A Sparkling Vintage Life
Avatar

Jennifer

Stuck inside? Send your imagination on vacation with a good novel!

 

April 2020 New Releases

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


Biblical:

Claiming Canaan: Milcah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the tribal elders make marriage a requirement for claiming her land, Milcah bat Zelophehad must find a betrothed straightaway. The only problem in finding a husband is that all her suitors were slain while conquering the land of Canaan. Men avoid her in order to stay alive. After praying to God to send her a bold suitor, a man from her father’s clan plummets from a tree right on top of her. Is this God answering prayer, or a foolish antic by Eli, the war-scarred brother from one of her clan’s rival families. Will settling in Canaan sort out Milcah’s troubles, or have her woes just begun? (Biblical Fiction from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])


Contemporary Romance:

Ryan’s Father by June Foster — The rippling influence of Ryan Reid’s less than moral mother and absent father made a mark on his soul. Yet everything changed when the young school teacher accepted Christ—almost everything. An earthquake hurls the beautiful Sandy Arrington into his life, tossing his world upside down. When God calls him to build an annex for needy teens at his church, Ryan must face the carefully guarded secret he’s held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a struggle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Sandy’s wealthy cardiologist father and the battle Ryan is powerless to win are hurtles to their romance. Can he dig his way out to find Sandy’s love? (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)


Historical Romance:

The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep — What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common? Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Spies & Sweethearts by Linda Shenton Matchett — A secret mission. A fake bride. A run for their lives. According to the OSS training manual, the life expectancy of a radio operator in Nazi-occupied France is six weeks. Partnered with one of the agency’s top spies, Gerard Lucas, newly-minted agent Emily Strealer plans to beat those odds. Then their cover is blown and all bets are off. The border to neutral Switzerland is three hundred miles away-a long way to run with SS soldiers on their heels.
Will Emily and Gerard survive the journey and get home? And what about their hearts? Nothing in the manual prepared them for falling in love. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Devyn’s Dilemma by Susan G Mathis — 1910, Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart. Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Life Renewed by Olivia Rae — In 1554, Lady Jane Grey, “The Nine Days’ Queen” was executed for high treason. But what if, instead of feeling the blade on her neck she secretly survived? Escaping execution, Lady Jane hides as a peasant girl in a principality in Germany. She loves the simple life and never wants to return to England. But her benefactor, a power-hungry German prince, wants to march on London and place her on the English throne again, thereby increasing his dominance in Europe. If she doesn’t agree to his plan, her beloved childhood nurse will be put to death. Desperate for help, Jane must put her trust in the mysterious spy Asher Hayes. Asher Hayes is done rounding up Protestants for “Bloody Mary” and wants nothing more than to live a quiet life as a farmer and expunge the blood of many from his hands. Except Queen Mary isn’t done with him yet. She throws his father, mother, and sister into prison on false charges in order to force him to accept one last mission – find and kill Lady Jane Grey. But when Asher discovers Lady Jane isn’t a threat to the throne as he believed her to be, he faces a devastating decision – does he sacrifice his family for the woman who reigns in his heart? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press LLC)

The Chisholm Trail Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Stubborn Hearts Clash on a Cattle Drive Eliza Gentry’s pursuit of marriage to the son of her family’s sworn enemy has cost her greatly. Furious at his daughter’s choices, her father sends her off with the cattle drive heading toward Fort Worth and the Barnhart ranch, but under the watchful eye of Wyatt Creed, a Pinkerton man he has hired to see to her safety. With danger at every turn—not the least of which to his heart—can Wyatt Creed keep his focus with Eliza Gentry around? Is the Chisholm Trail a place for falling in love or a place to die at the hands of cattle thieves? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Mystery:

Cooking Up A Mystery by Gail Pallotta — In this romantic mystery Laney Eskridge battles insecurities, loss and a criminal who attempts to destroy her tea house and catering business. (Cozy Mystery from Inspired [Prism Book Group])


Romantic Suspense:

Flight Risk by Cara Putman — Savannah Daniels has worked hard to establish a small law practice, and her early career gambles have paid off with a life that she loves. Jett Mason Glover has almost reached the pinnacle of the journalism ladder in Washington, DC. He just needs one breakout story to seal his destiny. When a plane crashes into the 14th Street Bridge during take-off from Reagan National, everyone thinks it’s a freak accident—until the passenger list is released and the black box is compromised. Savannah does not expect to be connected to the crash until she learns her ex-husband was piloting the plane. She must manage his estate while his name is under a fog of accusations leveled by a journalist named Jett who now claims he wants to help Savannah find the truth. As the threads untangle, Savannah begins to question what she knows and whether she’ll survive the investigation. Maybe she’s as deceived as everyone else, but someone believes she’s closer to the truth than she is. And that belief may just kill her. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Border Breach by Darlene L. Turner — When drugs are smuggled across the border, it’s their duty to stop the culprits…at any cost. Forming a joint task force, Canada border officer Kaylin Poirier and police constable Hudson Steeves have one objective: take down a drug-smuggling ring trying to sell a new lethal product. But when the smugglers come after Kaylin and Hudson, this mission becomes more than just a job. Can they live long enough to solve the case? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Only a Glimpse by LuAnn K. Edwards, Contemporary Romance
Fugitive Trail by Elizabeth Goddard , Romantic Suspense
Critical Decision by Richard L. Mabry, MD, Medical Mystery
Glacier of Secrets by J Carol Nemeth, Romantic Suspense
A Perfect Fit by Christine Schimpf, Contemporary Romance
Riven by H.L. Wegley, Romantic Suspense (Historical)

Moondrop Miracle, coming May 1, 2020!

 

I’m excited to report that my latest novel, Moondrop Miracle, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

If you’ve been struggling these days with the events of our world (and who hasn’t?), Moondrop Miracle is the kind of story that will resonate with you. It follows a young woman’s transformation from a pampered life of ease to the widespread hardship of the Great Depression. The focus, though, is not the sudden and unexpected shift of fortune, but what she does with the few resources she has left.

Here’s the full description:

Chicago, 1928. Pampered socialite Connie Shepherd lives the kind of glossy life other women read about in the society pages. Engaged to a handsome financier, she spends her days and nights in a dizzying social round. When eccentric Aunt Pearl, an amateur chemist, offers her an unusual wedding present—the formula for a home-brewed skin tonic—Connie laughs it off. But when the Great Depression flings her privileged world into chaos and rocks her marriage to the core, will Aunt Pearl’s strange gift provide the key to survival for Connie and her baby?

By turns heartbreaking and hope-filled, Moondrop Miracle tells the story of an extraordinary and unforgettable woman whose determination to succeed changes her life forever.

You can pre-order your eBook copy today. As of May 1, it will also be available in paperback and large-print editions.

12 Sparkling Vintage Ways to Tackle Tough Times


Whether it’s the COVID-19 virus, a major storm or natural disaster, or some other unwelcome development, sometimes we find ourselves forced to grapple with a situation we didn’t expect. Join Jennifer as she discusses twelve “vintage” ways our grandparents and great-grandparents survived, and even thrived, during upsetting times in their lives.

If you prefer to read instead of listen, scroll down for a transcript.

I’ve since been told that the videos of Italians singing on their balconies are fake. I still think it’s a delightful idea.

Books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

 

 

 

 

 

Ain’t Misbehavin’

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlanders

 

 

 

 

 

Songbird and Other Stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcript of Episode #27: 12 Sparkling Vintage Ways to Tackle Tough Times

Hello, sparklers. Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and this is episode number 27. Today I want to talk to you about weathering a storm, whether that’s a literal, physical storm causing blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, flood conditions, loss of power, or whether it’s a pandemic like the COVID-19 that’s keeping us isolated and indoors as I record this in the late winter/early spring of 2020. Or some it’s some kind of relational or emotional storm that’s wreaking havoc in your personal life: a job loss, a relational break-up, a serious illness or accident. Whatever the case, something has rocked your world and life is not proceeding as normal, at least temporarily.

Here in rural North Idaho we’re forced to be pretty self-reliant year round. While some scoffers laugh and call us “preppers” in a sort of derogatory way, North Idahoans, for the most part, tend not to panic because we’ve already got a good supply of toilet paper, a pantry lined with canned goods, etc. This is not necessarily because we’re expecting the Apocalypse at any minute, but because we live in a remote mountain region. Storms can brew up at any time, roads can be washed out, and some of us live many miles from a town or even a highway.  This past weekend, on top of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a major snow- and windstorm that knocked out power to thousands of local households, including ours. Falling trees damaged many houses and even injured several people as they sat in their homes. We were fortunate, as it could have been much worse, but that sort of thing is pretty typical of our neck of the woods. That said, it’s not as if we have a lock on how to do preparedness “right.” (Right in air quotes). It’s just that being prepared is more or less a normal way of life for us.

Information (and misinformation) abounds about how to prepare to hunker down during a crisis, so I’m not going to repeat all that here. It’s widely available from the CDC and other reliable sources for those who want it. What I want to share with you here are some are ways people of the past, our grandparents and great-grandparents, weathered the crises of their day. After all, they made it through the privations of two world wars, the Great Depression, and plenty of life’s ups and downs between then and now. And they didn’t have the communication or mobility access we have today. I thought they’d have a few words of wisdom to offer. Some Sparkling Vintage suggestions, if you will, for weathering any storm.

First, a disclaimer. I am not a doctor or medical professional of any sort. I’m not a theologian or a psychiatrist. I’m sharing with you some ideas from decades past that helped people conquer their fears and muddle through. So seek your own counsel, consult your own professionals, choose those ideas that work for you, and leave the rest.

12 Sparkling Vintage Ways to Tackle Tough Times

  1. People of the past leaned on their faith. If you’re a person of faith, remember that God is in control. This is not a religion podcast, and I don’t aim to make it one now. But I’ve also made no secret of the fact that I’m a Christian, and I firmly believe that, whatever the crisis, God is in control. He’s the one who created the universe and keeps it spinning. Not the governments. Not the leaders and law makers and experts, but ultimately God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to the experts and the leaders. We do. But ultimately, we trust in God. Don’t be too proud to get down on your knees and ask Him for help, if you want to find peace in this topsy-turvy world. It’s what people have done for millenia to find true peace. For those of you who say you never have time to read your Bible, now’s your chance. You’ve been given a gift of time. Pick up a Bible or a Bible app on your phone. If you’re new to reading the Bible, don’t think you have to start on page one and read all the way through. You don’t. I suggest starting with the gospel of John and the book of Psalms. Just read it, and as you read, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand who God is, and who you are, and who Christ is and what he did for us. Think about the words you’re reading and what they mean.

The fact is, if we never go through tough times, we will never grow stronger. I’m reminded of the often-told story of the moth struggling to break free of his chrysalis. If you see the moth struggling and you try to help him along by opening the shell for him, his wings won’t develop normally. Turns out the process of struggling is a necessary process for his wings to strengthen. Take away the struggle and you take away the strength. So it is with us. God gives us challenges so we’ll grow in strength, depend on his strength to get us through. He also designed us to live in community, to help our neighbor and to accept help when we need it. I’ll say more about that in a minute, but my #1 suggestion is to remember that God is in control. And remind yourself, always, that God is in charge.

  1. Speaking of strength, get some exercise. People of the past didn’t need to be told to do this. They got a lot of exercise in their daily lives, performing manual labor or households chores without the abundance of labor-saving devices we enjoy today. Studies show that physical exercise burns up stress-related chemicals, helps you think more clearly, bolsters your immune system, regulates your energy, and helps you sleep better. These are all things we need during times of trouble. I’m not normally one who gets excited about exercising. I’m about as unathletic as they come. But I do like the way exercise makes me feel, so I’ll go for a walk or bounce on my rebounder or dance to some tunes. just to get the blood flowing and to lift my mood. During this time of pervasive illness, you may want to steer clear of the gym or public pool, or you may have to skip it if these facilities shut down. But there are plenty of exercises you can do at home. Go for walks or runs, or use simple at-home equipment like a rebounder or hand weights. Your own bodyweight can be effective for strength-building exercises. Look on the internet for videos demonstrating exercises you can do at home. Or do what I do–put on some music and dance around your house!
  2. Another way to build muscular strength might be to do some of those chores around the house that you’ve been meaning to do. If you live in the northwestern united states as I do, you might well be shoveling snow. If you live in a warmer climate, do the yard work and prepare the garden for spring planting. Hang laundry on a line outside the way Grandma used to. That’ll give you both exercise and sunshine. Sunshine is a powerful mood-lifter and also a natural disinfectant.
  3. Speaking of sunshine, spend time outside in nature. Our ancestors got outside a lot more than we do. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are all so good for you. In the cities, find a park to walk in. Feel the grass under your feet. Watch the clouds go by overhead. If it’s springtime where you live, watch for those first buds, for the shoots of early flowers as welcome signs of hope. if you’re headed into fall, enjoy the changing colors, the nip in the air that can be bracing and energizing. So suggestion #4 is to get outside as much as you can.
  4. Eat properly. Our bodies are designed to eat good, nourishing food, minimally processed. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, lots of water … you don’t need me to tell you what constitutes nutritious food. In times of stress it’s tempting to hunker down with your favorite snack foods and comfort foods to make yourself feel better in the short term, but doing so will make you feel lousy in the long run and won’t help you to keep up your strength or your immune system.
  5. While we’re on the topic of food, if it’s spring where you live, think about starting your garden. That’s #6: start a garden. Digging in dirt and watching things grow is incredibly beneficial for your health and your mood. If it’s fall where you live, put up a harvest of healthy food to get you through the winter. If the skills of gardening and preserving food are unfamiliar to you, maybe use some of this forced isolation time to study up on them, maybe order in some seeds or canning equipment. Above all, be thankful for your meals, even if they are by necessity very simple or not quite to your liking. Now is not the time to be super fussy, but to be grateful for whatever food you have. Earlier generations prayed before meals as a matter of course, but many of us today have fallen out of this habit, if we ever had it to begin with. Take time to thank God for the food and also thank whoever got it for you and prepared it. And if that person is you, be thankful that you have that ability.
  6. Be a good neighbor. God didn’t design humans to be loners. Think about what living in a community means now. In these times when we’re encouraged to keep physical distance from one another to avoid spreading germs, stay connected by phone, text, Facetime, Skype. Write old-fashioned letters to one another–what a thrill to get an honest-to-goodness letter in the post! Ask those who are elderly or caring for small children if there’s some way you can help them–maybe run errands or share some of your food or supplies with them. If they need help with some task and you can safely help them without putting yourself in too close proximity or other danger, do it. At the very least, make the call, send the card, or write the letter. Often it’s a great help just to know someone is thinking about us and cares enough to contact us, especially when we live alone.
  7. Get your rest. Sleep does all sorts of wonderful things for your body, including building up your immune system. If you search online you’ll find an abundance of tips for good sleep hygiene. Of course, our ancestors didn’t have to worry about too much blue light or screens from their phones, but sleep was still sometimes an issue. I’m now going to read you a passage I found in a 1925 edition of the Camp Fire Girls handbook. It says,

“When preparing for sleep, remove all your clothing, as it has been absorbing the impurities from the skin all day, especially the clothes worn next to your skin. Hang up your day clothes or place them on a  chair where plenty of fresh air can get at them. Wear night clothes that do not bind or press against the body at any point. Tight bands and strings may impede circulation or cause disturbed sleep. We hardly need to add that you should not go to bed before you have opened one or more windows in your room. You need fresh cold air. If you are fortunate enough to have a sleeping porch, use it by all means. Be sure the bed clothing is warm and of lightweight material. Heavy weight clothing weighs the body down and does not invite refreshing sleep.” That was advice given to the Camp Fire Girls in 1925 that still holds true today. So suggestion #8 is get your rest.

  1. If you’re stuck at home, think of some creative, old-fashioned ways to amuse yourselves. Take a page from the generations before you who didn’t have TV and video games. Read books, play board games, try out some new card games. Talk to one another. Practice the art of conversation. Do puzzles. Make up stories. Go for hikes. Do crafts. Make cards for people who are housebound. If you need inspiration for things to do, read some stories or novels that are set in earlier times. What do the characters in the stories do for fun? In the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, what do the Ingalls family do for fun? What do the Waltons do for fun, if you’re familiar with that series? Maybe take a cue from them.

10: Sing! Singing is good for the heart, the soul, the mind, and even strengthens the lungs. Sing along to music videos or MP3s. Teach your kids some old favorite songs you remember from your youth. Writing in 1942 in the depths of World War II, Margery Wilson wrote, “Singing is the soul’s expression. it cleans out the corners of the heart and doesn’t let stale emotions pile up. If you can’t sing for fear of disturbing someone or being conspicuous, then sing in your mind, thinking the actual words and tune. Sing new songs, old songs, hymns, national anthems, football songs, arias, swing, anything, but sing! A singing nation has heart.” Those are some wise words from Margery Wilson. Recently we’ve seen the power of singing in action in the tremendous videos of people confined to their homes in virus-ravaged Italy, singing to and with each other from their balconies. If you haven’t seen those inspiring and heart-lifting video clips, they’re worth searching for on the Internet.

  1. If you’re stuck at home, learn and practice some useful skills, especially old-fashioned ones. I’ve already mentioned gardening and food preservation like canning, but there are so many others. Learn to cook from scratch using raw ingredients. If you’re already an accomplished cook, you can still experiment with new recipes. During the pandemic we’re not eating out as much or at all, so avoid food fatigue by learning new recipes. Learn how to make yogurt or sourdough bread or cheese. Learn to sew or do woodworking or carpentry. Study a foreign language or some other topic that interests you or that will be useful to you in your work or your life. Do those things you always say you never have time to do. If you’re isolated at home during the pandemic or for any other reason, you’ve been given a gift of time: use it wisely.
  2. Clean something. This one always works for me, when I remember to do it. If your mind is out of sorts, if you’re having trouble concentrating on anything, step away from the news media and go clean or organize something. One drawer. One cabinet. One tabletop that tends to attract clutter. There’s something about putting things to rights, making them neat and clean in a tangible way, seeing them come to order right before our eyes, that untangles our thoughts as well. You don’t have to tackle a whole closet at once, or heaven forbid, a whole basement or garage. Just take it one sock drawer and one tool kit at a time. Listen to music while you work, or to an audio book or a podcast–something cheerful and uplifting. Avoid the doom and gloom. As your hands put things in order, your spirit will rise. Isn’t that what traditional spring cleaning is all about?

That’s it for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay warm. If you have questions, if you have some other suggestions for how to survive and even thrive through tough times, or shoot me an email at jenny@sparklingvintage life.com. I’d love to hear from you. You are not alone.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a rating and review at Google Podcasts or Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. And I’ll be back soon to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

Episode #26: Be My Valentine

 

 

Join Jennifer as she looks back on the legends surrounding Valentine’s Day and suggests some Sparkling Vintage ways to celebrate.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, please scroll down for a transcript of this episode.

Books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

 

 

 

 

 

Ain’t Misbehavin’

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlanders

 

 

 

 

 

Songbird and Other Stories

 

 

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE 26: BE MY VALENTINE

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s episode 26, and it’s February 8, 2020, as I record this. I took a break from podcasting in January to polish up my forthcoming novel, Moondrop Miracle, and send it off to the editor. Now it’s with the editor, and until I get it back, I need to keep myself very busy. Otherwise I’ll keep hoping she’s loving the story while at the same time worrying that she’s hating it. Chances are, the truth falls somewhere in between, but hopefully leaning toward the positive side. So, it’s best not to think about it at all until I get her edits back.

Given that Valentine’s Day is coming up in about a week, I’d like to talk to you about that–how it’s been celebrated in the past and how you can celebrate it today. If you aren’t in a marriage or a dating relationship, please don’t tune out. This episode is for you as well.

Who is Valentine? Valentine was a priest or bishop in third-century Rome, during the reign of Claudius II. Claudius had the brilliant notion that men would make better soldiers if they were all single. Possibly he thought that men without family ties would be less distracted from military work, or even that the man wouldn’t leave a family behind if they were killed in battle. As a result of his new theory, he banned marriage for young men. This did not sit well with the young men, nor with Valentine.

Rather than go along with the new law, the friendly priest carried on with performing marriage ceremonies for the young people who sought them. This, of course, did not sit well with Claudius , who as appalled when he found out what was going on, and had poor Valentine executed. But not before, as legend has it, the jailed Valentine was able to cure the jailer’s daughter of blindness.  A different Valentine was credited by healing a nobleman’s son who was choking on a fishbone. In some countries they pray to this Valentine to cure epilepsy. In fact, legend has it that Valentine was imprisoned and sent a message to a loved one signed ‘From your Valentine’.

Some believe Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February because that’s when Valentine was martyred. Another theory says that Valentine’s Day was the Christianized version of a Roman feast called Lupercalia, also held in February. This feast honored Roman deities Pan and Juno and was heavy on fertility rites. Part of the ceremony was to put the names of young women into a box, from which they were drawn at random by young men who would become their special admirers, at least in theory. Early Christians hated this practice and changed it to putting names of different saints into the box rather than young women’s names. So the young men would choose a saint instead of a woman, and aim to emulate the characteristics of that saint throughout the year. Needless to say, this custom didn’t really catch on, to put it mildly, as emulating a church father didn’t hold the appeal of being linked up with a flesh-and-blood young woman.

By the sixteenth century, all eligible young people, men and women, would select a name from the respective box. They would then be symbolically paired for the year, during which they acted as knight and lady to each other. The knight was bound to the honor and defense of his fair one, for which she repaid him in smiles and silk favors when silk was obtainable. The process was carefully watched over by parents and guardians to assure they didn’t become overly friendly.

Eventually, the custom of drawing names from boxes gave way to the selection of one’s own valentine. Writing in the late seventeenth century, Samuel Pepys recalled a custom where the first person you saw on Valentine’s day became your valentine. He tells a funny story of his wife who, wanting to assure that Samuel would be the first man she saw, and hence her valentine, kept her eyes averted all day from some painters who were doing work in the couple’s dining room. She didn’t want to clap eyes on the wrong man and end up with the wrong valentine.

In the February 1929 edition of Modern Homemaker magazine, the editor says this about valentine’s day: “Let us think and say and do the kindest things possible to and of others, rejoicing in their happiness and success as in our own. We get back in double measurement that which we give out in thought and word and deed.”

Sure, you can go out with your sweetheart and spend a lot of money on a fine dinner. But you could also throw a special party for your friends–a “galentine” party, some have called it. In the Feburary issue of 1909 issue of New Idea magazine, Mary Foster suggests a buffet that includes fruit ambrosia salad, creamed oysters in pastry hearts, and an intriguing dish called “Hearts Frozen in Jealousy,” which turned out to be individual ices molded in small heart-shaped molds, then served on pale green plates. A more modest Valentine luncheon menu, better suited for the lean year of 1933, included a fruit cup, creamed chicken in a potato puff, raspberry parfait, and pink and yellow mints.

And finally, of course, what would Valentine’s Day be without the exchange of cards? With the advent of cheaper postage, the custom arose that people of all ages, men and women, should exchange cards and letters, either comic or sentimental.

Inside London’s British Library, there is a manuscript of the first printed Valentine’s message. Fast-forward a couple hundred years, and Valentine’s Day cards started being mass-produced in their thousands. In 1840’s America, cards were being manufactured with lace, ribbons and other pretty decorations. There are now around one billion Valentine’s Day cards purchased each year, of which some 85% are bought by women. This shouldn’t be a great surprise, as women do most of the card-buying for the family. While a man may buy a card for his wife, she in turn will buy one for her husband, as well as her children and grandchildren and other random relatives and friends.

And that brings me to my point today, which is that nowadays, Valentine’s Day belongs to everybody. No longer is it simply a holiday for romantic partners. I encourage you to spread some love to your friends and neighbors, perhaps a lonely teen or elderly person of your acquaintance. Buying cards and candy is big business this time of year, but you don’t have to participate in the buying frenzy if you don’t want to. Design and write your own cards, bake some homemade bits of goodness to share. Or don’t buy anything at all, but make a phone call to brighten someone’s day, or do an act of kindness or of service to make someone feel cared for and cherished. Recently I saw a suggestion to visit and animal shelter on Valentine’s Day and give the animals some love and attention, and maybe a donation of toys or blankets or food. Being an animal lover myself, I think that’s a lovely idea.

If you observe Valentine’s Day, what’s your favorite way to celebrate? I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode 26.

Today’s grace note is a poem called An Old Valentine written by Grace Noll Crowell. It appeared in the February 1933 issue of Needlecraft magazine, and it struck me as something that would appeal to all you Sparkling Vintage spirits out there.

An Old Valentine
by Grace Noll Crowell

No shop today holds anything as fine as this old valentine.
The years have yellowed its frail lace,
But still–a shepherdess with airy grace
stands tiptoe at the water’s brink.
Her hair is gold, her cheeks are pink,
her fluted ruffles, blurred by time, once were
a lovely lavender.
Dainty and sweet she stands, and there across the stream,
with outstretched hands,
A shepherd boy
with laughter on his lips, his hair a-toss,
is reaching eagerly to help her cross.
Years come and go–loves flame and die,
and many a silver stream runs dry.
But never this…the stepping stones remain.
These two are sweethearts still.
The rust and stain have left undimmed the luster and the shine
of young love, in this sweet old valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you subscribe to your favorite podcasts. And check back soon when I’ll share another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

Start 2020 off right by reading a good book!

January 2020 New Releases

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


Contemporary Romance:

A Rancher to Trust by Laurel Blount — After learning his ex-wife isn’t so ex after all, rebel turned rancher Dan Whitlock is determined to prove he’s a changed man…but Bailey Quinn is just as set on finally ending their marriage. When tragedy makes Dan the guardian of little orphaned twins, he and Bailey are drawn back together. But can she forgive the past and open her heart to the family she’s always wanted? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Star Rising by Janet W. Ferguson — Star Youngblood tries to protect her employer, Mrs. Priscilla Kelly, from the woman’s neglectful son, an aspiring flight instructor who has issues with religion, but finds her own heart is at the greatest risk. (Contemporary Romanc, Independently Published)

A Promise to Keep by Melony Teague — Savannah, a widowed research librarian, goes to her twenty year class reunion and gets reacquainted with Michael, a former troublemaker who is now a professional technical rescuer. Before the night is over, a pact between these two old friends will lead them on an adventure into uncharted emotional territory where Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. But can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero? (Contemporary Romance from Anaiah Press)


General Contemporary:

A Long Time Comin by Robin W. Pearson — To hear Beatrice Agnew tell it, she entered the world with her mouth tightly shut. Just because she finds out she’s dying doesn’t mean she can’t keep it that way. If any of her children have questions about their daddy and the choices she made after he abandoned them, they’d best take it up with Jesus. There’s no room in Granny B’s house for regrets or hand-holding. Or so she thinks. Her granddaughter, Evelyn Lester, shows up on Beatrice’s doorstep anyway, burdened with her own secret baggage. Determined to help her Granny B mend fences with her far-flung brood, Evelyn turns her grandmother’s heart and home inside out. Evelyn’s meddling uncovers a tucked-away box of old letters, forcing the two women to wrestle with their past and present pain as they confront the truth Beatrice has worked a lifetime to hide. (General Contemporary from Tyndale House)


Historical Romance:

Freedom in the Mountain Wind by Misty M. Beller — A young woman faces overwhelming odds to make her father’s dream come true before he dies of lung cancer, but paddling upriver through fierce rapids and fighting hungry grizzlies to follow the Lewis and Clark trail isn’t what terrifies her the most. Beaver Tail endured more than he can stand from the women in his Blackfoot camp, but the last disaster gave him the final shove he needed to join this band of brothers searching for one of their group who’s gone missing. The last thing he expected was to find a white woman and her sick father stranded at the base of a massive waterfall. His plan is to help them carry their oversize canoe and supplies, then leave them to their strange mission. Yet, the more he learns about the pair, the more he realizes his life is about to be derailed—again. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Uncharted Promises by Keely Brooke Keith — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Edenbrooke Press)

Forever Hidden by Kimberley Woodhouse, Tracie Peterson — Sybil Roberts uses the warmth of delicious meals to lift the spirits of road-weary travelers at The Inn at Falls Creek. Her life at the inn would be perfect if she could just get her brothers and mother to move back home. And if she could see Isaac Owens again. He visited the inn once when he interviewed for the farm manager job, and she’s dreamed of his return to Falls Creek ever since. Isaac Owens knows how to run a farm. His family might not have faith in him, but if he succeeds at Falls Creek, he’ll prove them wrong. He arrives at the inn thinking the job is his, but the inn’s senile owner offered the position to another man too. Isaac must spend the winter competing if he wants to win the job… and Sybil’s heart. It will take more than warm meals on cold nights for Sybil and Isaac to find love while working at the isolated inn. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock — On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving. With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared? At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Romantic Suspense:

Secret Mountain Hideout by Terri Reed — Staying hidden has kept her alive… But now she’s been found. A remote Colorado mountain town and a fake identity have been Ashley Willis’s safe haven since fleeing after she witnessed a murder—but now the killer has found her trail. Desperate and terrified, she’s prepared to run again…but Deputy Sheriff Chase Fredrick won’t let her. With the lawman by her side, can she face danger head-on…and live long enough to bring a murderer to justice? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

50-50 by Roger Bruner, Contemporary
Shattered Treasure by Cindy Patterson, Romantic Suspense
The Contessa Is Missing by Linda Siebold, Romantic Suspense
The Forever Sky by Janalyn Voigt, Western Romance
Northern Hearts by Laurie Wood, Romantic Suspense

Episode 25: Boxing Day


Join Jennifer as she talks about “olden days” Boxing Day and muses about New Years resolutions.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes:

Rock’Em, Soc ‘Em Robots are still around! Go figure.

Jennifer at The Daily Connoisseur shared an amusing-yet-horrifying story about the purported return of visible underwear.

Transcript of Episode 25: Boxing Day

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s episode 25, and it’s December 26, 2019, as I record this. In some countries, mostly those with ties to the United Kingdom, it’s Boxing Day! My mother was Canadian, and she always declared how she enjoyed Boxing Day almost more than Christmas. The pressure was off, the feast was over, the presents unwrapped, but we still had plenty of delicious leftovers to eat and a schedule free of obligations so we could play with our toys and put the house back in order in a relaxed, peaceful way. We didn’t yet have to go back to work or school, so it was just a lazy day of rest and recovery. Which is mostly what today has been for me.

When I was very young I thought “Boxing Day” had something to do with the sport of boxing. In that era there was a popular children’s game called “Rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots” in which robot figurines would pummel each other in a boxing ring. I imagine this sort of thing has been deemed too violent for children nowadays. I can’t remember if my brothers owned one, but I certainly saw plenty of commercials for it on our old black-and-white rabbit-ear TV. Anyway, my mother had to correct my misconception and explain that, no, Boxing Day didn’t involve anyone hitting anyone else. On the contrary, the focus was on charity and giving to those less fortunate.

The term “Boxing” in this case refers to the literal boxes that were used to pack up the remains of the feast and other items to be given away. It was the custom for the poor to go around begging the leftovers of the Christmas feast. Some English churches handed out bread and cheese and ale. At least one church discontinued this practice when rioting broke out among the recipients.

Boxing Day was, and remains, a servants’ holiday, when they were given the day off after being run off their feet to serve the nobles’ their Christmas feast. Gifts and food were distributed to the servants, the peasants, and those who worked the land. Even when the gifts became money instead of objects, the term “Christmas box” remained in use.

In some countries Boxing Day was also when tradesmen like butchers and bakers made the rounds of their customers, collecting their annual Christmas box or tip. This was done into the twentieth century, although I understand it is no longer practiced. Not the showing up on people’s doorsteps, anyway.

December 26 has also been called St. Stephens Day, a tradition dating from the Dark Ages. I learned in my research that there were two St. Stephens. I knew of one–the Stephen of the Bible whose story is told in the book of Acts. Stoned to death for his steadfast faith, this Stephen was Christianity’s first recorded martyr. The second Stephen lived in the 800s and shared the gospel in Sweden. He, too, was martyred for his faith. Apparently this second Stephen loved horses, and so horse-racing became a tradition observed on Boxing Day in some parts of the world. In addition to horse racing, other popular Boxing Day activities are football (American soccer) and cricket–but not, as it were, the sport of boxing.

St. Stephens Day might ring a bell for those who remember the carol about Good King Wenceslaus, who looked out of his palace “on the feast of Stephen.” This song whose lyrics tell about a rich king helping the poor was written in 1853 and reflected the Victorian respect for almsgiving and the charitable focus of the day.

Coming up next week, of course, will be New Years’ Eve revelry and the New Years’ Day and the making of resolutions for 2020. I no longer make New Year’s resolutions. They never seemed to stick, anyway. These days I make “prayer intentions” for the new year–an idea I got from author Rachel Hauck. I pray about those things I’d like to see happen in 2020, the things I want to do and the person I want to become. By praying about these things instead of “resolving” them,  I acknowledge that I’m not in charge of my life. God is in charge. I don’t make things happen under my own power. I have no power. God has all the power, and I submit my will to his. That doesn’t mean I don’t set goals and align my efforts to make them happen. I do set goals, and maybe I’ll talk about that process in a future episode. But I also understand that only God sets the true course of my days. Only he knows how my day, my year, and my life will play out in the end.

How about you? Do you set goals for the new year? Are you happy, sad, or indifferent to see 2019 go and 2020 arrive?  Does your family observe Boxing Day?  Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under episode 25, or send an email to jenny@sparklingvintagelife.com  And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.

***

Today’s grace note is a short article about New Year’s resolutions written in 1920 by Barbara Ellison. Being as it was published in Inspiration, the magazine of the Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, it’s no wonder that the resolutions have less to do with personal character and more to do with one’s wardrobe. I think you’ll get a kick out of her advice, much of which still applies today.

Buy wisely, and unless you have definite use for an article, do not buy it. Wait until your wardrobe is definitely assembled in your own mind and everything “fits in,” hat, shoes, gloves, purse, not to mention stockings and slips.

Be slim by being trim, be attractive by being immaculate. See that the seams of your stockings run straight and the heels of your shoes never run over. Keep your gloves clean. Never allow spots to mark your clothes nor perspiration to deface a gown. And never allow your shoulder straps to protrude. You can keep them out of sight by sewing one end of a ribbon or a piece of bias tape to the shoulder. Fasten it with a snap at the other end; then snap it around the straps of your undergarments.

One of the greatest virtues of the right clothes, rightly worn, is that they enable us to forget them and ourselves. When they are right enough for us to do this, we become our most likable and natural selves and, even if your features are not perfect nor perfectly assembled, we may someday hear of ourselves in one of those sibilant whispers that so audibly clothe a spoken confidence, “What a charming woman!”

Thanks for listening! Check back soon when I’ll share another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

Episode 24: A Sparkling Short Story: The Christmas Robe


As a special gift to listeners, Jennifer Leo reads aloud her acclaimed short story “The Christmas Robe.” Grab a warm beverage and your favorite blanket and prepare to be charmed by this bit of vintage Christmas cheer.

If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript of this episode.

Show notes to Episode 24: A Sparkling Short Story: The Christmas Robe

“The Christmas Robe” is excerpted from the book Songbird and Other Stories, available in e-book and softcover format, and also in a large print edition here.

Other books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:

You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Ain’t Misbehavin’

The Highlanders

Transcript of Episode 24: Stories of the Season: The Christmas Robe

Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s December 6, 2019, as I record this, and many people are gearing up for the Christmas season. In the spirit of the season, today, I’m offering you a little gift. It’s an audio recording of a story I wrote a few years ago called “The Christmas Robe.”

Set in 1928, “The Christmas Robe” is a story about a harried clerk who labors in the Ladies Nightwear section of a major Chicago department store –Marshall Field & Co., for you longtime Chicagoans–and a decision she makes that affects her whole outlook on the season. Those of you who’ve read my novel You’re the Cream in My Coffee will recognize the clerk as the delightfully daffy Marjorie Corrigan!

“The Christmas Robe” is a light, quick read. I’m inviting you to take a few minutes out of your hectic schedule to maybe grab a cup of tea or cocoa, put your feet up, and just listen.

[Click here for the full text of “The Christmas Robe”]

I hope that story warmed your heart.

And that’s our show for today. If you have a heart that sometimes yearns for the misty memories of yesteryear, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter at sparklingvintagelife.com. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And tune in again next time when I’ll be back to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.

 

Cozy Fireside Reads for December

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


Contemporary Romance:

Stranded for the Holidays by Lisa Carter — Running away led her right where she belonged. A new mom for Christmas? She’s everything they’ve wished for. Runaway bride AnnaBeth Cummings needs shelter for the holidays when a blizzard leaves her stranded, and rancher Jonas Stone’s happy to help. But his son’s been wishing for a mommy for Christmas, and town matchmakers are convinced Annabeth and Jonas are perfect for each other. As the storm clears, city girl AnnaBeth will have to decide: does her heart now belong in the country? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson — After a knockout first date where Cassie Everson and Jett Bentley claim to not want kids, both come home to find three children dropped in their laps. . . each. While struggling to keep their heads above the parental waters, and without wanting to break up their relationship, they decide to do the mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Home for Christmas by Candee Fick — After an embarrassing failure, a prodigal retreats to a secluded cabin in backwoods Missouri where he encounters an intriguing young woman and an old guitar. When the message in the music touches his heart, will he make it home in time for Christmas? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone: Ayanna by Barbara James — While interning as a hospital chaplain, a young military officer falls for an EMT who is an antiwar activist. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Children’s:

Battle In The Valley by Susanne Blumer — The church bell tower transports Chip, Caroline and Billy back thousands of years to an ancient battlefield. There they meet a young shepherd destined to be king and a giant warrior bent on his destruction. Will the children survive the upcoming fight and make it back to Palmetto Island in one piece? (Middle-grade from Sutton Avenue Press)


Historical:

Hope Unchained by Carol Ashby — When a former legionary and a gladiator are hired to escort a young woman on her quest to rescue her brother and sister from slavery, more chains are broken by forgiveness and love than any of them thought possible. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)


Historical Romance:

The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings — In a western land run, an adventurous socialite stakes a claim on an orphaned outlaw’s chosen land, so he decides to stake a claim on her heart. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Sew In Love by Debby Lee, Jacquolyn McMurray, Darlene Panzera, and Kimberley Woodhouse — When four women put needle and thread to fabric, will their sewing lead to love? In Hearts Sewn with Love, during the California gold rush, a beautiful seamstress finds her heart torn between the men who want to marry her and the one fortune hunter who won’t. In Woven Hearts, a shirtwaist factory fire survivor struggles to provide for her family despite the disastrous misguided intentions of the handsome union organizer who tries to help. In A Language of Love, a milliner with thick Irish accent and a renowned baseball player with speech impediment meet at the office of a language teacher. But the issues with their backgrounds that first brought them together will also drive them apart. In Tailored Sweethearts, a parachute seamstress struggles with her faith in desperate circumstances. A fighter pilot teaches her to hope in her darkest hours. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rebel Bride by Shannon McNear — During the clash between Union and Confederacy, quiet Tennessean Pearl MacFarlane is compelled to nurse both Rebel and Yankee wounded who seek refuge at her family’s farm. She is determined to remain unmoved by the Yankee cause—until she faces the silent struggle of Union soldier Joshua Wheeler, a recent amputee. The MacFarlane family fits no stereotype Joshua believed in; still he is desperate to regain his footing—as a soldier, as a man, as a Christian—in the aftermath of his debilitating injury. He will use his time behind enemy lines to gather useful intelligence for the Union—if the courageous Rebel woman will stay out of the line of danger. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Romantic Suspense:

Silent Night Suspect by Sharee Stover — Suspected of a crime she knows she didn’t commit… All she wants for Christmas is to remember. Blood on her blouse. A gun in her hand. A cartel leader’s dead body in front of her. Widow Asia Stratton can’t remember what happened—just that she’s been framed. The only way to prove her innocence is to work with her ex-sweetheart, Nebraska state trooper Slade Jackson. But can they clear her name before this Christmas turns even deadlier? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Speculative:

Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig — After a catastrophic explosion, Kersei Dragoumis awakens in a derelict shuttle, alone, injured, and ignorant of the forbidden technology that has swept her into a nightmare. The brand she’s borne since childhood burns mysteriously, but the pain is nothing to that when she learns her family is dead and she is accused of their murders. Across the quadrants, Marco Dusan responds to the call of a holy order-not to join them, but to seek a bounty. Gifted-or cursed-with abilities that mark him a Kynigos, a tracker sworn to bring interplanetary fugitives to justice, Marco discovers this particular bounty has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with prophecy. One that involves the hunter as much as the hunted. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)


Thriller/Suspense:

Laynie Portland, Renegade Spy by Vikki Kestell — Laynie must fight to earn her place on the task force—even as unfolding events expose a looming danger. Wolfe’s task force has a leak . . . one that threatens them all. (Suspense, Independently Published)

 

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Promise for Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin, Historical Romance
Call to Love by Mary A. Felkins, Contemporary Romance
Joy’s Song by Ruth Kyser, Contemporary Romance
Hope Between Us by Christy LaShea, Contemporary Romance
The Trouble in Willow Falls by Pat Nichols, Contemporary
Off the Ground by Catherine Richmond, Historical Romance
Crinoline Cowboys by Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Marilyn Turk, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Historical Romance
A High-Country Christmas by Davalynn Spencer, Historical Romance
The Christmas Gazebo by Marilyn Turk, Lenora Worth, Historical Romance

Newsletter
Twitter!
Facebook!
Amazon
Here's a quick link to some of my books on Amazon:
Jennifer Lamont Leo