The Story Behind My Next Civil War Series

Hi, everyone! Today I am guest posting on Michelle Levigne’s blog. Find out the “Story Behind the Story” for my next series of Civil War romances. I’m writing Book 1 right now. It’s called  Avenue of Betrayal and is set in Washington DC in 1861. If you know your American history, you’ll know that the war began that year. Lots of spying going on in the Union’s capital city!

I invite you to find out more at Michelle Levigne’s blog .


Wyatt by Susan May Warren

Book 4 in The Montana Marshalls Series

Wyatt Marshall, the goalie for the Minnesota Blue Ox NHL team, is in Russia to rescue Coco Stanley, the woman he loves. Ruby Jane, his sister, is already safely back home in the States.

Coco, the daughter of a Russian general, is in constant danger. She has to get some information to Wyatt and then let her son’s father go. She does what she does best—flee. Yet Wyatt can’t let her go that easily. Then he discovers she has a son. His son.

Danger follows Wyatt as Coco meets up with York, who is trying to protect.

York loves Ruby Jane (RJ) but feels unworthy of her. But RJ isn’t as safe as they’d all hoped.

This fast-paced romantic suspense had me on the edge of my seat the whole journey.

A second love story in this novel also tugged at my heart. The author does a wonderful job of weaving these into the story.

Multiple viewpoints tell a gripping story. There are lots of characters in the story and I had trouble keeping their various connections to each other straight in the beginning.

A page turner! The story ends with a cliff-hanger and readers will want to read the next book in the series.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Crustless Cheese Quiche

I’ve been eating a lower carb diet for the past few months and even went on Keto for 3 months. The greatest challenge for me was finding delicious low-carb recipes.

I searched for a good quiche crust recipe. I finally created a pie crust using ideas from several recipes. Though the crust was low-carb, the sweet taste overpowered the savory quiche.

It didn’t work.

Then I decided to create a recipe for a simple cheese quiche without crust. Delicious! I’m sharing it with you.

Crustless Cheese Quiche

4 eggs

2 cups Whipping cream

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk the eggs, cream, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl.

Spray 6 ramekins with cooking spray. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of cheese over the bottom of the ramekins. Add a little over ½ cup of the custard over the cheese.

Place in a pan. Then add a ½ inch of warm water and bake until the top is lightly browned. Remove from over and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top.

Serve hot.

The quiche is light and fluffy.  Baked cheese on the bottom provides a thin layer so that I didn’t miss the crust at all. I love that this dish is delicious and low-carb and Keto!


-Sandra Merville Hart


Grand Canyon National Park

If your family is planning a vacation to Arizona, one of the most beautiful parks in our country is located in that state. The Colorado River carved out a canyon 277 miles long and 18 miles wide that is called Grand Canyon National Park.

When Theodore Roosevelt stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1903, the sight filled him with awe. He said, “It is beyond comparison — beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.”

The park was established in 1919 and 5,000,000 people visit it every year. It’s known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Six Native American tribes live in or around Grand Canyon:  Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Hopi, and Zuni. This is a sacred place for them.

There are many ways to see the Grand Canyon. Some people take mule trips down into the canyon. Plan ahead to ride a mule because the trips fill up way in advance.

There are hour rides and half-day rides. An overnight ride includes a stay at the Phantom Ranch.

Plane and helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon give a birds-eye view of the park’s beauty.

Others take river trips. There are half-day and full-day water trips on the Colorado River or two to five-day trips. Whitewater rafting trips from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek are professionally guided but plan ahead—these are reserved a year or two in advance.

Tourists may spot mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, porcupines, bighorn sheep, mule deer, lizards, and frogs in the park. There are hawks, woodpeckers, owls, and the endangered California condor.

The view from the North Rim at Toroweap Overlook, with the Colorado River a 3,000-foot vertical drop away, is breathtaking. Look and listen for the Lava Falls Rapid.

Snap some photos while there. The beautiful photographs here are used courtesy of Photographer Keith Adams.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Flynn, Sarah Wassner. National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A., National Geographic Society, 2012.

“Grand Canyon: Associated Tribes,” National Park Service, 2020/04/06

“Grand Canyon: National Park, Arizona,” National Park Service, 2014/12/16

“Grand Canyon: People,” National Park Service, 2020/04/06

“Grand Canyon Tribes,” Grand Canyon Guru, 2020/04/06

McHugh, Erin. National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012.


A Heart Set Free by Janet S. Grunst

In 1770, with no other way to reach the freedom of the Colonies, Heather Douglas indentures herself as a bondservant for seven years to pay for her passage from Scotland and a tract of land. She’s unprepared for the hunger, disease, and death on the ocean voyage. Ashore, she awaits her turn to see who will buy her indenture.

Matthew Stewart, a widower struggling to run his farm, despairs of bringing his two children back to their home until he sees Heather. He pays her indenture and marries her.

Heather, aware that marrying a fine Christian man is a better fate than could have befallen her, tries to be a good stepmother. Her stepdaughter resents her presence and defies her.

Falling in love with her husband wasn’t in her plans, though her feelings scarcely matter. She will never measure up to Matthew’s first wife.

The title exactly fits the story! My interest was snagged early in the story. The characters were believable and likeable, making this a page turner for me.

I’m already reading the second book in the series, A Heart for Freedom.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Follow the Dawn by Rachelle Rea Cobb

Anna Emory lives at Ainsworth Hall in Northampton, England, with her stern, dictatorial father in 1569. She longs for her older sister, who had fled years ago to escape an arranged marriage. They’d been close and Anna wonders why Margried hadn’t sent for her … or even written, but the worry fades under her father’s ultimatum—Anna must marry. Her breath hitches as it always did in stressful moments. While her father is away arranging the marriage, Anna escapes to her sister’s new home miles away.


While Captain Mathieu Tudder had fought the Dutch Revolution in his ship, he entrusted the care of his son to friends. Defeated, he returns to pick up where he left off with his son. Too much time has passed and the boy feels closer to Anna, whom Tudder mistakes for a nursemaid.

Anna enjoys her sister’s company yet worries what will happen when her father finds her. She has always felt a kinship with children—men are another story. Her father never wanted her so she assumes the same is true for all men.

The struggles of each of the characters kept my attention. Anna has lived in a verbally abusive relationship so long that she does not trust men. Tudder fights feelings of failure. Many readers can relate to these emotions.

Though Tudder longs for his son’s company, hours and even days pass without him spending time with his son. I found this strange because they were living in the same large castle.

Interesting secondary characters enhance the story, making it a good read.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Traditional New Mexican Biscochitos

Norma Gail, fellow author and friend, returns to Historical Nibbles to share a delicious cookie recipe from her upcoming release. Welcome back, Norma!

Biscochitos or biscochitos in Northern New Mexico Spanish, means “little cakes” or “bizcochos”. They are the official state cookie, and one of the favorites of Bonny MacDonell, the heroine in my novels, Land of My Dreams and the newest, Within Golden Bands, releasing on May 19th. At one point, she escapes the constraints of her new husband’s Scottish sheep farm, under attack from a mysterious stalker, and flees to a spot overlooking the islands at the east end of Loch Garry. Her lunch consists of a sandwich with turkey and green chili and biscochitos.

Simple to make, the cookies consist mainly of shortening and flour, flavored with anise and a little brandy, and generously coated in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Known as far back as the culture of Santa Fé de Nuevo México in the 1500’s, they were traditionally shaped like a fleur-de-lis, though round is more frequent today. They probably originated in Spain or Mexico. A Christmas favorite, they are also seen at weddings, baptisms, and other celebrations, and are delicious with hot chocolate.

Here’s my favorite recipe:

2 cups lard or vegetable shortening

¼ tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

6 cups flour

2 tsp anise seeds

2 eggs

¼ cup brandy or sweet wine

¼ cup sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

Sift flour. Cream lard with sugar, anise seeds, baking powder, and salt until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add brandy. Mix in flour gradually, stopping when dough reaches the right consistency for rolling. Turn out on a floured surface and roll to ¼ – ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Dust liberally with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

-Norma Gail

About Norma Gail:

Norma Gail’s debut novel, Land of My Dreams, won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. Within Golden Bands releases May 19th. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals have appeared in several publications. She lives in New Mexico with her husband of 44 years.


Book Blurb for Within Golden Bands:

Newlyweds Bonny and Kieran MacDonell grieve the loss of her miracle pregnancy while struggling to discover the identity of the man who left Kieran beaten and unconscious. Reeling from the threat to her husband and loss of their child, Bonny fights to hold her marriage together as danger destroys the peace of their sheep farm on the banks of Loch Garry, Scotland. Will they choose to trust God when his ways are impossible to fathom?

Buy Link:  Amazon


Early Exploration of the Grand Canyon

Rugged terrain hindered early exploration of the Grand Canyon.

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado and his army weren’t searching for the Grand Canyon when they arrived at the Hopi Mesas in 1540. Their ultimate goal was to find the Seven Cities of Cibola. Hoping that a “great river” would provide water passage to the Gulf of California, Coronado sent about a dozen soldiers under the leadership of Garcia Lopez de Cardenas to find it.

Hopi guides, warned not to give useful tips about the area by their leaders, escorted them to the Grand Canyon—not the Seven Cities of Cibola, but one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Observing the canyon, possibly from the South Rim, Cardenas and his soldiers accurately estimated it to be 8 – 10 miles to the other side. The Colorado River a mile below appeared about 6 feet wide—it’s actually 300 feet wide and averages a depth of 40 feet within the Grand Canyon.

Though they had found a waterway to the Gulf of California (the Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon and eventually reaches the gulf,) the wide river and whitewater rapids weren’t the easy route they’d envisioned. These early Spanish explorers never even made it to the canyon floor. Three soldiers made it about a third of the way down the canyon and then realized the river was much wider than it looked from the rim. They climbed back up the rugged terrain and reported that the river wasn’t navigable for their ships. Cardenas and his men returned to their army and reported an impassable barrier.

In 1857, United States War Department government wanted to explore an upriver route from the Gulf of California. Lt. Joseph Ives led an expedition from the Colorado River Delta near the gulf eastward along the Colorado River in the steamboat Explorer, which struck a rock in the rapids below Black Canyon before reaching the Grand Canyon. A skiff transported his party another 30 miles. Then they walked into the canyon at Diamond Creek.

Ives wasn’t impressed with the Grand Canyon, declaring it “altogether valueless.”

Geologist John Strong Newberry, also on expedition, didn’t agree. His talks with Geologist John Wesley Powell sparked that army man’s interest. In 1869, Major Powell, a Civil War veteran, began explorations later known as the Powell Expeditions. Mountain men, Civil War veterans, and ex-trappers accompanied him. Four boats left Wyoming on the Colorado River toward the Grand Canyon. Rapids in the Lodore Canyon cost them equipment and food when one boat sank.

Powell’s next expeditions was more successful and included scientists, a photographer, and an artist. Photographs, illustrations, and systematic notes detailed rock formations and archaeological locations. They generated public interest.

Geologist Clarence Dutton conducted a geological survey in 1880-81.

In 1882, Santa Fe Railroad reached Flagstaff, Arizona. A year later, tourists traveled by stage coach to the Grand Canyon next year.

Nearly 6 million tourists visited the Grand Canyon last year, though it’s a less arduous trip these days!

-Sandra Merville Hart

**Photos courtesy of Photographer Keith Adams.


“Colorado River,” Wikipedia, 2020/04/09

“Grand Canyon: People,” National Park Service, 2020/04/06

“Grand Canyon Trivia,” Grand Canyon Expeditions Company, 2020/04/09 editors. “Grand Canyon,” History, 2020/04/06

“History of the Grand Canyon,” Wikipedia, 2020/04/06

“Joseph Christmas Ives,” Wikipedia, 2020/04/09


The Nanny’s Secret Baby by Lee Tobin McClain

Arianna Schrader has a terrible secret. She takes a job as nanny to be close to the child that she had to give up for adoption to her sister. Now her sister, who had sworn her to secrecy, is dead and her brother-in-law knows nothing about Arianna’s true relationship with his one-year-old son.

Jack DeMoise, a ranch veterinarian, doesn’t know what to make of his sister-in-law. The artist does not fit into his neat, ordered world … but she is good with Sammy. She seems to understand Jack’s autistic son.

When Arianna begins to fall in love with Jack, she knows he deserves to know the truth. Yet her promise to her sister binds her to silence.

But secrets in a relationship are never a good thing.

Jack, whose rocky marriage with her sister left deep wounds, doesn’t know whether to trust his feelings for Arianna.

I found myself pulling for these wounded characters and for a toddler who desperately needs them both. This book was a page turner for me.

A tender story that tugged at my heart. Recommend.

-Sandra Merville Hart