Welcome Sandra Ardoin…win a copy of her new A Reluctant Melody

Welcome to Home Thoughts, Sandra Ardoin. I’m very excited to hear you have a new book out. I read The Yuletide Angel last year and enjoyed it very much. Please tell us something about A Reluctant Melody: 

Kit Barnes’ alcoholism ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. But the most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past. Friends of her late husband blame Joanna for his death. Although eager to flee from the rumors, she will let the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she allows Kit back into her life. When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart?

For readers who might be new to Sandra’s books, here’s her short bio:

ARM Cover Sandra Ardoin_HeadshotSandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, antique store prowler. Visit her at www.sandraardoin.com and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.

What was your inspiration for this story? In 2014, as I wrote my Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel, I wanted to give my hero (Hugh Barnes) a personal problem to overcome, so I created a brother and a break in their relationship. Of course, I needed to know the reason for the break. For that, I chose to make the brother, Kit, a recovering alcoholic who had betrayed Hugh by seducing the woman he’d planned to marry. The more I wrote Kit into the story, the more curious I became about him, the woman in both men’s lives, and Kit’s future.

A Reluctant Melody is a story about second chances and God’s grace and mercy. From a spiritual standpoint, I wanted to get across the news that God’s forgiveness is available to anyone who seeks it through Christ.

What are you working on now and when can readers expect it? I’m working on the first book of a three-book series set in Texas in 1886/87. The series takes place in a rowdy, churchless town near a once popular cattle trail. As with most of my stories, they will have an element of mystery/suspense. As of now, I have no contract. Hopefully, that will change soon. I’m also considering a novella series about three women who each set out on an adventure and discover more about themselves than they expected. Those are still in the planning stage. Ah, so many projects, so little time!

Readers, please leave a comment for Sandra for a chance to win an electronic copy of A Reluctant Melody.

For those of you who don’t want to wait, here’s a link where you can purchase. Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Melody-Inspirational-Historical-Christian-ebook/dp/B01A67A2MM

Drawing in one week, readers, and it will be announced here. Until then, stay warm. Spring is just around the corner….trust me.   Mary

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Two on my historical romances available dirt cheap in e-books

Happy Monday, readers,

Quaker and the Rebel, TheAnybody who prefers reading books on their electronic devices can find two of my historical romances on sale. The Quaker and the Rebel will be $.99 for the entire month of September for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Google Play formats. And book two of the Civil War Heroines series, The Lady and the Officer, will be $1.99 from September 1-30 as well. Now’s the time to give historical romance a try if you haven’t already done so.Lady and the Officer, The

 

 

 

You prefer Amish fiction to American history? Remember, Love Comes to Paradise is still $1.99 at Amazon. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Comes-Paradise-Beginnings-Book-ebook/dp/B00B03M54U/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1441035324&sr=8-1&keywords=love+comes+to+paradiseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoy these waning summer days. Fall will be here in 3 short weeks, and I am so not ready!!

Best regards, Mary

Ever wonder what happens in the mind of a heroine?

The Last HeiressLast week I completed a reader’s interview from a hero’s perspective, using my dashing hero from The Last Heiress. I had so much fun with this, I decided to answer questions from my heroine’s (Amanda Dunn’s) perspective. I hope you enjoy!

Has anything significant happened in your life in the past two weeks?

I recently landed in North Carolina during the American Civil War. I’m supposed to restore shipments of cotton to my family’s textile mills and repair the riff with my sister. Abigail happens to be married to a slave-owner, a practice I refuse to tolerate. I find myself at odds with my host and hostess at every turn. Everything seems to have become significant lately. 

Your most embarrassing moment?

Thus far my protected and insulated life in England has produced few embarrassments. Since arriving in Wilmington, I’ve had plenty. Look no further than the next question…. 

What is your first reaction when you meet a handsome gentleman?

Usually I blush, and this time was no exception. After all this is the nineteenth century. Then I engage the gentleman in witty or intelligent conversation. However, since I’m a fish out-of-water here, especially with a war going on, I can’t find any common ground. So I don’t think I’ve impressed this young man in the least. 

What happened the last time you spoke to a large group of people?

I had to address the Wilmington business leaders to request a lift of trade restrictions to Great Britain. The session did not go well, needless to say. Southern gentlemen do not take kindly to women conducting business. 

What are your hobbies?

Well-born ladies during the Victorian Era had few acceptable hobbies. I read, do needlepoint, and take long walks in the garden in fair weather. I’m enjoying my stay in North Carolina where conventions have been relaxed due to the Civil War. 

Siblings? How many? Do you get along?

I had a brother who unfortunately was killed at our textile mill, making me next in line to inherit my father’s company. I also have a twin sister. We used to get along just fine until she eloped with an American.

Any current romantic interests?

I have fallen in love with Nathaniel Cooper who charmed me the moment I entered his store. He’s not what my family would consider acceptable for a mate, yet I can’t imagine my life without him. 

Where were you born? What other significant happenings surrounded this event?

I was born in Manchester, England. My identical twin, Abigail, was born minutes after me. Physically, we look exactly the same. However, philosophically we become complete opposites.

What is your worst fear?

My worst fear is that I will fail at the enormous task I’ve been given due to my father’s illness. Women of my class didn’t dabble in business during the 1860’s. I do wish to make my father—and myself—proud.

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?

The last good meal I had since landing on the shores of America was cooked by my new beau! Nathaniel might be a shopkeeper of humble means, but he has won my heart based on his skills in the kitchen alone!

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?

I am living in my sister’s home. Abigail is married to an American cotton broker and slave-owner. I am vehemently opposed to slavery, an institution that England abolished during the last century. Jackson Henthorne and I barely speak to each other which places my twin sister smack-dab in the middle.

Here we are, readers, Friday already! I wish you a lovely weekend with plenty of good reading.

And for my readers in Texas…I’m praying that the rains stop soon.

best regards, Mary

Ever wonder about what goes on in the mind of a hero??

Happy Wednesday, readers!

First, without further ado…BN 100 you are the winner of Island Refuge by Kimberly Rose Johnson. Thanks to everyone who entered my drawing last week for a copy of Kimberly’s latest book! I will contact you via email regarding how to claim your prize.

The Last HeiressA few weeks ago, another blogger had me complete a questionnaire from a hero’s perspective. I used my dashing hero from The Last Heiress. I had so much fun with this, I decided to share the “interview” here. I hope you enjoy!

My name is Nathaniel Cooper, and I walked across the entire state of North Carolina to the coastal town of Wilmington to begin a new life during the Civil War.

What do you do for fun? I take the beach road out of town to the seacoast. I love to watch the vast, blue sea and dream of sailing one day.

What do you put off doing because you dread it? I dread meeting the family of the woman I love. I fear they will find me unworthy of her.

What are you afraid of most in life? That I won’t be there when those I love need me most.

What do you want out of life? I want to leave the bustling city, find a plot of land to build a cottage, and buy a fishing trawler. Maybe God will send me a woman who could be happy as a fisherman’s wife.

What is the most important thing to you? That we live each day by God’s law, not by the laws set down by man.

Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book? I read all kinds of books, but I love to read the new poets and transcendentalists of Concord, MA, such as Alcott, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. I don’t always agree with them, but it does give you something to think about.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I would not jump to conclusions based solely on a man’s clothing, background, or bank account.

Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet? As a shopkeeper living in the city and sleeping in a rented loft, I have no pet. But I would love to provide pets of every sort for my children someday.

If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why? I would return to the mountains of my childhood in western Carolina. I would love to change how life turned out for my parents.

Nice to meet you, Nathaniel! Next week, I’ll share my “interview” with the love of his life, Amanda.

In the meantime, readers, I hope you’re having an absolutely lovely spring!2014-04-29 13.38.30

best regards ~ Mary

 

We have a winner and a quick trip to merry olde England

 

The Last Heiress

Today I wanted to share photos of the best part of being an author….research. I was fortunate enough to travel to England several years ago for background for my latest book, The Last Heiress.  The story which starts in Manchester and continues in Wilmington, NC features a pair of identical twins. During the American Civil the English textile industry nearly ground to a halt due to the blockade of southern ports. No export of cotton….no raw materials to for the mills. My British twin, Amanda Dunn, is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. After the blockade of southern ports threatens to destroy the family business, Amanda’s father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton broker, lives in Wilmington. Blockade runners, such as those owned by Abigail’s husband, would leave the southern coast of the United States bound for the ports of Liverpool or Swansea, and then the mills of Manchester.GE

Amanda plans a long overdue reunion with her twin, conduct business for her dad, and hurry back to England. Fate has other plans for our heiress. Amanda butts heads at every turn with her brother-in-law, a slave-owner, in a town not used to dealing with businesswomen. When she falls in love with a local shopkeeper, a man who refuses to fight for the Confederacy, class distinctions, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance.

In Portsmouth harbour

In Portsmouth harbour

My trip to England allowed me to reconnect with an old friend, Caroylne Way,

Rowing on Lake Windemere in the Lake District

Rowing on Lake Windemere in the Lake District

who lives in Gosport (near Portsmouth in southern Hampshire.) Carolyne’s great grandfather owned a mine which supplied coal for the garment mills during the nineteenth century. I was able to use real events which took place at his mine in my story. Of course as you can see from my pictures,  I had plenty of time to see merry ole England too.

Research also took me not less than a half-dozen times to the beautiful city of Wilmington, NC on the Cape Fear River. Lucky for me, the riverfront area, some of downtown, along with Fort Fisher on the peninsula looks like it did 150 years ago.

Wilmington waterfront

Wilmington waterfront

Fort Fisher was the final definitive battle of the Civil War, fought on both land and sea.

Ahhh, research. For some authors, the topic draws beads of sweat to the brow. But if a writer is able to pack a bag, book a flight and travel, then history…and the story can truly come alive.

Hope you enjoy these pics from England

and Scotland.  And I hope you’ll look for The Last Heiress, a book from Harvest House Publishers which was a pleasure to write!! Have a great week, readers….Mary

London Eye, on the Thames River

London Eye, on the Thames River

restored English village

restored English village

2008-05-18 12.35.18

On the Solent near their house

 

 

Old Towne York

Old Towne York

 

Stonehenge, about an hour away

Stonehenge, about an hour away

Big Ben, London

Big Ben, London

Finding inspiration from another writer’s journal

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a weekend retreat with eight other fiction writers. Although the cabin could have been warmer and the weather less rainy, I loved sharing stories, good food, and laughter with like-minded women. One of the participant’s keeps a journal. Sandra Merville Hart read us her entry that morning. I was impressed with her graceful, evocative prose. Come share the joys of a vacation cabin in early spring in Hocking Hills, Ohio.

Early Morning Thoughts at a Writers Retreat by Sandra Merville Hart 

I’m at a writers retreat this morning. It’s 7:10 am and I’m showered and dressed. It’s been raining since before Becky and I arrived yesterday afternoon.

Mary isn’t feeling well. The damp chill is having a harsh effect on her RA. I think she slept some but not nearly enough. I believe she’s upstairs resting in the recliner now.

It felt like a refrigerator in this cabin basement last night. I’m glad I brought an extra blanket.

Carole just popped her head in. She was freezing last night, too — so chilled, in fact, that she now has a headache because of it. This rustic and homey cabin is beating us up a little. I have a headache and the start of a cold. Mine might be from taking a not-too-warm shower. I rushed for fear that the water would get completely cold.

I hear voices now — Carole and Tamera, I think. Michelle just turned on the light in the futon room.

The authors are waking up. Beware, world. Who knows what will happen in our morning’s writing session?

Killers revealed? Innocent people murdered in a crime of greed?

A man and woman in a promising dating relationship quarrel over some insignificant event and it spirals out of control. Or maybe they fight over something vitally important and seemingly part ways forever. Seemingly. We authors excel at painting a picture of how bad it gets when people don’t communicate.

Perhaps a couple will receive news of a pregnancy. She’s thrilled; he pushes for an abortion.

How about a story of a little girl who befriends the lonely old woman next door — the one who doesn’t want any children walking through her yard so the child stays on her side of the bushes and talks louder?

Knowing Michelle, some sci-fi adventure will take place in a scope and dimension that my brain can only marvel at.

Or perhaps we will step back in time to Victorian America with settings in a small town, a prairie, or a progressive college.

Just look out world. The authors will be hard at work today. And we hope you are the better for it. We will be.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Sandy’s debut novel, A Stranger on My Land, and found it delightful.A Stranger On My Land

Sandy HartHere’s her bio: Sandra Merville Hart loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories. She and her husband enjoy traveling to many of the sites in her books to explore the history. She serves as Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com and contributes articles about history and holidays. She has written for several publications and websites including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, Common Ground, Afictionado, and ChristianDevotions.us. Her inspirational Civil War novella, A Stranger on My Land, released on August 21, 2014.

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Stranger-My-Land-Sandra-Hart/dp/1941103278/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405606746&sr=1-1&keywords=A+Stranger+on+my+land.

Have a good week readers. Stay warm…stay dry…spring is almost here!  ~ Mary

Blockade running during the American Civil War

 

In my latest historical novel, one of my characters stakes his entire financial future on two blockade runners to travel between North Carolina and England. Blockade runners during the Civil War were the fastest ships available and came armed and armored, enabling them to outrun Union ships on blockade patrol. blockade runner 1Their operations were risky since the Union Navy wouldn’t hesitate to fire on them. However, the potential profits (economically or militarily) from a successful crossing were tremendous. The Union government sought to cut off all trade with the Confederacy and patrolled 12 major ports and 3,500 miles of southern coastline. Great Britain played a major role on the blockade running business, since they had huge investments in the South, and were the recipients of their cash crops, especially tobacco and cotton. Great BritainthQEOI8L5N also controlled the neutral ports of the Caribbean, such as the Bahamas and Bermuda. Among the more notable of these premier vessels was the CSS Advance which completed more than 20 successful runs through the Union Naval blockade before being captured. By the end of the Civil War the Union Navy had captured more than 1,100 blockade runners and had destroyed or run aground another 355 vessels. blocade running 2

The Last Heiress is a stand-alone historical romance, also set during the American Civil War. My heroine, Amanda Dunn is heir to the largest textile mill in Manchester, England. When the blockade of southern ports curtails the supply of cotton, her father sends her to Wilmington to restore trade. Her estranged twin sister, Abigail, eloped at 17 with an American cotton factor, and also lives in Wilmington. When Amanda falls for a local shopkeeper, class distinction, political loyalties, and family obligations guarantee a turbulent romance. The risky business of outmaneuvering the Union Navy became one of my favorite research assignments in The Last Heiress, available now in bookstores and online. The Last Heiress