A Sparkling Vintage Life

Jennifer Lamont Leo

The author blog of Jennifer Lamont Leo.

My Valentine to you: a free eBook of SONGBIRD AND OTHER STORIES

Hiya, Sparklers! If your hair has been turning silver waiting for me to release a new novel, here’s a gap-filler for you. I’ve written four short stories and collected them in a single volume called Songbird and Other Stories. Each story is set in the 1920s and features one of the characters from my novel series: Dot, Marjorie, or Helen. If you enjoyed You’re the Cream in My Coffee or Ain’t Misbehavin’, reading Songbird and Other Stories ought to feel cozy and comfortable, like a visit with old friends. And if you haven’t read those books (what are you waiting for?), Songbird and Other Stories is a great introduction to the storyworld of the Jazz Age. *

Now here’s the really good part: For a limited time, you can download Songbird and Other Stories for FREE at Bookfunnel (giving new meaning to the term “Free Bird”). All I ask is that you consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads if you like it. (If you don’t like it, maybe you can just let it go gentle into that good night, with apologies to Dylan Thomas.)

Currently Songbird is only available as an eBook, but we’re working on producing a print edition that will be available soon. I know many of you prefer to read “real” books printed on paper, so I’ll let you know just as soon as the print edition is available.

* (Also, unlike so many stories set in that era, these are clean and sweet, something moms, grandmas, and daughters can all share and enjoy.)

Like vintage-style make-up? Here’s a new podcast for you!

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy Besame Cosmetics, a company that reproduces vintage make-up colors, styles, and fragrances. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Besame is producing a brand-new podcast! The inaugural episode of At the House of Besame features founder Gabriela Hernandez and host discussing the new Mermaid Lagoon and Mickey Mouse make-up palettes, Get all the behind-the-scenes scoop about what goes into producing such unique products for vintage-lovers like us.

The Waterfall Mist fragrance, part of the new Mermaid Lagoon
collection from Besame Cosmetics

Cozy reads for January

January 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Amish Romance:

Seasons of an Amish Garden by Amy Clipston — Enjoy a year of beautiful seasons in this new story collection, as young Amish couples manage a community garden and harvest friendships and love along the way. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Courting Her Prodigal Heart by Mary Davis — Pregnant and alone, Dori Bontrager is sure her Amish kin won’t welcome her—or the child she’s carrying—into the community. And she’s determined that her return won’t be permanent. As soon as she finds work, she’ll leave again. But with her childhood friend Eli Hochstetler insisting she and her baby belong here, will Dori’s path lead back to the Englisher world…or into Eli’s arms? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Contemporary Romance:

Her Hope Discovered by Cynthia Herron — Charla Winthrop, a savvy business woman seeking a permanent lifestyle change in small-town Ruby, Missouri, learns that things aren’t always what they appear when she takes up residence in a house steeped in charm and a hint of mystery. Rumor has it that Sam Packard the town carpenter is her go-to guy for home remodeling, but can Charla convince him to help her—with no strings attached, of course? Alone far too long, Sam’s prayed that God would send him a wife and a mother for his daughters. However, the new Ruby resident is hardly what he imagined. A new place to call “home,” the possibility of what might be, and the answer to someone’s prayers unite this unlikely pair with the help of the town’s residents. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)


Cozy Mystery:

Murderous Heart by Lynne Waite Chapman — Freelance writer, Lauren Halloren pens popular magazine articles extoling the comfort and security of small town America. And Evelynton, Indiana treasures its wholesome small town values. Ask anyone. Streets are safe to walk. People look out for one another. Marriage vows are treasured. Murders are solved. In this third volume of the Evelynton Murder series, Lauren, along with friends, Clair and Anita stumble over another body. The partially mummified remains turn out to be an Evelynton resident. But how, in this close knit community, could a woman be deceased for over six months without being missed? (Cozy Mystery from Winged Publications)


Historical Romance:

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham — Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Homeward Journey by Misty M. Beller — Finally free from her dead husband’s addicted lifestyle, Rachel Gray and her young son set out for a new life in the wilderness of the Canadian territories. She is reluctant to accept help from another man, but after a bear threatens her son’s life, she agrees to accompany two God-fearing brothers who are traveling to the same area. Slowly, she begins to trust the one named Seth. Despite Rachel’s best efforts, she can’t seem to fight her attraction to Seth—until a secret from his past proves he had more in common with her husband than she thought. When a new peril threatens her son’s life, she must choose between trusting in what she can control, or the man who her heart says is trustworthy, no matter his previous sins. The path she chooses just may determine whether she can step into the new life God has in store for them all. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Stepping into the Light by Candee Fick — With war looming and a madwoman in their midst, the only hope for a peaceful future may lie in a marriage alliance between a disfigured recluse of the Gunn clan and the overlooked second son of Clan Sinclair. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse — Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska. The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated. The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Devotion by Olivia Rae — Injured and unable to make his living by the sword, Sir Theo de Born needs to secure his keep by becoming an educated man. As he finds himself falling for his reluctant teacher, he learns of her plan to leave England before the winter sets in. How can he convince her to stay and fulfill her promise while protecting his heart? Denied her true love and sent away to a convent, Lady Rose de Payne has no choice but to accept to become Sir Theo’s teacher. However, she has a plan to escape the confines of her new prison and start fresh in a different country. As the chilly winds blow, her resolve begins to waver. Will she abandon Sir Theo to a miserable fate or will she give up her dreams to make his come true? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press)

Pull Here In Case of Grinch-iness

Readers are calling this short story, “A lovely reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.” I hope it will be a blessing to you, too.

(For those of you who’ve read You’re the Cream in My Coffee and Ain’t Misbehavin, “The Christmas Robe”  features our beloved Marshall Field’s clerk, Marjorie Corrigan.)

The basic nugget of a story: Curiosity

Source: Bonner County Historical Society

Occasionally readers ask where I get my story ideas. One rich lode of ideas is studying real-life history, which I do often, both on my own and as a volunteer at a local history museum. Insatiably curious, I love digging into the past of places I’ve lived–it helps me feel more rooted and at home there. It’s a lot like snooping, but if you’re snooping through historical documents, you get to call it research. And the real-life past is an absolute  treasure trove of future story ideas for a historical fiction author.

My first two books grew out of my interested in the Chicago area, where I grew up. A new story that’s coming out next fall moves the action to the dense fir forests of northern Idaho. I’m also mulling a story around the Armistice of 1918. I collect these ideas on scraps of paper in a folder, and now and then I sift through the folder for inspiration. Not every chance idea makes it into a future story, of course, but as Grandma used to say, it’s all grist for the mill. In the meantime, I’ve learned something new, and am always the richer for it.

If you’re interested in early-20th-century history, The Winter 2019 issue of SANDPOINT magazine contains three of my articles about my current home in northern Idaho. One’s about the Armistice, the second skims over key events that shaped the region, and the third’s about Sears mail-order houses, a big deal in the early 20th century. (Maybe you or someone you know lives in one!)

You, too, might be surprised and delighted at what you can turn up by studying the history of your town or region. Start with the local library or historical society, and see where the path may lead.

Alone does not have to mean lonely … even on holidays

If you’re alone this holiday season, by choice or by circumstance, first of all, know that you are not an oddball. There is nothing wrong with you. While social expectations and Hallmark commercials drive home images of large, loving families enjoying a giant hugfest, like so many other things, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Managing the wishes and expectations of extended family cal be a challenge. Even when it’s worth every effort, and we’re indeed blessed with those heart-tugging “moments” the media are always telling us to cherish, the sensation is fleeting. This is not to disparage large, loving families … by all means, if you’re part of one enjoy it to the fullest. But if you’re not, you needn’t despair. Your holidays may look different from the so-called norm, but they don’t need to be any less satisfying.

Whether or not you enjoy your solo holiday depends so much on your attitude. If you spend the day feeling sorry for yourself or telling yourself you’re somehow “less than” your neighbor who has twenty places set at her dining-room table, you are sure to feel miserable. On the other hand, if you embrace the blessings your quiet and serene holiday offers, Thanksgiving can be one of the richest and most satisfying days of the year.

I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always, as my grandmother used to put it, enjoyed my own company.  That’s just my personality. The thought of curling up by the fire with a good book is my idea of bliss. I realize it’s not for everyone. But think of things you do enjoy: long hikes in nature, hot baths, a chance to catch up on your favorite Netflix series or BBC costume dramas Do these activities have to involve other people to be “worth the trouble”? Not if you understand that you’re worth the trouble.

Here are a few random ways to enjoy your solo holiday, in no particular order:

*Remember what the holiday is all about: Thankfulness. Write out a list of your blessings from the mundane to the sublime, and spend time thanking God for each one. Appreciate a distraction-free stretch of time to bask in prayer and soak up the Word, free from the pressures of ordinary days.

*Enjoy the luxury of time and space. Realize that some harassed people would give anything to spend the day quietly, but family expectations won’t permit it, or someone’s feelings would get hurt if they didn’t participate. If that’s not your situation, rejoice. Stock up on some good books (here are a few suggestions!) and movies and allow yourself sink into another world of your choosing.

*Bring in your very favorite foods and cook a lovely meal for yourself. Not fond of the traditional turkey dinner? You’re freed from anyone else’s expectations –cook up a steak if you want, or spaghetti, or pizza, and serve it on your best dishes.  It’s your holiday as much as anyone else’s–feast the way you want (or not at all, if you don’t feel like it–but only if you don’t feel like it, not because you don’t feel worthy of it…because you are).

*Get up and get moving. Take that long walk in the woods (properly dressed so you some hunter doesn’t mistake you for a deer!). Getting some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise will lift your spirits. If the weather’s lousy, put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room, with nobody there to criticize or complain.

*Reach out. To be sure, connect with far-flung family and friends by phone or Skype or social media. But if they’re all together somewhere and that makes you feel even more isolated, keep the conversation cheerful and brief. If you know someone else who’s also on their own, team up and share a meal. Or help serve at a community dinner. Or take time to visit a nursing home or retirement facility, where someone might appreciate seeing a friendly face.

I guess my best advice would be this: Don’t compare your holiday–or your life, for that matter– to someone else’s. Don’t automatically assume that someone else’s plans are superior to your own, or that you’re somehow inferior for spending a holiday by yourself. Every person’s life is a blend of good and bad, choices we’re proud of and those we regret, blessings God had bestowed and those he’s withheld. Embrace this season of your life. If you don’t care for it it, think about what you can do between now and then to make next year different. But don’t assume the grass is greener over there. With time, attention, and care you might find your own pasture is as green and soft as you could hope it would be.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my dear Sparklers! I’m very thankful for YOU!

Cozy October Reading!

October 2018 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:

A Christmas to Remember by Julie Arduini, Valerie Comer, Janet W. Ferguson, Kimberly Rose Johnson, Deb Kastner, Elizabeth Maddrey, Lindi Peterson, and Ginger Solomon — Eight authors from the popular blog Inspy Romance each share a Christmas-themed novella to put you in the mood for the season. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Family Legacy by Lorraine Beatty — Annie’s inheritance will provide a home for her twins and all she had to do is keep a man paying for his mistake forever. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Return by Marianne Evans — A prodigal who never wanted to return home must repair his family farm and rush back to the big city before an old love convinces him to stay. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

A Harvest of Blessings by June Foster — When Nadia accidentally sits on a stranger’s lap in the graveyard where her late husband is buried, she’s horrified to learn the good-looking guy with salt and pepper hair is her new boss. Jared is intrigued by this beautiful woman who puts God first in her life, but his daughter isn’t ready for him to move on after his wife’s death. As Nadia and Jared try to cultivate a relationship, will they reap a Harvest of Blessings, or a season of drought? (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romance [Winged Publication])

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson — Ninety years ago, Millie Sullivan’s great-grandmother was a guest at banker Howard Dawkins’ palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie’s great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage–and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . . (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Reason to Breathe by Deborah Raney — At twenty-nine, Phylicia Chandler put her life on hold to care for her dying mother with her sisters, Joanna and Britt. Now Mom is gone and their father has run off with a woman young enough to be their sister. Phylicia feels stuck–until her father’s protégé, Quinn Mitchell, presents her and her two sisters with an intriguing business opportunity to purchase a trio of cottages just outside of Langhorne, Missouri. But Phylicia is skeptical. Quinn soon finds himself falling hard for Phylicia. But how can he pursue this beautiful, talented woman twelve years his junior when she’s still reeling over her father’s hasty engagement to a younger woman? Quinn is determined to give Phylicia her happily-ever-after. But first, he must help her come to terms with her discovery of long-held family secrets and persuade her that true love can transcend their differences. (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)


General/Women’s Fiction

An Amish Homecoming by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller , Shelley Shepard Gray, and Beth Wiseman — A collection of four new Amish stories of coming home. (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Miles from Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti — These no-longer-newlyweds want out of this road trip–and their marriage. Too bad they can’t find the off-ramp. (General Contemporary from Gilead Publishing)


Historical:

When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma — In 1943 Poland, the Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their peaceful farm to the harsh confines of a labor camp. When the couple is separated, Natia risks everything to send him messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory. The stakes get higher when Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the doorstep where she works. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear—but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price. (Historical from Gilead Publishing)


Historical Romance:

This Courageous Journey by Misty M. Beller — When Noelle Grant sets off to visit her brother in the Canadian Rockies, the prospect of making a name for herself as a news correspondent finally seems within reach. But when the dangers become more than she bargained for, she finds herself—and the mountain man she’s come to love—in a situation more hazardous than any story her imagination could conjure. (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Reluctant Warrior by Mary Connealy — Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to Lake Tahoe to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Enchanting Nicholette by Dawn Crandall — As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette Everstone meets someone she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay? (Historical Romance from Whitaker House)

The Christmas Heirloom by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Becky Wade, and Karen Witemeyer — A family heirloom brings true love to its bearers through the generations as it is handed down from mother to daughter. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

A Heart for Freedom by Janet Grunst — Life was better than she dreamed, now the conflict between the British and the colonists threatened the loss of everything dear, even her husband. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears — Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another. Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes—without laughing in her face? (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear — Thomas Bledsoe and Kate Gruener are traveling the Wilderness Road when conflicts between natives and settlers reach a peak that will require each of them to tap into a well of courage. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mist O’er the Voyageur by Naomi Musch — Desperate to flee a cruel suitor, Metis woman Brigitte Marchal flees into the wilderness to find her long-lost, fur-trader father, but who will save her from the dangers of being a woman among a voyageurs’ brigade? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Romantic Suspense:

Five Years In Yemen by Luana Ehrlich — When the President issues a memorandum to bring home a military scientist who went missing in Iraq, CIA operative Titus Ray has been given the assignment. However, when the mission takes an unexpected turn after his contact is murdered in Riyadh, Titus is forced to make changes in the mission’s protocols, changes that endanger his operational team and have lasting consequences for his future. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon — A woman who owns a fair trade shop and a police detective find themselves plunged into international intrigue—and danger—when people connected with her shop begin dying. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills — A hostage negotiator is thrust into danger and betrayal when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Supernatural Thriller:

Surrounded by Darkness by Rachel Dylan — When attorney Olivia Murray opens a legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Windy Ridge, she knows she will face legal and spiritual opposition. The New Age presence has grown stronger as alliances form between groups hoping to spread their destructive way of life and gain a stronghold in the community. While the forces of evil target Olivia’s new clinic, her legal partner Grant Baxter, and her relationships, she refuses to let them stop her quest for justice. Will Olivia’s and Grant’s faith be strong enough—in God and each other—to prevail in the battle that threatens to bring darkness to the entire town? (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])


Speculative:

A Dance of Shadows by Erica Marie Hogan — Ten days have passed since Sundragon blood was shed for a sacrifice by Raphaela Kael. Ten days since Lathan and Maxx Jandry fled the city in search of Princess Damari Kael and their niece, Noelle. Brecken Jandry, Brae’s loyal husband, remains a tortured prisoner in the Kael dungeons and no one in Sunkai is safe from Roderick and Raphaela’s wrath. Damari Kael flees Sunkai with little Noelle Jandry, determined to deliver the child to the safety of the Shadow Lands, even as her own power emerges within her. The Eventide Sisters embark on a mission to join the Winter Queen. Across the land, Clea Jandry arrives in her birthplace of Molderëin where she is met with a savagery she thought long dead. Afra Malaki seeks the Creator’s will and the Queen of the Woodlands prepares for battle. In the peaceful city of Quintaria, the Winter Queen grieves. But the shadows are coming for her. They carry a message for Adlae Sundragon, and they will not rest until all is revealed. (Fantasy from Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.)

Body By Blood by Dr. Patrick Johnston — In the not-too-distant future, where cloned bodies are marketable commodities among the super-rich, leaving graveyards of trampled dehumanized classes in science’s wake, the richest man in the world who pioneered the breakthrough technologies learns the meaning of true love from a disabled granddaughter. (Speculative Action Adventure from Ambassador International)

Mercury Rising by Tim and Gail Sattler — Four ordinary people are thrown into an extraordinary situation when they are thrown into a diabolical plot hidden under the guise of global warming. (Contemporary Fantasy from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Awakened by Richard Spillman — If Lazarus didn’t die a second time what would he be up to today? (Speculative from Mountain Brook Ink)

 

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