Control by Cardeno C & Mary Calmes…No Fish “Tuna” Salad.

ControlLGI do love when Mary Calmes delves into the paranormal realm. Her shifters usually bank on every possible angle to make them toppily delicious…She also writes a sexy devil of a bottom that totally annihilates all of his mate’s control. This story in some ways is a bit of a change of pace to that. First of all Mary Calmes and Cardeno C teamed up to write the story of Vy Aleknos and Robert Cimino.  I have read almost everything Mary has written, but this was my first time reading a Cardeno C story. I was interested to see how their styles would match up, and if I would still able to get that Calmes brand of writing I know and love. I thought they’re joint effort worked beautifully, I could certainly recognize Mary’s style in Vy’s character, and enjoyed reading Robert’s POV as well.

For these guys I wanted to do something strictly vegan, but with a bit of twist. Robert was a vegan, and seemed to love the fake meat products. I am one as well (like 90% of the time anyways, I love Cheese too much!) but I don’t particularly enjoy the tofurky like products…What to do for food then? I remembered I have an AMAZING recipe for a No Fish “Tuna” Salad which is completely vegan, no mayo, no tuna, no nothing. I paired it with a glass of Malbec, mostly because it was there, and I think Malbec pretty much goes with anything.  The 2012 Portillo Malbec from Salentin Winery in Argentina is full of flavor, has intense cherry overtones and hints of vanilla that make it a very nice wine to sip. It goes great with spicy or peppery foods, and for $9.99 it’s fantastic value.

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Back to the guys. Vy Aleknos is a hawk shifter and the leader of his kettle. His entire life is fiercely connected to his animal side, to his role as the leader of his community. He was born to that job, and he made sure from the moment he assumed the role  never to disappoint those under him. He is as much man as he is hawk. He is well loved, by his kettle, but nevertheless there is an emptiness in him. He is sorrounded by family and friends who love him, yet there is a part of him that he can’t share with anyone. He can’t show vulnerabilities, weaknesses, doubts. He can’t ever reveal that he yearns to be taken care of some time, that he has a deep aching need to let go and let someone else take over. When Robert Cimino walks into his life, he finally can sense that what he has been waiting for has arrived.

Robert is a scientist, he has been living out of a tent for his entire life, and has no plans to change anytime soon. He’s come to work in Vy’s little town in Colorado and as soon as he sees the slight, blond man he is drawn to him with everything he’s got. All the feelings and instincts that Robert has kept tampered down from when he was a young child are trying to bubble up to the surface.  Robert is a bear shifter, but he has no pack, or has even shifted since he was a kid. The animal part of himself is dangerous, and he is fearful that he may not be able to control it, if he allows it to come out.

The thing is once Robert and Vy discover their connection it is hard to stay away. Robert is struggling in many ways, he has never contemplated staying in one place, but Vy embraces his animal side and won’t have a mate that doesn’t. They struggle with meeting half way, Vy is proud and quick tempered, while Robert is easygoing and sensitive.  Then there’s the drama within Vy’s kettle, and an outside wolf pack. Is it realistic to even consider making a go of things for them?

I enjoyed this novel a lot, it definitely had the Mary Calmes touch, and I really liked Cardeno C’s writing as well. Robert and Vy were awesome to read in their own POVs, and the tones and styles complemented each other well. This is pretty straighforward shifter fare in terms of pack politics and what not. The town and supporting characters were also very reminiscent of Mary’s other shifter books. I enjoyed the juxtapositions of heros’ personalities, and the inner conflicts both Vy and Robert faced to be with each other. I also liked that their human sides were pretty well aligned with their inner animals. I loved how cuddly Robert was and how prickly Vy could be. I would TOTALLY love a follow up book on the Alpha of the enemy wolf pack! There are at least two more books that could come out of this one.

Recommend, for those looking for a sweet, easy, PNRish read. Control is available for purchase here.

No Fish “Tuna” Salad

(adapted from Carrie On Vegan Blog)


2 cups garbanzo beans
4 celery stalks
2 tablespoons unsalted tahini
2 tablespoon pickle relish
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
½ teaspoon white miso
¼ cup red onion

1 teaspoon of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
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Rinse and drain garbanzo beans and place into a medium-sized bowl. Chop celery and add to bowl. Add tahini, relish, mustard, miso, onion, lemon juice and salt and pepper to the bowl and stir to combine. Use the flat side of a fork to smash some of the beans. Serve over chopped romaine as a salad entrée, wrapped in a tortilla for a wrap, or on toasted bread for a sandwich.
Hope you enjoy the book, the food and the wine pairing! All three are very much worth revisiting soon, at least for me.

Cheers and Happy Reading!


Salvage by Con Riley ” Meaty” Vegan Chili and a delish Argentinian Malbec.

18345321 Con Riley has been a steady auto-buy author for me since I read her first novel After Ben which to me is one of the best stories on grief, loss and moving on I’ve ever read, M/M genre notwithstanding. Salvage the first stand-alone novel from Ms. Riley was a for sure read on my list. This book certainly lived up to the kind of writing I expect from this writer, it is a story about loyalty, love, home, mostly though it’s about forgiveness…Many kinds, forgiving yourself, family, friends, circumstances…Even the place you grew up in.

Forgiveness and going home. Claiming your home, the place and the people that make it real for you and how to make them  yours. I liked this read a lot and felt comforted by it. By the setting, and the easy way the author portrayed that sometimes just letting go is what makes you the most grounded.

For such a warm book, set in a cold cold place I had to make something that says COMFORT, what is better than a hearty stew with a robust red wine to round things off?  This time I made a delicious and seriously hearty “put meat on YOUR bones without having to actually eat any vegan chili”, for the wine I chose an Argentinian 2011 Malbec from Colores del Sol Winery. This Malbec is very robust, but, not at all tannic and just leaves a lot of room to enjoy the savory flavors of the chili. It goes well with the richness of the beans and tomatoes, it is a fabulous food-pairing wine. At $8.99 a bottle it’s a great deal.

malbec-2009Now back to the story…

Gabriel Cooper left his home in Minnesota after an accidental fall almost paralized his twin sister and made things in his family feel broken. His home had always been a source of safety for Gabe, but things changed and he felt that it was best to move away. He left for college to San Diego with his best friend Jamie and tried as much as he could to stay away.

Five years later when he finally was forced to come back to care for his father, Gabriel is torn between being lulled back to a home and a life that he yearned for and his misguided sense of obligation to his best friend Jamie. Gabe’s ties to his best friend are based on guilt and remorse…He has so many of the good things in him that he learned from his father, but after feeling like he had failed his dad and sister he latched on to the one relationship in his life that would never fail to make him feel needed.   He’s conflicted and that inner struggle won’t allow himself to admit that he has missed his home, his father’s grumpiness is not helping matters either. Then there’s his sister, whose future was totally altered by the crippling injuries from the fall yet she is happy and hopeful for the future, glad to be alive. He loves the work in his dad’s architecural salvage yard…He’s not sure if he still has a place there, but the ease of it is hard to ignore. It’s becoming glaringly obvious that Gabe has a lot to think about when it comes to the place where he really belongs?

And then in comes Scott Stark…The man comes into the yard on a stormy day with a little boy on his hip, desperately looking for his little niece and his instinct to lend a hand pretty much SEALED HIS FATE. Scott was barely hanging on, he’s come back to an old family lake house to escape from serious family problems, and to protect his niece and nephew from the  fallout. He had no one, but Gabe, his dad Coop, and sister Ariel, like they always did were ready to lend a hand. Slowly they earn Scott’s and the children’s trust, they are taken into the warmth and steadiness of their family and in the process for the first time, really, Gabe is starting to see himself as someone who could be an equal partner and lover to someone who can have his back as much as he would have theirs.

Good for what ails you...

Good for what ails you…

This book like everything I’ve read from Con Riley had a slow burn, they are sedate stories with powerful themes threaded through them. There are six very strong relationships that go  through transformations in the story. Gabe and Jamie. Gabe and his father. Gabe and his sister. Gabe and Scott. Gabe and his hometown. San Diego Gabe and Minnesota Gabe. Gabe was a young man when tragedy struck his life and the hurt it cause made everything that he knew for sure change. His dad’s love and his place in his family. Once Gabe understood where he stood and what was important things became clearer.

One of the toughest things in this book for me was Jamie’s character. He annoyed me, and Gabe’s response to him annoyed me more…But there was point to the whole mess that made complete sense in the end. All in all this book was as solid as anything I’ve read from this author and the erotica was PRIMO. Very sexy…VERY VERY.

Recommend for sure.

Salvage is for sale at Dreamspinner Press.


“Meaty” Vegan Chiili

1 Poblano Pepper (Chopped)

1 Large Onion (Chopped)

2 teaspoons of tomato paste

1 Garlic clove minced

2 15.5oz cans of black beans drained and rinsed

1 15.5oz can of pinto beans drained and rinsed

2 15.5oz cans of diced tomatoes (preferably the kind for chili)

1 packet of vegetarial chili seasoning (I used Simply Organic)

1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of oregano

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup of frozen corn

4 tablespoons of bulgur wheat

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

1 cup of water

Directions: In an skillet heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot sautee the onions, peppers and garlic with tomato paste  with half of chili seasoning packet until fragant (about two minutes). Take the mixture and put it in your slow cooker. To the mixture add the rest of the ingredients, cover the pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours. Every two hours stir and add more water if the stew is too thick. Serve with sliced avocados and any other preferred chili toppings.

I hope you like this recipe. it’s a fabulous cold weather dish, and with the Colores del Sol Malbec it’s a lovely meal to have while reading about two dear men finding love and home in the Minnesota winter.

Cheers and Happy Reading!