What is a Family? by Annette Griffin

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

This delightful children’s picture book is a sweet read.

The author uses different animals in nature and goes through the alphabet to show what different animal groups are called.

For example, lions have a pride and hawks have a cast.

Beautifully illustrated. A lovely book that tells the story with rhymes that appeal to children.

The book is geared to children 2 – 6.

I will look for more books by this author.



Depression Cake Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

The family cook in my latest release, Boulevard of Confusion, Book 2 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, was also a talented baker. She bakes pies, cakes, and cobblers that no one turns down. After writing these scenes, I was ready to bake.

I found a fun recipe in a child’s cookbook, The U.S. History Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past, that my three-year-old granddaughter could help me prepare.


1 cup shortening

2 cups water

2 cups raisins

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups sugar

Vegetable oil cooking spray

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.

This is an easy recipe to get the children involved in baking. My granddaughter loves to add ingredients and stir them together. She tells me when it’s stirred enough. (She’s usually right but when I don’t agree, I can sneak in a few quick stirs. 😊)

Combine the first eight ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir them together but the shortening makes this challenging. Cook over a medium heat for ten minutes. Stir the raisin mixture as soon the shortening began melting. Then stir it a couple of times while it cooks to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Remove the raisin mixture from the heat and allow it to cool for ten minutes.

Sift the flour and baking soda together into the cooled batter. Stir it all together just until combined. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes.

I thought it looked a little plain so I sprinkled confectioner sugar on top.

You’ll love this moist cake if you like raisins. My picky three-year-old granddaughter doesn’t like raisins, yet loved this cake. She kept coming back for more.

During the Depression, eggs, butter, and milk were expensive ingredients. This recipe doesn’t have any of these—and I didn’t miss them.

Delicious and easy, this is one I’ll make again!


D’Amico, Joan and Drummond, Ed.D., R.D., Karen Eich. The U.S. History Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events from the Past, Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2003.

Announcing Audio Story “Someone on the Inside”

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’m thrilled to announce a project that I’ve been working on with several others this spring. Mark Prasek of PJNET.tv is currently creating a collection of audio stories and I’m so happy my story “Someone on the Inside” is now in his library.

My eleven-minute story is based on my book Avenue of Betrayal, Book 1 in the “Spies of the Civil War” series. The first scene gives background to the story not found in the book. The second scene comes from the book yet is told from another character’s perspective, providing fresh insights.

Here’s a bit about story:

When Lieutenant Christopher Farmer enlists the help of a loyal Irish officer to spy on the wealthy Hiram Swanson at his weekly parties where secrets are passed to Confederate spies, he has no idea the dilemma the Irish man faces.

Mark Prasek is the narrator and the story’s producer. He told me he hasn’t had a day off in years and I believe him! Here’s the goal of PJNET.tv: Our mission is to provide a platform for everyday Christians to share their walk with Christ.

I selected Kevin E. Spencer, Eddie Jones, and Tim Jones (no relation) for my other voice parts.

Kevin Spencer is the author of North Carolina Expatriates, an enlightening and insightful daily look at North Carolina’s history, found here. He’s also a huge Civil War buff. We met at a writers conference where our love for Civil War history made us instant friends. He and his lovely wife, Charlotte, and grandson, Caleb, took my husband and me on a tour of Franklin, Tennessee, and the surroundings, as part of my research of the Battle of Franklin for my novel, A Musket in My Hands. I thought of Kevin immediately for the part of General Winfield Scott. He graciously consented. Thanks, Kevin, for adding your Southern voice to this story!

Eddie Jones was another natural choice for this reading. This publisher at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (currently Iron Stream Media) accepted my first Civil War book, A Stranger on My Land. He’s interested in this era of American history, but it hasn’t captured his imagination like the pirates he writes of in his teen novels. He also writes mysteries specifically geared for middle grade/teen boys. Check them out! Thanks for portraying Sergeant-Major John Finn, Eddie!

I’ve been friends with Tim Jones for years. He’s a gifted actor locally in Ohio. I’ve been privileged to participate in church dramas with him, and I’ve marveled that he can redo a scene several times in succession and still put the same emotion and facial expressions to bring the words to life. Thank you, Tim, for sharing your talent with us!

Click on this link to hear the story!

The U.S. History Cookbook by D’Amico and Drummond

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Delicious Recipes and Exciting Events From the Past

I love to find books suitable for elementary grade children. This one not only gives some fun facts from U.S. History, it also includes easy recipes for children to make with their parents. I love it!

The first part of the book shows sketches of items used in cooking, such as a pastry blender or a rolling pin, and how they are used.

The next part explains cooking terms with sketches for cutting, measuring, stovetop cooking, and separating eggs. And I love that there’s also a section about safety. The authors put a lot of thought into this cookbook.

After that, each chapter provides historical background, “Fun Food Facts,” and recipes representing the time period.

Included in this book are chapters on Colonial Fare, The First Thanksgiving, A Pioneer Breakfast, and World War II Rations, to name a few.

Very well-done cookbook for children. I love that it also teaches them a bit of history along the way. 😊

Recommend for elementary children and perhaps a year or two into the middle-grade category.


Baking Powder Recipe from 1870s

by Sandra Merville Hart

It always thrills me to find recipes for something I never dreamed of making. I thought of baking powder as something to buy from the grocery store. What a surprise it was to find a recipe for baking powder in my 1877 cookbook!

In fact, I knew I had to use it in one of my novels. The hero in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, was also a talented baker. Our heroine works as his assistant and she makes baking powder in one of the scenes. 😊

It’s amazingly quick and easy—even with a three-year-old helping. 😊

To make ½ cup of baking powder:

Sift together 4 tablespoons cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons baking soda, and 2 tablespoons corn starch.

I sifted these twice to blend them well. It makes a soft mixture. My granddaughter loved poking it with her finger.

It’s so easy! I stored my baking powder in a plastic container. I’m almost out of my store-bought baking powder and will add my mixture to the tin when it’s empty.

Happy baking!


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

My Next Historical Romance Series Coming Soon!

by Sandra Merville Hart

Although Book 3, Byway to Danger, of my current “Spies of the Civil War” series doesn’t release until July 19, 2022, I wanted to share with you what’s coming next!

I’ve just learned from my publisher, Wild Heart Books, A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 of “Second Chances” series, will release on November 8, 2022!

Preorder your copy today at these retailers: Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Book 2 Read.

That will be my fourth book release for the year and I’ve been excited about every book!

Here’s a bit about the book:

A spinster teacher…a grieving widower…a marriage of convenience and a second chance with the man she’s always loved.

When Samuel Walker proposes a marriage of convenience to Rose Hatfield so soon after the death of his wife, she knows he doesn’t love her. She’s loved him since their school days. Those long-suppressed feelings spring to life as she marries him. She must sell her childhood home, quit her teaching job, and move to a new city.

Marrying Rose is harder than Samuel expected, especially with the shadow of his deceased wife everywhere in his life. And he has two young children to consider. Peter and Emma need a mother’s love, but they also need to hold close the memories of their real mother as they grieve her loss.

Life as Samuel’s wife is nothing like Rose hoped, and even the townspeople, who loved his first wife, make Rose feel like an outsider. The work of the farm draws the two of them closer, giving hope that they might one day become a happy family. Until the dream shatters, and the life Rose craves tumbles down around them. Only God can put these pieces back together, but the outcome may not look anything like she planned.

Autobiography of Mark Twain

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Collector’s Edition, 100th anniversary of Twain’s death

The authentic, original version

Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel Clemens, is one of America’s most beloved authors. He dictated his autobiography in the early 1900s. Several of his family members had already died, including his beloved wife.

Pages of memories about his family fill the book, giving readers insights into characters, events, and settings of his famous novels.

He set out to write his autobiography in a different form than others had done. It’s not written in chronological order. Rather it jumps from the past to the present as circumstances bring to mind occurrences from his childhood, early adulthood, or raising his daughters.

Twain believed this format would be a model for future autobiographies. It jumps around a bit too much for me, though I easily understood why he moves from past to present because events tie them together.

I loved learning about the people, everyday moments, and events that Twain writes for his readers.

This glimpse into Twain’s private life is a treasure. One of my favorite authors!


One of Jackson’s Foot Cavalry by John H. Worsham

by Sandra Merville Hart

His Experience and What he saw during the War 1861 – 1865

This is a well-written history of the “F” Company, 21st Regiment Virginia Infantry, a company from Richmond. They were part of the Second Brigade, General “Stonewall” Jackson’s Division, Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The author, John Worsham, enlisted on April 21, 1861, as a private. He was promoted to adjutant on September 12, 1864. His wounds at the Battle of Winchester a week later left him permanently disabled.

Worsham wrote an account of the battles and marches of his regiment. Many sections are very detailed—perfect for my research! I was researching this regiment for Boulevard of Confusion, Book 2 of my “Spies of the Civil Series” and was able to include some important details in my story from a soldier who lived it.

Worsham was in Richmond when it fell and described his despair.

Included in this book are details of each soldier in Company “F”, wonderful information for folks researching their family history.

Recommended for readers of Civil War history and for lovers of American history.