Think of England by KJ Charles and an amazing Reisling.

Yes, yes, I AM a few months late with this review, but not in the slightest less excited to share my thoughts on this latest novel by the brilliant KJ Charles. These past few months have been incredibly busy for me with all kinds of things happening in my life, which sadly normally translates to cutting back on at least some of my hobbies! So, this past week I was getting ready to go on a mini-vacay with my family and decided to re-read Think of England, so as to have it fresh on my mind for the review. This second read, if possible, I enjoyed even more than the first and that is saying A LOT. KJ I think without a doubt is one of the more sophisticated historical romance authors I’ve read, this is a genre that specifically in M/M romance is frighteningly easy to foul up (with exceptions like the lovely Joanna Chambers and Jordan L Hawk).

KJ however excels where most fear to tread, a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has elegance to spare in her writing style, but also because  she sets her stories up on solid research, authentic dialogue and characters that don’t allow for distractions or confusions. If the woman says she’s taking us to 1904, than dammit that is where you will be for the next 200 pages or so! How about the actual story you say? The romance, the MENS, how where they? AMAZING. I mean Archie, a viking like war hero aristocrat…And Daniel and unrepentant poet with a VERY VERY sharp tongue…Oh KJ you are playing my song lady!  But she was not done, oh no, there was also intrigue, mystery, drama and aristocratic misbehavior here for miles, I was not bored for a millisecond and I could have wept from happiness when I heard there will be more from Archie Curtis and Daniel da Silva coming to us in the future.

For this awesome and very much posh setting and story I selected a lovely Reisling from the Willm winery in the island of Alsace. This wine has a sharp and fresh taste and it is just delightful to sip VERY cold. I enjoyed it many times this summer. For about $11 a bottle this wine is fantastic (2)

Now back to the story...Archie Curtis has his military service cut short when a faulty set of weapons was delivered to his platoon and ended up killing and or maiming his entire squad.  He walked away with a disfigured right hand he could barely use and a  There was foul play that he is certain of, but now he is not so sure by whom. The weapon manufacture, Lafayette, who had been held responsible for the accident came to Archie to say he had been framed…He said Armstrong his strongest competitor had framed him so he could take his contract. After he turns Lafayette away, and the guys turn up dead in the river, Archie is not sure what to think. That is how he ends up on his way to a two week long country house party at the Armstrong’s new country estate in Newcastle. Once he’s there he is immediately reminded of the reason why he was just not built for civilian life. These people have no purpose, how can they sit around and play for days on end? He does not fit in well with this lot…Especially once he is introduced to Daniel da Silva, the man is insufferable not only is his attire scandalous, but he makes no efforts to hide the fact that he is a homosexual. The women love da Silva’s wit but Archie is not amused, but he has not time to waste on the man or any of the other people at the house, he is there to find out what happened with the weapons that killed his brothers in arms and took his career.

Pretty soon Archie discovers that nothing is at it seems, there are sinister games at play in the Armstrong family. The more he digs the more he realizes Daniel da Silva could not only be useful to him, but may a valuable ally. The man is to clever for his own good, and that mouth he has…Archie discovers before too long that he is in over his head, with everything, and he will need to heroic one last time if he and Daniel are to get out of there alive.

This novel is in short, and absolute delight, both times I was at the edge of my seat, and had no clue how things would go. The showdown scene at the end was one of the most deliciously gruesome things I’ve read in awhile. I do love KJ Charles’ style, her heroes are men who do what they have to and are not afraid to get dirty, but they always try to do it for the right reasons. Daniel and Archie were DELICIOUS, and I seriously cannot wait to read more of their adventures in the espionage game. Loved loved loved.

If you have not read this, please PLEASE do…You will not regret it!

Think of England by KJ Charles is for sale here and here.


his People this is highly sophisticated mystery novel writing…That is just to whet your appetites, so to speak. We

Home the Hard Way by ZAM Maxfield w an Oregonian Pinot Noir and Sweet & Sour Stir Fry

home the hard wayEvery time I start a review for a ZA Maxfield book I feel like I need to disclaim my intense LOVE for her stories. So, just for the sake of tradition, I will state that ZAM has not ever written anything I haven’t loved. This book is no exception. Actually this one might be in my opinion some of her best writing. My stomach was in knots the whole time. The tone in this story is dark and dreary, with a mystery that kept my stomach in knots from beginning to end. The characters were a mixed bag of personalities that ranged from ethereal, to strange, to deeply twisted. The tone, the setting and the humans in this book all flowed though. It was bleak, but it was also very easy to connect with the heroes. Dare and Finn are a mess, so much baggage yet all I wanted for them was to be able to have at least a chance, just a chance for some happiness.

For this book I selected a wine from Oregon wine country, the Rascal Pinot Noir is a pretty light red wine. Not too full, but still flavorful, definitely a red that can be enjoyed even in the warm summer weather. It goes for about $10 a bottle which is a pretty nice deal. For food I decided to make a quick and easy meal. I figure neither of these two guys have much interest in the kitchen, so I went with something easy and flavorful. I made a Sweet & Sour Stir Fry that you can make with pretty much any kind of protein or even just veggies. Served on top of rice it’s a fast and filling meal.

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You can never go home…Dare only wishes that were true. Dare was a guy who lost his anchor after the inexplicable suicide of his father, and from then on he just drifted. Sometimes he let his dick mess things up for him, sometimes he let his drinking do it. The kid who had it all together growing up in Palladian, Oregon was not the man that came back to the little town  after essentially destroying his career as a homicide detective in Seattle. He’s to come home in shame to Palladian to take a job he only got as a favor to his father memory at the local police department. Dare has failed everything and everyone in his life. Especially Finn Fowler.

Finn the little kid Dare rescued from a bully back from elementary school and protected fiercely for the next four years. Finn who he walked away form without a single word for the next fifteen. Finn the only thing in Palladian that had even a hint of home. Finn he’s always been a yearning in Dare. The things he feels for Finn, he’s never felt for anyone else. He wants to protect Finn, to save him. But he failed his friend when he left him without a second glance, and the Finn that he’s found is not the Finn that he left. This man is harder and darker and has secrets. SO MANY secrets. He’s also had a lot harder life than he deserved. Finn has gone through so much, it’s made him cynical it seems and so shut off. The only thing he seems to care about is his aunt who is in the last stages of cancer.  Dare wants to help, he needs to step up, but he is such a mess himself. It seems like everything in his life went off the rails the day his father took his own life and it never got back on track. Maybe if he finds out once and for all what really happened to his father than the dark cloud over his life could dispel. Just seems the more he uncovers the less he understands.

I think this book is some of ZAM’s best writing. One thing I enjoy more and more with everyone of her books is that her stories and her men are not subscribed to any sort of formula. So even though I recognize her brand, the stories feel new. When ZAM does a darker story, her men are flawed yes, but they are also incredibly easy to empathize with. Because they are broken  in ways we can all relate to. Dare and Finn were easy to love and even easier to root for. Palladian was also an incredibly rich setting, there is a saying in Spanish “Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande…Small Town, Big Hell” and that in a few words was Palladian. A town that thrived on secrets, lies, gossip and pettiness to a level of gluttony where it was literally eating it’s young. What a place. I hope we get to visit Palladian again, because the drama in that town definitely captured my interest. It was like a blend between Wisteria Lane and Twin Peaks. Very intriguing place Palladian was.

This book was solid. A hefty mystery which kept me guessing, very interesting characters, a love story that although was not high on the romance it had plenty of depth to make my heart ache at the right moments. The writing itself was pretty wonderful too.

Totally recommend.

Home the Hard Way is out today from Riptide Publishing and is available for purchase here.

Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Recipe

1 cup of rice (cook according to intructions)

2 cups of chopped veggies (I used onions, baby corn, brocoli, carrots, bell peppers and mushrooms)

1 cup of shrimp (you can use any other protein you want like chicken or beef)

1 clove of garlic minced

olive oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp agave nectar/brown sugar

1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons of cornstarch


Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl stir until the are well blended and set aside. In a large hot skillet saute the garlic for a  minute, add the protein and stir until it is cooked. Remove the protein and set aside, in the same pan  add a bit of sesame seed oil and saute the veggies for about two minutes.

photo 1 (13)

Add the sauce to the skillet and stir for a minute. When the sauce starts to thicken add the protein and simmer on low for a couple minutes. Serve over white rice and enjoy with your glass of wine!

photo 2 (11)

Hope you enjoy the book, the meal and the wine!

Cheers and Happy Reading!



Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst

EveryInfernoLG (1)JJ keeps having nightmares from the day his parents died. That day, that he lost everything. His whole family. He was just a little kid at the movies with his parents, and in just a few minutes he was an orphan.  Lost his mom, his dad, even his baby sister was taken away from him.

JJ is bitter sure, I mean who wouldn’t be, and yeah he drinks too much which is really a problem at 14, but he’s got so much in his head. So many bad memories and that man he keeps seeing in his dreams, he knows that man was the one that set that fire that killed all those people at the theater where his parents died.

JJ feels hopeless all the time, seems like no matter how much he tries he keeps messing up, and he keeps getting in trouble. He’s a burden. A burden to his aunt who took him in after his parents died a burden to his school, to the town, even to his little sister who he barely sees these days.

JJ is having a hard time figuring stuff out, and then there is the whole thing with liking boys. He hasn’t give this particular issue very much thought, but his friendship with Mckinley is making it harder and harder to ignore.

He wants to do good, he does, but he won’t be able to get peace until he can let go of the past, of what happened to parents. He knows that the only way to do that is to finally figure out what happened the night they died. He has his suspicions and starts looking into them little by little…Except life is happening to him finally. He is making headway, most days he doesn’t have that sinking feeling that fucking up his life for good is just a matter of time.

He’s letting people into his life and that is making a difference. He can even see his sister again now that he is not messing up all the time. He’s making progress, but there are still things that hold him back and the more he looks into how his parents died, the more he thinks the person who did is still out there.

I like how Johanna writes very much, she’s got a great sense for how young minds work and she is VERY aware that young doesn’t mean dumb or emotionally stunted. Young people struggle with big feelings and big issues, many times on their own because their very struggles make them feel completely isolated. They need support and they need a little faith some times to get on track and move on.  JJ learned to rely on himself, and to open up to others who would hold him up, and that made the difference in him being able to move one.

I enjoyed this story because it felt familiar and it felt true to life, sometimes we are our own obstacle, and sometimes we just need a break and something to hope for.  The mystery was also pretty intriguing, and kept me on my toes until the end. I liked the bit of darkness Johanna added here and I certainly enjoyed the lightness she threaded through it as well.

Great young adult title, totally recommend.

Every Inferno is available for purchase here.

Cheers and happy reading!


Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford and Cauliflower Rice with Baked Tofu…And MOAR Rosé

Tequila MockingbirdLG (1)WOW! Well it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything…Life takes over and I one ends up doing all the drinking and eating offline. The HORROR. To get me back in the groove I’ve got three posts planned over then next few days, the first is my review for the third installment of the Sinners Series by the most lovely Rhys Ford. This book Tequila Mockingbird brings us back to the unlikely tribe of Irish cops and wayward rock stars. We meet up with the guys in San Francisco a not long after the end of the second book and we get right into it.

This time around Connor the oldest of the Morgan boys gets hit hard by the love bug when he arrives at the scene of a crime and encounters Forest Ackerman the adoptive son of the man’s whose murder he is there to investigate. Forest is skittish and quiet and brings out Connor’s protective side like no one has ever done before. He wants to care for him, the thing is he is not really gay…

For this book I wanted to make something with and Asian flavor since so many of Rhys’ books are set in San Francisco with lots of glimpses from Chinatown I thought the Crispy Peanut Tofu with Rice Cauliflower from The Minimalist Baker would be PERFECT for this one. I paired this yummy dish with a lovely South African Rose wine that has made it’s way to my table many a time already this summer  the 2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé quite frankly wins EVERYTHING. It is delicious, smooth to drink, fruity and fragrant without sweetness. For $9.00 a bottle it’s a win-win.

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Onto the story. So we catch up with the Morgan brood once more and this time the hot older brother is the star of the show. Connor Morgan meets Forest Ackerman while investigating the murder of the man’s father. From the get go Forest awakens feelings in Connor the he just cannot explain. Not only is the man clearly in need of someone to care for him, but he looks at Connor like he is the solution to all his problems. The sexy slight drummer is setting off something in Connor that so far he’s only “seen” happen to his brother and cousin with THEIR mates, but could never imagine happening to him. So when bad things start happening around Forest’s home and business, and it becomes clear whoever killed his dad is out to get him too, Connor steps in and takes the man to his home. No way is he going to stand by and let him get hurt. Sure it’s possesive and a little crazy since HE IS STRAIGHT, but who cares, it’s not like there isn’t a precedent in the family.

Despite the intensity of his feelings Connor is torn, he never envisioned himself with a  man. All he aspired to be was just like his dad, and being gay just did not fit with that plan. He has to make peace with this because there is no way that he will be the reason for more hurt in Forest’s life. The man has not had it easy, if it weren’t for Frank that man who took him off the streets and gave him the closest thing he knew for a home he would have never made it past his teens. There is a lot to soothe and clean inside of Forest’s heart and Connor knows he is the man meant to do it.

As for Forest never saw this Irish cop coming, one moment he was living his regular (well as close to regular as it was with Frank) and the next his whole life had been blown up, literally. He is all alone in the world(other than his mother who doesn’t exactly count as someone who would care)  and that feeling of being bereft and completely on his own makes him want to seek the protection he can see Connor wants to offer. He’s only ever had one person who ever cared about him at all, and putting his trust in Connor, the prospect of letting him know the ugly things in his past feels very scary. He feels like he has to though, the closer they get the more Forest feels like he’s found the man and the family he’s always wanted. He has doubts of course, because Connor and his family, they are AMAZING, so wholesome and perfect and how could he a rentboy whose own mother would sell him for a few bucks fit into that perfect picture? But the more he gets to know Connor, his family and the two men who have recently joined the brood the more he realizes these people could not have been more perfect for a family.

This book had all the elements that make Rhys’ writing so damn readable. Two heroes who are intensely into each other, good plot, interesting mystery and a lot of opportunities to visit with characters that we deeply care for. The erotica was top notch incredibly sexy and yet not even a hit of discordance to the tone of the book.  Solid writing as always. Will be anxiously waiting for the next one! At this point I’m hoping to get adopted by the Morgan clan myself!

‘Tis a good one. Recommend.

Tequila Mockingbird is available for purchase here.

Peanutty Sauce Bakes Tofu with Cauliflower Rice

This recipe was borrowed from the fabulous Minimalist Baker blog.


For the stir fry:

  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu, organic & non-GMO if possible*
  • 1 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
For the sauce:
  • 1.5 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (gluten free for GF eaters)
  • 3.5 – 4 Tbsp light brown sugar (or honey if not vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter (natural, salted)

Add ons:

  • baby bok choy, green onion, red pepper, broccoli


Begin by draining tofu 1.5 hours before you want your meal ready. If your block of tofu is larger than 12 ounces, trim it down. To drain the tofu wrap in in a couple layers of paper towel and then into a kitchen towel. Put in under something heavy. I use a cast iron pan and weigh pan down with a bag of flour. Keep it like that for about 30 minutes

Whiele draining the tofu preheat oven t 400 degrees F. Once tofu is dry uncover it and cube it.  Place it on a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes to dry/firm the tofu. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool.

Tofu after baking.

Tofu after baking.

Prepare sauce by whisking together ingredients until combined. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

Add cooled tofu to the sauce and stir to coat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes to saturate the tofu and infuse the flavor.

In the meantime, shred your cauliflower into rice in the food processor. You don’t want it too fine, sort of the size of cooked rice. Set aside.

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart


Mince garlic if, and prepare any veggies you want to add to the dish. I basically cut the bok choy in half and brushed it with some soy sauce and sesame seed oil and sauteed them for two minutes on a skillet. Set veg aside and keep warm.



Use a slotted spoon to spoon tofu into the preheated pan. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to coat. Cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes until browned. It will stick to the pan a bit, just . Remove from pan and set aside and cover to keep warm. In a clean pan (could be the one you used for the tofu after a rinse) add a drizzle of sesame oil to the pan, then add garlic and cauliflower rice and stir. Put cover on to steam the “rice.” Cook for about 5-8 minutes until slightly browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Then add a few spoonfuls of sauce to season and stir. To serve top cauliflower with veggies and tofu. Serve with any leftover sauce, and enjoy with the your glass of Rosé.

Hope you enjoy the recipe and wine!!

Cheers and Happy Reading!



The Silence of the Stars by Kate McMurray w Pasta Frutti di Mare and a fab French White.

SilenceoftheStars[The]LGKate McMurray does something in her books that I love. She mixes culture, setting and characters in a way that make her stories rich and interesting every single time. This book, a spin off  The Stars the Tremble,  is a beautiful love story of two men who have not been able to find what they are looking for. Sandy and Everett in each other not only find love, but they find ways to heal, so that they can build the life they always wanted.

Kate’s book always appeal to me because she writes about things I love, like baseball, the opera, or the magic of New York city. Sandy and Everett’s story had the music, and New York City as lovely complements to their romance. This story as charming as it was, also dealt (very well I thought) with PTSD and the struggle with which so many men and women in this country live with when they return from war. There is so much stigma in admitting to being damaged on the inside. Voicing that your head and your heart might never heal even after your body has is something that is just not done. Sandy came back from war broken inside and he just powered through all that pain. He needed to heal and forgive himself and Everett needed to trust his heart to someone that could really treasure it, just as it was.

For this book I wanted to make something a little fancy, like Everett could be, but also fast and simple like Sandy would be able to make if he was in the mood to do a little romancing. So, I came up with a quick and SUPER easy pasta e frutti di mare (pasta with seafood) recipe. I paired it with a lovely French white blend wine that is absolutely perfect to enjoy a seafood dish. The Domaine de Pajot Les Quatre Cepages is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Gros Manseng, it’s a crisp and lightly fruity wine with no sweetness. A wonderful complement to the dish, for about $9.00 a bottle also a great deal!

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Now the story. Sandy has never been very lucky in love. He was in the closet for most of his 20s and 30s while he served in the military. Once he was discharged after a injury during active combat he came back home to NYC and found a good job working with his best friend Mike in his contracting business, he was settled and even bought a house to fix up. But love, it didn’t really pan out. He couldn’t seem to get past one night stands or relationships with men that wanted to change him. After his last breakup Sandy was starting to feel a bit hopeless that he might never have the family he always wanted. That is until Sandy gets to his new contracting job in Brooklyn and meets his new client. Everett Blake, is a violinist and also the hottest thing Sandy has ever seen. They are both on the same page with the attraction and pretty soon they are having a hot and heavy affair.

Both Sandy and Everett can sense that they can fall pretty hard for each other but they are unsure. They each have their insecurities, Sandy still struggles with the memories from his time in Afghanistan and Everett is still trying to figure out what it is that makes him end up in relationships that make him feel so bad about who he is and what makes him happy. They are reluctant to bet on each other. Meanwhile Sandy is fixing up his house with his own hands and is trying to hold on to his dream of filling it up with family, a man he loves and children to raise together. But things are not looking too good for Sandy’s dream, even after meeting Everett and how good they are together. Maybe he’s just too damaged.

This book dealt with a pretty heavy subject, but it did so in a way that was respectful and not melodramatic which I appreciated. Sandy and Everett were falling in love,  and that involved them getting to know the wonderful as well as the not so nice sides to each other. Everett parent’s were snobby and judgmental, while Sandy was struggling to move past his trauma. Things were far from perfect, but they made it work, because they were in love and their future would be much better together than it would be apart.

I love Kate’s writing, it’s quiet and thoughtful and she gives her characters so much depth. Her men are all flesh and blood, and they have a vulnerability that always affects me. In this series particularly I really enjoyed the contrast of her heroes, the blue collar guys with the classical musicians, so unlikely and yet they were just right for each other.  She just goes to the core of what is most important, love…There is always common ground to be discovered and explore when love is the foundation. All in all I really enjoyed this book. I just plain love Kate’s writing.

Definitely recommend.

The Silence of the Stars is available for purchase here.

Pasta Frutti di Mare

1 pack of spaghetti or linguine

3 garlic cloves minced

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped

1 cup of white wine (I used the Domaine the Pajot!)

1 dozen large raw shrimp peeled with tails

1 can of chopped clams with juice

1 can of mussels in juice

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon spoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water.

salt and pepper to taste.


Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a hot sautee pan put the butter, oil and garlic at medium-high heat. After a minute add the garlic, sautee for a minute stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the shrimp and cook for two minutes after they look cooked take out and set aside. In the same pan add the wine,  mussels and clams with juice to the mix.

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Make sure you mix in the garlic and butter on the pan to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to simmer and cook for five minutes or so. Once the mix is fragrant add the cornstarch and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the shrimp back to the sauce, toss in pasta and parsley. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Hope you enjoy the book and give the food and wine a try. They are all quite delicious and perfect for these summer months!

Cheers and Happy Reading!


Interview with Langley Hyde Author of Highfell Grimoires

my copy

I had to get it on paperback!

Hello everyone! Today I am so thrilled to have the lovely Langley Hyde, author of one of the best books I’ve read this year the Steampunk novel, Highfell Grimoires visiting. HG is a complex and rich story, so I had tons on questions for her about her inspiration, the characters, the world, how she got into writing this genre, and also the very important question…What is your favorite dessert?😉

Here is what we chatted about…

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Before we start the interview, I just wanted to say that Highfell Grimoires in one of the best books I’ve read this year. It grabbed me from the first page, and did not let go until the last. I fell in love with the world you created. Herrow was magical, with the aetheriums ( I want to go on one so bad!!), the lore, the magic…Everything was so vivid, and interesting. There is a lot to fall in love with in this story, but my heart was stolen by the characters, Neil, Leofa and their boys were so wonderful to read. This book is a grand adventure, so much goodness.

Before I get into the book, I wanted to ask you a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

Langley Hyde: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in telling stories. I know that I didn’t start writing until I was about eight, though. Until that point I’d been an illiterate barbarian—I’d refused to read or write out of pure stubbornness. I’d insisted that what I was making up was better. Then I read a book, The Prince and the Pauper, and I thought, “Huh. I couldn’t make that up.” And the concept that I wasn’t alone, that I could become a writer among other writers, that I could embrace and be a part of a community of ideas, was a revelation.

TB: When I was reading HG, I got that feeling I get when I am in the midst a truly special experience…I love books and the places they take me, and I am forever in awe that someone’s mind can conjure up amazing worlds, and bring them to life in my head! With HG everything was so vibrant and magical, so much of all that stuff I love in a good story. There was a serious Victorian Gothic flavor to this book, and numerous times while I read I thought to myself “this could definitely have rolled with Dickens, Brontë (Emily!) and Poe with no trouble at all!”

So that being said, what was your inspiration for this book? Which authors have influenced your writing?

LH: I love all those writers! You caught me.

I fell in love with Poe when I was about nine. I may have been a morbid child. I discovered the romanticism of the Brontë sisters when I was seventeen. I loved Wuthering Heights but Jane Eyre has troubled me ever since I first read it, so I think about it a lot.

As for Dickens, in my family it was a holiday tradition to read A Christmas Carol aloud on Christmas Eve. At this point I read about one book by Dickens a year, sometimes rereading favorites. One of my friends described Dickens’ writing—not in a loving way—a  being “drowned by an effluvium of words” but that’s kind of why I like his writing. Plus Dickens depictions of class really fascinate me—they’re not inane, unlike Thomas Hardy’s work, which makes me go ugh.

I think that H.G. Wells and R.L. Stevenson are often judged on the other merits of their work, but that the rhythm of their prose is underappreciated. I had a collection of R.L. Stevenson’s work growing up that I loved. I also had a phase when I lived in Germany where I read a huge amount of Gothic fiction. And I would like to write a book that resonates with Gothic themes, which are really fun.

TB: You basically created a full world here, it was reminiscent of Gothic England, albeit a MUCH cooler version of it. I could see those floating estates, and the strapping men flying gliders in between them, clear as day. It must have been an incredibly fun book to write.

When you began building Herrow for your novel, what were the parts of it that were most prominent in your mind? Did you base the society on a particular time in history?

LH: I drew on several periods of history to make a society I thought would be compelling. At the time I was more interested in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. I wanted to have a feeling of great change and societal transformation in the story, but I also didn’t want to focus on modern conveniences, like cars or the telegraph. I am very fascinated with the transition from brute labor to automation.

The characters kind of just ended up wearing the clothes I wanted them to wear, however.

When I built Herrow, I wanted to include the diversity that I experienced when living in London, especially in regards to wealth and status. I lived off Baywater, near Kensington, in an area filled with immigrants, North African, Indian, along with some Turkish and Chinese.

The buildings, all erected around the turn of the century, were refurbished tenements. For two hundred pounds a week, you could live in a single room with a bathroom two floors down that you shared with eight people. I shopped mostly at a Turkish store and ate lentils, because I could buy a ton of lentils at the Turkish store for a pound fifty. The streets were filled with people jostling, buskers, no tourists really. But I’d walk a couple of blocks over, I’d see the emptiness of Kensington, these grand mansions, gigantic for London, all white columns and perfect hedges, or Portobello lane with its little cutesy kitschy, brightly painted buildings and its restaurants at fifty quid a plate.

I am very fascinated by stark class differences so naturally that is a huge feature in my writing. And I wanted that type of contrast to be a big part of Herrow as well as the characters’ experiences of their world.

TB: Neil and Leofa…They stole my heart…Actually it was them, and the kids, and everything else, but I digress. What a wonderful set of characters. Did you set out to write a love story with two male characters or did that just happen?

LH: Good question. I think I set off to do it, actually. I read a lot of classics. Sometimes the relationships between the male characters are so much more intense. So I guess that inspired me.

TB:  This world you made Langley, is too amazing not to revisit, personally I went right back into it the moment I finished the book, and re-read my favorite parts. Which leads me to the next question, will we get to go on more adventures with Neil and Leofa? The place I left them, certainly seemed like a great beginning!

LH: I would like to explore their world more deeply, and you’re right—Neil and Leofa have so much to look forward to! I guess I have so many options I’m a little spoiled for choices. Really, there are so many possibilities that I need to do a lot more thinking before I can give a definitive answer about what happens next.

TB: As you know my blog is a bit different, in addition to the book review I usually pair the story with a wine and/or recipe I think goes well with the story. For Neil and Leofa, I’ve chosen to make Lemon Lavender Cakelets with a Prosecco and Limoncello Spritzer for drink. I think Neil would be all over the cakelets! What is your favorite dessert, and what do you like to sip on a hot summer afternoon?

LH: Neil definitely would be all over the cakelets. He might have to pocket one for later, in fact. As for me, when it comes to desserts I basically love buttercream frosting. If you covered a brick in buttercream frosting (vanilla please) I would gnaw on it until my teeth broke.

When it summer cocktails, the gin and tonic never lets me down. Also when I’m drinking it I can pretend to be a nineteenth-century lady adventuress. Quinine to stave off malaria, and a lime wedge to get the scurvy away!


Again many thanks to Langley for taking the time to visit and for the great answers. I am hope this is just the first of many visits to discuss her wonderful stories.

Highfell Grimories is available for purchase here. If you have not gone to buy it yet, GO NOW. This is some of the best reading you will do this year. I PROMISE!

Cheers and Happy Reading!


Highfell Grimoires by Langley Hyde and Lemon Lavender Cakelets w Lemon Lavender Curd Filling and a Limoncello Spritzer

highfellYou know when you read a book and you KNOW, like deep inside of you that you are in on something amazing? That you are reading something important. That’s how I felt reading this book, like “Wow, I’m one of the first people reading this book, and this book is going to BLOW PEOPLE AWAY.” That’s what I was thinking throughout Highfell Grimoires, from the moment I started reading I knew I was in for something remarkable. Let’s start with the genre, the book is a Steampunk novel, and without exaggerating even a little bit I can say it is the best one I’ve read in this genre, full stop. Second, it channeled some serious Victorian Gothic magic, think Brontë, think Poe, think Dickens…Think BIG, because that is exactly what the writing in this novel was. The excellent world building, the intriguing characters, twisted and fascinating foes, vulnerable and noble heroes, the piercing look at class, inequality, justice, gender biases, misogynistic societal norms, hypocrisy, kindness, love, loyalty, friendship, higher causes, greater good…The whole enchilada my friends. This novel HAS IT ALL…And then THEN, there’s Neil, Leofa and their boys.

Where do I even start? Because seriously if I wasn’t a happily married woman I would have proposed to Langley Hyde about a third into this book. But I digress, let’s talk food and drink, before I dive into the book. Like I said this book is steampunk, and set in a place very reminiscent of Victorian England (with a twist!), given the setting there is a lot of High Teas and such going on in the book. So, I wanted to make something that grooved with that as well as, something the heroes would love. I decided on Lemon Lavender Cakelets with Lemon Curd filling and a Prosecco/Limoncello Spritzer. This was  bit of a labor intensive recipe, I admit, but it paid off beautifully. It’s one of the best things I’ve made. For the cocktail I infused a bottle of limoncello with lavender buds for about 10 days and it gave the spritzer a lovely flavor. I used the Cupcake brand prosecco, which is nice and dry, with lovely hint of lemon, PERFECT for this cocktail, a bottle goes for about $11.

photo 3Now the story…Neil Franklin’s life has been taken away from him. After his parent’s accidental death him and his sister are suddenly faced with a crippling family debt, and to repay it he agrees to leave the city of Herrow and his studies, to become a teacher at his uncle’s charity boarding school for boys. The school is up in an eatherium, estates that float in the air powered by aether. So he will have to leave his sister in the care of his uncle. As much as Neil loves those big floating ship-like structures in the sky, and the excitement of possibly taking part in forming young minds, he is low, because he knows he will never be able to pay the debt he owes, and his sister’a future might be in jeopardy as much as his.

Things get grimmer the moment he arrives at the school, the conditions there are less then optimal, and his students seems to be a group of disreputable urchins…And that’s not not the worst of it, the Nobsnippes, the family who runs the school seem to be pretty shady characters. Neil is not sure what he’s gotten himself into, but the more he learns of the conditions he is to live in the more he despairs. Then he meets Leofa, the “garderner” for the school who he is supposed to be roommates with (the horror), not only is the whole thing unseemly and completely below someone’s Neil social status, but Leofa makes him jumpy. He is all kinds of mysterious and confusing. He is a bit rough with Neil, yet so kind and gentle with the boys. He goes out of his way to feed them and care for them as much as he can…He is also big and beautiful, and that out of everything is the very worst part. Neil cannot have feelings for this man, it is not well regarded for two men to be “involved” and besides he’s not too sure if “gardening” is really what Leofa is getting up to wherever he spends his days…As a matter of fact some of the boys are going in there too and coming back hurt. None of this is Neil’s problem though, he cannot get attached to the boys or Leofa, what he needs is to find a way to get out of the situation he is in, the whole thing is beneath him. Not at all what he signed for, the Nobsnippes give him the creeps, they are nasty people, the boys are barely manageable and then there’s the sleeping arrangement with Leofa…Neil is in over his head, that is for sure!

From the voice (Neil is our narrator in first person POV), to the world, the characters, the toys, flying machines, intrigue, magic, secrets and romance this book was LUSCIOUS. Visually the world is gorgeous, my mind was working overtime to keep up with flying aetheriums,  victorian dresses a la Tim Burton, and magical books secured with hazardous bloodlocks. Neil, like all the others, is a wonderfully developed character. He is so much a man of his time, but he has an ingrained sense of nobility and fairness, he is attached to his place in society and what it has provided for him, but he understands the injustices that exist in his world. When he is faced with the conditions which the boys he grows to care about are forced to live in, out the carelessness of others he struggles with that. He struggles with the reality that a good man like Leofa is forced to work for pennies by nasty people because of circumstances that were not his doing. It is an unfair world, and it shames him that he has never paid much  attention to it before.

Then of course is what he finds in Leofa and those boys. He finds his heart and his purpose. What had never seemed important before becomes paramount, because soon he realizes that these boys and that man are important, not just to him, but they are important because they ARE. Strange things are happening and he fears they might all be in danger, nothing seems to be like he thought it was. Seems like Neil may have been living in the clouds before he got up on the aetherium, ironically, but he’s never been a coward and now is not the the time to start when his, Leofa’s, the boys and his sister’s fate are in the balance.

I won’t go into the mystery or magic because that was such a wonderful part of this book, that I will leave you to discover it yourselves. This story is nothing but goodness, the heroes are brave and valiant, the villains are twisted and grotesque…The archetypes are done exquisitely. The romance between Neil and Leofa is subtle and understated but no less was powerful and moving. I did not miss the erotica (although there were intimate moments), for me the big payoff  for me came from getting to know them and their world. Not that there is not enough in their love story to make one swoon, because THERE IS! It’s a read like you don’t run across very often.

I cannot say enough good things, if I could I would make reading this novel mandatory. For steampunk and fantasy fans this is required reading. For fans of Victorian novels, also a MUST…And if you are fan of good books with good writing, go buy this book NOW.

Effusively and enthusiastically recommend. I hope beyond all hope there is a lot more from Langley Hyde coming our way in the near future, I especially hope that this one not the last form Neil, Leofa and their gang.

Highfell Grimoires will be released by Blind Eye Books and it is available for pre-order here.

For a free copy of Highfell Grimoires comment below or tweet me @readingtipsy and let me know what your favorite decadent dessert is!

Lemon-Lavender Pound Cakelets, with Lemon-Lavender Curd with Whipped Cream Topping

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet

Be sure to use organic, culinary lavendar for these cakes. I got 4oz on Amazon for about $8.00.

For the cakes:
1 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender buds (ground in coffee grinder or vitamix)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter (or vegan butter spread), softened
zest of two lemons (preferably Meyers)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup of almond milk with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

Grind the lavender buds with the sugar in a coffee grinder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, ground lavender, butter and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined, scraping as needed.

photo 1In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, add half the dries, mix until combined. Add the buttermilk (or almond milk mixture), mix to combine, and then add the rest of the dries. Give the batter a final fold with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly mixed, then divide the batter among the 10 muffin cups. 

Bake the cupcakes, rotating once halfway through the baking time, for 20 – 25 minutes. The tops should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger, and a tester should come out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Lemon-Lavender Curd

This recipe makes about 1 cup of curd, which is twice what you will need to fill the cakes. .
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender buds
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
2 ounces (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, in 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half
pinch salt

In a small saucepan, heat the zest, juice and buds to just below a simmer. Cover and let steep for 10 or 20 minutes, once they have steeped strain out the buds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg and yolks to combine. Bring the lemon juice mixture back to a bare simmer, and, whisking constantly, slowly pour into the egg mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the sides, bottom, and corners of the pot.

Cook until thickened to the consistency of gravy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and immediately whisk in the cold butter, cream and salt until combined. Strain through a fine mesh seive and into a small bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd, and chill in the refrigerator until needed. The curd will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

photo 2Lemon Lavender Whipped Cream

1 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon of ground lavender


Put the cream and vanilla on mixer and whip on medium for about a minute, once it starts thickening put on high until you see high peaks. Once you are done, fold in the zest and lavender.

To assemble the cakes:

Remove the paper lining once the cakes are cook. Carefully cut the cakelets across the center, spoon the lemon curd onto the bottom half then cover with the top. Put a dollop of the cream on top of each cakelet.

photo 5For the cocktail:

If you infused the limoncello, make sure you use a strainer to pour it onto a bowl or glass. Pour about one tablespoon of limoncello on a champagne flute and top with chilled prosecco.

I really do hope you give this book a try, I completely loved and think Langley Hyde is one of the most promising new voices in the genre. The cakes were kind of a special project, so I wouldn’t be offended if the challenge to make them is not taken up!

Cheers and Happy Reading!



High and Tight by Vanessa North and more SUMMER WINE PICKS!!

This was lovely. Seriously packed the stuff I love in a story, it had the angst,  the “latch on to your heart and don’t let go” characters, and it had STYLE. Yeah that’s right style, those boys were smoking, those tattoos!! *swoons*. What’s more these heroes were approachable and present from the word. I was IN IT with them from the moment I started reading. Even when fuckery ensued-because there WAS angst-I was still with them.  Harris and Adam had long hard history together. They’d had a lot of good, but there was lots and lots of bad and sad. Adam had to step up and show Harris he would be the man he deserved, and Harris had to to trust this time it would be what he had always wished for.

For this story I chose another Vinho Verde mostly because it was a fast and lovely read, that left me yearning for more, but not so much that it affected my enjoyment. That pretty much sums my experience with vinho verde, goes too fast, but it’s SO NICE while you’re having it. I chose the Vera Rose for another recent title and I put the white with this one. It is delicious and a perfect sampling of a verde, if a bit on the expensive side. Regardless it’s a nice treat, the 2013 Vera Vihno Verde is about $10 a bottle and definitely one to try if you are curious about this wine variety.

photo (1)

Now to the story. Adam Walker has been a Navy pilot for the last 12 years, he LOVES his job. He loves his experiences in it, he loves what he’s achieved. It’s cost him dearly though. It cost him 12 years in the light with Harris. Harris King who he met at 17 and fell madly in love with, he was locked in heart and soul with Harris from the first and it never abated. Harris loved him back too, gave Adam EVERYTHING he had, loved him like he needed. But never in the light, always a secret, because Adam couldn’t risk his career.

Harris was understanding with Adam all those years as much as he could, because he knew as soon as it was OK for them to be together Adam would come for him. The loved each other so much, fulfilled each other so completely it was like they were inside each other. Harris KNEW they were meant to be together forever, even if it hurt to hide, he believed in their happy ending. But once Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and there was nothing from Adam but radio silence that belief turned into anger. Adam broke Harris’ love.

When Adam shows up for the holidays unexpectedly, you’d think Harris would relish the chance to throw just how how far he’s moved on…Except the only thing that has never worked for him is denying Adam. Being the one person that can give him just what he needs has always made Harris whole. He wishes he could stomp on Adam’s heart just like he did his. He wishes a lot of things…But Adam isn’t taking NO for an answer and Harris never could turn his back the love of his life.

I don’t have much more to say other than I completely enjoyed this novel, the heroes were layered and surprisingly flushed out for such a short book. There were layers upon layers of feeling, things were tough for these guys to work out, but I stuck with them, because I believed they had earned their happy ending. The erotica was top notch, the humor kept things from getting too angsty, and the tougher moments felt warranted and integral to their journey. No gratuitousness here, and I really appreciated it.

I totally recommend this one will be looking for more from Vanessa North in the future.

High and Tight will be released from Carina Press on May 9th and can be pre-ordered here.

Hope you look for the wine and the book, both well worth exploring.

Cheers and Happy Reading!




Loving Jay by Renae Kaye and a Gorgeous Italian Rosé

LovingJayLGWell that was delightful! Loving Jay by (new to me) author Renae Kaye was absolutely charming. Liam and Jay were so frigging adorable and funny, I was totally and completely smitten from the moment I started reading. This book was so lovely and fun. That is not to say it didn’t have some serious moments, it totally did, but mostly it was wonderful to see Liam evolve in his feelings for Jay and become braver about who he was, just from what he had found in the man he loved.

For this one, I must say the bottle chose ME, I was browsing for weekend wines, saw this bottle and thought ‘This is perfect for Jay!” they were offering a tasting and it was delicious, so that sealed the deal. My pairing for today is the 2013  Carpineto Dogajolo Rosato from Tuscany, Italy, is  made with 100% Sangiovese grapes. This wine is wildflowers and sunshine, beautiful and aromatic. I put down that bottle in a hot second. So good, at $11 a bottle not cheap, but definitely worth the splurge, and that label, so gorgeous. photo So back to Liam and Jay, two of my new favorite fictional people! Liam is a bit reluctant (like he chants “I’m not gay!” a few times a day to himself)  to admit his proclivities, it just seems like too much is uncertain. His intimate experiences with me have left him cold, so he can’t go by that…There is also his family, mostly his dad, who is always mouthing off homophobic comments without provocation. Then there is society at large, Liam just hasn’t found any reason worthy of him putting himself through the grief of being openly gay. People are horrible to gay people all the time, nasty comments and looks…He just can’t see how anyone would be willing to go through that. However in the past months he has developed a mild (full blown!) obsession with a fellow commuter. Every morning this beautiful blond man with eyeliner, make up and extremely flamboyant ways rides the same train as Liam and just lights up his world. Everything about Jay (this is the name Liam has come up with based on badge the guy wore once, since they’ve never actually spoken) makes Liam want. He is beautiful, open and proud. Liam wants to badly to get closer to him…If only Liam were gay…Riiiiight.

On Liam’s lucky day he misses the train to work along with Jay, and they strike up a quick friendship. Jay, James actually,  talks a mile a minute and has NO FILTER from brain to mouth, but he still charms Liam completely. The man is smitten pretty quickly, if he could only man up and ask the guy out. That choice is taken out his hands when something bad happens and Liam has to stand up for Jay and face what he’s feeling. If he wants to be the man Jay deserves he has to be brave and step out into the light.

This book was so delightful, the humor was unapologetic, the characters genuine and endearing. I loved Liam and Jay, how they understood each other. Liam became such a brave warrior for Jay, what he couldn’t seem to do for himself came instinctually if it meant defending Jay. I just loved this book, it had the right mix of humor, romance, smexin, seriousness, and endearing characters to make it a very enjoyable read.

Definitely recommend.

Loving Jay is for sale at Dreamspinner Press.

Hope you give the book and the wine a try, you will fall in love TWICE!

Cheers and Happy reading!


Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C…Vegan Calzone and Vihno Verde

PerfectImperfectionsLGI read my first Cardeno C book recently when she joined forces with one of my all time faves the most lovely, Mary Calmes in the PNR novel Control (which I LURVED). I liked her style of writing and specially loved the character she wrote. So, when she had a novel with a rockstar (one of my favorite tropes!) coming up I snatched it up!

Perfect Imperfections is a very sweet and no angst story, and  there is a bit of a mystery which kept things interesting. The build-up to the more smexy scenes was nice and made the payoff that more delicious. Here is the jist of it, Jeremy Jameson is a big rockstar, who is feeling a bit like there is not much in his personal life that is worth getting excited about. One night, before his upcoming tour, he walks into a bar in Arizona and ends up hiring the bartender, Reggie Moore, to be his tour companion…Like his “fake boyfriend” to basically keep him company while he does his shows around the world. A bit unusual situation, but these two get pretty adorable early on in the book, and that snuggly deliciousness keeps going for the remainder of the story. They were so cute!!!

So for this book, I wanted to do a comfort food like recipe with a summer wine as we are having that kind of weather these days. I went for a Spinach and Mushroom Vegan Calzone with a delish Portugese Vihno Verde. Vihno Verde is produced in Portugal and has been quite popular in the last few years, as it inredibly refreshing and ususally very affordable…I buy it by the case in the summer! This particular bottle, 2012 Vera Vihno Verde,  is more than I would normally pay at $11 (although it may be less in your area), but I was curious of the Rosé. It is delicious with the usual super subtle carbonation of VV, and a zippy bite that just makes you want to keep drinking. The Calzone is my little crazy creation, and I think it will pass even Cardeno C’s melty cheese test!

photo 3Now back to the story. Once Reggie goes on tour with Jeremy, it is pretty obvious that his presence is a good influence on the singer. He feels fulfilled and cared for like he never has before,. Reggie’s presence in his life becomes more of necessity with each passing day. It’s confusing too, because as far as he knows he is straight! Jeremy is known for having dated all the up and coming startlets in LA. He’s never really been attracted to men before.Reggie just pushes all his buttons though and pretty soon the chemsitry between them it getting to be too much to ignore. Reggie on his end is head over heels for Jeremy, and is pretty sure the feeling is mutual, he doesn’t want to push and scare Jeremy off, but the man’s sexiness is getting hard to resist.

This novel is a pretty light and easy romance. There are a few stressful twists, but none that involve our heroes, they are pretty steady with each other. There are so hilarious moments, specially with Jeremy which made for solid romcom fare. Reggie and Jeremy’s dance around each other was done well, there was a lot of tension without getting frustrated. Reggie and Jeremy were so dear, those two were certainly smittlen. As far as the rockstar trope there aren’t really many scenes showcasing performances and such, but that was alright, we got the other side of being a musician. There were a lot of pretty intense scenes regarding the kind of pressure starts face with the media, it made for a more coherent story given the plot.

I liked this one, will probably pick it up again when I need light read with cuteness and smexy.

Perfect Imperfections is available on for purchase here.

Spinach Mushroom Vegan Calzone

1 pizza dough (see here)

1 cup of crimini mushrooms chopped

1 cup of baby spinach

1 small onion chopped

1 garlic clove minced

1 bag of Go Veggie! Mozarella flavored rice shreds

1/3 cup of Go Veggie! Parmesan Style Grated Topping

1/2 block of extra firm tofu (drained)

1 tablespoon of nutriotional yeast

a few basil leaves (2-4)

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven at 425F. In the food processor place tofu, basil, nutritional yeast, a teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Run the mixture until it has consistency of ricotta cheese.


Once the mixure is done, mix with the rice shreds and grated topping, and set aside.


In a sautee pan, heat about a tablespoon of oil. Sautee onions, garlic and mushrooms until they are softened, about 4 minutes, and add spinach at the end for like a minute. Remove from heat.

photo 2

On a floured counter top take the dough, divide it into two halves and roll out to rectangular shape. Place half of “cheese” and half of veggies on lower part of rectangle, fold over and pinch edges to that it is sealed. Once you have the calzone sealed properly then brush the top with oil.

filling calzone


Prick the calzones with a fork on top a couple of times and place in a pizza stone or pan with nonstick oil for about 22 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce or pesto for dipping and enjoy with a nice chilled wine!


Hope that you guys give the book and recipe a try. Uncomplicated and tasty is always a good combination!


Cheers and Happy Reading.