Banana Muffins

by Sandra Merville Hart

I had some bananas I needed to use so found a new recipe for muffins in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook that I wanted to try. It took less than 10 minutes to prepare for baking and I had all the ingredients on hand, which is always a win for me.


2 cups white flour (I used bread flour)

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup milk

½ cup melted butter

2 bananas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly spray muffin pans with cooking spray.

Slice the bananas. I used a pastry blender to get the slices into smaller pieces for easier blending. Set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg, milk, banana, and butter just until blended.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, with each individual cup about 2/3 full. It makes 12 muffins.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

These muffins were my breakfast a couple of days. Nice banana flavor. Next time I will add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to enhance the flavor, but they are also delicious without it.  

I’d love to hear if you try it.


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.


Illumination Gold Award Winner Byway to Danger!

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’m thrilled to announce that Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my Spies of the Civil War series won the Gold Illumination Award for Romance Fiction!

I love the hero and heroine in this book and I hope you have grown to love this fictional family in the whole series who live in the turbulent times of the Civil War where the way isn’t always clear. Though this series is about a fictional family, there are actual historical spies who touch the stories.

Byway to Danger is set in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, in 1862. Because Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, the Union army was often threatening the city. One might suppose that all of Richmond’s citizens supported the Confederacy, yet there were a lot of Union supporters and Union spies in the capital. Other book settings include Williamsburg and Fort Monroe.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Everyone in Richmond has secrets. Especially the spies.

Meg Brooks, widow, didn’t stop spying for the Union when her job at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency ended, especially now that she lives in the Confederate capital. Her job at the Yancey bakery provides many opportunities to discover vital information about the Confederacy to pass on to her Union contact. She prefers to work alone, yet the strong, silent baker earns her respect and tugs at her heart.

Cade Yancey knows the beautiful widow is a spy when he hires her only because his fellow Unionist spies know of her activities. Meg sure didn’t tell him. He’s glad she knows how to keep her mouth shut, for he has hidden his dangerous activities from even his closest friends. The more his feelings for the courageous woman grow, the greater his determination to protect her by guarding his secrets. Her own investigations place her in enough peril.

As danger escalates, Meg realizes her choice to work alone isn’t a wise one. Can she trust Cade with details from her past not even her family knows?

Puppy Dog Devotions by Michelle Medlock Adams and Wendy Hinote Lanier

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

75 Fun Fido Facts, Bible Truths, and More!

The title of this devotional intrigued me immediately. Many readers like me have been touched by the devotion and love of dogs.

The book contains the key components of a devotional:

        Unleash the Truth—Bible verses

        Digging Deeper—Thought-provoking questions

        Fido 411—An interesting fact about the featured breed

        Weekly Tail-Waggers—Challenges to put lessons into action

I also loved that each section focused on different breeds and their characteristics. The authors weave inspiring lessons from the dogs. What an interesting way to learn!

A few of the topics covered are: Faithful to the End; Beautifully Reliable; We Walk by Faith; and Super Sleuths.

I really enjoyed this fun, insightful book! I believe this devotional will appeal to pet lovers.


A Winter at the White Queen by Denise Weimer

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 1 in Romance at the Gilded Ages Resorts

1910, White Queen, on the shore of Clearwater Bay in Florida

Ellie Hastings has been tasked by her aunt to discern the character of the wealthy bachelor, Lewis Thornton. Aunt Florence has the young man in mind for Ada, her youngest daughter.

Lewis has seen all the tricks that young women determined to meet him have used over the years, but Ellie seems different. Her cousin and her parents fit in perfectly at the White Queen. There’s some mystery about Ellie.

He hatches a plan to aid a friend that will allow him to spend more time with Ellie.

I was drawn into the setting of the Gilded Ages Resorts from the beginning. My interest was quickly snagged by this unlikely couple—a wealthy bachelor accustomed to pursuit by single women and the poor relation woman at the beck and call of her high-society aunt.

The lonely little girl, Cora, tugged at my heart. Our heroine has long been taught not to value herself and many misunderstandings arise from this mindset. Twists in the action moved the story in a direction I didn’t expect. I became invested in the plight of the characters, making this book a page turner for me.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the collection!


Announcing Release of Book 2 in Second Chances Novel Series!

by Sandra Merville Hart

I wanted to share some exciting news with you!  A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2 of my “Second Chances” series, releases February 14, 2023! My newest historical romance releases today, on Valentine’s Day!

A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2, is set in Cincinnati in 1883—84. Some important events happen in the city at that time and are included in the novel. I loved sharing about locations that modern readers will recognize in this novel. 😊

Here’s a bit about A Not So Persistent Suitor:

He’s fighting for his career…She’s bent on achieving her own goals…Will their love survive a second chance at happily ever after?

Cora Welch dreams of a future teaching kindergarten, which is in its infancy, and marriage to Ben Findlay, her beau and her twin brother’s best friend. But she returns to college from summer break to learn of Ben’s unwise choices in pursuit of his career—choices that destroy her trust in the man she thought she knew and loved.

Ben is working hard toward his dream to become the best reporter in the city. He’s no stranger to fighting for a goal against all odds, ever since he was orphaned at age thirteen. Even though Cora has captured his heart, he makes the mistake of escorting the boss’s daughter to a fancy banquet to further his career—with far-reaching repercussions. Now he’s hurt Cora and botched his career goals.

Winning Cora’s trust again proves harder than Ben expects, especially as they both face struggles of their own. When events spiral out of their control, catapulting them into hardship and even danger, only God can restore their dreams—though the outcome may look far different than either of them planned.

Please pick up your copy today on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Books 2 Read!

White Bread and Cheese Bread

by Sandra Merville Hart

I was looking for a bread recipe to serve with beef stew for guests. I found this wonderful recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

With stew as my main course, I wanted a hearty bread as an accompaniment. These loaves did not disappoint any of my guests.

This recipe makes 2 loaves. There was suggested variation for making cheese bread. That appealed to me so I made one white and one cheese loaf.


2 tablespoons shortening

2 ½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup hot milk

1 cup hot water

1 package dry yeast

6 cups white flour (I used bread flour)

1 ½ cups grated Cheddar Cheese or other cheese (if making cheese bread)

Blend the shortening, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the hot milk and water. Set aside and allow it to cool to lukewarm. (The mixture cools within a few minutes.)

Meanwhile, place the yeast into a small bowl and mix it with ¼ cup warm water. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes to dissolve and activate the yeast.

Add the activated yeast to the cooled mixture and stir. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until well-blended. (I used my hands—too much of my Southern grandma in me. 😊) Add 2 more cups of flour and mix it together well. Then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a minute or two.

Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

You’re ready to knead again. Of the remaining cup of flour, add just enough so the dough isn’t sticky, a little at a time as you knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth. (I might have had ½ cup of flour that wasn’t needed of the 6 cups.)

Grease a large bowl. Place the dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm area and allow it to rise until the size doubles.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans with cooking spray.

Punch the risen dough and divide it in half. Place one half in one of the pans.

If you plan for one of the loaves to be cheese bread, gently mix in the shredded cheese now with your hands. Then place the prepared cheesy dough into the other loaf pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and wait until it doubles in size.

Remove plastic wrap and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower setting to 375 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes.

Delicious! I sliced the cooled bread and we ate it with beef stew—what a treat! Crusty bread went perfectly with the meal. Some buttered the slices and others didn’t, but all enjoyed freshly baked white or cheese bread for supper.

My husband and I ate leftovers the following evening and it still tasted just as delicious.

The whole process took about 3 ½ hours from start to finish. I will make this again.

***I made this again for family. They loved the bread! In fact, my sister loved the cheese bread so much that she suggested I sell it! I think it’s delicious too, and well worth the time and effort to make it.

I’d love to hear if you try it.


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.

Endorsements for A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2

by Sandra Merville Hart

I was thrilled to receive the following two wonderful endorsements for A Not So Persistent Suitor  Book 2 in my “Second Chances” series that releases on February 14, 2023. Set in 1883-84, the main location is Cincinnati, Ohio, but it also contains scenes in nearby Hamilton. Modern readers familiar with Cincinnati will recognize a few locations in the book!


In A Not So Persistent Suitor, Sandra Merville Hart crafts a sweet tale of a budding romance on the rocks. One ill-planned choice on Ben’s part releases a cascade of trouble that sets his girl, Cora, on her heels and forces the pair to rebuild trust. Through various lessons, they each learn they have many areas in which to grow. You won’t want to miss this heartwarming story of love nearly lost—and found again—as two wounded hearts navigate turbulent times and circumstances in 1884 Cincinnati.

~Jennifer Uhlarik, author of Sand Creek Serenade and Love’s Fortress

Hart’s careful research and attention to detail catapults the reader into the social stratification of southwestern Ohio in the 1880’s. As both a former kindergarten teacher and a farmer’s daughter, I was immediately drawn into the story of love and the mores of nineteenth century society. I trust A Not So Persistent Suitor will prove to be a satisfying read for generations to come. 

~Rebecca Waters, author of Libby’s Cuppa Joe and Breathing on Her Own 

What reviewers are saying:

“I love the title of this book because it fits so well & so concisely with what the story was about!” ~BookBub Reviewer

“Ms. Hart’s consistent use of Cincinnati’s history in the 1880’s as the backdrop for what happens to the characters is phenomenal. The historical events drive the characters to make decisions and shape their lives. It was fascinating. Their growth throughout the book was enjoyable.” ~BookBub Reviewer

“I feel that reading the titles in order would be beneficial due to the background information provided. Plus, it was nice to revisit Samuel and Rose and their family.” ~BookBub Reviewer

“Faith is a strong component of this story and I really liked how the author wove topics of faith and trust in God as well as forgiveness into a rich inspirational tapestry with more than one story of redemption.” ~BookBub Reviewer

“A beautifully written, redemptive conclusion.” ~BookBub Reviewer

“The historical attention to detail provided by Ms. Hart was extensive and made what happened in 1884 seem to jump off the pages. If you are looking for an inspiring, well-researched historical romance, I would recommend this one.” ~BookBub Reviewer

Rescuing Rose by Susan Pope Sloan

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Rescued Hearts of the Civil War

Book One

This first book in the series was a page turner for me!

Rose Carrigan can scarcely believe it when Union soldiers burn the mill in her small town in Roswell, Georgia. That mill had supplied jobs for both her and sister, not to mention many of her neighbors. What are they to do now?

Union Captain Noah Griffin hates this part of his job. It seems to him that the army didn’t have to destroy the livelihood of an entire town. Two sisters capture his attention, especially Rose, the older one. She’s got spirit but her beauty snags the attention of some of his men. He saves her. Before long, she occupies much of his thoughts.

Rose learns that the workers of the Roswell mills are prisoners. She and her sister must travel north, whether they want to go or not. Noah can’t stop the orders from being carried out. What will become of them? Will she see Noah again?

This book tugged at my emotions from the beginning. The historical events are shared as a natural part of the story. I love learning history as a natural part of a fictional novel.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be the last.

Recommended for readers of inspirational historical romances.


A History of the Schools of Cincinnati

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Written by John Brough Shotwell

This book, published in 1902, is over 600 pages. The history of educating Cincinnati’s children and youths in college throughout the 1800s is very extensive.

Included in the volume are the histories of Walnut Hills High School, Hughes High School, and Woodward High School. It also included a section about Woodward in the Civil War. So many sections of the book are very interesting.

I read this book as research for my book set in Cincinnati, A Not So Persistent Suitor in 1883-84. At first, I thought that two of my characters would attend the University of Cincinnati and I concentrated on learning all I could about the school. There is much information about it in this history. However, it turned out that the Cincinnati Kindergarten Training School—also discussed by the author—fit the story like a glove.

It’s obvious the author did extensive research on the schools and left this gem to all of us who want to dig into the city’s educational history. I’m so grateful for the work involved to preserve the information for future generations.

Recommended for readers who love the history of Cincinnati and Ohio.