Ida Scudder by Terri B. Kelly

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Missionary Doctor

I had read Mary Slessor: Missionary Mother, a biography written by Terri Kelly of a Scottish missionary (1848 – 1915) whose heart’s desire was to serve God and the people of Africa, and looked forward to reading Ida Scudder: Missionary Doctor.

Kelly did not disappoint me.

Ida Scudder was reluctant to join her parents’ mission in India. She had a mind of her own and lived with a spirit of fun back at the Northfield Seminary for Girls in Massachusetts. After all, it’s 1889, and the high school student didn’t want to live the rest of her life in poverty at the mission.

Then her mother falls ill and Ida needs to return to India. Caring for her mother through her illness and seeing the great need for female doctors changes her mind about her future.

I love how the author allows Ida’s mischievous nature to shine as well as her real struggle with her decision to become a missionary doctor.  

Her life and fierce faith changed many lives.

This biography is written for children 9 – 12. I’d say that middle-school aged boys and girls will be inspired by this story.  

I also recommend it for adults. Though written in language children can understand, this biography was a page turner for me.

I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

No-churn Chocolate Ice Cream

by Sandra Merville Hart

It always thrills me to find recipes for something I never dreamed of making. I don’t own an ice-cream maker and thought I’d have to purchase one before making homemade ice cream. Imagine my surprise at finding a no-churn recipe. And it’s easy to make!

I followed the Food Network’s recipe for No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream. Click on the link for the recipe.

One of my grandchildren (the other watched his favorite show 😊) was thrilled to make this ice cream with me early in the day to be ready for an afternoon treat, as it requires 5 hours in the freezer before serving.

It’s amazingly quick and easy—and fun with a little one helping you and sneaking a lick of chocolaty fingers. 😊

I followed the recipe except I sprinkled a layer of milk chocolate chips in the middle and on top (about an ounce of chips in total) because I love chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream.

It turned out creamy and delicious! I could taste the cocoa, giving it an enhanced chocolate flavor over most frozen ice creams.

I lined my loaf pan with parchment paper. After the ice cream was frozen, the parchment paper was turned down to cover the ice cream in the freezer. Another option is to choose a container with a lid from the start, which is what I will do next time.

Additional add-ins—crushed cookies in a middle layer; M&M baking bits in a middle layer and on top; or gummy snack treats or sprinkles as decoration on top.

A fun summertime treat!


“No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream,” Food Network, 2022/08/08

Endorsements for Byway to Danger

by Sandra Merville Hart

I was thrilled to receive three wonderful endorsements for Byway to Danger. Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series released on July 19, 2022. It’s set in the Confederate capital of Richmond and Fort Monroe, both in Virginia, in 1862.

“Several years ago I had the distinct pleasure of vetting Sandra Hart’s first manuscript submitted to our publishing company. Her story was about the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and became her acclaimed first novel A Stranger on My Land. I was amazed then at her level of research and the small details she got right. Not to mention her intriguing story and her courage in offering a fresh look at a battle that had been covered many times before. Now, several books later, I’m delighted to say that not only has Sandra maintained her quality, but her level of research and attention to detail has only improved from what was already an impressively high standard. In her new book, Byway to Danger, the third in her Spies of the Civil War series, Sandra has taken her writing to new heights. She sprinkles awesome historical details throughout her story that enrich the story without overpowering it.  I could almost smell the goodies cooking in the bakery that is our heroine Meg’s base of operations. Sandra Hart has crafted a wonderful story, with rich characters and a taut, roller coaster of a ride through the streets of Confederate Richmond, Virginia, and the incredibly tense lives of the undercover Union spies who live there. Yet even in constant danger, love can grow like a flower through concrete, and this too Sandra nurtures with a fine and delicate hand. Byway to Danger is simply a delightful, wonderful read…I hated to see it end!”

~ Kevin Spencer, Author, North Carolina Expatriates

“Award-winning and Amazon Bestselling Author Sandra Merville Hart brings us another Civil War sweet romance you will not want to miss. Byway to Danger combines her gentle storytelling style with a plot full of secrets, danger, and sweet romance that kept me glued to the page. This is the last book of the Spies of the Civil War series and stands on its own but, if you missed the other books, after reading this you’ll want to read the other two books.” 

~Catherine Castle, Multi-Award-Winning Author

Byway to Danger is an intriguing look into the heroism of the men and women loyal to the Union living in the South. Sandra Merville Hart’s novels always satisfy this history buff with details that bring the characters to life. The love story between Meg, a Union spy and former Pinkerton, and Cade Yancey, the baker she works for who is also a conductor on the Underground Railroad, is touching as they both overcome past heartache to find love together. I found myself transported back to a time when danger lurked everywhere but also where joy still reigned.

~Cindy Thomson, Author of the Ellis Island Series and the Daughters of Ireland Series

Emma’s Quest by Starr Ayers

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 2 in “Dream Beyond Tomorrow” Series

A packet of love letters found among the possessions of the author’s deceased mother sparked the first book of the series, a wonderful timeslip story. Emma’s Quest, Book 2, is another timeslip novel with some of the same characters in a continuation of the story.

Two sisters in modern day still try to piece together their mother’s early courtships and her romance with their father. It has plenty of twists and turns…

Emma Rose Walsh’s story begins in 1939. Whe travels to Chicago where the handsome Andrew Brown works as an artist. Things don’t start out well when he isn’t there to pick her up from the train.

Drew’s job takes him to various cities for short jaunts and Emma has only her waitressing job and a few friends in Chicago to keep her busy. She’s lonely and longs for her friends and family back in North Carolina.

And with the war in Europe escalating, there’s plenty happening on all fronts.

This nostalgic story has plenty of suspense. The contemporary story with the sisters intrigues readers with clues about what’s coming in the historical side.

As in the first book, more than one man is worthy of a good woman. I found myself pulling for first one and then the other to win Emma’s heart.

The country marches ever closer to World War II and then is catapulted into it, and every character is affected by. As the story continued, it snagged my interest making it difficult to put down.   

Recommended for readers of inspirational historical romance.


Emerald Fields by Pegg Thomas

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

A More Perfect Union, Book 1

Emmie Mason receives the sad news of her friend’s death from the woman’s brother, Russ Fields. She’s never met Russ, but answers his letter with her condolences. She’s not the only one grieving her best friend.

Her letter to the lonely veteran of the War Between the States is gratefully received. Russ, whose face is so badly scarred from battle wounds that he shields that side of his profile, answers her letter. When the correspondence continues, friendship grows between them. Russ comforts himself that she’ll never see his scars—or know the terrible way the war still haunts him.   

Emmie loses her job at the Pittsburgh hospital near her home and wonders what it would be like to see Russ’s Michigan farm. The loss of her job gives her more time to spend with her dying father.

I loved this story! Lovable characters tugged at my heart—even the crusty ones. Lots of unexpected turns kept my attention. I didn’t want to put the book down.

Readers are given a glimpse of the trauma of war’s aftermath.

Well-written. Unexpected. Poignant. The author has crafted a beautiful story to begin this series!  

Recommended for readers of inspirational historical romance.


Ice Cream Cake

by Sandra Merville Hart

My sister has a summer birthday and she told me how much she enjoyed making an ice cream cake with her young grandchildren, aged 5 and 2.

It sounded like so much fun that I decided to do the same with my grandchildren around the same age. The best part is you can modify this recipe and choose your favorites.

I asked her if she froze the cake between adding layers and she didn’t—but they must have worked quickly. I didn’t freeze the cake before adding the second layer of ice cream but I will next time. That’s the suggestion I’d make for you if you’re using 2 different layers of ice cream.

Below is the list of ingredients I used for our ice cream cake. Change them for your family’s preferences. 😊


Fudge brownies—make from scratch or use a mix

½ gallon chocolate ice cream

½ gallon cookies and cream ice cream

10-12 Oreo cookies, crushed


Chocolate ganache—9 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 1 cup heavy cream

Use a springform pan to layer this dessert.

Bottom layer—prepare a brownie recipe and cook it in the springform pan. Allow it to cool.

Next, prepare the chocolate ganache. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

On top of the cooled brownie inside the springform pan, scoop in a layer of chocolate ice cream.

Next, spoon on a thin layer of ganache.

On top of the ganache, sprinkle a layer of crushed Oreos.

Freeze all this in the pan for about half an hour.

Next, add a layer of cookies and cream ice cream.

Top it with sprinkles.

Freeze until ready to serve.

This was a little messy with young children but it was worth it. What fun! Their creative side came into play and, well, let’s just say the sprinkles ended up in a heap. I didn’t mind at all.

When it came time to serve the cake, I allowed 30 minutes of thawing time. It was too hard to slice, so I’d suggest removing it from the freezer an hour ahead of time.

Delicious! As if it could be anything else with 2 kinds of ice creams, fudge brownies, Oreos, ganache, and sprinkles!

What a great summertime activity with the kids! Be prepared for a bit of a mess and have fun with it. Creating a cake using flavors your family will love is half the fun.

Suggestions for alternatives: Instead of brownies as a bottom layer, substitute with large chocolate chip cookie layer.

Substitute the crushed Oreos with your favorite cookie.

Substitute one of the ice cream layers with chocolate mousse.


Virginia in the Civil War by Joseph D’Arezzo

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Images of America

As an author of historical novels, I have to admit that I look for research books in the “Images of America” series. They are always very well done.

The old photographs along with the explanatory summaries transport me back to the locations where so much history took place. The photographs enhance what I’ve already researched in other nonfiction books.

Virginia’s citizens suffered through many battles during the Civil War. Photos and sketches of the locations and troops bring these to life. There is a photo of perhaps one hundred wagons in a field that toted necessary supplies for the troops.  

Informative and well-organized. I highlighted many sections of helpful facts.

Some of the battles touch my story in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about Civil War history.


Onion Soup Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

One of the fun things I get to do as an author of historical novels is search through old recipe books for the time period that I’m writing. I include those dishes in my novels. “Spies of the Civil War” is my current series. Onion soup is one the dishes served in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The hero is a talented baker and our heroine works as his assistant. 😊

A recipe for onion soup in an 1877 cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, was provided by a cook with the initials of E. W. W.  


3 onions

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 small potato

1 cup milk

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Peel and slice the onions. (I used yellow onions.)

Heat a large saucepan of water over medium high heat. Bring it to a boil while you continue with the recipe.

Stir 1 cup milk and 1 cup water together in a saucepan and heat to boiling. (An alternative is to use 2 cups of milk for an even creamier soup. Delicious!)

Melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the flour, which will thicken the soup. Then add the onions to the skillet. Sauté the onions, stirring often, for at least ten minutes over medium heat, until the onions are softened.

While the onions cook, peel and grate one small potato. Set aside.

Pour the cooked onions into a large metal mixing bowl. Slowly stir in the boiling milk. Set the mixing bowl over the pan of softly boiling water to mimic a double boiler (or use a double boiler if you have one.)

Add the grated potato, salt, and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. The soup will be creamy. Stir occasionally as it cooks.  

Remove the metal mixing bowl carefully from the heat because it will be hot. Stir in a ¼ cup of heavy cream.

Serve immediately.

I must admit I’m not a big fan of onion soup, but this creamy soup is delicious. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my lunch! This soup wasn’t hot—as in spicy hot—and there was a hint of sweetness.

If you’d like an even creamier version of the onion soup, don’t mix any water with the milk, as noted.

This is the best onion soup I’ve ever eaten. I will make it again.

I’d love to hear if you try it.


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

Shadrach Minkins, Fugitive

by Sandra Merville Hart

Shadrach Minkins was about twenty-eight years old when he escaped slavery in the home of John DeBree in Norfolk, Virginia, in May of 1850. It’s likely that a schooner took him. He arrived in Boston that same month. Shadrach went by the name of Frederick while there.

Not long after his arrival, Minkins spotted William H. Parks, a white man who had worked with him in Norfolk. Instead of turning him in, Parks gave him a job. Then Minkins was hired by upscale restaurant, Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern, where he waited tables.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, requiring slaves to be returned to their owners even when in a free state, passed on September 18th, and this eventually affects Minkins.

Many citizens were outraged by the law, including folks in Boston. In October, a community of African Americans established the League of Freedom to rescue fugitives. Another group, The Committee of Vigilance and Safety, was formed by mostly white citizens with the same goal.

John DeBree hired a slave catcher John Caphart to bring Minkins back to Norfolk. Caphart, a man known for his violent history, arrive in Boston on February 12, 1851. Minkins was arrested at the Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern three days later and taken to the courthouse.

Six lawyers offered to represent Minkins. One helped him write his name.

Between 100 – 150 people, many of them black, crowded the courtroom within thirty minutes. Hundreds more gathered outside. A charge of about twenty black men broke through the outer and inner doors and took Minton away.

His rescuers hid him in various locations, including the home of Reverend Joseph C. Lovejoy. Minton made it to Leominster and then traveled along the Underground Railroad. He arrived in La Praire, Quebec, Canada four days later.

Minton wrote a letter thanking his friends in Boston. He signed the letter as Frederick Minton.

His story has a happy ending. He met and married Mary, an Irish woman, and they had four children. Minton returned to his former name of Shadrach Minton. In Old Montreal, he owned barbershops, inns, and restaurants.

One of the characters in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, has a station on the Underground Railroad in Richmond.


“Fugitive Slave Act,” American Battlefield Trust, 2022/06/20

Newby-Alexander, PHD, Cassandra L. Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, History Press, 2017.

“Rescued from the Fangs of the Slave Hunter: The Case of Shadrach Minkins,” National Park Service, 2022/06/20

“Shadrach Minkins (d. 1875),” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2022/06/20

Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

This book by Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander, PhD gives some historical background of slavery in Virginia. Much of the book gives accounts of folks who escaped slavery and how they accomplished it.

The author shows that many of the freedom seekers escaped on small vessels and steamships on Virginia’s tidal rivers like the James, York, and the Potomac.

I found this book informative, well-organized, and well-researched. Lots of helpful facts were included, such as laws and the years they were passed. For example, free blacks were able to purchase the freedom of relatives after the passage of a 1782 law.

The discussion of the Underground Railroad was helpful as were the charts, photos, maps, and sketches.

The Underground Railroad is a topic in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about the history of slavery.