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? ūüėČ

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‚Äôt remember a time when I wasn‚Äôt interested in telling stories. I know that I didn‚Äôt start writing until I was about eight, though. Until that point I‚Äôd been an illiterate barbarian‚ÄĒI‚Äôd refused to read or write out of pure stubbornness. I‚Äôd insisted that what I was making up was better. Then I read a book, The Prince and the Pauper, and I thought, ‚ÄúHuh. I couldn‚Äôt make that up.‚ÄĚ And the concept that I wasn‚Äôt 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‚ĶI love books and the places they take me, and I am forever in awe that someone‚Äôs 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, Bront√ę (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 Bront√ę 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‚Äô writing‚ÄĒnot in a loving way‚ÄĒa ¬†being ‚Äúdrowned by an effluvium of words‚ÄĚ but that‚Äôs kind of why I like his writing. Plus Dickens depictions of class really fascinate me‚ÄĒthey‚Äôre not inane, unlike Thomas Hardy‚Äôs 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‚Äôre right‚ÄĒNeil and Leofa have so much to look forward to! I guess I have so many options I‚Äôm 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!

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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!

Laura

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 Bront√ę, 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 350¬ļ. 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

Directions:
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

Directions:

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!

Laura

 

Enlightened (Enlightment #3) by Joanna Chambers and Buckwheat, Blueberry and Maple Scones.

enlightenedOh this series…What can I even say? I loved it, and this last book in the trilogy might have been my favorite. Joanna Chambers is the real deal when it comes to historical romance. Not only is she on the money when it comes to setting, language, and character development…She completely captures all the nuances that really engage those of us who love period romances. This third and final novel was the PERFECT ending to one of my favorite historicals to date. Murdo and David literally walk into the sunset, and everything about letting them go felt right. It is rare that I finish a series that I love as much as this one and don’t feel like I need more. This was just right. David and Murdo were is such a good place at the close of this book, that the only thing I had to give was a happy sigh.

For this book I wanted to do something that I could see Murdo and David sharing at a meal. I loved the scenes of the two of them having a breakfast at Laverock House, so I came up with a delicious scones recipe that I am 100% sure they would be all over. Buckwheat, blueberry and Maple scones to be enjoyed with LOTS and LOTS of sweet cream butter.

photo 3 (4)

Back to the story. We come back to Scotland a few months after David suffered a serious injury while helping his friend Elizabeth escape her abusive husband. David has been recovering at Murdo’s home, Laverock House since then. The months living with Murdo have been the best of his life, he has been whole in ways he never thought he could be. But he knows it can’t last. He has to go back to Edinburgh and his practice, and Murdo has his obligations too. It has been so good to have him all to himself, but it will be over soon, how can it not, men like them don’t get to have that kind of happy ending. The thought of walking away from what he has now is too painful to talk about though. Murdo on his part is torn because he is unsure what David is thinking. He doesn’t want to push, because their happiness just seems so fragile, but he wishes he could make promises and say things that will help them both feel like whatever it is they have stands on solid ground. If there could only be a way to convince David that they could make things work in the long term.

However news from Edinburgh that his friend and mentor, Chalmers, might no have long to live, make the decision of returning to the real world one ¬†David can delay no longer. Once they arrive there, they realize that the situation with Elizabeth is still not fully resolved. When Chalmers requests from his deathbed that David go to London and make sure that Elizabeth is safe from ther husband for goood, David does not hesitate. Murdo on his part will not let David, who is still recovering, make that journey alone. So, they head to Murdo’s London home, hoping they can put to rest any possible danger for their friend. Pretty soon it becomes clear that Elizabeth’s husband is not going to go away easily, things escalate quickly and they have to act fast before tragedy strikes.

What I loved best about this series, other than Murdo and David who were magnificent, was the accuracy and coherence of the setting. I really enjoy a historical that is authentic and educating. David and Murdo were both men of their time and their own class, and they acted accordingly ALWAYS. It made their story so much more genuine, they both acted and made decisions based on their circumstances, which made every step they made toward their happy ending that much more solid. There was some ambivalence and a lot of insecurity that happened on both their parts, that’s true, but for me that made complete sense. For men of their time to even contemplate having what they both wanted was not only unlikely, but it was dangerous even for someone with Murdo’s means. When it comes down to it, they both would have to walk away from a lot to be able to be together, the question is how much they were willing to leave behind to have a future.

Again, this trilogy is in my absolute favorites list and definitely one of the best historicals I’ve read in any genre. I really hope Joanna Chambers is just getting warmed up, because I want A LOT more from her.

Totally and completely recommend.

Enlightened will be released tomorrow on Samhain and is available for pre-order here.

Buckwheat, Blueberry and Maple Scones

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet

Makes 8 medium scones

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted Earth Balance buttery spread , in 1/2″ pieces
about 1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for sprinkling


If using fresh berries, rinse and dry them, then place them in a loaf pan or pie plate in a single layer and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle), combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, and work in with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or mix on low with paddle attachment) until the butter has broken down into tiny bits with some larger, pea-sized chunks remaining.

photo 1 (6)Use a rubber spatula to gently stir in the frozen berries. Begin drizzling in the cream, tossing gently with the spatula (or a plastic bench scraper or your hands), adding cream directly to the dry bits, until the dough will hold together and no floury bits remain.

Gently press the dough into a ball and place on a surface dusted lightly with buckwheat flour. Pat the dough into a 6″ round that is 1 1/4″ high. Cut the dough into 8 wedges.¬†Place the scones evenly apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.¬†Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. (At this point, you can wrap and freeze the scones to bake off later.)

photo 2 (6)

Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper-center of the oven and¬†preheat to 425¬ļF.

Remove the scones from the freezer, brush with cream and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake the scones until they are golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove immediately from the pan to prevent from sticking. Let cool until warm as the scones are still cooking from residual heat. Serve warm with butter and extra berries.

The scones will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature. For most delectable results, re-heat in an oven or toaster oven before serving.

Hope you enjoy the book and the scones!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

 

Bad Idea by Damon Suede on Audio with a Brown Wine pairing…Yup, I had to break out the Scotch.

BadIdeaAUDLgHere’s the thing with brilliance… It’s not up for interpretation, it is not up for subjective deconstruction. It IS. IT. IS. The trick is whether one, as the audience, can have the humility and sense to understand there are some expressions that can’t be made to fit our mold or meet us halfway, we need to come to them. They are, and we can either let them in, and charm us, ¬†take us to places we could¬†never ever take ourselves, OR we can be stubborn, cheat ourselves and say, nah this can’t work for me.¬†Bad Idea, the second novel by the popular and most gregarious Damon Suede, is a book that I had to get up and go to. I am a stubborn, opinionated bitch, and I hold my tongue for NO ONE. With this book, from the second I hit play, all I could do was sit, ¬†hush up, and listen because the story unequivocally was going to run the show.

Last year at GRL Damon Suede, in his own particular Suedeish way (I don’t know how else to describe it) did a reading of the novel that was so captivating and delicious, I had to raise a hand and ask for confirmation that he would be the one to narrate the audiobook. He told me that the audio was commissioned to Charlie David, who had done¬†Hot Head, and assured me Charlie would deliver and then some. When the novel came out, I did begin reading it, but stopped, and decided to wait for the audio. It had been so awesome to listen to that little bit from Damon I preferred to wait. Here’s the thing, Damon, he writes for all the senses. The page, just letters, I feel like they are not enough for me (not anyone else, just my person) to get the most out of his stories. He writes for the eyes as much as for the head, and so my mind can’t keep up. My eyes are busy reading, and to truly sink into all the things that Damon shows in his stories, I need my entire head engaged.

Bad Idea is a graphic novel. From the dialogue, to the sounds, to the characters, to the setting. Everything is full color and full throttle, and listening to the story made the world that much easier to conjure up in mind. I’m a comics fan, and I can always tell when an author is ¬†too, in their stories visuals are bigger, sounds help you see, emotions and sensations are entities that get zoomed in, and brought up right to our faces, so they take up as much space in a scene, as the characters in it. So…PANELS, in my head. ¬†Listening to Bad Idea they were all laid out clearly in mind, from one of a glistening cock engorged, ruddy and ready for the tasting, to another with the anguished face of a man standing in an almost desolate conference room, struggling to understand just how badly he had fucked up his life. A LOT of story.

The drink. For this story,¬†which is it’s own damn category in everything, I went for the “break the bank bitches!”pairing, Single Malt Scotch. ¬†In the book there is some consumption of Single Malt, as there was some imbibing of it by me at certain points while listening. With that in mind, I decided to go with a known commodity for me and my husband (who is more of a connoisseur), the Glenlivet 12 years. It is a delicious Scotch, nice for the savvy drinker, as well as a layman like myself. I appreciate the caramely taste and even fruitiness of it, it’s got enough peat to give it the smokiness you want in a single malt, without being too overwhelming. It’s also great value for about $58-$60 dollars a bottle.

photo (25)Now the story. Trip Spector is an artist in NYC, he is the creator of a fairly popular comic series called “Hero High”. He is neurotic, a bit of a recluse, and is riddled with a melange allergies which might be the most sophisticated case of hypochondria in the Tri-State area. It’s a miracle he can function at all. On a New Year’s Eve in Central Park he meets Silas Goolsby at a Zombie Run, and in the few moments they share, their lives get changed. Silas an FX make up artist, is instantly smitten with the shy and skittish geek. Trip on his part is equally besotted and in awe of the large beautiful man with the Southern drawl. There is not much time to exchange contact information, their time together is ¬†too brief to be counted as ANYTHING really, but they both walk away knowing something important happened.

Trip can’t stop thinking about Silas, he can’t decide whether to reach out, or to forget about it or what the hell to do. He is a nervous wreck all the time, between the extended hopeless crush (obsession) on his very straight editor, Cliff,¬†which has made him romantically disabled, and¬†his social awkwardness, it’s not easy being Trip. Thankfully he has friends (who are fucking fabulous, and I’m pretty sure Jillian is my long lost white Siamese twin) and they constantly encourage him to be a bit braver, and to stop squandering his time. So by some miracle, or bout of temporary insanity he actually goes against pretty much all his instincts, and tracks down Silas. Silas immediately gets in touch with him, and they start up something.

Silas is unfiltered joy and life. He seems to be a bit of a slut, and a LOT of a geek, and he smiles and pushes and wants and takes from Trip. He makes Trip nervous and happy and horny all at the same time. So many things, they are so good together, in EVERY way and Silas challenges Trip on all levels. Tells him the truth, gives him no quarter. Silas can see the greatness in Trip, and he tells him, all the time. Just talks, about how he feels, and what he’s thinking. Trip is like in a whirlwind half the time, so many new and bold things are coming out of him just from being around Silas that he can’t even remember who that sad sack ¬†he was was even called.

Silas makes Trip want to aim for things he never dared. Like go out and write his own story. The one HE wants to write, not what would sell better in the mass market, or what would make Cliff happy. His own story, and that feeling, the urge to take risks is the scariest thing of them all. Because he can’t trust it. It can’t be real. Silas can’t be real. How could Trip be so foolish to count on something that good happening to him? ¬†A treasure like Silas has no place in Trip’s life. No matter how happy he feels, and no matter how much his dumbass heart (the same one that thought he had a chance with Cliff!) tells him it’s the real thing. Silas wants Trip to be happy with his work, to do what he loves. So he encourages Trip ¬†to start his own project and pretty soon it takes a life of its own. They ARE happy, but Trip has his walls and Silas has his insecurities, and quickly things are too bad to ever be good again.

The narration by Charlie David¬†(as Damon promised) is outstanding, and it really helped bring out a lot of the dimensions I would have missed with the ebook. To me this book is two stories, it’s a a romance, and it’s a tale of creation. We get to see Silas and Trip fall in love and figure out how to join their lives, but we also get to experience the coming to life of Trip’s comic. Some of my favorites moments in the book were Silas and Trip collaborating on the characters, the story, the world that they would live in. It was fantastic, I wanted to get my hands on a copy SO BAD. The erotica, was top shelf all the way. It was delicious, raunchy and just on that side of dirty. Exactly as it should be, for two people who are learning each other by feel and taste, and cannot get enough of what they’ve found. It is whole lot of melt your face sex to be enjoyed, word of caution, DO NOT listen to the sex scenes and drive, you WILL crash your car.

I could probably go on for a very long time about all the things I loved about this book. But I think I’m going to stick to the things I loved, because I felt personally connected to them. New York City as a character. As one of the millions who at some point in their youth called New York City home, I must say Damon gives me that city to revisit just like I love her most. Full of good, flawed people trying hard to find their place in that crazy wonderful maze, making communities of city blocks and families from friends. Laying claim to the person they knew they COULD be, when they left the place they came from to go make New York their own. The secondary characters, which were fantastic like Kurt and Ziggy. I specially adored The Stones. Mostly because they reminded me of my little unit of three. There is nothing scarier to me than the prospect of suburban life, or a child who thinks ¬†the world is a zipcode, or that anything comes in one variety. So, for those reasons I loved the scenes with Jillian, Ben and Max. Also, the comics and the make up, I delighted in the scenes where things were being created. They made my mind work overtime with colors, textures, and images. Silas and Trip where at their best when they were making together. Love, art, humor, wicked sex…anything really. Lastly the words, I LOVED the words, and felt so close to so many thoughts, ideas and feelings in this story. Many grins and sad smiles were forged.

I think I’ll leave it here, I’ve rambled enough. I HIGHLY recommend this audiobook, it packs in too much goodness to describe in a single review, and will give you a chance to flex all your emotional muscles. Including the one that makes the ugly cry. Go forth and purchase, you will not regret it.

Bad Idea on audiobook is available for purchase here.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Gay Athletes: My Favorite Sports Themed Romances

The sports world in this country has been shaken up quite a bit recently. Michael Sam one of the NCAA top football players came out as a gay man, just months before the NFL draft (where he is expected to be a top pick). Also recently Jason Collins a veteran NBA player, who came out a few months ago, signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets making him the first openly gay athlete to play in an American professional sport. These news are heartening, because despite some nasty responses (from all the usual haters) I think both men have received  great support. It is an interesting time we are living in.

Last week a bill that would essentially have given Arizona businesses a license to discriminate against LGBT people was vetoed by the governor. I think that veto was in a large part due to the incredible amount of public outrage that followed it passing the house. It is sad to think that something so hateful would make it as far as it did, but at the same time, it is encouraging to see that people would not take it sitting down. It will be interesting to see if the testosterone fueled world that is American professional sports can evolve with the times.

Professional sports are an insular world, we see these men that look like gods, that have such power, these amazing specimens of maleness and masculinity playing these sports. We root for them, live and die with their wins and losses…Their victories feel like our victories and yet we don’t know WHO they are. Who they love, who nurses their wounds when they take a beating, who helps them celebrate their moments of glory.

As a sports fan I’ve always been fascinated with what these men’s lives are in private could be like. Are they gentle, passionate, intense, aloof? Who knows right? But we can still get a glimpse of it in the fiction world.¬†When I was thinking of what I should come up with for this week I thought, ATHLETES! I have quite a few favorite novels that feature sportsmen, ¬†as one or both heroes in the story. I thought that would be a fun list for today.

locker room

Clearly my #1 was going to be The Locker Room by Amy Lane, I don’t even think it’s possible for me to make a favorites list that doesn’t include a book from hers at this point. Isn’t it a law somewhere? All Favorites List MUST include an Amy Lane title…Or is that just the voices in my head? So, yeah Xander and Chris the most lovely of all my lovelies. The princes of my Boy Love Kingdom. If you have not read this book you absolutely must, not only is it Amy Lane at her best, but the basketball court scenes are outstanding. Wonderfulness all around. For my original Goodreads review, click here.

out in the field

Out in the Field by Kate McMurray is probably the one book I’ve read in this genre that could have been tailor made for me. I’ve said this before, but from the moment I started reading M/M, I REALLY wanted a book with MLB players, particularly if one of the heroes was a Dominican. I am a huge baseball fan and being Dominican, this book was just literally my DREAM premise. What’s even better is that I LOVED it. Every page, it was above and beyond all my expectations. Iggy and Matt are two of my favorite couples, and read after read that feeling just gets more solid. If you want to read an incredibly realistic and encouraging story about coming out and living in and retiring from a life in sports, this one IS IT. For my original Goodreads review click here.

heart in hand

Heart in Hand is essentially fan fiction, the main characters are Sidney Crosby and Alec Ovechkin who are both professional hockey players. The author ships them in this story which is worthy of ANY publishing house. These two guys were epic. Ovie, man that dude made me cry like a beeyotch. This book had it all in terms of what I look for in stories with athletes, an incredibly respectful and reverent tone about the seriousness and what it takes to become a successful professional athlete, wonderful action moments and some epic highs and lows. There were mighty moments in this book, how people responded to these guys and their story…EPIC. If you have not given this one a try DO IT. You will not regret it. For my original Goodreads review, click here.

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WINE BREAK!!!!!!!

The wine for this post is a DEELISH and super affordable New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. ¬†The 2013 Monkey Bay Sav Blanc is a slam dunk! Not only is it super affordable, $8.99 a bottle it is crisp, citrusy and delicious without any bite at the end. I’ve gone back for this wine a few times since I first tried it, and it will surely be a regular this summer.

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dance with me

Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan also made it to this list, because it’s awesome. ¬†And because it showcases two men doing ballroom dancing, which if not a traditional sport it is incredibly athletic. Ed and Laurie are incredibly endearing. They are also very strong willed characters. Ed is dealing with life after an injury that ended his ability to play football, which he loved, and Laurie has quietly been licking his wounds after being utterly rejected for trying to challenge tradition in Ballroom dancing. They come together to dance, and it heals them both. Lovely story. For my original Goodreads review, click here.

steamroller

Steamroller by Mary Calmes…Ahhhh that sweet Mary crack that only she can provide. This story has college age heroes, one a cynical little shit who EVERYONE loves and the College Football Star that comes after him with unfettering focus. I love this story, in many ways sports are not at the forefront, but the CULTURE of collegiate sports is highlighted in an interesting perspective. The star who wants to be free of ¬†the burden all the adoration and pressure to be the best represents, and on the other side of the coin the cynical boy that has formed an unfair opinion of who a jock is or can be. So yeah, I liked this one, and it served up all the good stuff we love in Ms. Calmes’ stories. I’ve gona back for MANY a re-read

BONUS PICK: Love of Sports Series by TA Chase

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This series is an oldie, but a goodie. I read it a really long time ago, like thousands of books ago, but I still really like it. The first story has professional basketball star as one of the heroes and the second a NASCAR driver. The writing is a bit on the sweet side, but I liked the characters and enjoyed the romance as well. These are good for a light, fluffy read!

Hope the list is useful in finding some new books to read! I love all these stories, and hope some of them become part of your favorites shelves!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

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Shaking The Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus and Vegan Cinammon Rolls

This book. THIS BOOK. This was not the book I expected when I started reading, ¬†AT ALL, but Wiley Cantrell and his son Noah stole my heart. This story more than anything else is about love¬†. First and foremost the love of a father and son, but also the love of a man for his home, the love of where he comes from, the love for the people that have impacted his life, his love of music, of life, of what the future could bring. Wiley Cantrell is probably one of the strongest characters I’ve read in this genre, ¬†he had the heart of a lion.

Before I get into things I’ll talk about what I made for this book. I went back and forth on different recipes, and was tempted to do something Southern, but decided on going with Vegan Cinnamon Rolls. The reason being that they are my daughter’s favorite and she LOVES helping me make them, clearly this was the winning choice. These rolls are delish, and keep well for a few days. With some coffee in the mornings they are a lovely breakfast in this cold weather.

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Now back to the story…There were many things I loved about this book. I loved the writing and I loved the setting. I completely enjoyed the raw and fierce love Wiley had for his son. All good, GOOD things. But Wiley himself, ¬†man, that guy went straight for my soul. I could relate to him in such a deep, and basic level it was staggering at times. Wiley lives in the Deep South, Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. He is an out and proud gay man, in his early thirties. As¬†a struggling writer, him and his little boy live on his minimum wage part-time job at Foodworld, and public assistance. His 10 year old is a special needs child, he is deaf, one of the defects resulting from having been born addicted to meth. Wiley has raised Noah alone, since his mom left as soon as he was born and Wiley refused to hand off his son to anyone. Wiley LOVES his son, more than anything and anyone. He has done everything in his power to give Noah a loving home, it has been hard to do. Noah was born a little cyclone of problems, his little body wrecked as a result of his mother’s addiction.

It’s been a haze of health issues and anger, so much pain. Wiley feels so responsible for the pain and difficulties his little boy has to live with.¬†But Wiley he keeps on going. Despite how unsupportive his family can be, sure they love him, but they never loose a chance to tear him down over his homosexuality. Everywhere he turns it seems, everything he is to people boils down to the disgrace which that is his sexuality.¬†It’s not easy being a gay man in the South, ¬†a poor gay man with a special needs son is damn hard. A gay man with a deaf son who still loves God, and his church and wants to be a part of the community that he came from…It’s a study in heartbreak. It seems like the odds are just stocked up against him, no matter what he does.

Yet Wiley enjoys his son, his life, he finds joy in the good things in it. But ¬†he is lonely and bitterness can seep in at times. One day a young man from Boston walks up to Wiley’s lane at the Foodworld, and instantly there is a spark. Jackson is his name, he is a pediatric nurse and seems to be just as smitten with Noah as he is with Wiley. This is a good thing, a VERY good thing, but things are far from simple. Noah wants to see his mother, who has no interest in him. Wiley’s brother is increasingly hateful and bigoted. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to put him down. It is so hard to keep his chin up when all he hears is negativity. Even Noah who he loves more than his life at times makes Wiley despair. Jackson, he is something to hope for, someone who could walk with him, support him, but even he comes with his own complications and disappointments. But Wiley is not a quitter, he keeps challenging his family, his friends, his church, his community to SEE him for what he is, a man trying to be a good father, a man trying to live a good life, a man trying to live up to the love his son has for him, a man trying to be better.

This book covered so many things that are incredibly close to my heart. The plight of the working poor in this country is something which hangs out in the shadows most of the time, specially in romantic fiction. The hard reality of undocumented immigrants, the invisible people in our society…The sadness of being from a place ¬†you love, but won’t love you back. There are so many whose lives are an eternal fight not just for acceptance, but literally to have the things that many of us take fro granted, keeping their kids fed and under a roof.

Paired with all these things that to me are incredibly important and sobering, this book was a JOY to read. It was FUN. So much about Wiley’s family seemed so familiar…Put your crazy on the porch? Hell yes! I know all about that. My own Crazy Uncle is still cold calling people 10 hours a day trying to book gigs for the all-girl merengue band he’s been managing for the past 30 years IN HIS HEAD! So Pawpaw, he’s my kind of guy. Wiley and his cutting humor and relentlessness, he would stand down for no one. EVER. I loved that. He was so hard on himself, so jaded that he could barely believe he’d ¬†get a happily ever after that was just for him…He did though. He DID.

Ok yeah, this book. Amazing, can’t say enough. Recommend it completely and it is solidly in my all time favorites list. Wiley, Noah and all their people are unforgettable. This story is all about the LOVE.

Shaking the Sugar Tree is available for purchase here.

Easy and Delicious Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

1 packet instant yeast

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup Earth balance (vegan butter), divide

1/4 tsp salt

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar, divided

Directions:

In a large sauce pan (or in a bowl in the microwave at 30 sec increments), heat the almond milk and 3 Tbsp Earth Balance until warm and melted, never reaching boiling. Remove from heat and let cool, or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 Tbsp sugar and the salt and stir.

Next add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size (see photo).

Little ball.

Little ball.

After one hour.

After one hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 Tbsp melted Earth Balance and top with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 ‚Äď 1Tbsp cinnamon.

My little love is a rolling pin expert!

My little love is a rolling pin expert!

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. Then with a serrated knife or a string of floss, cut the dough into 1.5 ‚Äď 2 inch sections and position in a well-buttered 8√ó8 square or comparable sized round pan (you should have about 10 rolls). Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp Earth Balance (melted) and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately

For the frosting do a simple mixture of powdered sugar and almond milk.

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Hope that you enjoy this amazing book and give the cinnamon rolls a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Cheers and Happy Reading,

Laura

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.

photo 1 (3)

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

Early Review of YA Title “Here’s to you, Zeb Pike” by Johanna Parkhurst, and Comfort Food for Vegans.

18743452You know when you see a cover and then you read a blurb and you get that feeling? That feeling that says, “I’ve found something special”…This book gave me that feeling, and it was completely what I expected. More even. Well written, engaging, moving, funny, emotionally clever, endearing and with strong lessons about life. This is the kind of Young Adult story that really adds value to a young person’s perpective, makes them see¬†the world a little differently.¬†And for grown ups like me, well, it’s always nice to read something this good.

Here’s¬†To You, Zeb Pike, is a story about the mountains that life¬†puts before us, and how¬†some are for us to climb and conquer and others are there to show us that walking away is sometimes they best way to triumph.¬†Dusty Porter is a young man¬†who has¬†had to sacrifice too much of his childhood to the neglect of¬†his parents.¬†His story¬†made me¬†question how it is some people can be so weak and so cruel in their selfishness, and others can amaze us with their fortitude and resilience. Some people really are innately good, some are innately bad, and in this world a lot of times those two things play out very unfairly. I loved Dusty’s stregth and¬†his selflessness. The way he cared for this brother and sister on his own, and kept his family intact as much as he could for as long as he could. It’s hard to say how any of us would face adversity, and sadly too many kids in this country, in this world, have to make too many hard decisions every single day.

For Dusty I needed to make something comforting and delicious, the kind of food that makes me feel warm inside. I decided to  go with Vegan Mac and Cheez with Roasted Garlicky Romanesco, and a Lentil and Walnut Loaf. This food is PERFECT for the cold days coming, and is completely vegan and gluten free. I decided to forego the alcoholic selectionon this one, since this book is for Young Adults.

Complete Comfort

Complete Comfort

Dusty Porter, has everything UNDER CONTROL. He’s fourteen (almost fifteen actually), and is¬†pretty much single handedly raising his eight year old brother, and six year old sister.¬† Sure, he’s tired, and he is constantly stressed out about the school authorities finding out that his dad is pretty much out of the picture, and that his mom constantly disappears for months at a time. It’s a kind of a lot for one person to handle, but what else can he do? Someone has to care for Matt and Julia. He’s good at it too, as long as his mom comes by every once in a while to bring some food, and pay rent he can get himself and the kids to school, fed, cleaned up¬†and all the other things that need doing. He’s not bitter or anything, it’s been this way so long he can hardly remember a time when he didn’t see his dad only when he was desparate, and needed money to eat. Couldn’t¬†recall not being¬†filled with dread that this time his mom would just stay gone for good. Things were not rosy, he knew that, that constant feeling that they¬†were one more selfish act from his “so called” parents from ending on the street, the pressure of making sure no one finds out he’s alone with the kids, was enough to undo him…And then there’s the whole “I might like boys” thing…Nothing is easy for Dusty. EVER.

Things suck, but at least he’s got the routine down pat,¬†then Julia gets sick, needs surgery for appendicits and his cover gets blown in a major way. He has to come clean and admit that his parents are completely out of the picture, have been for awhile, he doens’t even know how to get in touch with his mom, and his dad wouldn’t even come to see Julia at the hospital. He’s so afraid that he’ll be split up from his siblings, afraid he’ll be uprooted from Colorado Springs, the only place he’s ever known. He thought he could conquer this, that he could scale up this treacherous mountain of responsibility, but the jig is up. Everything is out of his¬†hands.¬†Out of nowhere an uncle appears in Vermont. He didn’t even know his mom had a brother! The guy and his wife want to take all three of them to Vermont. Dusty doesn’t like this one bit.¬† His life is getting completely uprooted and he’s just like a prop or something, no say in a sigle thing.

His uncle Jack and his wife Beth are nice people, that’s true,¬†and have¬†a nice house with rooms¬†for all of them, and everything is “lovely”. Matt and Julia are as happy as clams, they are getting attention and order, but Dusty is not having it. He can’t trust it! These people all of a sudden want to take over raising his brother and sister, and push him aside, they’re HIS family! It’s too much. Too much. New town, new school (where his uncle works!), new EVERYTHING. Then there’s Emmit, oh God…Emmit, the high school hockey star, who’s been showing him around the school for the first few days. Emmit is beautiful and nice…SO NICE. SO BEAUTIFUL. SO STRAIGHT. Dusty just stares, and tries not to drool. Things are just so damn confusing…He’s got to do something about it, because if there is something that Dusty KNOWS is that whenever things can go wrong,THEY ALWAYS DO. But slowly with the the steadiness of his uncle, the friendships that he forges with Emmit and his brother Casey things become less overwhelming…Maybe things really could be ok.

I loved a lot of things about this book. The solid writing, easy and efficent. No frills or wasted words.¬†Dusty as a narrator just stole my heart, his young voice and mind was so spot on, so wise and clear at times, and others so lost and in need of guidance. I felt so angry for him, for that fact that he didn’t even know what it was like to be a kid or a teen. He didn’t know how unfair it was what his parents did to him. Everything about Dusty called to my protective instincts. This book was obviously written from a place of deep caring. The author was writing a story she knows, form the first page¬†I knew Dusty so well.

What I loved the¬†MOST though, was¬†how elegantly this book showed us very harsh realities. Particularly for the young adults reading this story it will be an eye-opening experience. There are sad parts, angering moments, dispappointing bits, and moments of real grimmness.¬†¬†But there is also youthful¬†JOY and hope. Dusty can still hope, he can still HOPE. The thought that even after having lived through so much hardship, people can be resilient.¬†Even if that optmisim is fragile¬†at first, they can reach for a better future. Romance is not the center of this story, the center is Dusty. His past and his future. His old family and his new family. How things have been for him,¬†and finally how they could be.¬† Because in the end Dusty has to make a decision, he can try to hang on to everything that was, or he can give this new chance that he’s been given a shot. That’s not to say we don’t get to see things evolve for Dusty. Dusty was¬† a wonder and every other character in this book had a quiet strength that made for a very solid story.

All in all this is pure heartwarming goodness to the fullest, with excellent writing, and a whole lot of soul. I completely recommend and I’m excited to see what else will come from this author in the future.

Here’s To You, Zeb Pike is available for pre-order here, and will be out on November 7th. I really encourage everyone to give this book a try, it won’t let you down! Check back in on Thursday, to read an interview with the Johanna Parkhurst where she answers question about her inspiration for Dusty, her future plans and how she ended up as an YA LGBT author.

Vegan Mac & Cheeze With Roasted Garlicky Romanesco (adapted from Oh She Glows Blog)

Yield: 4 servings or 1.5 cups of cheeze sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 fresh butternut squash* (peeled and chopped)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, S & P
  • 1 Romanesco head, chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened &¬† unflavoured almond milk
  • 6 tbsp nutritional yeast, or more to taste
  • 3/4 cup of raw cashews
  • 2¬†TB¬†Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB Turmeric
  • 1 TB Paprika
  • 1/4-3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 leaves of fresh sage
  • 1/2-1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp kosher salt (to taste) & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 servings¬†of corn flour (brown rice¬†works too)¬†macaroni (8oz or half a 16oz package) makes 3 1/4 cup¬† cooked

sqash and romanesco on pan

mac and cheez1

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a casserole dish with tin foil. Mix chopped  squash  and romanesco with EVOO, salt and pepper, two sliced garlic cloves and the sage leaves. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until  tender.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce. Gorund the cashews in the food processor until it looks like course flour.¬†In a bowl mix milk, nutriotional yeast, spices. lemon juice, and remaining cloves minces.¬†Add to processor and then leave¬†there, because you will add squash it’s done.

3. Cook your pasta according to package directions. The sauce makes enough to  cover 4 servings of pasta.

4. Once squash and romanesco are done, take squash, sage and garlic and blend with the rest of the sauce. Leave romanesco out to toss once sauce and macaroni have been mized.

5. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed macaroni into pot, along with cheeze sauce & romanesco in a casserole, bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 350F.

DELISH Lentil and Walnut Loaf (recipe adapted from Oh She Glows Blog)

walnut lentil loaf

Yield: 1 large loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
  • 3 tbsp ground flax + 1/2 cup water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups diced sweet onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup peeled and grated sweet apple (use a firm variety)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (used EZEKIEL Gluten Free bread)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Balsamic Apple Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp apple butter (I used homemade, but applasauce works too)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Rinse and strain lentils. Place lentils into pot  along with 3 cups of water (or veg broth). Bring to a boil and season with salt.  Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer, uncovered, for at least 40-45 minutes.  Stir frequently & add touch of water if needed. The goal is to over-cook the  lentils slightly (see pictures in post). Mash lentils slightly with a spoon when  ready.

2. Toast walnuts at 325F for about 8-10 minutes. Set aside. Increase oven  temp to 350F.

3. Whisk ground flax with water in a small bowl and set aside.

4. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sautee the  garlic and onion for about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Now add in the diced  celery, shredded carrot and apple, and raisins. Sautee for about 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat.

5. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to  taste.

6. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Press mixture firmly into pan. Whisk glaze  ingredients and then spread half on top of loaf. Reserve the rest for a dipping  sauce.

7. Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes, uncovered. Edges will be lightly brown.  Cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. I  usually wait until loaf is cool before slicing.

Sugar Daddies and Cheap Wine…My Favorite “Age-Gap” stories and the perfect wines to read them with!

I’ve been working on some “Top Ten” lists for a series I want to do, mostly so I can get some sense of¬†order of all the things I’ve read…There is a LOT of volume in this genre. I feel like a veteran for having discovered it¬†about four years ago,¬†I’ve¬† read A LOT of books. I’m sometimes amazed when I see the sheer amount¬†I’ve read in the years since I discovered M/M romance.¬† Just recently at¬†GRL in Atlanta, I was surprised by the amount of readers that have just discovered M/M in the past year, and still *gasps* have not gotten around to reading some books that I¬†consider “Classics”. I¬†found myself wanting to regroup, and take some time to work through some of these amazing¬†stories I’ve read, and share my absolute favorites

I’ve been¬†thinking of¬†doing¬†Top Ten lists for awhile, and I figured I’d start with one of my absolute favorites¬†tropes, the May-December couples. One of the beauties of writing about relationships between¬†two men is that¬†there is a lot¬†more freedom, gender roles are not so¬†restrictive¬†and a¬†“significant” age difference¬†actually seems to¬†really benefit some¬†love stories. I have MANY MANY favorites in¬†this category,¬†so I HAD to come up with¬†a¬†cutoff (or I’d have 50 books on this list). I have only counted couples with a “12 year or more” age difference, and in terms of where they rate, I’ve¬†listed them in the order I have read them from earlier reads to most recent, with a BONUS SELECTION at the very end….Of course¬†to make this¬†list complete I had to¬†bring in the other parts of my “addictions”…So for my¬†May-December Romance¬†Favorites List I have also come up with some nice wine to add to the mix.

So here we go!

nowhere ranchNowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan: This book. I can’t even say how much I love it. It’s truly, TRULY one of my most favorite stories. Roe and Travis embody¬†acceptance and finding home in the person who you love. The idea that the person you love can give you what you need with respect and tenderness…Just slays me EVERY TIME. This book has very intense erotica, and it will push those readers who are not very into BDSM, but it is a wonderful love story. I actually had a chat with Heidi during GRL about how this story came to be and it only made it more special.

Here is what she had to say:

“My inspiration for Nowhere Ranch was my friend Jan prepping to marry her partner of fifteen years but having to wade through caustic, painful naysaying from her family. Jan did receive hateful letters couched in Christ and “tough love,” and they broke her heart, turning what was meant to be a happy milestone into one fraught with sorrow. As Jan and her partner are also devoted foster parents who made their wedding a dual-ceremony, formally adopting their four children, it made me furious to hear them taken down by people who couldn’t see past the fact that Jan and Sarah were both women and some dusty old book said that wasn’t right.

¬†Roe appeared in my head one day as I washed dishes, fuming about Jan’s situation–he started talking, and I wrote down what he said. I never dreamed the story about my friend Jan’s wedding would end up with such intense kink, but once it started I embraced it. I wanted them to be as “taboo” as they could be and yet so loving and wonderful only those with hearts of stone could say they would be bad parents, bad people. For me the story has always been about how dangerous it is to not see people for who they are, to let our fears and presuppositions get in the way of the real people beneath.”
This story is genuine and wonderful. I’ve read it many, many times. It is an absolutely a MUST READ for any serious M/M fan, and for those who have not read it in a while it holds up on the re-read AMAZINGLY.
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Slow BloomSlow Bloom by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox: This one is an early read, and still one of my favorites. Very heavy on the erotica (delightful cross-dressing kink…YUM) and a very humorous and DEEP romance. Jack is a journalist in his late forties and Ricky is his neighbor’s son home for the summer from college. Things get HOT and HEAVY and SMEXY very FAST with these men and things progress slowly but surely to a charming love story. Ricky and Jack are the embodiment for this saying…You want an older lover in your younger years to teach how to enjoy sex, and an younger lover in your older years to remind you¬†why you love¬†it
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goldilocks and his three bsa man a jersey and tight endThe Goldilocks Series by Am Riley (Book#1 Goldilocks and his Three Bears; Book#2 A Man, A Jersey and a Tight End): First of all just from the titles and the covers you can infer you are in for a MAJOR ROMP!!¬†Brian is a¬†blonde spastic twink trying to make it in LA, one night he goes to a leather club and meets a HOT LEATHER DADDY named Paul, and when I say daddy, I mean D-A-D-D-Y…They go to Paul’s (Daddy) house and things are perfect,…But Paul has to go away, and Brian is lonely again…One day Brian¬†is walking around town and meets¬†a¬†BIG MOMMA BEAR…Ok it’s a dudenamed Jim,¬†but he is¬†cuddly and a caretaker and well Brian needs to be taken care of…He discovers Jim and Paul are roommates…Then Jim leaves too, and while Brian is plantsitting for him he runs into the third roommate, a stocky bear who just loves TO PLAY…These books are HIGH on the kink, and it is a full on clusterfuck of men doing all kids of naughty things, but the relationships are great. There is a lot to this book reagarding¬†the dynamics of D/s couples, their needs and how it is so important to find someone who can give you what you need, while loving you. I’ve read these a few times. It’s intense in the kink, and definitely not for everyone, but I love the men and how they traverse the complications of polyamourous relationships.
This one is a stretch for those that like it nice and simple…But it is FUN, HOT and so so different, why not try it?
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its not shakespeareIt’s Not Shakespeare by Amy Lane:¬†If any of you¬†have read any of my reviews for Ms. Lane you know that Amy Lane is MY LADY. Her books are a soothing balm to my soul, and everything she writes I love…This one though, THIS BOOK, it’s very close to my heart…I myself am in an interracial relationship. I am Latina, my husband is white, and my cousin Rafael and his partner could be James and Rafi. Seriously I love this book, because it captures the beauty of, as Amy puts it, finding deep good love where two people meet halfway. So, given that these men are totally close to my reckless romantic little heart I asked (begged!) Miss Lane if she could ask Rafi and James¬†what it was like to be with each other.
Here’s what they said! :O)
TB: Rafi what is it like to have an older lover?

Rafi: Jimmy ain’t that old–but you know, that old man can toss a mean salad, you feel me?

TB: So Jimmy? or Umm Do you prefer James, what do you find you enjoy the most about having a younger lover?
James *blushing*: Uhm, playfulness. He likes to play, and it makes me happy. You need to remember how to play or you get old.
Rafi *blushing now too*: Aw, man– and the fact that he says nice shit like that.
So *ahem* now that we’ve heard from the guys themselves…I asked Amy what the perfect romantic evening meal would be for her guys…This blog has food and wine in it after all…
Her answer:  Rafi and James? Something surprising that would fascinate Rafi and delight James.  Something like a boat ride in the bay and dinner with a view of the ocean, or sipping wine on a balcony after watching bull racesРas long as Marlowe was there too. 
Like I said this book was a pleasure for me because it got the dynamics of interracial couples so well, so I wanted to know from Amy who inspired these characters…
TB: Amy what was your inspiration for Rafi/James and their story?

AL: Rafael came from my students, and from the students I saw growing up to be productive, happy people, even if it wasn’t the way academia thought they should be growing up to be productive, happy people.¬† James came from the middle-aged divorcees I kept running into–they were trying so hard not to be bitter, trying so hard to find something to believe.

So Rafi and James, amazing and two of my all time favorites. Completely and totally worth a read.
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bad boyfriendBad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell: Oh sweet heavenly porn gods…Eli and Quinn. Just ummmm….I love this book! First of all the erotica is EXQUISITE, like delicious. This book is one of those classic premises, younger affeiminate guy with older assertive (Ex-Navy) man…The thing is Eli he has NO SCRIPT, he breaks all the rules, and Quinn is just kind of in awe of this amazing thing that is just plowing through his life. The erotica in this book is second to none, even for K.A, who can BRING IT with the sexy. I’ve read this book over and over, and every time I fall in love with these two. It is a MUST read for any M/M Romance fan. Cannot recommend it enough.
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WINE BREAK: The Younger, The Better

protosI promised some wine selections. For my first pick I have a wine that is always better when it’s younger…White wines usually are, this one is a 2012 Spanish Verdejo from the Protos Wineries. It is just delicious, not too fruity, not too tart. Pretty much the perfect glass of white wine. For about $13 bucks a bottle it’s also great value.
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out in the fieldOut in The Field by Kate McMurray: This is my book. Mine. ¬†Like the one I wanted from the moment I read my first romance novel. Rationally I know Kate didn’t actually write it for ME, since she didn’t acutally know me when she wrote it. But she might as well have! This book is perfect. Just how I wanted a story like this to go. First of all, baseball. Second, New York City. Third, a Dominican player! My wishlist…This book for any baseball fan is a delight, and the way these men loved the game and how they loved each other…BIG LOVE. This one is a gem. Again with the 1,200 re-reads. Still I fall in love with them every time.
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¬†acrobatAcrobat by Mary Calmes: Nate and Dreo…What can one possibly say? Mary Calmes writes the Alpha-Male like NO ONE in this genre, she makes these men that are so passtionate, and so protective of the ones they love. She calls to that primal thing in all of us, for some, it’s the need to be protected, for others is the need to care and keep our loved ones safe. The age difference between Nate and Dreo is 17 years, yet they are equals, they are without a doubt one of my all-time favorites.
I love the story of how these characters came to life for Mary, and how Anne Cain came up with the cover, which in my opinion is a true work of art…Here is what Mary has to say about how
Acrobat came to be:
I was inspired to write Acrobat after seeing Steve Walker’s painting Parallel Dreams http://stevewalkerartist.com/galleryparalleldreams.html
it is so beautiful and I got to thinking, what is the story of these two men? After I thought about it, I realized that the man you could see most in the painting was not the one with the story, but actually the one who was obscured. And the cover that Anne Cain ended up creating kept that idea intact. Anne’s words in the dedication of Acrobat, for Steve Walker, are truly beautiful. I would urge everyone to take a moment and look at all of his stunning work. http://stevewalkerartist.com/menupage.html
So there is the backstory on Acrobat, I also encourage anyone who hasn’t seen¬†it to go and see Andrew Walker’s work it’s beautiful.
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sidecarSidecar by Amy Lane: Two Amy Lane books? Umm yeah!!! This is what you can call the classic epic love stories, spans through years, decades. Two men who love each other deeply, but need to get to a place where there love has enough roots to never falter. So again Amy was kind enough to get me some boy time to ask some questions and here is what they said:
TB: Josiah, what do you find you enjoy the most about having a younger lover?
Josiah *uncomfortably*:¬† It’s not the age so much as the vocation.¬† The kid can work a computer like no one’s business.
TB: How about you Casey, what is it like to have an older lover?
Casey: Having an older lover?¬† Mostly, the best thing about having an older lover is that he’s Joe. If he was Joe my age, he’d still be Joe.¬† If he was Joe younger than me, he’d still be Joe.
Josiah *kissing Casey’s knuckles*:¬† Jesus, kid.¬† You want honest?¬†
TB: *NODS HEAD EFFUSIVELY*
Josiah: Okay. The having someone by your side.¬† That’s all you can ever ask.¬†

There you have it…Love these guys and that beautiful cover…Get choked up just thinking about this love story.

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in his secret lifeIn His Secret Life by Mel Bossa:¬† Mel Bossa is the author of two of my most favorite books from ALL the books I’ve read in this genre. This book right here is one of them. It’s a long affair and these guys go thorugh a lot in order to finally end up together. It is an unusual story and gutwrenching at times, but man what a love story. Allan Waterhouse and Davinder Lamontagne‚ĶThe house of water and the mountain. Even their names came together like poetry.
Loved them completely and suffered with them the whole way through. This is not a warm and fuzzy book, and I almost would not catergorize it as a romance, but it is EXCELLENT writing, and for those up for a book more in the “Fiction” than the “Romance” genre this one is a winner.
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the legend of teh apache kidThe Legend of The Apache Kid by Sarah Black: I call Sarah Black the “Warrior Poetess” of M/M romance, she is seriously one of the most courageous writers I’ve ever read. She just writes stuff that MATTERS, every time and she does it with gentleness that is brilliant. Her men can be protectors, and they can be fragile wounded souls, but the common denominator is a¬†strong spirit. Her men have an overwhelming capacity to love. Johny Bravo (and hello what a name!) is a man who needs to be mended a bit, and Raine is a man that has been waiting for the love of his life to come. It is such a beautiful love story. Every character is magnificent, including Salome, Johny’s horse, whose name I let Sarah borrow. :O) This book is a treasure.
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WINE BREAK: Aged Well

lot78__large
I love 90+ Cellars their taste for value cannot be beat! For my second wine choice I picked one¬†which like many of¬† the characeters in my book picks only gets better with time.¬†California Cabernet Sauvignons are fabuliscious.¬†This 2010¬†Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley California is everything a Cab should be, deep flavor, chocolatey…YUM…and the price is amazing…About $17.99, but this really is about a $25.00 bottle of wine. If you see it GET IT. It’s nice too sip slowly. You can’t improvise experience people.
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BONUS SELECTION

2403922englor affairregelence rakeThe Sci-Regency Series by J.L. Langley: I was going to leave this blank, because seriously do you even need a reason to read books with covers like these???? But, I guess I should say something! I chose the whole series, (so far! I hope the next book is out before I get my AARP card!) because all the books have characters with a pairing of a younger man, with a more Alpha/Protective counterpart. The world in this book is fabulous, and the all the guys are great. How can you go wrong in a futuristic world that lives in a Regency like society. There are aristocrats, blushing virgins, spaces pirates, lords, princes…THE WHOLE SHEBANG BABY!!!…And NO LADIES. All peni all the time…If that last statement won’t get you reading. I GIVE UP! Start with My Fair Captain and work yourself up…You won’t want to stop.
This is all for me my peeps!! Hope you enjoy the list, and find stuff you haven’t tried before. I am working on my Top Ten Sweehearts and Top Ten Cowboys¬† for the next few weeks, so check in soon!
Cheers and happy reading!
Laura

The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari by the INCREDIBLE Sarah Black and Mediterranean Mezze w a Greek Malgousia. Literally HEAVEN.

GeneralandtheElephantClockofAlJazariI’ve said it before and, I will say it again, Sarah Black in this genre is HER OWN STANDARD. I’ve never ever wanted to be a writer, but when I read her books, I almost want to. Just so I could know what it feels like to make something so lovely, that can move people like her books move me.

The General and the Elephant Clock of A–Jazari is the sequel to The General and The Horse Lord. The book that gave us General John Mitchell and his longtime lover, and fellow warrior helicopter pilot and all purpose badass, Gabriel Lopez. John and Grabriel have been lovers for over two decades, but because of DADT they had to¬†keep their relationship a secret. In retirement, they’ve decided to step out into the light and live like they’ve always wanted to. Not everything is rosy though, Gabriel has a very unhappy ex-wife, and his teenage boy is struggling with the changes in his family. John is trying to find excitement and purpose out of military life, and thus far it’s been hard to find what fits.

Then there’s his little tribe of young men. Kim his beloved nephew (and one of the best things I’ve read in years!) who is forever exploring and pushing the boundaries, looking for his¬†own love, his own path. Billy the boy he’s taken in after he was badly assaulted in a past relationship. Abdullah the son of his mentor and oldest friend. All these boys are looking to John and Gabriel for guidance, to show them what it should look like to live and love proudly. John is not a man who has ever shied away¬†from doing the things that need to be done. But this time¬†of his life proves more difficult than he ever imagined, he is feeling a sense of fulity, like what he was born to do, is being done by someone else and they’re fucking it up. I mean he‚Äôs happy, happier than he‚Äôs ever been, just¬†to be able to wake up next the love of his life every morning, to love Gabriel in the light of day is like every dream come true. But still he is restless. He is BORED. So, when he gets the call to come on a mission to get two ex-military boys out of Tunisia who‚Äôve been imprisoned while on vacation. John (and Gabriel), jump on the opportunity.¬† What they’ve been wanting, ¬†a mission, the chance to do something great and purposeful.

So!!! For a book set in Carthage I had to make some Mediterranean fare.¬†¬†For John and Gabriel’s adventure¬†in Tunisia I made¬†¬†a mezze plate with homemade tabbouleh, hummus, babaganoush and roasted veggies. To sip while enjoying the amazingness that¬†is this story, I picked a Greek Malagousia white wine that is just PERFECTION with this kind of food. Seriously, it’s just delicious. The peach, mango¬†and grassy overtones in this wine are fantastic. I actually had this wine over the weekend¬†at a fabulous Greek restaurant in Atlanta,¬†that my two girlfriends (also Sarah Black fans!!!!) and I ate¬†while attending¬†GRL 2013…We had kind of¬†gone off to a Patty Griffin concert for the night ūüôā¬†¬†The Gerovassilliou¬†IS kind of way above my normal budget, but at $20 dollars a bottle the 2010 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia might be the excpetion to my rule. And why the hell not? This is Sarah Black after all!¬†¬†If I’m gonna break my rule, it’ll be for her surely! Now that we have the makings of an amazing meal, we can go back to the book…

Babaganoush platter

Mezze with roasted beets and carrots, Bummus, Babaganoush, Tabbouleh and Olives.

Photo Credit: Reversewinesnob.com

Photo Credit: Reversewinesnob.com

This book is a complete adventure, the pace is fast and entertaining. We hit the ground running in Carthage. We move with John and Gabriel in Tunisia, doing the things that need to be done to get the boys home safe, and while we’re there we meet amazing characters that all make this world that she draws for us more colorful and kinder. Sarah Black has a style, a depth that is incomparable in this genre, she puts forth hard things, flawed people,  harsh realities…But also she shows us the real strength behind friendship, loyalty, love, beliefs, passion…The things that make this world kinder and better. The ways she blends them, and makes a story that is foremost about people and love, it just leaves me enthralled. The thought that above all the differences there are amongst people, the common ground is always more vast, we just have to make the choice of stepping on to it.  To see the world through the eyes that see where we can BE a better world than we have, wheere we can take the time to finds the places where we did good things.

That’s all on top of Gabriel and John themselves and that love they have.  Gabriel was like some sort avenging angel, and John was righteous and heroic. It’s not easy this life they are living at times, their love have costs. High costs, scary ones. But the choice of not having each other, is one that they can never take. I love these men, loved this book, the adventures were vivid, the things I learned enriching. I feel in love even more with the General, the Horse Lord and their tribe.  I hope above ALL HOPE I will get to read about Abdullah and Kim’s love story.

The special thing about Sarah Black is that she things about important complex¬†things, Like the faces of young gangbangers, or the plight of women in the East, and shows them to us against ourselves our own struggles. About learning to walk in our on paths, of deciding when and where we must be adults and how to finally let our childrend stand on their own two fee. She takes all that and strips it down to basic human things. That hard or difficult all the things in this world come down to basic feelings and solitary decisions. We either chose to the right thing, or we don’t. We choose hate, or we choose love. We run away, or we stand up and face the consequences of that we’ve done.

Beatiful book. Sarah Black, you leave without words sometimes.Totally and completely recommend. I’d MAKE people read it if I could.

The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari is available for Pre-Order here, and will be out on Dreamspinner Press on October 25th.

For the food I have three recipes that are total Veganite classics, I addeed a bit here or there to make them my own…I hope you enjoy.

Hummus

1 14.5 Oz of Organic/Low Sodium dhick peas drained and rinsed.

2 Tablesppons of natural tahini

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch)

1 clove of garlic minced in the microplane

1Two pitted Kalamata olives

4 Slices of pickled alapenos

Salt and Peper to taste.

Directions: Put all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. When done put on a small bowl. Top with a little olive oil and smoked paprika. Serve with warm pita bread.

Babaganoush

1 Large eggplant

2 Tablespoons of natural tahini

Juice of one lemon

1/4 cup of good extra olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch)

1 Garlic clove minced with the microplane.

1/2 teaspoon of fresh flat parsley, chopped very fine.

1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make holes in the eggplant with a fork in various places and put it in the oven for about 25 minutes turning over once. When the skin is blistering and the eggplant feels soft. Take out eggplant and let cool. Once it’s cool in inside peel off skin and out in the food processor with all ingredients except the parsley. Mix in the processor until smooth. Put in a small bowl and top with parsley and bit of olive oil. Serve with warm pita bread.

Ready for Babaganoush

Ready for Babaganoush

Tabbouleh

1 Cup of uncooked bulgur wheat

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon of fresh finely chopped mint

1 cucumber peeled, diced and cubed finely.

1 small white onion chopped dfinely.

2 roma tomatoes seeded and chopped.

1/4 cup of olive oil.

Juice of one lemon.

1 1/1 cups of water.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Put the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour in bulgur wheat, lower heat and then cover until cooked, about 20 minutes or until water has evaporated. Take off heat and let cool. Once the whear is completely cool, separately in a large bowl mix all the ingredients and add bulgur to them. Toss and put in fridge for an hour. Serve in a bowl.

To make the mezze platter place the two dips, bread, and tabbouled in a large platter all in separate bowls. Also have a plate of kalamata olives to eat. Enjoy with Gabriel, John, their tribe while sipping a well chilled glass of Malagousia.

Cheers and Happy Reading!