Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Author Interview with Pegg Thomas

Available in April of 2017, Pegg’s debut story, Embattled Hearts will be part of The Pony Express Romance Collection published by Barbour.

Alannah Fagan grew up learning how to take care of herself in the Kentucky wilderness. But when her mother’s death leaves her with a brutal stepfather, her only hope is escape. Together with Conn, her younger brother, she flees their westbound wagon train with no plan other than to survive. Stewart McCann is the middle son of a northern Virginia family with seven brothers. He moved west because he refused to take sides in the Civil War. But when a battered young woman and her brother take refuge at his Pony Express station, he finds himself in the middle of another type of battle. A battle for his heart.

Thank you for being with us today PEGG! I so enjoyed reading Embattled Hearts.

TR: What is your inspiration for Embattled Hearts?

PT: Thank you for hosting me!
I wish I had a really great answer for this, but I don’t. The story grew out of my research on the Pony Express. I knew I wanted to include the importance of the Pony Express in the Civil War effort. From there, it took turns I even I wasn’t expecting.

TR: Was there any traveling involved in your research, if so, where?

PT: In a backward sort of way. Horseshoe Station was located in an area of Wyoming I’d been through just a few years prior. I had some photos I’d taken, plus I found a hand-drawn picture of the station as it was in the 1860s.

TR: What was the most interesting or favorite thing you learned about the Pony Express?

PT: Most interesting in a weird sort of way was the original advertisement stating—right in print—that orphans were the preferred candidates for riders. Wow! Talk about transparency. You might not survive this, so if you’re an orphan, all the better.

TR: Do you have a favorite character?

PT: Absolutely, it's Cyclops. This horse is modeled—except for the one-eyed part—after my son’s first horse, Jason. He was an off-track thoroughbred, 16.2 hands, solid black, and one of the smartest horses I’ve ever known. I loved writing him into a story.

TR: Do you have a favorite scene?

PT: My favorite scene would be a spoiler. Here's one that tells a bit about the characters:

     If the blue-gray of her eye had been a lance, he'd be skewered to the wall behind the stove. That red hair of hers, wet and bedraggled as it was, warned of a temper loud and clear. He shook his head. What he knew about women would fit in a thimble and not crowd the finger. (Tweet This) Raised in a passel of boys on a remote tobacco plantation, he'd always thought of women as a foreign species. This one, however, looked more like a skinny grizzly bear with a bad grouch on.
     He stirred the mush until it bubbled and thickened, then set the frying pan on the table before scooping a pair of bowls and two spoons off the shelf. He also grabbed a pot of molasses. Maybe it would sweeten her up a bit.
     “Got any cream?” Conn's vivid green eyes held no animosity.
     Stewart grinned. The best way to a boy's heart was through his stomach. “Sorry.”
     Conn shrugged and filled his bowl. His sister remained behind the chair across the room, unmoved since she'd taken her post there. A blast of wind rattled the timbers that framed the cabin, followed by more ground-shaking thunder. She might relax if he left, but he wasn't about to go out in this storm.
     “Please, won't you sit and eat?” He pasted on what he hoped was a welcoming smile. Between her silent scowls and the threat of men coming after them, he'd be happy to see the pair ride off as soon as the weather cleared. But they had nothing to ride and apparently nothing to eat. Likely they didn't have a nickel between them either. He clenched his teeth to keep his smile in place.
     Her gaze flicked to the table and back to him, but she didn't move.
     What was he supposed to do? He couldn't make her eat. The way Conn slurped up the corn mush there wouldn't be any left if she didn't decide soon. She just stared at him. Then it dawned on him that he was staring at her. Oh. Maybe that was the problem.

TR: When did you first become interested in historical Colonial America? How has it impacted your writing? Do you usually blend factual historical events in with your fictional story

PT: I can’t remember ever not being interested in history. I remember visiting the Colonial Fort Michilimackinac as a kid and loving it. Since historical fiction is my favorite genre to read, it didn’t take any big leap to decide that’s what I wanted to write. And to me, historical fiction means there is real history in there. I’m always disappointed to pick up a book called historical fiction and find no historical content whatsoever.

TR: How important is it to you to have characters who live a godly life and a strong faith element woven within your storyline?

PT: My preferred story—mine or another author’s—is where the faith element is expressed in a very organic way throughout the story. I don’t like preachy writing. I don’t want to be beaten over the head with the Bible when I’m reading fiction. What I want to see is character growth and development, flawed characters who find their way to Christ, or hurting characters that find healing with Him.

TR: Just for fun question: Can you picture yourself and your horse, Trooper, speeding away from a Pony Express station across the wilderness toward the next Pony Express station? 

PT: My daredevil days are long behind me, and Trooper is now 25 years old. No, we don’t speed. We’re very happy just plodding along these days.

TR: What are you currently working on and when will it be released?

PT: I just finished In Sheep’s Clothing which is set in Colonial Connecticut Colony. My heroine is a spinner and weaver. The story takes place shortly after King William III signed the Wool Act. It will be published in the Bouquet of Brides Romance Collection in January of 2018.

TR: Anything else you would like to share?

PT: I do have some big news to share. I’ve accepted the Managing Editor position for Smitten, the Historical Romance imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It’s still a bit overwhelming, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. And I’ll still keep plugging away at my own stories too. That ought to keep me busy enough.  ;)

Readers can connect with me at:

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Colonial Kitchen

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

I googled Colonial kitchens to research this article, and when I saw the results, I laughed. An HGTV or home decor site's colonial kitchen is nothing like what the well stocked kitchen of the 1700s looked like.There were no stoves, and the kitchens were smaller than many apartment size kitchens today.

The fireplace was the central part of the colonial kitchen. Sometimes they would be as wide as ten feet and cover an entire wall. The larger fireplaces would have a bench built into them. In the late 1700s, when wood became scarce in populated areas, the fireplaces became smaller, but they were still a central part of the colonial home. Many of these fireplaces had cast iron back to protect them from the heat. Sometimes there would be many small fires instead of one large fire to regulate the heat of each dish being cooked.

Originally all cooking was done over the open fire, but eventually bee shaped brick or stone ovens with domed roofs were built into the fireplace to do baking. Some fireplaces had small opening beneath the ovens that served as warming ovens. A fire would be started in the oven, then as it died down, the ashes would be swept out and the food would be placed in the oven.

Some homes had spits to skewer meat on. A hand crank would turn the spit. Most homes had an iron crane over the fireplace to hang pots and kettles on. Sometimes wooden lugs made out of green wood would be used instead. Pots hung on the cranes with pot hooks, trammels, or chains with large links. The crane would swing from side to side, and the pot could be hung on various spots on the crane.

Fires were never allowed to go out. At nights, a curfew made of brass or copper would be placed over the embers. In the morning, wood would be laid on the embers, and they would be poked with fireplace forks and shovels. A blow tube would be used as a bellow to fan the flame.

The kitchen usually had a variety of pots, pans, kettles, and skillets. Most homes had tin plates and wooden utensils that they shared at meal time. The wooden table in the center of the room would serve as the only seating area other than the floor.

Very few colonial homes had parlor. Some consisted of on room which was the kitchen. Even if a colonial home had bedrooms, the family would spend most of their time in the kitchen. When someone was sick, a bed or mattress in the kitchen served as a sick bed where the sick person could stay warm close to the fire and the rest of the family could see to his needs. The kitchen was the center of colonial life.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Revolutionary Mothers: Baroness Frederika von Riedesel

Baroness von Riedesel
I saw the whole battle myself, and, knowing that my husband was taking part in it, I was filled with fear and anguish and shivered whenever a shot was fired…

When you think of women involved in the American Revolution, I’ll bet you don’t visualize a German baroness. But when the British hired Hessian troops to help fight the American rebels, some women accompanied their husbands to our shores. One of them was vivacious young Frederika Charlotte Louise von Massow, the Baroness von Riedesel.

She was born on July 11, 1746, at Brandenburg. Her father was a general, and as a child, Frederika experienced the hardships of travelling with the Prussian Army. In 1762 during the battles of the Seven Years’ War, sixteen-year-old Frederika helped care for the wounded, among them, the then lieutenant colonel Friedrich Adolph Riedesel, baron of Eisenbach. It’s clear they were quite attracted to each other because they married later the same year.

Red-haired Fredericka was described as looking more like an unmarried school girl than a married woman, “full in figure and possessing no small share of beauty.” She and Friedrich became a devoted couple and soon added two daughters to their family. Frederika was pregnant again in 1776 when Brunswick signed a treaty to support Great Britain in the war against her rebellious American colonies. Now a general, Friedrich could not do without his wife at his side. When he sailed for America he made sure that Frederika would join him as soon as the new baby could travel. Carolina was born in March, and in May 1776, accompanied by her three little girls, Frederika sailed to England. Ever resourceful, she brought along a number of German antiques to sell to help pay travelling expenses.

England proved to be a less than enjoyable experience, with Fredericka’s German fashions and language attracting scorn. Nevertheless, she learned the English language and customs in six weeks, while she waited for a ship to take her and her daughters to Canada. General Riedesel had insisted she travel with a companion, and it was April 1777 before all the arrangements could be made and she and her little girls finally set sail. They were reunited with the general in June at Trois-Rivières, Quebec, just in time to accompany the army south on General John Burgoyne’s campaign to capture Albany and divide the New England states from the rest of the new nation.

Riding through the wilderness behind the army in a calash—and I’ll bet that was fun!—Frederika and her children eventually ended up on the battlefields around the small town of Saratoga, NY. The quote above is from an entry in her journal, written on September 19, 1777, during the battle of Freeman’s Farm. You’ll find a longer excerpt from this fascinating journal on The American Patriot Series website. During the battle Frederika and the children sheltered in a nearby house, where wounded soldiers were brought and where a young English officer slowly died during that agonizing night. Then on October 7 she was preparing a meal when the Battle of Bemis Heights began. The meal had to be cleared from the table in order to provide a bed for mortally wounded General Simon Fraser. Frederika spent another night tending wounded soldiers, several other women, and her own children. Before expiring the next morning, General Fraser asked that his body be buried at one of the redoubts. Frederika handled all the arrangements and in spite of her terror attended the funeral while under American cannon fire. To make their precarious situation even worse, the house caught fire that afternoon, forcing everyone to evacuate.

Lansing House
Through this ordeal Frederika became very critical of security at the British camp and of General Burgoyne himself. She wrote: “The greatest misery and extreme disorder prevailed in the army. The commissary had forgotten to distribute the food supplies among the troops … more than thirty officers came to me because they could stand the hunger no longer.” It finally became necessary for her to remind Burgoyne that his men were starving due to lack of supplies. Burgoyne held out, however, until even he could no longer deny that defeat was imminent. When he finally agreed to retreat to Canada, the army was forced to march north through torrential rains, with their equipment miring in knee-deep mud. Unable to go farther, they took refuge near Saratoga, present day Schuylerville, where they were soon surrounded by the American forces. General Riedesel arranged his command on heights now occupied by the Schuylerville Central School and directed Frederika to take the children to a nearby farmhouse at that time owned by a man named Lansing, about three hundred yards to the north of the lines.

Baroness Riedesel and her children (Harper's Weekly, 1857)
This marked the beginning of a horrifying week for the women, children and wounded soldiers who soon crowded into the building’s cellar with her. The house has been known as the Marshall House since 1817. Although a much larger structure today, it still preserves the stone cellar where Frederika recorded what they all endured. Beams that were shattered by American cannon fire are visible as are bloodstains on the floor left by a soldier whose leg was severed in the cannonade. Three of the eleven cannonballs Frederika noted as having hit the building are also displayed. She wrote: “Little Frederika, was very much frightened, often starting to cry, and I had to hold my handkerchief over her mouth to prevent our being discovered.” She spent days managing the needs of the children, women, and wounded soldiers in the crowded cellar as the battle continued. A German soldier described her as an “angel of comfort” who “restored order in the chaos.”

The Riedesels celebrate Christmas in Canada. They are credited
with popularizing the German tradition of Christmas trees
in the Americas
After Burgoyne’s surrender on October 17, 1777, Frederika, Friedrich, and their children became prisoners along with Burgoyne’s entire army and the approximately 2,000 women who accompanied them. They were marched to Boston, then transferred to Virginia. In 1779 they were allowed to move to New York City, and in 1780 Frederika gave birth to their fourth daughter, named America. Friedrich commanded troops on Long Island during the winter of 1780–1781, after which he and his family were sent to Canada. Frederika gave birth to a fifth daughter there, named Canada, who sadly didn’t live. It wasn’t until the peace treaty was signed in 1783 that they at last returned home to Brunswick. Frederika bore 4 more children, a total of 9 altogether, 6 of whom survived to adulthood.

Encouraged by her husband, Frederika published her journal and letters shortly after his death in 1800. The Letters and Journals Relating to the War of the American Revolution and the Capture of the German Troops at Saratoga may well be the most complete and reliable account of this ill-fated British campaign. She died March 29, 1808, in Berlin and was buried with her husband in a family grave in Lauterbach.

Frederika was clearly a resourceful, courageous, and admirable woman. Please share your thoughts about her and about the challenges of caring for 3 tiny children in the midst of a war zone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d handle what she endured nearly as well!
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 INDYFAB Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, releases April 1, 2017. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Month in Colonial History: March

It's time for the March edition of "This Month in Colonial History." Enjoy!

1:  Articles of Confederation are formally ratified in 1781, establishing Congress as the governing body of the 13 American Colonies.

2:  In celebration of Samuel Houston’s birthday, Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. Okay, so the two probably aren’t related, but it’s a fun fact to point out! Also, did you know that in his teens, Sam Houston ran away and lived with the Cherokee? 

4: Land grant in 1681 from King Charles II to William Penn, which later became ... you guessed it ... Pennsylvania.

4: The Constitution of the United States of America goes into effect in 1789.

5: The Boston Massacre in 1770 ... often presented as an action by overreactive British soldiers against a peaceable populace, but probably more likely the result of them cracking under provocation by a mob. The British were cleared in court of murder charges, after being defended by none other than John Adams.

9:  Birth in 1451 of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer for whom our continent is named.

11: (from “Marines participated in the action [of the American Revolution] when the Continental Navy frigate Boston, enroute to France, sighted, engaged, and captured the British merchant ship Martha. As the drum of the Boston beat to arms, John Adams seized a musket and joined the Marines on deck until the frigate's captain, Samuel Tucker, sent him below for safety.” (1778)

12: Colonization in 1609 of Bermuda, discovered after a ship bound for Virginia wrecked on its reefs.

13: Harvard University named after clergyman John Harvard, in 1639.

15: Birth in 1767 of Andrew Jackson, 7th U.S. President (1829-1837), hero of the War of 1812. One could argue that his harsh policies toward Native Americans were shaped by his witnessing the Cherokee conflict in the Carolina backcountry and British occupation of the same, since he was a mere lad of not quite 13 at the Battle of Camden, where he and his family resided.

16: Birth in 1751 of James Madison, 4th U.S President (1809-1817)

19: Birth in 1589 of William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony and credited with much of its success. First sailed with a group of 100 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, originally bound for Virginia.

21: Birth in 1685 of Johann Sebastian Bach, musical composer.

23: Patrick Henry’s famous declaration in 1775, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Credited with sparking the powder keg of revolution in the colonies.

25: In 1807, the British Parliament abolished the slave trade.

28:  Nathaniel Briggs patents the washing machine in 1797.

31: Birth in 1596 of René Descartes, philosopher and mathematician.

31: Birth in 1732 of Franz Joseph Haydn, composer, who was a contemporary of Mozart and teacher to Beethoven.

My thanks to The History Place, Holiday Insights, and Marine Corps University.

Friday, March 10, 2017


In writing the (as yet unpublished) sequel to A Heart Set Free, there is a scene in the story that deals with thelanguage of the fan”. During the Colonial period, ladies’ fans were both decorative clothing accessories and utilitarian. Remember, these ladies often had many layers of clothing on and “air-conditioning” was far in the future.

However, ladies carried fans not only for decorative or cooling purposes. They were also used as a means of subtle and private communication with men in public locations. As I researched this subject I discovered that the meanings for the various fan movements changed over time.
Here are the commonly understood “expressions” utilized during the colonial era:

A fan placed near the heart:  "You have won my love."
A closed fan touching the right eye:  "When may I be allowed to see you?"
The number of sticks shown answered the question:  "At what hour?"
Threatening gestures with a closed fan:  "Do not be so imprudent"
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips:  "You may kiss me."
Hands clasped together holding an open fan:  "Forgive me."
Covering the left ear with an open fan:   "Do not betray our secret."
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan:       "I love you."
Shutting a fully-opened fan slowly:         "I promise to marry you."
Drawing the fan across the eyes:  "I am sorry."                                                             Touching the finger to the tip of the fan:    "I wish to speak with you."
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek:  "Yes."
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek:     "No."
Opening and closing the fan several times:   "You are cruel"
Dropping the fan:    "We will be friends."
Fanning slowly:       "I am married."
Fanning quickly:     "I am engaged."
Putting the fan handle to the lips:     "Kiss me."
Opening a fan wide:            "Wait for me."
Placing the fan behind the head:      "Do not forget me"
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended:    Goodbye."
Fan in right hand in front of face:     "Follow me."
Fan in left hand in front of face:  "I am desirous of your acquaintance."
Fan held over left ear:   "I wish to get rid of you."                                                         Drawing the fan across the forehead:     "You have changed."
Twirling the fan in the left hand:     "We are being watched."
Twirling the fan in the right hand:  "I love another."
Carrying the open fan in the right hand:   "You are too willing."                               Carrying the open fan in the left hand:   "Come and talk to me."
Drawing the fan through the hand:  "I hate you!"
Drawing the fan across the cheek: "I love you!"
Presenting the fan shut: "Do you love me?"

Do you own (or flirt) with a fan?
I own two fans. At my age they are very utilitarian -- to keep cool.

I will be addressing the various varieties of fans available and popular during the colonial period in a later post. 

Janet Grunst can be found at: