Sunday, November 8, 2015

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Maggie and Me… Sharing a Relationship with Coffee

HAZARDOUS UNIONS: Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas is about two sisters, written by two authors. Maggie Becker is my creation and we share a love of coffee. Why? Because when the world is falling apart around you, it’s the little things that make a difference, like a decent cup of coffee, or the lack thereof. Besides, I wanted her to make acorn coffee. It’s a family thing.
I learned how to make acorn coffee while researching. The important thing is to soak the acorns overnight and shell them before roasting. If you don’t, the taste is horribly bitter. I know from experience.
My father built us a playhouse when my sister and I were little. It was constructed out of odds and ends from the near continuous home renovation that our Victorian house required, and furnished with castoffs. One of our prized appliances was a wooden, hand-cranked coffee grinder. It joined us in the playhouse the day after we tried to make acorn coffee.
My mother had read about acorn coffee and how settlers used when coffee beans were not available. Acorns, chicory and dandelion roots were roasted and used for ersatz coffee during the war as well, but my mother’s family were strictly tea drinkers. We had a yard full of acorns, having a rather enormous oak tree beside the house. She told us about acorn coffee and my sister and I happily gathered the necessary ingredient.
We didn’t know about soaking and peeling them. Mum washed and put the acorns in a pan in the oven. There’s something else I learned later, when roasting coffee, the beans have to be kept moving so they roast evenly. Soon the kitchen was filled with the stench of burnt acorns. Nevertheless, once my mother started something, she never let small obstacles like that stop her. She picked out the best of the acorns and put them through the grinder. Half an hour later, Mum and I were trying acorn coffee with lots of sugar and cream.
It didn’t help.
My sister went back out to the playhouse at the first whiff. She was not very experimental as a child.
The coffee grinder was never the same. It became our toy. Truth be told, Mum preferred tea anyway and my father couldn’t tell the difference between fresh ground coffee and instant.
It was quite the eureka moment when I read about the proper way to make acorn coffee. I wasn’t going to pass up including it in HAZARDOUS UNIONS. I can’t say I have any desire to go collect acorns, however.

Excerpt (with coffee)
About an hour later, I had a mixture of roasted acorns and dandelion roots brewing on the stove. In another pot, raw acorns were soaking. By tomorrow they'd be peeled and ready to roast. Patience declared it was foul stuff and once said I was trying to poison her. Mrs. Hamilton politely declined in favor of tea. Mammy, Thaddeus and I needed our morning coffee and put up with my poor imitation. I was betting that Captain Stone's men would feel the same. Speaking of whom...
"You have coffee, Miss Becker?"
Captain Stone was disheveled and looking worse for wear. I hoped he was feeling the effects of last night's carousing.
"Something like coffee. I'll have a pot ready soon if you want to try it."
His nose wrinkled at the bitter smell. "Thank you. I think. That isn't what I came to speak to you about, however. Your watchdog was out late last night. He was almost shot by one of our sentries."
"I believe so. He said he was hunting."
"That would explain the brace of rabbits hanging in the larder," I said, turning back to the stove.
"Twilight and daybreak are the usual times for hunting, not the middle of the night."
"That's probably what the rabbits think, too. In any case, Thaddeus doesn't hunt rabbits. He traps them and then breaks their necks. If he left them out all night, other predators might get them."
"Regardless, please tell your boy not to go out after dark without clearing it with me first."
I slammed the pot down on the stove top. The cast iron responded with a dull clang and a splash of water from the pot sizzled on the hot surface. Across the room, Labelle drop a pan she had been drying. Mammy scolded the girl for being clumsy.
"Thaddeus is a free man, manumitted by Major Hamilton many years ago," I said, brandishing the coffee pot as I turned to face the Captain. "He is employed by the family, just as I am. And, I might add, if he is a boy, you are a babe in arms."

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor

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Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western romance novels. Three of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in the novels she writes. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. This is Kat’s third book and she is hard at work on her next.

1 comment:

Alison E. Bruce said...

Thanks so much for letting me appear on your blog, Ginger. Couldn't ask for a prettier place to set a while.

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