Tuesday, October 27, 2015


HarlotHarlot by Victoria Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the story, and thought the heroine was a character with depth to her. What I really liked was:








She spoke truth to the hero and stood up for herself, reminding him that a woman doesn't sell her body without a man to buy it, and who is he to judge her when he's patronized prostitutes while telling her to save herself for him? I especially liked that this didn't happen at the end of the story, but about 3/4 of the way through. You go, girl! We came away with the image of a strong woman who would survive, even if the hero got back on his high horse and rode off into the sunset. I liked that a lot.

Having said all that, the hero got his head screwed on right, apologized to her, and figured things out before the end. It's another lovely little erotic western from the talented author who gave us The Wicked West, and I'd enjoy seeing more from Ms. Dahl along these lines.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review--Highlander Undone

Highlander UndoneHighlander Undone by Connie Brockway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting setting, England of late Victorian times, and references to General Gordon's disastrous North Africa campaign and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite and early Arts & Crafts movement. I liked the story and the protagonists, but the villain was drawn in such broad strokes it was hard to take him seriously. I kept expecting to hear hissing from the audience when he emerged on the scene.

Nonetheless, the story showcases Ms. Brockway's talents and will please her many fans. There's even a secondary love story that could be a set-up for a subsequent novel.

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Review--Rock Redemption

Rock Redemption (Rock Kiss, #3)Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent friends-to-lovers tale of Noah and Kit, two people who share a special bond until Noah f*cks it up, literally, when Kit walks in on him screwing yet another of his faceless partners for a night.

I liked the slow build of this story, how Noah has to re-earn his place in Kit's heart. She's not a limp dishrag, she's a strong, capable career woman, a rising Hollywood actress who has her priorities straight.

We all know Noah's severely damaged by trauma in his childhood, and it's not too difficult to guess the nature of the trauma, but Singh does an excellent job of fleshing out Noah's life so that his issues of trust become so much more real. The reader can understand why Noah needs Kit to be his friend long before Kit can see the depth of his need.

Rock Redemption is the third book about Schoolboy Choir, and each book has been fabulous. Even if you don't lean toward contemporary romance about tattooed bad boy rockers, give this series a try. Ms. Singh brings the heat and the beat to these tales of talented musicians and the women who love them.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review--Sense and Sensibility

Sense And SensibilitySense And Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The biting wit and wonderful, snarky writing of Jane Austen shines in Sense and Sensibility. I have never understood why high school students are expected to read and enjoy Austen. Clearly, her writing and humor would fly right over the heads of most 17 year olds, which makes re-reading it after one has been (ahem) seasoned for a few decades that much more enjoyable.

If your only exposure to Austen was in high school, or via film, treat yourself to a re-read. She's that good.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review--Paloma and the Horse Traders (Spanish Brand #3)

Paloma and the Horse Traders (Spanish Brand, #3)Paloma and the Horse Traders by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're past the romance-novel aspect of the first book and straight into classic western territory as the story of Paloma and Marco Mondragon continues. They're now a settled couple with two small children and one on the way, but the land around them continues to remain unsettled as rumors surface of new Comanche attacks, and strangers who may represent powers unfriendly to the Spanish government.

I've been enjoying Ms. Kelly's Spanish Brand series very much, not only because she tells a great story, but because as a resident of La Florida I'm all too aware that U.S. history overlooks the contribution of Spanish settlers throughout what's now the southern U.S. Florida, Louisiana, Texas and points west all had European settlers long before the Pilgrims set foot in New England, but their history is seldom told.

The stakes are still high for Paloma and Marco living in their fortress-like home on the New Mexican frontier, but the arrival of an unexpected guest brings the past alive for them. The government in Madrid may think it's in charge, but Marco knows it's men like him who will have to negotiate the new world of relations with the Indians, French, British, and now American interlopers. Fortunately he has the wise and loving counsel of Paloma, who brings her own skills at relationship building.

This is a thoughtful tale of good people trying to do the right thing. Sometimes it's nice to take a break from swashbuckling tales of pirates and privateers, and read about ordinary people who are extraordinary in their own way.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Persimmon season

I'm writing this while sitting on my back porch, watching the birds rock the feeders (today we're getting Carolina chickadees, cardinals, tufted titmouse, blue jay, brown thrasher and mourning dove visitors) along with a squirrel drinking from the birdfeeder and a huge Eastern tiger swallowtail sucking down nectar on the butterfly plants. I can enjoy this show because it's finally cool enough to sit out on the porch with my laptop again. Summer's just too darn hot and humid, and we all look forward to the first cool days of autumn to get us back outside.

Autumn is also persimmon season in North Central Florida, and each year I repost my persimmon spice cake recipe from SMUGGLER'S BRIDE. I've made one already, but I may tweak the recipe next week by using some of my sourdough discard. Wish me luck!

Smuggler’s Bride Persimmon Cake

“…I have to hunt and fish to keep food on the table,” Rand said. “I can’t be spendin’ all day doin’ women’s work!”
“If it is women’s work, it is not work this woman ever did. At the estate where I lived there were laundresses who did the cleaning for the entire household. I can cook better than you can, but it seems to me that if you have experience doing laundry, then you can continue to do a better job than I would. Not to mention that if I am spending all my time doing laundry I won’t have time to make the pork pie I was planning for dinner. With persimmon cake for dessert.”
There was something wrong with this logic, Rand knew it, but he couldn’t come up with a good argument. It became even harder to think about it when Julia waltzed past him into the house carrying a plate and leaving behind an aroma of griddle cakes, syrup, and woman.

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine, butter or coconut oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small very ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans

To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients

2. Cream sugar and butter, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

3. Pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake one hour and 15 minutes.  Let cool on rack ten minutes, remove from pan. Freezes well.

Review--Devoted in Death (In Death, #41)

Devoted in Death (In Death, #41)Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Given that this is the 41st installment in the "In Death" series, there's not much more to say except that Ms. Robb continues to shine and satisfy her legion of readers.

Perhaps part of the reason is the way she grooms minor characters and brings them forward. For example, we met Officer Trueheart many books back as a rookie beat cop and he immediately resonated with readers. His wide-eyed, all-American boy attitude made him the opposite of world-weary Detective Eve Dallas. Over the series Trueheart would pop up periodically, and we could see his growth just as Eve does, until finally he's ready to sit for the Detective's exam in "Devoted in Death".

In addition, we're introduced to good ol' boy (and smart as a whip) Deputy Banner from Arkansas in this novel, plus Eve's team is racing against the clock to save a victim taken by spree killers in NYC. It's all good, and satisfying to fans of the series.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Review--The Legend of Lyon Redmond (Pennyroyal Green #11)

The Legend of Lyon Redmond (Pennyroyal Green, #11)The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Long's Pennyroyal Green series has been building to this book from the very beginning. We were introduced to the Eversea and Redmond families, and told there was enmity between them going back centuries, but we never had the full story of the twisted tale of Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea until now.

Ms. Long's writing is wonderfully lyrical, and her characters are beautifully drawn--even the secondary characters come to life.

I found the epilogue at the end unnecessary, and frankly, somewhat distracting. However, the novel is a must-read for fans of Pennyroyal Green, and while I would encourage new readers to start at the beginning, it's good enough to stand on its own.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Review--The Last Chance Christmas Ball

The Last Chance Christmas BallThe Last Chance Christmas Ball by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These delightful holiday stories are woven together like a Christmas wreath, each bringing its own special moments to the collection as characters overlap and lead one story into another. I have great admiration for the authors and their editor for making it all work.

As with all anthologies there are some stories stronger than others, and I especially enjoyed the Jo Bourne entry because of her flavorful language and nuanced metaphors.

Some of the tales seemed a bit rushed to their HEA, but in a short story format that's almost inevitable. Overall the collection is solid, with one or two stars shining like the gold entertwined in the wreath. It's a great way to start the season.

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Review--The Virgin (The Original Sinners: White Years, #3)

The Virgin (The Original Sinners: White Years, #3)The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have great admiration for Ms. Reisz' skill in unspooling the Original Sinners stories from the glimpses and revelations shown in The Siren. Each subsequent book has revealed backstory on the characters in a fashion that's engrossing, engaging and erotic. I'm looking forward to the release of The Queen, what looks to be the ultimate, and possibly final, entry in the Original Sinners series.

The Virgin tackles the year Nora left her master Soren, and how she reinvented herself as a novelist and as the premier dominatrix in the NYC BDSM scene. It also give us the backstory on Kingsley's Juliette, the love of his life.

As always, themes of kink and religion will not go down well with all readers, but for those who are fans, it's a rewarding experience.

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Review--The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #3)

The Shadow Throne (The Shadow Campaigns, #2)The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it even more than the first book in The Shadow Campaign. Great characters, wonderful pacing. Anyone who knows European history and the French Revolution will appreciate this fantasy with its twists and turns on the storming of the Bastille, the revolutionary committees and their leaders, the issue of the monarchy and the church and more.

Even better, we see how a charismatic military leader can rise out of chaos to lead a nation. Can't wait for the next book!

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My favorite time of year

When he returned from releasing the snake into a friendlier
environment, Rand saw Julia was still sitting up on the table, crosslegged,
staring out the window. Her hair had come undone and was
falling down her neck and back in ringlets that clung to her skin, and
large circles darkened her blouse under the arms.
“What are you doin’ up there?”
“I hate this place. I hate Florida. I hate living where giant beetles fly
into your hair and where snakes come into the house. I hate breathing
in wet gnats, and I hate the mosquitoes, and I hate the damp that keeps
my clothes sticking to me. I hate that it is autumn and it is still hot
enough to raise bread. And I hate you for keeping me here,” she
finished conversationally.
“Come down,” he said, reaching up his arms.
“No. I am going to stay up here until I die, and they will find
nothing but my bones in a moldy mound on the table.”
He reached up and slid his hands under her skirt, moving them
against the tender flesh around her ankles and at the backs of her knees.
“That tickles!”
“Then you’d better come down before you squirm right off, darlin’.
I want to show you somethin’.”
“Oh, I bet you do want to show me something, Mr. Washburn!”
“Yeah, that, too. But come down for now and I’ll show you
somethin’ else that’s special. You’ll like it.”
--Smuggler's Bride

I know a lot of Yankee friends look forward to a season where they can return to open windows and getting out into the fresh air.

Their season is springtime. For those of us in the land of air conditioning, 105F temps and 99% humidity, it's autumn. Later this month I'll do my annual posting of the Persimmon Cake recipe from Smuggler's Bride (persimmons are starting to pop up at the farmers market), but today I'm enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and being able to walk around outside without wilting into a humid little pile of sweat soaked clothing,

Later, gators!