Southern Gentleman by Yvonne Lehman

Book 2 of Finding Love in the Low Country series

Norah Brown just lost her sister in a tragic accident that also claimed the life of her sister’s boyfriend. Grief for both of them pales in comparison for their infant daughter, who must now grow up without them. Norah vows to take care of sweet Camille as she has done since the baby was born three months ago.

Thornton Winter lost his brother in the accident and he’s not about to shirk his duty to the niece he learned of as his brother lay dying. The beautiful Norah isn’t the type of woman his brother typically dated. No matter. He takes both of them into his home until custody is awarded.

Sparks fly as neither wants to give up Camille. Thornton believes Norah is the baby’s mother … why not allow him to keep believing it?

This story is tragic because of the real needs for the care of a little baby who will grow up not knowing her biological parents. It’s also thought-provoking, as both families want to raise her.

The characters are believable and likeable. There are twists and turns that kept me turning pages.

I’ve read other books by this author and she’s become one of my favorites.

-Sandra Merville Hart




by Sandra Merville Hart

I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and learning a lot about dishes that are new to me. Even more helpful is The Great British Baking Show Masterclass, where talented bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry demonstrate their own recipes.

Paul Hollywood demonstrated a recipe for flaounes, a new dish to me. With the cheese filling baked with the pastry, it looked delicious. I watched him prepare the flaounes several times and wrote down all the instructions.

Finding the ingredients for this Cypriot pastry challenged me. I found Pecorino Romano cheese at a cheese shop while on vacation. The shop sold a wide variety of cheeses but I didn’t recall the name of the Halloumi cheese at the time. I found it later at a specialty grocery store.

Semolina flour is a new flour for me. My local grocer carries it.

I wasn’t able to find sultanas, which are made from green seedless grapes. I substituted raisins for sultanas.

Mahlepi, a Greek spice, wasn’t available in specialty grocery stores near more so I left it and the mastic powder out of my recipe. I’m certain this made a difference in the flavor, but I have to say it was delicious without them too.

Other than those differences, I followed his recipe. May I say that I appreciated his skills with pastry more than ever after making the dough. There is something to be said for years of experience.

Flaounes are a completely new flavor for me. The Halloumi cheese, a crumbly wet cheese, was also new to me.

The cheese filling really made the whole dish. It’s a filling lunch. I ate several bites before deciding that I really liked it.

I’m so glad I tried it. Let me know what you think if you make it.


“Flaounes,” BBC Food, 2020/11/23

“Raisins vs Sultanas vs Currants: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, 2020/11/23

Last Confederate Surrender

by Sandra Merville Hart

Most people believe the Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Not exactly. There were several other Confederate armies that had to surrender.

Rather than surrender, Colonel John S. Mosby, leader of “Mosby’s Raiders,” disbanded his cavalry troops on April 21, 1865.

General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee surrendered at the Bennett Place to Union General Sherman with the final agreement signed on April 26, 1865.

Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered his  Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.

Major General Dabney Maury surrendered his  Confederate District of the Gulf  to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.

Brig. General M. Jeff Thompson surrendered his  Sub-District of Northwest Arkansas at two Arkansas locations, Wittsburg and Jacksonport, on May 11, 1865.

Brig. General William T. Wofford surrendered his Department of North Georgia    to Union Brigadier General Henry M. Judah in Kingston, Georgia, on May 12, 1865.

Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of Trans-Mississippi Department, signed a surrender aboard the USS Fort Jackson just outside Galveston Harbor on June 2, 1865.

Cherokee General Stand Watie surrendered his First Indian Brigade at Doaksville on June 23, 1865.

After General Lee’s surrender, the other Confederate armies soon followed.

Yet the last surrender may surprise you, for this one didn’t even take place in the United States.

The CSS Shenandoah was purchased in England for the Confederate States Navy in 1864. Formerly the Sea King, the ship was converted to a warship in the Atlantic Ocean near the Spanish coast. Confederate Lt. James Iredell Waddell commanded the ship.

Waddell renamed the ship CSS Shenandoah. It required at least 150 men to sail and operate the warship. When he left the coast of Spain, he had only recruited 43 men for his crew. Since the ship’s task was to disrupt Union shipping, Waddell and his officers decided to increase its crew from the capture of Union ships.

They sailed toward the Cape of Good Hope and then toward Melbourne, Australia, successfully capturing Union ships, cargo, and crews. Some ships were burned or sunk and others were ransomed. The officers and crew of CSS Shenandoah had been quite successful in pursuing Union merchant ships when they had to stop for repairs on January 25, 1865, in Melbourne, Australia.

The crew grew from captured crew members just as Waddell had hoped.

After repairs were completed, Waddell sailed the Pacific Ocean in search of the American whaling fleet and captured ships near the equator in April. The CSS Shenandoah had set sail for the Bering Sea when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, though Waddell, being in the middle of the ocean, was unaware of this first of several surrenders. He continued his pursuit of Union merchant ships.

Upon reaching the Bering Sea on June 21st, the CSS Shenandoah captured two whalers the next day. Captain Francis Smith of the William Thompson informed Waddell that the war had ended. Waddell didn’t believe him and burned both the William Thompson and the Euphrates as Union ships.

If the war had ended as Captain Smith claimed, future capture of Union ships risked a charge of piracy. Unconvinced, Waddell continued his mission.

Thirty-eight ships had been captured or destroyed by the CSS Shenandoah when Waddell learned of the war’s end from a source he trusted. The crew of the Barracouta, a British ship, gave him the news on August 2, 1865.

Hoping to escape being charged with piracy and hung, Waddell sailed for Liverpool, England. The 9,000-mile voyage took three months. The ship’s crew, fearing capture if it replenished supplies at a port, never stopped. Union ships pursued the CSS Shenandoah the whole journey.

Waddell surrendered in Liverpool to the HMS Donegal on November 6, 1865. It was the final surrender of the Civil War.

Sources Editors. “CSS Shenandoah learns the war is over,” A&E Television Networks, 2020/12/28

Marcello, Paul J. “Shenandoah 1864-1865,” Naval History and Heritage Command, 2020/12/28

Plante, Trevor K. “Ending the Bloodshed,” Prologue Magazine National Archives, 2021/01/04



Traces by Denise Weimer

Kate Carson has been invited to compete in a reality TV show where she and a partner will evade the show’s hunters for days. Her company, which recently installed a surveillance camera in Atlanta, encourages her to participate for the publicity. A breakup with her boyfriend prompts her agreement. Also, her brother will be her partner. First, she has some information about shady dealings at her job for a reporter friend to investigate.

Alex Mitchell works at the same company but he barely knows her when the reality show pairs them up to go on the run together. The ex-military man is determined to win the prize money and has little patience for Kate’s decision to back out before the game begins.

But the greatest danger they face isn’t from the game …

This fast-paced story kept me turning pages. The characters were likeable but Kate’s refusal to see the mounting danger frustrated me. Her choices escalate the danger.

Suspenseful! The growing romance along with plenty of twists and turns held my interest. This one cost me some sleep as I had to stay up late to find out what happened.

I’ll look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

A Christmas Tradition: Yule Logs

by Sandra Merville Hart

The custom of burning logs around the time of the winter solstice dates back to 5000 BC in Egypt and the time of Moses.

“Yule” logs were first used around winter solstice by the Vikings in an outdoor celebration of longer days that were coming. They brought the celebration to Britain when they invaded them.

The custom of burning yule logs moved inside homes in the fourth century.

By 1066, most British communities celebrated the custom, which continued for the next 700 years. Late winter or early spring was the time to cut a yule log from their land or a friend’s land for the next year’s celebration. The large log that had to burn for the 12 twelve days of Christmas was dragged home and set to dry.

Spices, wine, and rum were periodically rubbed into the log. When burning, the spices gave a pleasant perfume-like aroma to remind everyone of the gifts of the Magi.

It was brought into the home on Christmas Eve. After the church bells rang that day, it was lit from a piece of last year’s yule log. Folks considered it a bad sign if the log didn’t light on the first attempt.

After the fire started, the family symbolically burned the year’s misfortunes by tossing sprigs of holly into the hearth. The Christmas story was told. The family played games and sang songs before eating a meal prepared over the yule log’s fire.

For the remainder of the 12 days of Christmas, the women tended the fire because it was considered bad luck for it to die out early. A small piece of the yule log was then saved to ignite the next year’s fire.

Centuries passed. As huge hearths became a thing of the past, the yule logs were only required to burn 12 hours.

The French replaced the traditional yule log with a buche de Noel. This log-shaped cake was served after Christmas Eve’s midnight mass.

So, yule logs are usually a sweet treat these days.

It’s fun to learn the surprising history behind this modern holiday tradition.



Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, Zondervan, 2003.

“Yule Log,” Wikipedia, 2020/11/13


Death of an Imposter by Deborah Sprinkle

Bernie Santos never expected to begin a murder investigation her first week as detective. After all, this was the quiet community of Pleasant Valley. Nor did she expect to meet a handsome doctor. Bad things seem to happen around him. Is it a coincidence?

Dr. Daniel O’Leary comes to town to help his aunt with autopsies—at least that’s his story. He’s really an undercover FBI agent working on a case. He doesn’t expect to fall in love with the police detective who suspects him.

This story grabbed my attention and held on. Suspenseful. Fast-paced. Action-packed. Real, believable characters. I had no idea of the killer’s identity until just before the detectives discovered it.

This book was a page turner for me. I recommend this book to those who love action-packed romantic suspense novels.

I’ll look for more books by this author!

-Sandra Merville Hart


New Year’s Day Dinners in the 1870s

by Sandra Merville Hart

My dad always wanted black-eyed peas as a side dish on New Year’s Day. He said that it brought good luck into the new year. I’ve carried on this tradition for my family.

Looking for ideas for meals to serve on the first day of the year?

Here are some suggestions for New Year’s Day from an 1870s cookbook.

Suggestions for meat dishes:

Raw oysters, mock turtle soup;

Boiled turkey with oyster sauce;

roast haunch of venison, currant jelly;

deviled crabs;

cold sliced ham

There were plenty of side-dishes:

Beets, stuffed cabbage, potato souffle, baked turnips, lima beans, dried corn, canned pease (peas);

Indian bread, French rolls, biscuits, rye bread;

Chicken salad;

Celery, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, pickled walnuts, variety of pickles;

Plums, peaches, sweet pickled cucumbers, gooseberries, spiced currants

There were lots of dessert choices:

English plum pudding, Bohemian cream; Orange souffle,

Pies—mince, potato, and chess;

Cakes—black, Phil Sheridan, pyramid pound;

Oranges, figs, nuts, raisins

Beverage choices were coffee, tea, and chocolate.

If you are wondering what to serve for New Year’s Day dinner, there are plenty of choices here!


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


The First Christmas

by Sandra Merville Hart

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a virgin pledged to be married to man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Matthew 1:26-28 (NIV)

Joseph paced back and forth in his carpenter’s shop, hardly knowing what was best to do. Mary had promised herself to him … yet she had returned with child from a visit at her aunt’s home.

She had been gone three months. Did it take so little time for her to forget her promise to marry him? To be true to him?

He had no union with her. They had waited for their wedding vows. And now her betrayal tore his very heart from his chest.

Never had he considered this possibility, that his sweet Mary would return as a pregnant woman. He raked his fingers through his dark hair. How he loved her.

Did she really expect him to believe that an angel had visited her? She said the child she carried was the son of the Most High and that He was to be called Jesus. Really? They had long awaited a Savior, and to blame her indiscretion on the Lord when she had obviously fallen in love with another man was more cruel than the act itself.

Yet Joseph loved her, even though she had betrayed him. He would not bring public disgrace upon her. He’d divorce her quietly.

With a heavy heart, he lay down on his mat expecting sleep to be a long time in coming. He fell asleep and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”*

Joseph awoke with a sense of wonder, as if a heavy burden tumbled from his back. Mary had been telling the truth … the angel confirmed it.

His head spun to marvel that he, a poor carpenter, was being entrusted to raise Jesus along with Mary. God’s own Son.

Highly favored, indeed. Just as the angel told Mary.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)


*Matthew 1:21b-22 (NIV)


A Joyful Christmas

What a nice collection—all six historical stories are set during Christmas. They all have a “feel good” ending, which I really like. I read all six stories in a weekend so my interest was captured and held throughout for almost all of them.

Of course, I have my favorites. An Irish Bride for Christmas by Vickie McDonough tugged at my heart. Jackson’s niece is kept from him and Larkin believes the lies told about him.

Christmas Service by Erica Vetsch was a touching story with a great ending.

Under His Wings by Liz Tolsma had characters that readers will love—and one they definitely won’t.

A Star in the Night by Liz Johnson and Shelter in the Storm by Carrie Turansky were page turners for me. Not only were they set during the Civil War, but also the same location as one of my novels—the area of Franklin, Tennessee.

A portion of my Civil War romance, A Musket in My Hands, takes place a year later. The tragic Battle of Franklin happened on November 30, 1864, and is an important part of my story.

-Sandra Merville Hart


by Sandra Merville Hart

I recently found that Christmas dinner in the 1870s included lots of desserts. One of them was a cookie called peppernuts. This Danish cookie is also known as Pfeffernusse. To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten or even seen this cookie and decided to try it.

There are no nuts or pepper or spices in the 1870s by Mrs. Emma G. Rea, so I imagined the cookie earned its name from being small-sized. I found a modern recipe that contained ground almonds and several spices—cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. I decided to make both recipes and compare.

For the 1870s recipe, combine 1 cup of sugar with ½ cup butter until completely blended. Stir in 2 beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons of milk.

Mrs. Rea’s recipe then calls for “flour enough to roll.” There’s a lot of guesswork with these historical recipes. I started out with 1 cup of flour and mixed in 1 teaspoon of baking powder with it. Then I added a ¼ cup of flour at a time until it was just “enough to roll,” about 1 ¾ cups in total.

I chilled the dough for about 30 minutes.

I used a method from the modern recipe that suggested rolling the dough into half-inch ropes and slicing into half-inch pieces. This was quick and easy.

Bake at 375 degrees 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

The cookies flattened out in the baking, so I’ll increase the flour next time I bake them to 2 cups.

These cookies were delicious! What an easy cookie recipe with ingredients usually kept on hand. The cookies reminded me of vanilla wafers, even though there is no vanilla in them. Family who tried them went back for more again and again.

I then made the modern recipe that used ground almonds and several spices. Delicious! I chilled this dough about 30 minutes the same as the first recipe. These cookies use more flour and retained their shape in the oven.

My husband prefers the old-fashioned recipe. They are so different that it didn’t seem like the same cookie to me. I liked them both.


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

Ojakangas, Beatrice. “Peppernuts, Food Network, 2020/11/23