Search This Blog

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book review: Gunslinger by Cynthia Breeding

48481822. sy475


Ex con-artist Abigail Clayton Sayer arrives in San Francisco as a mail-order bride, ready to make a fresh start. Putting her criminal life on the streets of New York behind her is what she intends—and marrying Mr. Travis Sayer was the answer to her prayers—until she learns he has been murdered by a fast gun!

Gunslinger Luke Cameron hadn’t meant to kill Sayer, but he couldn’t let the store owner drag a prostitute down the street by her hair. He’d only meant to wound Sayer, but someone had jostled Luke’s arm as he’d pulled the trigger. Now, here was Mrs. Travis Sayer, the married-by-proxy widow of the man he’d killed, newly arrived in San Francisco and wondering which end was up.

Or was she? Could it be that beautiful Abigail Clayton Sayer is already involved in her dead husband’s illegal activities—his partner in crime? Luke intends to find out—Even if it means exposing Abigail and her brother as the con-artists they were before they came to California—and losing her for good.

Someone else wants Abigail dead, but why? In a race against time, Luke must discover the truth about Travis Sayer’s business dealings and why someone is trying to murder his widow. Her only chance of survival now is to depend on the man who killed her husband…the GUNSLINGER.

My Review:

This was a fun twist on the usual gunslinger stories. Mixing a bit of insta-connection/attraction with slow burn, and a bit of mystery with intrigue, the Gunslinger provides a light-hearted but attention grabbing story.

I enjoyed getting to be in both Luke and Abigail's heads at they tried to figure the other out, keep secrets hidden, fight their attraction, and find their new place in life. Luke, while having a pretty tragic event in his past, didn't seem overly wounded or hardened (which is what you kinda expect for a gunslinger, or maybe what I've been conditioned to expect) - in fact, he proved himself to be quite put together and teasingly charming. I loved the moments where his protective instincts overflowed and he didn't back down - and the other moments where he refused to give in and kept pursuing what he (and Abigail) needed. Abigail was endearing in her street-smarts, her determination to leave her past and turn over a new leaf, and her sweet (but at times surprisingly confident) innocence despite her past. There was a moment of deja vu in the story, and I loved how the actions played out organically provided the confirmation Luke and Abigail needed in their relationship.

If you're looking for a easy to read story that provides some spice and mystery with a sweet love story, this would work!

Purchase links:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Liberty Bell and the Justice Bell

     “ … With liberty and justice for all.”

If you are a citizen of the United States or attended American public schools, you’ve probably repeated these words hundreds of times when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Nearly every American, and many people around the world are familiar with the Liberty Bell, but how many know about the Justice Bell?

Here is a brief story about the bells that symbolize two of our pillars of freedom – Liberty and Justice.

The Liberty Bell

In 1752, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly commissioned a tower bell to hang in the new State House in Philadelphia. The firm of Lester and Pack in London cast the bell with the requested lettering:

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA [sic] for the State House in Philada

In those days, the spelling on Pennsylvania with one ‘n’ was widely accepted. ‘Philada’ was short for Philadelphia.

The Assembly was not pleased with the quality of the bell as it arrived from England because it cracked the first time it was rung. They had it recast twice by John Pass and John Stow of Philadelphia before its sound was deemed satisfactory. Their last names appear on the bell.

The bell was initially used to call lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert citizens about public meetings and proclamations. Weeks before the British occupied Philadelphia in October 1777, the Liberty Bell and the city’s other bells were removed from the city and hidden. This was done prevent them from being melted down and used for cannon.

Philadelphia served as the nation's capital from 1790 to 1800. During that time, the bell called the state legislature into session and notified voters to turn in their ballots. It was also rung to commemorate Washington's birthday and celebrate the Fourth of July among other commemorations until the crack silenced it in the early 1840s.

In the early nineteenth century, the bell became the symbol for abolitionists. It was first called "the Liberty Bell" in an 1835 article that appeared in the New York Anti-Slavery Society's journal, Anti-Slavery Record. It has been know as the Liberty Bell ever since.

The Liberty Bell is now housed in Philadelphia at the Liberty Bell Center in the Independence National Historical Park.

The Justice Bell 

In 1915, a prominent member of the Pennsylvania Women’s Suffrage Association, Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger, commissioned a company in Troy, New York to cast of a near replica of the Liberty Bell for promoting the cause of women’s suffrage. This replica became know primarily as the ‘Justice Bell,’ but it is also known as the ‘Suffrage Bell’ and the 'Women’s Liberty Bell.’

The Justice Bell doesn’t have a crack and its inscription is slightly different:

Establish JUSTICE
Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof

To symbolize how women were being silenced by being unable to vote, the bell's clapper was chained to its side so it couldn’t ring.

The Justice Bell was loaded onto the back of a modified pickup truck and taken on a tour of all counties in Pennsylvania (67). The truck also carried a sign proclaiming “Votes for Women.” It also appeared in other states in support of the cause.

Wherever it went, the Justice Bell was greeted with dignitaries, parades and marching bands. Huge crowds gathered to see it, especially in large cities. On October 22, 1915, just days before Pennsylvania’s November referendum on women’s suffrage, the bell appeared a parade of approximately 8000 people in support of votes for women. Despite this show of support, the referendum was defeated.

After Congress passed the 19th Amendment, the Justice Bell toured other states to make people aware of the amendment which, if ratified. would give women throughout the United States the right to vote.

Thirty-six states needed to approve the amendment for it to become law. On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee General Assembly voted on adding the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By one vote, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Amendment and it became law.

The Justice Bell finally rang for the first time on September 25, 1920 at a ceremony held on Independence Square in Philadelphia. Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger led the celebration attended by a large crowd. The bell rang 48 times, once for every state in the union in 1920, symbolizing that women throughout the country had finally won the right to vote – 72 years after the suffrage movement began.

The Justice Bell is on permanent display at the Valley Forge National Park in the Washington Memorial Chapel.

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Medieval Curses and More - a blog for Halloween

Medieval people believed in magic, both good and bad. Spells and charms cast with evil intent were called curses and several have survived from that time. The Anglo-Saxons believed in both charms and curses, including a curse chanted against a wen or boil. The little wen is told to go away, to become smaller and vanish into nothing (Her ne scealt thu timbrien, it says - “Here not build your timbered house.”)

The Vikings also believed in the power of words and words for magic and curses. In one saga a witch called Busla issues a curse against King Hring, who has captured and threatened to kill Busla’s foster son. The curse is chanted at night (a good time for such dark matters) and Busla’s magical threats are made manifest.  In lines of poetry, the witch claims that her curse will cause Hring to go deaf, make his eyes to the leave their sockets,  make his bed like burning straw and make him impotent. In addition, any horse he rode would take him to trolls– and more.
“Shall trolls and elves and tricking witches,
shall dwarfs and etins (giants) burn down thy mead-hall…”
 The king is still reluctant and  Busla chants the strongest part of her curse, magic so dark that she does not utter it at night but which will cause Hring to be torn into pieces and flung into hell.  Faced with these gruesome outcomes, the king swears an oath to release his captives. The witch then stops the curse.

Curses could be used both as items to propel malice and as a curious form of protection. Curses were often attached to medieval and Anglo-Saxon wills, mostly to ensure the last wishes were observed, or for more day to day purposes.  The will of Siflaed (composed between 1066-68, soon after  the Norman conquest of England, which may explain the strength of the curse)  states “Whoever alters this, may God turn his face away from him on the day of judgment.”   The Will of Wulfgyth, dated 1046, promises that anyone who detracts from his will shall be denied all human comfort and joy and be delivered into hell “and there suffer with God’s adversaries without end and never trouble my heirs.”  

This form of invoking God by means of a curse to protect others remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.  In 1407, the Will of Thomas of Tyldeslegh gives a hundred shillings of silver to a John Boys to make him an apprentice in a trade and “If anyone hinder this, may God’s curse be upon him.”
Curses could be used by medieval people everywhere and in all circumstances. When a monk  in 1420 discovered that the monastery cat had peed  on the manuscript he had been copying, the monk cursed the cat and recorded his curse—with a small drawing, showing pointing hands toward the cat pee—

Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.

Which translates as:

Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

Curses as medieval swear words can be found in this article here:

The ultimate curse could be considered to be excommunication, where a person and a person’s soul is cut off from God and the comforts and body of the church. This was feared as a terrible punishment but was not seen as being permanent, since a person could make amends and have the excommunication lifted.  Bishops and popes used excommunication as a political weapon and means of control.

 Objects could also be used in a malicious way. An amulet containing such vile materials as human waste, a splinter of wood from a gibbet or menstrual blood might be hidden under a bed to cause anything from impotence to sickness. Corpses of dead animals, such as black mice, were sometimes wrapped in cloth and buried under a threshold to create trouble for the inhabitants. Sympathetic magic, where a witch would ‘milk’ a knife stuck in the wall of her cottage, would enable her to steal milk from a cow. In Lucerne in 1486 2 women were accused of making hail by pouring well water over their heads. In Coventry in the 14th century a sorcerer created a wax figure of his neighbor, then drove a spike into the figure’s head and then heart. The neighbor died. In the 1130s the Jews of Trier were accused of making a wax figure of the archbishop and melting it in a fire to cause his death.

Some people were believed to have the power in themselves of cursing others, particularly if members of their family had been accused of sorcery. In 1454 at Lucerne a woman called Dorothea  was widely believed to be an ill-wisher—her mother had been burned as a witch and Dorothea, being unpopular, was accused in her turn.

Certain things were considered to be inherently cursed or evil in the Middle Ages. The wood of the
elder tree was believed to be unlucky (it was said Judas had hung himself from an elder tree)and it was also thought to be a witches’ tree. Elder wood can easily splinter, so strictures against its use were in some ways sensible.  Juniper was another plant with a mixed reputation. Although a sprig of juniper was believed to protect the wearer from curses, to dream of juniper was said to foretell bad luck or a death.

What could protect against curses? Rowan was said to be a strong protector. The rowan tree, taken from the Norse “runa” meaning charm, was often planted close to houses to protect the household  against evil. Around Easter time medieval people would make small crosses from rowan wood to give further safety to the house.

Illness, famine, flood, plague and all manner of misfortunes in the Middle Ages were believed to be either due to God’s anger (as with the Black Death) or the result of a curse. Given the state of knowledge about the natural world at that time, the idea of deliberate evil by a person (or in some cases an animal) makes a strange kind of sense. Moreover people were comforted when they could use prayers, amulets, witch bottles and, in extreme cases, the law to protect themselves against the occult forces.

Belief in magic was strong in the Middle Ages. I write about curses and have characters use, or fight against them, in Dark Maiden, The Snow Bride and its forthcoming sequel A Summer Bewitchment. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

An Interview with Abi

In celebration of C. A. Asbrey's latest, In All Innocence, I thought it would be fun to have the protagonist of my novel Courting Anna interview her series heroine, Abigail.  Thanks to Christine for playing along -- Abi's responses are hers.  

Manuscript found in a file of old documents pertaining to 19th century lawyer Anna Harrison Brown, a copy of which was sent to author Cate Simon by a historian at the University of Montana. 

Abigail . . . MacKay, is it?  I’m so pleased to meet you – when I found out you’d be passing through Chicago at the same time I was, I couldn’t resist asking for this interview.  I’m a member of the Equity Club.  We’re a corresponding society of women lawyers throughout the United States and territories, and if you can believe it, we have over a hundred members.  Of course, we’re very interested in other roles that women take with regard to the law, and some time ago, I had the opportunity to meet with another female Pinkerton.  She wasn’t free to speak as she was still working for the agency. One of the first things she said to me was, “Get Abi if you can – she has some stories she could tell . . . . “

So, my first question is, how did you join the Pinkertons?

Thanks, Anna. I’m happy with MacKay as I’ve used numerous names in my life. MacKay is the name I was born with, and Scottish women never legally lose their maiden name.

It’s lovely to meet a fellow professional woman. It’s so rare to meet one at all, let alone in a different field. I couldn’t resist tagging this meeting onto a visit with my sister. She lives in Chicago after her husband was hanged for murder, but that’s a whole other story. Anyway, I digress.

We had immigrated from Scotland, and my father started a distillery in Brooklyn. He did very well and made a fortune, but fell prey to a protection racket. Being very stubborn, and obstinately fearless, he refused to pay up. Allan Pinkerton had been a friend of my father’s back in Scotland. They were both chartists, and came into contact professionally as my father made whisky, and Allan Pinkerton made barrels. It was logical that my family would turn to him for help, and even more logical that Allan Pinkerton would have a vested interest in finding the killer of an old friend.

I fell into the Pinkertons almost by accident. I had no idea women did this kind of work. Prior to that, I was living a happy domestic life with my lawyer husband, and expecting a child. I thought my life was mapped out for me.

I was very close to my father, and shared his love of science and books. I was devastated when he was killed, especially as the murder came just a few months after I lost my husband to peritonitis. I actually found the body, and the stress caused me to lose the baby boy I was carrying. I developed a deep melancholia, and found myself unable to eat or get out of bed. After a few weeks I found myself obsessing over the murder, and on getting justice for my father. Poking around and asking questions gave me something to get up for, and before I knew it I was pushing myself deep into the investigation and trampling all over the carefully-laid work the Pinkertons were already doing.  Allan Pinkerton was simultaneously annoyed and impressed by how far I got, but said I was easier to control if he actually employed me. We did solve the murder, and as I’d lost the people I cared for most in the world, I thought I might as well help others get the same justice. I had dreamed of having a family and a home, but those things had gone. Being a Pinkerton Detective gave my life some meaning.                    
 What a fascinating story; and I’m so very sorry.  I was lucky enough to practice law with my father for a number of years before we lost him.  So you came to the Pinkertons through tragedy, but from what my informant tells me, you flourished there.  What did you enjoy – or value? – most about the job?

Helping people. Especially people who don’t have a voice; the poor, the women, the children, the immigrants, and all those who lack the ability to fight back. That’s a quality I get from my father. Being a chartist he believed strongly that ordinary people should have a voice. Allan Pinkerton shared that belief, and employed black men and women as agents, as well as white women like me. I like to think I made a difference, and put away some truly evil people. 

That’s marvelous.  We’ve – that is, my father and I, and now my partner, Jonathan Cranbrook, and I, have reached out to people who need our help, too – in particular a number of the natives whose lands are nearby – the Blackfeet and the Crow nation.  And recently we learned how difficult it was for a woman, a close friend of ours with every reason on her side, to obtain a divorce.  What was your greatest challenge?

The answer to that will always be the personal challenges; when people close to me are hurt or killed. Those impact on me very deeply, and I have a tendency to be almost paralyzed by grief before it galvanizes me into action.  I think too deeply about things, and hold my feelings inside rather than always express them.  That’s not always a good thing, as they can turn bad and poison the soul. My husband has taught me to flush them out.  On the other hand, such tragedies have given me a special insight into the pain and suffering of victims, so I try to turn that into a positive force for good.
I think all of my most challenging cases involved children. They are especially vulnerable to exploitation.     

Oh goodness, yes.  It can be heartbreaking.  I’ve taken in several orphan girls over the years, and it’s overwhelming to think how many more there are out there with no one to help them.
You must have encountered some interesting opponents during your time at the agency. Who would you say was your greatest adversary?

If you mean greatest, as in best, that would definitely be my husband. We were on different sides of the law when we met. I was even sent to bring him in, but he most definitely wasn’t what I expected. Most criminals are stupid, so when they talk about a clever criminal it’s all relative, and most are still pretty dumb. Nat was different. He had a brilliant, quicksilver mind. He is mostly self-taught, and like most autodidacts, he has an expansive and eclectic set of skills. We share a love of science and an interest in new technologies, so really enjoy attending exhibitions and fairs to see them demonstrated.

I expected to meet a cunning, ruthless, and selfish outlaw. The man I met was charming, funny, humane, and damaged. Circumstances robbed him of his childhood, and he was raised by an uncle only a little older than he was. Jake found them a room at a brothel and did odd jobs around the place to allow Nat to attend school. As you can imagine, under those poor influences, they quickly drifted into a life of crime. Unfortunately, they were very good at it, and petty crime turned into grand larceny. We both fought our attraction for a long time as it could destroy both our lives.

Eventually though, the inevitable happened. Both Nat, and his uncle Jake, decided to go straight. I’m happy to say they turned into honest and productive members of society.   

I think you know full well I didn’t mean best, but most challenging – however, it sounds like the answer would be the same in either case – and quite a story it is!  I met my own husband through the bars of a sheriff’s lockup when I was called in to defend him, so I’m hardly one to judge, in any case.  But presumably you had some interesting coworkers, as well.  Who would you say was your staunchest ally? 

Apart from Nat and Jake, that would be a lady called Dr. Davida Cadwalader – Vida for short. She worked for the Pinkerton Detective agency during the war as an agent and was arrested for spying. She escaped. but continued working for the agency. The war gave her an opportunity to move from nursing to studying medicine, and she became a doctor. From there she travelled to Zurich to study under Wilhelm Wundt, and became what most people call an alienist, but she sometimes calls herself a psychologist.

She not only trained me when I joined the agency, but helped me work through my deep melancholia at losing my baby. We soon became fast friends, even though she’s much older than me. She’s very brave and loyal, and an adherent of rational dress, she often wears a man’s frock coat and top hat. Vida doesn’t care a jot what people think of her. She’s the person I turn to for unqualified support, as my family can never know I was a Pinkerton Detective. They think I work as a governess, just to keep myself busy, and they really wouldn’t understand the dangers and pressures I’ve faced. My life was a secret even to my family.

Vida and Nat clashed when they first met, but they soon came to understand one another.

I’ve had an opportunity to look over some of your case files, and I’m fascinated by your knowledge of forensics – not something I’ve had much of a chance to study.   Can you tell me a little bit about your background in the science of solving crimes?

I was always interested in science, and my father encouraged me. I very much doubt he ever thought I’d use it professionally, but he did encourage me to get an education. He thought I might be able to help my children with their own studies. He supported women being educated as it meant that their families were more likely to prosper. He came from a poor background and knew the value of education.

The agency was very keen to use the scientific methods being used to solve crimes in Europe. The works of people like James Marsh, Alexander Lacassagne, Hans Gross, Joseph Bell, Edmund Locard, Henry Goddard, Alphonse Bertillon, and William Herschel all inspired Allan Pinkerton to use the most modern methods in solving crime. He also saw the benefits of keeping files on criminals and criminal intelligence, and I have found these records invaluable in solving crime. It’s how I found out my sister’s husband’s previous wives all died in suspicious circumstances. It helped save her life.

There are tests we can conduct ourselves after training, and people like Vida and Doctor MacIvor are employed to help the detectives with more complex scientific matters. I have to say I enjoy that side of things and try to keep up to date with all the advances.

I carried a basic kit of chemicals, and a microscope, for work in the field. I enjoyed the challenge of analyzing clues to find the culprit. I actually miss it sometimes.      

I know a bit about William Herschel, anyway.  I understand his sister Caroline was quite an astronomer, herself.  Of course, she didn’t have the same opportunities that he did.  Which brings me to my next question:  one of the biggest objections to women in both of our professions is that we belong in the home, being protected by our menfolk from the cruel and dangerous world.  In a case that my legal sisters will remember well and unhappily, Bradwell v. Illinois, Justice Bradley, of the U.S. Supreme Court, went so far as to say it was the law of the Creator.  What do you make of that?

Ha! I’ve seen too many women who needed to be protected from the menfolk to fall for that. Women are at the forefront of tragedy and cruelty all the time. We care for the sick, wash the dead and prepare them for burial. We give birth, wipe bottoms of the young as well as the extremely old, and routinely make a very little go a long way. We carry the emotional burden for the whole family, and face violence in the home which we are expected to either tolerate, or cover up. That attitude isn’t protecting people; it’s making them less prepared to face reality, and keeping people from reaching their full potential. Strength isn’t a male or female quality. It’s a human one. Sometimes even the strongest can be weak, and it’s good for a strong man to have someone to fall back on. That person is often a wife, mother, sister, daughter, or aunt. Many women don’t want to do the work either of us have done, and that’s just fine. Many men don’t either. However, if we’re both capable and keen I can see no reason why we shouldn’t – and that goes for men too. One of the reasons many of us came to the USA is that the social strictures of the old world stopped clever men from a lower class from moving up in the world. I look forward to a day when people of both genders are limited only by their abilities. I wonder if that will ever happen.

Speaking of matters domestic – I’m told you’re quite a cook.  That’s a talent I envy and do not share; fortunately for my nearest and dearest we’ve never been in a situation where anyone’s had to survive on my cooking for any period of time.  Tell me about your favorite thing to cook – although my readers and I are lady lawyers, we are still ladies, after all.

Oh, yes. I love to cook. I find it very relaxing, and do my best thinking when doing mundane things like peeling and chopping. Some people think it’s odd that women could want both a career and a family, but I don’t find it odd in the least. I want to explore everything nature gave me. 

While a number of our members are single ladies, others of us are married – and I firmly believe that every woman should make the choice that’s right for her.  It’s simply that we should have choices, the same as men do.  But back to food!

There’s a Scottish desert called Cranochan which my family love. It’s usually made with honey, toasted oats and whisky. I hate whisky, despite my family making their fortune in it, so I’ve made my own version, which I call Twisted Cranochan. It couldn’t be simpler. Raspberries and the orange liqueur go beautifully together.

Twisted Cranochan
For the shortbread
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour

Thoroughly cream sugar and butter until it . Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a surface floured with remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Knead dough until it cracks on the surface. If it doesn’t come together add a little buttermilk to help it blend.
Roll out 1/4-inch thick and cut out with cutters. Prick with a fork tines in lines and place on gray paper or on greased and floured baking sheets. Bake in a hot oven for about 45 to 55 minutes or until lightly browned.

For the cranochan
At least 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 pound of fresh raspberries (out of season you can use canned)
Around 7 tablespoons of triple sec or Grand Marnier
Crumbled shortbread to taste
Whip the cream and place some of the raspberries in the bottom of a dish. Liberally sprinkle with the alcohol to taste. Top with crumbled shortbread. Add a layer of whipped cream. Repeat these steps until the dish is full. Individual tall glasses can be used if preferred.   

That sounds delightful! 

You mentioned that your husband was once your adversary; I told you in response that mine was once a client.  Jeremiah had a past – there was a pretty big reward out on him when we first crossed paths, and until the statute of limitations ran out on some of the things he'd done, he was always looking over his shoulder.  But he’d changed his ways before we ever met, and I knew how hard he was striving to lead an honest life.  Anyway, as a defense attorney I always look for the good in my clients, and it wasn’t hard to find, in his case.  But a Pinkerton and her quarry – that is quite a romantic story, I’m certain.  Do you mind telling me a little more, off the record?

Nat was special. He had something unique which shone through the rough patina. I’ve spoken to enough criminals to know that nobody is all good, or all bad. We all have a darker side, and many criminals also have a softer side. What was refreshing about Nat was that he was honest about being dishonest. He didn’t deliver a sob story, even though he actually had one. He didn’t justify his crimes, even though I found out much later that he hit out at the organizations which orphaned him, and which tried to sell him and his uncle as cheap labor as children. He never robbed ordinary people, and had a code of morality regarding violence. I’m not defending him. Nobody excoriated his terrible choices more than me, but there was a genuine humanity and decency at his core. I pushed him to make a choice between honesty and dishonesty, and even though he couldn’t change his past, he could change his future.

I know lots of women think they can change a man. I’m cynical enough and experienced enough to know that you can’t. I didn’t change Nat - he’s still the same old rogue. He’s still a mixture of good and bad, but we all are. Just like everyone else he makes choices which enhance his life. It used to be easy money, poker, and a wild life. The difference is that now is his home, career, and family enhances his life.

But hey, on top of all that we all like to flirt with danger sometimes. I know I did. We just don’t expect it to get serious.

Indeed.  I was engaged when I was young, and after my fiance died, I’d decided that no other man would ever understand me the way that he had.  And so I was determined to stay single.  In a strange way, danger was my safe choice, since Jeremiah wasn't in a position to settle down, not when we first met.  But life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?

It’s been delightful to meet you and hear your story, and I’m sure our members will be fascinated by your career – and by that wondrous-sounding dessert!   All the best for whatever’s next for you and yours, and I hope our paths cross again.

Further research found that the answers to all but the last of these questions were published in the Equity Club’s Annual for 18--.

Read more about Abi in the Innocents Series:

C.A's Social Media:
Blog - C.A Asbrey - all things obscure and strange in the Victorian period
The Innocents Mystery Series Group 

Read more about Anna in Courting Anna:

Cate's Social Media:
Website & Blog:
Newsletter:  Coming Soon
Twitter: @CateSimon3

Thursday, October 17, 2019

New Release - Gunslinger: A Six Guns and Prairie Roses Novel by Cynthia Breeding

Ex con-artist Abigail Clayton Sayer arrives in San Francisco as a mail-order bride, ready to make a fresh start. Putting her criminal life on the streets of New York behind her is what she intends—and marrying Mr. Travis Sayer was the answer to her prayers—until she learns he has been murdered by a fast gun!
Gunslinger Luke Cameron hadn’t meant to kill Sayer, but he couldn’t let the store owner drag a prostitute down the street by her hair. He’d only meant to wound Sayer, but someone had jostled Luke’s arm as he’d pulled the trigger. Now, here was Mrs. Travis Sayer, the married-by-proxy widow of the man he’d killed, newly arrived in San Francisco and wondering which end was up.
Or was she? Could it be that beautiful Abigail Clayton Sayer is already involved in her dead husband’s illegal activities—his partner in crime? Luke intends to find out—Even if it means exposing Abigail and her brother as the con-artists they were before they came to California—and losing her for good.
Someone else wants Abigail dead, but why? In a race against time, Luke must discover the truth about Travis Sayer’s business dealings and why someone is trying to murder his widow. Her only chance of survival now is to depend on the man who killed her husband…the GUNSLINGER.


San Francisco, 1869

     Abigail Clayton stepped onto the Long Wharf platform and brushed flecks of cinder off the shoulder of her pelisse as she tried not to choke on the sooty smoke spewing from the locomotive’s stack.
     Criminy. The train journey from New York had been an exhausting eight days even though the conductors bragged about the speed of the latest engine. Her bones had been rattled by the clanking of iron wheels on metal tracks, her teeth practically jarred loose, and every muscle ached. All Abby wanted was a hot bath and a real bed instead of a hard bench for a berth.
     But first, she needed to find her husband…if only she knew what he looked like.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Ohio Firelands

Before I relocated to North Carolina, I returned to Ohio after an absence of several decades, and ended up in a part of the state previously unexplored by me, despite having spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Ohio. One of the things I noticed was the constant reference to the Firelands. On nearly every corner in my newly adopted part of the state, there are schools, medical centers, churches, credit unions, a cattle company, grocery stores, retirement centers—all with the Firelands name. I asked people every chance I got what the Firelands was in reference to, but no one had a good explanation.

So, being the historian that I am, I decided to find out. What I didn’t expect was to find was the origin of the name had its roots in Connecticut, nor did I suspect the roots would go back as far as the Revolutionary War. 

New London, CT at the time of the Revolution was an excellent deep water harbor town. To avoid the increased taxes the British placed on all goods coming to the colonies, New London became a haven for smuggling. Its warehouses were brimming with equipment and supplies to fight the British. 

Connecticut was also a major source of manufacturing. Badly needed supplies and materials were shipped to the Continental Army, which inflamed the British, who burned most of the manufacturing plants to destroy this supply line. The raids got out of hand and much civilian property was lost or damaged.

Fort Griswold, on the other side of the Thames River from New London, in the town of Groton, was the site of action between an outmanned force of Confederates and the British. After a brief, fierce battle, the Americans laid down their weapons. Both New London and Groton were almost entirely destroyed.

After the war, these “fire-sufferers” petitioned the state for compensation for their losses. In 1792, the legislature agreed to pay 1,870 citizens by giving them land from the 500,000 acres set aside from the Connecticut Western Reserve. This represents a unique event in the history of America, since at no time before or since have civilian victims of a war been given payment for their sacrifice with land. The land had to be surveyed and divided into tracts, which took four years, from 1808 to 1812. Each tract was assigned a number and, depending on the amount of loss suffered by each resident, they were allowed to draw one or more numbers. 

By the time all the petitioners’ complaints were reviewed, the land surveyed and an equitable solution to distribution figured out, many of the original “sufferers” were either dead or too old to resettle in this rugged land. It took forty days of hard travel to get from Connecticut to the Ohio Firelands. Population and the formation of towns in northwest Ohio began in 1808. Towns in the Firelands district today are named after their Connecticut counterparts–Danbury, Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, New Haven, New London, Norwalk and Ridgefield.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fall In Missouri

I have company - a dear friend from Texas and his niece, whom I haven't seen in nearly 2 decades. So I don't have research time at the moment. So I thought I'd share one of my favorite things...

Two weeks ago, we had high temperatures in the upper 90s. Last week, in the upper 80s. This week--Fall has arrived! Lows dipping into the 40s, highs only reaching the 70s. To me, this is perfect weather. I love Fall!

And the added bonus? The leaves begin to turn those magnificent colors of autumn. Everywhere there will be reds, oranges and, because Missouri is the oak tree capital of the world, lots of yellows.
I live in a beautiful part of the country. Rolling hills covered in trees, limestone cliffs, lakes and streams for fishing and boating, and… Fall.

How about you? Is it Fall where you are?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Book review - In All Innocence by C.A. Asbrey


Nat and Abigail have decided that Canada is their best bet for a clean start with their new baby. It’s the place where American and Scottish accents go relatively unnoticed, and newcomers can get lost in a crowd. The problem is that Canada doesn’t have a transcontinental train, so they have to sneak back into the USA to get to the West coast.

They catch a night train heading over the mountains, and are delighted to find it’s one of the new Palace cars, designed to allow people to sleep, and get the remote areas behind weary travelers. The train is packed full of English butlers heading west to join a new employment agency. They hope to make a fortune providing the New World nouveau riche with the Old World class, which they are desperate to buy for their children.

When the train is stuck in a rock fall, they find that a woman has been attacked in the night, and her moonstone stolen. Our heroes decide it’s best to solve the mystery rather than face too many questions.

They unravel a mystery which has evil tentacles reaching across oceans. Will they be caught up in them too?

My review:

Buckle up and brace, because CA Asbrey’s IN ALL INNOCENCE is going to take you on a train ride turned rollercoaster and leave you gobsmacked.

The Quinn family is looking to settle down someplace and leave their past in the past, but of course, somehow manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a murderer becomes cornered on the train with them.  Knowing they need to stay under the radar, the whole family - Abi, Nat, and Jake - focuses on identifying the murderer and protecting their fellow passengers - and themselves - before the law shows up and starts digging around, potentially ending their fresh start.   When the dust settles, they take off again to take possession of their new future, Jake veering off path from the others attempt to reclaim a piece of his past that continues to haunt his every waking and sleeping moment.

With altering points of view, I experienced the adventures Nat and Abi encountered and dove further into Jake’s heart-wrenching past. Moments of light-hearted intrigue are mixed with agonizing revelations, which propelled me through the story at an incredible pace and left me aching for more.

As with the three previous books, Nat, Abi, and Jake continue to capture my attention, drawing me into their story as if I were there experiencing the journey with them.  What did seem different in this story was a more intimate view into their personal lives - almost a tangible connection to the characters.  I have a feeling as their stories continue to unfold, that intimacy will continue to deepen.  I love seeing the bond they have with one another and the protective instincts displayed.

CA Asbrey proves herself to be a masterful storyteller with how she layers and weaves a mystery and throws out just enough hints to keep her readers guessing and off track.  She also knows how to deliver some hilarious moments in the midst of intensity, providing both a welcome relief and a pausing distraction.  My ebook is highlighted all over the place with eye popping and hair raising moments of “wait…. did that just happen?” and laugh-out-loud undercover humor.

If you love mystery and adventure, a generous helping of mirth, a charming bit of romance, and a continuing family saga, The Innocents series is one to open the covers and fall into, with In All Innocence being an amazing piece of the tale.  Just be prepared, because this part of Nat, Abi, and Jake’s journey isn’t going to end how one might expect - there’s more of their story to be told... and that might just leave you speechless.

Links to first three book reviews in THE INNOCENTS series:

book 1 - The Innocents
book 2 - Innocent as Sin
book 3 - Innocent Bystander

Purchase links:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rodeo Songs by Kaye Spencer – Part 2 of 4 – Countdown of Kaye’s 7 Favorite Rodeo Songs #rodeo #rodeosongs #prairierosepubs

This is Part 2 of my four-part series about my favorite rodeo songs, which came about because July 4, 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the Deer Trail Rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado. It was a rodeo from my younger days that I didn't miss.

You can read about my teenage rodeo years in Part 1 HERE.

Also in Part 1, I promised to post pictures of me as the Brush Rodeo Queen c. 1970 before this series is finished. I haven’t located those pictures yet. I will, though. I promise. Hopefully, I’ll have them for Part 3 in November.

Now, on to my favorite rodeo songs…

To remind us, coming in at Number 7 was Bad Brahma Bull sung by Chris LeDoux and Number 6 was Marty Robbins’ Strawberry Roan. The link above to the Part 1 blog has the videos of these songs.

Counting down, my Numbers 5 and 4 share the same theme:

Rodeo cowboy falls for a woman who breaks his heart and his spirit.

Number 5 is Bandy, the Rodeo Clown by Moe Bandy. It was released in 1975. Moe followed the rodeo circuit as a bull rider in his youth, but he turned to a career as a country music artist when the rodeo-related injuries weren’t worth the ride anymore.

Number 4 is another Marty Robbins song called All Around Cowboy (1979). Marty wrote this song, which isn’t surprising, since he wrote many of his songs.

Next month, Part 3 of my favorite rodeo songs will have Numbers 2 and 3. Any guesses?

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Stay in contact with Kaye here:

Images Courtesy:
Bull and rodeo clown: - license purchased for use
Rodeo Queen: Creative Commons license "At a small town rodeo (22)" by 4nitsirk