I’ve always said that I never intended to write a series, but when I look back on the way I wrote as a teen and young adult, I must admit that I already was writing and telling stories that way. Most likely I was influenced by the structure of television, which produced long-running shows at that time. So, I’m now the author of my own series, the Saint Maggie series. There are at least three ways to look at the stories within it.
1) We may read them by type: novels, novellas, and short stories.
2) We may read them in the order I published them, starting with Saint Maggie (2011).
3) Or, we may read them in chronological order according to the historical setting in which the characters live. This is what I will be doing for the next few weeks.
This blog is dedicated to “The Dundee Cake,” which deals with Maggie’s life before 1860.
I am by no means a best-selling author, but in my world as an unknown author, “The Dundee Cake” is my biggest selling book. I have a couple of ideas as to why that might be.
First, it is an old-fashioned Christmas story with echoes of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” and Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas scenes in Little Women.
Second, it has a recipe for a Dundee cake at the end of the book.
Third, there’s that gorgeous picture of a Dundee cake on the cover. Seriously, I’d buy the book just to drool over that image. However, since I have actually made the cake, I am of the opinion that if you’re going to drool over something, make the cake and drool over that. It’s delicious!
Anyway, “The Dundee Cake” takes us back to 1852. Maggie Beatty Blaine is a widow and a grieving mother. John Blaine, her husband of ten years, and their two-year-old son Gideon both died of rheumatic fever in February 1850. To add to Maggie’s pain, Aunt Letty Blaine, who had given the young couple a place to live after their elopement in 1840, died earlier in the year.
Fortunately, Letty was a wise and compassionate elder and was determined to help Maggie support herself and her two daughters (Lydia and Frankie). Letty turned her home on the Blaineton town square into a boarding house and, under her tutelage, Maggie became a landlady.
Maggie is not a terribly successful landlady, though. She has a big heart and takes in men who barely can afford to pay their rent. In Letty’s absence, Maggie also struggles with the cooking, cleaning, and other duties. Desperate, she manages to scrape together just enough money to hire a cook and assistant housekeeper. The cook’s name is Emily Johnson, and although the two women are of different colors (Maggie is white, and Emily is black), they become friends as they work and talk together about their lives.
Now it is Christmas. Although Maggie still struggles with her own grief, she seeks to make Christmas Day special for her daughters, as well as for her four boarders. Her problem is obvious: she has a chronic shortage of cash, and there is no way that this Christmas will be the celebration that it had been in the past.
It is only when Emily Johnson and her husband Nate experience a tragedy that Maggie puts her own troubles on the back burner. With the assistance of her daughters and boarders, she sets out to help her new friends.
You may find “The Dundee Cake” at:
Barnes & Noble ($7.00)
Kindle ($0.00 Kindle Unlimited; $0.99 to buy)
Amazon paperback ($7.00)
Until next week, stay strong and be kind!
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder