Review Tour for Christmas Prince (A Christmas Angel Story) by RJ Scott

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 40,000 words approx.


Cover Design: Meredith Russell


The Christmas Angel Series
Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Homecoming – L.A. Witt – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UKBlurbPrince Raphael, the youngest son of the Montaunoit royal family, is the custodian of his country’s history. At a Sotheby’s auction, he outbids Marc on an item he doesn’t even want. Just because he can.Meeting the museum curator turns Raphael’s world upside down, and when lust turns to love he knows he has to change.

Can Marc be the one to show Raphael that he doesn’t have to stay the lonely prince forever, and that love is always an option?

This story is one of seven stories which can all be read and enjoyed in any order.

The Christmas Angel Series

In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton’s Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

 
 

Dec 2 – Megan’s Media Melange, Lelyana’s Reviews, Dec 6 – Cupcakes & Bookshelves, Dec 8 – Mainely Stories, Dec 10 – Bookaholic & Kindle, Dec 12 – Mirrigold, My Fiction Nook, The Secret Ko, MM Good Book Reviews, Dec 14 – Valerie Ullmer, Xtreme Delusions, Sexy Erotic Xciting, Open Skye, Rainbow Book Reviews, Amy’s MM Romance Reviews, Dec 19 – Bonkers About Books, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Dec 21 – Momma Says: To Read Or Not To Read, Making It HappenLillian Francis, Bayou Book JunkieWicked Reads, Two Chicks Obsessed

USA Today bestselling author RJ Scott writes stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, a happily ever after.

RJ Scott is the author of over one hundred romance books, writing emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the links below:

Email RJ rj@rjscott.co.uk
Facebook
Twitter
BookBub
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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Tit for Tat by J.S. Harker

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cold has never been so hot.

College sophomore Derek is busy working over his holiday break—but his shifts at the toy store are no hardship if they mean more opportunity to dream about the sexy new guy working as an elf in Santa’s Workshop. When his mother gifts him a bag of cookies, Derek regifts them to Flynn as an excuse to get to know him. Flynn has presents to offer as well, and soon they’re dating, with Derek finding out his comfort zone is bigger than he imagined.

But Flynn is hiding a secret—he’s really a winter fairy whose magic is bound to the season. He can’t stay in the mortal realm, and Derek doesn’t want to lose contact with his family. Can they find a way to hold on to each other when the snow and sugar plums melt away?

Tit for Tat by J.S. Harker is one of those fantasy holiday stories that had a lot of potential but ended but as a sweet Christmas tale that never delivered on the promise of all the elements it held inside it.  There very quite a few things I liked about this story.  You have cute single Derek who is crushing on the elf working at Santa’s Workshop next to his Toy Store where he works at the Mall.  Only the elf isn’t human, he’s a Winter Fae, complete with snarky, ancient companion (who I really enjoyed, think a wicked Tinkerbell with a penchant for  gold spikes and stacks of pennies).

Flynn is an elf out of element…a innocent about the world he is visiting.  So he has questions about everything around him, another adorable aspect of the story.  As I said there is plenty to like.  Harker starts to put everything in place for the romance and cultural smashup.  But for me, something got lost.  I’m not a fan of instantlove which this turned into.  And  with the faery kingdom, different fae tied to the various seasons, there wasn’t the world building I hoped to see as a foundation for the other story threads the author ran here and there amidst the romance.

It all culminates in a HFN that is a nice touch that raises as many questions as it solves if you examine it too closely.

So for those just wanting a fantasy holiday story with a twist, Tit for Tat might be the thing for you.

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson.  I’m assuming that’s Derek and not Flynn, so it’s a good representation of the character.  Brrrrr.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages
Expected publication: December 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Presss
ISBN139781644051078
Edition Language English

Travel Back Down Under for N.R. Walker’s Red Dirt Christmas (special excerpt)

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Red Dirt Christmas by N.R. Walker
Publication date: 11 December 2015

Buy links: Amazon |All Romance eBooks | Smashwords

Blurb

Travis had been here for just over a year. We were technically engaged, not that we’d told anyone. He was happy just knowin’ I’d said yes, and I had some head-clearin’ stuff to work through. Knowing I was good enough for Trav was one thing, but knowing if I was good enough to be a husband and father was somethin’ else entirely.

Life at Sutton Station had never been better. Business was strong, Trudy and Bacon’s little baby, Gracie, was a few weeks old now and as cute as a button, Ma’s health was good, and my relationship with Laura and Sam was in a pretty good place. And Travis? Well, life with him was still all kinds of perfect.

But, to Travis’s dismay, Christmas at the Station was just another day. Another day of getting up before the sun, feeding animals, fixin’ what needed fixin’, and checking water troughs all while tryin’ to keep out of the blistering heat.

And this year weren’t much different. Only that it was Travis’s first Sutton Station Christmas. The fact we didn’t go all out with decorations and celebrations baffled him, and if I was bein’ truthful, it disappointed him too.

Which was why I had to make it a special kind of Christmas…

N.R. Walker’s Bio:

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.

She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since…

N.R. Walker’s Internet Links:

Email: nrwalker2103@gmail.com |Facebook timeline |Facebook Page

Twitter: @NR_Walker

Unique Excerpt for NR Walker’s ‘Red Dirt Christmas’

I undid his jeans and pulled them down his thighs. It was always a pretty clear indication on Travis’s well-bein’ when there were no sex jokes, especially when I was kneelin’ in front of him trying to get his jeans off. I ran the shower with the cold only, which was lukewarm at best. The thing about livin’ in the desert and livin’ off rainwater was that the rain-tanks sat on the baking ground like everything else.

“Remind me when you’re feelin’ better about looking into puttin’ tanks underground,” I mumbled, helping him into the already-too-small shower.

“Huh?” He looked confused.

“Later,” I told him. “Just put your head under the water. Do you feel sore or itchy anywhere?”

He took a second to answer. “Nope. I didn’t get bitten by anything, Charlie. I just feel sick. And hot. Really hot.”

“You have heatstroke, Trav,” I reminded him. “It can cook your brain if you’re not careful.”

He leaned forward and rested his forehead on his arms on the shower wall, and I stood outside the shower but quickly ran the soap over his back and shoulders. I figured cleanin’ off the dust before he got into bed would be a good idea. The red dust swirled around his feet and I scrubbed down his legs as well.

“Well, I ain’t near dead enough to know that I like your hands on me in the shower,” he mumbled.

I snorted out a laugh. “You must be feeling a bit better.” Then I asked, “How much water have you drank today?”

He seemed to think for a while. “Dunno. A bit. Two water bottles, I think.”

“Open your mouth, drink the water,” I instructed. “Small mouthfuls.”

He did that for a while and then I shut the water off and towelled him down before tying it around his waist. “Come on, into bed.”

“I feel a bit better.”

“Don’t argue with me on this, Trav. Into bed. Please.”

He hardly argued. With no more than a miserable pout, he took himself, slow and steady, to our room and sat on the bed. I switched on the ceiling fan and made him lie down, and Ma came in with a pedestal fan and the bag of ice, and when he was sufficiently fussed over, he closed his eyes and dozed. I sat beside him, movin’ the ice pack around and wipin’ him down with a wet cloth.

There weren’t nothin’ worse than watching the person you love bein’ so sick.

“Remember when I busted my knee?” he asked. His eyes were still closed. “You sat there like that.”

“I thought you were asleep.”

“Just resting.”

Christmas backgrounds. Christmas decor on the white wooden background.

A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Must Read Series any time of the year:

Red Dirt Heart Series:

Red dirt Heart CoverRed Dirt Heart 2Red Dirt Heart3Red Dirt Heart 4 cover

A Mika Review: The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

The Winter Spirit coverNathaniel O’Donnelly likes his life quiet, his guests happy, and his ghosts well-behaved.

Although a boyfriend wouldn’t go amiss. Someone to share his beautiful B&B with, even if it is in the middle of nowhere and he’s long past the wrong side of thirty. Problem is, Nathaniel’s living with a ghost who thinks he’s cupid, and whose arrows fly a little too straight.

Gabriel Wickfield had the unfortunate luck of dying before his time, and now he’s stuck trying to make romance happen to earn his right to move along. Not that he’s bored in the meantime–Nathaniel is just too easy to tease. And also a little bit scrumptious…

With the curse reaching its expiration date, Gabriel needs to make this final match this Christmas. Without it, nothing but darkness awaits.

Love can conquer all, but can it beat death?

I thought the The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn was an okay holiday novella. This author did a pretty good job with the character of Gabriel. I liked him, but I wish we would have had more information on him. I didn’t understand Owen’s involvement in the story at all. I felt like if we were going to focus on Nathaniel and Gabriel’s “relationship”, then the Owen parts could have been cut and we have more viable information on those two. I have so many questions; it’s a couple of holes in the plot. I see where she was trying to go, but I don’t understand how it was executed without any explanations.

Nathaniel’s character is someone who I’m on the fence about. I can’t tell if I like him or dislike him. On one hand he did really good things with his guest, Elisa, as well as Gabriel. On the other hand, how he handled and reacted towards Owen left a lot to be determined for me. They speak of a past knowing each other, but from the little that is given I’m kind of lost on what actually happened. I wish we would have had a few more chapters of this story. I was really getting into it at the end. I really do like the author’s writing style; it’s very easy to read and flows nicely.

Cover Art by: Wicked Smart Designs, This was a nice cover. It fits with the title, and I love the colors that were used in the design.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon

Book Details:

eBook, 125 pages,
November 18, 2015, 2015 by Indra Ink Publishing

Release Day Celebration and Contest for Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony!

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Blue Notes Books Banners

Merry Christmas, everyone! Today, Christmas morning at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, we  are celebrating the release of Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony.  While everyone is enjoying family and loved ones, Shira Anthony is stopping by to talk about her Blue Notes series and  sharing some memories of holidays past.  Entries are still being taken for the terrific Blue Notes contest.  See details at the bottom of the post.

Now pull up a chair with some coffee or tea, and let’s  welcome Shira Anthony and Symphony in Blue:

Celebrating with the Blue Notes Series: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party!  Symphony in Blue-build (1) cover

Thank you, Melanie, for inviting me to celebrate the release day of the 6th book and the first holiday novella in the Blue Notes Series! I’m also celebrating because with Symphony in Blue, I’ll have published my 10th book with Dreamspinner Press. How appropriate that celebrations are the focus of Symphony in Blue. Celebrations of love, family, and friendship.

Symphony in Blue is written as a symphony might be, with “movements” in which a particular character pairing is featured. Complete with liner notes and a dedication, it is conductor/composer David Somers’s masterpiece—a piece of his heart, shared with his friends. And for David, who for years built a wall around that heart, it’s something of a holiday miracle that he can share the joys of love and friendship as deeply as he does. The focus of the novella is a Thanksgiving meal at David’s villa outside of Milan, Italy, where all his friends gather.

I have a bit of experience with Thanksgiving in Europe, since I lived in France for two years when I was in middle school. Back in the 1970s, there weren’t many people who were familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother loves to tell the story of her Cranberries20101210begging my grandmother to send her cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner. You couldn’t find cranberries in Europe at that time. She meant for my grandmother to send her the canned variety. My grandmother sent fresh ones! By boat (back then, and even now, airmail for packages was very expensive)! Needless to say, they were pretty much ruined by the time they arrived 4 weeks later. My mother picked out all the “good” berries (i.e., the ones that weren’t moldy or mushy). We had about 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce that year! But we still had our turkey, stuffing, along with some European traditions including cheese after the main meal, and some amazing French wine (which I totally didn’t appreciate at age 15!). I still remember that Thanksgiving in Grenoble.

Nowadays, you can find fresh cranberries and all the trimmings for a festive meal throughout Western Europe, so David Somers’s last-minute Thanksgiving dinner is entirely plausible. That meal also features regional breads and vegetables. Violinist Jules bread-recette-pain-paysan-pain-campagne-1Bardon helps round out the offerings by baking “pain paysan,” or French country bread (I make this from time to time – it’s actually quite easy!). Here’s a recipe you might want to try. For our Thanksgiving my year, my daughter made two round loaves of pain paysan, and it was amazing!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate in your home! And if after your Christmas dinner you want to settle down are read a story about love for the long-term, you might want to check the Blue Notes Series and my latest release, Symphony in Blue.

The Blue Notes Series books are about real men in real relationships, with real problems, each with a music theme. If you’re looking for a sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes, I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books. But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderfella and his prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about making love work over time and through obstacles. You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here. You can read more about me, even hear what I sounded like when I sang opera professionally, and read more about my books, including free fiction and excerpts on my website, www.shiraanthony.com.

Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway (details at the bottom of the post) by clicking here (Rafflecopter). There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages. I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!

Good luck! –Shira
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Excerpt (Symphony in Blue):
DAVID TAPPED his cellphone, shoved it in his pocket, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Something ruffle the maestro?” Alex grinned up at him from the couch, his bare feet tucked underneath him, a pile of staff paper scattered about the floor and coffee table. He’d printed out a score for a new composition and managed to knock it off the printer tray. Of course, all the page numbers at the bottom of the sheets were cut off. Damn thing was at least thirty pages and would be a nightmare to organize.

“Nothing that can’t be managed. Unlike your score.” David raised an eyebrow and Alex saw the ghost of a grin on David’s face.

You could just reprint it, you know.”

“What? And waste paper?”

“You’re stubborn,” David said as he picked up several of the pages and set them on the coffee table before joining Alex on the couch. When Alex said nothing, David leaned over and feathered several kisses over Alex’s neck.

Delightfully so, of course. But stubborn nonetheless.”

Alex sighed contentedly and pushed the rest of the music onto the floor. Fine. He’d reprint the damn thing. Later.

Who was on the phone?”

“Aiden.” David spoke the name with his lips so close to Alex’s ear that Alex nearly gasped. David’s voice just did that to Alex—that sexy baritone seemed to resonate through every part of his body. Alex was pretty sure David knew what it did to him too.

“Aiden? I thought he and Sam were in Australia.”

David pulled away and offered Alex a sardonic eyebrow. “Austria.”

“Oh, come on!” Alex laughed. “You know I can hardly keep track of my own schedule. Now you expect me to keep up with his?”

“Not even the correct continent.” David went back to kissing him. “What was he calling about?” Anything to keep David focused on his neck.

“The party in Connecticut is off. They’re also postponing the civil ceremony in New York for now.”

Alex shot up off the couch. “What? But we’ve been planning the reception for six months now! It’s only two weeks away. What the hell happened? Are they okay? I mean…. Shit. You know what I mean.”

David smiled—a strange expression for someone who’d just learned that he’d wasted four months arranging the party to celebrate Aiden and Sam’s wedding. Caterers, musicians, guests, and a dozen different schedules to coordinate.

“Okay. Fess up. Why are you smiling?”

“Aiden and Sam are fine. They’re just postponing it.” David appeared entirely calm. Too calm. Happy, even?

“Postponing? They’ve been doing that for two years now.”

“Three.”

“Fine. Three years. So why are you happy about it?” Alex pressed. Of course, David was yanking his chain, but he liked that. Anyone who thought David Somers didn’t have a sense of humor simply didn’t know him.

“I’m happy,” David said as his eyes brightened, “because there’s a good reason for it. In fact, there’s a wonderful reason for it.”

Alex laughed. “What reason would that be?”

“Who might be the more appropriate way of say—”

“David,” Alex warned.

“Graziella Michaela Redding.”

“Graziella? You mean….”

“Mother and child doing quite well, I’m told.” David grinned outright this time.

“Cary and Antonio’s baby?”

“Born last night. Almost five pounds. Three weeks early but doing well.” David stood up and wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist. “A good reason to postpone a wedding, don’t you think?”

“The best.” Alex kissed David. “Should we plan a visit in a few weeks?”

“A few weeks?” David’s sly grin made Alex chuckle. “Just because we can’t have the party to celebrate doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the opening in everyone’s schedules.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Thanksgiving in Milan. It’s been years since we’ve been able to get everyone together.”

“The villa?” David’s Italian villa was certainly large enough. “But—”

“Is that a problem for you? Last I looked at your schedule, your next performance is in Buenos Aires in three weeks.” David nipped at Alex’s earlobe.

“No… it’s not… ah…. Shit, David, I can’t think straight when you do that!” Alex shivered and closed his eyes. “And no. No problem for me. But didn’t you give the staff at the villa the entire month off?”

Alex knew David had completely forgotten about that particular detail. He frowned, then said blithely, “We’ll just have to do it ourselves. Jules and I can handle the cooking. You and Jason can get the placed opened up. Rachel can help you with the rooms.”

“You’re serious about this?”

“Am I ever not?” David pulled at Alex’s earlobe with his teeth. “I’ll call the travel agent and look into rebooking all the air travel.”

“Travel agent?”

Another kiss, a nip, and then: “The travel agent. Too complicated to handle that much rebooking online and you needn’t trouble yourself with that. Just call Jules and Jason and let them know we’ll meet them in Milan on Saturday. I’ll text them the flight information as soon as I have it.”

“Ah…. Okay. Sure. Jules and Jason.” Alex could handle that. He’d been meaning to call Jules to see how the Blue Notes album was coming along anyhow. He’d joined Jules and the other members of the trio on several of the tracks when he’d been in Paris three weeks before.

“Good.” David brushed his lips against Alex’s. “And one more thing.”

“Hmm?” Focus, Bishop, focus!

“This.” David pushed Alex onto the couch and began to unbutton his shirt. “First things first. Always.”

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You can purchase the Blue Notes Series books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, and on the Dreamspinner Press website.
Encore: link to DSP
Symphony in Blue: link to DSP

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

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Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour stops:
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th: Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th: Michael Rupured’s Blog
November 15th: Joyfully Jay (Blue Notes Cover Art – Interviews with the Artists)
November 18th: Elin Gregory’s blog
November 22nd: Aisling Mancy’s blog
November 26th: Andrew Q. Gordon’s blog
December 6th: Oscar’s Bruised Petals (Sandra Garcia’s blog)
December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 13th: Lily Sawyer’s Blog
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 25th: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party at Melanie Marshall’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
December 26th: Book Suburbia
December 27th: Helen Pattskyn’s blog

Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Christmas Kitsch coverOn the outside Rusty Baker might look like just another stereotypical football player, just one of many in his high school that looked as though they were popped out of a mold for tall, big, blond rich boys.  But on the inside Rusty is different, a difference that remains hidden until Oliver Campbell, small, dark and out Oliver Campbell, enrolls in his high school and sits next to Rusty in class. When one of the more brutish football players starts in on Oliver in class, Rusty is there to cut him off, making his protection of Oliver clear to all.  A close friendship is started, one Rusty doesn’t understand.  Because Rusty suffers from poor self esteem and thinks he is stupid. Rusty can’t understand why the cute and highly intelligent Oliver would want to be his friend.  Then the day before Rusty is to leave for Berkeley, Oliver kisses him and everything changes for them both.

The hardest thing Rusty ever had to do was leave Oliver behind going to a community college while Rusty left town for a school he knew he wasn’t ready for and couldn’t survive in.  Rusty is under a mountain of stress over everything, from grades to his sexuality and the pressure almost does him in. When Rusty returns home for Thanksgiving, it all explodes when his parents catch him kissing Oliver in the driveway and they kick him out, homeless at the holidays.

While Oliver and his dad may not have material wealth, they are rich in acceptance and love.  And with their support and Oliver’s love, Rusty just might make it through not only the holidays but the rest of his life.

In Rusty Baker Amy Lane has created one of the most luminous, heartbreaking characters I have ever read.  Ten pages into the story I started weeping over this glorious man child who has been made to feel stupid and inadequate for all his years, promptly forgetting that Rusty exists only in the pages of Christmas Kitsch and the fertile imagination of Amy Lane.  Told from Rusty’s point of view, his thoughts and feelings (as well as the manner in which Rusty voices his views that shows just how deep his lack of self esteem is) engage the reader so throughly that you forget about everything around you except for Rusty and his halting path through life.

Trust me when I say that just when you think that Rusty can’t break your heart anymore, then he says something  that seems innocuous on the surface but is so shattering in the truth that it reveals that you find yourself breaking down yet again, grabbing for that second box of tissues while realizing that you are only on page 60 or so of a 256 page story.  Rusty Baker is so incandescent in his innocence and beauty that I almost expected the pages to glow.  He is textured, and glorious and unforgettable in every way.

But Rusty can’t make it alone, either in life or in the story.  So the author has created a group of characters every bit as remarkable and amazing as Rusty himself, starting with Oliver Campbell.  Oliver really is Rusty’s polar opposite from quick intelligence to his physical exterior.  Oliver’s mixed race parentage is evident not only in his name but in his small stature, dark eyes and skin. Equally rich is the latin culture which overlays everything at home from his family’s food to their family rituals.  Oliver is highly intelligent, generous of spirit and out about his sexuality.  This is our and Rusty’s first introduction to Oliver:

Oliver showed up in early September of my senior year, slender, brown on brown on brown. Dark brown hair cut with long bangs around his narrow face, dark brown eyes with thick, thick lashes, and light brown skin. He slouched quietly in the back of Mr. Rochester’s English Literature class and eyed the rest of us with sort of a gentle amusement.

It’s that “gentle amusement” that draws Rusty in as well as Oliver’s acceptance of him no matter what  Rusty might say or the way he struggles with everything in his life.  Oliver is there to quietly shore Rusty up, giving him a look at families who love and support each other with a generosity Rusty has never had in his life.  There is a quiet glow to Oliver that is never outshown by Rusty, they complement each other perfectly. I love Oliver and Oliver’s amazing dad, Arturo, both so alive that I absolutely believed in them as a family.  And that goes for Estrella, Rusty’s housekeeper and surrogate mom, as well as Nicole, Rusty’s young sister just as starved for love and family as Rusty is.  Nicole’s fragility is slowly revealed to Rusty and the reader as she becomes more of a presence in Rusty’s life.  I know that sounds odd but when you read the story you realize just how compartmentalized Rusty’s family is and the impact of that structure upon the children.

OK, I realize I am doing it again, treating these characters as real people.   Amy Lane is a superb storyteller.  She creates worlds, situations and yes, characters that seem as real as any you might meet outside your door.  They are flawed, they bleed as well as breathe.  And when they hurt, you will hurt and bleed along with them.  And that’s because somewhere those characters crossed the line from paper personas to people we love and care for as though they are family.  I have the empty tissues boxes to prove it.

What characters seemed removed, incomplete and insubstantial?  Well, that would be Rusty’s mother and father.  And with  good reason, because they feel that way to Rusty.  His parents are cold, detached from family warmth and familial love, driven by their own ambition and control.  By the author creating characters so coldly ephemeral and disengaged from their children, it helps to establish Rusty’s viewpoint as ours and it helps to understand his upbringing as well as Nicole’s.

There is laughter to be found among the pages to go with the river of tears you will shed for this amazing boy crying out for love and understanding.  And the reader will celebrate the happiness that Rusty (and Oliver) find together after all the obstacles have been surmounted.  I found myself, exhausted, red faced and snotty, surrounded happily by empty boxes of tissues at 3am and promptly wanted to do it all over again.

If I had a minuscule quibble with this story, it would be with the title.  I would have loved it if the title would have been free of holiday references.  Why?  Because I am afraid that at any other time of the year readers unfamiliar with either Amy Lane or this story might relegate it to the Christmas story genre instead of “the must read at any time of year’ category it so deserves.  But that is a wispy sort of quibble, lacking any substance and disappearing as we speak.

I loved, loved Christmas Kitsch.  It is heartwarming as well as heartrending. It is as joyous as it is poignant! And I will read it again and again because that’s what I  do with comfort reads with characters who are real to me and dear to my heart.  I am sure you will feel the same, so grab it up and start reading.  Have that tissue box handy, you will need it.  And as a extra bonus you will be helping LGBT youth in need as well.  This is a Highly Recommended, Best of 2013 or any year.  Don’t pass it by!

Cover art by LC Chase is soft and lovely.

Special Note:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visithttp://www.aliforneycenter.org

Book Details:

256 pages
Expected publication: December 9th 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published December 7th 2013)
ISBN13 9781626490864
edition language English
Riptide Publishing’s Home for the Holiday Series

Amy Lane’s “Christmas Kitsch” Blog Tour and Spotlight Stop!

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords welcomes Amy Lane, stopping by on her Christmas Kitsch Book Tour.  Here are a few words  from Amy and her phrase for this stop on the tour.  My review is up tomorrow but I will tell you all right now this story is one of Scattered Thoughts Best of 2013!
The Scavenger Hunt– 
 
In addition to the Riptide giveaway, I’m having a scavenger hunt on my own blog.  At the beginning of the blog tour, I’ll publish the tour dates on Yarning to Write.   For every stop on the tour I’ll have a “phrase” for the scavenger hunt.  At the end of the tour, I’ll put up a post for the people who have found the phrases.  If you comment — and then send me an e-mail with six of the twelve phrases and your address!– I’ll send you some Christmas Kitsch swag.  The post collecting the winners will go up on the 13th (the day of the last stop on the tour) and you will have a week to go read all of the tour stops and collect your phrases.  The hunt closes on December 21st, at the end of the day and I’ll get your swag into the mail between Christmas and New Years!  (Hopefully after I get my own Christmas cards out in the mail. I’m not known for my punctuality, I’m afraid;-)  Look below for today’s phrase!

Today’s phrase:

And don’t forget to collect “The Millionth Kiss Rocks” for the scavenger hunt on Amy’s blog on December 14th!

Riptide contest details:

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Enter your details in the Rafflecopter below to gain entry in the *Home for the Holidays* giveaway! This week of the tour closes at midnight, EST, on December 13th. Then, one grand prize winner will be contacted at the end of the Home for the Holidays tour on December 16th. Contest is valid worldwide.

Enter here at Riptide Publishing Rafflecopter Link

 Christmas Kitsch Blurb:

Christmas Kitsch coverSometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.


20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

Bio:

Amy Lane has children, pets, consuming hobbies, an amazing spouse, and a very dirty house.  The only time she does housework is Christmas, so that children, pets, spouse, hobbies, and home may exist in peace on hearth for at least once a year.

Feel free to visit Amy in the following places:

Blog: www.writerslane.blogspot.com

Website: www.greenshill.com

Twitter: @amymaclane

FaceBook: Amy Lane

FaceBook Fan Group: Amy Lane Anonymous

Or to contact her at: amylane@greenshill.com

Contest and Guest Blog by Z.A. Maxfield for Lost and Found

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Let’s welcome Z.A. Maxfield to ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords to share her thoughts on the holidays and her latest release, Lost and LostAndFound_150x300Found:

Five Favorite Holiday Book Memories

Hello, and welcome to my Lost and Found blog tour! Thanks so much to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting me today. I’m so glad to be able to share my latest release.

Everyone has Christmas film memories, and I have a lot of those. But I want to talk about my Five Favorite Holiday Book Memories. These are either about books I’ve read that deal with the holidays, or books I’ve read during the holidays!

When my daughter was two, one of our relatives sent us a tiny little board book called The Christmas Mouse. I must have read that thing a thousand times. She carried it in her tiny baby hand everywhere we went, and as her mother it was my job to read it whenever she wanted it read. Reading a story to a toddler is the BEST Christmas memory.

I used to have a copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that belonged to my mother. It was small, illustrated, and had a green leather binding. The embossing on the cover was so worn, you couldn’t read the title, but I loved that book. I kept it in a bookcase next to the bed for years and every time my husband left me a Post-It note I tucked it inside the cover. Somehow, I’ve lost that book and I’m very much afraid it was with the Christmas decorations that burned. But I loved that book. I used to enjoy reading it out loud to my kids.

One year my mother went to a used bookstore and bought me a dozen or so blue tweed editions of the Nancy Drew series from the fifties. I wasn’t feeling well, and I remember lying in bed for several days with a high fever, enjoying those books one after another when I felt well enough to read. That was a great gift and I still have those books and some older editions from the thirties that my mother bought when she was in elementary school. The fun thing about those is that she wrote her name on the inside covers in her painstaking elementary school cursive. (Which looked better than mine does now…)

I used to get really excited about interesting or unusual Christmas ornaments, but as probably everyone in the world knows now, I had a fire and lost all that. At one time, I collected little storybooks ornaments. I had A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, and I think maybe one other, I think it must have been T’was The Night Before Christmas. I used to take them off the tree and read them, and the kids liked them, they were the perfect size for little kid hands.

And Finally, MY VERY FAVORITE Christmas book memory is about an AUDIOBOOK! One year as a lark I bought this holiday themed set of cassette tapes from one of the big box stores. The tapes were a compilation of stories, I don’t know, A Baker’s Dozen, The Nutcracker, The Christmas Tea Set, and this one story about a Little Christmas Tree. Every year, we’d make cocoa in travel mugs and go drive around one of the neighborhoods where people take their holiday decorations really seriously. We’d listen to those stories, until we got to the tree one, and everyone would have a cow! See, that story was the saddest, most depressing, most pessimistic story ever, and the kids used to scream at me if I let them listen to it. So, now you know, it’s to honor my family that whenever I tell a story, I always make sure it has a happy ending. There are enough downer stories in the world…I want to remind people that even in the bottom of Pandora’s Box, there was a little bit of hope.

Thanks so much for spending some time with me and the guys from Lost and Found!

LostAndFound_500x750Blurb –
Lost: one dog and two men in need of each other. Found: love.
RV resort security chief Ringo never believed in love at first sight . . . until he saw Gavin playing his sax on the beach for the tourists. But their on-again, off-again affair—even counting all the great makeup sex—doesn’t come close to the relationship he wants. All he really wants for Christmas is a commitment from Gavin.
Instead he discovers that Gavin has had surgery without telling him, so he lays down a relationship ultimatum while Gavin recuperates. Complicating matters even more, Gavin’s beloved dog Bird runs away, and Gavin blames Ringo for the disappearance.
While Ringo throws every resource he has into finding Bird, he learns deeper truths about Gavin—how hard it is for him to trust and how little faith he has in love. Maybe if Ringo can find Bird, he can salvage Gavin’s faith. Maybe this Christmas, they can all find each other.

You can read an excerpt or purchase Lost and Found  HERE. Remember, when you purchase Lost and Found in either ebook format, which you can find  HERE or in the print anthology format, which you can find HERE, you’re helping to support the mission of the Ali Forney Center.

About Z. A. Maxfield:

ZAM started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back. Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.
If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Readers can visit ZAM at her  website, Facebook,  Twitter, or Tumblr.

Lost and Found Contest Details:

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To recap, you can find all the blog tour information you need at the Riptide Website, HERE. Be sure you attend all the stops and follow the Rafflecopter instructions for the chance to win a $20.00 Riptide Publishing Gift Certificate and all the songs on my Lost and Found Playlist!  The winner will be drawn on December 8th at 5pm  EST.  Contest is valid worldwide.

Riptide contest details:
Enter your details in the Rafflecopter below to gain entry in the *Home for the Holidays* giveaway! This week of the tour closes at midnight, EST, on December 6th. Then, one grand prize winner will be contacted at the end of the Home for the Holidays tour on December 16th. Contest is valid worldwide.

Riptide Publishing Rafflecopter Link

Book Note:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visithttp://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

Review: Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sweet and Sour coverMiles Piekus should be the happiest man around.  He has just finished a renovation of the family deli, Piekus Pickles, he bought from his parents and his shop is more successful than ever.  Miles has started a catering business and expanded the vegetarian selection in his Kosher deli.  He lives above the business in the apartment he grew up in and loves.  So what’s wrong?  Well, his Israeli boyfriend Itai, a software designer, was supposed to be his partner but can’t be bothered to help out.  And Miles thinks Itai is cheating on him again, after taking him back for a second chance.

As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collide to form Miles’s worst nightmare with the deli to run and a party to cater and no help with either, a surprising arrival might be the answers to his problems.  Detective Dominic Delbene, a pickle enthusiast and all around foodie, has been staking out Piekus Pickles, on the lookout for a narcotics ring operating in the area.  He wants to use Piekus Pickles as his undercover spot and offers to help out behind the counter as his cover.  Turns out, Nic’s family used to own a deli and soon things are running smoothly, too smoothly as it turns out.  As romance starts to collide with business for both men, can Miles and Nic find the perfect recipe for love and a future together?

C.S. Lewis said “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” In Sweet and Sour, that combination is not just admirable but downright delectable!  Each holiday season I look forward to a Hannukkah story from Astrid Amara, normally one that includes the remarkable Bellskis.  This year the author introduces us to Miles Piekus and Piekus Pickles and I fell in love all over again with this author and her captivating characters and stories.

Starting from the very first, we get a clear idea of who Miles Piekus is as a person and business owner.  He’s covered in splattered pickle juice, working on orders and trying to assuage an old time customer of his parents who mistakenly picked up the wrong pickle and, of course, blames Miles for the error!  It’s a perfect scene from the imagery to the dialog which is so authentic to that age group of elderly Jewish men and women that I could swear I was sitting over at Pumpernickels at the early bird special.  We understand immediately that Miles is overworked, feeling  unappreciated by long time customers, and irritated by the attitude and absence of his IT boyfriend.  Astrid Amara gives us Miles, the gay, hardworking, family and culture loving Miles, and she did so in a nutshell as they say.  That’s wonderful characterization, made all the better by the ease in which she accomplished it.

Then enters Detective Dominic Delbene to further confuse and help the situation.  Nic Delbene is another wonderful character in a whole slew of them.  For one, he is not the typical detective in that he’s unhappy being a cop.  Furthermore, Nic is a pickle enthusiast and a foodie in his own right, having come from a delicatessen owning family himself.  Those unexpected and genuine layers add such texture to a person who could have been a stock character that I connected to Nic from the moment he walked into the store just as Miles did.  Nic loved the food Miles served up and he ate with an enthusiasm that was so contagious that my mouth actually watered.  One of the reasons this connectivity works so beautifully is because we understand Miles reaction to Nic because it is ours as well.

This book is chock full of memorable people, as different in flavor as the pickles you would find in Miles’ shop. And that includes Itai, the software designing boyfriend with ideas of a relationship at the other end of the spectrum from Miles.  Most people will dislike him deeply.  I have to admit I am not terrfibly fond of him myself. But I loved the manner in which Miles dealt with him. From the beginning to the end, Miles behaved like an adult and a loving, responsible human being.  In fact most of the people here are those who would garner your respect if you met them outside these pages.  As for the other characters?  Well, while we wouldn’t want to be more than acquaintances we would surely recognize them as the living breathing real women and men that Amara has created them to be.  From their actions to their dialog, it all works and works so smoothly that the pages just speed by along with the plot.

Layered overtop of the characters and plot is the author’s love of food and the Jewish culture.  These elements add such a richness to this story  that it almost needs its own review.  Miles keeps a Kosher kitchen and works hard to deliver kosher food that is still very “upscale”, pushing the boundaries of the expectations of those people in his community and the customers his store has served, some for years.  Astrid Amara gently imparts some of the specific about keeping Kosher to the reader without going into plot deadening detail.  We learn that Miles serves vegetarian because of the kashrut law that says meat and dairy must be kept separate.  We watch as Miles prepares his first catering job for Rabbi Kevin Fine, the  four-course Sabbath dinner for fifteen reform rabbis and their spouses at the Jewish Community Center. We get a complete menu and reactions from the dinners.  It’s a rich, funny, and ultimately heartwarming scene.  And I wanted to be there.  We are also are there as Miles spends his first Hannukkah alone, lighting the candles and saying the prayers by himself in his upstairs apartment.  We know how important tradition and his religion are to Miles because Astrid Amara has made it abundantly clear through Miles’ actions and words.  It’s moving and authentic.

And then there is the food and the recipes.  Oh my, such food!  Each chapter is labeled with the title of a recipe.  Chapter One is Warmly Spiced Cranberry Chutney. Chapter Four is Kosher Dill Half-Sours, Chapter Eight is Indian Hot Lemon Pickle right up to Beet Pickled Duck Eggs.  Each recipe sent me running to my computer and Google.  The food inside this story filled my head with aromas and flavors of such mouth-watering variety that I wanted to sample a bit of each and you will too.  I have been told that all the recipes in Sweet and Sour are real to my delight.

The holidays are upon us and Sweet and Sour is the perfect accompaniment for your holidays no matter what you celebrate. It is full of laughter and family, of traditions both old and new, of friends and lovers and our hopes for the future.  And of course, food, lots and lots of food and new recipes to try out. I asked for one from the author and here is the sufganiyot recipe.   Now I am off to bake.  You will want to as well. http://www.chow.com/recipes/30225-mexican-hot-chocolateglazed-sufganiyot-hanukkah-doughnuts-with-marshmallow-filling.

Sweet and Sour by Astrid Amara is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords highly recommended reads for 2013.  Don’t miss out!

This is how it all begins:

Chapter One

Warmly Spiced Cranberry Chutney

“It’s a disgrace, what you’ve done to this pickle!”

Mr. Frank Elder, a loyal customer of Piekus Pickles for over fifteen years, brandished a sad pickle aloft, as if its very appearance were something so appalling everyone in the establishment would gasp in horror.

As it was, Miles Piekus, owner of Piekus Pickles and the one being verbally accosted, wiped the spatters of pickling liquid from his face and affixed an apologetic smile upon his face.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Elder. Can I get you another one?”

“You try it!” Mr. Elder cried, shoving the offensive vegetable in Miles’s face.

Miles took the small green pickle and bit off the end. It tasted crunchy, garlicky, and tart, just like a pickle should taste.

“It’s very sour!” Mr. Elder complained, and Miles understood the problem.

“This is a full-sour pickle. You usually buy half-sours.”

Half sours were brined in salt and spices only. This pickle had been brined in vinegar and for a longer time. Miles wondered if the old guy had finally lost his sense of smell. “See how dark it is? Half- sours are a lighter green.”

Mr. Elder scratched his temple. “But I thought I got my usual…”

“Did you select pickles from that first barrel by the window?” Miles pointed to one of six large wood barrels lining the wall of the deli. “Because I moved the barrels around when I renovated, and I bet you selected full–sours instead of your regular.”

“Even if that was the case, your mother would have caught the mistake before ringing me up.”

That was likely true, and not the first time Miles had heard the complaint. He’d inherited his family’s store when his parents retired and moved to Arizona three months ago, and the transition embittered many of the older, traditional client base that found Miles’s youth and enthusiasm off-putting.

“I’m sorry,” Miles repeated, his smile firmly attached. “Let’s get you half a dozen half-sours on the house.”

“You don’t have to go that far—“

“I insist. You’re right. I should have caught the mistake and I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Miles gathered up a jar and used the tongs in the half-sour barrel to fish out a dozen small cukes from the brine. He sealed the lid and moved quickly to the cash register to ring up the sale. As he did so the bells over the front door jingled and two couples hurried in from the rain, talking loudly. Miles smiled at them then stole a glance back to the closed door behind him. The door opened to a narrow flight of stairs that connected to the second floor of the building, where Miles’s boyfriend currently sat, ostensibly not helping with the business. Miles sighed. He handed the jar to Mr. Elder and made a note for his Regular Clients board hidden behind the counter about the man’s tastes.

“Thank you, Miles,” Mr. Elder said in a complaining voice. “I’ll give you one more chance.”

Book Details:

ebook, 138 pages

Expected publication: November 26th 2013 by Loose Id
ISBN139781623004163
url http://www.loose-id.com/newest/coming-soon/sweet-and-sour.html

Special Note and  Recipes From the Author:

The one recipe I’ve personally made a few times before is a two parter – you need to make Pickled Beets first, and then you get to make Beet Pickled Duck eggs (thats the recipe in the book Sweet and Sour, but you can use chicken eggs instead).

Both recipes courtesy of “The Joy of Pickling” by Linda Ziedrich
Pickled Beets

– Makes 8 pints

7 lbs. beets with their rootlets and 2 inches of their tops, well scrubbed
2 4″ cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
1T whole allspice berries
1t whole cloves
1 c granulated sugar
1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2t pickling salt
1 quart cider vinegar
2 c water

1. Put the beets into a large pot and pour enough boiling water over them to cover them. Return the water to a boil and boil the beets for 15-35 minutes, depending on their size, until they are just tender.
2. Drain the beets and cover them with cold water. When they are cool, trim them and slip off their skins. If they are large, halve or quarter them – or if you like, slice all the beets into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
3. Tie the spices in a spice bag or a scrap of cheesecloth. Put this in a nonreactive pot with both sugars, salt, vinegar, and water. Bring the contents to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer the liquid, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
4. While the liquid simmers, pack the beets into pint or quart mason jars. Pour hot liquid over the beets, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps. Process the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.
5. Store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 weeks before eating the beets. After opening a jar, store it in the fridge. Save the liquid in the jar for the eggs below:

Eggs Pickled in Beet Juice

– Makes 1 quart

1c liquid from Basic Pickled Beets

1c white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1t pickling salt
1/2 t whole black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 t whole allspice berries, crushed
1 Mediterranean bay leaf, crumbled
About 12 hard-cooked duck eggs (to fill a quart jar), peeled

1. In a nonreactive saucepan, bring to a boil the beet-pickling liquid, vinegar, salt, and spices. Remove the pan from the heat and let the liquid cool.
2. Put the eggs into a quart jar and pour the cooled liquid over them. Cap the jar and refrigerate it for 6-24 hours. The longer you leave the eggs in the liquid, the farther the red color will penetrate into the whites. To keep the yolk from coloring, slice and serve the eggs before a day has passed.

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A good basic bread and butter pickle recipe:

Review: A Gentleman’s Agreement by J. Roman

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Rating: 3.75 stars

A Gentleman's AgreementThomas Derrik is about to have the worst Christmas of his life. Three days before the holiday, he finds out the father he doesn’t get along with is arriving on Christmas Eve, his ex-lover and new brother-in-law will be staying at his estate until the New Year, and his beloved brother, Edmund, has died.

Luckily, Edmund’s last holiday scheme may well save Thomas’s Christmas: Henry Appleby, a young lord fresh from the Continent, has arranged to court Thomas. But the family tragedy and jealous exes may put an end to the romance before it begins.

I really liked the tone and characters of this book from the beginning. J. Roman gives us a credible character in the grieving Thomas Derrick. Thomas is facing so many major losses only 3 days from Christmas.  His beloved younger brother has been killed in battle, the  man he has loved since childhood has married his sister, supposedly to remain close to him but a more bitter betrayal Thomas has never felt.  And finally, his father who disapproves of his heir, is returning to the family home, just in time to pressure Thomas to marry and make his life even more miserable than it already is.

I have not read anything by J. Roman before, but the author has a wonderful way with characters.  Thomas’ grief is palpable. The author manages to make the reader feel both Thomas’ stress and pain as well as the fact that losing his brother has left Thomas unable to deal with Darrow, the man he has been having an affair with since they were young.  Darrow has married Thomas’ sister but continues his pursuit of Thomas.  There are so many complications in Thomas’ life that it almost renders him unable to react. J. Roman captures the  time and period beautifully and kept me engaged right up to the time this story ran completely off the rails and into fantasyland.

A Gentleman’s Agreement had me enthralled and all the historic elements were detailed and precise, then Roman asks the reader to suspend their belief to accept the fact that Edmund, Thomas’ brother, had planned to send a male suitor to his brother as well as the man’s sister with the intent that Thomas marries the sister but in turn really takes on the brother as his mate.  And do you know?  I could accept that.  Edmund is supposedly a master planner and manipulator, so I could see that happening.  But then, it turns out His Lordship, Thomas’ father accepts that as well.  Part of the agreement is that the sister may take whomever as a lover and that Thomas would raise the children as his own.  Acceptable except that it would mean the title would be passed down to someone not of their linage and I could never see that ever being acceptable to Thomas’ father.  And from there it gets increasingly strange and unbelievable.  True, all the events that pass are unbelievable in a lovely Christmas  miracle kind of way but still not plausible outside of a fairy tale.

So you have a wonderful historic Christmas tale that quickly devolves into a fantasy that takes place in the past.  It is still kind of lovely, but only in that novelty sort of way.  But there is so much promise in this tale that I am off to discover what else J. Roman has written.  So if you want your history and fantasy too, you will enjoy this.

Catt Ford was the artist for this amazing cover.