Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford and Cauliflower Rice with Baked Tofu…And MOAR Rosé

Tequila MockingbirdLG (1)WOW! Well it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything…Life takes over and I one ends up doing all the drinking and eating offline. The HORROR. To get me back in the groove I’ve got three posts planned over then next few days, the first is my review for the third installment of the Sinners Series by the most lovely Rhys Ford. This book Tequila Mockingbird brings us back to the unlikely tribe of Irish cops and wayward rock stars. We meet up with the guys in San Francisco a not long after the end of the second book and we get right into it.

This time around Connor the oldest of the Morgan boys gets hit hard by the love bug when he arrives at the scene of a crime and encounters Forest Ackerman the adoptive son of the man’s whose murder he is there to investigate. Forest is skittish and quiet and brings out Connor’s protective side like no one has ever done before. He wants to care for him, the thing is he is not really gay…

For this book I wanted to make something with and Asian flavor since so many of Rhys’ books are set in San Francisco with lots of glimpses from Chinatown I thought the Crispy Peanut Tofu with Rice Cauliflower from The Minimalist Baker would be PERFECT for this one. I paired this yummy dish with a lovely South African Rose wine that has made it’s way to my table many a time already this summer  the 2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé quite frankly wins EVERYTHING. It is delicious, smooth to drink, fruity and fragrant without sweetness. For $9.00 a bottle it’s a win-win.

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Onto the story. So we catch up with the Morgan brood once more and this time the hot older brother is the star of the show. Connor Morgan meets Forest Ackerman while investigating the murder of the man’s father. From the get go Forest awakens feelings in Connor the he just cannot explain. Not only is the man clearly in need of someone to care for him, but he looks at Connor like he is the solution to all his problems. The sexy slight drummer is setting off something in Connor that so far he’s only “seen” happen to his brother and cousin with THEIR mates, but could never imagine happening to him. So when bad things start happening around Forest’s home and business, and it becomes clear whoever killed his dad is out to get him too, Connor steps in and takes the man to his home. No way is he going to stand by and let him get hurt. Sure it’s possesive and a little crazy since HE IS STRAIGHT, but who cares, it’s not like there isn’t a precedent in the family.

Despite the intensity of his feelings Connor is torn, he never envisioned himself with a  man. All he aspired to be was just like his dad, and being gay just did not fit with that plan. He has to make peace with this because there is no way that he will be the reason for more hurt in Forest’s life. The man has not had it easy, if it weren’t for Frank that man who took him off the streets and gave him the closest thing he knew for a home he would have never made it past his teens. There is a lot to soothe and clean inside of Forest’s heart and Connor knows he is the man meant to do it.

As for Forest never saw this Irish cop coming, one moment he was living his regular (well as close to regular as it was with Frank) and the next his whole life had been blown up, literally. He is all alone in the world(other than his mother who doesn’t exactly count as someone who would care)  and that feeling of being bereft and completely on his own makes him want to seek the protection he can see Connor wants to offer. He’s only ever had one person who ever cared about him at all, and putting his trust in Connor, the prospect of letting him know the ugly things in his past feels very scary. He feels like he has to though, the closer they get the more Forest feels like he’s found the man and the family he’s always wanted. He has doubts of course, because Connor and his family, they are AMAZING, so wholesome and perfect and how could he a rentboy whose own mother would sell him for a few bucks fit into that perfect picture? But the more he gets to know Connor, his family and the two men who have recently joined the brood the more he realizes these people could not have been more perfect for a family.

This book had all the elements that make Rhys’ writing so damn readable. Two heroes who are intensely into each other, good plot, interesting mystery and a lot of opportunities to visit with characters that we deeply care for. The erotica was top notch incredibly sexy and yet not even a hit of discordance to the tone of the book.  Solid writing as always. Will be anxiously waiting for the next one! At this point I’m hoping to get adopted by the Morgan clan myself!

‘Tis a good one. Recommend.

Tequila Mockingbird is available for purchase here.

Peanutty Sauce Bakes Tofu with Cauliflower Rice

This recipe was borrowed from the fabulous Minimalist Baker blog.

Ingredients:

For the stir fry:

  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu, organic & non-GMO if possible*
  • 1 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
For the sauce:
  • 1.5 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (gluten free for GF eaters)
  • 3.5 – 4 Tbsp light brown sugar (or honey if not vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter (natural, salted)

Add ons:

  • baby bok choy, green onion, red pepper, broccoli

Directions

Begin by draining tofu 1.5 hours before you want your meal ready. If your block of tofu is larger than 12 ounces, trim it down. To drain the tofu wrap in in a couple layers of paper towel and then into a kitchen towel. Put in under something heavy. I use a cast iron pan and weigh pan down with a bag of flour. Keep it like that for about 30 minutes

Whiele draining the tofu preheat oven t 400 degrees F. Once tofu is dry uncover it and cube it.  Place it on a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes to dry/firm the tofu. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool.

Tofu after baking.

Tofu after baking.

Prepare sauce by whisking together ingredients until combined. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

Add cooled tofu to the sauce and stir to coat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes to saturate the tofu and infuse the flavor.

In the meantime, shred your cauliflower into rice in the food processor. You don’t want it too fine, sort of the size of cooked rice. Set aside.

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart

 

Mince garlic if, and prepare any veggies you want to add to the dish. I basically cut the bok choy in half and brushed it with some soy sauce and sesame seed oil and sauteed them for two minutes on a skillet. Set veg aside and keep warm.

Bok-Choy

Bok-Choy

Use a slotted spoon to spoon tofu into the preheated pan. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to coat. Cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes until browned. It will stick to the pan a bit, just . Remove from pan and set aside and cover to keep warm. In a clean pan (could be the one you used for the tofu after a rinse) add a drizzle of sesame oil to the pan, then add garlic and cauliflower rice and stir. Put cover on to steam the “rice.” Cook for about 5-8 minutes until slightly browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Then add a few spoonfuls of sauce to season and stir. To serve top cauliflower with veggies and tofu. Serve with any leftover sauce, and enjoy with the your glass of Rosé.

Hope you enjoy the recipe and wine!!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

The Silence of the Stars by Kate McMurray w Pasta Frutti di Mare and a fab French White.

SilenceoftheStars[The]LGKate McMurray does something in her books that I love. She mixes culture, setting and characters in a way that make her stories rich and interesting every single time. This book, a spin off  The Stars the Tremble,  is a beautiful love story of two men who have not been able to find what they are looking for. Sandy and Everett in each other not only find love, but they find ways to heal, so that they can build the life they always wanted.

Kate’s book always appeal to me because she writes about things I love, like baseball, the opera, or the magic of New York city. Sandy and Everett’s story had the music, and New York City as lovely complements to their romance. This story as charming as it was, also dealt (very well I thought) with PTSD and the struggle with which so many men and women in this country live with when they return from war. There is so much stigma in admitting to being damaged on the inside. Voicing that your head and your heart might never heal even after your body has is something that is just not done. Sandy came back from war broken inside and he just powered through all that pain. He needed to heal and forgive himself and Everett needed to trust his heart to someone that could really treasure it, just as it was.

For this book I wanted to make something a little fancy, like Everett could be, but also fast and simple like Sandy would be able to make if he was in the mood to do a little romancing. So, I came up with a quick and SUPER easy pasta e frutti di mare (pasta with seafood) recipe. I paired it with a lovely French white blend wine that is absolutely perfect to enjoy a seafood dish. The Domaine de Pajot Les Quatre Cepages is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Gros Manseng, it’s a crisp and lightly fruity wine with no sweetness. A wonderful complement to the dish, for about $9.00 a bottle also a great deal!

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Now the story. Sandy has never been very lucky in love. He was in the closet for most of his 20s and 30s while he served in the military. Once he was discharged after a injury during active combat he came back home to NYC and found a good job working with his best friend Mike in his contracting business, he was settled and even bought a house to fix up. But love, it didn’t really pan out. He couldn’t seem to get past one night stands or relationships with men that wanted to change him. After his last breakup Sandy was starting to feel a bit hopeless that he might never have the family he always wanted. That is until Sandy gets to his new contracting job in Brooklyn and meets his new client. Everett Blake, is a violinist and also the hottest thing Sandy has ever seen. They are both on the same page with the attraction and pretty soon they are having a hot and heavy affair.

Both Sandy and Everett can sense that they can fall pretty hard for each other but they are unsure. They each have their insecurities, Sandy still struggles with the memories from his time in Afghanistan and Everett is still trying to figure out what it is that makes him end up in relationships that make him feel so bad about who he is and what makes him happy. They are reluctant to bet on each other. Meanwhile Sandy is fixing up his house with his own hands and is trying to hold on to his dream of filling it up with family, a man he loves and children to raise together. But things are not looking too good for Sandy’s dream, even after meeting Everett and how good they are together. Maybe he’s just too damaged.

This book dealt with a pretty heavy subject, but it did so in a way that was respectful and not melodramatic which I appreciated. Sandy and Everett were falling in love,  and that involved them getting to know the wonderful as well as the not so nice sides to each other. Everett parent’s were snobby and judgmental, while Sandy was struggling to move past his trauma. Things were far from perfect, but they made it work, because they were in love and their future would be much better together than it would be apart.

I love Kate’s writing, it’s quiet and thoughtful and she gives her characters so much depth. Her men are all flesh and blood, and they have a vulnerability that always affects me. In this series particularly I really enjoyed the contrast of her heroes, the blue collar guys with the classical musicians, so unlikely and yet they were just right for each other.  She just goes to the core of what is most important, love…There is always common ground to be discovered and explore when love is the foundation. All in all I really enjoyed this book. I just plain love Kate’s writing.

Definitely recommend.

The Silence of the Stars is available for purchase here.

Pasta Frutti di Mare

1 pack of spaghetti or linguine

3 garlic cloves minced

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped

1 cup of white wine (I used the Domaine the Pajot!)

1 dozen large raw shrimp peeled with tails

1 can of chopped clams with juice

1 can of mussels in juice

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon spoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water.

salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a hot sautee pan put the butter, oil and garlic at medium-high heat. After a minute add the garlic, sautee for a minute stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the shrimp and cook for two minutes after they look cooked take out and set aside. In the same pan add the wine,  mussels and clams with juice to the mix.

photo (7)

 

Make sure you mix in the garlic and butter on the pan to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to simmer and cook for five minutes or so. Once the mix is fragrant add the cornstarch and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the shrimp back to the sauce, toss in pasta and parsley. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Hope you enjoy the book and give the food and wine a try. They are all quite delicious and perfect for these summer months!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

 

High and Tight by Vanessa North and more SUMMER WINE PICKS!!

This was lovely. Seriously packed the stuff I love in a story, it had the angst,  the “latch on to your heart and don’t let go” characters, and it had STYLE. Yeah that’s right style, those boys were smoking, those tattoos!! *swoons*. What’s more these heroes were approachable and present from the word. I was IN IT with them from the moment I started reading. Even when fuckery ensued-because there WAS angst-I was still with them.  Harris and Adam had long hard history together. They’d had a lot of good, but there was lots and lots of bad and sad. Adam had to step up and show Harris he would be the man he deserved, and Harris had to to trust this time it would be what he had always wished for.

For this story I chose another Vinho Verde mostly because it was a fast and lovely read, that left me yearning for more, but not so much that it affected my enjoyment. That pretty much sums my experience with vinho verde, goes too fast, but it’s SO NICE while you’re having it. I chose the Vera Rose for another recent title and I put the white with this one. It is delicious and a perfect sampling of a verde, if a bit on the expensive side. Regardless it’s a nice treat, the 2013 Vera Vihno Verde is about $10 a bottle and definitely one to try if you are curious about this wine variety.

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Now to the story. Adam Walker has been a Navy pilot for the last 12 years, he LOVES his job. He loves his experiences in it, he loves what he’s achieved. It’s cost him dearly though. It cost him 12 years in the light with Harris. Harris King who he met at 17 and fell madly in love with, he was locked in heart and soul with Harris from the first and it never abated. Harris loved him back too, gave Adam EVERYTHING he had, loved him like he needed. But never in the light, always a secret, because Adam couldn’t risk his career.

Harris was understanding with Adam all those years as much as he could, because he knew as soon as it was OK for them to be together Adam would come for him. The loved each other so much, fulfilled each other so completely it was like they were inside each other. Harris KNEW they were meant to be together forever, even if it hurt to hide, he believed in their happy ending. But once Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and there was nothing from Adam but radio silence that belief turned into anger. Adam broke Harris’ love.

When Adam shows up for the holidays unexpectedly, you’d think Harris would relish the chance to throw just how how far he’s moved on…Except the only thing that has never worked for him is denying Adam. Being the one person that can give him just what he needs has always made Harris whole. He wishes he could stomp on Adam’s heart just like he did his. He wishes a lot of things…But Adam isn’t taking NO for an answer and Harris never could turn his back the love of his life.

I don’t have much more to say other than I completely enjoyed this novel, the heroes were layered and surprisingly flushed out for such a short book. There were layers upon layers of feeling, things were tough for these guys to work out, but I stuck with them, because I believed they had earned their happy ending. The erotica was top notch, the humor kept things from getting too angsty, and the tougher moments felt warranted and integral to their journey. No gratuitousness here, and I really appreciated it.

I totally recommend this one will be looking for more from Vanessa North in the future.

High and Tight will be released from Carina Press on May 9th and can be pre-ordered here.

Hope you look for the wine and the book, both well worth exploring.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

 

Beyond Duty by SJD Peterson with a Spanish Monastrell and Pasta w Fresh Basil Pesto and Summer Squash.

BeyondDutyLGOk first of all FORGET the food and wine people, this cover right here…It’s what’s for dinner!! Holy shit! How delicious is THAT? I mean for serious…Look at them!! It’s like “awwwwww” and then “DAYUM!!!” all at once. I veritably LOVE this cover. Paul Richmond pretty much captured the essence of the story PERFECTLY. Right! Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system let’s move on to the story and libations I’ve got for you today. Beyond Duty by SJD Peterson is a story of two men who are coming to the end of their military careers, Gunny and Mac have both served the Marine Corps honorably and now faced with the repeal of the “Don’s Ask, Don’t Tell” law they are contemplating their future and thinking about all the ways that leaving the military will change their life and their relationship. These two men are so dear and so in love, they felt so genuine, I just couldn’t stop reading. So, for Mac and Gunny who were salt of the earth with just a liiiiiiiiiiittle bit of a naughty side, I had to pick a strong wine with depth and lots of flavor, but without a lot of fuss. My choice was the 2010 Tarima Monastrell a Spanish wine that is very flavorful, not too complicated and light enough it makes for a very drinkable glass during the summer months. The Tarima Monastrell goes for a about $8.00 a bottle making it a perfect choice. Now for the food, I wanted to go simple and delicious…Mac and Gunny are not exactly gourmand’s but Mac did have his Suzy Homemaker streak and loved making food for his man, he also was a gardener! So I made a delicious pasta with homemade a Fresh Basil Pesto and Summer Squash which would be a perfect meal for these guys. A beautiful dinner  that’s easy to make and perfect for the summer.

But more on the food later, on to the story.

Delicious and simple.

Delicious and simple.

There is some serious bad-assery going on in this book…For firsts, I’m going to say it…SJD Peterson should just write military guys because she does it right. I loved these dudes, and not because they were all “I’m a Marine and I eat people’s spines and then fuck like a Semi on crack”…Nope, not at all these guys were sweet and in love, finishing up their service and ready to tackle the rest of their lives, even if the prospect of finally coming out and embracing life as a “marriage” was kind of scary.For seconds, Mac and Gunny are a pair, from early in their time with the Marines they took up with each other. They have been the best of friends and ocassional lovers for a long time and in the last ten years they were only with each other. They have been there for each other for half their lives, but the fact that they could not be out in the military made the whole “Are we a couple or just fuck buddies?” question stay in the back burner (At least that’s what Gunny thought!) But now, not so much. Mac is READY for the future. He wants to exit the Marines and GET MARRIED he wants to tell the families, their friends, he wants to hold hands, he wants EVERYTHING because dammit! He served his country proudly and honorably and he wants the life that he earned by living right, and he wants it with Gunny.

Gunny is a little worried, he is more unsure of what people’s reactions will be and he is scared of rejection. Also there are things about their relationship that he wants to explore, but is not sure how Mac will react. Gunny and Mac have a perfect balance. Gunny likes to submit and Mac is a natural Dom their sex life even after all these years is explosively hot and wonderful, but Gunny is curious to see how they do taking that part of their life to a more public setting…So many things are changing, so many things that were never options before are not just possibilities anymore.

For thirds, get ready for the sizzling hot smexin people because Gunny and Mac have a PLAY ROOM, the naughty kind! Whoo baby these two were hot and did it everywhere, like in the woods! This was straight up hot erotica, but not too much that it got boring. Very nicely done.

So yeah this was a lovely romance of two men who have been in love with each other for a long time and now are looking to their future and what it will bring. This book read very much like the author knew exactly what she was writing about, it made Gunny and Mac very real and easy to root for.

I enjoyed this a lot and would recommend to SJD Peterson fans and for those who have not read her this is a GREAT one to start with.

Beyond Duty is for sale at Dreamspinner Press.

And now the recipe…This is simple and easy my friends…I promise you’ll have a beautiful dinner on the table within 30 minutes.

Fresh Basil Pesto (makes 1 cup)

1 Large bunch of fresh basil

1 Large clove of garlic

1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch which is the best value in olive oil out there IMO)

12 raw almonds

1 tablespoon of Go Veggie! Parmesan Cheese Alternative (if you’re vegan if not go for the Parmigianno Reggiano)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the almonds on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes until lightly roasted. Once the almonds are cool place them in the food processor with the rest of the ingridients and pulse for about a minute.

Spicy and Delicious wine...Like Gunny and Mac.

Spicy and Delicious wine…Like Gunny and Mac.

Pasta with Fresh Basil Pesto and Summer Squash (Serves 4)

1 Medium Zuchinni

1 Meduim Yellow Squash

1 Red Bell Pepper

1 Lb of fresh Pasta (I used Jumbo Roasted Vegetable Raviolis)

1/2 cup of Fresh Basil Pesto

1 Tablespoon of Go Veggie! Parmesan Cheese Alternative (if you’re vegan, if not go crazy with the Parmiggiano Reggiano)

Directions

Prepare pasta according to package instructions and set aside. Cut the zuchinni and squash in thin slice and chop the bell pepper in thin strips and set aside. In a hot skillet put in a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot sautee the vegetables for about a minute, then add about one tablespoon of the pesto and stir in so that the vegetables are coated. Once they have sauteed another minute add the pasta and the remaining pesto and stir until everything is coated with the pesto. Top with the parmeggiano and enjoy with a glass of wine and this delicious book.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Left On St. Truth-Be-Well by Amy Lane…”F***** A” Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes with the tried and true French Lillet.

LeftonStTruthbeWellLGAmy Lane and her men…sighs…It’s like the lady goes to my brain, and into Laura’s Favorite Things folder and hunts for story ideas! Her latest, the novella Left on St. Truth-Be-Well, is just a happy little shot of awesome. It was funny, sexy, and cheeky with a subtle, but crystal clear message on what it is that really matters in life, and the importance of giving oneself permission to be happy.

I enjoyed this story a lot, for various reasons and unlike a lot of times with shorter stories I was happy with where it ended (not that I wouldn’t want a sequel!;)). So for this post I wanted to do something sweet, delicious and adorable just like this story, and what happened you ask? Well, cupcakes of course!

F***** Awesome Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes which I must say came out AMAZING! To go with these delish treats I cracked open one of my all-time favorite sweet wines, the one and only Lillet. Lillet is an aperitif wine from France that has been around for ages and well chilled (or on the rockss) is the perfect pairing with something sweet.  In terms of price this choice kind of breaks my $12 rule since a bottle of Lillet is usually around $25, BUT this is really not a “drink in one sitting” kind of bottle. Lillet is more like a small glass with dessert type of drink, and it keeps very nicely in the fridge for a few weeks. But more on wine and cupcakes later…On to the story.

Carson Saunders has just driven from Chicago to Florida on a quest to get back, Stassy, his boss’ nephew who has was last heard from there. Carson usually isn’t the guy that people would think of when you call in the “cavalry” so to speak, but his boss is kind of a scary gangster and you don’t just say no to the guy. Also there’s that thing about Carson kissing Stassy in the broom closet in the restaurant they work at, and the kid kind of freaking out…And then taking off. Ok, so he feels kind of responsible! But dammit he’s trying to make amends, and now he’s in “the middle of nowhere Florida” in a messed up hotel full of parrots in cages (and parrot shit EVERYWHERE!!!) and with the word Bates in the name!

Carson is in over his head, this Bates Parrot Hotel is a waking nightmare and he doesn’t even know where to start looking for Stassy. First things first though, after leaving his decent hotel room at the Super 8 (no way was he staying in the hellhole!!) he walks over to the FA Café gets himself some breakfast tacos and meets Dale. Dale. The guy is beautiful, funny and so friggin’ relaxed he’s like a hammock and a beer in the shade on a sunny day. Carson usually doesn’t go all mushy for guys, this happens more with the ladies, but Dale kinda blows what Carson has known about himself out of the water from the minute they meet.

Match made in heaven.

Match made in heaven.

At breakfast Carson catches a glimpse of what the things is Stassy running in some unknown direction, he gets on the case FAST and with Dale in tow, he sets to go back into the Bates Parrot Motel and figure out what’s doing…Aaaaaaand what’s doing is a DEAD GUY. Oh man…Things get complicated! Dale’s brother is in the police force, so they call him to look into the dead person and Carson finally gets a hold of Stassy. The thing is the kid has fallen in love and his boyfriend is freaking about getting blamed for killing the guy they found. They need to sort out this mess, before Stassy’s uncle kills Carson!

Meanwhile Dale is putting THE MOVES on Carson, and as skittish as he is with this stuff, he IS lonely, and Dale DOES make him shiver from the inside out just by standing there…So he lets go of his discomfort and begins something with Dale. He’s going back to Chicago in a few weeks anyway, what harm is there in letting himself enjoy something FOR ONCE? Dale lives a simple life. He’s not after some big ambitious career or looking to change the world. He has a little house, works the cafe in the mornings, works at the community center in the afternoons, and every day he goes out and surfs. He is not willing to be miserable just to live up to other’s expectations of what he ‘should have been’… Carson starts to think Dale might be on to something with this life philosophy.

And yeah there is still that pesky murder to figure out! Regardless Carson lets Dale in and he discovers that he is much a happier person than he thought he was, now that he has found someone who can make him feel like weeping and laughing at the same time just from a touch. If only his life wasn’t in Chicago…Then again…What exactly IS keeping him in there anyways?

I love when Amy Lane goes for the light, corky, funny story, they are just JOY…I mean she still managed to come up with a pretty interesting whodunit, and one of the most weirdly and disturbing subplots I’ve read in a while with the “Bird Lady”, but in the end this was a simple story of finding love. Carson knew he wasn’t as happy as he could be, and he KNEW something was missing even if he wasn’t sure what it was. When Dale came into his life, he let himself think about BETTER, even if he did require quite a bit of coaxing (a lot of which involved HOT AS HELL sex) from Dale in the process because sometimes he just needed some direction, and someone to be strong enough to tell him what he needed to do. He did it. He was strong for himself, for what he found with Dale and then he literally walked straight into his bright new day.

Perfect summer read. PERFECT. Amy Lane…You. The. Woman.

Left on St. Truth-Be-Well is available at Dreamspinner Press

Ok NOW, cupcakes! Cupcakes people! And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but DAMN these are DELICIOUS, moist and subtly limish and coconutty…And the frosting…*whimpers* I wish I could wear it. So good.
F***** Awesome Key Lime Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

DELISH.

DELISH.

½ cup of coconut milk (not light)

½ cup and two tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Zest of one lime

2 Tablespoons of lime juice

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 ¼ cups cake flour

2 Tablespoons of cornstarch

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup canola oil

¾ cup organic cane sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup flakes unsweetened coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Put all ingredients in a bowl, mix until smooth but not too much or too vigorously. Fill cupcake liners halfway with the batter. Cook for 13 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center of the cupcake.
Coconut Lime Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance)

3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons of lime juice

2 Tablespoons of coconut milk

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

¼ cup flaked coconut

Beat shortening and margarine together until well combined and is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla, coconut and lime juice, beat until fluffy. Add zest and mix. Chill until ready to use. Separately place flaked coconut on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil spray. Place in the oven at 375 degrees for about five minutes or until the flakes start to brown. Use toasted coconut as garnish to top cupcakes.

All I can say is ENJOY! Enjoy the book, the sweets and the wine.

 Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

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

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

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

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

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

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

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

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

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

Parting Shot is available at Dreamspinner Press

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

Easy Spicy Tuna Tartare (Serves 4 as a starter)

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Love Like Water by Rowan Speedwell and a light South African White Wine

LoveLikeWaterLG Rowan Speedwell is one of my favorite authors in this genre, she is not as prolific as a lot of the M/M authors out there, but what she lacks in volume she more than makes up for with quality. Her previous novels Finding Zach and Kindred Hearts are two of my favorite stories in this genre. She writes beautfully and always has the redemption and new begginings theme that I love. Her characters are often broken and dark, and being the sucker I am for the angst, she usually hits all my buttons. With Love, Like Water, Rowan eased off the heart wrenching angst a bit though. This story was a lot less gut twisting, in part because she focused on both main characters equally, instead of letting us experience the story through the eyes of the more broken character. Still she wrote a very straightforward romance with all the bells and whistles necessary to have readers sighing, aawwing, and cheering for her men to get their happy ending….Now for the wine.

This novel is set in New Mexico one of my FAVORITE places on Earth. I love everything about the plce but that desert can get HOT and it is summer, so I chose a South African white wine from J. Joostenberg Winery, a small family vineyard in the Western Cape of South Africa. This white is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne grapes and the result is delicious fresh wine with hints of peach and berries, that is perfect for hot summer day. For about $11 dollars a bottle right on the cusp of my speding limit the J. Joostenberg Family Blend White is a good one to splurge on.

Book, Wine and fruity snack.

Book, Wine and fruity snack.

Now the story.

Joshua Chastain is a Federal agent that has just come out of a three year undercover assigment a completely broken man. He was in deep with one of the Latin gangs in the inner city of Chicago, he did what he was asked, he got the bad guys and enough evidence to put them away forever, but in the process he totally lost himself…At 28 he’s a recovering addict, just getting out of the rehab he had to go through for heroin. The nightmares from the things he had to do on the job are slowly driving him insane. The guilt is almost unbearable. He’s going to succumb to all that despair, all that darkness if something doesn’t change soon. His mother who can see that she’s going to loose her son if she doesn’t do something drastic, calls her brother in New Mexico and asks him take Joshua in he needs to be somewhere different, somewhere new. Tucker Chastain is happy take Joshua in, he’s very proud of his nephew and having no children of his own he’s happy to teach the ins and out of running a horse ranch to Josh so that one day he can continue the family business. So Josh goes West.

There are complications though, the main one being that Eli Kelly the foreman of The Triple C ranch is handsome, too handsome really and kind, and he makes Joshua want  things that he knows a man like him with innocent people’s blood on his hands has no business wanting. Eli is a man used to working with broken animals, and he knows despair and a crushed spirit when he sees one. As soon as he lays eyes on Josh he knows that it’ll be his job to make that man feel safe adn whole again. Something about Josh makes Eli want to make him better, to protect him. Show him that he has someone to hold him up, when he can’t do it himself. Josh is so broken, he is skin and bones, and it seems like even making it through the day is a struggle. Ely and Tucker,  and the other people on the ranch don’t give up on him though and despite the setbacks and Josh’s stubborness, they are able to make him see that he deserves the love that is being offered to him. That he deserves a home.

This is a pretty simple romance in many ways, which I appreaciated, there is enough angstyness in the story to make the reader savor the happy ending without the wrung out feeling that books with a premise like this one could leave you with. There were some pretty spectacular moments of delicious intimacy between Eli and Josh, those two are sizzling hot when they get in on. There are also beautiful scenes of the New Mexico landscape that really enriched the story. On a personal note I must say that the Spanish was very accurate, bad Spanish is a sticking point with me, and I have very little to complain this time. The use of the expression “mijo” did bother me a bit, but I got past it.

I loved the role the horses had in the story as well as the secondary characters. All and all this was a pretty complete love story, straight up “traditional” romance for those of us who call M/M our romance home. Humor, love, some angst, and hot cowboys having hot sex…What more can you ask for really?

Very nice, for Rowan’s fans a definite and for those who have not read her books for fear that they are too heavy this is a great one to start with.

Love, Like Water is for sale at Dreamspinner Press

That is all from me today, enjoy your book with a chilled glass of wine.

CHEERS AND HAPPY READING!

Laura

First Review: A Sweeping Historical Romance and Riesling from a Box

coverharperfoxThis is the first post for this new little blogging adventure of mine, and what a book it is to kick things off with!!! Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox is the kind of book that makes me grateful for adjectives and the fact that as a reviewer I have always given myself permission to overuse them, because I want to use every damn word in existence that is synonimous with AMAZING…but more on that later…Ok, since the point of this blog is that I will try to at least enjoy one (or four) glasses of wine while I read these delicious books I read, I’ll talk a bit about the wine pairing for Brothers of the North Wild Sea. Since it is summer and the title made me think  of the ocean and of the nordic lands I decided to go with a Reisling.

Riesling is a great summer wine. Even though normally I’m not a big fan of sweet whites, a nice cold Reisling can really hit the spot. Now getting down to business for future reference my #1 rule with wine is never to spend more than $12 dollars on a bottle…EVER. With this one I got a real bang for my buck, it  comes in a BOX that has four bottles worth for the delectable price of $22.00. This was my first wine in a box venture and surprisingly the cheap did not impare my enjoyment, this wine is deelightful. It was fruity and crisp, I could taste a lot of pear and apples (like the ones grown by the lovely monks in the book), without being overly sweet. So for my money the 2012 Reisling from Bota Box winery in Manteca, California is a total repeat worthy wine (especially for these summer months) and a perfect companion while reading a sweeping epic with delicious vikings from the North Sea…Now on to the book!

This book is a historical romance set in the 7th Century in what is now Scotland. First off I have to say that like with all her books Harper Fox set this story perfectly. The imagery was engrossing, I was swept away. I was there looking over those cliffs, and seeing those monstrous vikingr ships charging the nothern shores.

Our eyes for this story are those Brother Caius who is a monk in the Fara Monastery. Caius is a highlander, the heir of a cheiftan who was walked away from the barbaric ways of his clan to live a more peaceful life of learning amongst his Christian bretheren. Caius has a lover, Leof, another monk, he is the monastery’s physician and although sometimes he is unsure what exactly is his purpose, he is happy there, until the night that their monastery is raided by the vikingr and his lover and the monastery’s beloved abbot are killed. The raiders seemed like they were searching for something valueable, and in their haste they just ran through whoever was in their way.

Caius is disraught and angry over what has happened. He comes up with a plan though. He goes back to his clan and asks his father for weapons, so that he and his bretheren can defend themselves from future raids…So in the shadow on their peaceful haven he trains his brothers to fight against any invaders. Things are challenging for Caius, he is missing his lover, his fallen brothers, and to make matters worse the new abbot sent from Cantenbury is a hateful man who is poisoning everyone by preachin hellfire and brimstone. Still Caius tries to get everyone ready to fight off any future attacks. The monks get to try out their new fighting skills soon when another viking raid comes upon them, but this time they are prepared and they attack. One of the vikings that Caius wounds is left behind by his comrades and being the healer he is he can do nothing else than take the man in and nurse him back to health, even is he is the enemy, and what a beautifully dangerous enemy it is, the viking’s name is Fenritsulf….The wolf.

Caius cares for Fen, he brings him back to health and in that time they get to know each other and a very strong connection is forged betweent the two men. Fen is fierce and wild, but also kind and humorous, so strong like he can protect Caius from anything. He is willing to do his part working alongside the monks helping to rebuild even is he was part of the reason for the devastation. The love story between Caius and Fen was absolutely fantastic. Fen to me stole the show, what a vibrant character, everything about him was strong and bright, it was like his presence on the page lit it up.

RADIANT…That’s the word that comes to mind for me when I think of this book, every character had a strong and clear presence, and the way that the author mixed in a little bit of magic was perfect. There are some very difficult things in this story, the poison Christianity could become to people to places, how good men and women driven by misguided religiosity could turn into mindless murderous mobs, how ignorance can blind people…How greed and lust for power can make men lose their honor and loyalties. But there were also such beautiful moments of love and unexpected kindness…Of how people as best they could and in the only way they knew how could show love, respect and lend a hand. How a community can band together to rescue each other and what they hold dear. So many good things.

I fell in love with this book, not just because it was a romance for the ages Cai and Fen had, but because it was such a hefty and satisfying story. The history, the lore, the characters, the settings, the lessons, all of it was absolutely perfect. I can’t even say that I was left wanting more. I wasn’t, this book was perfect even to the last word. When it ended all I could do was sigh, and go pour msyelf another glass of wine to bask on the great story I had just read.

I absolutely recommend this book!

Brothers of the Wild North Sea is for sale at the Samhain Publishing website and Amazon.com

Cheers and happy reading!