Whyborne & Griffin Series: Books 1, 2, & 3 by Jordan L. Hawk and my take on Blueberry Boy Bait Cake…Life will never be the same.

widdershins treshold stormhaven

Well, I don’t know where the hell I was back in June when the first book in this series came out, but clearly I was NOT PAYING ATTENTION!!!  How did I miss two of the best things to come to M/M Romance last year?! Percival Endicott Whyborne, expert in languages and scholar at the Ladysmith Museum in Widdershins, MA, and Griffin Flaherty private detective and recent newcomer to town, what a pair these two are. Three books in the series so far.  I read them like I was on a mission, back to back, and every adventure was better than the next. What’s more, THEY were better each time, the character development that Jordan L. Hawk has done with her heroes is pure magic. It’s like I KNOW them, I feel for them, and I understand what they have together. Because that’s how close they are to me when I read these books. These guys they are so imperfect, they both bear scars inside and out from what their lives where before they found each other. But to each other, they are amazing. A miracle that has happened in their life. I fell in love with these two men. I want to take them both and spoil the hell out them, just because.

What to do? What could be good enough for these boys?!?! For Whyborne and Griffin I had to do something EXTRA special, and so incredibly delicious and comforting biting into it feels like happiness. The ONLY thing that fits the bill is the outrageously delicious Blueberry Boy Bait Cake, this cake is so good. There is NO WAY that if you make it, it will last through the day. The fresh blueberries, the caramel taste from the brown sugar, the cinnamon that blends perfectly, and the buttery taste. SO GOOD.  Just like these boys it lures you in, and you seriously cannot stop until there is nothing left!

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Last weekend was my husband’s birthday, and since we were in a celebratory mood, I paired the cake with a St. Germain Cocktail. St. Germain is an artisanal French liqueur made from elderberry flowers. It has a distinct and subtle floral taste, and it is pretty much made to go with champagne and fruit. St. Germain has been around since the 1880s, so this cocktail could very likely have made it to Widdershins for Ival and Griffin to enjoy ( with moderation for Ival!).  A large bottle of St. Germain is about $30.00, but you can usually get a small one for about $5.00, and that is more than enough to make about 4-5 cocktails. To mix the cocktail, just pour one to two tablespoons  of St. Germain in a champagne flute, drop three fresh blueberries into the glass, and top off with your favorite WELL CHILLED sparkling wine. I used a prosecco this time, but any dry sparkling wine works.

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Now back to the story…As I mentioned earlier, I read the books one after the other over a week and had a total blast with the stories. All three are packed with a lot of action and adventure. The mysteries are intriguing and complex and there is always a serious paranormal element to the plot. Whyborne and Griffin team up with Dr. Christine Putnam, archaeologist, and Whyborne’s colleage at the Ladysmith Muesum. Christine is a FANTASTIC character and brings a lot of comic relief and not a little bit of chutzpah to the books.

In the first installment, titled Widdershins, we meet Whyborne, our narrator, who from the get go is an incredibly endearing character. He is quiet and awkward and is most comfortable out the way with his books. There is too much he’d rather people not realize about him. For starters, his ‘inclinations’ which are not only against the law, they would be a disgrace for his family…That’s the second issue, Whyborne’s father is the head of the one of the biggest railroads companies in the United States. Choosing not to be in the family business has made Whyborne an outcast with his father and brother. So, the less he gets noticed the better for him. It’s not like anyone WOULD notice him, with his tall, lanky body and unruly hair. He is not anything anyone would find remarkable, he could be invisible…In comes Griffin Flaherty. Griffin, has been hired by one of the board members of the Ladysmith to investigates the mysterious death of his son. The man was brutally murdered and the only clue is a small ancient book that was found in his possession. The book is in a strange language, so Griffin under the advise of the victim’s father calls upon Whyborne for help translating.

From the moment they meet there’s a spark. Whyborne is always VERY careful to keep the sexual side of himself under control. Those feelings are dangerous, and nothing is worth letting them get out of control. Except Griffin lowers all his defenses and pretty soon the pull that is between them evolves, and for the first time in his life Whyborne feels like there is a place where he belongs. In Griffin’s arms he is home. They have such a beautiful connection, and they are so expressive of how they affect each other…Things are not perfect, far from it. They need to be discreet, and they have insecurities and things from their pasts that all come to peck at the frail thing that is building between them. Griffin has been through horrors which still haunt him. All Whyborne can do is be there for him, SHOW him that there is nothing in the past that could make him want to walk away form what they have.

There is also the murder…Once Whyborne discovers that the book found with the victim is actual a sorcery book, with incantations go from simply making fire to bringing back the dead, things become sinister very fast. The Arconorum is a powerful tool for sorcery. There are bad BAD things happening among the most powerful people in Widdershins, and that group just so happens to be too closely tied to Whyborne.

The mystery in the first installment is very involved, there are a lot of parts to it, and some are truly horrific. I might have gotten more than a bit scared during some bits. The complexity did not affect the fun though, I was at the edge of my seat to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and the romance. Sweeping is a word I’d use to describe these stories.

In, Threshold, the second book of the series, we catch up with Whyborne and Griffin four months in their relationship. Ival has moved into Griffin’s house as a “boarder” and things are going very well. They are in love, and Ival has never been happier. That’s when his estranged father calls upon Griffin to try and look into some strange occurrences taking place in one of his mines in Treshold, West Virginia. Despite the less than amicable way that Griffin got acquainted with Whyborne Sr. in the previous book he takes on the case. Well, Whyborne and Christine are NOT going to miss out on the action and they all take off on a trip South.

This book was just as fast paced as the first, but with a completely different, and just as involved mystery. There are other wordly forces at play, and the horrors taking place in Treshold take our trio for a loop. There is also some romantic drama…A man from Griffin’s past is in the middle of things, and some truths come out. Whyborne is so new to these feelings, and his skin is thin. He is so unsure of his standing in Griffin’s life (not because of Griffin, but his own insecurities). At the same time Griffin just can’t see how he can ever live up to Whyborne’s status in society. Things come to a crux for them here, in terms of their relationship. They have to TALK about what they are to each other.  Meanwhile the entire mining town is in bad shape with some pretty scary critters roaming around underground…Things get dicey fast, but Ival, Griffin and Christine save the day once more.

Stormhaven, the third book in the series takes us back to Widdershins nearly a year after we first met Ival and Griffin. One of Ival’s museum colleagues has been accused of murdering his own uncle, and taken to the insane asylum being diagnosed of with a mental break. The man insists he has been wrongly accused, that he has no idea what even happened. His brother begs Griffin to take the case, and despite the fact that Griffin is VERY uncomfortable with being anywhere near the asylum he takes it. Once they start looking into things it is clear that something is VERY VERY wrong , Ival and Griffin start to fear that bad bad things may be taking place in that asylum. So, our trio sets out to uncover a mystery, that turns into another web of very dark events that put them all at peril. But Griffin refuses to give up on the accused, and they do what it takes to clear his name.

At the same time Griffin’s family is in town visiting from Kansas, and Ival agrees to go along with hiding their relationship to keep Griffin’s family at peace. Things are fine at first, but the more Ival has to lie and conceal who they are to each other the more tense things get. Girffin tries to keep things under control, but circumstances force him to make a difficult choice. There is nothing he won’t do to keep Whyborne at his side.

Since I read them together, I see these first three books as a whole. I got to follow the progression of Ival and Griffin’s relationship in one go. So that eliminated any angstyness for me. I loved how close I was able to get to Whyborne, he is such a insecure and self-deprecating man. There is so little that he sees in himself as good. Yet, he can SEE that in Griffin’s eyes he is EVERYTHING that is desirable, beautiful and good. He may not understand it exactly, but he knows it…Most of the time anyways! As for Griffin, he is broken, he went through horrific things and they haunt him deeply and continuously. His fear is that it will eventually grow tiresome for Ival, yet it doesn’t, ever. Ival seems to believe that he is worth it. It marvels Griffin that a man so honorable, a man of his stature looks at him, and sees his greatest treasure.

They are so dear, and SO in love…They kill me. Also the erotica, top notch. I adored them as the center of the books, but I must say the adventures were just as engaging as the romance. I had a grand time with them, they all felt new and different, and the camaraderie from our dynamic trio kept a constancy in the tone that was nice to rely on for comic relief and lighter moments. The settings played central roles as well, and I was able to really immerse into the surroundings. Jordan did such a great job of creating a clear picture from the scenery, to the mood, to the atmosphere. Fine writing all around.

I HOPE beyond all hope that there are many more stories coming from Whyborne and Griffin. They have many places to go to yet!

I recommend this series enthusiastically, and if like me you are late to this, don’t hesitate to pick them up, you will have a BLAST!

All the Whyborne and Griffin books are available on Amazon.

Blueberry Boy Bait Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which adapted it from Country Cook

Makes a 9×9 pan

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated organic sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (although whole or soy would work)
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For topping:

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Grease it GOOD.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes.

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Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:

Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

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I hope this post encourages you to pick up these book! If you decide to makes the cake I hope you enjoy it as well. With or without the St. Germain sparkling wine is a great choice to enjoy the books and/or the cake with.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Parting Shot by Mary Calmes with New Zealand Sav Blanc and Easy and Amazing Tuna Tartare.

PartingShotLGMary Calmes’ books are a hell of a drug…Seriously, who can resist them? I mean they’re like a delicious helping of lovely  mac and cheese with a huge slice of slutty apple pie!  She’s very much one of my for sure authors.  This is the seventh book in the Matter of Time . I must admit I lost some steam with the 5th and 6th installments in the series. For me with Mary’s books it’s ALL ABOUT the powerful almost nuclear chemistry that happens with her couples. Her stories place her two men at the center of a tornado of circumstances and characters, and how they gravitate to each other is primary to pretty much anything else. Where they go, and how they get there is not as important as how they CAN’T STOP the avalanche of what they are feeling for each other. So for me her stand alone books always work better,  the momentum is intense, but contained and structured and even if the stuff that happens gets a bit crazy at times, when the ride ends I am satisfied because I get the big happy ending.  The end.

That being said I could NOT wait for this one.  I really wanted a story for Duncan (who we met in Acrobat). The love interest she came up with for my guy was a combo I could not resist! Aaron Sutter the arrogant, sort of stalker hote mogul ex of Jory’s in MoT and my Duncan the closeted cop and ex of our beloved Nathan from Acrobat…WINNER COMBO on aisle AWESOME!… Acrobat was one of my favorite books from last year and I’ve gone back to it many times. Every single time I’ve read it I have wanted to see where Duncan ended up. I have a soft spot for the characters whose hang ups and fears  make them a little self-destructive, Duncan seemed so lonely and so full of yearning to find love. I wanted him to get his man and his happily ever after badly.  Let’s shift gears and get us some booze and food before I go into the story…

For this post I had to come up with something delicious and awesome because Aaron Sutter is not a guy that would just eat anything. No sir, only the best for the billionaire, you gotta come at him with the fancy…SO! I went with one of my favorite starters and one that like Mary’s stories I just cannot stop gorging myself on once I start, the ever delicious Tuna Tartare. The recipe I came up with is light, spicy and fresh and will  WOW your dinner guests. For the wine there is nothing other than Sauvignon Blanc as an option for tartare, so I went with a New Zealand Sav Blanc that has been on my radar for the past few months. The 90+ Cellars Sauvignon Blanc  is frigging DELICIOUS, it’s $12 bucks a bottle and worth every penny. I love this brand because they have literally gone out and scouted amazing wines from top producers all over the world and put their label on them and sell them at a more affordable price (my kind of people!). The 90+ Cellars  Sav Blanc is a clean, delicious white wine, every sip is just bursting with fresh flavors. It’s the perfect combination for the spicy freshness of the tuna tartare and a fab way to cool yourself off while reading the hotness that is Duncan + Aaron.

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Now the story…Mary Calmes likes to use the first person POV in her stories, and what we get is the ability to be up close and personal with her characters, what they feel, their reactions to the person they love and the world around them…One of the things I love love love is just how much I get out of the intimate scenes, they are not just carnal and hot, but they are so vivid and in your face, the possesive, rabid “I want to crawl inside of your skin and burn” kind of passion, Mary writes that like no other author in this genre. She has a pattern no doubt about it, she is an author that definitely subscribes to the idea of “if it’s working, JUST KEEP DOING IT” and that my friends is a damn good thing. With her stories I ALWAYS know what to expect. There is something to be said  for being able to sit down with a book an knowing what you’ll get. Parting Shot like many of her stories had two men who are INTENSE about each other in every way, it’s always a frenzied thing what happens between the men she writes, and I kind of love the complete irrationality that her characters have. This book was chuck full of the alpha (borderline cray cray) crack Mary delivers.  Two things surprised me though. I didn’t expect Duncan’s voice to be so naked and vulnerable ,and I certainly did not expect this book to be so much FUN!

So we meet up with Duncan Stiehl in New York City he is on an undercover assignment, it has not been long since his night with Aaron Sutter and he’s feeling like finally he might have just found the guy that will make the dreaded “coming out of the closet worth doing”. From the moment that they met it was like everything fell into place for Duncan, and finally he felt like the found someone to belong to.  Duncan has always had a lot of walls around him, and a lot of that had to do with his painful childhood. He had to be hard and closed off to survive and keep his sanity. Once he was out in the world and in police force his career just became the most important thing, but lately he was feeling like he was cheating himself of something,  happiness seemed like something that was not as improbable as he thought it had been, when he met Aaron everything just started making sense.

Things get off to a great start with them and then after a bit of a dicey situation while Duncan is undercover some external factors keep Duncan and Aaron apart for a time. They both have situations in their lives that are getting in the way of being together, but Aaron wanted Duncan in his life, in his bed, in his heart NOW NOW NOW and he ‘s not a guy to just take no for an answer. So all kinds of growly “I need you now or I’ll die” sex ensues and in the process we go on a few adventures with these guys until they arrive at their happy ending. I completely enjoyed the way things happened for them, it was just on the edge of total FUBARness but Mary kept things in check and the ride was pretty damn smooth!

What more can I say? If you are a Mary Calmes fan you know what to expect, you know what you’ll get, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Another crackified delicious shot of goodness from Ms. Calmes. I hope she keeps them coming because they are always good to the last drop!

Parting Shot is available at Dreamspinner Press

Now that you got the skinny on the reading here is the recipe for the food. I assure you that if you try this one you will not be able to stop eating, and you will blow your dinner guests away! Never has very little work paid off so much in the “making people thing you’re a gourmet chef” like with this little dish! Here it is…

Easy Spicy Tuna Tartare (Serves 4 as a starter)

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Ingredients

  • 12  ounces of sashimi grade tuna or very fresh tuna steak
  • 1/4  cup olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon of sesame seed oil
  • 1   teaspoon grated ginger
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of two limes
  • 1/2   teaspoons wasabi powder
  • 1   tablespoon tamari sauce
  • 1  tablespoon Siracha
  • ½  teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼  cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
  • 1  teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1   ripe Hass avocado
  • ¼   cup of pickled ginger
  • 1  bag of plantain chips

Directions

Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place it in a very large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, Tamari, Siracha, grated ginger, sesame seed oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and mix well. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed, and peel. Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch dice. Carefully mix the avocado into the tuna mixture. Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Top with the pickled ginger and some scallions. Serve on plantain chips.

Enjoy this beautiful dish with a glass of chilled wine and sit down to enjoy some melt your face off hotness like only Mary Calmes can deliver.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura