Sunday, December 27, 2015

“A MOTHER FOR HIS ADOPTED SON”—poignant contemporary romance from marvelous storyteller LYNNE MARSHALL

The family he's always wanted… 

Notoriously cool, calm and always in control, single dad Dr. Sam Marcus is facing every parent's worst nightmare. His adorable adopted son, Dani, has cancer, and Andrea Rimmer is the only woman who can help! 

As Andrea treats his son, Sam sees the warmth and compassion behind her independent exterior. Can he prove to Andrea that she's the only mummy for Dani, and that together their family is a perfect fit?

MY REVIEW:  Author Lynne Marshall's superlative storytelling skills are in full-force in the beautifully poignant contemporary romance, "A Mother for His Adopted Son". Dr. Sam Marcus is a devoted pediatrician--the emotional distress from his own early childhood gave him added empathy for the suffering of young children. On a medical mission to the Philippines, he connected with a small orphan boy, Danilo, known as "Dani". Never expecting to become a single father, Sam nonetheless knew that Dani was meant to be his son, and he proceeded with the adoption. Not long after Dani came home to the States with Sam, a malignant tumor was discovered on one of Dani's eyes. Surgical removal of the eye was necessary--to be followed by fitting for a prosthetic eye. Andrea Rimmer, an artist and skilled prosthetic maker, assists her grandmother, a renowned maker of prosthetic applications, in the same hospital where Sam works and where Dani had his surgery. The initial meeting between Sam and Andrea does not go well--he is emotional over Dani's surgery, and she is offended by his gruff manner. However, a spark of awareness of each other flickers to life, and as Andrea works to create a replacement eye for Dani, the spark becomes a fiery attraction. While they come to care for each other, and they both adore Dani, issues from their own childhoods create tensions in their new-found relationship. Sam knows his career path is to continue his work as a pediatrician and to answer the call of medical missions around the world when needed. Andrea is torn between her desire to find success as an artist and her love of helping her patients. Her own father, a physician in the same hospital where Sam, Andrea and her grandmother worked, was a very controlling man who insisted that Andrea take over her grandmother's practice when the time came for her to retire. Now, with Sam and Dani in her life, Andrea is pulled in yet another direction--is she the woman Sam cares for, or is she a convenient caregiver to his child? As they struggle to resolve the conflicts between them, a new crisis threatens to take away what they hold most dear. Can they find a loving compromise and join their hearts and their lives to reach out for a future filled with happiness? As always, Lynne Marshall's own professional background with more than twenty years as a registered nurse adds a world of meaning and understanding to her medical romances. Her way of explaining the medical elements of the story lines is done in such a way that the reader easily embraces the "medical speak" and the explanations of the conditions and procedures. My first encounter with Lynne Marshall's wonderful books was her "Mid-Coast Medical Trilogy", and since then, I have been a devoted fan and follower of her works.

Review Copy Gratis Author


Lynne used to worry she had a serious problem with daydreaming, then she discovered she was supposed to write the stories in her head. A late bloomer, Lynne came to fiction writing after her children were nearly grown. Now she battles the empty nest by writing stories which always include a romance, sometimes medicine, a dose of mirth, or both, but always stories from her heart. She is a Southern California native, married for almost thirty years, has two adult children she is super proud of, is a dog lover, cat admirer, a power walker, and fellow traveler on this wild road called life!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

AUTHOR KATE WALKER--Irresistible Love Stories--Pulse-Pounding--Provocative--Passionate!

Kate Walker  Kate Walker has been writing romance for over 25 years, and her contemporary love stories are classic tales of passion, filled with emotional twists and turns. Her characters allow us to live out our dreams through her words, and her story lines always offer something unexpected and intriguing. If you love intense romance reads which hold you enthralled from first page to last, then you will love the work of this amazing author. Kate's book list is quite extensive, and I have read and enjoyed many of her terrific titles through the years. For more information about Kate and her books, visit her website Here are several of my recent reviews for Kate Walker's wonderfully-written love stories: 

Author Kate Walker's romantic reads are intense, involving, and impossible to put down until the last page is turned. With "Destined for the Desert King", readers are returned to the fictional empire of Rhastaan, ruled by Sheikh Nabil Al Sharifa--whom we first met in a "Question of Honor". Ten years ago, Clemmie, the woman meant to be Nabil's predestined bride was captured by the love of another man. Later the young woman who actually became Nabil's wife, Sharmila, was brutally murdered by an assassin's bullet meant for Nabil. Nabil was left with his grief and a lasting scar on his cheek from the bullet that took the life of Sharmila, who had been carrying his child at the time she was killed. Now, with each moment that passes, the pressure for Nabil to remarry and produce an heir becomes an increasing weight upon his heart and mind. He is all too aware of his duty, but he cannot forget past betrayal and loss--how will he trust enough to call another woman "wife". Beautiful and gentle Aziza El Afarim, whom he knew as a child, seems to be the perfect choice to resolve Nabil's personal and political dilemmas. For Aziza, this will be a marriage of the heart--she has always loved Nabil. Both have come a long way from the children they once were, and now they must get to know one another as adults. The fiery passion between them is undeniable, but will love burn bright as well? As Aziza gives him her heart, will Nabil find his own emotional center come to life? For a double dose of rich romanticism, I highly recommend reading "A Question of Honor", and then follow it with "Destined for the Desert King".  This edition of "Destined for the Desert King" includes a delightful holiday romance short story from author Maisey Yates called "Christmas at the Chatsfield".

Review Copy Gratis Author

A Question of Honor


"A Question of Honor", an undeniable attraction, and a conflict of pride and passion. Author Kate Walker brings her trademark intensity to this dramatic tale of duty and desire. Karim Al Khalifa, bears his unexpected royal responsibilities with great determination. After the death of his older brother, Karim became his father's heir to the throne. Now Crown Prince of Markhazad, Karim must retrieve and return royal bride-to-be Clementina Savanevski, whose pre-arranged marriage to the future ruler of Rhastaan is a diplomatic necessity for more than one connected country. Dispatched by his own father to ensure the safe delivery of this most precious person, Karim is unprepared for how deeply he would be affected by Clemmie's alluring combination of seductive beauty and innocent nature. Clemmie knew her time in England living a free life was coming to an end, but she never expected her future to come calling for her in such a darkly handsome and magnetic escort. Their journey briefly delayed by inclement weather, their mutual attraction grows as passions and emotions are stirred. Each of them carries a secret, and each of them knows their familial duty. Resisting the explosive chemistry between them, they proceed with the preordained royal dictate, but will they be able to forget each other? Can a powerfully passionate attraction lead to a lifetime affair of the heart? A compelling romantic read from captivating storyteller Kate Walker.

Review Copy Gratis Author

A Throne for the Taking


"A Throne for the Taking" is a royal treat for readers, served up with sizzling style by author Kate Walker. A story line full of passion, poignancy, and intrigue is given life by two compelling characters, both driven by their own sense of duty. Honoria Escalona, Grand Duchess of Mecjorica, daughter of the High Chancellor, now at risk of losing everything she has ever known due to the misdeeds of her father. Forced to contact the one man she thought never to see again, Alexei Sarova, Honoria must somehow put aside her trepidation and convince Alexei to return to the land of his birth. The son of a royal father and a commoner mother, Alexei has every right to deny her request. At a young age, Alexei learned just how cruel court manipulations can be when his parents' marriage was declared invalid, making him illegitimate and ineligible to inherit the throne. He and his mother settled in England, and while Alexei became a successful international entrepreneur, he remained haunted by the injustice his family had suffered. Ten years have passed since Ria and Alexei have spoken, and now she has suddenly appeared, bearing proof of the legitimacy of Alexei's heritage. Friends in their youth, their relationship was strained by scandal. Now, Ria desperately needs his help, not just to restore order to the kingdom, but to save her from an unbearable arranged marriage. Stunned to find Ria at his business headquarters in England, Alexei has no intention of granting her wish. However, the more she pleads with him, the more he realizes that he has a longing to return home, a longing that has much to do with his intense attraction to the beautifully grown-up Ria. He will agree to her proposition, with one contingency--she will become his royal bride--for as long as he wants and needs her by his side. He respects her intelligence and regal persona, and he desires her beauty and vulnerability. When the time comes, will he be able to let her go? Ria can't help falling for the handsome, commanding Alexei, who underneath his imposing exterior, still has a tender heart. Can she trust him? Once you start reading "A Throne for the Taking", you will be caught in the spell of the drama and romance of author Kate Walker's storytelling.

Review Copy Gratis Author

The Return of the Stranger 


Author Kate Walker was inspired by a classic Gothic romance tale when she created "The Return of the Stranger", and she perfectly captured the darker, more brooding elements of the story in her own compelling style. As a young child, Heath Montanha had been rescued from street life by Mr. Nicholls and brought to live on the Nicholls farm in the shadow of the Charlton mansion. He had been close friends with young Catherine Nicholls, but he was always resented and rejected by her brother, Joe. Heath's dark, handsome looks and air of mystery earned him the label of "gipsy", and the local society kept him at a distance. After the death of Catherine's father, her brother Joe took over the farm, and his treatment of Heath became unbearable. Heath soon left everything behind and went to make his mark in the world. Ten years later, a wealthy and powerful man, he returns to the Yorkshire countryside with vengeance on his mind. Thinking that Catherine had betrayed him a decade ago, he wants to hurt her as she hurt him. In his absence, she had married Arthur Charlton, the son of the rich, entitled neighbors of the Nicholls farm. Now widowed, Catherine is facing financial disaster as well as the emotional repercussions of her late husband's debauched lifestyle. Heath and Catherine are both startled by the depth of their mutual attraction, which wars with bitter hurt. Despite Heath's long-simmering desire for Catherine, he remains determined to carry out his plan of revenge against Catherine and her brother, Joe. Heath has secrets which will change the lives of Catherine and her family forever, but will spending time with Catherine and her young nephew soften his hardened heart? Catherine never knew the real reason that Heath left so long ago, and her life has not been the pleasant picture painted for society. Her husband's cruelty and deceptions have left her with little self-esteem--can she trust the love she feels for Heath? "The Return of the Stranger" is a passionate, atmospheric reunion romance with a delicious touch of Gothic darkness.

 The Italian's Forced Bride


Passion and emotion are equally powerful in author Kate Walker's poignant romance, "The Italian's Forced Bride". Domenico Parrisi never gave his heart, and no woman ever walked out on him. What he started, he brought to a halt when the time came. He worked hard, building his own fortune in the computer industry, and when he had time, he played just as hard as he worked. When he met Alice Howard, he never expected that she would be the exception to the rule. On a working holiday in Florence, Italy, Alice met Domenico at the restaurant where she waitressed. The chemistry was instant and combustible, and an immediate, highly passionate affair ensued. Domenico made it clear from the start that he had no interest in marriage--he had no interest in commitment. Alice tried to listen, letting her body do the thinking, but her heart had a louder voice. She fell in love, and then fell prey to vicious gossip about the Domenico and his "other woman". She left him and returned to England. Two months later, she sends word that she must speak with him, and soon he is angrily ringing the bell to her small cottage. Their meeting is fiery, passionate, and then changes all together when he discovers she is pregnant. He insists that they marry, but before the ceremony can take place, their child is lost to a miscarriage. Will the emotion which so often was hidden by the passion between fully bloom into a lasting love? Domenico is much more than the hard-edged business mogul known to the world, but can he let go of painful childhood secrets and trust his heart to Alice? Does she have the courage to once again take a chance on loving him? The title, "The Italian's Forced Bride", doesn't really do justice to this compelling romance from talented author Kate Walker. If you love heart-felt romance blended with sizzling passion, then you will very much enjoy this book.

The Proud Wife

THE PROUD WIFE  by Kate Walker

"The Proud Wife" wants nothing from the husband from whom she has been separated for two years. She keeps telling herself this over and over, right up until the moment she is once again face to face with the man she married. In author Kate Walker's touching, tempestuous romance, Englishwoman Marina Emerson was swept off her feet by the captivating charm of Prince Pietro D'inzeo of Sicily. Their whirlwind of passion resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and a quick marriage. Tragically, the baby was lost due to miscarriage, and the initial happiness between them was lost as well. Miscommunication and emotional barriers grew to the point where Marina could bear no more, and she left Pietro and his family home and returned to England. Two years later, Marina receives a royal summons from her princely husband to come to Sicily and officially end their marriage. Once they are in each other's company again, banked embers burst into life, and powerful emotions come to the surface. Both confused and filled with unexpected longing, can Marina and Pietro bring back to life the love they had thought to be long-dead? Can they face the issues which drove them apart and grow together as each of them grows as an individual? "The Proud Wife" is an intense, satisfying romance full of passion and emotional conflict.   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

HOLIDAY "TAIL-WAGGING TALES"--sent with a smile from my house to yours!


There has never been a time in my life when I have been without the companionship of devoted, furry, four-legged friends. For someone like me, a solitary person, there is no equal to the comfort, acceptance, and love provided by my precious pets. I shouldn't even call them pets--they really are my friends and family. During our lifetime together, Mom and I and took in many rescue animals. First it was the dogs, and then the cats came. However, when I was growing up, my family owned a number of Boston Terriers, also known as "BTs". They are really wonderful little dogs, and the ones we had the longest were two sisters. I was nine when we got them, and they stayed with us until I was about twenty years old. My grandmother had a fondness for English Bulldogs, which were the dogs of her childhood, but my grandfather was not quite so fond of the breed. They compromised with the BTs, and we had many wonderful years shared with little black and white "mushed-face" dogs. The two sisters were real characters, and they had opposite personalities. One was slightly aggressive, and the other was more meek in personality. They were very close, although they sometimes bickered just like human sisters.

We always wrapped presents for them under the tree, and they loved to rip up the paper and find their rawhide chews and other goodies. They had a couple of other holiday habits which took us a while to discover. We kept finding broken Christmas ornaments under the tree. These were the delicate, old-fashioned glass kind, and at first we thought they were falling off the tree and breaking on their own. Then we discovered the real cause of the destruction: the BT sisters were grabbing the little glass balls from the lower limbs of the tree and crunching them! They didn't seem to be swallowing the pieces, they just enjoyed the snap, crackle, pop of the crunching glass. We had to put all non-glass ornaments on the limbs within their reach, and they would sit and look at the tree like they were expecting something! Those dogs were also nog-nippers. Anyone who sat a glass of eggnog within their reach would notice eggnog missing from their glass. When we caught the BTs with eggnog mustaches, we knew who to blame!

One of the most offbeat Christmas gifts that I have ever received was a Betta Fish. This present came after my home had become a cat refuge, and it came from people who had known me for a long, long time. People who knew I had a houseful of cats and still gave me a fish as a present. A beautiful fish, beautifully presented in bowl with greenery, but still a swimmy, swishy, swirly fish whose movements caught the eyes of the cats. I tried moving the fish bowl different places in the house, but I knew it was a lost cause from the first time I looked at Mr. Fish. My mother begged me not to go back to work after the holiday and leave her alone with the cats and the fish. I packed Mr. Fish up as best I could so he would be secure for his return car trip to the home of the clueless gift givers. I apologized to him all the way to their house, reassuring him that it was nothing personal and that it was in his best interest to be returned to the givers. They were not pleased that I returned the fish--even years later they would bring it up in conversation. My Southern manners would not allow me to say what I really wanted to say, but inside I was dying to let it out!

Mom loved yard sales, and I was her chauffeur. At one particular yard sale I didn't buy anything, but I gained one of the greatest treasures of my life. The lady holding the sale had found an adorable little black dog which she couldn’t keep, and she said she would have to find him a home or take him to the animal shelter. He was so bright-eyed, cute, and friendly, and he followed me all over her yard. I already had other dogs, but several days later, I went back and got him. He was a little mixed mini-dachshund, and I named him “Max”. He lived to be almost 20 years old. He was the light of my life. He never thought small–he thought he was a Rottweiler! As a matter of fact, one of his many, many nicknames was “Baby Rottweiler” : ) He had a “radar ear” which seemed to rotate in many directions. He communicated his feelings with that ear! He was always lively, but in his later years, he had a little trouble getting around. He had arthritis and other problems, but he was still "Mad Max". One holiday season, I ordered Mom a Whiskey Cake from Downey's Restaurant in Philadelphia. We had seen the cakes on a home-shopping program on TV, and I knew Mom would enjoy the treat. The first time we sampled the cake, we both agreed that it was delicious, and worth the extravagance. As soon as we unwrapped the cake, and tasted it, Max showed a keen interest in what we were eating. He gave us a piercing stare with the radar ear at a sharp angle. I spooned up a little cake with some of the whiskey syrup (just a tiny amount), and Max loved it! He almost ate the spoon, and then he gave his whiskers a good cleaning. Mom and I had a good laugh, and the next thing we knew, we heard snoring! It was Max, in a blissful whiskey-cake induced sleep. The three of us shared that cake, making the most of it for as long as we could. Marvelous, magical, mischievous Max--I miss you so!

My Mom and I had a tradition of loading up our dogs in the car one night each holiday season to go see the Christmas lights throughout the area. Mom and I would sing holiday songs at the top of our voices, and the dogs were a captive audience. We always ended the evening with a trip to the ice cream store! Mom got eggnog ice cream; I got peppermint candy cane ice cream, and the dogs got vanilla! By the way, occasionally our singing did set the dogs off, and then there was howling and singing!

I certainly could not write about animals and the holidays without telling the story of my cats and the ham dance. My very dear friend Jan, who comments here sometimes, is "The Greatest Ham Cooker Ever". She is so very kind and generous and cooks me a ham and brings me wonderful homemade treats for Christmas. The first time she brought the ham, the cats and I were ecstatic--you would be overjoyed too if someone brought you a superbly cooked ham with pineapple and cherries, and it was still warm from the oven!!! As soon as she left, just barely out of sight, the cats and I started the ham dance. We were on the front porch, in the dark, acting like famished fools about to fall upon that holiday ham, and we were unaware that my mother's best friend had quietly come through the front gate and was watching us. Mom had been gone for a while, but her friend still came by on occasion. Mom would have felt the joy of the ham and joined us in the ham dance. Her friend did not share our sense of humor and our closeness with our pets. When I turned around, and she was right behind me, I almost jumped off the porch! She was looking at me very strangely, and she asked me if I was okay. After just a slight pause, I responded: "Never better!", and I offered her some ham. The ham dance is a much-loved annual tradition between Jan and me and the cats. I make her my Garlic Cheddar Biscuits for her own ham, and we are all well-satisfied...and well-stuffed. The ham dance...don't knock it until you've tried it.

Do you have favorite and funny animal stories from the holidays to share? What are some really strange gifts that you've received? I come from a fruitcake-loving family. Fruitcake--do you, or don't you? What is your all-time favorite holiday treat?

THIS IS WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THE HOLIDAY SEASON--can't really touch it or see it...but it's there!

What I love most about the holidays is that very special lightness of heart, a feeling that dreams will come true, and the child-like awe of the real magic of Christmas. It's not something that you can touch...but it definitely touches you! I still believe in the Christmas Story. I still leave cookies and milk for Santa. I still love Christmas music, and I still sing Christmas songs...loudly, badly, and with great gusto! I also love the smell of the holidays...greenery, bayberry, peppermint, hot chocolate, fresh frosty air, gingerbread and cookies!

My grandfather loved the holidays more than all the rest of my family put together. He came from a close-knit, loving family unit. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had a lot of heart, and he had a happy childhood. He was a Christmas Tree Expert Extraordinaire! He also loved all the foods of the holidays, and every year he would ask me to make Spritz Cookies. I can't tell you how many of those little butter cookies we ate, but they were as much fun to make as they were to eat!


2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated white or brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring

food coloring
colored decorating sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine flour and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla (or other flavoring), and if desired, food coloring. Gradually add flour/salt while mixer is running on low speed. Pack dough into a cookie press following manufacturer's instructions (or put into a pastry bag fitted with a large star shaped tip). Press mixture onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Top with sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, depending upon cookie size.


My grandmother, "the greatest cook ever," used to make delicious snow ice cream. Fresh clean snow (yes, it was cleaner in the "good olde days"), whole milk or cream, sugar, and vanilla. For some reason, I crave ice cream in the Winter--maybe because of Gran's "Snow Cream." One of my mother's favorite holiday treats from her childhood was "boiled custard" (which you must not allow to boil). A rich, cooked drink similar to eggnog, boiled custard is actually a custard which is thin enough to drink from a cup. My grandmother used to make it and pour it into glass jars which she would set down outside in the snow to cool. Mom and her brother and sister would drink it outside straight from the jar and then get "switched" by Gran for stealing the family treat!

Fresh Snow Ice Cream

1 small pkg. regular (not instant) vanilla pudding mix
1 cup sugar
1/2 milk
1 pint cream
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch ground nutmeg

1 to 2 gallons fresh, clean snow

In an extra-large, heavy mixing bowl, combine pudding mix and sugar. Stir in milk and blend until dry ingredients are dissolved. Blend in cream, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Cover and chill until ready to serve ice cream. To make ice cream: Stir mixture well and add in enough snow to make desired consistency. Do not over-stir. Serve immediately.

Rich Boiled Custard

1 pint whole milk
1 pint cream
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Into the lower pot of a double boiler, bring water to a medium boil. In the upper pot, add milk and cream. Heat through over medium heat. Beat eggs together until light. Add sugar and mix well. Pour a small portion of hot milk mixture into the eggs and sugar to warm and thin this portion. Pour slowly into hot milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until it will coat a spoon. Do not over cook or mixture will become too thick. Stir in vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

I wish you all the very happiest of holiday seasons! I’d love to hear your favorite holiday traditions and funny stories! I absolutely adore Christmas music, even if some of it does make me cry!

THE CHRISTMAS BICYCLE--the true story of my gift of a lifetime


I didn't have a sister, but I had Mom. I think that at times, Mom lived her childhood all over again through me. I had a pink training bike for my first bicycle. Mom taught me to ride. I vividly remember that day! She ran along beside me as I rode back and forth until she was sure that I was okay on my own. Mom loved to ride bikes (horses too). She was very artistic and theatrical, and she studied tap, ballet, music, and art. She was also double-jointed and somewhat accident-prone, but I will save those stories for another day. I outgrew "Little Pinkie", and I soon set my eyes on a full-sized, royal blue beauty from our local hardware store. "The Western Flyer"--complete with front basket, double back basket, headlight, and horn! When I came downstairs on Christmas morning and saw "Big Blue" in the living room, you can bet my squeals woke everybody up! I was a chubby kid, but I was always tall for my age, and I had long, strong legs. Nobody out rode me and "Big Blue"--nobody! I have lived in Virginia all but two years of my life. We lived in Nevada at the time that I started the first grade, and that is where Mom taught me to ride "Little Pinkie". We moved back to Virginia, and I got "Big Blue", and then we lived in Florida the year that I was in the fifth grade. Riding our bikes together was one of the few real compatible and happy times between Mom and me. Florida is where we reached the zenith of our riding. We would ride together for hours, late at night, under the street lights of our very nice, quite neighborhood. Looking back, it was remarkable that no one ever commented on our nightly bike antics. Mom and I not only rode our bikes, we performed on them! Yes, we virtually danced with our bikes. Amazing! So much fun, so much energy--nothing else ever compared to that time. I still have "Big Blue", and she still looks good. I haven't ridden her in a very long time, but she's waiting....and remembering.

SOMETHING PERFECT--one small jar of jelly, made with a world of love


The best jelly that I have ever eaten was made with wild grapes. My grandmother was a marvelous cook, and she also knew the names and uses for so many flowers and plants. We used to go on walks, and she would point things out to me and explain what they were. One day we found a patch of wild grapes, small and reddish, and I asked her if she could make jelly. I didn't realize how many grapes it would take to make jars of jelly to line up on the pantry shelf. My wonderful Gran was able to take our small little treasure of grapes and make one perfect jar of jelly. One of the short, half-pint quilted-glass jars. I can still see it and remember the taste of that sweet jelly. When I held the jar up to the sunlight coming through the window, it glowed like a garnet gem.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE--made extra-delicious the old-timey way in Gran's big cast iron skillet : )


My Gran made wonderful Pineapple Upside-Down Cake in her big old black cast iron skillet. She melted the butter in the skillet, added the brown sugar, pineapple rings with the maraschino cherries in the middle, and chopped pecans. Then she added the batter to the skillet and baked it until it was golden brown. My Gran was a small woman, but she could flip that heavy skillet over onto the cake platter and come out with a beautiful cake every time! I wanted something really good today, a treat from me to me, and I decided to make a cake. A very buttery, fragrant cake, rich with pineapple, brown sugar, cherries, and nuts:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a deep 12-in cast iron skillet add two sticks real butter and allow skillet to heat in oven just until butter is melted. Remove skillet from oven. Drain one large can pineapple slices, reserving juice. Add one cup brown sugar to butter in skillet, sprinkling sugar evenly over butter. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer over brown sugar. Fill center of each pineapple slice with a maraschino cherry, adding more cherries between the slices. Top evenly with one cup chopped pecans. Allow pan to set on top of stove and prepare cake mixture. Using one two-layer size butter-recipe cake mix, prepare per package directions, substituting reserved pineapple juice for water in recipe. Pour batter evenly over mixture in skillet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and done slightly firm to touch (until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean). Remove skillet from oven and allow cake to cook in pan at least 30 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Place serving platter over cake, and carefully invert skillet and platter. Allow cake to rest 10 to 15 minutes and remove skillet. Serve warm and topped with whipped cream. Can be served cold.

"GRAN'S MAC and CHEESE"--my most requested family recipe : )

Gran's Mac & Cheese

Comfort food from Gran herself : )

Boil 16oz elbow macaroni in large pan of salted water until slightly under-cooked. Drain pasta quickly so that it will not continue to cook in hot water. Butter a 13in by 9in baking pan. Layer pasta with at least 16oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (sharper the better). Feel free to be very cheesy! Pour one pint of half-and-half or heavy cream over pasta and cheese. Add some whole milk if needed to bring liquid to top of pasta and cheese. Dot with slices of real butter and a very light sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper. Liberally top off with grated Parmesan cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let Mac & Cheese set in covered pan for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

HAPPY HEARTFELT HOLIDAYS from author KANDY SHEPHERD—charming contemporary Christmas romance

The billionaire's Christmas proposal…

Billionaire Dominic Hunt's Christmas ball is a chance for hard-working party planner Andie Newman to make her name. She's intent on convincing gorgeous Dominic that decking the halls is the way to transform his brooding reputation, but he has an alternative idea—a festive proposal!

After Dominic unexpectedly helps Andie with her own emergency, she says yes! The engagement is meant to be just for show, but as Dominic and Andie are surrounded by the magic of Christmas, they find their fake feelings are becoming all too real…

 A Diamond in Her Stocking (Harlequin Romance)

Everyone loves a Christmas wedding!

Chef and single mom Lizzie Dumont is moving on. Returning to Dolphin Bay to make her new restaurant a success, she has no time at all for jaw-droppingly handsome Jesse Morgan—even if she can't forget that incredible kiss they once shared!

Jesse can't forget their kiss, either. But the betrayal in Lizzie's past has made her wary of him, and he hates the fact that she can't see past his reputation as a heartbreaker. Now he's on a mission to change her mind—and luckily it's the most romantic season of the year: Christmas!


Kandy Shepherd left a fast-paced career as a magazine editor to write award-winning romantic fiction. Kandy lives in a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her husband, daughter and a menagerie of four-legged friends.
She believes in love-at-first-sight and real-life romance—they worked for her!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

“THE PAINTER’S DAUGHTER”—a beautifully romantic and inspirational tale of redemption and the resonance of faith

by Julie Klassen

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

"Christy Award–winning Klassen (Lady Maybe, 2015) draws on Jane Austen’s impeccably crafted novels in her latest richly nuanced and superbly written inspirational Regency romance."
—John Charles, Booklist, starred review of The Painter's Daughter

"In this gorgeous story of love and redemption, Klassen (Lady Maybe) spins a tale of secrets and deception, coupled with unexpected plot twists and a swoon-worthy ending; giving readers more evidence as to why she’s a fan favorite. Readers of inspirational Regency romances will clamor for this title."
Library Journal starred review of The Painter's Daughter

“Klassen has combined all kinds of reader-favorite elements in this mystery romance, including a grand estate, inscrutable villagers, a family tragedy and the first sweet buds of a love story....The Secret of Pembrooke Park is a gem for Regency and inspirational readers alike." --Bookpage

MY REVIEW:  An atmospheric historical romance set among the cliffs of Devonshire, "The Painter's Daughter", from author Julie Klassen, is also an inspiring tale of redemption and the resonance of faith. Lovely young Sophie Dupont assists her father with his artistic work, helping him in his studio while keeping her own talent under wraps. Wealthy and handsome Wesley Overtree, himself an artist, prefers painting to attending his duties as eldest son and heir. After making the acquaintance of Sophie and her father, he seduces innocent Sophie before leaving on an artistic quest to Italy. Wesley's younger brother Stephen, a Captain on leave from the Napoleonic War, is once again sent to retrieve his brother and bring him home. He finds Wesley gone, and left in  his wake is an abandoned Sophie, who is carrying Wesley's child. While Wesley hadn't known about the baby, he had left with only a note of farewell. Feeling honor-bound and pressed for time, Stephen offers his name in marriage to Sophie and suggests an elopement. Wesley had made much of his brother's stern demeanor, but Sophie sees that Stephen is a good man, and she agrees to the marriage. Stephen and Sophie travel to the Overtree estate, where she will reside as Stephen completes his tour of duty. Many surprises await, including the return of the prodigal Wesley, and Sophie must stay true to her faith and seek out the answers to the questions of her own heart. Torn between two brothers, what choice will Sophie make? "The Painter's Daughter" is a very satisfying read for lovers of inspirational historical romance. Author Julie Klassen is a compelling storyteller, and I look forward to reading many more of her works.

Review Copy Gratis Bethany House Books


Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. Her book, The Silent Governess, was also a finalist in the Minnesota Book Awards, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and Romance Writers of America's RITA Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit for more information.