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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Tide Turns


     Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and members of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) continued to pursue suffrage, despite U.S. entry into World War I. They maintained their peaceful picketing of the White House and the U.S. Capitol, but the rhetoric denouncing Wilson’s behavior grew harsher. At the same time, the public sentiment was less tolerant of government criticism during wartime.

     On June 20, 1917, NWP members met Russian envoys with a banner proclaiming the United States was a democracy in name only. An angry mob tore the banner to pieces. The women continued to stand in silent protest. Two days later Lucy Burns and Katherine Morey were arrested for picketing, but were never brought to trial.

     Over the following days and weeks, more protesters were arrested. Because peaceful picketing was not against the law, they were charged with “obstructing traffic” even though they stood quietly near the White House fence and it was the crowd of onlookers who were actually obstructing sidewalk traffic. On June 27, six women were sentenced to three days in District jail after refusing to pay $25 fines for obstructing traffic. They were the first of 168 suffragists to serve prison time for picketing.

      The demonstrators carried a new banner on August 14, referring to the President as “Kaiser Wilson,” comparing him to German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II and accusing Wilson of being a despot over women who lacked a voice in government. An outraged crowd destroyed the banners, attacked the protesters and fired a gunshot at NWP headquarters. The police did little to intervene.

     After three days of brutal attacks by mobs and the police, six women were arrested and sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. Other NWP members continued their demonstrations and more were arrested.

     In mid-September, Senator Andrieus Aristieus Jones, chair of the Senate Woman Suffrage Committee, visited the Occoquan Workhouse and verified reports of improper treatment of the suffrage prisoners. The next day, his committee reported out the suffrage bill that had been languishing for six months. On September 24, the House of Representatives created a separate Woman Suffrage Committee

     Imprisoned picketer Lucy Burns, led an effort demanding suffragists be treated as political prisoners rather than criminals. She threatened a hunger strike if this demand was not met. A petition was secretly circulated among inmates. They smuggled it out and the demand presented to commissioners of District of Columbia. Every woman who signed the petition was put in solitary confinement.

     On October 20, Alice Paul was arrested. Two days later she was sentenced to seven months in Occoquan Workhouse. This was the longest sentence handed down.

     Paul and Rose Winslow began a hunger strike on November 5, after demands for political prisoner status were rejected. A week later, they were subjected to force-feeding three times a day for next three weeks. Paul was separated from other suffrage prisoners and transferred to psychiatric ward at District jail for “evaluation” in an effort to intimidate and discredit her. William Alanson White, the superintendent of St. Elizabeths (psychiatric) Hospital, interviewed her in a vain attempt to have her committed. White found Paul to be sane and “perfectly calm, yet determined.”

     New York women won the right to vote on November 6, 1917. The state was the first in the East to grant women’s suffrage.

     A large demonstration was held on November 10 to protest the treatment of Paul and the other suffrage prisoners. Thirty-one pickets were arrested, including Burns, who had just been released from prison. The women were sentenced to varying terms in the District Jail. Five days later they were transferred to Occoquan where the superintendent had just returned from a White House meeting of district commissioners.

     He summarily dismissed the suffragists’ demands for political prisoner status. Moments later, guards burst into the holding area. They carried, pushed, threw and beat the women into their cells and told them to remain silent. Lucy Burns started to call role in order to assure that all of the women were alive and conscious. Guards demanded she stop. When she continued, they handcuffed her to the bars of her cell all night with her arms above her head. This became known as the “Night of Terror.” The next day, 16 women went on a hunger strike. Nearly a week later, Occoquan officials begin force-feeding Lucy Burns and Dora Lewis followed later by Elizabeth McShane, as they were considered leaders in the women’s resistance.   

Lucy Burns

     On November 23, Burns and her fellow prisoners were taken to a small Alexandria, Virginia courtroom. The press and public were shocked by the bruised and sickly appearance of the women. Attorneys for the suffragists successfully argued for returning the women to the District Jail. A few days after their return to Washington, D.C., government authorities unconditionally released Paul, Burns, and the rest of the suffragists in response to increasing public pressure and the likelihood that their convictions would be overturned on appeal. In March, 2018, the U.S. federal appeals court declared the arrests and detainment of all White House suffrage pickets was unconstitutional.

     A vote on the suffrage amendment was scheduled in the House of Representatives for January 10, 1918. Under tremendous political pressure, Wilson publicly declared his support for the amendment the night before the vote.  The House passed the measure with 274 ‘yeas’ to 136 “nays.”                               

     Over the next six months, the NWP embarked on a number of efforts to win the vote.  Many former prisoners participated in a speaking tour called the ‘Prison Special,’ while others intensely lobbied the Senate for passage of the amendment. The national committees of both the Democratic and Republican parties endorsed the amendment.

     The Senate scheduled a vote on the suffrage bill for May 10, but opponents forced a postponement to June 27. The opposition threatened a filibuster, again delaying the vote.      

     On August 6, the NWP held a meeting in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C. Approximately 100 suffragists demonstrated in protest to the Senate’s inaction on suffrage amendment. Forty-eight women were arrested and released on bail, including Paul and Burns. Subsequent demonstrations led to more arrests. The women were tried, convicted and sentenced to the old District workhouse. Again denied political prisoner status, the women began hunger strikes. After a few days, the women were released before completing their sentences.

     Fall brought campaigns for the mid-term elections. The NWP opposed election of all Democratic senators, especially those in New Hampshire and New Jersey, where anti-suffrage candidates were running.

     New Mexico’s Senator Jones again introduced federal woman suffrage amendment in the Senate on September 26. After several days of debate, President Wilson addressed Senate asking for passage of the federal woman suffrage amendment as a war measure.

     On October 1, the Senate defeated the amendment, failing to achieve the required two-thirds majority by two votes. Supporters quickly added it to the Senate calendar for reconsideration.                   

     The NWP began picketing with banners in front of the U.S. Capitol and Senate Office Building on October 7. Demonstrators were arrested daily and released without charges.  Although harassed by unruly crowds, as well as antagonistic police, the pickets continued throughout October and November.

     World War I ended on November 11, 1918. On December 2, President Wilson urged passage of the federal woman suffrage amendment in his annual address to Congress, while police arrested NWP protesters outside.

     On February 10, 1919, the Senate again defeated the federal suffrage amendment, this time by one vote. NWP members met President Wilson in Boston upon his return from Europe on February 24. They carried banners reminding him of his pledge to support the suffrage amendment and lobbied him to pressure the Senate to pass the amendment before the March recess. The Senate failed to do so.

     The House of Representatives again passed the federal woman suffrage amendment on May 21, this time by a vote of 304 yeas to 89 nays, 42 more than the required two-thirds majority.

     On June 4, the Senate finally passed the federal suffrage amendment (19th Amendment) by vote of 56 yeas to 25 nays.

     The NWP launched a campaign to obtain ratification by 36 state legislatures–the required three-fourths majority at that time. With the war now over, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) also worked for the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Throughout the rest of 1919 and early 1920, 35 states ratified the amendment. But then months passed with no additional ratifications.                                 

     On August 9, 1920, Tennessee Governor William Roberts convened a special session of the state legislature to consider ratification. For the next 10 days, suffragists and antisuffragists waged intense lobbying efforts and public relations campaigns. On August 18 Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment. Antisuffragists tried to overturn the vote, but after six days of legal wrangling, the governor signed the certificate of ratification.

     On August 26, the 19th Amendment was signed into law—in time for the 1920 election.

     Millions of women across many generations fought for suffrage. To honor their sacrifices, we must make our voices heard. One hundred years later, the battle for the right to vote continues. Please cast your ballot in the 2020 election.

Ann Markim

Monday, October 26, 2020

Medieval People and their Pets.

In the Middle Ages women and men often doted on their pets. In York Minster, there is a portrait of the lap dog of Lady Margaret Roos, rendered in stained glass. The dog looks happy and sleek, with a belled collar. In the picture here of Tobias and Sara, a window of about 1520 from Cologne, the couple's pet dog is a sleepy symbol of wedded tranquillity. 

In other drawings of medieval pets, the British Library has a manuscript showing a woman with a pet squirrel while the Luttrell Psalter shows a collared pet squirrel as a sign of status. 

Birds were also popular. Jays and magpies - called 'pies' - were kept in cages and taught to copy speech. Larks and nightingales were kept for their sweet songs. 

Red squirrel photograph by Pawel Ryszawa (Wikimedia Commons)Cats in the Middle Ages were kept mainly as mousers, and also, more grimly, for their fur and skins. Yet cats were also treasured. Exeter Cathedral lists in its accounts from 1305 to 1467 the sum of a penny a week to feed the cathedral cats if the animals did not catch many mice in the main church. 

Dogs remained a favourite - so much so that nunneries tried and failed to ban the keeping of dogs as pets in various convents. Nuns were warned not to bring their pets into church and the pets included dogs, hunting dogs, rabbits, squirrels, birds and even monkeys. 

Hunting dogs and hawks were not officially pets, being used to hunt and bring extra food for the table and to provide sport and entertainment to their lords and ladies. However, hawks were also massive status symbols, given as kingly gifts and well-known as signs of wealth and power. As such they were pampered and displayed - so much so that perches were even brought indoors to their owners could have their falcons with them. In 1368 the Abbot of Westminster, Nicholas de Litlington, bought a wax image of a falcon to offer at the altar to help a sick falcon recover. Lay men and women often brought their pets into church - the men with hawks on their wrists and women with lap-dogs. 

From the Codex Manesse, Heidelberg, c.1304-1350Breeds of pets changed over time and some are unknown to us now. Medieval man in particular had a passion for hunting and bred horses and dogs for that activity. There were horses bred for stamina and long chases through woodland after quarry, sturdy beasts called coursers (chasers) And as a hunting dog, the big, deep-chested, long-legged alaunt was much prized. 

Pets could also be used as messengers, or as signals. This is what one of my younger characters does in my novel, "A Summer Bewitchment" (sequel to "The Snow Bride.")


“My name is Tancred Olafsson.”

Part Norman, part Viking, like her Magnus, Elfrida thought, smiling as the boy thanked her for a carrot and leek pie. Tancred flushed, possibly because of her smile, then steadied himself by addressing her husband.

“Rowena is my kin and we were brought up together. We are not close kin, not a cousin or any kind of consan–consan—”

“Consanguinity,” Magnus supplied helpfully. He bit into a pie himself and the two chewed companionably, although they looked very different. Tancred was short where Magnus was tall, a sturdy boy where Magnus was muscled and strapping. Fair, smooth-skinned and amiable, Tancred was very much a page in a great house, with the manners and fine clothes to match. His black cloak alone was worth one or two heavy bags of gold. Seated cross-legged beside him in his grass-stained tunic, Magnus appeared like a dark demon with a youthful charge.

“How old are you, Tancred?” she asked.

The lad’s apple-blossom skin took on a ruddy shade again. “Old enough to ride and follow tracks. When Rowena sent me her pet finch I knew I had to act.”

“So you were not sick?” Elfrida asked, and received a stare from the boy.

“I am never sick.”

“Your age, lad,” grunted Magnus.

“Twelve.” Tancred kicked the grass, then stopped when Magnus glanced at his leg.

“So the finch was a pre-arranged signal. Your parents and kin, will they not be missing you?” Elfrida persisted.

Tancred shrugged. “I can send them word,” he mumbled.

“We shall do that tomorrow,” Magnus said, “when I send a herald back with you to return you to your people.”

“Not so, my lord!” The boy surged to his feet, indignant as a ruffled cockerel. “I came to rescue Rowena! She needs me!”

“You know where she is?” Elfrida could scarcely believe their good fortune. Was it going to be this easy?

Tancred thrust out his chest and put his thumbs in his belt, perhaps imitating an older relative. “I know where she is not and where she never wants to be.”

“The nunnery?” Elfrida prompted.

Tancred blushed afresh and said nothing.

“Are you also Lady Astrid’s ward?” Magnus asked.


“Have you searched for Rowena?” Magnus went on.

“Yes! Everywhere I can think of and more.”

Elfrida hesitated then chose to be direct. “Do you think she ran away?”

“Why send me the finch, then? As you guessed, that was her signal for me to help.”

“And before you could give it, she vanishes,” Magnus observed. “Lady Astrid tells us Rowena was stolen away.”

Lindsay Townsend

Rebranding Cattle Rustler Style

 by Patti Sherry-Crews

Running Iron
This metal object might look as innocent as a candy cane, but getting caught on the range with this sticking out of your bedroll might put you on the receiving end of some frontier justice, strung up from the nearest tree. No judge, jury, or trial necessary. For there is only one thing this curved rod is used for and that's altering a brand on stolen cattle. It's called a running iron. (the one pictured above pulls apart into two pieces for easier concealment)

But before we get into why the running iron became the cattle rustler's favorite tool, let's put it in the context of cattle ranching practices in the old west.

Back in the day of the open range, cattle would roam freely, often mixing with herds belonging to other ranchers. When it was time for a cattle drive, the cowboys would "cut" the cows belonging to them from the rest of herd. But how did they know which animals belonged to them? Like it or not, that's where a red hot branding iron came in handy.

Branding Iron

The branding iron, opposed to the running iron, was made to stamp a ranch's unique brand into the hide. The symbols used have a language of their own. Variations to any one symbol could generate almost limitless names.  For instance an upside down letter was "crazy." A letter on it's side was "lazy". A half circle under a symbol made it "rocking". And then you had your bars, stars, numbers, and wings. I'm guessing the brand pictured above is a "flying W" given the wings.

In the early days cattle rustling wasn't quite as serious a crime as it was to become. In fact, that's how many ranchers started or increased their herds.

But then came the harsh winters of 1886-7. Ranchers caught unprepared for the deep snows that buried the cattle's food source, grass, for months had their herds almost wiped out due to starvation. After that, the disadvantage of open range ranching became painfully obvious. Instead cows were kept in fields behind barbed wire fencing, and hay was grown and stored for feed.

The emergence of the cattle barons in the late 19th century changed the landscape yet again. These large operations had no patience with the smaller ranch holders and their cattle rustling ways. They hired "regulators" to impose order. These regulators also known as "Stock Marshals" or "Stock Detectives" were man like hired gun, Tom Horn (later himself hung for murdering a defenseless boy in cold blood). These regulators used violence and intimidation to rid the land of small ranchers--cattle rustlers or not.

Now that we see why you didn't want to get caught with a running iron, you may be wondering how it worked. As "running" implies the hot iron was used to write on rather than stamp the hide. With a running iron an "F" could easily be turned into an "E" by the addition of a bar, for instance. Sometimes a wet blanket placed over the brand aided in blending the old with the alterations.  In a pinch a running iron could be improvised using any metal handy: wire, horseshoe, saddle cinches, or railroad ties. But these crude attempts were less likely to fool the stock detectives who kept a book of registered brands on them for reference.

The ingenuity of the rustler to alter brands is illustrated in the theft of cattle from the XIT ranch in Texas. The XIT operation was run by a British syndicate owned by Charles B. and John V. Farwell. One would think the XIT brand would a hard brand to disguise. Think again.

Incorporating a star and a bar cleverly hid the cattle barons brand, reminding us that whether it's the old west or modern day, there's always going to be somebody who finds a way around rules and regulations. Folks are clever that way.

Excerpt from His Unexpected Companion by Patti Sherry-Crews:

She stilled suddenly and swore under her breath, her

sights focused on something in the distance. Smoke curled

up in the air from an area a fire had no place being. She

strode over to Aces who was drinking from the trough where

she’d tied him and patted her shotgun shoved behind the saddle.

“Sorry about this. I know we just got back, but there’s

something I have to tend to.” She untied the horse, stepped

into the stirrup, and swung into the saddle.

She rode hard, closing the gap, all her senses on alert. But

as she got nearer and saw who was poking at the fire, she

saw this wasn’t a situation calling for a shotgun—just a


“What do you think you’re doing?” she shouted.

Mack and another ranch hand, Zeke, had already stilled

when they heard the horse approach. They stood there now

like two errant schoolboys caught out. Zeke shoved his

hands in his pants pockets and lowered his head, a plug of

tobacco bulging in one cheek.

Mack waved around at the head of cattle corralled into a

box canyon behind him. “We’re fixing to burn brands into

these cows. What does it look like?”

Olivia looked at the implements used to change the

brands on cattle: the wet blanket, the lariat coiled on the

ground, and the running iron heating in the fire. “I’m sorry.

I asked the wrong question. The question I meant to ask is,

have you lost the sense that God gave you?” She pointed at

the running iron, a long rod with a curled end used for alter-

ing brands. “If you even get caught with that it’s hanging


“No, look, Vee, this is real clever.” Wearing heavy raw-

hide gloves, Mack pulled the rod out of the fire. “You see

how it comes apart into two pieces so you can hide it easily.”

“You spent money on that? I always use a piece of bent

wire. That way, nobody can catch you out with something

made to alter a brand.”

“Yeah, but the results look crude, in my opinion. When I

use the running iron, you’d be hard pressed to tell it wasn’t

the original brand.”

“You should see what Mack does. It’s real artwork the

way he can turn any brand into your rocking star so nobody

can see it used to be something else,” said Zeke.

“I’m aware of Mack’s talent. That’s not my point.”

Mack frowned, disappointed to not be able to show off

his new tool. “What is your point?”

“The point is, Mack, that this is the kind of thing that got

my father killed. Those cows have a brand from the Lazy R

ranch. These fellas aren’t playing around. And you, with a

baby on the way. Who’d you steal the cattle from?”

Available at Amazon

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book review: Sisters by Lynna Banning



When Ellie Grenfell’s fiancĂ©, Deputy Sheriff Jack Mallory, is wounded in the line of duty, she does what she’s done her entire life—she sends for her older sister!

Widowed Verity Varner returns to Smoke River, Oregon, to help Ellie and serve as her chaperone until the wedding takes place. But shortly after Verity’s arrival, she realizes Jack’s wound has become infected, and he loses part of his arm.

Over the months of Jack’s recuperation and learning how to cope with his disability, Ellie reveals her selfishness and disinterest in Jack’s daily struggle. Verity understands the obstacles Jack faces, offering sympathy and encouragement—and she also understands something else: Ellie is not the person Verity thought she was.

All her life, Verity has been a surrogate mother to Ellie, putting her sister’s needs before her own. But, now, the unthinkable has happened—Verity and Jack have fallen in love, even as his wedding to Ellie draws ever closer. How can Verity choose between her love for Jack and her loyalty to Ellie? Will she risk her chance for true love to preserve the bond between SISTERS?

My review:

This book was a surprise for me!  With an “oh, I think you’ll really enjoy this story” encouragement echoing through my head, I picked it up intending to just read the first several pages to see if it would in fact capture my attention.  Two hours later I was a quarter of the way through the story and didn’t want to put it down!

The dynamics among the two sisters and Jack were so well fleshed out I was sucked into everyone’s point of view - and let me tell you, switching between the extremes sometimes was shockingly harsh - not in the way it was written, but literally feeling the emotions and struggles and attitudes of everyone was pulling me every-which-way and around again.  That part of the story-telling was right on target!

I warmed up quickly to Verity and enjoyed the strength she found within herself.  I could understand some of the choices she made, even though being on the outside I wished for different decisions.  I loved the way she stepped up to the plate and refused to let Jack fade away.  I also empathized with her struggle on dealing with Ellie.  Now that girl - she was a handful and then some!  You wanted to shake her as much as you wanted to just throw up your hands and walk away.  But then Ellie could turn around and have a moment where you thought just maybe she might...and then you’re just left bereft and wondering what happened.  I loved the way Jack battled his way through to finding himself again and watching how the two sisters nurtured that discovery in their own ways.  His determination, honor, and respect shown through his actions and words. 

I greatly enjoyed my time in Smoke River and discovering the town and its people, and watching Jake and Verity find their way to each other.  If you’re looking for an engrossing story filled with some family drama, all sorts of feels, and triumphant moments with just a dash of heart-pattering steam, you found a book to try.  Maybe you’ll be surprised, too.

Purchase links:


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Sons of Liberty

 When I first began my series about the American Revolutionary War, I knew the war would not be simply a backdrop for my stories, but rather an integral part of it. And, although the main characters are purely the product of my imagination, I wanted to use real people from the Revolution as part of the cast of characters. What better group of men to associate my Revolutionary Women characters with than the original bad boys–the Sons of Liberty. An author friend of mine said if the Revolutionary War happened today, the Sons of Liberty would be on motorcycles, wearing black leather, and have multiple tattoos. I have a feeling she's right. Even though the men featured in this series are fictional, they rub shoulders with some real-life men who were integral to the cause. The most predominant one in Book One, and the one most people identify with is Samuel Adams.

 At the time I began my journey I knew that Samuel Adams was a firebrand, who helped stoke the flames of the Revolution, but I had no knowledge as to why this was so important to him. Why did this man have a driving need to free his homeland from England? The answer surprised me and brought clarity to a lot of stories about him. 

Samuel Adams was born in Boston in 1722, one of twelve children of Samuel Adams, Sr., and Mary Fifield, a religious and politically active family. He was a cousin to John Adams, who later became a president of the new country of the United States. The senior Adams was a prosperous man and church deacon in the Puritan faith. He became very active in local politics and was a leading figure in what became known as the Boston Caucus. He rose through the ranks to become a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. One of the duties of the House of Representatives was to carefully watch for any encroachment by England into the rights of the colonists that had been embodied in the Massachusetts Charter of 1691. 


In 1739, members of the House of Representatives reacted to a currency shortage by establishing a “land bank” which issued paper money to homeowners in exchange for holding a mortgage on their land as collateral. Opposition by loyalists to the crown forced the dissolution of the bank in 1741 and the directors of the bank, including Adams, Sr., were held personally liable for all the currency still in circulation, payable in gold and silver. The British seized much of Deacon Adams’ property and finances, gutting the family’s wealth and leading to numerous lawsuits against the family. Deacon Adams, and later, Samuel Adams, Jr., had to constantly battle against the British government to defend what was left of their family estate from the hands of the British. These lawsuits were a constant and very personal reminder to the younger Sam Adams about the power the British held over the colonies. 


Several failed attempts at business propositions later, the younger Samuel Adams joined his family’s malthouse. Several generations of the family had been in the malt business, an essential element of beer production. But Sam, Jr. was more interested in politics than in beer production. He began penning essays against the British rule in America as early as 1748, urging people to resist any encroachment on their constitutional rights. 


Following the costly French and Indian War, the British parliament found itself deeply in debt and thought to recoup some of its losses by imposing a tax on the colonies of British America. The Sugar Act, The Stamp Act, and then the Townshend Acts attempted to raise revenue, but were all met with resistance. Unable to enforce these rulings, the governor petitioned the crown for military assistance. This was a turning point for Samuel Adams. Up until then, he was hoping for reform, but now realized the only path forward was complete and total independence from the mother country. In 1770, tensions spilled over, resulting in the now-infamous Boston Massacre. 


Adams kept dabbling in local politics and the colonies crept closer to total independence from Britain. Citing taxation without representation, struggles about power and taxes became a daily concern among Bostonians. Adams took a lead role in the famous Boston Tea Party and later became a major voice in both the First and Second Continental Congresses, which framed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. He was the founder of the Sons of Liberty, a formal underground group of citizens who were resistant to the crown and its taxes and laws. Some prominent members of this group were Benjamin Edes, publisher of the Boston Gazette, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Isaiah Thomas, Benjamin Kent and James Otis. This group was responsible for establishing a network for disseminating information among the colonies about the British troop movements, smuggling goods for use by the Continental Army, and for painting large Ts over the doorways of any Tory businesses in Boston proper. Samuel Adams is now considered one of America’s founding fathers for the role he played in crafting the ideals of liberty and uniting the colonies in their quest for freedom from tyranny. One of Adams’ famous quotes seems quite fitting for today’s political landscape.


“If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”



In 1985, the Boston Beer Company appropriated the name Samuel Adams to use on what is now a best-selling brand of lager, citing Adams’ early involvement in the family malt business. Two non-profit organizations have also attached his name to their work, paying homage to his skills at organizing citizens at a local level in the quest for a national goal. 

Anne WhitneySamuel Adams, bronze and granite statue, 1880, located in front of Faneuil Hall, which was the home of the Boston Town Meeting


Monday, October 19, 2020

It's a review!

 My book Courting Anna, got a really lovely review in last month's Midwest Book Review.

 Diane Donovan's Bookshelf

Courting Anna: Women of Destiny features the educated female lawyer Anna Harrison, who operates in the milieu of 1880s frontier Montana Territory. Her latest case, rejected by the only other lawyer in town, revolves around Jeremiah Brown and Edward Marcus, young men identified as actually being the notorious Tommy Slade and Johnny Nevada - outlaws with a bounty on their heads.

Anna takes their case and discovers that Jeremiah is trying to dodge the law until the statute of limitations on his crimes runs out. She also discovers an unexpected attraction to him that threatens not just her carefully cultivated and rare (for a woman) career, but her efforts on the side of law and justice.

Neither anticipated falling in love - much less with the enemy. But their evolving feelings challenges their roles and trajectories in life, and as Anna and her ward Sarah ride out on a strange adventure, these emotions are deftly portrayed as both external and internal challenges loom: "He could conceal that, however, and appear simply charming and glib, when he wanted. Anna wondered if perhaps that was the real man, and if she'd just been reading more into him than was really there. She wondered, but she kept thinking, despite herself, of moments when his insights, his thoughtfulness, came to the fore."

It's unusual to have a Western story feature a feisty, educated female protagonist with a career of her own and the moxy to confront the male world around her. Cate Simon does a fine job of weaving romance into broader considerations of women's independence, perceptions of changing personalities and perspectives, and courtroom and wilderness dramas alike. The book will delight those looking for strong female characters whose determination, observations, and achievements leave room for growth, challenge, and revised trajectories in life.

 Anna's courtship isn't just a matter of setting aside her abilities or her goals, but involves becoming more open to new possibilities both within herself, as an accomplished frontier lawyer, and in others, who are working to turn their lives onto different paths.

 The underlying story of her relationships and prejudices not just about men and criminals, but her fellow woman, are particularly well-drawn and compelling: "Anna might have passed Nellie dozens of times or even hundreds, but she'd never seen her - all she would have seen is one of those women. And a lady like she was didn't speak to those women. It was the way people looked through her on the street now, and she found herself feeling sympathy for the fallen sisterhood, for the first time. Many a formerly "respectable" woman in her own situation, without the annuity and the property her father had left her, or the too-generous insistence of Jonathan in adhering to the letter of their partnership and continuing to split their fees - now almost exclusively his fees - would have ended up as one of them."

 The result is a highly recommended, unusual Western featuring a woman lawyer who is charged with cross-examining her own emotions and prejudices.

 Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer

Donovan's Literary Services

Courting Anna: Women of Destiny

Cate Simon

Prairie Rose Publications

9781081299880, $12.00 Paper, $3.99 ebook


Thursday, October 15, 2020

New Release — Sisters by Lynna Banning


When Ellie Grenfell’s fiancĂ©, Deputy Sheriff Jack Mallory, is wounded in the line of duty, she does what she’s done her entire life—she sends for her older sister!

Widowed Verity Varner returns to Smoke River, Oregon, to help Ellie and serve as her chaperone until the wedding takes place. But shortly after Verity’s arrival, she realizes Jack’s wound has become infected, and he loses part of his arm.

Over the months of Jack’s recuperation and learning how to cope with his disability, Ellie reveals her selfishness and disinterest in Jack’s daily struggle. Verity understands the obstacles Jack faces, offering sympathy and encouragement—and she also understands something else: Ellie is not the person Verity thought she was.

All her life, Verity has been a surrogate mother to Ellie, putting her sister’s needs before her own. But, now, the unthinkable has happened—Verity and Jack have fallen in love, even as his wedding to Ellie draws ever closer. How can Verity choose between her love for Jack and her loyalty to Ellie? Will she risk her chance for true love to preserve the bond between SISTERS?


Verity bent over the feverish private, a soldier she did not recognize, and dipped the scrap of muslin into the basin of water for what seemed like the hundredth time. An hour ago, the post doctor had dug an arrowhead out of the boy’s back, but because he’d ridden a day and a half before reaching the fort, his wound was now infected. She squeezed out the excess water and again bathed his bare back, then slid the cloth around to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

Just as she drew the cooling fabric down his backbone, the door burst open and a burly orderly stepped inside. “Telegram, Miz Varner.” He waved a folded piece of yellowed paper at her.

“Thank you, Jasper.” She reached her free hand to take it from the grey-bearded man, slid it into the pocket of her canvas work apron, and continued sponging the boy’s back.

The orderly retreated and she heard his boots clump on down the hallway. Who on earth would be sending her a telegram? The only person who knew she was still here at Fort Hall was her sister, Ellie, and—

Her heart dropped into her stomach. Something has happened. She dropped the cloth into the basin and hurriedly scrabbled in her apron pocket for the telegram.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

It takes more than a hanging to end a 200-year-old curse... by Kaye Spencer #westernromance #novelette #paranormalromance #prairierosepubs

Happy October Everyone!

My paranormal western romance novelette, For Love of a Brystile Witch, is a spooky-lite quick read.

I played ‘what if’ to come up with the plot. Here’s how it went:

What if a woman hanged as a witch in 1692 New England put a death curse on the hanging judge and a curse of sorrow on the women of the Brystile line in the moments before she was hanged?

What if, 200 years after the hanging, fate brought together the last living woman from the accused witch’s family and the last man from the judge’s family in order to break the curse?

What if love and forgiveness between the last man and last woman is the only way to end the curse, but the two families have ancestral hate for each other?

What if a critical time factor is added so the man and woman have only a month to right this 200-year-old wrong before time runs out for both families and people die?


What if only one of them knows this?

The story…

Mercy Pontiere is the last ‘daughter’ in a long line of heredity witches. Two hundred years ago, Reid Corvane’s ancestor condemned the “Brystile witch” to hang. On the gallows, she placed a curse of short life and great suffering on the men of the Corvane line.

As the years passed, unintended consequences developed that impacted both families.

If Mercy overcomes two centuries of generational hatred to find love and forgiveness for Reid, and if he returns her love, the curse will be broken. Mercy thinks time is her ally; Reid’s time is running out.

Love must find them by midnight All Hallows’ Eve, or the Brystile witch will claim the life of another Corvane man. Reid has thirty-one days and counting…

The excerpt…

Reid needed no urging to mount the steps and, in spite of herself, Mercy kept watching. He ascended with an easy gait, the ball of each polished boot touching lightly upon the next plank. Once on the platform, he turned toward the crowd, head bowed and hat brim throwing a shadow over his features. Sheriff Samuel Dunne and Axel Moser, the valley’s minister of twenty some years stood on either side of the condemned man, and the deputies took watchful positions behind them and off the trap door...

The sheriff’s voice rose above the crowd’s murmurings. “If you have any last words, speak them now.”

For the longest time, Reid didn’t move. The quiet in the street became quieter. A baby cried; a woman shushed it. The autumn breeze ceased blowing. Mercy held her breath, entranced by the scene playing out before her. When he lifted his chin, she sucked in a little gasp of pity. His eyes—such sadness—maybe it was regret. Whatever his pain, it was deeper than the prospect of leaving this life in a few minutes. Did he deserve to die like this? Alone? With no one here to mourn his passing? Certainly, she didn’t know, but she blinked away tears for him nonetheless.

His deep voice resonated through the silent streets. “I hold the world, but as the world…a stage where every man must play a part. And mine is a sad one.”

A gasp of sorrow at his utter hopelessness left Mercy’s lips and, as if he’d heard, he caught her gaze with his, holding it in a way that made her feel he was memorizing her face as the last tender sight he’d take with him to the grave.

Sheriff Dunne waited a few seconds for the man to say more. When nothing came, he addressed the crowd. “As the duly appointed legal authority in Dulcet Valley, I hereby declare this hanging to proceed this first day of October 1892. The condemned will hang by the neck until dead, and his body will be interred in the local cemetery with a gravestone bearing his name, birth, and death dates. As per his signed and witnessed last requests, his epitaph will read, Teach me to feel another’s woe. Reverend Moser will settle his debts and notify next of kin.”

Those words—

She knew the poem and went on in her head with the next lines…to hide the fault I see / that mercy I to others show / that mercy show to me. It was strange that the word mercy, her given name, would show up in duplicate at this moment. Two of any one thing meant balance, partnership or opposites, either way it meant a pairing of something. Since coincidences didn’t exist in her world, Fate was at work here. She swept a hurried glance around the area, searching for other signs she’d overlooked.

“Let it be known the Honorable Judge J. A. Swanson has authorized me to accept a plea of innocent and commute the death sentence.” He leveled a hard gaze on the condemned man. “Reid Leighton Corvane, this is your last chance to save your own life.”

What? A Corvane? Here?” The words burst forth, loud and unbidden. Jolted, stunned to her bones, Mercy grabbed a better hold on the branch to keep her seat. So her months of conjuring had proven fruitful after all.


Available on Amazon – $0.99 and/or Kindle Unlimited

I’ll leave you with a Halloween chuckle.

Why do ghosts read so many books?






They go through them so quickly.


Until next time,
Kaye Spencer


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