THE LUCKY HAT MINE by @jvlbell #historical #Romance 1860s fun #western #Mystery #fridayreads

The Lucky Hat MineThe Lucky Hat Mine by J.V.L. Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lucky Hat Mine is a fun historical Romance, set in the 1860s in Colorado. Millie is twenty three; answering a “Wife wanted” ad, she leaves life as a family servant in New Orleans and heads out west. She may have escaped the raging War of Independence, but soon experiences a loss of civilised comforts and standards as she knew them.

After a mighty three month travelling ordeal, Millie arrives in Idaho Springs to fulfil her role as the new wife of miner J W Drouillard. However, she soon discovers that Mr D recently died in a mining accident; luckily he had already bequeathed his cabin and mine to Millie as a precaution.

What should Millie do? Head back east straight away? Sell the mine and find a place to live, perhaps in Denver? Or marry one of the many townsmen eager for her hand? Wisely Millie decides to take her time and not rush into any decisions. Mr D’s cabin surprises and delights Millie; once an orphan she now owns her first home. Mr D had previously installed some new mod cons at great expensive, in preparation for his new wife.

There is a sense of fun to the storyline: Millie is proposed to on a daily basis by a stream of miners, all anxious to buy Mr D’s mine and take a wife. However, there is also a more sinister side as Millie receives threats from an unknown source, trying to scare her away. Another danger comes with the arrival of a man who knew her father; parents whom Millie never knew. Her illusion of them is shattered when the bandit explains he’s after the silver her father stole. Resourceful and independent Millie deals with him and has him arrested.

When Mr D’s brother turns up, Millie must tell him about her fiancé’s death, but Dom refuses to believe it was an accident and is determined to find the truth. With Millie’s fiery red headed temper and Dom’s ability to constantly ruffle her feathers, the two share the cabin on uneasy terms. Yet they have a common bond in the need to seek the truth behind Mr D’s demise.

The book was a good old western delight. The constant drama of Buttercup the goat kept the scenes light. The details about rocks and early gold mining were interesting, although the news about the war was more stilted and tended towards info dumping. I enjoyed the descriptions of the area and the hot springs, and knew some of the place-names from travelling in Colorado, which gave me a personal link to the tale.

I would recommend this to those who like a fun read, enjoy early US western style colonisation tales, and like a little romance in the story they read.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book Description

A recipe for true love or murder? Ingredients: one Southern belle, one Colorado gold miner, a wife wanted classified, and a fainting goat. Let simmer.

What’s a Southern belle to do in 1863? Wife-wanted ads are always risky business, but Millie Virginia never imagined she’d survive the perilous trip across the Great Plains to find her intended husband in a pine box. Was he killed in an accident? Or murdered for his gold mine? Stuck in the mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado territory, without friends or means, Millie is beleaguered by undesirable suitors and threatened by an unknown assailant. Her troubles escalate when the brother of her dead fiancé, Dominic Drouillard, unexpectedly turns up.

Dom is an ill-mannered mountain man who invades Millie’s log cabin, insists that his brother was murdered, and refuses to leave until he finds the killer. Compelled to join forces with her erstwhile brother-in-law, Millie discovers the search for Colorado gold is perilous, especially with a murderer on their trail.

The Lucky Hat Mine interlaces the tale of a feisty heroine with frontier legend and lore making for an arousing historical murder mystery.

About the author

J.V.L. Bell

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and backpacking through the back country. She and her family love to hike, raft, and cross-country ski together.

She loves reading and researching frontier history and incorporating these facts into her novels. Her historic mysteries are interwoven with amusing historical stories and lore, interesting characters, and historic events.

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

#US #Roadtrips Colorado whiteout and seeking the sun beyond #Travel #MondayBlogs

Preparations for our 2017 summer road trip are in full swing, we have flights booked into Calgary and out of Vancouver, we have accommodation booked at 10 points along our journey (scarily some places only had a few rooms left and that’s 8 months away), the car’s booked and we are getting excited.

5.5 feet of snow Nederland Deep Snow

So back to recalling some of our previous trips

Today’s post is about our trip to Colorado and beyond.

I had made friends with an American family who arrived here in the UK to live in our small court; three kids under 5, furniture six weeks behind them, no car etc. They gave it a year in their tiny 3 bedroom rented house before the English house buying legislation finally brought them to their knees and they decided to return home, Ed went home to “hug ma fridge” (his American style fridge/Freezer before they were fashionable in the UK) leaving us with an open invite to go and stay.

We booked tickets to arrive in Denver in March 2003. We took our oldest child—who was 6 years old—out of school (back when you were allowed to do that sort of thing, us believing the experience would outweigh the loss of 2 weeks of primary education) and travelled with our youngest still in nappies(diapers), I put off potty training until after the trip. However, have you ever tried changing a two year old in the toilet of an aeroplane on one of the baby changing flaps?

We arrived at Denver around 9pm local time along with 3 other flights we walked the walk, mile high Denver? They made us walk at least a mile to immigration. Hubby, who doesn’t like using aeroplane toilets, announced he had a pressing engagement leaving me with two tired kids and armloads of carry-on baggage. I didn’t dare join the immigration queue as hubby had all the passports, so we sat on the floor and waited while my man did whatever men do that makes them spend enormous amounts of time on the toilet. Sniffer dogs came and went several times before hubby arrived to help us join the back of the immigration queue. We took so long, the baggage hall was empty except our lonely bags, which had been taken off the carousel and the hall lights dimmed. Next came the queue for a hire car. With snow forecast, hubby upgraded to a 4×4 and he was king of the road, close to 11pm local time as we headed out of Denver.

Clutching hand written instructions, confident in our local friend’s knowledge we headed off—in the wrong direction. A couple of hours later, after a very long uphill climb and well past midnight we arrived in Nederland in the American Rockies (on a map it’s left of Boulder which itself is described as the foothills of the Rockies). Up at 4am (kids still on Uk time and they’d slept in the car and on the plane – lucky things!) Nederland was lovely in the spring sun. A little local exploring took us to Estes Park, a gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park the mountain scenery was amazing.

And then it snowed and snowed and snowed. In fact it snowed for 45 hours and dropped 5.5 feet of snow. A bit of a whiteout. The menfolk took about 24 hours to dig the cars out while we waited for the snow plough to make it down the road.

There was no power for 36 hours and the whole area was cut off, the local supermarket held a free barbecue because its freezers were defrosting, we put 5 kids in the sledge, snow shoes and skis on our feet and set off to town. In return for the communities kindness we later helped out with our 4 x 4 taking urgent supplies to friends of our friends who were cut off further out of town. However Hubby and Ed first had to get the local sheriff to “jimmy” the car door after the menfolk locked the keys in it when picking up the supplies. We heard on the news that the snow was widespread, Denver airport was shutdown and we were very glad that we’d made it to our friend’s house where they had toys and entertainment, we couldn’t imagine being stuck in a motel room for a couple of days with no power and no way to keep the kids happy.

Needing a bit of sun, we headed off south down I-25 through Colorado Springs and Pueblo and on to the Royal Gorge Bridge one of the highest suspension bridges in the world. Near  Alamosa we visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park,  then Durango and crossed the border in to Utah. The sun shone down as we climbed Wilson Arch, (just one of the many natural rock arches near Moab in the Natural Arches National Park) springing up it with our altitude trained lungs, nine years after hubby and I first went there when travelling as a couple.

Then we headed north to Wyoming. We visited the Green River National dinosaur museum and wound our way over mountains and passed deer feeding near the roadside and counted train carriages on vast continent crossing goods trains to Laramie. A place for me which resonated Saturday afternoon westerns on TV, they had snow in Laramie but we were veterans of the snow storm now and their few inches were nothing.

Coming full circle (around 1600 miles) we came back to Nederland to spend one last night with our friends before heading back to Denver, just time to spend a few hours at Denver Butterfly Pavilion then to the airport and home.

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#NewEngland #Fall road-trip diaries, travelling with our toddler #Travel #MondayBlogs

If you’ve been following these recent Monday blog posts you’ll know we like road-trips

Fall Colours

Fall Colours

Catch up with some of them here;

LA and back on a packet of crisps

Building US west coastal road so we could drive on


New York


New Zealand

Today’s road-trip is about when we went back to the US for a 10 day Fall trip to New England with our two year old.

Our trip began with an evening arrival in Boston, Massachusetts, this time I was armed with my stroller for use in the airports, which can be taken right up to the aeroplane doors and is essential for toddler travel. Our first stop was the coastal town of Portsmouth in New Hampshire. Coming from England and seeing familiar place names out of the environment we knew them in was a little strange. We also found that New England had more toll roads than we’d experienced before in the US.

Getting our fill of the number of states in this area of the US, we went over into Maine and visited Portland, enjoying the coastal road views and taking in some shopping.

The fall colours were amazing and we took our time enjoying scenic river banks. I fell in love with the covered bridges which are a tradition of New England. Built with roofs to keep the bridges open during the winter months. Stopping off at one of the many maple syrup farm shops we were invited around their little museum and given a talk about the maple extraction process. An added bonus was the local stories of the covered bridges being “sweet-heart” bridges, a place to meet your sweet-heart out of site of prying eyes.

We headed into the White mountains and slowly drove to the top of Mount Washington on some very tight and steep roads. (Approximately a 30 drive up and a 30-45 mins drive down) There’s a cog railway train you can take up but the 3 hour round-trip time was going to be too long to entertain our toddler on. For rally enthusiasts there is a “Climb To The Clouds” racing event each July on the Mount Washington auto- road where rally drives race to the top. The record stands at 6 mins and 9 secs set in 2014.

In Conway we stopped off at the steam railway centre

Our travels took us to Vermont and Burlington, we dined in one of those old fashioned train diner cars turned into a family diner and then indulged our daughter at the Vermont Teddy Bear factory, where we took the tour and she made a bear.

We did consider heading across to Niagara Falls, but we didn’t have the time this trip. Instead we headed back towards Boston, taking in the Boston Tea Ship which amazingly our little girl remembers today.

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Next Trip – Denver, Colorado and a rocky mountain white out experience.

Los Angeles And Back On A Bag Of Crisps #Travel #MondayBlogs

Here at the Amber household we are deep, deep, deep in plans for our next family holiday. It’s a BIG event for us, we haven’t had a family holiday for FOUR years. Long story short we haven’t been able to agree on a destination and other family things have got in the way.

We’re not a family who sits on a sunny beach, if we do find ourselves on a beach we’re the ones digging the monstrous hole with an architectural structure, moats, walls etc. Great for a UK beach, not so good long-haul when our son would prefer to check in a large, durable garden spade (all the better for digging) rather than clothes in a suitcase. Foreign holidays for us tend to be road-trips and our next one we taking on Canada! More about this over the next few weeks.

SO because I’m super excited, I thought over the next few weeks, I’d share a few snippets from some of our past road-trips.

My first ever long-haul was decided by a packet of crisps – I kid you not. Years ago I worked in catering and I found an offer on a pack of crisps for “free” flights on Virgin Atlantic. I remember buying a huge amount of badly flavoured crisps just for the tokens on the packets, enough for two adults. Choosing the destination was easy, I wanted to go as far as I could get for my potato crisp. We picked LA.

Things didn’t start well, we had a puncture on the way to the airport, then we were hauled out of line at Uk security for a thorough bag check and LA had just had a bad earthquake and serious mud slides, but hey, it makes a trip interesting.

I remember being unable to comprehend matching the flight travel time to the difference in the actual time zone upon arrival. Hubby and I (pre- marriage and kids) had few plans, pick up a car, go to Disney, then see what happens. I didn’t realise he was a closet road-tripper.

We travelled around 3000 miles in just two weeks! That trip we flew the Grand Canyon in a six-seater plane. Hubby up the front with the pilot taking great photos, me down the back feeling very green with all the air turbulence. We visited Las Vegas, feeling the pull of the glitz and glam, the heat and wilds of Death Valley, the hydro-electric plant at the Hoover Dam and the amazing Utah arches national park, even going as far as The Four Corners which borders Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

Next Time: Our trip from the Giant Redwoods to San Diego.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT DARKROOM by Mary Maddox @Dreambeast7 #Thriller

Today’s team review is from Alastair, he blogs here

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Alastair has been reading Darkroom by Mary Maddox


Four Stars – Tight as a drum crime thriller, sharply drawn characters.

Who knew Colorado was the home of so many art-lovers? Not me, that’s for sure, but Mary’s richly detailed page-turner soon drew me into a netherworld of shady drug-dealers, twisted nightclub owners and wealthy swingers.

Maddox handles the plot extremely well, with a slowburn start that soon gathers speed, as the body count and crime reports stack up. It’s a complex story set against the usually dull world of museums and galleries, but very well told, with some wonderful action scenes that really grabbed my attention. The baddies are, in general, a slimy, devious bunch and Maddox peppers the story with little asides that colour their flawed characters, and make them more believable because of the damage in their past lives.

Likewise, the good characters have you rooting for their success throughout this thriller, with the female lead Kelly being especially engaging; resourceful, yet vulnerable, determined to seek out the truth, confront her own fears and take action when the chips are down. Just what you want in a heroine.

The overall mood of the book combines influences from movies like Blue Velvet, Lynch’s masterpiece TV series Twin Peaks, the wry, dark underbelly of Fargo, or the can-of-worms world inhabited by Paul Newman in the Seventies classic noir, The Drowning Pool. Maddox has a clipped, reporter-like style which suits the subject matter and her rendition of places is replete with beautifully sketched details. She knows her chosen world intimately, and it shows in her perfectly observed prose.

The only reason this story loses a star for me is the portrayal of Animal – the club bouncer with a heart of gold. Having met many bouncers in the UK, I could never get beyond the fact that almost all of them are steroid-popping, always angry, drug-dealers buddies/enforcers. The notion that one might save a damsel in distress seemed about as likely as finding out Donald Trump personally funds three orphanages in Mexico.

I would have also liked a little bit more love action between Cash Peterson, the world-weary detective and Kelly, the amateur sleuth. There are sparks, but they need to fly a little higher…

One final, but crucial point – the book has been extremely well edited. Every line is sharp, each scene is there for a reason and not a word is wasted.

Job done Mary Maddox, good work.

Find a copy here from or

24 Sleeps ’til Xmas tour “The Winner is Love” by Stephanie Hurt (Day 2)

Today on the tour my guest is fellow author Stephanie Hurt and her book “The Winner is Love”. Here is my review of the book;

The Winner Is LoveThe Winner Is Love by Stephanie Hurt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A holiday themed romance, The Winner is Love is another great book from author Stephanie Hurt. Set mainly in the snowy mountains of Colorado the story concerns a competition winner and a film star. Stuck without electricity away from any neighbours and without a phone signal they must make do as best they can. The easy friendship turns to a romance in it’s early stages when the weekend comes to an end. Determined to meet again they plan to get together for Christmas. I was all set for a great ending when the book ended on a cliff hanger and the story must pan out in the second in the series coming soon.

Find a copy of the book here from or here from

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Let’s talk to Stephanie some more;

1)  Where is your home town?

Pike County which is south of Atlanta Georgia. I’m a southern girl all the way.

 2) How long have you been writing?

Since I was a young teenager which was well over 30 years ago. I published my first book in May 2012. It’s been such a wonderful experience. I’ve always had a very active imagination and wrote everything down, even some of my dreams which have come out in my books. That’s a little scary.

I write romance and love everything romance. I’ve been reading romance novels for as long as I can remember. The very first long romance I read was “Remembrance” By Danielle Steele and that really inspired me to go with it. A couple of my currently published books actually stemmed from stories I’d written many years ago and I used some of the manuscripts. I actually had to blow the dust off a couple and the words were faded.

3) This book was a move away from romances featuring cowboys, is it the first book you’ve tried on a new theme?

This is the 2nd book that stepped away from my normal cowboy fetish. My Christian Romance “With All My Heart” didn’t revolve around cowboys. My trademark is cowboys and some have been surprised when I did something out of that box. I enjoyed this experience going with another type character. The main character was easy to write as she is an Accountant and that’s what I do for a daily living. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, so that part was easy, but I kept wanting to put a Stetson on the handsome actor. He just wasn’t the cowboy type.

4)  What made you decide to have a cliff hanger ending?

Funny thing about that, this story started out to be a stand alone book. Then as I continued toward the end, I decided to leave it open to speculation. It’s funny the remarks I’ve received regarding the cliff hanger. Especially since I’ve waited over a year to put out book two. My editor was completely shocked because she didn’t know that I was leaving it like this. She thought it was a stand alone. I love to take people by surprise.

5) How many books in the series do you plan?

That’s an interesting question Rosie. As it goes now I’m planning on just two, but as with the first book, you never know when the inspiration for a third book will hit me.

6)  Is Colorado somewhere you’ve been yourself in winter?

I’ve never been to Colorado. My parents have been and I enjoyed the stories of all the snow and beauty. I’ve always wanted to go, but not to ski. Sometimes we have to realize our limits. LOL

7)  Tell us 5 things about Colorado.

Ok here goes: 1- The beautiful snow covered Rocky Mountains, 2- Even in the Spring Colorado is gorgeous, 3 – It’s a place for romance to bloom with the many romantic lodges and cottages, 4 – The atmosphere is laid back and pleasant or so I’ve been told, 5 – It’s on my Bucket List.

8)  The timescale of your book spreads around the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, is this a favourite time of year for you?

Yes this is my favourite time of the year. I love the chill in the air, the holiday songs which I start tuning in like three weeks before Thanksgiving. I love being with family and friends. Also the biggest part is the birth of Jesus. Oh yeah and the food, you can’t forget the food.

9)  What would be your perfect Christmas; Snow or Sun?

Oh definitely snow. Who doesn’t dream of a white Christmas which is rare here in Georgia. Every once in a while we have flurries on Christmas. I just love to be able to have a crackling fire and drink hot chocolate on Christmas Eve as the snow falls outside.

10) I know you love writing, tell us about your latest book.

I love to talk about my writing. It’s so much a part my life. I’m working on a couple of books. The biggest draw will be my newest Christmas romance which should be out by the time this post goes out. It’s called Alpine Christmas Romance. Here’s a little hint: What do you get when you bring together Switzerland at Christmas, a handsome Cowboy and a woman trying to get over a break up?

Yep, I’ve brought back my cowboy. Also, this is bringing out one of my dreams and that’s to travel to Switzerland. Maybe one day I’ll get to go there, but for now I’ll go there with my character. This one is full of humour, romance and lots of Christmas joy.

Stephanie  Hurt

Thanks Stephanie, Merry Christmas!

All this month as it is the season of Goodwill, I’m suggesting a Good Deed a day for readers to take part in. Many of you know about my year long challenge to do one Good Deed a day and I’d like you to join in. Today I’d like you to bake a batch of cookies to give away to others.

Romancing September – Briana Vedsted (Day 6)

It’s Day 6 of Romancing September and our guest today is Briana Vedsted, in a few hours you can hear more from Briana over with Stephanie.  Where you can read Briana’s views on writing romance in today’s society.

Briana Vedsted

1) Where is your home town?
Pleasant View, Colorado
2) How long have you been writing?
Roughly seven years. The year I turned thirteen is when I became serious about devoting my time to writing. Before that, I just doodled mostly.
3) “The untold Story of Margaret Hearst” is a short story, was it your first published work?
Yes, it was my first, and I recently updated the ending.   
4) I know that you have now published several books, would you ever consider revising this into a longer romance?
Yes. I really would like to lengthen it into a full size novel, at least 40K. That is my plan, anyway. The ending and main idea would stay the same, but I would like to add more action, extended scenes, and a little more about Margaret and her two love interests, Matthew and L.J.  
5) “The Untold Story of Margaret Hearst” is a historical piece, do you enjoy the research involved in writing a historical piece? Was Margaret Hearst a real person?
I do like the research. I’ve always loved old west history, and I think that shows in my work. But no, Margaret was not a real person. Her parents and brother are real, however. I loved reading about her father, who practically fell into a fortune. I imagined that all rich, upper class families had that one relative that they are ashamed of, and that’s how Margaret was born.  
6) Your writing has a Western theme related to your life, can you tell us a little about your home life?
My parents farm over 1000 acres of alfalfa hay and have a mountain permit with 200 cows. I’ve helped them for the past six years or so. Personally, I like the winter time, when the cows are on the home range and I get to check them on a four-wheeler, opposed to horseback. I’ve got my own little herd and am doing my best to keep expanding. I’m also trying my hand at raising sheep and goats.  
7) I know you also write for a local magazine, writers need all the exposure they can get, who do you write articles for?
I’m a monthly columnist for The Fence Post, but only during the winter when they have more room in their magazine.
8) There’s a big Western writing community out there, would you like to get more involved with it to help promote your work?
Yes, I’d love to have that kind of opportunity. Ok readers I need your help here, can anyone supply links to any Western writing communities?
9) You have another book which intrigues me, “Me and Billy the Kid” is a tale taken from a new angle about a famous outlaw, tell us more.
“Me and Billy the Kid” is about William H. Bonney, alias Billy the Kid. There are so many ‘gaps’ in the history books about his life, so I decided to fill them in with a woman. Her name is Angel. With her being added to the plot, I was able to find answers to the questions “Why Sheriff Pat Garrett was so bent on catching Billy?”, “Why Billy’s friend, Pete Maxwell, betrayed him?”, and “If Billy really was murdered in 1881?” Also, I sought to show people that Billy was not a monster, just a kid who’d been hurt.
10) I know you’ve just released your latest book, “A Girl Named Cord”, I helped promote it here on the blog, but I have a question; your heroine is a “Cow puncher”, don’t laugh at me, but what on earth is one of those?
‘Cow puncher’ is another term for a cowboy, used mostly in Texas a long time ago. Cowboys have other names, like rancher, cowmen, cowpoke, cowhand, buckaroo or vaquero (in Spanish).  
theuntoldstoryofmargarethearstCheck out Briana’s book on or
Thanks for being my guest today Briana, I love that tale about Billy the Kid, I want the answers too!

Let it Snow!

We have a serious snow forecast for Britain and it will send the country into chaos! Road closures, railway lines and airports reduced to no service and the country slowly grinds to a halt. Well that’s what happened the last time that we had serious snow.

Snow is dealt with so differently abroad. 10 years ago we visited friends in Nederland, Colorado. We arrived at night after a long flight and a long drive from Denver (Made longer when we drove in the opposite direction to start with!) We had a couple of pleasant days of warm sun. Then overnight 5.5 feet of snow fell. It cut off the power lines and the community from the main route down the mountains. The huge snow ploughs just did their job and the main roads were clear in the village in 24 hours. The electric was longer, freezers in the local supermarket were de-frosting fast, so word went out that they were going to throw a free BBQ for anyone who could get there. We put on skis, snow shoes and bundled the kids in a sledge and joined the locals. Of course they all knew who were by then, we’d been spotted driving off on the wrong side of the road one morning, before we got ourselves sorted! But we were made very welcome. The next day when the snow ploughs had reached our friends house we were able to dig the 4 wheel drive hire car out of the driveway and use it to get supplies to some other folks who were stuck much further away. It was quite an adventure!

So with the snow on its way, I’m going to get in a good supply of food, get out my lists of books to read, and spare a few wonderful thoughts back to the people on Nederland. Thank-you!