Caleb’s Destiny by Carole Brown

Book 1 in Troubles in the West Series

Destiny McColloch travels west to find a man named Caleb. She hasn’t seen him in fifteen years. Her memories of the boy from her childhood are sketchy, but she’s sure she’ll know him. Her search doesn’t start well as a stagecoach robbery lands her as a guest at Mr. Michael’s ranch.

Mr. Michael has enough to do without a feisty guest to watch over. A dangerous foe in town threatens his safety and those around him. How can he keep her safe?

Believable, lovable characters—and some readers will love to hate—drew me with them into the danger and mystery. Readers of historical romance set in the Wild West should enjoy this novel.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

-Sandra Merville Hart




I love desserts baked with cinnamon. Whenever I prepare them myself, a little extra of the spice gets added—sometimes nearly twice what the recipe suggests. For instance, when making pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin, extra spices enhance the flavor—in my opinion.

A couple of years ago, I ran out of cinnamon in the middle of baking. My husband made an emergency trip to the grocery store for me.

Fearing that he’d bring home a two-ounce bottle, I said, “Buy a large bottle of cinnamon. I go through a lot of it.”

He bought their largest bottle—18.3 ounces! That was a little more than I anticipated. It took over two years to empty the bottle.

The cinnamon tree’s inner bark is the source of the brown spice that can be purchased as sticks or ground cinnamon. It’s one of our oldest spices and is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Revelation.

Besides use as a spice, history shows that cinnamon has also been used medicinally. It’s an anti-inflammatory. It’s an antioxidant. Blood sugar levels rise in a diabetic after meals and a high carb food seasoned with this spice reduces this. And the aroma boosts brain activity.

These are just a few of the health benefits of cinnamon. Who knew something that enhances the flavor of foods could be so good for you!

Unfortunately, some sources say that ground cinnamon only keeps for about six months so the smaller bottle would have been better. When in doubt, smell it because fresh cinnamon has a sweet aroma.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Cinnamon, ground,” The World’s Healthiest Foods, 2020/05/27

These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls

Thomas Paine lived in England until traveling to the colonies in 1774. He wrote articles about issues of the days, such as slavery and women’s rights, for the Pennsylvania Magazine.

It was a time of unrest in the colonies. There was growing dissatisfaction with Great Britain. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Continental army. Though already at war with England, many colonists hesitated to split from England.

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published an important pamphlet called Common Sense. Written in clear, easy-to-read language, it quickly sold about 500,000 copies, becoming an overnight best-seller. Many newspapers around the country reprinted quotes from this pamphlet.

In Common Sense, Paine wrote about the need to separate from England and urged the colonists to declare independence. He also stated that he’d never met a man in America or England who didn’t believe the two countries would not eventually part ways, but they couldn’t agree on the timing. Paine wrote that “the time hath found us.”

People praised his work, and it convinced many to act immediately. Paine volunteered for the army and served as aide-de-camp to General Nathanael Greene.

Washington’s army had been badly defeated in the Battle of Long Island in August. The soldiers’ confidence took a beating.

Paine noticed everyone’s dejected spirits. He sat beside a campfire near Newark, New Jersey, and wrote another article encouraging people not to lose their courage in this time of crisis. The Pennsylvania Journal published it on December 19, 1776.  It was the first article in a series of writings that became known as The Crisis. This is part of his opening lines:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”

Impressed and encouraged by Paine’s article, General George Washington had it read to his soldiers. It inspired those brave men. They crossed the Delaware River during a snow storm that turned to sleet during Christmas night in 1776. The American army surrounded the British forces at Trenton and won the battle, earning citizens’ trust in Washington’s leadership. Their victory increased the soldiers’ confidence.

According to Paine’s article, the harder the fight, the happier we feel when we win.

His words encouraged the nation.

– Sandra Merville Hart


“Ft. Washington Captured – Washington Retreats through N.J -1776,” History Central, 2015/07/27

Paine, Thomas. “The Crisis,” 2015/07/24

“Thomas Paine,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020/06/29

“Thomas Paine,” 2015/07/24

“Thomas Paine Publishes American Crisis,”, 2015/07/28


A Malleable Heart by Jennifer Uhlarik

The Blacksmith Brides Collection

Leah Guthrie bears the heavy burden of raising and caring for her brother and two sisters after the death of their parents. They scrape by on what she earns by washing neighbors’ clothes. Then the wagon wheel breaks.

Blacksmith Bo Allen has earned his reputation for quality work as well for his ornery character. Leah can’t pay him double his rate for a rush job. Something in him softens to see her struggle, especially with the trouble she has with her younger brother.

Yet Bo has endured much abuse in his childhood. He must find a way to deal with it.

This story deals with anger and forgiveness. The characters tugged at my heart and I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve read other books by this author and will look for more. Recommend!

I loved this whole collection.

-Sandra Merville Hart


A Tempered Heart by Angela K. Couch

The Blacksmith Brides Collection

Widowed Esther Mathews brings her son, Charlie, back to live in her father’s home after her husband dies. Her father and sister make no efforts to get close to Charlie, who is different from other boys. Her heart breaks that no one loves him like she does. Until she meets the blacksmith.

Thomas Flynn, blacksmith, takes pride in his work, but he’s deeply in debts inherited from the man who apprenticed him. It will take years to pay them. Though he longs for Esther and Charlie to be his family, he can’t marry and saddle them with his debts … to her father.

The struggles faced by the sweet boy in the story raised all my maternal instincts. I fell in love with all the main characters, who each faced their own heartaches.

This story tugged at my heart. Recommend!

I’m loving this collection!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Egg Omelet Supreme Recipe

Today’s post has been written by fellow author and friend, Carole Brown. She’s here to share a delicious recipe from her newest release, a historical western romance. Welcome back, Carole!

by Carole Brown

In Caleb’s Destiny, late one night after an attempted robbery, Mr. Michael makes a mean egg omelet that Destiny really enjoys, even after she bumbles what should have been an easy “blessing” prayer for the food.

I’ve adjusted the ingredients of what may or may not have been in his egg omelets, but I hope you’ll give it a try and that they’ll be every bit as good as the ones Mr. Michael prepared for Destiny.

Egg Omelet Supreme Recipe:

Ingredients for one person (or maybe two if you’re light eaters):

2 fresh eggs

1-2 tablespoons of Almond Silk sweet milk

vegetables: your choice

meat: sausage, bacon,or steak:  your choice

Cheese (your choice)

Seasonings (salt, pepper, onion powder, or whatever you like). Feel free to add a drop of Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce, if that is to your taste.

cooking spray oil/butter

real butter

How to:

  1. Cook your chosen meat until done. Crumble bacon or sausage. Cut steak into small pieces.
  2. Chop vegetables into bite size, or smaller, pieces. (I like a few peppers, a touch of green onion, greens like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes or olives, etc or whatever you like).
  3. Whisk seasoned fresh eggs and approximately 1-2 tablespoons of Almond Silk sweet milk together. Stir in your vegetables and meat.
  4. Spray iron skillet with butter flavored or use real butter–my preference–and heat between a low to medium fire (I like to take it slow so the skillet won’t get too hot, causing the eggs to get too brown. Turn down temperature if it seems to hot.
  5. Pour mixture into skillet. Keep a close eye on the eggs and when they seem done enough to flip, then do so.
  6. Sprinkle cheese on top. When done to suit your taste, turn off heat, fold into halves and slide onto your plate.

Serve with real buttered toast (your choice of bread) fried hash browns, and fruit.

Feel free to adjust the recipe. Add a salsa or other condiments of your choice.


About Carole:

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons? Connect with Carole on her blog, Amazon Author Page, and Twitter.

Book Blurb:

Mr. Michael, Destiny Rose McCulloch, and Hunter have a mysterious history. Why were three fathers, all business partners, murdered under suspicious circumstances while on their quest to find gold?

Hunter, who is Mr. Michael’s ranch manager, is determined to find the answers and protect the precocious young lady who he suspects holds a key answer to his questions.

 Mr. Michael wants only to be left alone to attend to his property, but what can he do when Destiny refuses to leave and captures the heart of everyone of his employees?

 Destiny almost forgets her quest when she falls in love with Mr. Michael’s ranch and all the people there. And then Mr. Michael is much too alluring to ignore. The preacher man back east where she took her schooling tried to claim her heart, but the longer she stays the less she can remember him. She only came west to find a little boy she knew years ago. A little boy all grown up by now…unless, of course, he’s dead.

 Three children, connected through tragedy and separated by time, are fated to reunite and re-right some powerful wrongs.


Spanish Flu Pandemic

In March of 1918, the United States had been fighting World War I for almost a year when over 100 soldiers started suffering from fever, chills, and fatigue at Camp Funston in Fort Riley, Kansas. Their diagnosis? Flu. The number grew by five times over the next week.

The spring’s milder bouts of influenza were seen in Europe, Asia, and America and then spread around many parts of the world.

Because of wartime news blackouts, the flu wasn’t initially reported as it should have been. Spain wasn’t under the news blackout. When the disease struck, they reported it. The flu became known as Spanish Flu even though it didn’t originate there.

A second and more serious wave struck in August of 1918. The highest mortality rates were children under 5, adults 20—40, or 65 and older.

Schools and movie theaters closed in some cities due to the contagious nature of the disease. Public gatherings were prohibited. Hoping to avoid overcrowding in subways, the health commissioner of New York City ordered businesses to stagger shifts.

Illness in many workers forced businesses to close.

The public was urged to wash their hands when coming home from work, before meals, and when coming inside from the street. They were told to avoid crowds. Wearing masks was encouraged when in public.

These measures seemed to help the cities that followed them early.

Advertisers jumped on the bandwagon. Ads for Lifebouy Soap explained the importance of hand-washing. Some businesses offered no real health benefits yet advertised their products as being recommended for treatments.

With no known cure, doctors gave patients medications they hoped would ease symptoms. Bayer’s 1899 trademark for aspirin expired in 1917. This allowed other companies to produce it. The U.S. Surgeon General had recommended aspirin for the flu. Patients took up to 30 grams a day. Today’s physicians recognize this dosage as toxic—tragically, doctors didn’t know this in 1918. It’s feared that some deaths, originally attributed to the flu, resulted from aspirin poisoning.

There was a shortage of physicians and professional nurses in the fall.

World War I ended in November of 1918. The flu killed more soldiers than battles.

While negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, President Woodrow Wilson collapsed, possibly due to influenza.

January brought a third wave of the pandemic.

When it was finally over in the summer, an estimated 50 million people had died worldwide. Possibly as many as 675,000 of these deaths were in the United States. Because of poor recordkeeping, reports of the actual numbers vary.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“1918 Pandemic (H1N1 Virus),” Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” 2020/03/28 editors. “Spanish Flu,” A & E Television Networks, 2020/03/28

“Influenza pandemic of 1918-19,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020/03/28

“’You Must Wash Properly,” Time, 2020/03/28


Forging Forever by Amanda Barratt

The Blacksmith Brides Collection

Charles Bainbridge receives a deed to his father’s mine—one his father gambled away—from a friend, who was on his deathbed. Charles made a living as a blacksmith, but mining was in his blood. This deed gave him an opportunity to alter his future.

Elowyn Brody has felt the backside of her father’s hand too often not to follow him without questioning. Had she known where he led, she might have escaped what he planned.

But she didn’t know.

Fate draws Charles and Elowyn together at a moment of crisis. How can he, a struggling blacksmith, help her?

The struggle faced by the characters tugged at my heart. I found myself pulling for them as they both dealt with difficult memories from their own past.

I’m loving this collection!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Worth Fighting For by Pegg Thomas

The Blacksmith Brides Collection

With her husky brothers scaring off any man coming near, Meg McCracken despairs of finding a husband. But now she has a new fear. Trouble is brewing in the Colonies. Her father and brothers plan to fight on the side of the Patriots but plenty of folks in Philadelphia are loyal to Great Britain—Loyalists.

Alexander Ogilvie isn’t looking to remain a blacksmith like his pa and brothers. His plans to forge a trail Westward are misunderstood as cowardice by his family … and by Meg.

I loved the characters in this story and the glimpse into those turbulent days leading up to the American Revolution. I felt as if I were there.

I’ve read several books by this author and will look for more. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Strawberry Bohemian Cream

Strawberries in my fridge sent me searching for a new recipe. I found one for Bohemian cream that could be flavored with this fruit in my 1877 cookbook.

Slice a pound of strawberries in about ¼ cup of water and cook them, simmering, for several minutes. While it simmers, stir a packet of gelatine into hot water and allow it to stand 5 minutes.

Strain the strawberries, reserving the liquid. Stir in ½ cup sugar and the dissolved gelatine. Chill.

Stir a packet of gelatine into hot water and allow it to stand 5 minutes. (This is additional gelatine. The first was used in the strawberries.)

Gently boil 1 cup of whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and the gelatine. While this custard cools, beat 4 egg yolks. When cool, stir the yolks into the custard.

Whip 1 cup of whipping cream until softly set. Gently stir the whipped cream into the custard.

Gently add the whipped cream mixture to the chilled strawberries. Pour into mold or individual serving dishes.

Tip: You can line a mold with plastic wrap for easy removal of the chilled Strawberry Bohemian Cream.  

Delicious! Smooth and creamy with a lovely strawberry flavor. A light dessert that hits the spot. Especially nice for warm summer days. The amount of sweetness was perfect. I’ll make this again.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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