My First 100 Reads of 2021.

If I tagged all 100 titles and their authors, I don’t know how Google’s search algorithm would handle them all. In fact, even this post is acting super slow just trying to type it all out. Then again, there’s always a bit of a delay when it comes to doing anything with WordPress’ block builder. Anywho…

Listed below are the one hundred ebooks I’ve read so far in 2021. These are all the titles I’ve either loved or hated, read at home or on my lunch break at work. Read on a plane or in the car on the way to Johnstown, PA. And some were even read on a train. Some were romance – some REALLY romantical – and some were sweetly romantical. Many books have lords, ladies and ruggedly handsome Highlanders.

If you reach the end and wonder why only one non-fiction book is represented, that’s because I prefer physical copies of non-fiction. Some of these titles are steamy: you have been warmed – I mean, warned.

So here’s the 100 ebooks I read this year. Not counting all the physical books over on my shelf! I may/may not have book problems…

100. ON THE SHORES OF TREGALWEN by Deborah M. Hathaway

When her estranged mother beckons her to London, Hannah Summerfield has no choice but to answer her call. Forced to leave behind her peaceful life in Cornwall, she bids farewell to the seaside, her grandparents—and her childhood sweetheart, Thomas. She becomes subdued at once by Society’s rigid rules and her mother’s censure, and when Thomas’s letters unexplainedly stop, she is left to wonder if she ought to embrace her new life in Town after all. But when her mother pressures her to accept an unwanted proposal, Hannah cannot help but flee to the one place she has ever called home—to the only boy she has ever loved…. read more.

99. A DUKE FOR LADY EVE by Kasey Stockton

After escaping to the garden for a reprieve from the stuffy ballroom, Miss Evelyn Trainor bumps into a handsome stranger through a hedge. When he boldly requests an introduction, she lies and tells him a fake name, Lady Eve, positive she’ll never see him again. But when she returns to the country for Christmas and finds her handsome stranger…read more.

98. A SECRET FIRE by Deborah M. Hathaway

In the small, western town of Thundercreek, Emma Marchant leads a simple life, her days spent by picking wildflowers, dodging the unwanted advances of the town drunk, and running her family-owned inn with her brother and his wife. Though ever-cheerful on the outside, Emma can’t help but long for something more. Finally, a promise of change comes when cowboy Thatcher Deakon rides into town in…read more.

97. WHEN TWO RIVERS MEET by Deborah M. Hathaway

When a handsome stranger arrives in Bath, Miss Lilyanna Crosgrove is charmed at once by his kind manner, for Mr. Elijah Bainbridge is a true gentleman. Even Lilyanna’s overbearing mother, who dictates where Lilyanna may go and with whom she may speak, approves of the attachment. That is, until an unsightly and unrelenting…read more.

96. REDEEMING THE LADY by Lana Williams

Only half of Gabriel Sloane’s blood is blue. The other half is black from the coal dust his mother removed daily as a housemaid. Despite his poor upbringing, Gabriel is now a partner in a successful gentlemen’s club, no thanks to his father, the Duke of Rushford, who’s never bothered to acknowledge him. When a fire destroys a warehouse in his old neighborhood, Gabriel is the first to offer aid. But his pockets aren’t…read more.

95. LOVING THE HAWKE by Lana Williams

After five seasons as a wallflower, Lettie Fairchild is resigned to spinsterhood. Mostly. Determined to claim more meaning for her life than seeing her younger sisters married, she seeks a purpose. She finds what she’s looking for when she happens upon a book describing seven curses that plague London. Nathaniel Hawke is attempting to adjust to civilian life after retiring from the military, but his injured leg and…read more.

94. CHARMING THE SCHOLAR by Lana Williams

Oliver, Viscount Frost, must end his reclusive ways to uncover the mysteries of an ancient text used by a ringleader of professional thieves. He emerges from his books only to find Lady Julia Hopwood blocking his path. Julia’s friendly nature and charming smile hide her desperate efforts to keep her father from succumbing to melancholy and illness. The purchase of an old book…read more.

93. NEAR THE RUINS OF PENHARROW by Deborah M. Hathaway

Bal maiden Gwynna Merrick is more than prepared to resume her work at the copper mine, if only to keep her family safe from destitution. But when her upper-class friend convinces Gwynna to have one final night of enjoyment, a borrowed gown and a false identity give her a small taste of the freedom she has always craved. That is, until the mine owner’s handsome son arrives and threatens to reveal her identity. Heir to his father’s mine, Jack Trevethan has returned to Cornwall to…read more.

92. RESCUING THE EARL by Lana Williams

After several suspicious accidents nearly kill her young son, Grace Stannus, a widowed viscountess, and her son, Matthew, flee their home in the dark of night, their identities concealed. Her predicament goes from bad to worse when she’s left ill and penniless alongside a deserted road in the pouring rain, not realizing the danger she faces…read more.


Ruairi Calbraith has been living in shame and guilt. Years ago, his twin sister married a man from an enemy clan to end a feud that Ruairi had accidentally started. Instead of protecting his people, Ruairi put them in danger and now he feels unworthy of becoming a Laird. No longer able to look them in the eyes, he leaves the Highlands to become a captain and spent his days in the sea. A decade after, when Ruairi’s father…read more.

90. A COMPANION FOR THE COUNT by Sally Britton

Emma Arlen has spent a decade as a member of the duke’s family, in the position of companion to his daughter and ward to the duke himself. She would do anything to show her support to the ducal family for their love and kindness. When Lady Josephine begs Emma to distract a most determined Sicilian suitor, she agrees at once. How hard can it be…read more.

89. FOR THE LADY OF LOWENA by Deborah M. Hathaway

Tired of the smoke, the smog, and the spoiled females of London, Frederick Hawkins leaves the city behind and purchases an estate in Cornwall, longing to escape his mother’s meddling—and to find a wife worthy of his devotion. When he happens upon a barefooted lady asleep on the beach and rescues her from the incoming tide, he believes he has found such a woman. But first impressions can’t be trusted. Born into wealth, Sophia Rosewall is…read more.


Lord Jonathon Beckett’s mission is simple: retrieve Lady Hannah and place her under the protection of the Crown. But he isn’t prepared for the havoc she inflicts on his world, making him question whether his duty as an agent of the Crown should always come before his heart. Lady Hannah’s father has uncovered evidence…read more.

87. BEHIND THE LIGHT OF GOLOWDUYN by Deborah M. Hathaway

Abigail Moore will do anything to keep Golowduyn Lighthouse shining brightly, even if she must do so alone. When a shipwreck occurs near her home one stormy evening—bringing with it a dashing captain keen to offer his aid at every turn—her days of isolation vanish. Captain Gavin Kendricks didn’t expect to end…read more.


Miss Emma Pearson lives the most remarkable life for the daughter of a constable. Because of her brother’s heroics in Scotland, she has astonishingly become the ward of the Marquess of Downshire. Now, she wears only the finest clothes and mingles with members of high Society. Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned when a series of accidents causes her Season to be ruined before it has even begun. Simeon Martin, the Viscount of Wentworth, despises…read more.

85. THE BARON’S DAUGHTER by Laura Beers

Lord Morgan Easton is, first and foremost, an agent of the Crown. To achieve his purposes, he has become Society’s golden boy, and a renowned rake. When it’s discovered that notorious French spy, Genet, is attending a house party in a small seaside village, he is tasked to infiltrate the gathering and arrest the spy. But first, he must convince a certain woman to become his partner and pose as his wife. The challenge is that she would rather see him dead. Miss Josette Northcott guards her secrets fiercely, trusts few…read more.

84. A DECEPTIVE BARGAIN by Laura Beers

Hiding from the horrors of her past, Miss Martha Haskett is content living her days serving as a lady’s maid to her friend Eliza, the Marchioness of Lansdowne. But then her father, the new Earl of Waterford, shows up, with the shocking news that she is now a titled lady. Further turning her life upside down…read more.

83. A TANGLED RUSE by Laura Beers

After a failed abduction attempt, Lady Rachel is sent into hiding on her uncle’s estate near the sleepy village of Rockcliffe on the shores of Scotland. As she struggles to cope with the nightmares of her past, she unwittingly stumbles into even greater danger than she left behind. And this time, Shadow isn’t around to save her. Luke Beckett, the Marquess of Downshire, was content running his stud farm in solitude…read more.

82. TO LOVE A SPY by Laura Beers

Freed from the clutches of her cruel, traitorous mother and impostor husband, Lady Camden wants to rebuild her fractured life. But the years of terror and pain she endured at their hands continue to grip her heart in an iron vice. Refusing to stray from the refuge of her country estate, Kate tentatively agrees to an unusual alliance with the new Lord Camden, being mindful to keep her trust, and her heart, firmly safeguarded. Adrien, the Earl of Camden, had lost everything…read more.

81. MY SISTER’S INTENDED by Rachael Anderson

For as long as Prudence can remember, it has been understood that her sister will one day wed the eldest son of their nearest neighbor. Such an alliance will benefit both families and bring a great deal of joy to all parents involved. Unfortunately, Prudence has never been able to…read more.

80. SAVING SHADOW by Laura Beers

Born with a perfect memory, Lady Elizabeth Beckett has become one of the world’s most notorious spies, despite being the daughter of a duke. She is shielded only by her code name: Shadow. When young ladies of High Society begin disappearing from London, Eliza has no doubt…read more.


Grieving from the death of his wife, Lord Colin Campbell listens to the cries of his newborn son whilst penning a missive to the king. With no marriage prospects, Colin petitions his majesty for help in finding a stepmother. Never again will he fall in love—the death of a woman brings…read more.

78. HEIRESS FOR HIRE by Madeline Hunter

Minerva Hepplewhite has learned the hard way how to take care of herself. When an intruder breaks into her home, she doesn’t swoon or simper. Instead she wallops the rogue over the head and ties him up—only to realize he is Chase Radnor, the man who nearly…read more.

77. THE SOLICITOR’S SON by Rachael Anderson

At the end of her third season, Miss Sophia Gifford is firmly on the shelf, and she’s determined to accept her current suitor—a man she likes but cannot love When her sister decides to throw an impromptu summer house party, Sophia reluctantly agrees to help. What she doesn’t realize…read more.

76. A LADY TO REVEAL by Wendy May Andrews

Lady Felicity has no interest in Society’s expectations, and positively dreads being married off to a life without purpose. Desperate for a change of scenery, she hides her noble heritage and takes on the role of companion for the young daughter of a Duke. Gilbert Barrington, the Duke of Rathnelly, feels constant pressure to…read more.

75. A DUKE TO ELUDE by Wendy May Andrews

Lady Rosabel, eldest daughter of the Earl of Sherton, has no interest in being a Duchess, despite countless proposals from eligible nobility. Secretly, she is waiting for a love match—preferably with someone who carries no title. Bel’s third Season is predictably disappointing until…read more.

74. SHINING KNIGHT by Elizabeth Johns

Lady Eugenia Knight was the youngest of five, and the only daughter of a duke, so was it any wonder she was a hoyden? When she made her London debut, naturally Society—and the gossip columns—were fascinated with her. When her best friend and her brothers married, she was left to her own…read more.

73. DALTON’S CHALLENGE by Penny Fairbanks

Having spent half her life in her younger brother’s shadow, Miss Winifred Thirley has tried so hard to be perfect in order to win back her parents’ love. Unfortunately for Winnie, her attempts at perfection have practically turned her to stone. Is it so wrong for Winnie to value responsibility, decorum, and a serious approach to life? According to the foolish…read more.

72. ANNA’S DECISION by Penny Fairbanks

Miss Anna Harcourt is unlucky in love. She hasn’t been able to catch any man’s eye, dooming her to a future as the lonely maiden aunt. Why keep putting herself through the misery of being invisible among all the many beautiful, interesting ladies that flock to London every Season? Just when Anna is…read more.

71. CAROLINE’S DISCOVERY by Penny Fairbanks

It’s no secret that Miss Caroline Harcourt wants to marry a wealthy gentleman with an impressive title. In fact, she talks about it all the time. So why has she gone through two Seasons, dozens of suitors, and even a few proposals without marrying? Caroline is convinced that it’s because of her…read more.

70. SUITORS FOR THE PROPER MISS by Jen Geigle Johnson

Miss Lucy Standish has wanted to marry a future duke for as long as she could remember. Days in the cold, with little coal for their small cottage and little to eat, she would dream of the days she saved all her sisters with a marriage to a man of such elevated title that they would never be poor again, that her children and their children forever would be cared for. Mr. Conor Sullivan has never…read more.

69. PINING FOR LORD LOCKHART by Jen Geigle Johnson

Charity watches each of her sisters make plans to marry, one by one, and she is overjoyed for their happiness, but she doubts she will ever feel much of the same. She is busy in her causes, in her book groups, in her thinking bluestocking ways, but she has a secret. And no one knows, not even the man himself. But through all of her forward thinking ways, she is pining for Lord Lockhart. Lord Lockhart is the…read more.


Mairi Cameron has been haunted by a moment that changed her life forever. A dark secret that she reveals to no one made her abandon the world at fifteen and become a nun. Years afterwards, a letter from her father, Laird Cameron, comes to shake her life once more…read more.


When her parents sent her to an Abbey to punish her for her misbehaviors, Lady Rowena Morgan thought she’d seen the last of them. A notion that proved false when years later, they come with a new demand: she must take her sister’s place and marry a brutish Scotsman. Honoring a deal made by…read more.

66. HIGHLANDER’S PRIDE by Adamina Young

Nothing scares Margaret MacGill more than the prospect of marriage. Growing up as a wallflower, the very thought of men brings her discomfort, as Margaret does not see herself as a beautiful woman. Thus, when her brother Laird MacGill announces to her that he has arranged a series of Highland games, she panics at the hearing of the prize; a kiss from her! Now, people from all over Scotland…read more.

65. THE FIRST PROPOSAL by Chasity Bowlin

It was a blow to Persephone “Percy” Blake’s vanity to discover that she’d somehow become a spinster aunt. It’s certainly not what she set out to be. She had just been working away in her father’s library, cataloging historical documents. Then one day she looked up to find that ten years had passed and she was firmly on the shelf. Now, with the recent…read more.

64. SILVER DOLLAR DUKE by Sally Britton

Evan Rounsevell, second son to the Marquess of Rothwell, is running as far from his family and responsibilities as he can. His fascination with cowboys takes him from English shores to the Arizona desert, but the days of showdowns are over, and Tombstone, Arizona, is a respectable town. With no…read more.


Mary Douglas Mallach is a widow, and no man is willing to marry her after he meets her four wild boys! Nevertheless, her brother Laird Bhaltair Douglas insists that she marries again and finally manages to arrange a wedding with a merchant who resides in Scotland’s far north in the Orkney Islands. However, the northern waters around the Pentland Firth are dangerous and difficult to sail, and they are full of pirates… Seeking a way to…read more.

62. THE PEASANT QUEEN by Ashton E. Dorow

Torn from her home and all that is familiar, Arabella of Caelrith finds herself as the unwilling bride of King Rowan of Acuniel–the man whose vengeful war stole her family. Bitter and confused, Arabella struggles to find her place in this new life. That is, until someone tries to kill the king. Despite repeated warnings…read more.


Devoted to the children at her orphanage, Miss Caroline Hawkins hides her beauty behind thick spectacles and drab clothing in order to remain unwed…and free to do as she pleases. While her parents would love nothing more than to see her well married, Caroline is determined…read more.

59. LOVE IN THE WAGER by Kasey Stockton

When Lydia’s father tells her he’s obtained a husband for her, Mr. Thornton, she doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She’d only met the man once before, and he’d immediately left her stranded in a ballroom after asking her to dance. How could she marry a man who already deemed her forgettable? Edward Thornton has succumbed to the allure…read more.


Nothing but a pawn in her uncle’s game for title and station, Miss Rebecca Hawkins is forced to spend her days in the company of the most boring lord to ever cross her path, dreading the day he will finally work up the courage to ask for her hand. Her dreams of adventure are crushed by the…read more.


Unmarried and with child, Lady Eugenie enters into a marriage of convenience to save herself and her unborn child from society’s censure. However, her new husband turns out to be the rumored Beast of Ravengrove, a hideously scarred man who roams his ancestral home at night, sending fear into the hearts of those unfortunate enough to encounter him. Battle-scarred and weary…read more.


After her older sister’s marriage five years ago, Breta’s father grew lax, giving her the chance to develop into a wild child. But as sure as the sunris e, the moment of Breta’s marriage arrives as well, and her dreams of avoiding it are shuttered. However, hope arises when Breta hears of the Highland games that will be held by the Mcdougals, the clan her sister has married into. Breta plans to attend the games…read more.


After being swept out to sea, Nessa Barrett, Countess of Wentford, is nursed back to health at an abbey. While her body heals quickly, her mind remains lost to her. Without even the knowledge of her own name, she has nothing and no one to return to. Three years pass and…read more.

54. LOVE FOR THE SPINSTER by Kasey Stockton

Years after discovering her parents’ marriage was invalid, and she illegitimate, Freya continued to struggle with the scandal hanging over her head. When her father reappears with his real wife and daughter, Freya flees London entirely. With an inherited country house, Freya at least has somewhere to run. She looks forward to…read more.


After losing her entire family to a horrible sickness, Miss Charlaine Palmer leaves Jamaica and crosses an ocean, hoping for a new beginning in England. Unfortunately, she has been marked as an outsider, eyed suspiciously by the English ton. Her old friend, Lord Markham, as well as his family, however, welcome her with open arms and soon…read more.

52. VEILED IN SMOKE by Jocelyn Green

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store. The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames…read more.


Miss Emma Glass wants nothing to do with noblemen. From experience, she knows that deceitful minds hide behind their most charming smiles, and thus, she keeps to herself, her sole focus her precious little girl as well as the means necessary to ensure her future. Dedicated to fulfilling her role as governess to Lord Markham’s young daughter, Emma…read more.

50. PHILIPPA HOLDS COURT by Jennie Goutet

At the start of their London Season, Philippa Clavering discovers her friend Susan is being pursued by the wrong gentleman and decides to turn Susan’s head to a worthier suitor. Not one to shrink from what she views as her duty and gift, Philippa sets plans in motion to bring about the happy ending her friend deserves. What she does not expect is to have Susan’s older brother watching—and criticizing—her every move. After a respectable number…read more.

49. AGE OF AURORAS by Shari L. Tapscott

Temporary peace has settled across Draegan as a new era begins for the cursed kingdom, but the royals know that tranquility is fleeting. In order to fulfill the magic and save the continent from its imminent destruction, Rhys and Amalia must once again return to Renove and see the rightful king ascend his throne. The sorrows of yesterday…read more.


Christina MacKinnon is secretly relieved to be a widow. She is equally desperate to distance herself from the clan of her dead husband, but as the heir to his estate—one she needs in order to support her siblings—she must first stave off both the advances and threats of the man next in line to inherit. It seems the only person she can turn to is a nearby stranger who seems inclined to help her. But he has a request….read more.

47. THE ROSE AND THE WAND by EJ Kitchens

When prim and proper enchantress Lady Alexandria attempts to bewitch a magic mirror, she ends up cursed—powerless, penniless, dumped in a strange land, and stuck in the body of an old hag. As if that weren’t bad enough, the mirror gives her two tasks: curse the prince…read more.

46. THE EARL’S WINNING WAGER by Jen Geigle Johnson

Lord Morley’s life will change forever when he wins a game of cards and a family of sisters to go along with it. Miss Standish in none too pleased to have become the responsibility of yet another Lord, even if he is full of charm and goodness. Her responsibilities are…read more.

45. THE DUKE’S SECOND CHANCE by Jen Geigle Johnson

Gerald feels as though he’s lost everything when his wife takes her last breath. Amelia’s world turns upside down when the Duke of Granbury steps into her tea shop and leaves with her heart. But when a secret…read more.

44. ENCHANTING THE ELVEN MAGE by Alisha Klapheke

Today, Aury learned three things: One, she is a princess. Two, she might be a powerful mage. And three, a brutal mountain elf is on his way to the kingdom for their marriage. Aury can’t escape her newly revealed royal parents quickly enough. If they think she is going to marry some vicious elven warrior mage, they have another thing coming. They claim she’s a mage too…read more.

43. A FORGIVING HEART by Kasey Stockton

Kate Kingston wants nothing more than to instill her love of art into the hearts of her pupils, but when a solicitor arrives to inform her that her uncle died and she inherited his estate, she is hesitant to leave the comfortable life she has developed. Encouraged by her friends to embrace the new adventure, Kate uproots her life and travels to Larkfield where she must face the demons from her past…read more.

42. A REFUGE ASSURED by Jocelyn Green

Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a…read more.

41. NOT FORGOTTEN by Elizabeth Johns

Shipwrecked and believed dead by his friends, Captain Philip Elliot has been in hiding whilst spying on one of Napoleon’s most trusted lieutenants. Despite being in exile, Bonaparte still has grandiose plans of escape and conquering Europe…with the help of his ex-mistress, La Glacier, the most beautiful and complicit woman in France. Now the Duke of Wellington wants Philip to come out of hiding in order…read more.

40. THE IRON EARL by KJ Jackson

Miss Evalyn Swanson is desperate to escape her stepfather and his nefarious plan to hawk her off to his vicious business partner. With time running out, she spies salvation at a house party in Lincolnshire. Salvation in the form of one hulking, brooding Scotsman that is conveniently traveling north. North, where she can disappear for good…read more.

39. TIMELESS TREASURE by MaryLu Tyndall

The only thing Lexie’s mother left her after her death was a folder full of ancient letters and an old coin. Determined to remove the curse of poverty and crime from her family’s past, Lexie sets off to Charleston, S.C. to find the mythical treasure of Stede Bonnet. Professor Barret Johnson represents everything…read more.

38. BREATHE by Lisa T. Bergren

It’s Colorado, 1883. A publishing heiress is on the brink of life and death. Her beautiful younger sister is called to the forbidden stage. Her brother and troubled guardian is…read more.

37. THE SCARRED PRINCE by Erika Everest

His face scarred from a witch’s curse, Prince Sebastian retreats inside his castle, resentful and angry. He shuns contact with everyone except the Red Hoods, the elite soldiers he trains and leads. Four years ago, Sienna was…read more.

36. THE SECRETS OF A SCOUNDREL by Mindy Burbidge Strunk

Lady Isabel Palmer is crushed when her best friend and fellow adventurer, Marcus, leaves without even a good-bye. As years pass, tales of his rakish lifestyle reach her, and she buries any feelings she ever had for him. But when Marcus shows up years later in the middle of her father’s hunting party, old feelings and bitterness surface, placing the once close friends constantly at odds. Marcus Tierney left Essex years ago, hoping to…read more.

35. THE SECRETS OF A SCOUNDREL by Mindy Burbidge Strunk


34. KETURAH by Lisa T. Bergren

In 1773 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage. Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in…read more.

33. HIS DISINCLINED BRIDE by Jennie Goutet

Kitty Stokes never imagined she’d be so weak as to sacrifice herself on the altar of family obligations, but when the only alternative to marriage with Lord Hayworth is to play nursemaid to her brother’s children, Kitty reluctantly agrees. On her wedding day, she’s certain she has made a grave error, but it’s too late to back out. Phineas Hayworth refrained from…read more.


Lessons in propriety did little to prepare Marah Kinsley for life on board a creaky old boat. Now widowed, the boat is her livelihood, if she can only keep the navy from learning that she has shouldered the work of maintaining it. When a handsome lieutenant is granted command, Marah has to curb her growing attraction to keep him from uncovering the truth and taking away her means of supporting her family…read more.

31. A WELL-TRAINED LADY by Jess Heileman

Arabella Godwin is an Incomparable in London Society—elegant, wealthy, and meticulously trained. Yet, she has nothing to show for her efforts aside from her pretentious reputation and a collection of disappointed suitors. When her plan to secure a promising offer of marriage is temporarily delayed, she must bide her time in the company of…read more.

30. IF HE’S WILD by Hannah Howell

Lady Alethea Vaughn Channing is haunted by a vision of a man in danger—the same man who she has seen in her dreams time and time again. She doesn’t even know his name, and yet she feels an intense connection between them. And she knows with an inexplicable certainty that she is the only one standing between him and disaster…read more.


Tillie Sherbrooke was born a lady, but lost her place in society by her father’s folly. Quiet, resourceful, and loyal, she now makes the perfect lady’s maid for her mistress Sophia. When Sophia’s parents give her no choice but to travel across England to be matched with a mysterious young bachelor…read more.


Amelia Fawn is cursed—or so she believes. How else can she explain each of her husbands’ deaths within the first year of marriage? So after the ton names her the Black Widow and warns eligible men to stay clear, Amelia vows never to marry again. Not even if she falls in love…read more.


Eleanor Daventry has come into money, but she cannot access her inheritance without a husband. Steadfast and independent, she would rather become a schoolmistress than take a husband she does not love. Stratford Tunstall has just discovered…read more.

26. AN OFFICER, NOT A GENTLEMAN by Elizabeth Johns

Despite Tobin O’Neill’s humble origins, he finds himself a lieutenant in His Majesty’s army, serving on Wellington’s staff. When the roguish Irishman strikes up an unlikely friendship with a general’s daughter, they somehow become enmeshed in navigating the perils of the greatest battle of their age. Bridget Murphy had grown up following…read more.


After the sudden and unexpected death of her parents, Susanna, a beautiful English girl, finds herself under the protection of her uncle, who seeks to betroth her to the man that best serves his own interests. That man happens to be William Baxter, a devilish handsome Highlander, whose colossal…read more.

24. THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Elizabeth Johns, Annette Lyon & Nancy Campbell Allen

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series, comes our new Victorian Romance collection: THE ORIENT EXPRESS. With three brand new Victorian Romance novellas by Elizabeth Johns, Annette Lyon, and Nancy Campbell Allen…read more.

23. DUKE OF KNIGHT by Elizabeth Johns

Rowley Knight, Duke of Knighton, is too busy being a duke to bother with such nonsense as love. With three heirs, he is in no hurry whatsoever to succumb to the lures of the leg-shackles. He is content managing his siblings and estates, and avoiding Society whenever possible. If he can only…read more.


As the fifth daughter in a family of nine, Noelle Grant spent her life striving to be unique. Her love of telling stories helps define her goal—to be known around the country as one of the top news correspondents of her time. And what better way to uncover sensational tales than to travel through the mountain wilderness to visit her brother? The trip comes together perfectly as she journeys…read more.

21. THIS HOMEWARD JOURNEY by Misty M. Beller

After her husband’s death, Rachel Gray is finally free from the turmoil his addictions caused. She wants nothing more than a new life with her twelve-year-old son. If she can reach her brother in the wilderness of the Canadian territories, they’ll have help to start over in peace. She knows better than to put her life in the hands of another man, but she never expected the …read more.

20. THIS FREEDOM JOURNEY by Misty M. Beller

Adrien Lockman is through with the political unrest and bloodshed in his home country of France, so he sets off to the Canadian territory’s mountain frontier, in search of a place where a man can live his own life in peace. The last thing he expects to find is a woman, half-starved and half-frozen in a shack nestled among the towering peaks of the great Rocky Mountains…read more.


Lilly Arendale has fought the anger of prejudice all her life. Her Guatemalan mother and wealthy English father were very much in love and gave her the best of upbringings, but their family was never accepted in either country. Now, orphaned and alone in the mining town of Butte in the Montana Territory, the effects of racism have left Lilly with a one-year-old daughter and…read more.


Claire Sullivan has a soft spot for helping those in need. So when her widowed grandmother becomes blind, Claire is determined to travel to the Montana Territory to care for her. But she never imagined the country would be so wild compared to her North Carolina home. Even the local…read more.


Miriam Bryant has always dreamed of leaving the never-ending work of her family’s remote mountain ranch to travel abroad as a genteel lady. She’s thrilled when the opportunity finally arises, but a gruesome hunting accident crushes her plans, leaving her stranded for weeks in a Montana Territory mining town. The single bright spot…read more.


Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her…read more.

15. BEHIND THE SCENES by Jen Turano

Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn’t guaranteed to “take.” After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she’s finally putting her status on…read more.

14. TRUE OF HEART by Martha Keyes

Miss Ruth Hawthorn helps support her fatherless family the only way she can: doling out love advice in a local newspaper column under an assumed name, The Swan. When she receives a lucrative request for an in-person consultation from someone signed “O,” her brother persuades her to…read more.

13. THE LADY OF LARKSPUR VALE by Kasey Stockton

Mabel Sheffield is too tall, or so she believes. It’s one of the reasons she has given up on finding a husband and instead embraces her role as a spinster, dedicating her days to managing her grandmother’s estate and her seven-year-old sister. But when…read more.


A funeral takes place under London’s rainy skies. Lavinia Bronson’s heart mourns for the loss of her beloved father and the bleak future that her mother is planning for her. But a mysterious man comes to…read more.


Percy Easton should by all means be one of the most content men in London, being the Earl of Berkshire and quite easy on the eyes. But due to the scandal that ensued after his aunt’s crimes, he barely has the will to walk out his front door. There is only one thing that lights his world of darkness: Lady Emilia Hornsby, the daughter…read more.

10. THE WIFE OF WALRAVEN by Amanda Panhorst

Resigned and dreading an arranged marriage that’s as ill-suited as it is unwanted, Lord Walraven accepts the invitation of a ramshackle acquaintance to journey to a house party in the far north of England as a last hurrah before accepting his fate. But in this helter-skelter party, schemes to ensnare Lord Walraven and his wealth are afoot…read more.


As the new governess to the duke’s family, Alice Sharpe must learn to control her impulsiveness. Employment in the duke’s household is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and could mean living in comfort the rest of her days. Unfortunately, her first encounter with the duke’s house guest…read more.

8. THE COTTAGE BY CONISTON by Deborah M. Hathaway

After a misguided kiss and subsequent rejection by yet another gentleman, Miss Amy Paxton convinces her brother to make all of her future decisions, especially in finding her a husband. His strategy? She must seek his advice before doing anything. Desperate for a happier future and…read more.

7. COURTING TROUBLE by Deeanne Gist

Whether it’s riding bikes, catching snakes, or sliding down banisters, Essie Spreckelmeyer just can’t quite make herself into the ideal woman her hometown–and her mother–expect her to be. It’s going to take…read more.

6. A LILY IN DISGUISE by Jessica Scarlett

To escape the scandals tied to her name, Lillian Markley has gone by an alias for eight years. It was the only way for her to get a reputable job and save enough money to reunite with her sister in America. But when Lily is suddenly…read more.

5. A LORD OF MANY MASKS by Jessica Scarlett

Eliza Wycliffe has always dreamed of falling in love. But when her mother reveals a secret that threatens her inheritance, Eliza realizes she must secure her future and marry before her Season ends—with or without love. Recruiting the help of longtime friend and shameless flirt, William Bentley, Eliza sets about trying to…read more.


Diana Douglass, daughter of the Earl of Winthrop, is desperate to escape the grim future others planned for her. After she is forced to marry her father’s loathsome partner she is left with no other choice but to flee, unaware of the shadows that haunt her every step…read more.


After her parents’ separation, Lady Vivien Exter is left at the mercy of the two people she hates the most: her stone-hearted father and the lecherous betrothed he has forced on her. Until she finds herself in the strong arms of a tempting knight. Francis Farbridge, the Earl of Landon, lost everything overnight. Known as…read more.


Lady Grace Birks, daughter of the Duke of Leosted, would like nothing better than to spend the holidays with her nose stuck in one of her novels. However, her plans are quickly ruined when her father forces her to spend Christmas with a man she despises: her very own betrothed. With their last encounter a complete disaster…read more.


Thea Caulfield, daughter of an ambitious merchant, has no choice but to accept the deal made between her father and the Duke of Sandon. Away from her home and family, she finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she barely knows, and holding a title she never wished for. How will she ever survive this foreign…read more.


“I love stories about adventure and trains!” I once said. “I love mysteries and finding something I normally wouldn’t read,” I said. Well, normally I wouldn’t read such steamy romance: but I did. Normally I wouldn’t read romance at all: but I did. Some of the above titles I loved, and some I didn’t like all that much. But, as fate would have it, this is my list. The first 100 books I read this year – give or take some. I tried sticking true to this list, but as I went back through my Kindle’s list on my phone, I noticed many discrepencies. Book covers didn’t match the titles. Some were oddly repeated and others didn’t even show up.

I think we all know by now that the internet isn’t a perfect place, but I do love it for all the books. What are some of your reads from 2021 (so far)? I hope you’ll share them below; happy reading!

A Quick Look at Three Pittsburgh Landmarks.

In my last few posts about Pennsylvania, I took a look at facts and histories from Dave Hurst’s book, PENNSYLVANIA’S ALLEGHENY MOUNTAINS. Today we’ll go a different route and use several online resources instead. In this post we’ll take a look at the histories of three well-known Pittsburgh establishments: The Cathedral of Learning, Phipp’s Botanical Gardens and Frick Park. What, if anything, do these places have in common? How do the organizations who run them give back to the Pittsburgh community? Let’s take a look at them now:

The Cathedral of Learning

The Cathedral of Learning, known to every Southwestern Pennsylvania school child since the 1930s, has towered over Oakland for the past eighty years. Out-of-towners often think the Cathedral is located in downtown Pittsburgh along with the Allegheny County Courthouse, The Frick Building and the old Pennsylvania Railroad Station Rotunda. The Cathedral of Learning is, in fact, four miles from downtown, or a mere ten minute drive from the city’s center. It can, in fact, be seen on a clear day from the overlooks up Mt. Washington, and seen from nearly everywhere in Oakland itself. The Cathedral hosts everything from glee club recitals and Pitt concerts to business meetings and student study groups. If I’d chosen to attend Pitt instead of Johnson University, I would’ve adored preparing for exams in a place such as the Cathedral.

source: Pittwire

The Architect: Charles Klauder

Completed a mere four years before Klauder’s death in 1938, the Cathedral of Learning was one of Klauder’s last projects. He worked mostly with colleges and universities, and the Cathedral is a staple in every school child’s repertoire for tours and city exploration. While Klauder is most well known for the Cathedral, he also designed buildings for Cornell University, Franklin and Marshall College, Princeton, Penn State and many others.

source: Wikipedia

The Purpose: Learning, of course!

According to Wikipedia, the Cathedral is “the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere,” a fact that hasn’t changed since its completion 87 years ago. The building is home to a theater, auditorium, Nationality Rooms, language studies, computer facilities, honors college, ROTC, financial offices for the college, and many more.

In 1921, John Gabbert Bowman became the tenth chancellor of the university. At that time, the school consisted of a series of buildings constructed along Henry Hornbostel’s plan for the campus and included “temporary” wooden structures built during World War I. He then began to envision a “tall building”, that would be later termed the Cathedral of Learning, to provide a dramatic symbol of education for the city and alleviate overcrowding by adding much needed space in order to meet present and future needs of the university.

source – Wikipedia

The building was conceptualized during a time when everyone from New York City to Pittsburgh and beyond aspired to build the next biggest tower. 56 Pine Street and the Osbourne Apartments are two such towers still standing today in New York City; they were completed in 1894 and 1895, respectively. It was buildings like these which were threatened with bombings at the beginning of World War II, so it’s not at all surprising that the Cathedral also received such threats. After quarry, war and financing issues, the tower was finally dedicated in 1937.

I wonder what Mr. Bowman would say if he could see the Cathedral today. Would he be impressed? Satisfied? Vindicated against all the naysayers of his time? Would he have done anything differently in his quest to build a centralized location for his students? If you ever have a chance to visit Oakland, swing by the Cathedral of Learning. Tour of the International Rooms, explore the building’s many riveting passages or take in a show or two (once they resume, of course!) in the show hall.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Predating The Cathedral of Learning by almost thirty years, the botanical gardens have been open to the public since 1893. The concept for the conservatory is a very Victorian thing, indeed, so it makes sense that a place like this would draw visitors from all over the Pennsylvanian region. Gifted to the city of Pittsburgh by business tycoon Henry W. Phipps. According to history,

wished to “erect something that [would] prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people.” Designed by Lord & Burnham, a New York-based greenhouse manufacturer, for a fee of $100,000, the glasshouse, consisting of nine display rooms, was completed in August 1893, one year after construction began. On Dec. 7, 1893, Phipps Conservatory opened to the public, showcasing many plants originating from the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After its founding, Henry Phipps continued to serve as the Conservatory’s benefactor until his death in 1930 at the age of 91.

source – Phipps Conservatory website

As with anything, everything, in Pittsburgh, one must look at the individuals behind the place. Example: while Andrew Carnegie may have been an incredibly knowledgeable and involved businessman, his feud with HC Frick is well known in history. Neither man was known for humility, and their differing business practices came to a head during the great Homestead Strike of 1892. While neither man is entirely to blame, there was a buildup over time which eventually led to the deadly strike. Why do I bring up Carnegie at all? Not only were Phipps and Carnegie business partners, but childhood friends as well.

At one time I had photos of my visit to Phipps a couple of years ago for my birthday; alas, they’re nowhere to be found now. My parents and sister’s family both have annual passes to the gardens, and I go once in a blue moon. The large, glass building sits in a graceful and low position on a hill, so you walk down into it as opposed to up to it. The building truly is a gorgeous site on a bright, sunny day. With a Children’s Learning area, “living” train platform and many events, visiting this botanical garden is one the best, and cheapest, things you can do. Ten out of ten would recommend (although as of now, only time blocked tickets are available).

In addition to his role in Carnegie’s company, Phipps was a successful real estate investor. After eventually selling his stock in Carnegie Steel, Phipps spent a great deal of his time and money in philanthropic projects. Considered one of the pioneer investors in Florida real estate, Phipps and his family owned one-third of the town of Palm Beach at one point. Among his most prominent philanthropic ventures is the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Schenley Park, which was an 1893 gift to the city of Pittsburgh. Phipps also funded the Phipps Institute for the Study, Treatment and Prevention of Tuberculosis at the University of Pennsylvania and The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which in 1913 stood as the first ever inpatient facility in the U.S. for the mentally ill.

source – EntrepeneurWiki

Phipps source

Carnegie source

Frick source

The Frick

Ah, The Frick. The one place on this list I’ve yet to visit. One of Pittsburgh’s trifecta moguls of the 19th century, Henry Clay Frick is most known for his connections to Andrew Carnegie. I highly doubt the man would’ve called his own estate The Frick, but he was a shrewd businessman who didn’t “mesh” well with the working class. In fact, one of the biggest worker strikes in Pennsylvania history took place under his watch at the Homestead Steel Works. Bonus location: The Carrie Blast Furnaces are a grand tourist attraction and wedding venue folks can visit along the Monongahela River and are almost directly across from the works’ site. Today Homestead is a shopping destination. I truly wish more of that history was still standing. Back to The Frick.

Despite Frick’s business beliefs and models, Pittsburgh can’t deny the impact he had on our communities. According to a biography over at, “Frick played a major role in the formation of the United States Steel Corporation in 1901 and later became a director. He also served as a director of a number of railroads.” There are more operating railroads in Pennsylvania than any other state in our modern century. How do I know? I’ve already ridden several of them, and plan on adding more to that list. If there’s one thing I appreciate about Frick, it’s his involvement in the train and travel businesses.

Fun fact: The building pictured in the link for the US Steel Corporation was known as the “Steel Building” until UPMC purchased the Pittsburgh skyscraper. To this day, many Pittsburghers my age (35) and older still call it “The Steel Building.”

At the Grable Visitor Center one can: “learn about the collections, the Frick family and Pittsburgh history, and schedule a tour of Clayton.” The Clayton (currently closed), was “The home of the Henry Clay Frick family from 1882–1905, this meticulously restored 23-room mansion features an impressive array of fine and decorative art objects purchased by the Fricks. Most other parts of the park are self explanatory.

For years I’ve wanted to take my mother to The Cafe for one of their English High Teas and nearly got to last year. But then the ‘rona put everything on hold. And, sadly, it’s unclear if the teas will return after The Cafe reopens.

Carnegie, Phipps and Frick. Each man has a colorful history, with each one contributing much to Southwestern Pennsylvania. Each was aware of one another and perhaps more acquainted than any of us will truly know. Carnegie’s history is forever attached to Frick; some books on the subject will be linked below.

If you ever have a change to visit the ever-changing city of Pittsburgh, I wholeheartedly invite you to do so! If you’re looking for history, look no further than Southwestern Pennsylvania. We’re not without our qualms, but we know how to work hard and play hard. So did the makers of The Cathedral of Learning, The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and The Frick.

Three Amazing Facts About Pennsylvania.

If you live in Pennsylvania long enough, at some point you would’ve heard the names Frick, Carnegie, Cook and Wright. But did you also know there’s a vast network of canals which have been buried under decades of growth and construction? Or that steam train culture and riding the rails is still a thing in the twenty-first century? Or that Pittsburgh’s intricate system of neighborhood steps follows old Indian trails along the banks of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers?

Today’s blog post comes from the information found in Dave Hurst’s book, PENNSYLVANIA’S ALLEGHENY MOUNTAINS: THE FIRST FRONTIER. As a long time viewer of Star Trek, I, of course, giggled over the tagline. Why? Because The Original Series’ opening montage includes the line: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.” It’s safe to say this is the number one reason I purchased this book to begin with – the word play in my head between two different frontiers.

Pennsylvania is still quite the frontier, especially if one lives at either end of the state. From Pittsburgh and Erie to Philadelphia and Susquehanna, the other end of the state may look daunting. Unless you actually enjoy traveling the I-80 corridor! Okay: hilarious moment here. I looked up directions from Erie, PA to Susquehanna, PA, and Google Maps has you travel the entire lower length of the state of New York and would take under five hours. If you choose to go via PA-59, US-6 E and PA-92, it’ll take you nearly seven hours. Would you believe Pennsylvania isn’t the flattest state in the world?

And this fact finally brings us to today’s topic: Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains. I don’t know why, but I absolutely love looking at topographical maps of my Commonwealth. Not only has so much history happened within our dips and hills and mountains, but its geological makeup is quite interesting as well. Except:

From north-west Pennsylvania down to Virginia, the Alleghenies played, and continue to play, an incredibly important role in how the both the state and our country was formed. More on that in a future blog post. And I’m not saying these things because I’m biased. Clearly, I am. However, I know that there are many things that can, need, and should change about Pennsylvania’s current infrastructure, leadership and more. No way am I looking at this through rose-colored glasses. For today’s post, we’ll be taking a look at three fascinating items from columns published into a book by Dave Hurst. This is a sister post to the one titled Four Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Pennsylvania.

1. There was once a petition to form “Westsylvania.”

It’s crazy to think that I, as a Pittsburgh native, could be living in a state called “Westsylvania.” Proposed state lines are all over the place, according to a quick Google search on the matter. In 1776 it was already spoken of in the context of a colony, so statehood, to the residents at the time, seemed like the next logical course of action.

The colonies themselves were in a constant state of flux at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, so such a concept wouldn’t have been a foreign idea. It’s definitely, however, a foreign idea to this twenty-first century Pennsylvanian! An ancestor of mine once ran an established bakery on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, an area that was once Allegheny City. My church is there now – not in the same exact location – and it’s hard to picture the area without its current wide streets and turn of the century homes.

unedited photo source: wikipedia

[…] the notion survived into the early 1790s when farmers in the west balked at a new tax on the whiskey they often used instead of cash. Egged on by Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the financialized economy, the budding federal government intended to use the revenue to pay off debt from the war with the British Empire.

source: The forgotten history of Westsylvania

This brings to mind the time the city of Pittsburgh went without its iconic “h.” The late 1890s was a huge period of change for southwestern Pennsylvania as a whole, and the city didn’t come out of it untouched. For a twenty-one year period, the city was named Pittsburg, with evidence remaining on old buildings to this day.

The point is this: many things didn’t pan out in the early history of Pennsylvania, Westsylvania and Pittsburg included. While their histories certainly are interesting to learn about, I don’t think I’ll ever want to be from a place called Pittsburg, Westsylvania. That just looks so wrong.

2. The Allegheny Portage Railroad Once Ran Through Here

source – Wikipedia

“During leaf-off, though, we can easily see how men working only with black powder, muscle and horses, leveled valleys and split ridge ribs for the Portage Railroad. We can see the small, cut-stone retaining walls, foundations and ground depressions that hint of engine houses, hitching sheds and other structures.”

Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Mountains, pg. 30

You know the mantra “planes, trains and automobiles,” right? Well, the Portage Railroad wasn’t the only train system operating in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Nor was it the first travel system. Wagon roads and foot trails guided many of the earliest. Then came an elaborate canal system that was destined to become ruins from the very beginning. The map pictured left is one of my very favorites of Pennsylvania.

You can see how the budding railroads actually aided travelers along the canal system and, while I know the Portage Railroad isn’t represented here, one can absolutely see how all these systems were important to how Pennsylvania was shaped.

In fact, The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first central PA railroad to be constructed in the state. It’s an incredibly important representation of the Industrial Revolution in Pennsylvania because it once connected Hollidaysburg to Johnstown – the site of a major flood which took place in 1889. As with all things, the Portage Railroad was, too, left to fail when advancements in train travel called for new rails:

In the 1850s, the Main Line of Public Works and its portage railroad was rendered obsolete by the advance of railway technology and railroad engineering. Early in 1846 the Legislature chartered the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) to cross the entire state in response to plans by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to reach the Ohio Valley through Virginia. In December 1852 trains started to run between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh shortening the travel time from 4 days to 13 hours.

source – Wikipedia

The Allegheny Portage Railroad, much like the canals, was always meant to be a temporary solution. Mr. Hurst writes, “This is the time when you can read the stories of you rlocal landscape. Meander along a river bank and look for canal traces. Wander the site of a frontier fort, an abandoned coal patch or a tumbled-down gristmill. Use your imagination, pictures or memories to visualize what once stood there. […] Respect private property, of course, and revere the resource. Leave no trace of your time spent there and leave with nothing that you didn’t bring with you. Leaf-off reconnaissance offers something far more valuable than some interesting artifact that quickly becomes clutter. Its prizes are lessons about time and place – and an injection of spring for your soul.”

3. There Was Once Disagreement Over The Etymology Of The Southwest Region

source: Pinterest

“As a writer, I know the importance of proper vocabulary, grammar and syntax. They are tools of my trade. But as a heritage writer, I also appreciate the way our unique words and phrases enrich our lives and reflect who we are. Yes, I can spell ‘hiking,’ but I can still say I’m going hikin’. I can write about our slippery winter roads yet caution someone to be careful walking because the sidewalks are “slippy.”

Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, pg. 44-45

Okay, I’ll fold. There’s still disagreement over this region’s etymology. Especially when it comes to words like “yinz,” “jagoff,” “nebby” and “chipped ham.” The thing is, so many nationalities settled here all the way up to the 1900s. Many of these nationalities were hired to work in the mines of Frick and Carnegie, so this very relaxed way of speaking was born.

When it comes to regions, language doesn’t always “cross the valley.” For example: I live to the northwest of Pittsburgh. As far as I know, no one in my neighborhood speaks full on “Pittsburghese.” In fact, when I attended college down in Knoxville, Tennessee, I’d say certain “Pittsburgh words” just to throw people off. Tennesseans use “y’all,” “cart” and “rubber band.” As a twenty-something college kid, I got a big kick out of confusing my southern counterparts.

All in good fun, of course. All in good fun.

If you ever find yourself greatly disliking where you live, maybe it’s time to dive into the region’s history. Even if you’re no longer in school, you can’t learn anything from it if you don’t study it. So the next time you hear someone say “there was once,” take a leap and research it yourself.

Four Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Pennsylvania.

There are many things every life-long Pennsylvanian knows about our vast and wooded Commonwealth. While many can’t wait to escape the state for greener pastures, many more of us have this moment where we just fall in love with our state even more. Yes – that is entirely possible, even in a state such as mine. With leadership such as ours. Pennsylvania’s always been a polarizing place – whether we agree with what goes on or not. It’s been a polarizing place for years. Today’s blog post, inspired by a book called PENNSYLVANIA’S ALLEGHENY MOUNTAINS written by Dave Hurst, will cover four things everyone gets wrong about Pennsylvania. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

The Allegheny Mountains aren’t actually mountains.

Mr. Hurst touches upon an interesting fact right in the book’s introduction: The Allegheny Mountains aren’t actually mountains at all. Wait. What? Then why have I been calling them such my entire life? I suppose, to someone with an untrained mind, our curved hills can certainly look like mountains. Mr. Hurst makes this point as well. I, myself, have gotten lost in old maps of Southwest Pennsylvania. Especially those of the North Shore. It’s part of the City of Pittsburgh today, but it was once known as “Allegheny City.” And that has its own crazy history – a blog post for another day. Let’s take a look at a few points Mr. Hurst makes about these so-called mountains.

  • “Allegheny” spellings on maps The Alleghenies didn’t escape the confusion of early Pennsylvania, where so many borders, names and places continuously changed on maps drawn by many different countries. According to the introduction, the French used “Allegheny,” and the English used “Allegany.”
  • Old World settlers decided to build their new homes here “because the Alleghenies reminded them of similar hills and mountains in Wales, Ireland, Ruthenia and other Old World homelands.” (pg. 13).
  • One merely needs to talk the hills of small town Pennsylvania to see how the Industrial Revolution affected them. Giant dams once held (or rather, barely) back the water of 1700s Johnstown. Canals were carved throughout the entire state, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Foresting and mining towns dotted the landscape everywhere a natural resource could be harvested for use.
  • “Increasingly, these ridges are becoming recognized for their natural and cultural heritage-based recreational opportunities.” (pg. 13).

Contrary to popular belief, the Alleghenies aren’t part of the Poconos. In fact, eleven – yes, eleven – mountainous regions cross through and converge in Pennsylvania: the Allegheny Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, the Bear Pond Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Conewago Mountains, the Endless Mountains, the Moosic Mountains, the Poconos, the South Mountain and, finally, Town Hill. It’s easy to see how the industry moguls of the nineteenth century could look at the land and see its potential, and how we can still see their potential today.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are close to each other, right?

source: Google Maps

In what universe? Sorry, but I must laugh whenever I hear anyone ask this. If one wants to drive via I-76 E, it’ll take toll booths and just under five hours to cross the state. If one wants to go via I-76 and I-70 via Baltimore, Maryland, another hour will be added to the journey. The trip takes even longer via I-80.

Pennsylvania is much bigger than many folks realize. Pittsburgh and Philly have to completely different histories, completely different demographics, and completely different demographics. Employment cultures are also very different: Pittsburgh is more blue collar, while Philadelphia is more white collar.

Here’s a cool fact about Philadelphia: the city was, for a short time, the US capital in the late 1790s. However, it was never meant to be Pennsylvania’s state capital. That honor was reserved for Harrisburg:

Why is Harrisburg the Capital of Pennsylvania?

At the end of the day, it was geographic factors that led to Harrisburg becoming capital of Pennsylvania. In the minds of politicians and policymakers, it made sense for the capital to be located as close to the center of the state as possible, allowing the easiest access from all areas. There were no planes or cars in those days, so transportation to and from a capital always needed to be a consideration.

Philadelphia may be the largest population center in the state, but it is located in the far southeastern corner, roughly 360 miles from Erie, PA, up in the northwestern corner. It would take close to two weeks to make the journey in the era of the horse-drawn carriage.

Harrisburg, on the other hand, is a full 100 miles west of Philadelphia toward the center of the state, and its location directly on the Susquehanna River made it easily accessible by ship. This meant most were able to reach it in a day or two if necessary.


How to pronounce Carnegie.

Love the man or hate the man, his name is EVERYwhere in Pittsburgh. It’s on libraries, museums, science centers, and heck even a town in the Pittsburgh area is named Carnegie. This industry mogul of the mid to late 1800s has an extraordinary number of books written about here. A few suggestions are linked below:

The Carnegie Building, Carnegie College, Carnegie Community Centre, The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut are all just a fraction of the places named after the philanthropist. None of that tells us anything about the etymology of the man’s last name.

In an attempt to deter discrimination in the New World, many immigrants changed how their last names were spelled or pronounced when they came through Castle Garden and, later, Ellis Island. This included many Scottish names, which was Carnegie’s heritage. As with anything, region can have everything to do with how someone’s name is pronounced. “True Pittsburghese” speakers tend to over emphasize either the “r” or the “ne.” In an article on the Hartford Courant’s website, columnist Rob Kyff writes, “As for how to say Carnegie,” “the guy” himself placed the accent on the second syllable. As Webster’s New International Dictionary explained in 1934, “The pronunciation with ‘ay’ [kahr-NAY-gee] was that of Mr. Carnegie himself, but as the Scotch “ay” is ‘stopped,’ that is, pronounced with no terminal glide, it sounds like ‘eh’ [kahr-NEG-ee] to many. So “Carnegie” is indeed properly pronounced “kahr-NEG-ee.” As Charles Elster writes in “The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations,” “No pronunciation maven with a reputation to lose sanctions first-syllable stress [of ‘Carnegie’].”

Clear as mud? Perfect. Let’s take a look at the last point of today’s blog post:

There’s nothing to do in PA? I beg to differ.

Anyone who’s done any research into any town in Pennsylvania will know that small town life is in full swing this summer, almost no matter where you go. From one end of the state to the other there are towns, big and small, filled with things to do.

  • Pittsburgh: Live from Fallingwater: Stephen Towns and Kilolo Luckett, Pittsburgh Black Music Festival, History Uncorked: Night at the Museum, Summer Fridays at The Frick: The Magic Mansion, bike lanes and city parks, the Carnegie Science Center, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Kennywood, Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, et al.
  • Philadelphia: Museum of the American Revolution, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest, Parks on Tap, Summer Scavenger Hunts, Festival of Fountains at Longwood Gardens, Free Museum Days, Phillies (baseball) home game, Downtown Oxford First Friday Summer Block Party, et. al.
  • Hersheypark: Concerts at the Herhsheypark Stadium, MeltSpa, Hershey Theatre, et. al.
  • Hollidaysburg: Farm tours, Summerfest, Full Kilt concerts, Summer Drama Camp, Chimney Rocks Park, Everett Railroad, Canoe Creek State Park, 321 Gallery and more.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

So don’t write off Pennsylvania when the time comes to plan your next vacation, and don’t let any misconceptions you may have about Pennsylvania keep you away. Did you think the Alleghenies were actual mountains? Have you been mispronouncing Carnegie’s name wrong all this time? Don’t worry – we Pennsylvanians won’t hold it against you, for long!

My Last Five Books // From Regencies to Pennsylvania.

Get this thought out of your head right now: I wasn’t sure how to title this post, as it may be my next blog series for the summer. It doesn’t mean that these are the last five books I’ll ever read. Quite the opposite. It means I’ll use this series as an opportunity to share with you all what I’ve been reading, a few thoughts on them, and where to get them yourselves.

While my reading interests do vary from time to time, my current reading rut has been with Cornwall historical fiction, ladies in borrowed ballgowns, and devilishly handsome men. So if those, erm, genres(?) don’t appeal to you, then perhaps you’ll enjoy a future Last Five Books post.

When I find a book in a series I want to try out, I usually read that one first, rather than the first book first. Sounds crazy, I know. But I’ve found that, unless the author’s been writing a long time, books which come later in a series are often more polished than the first.

Of course I’m well aware that’s not really a proper gauge. Usually it’s because that book’s premise is far more appealing than the first. And many times, I’ve found, that book can be read as a stand-alone. A book or two in today’s post turned out to be capable of just that, and it made me want to read those characters’ stories. So you see? It all worked out in the end!

Blogger’s note: I have never read anything by Jane Austin. I know some of these titles have been compared to the themes in Austin’s writing; I wouldn’t have any clue! So take my feelings about these books with a grain of salt.

5. ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT by Tara Johnson

  • Publication Date: Jan. 5, 2021
  • Publisher: Tyndale House
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Lit

ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT follows the perspectives of Cadence Piper and Joshua Ivy as they navigate the gruesome realities of the American Civil War. Can they learn to be just as helpful and dynamic together as they are apart? Both main leads are very well developed, but not so developed that they don’t have room for growth. I also appreciated that their journey is neither “insta-love” or “enemies-to-lovers,” but somewhere in between.

One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed this book so much is not the main characters themselves, but the fact that it takes place over a long period of time. This allowed for the aforementioned character development to take place.

What I did find a bit awkward, even as a Christian myself, was how Cadence came to her faith. It seemed quite random in some parts, and thus I was a bit disappointed in the ending. It was as though it was an added requirement for the publisher, and all the buildup didn’t end in a way that was satisfying. Perhaps it could be, if that’s what you’re interested in. However, I didn’t know it was Christian lit until it came about in the prose.

While I read plenty of faith based stories, I was hoping for more of an epic adventure with ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. That aside, it is a very well written story and Ms. Johnson certainly addresses some difficult topics. Give this a read if you’re fond of Civil War lit.

4. SCANDAL’S BRIDE by Pamela Gibson

Regency romances. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with this genre, if I’m being completely honest. It’s the only genre I’ve found I really need to be in the mood to pick up (usually when I’m feeling quite lonely, which is a lot of the time as of late). The biggest reasons for this love-hate relationship are as follows: the lady is a bluestocking trope, and the male lead is a second son trope.

SCANDAL’S BRIDE follows the circumstances which bring Lady Gwendolyn Pettigrew and John Montague together. The pacing for this story is quite slow and, in all honesty, I did end up skipping several parts. There were several “exciting incidents” one might expect in a Regency which gave the story a much needed added element of mystery.

This is one of the books where there’s this weird mix of character growth yet no character growth and I can’t put my finger on why it feels that way. Not only that, but Montague’s hesitations about everything, and how they affect everything, is frustratingly evident.

All in all, SCANDAL’S BRIDE was just an okay, quick read for me.


  • Publication Date: August 12, 2019
  • Publisher: N/A
  • Genre: Historical Geography eBooks

Moving on to book no. three. One would think that I, a Pennsylvanian, would learn something new from this book. I did, in fact, learn perhaps two new things about my state; most of it I’ve known since childhood.

Do you know someone who just moved to this state? Give them this book. It’s part of an eleven book series called A Trivia Nerd’s Guide to the History of the United States. So far it’s covered Texas, New York, California, Florida, Alaska, Ohio, Hawaii, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado and, of course, Pennsylvania.

The thing is, Pennsylvania’s history is so vast that it really can’t be condensed down into a single book. It needs its own encyclopedia, or full aisle in the Library of Congress. I suppose I’m just disappointed that it didn’t take a deeper dive into its subject matter.

Eh, who am I kidding? I should’ve known it would have what’s already known. I shall have to look elsewhere to satisfy my unhealthy need for Pennsylvania content.

2. AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS by Rebecca Connolly

  • Publication Date: June 15, 2015
  • Publisher: Phase Publishing
  • Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Ah yes. Another Rebecca Connolly book I almost didn’t finish. Is that a harsh statement? Perhaps. But this is the second novel of hers I’ve tried – truly tried – to like. (This blog post isn’t going all that well, is it?) The other tale I tried to finish is A ROGUE ABOUT TOWN.

Everybody has authors they absolutely love, some whose stories are hit or miss for them, and others they just cannot stand. For me with Ms. Connolly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t get behind her writing style. While much of the conversation between AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS’ two MCs is very well written, the pacing was incredibly slow.

This is exactly why I’m always on the fence about Regencies in general. I’ve yet to find one with a balance of action and talk that I know I’ll enjoy reading again. With a somewhat predictable ending, AN ARRANGEMENT OF SORTS was not the tale for me.

1. THE BARON’S ROSE by Mindy Burbidge Strunk

  • Publication Date: August 15, 2019
  • Publisher: N/A
  • Genre: Historical Christian Romance

THE BARON’S ROSE is the second book in the Unlikely Match series. Let’s just say that Strunk definitely knows how to write a completely unlikable female lead. Despite this being a redemption story, I still couldn’t get behind Rose. That aside, I really liked Oliver’s character. He made the most effort of the two MCs.

What gets under my skin the most is how those who were affected the most by Rose’s words and actions were quick to forgive. Especially considering what happened in Book One. THE BARON’S ROSE is not a stand-alone novel. I suggest reading AN AMERICAN IN DUKE’S CLOTHING first.

If I had to make a case for any of these titles, the one which jumps to mind first is ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. With its familiar settings in Washington D.C., season of intrigue and high emotional stakes, it’s the most adventurous of all. Perhaps my next five reads will have more than Romance!

Five Victorian Etiquette Practices We Could Use Today.

What do you think about when you see the word “history?” A specific decade? A certain place? Figures you wish to emulate, or hate? Events you wish turned out differently, or you can see how they affected the current times? Well, here’s what I see when I read a book titled TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN.

I know I’d originally designated this space to cover Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania history, but I can’t help but be fascinated by the intricacies of Victorian decorum and etiquette. In fact, I purchased this book while working on an old manuscript titled Project Firedamp, as it took place during the late 1890s. There are dozens of blogs out there which already cover this topic. In fact, here are a few I found on this very subject for your perusal:

Whew! That’s quite a link haul! But what I’ve enjoyed is noticing the many differences and similarities between how those in the Victorian era may have acted and how we conduct ourselves in our own century. And, in all honesty, there are some practices I think we could really benefit returning to. Like politeness. I find that sorely lacking as someone whose worked retail most of her life. Here are five items, one from the first five chapters of TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN, edited by Sarah A. Chrisman, that I feel warrant another look. (Each chapter contains a myriad of subtopics, and it was hard to choose which ones I wanted to discuss).

1. Sweethearts, Old and New: on love-letters.

Honesty. The love-letter should be honest. It should say what the writer means, and no more. For the lady or gentleman to play the part of a coquette, studying to see how many lovers he or she may secure, is very disreputable, and bears in its train a long list of sorrows, frequently wrecking the domestic happiness for a life-time. The parties should be honest, also, in the statement of their actual prospects and means of support. Neither should hold out to the other wealth or other inducements that will not be realized, as disappointment and disgust will be the only result.

I can’t help but keep shows like Steve Wilkos and Maury from coming to mind. They are very front-and-center representations of what can go wrong in a relationship but in a very public setting. Imagine being a part of London’s ton, only to have your failures with love blasted for all to see in the newspapers. Sounds unimaginable, but reputations could easily be ruined by one such notice to the London Times. Or whatever paper they had in the 1800s. Maury and Wilkos may not have the…smartest…of guests on their shows, but I’ve often wondered how anyone in certain situations could’ve benefited just from being honest from the very beginning.

Honesty. It’s both a practice and a word that’s severely lacking in American society. Yes, we’re only human and we’re going to make mistakes. Heck I make several within one week at work, but I always always strive to correct what I can. If I’m ever in another relationship, I’ll also use this as a starting point in how I interact with him. We can learn a lot from the Victorians on how to have relationships. This leads to another point in the same chapter:

Intemperate Men. Above all, no lady should allow herself to correspond with an intemperate man, with a view to matrimony. She may reform him, but the chances are that her life’s happiness will be completely destroyed by such a union. Better, a thousand times, the single, free and independent maidenhood, than for a woman to trail her life in the dust, and bring poverty, shame and disgrace on her children, by marrying a man addicted to dissipated habits.

All right. Let’s begin this next segment by answering this question: what the heck does “intemperate” even mean?

Ah. I see. So, everything many of those men in the aforementioned shows truly are. So there’s truly some advice that’s lasted the test of time. While there were many things the Victorians got wrong, they certainly were right about many others. Including matters of the heart.

Leigh’s Advice: If you so choose to begin a letter writing campaign to someone you love, please make sure of their character first. No, you don’t need to do it exactly how the Victorians did with courting and all that jazz. Just be sure of the receiving party’s interest in you as well. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take the chance. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Victorians had etiquette advice for turn downs as well!

2. Victorian Health and Beauty Advice: The Curved Line.

The Curved Line. A prominent feature of beauty everywhere is the curved line. The winding pathway, the graceful outline of tree, cloud and mountain in the distance, the arched rainbow, the well-trimmed shrub the finely-featured animal, the rounded form of everything that is beautiful – all illustrate this principle. The delicately, finely rounded face, hands and general features, are essential to the highest forms of beauty in the person, and the same principles apply in the manufacture of dress. Every line and seam should run in curves.

While it is true that beauty can be found in symmetry, curves and nature, I prefer the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There’s a reason curves are so often present in the architecture of museums, libraries, capital buildings, and other public places. This is one sore area of disagreement I have with the Victorians. Oh, there are so many things I could say as a “modern woman” on this subject. The Victorians wanted all their ladies to fit into one mold, which is quite the impossible feat. I don’t see how any Victorian lady could’ve found her worth in this era if she didn’t match what society expected of her.

I say this, sitting here with the knowledge that I would be a spinster myself if I was judged on my looks alone. (I mean, I kind of am a spinster at this point, but that’s a different blog for another day).

The Victorians and I are in agreement when it comes to finding beauty in the things, and curves, around us. And it’s unfortunately true that those who have “that certain look” are most definitely given greater advantages when it comes to work or social media. It’s one of the many reasons I’ll never start my own Booktube channel, or even podcast.

Leigh’s Advice: if you struggle to find beauty in yourself, know that you are not alone. Find your self worth and stick with it. This beauty standard of the Victorians is actually something I think modern society could definitely do without. I leave you with this somewhat hilarious tidbit of advice from the same chapter:

Be sure that plenty of fresh air is admitted to the room throughout the night, by the opening of windows. Avoid feathers. A perfectly clean, moderately hard bed is best for health.

3. Etiquette in the Home: What Parents Shouldn’t Do vs. What Parents Should Do.

What Parents Shouldn’t Do. Do not reproach a child for a mistake which was made with a good motive at the time. Freely forgive, wisely counsel, and the child will thus be taught that there is no danger in telling the truth.

There are many parenting techniques which have withstood the test of time and many that haven’t. This is one that, I think, is still very good advice. While I’m not a parent myself, I can definitely see the difference between parents who continually criticize their children over ones who teach them to do the right thing. The tricky part sometimes can be in knowing if a child’s mistake was actually made with good motive or not. I do, however, wish that more folks would practice the last bit of the quote: telling the truth. So much drama and angst could easily be avoided if people were more honest with each other. Sadly, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Yes, there are good people out there. Lots of them, in fact. The news, unfortunately, likes to highlight those who aren’t. And that all circles back to wise counsel.

What Parents Should Do. Teach your children how to work; how to obtain a living by their own efforts. Teach them the nobility and the dignity of labor, that they may respect and honor the producer.

Boy oh boy – where to even start with this one? Especially with current events. “Teach your children how to work; how to obtain a living by their own efforts” is such a loaded topic. The other day my dad made the comment; “You’ve had more ‘first-day-on-the-job’ days than I ever had.” The biggest difference is my dad knew right from the get-go what he wanted to do with his life and he retired from the USAF after 34 years of service. Me? I’m still finding my purpose, and I’ve only been out of work twice in my life. Let me tell you, if you’ve never been, that it’s the worst feeling in the world – not being able to pay the bills.

Leigh’s Advice: Again, there are many more things that could be said about America’s modern workforce (or lack thereof), so I’ll leave this section with this: not everyone’s going to know their purpose, or why they’re even in the job they’re in. Work, and learning how to work with others, are still valuable teaching tools that need a comeback.

4. School Days: Duty of the Pupil.

Duty of the Pupil. The boy and girl at school foretell the future man and woman. Those who are prompt, punctual and orderly will be so in after-life. Those who are truthful, reliable and honest in childhood, will be trusted in position and place in after-years; and those who store the mind in youth with valuable knowledge will possess that which can never be lost, but on the contrary will always be a means by which they may procure a livelihood; and, if united with energy and perseverance, will be sure to give them reputation, eminence of position, and wealth.

In all honesty, this point speaks for itself. And, in all honesty, I wish I’d paid more attention and done better as a student. I’m not the most talent in my family, nor am I the smartest. I war my heart on my sleeve a bit too much and am hardly punctual for band practice at church on Sunday mornings. From the rest of the quote, I think it’s safe to say that the Victorians valued honesty and truthfulness above all else – even if many of them enjoyed a good gossip session or two on the side. My favorite line is “those who store the mind in youth with valuable knowledge will possess that which can never be lost.” This, my friends, is why I continue to pursue knowledge and history today.

Leigh’s Advice: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone in order to learn something new. Especially if it’s something which makes you uncomfortable. We all need to be challenged from time to time. Don’t forget to learn the fun stuff – those interesting facts and tidbits about places and things. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your next story in that new knowledge.

5. Out and About: Etiquette of Shopping

Ooooh this one. This one gets me so so much. I’m a 15 year employee of the retail biz (ten years with Target, one with a big bank and nearly three at my new job), and you’ve no idea how much I wish many of these concepts would still be practiced today. Let’s break down a few of them here.

“It is an insult to a clerk or merchant to suggest to a customer about to purchase that may buy cheaper or better elsewhere. It is also rude to give your opinion, unasked, about the goods that another is purchasing.”

Okay – this one can be a bit tricky to practice with today’s competitive market, especially when it comes to gardening supplies. While I do agree it’s rude for someone to step into a conversation a coworker and a customer are having, I’d rather point a customer in the direction of a nursery that may carry what they’re looking for. Especially if we no longer carry a particular product. That is, if they’re in a conversation with me.

“Injuring goods when handling, pushing aside other persons, hanging upon the counter, whispering, loud talk and laughter, when in a store, are all evidence of ill-breeding.”

Open packages annoy me so much. When I worked for Target, we’d repackage them. It’s a totally different beast when one works in a hardware store. We’re dealing with thousands of more dollars worth in sales. Big ticket items reside in every single aisle. The Victorians also never had Black Friday. Or stepped into WalMart on a Saturday night. If we used the term “ill-breeding” these days, man alive would we be recorded and cancelled on social media.

What do you think about today’s blog post? Are there any etiquette “suggestions” you wish more people displayed? Could we benefit by going back some of what’s in TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN?

I mentioned earlier that this is Part One. To answer your question – yes!
There will be a Part Two, so stay tuned.

Introducing a New Blog Series

As I’ve mentioned before, things are changing here on anotherhartmanauthor. Blog series have finished, so it’s time to begin a few new ones and see how they go. Today’s short little ditty is all about the next idea: My Last Five Books.

I’m still figuring out how I’m going to do my book reviews, so I thought why not do dedicated-to-one-book posts, as well as highlight the last five books I read in a “speed review” type post? That way, yinz can see just how many books I’ve been reading, as well as all the genres I’m reading in one place, once a month.

My Last Five Books will, of course, be different from the On My Bookshelf pages. Those are just running lists of what I’ve read throughout the year. While it’s certainly been fun maintaining that section, I have to reevaluate that as well. Though it has helped me to not buy the same books over and over again…hm…

Moving on:

So I hope yinz like this new idea. Current problem: I started building the first post and I’ve read at least six more books since opening that draft. Heck, it’s only June and I’ve already read 90/100 books (and then some). Keep your eyes peeled for the first My Last Five Books coming within the next few weeks!

Five (but really six) Books I Bought Today.

Money is super tight these days, so nobody, not even you. Not myself. Should feel bad about where we buy our books. At one point in time, the only two places I could afford new reading materials was at Goodwill, and scrounging through the “used” book sellers on Amazon. I still check out the used books sections for much of my nonfiction (let’s face it – those biographies can get EXPENsive. Especially if you want a well written one).

For the past two weeks I’ve been working overnights. I can’t fully complain, though, because I signed up to help with inventory prep. Not only that, but I’ve been trying (keyword: trying) to save my money for my vacation that’s coming up in two weeks. But I needed an evening out on my day off, so I took a trip to that place we all love to hate (or hate to love), Half-Price Books.

Disclaimer: Not all prices listed may be the same for you, or even me. Some were taken from the back of the book and don’t match the prices listed via the Amazon link. Also a disclaimer: I’m just sharing the links in case you’d like to purchase them for yourselves. I do not make any money if you decide to do so.

So, all that aside, here are the five books I bought today (6.12.2021) from Half-Price Books.

Price: 9.99
I paid: 8.48

Why I Picked This Up

Not only have I recently gotten into Scottish history, but I’ve been rewatching a television show from The CW called Reign. Now I know many MANY writers dislike this particular series for a multitude of reasons, but I enjoyed it because it was different from other shows that were airing at the same time.

And, I mean, Reign had Megan Follows (um, the original and BEST Anne Shirley. Fight me) and many characters you loved to hate. It was all political intrigue, crazy situations and mysticism with Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth of England and those affected by them.

All the weirdness aside, I gotta commend The CW for at least trying to bring history to a younger audience. I’ll admit that I totally had a thing for Bash (aka Sebastian). Give me Francis as my brother, Bash as my lover. Erm…moving on! Because one of my historical interests now lies with Scotland, its past and current history (for a potential WIP), I knew I had to add this to my nonfiction collection.

Price: 6.31
I paid: 3.00

Why I Picked This Up

I went for this book like a moth goes to a flame. There was my company’s logo, front and center on the bottom shelf of the clearance section. There’s a story behind this particular purchase. Two of my managers were up near my register at work looking for these books. I hadn’t seen them since I was a child, nor in the three years I’ve worked for THD.

As soon as I saw this I knew right then I needed to purchase this. Not just for myself (as I’ve recently gotten into a little bit of gardening), but it was definitely a “this is so funny” moment for me right there in the bookstore. It’s already on his desk with a note; I hope he gets a kick out of it. I just hope he doesn’t decide to keep it for himself!

Price: 6.96 (via Amazon)
I paid: 3.00

Why I Picked This Up

Early on in my writing journey I handwrote all my historical research. People thought I was crazy. In my defense, I didn’t have a good working computer at my disposal back in 2016. Those particular notebooks are now living in my hope chest.

I really like the idea of having all my research close to my fingertips. I can still see what I’ve scratched out, written in the margins, and easily question my thought process for looking up particular pieces of information.

This book really was an impulse buy. I’m not certain if it’s written for the casual writer or someone more involved in academia. What better way to find out than to buy it and crack it open some night I cannot sleep? I’ll gladly digest any nonfiction book that’s touts itself as guide for research and resources.

Price: 16.99
I paid: 3.00

Why I Picked This Up

The only people who need not buy this cookbook are those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from lactose intolerance, and I truly feel bad for them. Because who doesn’t love a really good grilled cheese sandwich?

Price: 24.98
I paid: 3.00

Why I Picked This Up

In an effort to, well, eat better, the title of this cookbook drew me in right away. I didn’t even have to think twice about it. Quite honestly, that’s really all the explanation this particular entry needs. Healthy body, healthy life – or so they say!

Price: 19.99
I paid: 3.00

Why I Picked This Up

Who doesn’t have a weird obsession with cookbooks? They’re one of my fastest rotating nonfiction sections, as my, well, my taste in food changes quite frequently. Every few years I also fancy myself a baker.

Not much comes, successfully, from my baking efforts. I’m still drawn to cookbooks, and this one was no exception! In fact, I may not have a fondue pot, but I’ve got at least four fondue cookbooks. I may not cook a lot of meat (meat is expensive), but I’ve got at least three meat related cookbooks. Need I go on?

I also picked up this particular cookbook in preparation for some changes coming soon to this site!

Trust me. I get it. Many of us online are networking and writing and blogging and really want to support each other directly rather than through third party sellers. Honestly? I’d be tickled pink to find any book I may write sold, well, anywhere. Ending up in a bookstore is still a big deal. The savings today ended up being a big deal as well. My grand total: $25.12. If I’d purchased all these books at their full retail value, I would’ve spent that amount for just THE ULTIMATE HEALTHY EATING COOKBOOK by itself.

Five Pennsylvania Places I’d Love to Visit

Come along with me as I learn more about my own State,
and follow for possible visits to these mentioned places in the future!

The last time I did any traveling was in September of 2020. Half of Pennsylvania was still shut down due to…everything. But my family and I were experiencing an intense case of cabin fever. We were still able to work, but we missed doing all the summertime things we’d come to love participating in the years prior. So for my birthday I planned a trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As with many PA towns, Johnstown drips with history, and I mean that quite literally. Go check out that blog post when you’ve got the time. The photo at the top of this post is from that trip.

Yesterday before work, I began reading a book by a local individual named Bill O’Neill. The title: THE GREAT BOOK OF PENNSYLVANIA – The Crazy History of Pennsylvania with Amazing Random Facts and Trivia. Now I’ll admit I already knew a good 75% of what Mr. O’Neill wrote about. As a life long resident of this Commonwealth, how could I not? I’d definitely give this to someone who just moved here who may not know these things. The book is, however, where the idea for this blog post came from. For years I’ve wanted to tour around my own state more often. Maybe now I’ll have more incentive to do so. I’m not yet done reading it, but here are eight Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit in my lifetime.

Kennett Square – Mushroom Capital of the World. Kennett Square, closer to Philadelphia (or Philly) than it is to Pittsburgh, has boasted its status as the Mushroom Capital of the World since the 1880s. In fact, if you type “kennett square mushroom” into a search, the festival is the first thing that comes up. Anyone want to make a bet that the mushrooms in your fridge probably came from Chester County? Kennett’s population was roughly 600 in the 1860s. Today it’s around 6,000.

The Kennett Mushroom Festival is held annually in early September. The festival has been highlighted on Food TV. Annual parades are held on Memorial Day, Halloween, and before the Christmas holidays. Kennett Square celebrates Cinco de Mayo, which is organized by Casa Guanajuato, and other local companies. A free summer concert series is held on Wednesday evenings at the beautiful (over 100 acre) Anson B Nixon park. In mid-May, the famous Kennett Run occurs that ends at the Park pavilion. The Kennett Brewfest is held each Fall, featuring unlimited tastings of select brewers pouring different, rare, exclusive, limited, or seasonal beers. The local art galleries, studios, and independent boutiques participate in First Friday Art Strolls each month, presented by Historic Kennett Square. During temperate months there is an outdoor farmers market at the Genesis Walkway on State St. every Friday afternoon. These are but a few of the events for families and visitors throughout the year.

Source – Wikipedia

My apologies if you’re one of those who has a strong aversion to fungus. I, for one, love a good mushroom. They enhance just about any dish they’re added to – meatloaf, stew, skewers, stir fries, soups. The list is a vast one. Needless to say, you’ll probably find me visiting the Mushroom Capital of the World in the near future. I’ve always loved the idea of small town Pennsylvania. Contrary to what people believe, Pittsburgh is the second most populated city in PA, after Philly. I find I often crave small town life. This brings us to our next historic small town: Lititz.


Lititz. Lititz knows what they’re about. They absolutely know they’re a tourist town in Pennsylvania. The above screenshot came directly from Visit Lititz, PA, and the tagline reads “The Coolest Small Town in America. I want to visit Lititz so, so badly. That was some bad grammar, but I really don’t care right now. Events are slowly coming back, and Lititz is no exception. And honestly? I really love their website (of course I do – it’s also built via WordPress!)

Just as Johnstown is, Lititz is a “blend of old and new.” Many PA small towns must be in order to survive, especially after many of the state’s industries pulled out in the 1980s. Let’s just say that Pittsburgh itself was a very depressed town. If we thought Pittsburgh was depressed in the 80s, the surrounding small towns also had to figure out their next steps. Behold: Lititz. As with many PA small towns, it has connections to the Civil War. Lititz especially due to its proximity to Philadelphia. The main reason I want to visit this small town isn’t its festivals, quaint shops or historical buildings (though all those are huge draws). No. It’s the railroad that runs through it.

I want to ride the rails. “The Reading and Columbia Railroad operated passenger service through downtown Lititz until 1952. Norfolk Southern continues to operate freight service to Lancaster, while the line between Lititz and Ephrata has been converted into a rail trail. A replica of the Lititz Depot was constructed at its former location in Lititz Springs Park in 1999, along with a small museum in a Reading caboose.” source: wikipedia

But, look! There’s a connection here to another place in Pennsylvania I’d love to visit: The Moravian Book Shop In Bethlehem, PA.

Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA – The Oldest Bookshop in North America. With other Eastern seaboard cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York, who would’ve thought that the oldest book store would’ve been founded in Bethlehem, PA? Of all places? Bethlehem, about a five hour drive from Pittsburgh, is one of those places you rarely hear about on the news, and that’s a good thing. Even though Bethlehem is just under an hour and a half from Lititz, their ties to the Moravian Church are undeniable. Lititz was founded by members of the church in 1756.

For a century, only Moravians were permitted to live in Lititz. Until the middle of the 19th century, only members of the congregation could own houses; others were required to lease. The lease system was abolished in 1855, just five years before the beginning of the Civil War. More information can be found in the book A Brief History of Lititz Pennsylvania by Mary Augusta Huevener, published in 1947.

Source – Wikipedia

Back to Bethlehem. Also known as Christmas City, USA, it boasts a history longer than that of the United States itself. As such, it’s no surprise that it’ll also be home to “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.”

During the Revolutionary War, the Moravians were pacifists but doubled their output of hides to support the American cause. The Continental Army Hospital was located here in the Brethren’s House. Over 500 soldiers died in Bethlehem and are buried on the hillside along First Avenue. The story of Moravian farming still exists in the historic site known as the 1748-1848 Burnside Plantation which interprets early farming within the city limits of our community.

source: History of Bethlehem

The bookshop is featured on the Discover Lehigh Valley website, and it also services Moravian College. Naturally, as a writer and a reader and a blogger, I want to visit “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.” Not only that, but visiting Bethlehem itself would also be a big bonus.

Tassel Pharmacy, Latrobe – The Great American Banana Split Celebration. Latrobe wasn’t officially recognized as the birthplace of the famous banana split dessert until 2013, according to this article via CBS Pittsburgh. Folks weren’t sure if it originated in Ohio or Pennsylvania, so that accounts for how long it took for Latrobe to be recognized as such. Not only that, but I can easily visit Latrobe for their next annual celebration as it’s only an hour’s drive from my home in Pittsburgh (compared to nearly four hours to get to Lititz or Kennett).

Even this Ohio site acknowledges David Strickler’s invention of the dessert first:

Despite Wilmington’s claim that Hazard invented the banana split, it appears that David Strickler actually invented the dessert in 1904. Strickler worked at a pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and he invented the treat to increase business.


Latrobe has its connections to the railroad industry with Oliver Barnes, as well as the Palmer family. Does the name Arnold Palmer sound familiar? It should if you like the beverage, or even golf. How about Fred Rogers? Latrobe is also home to the training grounds for many sports teams in Southwest PA, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, Latrobe’s biggest claim to fame comes in the form of the sweet treat everyone knows and loves.

Never have I been interested in the football training camps that take place every year. Never have I been interested in golf or alcohol. What do I love? Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and banana splits. I don’t believe that Tassel Pharmacy itself still exists, but the rail town certainly does. Let’s go get some ice cream in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, okay?

Easton – The Crayola Company. Pennsylvania can boast many claims to fame, but one of the most visual comes in the form of art. Crayons, to be precise. Even though I am a life-long Pennsylvanian, I’ve never personally visited the company or its offerings myself. As for the town’s history, the Penn family (more precisely Thomas Penn, brother to William Penn) had a hand in Easton’s founding. This small town has been on my radar for a while, and not just because of the Crayola Company.

Easton’s history is just as long and rich as the aforementioned towns of Kennett Square, Lititz and Bethlehem. When the canals came into play in the 1830s, Easton’s valley became an integral cog in the canal wheel.

The Great Square has been the site of the oldest, continuously operated outdoor Farmers Market since 1791. It is also the site where Robert Levers read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered public on July 8, 1776, standing on the steps of the courthouse. The Civil War Monument that now stands on the old courthouse site, is a 75 foot tall obelisk topped by what is locally called “The Bugler.” Formally named the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, the obelisk was designed to honor all of the armed forces who fought in the Civil War, and was dedicated to local veterans in 1900. Each year, the monument is shrouded by a one hundred foot Peace Candle, which is ceremoniously lit the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving and remains on display through January.


As you can see, Easton’s history runs far deeper than the Crayola Company. While Crayola is the original draw, it’s Easton’s history which keeps me interested in visiting.

As always, there we have it. Five Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit. Some are rather far away – a state away. Some are closer to home. But I hope this post encourages you to take another look at your own State. If you’ve come to not like your State’s politics, then take a look at its history. Look at it with an unbiased eye, and be open to learning about both the good and the bad. Perhaps you’ll learn to fall in love with your area once again.

Thoughts On Accepting Change

Do you easily accept change, or are you one of those folks who resist it until you absolutely have to accept it? Personally, I fall somewhere in between. When it comes to my work life, I’m not always fond of policy or procedural changes. When it comes to my writing or personal life, I can go either way. So, naturally, when I decided to put writing on hold, my brain wanted to give me all the new ideas. Isn’t that how it always happens? Just when I thought I’d accepted this change, and began implementing them here on this website, I began second guessing it all. That is something I’ve done my entire life: second guess. I have some inkling as to why I am the way I am, but that’s a blog post for another day.

For years I’ve tried to write. Any time a new idea came up, I’d throw myself into research, learning more about the process, and would follow more of those in the publishing industry. Then, as soon as I’d sit down to actually do work on the project itself, procrastination would take over. The thing is, I want to change. I’m just not certain if I’m disciplined enough to do so. I know exactly how I earned the reputation of “Leigh never finishes anything” in my family. I just want to break the cycle. I’m going on 36 years old. Why haven’t I broken my cycle yet?

It boils down to one word: fear. Fear of failing again. Fear of not living up to my own self-set expectations. Fear that no one would read what I write. Fear of failing before I even start. Fear of the knowledge that I’m not the only one who’s also trying to make it in the publishing industry. Fear.

I think that’s the biggest reason of all that I decided to put my pens and notebooks in a drawer. Not only that, but I’ve always had trouble getting past my initial story ideas. For me, the struggle is real. I absolutely adore the nitty gritty parts of the writing process. So much so that I often wonder if there’s a job like that out there somewhere. A writer’s assistant? Not in terms of answering phones or putting out press releases. But someone who loves the practical side of writing. Okay, so I know I’m not making much sense here. Or am I? I dunno.

In any case, I’m slowly coming to terms with the changes I’ve decided to make in my own life. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say. What about a 35 year old looking to reset her involvement in the great big writing and publishing communities? Have you any thoughts on fear, publishing, and resetting life goals? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.