Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Subtitle: A plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People who would really rather Sleep All Day

I bought this book at a writers’ conference several years and was inspired by the creative way the author put the book together.

The font changes a few times on a single page. Sentences vary in size on the same page. There are fun sketches throughout. A quote runs down the side of a page.

And pearls of wisdom abound.

There are chapters on “The Land of No,” “The World of Yes,” and “Making Creative Dreams Real with MicroMOVEments.” The book is packed with practical advice, ideas, and inspiration.

I love the phrase “Great Big Dream Flapping Wings” where the word “Dream” has wings. It’s an example of what you’ll find throughout the book.

Another thing I like is that I can pick it up and read a section and set it down with my imagination fueled.

Recommended for writers, painters, actors, artists, quilters, designers—anyone working in a creative field. If you are looking for your creative dream or fear pursuing your dream, this book may inspire you.



Ripley Ohio Underground Railroad Sites by Dewey Scott

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

A Self-Guiding Automobile Tour Book

I spent several hours in Ripley, Ohio, recently with some author friends. We were drawn to the area by the rich history of the Underground Railroad activities that went on there. It was dangerous for all involved.

The author has arranged this guide book for Underground Railroad sites with the love of someone who knows the area well. This book gives some historical background of the Underground Railroad’s activities as it touched various locations in the city.

I found this book informative and well-organized. I loved that some historical photos were included with current day photos.  

My friends and I had a wonderful tour of the Rankin House where we learned much that can’t be found in history books. Then we went to the museum at the John P. Parker House where we all listened to a fascinating talk about John P. Parker, who had been born into slavery in 1827.

That talk was given by author of this book, Dewey Scott. What we learned from him was so riveting that several of us purchased his guidebook that day, including me.

The Underground Railroad is a topic in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series.

Recommended for those desiring to learn more about the history of slavery.

**The book is available for purchase at the John P. Parker House in Ripley, Ohio.

Blackberry Shrub Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

I write historical novels and it’s always fun to find a recipe for something that folks ate or drank in days gone by that most modern folks have never heard about. Blackberry shrub is one of those drinks.

The recipe in my 1877 cookbook is actually for raspberry shrub and was shared by Mrs. Judge West. My character in my newest release, A Not So Convenient Marriage, discovers that her husband enjoys blackberry shrub and makes it for him.

This recipe makes a concentrate that you add to a glass of ice-cold water. I added four tablespoons of the concentrate to a glass of water. I don’t advise drinking it without diluting it. 😊  

It’s amazingly quick and easy to prepare. Wipe up any spills immediately as the fruit may stain the counter.  

To make one pint of shrub concentrate:

Rinse 1 pint fresh blackberries and drain. Place drained fruit in a medium mixing bowl. Pour in 1 pint of apple cider vinegar and give it a gentle stir. Let it stand a few minutes.

With a slotted spoon, take the blackberries out of the vinegar and put them in a quart-sized Mason jar (or 2 pint-sized jars.) Then pour the vinegar (it will now have a purple tinge) over the fruit. Close the lid on the jars and let it stand overnight.

The next day, strain the fruit from the liquid and discard it.

Pour the liquid into a saucepan. Stir in 1 pint of sugar and boil on medium to medium high heat for 10 minutes.

The shrub will have the consistency of a light syrup. Pour it into a clean pint-sized Mason. Allow the concentrate to cool before putting on the lid.

Mrs. West doesn’t say to store it in a cool place, like a refrigerator, but I believe it tastes better cold. It should be good a few weeks.  

I added four tablespoons of the syrup to icy cold water. (You can add more to taste.) It’s a light flavor of blackberry with snappy taste from vinegar. I liked it as a variation from soft drinks and so did my husband. I also took it to a family movie night and they enjoyed the novelty of the drink.

I always try to make the recipe as the historical cook did. Next time, I’ll allow the fruit to steep inside the vinegar for three or four days to enhance the fruity flavor. I will also mash the fruit when making the syrup to enhance the blackberry flavor.



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

Endorsements for A Not So Convenient Marriage

by Sandra Merville Hart

I was thrilled to receive the following two wonderful endorsements for A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 in my “Second Chances” series that released on November 8, 2022. It’s set three Ohio locations—Hamilton, Harrison, and Bradford Junction—in 1877, a dozen years after the Civil War’s end.

“Reading A Not So Convenient Marriage was for me a delightful journey into a simpler time, but a time as complex as ours when it comes to relationships, misunderstandings, and the desires of the heart. Author Sandra Merville Hart has crafted characters who will draw you into their story, capture your imagination, and leave you cheering them on as they face their own shortcomings and follow their dreams. A lovely first book in the Second Chances series, one that leaves me waiting for the next.”

~ Ann Tatlock, author, editor, writing mentor

“An emotional portrayal of grief and guilt blended skillfully with grace amid the heartbreak of unrequited love. The characters created by the author, Sandra Merville Hart, gripped me from the beginning and made me sorry to part ways at the end. Ms. Hart’s talented prose lured me into an era where digging an honest living out of the ground often collided with hardship, and marriages of convenience were contracted for reasons other than love or commitment. Samuel Walker enters into such an arrangement with Rose Hatfield after his beautiful wife, Ginny, dies unexpectedly, leaving him with two children and a farm to care for himself. Ginny’s specter haunts and crowds Samuel and Rose until feelings of unworthiness and doubt consume Rose, and their union becomes unbearable. Did she follow God’s will for her life? Or did she only listen to her heart? At long last, she does what wise women do: ‘She prayed until her legs went numb and her spirit emptied of words.’ A sweet novel deftly filled with sorrow, conflict, hope, and finally, love.”

~KD Holmberg, Award-winning author of The Egyptian Princess; A Story of Hagar

What reviewers are saying:

“This is a story that will tug at your heart. It is well written and easy to read and imagine.”

“The depth of emotion is off the charts!”

“I couldn’t put the book down and read it in one day!”

“It may seem cliche to say that this should be a Hallmark movie, but I do believe that it is worthy of the original Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations!”

“I loved, loved, loved the book and Rose will be one of my all-time favorite heroines forever!”

“Thank you so very much for writing this book. I can’t put into words how much I adored it!”

“One of my favorite heroines – Rose will be with me for a long time!”

“The depth of emotion in these main characters, Rose and Samuel, was evident throughout each interaction and felt raw, palpable and realistic.”

All Through the Night by Tara Johnson

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

It’s 1861 and the Civil War begins in the first chapter of this book.

Cadence Piper has been told for years that she’ll never amount to much because of her slow speech. Her father won’t even allow her to work in his toy store. Cadence fears he’s ashamed of her. She wants to help with nursing duties for the sick and wounded soldiers at the hospitals but even this is denied her. Yet everyone is enchanted by her singing.

Dr. Joshua Ivy believes Cadence is too young and lovely to be of any use in a hospital and he sets out to frighten her away, partly because he fears of losing his heart to her. As an abolitionist, he’s involved in dangerous activities that can turn deadly for those he loves.

Both have a heart for the sick and wounded soldiers but danger reaches out and threatens to envelope both of them.

The characters in this book drew me into their story quickly. I didn’t like Joshua at first because of his harshness. The author reveals the reason for his harsh words bit by bit. The only time Cadence never stammers is when she sings, which she often does to soothe sick and dying soldiers.

The further I got into the story, the harder it was to put it down. The author does a great job of tugging at readers’ emotions. Descriptions of scenes grounded me to the story. I learned quite a bit about a secret organization that infiltrated high levels of government with its evil deeds.

A story of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Recommend for readers of inspirational historical romance.

2022 Angel Book Awards Results

The Faith and Fellowship Book Festival announced the winners of the 2022 Angel Book Awards on Friday, November 4, 2022.

Nonfiction category

1st place – Springtime for Your Spirit by Michelle Medlock Adams & Andy Clapp

2nd place – So You Have A Disease by Beth Praed

3rd place – Beauty Beyond the Thorn by Darci J. Steiner

Honorable Mention – Dwelling by Donna L. Lane

Children’s 2-8 category

1st place – You’re More Than a Sprout by Jill Roman Lord, Illustrated by Sarah Demonteverde

2nd place – Dream Big, My Precious One by Jill Roman Lord, Illustrated by Brittany E. Lakin

3rd place – How High is Heaven? by Linsey Davis, Illustrated by Lucy Fleming

Honorable Mention – Twas the Night Before Jesus by Donna Wyland, Illustrated by Courtney Smith

Children’s 8-12/Young Adult Category

1st place – Yosemite Trail Discovered, Book 2 of the Whitcomb Discoveries by Marie Sontag

2nd place – Collapse: Collapse Series Book One by Angela D. Shelton

3rd place – I Want a Water Buffalo for Christmas by Judy DuCharme, Illustrated by Julie L. House

Historical Fiction category

1st place – Mercy’s Legacy by Sarah Hanks

2nd place – Crown of Thorns, Book 1: Son of Mary by R.S. Ingermanson

3rd place – For the Love of Emma, Book 1 of Dream Beyond Tomorrow by Starr Ayers

Mystery/Suspence category

1st place – Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

2nd place – Bitter Truth, Book 3 in A Green Dory In Mystery Series, by Janet Sketchley

3rd place – Hunt for a Hometown Killer by Mary Dodge Allen

Contemporary category

1st place – Every Window Filled with Light, Book 1 of A Weldon Novel by Shelia Stovall

2nd place – Mercy’s Song by Sarah Hanks

3rd place – Sweet Rivalry by Terri Gillespie

Honorable Mention – Falling Apart, Falling For You, Book 1 in Next Act Series, by Chris Posti

Congratulations to all our winners!

Thanks to all the authors who submitted to Angel Book Awards.

If you have a book that released or will release in 2022, please read our guidelines and consider submitting it to Angel Book Awards when it opens next year.

Announcing A Not So Convenient Marriage Book Release!

by Sandra Merville Hart

I wanted to share the exciting news that my next series begins releasing today! A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 of my “Second Chances” series, releases today, November 8, 2022!

This series begins a dozen years after the end of the Civil War. The first book is set in 1877 in three Ohio locations: Hamilton, Harrison, and the train town of Bradford Junction.

The second book, A Not So Persistent Suitor, is set in Cincinnati in 1883—84. It was fun to share a few recognizable locations in this novel.

I am writing the third book, A Not So Peaceful Journey, so stay turned for details!

Here’s what reviewers are saying about A Not So Convenient Marriage:

“The depth of emotion is off the charts!”

“It may seem cliche to say that this should be a Hallmark movie, but I do believe that it is worthy of the original Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations!”

“I couldn’t put the book down and read it in one day!”

“This is a story that will tug at your heart. It is well written and easy to read and imagine.”

“This historical work of Christian fiction drew me in and caused me to want this family to come together. With strands of forgiveness, mercy, and generosity, the author weaved together a memorable and moving book.”

“WOW, this book is amazing and has really touched my life!”

“I will be thinking of it for months to come!”

“A Not So Convenient Marriage is such a great novel. I loved the characters and their story. They gripped me and wouldn’t let me go.”

“I loved, loved, loved the book and Rose will be one of my all-time favorite heroines forever!”

“Thank you so very much for writing this book. I can’t put into words how much I adored it!”

Back Cover Blurb:

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.

Available on Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Books 2 Read.

A bit about Sandra

Sandra Merville Hart, award-winning and Amazon bestselling author of inspirational historical romances, loves to discover little-known facts from American history to include in her novels. In fact, many of her stories are inspired by visits to historical sites such as battlefields. Sandra treats all her vacations with her husband as an adventure for she never knows where inspiration for a story willarise. Her desire is to transport her readers back in time. Sandra is also a blogger, speaker, and conference teacher.

Cheese Ball Recipe

by Sandra Merville Hart

I remember when you often were served cheese balls at parties. It happens less often these days and it seems that appetizer foods run in cycles just like clothing fashions. 😊

I was asked to bring an appetizer to an author gathering and went over several possibilities before settling on a cheese ball. This is my sister’s recipe. My family still loves it when we go to her house for a party and see this appetizer on the counter.


2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (rectangular blocks)

5-6 two-ounce packages of Buddig beef, divided

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)

Club crackers (or your favorite crackers)

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge and let it set on the counter 20 to 30 minutes before beginning preparations so that it softens.

Chopped 3 packages of the beef and put it in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

In a separate larger bowl, place the cream cheese. Knead it a few seconds with your hands to soften it.

Add the beef, onion, and garlic (I didn’t add the optional garlic) to the cream cheese and mix together. I find it easier to mix the whole thing with my hands but perhaps that’s because my grandmother mixed everything with hers.

Form it into a ball and set it back in the bowl.

Chop up 2 packages of the remaining beef and place in the bowl previously used. Roll the cheese ball in the meat to cover. I had to use my hands to get the last bit in place.

If it’s not covered enough for your taste, chop up the final package of beef and add it to outside layer of the cheese ball.

Cover with plastic wrap, place in an air-tight container, and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours or until ready to serve. I was traveling and made it four days in advance.

It lasted over a week and continued to taste delicious. It’s nice and meaty with the beef mixed on the inside as well as coated on the outside, making it a more filling snack.

My friends were excited to eat this appetizer and went back for more, complimenting me on its flavor. Leftovers made a quick and easy side for lunch.

Serve on a decorative dish with your favorite crackers. I chose club crackers for my guests because lots of folks tend to like them. Choose your favorite as a variation.

This is always a hit. Thanks B. for sharing your recipe with us!