Whiskey and Wry by Rhys Ford and Vegan Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Very Un-PC name I know..But they’re DELICIOUS!!!)

Whiskey&WryLG This was a VERY anticipates sequel…I loved loved Sinner’s Gin and that cliffhanger at the end left me BREATHLESS with wanting Damien’s story. This book is the second in the Sinner Series and it’s the story of Miki’s (who we met in Sinner’s Gin) best friend and band mate Damien Mitchell. Damien’s has been recovering from an accident in a mental institution in Montana and NOTHING about what he’s being told adds up, not his name, his parents, what they tell him about his life before, none of it makes sense…So after an unlikely escape he heads out to San Francisco to find Miki.  While trying to find his friend, Damien runs in to some Irish hotness by the name of Sionn Murphy…These men were so sweet and delicious together I HAD to make something decandet and amazing for them. Irish Car Bomb Vegan Cupcakes is what I came up with, totally politically incorrect name but they are SO GOOD!!!! I promise!! In terms of alcoholic beverages all the booze for this post are actually IN THE CUPCAKES, since we will be using Guiness, Jameson and Bailey’s to make these bad boys!

So GOOD!

So GOOD!

Now on to the story…Damien has been in a mental insitituion where the staff keep telling him he has a different name, history, family and nothing, NOTHING adds up. In the middle of a fire he manages to escape, but before he’s in the clear he has a run in with someone who is obviously trying to off him.he remembers things though he KNOWS who he is and even though his life is completely out of control, and he’s not even sure his memories are real, he must try and find his friend Miki. Miki and music are the two things that no matter who he’s supposed be are real to him as his own skin and bones. he’s got scars and he knows something bad has happened, getting to Miki will help answer those questions.  He’s not sure how or why i, but he heads to San Francisco anyways. He is sure that once he is back with his friend everything will make sense again. Damien makes his way to California, he ends up playing in front of an Irish pub that somehow calls to him. He remembers being there before and he’s drawn to it and it’s owner, Sionn Murphy.  The Irishman is gorgeous and kind to him. So kind, and Damien has been on the road by himself for a long time. A little kindness, some human touch is something HE CRAVES. He’s not even sure he’s gay!! But something about Sionn keeps Damien coming back.

The thing is the dude that tried to kill him getting out of the hospital DOES not give up easy and is on his tail not long after he meets Sionn. Things progress fast, Sionn and Damien are getting much closer and feelings are running deep, but this killer is not only a butcher but he’s FULL ON CRAZAHAYZAY and it becomes personal REAL QUICK. He wants to off everyone in Damien’s life…Damien has a lot of people on his side, but those who want him dead are willing to do what they have to, to get him out of the way.

There’s a twist though, Sionn is in the Murphy family, the same Murphy family that Miki esentially married into recently and once he makes the connection with Damien and Miki he arranges a reunion for his guy with his best friend. This book is a melange of twists and turns. The killer and the man who has hired him seem to stop at nothing to get to Damien and those he loves. It was an intense ride with moments that were gruesome and scary.  Sionn was solid though, once he found Damien and their relationship started to blossom he stood by him until the very end, and Damien let him. This book in so many ways is a straightforward romance, but in the style of this author the mystery and the darkness were just a little disturbing  and a lot engrossing. San Francisco was again perfectly showcased, which I loved. I enjoyed this novel. It was a strong follow up to a very excellent start to this series.

I am looking forward for the next installment and hoping that there are a few more in store.

Whiskey and Wry is for sale at Dreamspinner.com

 

Now the CUPCAKES!! Be warned people these go FAST!

Whiskey and Wry Teaser Pic

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup of Guinness

1/2 cup plus two tablespoos of unsweetend almond milk

1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups of cake flour

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3/4 cups of organic cane sugar

1/4 of bittersweet cocoa powder

1/3 cup of canola oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Directions

Prehear oven at 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, adding the beer last and scoop into a lined cupcake tin. Bake for 12 minutes or until done.

 Irish Whiskey and Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 tablespoons of almond milk

2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)

Directions

Put ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat one minute at a time until all ingredients are melted and mixed in. Let cool before using.

Baileys Frosting

3 to 4 cups confections sugar

1/2 cup or 4 ounces of vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance) at room temperatue

3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys

Directions

Whip the margarine in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and Bailey’s, a few tablespoons at a time. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

To fill the cupcakes (Used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for directions) Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

These cupcakes go best with an awesome cup of coffee or by themselves, while reading Damien and Sionn’s book of course! They are DECANDENT and DELISH!!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

 

Laura

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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

Review: Forever Promised by Amy Lane and a Sparkling Spanish Rosé…Saying goodbye to The Pulpit with Crick and Deacon’s Champagne Cupcakes

ForeverPromisedI am so excited for this post!  There is just so much goodness for me to talk about that I could barely figure out where to begin…First of all could Amy Lane have possibly planned a more perfect week for the release of the final installment in her Promises series?!?!?!?!…The Defense of Marriage Act was declared unsconstituional by the Supreme Court of the United States  two days ago, making ALL couples legally married in this country absolutely equal under the law. ALL MARRIAGES, and  for me there is no other set of characters in M/M Romance that evoke well earned and hard fought happy married life more than The Pulpit Crew…Sooooo I had to go BIG for this review, I mean just a nice bottle of wine and some thoughts was not enough…This is a celebration!!!!!! When I celebrate, I pop a bottle of bubbly and make sure I have something delicious to bite into. So for my goodbye to the people of Promise Rock I went for one of my favorites, Jaume Serra Cristalino Rose Brut, a delicious Spanish cava with raspberry and very light creamy overtones that just compels one to raise a glass and toast to life. Cristalino has 60% Pinot Noir 40% Trepat grapes that go perfectly with lightly sweet treats, and for the amazing value of $8-$10 a bottle, this wine could not have been a better choice for my review of Forever Promised.…I  am not done though, because damn it, IT’S AMY LANE!!

I got creative and came up with a dessert worthy of celebrating births,  weddings, anniversaries, departures, homecomings and even the solemnity of grieving a loss…Crick and Deacon’s Champagne and Raspberry Vegan Cupcakes, a recipe created by yours truly are moist, just lightly boozy and a sweet, perfect combination for this beautiful story, to be enjoyed while sipping on some pink bubbly and smiling (sometimes a bit weepily) through what might be the best ending to a series I’ve read in this genre.

cristalino and cupcake pic jpeg

A glass of Cristalino and Crick and Deacon’s Cupcakes

But more on wine and cupcakes later…On to the story.

Amy Lane is a fucking CLASSY LADY, I mean finesse and elegance in telling a story, this lady HAZ GOT IT, no florid writing, no cheap outs of happy sappy walking into the sunset. Nope, the last installment in The Promises Series was true to itself  and to its characters from the first page to the last.

This was, Promise Rock: The Self-Actualized Edition…This book begins two and half years after we left our guys, Collin and Jeff are just married, things are getting along, they are all a little older and whole lot wiser, mostly though they are tightly knit as they ever have been. But keeping this family that they have has always  come at a cost. Jon and Amy have an amazing professional opportunity and will be moving to Washington DC to work as LGBT rights advocates. Drew and Benny are finally ready to get on with their lives as a couple, but the ties that Benny has to Deacon might prove to be too intimidating an act to follow and even though Drew loves The Pulpit  starting their life as a family might mean being away from their people.

Deacon as the patriarch is feeling a little adrift, even though him and Crick are finally feeling like they are whole. So when Benny offers the ultimate gift, to be a surrogate to Deacon and Crick, it is such an absolute act of selflessness and complete love that it’s almost too terrifying to consider despite how much they want a child. A child that would have a little bit of each of them, borne from Benny the little girl that  arrived in The Pulpit so that things could be held together at the lowest moment in Crick and Deacon’s lives, it was too much of a miracle to turn down, specially once Deacon understood that it was as much a gift for them to recieve as it would be for Benny to give it.

There is so much to this story, but what I loved the most about  is that we get to visit with every single one of the gang, each one gets to tell us a part of the story, and it’s like we get a chance to have a private final chat and a hug goodbye with each one before we have to see them go.

Amy Lane’s books affect me deeply, always they resonate with me, because they are so HUMAN so harsh so times, but it’s what always makes the good moments so joyful. These guys are special and I was scared that this last chapter would be a soft ball, a light happily ever after, nothing too upsetting or hard. I should have known that Amy Lane was not going to cut us any slack AT ALL, because what has made this series the special thing that it is, is precisely that we’ve seen these characters hurt and struggling so that when the good moments come, when the lightness and laughter hits they are seen and embraced as the gift that they are.

This book is about absolution and reflection. It’s about moving on soberly, being able to let go of the past with a clear understanding of just what a fucking miracle it is that even after the valiant efforts at self-destruction they all made, they got their bright future anyway. Many are not so lucky, so many people never get a second chance, but those who do they need to look at that miracle in the face and be nothing thankful.

I probably could talk about this book for 12 pages, but I can’t really go on forever, so I will talk briefly about the things that I loved the most.

Mikhail…He was the catalyst for the most powerful emotions in this book, he was mighty, in good ways, in terrible ways…He was atonement.

Benny and Crick, looking back on their lives and the good fortune that they had to have found a home and love in Deacon, it was wonderful to see them look back, to see what they had arrived to, after such a difficult beginning.

Jeff and Collin still in love, and still against all odds daring to be hopeful, and telling the world that they were brave enough  to want more out of life than people would probably allow them to.

Deacon and Crick…These guys. So wonderful after so much hardship, such heartache, such fear…They made it. They were together and whole (even if baring the scars of harder times) they were still in love and still saw in each other’s eyes that there was always something to hold on to, something to live for…Something to try to be happy about.

“Sometimes you just got to be happy, and worry could happen tomorrow”

This book could have been too easy, or too hard, or too angsty or too long or TOO MUCH. But it wasn’t, it was just right. There were moments that cut to the bone, followed by momenst of unapologetic lightness and absurd humor that could only make me laugh and shake my head. Like life. Like people. We are sad and we are bad, but then we turn to the people that can still see the best in us, and let them try to coax it out of us with a joke or a hug…or an emergency knitting project.

So many sad things happen in this life, every day to good people, but so many good things happen too. People move away, and people come back and people stay…But when there is love and goodwill every day brings what it must, and we can face it because we know that there will someone there to walk with us through whatever we must to do.

Fantastic final installment, I was left smiling, and weepy and secure in the bright future of my guys and gals in Promise Rock. What a joyful journey this has been. Thank you, thank you, thank you Amy.

Completely recommend this book and this series. I will miss my guys.

Forever Promised is out today on Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3980&osCsid=lrdsnsmg0lfg5oap2t3fuk85d2

So for those of you want to give Crick and Deacon’s cupcakes a try here is the recipe…I recommend that you only eat them once you’ve secured the bubbly for drinking while eating them and that you’ve secured a few hours free of distraction to immerse yourself in  Forever Promised.

Crick and Deacon’s Champagne and Raspberry Vegan Cupcakes (makes 10 cupcakes)

½ cup and two tablespoons of pink sparkling wine (I used Jaume Serra Cristalino)

½ cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

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

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon of almond extract (you can substitute for vanilla)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Mix all ingredients in a bowl adding the champagne last, 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.

Raspberry and Champagne Buttercream Frosting

½ cup of shortening

½ cup of margarine (Earth Balance)

3 ½ cups of powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of Pink Champagne

2 tablespoons of vanilla almond milk (add a bit more if frosting is too lumpy)

2  tablespoons of raspberry puree (put 1 cup of fresh raspberries in the food processor and then run through a sifter to get rid of seeds)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For garnish leave out 10 raspberries to decorate the cupcakes.

Separately put margarine, shortening and raspberry puree in an electric mixing bowl and mix until smooth, add sifted sugar, vanilla extract and champagne and mix again, add almond milk as needed.

Frost the cupcakes as you prefer and top with a fresh raspberry and enjoy with a glass of chilled pink bubbly! Make sure to make a toast to Crick and Deacon and The Pulpit gang!

CHEERS AND HAPPY READING!

Laura