Wednesday, April 17, 2024

National Poetry Month - 19th Century Style

Post (C) Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

April is National Poetry Month, a favorite of mine. I thought it would be a good time to look back at the poets who were active during the times we tend to write about. Make no mistake, poetry was immensely popular in the 1800s.

According to the website Poem Analysis, these are considered the top ten poets of the 19th century:

Walt Whitman

Henry David Thoreau

Emily Dickinson

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Helen Hunt Jackson

Edgar Allan Poe

William Cullen Bryant

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Louisa May Alcott

Walt Whitman from

Some of the most popular poems were:

"Song of Myself", "O Captain! My Captain!"  -  Walt Whitman

"The Song of Hiawatha", "Paul Revere's Ride"  - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"The Raven", "Annabel Lee" - Edgar Allan Poe

Have you ever tried Cento Poetry? I'll post a link to the form at the end of this post.

An early try for me was to take Helen Hunt Jackson's poem "Two Truths" and Dorothy Parker's "One Perfect Rose" and create the following:


A single flow'r he sent me

Temnderlu his messenger he chose.

"Darling", he said,

"I never meant to hurt you."

Deep-hearted, pure

One perfect rose.

But all the same

 I knew the language of the flowered

"When love is at its best, One loves

One perfect rose,

So much that he cannot forget".

My preferred poetry form is Haiku. I've even published a book of them.

So whether you like poetry or not, remember, maybe your characters do. (Smile)

Cento Poetry

Amazon e-book

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy. 


Thursday, April 11, 2024

A Female Private Detective


When I was working on my latest historical romance, Dreams For Courage, I thought it would be such fun if the heroine was a private detective. 

I'll confess, part of my desire to give my character that career is become I love Miss Scarlet and The Duke, a Masterpiece show on PBS . Miss Scarlet is a private detective full of spunk and bravado, and she's smarter than most of the men around her. 

I wanted Rhetta to be like her. 

And she is. Rhetta is clever and witty, determined and brave. 

When I was researching female private detectives in the late 1800s, I happened upon a real life female private detective named Cora Strayer.

Cora was born in 1869 in Elkhart, Indiana, and married young (some sources say at 16, others at 17). She had two children, but they both died, and she ended up divorced from her husband. 

Cora Strayer moved to Chicago where, in 1902, she placed an advertisement for her detective agency headquartered in the Austin neighborhood.

Apparently, her status as not only a female detective, but also a "lady boss" was such an amusing novelty, an article about her was publishing in 1903 in the Tribune. In it, she said, “A woman with her quicker sympathies and intuition has a great advantage in winning confidence … I often have people come to me and tell me a story which I can perceive immediately is but half truth.” She goes on to claim she studied law for several years, although there is no proof of that. 

She is pictured in an ad in 1905 with a George S. Holben listed as a “Supt. of the Criminal Department.” It is reported he was her first employee, and the two of them live together for several years, although they did not wed.  He ends up being shot and killed by a disgruntled former employee in 1910.

Cora then marries Robert Lincoln Fortune who was 24 years old to her 43. He died in 1913 and later that year, she files bankruptcy.

But Cora isn't ready to fade quietly into the twilight.

In 1914, Cora forms the First Volunteer Women's Calvary Regiment to take up arms and join the fight in the Border War with Mexico. She is quoted as saying: "Do you want to wait until all the men are killed to do your duty, sisters? A woman that would stand and let a man do all the fighting and suffering for his country is not a soldier. She belongs in the effete ranks of those who hurry abroad when the trouble starts. Pooh! She is not even worthy of the ballot."

The results of Cora's efforts are a regiment of 200 women, although they of course weren't allowed to fight. It is uncertain what, exactly, Cora planned to do once women joined her efforts. 

In 1931, Cora is still running ads for her agency. 

In 1932, Cora died from a cerebral hemorrhage. 

In her lifetime, she caught countless philandering husbands, brought scheming wives to justice, motivated 200 women to take up arms, was known as a "boss lady" until her death. 

Will two lonely hearts find the courage to love?

A loner for most of his life, Rowan Reed wants nothing more than to be left alone. He buys a run-down farm near Holiday, Oregon, intending to turn it into a successful ranch through hard work and determination. When a nosy, albeit beautiful, woman shows up on his doorstep, the instant attraction he feels to her sets off nearly as many warning bells as her barrage of probing questions.

Private detective Rhetta Wallace always unearths the truth. Involved in a lengthy investigation into a man suspected of killing a politician's son, her pursuit leads her to the town of Holiday. Accompanied by her adopted son, Rhetta finds herself squaring off against the grumpy, growling rancher she believes is the suspect. Whether or not Rowan admits his true identity, Rhetta is sure of two things: his innocence of the crime, and the deep affection he awakens in her heart.

Will their dreams for courage help them release the past and embrace a future together?

♥  ♥  ♥

Get your copy of Dreams For Courage today!


Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and hopelessly romantic moments with unforgettable characters.

When this award-winning farm girl isn’t writing or indulging in rich, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Are Diamonds Really A Girl's Best Friend?

Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings Traditions

While the exact beginning of the wedding ring tradition is a mystery, archaeological evidence of wedding rings has been found dating back thousands of years. The custom of wearing a ring on the third finger of the left hand is believed to have begun in Egypt. The Egyptians believed the vein of love, ran from the ring finger directly to the heart.

Fade Intaglio Ring, OMONOIA (harmony) Gold and carved onyx, 3rd Century, Roman. Source: Unknown

Wedding bands were simple and crafted out of iron or bronze. Gold and silver wedding bands were popular with royalty and the upper class and rings were exchanged in part to exchange wealth and as a symbol of a commitment to the marriage contract.

Beginning a tradition that would linger for centuries, in 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring. Maximilian wed Mary within 24 hours.

The smallest engagement ring on record was given to Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII at the age of two, on the event of her betrothal to the infant Dauphin of France, son of King Francis I, in 1518. Mary’s tiny ring was set with a diamond.
A Legendary Love
At the age of 16, Queen Victoria met the love of her life, Prince Albert. It’s been said they took an instant liking to one another and were eventually encouraged to marry. Since she was already Queen at the time of her romance, Victoria had to propose to Prince Albert.

What may seem a peculiar choice today, at the time, snakes were a symbol of wisdom and commitment. Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a ring shaped like a serpent which included small rubies, diamonds and an emerald. Whatever Queen Victoria wore soon became fashionable and the snake ring enjoyed years of popularity.

In the 19th century, acrostic jewelry became popular. Each gem was assigned a letter of the alphabet. For example, amethyst for A, blue topaz for B, and so on. Those who desired to send a secret message or create a meaningful engagement ring like one Victorian favorite would choose, Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Turquoise - Dearest.

After the discovery of the diamond mines in South Africa in 1870, these gems became accessible and affordable to the middle class.

Due to the availability of newly mined gold and the discovery of African diamond mines, the betrothal ring transitioned to the “engagement ring” in the late 1800s.

Many engagement rings included the bride's birthstone. Rings often included multiple gemstones and coral, ivory seed pearls.

Popular motifs included natural themes like butterflies, clover, garlands, daisies, doves, Gothic symbols and as previously mentioned snakes.

My Favorite From the 1884 Montgomery Catalogue- At the Bargain price of $1.40 
Garnets were a popular stone used in jewelry in the 19th century. Cultures all over the world prize this gemstone for its beauty and durability. The traditional birthstone for January has inspired many legends and popular associations with love and friendship. It also happens to be the stone in the engagement ring of Laura Ingalls Wilder, as featured in the romantic conclusion of the Little House Series in These Happy Golden Years.
New Release: Book 14 in the Double Trouble Series
As I write, my secondary characters often take on a life of their own as if crying out and demanding their own story. Such is the case for the loveable Sheriff Hiram Hartman. Hiram first appeared in Ace's Tenacious Bride as the brother-in-law of our card-playing, cigar-smoking railroad detective, Ace Caldwell. Later, he appeared in A Match for Gabe, where we last left him waiting for an update on the arrival of his mail-order bride. Poor Hiram, it seems like he's been waiting forever and now he's got double trouble. He's got the perfect engagement ring picked out. The question is whether he'll present it to the correct woman. 
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Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun,

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Monday, April 8, 2024

Famous People Who Observed the 1878 Great Eclipse by Zina Abbott

In 1878, for the first time in history, astronomers and other scientists were able to view a total solar eclipse from a higher altitude, such as that provided by the Rocky Mountains. This prompted the name for this event, “The Great Eclipse.” 

This was made possible by the construction of rail systems west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the first only ten years before. Prior to that, only native tribes and a few intrepid pioneers and trappers, who made their homes there, had easy access to this area.

With several railroads operating across the West by 1878, for viewing the eclipse, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company gave professional astronomers from Europe and the United States half-price fare from the East Coast to Denver, via Chicago or St. Louis. Other rail lines also offered discount fares.

This eclipse was visible at sunrise at a path across northeastern Asia before it crossed Alaska.  From there, it continued into western Canada. It entered the United States in Montana, and proceeded in a general northwest to southeast direction through Texas. It then continued across most of Cuba and ended shortly after passing over southwestern Hispaniola.

Since viewing this eclipse was highly touted and anticipated, especially in the United States, who actually traveled to observe this event? Here are a few:

Thomas Edison 1878

Thomas Edison
traveled with the Draper Expedition to Rawlins, Wyoming Territory. Because of his recent invention of the phonograph, he attracted a lot of publicity that trip. Edison was eager to test his new tasimeter, a highly sensitive heat-measuring device. 



You might wish to read more about Edison’s experience during the 1878 by reading my earlier blog post, “The Chickens Come Home to Roost.” This experience was featured in a scene written in Mail Order Blythe. Please CLICK HERE


In spite of Edison being well-known today, Henry Draper of New York was considered the most well-known astronomer in the party. He directed the Rawlins observatory. The largest lens on Dr. Henry Draper's phototelespectroscope was 5.25 inches in diameter. The length of the tube was 78 inches.



Another person in Rawlins, Wyoming, at the general time of the 1878 eclipse—although I do not have documentation stating he was in the area and viewed the eclipse itself—was John B. Omohundro, better known as Western performer, “Texas Jack.” My first book in the 1878 Solar Eclipse Inspired Romance series, Mail Order Blythe, includes a scene of his interaction with Thomas Edison at the Railroad Hotel in Rawlins—based on a true event.


You might wish to read more about Texas Jack by reading my earlier blog post, “Texas Jack—Scout, Cowboy, and Actor.” Please CLICK HERE

The ladies were not to be outdone. Famed female astronomer, Maria Mitchell, a professor at Vassar College, led an all-female expedition to the Denver region. I featured this in a scene in my book, Figgy Pudding by Francine, which may also be found in the second volume in the 1878 Solar Eclipse Inspired Romanceseries.  


You might wish to read more about Maria Mitchell’s history and her expedition, “Maria Mitchell, Professor of Astronomy at Vassar.” Please CLICK HERE


Working on a survey crew, Billy Owen was still in his teens in 1878 when he saw the eclipse from the top of Medicine Bow Peak in southern Wyoming. He later went on to become a well-known surveyor for the state of Wyoming as well as other exploits. He also served positions in Wyoming government. I featured him in a scene in my book, Lauren


You might wish to read more about Billy Owen’s life by reading my earlier blog post, “Billy Owen, Surveyor & Eclipse Observer.” Please CLICK HERE

Some other 1878 total solar eclipse observers, although not well known today, are the following:

Simon Newcomb, a Canadian-American astronomer, was in charge of a small party, one of two from the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., who set up at Separation, a railroad station fourteen miles west of Rawlins. Newcomb was director of the Nautical Almanac, which provides astronomical data for celestial navigation and is still published by the U.S. Navy.

William Harkness led the second U.S. Naval Observatory expedition, which set up its observation station at Creston, twelve miles west of Separation. They slept in the same railroad car that delivered their equipment. Soldiers sent from Fort Fred Steele, located just east of Rawlins, joined the expedition to do their cooking.

Alvan Clark, owner of the company, Alvan Clark and Sons, and winner of a medal from the French Academy of Sciences for making huge telescope lenses was a maker of fine scientific instruments, photographed the corona at Creston in Wyoming Territory.


My six books which feature the 1878 Total Solar Eclipse may all be purchased as singles. To celebrate the most recent total solar eclipse in 2024, I combined them into two volumes in the 1878 Solar Eclipse Inspired Romance series. Although these books were published over two years in various multiple author projects (series), I have put them in order of occurrence in the two boxsets.

Both books in this series are on sale for a limited time. They are also available at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

You may find Eclipsedby Love, Books 1-3 and Eclipsed by Love, Books 4-6, including descriptions of the books in each volume and purchase options, by CLICKING HERE