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

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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 Novella, A Match of Sorts and a Giveaway!

I’m so excited to welcome Lucette Nel to Romancing History for the first time. “Lucy,” as she is known to friends and family, is not only a fellow Christian historical romance author, she is a dear friend and a critique partner. Lucy’s newest release, A Match of Sorts, released earlier this month with Harbourlight Books, an imprint of Pelican Book Group.

And, with Christmas just around the corner, she came bearing gifts! Lucy is generously giving away an Ebook copy of each of her novellas!  To enter, leave a comment or ask Lucy a question by Friday, December 15. I’ll choose one random participant to receive a copy of A Match of Sorts and another to receive The Widow’s Captive. Want to increase your chances? Sign up to receive Romancing History in your inbox and I’ll enter your name twice! Unfortunately due to a snafu with my IT department (aka hubby), I lost many of my subscribers. So if you signed up in the past but haven’t been receiving Romancing History in you inbox, this is a great opportunity to sign up again.

Before we chat with Lucy and learn more about her and A Match of Sorts, here’s a blurb about her latest novella.

As Christmas approaches, widowed Reverend Caleb Brennan needs a wife, or his vengeful father-in-law will take his young daughters. When his mail-order bride jilts him, Caleb grows desperate. During a storm, he finds an unconscious boy outside his home with signs of foul play. Despite his previous misfortune, obligation compels Caleb to lug the stranger inside. But as he provides first aid, he discovers more than he expected. Bounty hunter Grace Blackwell refuses to owe a debt to any man, especially one as charming as Reverend Brennan. To repay him for saving her life, Grace agrees to pose as his mail-order bride. If their ploy is discovered, Caleb could lose his daughters. But in their pretense, the reverend and the bounty hunter might just both lose their hearts.

RH: Welcome Lucy! Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How long you’ve been writing? How many books you have published and what era(s) do you write in? What are you working on now?

LN: Wow. I’ve been writing for 19 years this year, most of those years I refer to myself as a closet writer because I did it in secret. Only a selected few people knew I wrote.  In 2010 I started to actively study the craft. So far most of my works are or were historical romances set in pioneer America. Currently I’m published in novella length. My first novella, A Widow’s Captive, released in December 2016.

​I’m working on two full length novels​ ​at the moment and will be participating in February 2018’s #Faithpitch​ on twitter.

RH: What is your favorite historical romance novel? Author?

​LN: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers​

RH: That is an all-time favorite of mine. One of only a few novels I’ll take the time to re-read! What was the inspiration behind your recent novel, A Match of Sorts?

​I love marriage of convenience stories, and that was my inspiration for my recent release. And I wanted to match two very unlikely people.

RH: That is another thing we have in common. I am always fascinated by mail-order bride stories. When and where is A Match of Sorts set?

​Cedar Grove, Texas. It’s a fictional town. I sketched the town but let’s just say I should stick to writing and not sketching. LOL​!

RH: Who would you cast as the hero and heroine for this story?

LN: ​​I have a Pinterest board especially for A Match of Sorts where you can see all the images that helped inspire me! For Caleb Brennan I used Michiel Huisman from The Age of Adeline as inspiration! Beard and all! For Grace it was a little mix between Sharon Stone and Ingrid Bolso Berdal from Westworld.

RH: Were there any interesting historical facts you learned in your research you couldn’t work into your story?

LN: Not sure how it happened, but while I researched the treatment of wounds, I stumbled upon the history of the ice box. Let’s just say I love my refrigerator. Hee Hee!

RH: Anything else you’d like us to know about A Match of Sorts?

LN: On one side I wish I made it a novel and not a novella. I really enjoyed the characters.

Now that you’ve heard all about A Match of Sorts, Lucy’s provided a teaser. Here’s a snippet from Chapter One:

Cedar Grove, Texas

December, 1875

“She changed her mind.” Caleb Brennan dragged his fingers through his hair. His mail-order bride backed out of their agreement. After three months of corresponding with the young widow, she took one look at him and opted to marry a fellow passenger instead. Three months. Wasted! Numerous letters exchanged, arrangements made, money spent, and all to end with Mrs. Haddon heading to Austin in the very stagecoach that was meant to bring her to him.

“You can scowl at me all you want. It won’t change anything.” Trust his twin to state the harsh reality, without a touch of sugar.

“I’m still processing the sting, Luke.” Caleb scrubbed his face. His glower might intimidate Abby and Libby, his daughters, but it was useless on his brother.

“You should’ve told her sooner.” Luke collected the stack of wanted posters and thumped them thrice on his scarred desk to straighten the pages.

“I’m hardly a cripple.” Caleb rubbed his aching leg. The pain flared in concert with his frustration. He glanced at the far side of the room. Upright rusted bars like an iron fence separated the jail from Luke’s tiny office. The snores from the figure on one of the two bunks continued undisturbed.

Luke yanked a drawer open and shoved the papers in, and then rammed it. “She probably jumped to the wrong conclusion. Since you kept it a secret, she might wonder what other information you withheld from her.”

“Do you suggest I mention I’m a cripple in my next advertisement?”

“You’re planning to advertise again?” Luke frowned.

“I need a wife. What choice do I have?” And as far as he was concerned, whoever filled the position could have the face and personality of a fencepost, as long as her presence improved his chances of not losing his daughters to his embittered father-in-law.

“Miss Preston seems interested.” Luke studied the steam spiraling from the mug of coffee cradled between his hands.

“You’re loco. You know I can’t marry Miss Preston.” The seamstress might be the prettiest woman in town, but she was too young and too idealistic. His second marriage wouldn’t be one of love and companionship and his bride needed to understand and agree with the terms from the start. He’d experienced love once before. Almost from the moment he’d first laid eyes on Margaret, he’d loved her. And she’d returned his affections. Her death near destroyed him. Never again. His next union would be one of respect and remoteness. An alliance on paper suited him.

Luke drummed his fingers on his desk. “How about I ask Ellen to pose as your fiancée?”

“You want to ask your wife to pretend to be my fiancée?” Caleb blinked. The warmth in the sheriff’s office receded despite the old woodstove standing only feet away. “I can’t wait to hear what she’d think about this idea of yours.” He shook his head. He loved Ellen—as a sister—and she was exactly what Luke needed in his life. But she’d drive Caleb crazy with her endless chatter, even if it was only a fleeting charade. Her overtly bright personality would exhaust him.

“Don’t look at me like that. It’ll be a temporary solution. The girls love and know Ellen.” Luke shifted on the chair, scrubbing a hand along his jaw. “There will be certain rules, of course. Limitations. No kissing. No touching.”

“It was one thing swapping places as boys to play pranks on people. Having your wife pose as my fiancée is a different ball of wax.”

“She’d do it if it means you get to keep the girls.”

“She’s a saint. What did you do to deserve her?”

“Got the Lord Almighty to thank for that.” Luke grinned and dipped his head. “I’ll speak with her tonight. We don’t have much time—”

“Whoa. You expect the entire town to go along with it?” Caleb braced his elbows on the desk.

“We can try.”

“Will you throw those who refuse to play along in jail?” A rustle from the bunk drew Caleb’s gaze. The comatose drunk had rolled over, but audible snores still floated from the cell.

“Can you imagine the entire town in my cell? At least old Jeff would have company.”

“I’d rather not.” Caleb downed the last of his coffee. After putting so much effort into convincing his daughters how nice it would be to have Mrs. Haddon around, he now needed to tell them their plans had changed. He massaged his hip. The wound had healed, but the constant pain and distinct limp remained despite the doctor’s predictions that it would disappear.


Remember, to enter to win one of Lucy’s Novella’s leave a comment below!

Lucy’s debut novella, A Widow’s Captive is on sale for .99 cents! To Purchase any of Lucy’s books click please visit her Amazon author page or her publisher, Pelican Book Group.


Lucy Nel is a coffee addicted work-in-progress daughter of the Lord Almighty. She’s a mommy to a rambunctious toddler and wife to her best friend and real-life hero. Along with three spoiled Pugs, they make their home in Gauteng, the smallest of nine provinces in South Africa.

Lucy enjoys connecting with readers. To find out what Lucy’s up to, you can visit her at:

Quills and Inkblotts

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“Got Anything for the Pain, Doc?”

Collection of Vintage Medicine Bottles, Courtesy of Antique Trader

If you’re a fan of old westerns I’m sure you’ve heard that line before, right? This came to mind the other day when I reached for the Costco sized bottle of generic pain relievers I keep in my kitchen cabinet. I’m blessed to not only have my handy-dandy Ibuprofen, but also Acetaminophen and Naproxen as well. Don’t judge me! If you’re over 50, I’m sure  you have your favorite pain med for whatever ails you as well!

All this got me to thinking about how people treated their aches and pains in the past. It’s not uncommon in an old movie or historical novel to see a patient guzzling whiskey before the doctor begins a painful procedure. Doctors didn’t hand over the bottle to numb the pain, but to calm their patient and make them groggy. Since Aspirin wasn’t available in a commercially marketable form until the late 1890s, how did practicing physicians in the western world treat their patients pain in the 1800s?

Doctors used the same major painkiller that is still one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers in hospitals today–morphine.

Antique Morphine Bottle

Are you surprised? I was. Today we think of this as an extremely potent drug reserved for the severest of pain. It has ten times the potency of Demerol, a synthetic painkiller invented in the 1930s. I recall my husband suffering from back pain, immobile on the hallway floor waiting for the paramedics to come because at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, I was unable to help him into the car to drive him to the emergency room. When the ambulance arrived, morphine was administered and although it didn’t immediately eliminate all of his pain, it would take lumbar surgery to correct that, it did bring him substantial relief.

Named after Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams, the narcotic was discovered in 1803. Morphine is  part of a larger family of drugs known as Opiates that are all derived from opium, found in the poppy plant. Extracts from poppy plants have been used for medicinal purposes since 4,000 B.C.

After its discovery, morphine was administered orally but the invention of hypodermic needles in 1853 led to intravenously injecting the medication for faster pain relief. Many people are familiar with the use of morphine for treating injured soldiers during the Civil War, but did you know it was also prescribed during childbirth and as a cough suppressant? The medication’s side effects include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and constipation. The latter making it an effective 19th century remedy for diarrhea and dysentery.

Other opiates became widely available in corner drugstores in cities and towns across America.

Cocaine  Although today it is considered one of the most potent and most dangerous natural stimulants, Spanish missionaries first encountered the use of the drug during religious ceremonies in the Peruvian Andes. The locals were known to chew the leaves of the coca plant to give them “energy and strength.” Native medicine men used its leaves to wrap broken bones, reduce swelling and treat festering wounds. Unable to cultivate the plant in Europe and North America, efforts to import the plant failed too as the leaves spoiled easily during transport. In 1859 German chemist, Albert Niemann, extracted cocaine from the coca leaf but it wasn’t until the 1880s that it started to be popularized in the medical community.

Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who used the drug himself, was the first to broadly promote cocaine as a tonic to cure depression and sexual impotence. In 1884, he published an article entitled “Über Coca,” About Coke, which promoted the “benefits” of cocaine, calling it a “magical” substance.

From the 1850s to the early 1900s, cocaine and opium-laced elixirs, tonics and wines were broadly used by people of all social classes. By 1885, cocaine was sold in corner stores in America in various forms–cigarettes, powder, even injection by needle (heroin was also widely available). In medicine, cocaine was commonly used as a local anesthetic. In 1886, the popularity of the drug got a further boost when John Pemberton included coca leaves as an ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca-Cola. The euphoric and energizing effects on the consumer helped to skyrocket the popularity of Coca-Cola by the turn of the century.

As cocaine use in society increased, its addictive nature became more evident. Public pressure forced the Coca-Cola company to remove the cocaine from the soft drink in 1903 and by 1922, the drug was officially banned.

Laudanum Known as the “Victorian’s favorite drug,” laudanum was sold as Tincture of Opium and used as a common painkiller. The drug was often cheaper than alcohol, making it affordable to all levels of society. Laudanum was a 10 percent solution of opium powder in alcohol, widely used to treat headaches, persistent cough, gout, rheumatism, diarrhea, melancholy and “women’s troubles.” It was even used to quiet crying babies. By the 1800s laudanum was widely available—it could be easily purchased from pubs, grocers, barber shops, tobacconists, pharmacies, and even confectioners.

Many Victorian writers and poets were known to use the drug—Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, and Bram Stoker just to name a few. Most famously, the English writer Thomas De Quincey wrote a whole book, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, on his use of opium and related drugs. The book proposed that, unlike alcohol, opium improved the creative powers, an opinion that only served to make the drug more appealing to those searching for artistic and literary inspiration. A number of other writers also played on the perceived glamor of the drug, praising its ability to enhance the imagination.

Laudanum advertisement, Sears catalog circa late 19th century

As more widespread use of the laudanum was observed, it became obvious that the euphoria inducing drug was highly addictive and had some serious side effects including crashing lows, restlessness, lethargy, and sweats. It became clear that the drug needed to be better regulated.

By 1868, the first known restrictions were placed on the narcotic. Now, laudanum could only be sold by registered chemists in England and must be clearly labeled as poison. It wasn’t until 1906 that the U.S. government passed the Pure Food and Drug Act requiring that certain specified drugs–alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and cannabis be accurately labeled with contents and dosage. Previously, many drugs had been sold as patent medicines with secret ingredients or misleading labels. Authorities estimate that sales decreased by one third after labeling was required.

Its hard to imagine sending your child to the drugstore to buy a penny’s worth of candy and some laudanum.

Were you as surprised as I was to learn how readily available narcotics were in the 19th century?

 

 

 

 

What Do Macaroni, a Wheel Cipher and the Presidency Have in Common?

Q: What Do Macaroni, a Wheel Cipher and the Presidency Have in Common?

A: Thomas Jefferson

That’s right! When he wasn’t drafting the Declaration of Independence, establishing the University of Virginia or serving as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson  was also an inventor and an innovator.

Here’s a list of some of the his amazing inventions:

Courtesy of Monticello

The “Wheel Cipher”– Long before electronic encryption and account passwords, codes were needed to make sure messages stayed safe. Jefferson’s device consisted of twenty six letters inscribed on cylindrical wooden pieces threaded together onto an iron spindle. The pieces with the letters could be rearranged to send coded messages that could be easily deciphered with the right key.

Courtesy Agricultural History Museum

Iron Plow – Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, was one of the largest in Virginia but his fields were prone to erosion because of the of the Virginia climate and the rolling hills. The plows of his day were made from wood and could only partially dig into the soil. Jefferson needed a plow that could dig up to three inches deeper to facilitate hillside planting. Together with his his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, he created an iron and moldboard plow that could create furrows down hillsides. Iron plows were also more durable.

Courtesy of Monticello

“Macaroni Machine” – Following his travels to Europe, Jefferson developed a passion for fine wine and European cuisine. One of his favorite foods was macaroni.  Jefferson created the “macaroni machine” which forced the pasta dough through six small holes so that it could have that classic elbow bend thus allowing his personal chef to create the pasta dish in less time. Side note, Jefferson also enjoyed adding various cheeses to traditional dishes, often melting it into a type of sauce and many food historians credit Jefferson with the invention of macaroni and cheese!

Swivel Chair – There is some dispute over this one, but many historians credit Jefferson with the invention of this office staple. While in Philadelphia, Jefferson purchased a simple English-style Windsor chair from a local cabinet maker. Then Jefferson set about modifying the chair so that the top and bottom parts were connected by a central iron spindle-enabling the seat to swivel. Legend has it that Jefferson drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 in his swivel chair. Jefferson later had the invention sent to his Virginia plantation where he later built a “writing paddle” onto its side in 1791. Since 1836, the chair has been in the possession of the American Philosophical Society located in Philadelphia.

Devices Jefferson Improved Upon:

Courtesy of Monticello

The Polygraph Duplicator  – Not the kind we think of today for measuring the veracity of a suspect’s testimony, but instead a copy machine. Long before carbon paper, this was a machine used to copy letters by imitating the movements of the writer’s hand. It was originally invented by the Englishman John Isaac Hawkins, who later sold the rights to produce and market the device in America to Charles Willson Peale. Jefferson purchased many versions of the Polygraph from Peale, several of which were developed after recommendations for improvements by Jefferson himself. Jefferson called the device,”the finest invention of the present age.”

Courtesy of Monticello

“Dumb Waiter” – During a trip to a Parisian cafe, Jefferson observed the staff using a mechanical dumb waiter. Once he returned to Monticello, he drew designs and adapted the device to accommodate wine bottles. Servants controlled the dumbwaiter by using a pulley system that would safely deliver the beverage from the kitchen to his drawing room while entertaining. Jefferson even devised an inconspicuous place for his creation, hiding it in the side of a fireplace inside his Virginia plantation house.

Although he did not invent crop rotations, Jefferson improved many crop rotation methods, farming implements, and developed over 300 types of hybrid vegetation at Monticello.  He also invented a rotating book stand, a folding ladder, the lazy Susan and a seven-day clock . Jefferson thought of furnishings as a waste of space. His dining room table was designed to be fold away when not in use, while beds were often positioned in alcoves.

Thomas Jefferson commented on his love for science, saying “Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight.” Despite his fascination with science, technology and innovation, Jefferson never filed for a patent. Jefferson, a strong proponent of equality among all people, was not sure if it was fair or even constitutional to grant what was essentially a monopoly to an inventor, who would then be able to grant the use of his idea only to those who could afford it.

Which Jeffersonian invention or innovation surprised you the most?

 

 

Who Put the Blarney in the Blarney Stone?

Its that time of year again. Time to be wearin’ the green and celebrating your Irish ancestry–even if you’re Dutch, Italian, German or something else altogether different. If you can tell a colorful tale or talk your way out of a jam, then today my friend, you may be as full o’ blarney as any true Irishman.

 

The Blarney Stone is a single block of bluestone, the same material as the megaliths of Stonehenge. The iconic stone is set in a wall of Blarney Castle Tower, constructed in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, king of Munster, on the site of a demolished 13th century castle.

Image result for images of blarney stone

Some people believe the Blarney Stone is half of the original Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, upon which the first King of Scots was seated during his coronation in 847. It is said that part of this stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314.  It was his gift to the Irish for supporting the Scots in the Battle of Bannockburn.

 

True to it’s name, however, the Blarney Stone is surrounded by tall tales and myths. Some stories are steeped in the history and culture of ages long gone. Others sound like, well… pure blarney. Hard to imagine?  We are, after all, talking about the Blarney Stone and a country where stories grow as plentiful as clover in the lush green fields.  Among some of the more colorful tales, we learn that the Stone was used by Jacob for his pillow and was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah; that David hid behind the Stone while running from King Saul; it is the very rock Moses struck with his staff to supply the Israelites with water as they fled slavery in Egypt. Well, why not?

Another variation claims the stone was acquired during the Crusades and brought to Ireland during the middle ages. However, in 2014, geologists from the University of Glasgow shed some light on the Blarney Stone’s heritage when they concluded that the famous rock isn’t from Scotland but instead is made of 330-million-year-old limestone local to the south of Ireland.

The word “blarney,” meaning skillful flattery or nonsense, supposedly came into use following an incident involving the head of the McCarthy family and Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. The queen sent the earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle but the talkative McCarthy managed to keep stalling him. The queen grew exasperated by the earl’s reports about the lack of progress in the matter and uttered something to the effect of  “it’s just more blarney.”

Image result for images of blarney stone

Ronnie and Nancy, Love Letters from History

While I love a good romantic novel or film, nothing beats real life love stories. One of the best, revolves around a former president and his lady love. Yep, you guessed it, I’m talking about President Reagan and his wife, Nancy.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan sharing a joyful moment. Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library/Getty Images

Whether away from home or across the room, the former President was known to pen his undying love and admiration for the First Lady. “You should…be aware of how essential you are in this man’s life. By his own admission, he is completely in love with you.”

In 2000, former First Lady Nancy Reagan published the endearing and often tear-jerking memoir, I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan. Have a box of tissues handy because this beautiful collection of love letters will have you laughing and crying, often at the same time.

Note the White House stationery on this letter from the former president to the first lady.

I have a box of letters my husband and I exchanged during the year we were engaged while he was stationed at Ft. Ord, California, and I taught 10th grade in Pennsylvania. I treasure those letters as the former First Lady treasured hers. “Whenever Ronnie went away, I missed him terribly, and when his letters arrived, the whole world stopped so I could read them.” Letters that no doubt brought Mrs. Reagan great comfort as her beloved husband suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Image: Wenn

One such letter dated December 25, 1981, the couple’s first Christmas in the White House, described the different aspects of his wife and what he loved about each one. The letter was read  by former Prime Minister and close friend of Ronald Reagan’s, Brian Mulroney, at the funeral service for Nancy Reagan in March, 2016.

“Dear Mrs. R, there are several much beloved women in my life, and on Christmas, I should be giving them gold and precious stones and perfume and furs and lace. I know that even the best of these would fall short of expressing how much these several women mean to me and how empty my life would be without them. There is the fun First Lady Nancy who brings “so much grace and charm to whatever she does,” the do-gooder Nancy who visited sick children in hospitals, the “nest-builder” Nancy, “the girl who goes to the ranch,” the “sentimental lady,” and the girl who “loves to laugh.”

“Fortunately, all these women in my life are you. Fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you. Browning asked, ‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways…’ For me there is no way to count. Merry Christmas to all the gang of you: mummy, first lady, the sentimental you, the fun you, and the pee-wee powerhouse you. Merry Christmas, you all. With all my love, lucky me.”

You can almost see the twinkle in the former President’s eyes when he wrote, “The nicest thing a girl ever did for me was when a girl named Nancy married me and brought a warmth and joy to my life that has grown with each passing year.”

President Reagan wanted Nancy and everyone else to know that the greatest treasure was not his successful career or the fortune he amassed. Rather, his greatest treasure was his marriage.

“We haven’t been careless with the treasure that is ours — namely what we are to each other.”

Although she was an accomplished actress in her own right, Nancy Reagan wrote “when I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it’s true. It did. I can’t imagine life without him.” Nancy Reagan never thought of herself as an actress or as the First Lady. In her opinion, Mrs. Reagan was the best job in the world. “My job is being Mrs. Ronald Reagan.”

If this post didn’t melt your heart, yours must be made of stone for as the former Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney said, “Theirs was a love story for the ages.”

Now that’s a sigh-worthy ending!

Which Reagan quote melts your heart the most?

 

 

 

 

Mapping Your Way to Matrimony

Have you ever wondered why relationships with the opposite sex were so difficult? Have you ever wished for an easier way to navigate the uncertain waters of romance? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a map or App to bypass disappointment and broken hearts and get right to the “happily ever after?”

Complete with land masses, oceans, islands, cities & towns, as well as a key for the lost, Matrimonial Maps were a huge fad in the nineteenth century. Once again, we can shake our heads at those spirited Victorians who managed to diagram the perilous journey from first blush to matrimony while avoiding the pitfalls that might lead to “Divorce Island” where one would be banished and isolated from all good society. Acknowledging that lovers would suffer agonies of confusion as they tried to navigate romantic relationships, these drawing room novelties represented emotional struggles like treachery, jealousy, pity and prudence as insurmountable mountains or hazardous caverns.

“Map of Matrimony” (Photo courtesy Library of Congress)

This undated “Map of Matrimony” above was probably published in the 19th century and is part of the national collection in the Library of Congress. Promoting itself as a succinct guide for “timid lovers,” promising to help them navigate the “the orbit of affection” in order to find their way to the “true haven of conjugal happiness.” This particular map offers such geographical parodies as a “Coast of Doubt”, a “Whirlpool of Reflection,”  and “Shoals of Fickleness.” Most matrimonial maps relied heavily on the imaginative mind of its creator,  this map sports a real world location in its use of the “Cape of Good Hope.” Note the reference in the bottom right, as the ship references its longitude east from “common sense.”

The State of Matrimony, GE Moray, 1909. (Photo courtesy of Barron Maps)

Matrimonial maps survived into the 20th century like the one above designed by New York restaurant owner, George Edward Moray in 1909 as an advertising card. Moray’s map instructs the reader to “enter the State of Matrimony from either the State of Innocence, the State of Single Blessedness, or the Ocean of Love.” If you desire a quick trip to your ultimate destination, he advises you to purchase transportation on one of three railroads: “The Ceremony R.R., The Elopement R.R., or the Common Law R.R.” The only way out, according to Moray’s map, was to ride the “Divorce Rapid Transit R.R. into the State of Irresponsibility.” A unique feature of this map is that the vast majority of locations are real place names.

Victorian Valentine, “Map of Matrimony” by George Skaife Beeching, c1880. (Photo: Courtesy Barron Maps)

While many maps of matrimony were intended for wall display,  others were found on Victorian valentines like the one pictured directly above. Unlike “vinegar valentines,” These humorous cards delicately satirized courtship, offering a little social commentary on the rituals of courtship. A bachelor’s perilous journey might lead him to the “Rocks of Disappointment” or require him to  traverse the “Falls of Doubt” or crossover the turbulent waters of the “Sea of Propriety” before happily arriving in the “Land of Matrimony.” Meanwhile a hopeful female will have to avoid the “Land of Spinsters” and navigate uncharted waters in the “Sea of Introduction” before finally sailing triumphantly into the “Bay of Engagement.” But her journey rarely ends there, as she will no doubt need to visit the “Provence of Jewellers & Millners” or “Wedding Cake Land” before happily entering into the “Region of Rejoicing.”

With choices like the “Lake of Content” or “Disappointment Harbor,” these entertaining parodies on love and courtship in the nineteenth century revealed the fine nuances as well as the dangerous pitfalls that lovers can still relate to today.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you may want to consider designing a Map of Matrimony for your beloved relating the journey your relationship took to wedded bliss. My journey to the “Land of Matrimony” would begin at “Chance Encounter Cove” with a long journey through the “Gulf of Flirtation” and the “Region of Exclusive Relationship” before taking a sudden, sharp detour through the “Bay of Broken Hearts.” But not to worry, my resourceful bachelor found his way to “Restoration Island” then sailed with me to the “Land of Happily Ever After.”

What geographical feature would you put on your Map of Matrimony?

 

A Revolutionary Romance

Angela and I at the ACFW conference in Nashville, August 2016

I’m so excited to introduce fellow author Angela Couch to all of you. Angela’s debut novel, The Scarlet Coat, releases today for E-readers with the paperback version to follow on February 1. Angela and I met shortly after I joined American Christian Fiction Writers in 2014. Over the years, we have become not only critique partners, but very close friends. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of The Scarlet Coat and I can highly recommend it to you, my faithful readers. Click here to read my review on Amazon. But just in case you think I’m bias, The Scarlet Coat also made book blog Rachel’s Reads list of the most anticipated new releases of 2017. I hope you enjoy Angela’s post today where she shares the true history that inspired the first book in her Revolutionary War series, Hearts at War.

Leave a comment or ask a question by February 1 and be entered to win a paperback copy of The Scarlet Coat!

I am so honored to be invited to share some history behind my newly released novel, The Scarlet Coat. The story is set during the American Revolution and begins just after one of the bloodiest battles the war knew. Oriskany.

In August of 1777, one year and one month after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the British decided to use the Mohawk Valley as a spike into the heart of New England. Barry St. Leger was promoted to Brigadier General for the campaign and took with him eight hundred British, German, Loyalist, and Canadian troops, and almost one thousand allied Iroquois.

One of their first stops was Fort Stanwix (for a time renamed Fort Schuyler by the Continental forces, and near present day Rome, New York).

Aerial view of Fort Stanwix

The British laid siege, but the Fort’s commander, Colonel Peter Gansevoort, with his almost eight hundred men, refused to surrender.

Reenactment at Fort Stanwix

Thankfully, help was on the way.

General Nicholas Herkimer with his own troops and the local militia, tallying to about 800 men, were hurrying up along the Mohawk River to bring relief. Unfortunately, Molly Brant, sister of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk military and political leader, and one of the most feared Tories in the area, sent runners to inform the British of the American force.

St. Leger sent an intercept force totaling at least four hundred and fifty men. They ambushed the Continental troops in a ravine near the settlement of Oriskany.

General Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany

Caught off guard and in a death trap, the Patriots lost over half of their men. Over four hundred men, including Herkimer himself who was wounded and died a few days later. On the British side, the Iroquois war party lost around sixty-five, while the British tallied only seven dead and twenty-one wounded, missing or captured.

But it wasn’t a victory for the British.

While they succeeded in turning back the American relief column, the Continental force held the battlefield after the ambushers had withdrawn back toward Fort Stanwix. The Americans also succeeded in crumbling the moral of the Iroquois warriors which led to internal conflict and contributed the eventual failure of St. Leger’s strike.

Back at Fort Stanwix the British siege only lasted a couple more weeks before news arrived that Benedict Arnold (yes, that one, but when he was still on the side of the Americans) was approaching with a large force (though his actual force was much smaller than rumor suggested). The unhappy Iroquois insisted the British withdraw…and so they did.

Major General Benedict Arnold

When Arnold and his column passed by Oriskany two weeks after the battle, many of the dead Americans still remained where they had fallen. By then the stench was horrific, as was the grisly scene.

Ten miles down the Mohawk River, The Scarlet Coat unfolds.

A Woman Compelled by Christian Charity
Surrounded by the musket fire of the American Revolution, Rachel Garnet prays for her family to be safe. When the British invade the Mohawk Valley, and her father and brother don’t return from the battle, she goes in pursuit of them. She finds her brother alive but her father has been killed at the hand of the enemy. Amidst the death, how can she ignore a cry for help…? Rachel reluctantly takes in a badly wounded British officer. But how long can her sense of Christian duty repress her hatred for his scarlet coat?

A Man Lost to the Devastation of War
Passages of Scripture and fleeting images of society are all Andrew Wyndham recalls after he awakens to the log walls of his gentle prison. Even his name eludes him. Rachel Garnet insists he is a captain in the British army. He mourns the loss of his memory, but how can he hope to remember war when his “enemy” is capturing his heart?

A Scarlet Uniform Holds the Power to Unite or Divide
Andrew’s injuries are severe, his memory slow to return, and the secret of his existence too perilous to ignore. As Rachel nurses him back to health, his hidden scarlet coat threatens to expose the deeds of her merciful heart, and Andrew is forced to face a harrowing decision—Stay hidden and risk losing the woman he loves or turn himself in and risk losing his life.

Angela K Couch is an award-winning author for her short stories, and a semi-finalist in ACFW’s 2015 Genesis Contest for her Revolutionary War novel that will be published by Pelican Book Group. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. Angela lives in Alberta, Canada with her “hero” and three munchkins.

To connect with Angela, or to learn more about her award winning fiction, you can visit her at www.angelakcouch.com.

Remember, leave a comment or ask a question in the comments below by February 1 to be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of The Scarlet Coat

OR

Get your own copy of The Scarlet Coat!

Inaugural 411

 

On a beautiful sunny day in April 1789, George Washington laid his hand on the Bible and took the Oath of Office as the first President of the newly formed United States of America. Washington took the oath in the open overlooking a crowd in New York City. Upon completion, he spontaneously kissed the Bible and then delivered the nation’s inaugural address. With no guidelines having been prescribed in the Constitution for a presidential inauguration, many of Washington’s inaugural choices have served as precedents that continue to be followed by most of his successors.

Here’s a list of American Inauguration trivia. See if you can sort out the fact from the fiction.

The Oath of Office is administered by the Speaker of the House. Fiction The Oath of Office is  traditionally administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, though not required by the Constitution.

John Adams was the first President to be sworn in by the Chief Justice. Fact Because the Supreme Court had not yet been established, Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of New York, administered the Oath of Office to George Washington.

Every President has given an Inaugural Address. Fiction Its  hard to imagine a politician NOT taking an opportunity to give a speech, but Presidents John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford all assumed the presidency following his predecessor’s death or resignation and so decided that it would be inappropriate to give an inaugural address.

Newspaper covering FDR’s second inauguration, 1937.

The Inauguration has always been on January 20. Fiction Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to be inaugurated on January 20. Prior to this, the Inauguration was held on March 4th to allow ample time to tally the popular vote, have the electoral college members send their votes to Washington, and for the new government to be formed under the president-elect. By 1933, modern forms of communication allowed for a more stream-lined transition of power. The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution was ratified in 1933 and officially switched the date of the Inauguration to January 20th.

James Monroe was the first president to take the oath of office outdoors in Washington, D.C.  Fact After Washington swore his first oath of office before the city of New York from the balcony of Federal Hall in 1789, all subsequent inaugural oaths were sworn indoors until 1817. Washington swore his second oath of office in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia. John Adams swore the oath of office in the Hall of the House of Representatives in Philadelphia’s Federal Hall before a joint session of Congress. For both of his inaugurations Thomas Jefferson swore his oath in the new Senate Chamber of the partially built Capitol building in Washington, D.C. And James Madison was administered the oath of office in the Hall of the House of Representatives in the Capitol.

The oath is the only part of our elaborate inaugural ceremonies and celebrations that is required by the Constitution. Fact  Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution provides the brief, but imperative oath that every president beginning with George Washington has sworn to. The exact moment when a president-elect concludes the oath signals that he or she is now officially president and commander-in-chief.

Presidents must “swear” their loyalty to the Constitution. Fiction The Constitution does allow a president the choice of swearing or affirming the oath of office. Franklin Pierce is the only president to affirm his oath. It is unclear exactly why Pierce chose to affirm the oath. Some historians note that Pierce’s religious beliefs may have have deemed swearing the oath unethical.

President Barack takes the oath of office for the second time, on January 21, 2009

Barack Obama took the Oath of Office four times. Fact President Obama is the only president to take the Oath of Office twice each time he was elected. In 2009 there was some concern the Oath wasn’t properly administered at the formal swearing-in, so he took it again the next day. In 2013 January 20 fell on a Sunday, so there was a small swearing-in ceremony on the 20th and then the public ceremony on the 21st.

 

Bonus Trivia

Though tradition plays a dominant role in presidential inaugural ceremonies, special circumstances and personal preferences sometimes compel changes.

  • The inauguration of Martin Van Buren in 1837 marked the first time both the incumbent and president-elect rode together to the Capitol for the inaugural ceremony.
  • In 1853 Franklin Pierce affirmed his oath, instead of swearing it. He also chose not to kiss the Bible, but to place his hand on it instead.
  • Because inauguration day was a Sunday in 1877, Rutherford Hayes was sworn in before the actual inauguration day, and for the first time, a president swore the oath privately in the White House on Saturday. He then swore the oath in public that Monday.
  • In 1917 Woodrow Wilson became the first president to swear the oath on a Sunday. He also was the first to swear the oath in the President’s Room at the Capitol in private.
  • In 1953 Dwight Eisenhower chose not to kiss the Bible, but to recite a personal prayer following the oath.
  • President Lyndon Johnson was the first to ask his wife to actively participate in the inaugural ceremony. In previous years, the clerk of the Supreme Court would be asked to hold the Bible for the oath. However, Johnson asked his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, to hold the Bible. First Lady Johnson wrote about the experience, “I was touched that Lyndon wanted me to hold the Bible for the swearing-in. We used the Bible Lyndon’s mother had given us . . . and I stood facing the throng between the Chief Justice and Lyndon while he took the oath.” A new tradition was born. Since Johnson’s inauguration in 1965, every subsequent first lady has held the Bible for her husband’s oath.
  • The shortest and longest inaugural addresses were given by George Washington and William Henry Harrison, respectively. Washington’s second inaugural address was only 135 words long. William Henry Harrison’s inaugural address was 8,445 words long.

Most inaugurations continue to be festive events celebrated by traditional ceremonies, parades, and balls, but it is the oath of office that reigns as the highlight. In his book, Democracy’s Big Day, historian Jim Bendat writes, “Our Inauguration Day is one that demonstrates the continuity of our country and the renewal of the democratic process, as well as the healing that is sometimes needed after an election battle.”

Never has this been needed more in our country than today.

How about you? Will you be watching the festivities?

Historical Fiction to Turn Your Heart Toward Christmas

joyful-christmas

As the song goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Goshorn household. Holly, lights, and the scent of pine and cinnamon signal that Christmas is near. The lighted manger scene adorns my yard, snowmen and angels abound in my family room, our tree is up with lights and red bead garland, and Christmas music fills the background whether at home or in the car. We have our Christmas movies out and have already viewed a few of our favorites. What’s missing besides the ornaments we still need to hang on the branches of our tree?

Snuggling up with a good book and a cup of Earl Grey tea (my personal favorite) in front of a crackling fire.

Here’s a list of excellent historical fiction, by classic and contemporary authors, to give you that warm and cozy Christmas-is-around-the-corner feeling. Not sure how you’ll squeeze in a book right now? No worries. There is a nice selection of short stories and novellas as well as novels for you to choose from.

I’ve made it easy for you to purchase the book for yourself or as a gift. Just click on the cover to go to amazon. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with any of these Christmas selections.

Classics

The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry— This classic short story of sacrificial giving is a Christmas must read as Henry’s characters, Della and Jim, sell their most treasured possessions to give a gift they know the other will love.

The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale, Philip Van Doren Stern— I have not read this story yet. In fact, I only discovered it doing research for this blog post, but I’ve already purchased it on my Kindle! This heart-warming short story, which came to Stern in a dream, became the basis for the classic Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens–Before you roll your eyes because you’ve seen the movie every year, pause and consider reading this classic first published in October 1843. While I love a good film, there is nothing like reading a classic. Charles Dickens, heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher, began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol is the imaginative and entertaining tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote–First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote’s rural Alabama boyhood in the 1930’s has become a modern-day classic. Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: “It’s fruitcake weather!” Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls–one young and one old–and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.

The Little Match Girl, Hans Christian Andersen— First published in 1845, this classic story tells the tale of a poor child who tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and is barefoot having lost her shoes. The girl lights the matches to warm herself. Seeing a shooting star, she remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. After running out of matches the child dies, and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook, frozen with a smile on her face, and guess the reason for the burnt-out matches beside her. They feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death. They have no way of knowing about the wonderful visions she saw before her death or how gloriously she and her grandmother are now celebrating the New Year in Heaven.

Contemporary Historical Fiction

A Light in the Window, Julie Lessman— This novel should come with a warning! Danger, you will get sucked into the entire O’Connor Family Saga! This beautifully told story follows Marceline Murphy in 1890s Boston. While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen, A Light in the Window, Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to the two men who are pursuing her, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the “light in the window,” meaning the message of Christ in his heart.

The Fruitcake Challenge, Carrie Fancett Pagels— This fun sweet romance novella is the first installment of Carrie’s Christy Family Lumberjack Series and was a Selah awarad finalist. The title grabbed me right away and Carrie’s storytelling won’t disappoint. When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on!

I Heard the Bells, Angela K. Couch— This heart warming short story was inspired by the Christmas carol of the same name and was the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Virginia chapter’s Short Story Contest winner. Angela is beautiful storyteller. Don’t miss this one! Three years ago, Gabriel Morgan left his home in Virginia to fight for the Union Army, despite his family and fiancee’s loyalties to the South. Now, with battle fresh in his mind, and the Civil War still raging, he chances a quick trip home with one prayer… to make peace this Christmas.

Although I haven’t read them yet, these books sound so good I had to include them because they are on my TBR pile!

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming, Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Hearne, Julie Lessman, & Anna Schmidt–Four historical romances featuring cowboys, small towns and the wide open range. These authors ALWAYS leave you wanting more!

The Widow’s Captive, Lucette Nel–You won’t want to miss this author’s debut novella. On the run with two small children and a third due within weeks, Adeline Spencer fears the approaching blizzard will seal their fate. An abandoned cabin is an answer to her prayers. She hopes it will shield them from both the storm and the enraged brother-in-law hot on her tail. But when a stranger knocks at the door, she is convinced they have been found by one of Ward’s lackeys.Blamed for the death of his friend, Sheriff Jonah Hale is determined to prove himself worthy of his badge, even if it means riding into a blizzard to check on a crazy miner. When Jonah reaches the cabin, he’s caught off guard by a pretty and very pregnant young woman wielding a skillet. Bound to a chair while the storm rages, and as Christmas settles in around them, he must find a way to earn Adeline’s trust…and perhaps her heart.

Hang Your Heart on Christmas, Heather Blanton–I’ve enjoyed all of Heather’s other novels and look forward to hours of entertainment form this book as well. As punishment for a botched arrest, U.S. Marshal “Dent” Hernandez is temporarily remanded to the quiet little town of Evergreen, Wyoming. Not only does his hometown hold some bad memories, but he is champing at the bit to go after vicious killers, not waste his time scolding candy thieves. And he most certainly should not be escorting the very pretty, but jittery, schoolteacher around. What is she so afraid of? Turns out, a lot of folks are keeping secrets in Evergreen. When the bank is robbed and Dent has to do what he does best, choices will be made, lies will be exposed, and hearts will break. Can Christmas bring love and healing to Evergreen? To Dent?

Where Treetops Glisten–Three Stores of Heartwarming Courage and Christmas Romance During World War II, Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam and Sarah Sundin–Although I haven’t read this novella collection, these authors don’t disappoint! I’m looking forward to this World War II era collection of stories. Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

The Substitute Bride, Carrie Fancett Pagels–Carrie’s books always make my TBR pile and this Christmas novella sounds enchanting. The Substitute Bride is part of the O’ Little Town of Christmas novella collection and won Carrie a much coveted spot as a Maggie award finalist. A Christmas Carol meets It’s A Wonderful Life A letter for Sonja’s deceased friend arrives at the post office in Michigan, and with it a proposal. With her father threatening to kick her out of his home, Sonja impulsively responds, offering to travel west to be a substitute bride. At the same time, Louis’s railroad promotion sends him back to Michigan, the one place on earth he’d hoped to never return—where Christmas past was full of pain. A mysterious stranger leaves him marked copies of “A Christmas Carol” as he considers romancing Sonja in Christmas present. Will Louis discern the best choices for Christmas future? Does it include the Poor House, again? Even so—will God bring healing and love to him this year?

Tidings of Peace, Tracie PetersonBestselling author Tracie Peterson presents four Christmas love stories from World War II. Moving from the homefront, to the front line, to the South Pacific, each story in Tidings of Peace features brave men and women trying to find meaning–and love–during the uncertainties of war. All the danger, difficulties, sadness, and hope experienced on both sides of the ocean is captured in these timeless novellas. the unique Christmas settings will put you in the spirit of the season, showing the miracles and mercy so often found during this time of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Just in case I haven’t given you enough choices, here are some wonderful historical romance Christmas novella collections. Although I haven’t read these either yet, they come highly recommended and I plan to read as many as possible!

What is your favorite book that turns your heart toward Christmas?

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