Coming Soon! 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, will release February 14, 2023!

This series begins a dozen years after the end of the Civil War. The first book, A Not So Convenient Marriage, 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. 😊

Book 3, A Not So Peaceful Journey, takes place on a train journey from Ohio to San Francisco in 1884.  

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.

Available on Amazon, Apple Books, 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.

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Bradford Junction, A Railroad Town

by Sandra Merville Hart

In 1870, the Ohio railroad town of Bradford Junction (now known as Bradford) had a population around 400.

Trains stopped at specific depots for meal stops. These were called eating stations. General S.E. Ogden took over Hoover House and renamed it Ogden Hotel and Restaurant and was one of the eating stations in Bradford Junction. Louie’s Place was another spot where train passengers obtained hot meals.

Farmers or widows often sold fruit or cakes on the platform to passengers not desiring a big, hot meal as a cheaper alternative.

A child or teenager sometimes boarded the train to sell candy, cold drinks, or newspapers. Bradford’s first newspaper, the Railroad Gazette, was no doubt sold to people passing through.

Meal stops were generally twenty minutes only. The conductor entered the eating stations and announced how long diners had before the train departed. If they weren’t on the train, they were left.

In the 1880s, the Miami Hotel charged $1 a day for first-class accommodations.

Private boarding houses offered housing to railroad men. Widows of railroad workers also rented rooms as a way to make income. Men who rented from these families were expected to maintain a respectful manner. He enjoyed clean bed linens and meals with the family. In return, he should maintain cleanliness.

Some men lived in the same boarding house for years, helping to raise the widow’s children. Sometimes boarders attended functions with the landlady and her family. He might purchase a chair for the parlor for his own use.

Bradford Junction is a setting in A Not So Convenient Marriage, Book 1 in my “Second Chances” series, where the heroine works with orphaned twins at the fictitious meal stop, Mrs. Saunders’ Eatery. I invite you to pick up a copy and read it!

Three Reasons Dicken’s A Christmas Carol Packs an Emotional Punch

by Sandra Merville Hart

With Christmas just around the corner, I read Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Christmas Carol, and discovered at least three reasons why his story is a beloved classic.

The first thing I noticed are the engaging descriptions that bring depth and meaning to the story. He paints vivid pictures of the settings and characters in a way that captures the reader’s imagination.

The many beautiful images made it difficult to choose an example to illustrate this point. One that made me smile was Dickens’ comments about Scrooge’s nephew:

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him, too. Introduce him to me, and I’ll cultivate his acquaintance.

Simple yet vivid descriptions fill the classic tale.

Dickens also writes about realistic characters. At first glance, Scrooge comes across as a stingy boss who refuses an invitation to a family Christmas dinner and a request to give to the poor. He only grudgingly grants his clerk Christmas Day off.

The writer then tells Scrooge’s back story in a creative way. Ghostly journeys into Christmas Past reveal a boy alone in a boarding school when all his classmates go home for Christmas. The sight touches our hearts.

Dickens also includes timeless truths in his tale of a lonely, unhappy old man. Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, maintains an optimistic outlook despite his anxiety over his son’s health. Tiny Tim’s faith and courage touches everyone around him. Scrooge’s nephew forgives his uncle for rejecting his family.       

The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge two imminent deaths if nothing changes—one deeply mourned and one barely noticed.

Dickens’ novel lives on in our hearts. Some reasons for this are his engaging descriptions, realistic characters, and timeless truths. The story vividly reminds us how one life affects another.

A timeless tale.       

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.”

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.

Sight and Sound Theater, Branson

by Sandra Merville Hart

Recently, my husband and I went with my brother and sister-in-law to see Jesus at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson, Missouri. What a spectacular show!

I’ve seen other plays like Jonah, Moses, and Samson at this theater and anticipated that Jesus would be just as amazing. It was—in fact, it exceeded my expectations.

The actors lit up the stage. The drama highlighted many of the well-known events in Jesus’ life and shed new insights as the story unfolded.

I was captivated by the photo on the program before I ever walked into the theater. It stirred my emotions as well as my imagination. Nice job!

The special effects are really well-done. It appeared as if Jesus really walked on the water. Peter went under when unbelief caused doubts and Jesus saved him, as the photo portrays so beautifully.

Live animals add a new dimension to the show. Aisles are used as part of the stage.

Actors put their heart and soul into each performance. Families, couples, church groups, and vacation-goers flock to these plays. Every performance I’ve attended has been to a packed house.

Deservedly so.

The production of Jesus has ended for this season. Miracle of Christmas will be live on stage from November 5 – December 31, 2022.

I was thrilled to learn that I Heard the Bells by Sight and Sound Films will be in theaters in December of 2022. I’ve already added this to my holiday plans.

For more information, check out their website.

If your plans take you to the Branson area on vacation, I’d recommend an evening performance at the Sight and Sound Theater.

Announcing Byway to Danger eBook sale!

by Sandra Merville Hart

BookBub has selected Byway to Danger, Book 3 in the “Spies of the Civil War” series, for a Featured Deal!

This means that the eBook for Byway to Danger will be available on all retailers from September 19 – 22 at 99 cents—a great deal!

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?

Buy your copy today!

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

An Afternoon in Ripley, Ohio

by Sandra Merville Hart

My husband and I recently joined a group of author friends for a fun day of learning about the Underground Railroad in Ripley, Ohio.

We started out with lunch at the Cohearts Riverhouse. This restaurant is on Front Street, which borders the Ohio River. Friendly staff, a cozy atmosphere, and good food made for a wonderful experience.

Next, we went about a half mile to John Rankin House. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, built his home high on a hill. He kept a lantern lit in his front home where it was visible across the Ohio River to the slave state of Kentucky.

Rankin, his wife, and his children helped hundreds of escaped slaves, escorting them on their way to that next station on the Underground Railroad. Although there were many times when sheriffs and slave catchers sneaked onto the Rankin homestead in the middle of the night, accompanied by gunfire, in pursuit of fugitives, no one was ever caught. None of the family members were killed and all of the fugitives made it safely to the next station.

We were all impressed by the success and sacrifices of the entire Rankin family as we traveled less than half a mile to the Parker House, a man equally as inspiring.

John P. Parker was born into slavery and was sold away from his mother. He ended up at a doctor’s home where the doctor’s sons taught him how to read. John ran away repeatedly but was always caught. Eventually he was sold to a woman who agreed to allow him to buy his freedom for $1,800. He accomplished this and bought his freedom in less than 2 years.

He eventually ended up in Ripley, Ohio. John’s hatred of slavery spurred him to take many trips into Kentucky at night to help fugitives to freedom—journeys filled with danger for, if caught, John would have been hung.

Docent Dewey Scott made the story come alive in his presentation.

We learned a lot that afternoon at both museums. The Rankin and Parker families are an inspiration.

I found this whole afternoon especially inspiring because one of the characters in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, has a station on the Underground Railroad in Richmond.

Sources

“John P. Parker House,” National Park Service, 2022/08/08

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/oh2.htm.

“John Rankin House,” Ohio History Connection, 2022/08/08 https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/browse-historical-sites/john-rankin-house/.

Henry “Box” Brown

by Sandra Merville Hart

Henry “Box” Brown earned his unusual nickname in a surprising way. Wishing to escape slavery in a Richmond tobacco factory, Brown mailed himself to Philadelphia.

Brown’s wife, Nancy, was also enslaved by Samuel Cottrell and lived with their children on an adjacent plantation. Brown developed skills at the factory that enabled him to earn money. Cottrell charged Brown $50 a year to not sell his family. Brown paid it but Cottrell sold his pregnant wife and three children anyway in 1848.

His grief spurred him to escape. Brown, a Christian, sang in the choir at the First African Baptist Church. He prayed for guidance about his escape and the answer came to get in a box and mail himself.

Brown turned to James Caesar Anthony Smith, a free black choir friend, for help. James knew a white sympathizer, Samuel Alexander Smith, who agreed to help for a price. Samuel arranged for Henry to be shipped via Adams Express Company to James Miller McKim of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society who also participated in the Underground Railroad.

On March 23, 1849, Henry traveled in a 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 ½ feet deep wooden box labeled “Dry Goods” and “This Side Up.” The box was lined with coarse wool cloth. With one air hole cut into the box, a few biscuits and water, Henry traveled by train on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad to a steamboat on the Potomac River.

His box was turned upside down and Henry felt like he wasn’t going to survive the trip. Then two men who needed a seat turned his box the right way to sit on it, possibly saving Henry’s life.

When he finally arrived 26-27 hours later, four men opened his box. Henry recited a psalm about waiting patiently on the Lord. Then he sang the psalm, which touched the men who helped him.

Instead of keeping his escape methods to himself, as Frederick Douglass suggested, Henry began speaking to audiences about his experiences two months later. He also performed for them the psalm he had sung. The Narrative of Henry Box Brown written by Charles Stearns was published in 1849, and Brown and Stearns sold them at lectures.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, requiring slaves to be returned to their owners even when in a free state, passed on September 18th, and Henry feared he’d be captured and taken back to Richmond. He fled to England with Smith.

Henry lived there for 25 years. During those years he performed for audiences as a mesmerist. When he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter, he also performed as a magician.

Henry “Box” Brown is remembered for the creative way he escaped to the North, inspired by the prayers of a man of faith.

Brown and others inspired me in my writing. One of the characters in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, has a station on the Underground Railroad in Richmond.

Sources

“Fugitive Slave Act,” American Battlefield Trust, 2022/06/20 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/fugitive-slave-act#.

“Henry Box Brown,” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2022/06/20 https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/brown-henry-box-1815-or-1816-1897/.

Newby-Alexander, PHD, Cassandra L. Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, History Press, 2017.

Walls, Dr. Bryan. “Freedom Marker: Courage and Creativity,” PBS.org, 2022/06/22 https://www.pbs.org/black-culture/shows/list/underground-railroad/stories-freedom/henry-box-brown/.

Shadrach Minkins, Fugitive

by Sandra Merville Hart

Shadrach Minkins was about twenty-eight years old when he escaped slavery in the home of John DeBree in Norfolk, Virginia, in May of 1850. It’s likely that a schooner took him. He arrived in Boston that same month. Shadrach went by the name of Frederick while there.

Not long after his arrival, Minkins spotted William H. Parks, a white man who had worked with him in Norfolk. Instead of turning him in, Parks gave him a job. Then Minkins was hired by upscale restaurant, Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern, where he waited tables.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, requiring slaves to be returned to their owners even when in a free state, passed on September 18th, and this eventually affects Minkins.

Many citizens were outraged by the law, including folks in Boston. In October, a community of African Americans established the League of Freedom to rescue fugitives. Another group, The Committee of Vigilance and Safety, was formed by mostly white citizens with the same goal.

John DeBree hired a slave catcher John Caphart to bring Minkins back to Norfolk. Caphart, a man known for his violent history, arrived in Boston on February 12, 1851. Minkins was arrested at the Cornhill Coffee House and Tavern three days later and taken to the courthouse.

Six lawyers offered to represent Minkins. One helped him write his name.

Between 100 – 150 people, many of them black, crowded the courtroom within thirty minutes. Hundreds more gathered outside. A charge of about twenty black men broke through the outer and inner doors and took Minton away.

His rescuers hid him in various locations, including the home of Reverend Joseph C. Lovejoy. Minton made it to Leominster and then traveled along the Underground Railroad. He arrived in La Praire, Quebec, Canada four days later.

Minton wrote a letter thanking his friends in Boston. He signed the letter as Frederick Minton.

His story has a happy ending. He met and married Mary, an Irish woman, and they had four children. Minton returned to his former name of Shadrach Minton. In Old Montreal, he owned barbershops, inns, and restaurants.

One of the characters in Byway to Danger, Book 3 in my “Spies of the Civil War” series, has a station on the Underground Railroad in Richmond.

Sources

“Fugitive Slave Act,” American Battlefield Trust, 2022/06/20 https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/fugitive-slave-act#.

Newby-Alexander, PHD, Cassandra L. Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, History Press, 2017.

“Rescued from the Fangs of the Slave Hunter: The Case of Shadrach Minkins,” National Park Service, 2022/06/20 https://www.nps.gov/articles/-rescued-from-the-fangs-of-the-slave-hunter-the-case-of-shadrach-minkins.htm.

“Shadrach Minkins (d. 1875),” Encyclopedia Virginia, 2022/06/20 https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/minkins-shadrach-d-1875/#timeline.