’, about who really killed the Princes in the Tower. The underlying premise? The stories we learn are those told by the victors – and might not be true.

The next major influence was when, as a young mother of six very busy small people (who all arrived in a nine-year period), I attended a book reading in my local library. As I walked out I said firmly to the current baby and his four-year-old sister, ‘One day I’m going to be a writer!’ But the years went by in a blur of nappies, messes and busyness – and no head space for writing.

Some years later, life tumbled me into what is now a 30-year career (and still counting) as an international time management specialist and keynote speaker. During that time, my writing dream become reality, with many hundreds of articles and regular columns in diverse publications, plus eight books on time and productivity-related topics. (You can find more about that work at In 2018/19 I completely updated all those books and transferred them to digital platforms. (Some were best-sellers in Australia and New Zealand.)

Through all those busy years, the hidden stories of long ago continued to nag at the corners of my mind. And so a new career began. It’s been fuelled by an incredible resource of letters, journals and other artifacts written by 18th and 19th century ancestors and saved by far-sighted family members.


What drove people to leave their known worlds and brave incredible hazards in the search for freedom? For those who travelled to new countries at the bottom of the world, what were the motivations that crammed them into small wooden ships  for months, sailing through dangerous seas with no guarantee of arrival?  I love these amazing stories, not just of my ancestors, but also of many others - almost all driven by the dream of a better life.

Watch this space!

If you'd like to chat to me about anything,  I love to hear from my readers. Reach me at 

Book Clubs

Book Clubs

Would you like to read and discuss any of Robyn’s books? Ask her for Book  Club discussion questions.

Or, would you like her to join you (probably by Zoom)?

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