Inspirational Stories of Love, Faith & Family Set in 19th Century America

Tag: Karen Witemeyer

Book Review: The Heart’s Charge by Karen Witemeyer & a Giveaway!

About the Book


Title: The Heart’s Charge
Series: Hanger’s Horsemen, Book #2

Author: Karen Witemeyer
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: Bethany House Publishers,     June 1, 2021, 381 pages


Blurb

For Years They’ve Been Nomads for Justice, but a Final Mission May Just Lead Their Hearts Home.

Members of the legendary Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they’d help deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he nearly married a decade ago.

After failing at love, Katherine Palmer has dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold, being illegitimate and of mixed ancestry. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her by defying all her stereotypes of men, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.

When the Horsemen hear rumors of missing children, they stay to investigate, sticking close to Harmony House and its beautiful owners. As they work together to uncover the truth, love and danger grow hand in hand until a final sinister scheme threatens to destroy them all.

CBD    Barnes & Noble   Amazon


My Thoughts

Karen Witemeyer’s books keep getting better and better! Just call me a sucker for handsome, strong, godly soldier types. I wasn’t sure about reading a story with four points of view. I wondered if one of the couples would take center stage while the other lingered in the background but that wasn’t the case with The Heart’s Charge. Both Jonah and Eliza’s story line, as well as Mark and Kate’s, were well-developed, compelling romances nestled in a mystery about missing children. And I didn’t see the culprit coming either!

I also want to give Witemeyer a shout out for writing such endearing children. Oftentimes children in romance novels are just underfoot and underdeveloped characters. Not so in The Heart’s Charge. Kate and Eliza run a home for Foundling Children and these sweet children, especially Abner, stole my heart. The boxcar children, orphan boys who ride the rails, were also well thought out characters that added to the story.

With The Heart’s Charge, Witemeyer delivers another solid dose of scriptural truth, humor, mystery, and romance that is sure to delight every reader. My only complaint was I wanted more of Matthew and Josie Hanger and Preach from book one.

I’m definitely looking forward to book number three in the Hanger’s Horseman series!


Favorite Quotes

“But if each man and woman were defined solely by their greatest sin, what hope would there be for any of us?”

“Regrets are heavy, son. The fewer you carry around the better off you’ll be. But when they come, and they will, remember you got a Father who will carry them for you if you let him.”

“God don’t need fancy words,” Jonah encouraged, “just true ones.”


About the Author

For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Recently voted #1 Readers’ Favorite Christian Romance Author by Family Fiction Magazine, Karen is a two-time winner of the ACFW Carol Award and three-time RITA® finalist. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.

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Giveaway*

This giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to our winner, Lori Smanski!

I’m giving away a Kindle copy of The Heart’s Charge to one commenter. To enter, tell us your favorite Karen Witemeyer book!

**Giveaway ends at midnight, Thursday, June 24th

Book Review, Serving Up Love

About the Book


Title: Serving Up Love: A Four-in-One Harvey House Brides Collection
Author: Various, see below
Genre: Historical Romance

Book Info: (Bethany House Publisher, November 5, 2019, 384 pages)

Tag Line

On the Menu for These Ladies?
Adventure, Independence, and a Big Serving of Romance!

 


Blurb

A storied part of American history, Harvey Houses offered women a unique chance to gain independence and see amazing parts of this great country. Celebrated historical romance writers Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano offer four fun, romantic tales of Harvey girls whose western adventures lead to love.

Tracie Peterson – 
A Flood of Love
Returning home to New Mexico for the first time in years to fill in at the Harvey House, Gretchen Gottsacker is sure the past is behind her. But nothing can be that simple. When the man she loved long ago steps back into her life–with a daughter, no less–will she ever be the same?

Karen Witemeyer – More Than a Pretty Face
Rosalind Kemp becomes a Harvey Girl, clinging to the promise of one day transferring even farther west, someplace her youthful indiscretion won’t catch up to her. But the past is hard to escape, and when the worst occurs, will anyone stand up for her?

Regina Jennings – Intrigue a la Mode
When Willow Kentworth is warned that strange things are happening in the railyard after dark, she never intends to get involved. That is, until a handsome new employee at the Harvey House–who has secrets of his own–needs her assistance.

Jen Turano – 
A Grand Encounter
After her fiancé abandons her, Miss Myrtle Schermerhorn flees New York’s pity for a position at the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. She’s determined to hold fast to her life of independence–but a rugged, frequent guest of the hotel makes that vow difficult to uphold.


My Thoughts

I tend to be a bit  hard on novellas. Often times, the plots are too grand and the author is left to tie up all the loose ends too quickly for my satisfaction. Happily, that is not the case for Serving Up Love which earns five stars across the board. Each novella was filled with just the right amount of captivating characters and swoon-worthy heroes mixed with a dash of adventure to leave this historical romance junkie’s heart satiated.

Harvey Girl Uniform, photo courtesy of Jot Powers

Harvey Girl Uniform, Photo by Jot Powers

As a big history lovin’ nerd girl, I was tickled pink to learn of this novella collection centering around Harvey Girls. I’d first heard about Harvey Girls on a vacation through Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado a few years ago. Fred Harvey was an American entrepreneur who opened a series of cafes and restaurants aligned with railroad stations in the western United States. He provided high quality food in a timely manner. Train travelers new to expect great food and excellent service in any of his establishments. Harvey Girls were the women who provided that outstanding service. Each one had to be single and of impeccable character. Housing was provided above the restaurants for these women who were not allowed to fraternize with the customers, at least not in the cafes themselves. Once a woman was engaged, her employment would be terminated.

There was so much to love about each of these stories — the railway setting, life as a Harvey Girl, and handsome customers just to name a few. In Peterson’s A Flood of Love, spunky child character, Katieann, captures the readers heart from the get go and not long after, Gretchen’s as well. I’d never read Tracie Peterson before but she penned a delightful story and I’ll be seeking more by this author. I loved the humor weaved into Intrigue a la Mode and Grand Encounter. Regina Jennings developed an intriguing plot involving smugglers along the railroad that kept me turning the pages. Jen Turano doesn’t disappoint readers used to the hilarious shenanigan’s of her characters and the author’s quippy dialogue like “Mr. Tall, Dark, and –need I say Delicious is here again and sitting in your section.” I just about spit out my tea! But I’d have to say it was Witemeyer’s, More Than a Pretty Face, that stole my heart. Rosalind, the heroine, is running from a mistake in her past, something we can all relate to. When it blows up BIG in her face, her sweetheart, friends, and co-workers all rally behind her, and Witemeyer weaves in a beautiful lesson about the power of forgiveness and the desire we all have to create a future not defined by past transgressions.

This is a wonderfully charming novella collection from an amazing set of historical romance authors. You’ll not only be “served up love,” but plenty of faith, humor, and warm fuzzies on the side.

***I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House on behalf of the authors and was under no obligation to write a favorable review. All opinions are my own.


Links for purchase

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   CBD


About the Authors

A recipient of the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award, Tracie Peterson is well-known for her numerous award-winning, bestselling historical romances. She lives near Missoula, Montana. Visit her at www.traciepeterson.com.

Karen Witemeyer is a winner of multiple Carol Awards and has been a finalist for the RITA Award and National Readers’ Choice Award. She lives in Abilene, Texas. Visit her at www.karenwitemeyer.com.

Regina Jennings
 is the acclaimed author of The Fort Reno Series. She lives outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children. Visit her at www.reginajennings.com.

Jen Turano
, the USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books, lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. Visit her at www.jenturano.com.

 

Book Review–More Than Words Can Say

About the Book


Title: More Than Words Can Say
Series Info: A Patchwork Family Novel, Book #2
Author: Karen Witemeyer
Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Book Info: Bethany House Publishers, June 4, 2019, 362 pages


Tag Line

An Impossible Situation. An Unlikely Couple.
A Recipe for Love?


Blurb

More Than Words Can Say (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #2) by [Witemeyer, Karen]After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn’t the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when she’s around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence?


My Thoughts

“Choosing a husband was much like choosing a good baguette. One looked for a strong outer shell, a tender interior, and most importantly, a tractability of dough to hold whatever shape the baker deemed appropriate. Abigail needed a good baguette by the end of the week.”

With writing like that, it didn’t take long to remember why Karen Witemeyer remains one of my favorite Christian historical romance authors.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for a good marriage-of-convenience story and this one was just thoroughly entertaining. I loved that Abby found herself doing the asking so she could get a man’s name on the deed to her bakery in order to save her family business. Right from the beginning the subtle attraction between these two lit curiosity in me wondering how in the world they’d find love inside their hasty marriage. Witemeyer delighted me with witty and often charmingly-awkward moments between Abby & Zach and I found myself rooting for them from the very beginning.

But if you want to know my favorite part of this book, it’s that the heroine, Abigail Kemp, had a less than perfect figure. As a woman who has had a life-long struggle with this issue, I definitely related to Abby’s self-doubts and insecurities. And Witemeyer’s hero, Zacharias Hamilton, endeared himself to me immediately because he never minded Abby’s fuller curves. Instead, he relished them. I think we often put too much emphasis on the physical appearance of the opposite sex and don’t concern ourselves enough with our potential spouse’s character. Zacharias saw both in Abby and helped her see that about herself. My only regret is that Bethany House publishers didn’t choose a cover model that more accurately represented the heroine.

In More Than Words Can Say, Witemeyer has the perfect blend of well-developed characters and an intriguing plot, then she tosses in a hearty helping of humor, hope, and love which just might mean that More Than Words Can Say is the perfect recipe for a wonderful read!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.


Favorite Quotes

“Her fingers twined with his, and for the first time in nine years, the weight on his soul lessend just a little.”

“His glare was fierce enough to fire her bread oven without kindling.”

“Just because they’d lost didn’t mean the battle hadn’t been worth waging. A man did what was right even when the odds were stacked against him.”

“They had laid their hearts bare to each other, exposing the raw and ugly places. Anger, jealousy, and self-derision had swirled within her, yet Zach hadn’t shrunk back. Even when the muck inside her spilled onto him. Instead, he stepped into the fray, fought for her—for them.”

“The future is in God’s hands, Zach. Not yours, and not mine. Trusting him to bring about what is best is the only choice we need to make.”


Spiritual Takeaway

“I can believe all the ones that tell me I’m not good enough, or pretty enough, or brave enough and let them skew my perception of events, or I can push aside the clamor and seek out the voice that tells me I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“We have to let God heal our wounds so we can move forward.”

Oh, Abby, I feel you, girl.

I could relate to Abby’s angst and self-doubt because I’d worn those garments myself for way too long. I think if Abby were a real person we’d sit in her lovely bakery and chat about our struggle with body image. Abby’s spiritual journey to overcome self-doubt and learning to see herself as the beautiful woman God made her to be is one many women will relate to. Unfortunately, it is easier to believe the lies, but just as the above mentioned quote states, we have to choose to believe the truth about who God says we are.

I’m going to get a little preachy now so please forgive me. In case you’re not sure what that is, here is just a sampling about what the Bible has to say about who God thinks you are:

1 Thes.1: 4      You are chosen and dearly loved of God.

Ps. 139:14       You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Zech. 2:8         You are the apple of God’s eyes. (I just love that one!)

2 Cor. 5:17      You are a new creation in Christ.

John 1:12        You are a child of God.

Col. 1:14         You have been forgiven.

Rom. 8:1         You are free forever from condemnation.

Eph. 2:6          You are his masterpiece. (Can you just imagine?)

If you’re ever tempted to listen to the ugly words Satan will whisper in your ear, repeat these words of life to yourself instead.

Choose truth.


Links for purchase

Amazon           Barnes & Noble        Christian Book Distributors


Other Books in the Series:

More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel, Book #1)

When Her Family Is Threatened, She Doesn’t Expect Falling in Love to Be Their Best Defense

More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #1) by [Witemeyer, Karen]Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

Amazon   Barnes & Noble  Christian Book Distributors


About the Author

Karen WitemeyerFor those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warm-hearted historical romances with a flair of humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. A transplant from California, Karen came to Texas for college, met a cowboy disguised as a computer nerd, married him, and never left the state that had become home.

Winner of the HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, and a finalist for both the RITA and Christy Awards, Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She also loves to reward her readers. Every month she gives away two inspirational historical novels to someone from her newsletter list and offers substantial bonus content on her website. To learn more about Karen and her books, or to join her subscriber list, please visit www.karenwitemeyer.com.


 

 

Christmas Book Bonanza–Historical Romance Edition

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I’d share some wonderful Christian Historical Romances with a holiday theme that will warm your heart and help you get into the Christmas spirit.

Books are not listed in any preferential order, simply alphabetical by author. Each title will have the back cover blurb and a purchase link.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by [Griep, Michelle] A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger…and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2K0WVfR

A Tale of Two Hearts: Book 2 in Once Upon a Christmas by Michelle Griep

A Tale of Two Hearts: Book 2 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by [Griep, Michelle]London, 1853: Innkeeper’s daughter Mina Scott will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life, for there’s nothing more mundane than serving customers day after day. Every minute she can, she reads and dreams of someday becoming a real lady—and catch the eye of William Barlow, a frequent guest at the inn.

William is a gentleman’s son, a charming but penniless rogue. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his scheming cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.

William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.

Can two hearts survive such deception?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2B4a2tF


A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Holiday Novella by Mimi Matthews

A Holiday By Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by [Matthews, Mimi]A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2FlGw72


Circle of Blessings by Deborah Raney

Circle of Blessings by [Raney, Deborah]Young Stella Bradford is determined to win the love of James Collingwood, her English professor at the university where Stella is studying to be an architect. But the object of Stella’s affection seems to hide a dark secret from his past, and even if Stella could capture his attention, she is certain her father would not approve of the match. But neither James, nor Stella has an inkling that his secret is woven into her own past in a way that will ultimately bring blessing to them both.

Inspired by a Raney family Christmas tradition, Circle of Blessings was first published in the novella collection A Currier & Ives Christmas in 2002 and then in A Prairie Christmas Collection in 2010.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2Pw4lxK

Novella Collections


The Christmas Heirloom Collection: 4 Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations

 

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations by [Witemeyer, Karen, Hunter, Kristi Ann, Thomas, Sarah Loudin, Wade, Becky]Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

 A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

Because of You by Becky Wade

Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2z8f7ja


The Victorian Brides Collection: 9 Women Dream of Perfect Christmases in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection: 9 Women Dream of Perfect Christmases during the Victorian Era by [Chase, C.J., Dietze, Susanne, Gerlach, Rita, Maher, Kathleen L., Meyer, Gabrielle, Pagels, Carrie Fancett, Riley, Vanessa, Seilstad, Lorna, Vetsch, Erica]Experience a Dickens of a Christmas

Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love?

Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley
1837 Framlingham, England
How can widow Ophelia Hanover give her son a perfect Christmas when his guardian, the Earl of Litton, arrives early to take permanant custody of the boy?

One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase
1855 Devonshire, England
Wounded soldier Tristram Nowell returns home to indulge his mother’s wish for a family Christmas–and encounters Marianna Granville. Can he forgive the former heiress who jilted him years before?

Love Brick by Brick by Kathleen L. Maher
1857 Elmira, New York
SarahAnn Winnifred overcomes orphanhood apprenticing with pioneering doctors. Rufus Sedgwick, relocating his English estate, seeks help for his ailing Mum. Christmas reveals the secret wish of both hearts–for love.

The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels
1867 Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan
When Canadian barrister Percy Gladstone finds his aristocratic British family unexpectedly descending upon him for Christmas, he turns to American social reformer Eugenie Mott and her fledgling catering crew for help.

Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze
1875 County Durham, England
This Yuletide, Bennet Hett, Viscount Harwood, offers Lady Celeste Sidwell matrimony and the Star of Wonder diamond necklace, as their fathers arranged. When the diamond disappears, will they find a greater treasure?

Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad
Chicago, Christmas 1880
Widowed harpist Beatrix Kent believes love can only come once in a lifetime, but this Christmas, carpenter Hugo Sherman hopes to pull on the musician’s heartstrings and prove her wrong.

The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch
1880s London
Melisande Verity might be in over her head trying to create the perfect Christmas window display, but if she succeeds, will she finally attract the attention of her boss, Gray Garamond?

A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer
London, England, Christmas 1899
Lady Ashleigh Pendleton is hosting a houseful of guests for Christmas when railroad executive Christopher Campbell unexpectedly arrives from America with a mysterious agreement signed by their fathers before their birth.

The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach
1900. Small town along the Potomac near Washington DC
A glass ornament. Love letters tied in red Christmas ribbon. Lily Morningstar and British antiquities expert Andrew Stapleton are drawn into a family secret that binds their hearts together.

Purchase Link: https://bit.ly/2TaN8YH


A Christmas Stocking Bundle from Julie Lessman

(PLEASE NOTE! THIS BOOK IS A SWEET INSPIRATIONAL WITH A STRONGER LEVEL OF ROMANTIC & SPIRITUAL PASSION.)

A Christmas Stocking Bundle: One Christmas Novel and Three Novellas by [Lessman, Julie]Fall in love at Christmas with a close-knit and passionate Irish family beginning with A Light in the Window, the prequel novel to the award-winning Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change Series (See the video on Julie’s Amazon Author Page). Then curl up with two heart-warming Christmas novellas featuring this same wonderful family, A Whisper of Hope and The Best Gift of All. This delightful Christmas collection wraps up with a sweet and funny frontier Christmas novella, The Gift of Grace, so grab a coffee or hot chocolate and bundle up with a Christmas bundle that will warm your Christmas heart and soul!

A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story (Award-winning Novel)

One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse, the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?

Marceline Murphy, a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues, catches the eye of two of Boston’s most notorious. Patrick O’Connor and Sam O’Rourke are best friends with a bond like brothers … until they meet one woman neither can have.

Overseeing St. Mary’s Christmas play—A Light in the Window—Marcy wrestles with her attraction to both. But when disaster strikes, she’s destined to discover the play’s message firsthand. For although two men have professed their love, only one has responded to the light in the window.

A Whisper of Hope: An O’Connor Christmas Novella

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
Love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?

The Best Gift of All: An O’Connor Christmas Novella

She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive … the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?

The Gift of Grace: A Frontier Christmas Novella

She’s the Accident to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s as destitute as they come.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2za4TyX

 

I hope you’ll find something here to snuggle up by a cozy fire and take a few minutes for yourself this Christmas season.

What good Christmas books have you read lately?

Penny Dreadful’s Legacy

“To her and none other. Swear to give the girl to me to do with as I please, and I will agree that for every person now in yonder town, a death notch shall be made.”

“Red Hatchet agrees. When he can count the death notches of all his sworn enemies, and is free to go back to his once pretty village, he will deliver Siska to the Devil Dwarf to do with as he pleases.”

“Then call the girl. We will tap a vein in her arm, and seal this compact with a draught of her blood!” the avenger said.

~~Excerpt from Deadwood Dick’s Doom (or Calamity Jane’s Last Adventure)

Sweeney Todd, 1842

Sweeney Todd, 1842


If you love to read like I do, you may be surprised to learn that stories like Deadwood Dick’s Doom (above) paved the way for your favorite author today. These stories, originally known as Penny Dreadfuls, were the first successful mass market paperbacks. First popularized in Victorian Britain, Penny Dreadfuls, sometimes referred to as Penny Bloods, were lurid serial fiction stories published in weekly eight or sixteen page installments, with each part costing one penny. The term quickly became applied to any publication featuring sensational fiction such as story papers and booklet libraries.

Also known in Britain as Shilling Shockers, these stories could best be described in one word, melodramatic. Filled with what today’s editor’s would gleefully strike through as purple prose, these tintillating stories drew readers by romanticizing danger and hardship with larger-than-life heroes defeating villains and rescuing damsels in distress. Rambling plot lines emphasized heinous acts of poisoning, strangling, burglary and narrow escapes from sexual assault that by today’s standards would be considered racist and misogynistic.

Their authors, who might keep ten of these stories spinning simultaneously, were paid at the rate of a penny a line, which had a direct effect on the text. Skilled practitioners quickly learned that short staccato-like sentences not only were the most profitable but increased the dramatic effect as well.

Penny Dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at the working class who saw a sharp rise in literacy rates with new laws requiring mandatory education for all of Britain’s children through age nine. In addition, the proliferation of the railroad made the distribution of Penny Dreadfuls affordable to the masses at a time when traditional full-length novels by authors like Charles Dickens sold for a dollar each.

MalaeskaThe fad took hold on this side of the Atlantic as well when brothers Erastus and Irwin Beadle published Ann Stephens’ “Maleska the Indian Wife of the White Hunter” in 1860. Promoting the work as “a dollar book for a dime,” it was an instant success selling an estimated 300,000 copies in its first year. A feat any author today would would eagerly aspire to repeat.

Beadle’s early publications were printed in orange wrapper papers with no illustrations on the cover. Eventually cover art appeared enticing the curiosity of consumers with illustrations depicting scenes of mayhem and bloodshed.

Drawing on the Beadle’s success, other publishers quickly followed suit and it seemed the American reading public couldn’t get enough of their serialized fiction. Subjects in the early days were pioneer and revolutionary war stories but other adventure genres, such as pirate tales and trapper adventures, also appeared frequently. After the civil war, the focus of the novels turned to the wild west and the detective genres and remained popular through the 1950’s. In the twentieth century the genre became known as pulp fiction after the cheap paper they were printed on.

Early cover art for Beadle's Dime Novels

Early cover art for Beadle’s Dime Novels

Early full cover art for dime novels

Early full cover art for dime novels

1933 cover, still selling for ten cents

1933 cover, still selling for ten cents

Dime Westerns, as they became known in America, were often based on real people like Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, and Calamity Jane. Although purely fiction, these stories helped create a new national identity of patriotism and adventure. In addition, they helped level the playing field between the social classes as people began to judge the ideal man by his actions rather than his wallet.

Just like violent video games and movies today, dime novels were blamed for an upsurge in violence in American society. PennyDreadfulcrime-briefs1The New York Tribune published this article in June, 1884, blaming societal ills on the popularity of “cheap” literature, particularly dime novels. People complained that the deviant characters in novels influenced real people, particularly young men, to behave aggressively. “The work of the dime novel is being performed with even more than usual success. The other day three boys robbed their parents and started off for the boundless West. More recently a lad in a Philadelphia public school drew a revolver on his teacher, and examination showed that seven other boys present were armed with revolvers and bowie-knives […] The class of literature which is mainly responsible for all this folly is distributed all over the country in immense quantities, and it is distinctly evil in its teachings and tendencies.”

While penny dreadfuls and dime novels focused on fantastic, escapist fiction for the general masses, there is no denying they encouraged the working class to read and influenced generations of authors and publishers. British bookseller, C.A. Stonehill, noted in 1935 that “It is highly probably that in its day more people read Thomas Prest’s “First False Step” or “The Maniac Father” than had ever heard of a book published in the same decade, entitled Jane Eyre.”

Although I may prefer to read of Jane’s trouble with the enigmatic Mr. Rochester over “Keetsea, Queen of the Plains,” or “Crack Skull Bob,” I think it would be fun to write a character who is secretly hooked on the scintillating stories with the melodrama pouring over into her own life as she suspects something heinous has occurred to a missing neighbor. In her novella, “The Husband Maneuver,” With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry, Karen Witemeyer (one of my favorites) created a hero whose adventures as a bounty hunter were immortalized as Dead-Eye Dan in a series of dime westerns. Talk about a fun read!

How would you incorporate a Penny Dreadful into a novel’s plot line?

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