Five Stars for A Hostage To Heritage

7-20 Adair coverI can’t believe I haven’t already profiled this book on my Monday book blog. It’s one of my very favorites—not only mystery, but history as well! My comments from Amazon and Goodreads follow.

Suzanne Adair has presented the reading public with another excellent historic mystery adventure. This book is Michael Stoddard’s story. He’s a British officer in America at the time of our Revolution. The earlier books in this series tell the stories of Americans during that time, and a few of the characters appear in all of the books. They, and this one as well, show the conflicting loyalties of people in our past, including the English Michael. Besides that, there’s the main story of a missing young boy and how Michael and his second in command worked toward finding the boy while also following their commanding officer’s orders. I won’t say more, don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.

Highly recommended to lovers of history, and mystery. This book satisfies on every level! It’s a mystery with great characters, solid history, suspense, and emotion. It’s historical fiction with revealing attitudes and war-time danger. It’s a character study with “real” fictional people who had a past and will have a future. It’s romantic suspense with anticipation. And finally, it’s emotion transferred from words on paper (or, in my case, on Kindle) to the reader.

I’ll send you to Suzanne’s Amazon page where all her books are listed (mysteries of our Revolution in the Southern states) and Suzanne’s website and blog. Her blog hosts guest authors with a wide variety of books, often including giveaways. (Always interesting.) 

A Scottish Connection

US Womens Golf Leaders

US Womens Golf Leaders

Our local news is all about the US Women’s Open golf tournament at the Lancaster Country Club—just a hop, skip, and jump away from my home. I really should honor that by profiling a golfing mystery that I’ve read. Except—I haven’t read any golfing mysteries. So, what’s my next best idea? Hmmm.

Golf, an ancient game, originated in Scotland, right? And—I do have a book in my favorites file called, ta, da…What Happens In Scotland. No golf anywhere. Not even a mystery. An historic romance, almost a bodice ripper. So not what I usually like. But, I read this book with great pleasure.

7-13 What Happens coverHere is my five star review of What Happens In Scotland: “I absolutely had to get this book after I read a page or two. What’s not to pull a reader in? Lady Georgette finding herself, a respectable young widow, in bed with a stranger. Although this is historic romance, there is definitely an air of mystery. Who is the bounder? How did the lady find herself in the situation, where were her clothes, and why was there broken glass all over the floor?

You’ve got to admit, with a beginning like that, where can the story go? I tell you, it improves! Not only is the action rollicking and filled with peril, the unexpected twists and turns keeps a reader up until the wee hours. I finished this in record time, and wished it had been longer.

Okay, my review doesn’t tell you much. I’ll include the official blurb.

Jennifer McQuiston’s debut historical romance, What Happens in Scotland, is a lively, romantic adventure about a wedding that neither the bride or the groom remembers.

Lady Georgette Thorold has always been wary of marriage, so when she wakes up next to an attractive Scotsman with a wedding ring on her finger, it’s easy to understand why she panics and flees. Convinced that Georgette is a thief, her maybe husband, James McKenzie, searches for her. As both try to recall what happened that fateful night, they begin to realize that their attraction and desire for each other is undeniable. But is it enough?
There are hidden caves and midnight horse rides, if I remember correctly, but nary a golf club in sight.

Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admiral Cockburn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesapeake Bay until 1813. Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn was given the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy supplies of grain and livestock, and terrorize the population in general. In late April he reached Kent County, Maryland. His force consisted of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a number of tenders and barges. The British raided Howell Point and bombarded the land throwing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smokehouse, henhouse and sheep pen, and killed cattle. The militia arrived in time to prevent the enemy from carrying off the cattle and to fire at the retreating boats.

The British continued up the bay, lsying waste by plundering Frenchtown, and raiding and burning Havre de Grace.

Cockburn next turned to Georgetown, but he was frustrated by the intricacy of the Sassafrass River. He kidnapped a local resident to act as his pilot and sent word that if the residents didn’t resist, Georgetown would be spared and provisions they took paid for. However the militia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the militia abandoned the fight and melted away. The British torched thirteen dwellings and outbuildings, cobbler’s shop, tavern, a granary and storehouse. However, some homes were saved. (Local legend has it that the British spared several homes due to the actions of  Miss Kitty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elderly neighbors. The Kitty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kitty Knight House today

As Cockburn and his forces returned to the Chesapeake the news of burning and looting had its effects. Resistance had died. The Brits paid for supplies and returned the pilot to his home. However, they came back in August with a different intent.

This is another blog of my “History of The War of 1812 on Chesapeake Bay” series. Since my next mystery will take place during a reenactment of that war, I’ve discovered many interesting facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exactly true.

 

 

Missing Link-A Prairie Connection

6-11 Chestnut GroveA farm, owned by a waste management authority can not be good, right?

Well, the obvious is not always what happens. The 170-acre River Hills farm, owned by the Lancaster County (PA) Solid Waste Management Authority has become a prairie of sorts. After a three-year, $1.2 million makeover, native grasses, wild flowers, shrubs, and trees have been planted. Wet lands and walking trails have been established. The area is now a passive recreation area that connects existing ones in case one wants to hike a continuous six and a half miles.

Our local LNP Newspaper had the story earlier this week. To read the full story and see a video with an overview of the area and a small lake check out their article. See what time and money can do to convert land that first produced corn, then dirt (to cover landfill), and finally became a nature preserve.

 

Craney Island – Another War of 1812 Episode

Battle of Craney Island

Battle of Craney Island

In June, 1813, the British were cocky. They had only encountered ineffective local militia. They had blockaded Chesapeake Bay and chased the frigate U.S.F. Constellation into Norfolk, VA. At Craney Island, protecting both Hampton Roads and shipyards at Portsmouth and Norfolk, VA, was a small military contingent. In every land battle so far, the Americans had run rather than fight overwhelming odds. The British did not expect much opposition.

Instead, they planned to capture the island, continue on to the larger Virginia cities, and capture the stranded frigate. According to a lieutenant from the Constellation who visited the blockading fleet under a flag of truce, the British officers said they would strike at the ship soon, vowing that “they must & will have it!”

USS Constellation-1812

“The British became the victims of their own overweening arrogance,” says Maryland historian Christopher T. George, author of “Terror on the Chesapeake: The War of 1812 on the Bay” and editor of the Journal of the War of 1812.

“They thought they were facing ill-trained rustics. So they rowed in as if they were just waiting to be shot at. They were sitting ducks.”

General Robert Taylor

General Robert Taylor

As General Taylor wrote in his letter of July 4, 1813, to the Secretary of War: “The whole force on the island at the time of the attack, consisted of 50 riflemen, 446 infantry of the line, 91 state artillery, and 150 seamen and marines furnished by Capt. Tarbell. Of these, 43 were on, the sick list.”

He added, “I cannot withhold my grateful acknowledgments to Com. Cassin, Capt. Tarbell, and the officers and crew of the Constellation and gunboats, who have in every instance aided our operations with a cordiality, zeal and ability, not to be surpassed.”

The ship’s crew helped, but as British Napier lamented in his journal, “A sharp cannonade from the works on the island cost us 71 men, without returning a shot.”

The British did not capture the Constellation, and they left the area without attacking Norfolk.

The reported number of British casualties varied by source. There were approximately 80 killed, wounded and missing. One barge was captured and at least two more were severely damaged. The defenders did not suffer any casualties in the first major War of 1812 victory on Chesapeake Bay.

“The British had all the advantages. They had the numbers. They had the firepower — and they should have won,” said former Virginia War Museum director John V. Quarstein.

“You can’t go visit Craney Island today. It’s not immortalized by a song like the ‘Star-Spangled Banner,'” he adds.

“But the battle there was the first big American victory in a long string of defeats on the Chesapeake Bay — and it deserves to be better remembered.”

War of 1812 – Kent Island

In August, 1813, Captain Charles Gordon, U.S.N. said, “MARYLAND INVADED…it appears the enemy have taken possession of Kent Island, and that the inhabitants of every description have removed to the main land…From the circumstance of landing cannon on Kent Island, it appears to be the intention of the enemy to keep possession of it for some time; and certainly a more eligible situation could not have been selected for their own safety and convenience or from which to annoy us.”

Burning in Kent County

Burning in Kent County

Indeed, on August 5, the British, with two thousand men and seventeen ships, took over the island. British Admiral John Borlase described Kent Island as a “valuable & beauty Island which is half as large as the Isle of Wright…a central Point between Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington and the Eastern Ports of the State of Maryland.” After they prepared the island, they launched raids on St. Michaels and Queenstown. However, they left on August 27 to sail to their winter quarters.

One reason they left so soon was because of the heavy storms they had encountered in the previous September.

This bit of history and others that I’ve shared added to the reenactment of the forgotten War of 1812 in my upcoming mystery—Forgotten Body. In fact, some I’ve read today means I have to change a few things in that upcoming manuscript. Saved me from a major historical boo-boo. Of course, since all the characters live in the twenty-first century, any misstatements they make could be blamed on ignorance. But Jo (my amateur/reluctant sleuth) is smarter than that.

I just said that, didn’t I? My character is a person—not an extension or imagination of my brain. As a writer, does that happen to you too? As a reader, do you think of the characters as paper dolls or real people? As a reader, when I enjoy a book, I’m firmly in the “real people” mind set.

 

A War of 1812 Prank

One of my favorite souvenirs from our years sailing Chesapeake Bay waters was a small book from St. Michaels, Maryland, The Town That Fooled The British. Besides detailing day-to-day activities and preparations for war and telling the story of saving the ship-building community from British attack, it told about Jacob Gibson’s Prank.

In April 1813, Mr. Gibson farmed Sharp’s Island (now mostly sunken). The British sized the island, imprisoned Mr. Gibson, and confiscated his cattle and sheep. However, they shortly released him and even paid him for the animals.

A few days later, Jacob Gibson, who was well known for his practical jokes, must have been feeling his oats. He and some of his slaves rowed and sailed a barge up Broad Creek toward St. Michaels, about fifteen miles away. He tied a red bandana to the mast, and when they neared St. Michaels, he ordered one of the sailors to beat on an empty rain barrel. (It might have been on a bright, moonlit night.) The videttes (mounted sentries) rode to alert the town. The residents grabbed their stores of food and animals and vacated the town while the St. Michaels Patriotic Blues (the local militia) stood ready to fight the enemy. Fortunately, they recognized his boat, and since Jacob was a quick talker as well as a big joker, he escaped without bodily injury. However, he did give the town two six-pounder cannons as a peace offering.

And, those cannons may (or may not—let’s not forget these stories were passed down by word of mouth before they were written down) have been helpful in the later defense of St. Michaels.

 

A Five Star Read-Under Any Title

Original Cover

Original Cover

The book is the first of the Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery Series taking place in the early 1940s. The author is Heather Haven. I read this mystery a couple of years ago. Was it called Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse (the original title) or The Dagger Before Me? I don’t remember. Was the cover the original one (pictured left) or the new one? Think it was the original, but, I read the book on my Kindle, so I’m not sure.

As I remember the story, I like the first cover the best. Persephone (Percy for short) is big and beautiful—extra large size. She’s a single mother, living with the extended family (space was a problem) and helping her father in his detective business. She’s determined to succeed at her first solo case. It’s in the theater, which is an added complication—since she doesn’t know that much about theater. But, she’s a good faker (she hopes). And so does the reader—pulling for Percy with every page.

There are so many great reviews of this title, I’d like to quote from a couple of them:

Second Cover

Second Cover

Percy is certainly not the stereotypical mother of the 1940s. She’s a tough woman with an attitude big enough to match her 5’11” frame. She possesses a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. I love the way she handles people, men in particular, who doubt her abilities as a detective. Though she can be brash at times, Percy also knows how to turn on the charm when she needs to. I can just as easily picture her buttering up a potential witness with free food or roughing up a hostile one.

Here’s what another reviewer had to say:

I found Percy engaging. I liked her moxie. Not exactly feminine, people “often remarked that between her wild hair, thin body, and daffy personality, she reminded them of a Dandelion caught in a windstorm.” (I like that word-picture.) Percy does things like: “she popped a nut into her mouth and separated the meat from the shell with her teeth.” Haven offers delightful and “punny” prose: “What color the interior was supposed to be was difficult to say. I’m going with drab.” Or how about this one—when Percy looks up at a man, we read: “It was novel, looking up to someone not standing on a stepladder.”

And here’s my review:  Persephone Cole (Percy for short) is a female detective in early 1940s New York during World War II. There’s great historic atmosphere (sweaty because it’s a non-air-conditioned heat spell) dealing with strange accidents in the theater district. She detects undercover as a manager who doesn’t really know that much about managing, but she’s right up there with detecting, including gun-handling. The nicely convoluted plot kept me guessing, and the ending was wholly satisfying. Definitely recommended for readers of historic mystery (with sassy women).

I’m wondering, why the title and cover change? I understand an author wishing to present the best face to her readers. And, since I do love this series, I hope it was a good choice. But I have to ask, which cover and which title do you like?

 

Book Party for THE CLIENT’S WIFE

cover-The Clients Wife2Yes, I went to a book party last week, and I tell you—Thomas Wiggin knows how to party. Big room with chairs set up—check. A showing of a full movie—check. Cookies and popcorn—check. Adult beverages—yeah! Coffee and tea, sure—but choice of wine as well as martinis, both gin and vodka—check! And, icing on the cake—the reading of a scene by the author who made it come alive. (After all, he had a long stint as a starring actor of both daytime and nighttime TV—not to mention writing episodes of the daytime drama, then performing a one-man show he wrote.)

Of course, that’s beside the point. The important part of a book party author signing 2is the book. And, getting a new slant on the where, why, and how of the author’s inspiration and carry-through of that book.

Thomas Wiggin was inspired by his parents, the Gershwin music they loved, and the Nick and Nora Charles movies of the 1930s. So how did those things all come together?

Mr. Wiggin had an answer for that. In those old movies, Nick and Nora had a son, Nick, Jr. What we didn’t know is that Nick, Jr. was not into the detective scene, but his daughter Emma was. Yes, Emma Charles spent time with her grandparents. She learned to love Gershwin, investigations, and martinis. As the book, The Client’s Wife begins, Emma has left her job with the police department and has begun her own detective agency. All she needs is to find a man who appreciates the finer things of life. Gershwin, good English, and the kind of relationship her grandparents had. (All this, of course, while solving crime cases.)

I’ve only started reading my new, signed copy of The Client’s Wife. It’s heading toward my five-star category.

 

Battle of St. Leonard Creek – 1814

St Leonards Creek MD mapWhen I think of war in the days of sailing ships, I envision battles on the ocean. For the War of 1812, I must include the large estuary of Chesapeake Bay and even deep rivers. But a battle on a creek? Especially a creek that family sailboats and cruisers might anchor in for an overnight rendezvous? (More especially, one where my husband and I met with other boaters for a friendly weekend.) But in June of 1814, it did happen.

The British controlled Chesapeake Bay, allowing little trade with St Leonards battleother countries. In an attempt to open the bay, former privateer, Commodore Joshua Barney took his fleet of eighteen small gun boats, barges, and sloops down the bay. He was able to harass the British ships, then escape into smaller tributaries. Barney’s Chesapeake Flotilla clashed with the British from June sixth to the twenty-sixth, ending that day where the Patuxent River meets the mouth of St. Leonard Creek. (Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, the unnamed green section in the center of the map above. is located at the site and commemorates the battle.)

During the ensuing battle Barney, with 360 sailors and 120 marines held off an overwhelming force that bettered him ten to one. One source says that President Madison, himself, took control of the land forces when Barney was severely injured. After four hours, beaten, they retreated. Had they won, they might have prevented the burning of Washington.

Note: Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum cooperated with a middle school in a UTube video of a presentation of Commodore Barney’s tale of the battle.