Wagon Trains and Stagecoach Robberies

Donna Schlachter, fellow author, shares historical background for her novel. Welcome back, Donna!

By Donna Schlachter

Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory, in September 1878, was important for several reasons: wagon trains with immigrants from the Prairies heading west often began here; the city was at a major crossroads of trails, so there were more choices on which destination to choose; the city was big enough to supply wagon trains of all sizes; although the Westward migration had slowed by 1878, wagon trains continued west into the 1920s; and it was a direct run from Deadwood, Dakota Territory to Fort Laramie.

The Oregon Trail to Oregon City, California, remained open late in the year, and although most wagon trains departed in the late spring, giving six weeks of warm and dry weather, it’s possible a train left in September. The train in my story is a small one by comparison, comprising only seven wagons. Some trains could be as large as 200 wagons. However, the couple-only requirement of the train leader would keep the numbers small, as would his strong Christian morals and insistence on observing a day of rest each week, and of holding weekly church services.

Deciding to base a novel on a real-life historical event offered choices, restrictions, and possibilities. While my wagon train story had to take place after the real life Homestake Mine stagecoach robbery in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, I was free to create characters that might have been present at the robbery but weren’t actually named. In my case, I created a younger brother for one of the named robbers, and constructed a backstory to suit my story and the character.

However, I was restricted to the months following the actual robbery, and if I wanted to include any of the real characters from the theft, they had to have been able to be present where I put them when I put them there. In fact, Lame Johnny, leader of the gang, went on the run for a month or so before being caught again, so I included him near the end of my book and had him escape from the story back into his known history.

Updates on the robbery spread far and wide, as did rumors, so including those tidbits of information as my story moved west anchored the story to the history, and added tension and trouble for my main characters as they sought a way to avoid facing their greatest fears.

Book Blurb:

A prostitute’s daughter, an outlaw’s brother, and a stagecoach robbery—can anything good come out of Deadwood?

Kate Benton, daughter of a saloon floozy, runs away days before her official introduction into that sordid life, straight into the arms of Tom McBride, fleeing from his outlaw brother’s past. Can these two young people, damaged and labeled by life experiences, tear down the walls of guilt and mistrust that separate them? Will they allow God to change them forever from the inside out? Or are they destined to remain alone forever?


About Donna:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, Pikes Peak Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

As a special bonus, Donna is offering a small book of recipes.

Her Newsletter Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Connect with Donna on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


Echoes of Titanic by Mindy Starns Clark

Co-written by Mindy Starns Clark and John Campbell Clark

Kelsey Tate has inherited some of her great-grandmother Adele Tate’s business savvy, a Titanic survivor who had kept the family’s company afloat during the depression. Kelsey is working her way up the ladder in her father’s retirement and subsequent stroke. Her coworker’s odd behavior right before an important press event worries her, but there’s no time to figure it out. Then a relative Kelsey has never met accuses Adele Tate of being an imposter.

Two young women—cousins raised together who grew up as close as sisters—and the man who is the father of one of them cross the Atlantic Ocean on Titanic’s maiden voyage. When the ship goes down, only one of the women survive. Which one is it?

The question plunges Kelsey into the fight of her life when a coworker commits what appears to be suicide. Who can help her? If only Cole, the man she loves, was still in her life. She knows she hurt him, but it was just business, right?

This spellbinding time-slip novel tells the story of the women who cross on the Titanic and how their fate ripples down to affect the living even a hundred years later.


I couldn’t put it down! I’ve read other books by Mindy Starns Clark and will look for more.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Grave Consequences by Debra DuPree Williams

Charlotte Graves is the new director of the local historical and genealogical society. She’s back in Loblolly after eight years but old hurts die hard. Or are murdered.

Before she knows what’s happening, Charlotte is arrested for the murder of Boopsie Sweets, a childhood enemy. Worse, she’s arrested by Roan Steele, the man who’d broken her heart back in high school.

There’s mystery afoot that only a genealogist can decipher!

Lovable, realistic characters invited me into a small Alabama town in the 1960s. Williams does a fantastic job giving an authentic feel with details such as music, clothing, decorations, and furniture. The characters seem to step off the page from an era 50 years ago.

Written in first person so the story drew me in immediately. I couldn’t put the book down!

The story is well-written with escalating tension that kept me turning pages. I’ll look for more books by this author. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Mama Vada’s Coconut Pound Cake

I am thrilled that friend and fellow author, Debra DuPree Williams, is sharing one of her delicious Southern recipes from her debut novel. I couldn’t put it down! Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Debra!

By Debra DuPree Williams

One thing that will stand out to you as you read through my debut novel, Grave Consequences, is how often and how much the people within the pages eat. Set in rural south Alabama in 1968, the meals they share are typical of the meals I grew up eating.

From collard greens to fried corn to sliced red-ripe juicy tomatoes so well-known in that part of the great state of Alabama, the love of good home-cooked food is one thing we all share. Just writing this makes my mouth water.

I’m an unusual product of the south in that my Mama wasn’t a good cook. Well, she was, but she didn’t make everyday meals. She made party foods. Mama loved to entertain. Big time. I doubt there were two girls in all of Covington County, Alabama, who cut more crusts from little finger sandwiches than my sister and me. Every time we turned around our home was filled with ladies. Garden club ladies, Sunday School ladies, Altrusa Club ladies. And my teachers, both ladies and gentlemen.

Every Christmas, Mama made fruit cake. I hate fruitcake. Any kind. All that horrible candied fruit . . . and raisins. And she made Lane Cake. I hate Lane Cake. All those nasty little raisins.

But Mama made pound cake. The best, buttery-est, yummiest pound cakes. And she made a gorgeous bright-yellow cake called a Butter-Nut Cake. Y’all! It was sooo good. The frosting is to die for.

But, when my sister got married, she brought to our family her mother-in-law’s oh-so-delicious Coconut Pound Cake. In a scene from Grave Consequences, Charlotte fills plates with Granny’s (known as Miss Marge in the book) Tea Cakes and thick slices of Mama Vada’s Coconut Pound Cake. (She’s Aunt Vada in the book.)

This cake is so good, y’all, that my husband, who cannot stand the taste of coconut, loves it. Our sons, some of whom also hate coconut, love this cake. It’s that good.  Recipes for the Tea Cakes and the Coconut Pound Cake, along with other Southern delights, are in the back of Grave Consequences, but here’s a sneak peek just for you.

Here is the recipe.

Mama Vada’s Coconut Pound Cake

Do NOT preheat your oven!

1 cup butter, unsalted

2/3 cup Crisco (solid shortening)

5 eggs

3 cups flour (regular, all-purpose)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup whole milk

1 ½ tsp. coconut flavoring

1 cup flaked coconut

Cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add this to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk and coconut flavoring. Stir in by hand, the flaked coconut. Bake in a tube pan at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours. (I bake mine in a Bundt cake pan. Take out about a cup or so of the batter if you choose to use the Bundt pan, as this will be too much batter for that pan. Bake yourself a little cake as a treat for being so good to your family.)

PUT INTO A COLD OVEN! Don’t turn it on until after you put the cake inside.

Your home will fill with the aroma of this yummy cake. And it is gorgeous. The outside is flaky and crusty. The inside is moist and so good.

This recipe was given to our family by my sister’s mother-in-law, Vada Cross Foshee Grissett. I’ve made this so many times and it is always a hit.

No wonder Mama, Polly Graves, whipped one up for dessert at Rose Haven.

Back Cover Blurb

Sometimes finding the living is more difficult than searching for the dead. 

In 1968, twenty-six-year-old Charlotte Graves wrestles with more than just her decision to return to her hometown, Loblolly, Alabama—she is also fleeing a broken heart, colliding headlong into a second one, and about to stumble onto a deadly secret.

Now settled back in Loblolly, Charlotte is hired to oversee the Woodville County Historical Society, a job she was born for. But no sooner has she banged the gavel to bring order to the first meeting than she is accused of being incompetent to lead the group by her old nemesis, Boopsie Sweets. Later that night, she finds herself arrested by her old beau, the current deputy sheriff, Roan Steele, for killing Boopsie.

After being released on bail, Charlotte uses her skills as a genealogist to leap into the investigation. And when Charlotte goes digging up dirt, she unearths a long-kept family secret. Will it lead to Boopsie’s murderer … or to grave consequences for Charlotte and her family?

About Debra

Debra DuPree Williams is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in Yvonne Lehman’s Stupid Moments, Additional Christmas Moments, Selah Award finalist, Moments with Billy Graham, and Michelle Medlock Adams’s Love and Care for the One and Only You, expanded edition, in addition to other publications. When she isn’t busy writing, you will likely find Debbie chasing an elusive ancestor, either through online sources or in rural graveyards. Debbie is a classically-trained lyric coloratura soprano whose first love is Southern Gospel. She’s been married forever to the best man on earth, is the mother of four sons, mother-in-law of one extraordinary daughter-of-her-heart, and DD to the two most intelligent, talented, and beautiful young ladies ever. Debbie and her husband live in the majestic mountains of North Carolina.

Connect with Debra on her blog.



Present Helps the Past

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

by Carole Brown

I never guessed several years ago when my family and I worked for short periods of time in some of the western states with the American Natives, how it would influence me in the future as I prepared to write a historical western romantic suspense.

One of our special trips out west included heading up into the mountains of Arizona where a friend named Jeb took us gold panning. On the way, we passed a ghost town but finally reached a wooded area with a strong stream where we settled down for a spot of gold panning.

There were few, if any, people around. Jeb was knowledgeable about the panning. His explanations and descriptions fascinated us. It ended up being a memorable experience for us as a family. And though we didn’t “strike it rich,” we did find numerous gold flecks that we kept in a small jar for years as a memoir of our fun.

Although in my story the gold hunting by four families was achieved entirely differently than what we did—by digging in caves or on mountain sides—our experience gave me a bit of knowledge on how to proceed with the setting. In that era, gold hunting was the rage among certain people. Striking it rich was a temptation that many men couldn’t resist. In Caleb’s Destiny, the men did discover a reasonably good vein of gold, and all of them profited from it.

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.



In Black and White by MaryAnn Diorio

Tori Pendola, artist and student of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, will soon graduate. She has already been offered a good job but longs for love. She finds it in Jebuni Kalitzi.

Jeb is an African exchange student and son of a tribal chieftain in Ghana. The economics major falls in love with Tori, a white woman that his tribe would not approve of him marrying.

It’s 1959 and the couple faces apartheid in Africa, prejudice in America. They face societal barriers, threats, rejection, and insults.

I was quickly pulled into their struggles, which mounted as the story progressed. The author does a great job showing the prejudice on both sides. Recommend.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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 http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68.

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 http://www.historycentral.com/Revolt/Retreatnj.html.

Paine, Thomas. “The Crisis,” USHistory.org 2015/07/24 http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-01.htm.

“Thomas Paine,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020/06/29 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Paine.

“Thomas Paine,” USHistory.org 2015/07/24 http://www.ushistory.org/paine/.

“Thomas Paine Publishes American Crisis,” History.com, 2015/07/28 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/thomas-paine-publishes-american-crisis.


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