Enlightment Series Book 1 and 2 by Joanna Chambers and a Funny Little French Pinot

provokedBeguiled

I LOVE historical romance. My very first experience with romance was reading Elizabeth Lowell novels as a teenager.  Later my full on dive into romance reading as a full on addiction (thank you kindle!) was with the Outlander Series  which is initially set in Scotland,  same place where Joanna Chambers has set her wonderful Enlightenment Trilogy (kilts!). I picked up the first two books last week, and read them fast and furiously, one after the other. I love a historical that actually focuses on the HISTORY, and gives me a story that not only appeals to my love of romance, but that enriches my knowledge of the time and place I’m reading about. Ms. Chambers did that incredibly well in her novels. I was fascinated with her retelling of King George’s visit to Scotland. Moreover, I truly loved getting to read about the different sides, and perceptions of what the visit was like… But I digress. The stars of these books are David Lauriston  advocate of the law, and Lord Murdo Balfour. The man who  from the moment they meet changed David  forever. These two were something. I loved the accuracy with which Joanna delved into the troubling nature of this type of relationship during that time.  Her accuracy writing that part of their story, did a lot for me in terms of relating and caring for both these men.

For this book I decided a French red was my safest option to stay close to what these boys would have been drinking those days. I found a delightful French Pinot Noir from Tussock Jumper Wines…This is a great brand. These guys travel all over the world to find wines in the regions that produce each variety best , bottle them and sell them under their label at VERY reasonable prices. What’s not to love?? The Tussock Jumper 2010 French Pinot Noir is incredibly delicious. It is spicy without being to overwhelming, and goes well with pretty much anything. For about $8.99 a bottle it is a STEAL.

joanna chambers

These books are nice to read together, mostly because the first one has a hell of a nail bitter for an ending (the second one does too for that matter!). There is much to love here guys, the writing itself was excellent. The character development was believable and coherent. Mostly though I enjoyed the fact that the author took her time with getting these boys warmed up to their love story. This book is set in 1820s Scotland, homosexuality is not only illegal, but it is considered HIGHLY immoral, damnig, an abomination. Gay men had to deal with this perception of their nature not just from society, but from themselves. That is something you DO NOT get over easily or quickly. David struggled with his inclinations. Being homosexual had cost him a dear friend, and in some ways he felt it had taken some of his father’s regard. Those are hard things to deal with, specially when you love and respect your family.

Something else I enjoyed was the political intrigue in the book. This book is set during a critical time in the history of Scotland. General Suffrage is a heated issue, and people sit strongly on both sides of the fence. David being the son of a farmer stands with the people…Murdo he’s an aristocrat, and even though he is definitely a man of intelligence and decency, it’s hard to separate him from the opulence in which he lives.  Murdo, unlike David has no issues with his own nature, he is also very pragmatic about who he is, and the time he lives in. So, despite the fact that he completely accepts who he is, and is not bothered by his attraction to other men, he still considers marriage as a woman to be a possibility for him. David on the other hand, he cannot fathom being duplicitous in any way, with anyone. All these things are surrounding them as they get closer, and more intimate. It’s complicated.

In the first novel of the trilogy, Provoked, Murdo and David meet for the first time as travelers stopping for the night at an inn. They are heading in opposite directions, there is an immediate attraction between them. They have a quick and passionate encounter, which they both assume is a one time thing. Not long after their paths cross again. One of David’s mentors is an acquaintance of Murdo’s, once they see each other it’s hard to stay away. They meet again and again, the more the see of each other, the harder it is for David to keep himself from succumbing to his desires. Murdo is all for the trysts, and instigates as much as possible, but the further things go with David the clearer it is to him that this is a lot more than just a physical thing.

At the same time, a friend of David’s. Euan, the brother of one of a group of radicals he defended has come to him asking for help locating a government spy. The man, apparently was who gave up his brother and friends, and ultimately resulted in two being executed and the rest transported to Australia.  Euan wants revenge and David feels obligated to at least help him find out the truth about the supposed spy. Things begin to add up, and they are looking a lot like Murdo may have something to do with it…What to do? Clearly the honorable thing. For David, there is never another choice.

This book has a morose feel to it. The opening scene is pretty grim, and in a lot of ways it sets the tone. There is much happening in David’s life that is troubling. He is still young, finding his footing in his profession and life. He is also desperately hoping that his sinful nature won’t cause to relapse…He knows it will. It’s who he is. He’s given up hope that he can ever be normal in that way. It make’s him feel hopeless.  As for Murdo things for him are also confusing, he clearly is strongly drawn to David, but the man frustrating. Yet he can’t stay away.

In the second book, Beguiled. We meet up with David after a long hiatus. Things were very tense at the end of the last book, and that whole situation is now under the bridge. King George is about to visit Scotland, and all of Edinburgh is in a frenzy. He runs in to Lord Murdo (who he has been out of touch with for awhile), who is in town as part of the entourage to host the king. Instantly they are drawn to each other just as powerfully as the last time. In the time since he last saw Murdo, David has changed how he sees himself and what he wants, WHO he wants. He is a lot more accepting of himself, and this leads them to rekindle their affair.

All is not well though, his good friend Elizabeth, daughter of his friend and mentor, seems to be in trouble in her marriage. David feels responsible for the situation. So, when his old friend Euan shows up back in town and offers to help Elizabeth escape her abusive husband, David’s sense of honor once again pushes him to put his life at risk in order to help his friend. Murdo is all over the situation of course, since he seems helpless in his attachment to David.

The tone for this second book is not as dark and the romance is certainly up a level or TEN from the first installment. David is all in with Murdo and that leads the Lord to seek out more and more of the man he can’t seem stop wanting.  Once again things get pretty intense in the final chapters. I ended at the edge of my seat, and DESPERATE for the next one. These books are certainly the right kind of historical romance. They are beautifully set, consistent in the ways characters behave and evolve, and most of all, full of dramatic and romantic gestures.

The Enlightenment Series book 1 and 2 are available for sale at Samhain Publishing and the third book, to be released on May of this year will be available for pre-order soon.

I hope you pick up this series, it is FABULOUS even for those who don’t go for historicals. The wine is also pretty awesome if you find it!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Author Interview with Johanna Parkhurst: Her new book, her inspiration and how a character forced her to write an LGBT story.

18743452Earlier this week I posted my review for Here’s to You, Zeb Pike by new author Johann Parkhurst. It is a Young Adult book, out today on Harmony Ink press. I loved this story and strongly encourage any readers out there to give it a try, it will not let you down. I was so touched by the story, that I went full on stalkerazzi and contacted Johanna and asked if she could do an interview for release day. She kindly answered my question and so here is my chat with her.

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Johanna this is the first work that I’ve read from you, and I loved it. In the Author Notes you talk about your experience as a high school teacher, and how your students have inspired you. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for Dusty?
Johanna Parkhurst: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed Here’s to You, Zeb Pike.
Johanna Parkhurst: Sooo many students have inspired Dusty–and Emmitt. That’s probably a large reason I love these characters so much; they represent so many year of so many amazing students.
The original inspiration for Dusty and his siblings was a family I worked with my first years of teaching. They were really likeable kids struggling with parents who wanted to be good parents but didn’t always know how. As Dusty changed and grew over multiple iterations of this book, a myriad of other students inspired the way he talks, his attitudes about his emerging sexuality, and his general outlook on life. Dusty’s lines in the beginning of the book about how easy school is for him are basically lines one of my students said to me the as I was re-writing that section of the story.
TB: LGBT YA is I think one of the most valuable genres to focus in for an author, but it’s not exactly mainstream. What made you want to write a story with LGBT characters?
JP: Another fabulous Harmony author Madison Parker (www.madisonparklove.com) is featuring a blog I wrote on how…wait for it…Dusty came out to me. No, seriously. I actually didn’t intend, when I started writing this book, to write a story with LGBT characters. Emmitt and Dusty just ended up being so perfect together–the more scenes I wrote about their friendship, the more I realized that they weren’t just friends.
I will say that what pushed me to try and publish this story, and what has pushed me to write more LGBT characters since, is my belief that kids need more books featuring LGBT characters in their lives. I get very upset when schools purposely avoid putting LGBT characters into their curriculum and libraries. Books are kids’ windows into the world. If you don’t give them a window into the world of LGBT characters, you’re essentially telling them there is something wrong or abnormal about being LGBT (whether you meant to send that message or not). For both the sake of promoting identity exploration AND for the sake of building acceptance in our society, our children need to read books that expose them to all kinds of different people and ideas. I’m excited that LGBT lit is finally becoming more mainstream in the YA lit world, and I hope that trend continues.
TB: If you could pick something, what would be the most important reader would take away from your book?
JP: There are a lot of things I hope readers take away from this story, but the most important one is probably the lesson Dusty learns from Zeb Pike…so I’ll let readers do their own exploration of the book and find out what that lesson is. 😉
TB: My blog is a little different, with my book reviews I normally make a dish. For Dusty I wanted to make some comfort food. I came up with a Vegan Mac n’ Cheeze and Walnut and Lentil Loaf that I find delicious, but might make Dusty roll his eyes and beg to be taken out of Northeast, ASAP! What do you think would be the ideal meal for Dusty?
JP: After years of scraping by on Ramen, I think Dusty gets excited whenever someone puts any kind of decent food in front of him (the first time he has Jack’s fried chicken was such a fun scene to write). He might balk at the Walnut and Lentil Loaf–Dusty’s a kid who likes his meat.
I love that you made Dusty comfort food. He definitely needs it!
TB: I fell completely in love with Dusty and his story. Will we see more of Dusty or his story finished?
JP: There is a very good chance you will see more of Dusty in the future! A warning, though: any future chapters in this verse will most likely be from Emmitt’s perspective. I love Emmitt, and he deserves some time in the spotlight.
TB: Are you working on any new books? If you are can you tell us a little bit about that?
JP: I have another YA book I’ve been working on that’s much darker, in many ways, than Dusty’s story. The main character in that one, JJ, is struggling with the death of his parents and a lot of anger issues. I do love writing angsty characters, but JJ’s been bringing even me to new levels of angst. I’m not sure what his publishing future is–we’ll have to see.

Well there you have it folks, a little “get to know you” with this wonderful new author. My thanks to Johanna for gracefully visiting with me. I encourage you guys to go out and get this book today. You will not regret it for a second.

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.

The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles and the first Red of the Season.

17730586 I’d just like to start by saying that this book….Lived up to the HYPE and then some!

Let’s see what can I say that already hasn’t been said already? First off, this book REALLY IS a great read. It’s a fabulous mystery/horror story with all the elements that I look forward to when I open up a thriller. The author HAS to be a Sherlock Holmes/HP Lovecraft fan, because the mix of disturbing/creepy, fast paced adventure, humor, with an engrossing complex mystery that spilled into an, for lack of better words, extremely appealing horror story was absolutely top notch…And then the romance. That’s where this author went for “builp-up” that crescendoed to a breathless love scene that left me equally satisfied AND wanting more. The coming together here was TOTALLY worth waiting for. Perfectly timed, it wasn’t a distraction from the mystery (which was the real meat of the story) and didn’t at all feel gratuitious it felt like a REWARD!

It had been A LONG WHILE since I read a book in M/M that I had this much fun with. The setting was fantastic (so creepy and interesting). The writing superb, the characters palpable and very much alive on the page), the pacing just right…Everything made for a real treat. That’s all independent of the fact that this is a DEBUT novel!

Now that the nights are getting chillier and the evenings are getting LONGER and darker…I needed a wine to go with this book that would STAND UP to the blood curling delight that was this story. So, to sip while I read about Lucien and Stephen’s adventures in the English coutryside I chose the  2010 Garnache from Viña Borgia wineries in Spain. This wine has incredible depth, and it’s just bursting with delicious raspberry and mulberry notes, with a finish that is surprisingly bright. It is EXTREMELY drinkable and at $6.99 a bottle you cannot ask for more out of a bottle of wine. PERFECT to go with this story that is just FULL of deliciousness. Now more on the story! imagesCAZL430F

Lucien Vaudrey has come back to the UK after 17 years in China to deal with the aftermath of both his father and brother commiting suicide. Leaving him as sole heir of their estate and rightful holder of a Lordship. Lucien is not up to this, his relationship with his family was not a good one. His brother was a monster and his father his enabler. He hates the home he grew up in, and to make things worse he is pretty sure someone has put a curse on him…That’s where Stephen Day comes in. Day is a “practitioner” of magic and has come with high recommendations…Lucien is not a fan of witches or sorcerers, but things are getting weirder and he’s afraid for his life. His faithful companion and valet Merrick agrees that something needs to happen soon, because Lucien seems to be losing control of himself.

Once Day comes into the picture he helps with the immediate curse on Lucien he quickly realizes that there are powerful things in motion that are a threat to Lucien. Even though Stephen should hate everyone with the Vaudrey last name he is a man who believes in justice and he cannot walk away from the evil that he sees sorrounding the man. Stephen wants to stay in Piper (the Vaudrey family estate) and figure what is with the Magpies ALL OVER THE PLACE and what’s more there is way too much juju going for a little countryside town?!?! There’s also the fact that EVERYONE hates the Vaudreys…Also Lucien’s advances are getting harder to resist. Once Lucien starts getting under Stephen’s skin he is drawn to the man more and more…After all just because he’s fair minded doesn’t mean he can’t fall for the charm of the rakish Lord Crane.

So, yeah this book was entirely enjoyable in every sense of the word. I loved every second, and I’m super excited to hear there will be more from Stephen, Lucien and Merrick the valet/sidekick extraoridnare. I look forward to more intricate, fast paced adventures with a HEALTHY dose of hard core toppy smexing…Seriously what more could a girl ask for?!?!?!

I HIGHLY HIGHY recommend this one,  it’s for sale at Amazon.com so go there and treat yoursef to an absolutely winner combo with this book and wine pairing!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura