The Week Ahead and A Light Easy Cheesecake to Die For!

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Maryland has felt like Phoenix this week, right up until the storm that nailed parts of the area Friday night.  There are still thousands of people without power and in some cases homes due to the high winds that toppled power lines and trees.  Unreal.  With the heat index in the 100’s, it was a great time to have my nose buried in a book or 10 (easy to do with a Kindle).  The dogs totally agreed with that sentiment and kept me company, happy in the ac.  I did fix a new recipe from Bon Appetite, a light and fluffy cheesecake that will quickly become a favorite desert of yours as it did mine.  Yes, a fluffy cheesecake!  So look for the recipe after the week’s review schedule:

Monday:                                 A Self Portrait by JP Bowie

Tuesday:                                 Dance with the Devil by Megan Derr

Wednesday:                           Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau  and Violetta Vane*

Thursday:                               Lessons in Power, Cambridge Fellows #5 by Charlie Cochrane

Friday:                                     The Wizard and the Werewolf by Amber Kell

Saturday:                                 The Lonely War by Alan Chin

So you say you need a little something to go with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a good book?  Here is a recipe you must make courtesy of Bon Appetite Magazine, we ate ours right down to the last little crumb:

Cheesecake with Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries:

Shortbread Crust Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup shortbread cookie crumbs made from 6 oz. shortbread cookies (such as Walkers), finely ground in a food processor
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of fine sea salt
Cheesecake Ingredients:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin2/3 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperaturePinch of fine sea salt
10 ounces cream cheese, cut into 10 pieces, room temperature
1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks
Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries
1 6-oz. container fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Preparation
Shortbread Crust
Lightly coat an 8x8x2″ baking pan with nonstick spray; line with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang.
Mix crumbs, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until it resembles moist sand. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Cover; chill.
Cheesecake
Place 2 Tbsp. cold water in a small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin is soft, 5-10 minutes.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat sugar, butter, and salt in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With motor running, add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in crème fraîche, orange juice, and lime juice.
Gently heat gelatin over lowest heat, stirring constantly, just until gelatin dissolves. Scrape gelatin into cream cheese mixture; beat to blend. Fold in whipped cream just to incorporate. Pour mixture over crust; smooth top. Chill until set, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD: Cheesecake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled, or freeze airtight for up to 2 weeks.
Ginger-Lime Candied Raspberries
Cook first 3 ingredients, 1 Tbsp. mint, lime juice, and 1 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan over low heat until raspberries are soft and juices are released, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Using plastic wrap overhang, lift cheese-cake from pan and place on a flat surface. Cut into pieces; place on plates. Spoon candied raspberries over; drizzle with sauce and garnish with mint.

The Week Ahead in Reviews and a Great Salad for Anytime of the Year

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The old adage of if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes has always applied to Maryland but never more so than in the last few years.  Where once you could count on May being like May and June acting sensibly like June,  all the months now seem to pull on each others characteristics like a kid trying on their parents clothes.  Frigid one day, boiling the next, mildly cool, then outstandingly gorgeous. Today is one of those days where we have tumbled into August almost overnight.  It will be in the 90’s today so this morning I have been making sure all the bird baths are clean and full as I know they will get a workout by all the robins, catbirds, chickadees, and everyone else who favors my yard with their constant flutterings.  The hummingbird feeders have been changed and the dogs have done their run in the backyard, finished until this evening.

This is Fae Awareness Month so my contribution was a blog called The Sexy Fae of Lost Girl about Lost Girl the SyFy TV series I am addicted to.  Find it here!

I don’t know about you but when the days get hot, I long for salads and meals that are light. I just made a wonderful salad that is perfect to serve year around.  Look for it after  the schedule for the week.  Have a great Sunday!

Monday:                     Don’t Judge A Book by Scarlett Blackwell

Tuesday:                     On The Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset

Wednesday:               Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Thursday:                   Ensnared by Dawn H. Hawkes

Friday:                         Lessons in Temptation (Cambridge Fellows #5) by Charlie Cochrane

Saturday:                     Reviewer surprise (Which Means I Can’t Make My Mind Up)

Green Goddess Salad

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3 large hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 pound haricots verts

Directions (Serves 6, 30 mins to make):

1. In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry.

2. In a mini processor, combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, cider vinegar and lemon juice and process until smooth. With the machine on, add the canola oil in a thin stream. Add the thyme and pulse until minced. Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, crumbled feta, sliced cucumber, quartered eggs and haricots verts. Add three-fourths of the dressing and toss to coat. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve. If you anticipate having some left over, than consider putting the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t wilt.
MAKE AHEAD The dressing and haricots verts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


Review of Lessons in Power (Cambridge Fellows #4) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars

Cambridge 1907

After the tumultuous doings where Orlando lost his memory albeit temporarily, Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart are now happily ensconced in their newly purchased home, Forsythia Cottage.  But it’s not long before mystery and murder find them again.  Matthew Ainslie, friend and acquaintance (depending upon which of the men you talked to, Orlando never quite forgiving Matthew for his actions on Jersey) has a problem.  An old flame of Matthew’s is accused of murder and Matthew doesn’t believe he did it.

As Matthew lays out the details of the case to them, the murder hits much closer to home than either one of them could have imagined.  The murdered man is none other than one of the boys who sexually abused a very young Jonty over the course of a semester at boarding school.  The news brings memories of the abuse back to Jonty with a vengeance, shattering his carefully fabricated acceptance of those events.  As Jonty withdraws from Orlando and their relationship, a second murder is committed and the other abuser from his past is found dead.  As suspicion falls upon his beloved Dr. Stewart, Orlando and Jonty race to find the murderer and help Jonty finally find some measure of peace with his past.

For me this is a tour de force from Charlie Cochrane.  Lessons in Power still contains dialog that delights with the lightness of Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics and the shear witty remarks of Oscar Wilde.  But the reality of rape and the long term trauma, bitterness and sense of violation that rape victims contend with lives in these pages as well.  And that incongruity serves to highlight the horror and damage done not only to Jonty but other victims of the same sexual violence that seems to know no age or continental restraints.

Threads of Jonty’s abuse have been trickling through the storylines of the previous books in this series.  Thunderstorms leave him scared and shaken into silence until Orlando brings him out of it.  And when asked, Jonty has said that he has told no one the names of his attackers lest his father or Orlando go after them.  But here that abuse and the true torment that Jonty has endured is brought to the front and center of the story.  It is with amazing skill and talent, that Charlie Cochrane never loses the flavor of Edwardian England and its settings in her stories, from the Stewart family castle to the hallowed halls of St. Brides.  Here the sun never sets on England even as Orlando and Jonty deal with the realities of murderers and child abusers.   The author treats all with sensitivity and care even as she made me weep with Jonty and his family.

It took me several books before Jonty and Orlando became near and dear to my heart, so I would recommend that all the books be read in sequence.  Otherwise certain references and characters mentioned here can’t be understood in the context they need to be.  I have come to love all the characters here, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, Miss Peters, Mr. Wilson, all of them and find I cannot go to long before I need to head off to St. Brides and another mystery with my Cambridge Fellows.  This is a wonderful book in a wonderful series.  Don’t let either of them pass you by.

Cover: I think this cover is perfect.  I love the sepia tones and graphics of the haunted looking young man in the classroom.  I just wish the fonts were solid and one type for ease of reading.

Available from Samhain Publishing, Amazon, and ARE.

Review of Lessons in Discovery, Cambridge Fellows #3 by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 5 stars

Lessons In Discovery is the third in the Cambridge Fellows series, and the one that cemented my love for Jonty and Orlando. With the first book, the characters felt very removed and dispassionate. I loved the historical feel of the book, but the men? Not so much. The second book, Lessons in Seduction, started to draw me in, as the characters fleshed out and become real. Then the angst and layers of Lessons in Discovery pulled me completely into the world of St. Bride’s and the pairing of Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart.

Previously, Orlando had finally gotten over his fear and made love to Jonty as he had long wished. Now, an enthusiastic partner in their love making, Orlando runs up the staircase to the bedroom ahead of Jonty, slips, and hits his head. The result is a catastrophic head injury that causes partial amnesia. Gone is the year in which he met and fell in love with Jonty. Gone is all memories of first friendship as well as first love. The pain that Jonty feels upon learning that Orlando doesn’t remember him is palpable. But the worst is to come when Jonty decides to tell Orlando that they weren’t just friends but lovers. Trust me when I tell you to have the tissues handy for this one.

Lessons in Discovery take the reader on a journey with Orlando, as he uncovers the layers to his past with Jonty and starts to fall in love with him all over again. Charlie Cochrane does a splendid job with the setting and dialog. I actually felt as though I were walking the frozen fields and paths with Jonty and Orlando during their visit to Jonty’s family at Christmas time. The descriptions of the Hogmanay Ball filled me with delight. And as usual, there is a mystery for the fellows to solve. This time is the mystery of the Woodfield Ward, whose skeletal remains have been found in a well. Both the resolutions of the mystery and Orlando’s missing memories are interwoven beautifully, creating a tapestry of love, mystery, and murder that leaves the reader so very satisfied and content.

So it’s merrily on to the rest of the series. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Jonty and Orlando. I am sure that there will be love, angst and a good mystery as the sun shines over the Cambridge landscape. I think I will go find a supply of bulleyes in preparation for our next visit. Join me.

Blurb from the Publisher, Linden Bay Romance:  Cambridge 1906, On the very day Jonty Stewart proposes that he and Orlando Coppersmith move in together, Fate trips them up. Rather, it trips Orlando, sending him down a flight of stairs and leaving him with an injury that erases his memory. Instead of taking the next step in their relationship, they’re back to square one. It’s bad enough that Orlando doesn’t remember being intimate with Jonty—he doesn’t remember Jonty at all.

Back inside the introverted, sexually innocent shell he inhabited before he met Jonty, Orlando is faced with two puzzles. Not only does he need to recover the lost pieces of his past, he’s also been tasked by the Master to solve a four-hundred-year-old murder before the end of term. The college’s reputation is riding on it.

Crushed that his lover doesn’t remember him, Jonty puts aside his grief to help decode old documents for clues to the murder. But a greater mystery remains—one involving the human heart.

To solve it, Orlando must hear the truth about himself—even if it means he may not fall in love with Jonty the second time around

Cover:  Love these sepia toned covers, perfect for the time period and the story contained within.

 

A Review of Lessons in Desire, Cambridge Fellows #2 by Charlie Cochrane

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I have just finished Lessons in Desire, the second in the Cambridge Fellows series and I am beginning to see the reasons for the good reviews. Unlike the first book which left me detached and uninvolved in the characters, Lessons in Desire delighted me and gave me a better understanding of Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart as well as the times they lived in.

It is 1906 and classes at St. Brides College have been adjourned for the holidays. Jonty Stewart has persuaded his love and colleague to go on vacation with him to Jersey, a journey Orlando views with trepidation. Once the fellows reach the shores of Jersey, the book really began to engage me. As Jonty introduces Orlando to the joys of the seashore, from swimming to hunting crabs in the tidal pools, you experience these precious first times with him. Charlie Cochrane’s descriptions of the shore and its delights are lyrical. She clearly loves the sea and has spent much time there in much the same pursuits as Jonty and Orlando. Orlando’s repressed and restricted childhood leaves him unprepared for the childish games and day trips Jonty has prepared for them to do.

This is such a wonderful look into a gentler, slower time. I loved riding with them on the bicycles, or catching shrimp and bedeviling the hermit crabs in their favorite cove. I laughed at their descriptions of the bathing costumes and Orlando’s embarrassment in disrobing outside of his room (even though he would be merely taking off the clothes on top of the bathing outfit). As Orlando slowly opens himself up to fully experiencing being on holiday with Jonty, more of his past is revealed.

Of course, a murder occurs at the inn they are staying at and, much like Agatha Christie, you are introduced to all the suspects during Orlando and Jonty’s stay. From the kind older couple to the young honeymooners, all the staple characters of an English murder mystery are here. But unlike a Agatha Christie novel, the murderer is easy to spot and the crime not really much of a mystery. That was my only real disappointment in this book. I wished that the murder mystery was as high in quality as the descriptions of Jonty and Orlando on holiday. But I love the fact that this is a typical cosie but a m/m cosie, a lovely addition to the genre.

If you are looking for hot, descriptive sex, then you will find the title misleading and the book disappointing. Here Jonty wishes Orlando to open himself to exploring new horizons of all types, not just including physical love. The lovemaking is gentle and usually under wraps as it were, left more to the readers imagination than visually realistic in terms. I thought this was very much in keeping with the tone and flavor of the story and feel that anything else would have been inappropriate.

I look forward to the next installment in the series, Lessons in Discovery and another visit with Jonty and Orlando.

Rating: 4 stars

Note: I really like the cover of this book. It evokes the time period beautifully unlike the new modern cover for the first novel which was jarring.

With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it’s easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they’re staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim’s son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?

Available from: LindenBay Publishers, All Romance, Amazon, Fictionwise.