Room at the Table by Stephanie Pavlantos & Starr Ayers

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families

What an inspiring book!

This book is filled with stories from special needs families.

Some are written by parents. Others are written by grandparents. Several are written by men and women with Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy or depression or other health conditions.

Have you ever wondered if their siblings feel neglected? There are several testimonials from siblings of various ages.

And at the end of every story are suggestions of “What You Can Do” to help families. I love these insights.

Each story is short, making it easy to read a chapter or two a day. The book highlights some of the struggles families face on a daily basis.




Summer at Sagamore and Spinach Rockefeller Casserole

I’m happy to welcome fellow Wild Heart Books author, Lisa M. Prysock, to my blog! Lisa shares a bit about her latest book as well as a recipe. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Lisa!

During the Gilded Age when A Summer at Sagamore takes place (1907), Oysters Rockefeller was a very popular baked dish comprised of butter, oysters on the half shell, cheese, lemon juice, and breadcrumbs. Since my characters often have a good deal of banter going on between them at meal times during their stay at the Sagamore Resort nestled in the Adirondacks, I thought you might enjoy a similar recipe without oysters.

Spinach Rockefeller Casserole doesn’t have any oysters in it all, though I believe shelled oysters could easily be added to this casserole. My grandmother loved serving it as an occasional side, often at Easter. It pairs well with ham.

Here’s how to make it–:


2 boxes frozen chopped spinach

1 ¼ cup stuffing or dried bread croutons (I usually use the herb seasoned ones)

1 stick of butter

¾ cup water

2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce by Lea n Perrin’s

3 TBSP melted butter

½ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp sea salt

¾ cup crushed Ritz crackers

½ cup grated Parmesan


Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.

Cook frozen spinach in 3/4 cup water on stovetop over medium high heat. Stir frequently until all the pieces are cooked and broken apart. Do not drain the water.

Add butter, celery salt, pepper, sea salt, and Worcestershire sauce to the pan. Add the croutons. Stir well until the spinach mixture is hot and combined well. Set aside.

For the topping, combine crushed crackers, melted butter, and parmesan in a bowl. Stir well.

Add the spinach to a casserole dish. Spread the topping on the spinach. Bake about 13 minutes until lightly topping is golden brown and piping hot. Serve with the meal as a side.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. It’s a lovely alternative to creamed spinach, another popular dish during the Gilded Age.

A Summer at Sagamore

Can summer love survive amid mystery and mayhem?

When Abigail Greenwood and her cousins settle in for their annual summer retreat at the stunning and impressive Sagamore Resort in the Adirondacks, all she wants is to spend as much time as possible plunking out stories on her typewriter. But when her cousins insist she join them in the tradition of choosing a beau to adore from a distance during their stay, she reluctantly plays along, setting her sights on a mysteriously quiet and aloof guest. What started as harmless fun soon changes as Abby finds herself captivated by debonair—and handsome—Jackson Gable. Who is he, and why does his arrogant amused smile exasperate her so much?

When a series of events causing mayhem and mischief begin to occur at Sagamore, journalist Jackson Gable is determined to get to the bottom of it, since his father is an investor of the resort. Jack has a nose for mysteries, but he may have to use his recently earned law degree and some of his posh family connections to sleuth out the culprit. Are the events connected? Why are they happening? And why can’t he get the beautiful Abby off his mind?


About Lisa

Lisa M. Prysock is a USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Christian and Inspirational Author. She and her husband of more than twenty years reside in Kentucky. They have five children, grown. 

She writes in the genres of both Historical Christian Romance and Contemporary Christian Romance, including a multi-author Western Christian Romance series, “Whispers in Wyoming.” She is also the author of a devotional. Lisa enjoys sharing her faith in Jesus through her writing.

Lisa has many interests, but a few of these include gardening, cooking, drawing, sewing, crochet, cross stitch, reading, swimming, biking, and walking. She loves dollhouses, cats, horses, butterflies, hats, boots, flip-flops, espadrilles, chocolate, coffee, tea, chocolate, the colors peach and purple, and everything old-fashioned. 

She adopted the slogan of “The Old-Fashioned Everything Girl” because of her love for classic, traditional, and old-fashioned everything. When she isn’t writing, she can sometimes be found teaching herself piano and violin but finds the process “a bit slow and painful.” Lisa enjoys working with the children and youth in her local church creating human videos, plays, or programs incorporating her love for inspirational dance. A few of her favorite authors include Jane Austen, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. You’ll find “food, fashion, fun, and faith” in her novels. Sometimes she includes her own illustrations.

She continues the joy and adventure of her writing journey as a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and LCW (Louisville Christian Writers). Lisa’s books are clean and wholesome, inspirational, romantic, and family oriented.  She gives a generous portion of the proceeds to missions.  

Discover more about this author at where you’ll find the links to purchase more of her books, free recipes, devotionals, author video interviews, book trailers, giveaways, blog posts, and much more, including an invitation to sign up for her free newsletter.

Links to Connect with Lisa:

Facebook, Twitter,

Amazon Author Page,


(Lisa’s Facebook Reader & Friends group.)


A Not So Convenient Marriage is a Selah Awards Finalist!

by Sandra Merville Hart

I’m thrilled to announce that A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 in my Second Chances series, is a Selah Awards Finalist for Historical Romance!

There are some stories that must be told. This book was one of them for me.

What reviewers are saying:

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

“The depth of emotion is off the charts!”

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

“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!”

A Not So Convenient Marriage is mainly set in three Ohio locations—Hamilton, Harrison, and Bradford—in 1877.

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.

Order your copy today Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Books 2 Read!

Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

A Scanimation Picture Book

I found this fun picture book at Mazza Museum in Ohio.

The author created a book that puts animals in motion. Turning the page causes a horse to gallop, for example. A child can make the horse continue to gallop by moving the page back and forth.

My young grandchildren love this book, whose target readership is probably 2 – 6 year-olds.



Traditional Thousand Islands Shore Dinner

I’m happy to welcome fellow Wild Heart Book’s author, Susan G. Mathis, to my blog! She shares a recipe with us and a bit about her newest historical romance release. Welcome, Susan!

by Susan G. Mathis

Traditionally, the Thousand Islands Shore Dinner was a big fishing party. Several skiffs rallied at one island, dispersed to fish until noon, partook of a shore dinner, and then fished again until late afternoon. Fine folk like George Pullman, Frederick Bourne, and J.P. Morgan—and even President Ulysses S. Grant when he visited the islands in 1872—took time to get away from big-city life and find a quiet fishing vacation in the islands. 

The main boat would often be a small steam yacht. They would leave around 7 a.m., towing up to ten skiffs trailing behind them. The captain would choose an uninhabited island to use for a shore dinner, prepare the meal himself or drop off the meal preparers, and send the fishing guides off to row their guests to different fishing spots. 

Around noon, the fishing guides row the guests back to the steamer for a relaxing shore dinner, and then take the fishermen back out for an afternoon of more fishing. 

Traditional Thousand Islands shore dinners include fresh fish, French toast, and a sandwich with fried pork strips. And, of course, a salad with Thousand Islands Dressing.

Appetizers consisted of fatback and onion sandwiches and a salad with Thousand Islands dressing, of course, and crumbles of fatback. The main meal includes plates of fish and potatoes. And dessert was coffee and French toast. 

Then comes the French toast for dessert, also fried in the same pan as the pork and fish, and topped with lots of local maple syrup. Again, one needn’t count the calories; just enjoy the unique flavors of the shore dinner.

Today, uninhabited islands are few and far between, so shore dinners became a little more complicated. But several companies still serve patrons who want a traditional shore dinner. In fact, the NY State parks were, in part, established to provide a place for shore dinners. Maybe one day you, too, can visit the Thousand Islands and enjoy a traditional shore dinner.   

 Do you think you’d enjoy this meal? Here’s a recipe for Thousand Islands Dressing!

Thousand Island Dressing

2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
1 tablespoon green pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together and chill to blend flavors.

About Mary’s Moment:

Mathis’s attention to detail and rich history is classic Mathis, and no one does it better.—Margaret Brownley, N.Y. Times bestselling author

Summer 1912

Thousand Island Park’s switchboard operator ​Mary Flynn is christened the community heroine for her quick action that saves dozens of homes from a terrible fire. Less than a month later, when another disastrous fire rages through the Park, Mary loses her memory as she risks her life in a neighbor’s burning cottage. Will she remember the truth of who she is or be deceived by a treacherous scoundrel?

Widowed fireman George Flannigan is enamored by the brave raven-haired lass and takes every opportunity to connect with Mary. But he has hidden griefs of his own that cause him great heartache. When George can’t stop the destructive Columbian Hotel fire from eradicating more than a hundred businesses and homes, he is distraught. Yet George’s greater concern is Mary. Will she remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?      

Readers of Christian historical romance will enjoy this exciting tale set in 1912 Thousand Island Park, NY.


Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has ten in her fiction line including, The Fabric of Hope, Christmas Charity, Katelyn’s Choice, Devyn’s Dilemma, Peyton’s Promise, Sara’s Surprise, Reagan’s Reward, Colleen’s Confession, Rachel’s Reunion, and Mary’s Moment. Her book awards include two Illumination Book Awards, three American Fiction Awards, two Indie Excellence Book Awards, and four Literary Titan Book Awards. Reagan’s Reward is a Selah Awards finalist. Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children’s picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world but returns each summer to enjoy the Thousand Islands. Visit for links to buy and more.

Desperate Need for Kindergarten Teachers Inspired Part of Story

by Sandra Merville Hart

I have wanted to write a story set in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 1880s for several years. It seems that it was on my heart to write even when writing was but a dream for me.

In A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2 in my Second Chances Novel Series, twins Cora and John had been living on their family’s farm before moving to Cincinnati to attend college. John went rogue on me (he does that in Book 3 too 😊) and got a job at a newspaper working with Ben, and decided not to go to college. Meanwhile, Ben begins to court Cora.

When our story begins, Cora is in her second and final year at the Cincinnati Kindergarten Training School. Kindergarten is still in its infancy in 1883, when our story begins. In fact, the demand for kindergartens grew in the 1870s. There were about four hundred kindergartens by 1880, and the need to train teachers for them was a natural part of that growth.

A training school in Cincinnati was organized in March of 1880. At first, kindergarten students (aged four – six) learned the 3 R’s –reading, writing, and arithmetic. Before long, principals in higher grades complained that kindergartners also needed a basic knowledge of music, drawing, and manual training.

This led to greater training for kindergartener teachers, who learned teaching tools that included games, songs, and handwork.

I imagine that incorporating games, songs, and activities engaged the children’s interest in a new and fun way for them.

Part of my research included The Songs and Music of Friedrich Froebel’s Mother Play by Fro. Bel. Friedrich. Early training schools used Friedrich Froebel’s writing extensively in their training so I mentioned his Mother Play book within the story.

Though demand for kindergartens was growing, most schools didn’t address the needs of these four to six-year-old children by providing a kindergarten class. Cora has to fight for a local school to start a new class to open the fall after she graduates.

Another fun thing about this novel is the places I’ve included that the modern reader familiar with Cincinnati will recognize: Fountain Square, the Suspension Bridge, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the Zoological Gardens to name a few.

Follow characters you’ve grown to love in A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 in the “Second Chances” series into A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2!

More 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.

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

The Great Flood of 1884 in the Ohio Valley by John L. Vance

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

The rise and fall of the waters from Pittsburgh to Cairo together with useful and important information and statistics. Also, the work of the Gallipolis relief committee.

A cold, snowy January led to warmer days by the beginning of February. Sunshine and then rain melted the ice. Then more rain came.

And so did the floodwaters.

Widespread, disastrous flooding across West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, brought loss of property and loss of life.

The author wrote this book in 1884 when the tragedies were fresh in the minds of those who survived it.

I read this book as part of my research for A Not So Persistent Suitor, Book 2 in my Second Chances series. The author provided wonderful details for many areas affected by the flood including Cincinnati, Ohio, the setting for my book.

This nonfiction resource book shows details of the rising water, risky water rescues, and how an entire town was washed away.

Excellent book for American history lovers.


Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Reviewed by Sandra Merville Hart

The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

My sister is the first one who suggested I read this book. In fact, she lent me her copy.

Before I found time to read it, I’d heard of this author from multiple people.

This nonfiction book shows that we all want to be connected. We go to great lengths to belong, sometimes even when it goes against who we are deep inside.

There are many insights in this book that will make you think. Even if you might not agree with a particular point the author is making, you will likely respect her and her journey for true belonging.

Insightful. Honest. In fact, the author shares that after writing of a personal experience, she cried. It was difficult, painful to be so honest.

There is some strong language in the book.

Like my sister, I can recommend this book. You may want to read it with your highlighter handy.