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)

Ingredients

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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Instructions

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!

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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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Floodgates by Mary Calmes and a Wonderful German Red

FloodgatesLGMary Calmes’ books are like pizza…You can never have it too many times, you are always up for seconds, and even when you have to add a bit of this or that because it’s missing just a little something, YOU still don’t stop until it is ALL GONE. And as soon as you’re done, you begin calculating how long  you need to wait before you can have it again, without looking like you have a problem. This story was no different. This book was longer than usual for her stand alone contemporaries, and the secondary characters were a lot more layered and flushed out in the this one than I remember in the past. There WERE some crazayzay twists and turns as there sometimes are in Mary’s books when law enforcement heroes are involved. And there were a few threads I felt were a little loose throughout the story, but overall for any Mary Calmes fan, this book will take care of that itch only Mary’s books can scratch.

For this book I picked up an unusual variety of wine for me, a German red. I had this wine a few weeks ago at a friend’s house and I LOVED it. He told me the store he picked it up, and I went and got it. I had been waiting for the right book to try it out. My choice is the 2011 Dornfelder by Villa Wolf winery. This wine is exquisite, it’s got a nice sweetness to it, and is surprisingly light. It has a deep cherry flavor, and even a little carbonation, it is NOT HARD at all to take this bottle down in one sitting people. It is right on the cusp of my spending limit at $14.99 a bottle, but if you are going to splurge this one is a good choice.  Since I made the comparison to pizza, I made some at home while I read the book, I will put a link to a delicious and simple recipe for a thin crust pizza at the end of the post.

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Tracy Brandt is having a pretty shitty day…His office got shot up, (and he did too) because his business partner got mistaken for his brother who happens to dabble in the criminal side of things. The criminals after the mysterious thug were clearly not every bright since they shot up the wrong people! So, there he is in the hospital, with half his family and friends losing it over what happened. On top of everything his cheating ex, Breckin, seems to think this would be a great time to ask Tracy to take him back.  To make matter worse, because getting shot apparently doesn’t guarantee a guy isn’t going to be annoyed to death, his brother’s ex-partner in the police force, and BFF makes an appearance as well. Cord Nolan, the guy that thought suggesting that Tracy ride his dick five minutes after meeting him was a great idea. *sighs* Tracy just needs the day to be over.

But Tracy’s bad day starts turning into a bad week pretty soon…Apparently there’s a crazy killer walking around San Francisco taking out all the people Breckin’s been with…And bad news comes in threes apparently because  his ex’s penis had been busy while they had been together it seems and there are multiple potential victims involved…It’s a big homicide case…And who could possibly be the detective assigned to the case you might ask?????? None other than Cord Nolan, it is up to the big man himself to keep Tracy safe. There has always been a bit of friction between Cord and Tracy, a lot of that has to do with the fact there is always a thick layer of sexual tension between the two men. Tracy was prepared to deflect Cord’s usual annoying attitude, but it seems Cord’s cynical manner has changed, and the guy seems a lot gentler than he used to be. He is getting VERY close to Tracy in ways that are a bit confusing…Is he interested in Tracy? Is he reading this wrong?  He must be…Cord is not the settling down kind. Never was.

This story had all the elements that are present in Mary’s novels, a very likable hero telling us his story, a leading man who is all about fierce protection and protectiveness, family and friends who are adoring and supportive. Lots of passion, lots of intense moments, and because this one is a crimmie, LOTS of CRAZY plot twists. The love story in this book did not have an immediate pay off, there was a slower progression, and things did not culminate until well into the book. I enjoyed this particularly because I got to spend a lot more time with Tracy and his family, who I liked a lot. His two brothers especially had  a lot of time in the book, and there was a lot we got to see and hear about them and how their presence in Tracy’s life affected him. I liked knowing how they perceived their brother, the danger he was in, and even how the had seen his relationship with Breckin, and how they felt about a possible future with Cord. It’s rare to get much perspective on the supporting characters, and even on the other MC when you are hearing from his love interest in the first person. This POV can be very insular, but I think Mary did a really great job of using dialogue with other characters as a tool to give us a better sense of what could be between Cord and Tracy.

The mystery in this story got a little nutty at times, and there were some twists here and there that didn’t add up for me, but I did enjoy the story overall. I was right there with Cord and Tracy. I specially liked the epilogue, it was really nice to get so much information of where the guys ended up. So yeah, classic Mary Calmes, with lots of passionate love confessions, devoted friends, creepy exes, fabuliscious possessive tops, and all the things that make her a perennial favorite.

If you’re a fan don’t even think on it go read it.

Floodgates is out today on Dreamspinner Press and is available here.

Now PIZZA! Like I mentioned I made some delish thin crust pizza to go with this book. I got the recipe of the Smitten Kitchen blog and it is a total winner. The toppings are not vegan though, if you want to some suggestions on toppings click here, for a link to my own pizza recipe post from a couple of months ago.

Hope you enjoy the food, wine and book choices for today, they are all delicious, one time might not be enough!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

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

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

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

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

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

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

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

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

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

Parting Shot is available at Dreamspinner Press

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

Easy Spicy Tuna Tartare (Serves 4 as a starter)

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura