Thursday, June 20, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome back, Mary Dodge Allen!

“Hunt for a Hometown” Series: 
Love, Loss and Faith Journeys,
Romantic Mystery/Suspense Meets Historical Romance

By Mary Dodge Allen

I am happy to be here today on the History, Hope, and Happily Ever After blog. Many thanks to Linda for inviting me to share about Book 2 of my “Hunt” series, Hunt for a Hometown Kidnapper, to be available in late 2024.

I began my writing career later in life, beginning with short inspirational stories published in traditional Christian anthologies. I am now writing novels - “Fast-paced Adventure with Humor and Heart.” My experience as a social worker, teacher and counselor helps me as I write compelling stories about quirky, flawed characters who are facing real-life struggles and looking for answers.

In Book 1: Hunt for a Hometown Killer – my award-winning Romantic Mystery/Suspense - main character Roxy has endured a series of tragic losses during her life; losing both parents as a child... multiple miscarriages... her husband’s murder. Based in Florida, the first scene describes Roxy’s shock when she witnesses a sinkhole forming. As it deepens, it exposes the long-buried hiding place of the car used in her husband’s unsolved hit-and-run murder, years earlier. Through the twists and turns of the murder investigation, Roxy develops a close relationship with Kyle, the small town’s detective. Working together, they identify her husband’s killer.

Book 2: Hunt for a Hometown Kidnapper continues Roxy’s story in the small fictional town of Riverside Bay, Florida. It is a Romantic Mystery/Suspense with a WWII Historical Romance woven into the story, through diaries and flashbacks of Roxy’s Grandpa Leo.

My Uncle Gordon, who lived to be 97 years old, flew 35 missions as co-pilot of a B-17 bomber, as part
of the U.S. Mighty Eighth Air Force, during WWII. He is my inspiration for Roxy’s beloved Grandpa Leo.

Of the more than 200 airfields used by the U.S. Air Force in England, only one airfield remains intact – the airfield in Rattlesden, England where my Uncle Gordon was based! My husband and I visited that airfield, which is now used by private glider pilots. It’s hard to express the depth of emotion I felt as I stood on the control tower walkway, looking out at the runways. I thought about all the B-17 crewmen based there during WWII. Many of them never returned.

In the photo, clockwise from top left: Rattlesden’s Control Tower; Vintage photo of a Control Tower during WWII; Uncle Gordon’s WWII B-17 bombing crew (He is tallest one standing, on the left); Me, standing on Rattlesden’s Control Tower walkway.

In Book 2: Hunt for a Hometown Kidnapper, Roxy and Kyle plan to be married. Days before their wedding, Roxy is reunited with the teenage daughter she gave up for adoption at birth. Roxy is looking forward to spending more time getting to know her daughter, Dani, after she and Kyle return from their honeymoon. But on the day they return, Dani goes missing. They realize she’s been kidnapped, and she doesn’t have the asthma inhaler she depends on. The clock is ticking as Roxy and Kyle begin a frantic search for Dani. Who has taken her... and why? Roxy’s faith is shaken. After so many years of praying to be reunited with her daughter, will she lose her now?

As Roxy struggles with facing another potential loss in her life, Grandpa Leo shares his own faith journey of love and loss, recorded in his private war diaries. They describe how his B-17 was shot down over France... his love for Anna, the French Resistance worker who saved and sheltered him... and her capture by the Gestapo.

Hunt for a Hometown Kidnapper should be available in late 2024.

If you are interested in reading Book 1: Hunt for a Hometown Killer, I invite you to click on the link below:

Link to Purchase Book 1:

Goodreads Author Link:


Monday, June 17, 2024

Movie Monday: So Proudly We Hail

Movie Monday: So Proudly We Hail

Today’s movie, So Proudly We Hail, was based on nurse Lt. Colonel Juanita Hipps’s book, “I Served on Bataan” about her experiences in the Philippines. Assigned to Bataan and Corregidor in 1939 she was one of seven nurses who managed to get out before the Japanese occupation. The book became a best-seller in 1943, and the U.S. government saw it as an opportunity. The result of the partnership between the War Department and Paramount Pictures became a propaganda success with the film receiving four Oscar nominations.

Starring Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard, Barbara Britton, George Reeves, and the lesser-known Sonny Tufts, So Proudly We Hail is not your typical Hollywood “chick-flick.” Yes, there is romance woven throughout the story, but the film is a realistic rendition of the ugliness of war and the difficult and sometimes overwhelming work done by the nurses who served.

Despite being a “post-code” movie, there are a surprising number of graphic scenes including aerial
bombings, an ambulance being blown up while nurses scramble out of the way, and a couple of death scenes (which in this era typically occurred “off stage”). When the film came out in 1943, the world was still on tenterhooks as to how the war would end. The fall of the Philippines was viewed as a major US defeat.
The film is told in a series of flashbacks when the nurses are on their way home by ship, and the story begins with the women in California as they prepare for their assignment. By the time they reach Hawaii, the US is at war and the ship is rerouted to the Philippines. During the journey, the convoy comes under attack and one of the ships is sunk. They eventually make it to Manila which has been declared an open city (unfortified, undefended), so they head to Bataan instead. They set up and do their best to take care of patients, but then word comes that the Japanese are advancing. They move to a “jungle” hospital where they are subjected to bombing raids. Things get worse, and it’s obvious the area is going to fall to the enemy. As mentioned, there is a romance thread, and the movie ends with a happily-ever-after.


War’s Unexpected Gift

Love and war don’t mix. Or do they?

Eager to do even more for the war effort, nurse Gwen Milford puts in for a transfer from a convalescent hospital outside of London to an evac hospital headed across Europe. Leap-frogging from one location to the next, nothing goes as expected from stolen supplies to overwhelming numbers of casualties. Then, there’s the handsome doctor who seems to be assigned to her every shift. As another Christmas approaches without the war’s end, can she find room in her heart for love?

Purchase Link:

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Leagh Matthews!

Star Fort, South Carolina’s Last British Stronghold
by Diana Leagh Matthews

A few months ago, I walked around Star Fort in Ninety Six, South Carolina.

Ninety Six, a small town of about two thousand people, is about ninety minutes from both Greenville and the state capital, Columbia.

The most notable landmark is Star Fort or as it’s known today, the Ninety Six National Historic Site. The name derives from the shape of the stronghold.

Star Fort is an earthen fort built in the shape of an eight-point star. While not a popular design, Loyalist
engineer Lt. Henry Haldane decided the shape would be better for the site than a traditional square fort. According to the National Park Service "the star shape allowed musket and cannon fire in all directions."

Back during the Revolutionary War, Ninety Six only had about a hundred people. In the early days of the war, it became a Loyalist stronghold. The British fortified the area, in 1780, deciding the location made it a strategic locale toward the larger cities.

In May 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army, led a thousand troops in a siege against 550 Loyalists. The siege centered on the star fort and lasted for over twenty-eight days. While outnumbering the troops almost two-to-one the patriots were defeated.

The attack began at noon on June 18, 1781. Fifty Patriot soldiers were ordered forward to prepare the way for the main army. They used their axes to cut through the extended fort walls.

The assault only lasted forty-five minutes before General Greene called it off. Thirty of the fifty soldiers ordered to make way for the mass army, never made it back to Patriot lines, having been killed.

Star Fort became the last British stronghold in South Carolina.

The old fort was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

As I walked part of the mile and a half trail, I tried to picture the area as it had once been so long ago.

*All photos courtesy of Diana Leagh Matthews


Diana Leagh Matthews shares God’s love through her story from rebel to redeemed. Her day job is as a volunteer coordinator, but at night she writes and hunts genealogy. She gives programs as a speaker, teacher, and presents historical monologues. Leagh (pronounced Lee) is the author of Carol of the Rooms. Her novel Forever Changed is set near Star Fort and will be released in early 2025. She also writes the history behind hymns at

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Traveling Tuesday: Castle Howard

Traveling Tuesday: Castle Howard

Credit: Pixabay

I’m nearly finished with my Christmas story that will be included in The Strength of My Heart charity anthology later this year, and I had lots of fun researching the setting. “A Lesson in Love,” is set in the Yorkshire area of northern England, located about four-and-a-half hours from London and about an hour east of Leeds. The area is an intriguing mix of geography with coastline to the east and moors to the north. Its history stretches back well before the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD with tribal inhabitants known as the Brigantes and the Parisi. Additional heritage includes the Vikings as well as Norman castles, medieval abbeys, Tudor houses, and the 13th-Century cathedral York Minster.

Fast forward to World War II when the British government requisitioned country houses across the
United Kingdom for the war effort. Saying no wasn’t an option, and some members of the peerage offered their house for a particular use before the government could take it. These immense country manors were repurposed for military command centers, barracks, hospitals, storage for art collections, listening and monitoring centers, MI5 headquarters, evacuated schools, secret project facilities, and one location, Badminton House was used as a refuge for Queen Mary who, according to John Martin Robinson’s Requisitioned: The British Country House in the Second World War, “arrived with a vast retinue unannounced one day and stayed for the duration of the war.”

While searching for the “perfect” place, I reviewed photographs of dozens of stately homes that dot the English, Scottish, and Welsh countryside. I decided to remain in England and wanted something in the far reaches of the country, an area vastly different from the city of London where both of the main characters are from. I fell in love with Castle Howard, a sprawling Baroque home that is not a “fortified structure” as a true castle is, but rather a home built on the site of a former castle. Further research revealed a fascinating history and memorable family members from a “strong-willed character with Liberal and progressive views who disinherited her eldest son whom she disliked” to “a mad uncle who never lived in the house.” When I discovered that Castle Howard housed Queen Margaret’s School from Scarborough during World War II, I knew I had my setting.

Castle Howard has been the residence of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for over 300 years. Construction began in 1699 and was completed in 1811 with the Long Gallery. Surrounded by more than 13,000 acres (the equivalent of twenty square miles!), the home is still a private residence. If you have seen either the 1981 television version or the 2008 cinematic version of “Brideshead Revisited,” you’ve seen this magnificent home. Castle Howard was also seen in the sixth episode of the first season of “Bridgerton.” To get a view of the entire property visit:


A Doctor in the House

They’re supposed to be allies, but mutual distrust puts this pair on opposite sides.

Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart?

Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?

Friday, June 7, 2024

Fiction Friday: New Releases for June!

June 2024 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Petra: An Unbroken Legacy by Lisa L. Dorsey -- Embark on a journey through time and faith. Witness as the survival of a family's faith intertwines with pivotal moments in history to build a spiritual legacy anchored in God's steadfast Love, timeless Word, and infinite Wisdom. (Biblical Adventure from hope*books)

The Triplets’ Summer Adventure by Laurel M. Blount -- Back home for the summer, adventure-seeking Nick Marshall thinks his park ranger gig will be easy—until the children’s camp he’s overseeing is left without a cook. Desperate to fill the position, he offers his high school nemesis, Cara Andrews, the job. As the two work together, Nick can’t help but fall for the single mom and her triplet sons. But convincing her to take a chance on him might be Nick’s toughest challenge yet… (Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Mary’s Calico Hope by Anne Blackburne -- Mary finds courage to face her fears about pursuing further treatment for serious injuries sustained as a child, and she and Reuben find a way to be together, with God's help. (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Love’s True Home by Lori DeJong -- Born and raised on the foreign mission field, all Allyson Kincaid wants is home and hearth on American soil. Too bad the first guy who’s made her pulse skip dreams of a life spent in foreign missions. Although she supports him in his calling, knows his choice means she’ll be laying more broken dreams, and a newly shattered heart, at the feet of Jesus. When Zane Carpenter relocates to Arlington, Texas, his seventh move in thirteen years, his only thought is to meet his obligation with Becker Ministries in a few months then take a foreign mission assignment. But working so closely with Ally in student ministry has him feeling things he’s never experienced. He’s ready for a future with her, until he accepts an opportunity to work on foreign soil and Ally stays behind. He knows God put him at the mission for a reason, although his heart still longs for the girl back home. (Contemporary Romance from Scrivenings Press)

When the Ocean Roars by Charlsie Estess -- Weeks before the Ultimate Fighting World Championship, Keane “The Golden Lion” Temple lands in Japan for the battle of his professional life, primed to take the win. But when his path collides with an intriguing woman, he gives in to impulse and asks her to spend his day off from training with him. Ami Ono cannot pass on the invitation but also hides her full identity. As their extraordinary day bleeds into night, both realize one day won’t be enough. Then the excursion ends in disaster when Keane discovers who Ami is. They part ways, but compelling circumstances and an undeniable attraction draw them back together. As the forbidden romance threatens to take down his principles, he struggles to honor his beliefs. Will The Golden Lion surrender his heart? Will Ami defy the domineering men in her life and accept it? Do they stand a chance against nature? (Contemporary Romance from Iron Stream Media)

A Midsummer Romance by Alyssa Schwarz -- The meddling mothers of Wild Rose Ridge will do anything to match up friends Caleb Weaver and Jessica Daniels. Real life begins to mirror Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream a little too much when they are strategically cast as the main couple in the town’s summer play. Will the course of true love end in tragedy? With a touch of summer magic, anything can happen. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Cole and Laila Are Just Friends by Bethany Turner -- Cole and Laila have been inseparable since they could crawl. And they've never thought about each other that way. Except for when they have. Rarely. Once in a while, sure. But seriously . . . hardly ever. If When Harry Met Sally had a quippy literary love child with Gilmore Girls' Luke and Lorelai, you'd get Cole and Laila. Just . . . don't tell them that. (Contemporary Romance from Thomas Nelson Fiction [Harper Collins])


Toward the Dawn by Mary Connealy -- Two people marry for convenience then strike out to find happiness...and find danger instead. Together, they must confront the perils from their pasts to forge a future with hope and the promise of love. (Western from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

Historical Romance:

Rocky Mountain Journey by Misty M Beller -- To fulfill a dying wish, Faith Collins masquerades as a man to find the woman who once saved her father's life. On her journey through the Rockies, she teams up with a man in search of his brother, and together they must navigate the treacherous terrain while keeping Faith's identity a secret and their growing affection at bay. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

When Plans Go Awry by Denise M Colby Olivia Carmichael escapes her past to be the next schoolmarm in a small ranching community in California. Her plan? Live a quiet spinster life, alone, never to depend on anyone ever again. Luke Taylor selected a mail-order bride, a necessity to help raise his two younger sisters, and the only way he knew to protect his heart. His plans don’t include being responsible for the beautiful new schoolmarm, who threatens his resolve between his need to stay away and his need to be near to make sure she stays safe. Along the way, neither feel much in control of their circumstances. Olivia’s carefully laid-out plans are challenged at every turn. Luke’s mail-order bride is not what he expected. Will Luke and Olivia learn to trust God’s plan for their lives? (Historical Romance from Scrivenings Press)

Dreams on the Horizon by Penny Zeller -- Mae Shepherdson’s dream of a school for the deaf has finally come to fruition. All is going well until she receives devastating news: the railroad wants to build a spur through the property where the Horizon School for the Deaf is located. Landon Bennick is accustomed to obeying his father’s orders and has assisted with the building of many railroad spurs, and the newest in Horizon should be no exception. However, things grow complicated when he falls in love with Mae, a soft-spoken teacher at the Horizon School for the Deaf—the same school blocking the railroad’s progress. When nefarious characters bent on seeing the railroad project succeed begin to threaten innocent lives, will Landon intervene and save the woman who has claimed his heart? (Historical Romance from Maplebrook Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Hidden in the Night by Elizabeth Goddard -- At the behest of her ailing mother, former FBI special agent Ivy Elliott arrives in Alaska to secure an unpublished Jack London manuscript kept secreted away for decades. But when she arrives, she learns the manuscript is gone--taken by the granddaughter of the woman who possessed it. Ivy sets off in pursuit, not just to save the manuscript but to save the vulnerable girl, who was previously trafficked and has no idea what she's getting herself into. Joining forces with Alaska State Trooper Nolan Long, Ivy must battle a blizzard, sabotage, and the worst of an Alaskan winter as the search goes on. But every answer they find only raises more questions--and the danger to their lives and to the missing girl may only be the tip of the iceberg. (Romantic Suspense from Revell)

Suspicious Homicide by Elizabeth Goddard -- When Finnley Wilbanks is run off a mountainside road, it confirms her worst fears—her father was murdered. With her life hanging in the balance, she turns to bodyguard and investigator Caine Honor for protection. As they work together to solve the mystery behind her father’s death, danger stalks their every move. And keeping Finnley alive long enough to find answers might be Caine’s hardest mission yet. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Celebrity Pastor by Creston Mapes -- Pastor Neil Gentry embarked on his ministry with genuine intentions, unwavering passion, and undeniable charisma. As his influence grew, so did his fame. Vine & Branches Church became one of the fastest growing in the world. Soon, Pastor Gentry and his wife Becky resembled royalty, enjoying fame and power—and basking in the adoration of their devoted followers. Beneath the glitz and glamor, however, whispers of misconduct began to surface. As the allure of popularity and power consume the Gentrys, they find themselves plummeting into the abyss of moral compromise. With the weight of their actions threatening to shatter everything they’ve built, one dire question remains: can anything or anyone break the spell before the unthinkable happens? (Suspense from Rooftop Press)

Colorado Mountain Kidnapping by Cate Nolan -- A cryptic phone call sends Isabelle Weaver running from armed intruders—with her daughter and best friend’s baby under her care. Nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted…except former army ranger Adam Dalton. Together, they must uncover a kidnapper’s motives while protecting the children. But as danger tracks them through the mountains, can they outwit a criminal mastermind before they all lose their lives? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Children’s Picture Books:

Would You Rather: Bible Water Adventures by Jerah Alvarado -- Would you rather cruise on Noah's Ark with stinky animals? Or would you rather be in a huge storm with Jesus asleep in your boat? Choose from fourteen different Bible water adventures the one you would rather experience! (Children’s Picture Books from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

The Filbert Ridge Miracle by Tamelia Aday -- It was October 7, 1967. The festival in Filbert Ridge, Oregon came early. Town history and the lives of its citizens changed forever. That was the day little Stephen McMillan disappeared. (Literary Contemporary)

The Elder by Roger E Bruner -- How can an elderly man regain his sense of worth once his one big success fades and God doesn’t seem to have other plans for him? (Contemporary General)

Bright Lights by Lisa Phillips, Rebecca Reed, Gina Conroy and Andrea Christenson -- Four Christian Fiction Romance novels from Christian fiction’s hottest contemporary romance authors. (Contemporary Romance)

Visible by Darlene M. Corbett -- Rachel Karem, a 55-year-old widowed therapist, runs a group for five "stuck" professionals, and along the way, she explores obstacles interfering in life's journey, ventures out to a Tango Dance Studio, and encounters an older, attractive gentleman. (Contemporary Romance)

Flat Deception by Paige Edwards -- Falsely accused of equine doping, Lady Sophie Henderson must prove her innocence. In a world where people are willing to do anything to win, it’s impossible to know who to trust. (Romantic Suspense)

Justice Delayed by Sarah Hamaker -- After serving her time, a convicted murderer tries to clear her name with the help of a washed-up investigative reporter. (Romantic Suspense)

Billionaire Sheriff on the Move by Bonita Y. McCoy -- Bernadette has known Wade for years. Shoot, he even saved her life, once. So, when Wade moves back to town and wants more than just a simple friendship, Bernadette must face a new decision and an old fear. Can she overcome her past and open her heart to a new kind of love? (Contemporary Romance)

Disappearance in Pinecraft by Lenora Worth -- Her sister has disappeared...and now her life is on the line. (Amish Romance)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sarah Hanks!

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Sarah Hanks!

My grandpa first saw my grandma in 1959 walking outside of Velvet Freeze, a popular ice cream joint in St. Louis. He says, "She had a scarf under her nose and cigarettes rolled up in her shirt, wearing her Levis. I saw her and said, 'Wow! What a woman.'" She'd just gotten thrown out of Beaumont High School for a knife fight. Her siren's call drew my grandpa in. He was smitten.

Their first date was on the Admiral, a popular river cruise boat featuring live music and dancing. It did not go as planned. Still, he knew she was the woman for him.

They had two weddings: a secret one, and a church one. It's an excellent, hilarious story. You can read all about it in New Creations, my new split-time novel releasing on August 16th (my grandpa’s birthday). Reality needed little to no tinkering here.

Other stories included: that time "Floyd" cut a man's ear off, home improvement endeavors that rival
National Lampoons, a blackberry snafu that left a grocery store in alarm, and that time he got his finger stuck in a wiper blade and had to have dinner brought to him at the car. I'm telling you, my grandpa is a legend. You're going to love him!

New Creations isn’t a memoir. While many of the stories from the historical storyline are based in truth, the more contemporary storyline is nearly entirely fabricated. The 1990s storyline is based on my memories of growing up singing and dancing for older ladies in the back of my grandparent’s shop as they waited under dryers, but there’s a lot of creative leeway. I switched up names (My grandpa’s name is Douglas Floyd. In New Creations the protagonist is Floyd Douglas. Clever, huh?) and condensed the storyline, but tried to stay true to the heart of my Papa’s character.

This is a book that will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you want to hug your loved ones tight. For those who love family stories, nostalgic vibes, and character-driven novels, you might just fall in love with this one.

If you enjoyed Amanda Cox's The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, Susie Finkbeiner's The All-American, or Katie Powner's The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass, you might just love New Creations. (All photos courtesy of Sarah Hanks)

Here’s the blurb:

Floyd Douglas is a blundering barber who faces retirement wondering if the past sixty years of his life have been a waste. When he's presented with the opportunity to go on a mission trip, it seems like the answer to his prayers and a way to finally make his life count for something. Now with a series of obstacles standing in the way of his newfound dream, he must decide whether to push through or find contentment in being the faithful family man he's always been.

Emira has always looked up to her grandpa, especially since her parents’ marriage fractured and left her foundations shaken. Now, she scrambles to assure the man who taught her how to love what a deeply meaningful life he’s lived.

New Creations releases on August 16th. You can preorder the Kindle book now.

Sarah Hanks is an award-winning author of Christian fiction in both the contemporary and historical genres. After spending over a decade mostly writing and teaching Sunday school curricula for churches in her community, she jumped into writing fiction full-time with her split-time novel Mercy Will Follow Me. She and her husband have nine children, a couple of whom seem to have inherited their mother’s love for playing with words and crafting stories. Though Sarah dreams of a cabin by the beach, the family lives jammed together in beautiful chaos near St. Louis, Missouri. She buys earplugs in bulk.

You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram @authorsarahhanks or connect with her at her website