Jennifer Lamont Leo

A Sparkling Vintage Life

MAY we entice you with some new fiction?

May 2021 New Releases

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


Amish Romance:


The Jam and Jelly Nook
by Amy Clipston — In the final installment of Amy Clipston’s bestselling Amish Marketplace series, a young widow struggling to raise her son dreams of one more chance at love. Over time Emory and Leanna become closer friends, discovering how much they have in common. As single parents, they struggle with the limits of what they can provide for their children and feel somewhat responsible for what happened to their respective spouses. The two eventually realize they have feelings for each other-but when they try to date, their children resist. Will God pave a way for them to build a family together, or will hurdles block the path to a second chance at happiness? (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))


Contemporary Romance:

Stealing the First Mate by Tabitha Bouldin — Sometimes, happily ever after is as elusive as a pirate’s treasure. Darcy Riggins dove headfirst into the online dating pool and sank. Every time. Her lifelong dream of becoming a wife and mother becomes more elusive every year. So, taking the lack of a Mr. Right in her life as a decided “No!” from God, Darcy gives up altogether. Being single and content turns out to be tougher than Darcy imagined, and when she begins doubting everything she’s ever known, Nigel decides it’s time to admit his mistakes, tell the truth, and trust God for the outcome. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)


Royally Confused
by Jill Boyce — Will this doctor trade in her stethoscope for a tiara? Claire must decide by the night of the Royal Gala if she will accept her place on the throne as the Queen of Amorley–even if she might have to give up medicine or love to do so. Will she return to Boston and pursue her passion for surgery and turn her back on her newfound family, country, and the love of a lifetime? Will Claire trade in her stethoscope for a tiara? Does light overcome darkness? Can Claire learn that her worth does not reside in what she does, but who she is–the daughter of her heavenly Father and part of a royal priesthood. (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)


Once Upon a Summer
by Toni Shiloh — Embrace the enchantment of summer with these contemporary twists on timeless tales. Let these five sweet contemporary Christian romances take you away this summer. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


General Contemporary:

Shelter in the Storm by Laurel M. Blount — In this moving Amish romance, two broken hearts find hope in each other after a terrible loss. Unspeakable tragedy strikes the Amish hamlet of Johns Mill when an unstable Englischer opens fire in the Hochstedler’s General Store. In the aftermath, and under the media’s spotlight, Joseph Hochstedler struggles to hold his shattered family together, drawing unexpected comfort from a faithful childhood friend. Born with a serious heart defect, optimist Naomi Schrock has always longed to live a life of service. She rolls up her sleeves, determined to help Joseph cope with this terrible crisis. But dare she hope that his friendship will finally deepen into love? (General Contemporary from Berkley Penguin Random House)


Impact
by Audra Sanlyn — She sat in the midst of fear and desperation, facing the biggest decision of her life. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

Finding Home (Within the Castle Gates #4)
by Candee Fick — Two hearts longing for home. A memorable first encounter brought them together, but then Susannah Stanley and Nicholas Pennington were torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. From the Lake District in Northern England to a Moroccan port along the African coast and the Napoleonic Wars in between, they struggle to hold onto hope they will be reunited. After being supplanted by her stepmother’s schemes and the betrayal of a friend, they finally meet again in the most unlikely of places. Now the battle is on to reclaim their rightful inheritance. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Gold Rush Bride Hannah
by Linda Shenton Matchett — Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels…relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone…dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life? Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)


Mystery:

Three Days Clueless by Luana Ehrlich — Mylas Grey is determined to find the person who shot a politician in broad daylight. There’s just one problem. The killer left no clues behind. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Mylas gets involved in an intriguing case of MURDER . . .When Mylas arrives in his hometown to spend time with Whitney, he agrees to help his father, a local private detective, examine the files of a politician who was murdered in cold blood. Mylas gets involved in an intriguing case of murder with NO CLUES . . .The wife of the slain politician believes her husband’s murder is connected to his duties as a state legislator, but the police find no clues to his murder and no evidence to support her claim. (Mystery/Crime, Independently Published)


Romantic Thriller:

Rising Danger
by Jerusha Agen — t’s up to a K-9 handler and her canine partner to stop a bomber before it’s too late. Someone’s planting explosives on dams in the Twin Cities, and Bristol Bachmann and her bomb sniffing dog must move quickly to find them before everything ends up underwater. That means relying on the dams’ supervisor—an ex-boyfriend Bristol never thought she’d see again. Hopefully Remington Jones has grown up from the rakish charmer she knew in her academy days. Because lives now depend entirely on them…
(Romantic Suspense/Thriller from Love Inspired (Harlequin))


Dark Threat by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Reporter Trinity Lockhart pursues a story but then unwittingly becomes the story. Acting on a tip from an anonymous source, Trinity investigates an art trafficking ring at a high-end Seattle gallery. She turns to handsome FBI agent Kyle Richards for help after being spotted by the crooks. Kyle is drawn to the feisty reporter, but he can’t afford a beautiful distraction when lives are at stake. He must trust his friends at Protection Inc. to watch over Trinity while he investigates the gallery.
(Romantic Suspense/Thriller, Independently Published)

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

 

 

The Trouble with Jenny by Kathy Geary Anderson, She’s always getting into trouble. He’s always getting hurt. (Historical Romance)

 

 

Courage in the Mountain Wilderness: Call of the Rockies, Books 4 by Misty M. Beller, Keeping her son safe on this epic journey may be harder than she imagined. (Historical Romance)

 

 

Out of Range: In the Shadows, Book 2 by JL Crosswhite, It’s her chance to prove she’s good enough. It’s his chance to prove he’s more than just a fun guy. Is it their time to find love, or does he have deadly competition? (Romantic Suspense)

 

 
Poppy’s Path to Love – Great Smoky Mountain Getaways by Elsie Davis, Escape to the Great Smoky Mountains with Poppy as she tries to hit the reset button on her life, only to discover there’s been a mistake and she has a limited window of time to prove herself and figure out where she belongs.
(Contemporary/Women’s Fiction) 

 
Juliet’s Journey to Love – Great Smoky Mountain Getaways by Elsie Davis, Escape to the Great Smoky Mountains with Juliet as she learns patience trying to figure out God’s plan for her life instead of trusting Him.
(Contemporary/Women’s Fiction) 

 

Seeking Sanctuary by Susanne Dietz, When Kellan’s deepest secret threatens their growing bond, will Paige be able to forgive him for the past he can’t forget? (Contemporary Romance)

 

 

Grace Beneath the Frost by Christine Dillon, Professional success. Personal failure. (General Contemporary)

 

 

The Good German Girl by Erica Marie Hogan, As they begin a dangerous correspondence, both Margot and Bernie embark on treacherous journeys. (General Historical)

 

 

The Amish Teacher’s Wish by Tracey Lyons, She wants her own happily-ever-after…As an Amish bachelor repairs her school…can she heal his heart? (Romance/Amish)

 

 

Surviving Carmelita by Susan Miura, Where Do You Run When Your World Implodes? (Contemporary/Women’s Fiction)

 

 
Every Good Work by Urcelia Teixeira , Beware the eye of the storm…Adam Cross faces a life-changing decision when he returns in the gripping Christian suspense series finale!
(Thriller/Suspense) 

 
See You Monday by Kristen Terrette , One choice can change everything.
(YA Fiction)

April showers bring good novels!


April 2021 New Releases

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


Contemporary Romance:

Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter — It’s finally time for Sophie Lawson to follow her own pursuits. Brother Seth has a new job, and sister Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance. When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))


Surviving Carmelita by Susan Miura — When Josie Caruso accidentally kills her best friend’s young daughter, she runs to the Florida Keys, unaware that a trailer park pastor, a battered horse, a pregnant teen, and a mysterious beachcomber might set her on the path toward inconceivable hope and redemption. (Contemporary Womens Fiction from Crossriver Media Group)


The Amish Teacher’s Wish by Tracey Lyons — She wants her own happily-ever-after… As an Amish bachelor repairs her school… can she heal his heart? With the school damaged during a storm, teacher Sadie Fischer needs Levi Byler’s help repairing it. Levi has one condition—he won’t become a part of her search for a husband. He’s been hurt before, and love and marriage aren’t part of his plans. But Sadie might just be the perfect woman to mend his heart…and convince him forever isn’t just for fairy tales. (Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))


General Contemporary:

Where Grace Appears by Heidi Chiavaroli — A contemporary twist on the well-loved classic, Little Women, readers will fall in love with the Martin family—Maggie, Josie, Lizzie, Bronson, Amie, and their mother Hannah—each trying to find their own way in the world and each discovering that love, home, and hope are closer than they appear. (General Contemporary from Hope Creek Publishers)


Second Helpings
by Linda Wood Rondeau — Can her marriage be saved? Today is Jocelyn Johnson’s forty-fifth birthday. Unhappy with her marriage of twenty-two years, she has planned a noonday tryst with her talk-show cohost. A phone call from her college daughter, a peek into her teenaged son’s journal, a sick preschooler, a Goth daughter’s identity crisis, a middle-school son’s prank, and her husband’s inflamed suspicions, not only interfere with her hopeful birthday plans but throw her family into more chaos than a circus on steroids. (General Contemporary from Elk Lake Publishing)


Every Window Filled with Light
by Shelia W. Stovall — Librarian Emma Baker, a young and childless widow, believes her dream to build a family is over. It’s been two years since a student accidentally stabbed Emma’s husband to death, and her grief has stifled any interest in romance—until she meets Pastor Luke Davis. But when Emma learns Luke is counseling her husband’s killer fresh out of jail, her temper gets in the way.

Meanwhile, Emma discovers twelve-year-old Harley, abandoned by her drug-addict mother, hiding in the library, and takes the girl in as her foster mom. Then a young mother is made homeless by an apartment fire, and Emma opens her home again. One person and one prayer at a time, Emma begins to discover hope. (General Contemporary from Elk Lake Publishing)


General Historical:

The Storm Breaks Forth
by Terri Wangard — World War I rages in Europe, and now the United States joins in. Peter Bloch heads to France with the Wisconsin National Guard, but his wife Maren is the one under attack. She’s German born, and anti-German hysteria is running high.?Simple suggestions for coping with wartime measures lead Maren into an active role in the community, but her service doesn’t help deflect suspicion from her. Zealous patriots target her with a vengeance.?Peter caught the eye of a major who seems intent on using him as a spy. He’s been fortunate to avoid injury so far, but these activities are likely to get him killed. (General Historical, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

Biltmore Girl by Dawn Klinge — New York City, 1968. Elka Hansen, a former teen cover girl, is done with modeling. Now she’s a hostess for the Palm Court restaurant in the beautiful Biltmore Hotel. As she sees it, Elka’s other job is to watch out for her younger sister, Colleen, an idealistic but reckless college student at Barnard.?With her sister, Elka attends her first civil-rights protest, and there, she runs into Jacob Lewis, a co-worker from the Biltmore. He’s a student at Columbia University and a friend of Colleen’s. Jacob becomes an unexpected ally when rescuing her sister from trouble becomes more than Elka can handle independently. Out of this turmoil, a romance grows between Jacob and Elka, but can it last? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Bent Tree Bride by Denise Weimer — Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman. As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Rekindling Trust by Sandra Ardoin — Abandonment. Betrayal. Injustice. Two broken hearts given a second chance to mend. Widow Edythe Westin yearns for a peaceful home and independence from her controlling father. The goal seems within reach until her rebellious young son is suspected of arson and assault. With nowhere else to turn, she defies her father and appeals for help from the only man she ever loved—the man who once deserted her when she needed him most. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Mystery:

Spring Betrayal by Sally Jo Pitts — t was supposed to be a routine investigation—catch the cheatin’ spouse of a client. And the perks weren’t bad either—set up shop at a luxury resort. So yes, Robert Grey and Jane Carson from Grey Investigations are on the job. But when they discover the suspect is a princess wrongfully accused of abdicating and her companion dies under suspicious circumstances, the investigators find themselves in the middle of a Caribbean conspiracy to overthrow a monarchy. Suddenly Jane must take the place of the princess to secure the throne of an island nation. Can Grey Investigations untangle a royal mess before a revolution overtakes paradise? (Mystery/Crime from Winged Publications)


Blue Plate Special
by Susan Page Davis — Campbell McBride drives to her father’s house in Murray, Kentucky, dreading telling him she’s lost her job as an English professor. Her father, Bill McBride, isn’t there or at his office in town. His brash young employee, Nick Emerson, says Bill hasn’t come in this morning, but he did call the night before with news that he had a new case. When her dad doesn’t show up by late afternoon, Campbell and Nick decide to follow up on a phone number he’d jotted on a memo sheet. They learn who last spoke to her father, but they also find a dead body. The next day, Campbell files a missing persons report. When Bill’s car is found, locked and empty in a secluded spot, she and Nick must get past their differences and work together to find him. (Mystery from Scrivenings Press LLC)


Speculative Fiction:

Traitor: Tales of the Mystics, Book 2
by Laurie Lucking — Princess Penelope has finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes-if only it didn’t require betraying her new fiancé. She has been the object of gossip and ridicule ever since she returned home in disgrace following her failed engagement to the Crown Prince of Imperia. When her father offers a new start in a country far across the sea, she has no choice but to accept. Even if it means another betrothal, this time to a total stranger. (Speculative Fiction/Romantic Fantasy from Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing)


Thriller/Suspense:

Long Shadows
by Cathe Swanson — Mona Vickers isn’t running. Not hiding. She and the girls are just keeping a low profile until she’s done with school and gets a good job. She doesn’t need charity, especially not from Roy Strough and the Unity Plenkiss Community Center, either. But when the past catches up with her, she needs to decide who she can trust. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard — Former FBI Special Agent Jack Tanner is working as a detective in Montana when he comes across a body in the national forest during a search and rescue mission. He’s committed to finding the killer, even if it means working alongside his old flame, US Forest Service Special Agent Terra Connors. When Terra discovers that the murder victim had ties to a powerful and dangerous trafficker of archaeological artifacts, the investigation takes a deadly turn–one that hits too close to home. As Terra fears she lacks the courage to face what comes next, Jack is more determined than ever to protect her. But he’s failed her before. And if he fails this time, it will cost them far more than just their hearts.
(Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Fifty Days by Katie Vorreiter — Three days ago, Maggie Lehman’s beloved mentor and friend, Jarrett Adams, was murdered on live television. Grief stricken, Maggie traverses a Washington DC under curfew, but when she arrives at the morgue, the body is missing—and her presence is recorded on the security video. As dawn breaks over the city, Maggie encounters Jarrett on the street—and he’s very much alive. Either she’s gone mad—again—or Jarrett really is back. While the US loses its grip on democracy, government thugs eager to contain what Maggie knows hound her every step, and the good intentions of a man from her past only tighten the noose. The powerless and bewildered Maggie seeks Jarrett and the return to how things were, but finds she must give up what she wants most to gain what she can hardly imagine. (Supernatural Suspense from Elk Lake Publishing)


Shielding the Amish Witness
by Mary Alford — Seeking refuge in Amish country puts everyone she loves in danger. On the run after discovering her brother-in-law was behind her husband’s murder, Faith Cooper can think of only one safe place—her Amish grandmother’s home. But when danger follows Faith to the quiet Amish community, her childhood friend Eli Shetler is her only protection. And their survival depends on outlasting a relentless killer…one who has nothing left to lose. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

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

 

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson, After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth. (Historical Mystery)

 

Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot, But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood. (Historical Romance)

 

Amish Midwives by Amy Clipson, Shelley Shepherd Gray, and Kelly Long, From bestselling authors of Amish Fiction come three sweet stories about new life, hope, and romance. (Amish Romance)

 

Hunt for Grace by Andrew Huff, First he left the CIA. Then he left pastoral ministry. Now John Cross has been imprisoned in one of Great Britain’s most infamous prisons. Has he reached the end of his rope? Or is this another move in a dangerous spy game? (Thriller/Suspense)

 

Right Cross by Andrew Huff, Heart-pounding action meets spiritual choices in this thrilling finale to John Cross’s saga. (Thriller/Suspense)

 

Smashing the Friend Zone: Natasha by Barbara James, She had no idea what he was feeling. (Romance/Contemporary)

 

Reconciled from Heartache by Cindy M. Amos, Aley Halstead laterals out of a harassment situation at work, but peril soon follows her relocation, leaving rookie rancher Hake Warren her only hope for a last-minute rescue. (Romance/Contemporary)

 

Inheritance by Colleen K. Snyder, Three hundred MILLION dollars. Your inheritance. Buy anything you want, go anywhere you want, do anything you want. All yours. Except… (Thriller/Suspense)

 

Sword of Trust by DebbieLynn Costello, The stakes are high, secrets prevail, and treason is just a kiss away. (Historical Romance)

 

Love and Joy by Elsie Davis, Can these two put their differences aside long enough to discover what’s really important? (Contemporary Romance)

 

Secondhand Sunsets by Gail Kittleson, The day’s warmth still hovered, and with it, a sense that all was well. The sky flamed for several more minutes. This beauty and my love for you are one. She hugged the message close. “Perhaps, after all, I am loved.” (Historical Romance)

 

The Egyptian Princess: A Story of Hagar by KD Holmberg, Torn between the silent gods of Egypt and the powerful presence that surrounds Sarai, Hagar’s world falls apart around her. She must acknowledge the terrible price of truth, and decide for herself who she will serve. (General Historical)

 

Dandelion Floofums by Kristen Joy Wilks, A bold chicken must save her human from kidnappers and rogue forest creatures! (Children’s/Middle-grade/Chapter Books)

 

Deadly Heartbreak by Marissa Shrock, Georgia discovers a limerick scrawled on the wall of her kitchen that dares her to solve a mystery designed specifically for her. A mystery that promises to be quite deadly. For her. For Cal. And for anyone who gets in the murderer’s way. (Cozy Mystery)

 

Amish Country Murder by Mary Alford, An Amish woman targeted by a serial killer is the only living witness… (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

 

The Secret of the 14th Room by Rebecca Hemlock, You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Or until someone wants to kill you for it. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

 

Both Sides of the Border by Terry Overton, Two women, half a world apart, will have their lives changed for ever when a series of tragedies cause the Texas-Mexico border to vanish. (General/Contemporary)

The Rose Keeper, Day 4: Dressel’s Bakery

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara’s favorite cake is a chocolate whipped cream cake from Dressel’s Bakery in Cicero.In a rather melancholy scene at the hospital where she works, “With a sigh, Clara glanced down the hallway toward the break room, then turned away, knowing her presence at the party would no longer be welcome, even though the chocolate whipped cream cake from Dressel’s Bakery was her very favorite too.” (Don’t worry; she doesn’t stay sad forever!)

I ran across this interesting article about Dressel’s Bakery in the Chicago Tribune. Seems I wasn’t the only one who loved it. I do remember the cakes being available in the freezer section of Jewel, although it seems to me the frozen cakes weren’t quite as good as the fresh variety. But they were still plenty good. And then one day they simply weren’t there anymore.

Those who remember Dressel’s cakes seem to fall into two camps: those who liked the chocolate whipped cream best, and those who preferred the strawberry.  A quick survey on a local Facebook group yielded many comments, of which the following are representative:

“I drool just thinking about that cake. Loved it! We had it for every birthday!”

“I used to walk there on Cermak to get my cakes. I loved that store.”

“Oh, man, I’m drooling I loved that cake. Very devastated when then closed the Dressel’s stores.”

“Chocolate whipped cream cake was an absolute MUST for all our birthdays.”

“My choice for birthday cake was always the yellow whipped cream cake with strawberry filling!”

There are a few recipes floating around on the internet, promising to taste just like the original. I’ve been collecting them, but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try one yet. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that’s perfect in memory only.

What was your favorite dessert as a child? Or now?

The Rose Keeper, Day 5: The Illinois Training School for Nurses

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara took her nurses’ training at the Illinois Training School for Nurses, graduating in 1915. The story shows her starting her first job at the fictional Memorial Hospital. Thirty years later, she’s still there,overseeing the younger nurses in the Women’s Medical ward.

Nursing students in a demonstration class in amphitheatre at the Cook County Hospital. “The hospital amphitheatre offers the best place [for instruction], the raised seats giving a good view to all and plenty of room.” (A History of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, 1880-1929) Photo source: Cook County School of Nursing records; University of Illinois at Chicago. Library. Special Collections and University Archives Department (Library of the Health Sciences)

The Illinois Training School for Nurses (ITS) was founded in 1880. According to an interesting history of the school written in 1929, “the purpose of the founders was twofold: first, to train young women to care scientifically for the sick, so establishing a new and dignified profession for women and at the same time making available to the public a valuable service; and second, to give patients in the Cook County Hospital care far better than that of the untrained and politically chosen attendents then employed.”

According to the archives of the University of Ilinois, ITS was “the first Nightingale-type nurse training school in the Midwest U.S. The school’s founders included such prominent Chicago women as Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson, Lucy Flower, and Margaret Lawrence. These progressive-era women aimed to improve the nursing care of the city’s sick poor while allowing Midwestern young women to prepare for the new occupation of trained nursing. The prestigious new school attracted early nursing leaders to serve as superintendents, including Isabel Hampton Robb and Lavinia Lloyd Dock. The student nurses primarily trained at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital.”

In Clara’s day the curriculum would have included anatomy and physiology, hygiene, bacteriology, surgical, medical and gynecological nursing, obstetrics, pediatrics, and care of the “nervous and insane,” and something called “materia medica” (the study of substances used for healing). as well as practical nursing and cooking. Students worked nine hours per day shift or twelve hours per night shift, with a half-day off on Sunday and one half-holiday during the week. Training in contagious diseases and tuberculosis was optional, but the superintendent at the time stated, “as evidence of the earnestness and bravery with which the average nurse pursues her course of instruction, a large per cent of the pupils … elect to pass through this trying ordeal.” Clinics offered in-depth learning of special techniques. Thus “Patients, beds, and appliances are provided and used, leaving as little room to the imagination as possible.”

Clearly Clara had been well prepared for her duties as a nurse at Memorial Hospital. But being a good nurse requires more qualities than just technical skill. How did she fare on the “softer” skills? Read THE ROSE KEEPER to find out!

 

 

 

 

The Rose Keeper, Day 6: MacNeal Hospital

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara works as a nurse at Chicago’s fictional “Memorial Hospital,” which is loosely based on MacNeal Hospital in Cicero’s neighboring suburb of Berwyn. I didn’t use the “real” MacNeal Hospital since certain details didn’t suit the narrative, such as the date of founding. But I would have liked to for several reasons, not least of which is because MacNeal Hospital was my birthplace!

In 1919, Dr. Arthur MacNeal. a Michigan native and graduate of Chicago’s Rush Medical School, opened a clinic in his Berwyn home.  He is credited as being one of the first physicians to use a vaccine against diphtheria and also had one of the first X-ray machines in the country.

Photo source: https://whyberwyn.com

In 1924 the first 3-story hospital was constructed on the MacNeal property, with the fourth story added in 1929. Subsequent expansions and innovations have brought MacNeal to its current status as a 374-bed, well respected teaching hospital.

Today MacNeal Hospital is part of the Loyola Medicine and Trinity health systems, under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

A side note: To celebrate National Hospital Week in, I’m guessing, 1960 or 1961, I participated as a member of the “royal family” of babies born at MacNeal. I don’t remember a thing about the experience, which is probably just as well. Still, it’s a cherished photo of me and my mom.

 

The Rose Keeper, Day 7: Western Electric Company

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara’s neighbor Laurie gets a job at the local Western Electric manufacturing facility called the Hawthorne Works (the town of Cicero was originally named Hawthorne) or just “the Western.” Since the time period is World War II, she’s working on a government defense project that is “hush, hush.”

But for most of the twentieth century, the Western Electric Company was Cicero’s primary employer. It was the chief manufacturer of telephone equipment for the Bell Telephone System (later AT&T)  and other consumer goods, such as electric fans and refrigerators. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Western Electric “pioneered new technologies such as the high-vacuum tube, the condenser microphone, and radio systems for airplanes.”

The sprawling Hawthorne Works was considered a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1905. At its peak, it employed 45,000 workers.  It closed in 1984 with the dismantling of the Bell System. Today the property is the site of a shopping center, with only the water tower remaining from the original structure.

THEN:

Photo source: Forgotten Chicago

NOW:

Photo source: MrHarman, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

People who worked at Western Electric, including several members of my own extended family, tended to speak of it fondly of it. A 1932 company publication called “Hawthorne: A City Within a City” described it thusly:

“Physically, Hawthorne is a modern industrial plant with 86 buildings containing over 3,000,000 square feet of available floor space. One never suspects in viewing the exterior that behind these buildings is an inner court, beautifully landscaped. There are winding streets and sidewalks, and seas of green lawns dotted with floral islands. Hawthorne is, in fact, a city in itself. It has its own police staff, a fire department, a completely equipped hospital, cooperative stores, a laundry, a railroad, a power house, a gas works, restaurants, and even its own water supply. Each month enough electricity is used to illuminate 450,000 average homes—enough to take care of a city the size of Memphis, Tennessee. In the same period gas enough to supply a city as large as Dallas, Texas, is generated and consumed.”

The company provided many benefits to its employees, taking a paternalistic approach that some today call “welfare capitalism.” Perks included death and insurance benefits, home loans, social clubs, night classes, and sports teams. Even after the ill-fated picnic of 1915, the employee-run Hawthorne Club continued to organize social events like dances and trips to Riverview Park and Wrigley Field.

In 1925, Elton Mayo of Harvard University conducted well-known industrial studies at the Hawthorne Works. One lasting outcome of those studies was “the Hawthorne effect,” in which individuals adjust their behavior when they’re aware of being watched. Industrial scholars continue to debate and discuss the methodology and results of these studies.

Many artifacts and documents pertaining to the Western Electric Company can be viewed at the Hawthorne Museum operated by Morton College in Cicero, Illinois.

The Rose Keeper, Day 8: Cermak Road

 

 

Cermak Road, also known as 22nd Street, is a 19-mile-long, major street that runs east and west from Chicago through the city’s western suburbs. The portion that concerns us runs through Cicero, Clara Janacek’s town in THE ROSE KEEPER, whose border smacks right up against Chicago’s western boundary. It’s where Clara and her neighbors do all their shopping, banking, and other errands. On a trip to downtown Chicago, she reflects, “She didn’t travel to the Loop often. Even though it wasn’t far from Cicero, it felt exotic and strange, like she imagined a foreign capital must feel, having never actually traveled to one. She preferred doing business at the friendly, family-owned shops of Cermak Road to State Street’s elegant department stores and boutiques, where she felt frumpy and out of place.”

Cermak Road was named after Democratic politician Anton Cermak, a Czech citizen who served as Mayor of Chicago from 1931 until his untimely death in 1933. On February 15, 1933, Cermak was shot dead by an assassin who was aiming for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The portion of 22nd Street than runs through the Chicago neighborhoods of Pilsen and Lawndale and the suburbs of Cicero and Berwyn was renamed Cermak Road in his honor, because they were heavily Czech-American at the time. In THE ROSE KEEPER some of the old-timers are still in the habit of calling it 22nd Street. Old habits die hard.

Author Norbert Blei, who grew up in Cicero, described Cermak Road this way in his book Neighborhood: “a river of restaurants, savings and loan companies, bakeries, butcher shops and bargain stores … engulfing everything and everybody. Other nationalities continue to thrive here, but the temper is Bohemian.” He went on to say, “When the old babickas [grandmas] in paisley babushkas, carrying brown paper and black cloth shopping bags, went to the stores on Cermak, they came from the basements, bungalows, two-flats, and small houses north and south of Cermak Road … the meat markets, milk stores, bakeries, fruit and vegetable stands, building and loans, banks, small department stores, shoemakers, many with names they could relate to: Pavlicek’s Drug Store, Ruzicka Kobzina, Sekera, and others for furniture. Sebesta, Shotola, Verners, and many more for meat. Pancner for Bohemian books, Bohemian greeting cards, stationery, Czech crystal, and funeral homes like Clasen, Cermak, Chrastka, Marik, and Svec.”

During Prohibition, notoriety came to Cermak Road in the form of Al Capone, who headquartered his gangster activity at the Hawthorne Inn in 1924. According to an article on moon.com, “During the 1924 municipal elections, Capone turned the town of Cicero into a war zone: he bullied voters, kidnapped pollsters, and threatened news reports into voting for the people who supported his criminal behavior.” An altercation ensued with the cops that killed Al’s brother, Frank. Capone also warred with the North Side gang run by Dion O’Banion. According to Wikipedia, “On September 20, 1926, the North Side Gang used a ploy outside the Capone headquarters at the Hawthorne Inn, aimed at drawing him to the windows. Gunmen in several cars then opened fire with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns at the windows of the first-floor restaurant. Capone was unhurt and called for a truce, but the negotiations fell through.” More years of gang warfare ensued, culminating in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater on February 14, 1929.

By World War II, the main time period of THE ROSE KEEPER, Capone was long gone from the neighborhood. After serving a prison sentence for tax evasion in the 1930s, he was released in poor health, suffering complications from syphilis. He died in 1947 at his Florida mansion.

Nonetheless, his reputation lingered, as did Cicero’s reputation as a rough-and-tumble town. In THE ROSE KEEPER, our heroine awakens to a loud bang. “Clara shot straight up in bed, disoriented, jerked out of a sound sleep by the sharp retort of a pistol. Land sakes, was the Capone bang back in town, trading gunfire in the middle of Cermak Road?”

But for most peaceful citizens of Cicero, Cermak Road was just a bustling, thriving neighborhood thoroughfare of butchers, bakers, banks, and babushkas. Clara and Jerry enjoy hot pancakes on a cold winter day at Seneca Restaurant. For a special occasion, she buys a dress at DeMar’s Dress Shop, which was one of my grandmother’s favorites as well.

Tune in again tomorrow when I’ll share another behind-the-scenes story or fact as we count down to THE ROSE KEEPER!

 

The Rose Keeper, Day 9: What in the Heck is a Two-Flat?

I was well advanced in years before I realized that not everyone outside of the Chicago area understands what a “two-flat” is.  “Two-flat,” like “forest preserve” and “decent pizza,” seems to be an unfamiliar concept to much of the world. So here’s your handy primer to All Things Two-Flat.

The Chicago Tribune amusingly defined a two-flat as “a residential, two-story brick building with a common front entrance and separate residences on each floor. One floor is often reserved, reluctantly, for mother-in-law. Common source of extra income/aggravation for Chicagoans.” In other parts of the world, this sort of arrangement might be called a “duplex,” but in Chicago a duplex means two side-by-side residences connected by a common wall, while two-flats are vertical. The floor of the top unit is the ceiling of the bottom unit.

In THE ROSE KEEPER, Clara and Jerry live in a two-flat, surrounded by other two flats. Here’s an idea of what their street looks like. (The taller building is a three-flat, the others are two-flats):

Jerry, who owns the building, occupies the top floor and Clara, his tenant and friend, rents the main floor. They share a common front door and entryway. Clara’s apartment opens off the entryway, while Jerry’s is up a flight of stairs.

In addition, Jerry has built a small third apartment in the spacious basement. You see, it’s World War II, and with workers flooding in to work in nearby defense plants, the industrial town of Cicero is experiencing a housing shortage, so many homeowners are taking in boarders. When Jerry rents the basement apartment to a vivacious young factory worker and her precocious daughter, well, that’s when things really get interesting.

The units in a two- or three-flat are also connected at the back by a conglomeration of stairs and landings that technically serve as a fire escape, but are often euphemistically referred to as the “back porch.” Here’s an idea of what that looks like:

The basement apartment is only accessible through the back. There’s also a small backyard, where Clara keeps a vegetable garden, and a small one-car garage. Her beloved rosebush is in the front.

If you’re interested in learning more about the iconic–and apparently endangered–Chicago two-flat, here’s an interesting article on Curbed Chicago.

Tune in again tomorrow when I’ll share another behind-the-scenes story or fact as we count down to THE ROSE KEEPER!

 

 

 

10 Days Until THE ROSE KEEPER releases! Here’s how the cover came to be

As we count down to the highly anticipated March 15 release of THE ROSE KEEPER, I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes story or fact for each day. Today we’ll look at where the cover came from.

In the 1915 part of the story, Clara is a fresh-faced graduate of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, starting her first job at the fictional Memorial Hospital. When I looked for images of nurses from that era, I stumbled upon a wonderful image of a Red Cross nurse, not only from that decade but from that exact year–1915! She even resembled Clara in my imagination. And the image was in the public domain, being over 95 years old. So I ordered the magazine cover–yes, the real, actual, worn-and-torn magazine cover–from an Etsy shop and sent it to my designer, who worked her magic to make it cover-worthy.

I also wanted an image from the real-life Eastland disaster at the heart of the story. The Chicago History Museum came through for me, and I purchased the rights to this image from them and, again, sent it to my patient and talented cover designer to place in the background.

Finally, I wanted the cover of THE ROSE KEEPER to resemble the first book in the series, MOONDROP MIRACLE. I think the designer succeeded at doing that, using similar image placements and fonts. I think she did a great job, don’t you?

(PS: Readers have asked me whether they should read Book 1 before Book 2 in the series. I’m happy to say … no! The books are essentially standalones, tied together by theme more than story or character. So they can be read in any order.)

So that’s how the cover came to be! Stop by tomorrow when I’ll post another behind-the-scenes story.

Fresh new fiction blowing in on the March breeze!

March 2021 New Releases, including the latest from Yours Truly! Scroll down to see The Rose Keeper and many other intriguing titles releasing this spring!

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


Biblical:

Miriam’s Song by Jill Eileen Smith — In her eventful lifetime, Miriam was many things to many people: protective older sister, song leader, prophetess, leper. But between the highs and the lows, she was a girl who dreamed of freedom, a woman who longed for love, a leader who made mistakes, and a friend who valued connection. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Contemporary Romance:

Amish Midwives by Amy Clipston — From bestselling authors of Amish Fiction come three sweet stories about new life, hope, and romance. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

A Brother’s Promise by Mindy Obenhaus — He didn’t realize he wanted a family… Until he suddenly became a single dad. After his sister’s death, rancher Mick Ashford’s determined to ensure his orphaned niece, Sadie, feels at home. And accepting guidance from Christa Slocum is his first step. But just as Christa and Sadie begin to settle into Mick’s heart, Sadie’s paternal grandparents sue for custody. Now Mick must fight to keep them together…or risk losing the makeshift family he’s come to love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

General Contemporary:

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti — While her humanitarian husband Liam has been digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs has been struggling. She knows she’s supposed to feel a warm glow that her husband is nine time zones away, caring for widows and orphans. But the reality is that she is exhausted, working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage their three detention-prone kids, failing at her to-repair list, and fading like a garment left too long in the sun. (General Contemporary from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical:

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy — Ottilie Russell is adrift between two cultures, British and Indian, belonging to both and neither. In order to support her little brother, Thaddeus, and her grandmother, she relies upon her skills in beetle-wing embroidery that have been passed down to her through generations of Indian women. When a stranger appears with the news that Thaddeus is now Baron Sunderson and must travel to England to take his place as a nobleman, Ottilie is shattered by the secrets that come to light. (General Historical from Bethany House)

The Rose Keeper by Jennifer Lamont Leo — July 1944. Chicago nurse Clara Janacek has spent her whole life taking care of other people. Grumpy yet loveable, all she wants now is to live out her life in peace, tending her roses and protecting her heart. But beneath the gruff exterior lies a story, and when new neighbors move in and shake up her quiet world, Clara must grapple with long-buried realities. (General Historical, Independently Published)

In the Dead of the Night by JP Robinson — Leila is forced back into the shadows when the leader of a German spy ring kidnaps her child, jeopardizing Europe’s fragile bid for peace. (General Historical from Logos Publications)


Historical Romance:

Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot — Though she hopes for a quiet, uncomplicated life for herself, Dorothy Clark wants nothing more than to stir others up. Specifically, she dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers — until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly — Richard Stevens isn’t who he thinks he is. Neither is the woman who now claims his last name. Disfiguring scars stole Clarinda Humphrey’s singing career, her home, and her family, but she refuses to let her appearance steal her future. While attending The Young Ladies Seminary in 1858 Benicia, California, she finds a man who promises to love and cherish her. Instead he betrays her, leaving her with child, and Clarinda must take drastic measures to ensure her child doesn’t suffer for her foolishness. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

The Curator’s Daughter by Melanie Dobson — 1940. Hanna Tillich cherishes her work as an archaeologist for the Third Reich, searching for the Holy Grail and other artifacts to bolster evidence of a master Aryan race. But when she is reassigned to work as a museum curator in Nuremberg, then forced to marry an SS officer and adopt a young girl, Hanna begins to see behind the Nazi facade. A prayer labyrinth becomes a storehouse for Hanna’s secrets, but as she comes to love Lilly as her own daughter, she fears that what she’s hiding?and what she begins to uncover?could put them both in mortal danger. (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

My Dear MISS DUPRÉ by Grace Hitchcock — Willow Dupré never thought she would have to marry, but with her father’s unexpected retirement from running the prosperous Dupré sugar refinery, plans changed. The shareholders are unwilling to allow a female to take over the company without a man at her side, so her parents devise a plan—find Willow a spokesman king in order for her to become queen of the empire. Willow is presented with thirty potential suitors from the families of New York society’s elite group called the Four Hundred. She has six months to court the group and is expected to eliminate men each month to narrow her beaus. (Historical Romance from Bethany House)

Rayne’s Redemption by Linda Shenton Matchett — Will she have to lose her identity to find true love? Twin sisters Rayne and Jessica Dalton have been swapping places their whole lives, so when Jessica dies on the eve of heading west to become a mail-order bride, Rayne decides to fill her sister’s shoes. The challenge will be faking Jessica’s faith in God. Can Rayne fool her prospective groom without losing her heart…or her soul? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense/Thriller:

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn — US Secret Service Special Agent Luke Powell is lucky to be alive. Three of his fellow agents have died in unusual circumstances in the past ten weeks. Luke is devastated by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and his inability to locate the killer feels like a personal failure. He and his team are experts at shielding others, but now the protectors are in need of protection. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hours to Kill by Susan Sleeman — Just as Homeland Security Agent Addison Leigh reaches the pinnacle of her cyber investigation into a firearms smuggling ring, she’s attacked and left for dead. Her estranged husband, ICE Agent Mack Jordan, is notified that she’s at the hospital in a coma. He may have let his past military trauma ruin their short marriage, but she never gave up on their relationship, and he remains her next of kin. hen a second attempt to take her life is made, it’s clear something very sinister is going on, and Mack and Addison are in for the ride of their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House)

Abducted in Alaska by Darlene L. Turner — Saving a boy who has escaped his captors puts Canadian border patrol officer Hannah Morgan right into the path of a ruthless child-smuggling ring. Now with help from police constable Layke Jackson, she must keep the child safe. But can they rescue the other abducted children and bring down the gang…all while protecting a little boy and keeping themselves alive? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired/Harlequin)


Western:

Braced for Love by Mary Connealy — Left with little back in Missouri, Kevin Hunt takes his younger siblings on a journey to Wyoming when he receives news that he’s inheriting part of a ranch. The catch is that the ranch is also being given to a half-brother he never knew existed. Turns out, Kevin’s supposedly dead father led a secret and scandalous life. (Western from Bethany House)

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

Seasons of Love by Joan Deppa, The beautiful, western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with snow covered hills in the winter; Lake Superior, as well as inland lakes and numerous waterfalls in the summer; and colorful leaves in Autumn, are the setting for three couples who discover new adventures and enjoy the nature that surrounds them. (Contemporary Romance)

Medicine, Murder and Small Town Scandal by KC Hart, When the meanest man in Skeeterville drops dead at his mailbox, no one suspects foul play until Katy Cross stumbles across a skeleton from his past… literally. (Cozy Mystery)

Hunt for Grace by Tammy F. Kirty, Can two people find peace in the present when faced daily with their pasts? (Historical Romance)

Kate’s Quest by Seralynn Lewis, Sparks fly in this opposites attract journey when a my way or the highway soldier collides with a determined woman on a mission to find her family. (Contemporary Romance)

Starstruck in Willow Falls by Pat Nichols, Heartwarming, emotionally charged saga of a small Southern town’s struggle for survival and two women’s challenge to balance family and career. (General Contemporary)

Matched Hearts by Cathe Swanson, She’s looking for one date. He’s looking for “Happily Ever After.” Is it a computer error or a match made in heaven? (Contemporary Romance)

A Texas Bond by Shannon Taylor Vannatter, Learning he’s an uncle shocks Ross Lyles—but after years of handling his brother’s bombshells, at least this surprise is a blessing. A pair of five-year-old blessings Ross is determined to meet, if he can convince their aunt to give him a chance. (Contemporary Romance)

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