Grime Doesn’t Pay by Z.A. Maxfield with Black Bean and Corn Tamales, and a gorgeous French Rose.

ZAm cover

This is the second book in the Grime Brothers series, and it’s Eddie story. He is the second of the three friends we met in the first book, Grime and Punishment, who own an industrial cleaning service in Fullerton, Calirfornia. The tone in this book like in the previous one was a little serious, but this one was not as dark and Jack an Ryan’s story. I really liked the love story and Eddie might give a Tristan a run for his money for my all time favorite Z.A. Maxfield character. I loved him. He was so earnest, and so so deeply kind, I just wanted him to feel adored.

For this story I asked ZAM what I should make for her guys, and she recommended tamales…Her wish is my command, and so I made me some Mexican holiday goodness. I made  Black Bean and Corn Tamales that came out AMAZING. Tamales are naturally gluten free, and with the vegan filling, a delish addition to holiday meals. I paired them with a light, fruity french Rose that could not be a better choice for the spicy and fresh  flavors of the tamales.  The 2012 La Veille Ferme Rose from Cotes Du Ventoux winery is a Granache, Syrah and Cinsault ble,d. It’s got a strong cherry base, with brown sugar undertones, making it very flavorful and lovely to sip well chilled. At $8.99 a bottle. it’s great value as well.

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Now back to the story…Eddie has had a crush on his niece’s First grade teacher ALL YEAR. B Andrew Daley is pretty much tailor made for Eddie. He’s all the things that he wants in one package. He’s hot for teacher, no doubt. He’s just so unsure of himself around Andrew. The guy is always talking about books, and asking Eddie stuff that makes him feel UNCOMFORTABLE. Eddie has a serious learning disability, and reading really isn’t and option for him. He’s always approached his dyslexia like a dragon he is constantly slaying, he HAS overcome it, but it makes him self-conscious. He is afraid that Andrew might see him differently if he ever finds out.

One day dropping off his niece, Eddie’s old teacher, Mrs. Henderson, shows up at the school looking disoriented, and not making any sense. She’s seems to be delusional and Eddie comes to her aid instantly, that was the lady that saved his life in school. The one person who figured out that Eddie just needed to be taught differently. Eddie coming to the rescue gives Mr. Daley the opportunity to finally makes his move and ask him out. From that first date (despite the awful movie),  it is very clear to both of them that they make a good pair. They are meant to be together. They just FIT, perfectly. The thing is they both have A LOT  baggage they drag around. Andrew’s dad has a serious hoarding issue, and he’s so scared for anyone to know. He’s embarrassed that his dad has let things get that out of control, and he’s so frightened he might end up that way too.

Things are so uncertain they just are both so unsure of what they other will do if they see all the bad stuff they bring with them to the relationship.

“Will you still love me tomorrow?”

That’s the big question for them both, and the only way to find out , is to open up, and hope that they can both be strong enough to move forward despite the challenges. I enjoyed Eddie so much, he was so steady. Andrew was a hot mess a lot of the time, and Eddie did not let him thing even for a minute that he would be scared off. He made him see, what it was like to be with a person that he could count on. They were sweet, and oh so very hot. This was a very nice read  all in all, and I am very much looking forward to the angsty wreck that will be Gabe and Dave in the next book.

The lovely Ms. Maxfield sent me the playlist she used for inspiration writing the story, and that was super fun to listen to while writing my review…Here is a list of the songs.

Giveaway image - playlist-1

Z.A. Maxfield is beyond  a sure thing for me, and I totally recommend this one. Grime Doesn’t Pay is for sale here.

Now the food…

Black Bean and Corn Tamales

For the masa:

3 cups MASECA®

3/4 tsp. Salt

1/2 tbsp. Baking powder

2/3 cups Vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance)

4 cups Vegetable broth

For filling:

1 14.5oz can of Organic Black Beans

1 cup of frozen sweet corn

1 small onion chopped

1 small can of Herdez Salsa Ranchera 

1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a not skillet put the oil and saute onions for about two minutes, add beans, corn and salsa to the mix. Cook at medium heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the beans.

15 dry corn husks (soak corn husks in warm water for at least 10 minutes before you start assembling tamales)

Directions: Combine all the ingredients for the masa, adding the broth last, until it’s slightly sticky. Just spread some of the dough over a corn husk. You want the dough about 1/4″ thick, and make sure you spread it as far across that corn husk as possible. It give you more room for the roll-up.

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Once you have your tamales rolled up tie on both ends with strips of the corn husks. Once they are prepared, steam them on for about one hour, then serve.

YUM!

YUM!

These are insanely delicious and super great with the Rose I chose today. Enjoy while reading about Andrew and Eddie!

Cheers and Happy Reading.

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Let It Snow Blog Tour Stop: Heidi and I Prepared a Lovely Holiday Recipe…Vegan Pot Pies!

let it snowHello All! Today I have a super special post for you guys! As part of the blog tour for her new Christmas story Heidi offered to make a holiday recipe with me.  Yep, the lovely Ms. Heidi Cullinan, Gay Romance Author Extraordinaire, and fellow Vegan Life enthusiast and I made some delicious pies for her snowed in bears and her Goldilocks. If you guys read my review yesterday, you already know that I LOVED this story, AND that most of it happens while the main characters are stuck in a cabin during a snowstorm…What better food comfort food for a snow filled day than hearty, yummy pot pies?

Heidi was kind enough to look for the recipe herself, and found a delicious Vegan and Gluten Free recipe for Veggie Pot Pies at the Fork & Beans food blog. She and I agreed on a time and day to do some baking and made our pies. Below is the recipe that we used, I also included a few suggestions from both Heidi and I on the recipe as well as photos of the cooking process and a few of some of us eating our pies.

Vegetable Pot Pie “Cupcakes” Recipe

Makes 12 mini or 4 full-sized ramekin pot pies

INGREDIENTS

For the pie crust:

  • 1 c. superfine brown rice flour
  • 1 c. sorghum flour
  • 1/2 c. arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • OR use 3 c. regular flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 2/3 c. ice water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine flours, salt and baking powder in a large bowl until mixed thoroughly.
  2. Add shortening and stir until it is mixed into flour. You might need to get those fingers dirty and mix with your hands.
  3. Add the ice water in 1/3 c. at a time. You want it to just combine into the dough in order to make it stick together.
  4. Form into a ball. Divide into 4 balls. Flatten, cover and chill while you prepare the filling.

Heidi and I made these for our families on Monday night, we had a remote baking date from Iowa to Upstate New York.  We had a great time , we did photos updates and  there was a lot of commentary from the parties involved. In the end our fams LOVED the pot pies, even our kids gobbled them up!

Now this recipe is a bit tricky, because it is a gluten free dough. It needs a lot of attention to the proportions and preparation details, because it can get really dry easily, and then it gets SUPER crumbly. Heidi has some really great tips, and pics to show how she got hers to cooperate.  Here is what she did for the dough:

Dough ready to knead. Pic from Heidi.

Dough ready to knead. Pic from Heidi.

Okay, so, first off, I had the dough. I sifted it all together, and added my shortening, and my water… and THIS is with an extra 1/3 cup. I added another 1/3 after that.
Dough divided into balls. Pic from HC.

Dough divided into balls. Pic from HC.

Eventually I wrangled it into the balls, and here they are, ready to chill out in the fridge.

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Troublesome dough.

I rolled out the dough. Or, tried to.
 
DUDE. This was crumb city. Even if I could get it into a kind of circle to transfer over, this is what it did when I tried to put it into the pan. Eventually I just hacked off what seemed to be the right amount, folded it in, and pushed it into place.
Cute little cupcakes ready for the oven. Pic from Heidi.

Cute little cupcakes ready for the oven. Pic from Heidi.

Eventually I just hacked off what seemed to be the right amount, folded it in, and pushed it into place.
 
I did have better luck with the tops. I had probably three tops-worth leftover, so I worry them will be a bit thin. Here they are, ready to go in the oven. I dusted them with grape seed oil, though, because I am almost out of olive.

Eventually the dough did cooperate and Heidi got them to behave in their pans, thoughts of getting Frankie to kibosh the gluten idea apparently were considered, but in the end the lady prevailed!

 

For the filling:

  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Earth Balance margarine
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 c. gf flour (you can just use brown rice flour)
  • 1/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn
  • 1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS

  1. First, allow the bay leaf to infuse into the vegetable broth by simmering the 2 together in a small saucepan.
  2. Saute your onions in the butter. Allow to sit for a good 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add paprika, thyme and flour into the onions. Stir until well mixed. Cook for 5 minutes. Add milk.
  4. Take the vegetable broth (bay leaf discarded) and add into the onions mix; along with the remainder of the ingredients (carrots, peas and beans).  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll out the dough in individual pieces by using wax paper on each side. It might help to use a 3″ cookie cutter to cut out dough and *gently* place into a greased muffin tin. If the dough rips (it probably will), do not freak out. Using your fingers, gently push it back together.
  7. Place the filling into muffin tins up to the top. Place a piece of the dough on top and gently seal the edges together by pinching it with your fingers.
  8. Take a knife and place a few slits through the top. Brush with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes or until top has browned.

Curried Pie Filling.

I got pretty lucky with the dough, and it was pretty easy to handle. For the filling I made a few adjustments, which I thought  worked out really well.  First, I doubled the amount of paprika, and added two tablespoons of sweet curry powder (I used Penzeys Spices Curry) to the onions, while I was sauteing them. The curry taste gave the filling a real nice flavor.

Happy Little Pies.

Happy Little Pies.

 I had some filling, left over that I think would go great with some white rice, maybe with a some steamed tofu chunks perhaps. Second, I added a tablespoon of cornstarch at the end, because I felt it was too thin.

Chow Time!

Chow Time!

The Pot Pie making was a huge success…I wrote Heidi to tell her my family loved them and by the time it was all said and done, my husband wolfed down four of them and my munchkin was a happy camper…On Heidi’s Homestead the results were…“They turned out great here too! Worried how they’d come out of the pan, but with a mini and regular rubber spatula, they were a breeze. (Probably also helped that I liberally used shortening in the pan.) Held together well enough we could actually eat them like cupcakes. They didn’t want to brown, which was odd, but they sure tasted great. Even Anna liked them, which was kind of amazing”.

Well that’s all for me today folks! Thanks to Heidi for the recipe, the photos, the baking tips and the fun times. I hope we can cook together soon! I leave you with some of the photos of us enjoying the fruits of our labors.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Heidi's Baby Girl with her pie! She looks happy!  :)

Heidi’s Baby Girl with her pie! 🙂 

Dan loved the pies...Word on the street, is that he got stuck with dirty dish duty...

Dan loved the pies…Word on the street, is that he got stuck with dirty dish duty…

That crazy look in my eye just means...I LOVE PIE!

That crazy look in my eye just means…I LOVE PIE!

Early Review: Let Is Snow by Heidi Cullinan a Lovely Green Salad with Strawberry, Avocado and Poppy Seed Vinaigrette and a bold red.

let it snowI’m just going to put it out there, the burly bearish older man with an effeminate flamboyant younger man trope works on me LIKE A CHARM. I love the dynamics that can come from this type of love story. The older, more jaded man, finally finding someone that deserves his devotion, someone who brings out in him all the tenderness he’s forgotten he has to give. And then that younger man finding someone who cherishes him JUST THE WAY HE IS…That makes all those things that everyone branded as wrong in him, exactly the things that make him even more precious to his lover. THAT place, the place of acceptance, of seeing in the person you love that vulnerability and treasuring it, making that very “weakness” the place of strength where to grow your love, THAT place is where Heidi Cullinan brings it like no other author for me in this genre. This story charmed me. How could it not, with that cozy little cabin in the woods, and the three cranky bears who end up with a very reluctant Goldilocks?!

For the food this book is getting two posts. This first one with my review, has the  wine pairing and a recipe for a lovely salad which will serve as a yummy side to an AWESOME recipe for Vegan and Gluten Free Pot Pies, which will be up tomorrow as part of Heidi’s Blog Tour. For the wine, I chose a  the 2011 Flaco Tempranillo   from Spain.  You will NEVER pay more than $8.00 for a bottle of this wine, it’s tasty and rich every time. It’s got a little vanilla, a little spice, and a little pepper, which means it’s always good for the table. When in doubt, go with a Tempranillo. So, Tempranillo and a Greens, Avocado and Strawberry Salad with a Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (this I made special for Frankie) is the food and wine today. Now back to the story.

flacoLike I mentioned this book has three bears, and this story  is all about the Papa Bear and his Golden boy. Marcus was a high powered lawyer in Minneapolis, but a failed relationship and disillusionment with his fast paced, ambition driven career made him give it all up. Now’s he’s back living  in Logan, Minnesota where he grew up, staying in a cabin with his two best friends, Paul and Arthur. Frankie is a young man working as a hairdresser in the Twin Cities, things are not terrible, but they are not great either, and on his way back home from Thanksgiving at his parent’s place, he drives his car into a snow bank in the middle of an ice storm, and ends up stuck in the middle of nowhere town of Logan, Minnesota.

Poor Frankie leaves his car behind, and starts walking until he ends up in a cabin, where he has no choice but to hunker down until the storm passes. He’s a little trepidatious, his earlier stop in a local cafe kind of scared  him. The men in this town seemed a bit menacing. But he goes into the cabin anyway he doesn’t really have a choice….Just so happens the cabin is inhabited by three very bearish bears *whimpers*, actually the same guys from the cafe. And at least one of them is looking at Frankie like he’d love to eat him up as a midnight snack…Things could get interesting…

What I loved about this story was that both Marcus and Frankie had so much baggage, but they still were able to give into that gut feeling that hey had found something special. They both were scared of getting hurt, Marcus of getting his heart broken again, and Frankie of all the ways people could hurt him for being who he was. Marcus scared Frankie, he seemed like the kind of man who carried chip on his shoulder for having to be put in the same category as guys like Frankie. Frankie scared Marcus, because he reminded him of all the things he wanted, but knew he could not have. They started a stand off. Marcus was growly, but sort of protective and cared for Frankie’s needs as much as possible. That just made Frankie confused, Marcus seemed to hate him, yet he went out of his way to make sure he was faring in the crowded cabin.

Frankie simply was HOT for Marcus, and sharing that small pull out couch was not helping matters, specially with the free BDSM porn audio show they got every night from Arthur and Paul up in the loft. Marcus on his side of the bed not faring any better…They just could not communicate, Marcus refused to talk, and it was driving Frankie CRAZY!!! Until he finally lost it and made Marcus come out with how he really felt…Things got sexy pretty quickly after that, their connection grew strong and intense. They had something special, something REAL. However there was actual REALITY, Frankie couldn’t live in a small town where he would have to live with slurs and hatefulness, and Marcus could not face life in a big city. There was nothing to do but take advantage of the time they had together during the storm…After that they had to say goodbye.

salad and let it snow

Total Holiday Comfort

One of the things I liked the most about this story was how it embraced that reckless optimism we feel around the holidays, the sense that we can really get our very best wish to come true…That we can make a difference in small ways, and big  ways and that those things that we never would dare to hope can actually be within our grasp.

I loved Frankie and his fabulosity sweeping through the elderly of Logan one awesome hairdo at a time. Loved how the town banded together to help those who were hit worst during the storm, and loved how just by being who they were Marcus and Frankie made each other strong enough to reach for their happy ending.

Heartwarming and delightful…And of course very very sexy.

I’m very much looking forward to more Minnesota Snow Stories.

Let is Snow will be released November 26th, from Samhain Publishing, and is available for pre-order here.

Now here is the recipe…Fast, easy, and yummy!

Sweet, tart, creamy and delicious.

Sweet, tart, creamy and delicious.

Greens, Strawberry and Avocado Salad with a Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1 cup of romaine lettuce chopped

2 cups of mixed greens

1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries

1 avocado sliced

For Vanaigrette:

1/2 tablespoon of poppy seed

1/2 tablespoon of agave nectar

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon no-salt salad seasoning (I used Penzey’s Spices Greek Seasoning, but Mrs. Dash or something similar works too)

3 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Mix greens, avocado and strawberries in a large bowl (if you are not vegan 1/3 of a cup of feta cheese goes nicely in this salad). Separately in a small plastic container with a good sealable lid put all the vinaigrette ingredients, with oil going last. Close the lid, shake vigorously until well blended. Taste and then pour onto the salad and toss until everything is well coated with the dressing.

Hope you enjoy the book, and yummy salad!

Come back tomorrow to read about Heidi and my pot pie baking date, for the recipe and some lovely pics of us eating pie!

Cheers and happy reading!

Laura

Love Lessons Blog Tour: Author Interview with the Lovely Heidi Cullinan

LoveLessons72lgFirst of all I’d like to thank you for stopping by for a visit. I have immensely enjoyed every one of your books from the first one I read, Special Delivery, all the way to this new story.

TB: Writing young men is not new for you, but the college boys theme is, you’ve mentioned before a particularly special connection to this book. Can you tell us about your inspiration in shaping Kelly and Walter’s character?

HC: Thank you for having me, and for saying such kind things about my work.

Mostly this novel got started because I was reading a number of college-set sweeter romances and I wanted to play along. I had this idea Love Lessons would be 50-60k, sugar-sweet and simple and take me a few months to write. It took me six, I routed about thirty demons from my college years, and at one point I had a three foot-stack of philosophy books on my reading stand and twice as many on my kindle. So the sweet and simple thing didn’t work out quite so well. The other irony is I intended it to be a series initially, but it became a stand alone…and now it’s a series again.

Kelly and Walter started out as a rake/ingenue dichotomy, a pretty standard trope. It didn’t take long for them to do the character equivalent of, “No, listen to me,” and they ended up tangling themselves, switching roles, and in general making a mess. As soon as I took my expectations and rigid schedule out of the way, though, everything lined right up.

TB: There is a wonderful dichotomy with these boys, one is enamored with the idea of the perfect happy ending, and one is completely jaded on love. This is a classic theme in romance, but you always manage to make those “issues” the thing that makes your men unique and special.Broken characters are your niche. Can you talk about where you go to make your characters so triumphant in their “weaknesses”?

HC: Lord. You make it sound so good, but I have to admit, mostly I go to myself. Walter is so me it’s not funny…but so is Kelly. Walter’s front of snark and “I don’t need anyone” with an aching neediness underneath, Kelly’s naiveté and burning optimism. Sometimes I put myself or my issues directly into my books: Ed’s chronic pain came from a football injury, but it was part and parcel my struggle. Laurie’s disillusionment and frustration I know well, as well as his reticence. Walter’s struggles are all mine, from the parents to the professor. The actual facts are very different in a few instances, but the emotions and loss and sense of being alone were entirely what I experienced. The ones that didn’t make it into Love Lessons have ended up in its sequel.

Probably worth noting is each one of my books has been written through physical or emotional pain or both. Sometimes I challenge myself to process something through fiction, sometimes I simply mine a thick vein, and sometimes it’s the only way I could stay sane at that particular moment. Sometimes writing is therapy, sometimes it’s a meditation.

TB: In terms of erotica, this story is a bit of a departure for you, a strong and often times intense physical connection are large themes in your romances, but with Kelly and Walter that took a backseat. Is this a format that you are exploring in your future stories, or was it just a conjecture of the setting/age of the characters?

HC: A lot of it was the way the story worked out. Book two will be a bit steamier but more on the lines of Dance With Me than Nowhere Ranch. For Love Lessons any time I let the sex amp up it seemed to take away from the emotional vulnerability. I’m fairly sure Kelly and Walter get up to some pretty sexy shenanigans, but this story wasn’t about that. It was about sensuality and connection and vulnerability.

I think it’s safe to say I’ll dance in and out of heat levels depending on the story and the characters. I maintain Dance With Me is pretty low steam compared to most, but not everyone shares that opinion. I love writing sexy, but even in my most erotic stories it’s not about the sex for me. I know Nowhere Ranch gets a lot of attention because of the graphic nature of their play, but it was never about titillation for me, not in that book especially. Sex was the only way those characters could speak to each other for a long, long time.

If graphic sex serves characters, I’ll write it, but if it takes away, it goes. Every time.

TB: Now my blog is a bit different, since I usually do a wine pairing and a meal that would go well with the book or inspired on something from the story. This book is especially exciting to me, since Kelly has so many dietary restrictions; I had to be extra creative. For your boys I decided to make tasty enchiladas with a tofu/calabacitas filling, topped with Salsa Verde. Do you think I could get Kelly and Walter to enjoy my delicious recipe without a visit to the emergency room?

HC: It should be okay, and sounds delicious! Only his almond issue is anaphylactic. The rest would make him break out in hives and have a horrible stomach ache. Walter would probably inspect your kitchen, though, and Kelly would blush in mortification and apologize for his boyfriend.

TB: Going forward do you think you will revisit the young love theme? If you do would we get to revisit Hope University?

HC: I think I’m probably done with Hope, but there’s already a second book in the series and it’s set in Minnesota. I know there’s a book three as well, and…well, you have to wait for the rest.

TB: To wrap things up, there is ONE thing I’ve been DYING to ask you from the first book I read from you. Given your love for wedding proposals, in the future will get to see a wedding?

HC: LOL. Well, I keep threatening to write the Sam and Mitch wedding, but that hasn’t happened yet. I think, possibly, we get to see Kelly and Walter’s in book two. But it might be book three. Fever Pitch is kind of wringing things out, so we’ll see. But it’s my goal for it to be at the end. Honestly I think it will be in both, the end of book two and the opening of book three.

There’s another one coming too. Soon. And that’s all I can say without spoiling.

Well that is all folks! A huge thank you again to the kind Ms. Cullinan for taking the time to answer my questions. I am so looking forward to her upcoming books and hanging out with her this week in Atlanta.

Cheers and Happy Reading to all!!!!

Laura

Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan and Vegan Enchiladas with “Made from Scratch” Red and Green Chili Sauce

LoveLessons72lgA crazy little thing called love happened to Walter Lucas…Actually, his name was Kelly Davidson, he had like a million food allergies and an intense (and kind of weird) passion  for Disneymovies happily ever afters. Yes, Kelly was a little different from what Walter usually went for (skanks!), but he was just what Walter needed to finally give his heart a chance at love.

This is maybe the sweetest book I’ve read by Heidi Cullinan, and that’s saying a lot since she’s given me much awesomeness to read in the last couple of years.

As for the food pairing, it was a challenge, even for a vegan like me! Kelly has A LOT of dietary restrictions, thankfully I don’t give up easily. So for this pair of hungry college boys I decided to go with Vegan Echiladas with homemade Salsa Verde and Salsa Roja. They are delicious, and I’m almost certain the wouldn’t kill Kelly if he ate them.  For the wine (yes there’s wine even though Kelly’s not legal!) I chose  the Grilos Vihno Branco from Portugal. We’re having full on Insdian Summer here in Upstate New York, so I’m hitting up the white as long as I can. The Grilos is a very light and aromatic table wine, with a strong hint of peach and mint, without any sweetnes. Very crisp and ideal for a spicy dish. It goes for around $9 a bottle which makes it a winner on all counts. But enough with the food, let’s get back to Kelly and Walter!

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I am the wild one break me in, saddle me up and let’s begin,…Walter Lucas is kind of notorious in the Hope University campus. He’s  a  bit of a slut,  beautiful and charismatic. He likes to bend the rules a bit. Here’s the thing…Walter’s family is messed up. His parents had a nasty divorce, and when his mom fell off the deep end, he had to take one for the team and leave college to make sure his little sister had at least SOMEONE  to come home to. The whole thing made him a little bitter, and now that he is back in school the only thing that keeps him from blowing that whole thing off is his advisor. Professor Williams is like his lifeline to sanity, and the one thing that has kept him even slightly interested in any sort of a future. Walter is JADED. He’s over the whole collegiate utopia bullshit Hope University has been shoving down his throat, and he pretty much wants to live off-campus, stay under the radar, finish school and get the fuck away…Little problem with that plan though. Students are  not allowed to live off-campus, and so there he is, a junior, stuck in a single dorm, with A FRESHMAN. Things couldn’t be worse. Seriously! The actually couldn’t because this  kid  Kelly, has like1,200 allergies and practically needs to sleep on Saran Wrap …Ok it’s not THAT bad, Kelly IS pretty nice, definitely pretty cute and gay as a rainbow…So yeah there is an upside.

Walter takes young Kelly under his wing, tries to get him situated and away from the notoriously homophobic jocks living in their hall. He does likes the kid a lot and if it happens that he can get a little sex on the side without having to leave his room…Well that’s just an extra bonus.

Hey, I heard you were a wild one…If I took you home and be your homerun? Show me how you do…. Kelly Davidson was way in over his head.  One on side he’s starting college, which is challenging enough as it is, on the other he’s got the allergies which are not easy to nevigate when you’re on a college meal plan AND he’s in very close quarters with the hottest (and notoriously slutty) guy in the WHOLE school. Walter is HOT, and flirty and their room is SO SMALL. It’s hard to breathe sometimes with so much sexual tension. The thing is, Walter is really nice too. He can be a dick, but he looks out for Kelly, makes sure he can get something to eat that won’t kill him, he’s smart and interested in him…He doesn’t even make fun (not that much anyways) of his obseesion with Disney movies.

grilos

It’s an unlikely thing this pairing. Nevertheless, things get romantic in their little dorm room pretty fast. Walter is not a believer in love, but in the face of Kelly’s goodness and his almost terminal optimism he feels hopeful. He feels protective and taken care of at the same time. He knows there are good people out there, after all he’s been relying on Professor Williams’ kindness for awhile. He starts wanting things with Kelly, but he can’t forget where he comes from, the crushing disappointment of losing something or someone that you had learned to rely on. He’s afraid of going through that again. People leave.  People let you down. He can’t give in to what he’s feeling, except Kelly is working everyone one of his walls and they are crumbling. There’s no helping it, Kelly is too much of a gift to turn away from,

This book was a bit of departure for Heidi. With her books I expect powerful and intense sexual/physical connections in the couples, and here the erotica was definitely not a big part of the love story. I like young love romances there is a always an untarnished quality to them that makes me feel so hopeful. Walter and Kelly came from such different families, one self-centered and cold, the other a warm home full of love and support. They saw the world a bit differently, but they both understood loyalty and friendship. They were good friends to one another, were quick to lend a hand and in the end being able to count on each other was what gave them the openess to fall in love. All was not easy, Kelly’s family had it’s setbacks and Walter’s home was a dysfinctional mess, but their little team of two was enough to face the things that  would have been too hard on their own.

I loved the colligiate setting in this book, it’s particularly relevant at this time of my life since I live in a dorm that is probably pretty similar to the one Kelly and Walter live in. Heidi did a great job of describing academia politics and college life. On the whole, this book felt really personal, and that really affected my connection to the book.  All in all, once again Heidi Cullinan has written a book that I will probably re-read half a dozen times. She is more than an auto-buy author for me, she’s a go to comfort read author, and that list is VERY SHORT.

Totally recommend, lots of laughs, love and cuteness with a strong dose of angsty young love.

Love Lessons is for sale at Amazon.com

Straight ahead DEELICIOUS non allergy inducing enchiladas!!

Vegan Enchiladas

16 corn tortillas

1 package of mozarella flavored Go Veggie! Rice Shreds

1 tablespoon of nutrional yeast

2 cups of enchilda filling (for recipe click here)

3 cups of red sauce (for recipe click here)

3 cups of green sauce (recipe below)

fillinh

Directions: In a 9×13 pan ladle the bottom half with a bit of red sauce and other half with a bit of the green sauce. Place about a cup of each sauce on two separate bowls. Drench 8 of the tortillas in the green sauce and the other eight in the red sauce once the tortillas are wet fill with about a tablespoon and a half of the filing roll up and place on the pan. Once the pan is full pour the remaining sauce on the enchiladas. I did half red and half green. Take the rice shreds and mix with the nutritional yeast and top the enchiladas. Cover with tin foil and put in the over for 30 minutes at 375. The last five minutes take the foil off the pan so that the cheese can get a bit golden. Once the cheese has melted take out the pan and let it cool before serving.

Salsa Verde

8 tomatillos

1 onion chopped

1 poblano pepper chopped

1/3 cup of fresh cilantro chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

2 cups of water

Directions: Sautee the all the ingredients except the tomatillos in a large saucepan for about five minutes. Once they are translucent add the tomatillos and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1 hour. Simmer until the sauce has thickened and tomatillos have fallen apart. Set aside to cool. Once the sauce has cooled blend until smooth.

Cheers and Happy Reading!!

Laura

Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane and Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes.

EthaninGoldLGThe Porn Star and the Virgin…Like we didn’t see that coming!!!…EXCEEEEEEEPT with this book like with every other one I’ve read from Amy Lane there is a lot more to the story. Why?  Because first and foremost, this story was HUMAN. About people. People being good, bad, weak, strong, hating, loving, triumphant, defeated, resilient and downtrodden. Just people, Amy writes about the nature of  humans,  of the lives they are handed and the paths they take. How much it REALLY takes to make a good life out of what sometimes is very very  little. How it  can be that some people can be family to strangers, and others can hurt their own flesh and blood to the breaking point.

When I finished this book my first thought was “I am so glad Amy Lane writes what she feels she needs to, and not what will make people happy.” Because her books to me are precious. They are simple stories really, but what makes them rich and moving is that she gives us her characters with a nakedness and honesty that it challenges us. Just offers them up to us in their brokeness.  She MAKES us see the ugly, the bad and the weak in them. She forces us to acknowledge that yes, every happy ending has its dark spots, and ugly chapters, that smiles sometimes have been paid for with a lot of blood and tears, that happy moments a lot of times come as the result of walking away from a lot of hurt, that in the end being able to look back from a better place IS WORTH IT ALL.

For all the awesomeness that was Ethan and Jonah I had to do something VERY SPECIAL, a friend and fellow baking enthisiast has come for a visit. A lovely young woman who “Bakes for a Cause”. She does Bake Sales around the college campus where I live to raise money for different charities and I think she rocks. So, in this post the baking credit goes to The Flour Child Bakery. We made some amazing  to Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes with a Caramel Glaze that are to die for, and totally perfect for the apple harvest time here in New York. I must confess though, I broke all the rules with this one, this recipe is most definitely NOT VEGAN, but it is DELICIOUS!

Golden.

Golden.

Now the story…Evan Costa (Ethan in the pornosphere) is a young man who had something pretty awful happen to him when he was a little boy, someone did a really bad thing  to him. The saddest part was that his mom never forgave HIM for it, and she proceeded to make him and his sisters pay for her own bitterness. Evan’s mom became a hateful woman after Evan’s “incident”, she never hugged him, never showed affection. He became the embodiment of all the things she could not control in this world. It hurt Evan so bad, not a hug, not a kind gesture for so long. He was starving for any kind of human contact. If it hadn’t been for his therapist, and his friends from the anime club at school things could have gone really bad for him. He knew it too. He had seen a few of his friends fall down holes that they never crawled back out of.

Evan needed touch. He craved it, and as far as he could tell a perfect way to ensure he was touched A LOT was going into porn. He already had the body and the face and he wasn’t very interested in school. Also getting to have sex with beautiful men (who were also pretty great guys) was a nice bonus.

So he took the plunge on the porn and became, Ethan, italian porn good. He kept living at home, with his mom and sisters in that hateful, stagnant environment his family home had become until his secret got out, and then he couldn’t anymore.  Things were touch and go for a while there, but he HAD his friends and THEY had his back THE WHOLE TIME. He wasn’t alone, he knew that. He also knew that he had to make some changes.

There is Jonah too, the skinny young guy who works  with Tommy at the Petsmart. He is cute, if a little on the scrawny side, and he looks INNOCENT. Like untouched by anything dirty. Ethan is taken with him. He has this crappy job, and a sixteen year old sister with a horrible disease. But he seems happy,  and gets so excited talking about comic books with Ethan. The guy is tired though, him and his family are pretty much dedicated to making his sister Amelia comfortable, and as healthy as they can keep her, which sadly is not very healthy at all.

Ethan is kind of amazed that Jonah and his family were not tearing each other up under the stress, his own family would have imploded. Jonah is so brazen too. He knows Ethan wants him and he is not letting him get away. Not even once he finds out about Ethan’s big secret.

The problem is that clearly it can not work between them, I mean HELLO! Jonah is good and pure, and Ethan is a dirty whore. How can that work? He can’t do it. He can’t soil Jonah, his family and his dying sister for goodness sake! He needs to just leave, get out, make Jonah realize that he is NOT one of the good guys. He is damaged goods, someone whose entire family could walk out on without even a glance back. That’s who he is, but Jonah refuses to see that. He is so stubborn, he keeps looking at Ethan like some kind of hero, and it is killing him, because there is NO WAY he could live up to any of that.

But he FALLS, how can he not catch a little bit of that hope bug going around his little family of friends? Things are happening around him that are making him feel like he can have a little more too. Tommy and Chase are going to be daddies. Dex and Kane are making a go of it, they’re in love. HE’S in love. He is needed and wanted by someone he needs and wants right back. He can see it now, a future that will be better than what he ever could have envisioned for himself.

Ethan and Jonah were real heartbreakers. But they were such a joy too, they gave so much to each other. Ethan needed to know about unconditional love. He needed to experience it, needed to understand he DESERVED it.  Not because he was good, or pure or better, just because that is what people get for being good people, who HAVE good people.

Jonah, he knew all about that kind of love, he had it from his family, gave it to his sister as much as he could. But after putting her first for so long, he needed to start thinking of himself, of the things he wanted and needed like love, sex, fun, a life…Little things and BIG things he just never had time to desire before. Once they came together, they were ready to fight to make things work. Make a life, together, they weren’t sure where they would get to, but they would walk there together.

I loved this book, and  I don’t want to pile it on here, but the way that Amy has created this series to me is just brilliant. We’ve been in the same time frame for three books. Six men, three love stories, all happening in this little universe of Johnnie’s studio. I was at home as soon as I opened this book, I was invested in pretty much every character, and wanted to hear about where Ethan was, and who the man was that could help him get to his happy ending.

Again, what can I even say? Amy Lane is my lady. This series is a complete joy to read, and I hope we get much much more from the Johnnies world.

Ethan in Gold will be released this Friday October 4th and is available for pre-order at Dreamspinner Press

Now scrumptioliscious cupcakes!

Caramel Apple Pie Cupcakes

Ingredients

for the cupcakes:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup and two tablespoons of light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tbsp butter

2 tsp cinnamon

2-3 tbsp sugar

1 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced

for the caramel glaze:

4 tablespoons of  store-bought caramels (I used Wegman’s Creamy Caramel)

2 tablepoosn of Apple Butter

Splash of almond milk

1 pinch of cinammon

Directions:

for the cupcakes: – Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 muffin tinwith cupcake liners. – In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

Meanwhile in a skillet sautee  2 tablespoons of butter until it’s fragrant add apples and a bit a cinammon and sautte for about two minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each additional and scraping down the sides of the bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, add the applesauce and half of  apples and beat well.  Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Divide batter evenly among the liners, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake for 19-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, or until cake tester comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

for the caramel sauce: – Combine the caramel, apple butter, cinammon and splash of milk until incorporated. Set aside to cool.

Once the glaze is of a dense consistency drizzle over cupcakes and top each one with a bit of the apples and chooped candied pecans.

Hope you enjoy the  golden cupcakes and book!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Wild Onions by Sarah Black…Romance and ghosts for a good cause!

WILDONIONSHORSECOVER_zps3cff3c78 Here’s the thing about Sarah Black, her writing enchants me. I’m not an enchantment kind of female. But Sarah’s men, and the world she brings to me in her stories. They take me away on such a soft soft cloud of all things good. She doesn’t write easy stories, or pretty ones (although her words are BEAUTIFUL!), she writes GOOD ones. Good ones about people I’d love to meet, and places I’d love to see, of histories I REALLY want to know about. I always feel enriched and a little wiser when I reach the end of a Sarah Black tale. She’s the most best writer everyone should know about and doesn’t. I always feel like I’m cheating someone paying for her books, they should cost more! They’re too good, and now she’s made them even more valuable. Each copy of this storu that sells on Amazon.com will contribute one meal to the Idaho Food Bank in Boise where Sarah and her son volunteer. With each book sold, Sarah will make a donatio, tthat right there is reason enough to go get this book.

The story is amazing though, so you will win twice.

Robert Mitchell is arriving back to the cabin in Salmon River, Idaho which belonged to his lover Val. One year has passed since the accident that took Val’s life, and left Robert seriously injured, and now looking to loose his home from crippling medical bills. His life that was radiant and full just one year before seems like it’s falling apart all around him, and he’s feeling low. Things have been grim, and he’s thought that selling the cabin might be a way to at least relief some of the pressures in his life. The thing is once he gets there and he remembers what that cabin meant to him, to THEM, to Val who had it in his family for generations, he just couldn’t do it. He’d stay for awhile and think of where to go next.

Things become even ligther when he meets Cody Calling Eagle a tall, strong, Blackfoot man who’s been fishing in the Salmon River right by Robert’s cabin. Cody is young, magnetic and there’s something about his open eyes and heart that makes Robert want to hope a little. He wants a taste of that goodness. Things are so good with Cody, so sweet, he’s sad that he can feel like this when Val is not in the world anymore, but Cody he’s like a big open heart calling to Robert to kiss him, touch him…FEEL HIM.

Things become a little confused when Cody and Robert start having shared dreams about the history of the cabin, and the dark things that happened there. Bad things happened in the past, evil men came to the cabin to hurt Val’s and Cody’s ancestors. The two men in Robert’s live where connected by an ancient bond. Cody’s great-great-uncle had been Val’s great-great-grandfather’s lover. Things from the past come back to haunt them and the love that is blossoming between Robert and Cody is in danger.  Robert won’t let this lover go though, he will do what he has to, so that he can get back the future he was beginning to glimpse in Cody’s eyes.

The romance in this story is one of the more intense ones I’ve read of Sarah, there was nothing subtle here. It’s literally a coming back from the dead. Total submission to love. The history lessons and the ghosts where fascinating, and as always I feel a bit smarter.

Lovely. Would like some more please.

Wild Onions is for sale on Amazon.com

This is an awesome cause, and I hope lots of you go out and get the story! If you would like to know more about your local food bank click here for the national directory. The Food Bank of America does amazing things around the country everyday, so go out and give a hand. Personally, I love the Backpack Programs for the public schools. This progam collects food to fill the backpacks of kids in the free lunch programs around the country, every Friday, so that they will have food over the weekends.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

For those of you interested in seeing more of the Salmon River in Idaho or hearing about Sarah’s inspiration for this project you can check out her Goodreads Blog.

 

 

 

My Cowboy Heart by ZA Maxfield, Roasted Poblanos with Tofu Picadillo Stuffing w New Mexican Chile Sauce and Spanish Verdejo. Salud!

mycowboyheartThis review and recipe are WAAAAAAAY late I know! But I had a crazy last few weeks! Ok first off I want to say that Z.A. Maxfield is, has and will continue to be, for me, one of the M/M authors that will forever make me grateful to have stumbled onto this genre. The love stories that ZAM writes ALWAYS connect with me in a way that inevitably gives me a lot of joy. Her humor, and the way that she always manages to bring out so much from her characters, is a gift. Really, she is a gifted writer and I love her books.

My Cowboy Heart is not the exception here, her first book published with a more mainstream house (Intermix from the Penguin Group) and it did not disappoint. I LOVED it! It is a bona fide “Gay Cowboys” love story, set perfectly, with characters that broke my heart then put it back together, made me laugh and sniffle a bit, gave me the hot flashes (because the erotica was PRIMO) left me smiling, and certain of that happy ending…So for ZAM and her boys I needed to make something EXTRA special, so I went Southwest all the way! I made these boys Roasted Poblano Peppers with New Mexican Chile Sauce and paired it with a lovely 2011 Spanish Verdejo from Arindo winery that will mark the end to my summer of perfectly sippably delicious wines. The Arindo Verdejo is a very light white wine, with citrusy and herbal notes, reminiscent of a sharp chablis or very light Sav Blanc. I love it with spicy food, and at $9.00 a bottle you cannot do any better. But enough about that for now, on to the story.

YUM!!

YUM!!

Malloy had a pretty quiet life…At 32 he has place in the world where he feels safe,  and useful, needed, and even though his childhood was not happy or good in any way, he has found family in the people of the J-Bar ranch. He came to the J-Bar as a foster kid and never left.  He is a man now, with accomplishments and a history, he has known love from Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins. The owners of the ranch have been like parents to him and he’s grateful to them beyond words, but he’s always kept a little bit on himself closed off to any real intimacy of closeness. He knows that the people that you love you most are the ones that can live the biggest holes in your heart when they let you down…People leave.

The aloof, “I am an island” thing has been working pretty well for him too, whenever he needs to scratch and itch he heads to Albuquerque, he doesn’t need a woman to be happy, what he needs is to work in that ranch and feel solid.  That’s all well and good riiiiiiiiight until Crispin Carrasco comes to work to the J-Bar and little by little EVERY DAMN THING that Malloy seemed sure about goes right out the window.

Malloy was pretty sure he was straight and interested in living an uncomplicated life. The thing is Crispin was like this ball of energy that put ALL of Malloy’s senses in high alert. EVERYTHING about Crispin made Malloy want to know more, see more, touch more…And that’s the other thing! He WANTED Crispin in a way he hadn’t really considered before, more than that Crispin was someone he wanted to protect and make happy…Something about Crispin seemed so fragile, like his outer shell could be broken so easily. Malloy was reluctant, but he finally let go and once he did that then…THEN he REALLY understood that the reason why he hadn’t needed before, WANTED so bad before, was because he hadn’t found the thing that his body craved.

Crispin is a complex guy, free and loose on the outside, but with deep deep scars inside, he was hurt bad as a child and then orphaned. He knew abandonment like Malloy did. He had the same kind of hurt inside him. Those things that change you deeply and make you feel that no one could possibly understand just how damaging some pains could be, how long it could stay, how much it could haunt you. The thing was that Crispin was not willing to let go of what he found in being Malloy’s, and once they went THERE all they could do was to fall. FALL HARD. It made for fabulous romance.

I loved the secondary characters in this one and was very glad to see that the two other wayward cowboys at the J-Bar are getting their own story.

So, this novel like all of ZAM’s has all the classic components of a great romance…Strong main characters, but just a little broken, lots of humor and sexyness, and a happy ending that when it comes feels warranted, and well deserved.

I am glad that ZAM explored the Western theme for a novel, because I loved the setting here, I appreciated how deeply she went into the New Mexican geography and how is really shapes the hardiness and strong substance of the men that live and work in it.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment and hoping for lots more from Ms. Maxfield.

My Cowboy Heart is for sale on Amazon.com. The second story for the J-Bar boys is available for pre-order here.

Now moving on to the food!

cowboy heart food and wine

Roasted Poblano Peppers with Tofu Picadillo

4 Roasted Poblano Peppers (Directions below)

1 Large potato

1 zuchinni

1 pack extra firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 packets of taco seasoning (I used Simply Organic Southwest Taco)

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 tablesppon of cilantro

1 garlic clove minced

Directions: For the poblano peppers. Put the peppers in the middle rack of an oven preheated at 400F, after 10-12 minutes turn the peppers, leave them in the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until the skin is blistering and softened. Take them out, put them in a bowl, and cover with cling wrap until they are cool enough to remove the skin, seeds and veins.

For picadillo, take the taco seasoning and add two tablespoons of water and mix into the cubed tofu. Let it marinade for about one hour.  Meanwhile peel and cube potato. Blanch the cubes in boiling water. In a skillet add one tablespoon of olive oil and sautee onion,, garlic and zuchinni for a few minutes then add tofu and potatoes. Cook together for about five minutes at medium heat, at the end add the cilantro. Stuff the peppers with the picadillo and to with the New Mexican Chile sauce.

New Mexican Chile Sauce

1 driend New Mexican Chile seeded and deveined

2 dried Guajillo Chiles seeded and devained

1 dried California Chile seeded and deveined

1 teaspoon of agave nectar

1 can of diced stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup of fresh cilantro

1/2 medium onion chopped

1 garlic clove

1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy milk)

1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Directions: Put hot water in a bowl, and put the dried chiles to rehydrate for about one hour. After the chilies have soaked put a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sautee onions and garlic. After about two minutes out in the chiles and stewed tomatoes and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the milk and stew it for another 10 minutes. Once it was boiled take it out of the pan let it cool and the blend it to make a smooth sauce. Add lemon juice at the end.

I hope that the book and the food are as good for you as they were for me!

 

Happy Reading!

 

Laura

Interview with ZA Maxfield for My Cowboy Heart Blog Tour

My Cowboy HeartHello ALL! I AM SOOOOOOOOOO excited for today! ZA Maxfield came out with her wonderful cowboy love story My Cowboy Heart released this past Tuesday through Inter Mix Publishing. This is exciting on various fronts. New publisher for ZAM, COWBOY, a series and did I mention cowboys? As always ZAM did not only not disappoint even a little bit, but managed to raise the bar in what I will be expecting from gay cowboys stories in the future.

As part of the Blog Tour for My Cowboy Heart Ms Mazfield has graciously stopped by my little corner of the blogeshere to answer some questions about her new book, M/M Romance as a genre, cowboy friendly foods, and her future plans for the men of the J Bar Ranch! So without further a do…An Interview with the most fabulous ZA Maxfield!

The Tipsy Bibliophile: In the past you have explored a wide range of storylines in your books, but you have rarely gone for the more “traditional” themes. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to go for a cowboy story?

 ZA Maxfield: I’ve always loved Cowboy stories. Cowboys come from the larger group of archetypes that include knights and wandering samurai. They have a code of honor. Sometimes they’re taming the land, sometimes they’re protecting the innocent. Sometimes it’s cowboys versus society. Versus progress. They’re a dying breed. It makes for great drama.

 tTB: What surprised you the most about how this story developed?

 ZAM: What surprised me the most is that once I got rolling, I was hitting on the same three themes that appear in all my books: Romantic love, family, and redemption. This shows up in everything I write, even when I try to totally switch things up. I was talking with a friend on the phone and we decided it’s my holy trinity. I’m a three-note musical scale.

 tTB: To me this book is one of your most “True Blue” romances, just full of all the stuff that makes a great romance story, but at the same time there were very heavy subjects surrounding the main characters. Do you think that is what makes the M/M genre so unique? That you can still have a classic romance despite characters who are not only flawed but have been broken.

 ZAM: I don’t necessarily think that’s unique in m/m. My favorite romance writers (of course this may be a personal taste thing) write hopelessly flawed characters. The joy is seeing how they’ve written this very flawed man or woman a happy ending. I think the guy or girl who is damaged goods is what romance is all about. We love broken characters way more than undamaged ones.

 The books that I can’t put down are the ones with characters I must see succeed in love, in life. I need for them to get their happy ending. I guess that’s why I write the types of books I write as well.

 I’m driven by empathy. When I feel for the character, when I can relate to what makes his yearning more poignant, I’m in palm of the writer’s hand so to speak. As a writer my goal has always been to write classic romance novel with gay characters. It’s tough to do, because so many traditional romance plots include inherent gender-based power imbalance. But I strive!

 tTB: This blog is a bit different in that I pair my book reviews with wine and food that I think would go well with the story. For Crispin and Speed I’ve made stuffed roasted poblano peppers with a New Mexican chile sauce and a delicious Spanish Verdejo…What would the guys think of my food choice for them?

 zAM: I think my Cowboys would be delighted to pull up those scarred wooden dining chairs to sit down and eat hearty. I do think that Speed might enjoy a beer more — he’s not big on wine, whereas Crispin will probably try to coax you out of that old bottle of Respoado Tequila you’ve been hiding.

 Oh, and can I come for dinner too? That sounds absolutely delicious!

 tTB:  So what is next for the cowboys at the J-Bar Ranch? Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect from the next book in the series?

 ZAM: Oh, my gosh. What can I say. Jimmy is in big trouble. He’s been drinking like a fish and Eddie and Boss Malloy have finally had enough. In one way, they’re only looking out for him, you know? What happens if Mrs. Jenkins decides to sell up? Who’s going to hire some drunken cowboy?

 Maybe Eddie goes about things all wrong by getting Jimmy drunk and shoving him into his truck and taking him to an isolated mountain where there’s nothing to do but dry out and watch the snow fall.

 Jimmy’s not happy. Eddie’s in over his head trying to help him. Eddie calls his friend Don, who loaned him the cabin in the first place, and asks for help. Problem is, Don has a thing for cowboys, and as far as he’s concerned, if one cowboy in his bed is good, then two must be better.

 Eddie and Don might be exactly what Jimmy needs. Or they might be more than he can handle… STAY TUNED for My Heartache Cowboy! Coming in January…

Well there you have it folks! I had a lovely time reading ZAM’s responses to my questions, she really is one of my true favorites in this genre. My Cowboy Heart is a book that lives up to ZAM’s solid reputation, a fantastic romance, with great humor, fabulous erotica, awesome secondary characters and a solid story to back it all up. If you have not read it, go and GET IT NOW it is on sale at here at Amazon.com

As for the next installment in the series, Jimmy and Eddie’s story My Heartache Cowboy, is availabe for pre-order on Amazon.com

I’ll end it here for now, but stay stuned, because later today I’ll be posting my review for this awesome book with the recipe for the poblano peppers which are AMAZING! Thanks again to ZAM for stopping by and to you guys for taking the time see what I am up to!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

Left On St. Truth-Be-Well by Amy Lane…”F***** A” Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes with the tried and true French Lillet.

LeftonStTruthbeWellLGAmy Lane and her men…sighs…It’s like the lady goes to my brain, and into Laura’s Favorite Things folder and hunts for story ideas! Her latest, the novella Left on St. Truth-Be-Well, is just a happy little shot of awesome. It was funny, sexy, and cheeky with a subtle, but crystal clear message on what it is that really matters in life, and the importance of giving oneself permission to be happy.

I enjoyed this story a lot, for various reasons and unlike a lot of times with shorter stories I was happy with where it ended (not that I wouldn’t want a sequel!;)). So for this post I wanted to do something sweet, delicious and adorable just like this story, and what happened you ask? Well, cupcakes of course!

F***** Awesome Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes which I must say came out AMAZING! To go with these delish treats I cracked open one of my all-time favorite sweet wines, the one and only Lillet. Lillet is an aperitif wine from France that has been around for ages and well chilled (or on the rockss) is the perfect pairing with something sweet.  In terms of price this choice kind of breaks my $12 rule since a bottle of Lillet is usually around $25, BUT this is really not a “drink in one sitting” kind of bottle. Lillet is more like a small glass with dessert type of drink, and it keeps very nicely in the fridge for a few weeks. But more on wine and cupcakes later…On to the story.

Carson Saunders has just driven from Chicago to Florida on a quest to get back, Stassy, his boss’ nephew who has was last heard from there. Carson usually isn’t the guy that people would think of when you call in the “cavalry” so to speak, but his boss is kind of a scary gangster and you don’t just say no to the guy. Also there’s that thing about Carson kissing Stassy in the broom closet in the restaurant they work at, and the kid kind of freaking out…And then taking off. Ok, so he feels kind of responsible! But dammit he’s trying to make amends, and now he’s in “the middle of nowhere Florida” in a messed up hotel full of parrots in cages (and parrot shit EVERYWHERE!!!) and with the word Bates in the name!

Carson is in over his head, this Bates Parrot Hotel is a waking nightmare and he doesn’t even know where to start looking for Stassy. First things first though, after leaving his decent hotel room at the Super 8 (no way was he staying in the hellhole!!) he walks over to the FA Café gets himself some breakfast tacos and meets Dale. Dale. The guy is beautiful, funny and so friggin’ relaxed he’s like a hammock and a beer in the shade on a sunny day. Carson usually doesn’t go all mushy for guys, this happens more with the ladies, but Dale kinda blows what Carson has known about himself out of the water from the minute they meet.

Match made in heaven.

Match made in heaven.

At breakfast Carson catches a glimpse of what the things is Stassy running in some unknown direction, he gets on the case FAST and with Dale in tow, he sets to go back into the Bates Parrot Motel and figure out what’s doing…Aaaaaaand what’s doing is a DEAD GUY. Oh man…Things get complicated! Dale’s brother is in the police force, so they call him to look into the dead person and Carson finally gets a hold of Stassy. The thing is the kid has fallen in love and his boyfriend is freaking about getting blamed for killing the guy they found. They need to sort out this mess, before Stassy’s uncle kills Carson!

Meanwhile Dale is putting THE MOVES on Carson, and as skittish as he is with this stuff, he IS lonely, and Dale DOES make him shiver from the inside out just by standing there…So he lets go of his discomfort and begins something with Dale. He’s going back to Chicago in a few weeks anyway, what harm is there in letting himself enjoy something FOR ONCE? Dale lives a simple life. He’s not after some big ambitious career or looking to change the world. He has a little house, works the cafe in the mornings, works at the community center in the afternoons, and every day he goes out and surfs. He is not willing to be miserable just to live up to other’s expectations of what he ‘should have been’… Carson starts to think Dale might be on to something with this life philosophy.

And yeah there is still that pesky murder to figure out! Regardless Carson lets Dale in and he discovers that he is much a happier person than he thought he was, now that he has found someone who can make him feel like weeping and laughing at the same time just from a touch. If only his life wasn’t in Chicago…Then again…What exactly IS keeping him in there anyways?

I love when Amy Lane goes for the light, corky, funny story, they are just JOY…I mean she still managed to come up with a pretty interesting whodunit, and one of the most weirdly and disturbing subplots I’ve read in a while with the “Bird Lady”, but in the end this was a simple story of finding love. Carson knew he wasn’t as happy as he could be, and he KNEW something was missing even if he wasn’t sure what it was. When Dale came into his life, he let himself think about BETTER, even if he did require quite a bit of coaxing (a lot of which involved HOT AS HELL sex) from Dale in the process because sometimes he just needed some direction, and someone to be strong enough to tell him what he needed to do. He did it. He was strong for himself, for what he found with Dale and then he literally walked straight into his bright new day.

Perfect summer read. PERFECT. Amy Lane…You. The. Woman.

Left on St. Truth-Be-Well is available at Dreamspinner Press

Ok NOW, cupcakes! Cupcakes people! And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but DAMN these are DELICIOUS, moist and subtly limish and coconutty…And the frosting…*whimpers* I wish I could wear it. So good.
F***** Awesome Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

DELISH.

DELISH.

½ cup of coconut milk (not light)

½ cup and two tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Zest of one lime

2 Tablespoons of lime juice

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 ¼ cups cake flour

2 Tablespoons of cornstarch

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup canola oil

¾ cup organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup flakes unsweetened coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Put all ingredients in a bowl, mix until smooth but not too much or too vigorously. Fill cupcake liners halfway with the batter. Cook for 13 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center of the cupcake.
Coconut Lime Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance)

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons of lime juice

2 Tablespoons of coconut milk

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

¼ cup flaked coconut

Beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla, coconut and lime juice, beat until fluffy. Add zest and mix. Chill until ready to use. Separately place flaked coconut on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil spray. Place in the oven at 375 degrees for about five minutes or until the flakes start to brown. Use toasted coconut as garnish to top cupcakes.

All I can say is ENJOY! Enjoy the book, the sweets and the wine.

 Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura