Thursday, December 1, 2022

Christmas in December 1944

by Cindy Kay Stewart

Christmas 1944 found the United States Army fighting its largest and costliest battle in U.S. history - the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler's last major offensive in WWII was motivated by the hope that his troops could drive toward the coast and seize the port of Antwerp, Belgium, effectively cutting off British supply lines to their army in the north and from the Americans to the south. The Germans would then crush the isolated British troops. When this was accomplished, Hitler thought the Allies would sue for peace and leave the Nazis in power in Germany. This would leave the Germans to concentrate on defeating the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front.

Under cover of night and radio silence, the Germans amassed an attack force of thirty divisions (more than 200,000 troops) and over 2000 tanks. On December 16th before dawn, they launched their surprise attack through the Ardennes Forest, the least expected place and the lightest defended area (85 miles of dense woods). This move both surprised and created alarm and confusion among the Allies. For the first three days, the Allied air forces were grounded due to mist and rain.


American soldiers captured by German troops in the Ardennes 
between 16 and 22 December 1944. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

The Germans bypassed the city of Bastogne, which was defended by the 101st Airborne but eventually besieged the city. The German commander demanded the Americans surrender, but the American commander responded "Nuts!" On December 26th, Patton's 3rd Army relieved Bastogne.

A dugout built under snow in the Bastogne area.
Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

On Christmas day, the 2nd U.S. Armored division stopped the German tanks before they reached the Meuse River. British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery had brought reserve troops south quickly and shored up the defense at the Meuse River crossings, which the Germans never reached. The "Allied lines bulged but did not break." 

On January 3rd, the U.S. 1st Army began their counteroffensive. Realizing the Allies were attempting to surround and pinch them off, the Germans retreated The battle lasted for six weeks (12/16/44 - 1/25/45), until the Allies pushed the Germans back across the border. 

The Allied counterattack. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

The battle was costly on both sides. Germany lost 120,000 men. Out of the 600,000 U.S. troops who participated, more than 23,000 were taken prisoner and 19,246 died. There were well over 80,000 casualties. This battle accounted for approximately 10% of all combat casualties for the U.S. in World War II."

Germans captured during the allied counterattack.
Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory."

And it all happened at Christmas.




These true, heartwarming stories portray the love and bravery shown by many individuals who risked their lives to save those in danger and help win WWII for the Allies. Some found themselves at the mercy of their conquerors but managed to escape. Others sacrificed their lives. From snow-covered Norway to Japanese-occupied China, from remote northern Russia to the flatlands of Belgium, larger than life stories give credence to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. 

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Cindy Kay Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical romance author, writes stories of hope, steeped in faith and love. Her manuscripts have won the Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers Touched by Love Award, finaled in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award of Excellence and the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Awards, semi-finaled in American Christian Fiction Writer's Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s First Impressions contest and the Sandra Robbins Inspirational Writing Award. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of forty-one years. Her daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren live only an hour away. Cindy’s currently writing two fiction series set in WWII Europe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

HHH November 2022 Book Day





Historical Romance Series

By Mary Davis

THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT (Book1) – Will a secret clouding a single mother’s past cost Lily the man she loves?

THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Book2) – As Isabelle’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams.

THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Book3) – Nicole heads down the mountain to fetch a husband. Can she learn to be lady enough to snag the handsome rancher?

THE DÉBUTANTE’S SECRET (Book4) –Complications arise when a fancy French Geneviève steps off the train and into Deputy Montana’s arms.

THE LADY’S MISSION (Book5) Will Cordelia abandon her calling for love? Or will a charming bachelor fly away with her heart?




By Debbie Lynne Costello

A broken heart, controlling father, and intrusive Scot leave Charlotte reeling. Accused of stealing an heirloom pin, she must choose between an unwanted marriage and the ruin of her family name. With her and her sister’s futures at stake, Charlotte must navigate through injustice to find forgiveness and true happiness. Eager to find the traitor who caused the death of his brother, Duncan comes to America attempting to fit into Charleston society. But when the headstrong Charlotte catches his eye, Duncan acquires a second mission—winning the lass's hand. After several spurnings, he uses unconventional ways of winning her heart.




A Time-Slip Novel

By Kathleen E. Kovach, et al.

A secret. A key. Much was buried on the Titanic, but now it's time for resurrection. Follow two intertwining stories a century apart. 1912 - Matriarch Olive Stanford protects a secret after boarding the Titanic that must go to her grave. 2012 - Portland real estate agent Ember Keaton-Jones receives the key that will unlock the mystery of her past... and her distrusting heart. Review: “I told my wife to move this book to the top of her reading list... This titanic story is more interesting than the one told in the Titanic movie... She will absolutely love it.”




By Terrie Todd

“This captivating story is a deeply emotional and powerful journey. Written in a dual timeline, it follows the life of a young girl, Lilly, in the early/mid 1900’s, and her granddaughter, Diana, in the modern time. Lilly and her friend, Tommy, make mistakes and the consequences haunt their every step. They go from one heart-wrenching challenge to the next, until at last, they discover the worth of their souls. As Diana learns about Lilly, she finds courage to move forward in her own circumstances. Beautifully written, this story perfectly captures the human experience through the growth of the characters.” (Goodreads)




Christmas Quilt Brides Book 1

By Kimberly Grist

A woman running from her past, a confirmed bachelor determined to protect his heart, and a town committed to sharing the Christmas spirit by matchmaking. Can a Christmas quilt be the spark that ignites their love, melts their stubborn resolve, and uncovers their hidden desire? Olive is sick of living her father's lifestyle as an itinerant lifestyle and accepts a job as a seamstress in Texas, where single men outnumber women thirty to one. But the last thing on her mind is matrimony. Olive would rather spend the rest of her life chained to a sewing machine.




By Mary Dodge Allen

2022 Christian Indie Award Winner, First Place – Mystery Suspense

2022 Angel Award Winner – Mystery Suspense

While Roxy Silva is working her hometown mail route, a sinkhole opens up and uncovers the car used in her husband’s murder. Determined to solve the cold hit and run case, Roxy turns amateur sleuth, using her amazing photographic memory. Her relationship with handsome detective Kyle grows close as they uncover shocking secrets. When the killer takes Roxy captive, she must use her wits to survive.




By Suzanne Norquist

1848, Seneca Falls, New York. Confined by her era, a suffragette must choose between her freedom and her heart. Anna Carlson would be a lawyer if she hadn’t been born a woman. Society expects her to marry, but only a fool would give up her identity to a man. Inventor, Isaac Jennings, lives for his research. He’s learned the hard way to stay clear of women. Isaac and Anna form an unlikely alliance to file his patent application. Will he win a patent on her heart in the process? THIS E-BOOK/AUDIOBOOK IS FREE TO ANYONE WHO SIGNS UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER.



By Johnnie Alexander

A Cryptographer Uncovers a Japanese Spy Ring

FBI cryptographer Eloise Marshall is grieving the death of her brother, who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor, when she is assigned to investigate a seemingly innocent letter about dolls. Agent Phillip Clayton is ready to enlist and head oversees when asked to work one more FBI job. A case of coded defense coordinates related to dolls should be easy, but not so when the Japanese Consulate gets involved, hearts get entangled, and Phillip goes missing. Can Eloise risk loving and losing again?




By Amber Schamel Lemus

When sabotage threatens the Rudin Sugar Factory, Detective Jasper Hollock believes this will be his first real case. But instead, his employer and father figure, Mr. Rudin, charges him with solving his own personal issue, lest he take his own life on Christmas night. As the incidents at the factory become life threatening, Jasper is left staring at the stark reality of his own soul. Time is ticking. Jasper must solve both cases by Christmas before Mr. Rudin, the company, and Jasper’s faith, are dragged to perdition. Will this be the Christmas Jasper truly discovers what makes life worth living?




By Donna Schlachter

Kate and Tom McBride, along with their newborn, John Thomas, settle into life in Oregon City, Oregon in November 1879. Kate becomes a Pinkerton agent, and her first case is to find the missing fiancée of a local banker. Tom isn’t sure this is a good idea, particularly not when somebody burns their home to the ground. Their pasts may not be as far behind them as they’d hoped. Who is trying to stop them—from finding the missing woman, and from starting their new life together?




By Michelle Shocklee

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s Maxwell House Hotel suffers a stroke, Audrey is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. She discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.




By Naomi Musch

Only last year, Fannie O’Brien’ future shone bright, despite the war pounding Europe. Now with her father’s death and her brothers overseas, Fannie must handle the load on their 200-acre Wisconsin farm—until eight German prisoners arrive as laborers. As Fannie feared, trouble comes too. Crops take precedence, even as mishaps happen around the farm. Could a saboteur be among them? She’s especially leery of the handsome German captain who seems intent on cracking her defenses. Can Fannie manage the farm and hold her family together through these turbulent times, all while keeping the prisoners—and her heart—in line?




By Linda Shenton Matchett

Will a world at war destroy a second chance at love? Estelle Johnson promised to wait for Aubry DeLuca, but then she receives word of his debilitating injuries. Does she have the strength to stand by him in his hour of need? Aubry DeLuca storms the beaches at Normandy, then wakes up in the hospital, his eyes bandaged. Will he regain his sight? Will the only woman he’s ever loved welcome him home or is he destined to go through life blind and alone?




By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

New Yorker Ruth Jessup and Amish-bred Joshua Stutzman lived in different worlds; their lives collided into catastrophic proportions battling wits against a psychopath and The New World Order... Fleeing for her life and suffering from amnesia, Ruth finds herself in an hourglass of yesteryear. Can Joshua’s Amish ways help them survive these final three-and-one-half years? “An amazing well-written read. You are a warrior for the Word! I never read a book like this… An exciting page-turner! You most definitely glorify our Father in Heaven. The scripture is wonderful. I want to dig deeper.” Patsy Reiter



By Martha Rogers

Kayla Martin’s fiancé was killed in Afghanistan seven years ago before their wedding, and her heart shut down. Then she meets Tylor Damon and is attracted to him, but is being careful to guard her heart against another loss. When they are paired in a wedding party, sparks ignite between them. Tyler realizes something is keeping her at a distance, but he’s determined to bring a smile to her face. When he’s almost killed in a rodeo competition, Kayla’s old fears threaten to drown her. Only a Christmas miracle will bring them together.




By Janalyn Voigt

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive in the Wild West? Library Journal: "Manages to keep the reader glued to every twist and turn. Romantic Times: "Voigt is a talented author who has weaved several genres into her novel, and has created a beautiful first story in her Montana Gold series." Available in audio, print, and ebook.




By Martha Hutchens

Free for newsletter subscription at BookFunnel. After saving for years, Dot Finley's brother finally paid a down payment for his own land—only to be drafted into World War II. Now she must ensure that he doesn't lose his dream while fighting for everyone else's. Nate Armstrong has all the land he can manage while being a single dad to his four-year-old daughter. Still, he can't watch the Finley family lose their dream. Especially after he learns that the banker's nephew has arranged to have their loan called. Necessity forces them to work together. Can love grow along with crops?


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Wisconsin's Great River Road, an Historical "Wander"land for Setting a Story (and a Mini-Library Giveaway!)

Some weeks ago I asked friends to help me choose a town in which to set a new novel. The parameters were that it had to be a town along Wisconsin's 412 mile Highway 35 State Trunk Tour. More that half that distance is known as Wisconsin's Great River Road, a 250-mile stretch of highway 35 that runs adjacent to the Mississippi River. Along that section alone there are 33 communities from which I could choose. 

Friends offered some really good suggestions for town choices, along with reasons why I should select each one. I'm starting to narrow it down, but I've yet to decide because my jury--the little people that live in my head--are still out to lunch on a couple of questions. In the meantime, I'll share a little bit about Highway 35 and that amazing River Road voted "Prettiest Drive in the U.S".

Looking north along the Great River Road, limestone bluffs rise prominently to the right, and vistas of Minnesota stretch out on the opposite side of the Mississippi.

The famous drive begins in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, in the unincorporated town of Keiler, just a short bicycle ride from the Iowa border near Dubuque. The section known as the Great River Road ends up north at tiny Prescott, Wisconsin, one of the oldest of Wisconsin's river towns, settled all the way back in 1839 (although communities existed all the way back to the 1600s). If you continue your state trunk tour northward to follow 35 along the St. Croix River, you come upon more small towns tucked away in the vast woods. So many lovely locations! How will I ever choose?

There are endless places to stop and take in the beauty of the Mississippi shoreline.


The River Road is the path of the explorers, fur traders, immigrant settlers, lumber barons, soldiers, river boatmen, and adventurers of every ilk. Ancient cultures who lived along the river have left behind huge effigy mounds in the shapes of animals and birds. Here on this route, battles between native factions turned the rivers red, while not long after, fortune-makers built mansions in the bluffs, farms were carved out of the woodland, and area towns expanded. 

Laura Ingalls was born along what would become the Great River Road, and those who love the Little House stories can visit a recreation of the little cabin in the big woods where she was born just outside of Pepin.

Birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pepin, Wisconsin

Prairie du Chien, at the junction of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers is home to a big part of Wisconsin's early fur trade and was also the important post where both Britain and France sought to control that trade. Jefferson Davis commanded the fort there before he became the leader of the confederacy during the Civil War, and the Sauk war chief Black Hawk surrendered there after the Black Hawk War of 1832. 

The fort surgeon, William Beaumont, is credited to conducting groundbreaking medical experiments at Fort Crawford, and a museum there has three buildings dedicated to medical history. Also, every year, a great voyageur rendezvous is re-enacted at Prairie du Chien.

There are stories along this route of an Indian maiden who leapt to her death when forced to marry a man she didn't love (Maiden Rock), and of rum-runners and bootleggers. There are also stories of the homes built by Wisconsin's first millionaire and our first governor. 

Maiden Rock

But this is just a nibble at what there has been to discover since the route became known as the Great River Road way back in the 1930s.


The Great River Road is actually a series of roads and byways that that follow the course of the Mississippi through ten states total. An act of Congress in 1924 established the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. Then a Lock and Dam system built in the 1930s resulted in the beautiful pools and channels we see today. As automobile travel increased throughout the twenties and into the thirties, Wisconsin saw a need to improve the road from the deep, muddy ruts that existed along the Mississippi into something that would attract the new crop of driving tourist. Then, when the Great River Road received it's national title in 1938, each state gave the road its own commission. When I look at old pictures from that time (sorry, I can't share them due to copyright!) they remind me of scenes from the television show The Waltons, as they drove along those scenic dirt roads. Then I see pictures of ruts so deep with wet mud, I have to wonder how how they ever turned them into roadways.

Nevertheless, one of the reasons I want to set a story along this route is because most of those towns remain tucked into the coulees and bluffs almost unnoticed, like little mountain hamlets. Here are two videos that are fun to watch. One is just a brief overview of the beauty of the route. They should have filmed it a little later to get the true fall colors.

Beautiful Vistas!

A "SightseeingSally" video @SightseeingSally on Youtube which gives a tour of Alma, Wisconsin, a town with unique history.

The little town of Alma in the above video is definitely in the running for the setting of my next book. A couple of reasons being that while it's a town of under 800 people, most of it's buildings are on the National Historic Register. It also has a number of interesting "streets" that are actually stairways. And the views! Such vistas! Watch the video, and try to imagine what it might've been like in 1920, before paved roads, traffic, and a lot of power lines.

Have you driven sections of the Great River Road in any of the ten states it covers? Have you taken this scenic Wisconsin tour?

I wish you a blessed holiday season.
Please take this opportunity to enter to win a sweet historical, mini-library!
The drawing is for paperbacks of seven books by seven authors. However, if you're not in the continental U.S., the authors will send ebooks to the winner.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Mail Order Brides and Romance by Post—with Giveaway by Donna Schlachter

Matrimonials,” The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), February 7, 1909, 44. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

When non-historians sit around with a cup of coffee and discuss American history, there are at least three favorite topics: Pony Express, orphan trains, and mail order brides.

The interesting thing about that is that they seem completely unconnected. And yet, as we consider the three, perhaps they have more in common than we first think.

The Pony Express lasted about eighteen months, while orphan trains relocated more than two hundred thousand orphaned and abandoned children in the seventy-five years the system operated. As for mail order brides—well before the United States Postal Service was formed, men sought women in America, bringing them over from England, Ireland, Scotland, and other countries in Europe. In fact, folks are still finding spouses from other countries.

Prior to the 1800s, connections between a man seeking a wife, and a woman willing to answer, came in the form of personal introductions or family or business connections. It wasn’t uncommon for parents who were close friends to betroth—or promise—their children would wed.

In the 1800s, once newspapers and printing houses were established, advertising for a spouse became much easier. Papers printed ads, and respondents indicated their interest by writing a letter in care of the newspaper. Magazines operated in a similar fashion, sometimes allocating several pages for these advertisements.


Mary and Elkanah Walker married in 1838.
Portrait of Mary Richardson Walker and Elkanah Walker, Cage 57, Elkanah and Mary Richardson Walker Papers 1830-1938, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Between the Civil War and the 1830s, a new phenomenon called “the love match” took over Western Europe and America. The idea grew that love was now necessary for a successful marriage. Perhaps perpetuated by the increase in romance novels—or perhaps the novels were a result of the notion—but either way, parties to marriage often considered love was more important. In the past, couples recognized other benefits to marriage: shared duties and responsibilities; combining businesses or land; continuing a family legacy or bloodline; and, of course, children.


These four men in Montana (near Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park) at the turn of the 20th century advertised their want for wives on the side of a cabin. From left-to-right they were: Bill Daucks, Frank Geduhn, Esli Apgar, and Dimon Apgar. Frank, and Dimon eventually married, but not mail-order brides. Courtesy of Glacier National Park Photo Archives, photo HPF 9871.

There is no evidence that love trumps loyalty, honor, family, or faith, however. Many mail order couples—and indeed, most of the marriages of the time—were not based in love. No doubt many grew to love their spouses over the course of the marriage, but overall, this love match idea was slow to take hold, particularly among older families. There is no evidence available to suggest that those who married through the mail order system were any happier, or their marriages any more—or less—successful, than couples introduced in the conventional way.

The process varied, but usually one party placed an advertisement, registered with a marriage agency, or provided information to friends and family that they desired to marry. The other party responded, which began a time of exchanging letters. This might go on for as little as a month—one letter each way—or for a year or more. Arrangements were made for the woman to travel to the man, which he paid for. Sometimes a commitment was made in writing, but occasionally it didn’t happen until they’d met and deemed each other suitable. There is an account of one couple who married four hours after they met in person, although they knew each other through family connections and had corresponded for over a year.

And then there’s the story of a woman who rejected the man after meeting him because he had red hair. In her experience, red-heads were always “cross”—angry.

Some mail-order brides never even arrived at the station. Rather, they accepted the travel fare and pocketed the money. Mail Order Marriages: Two in Spokane Turn out Differently,” East Oregonian (Pendleton, OR), March 23, 1911, 6. Historic Oregon Newspapers.

Scams were likely, and an untold number of men lost their potential mate, their money, and their pride when she never arrived. If the phrase “once bitten, twice shy” is true, many of these poor fellows likely lived out their lives as bachelors. Or chose a woman who lived nearby.

Fast forward to today, and we see that a slightly different version of marriages still takes place. Common in World War II, soldiers still bring wives home from foreign lands. The internet has opened the world to those seeking a mate. In fact, I am an internet bride. We just celebrated our twenty-third anniversary. But that’s a story for another time.

In my upcoming release, The Freedom Stage: Book 2 of Mail-Order Romance, planned for December 31st, 2022, my heroine runs from her past—straight into the arms of a stranger.

In Book 1 of this series, The New Hope Train, strangers meet on a train and fall in love, and must decide whether to fulfill their commitment to another, or to break their word and marry each other.

Giveaway: Leave a comment, and I will randomly draw one name to receive an ebook copy of The New Hope Train. Include your email so I can contact you. Comments without an email will not be included in the drawing. Please cleverly disguise your email address so the bots don’t find you. For example: donna AT livebytheword DOT com

About The New Hope Train:

October 1895

Mary Johannson has scars on her body that can’t compare with the scars on her heart. She is alone in the world, with no family, no prospects, and no home.

John Stewart is at his wit’s end. His wife of three years died in childbirth, leaving him with a toddler and an infant, both girls. Theirs was the love of fairy tales, and while he has no illusions about finding another like her, his children need a mother.

Though separated by thousands of miles, they commit to a mail-order marriage. But on their journey to New Hope, they meet and realize the life they’d planned would be a lie. Can they find their way back from the precipice and into the love of God and each other, or are they destined to keep their word and deny their heart?

Check it out here:

About The Freedom Stage:

A young woman runs from her past, straight into the arms of a stranger. Was she going from bad to worse? Or did God hold her in His hands?

A death-bed promise, a family legacy, an unexpected wife--how can he turn his back on them to fulfill a vow?

Preorder here:

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!


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