I do love a Christmas Romance, you’ll find me seeking them out and compiling a TBR queue round about Halloween. Here are this year’s recommendations! And for those of whom the X-mas theme is not their jam I’ve included a few of my favorite books set during winter.  

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This one was cute I do love a Grumpy/Sunshine trope! And the cast of townsfolk characters were very entertaining. I’m fixing to add Bay’s” Mister” series in my New Year’s TBR.

I hate Christmas.
As CEO of my company, I’ve banned decorations from the office, festive music from the lobby and any kind of secret Santa gifts between employees are strictly forbidden.
I’m heading to the airport, away from the Christmas lights and the mulled wine, heading for sunshine and margaritas when I get a call from Granny. She’s sprained her ankle and needs my help filling in for her as head of the village Christmas Committee. Snowsly is the Christmas Capital of England and the last place I want to be in the lead up to Christmas.
But there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Granny.
When I arrive in Snowsly, I’m introduced to Celia Sommers who is Christmas’ biggest fan and therefore my own personal nightmare before Christmas. Worse than that, I have to work with her to make Snowsly’s Christmas market a success.
Celia is determined to get me in the festive spirit. It’s not going to work.
It doesn’t matter if she’s smart and funny and easy to flirt with—if she doesn’t stop looking at me with her sparkling eyes and pouting her completely kissable lips, Celia is going straight to the top of my naughty list.

 

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Jill Shalvis is a favorite of mine and when I saw her new Christmas themed anthology I snapped it up. I was not disappointed. She has several series going and I enjoyed the story set in her Heartbreaker Bay series the best.  

 

One Snowy Night

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to her family. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, her long-time crush, and his big, goofy, lovable dog. A long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past…and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

Holiday Wishes

When Sean O’Riley shows up for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, the last person he expects to see is Lotti Hartford, the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago. As the weekend continues, Sean realizes he wants to leave his hook-up life behind, but can he convince Lotti to open her heart to him again?

Mistletoe in Paradise

Years after their secret fling ended, Hannah isn’t eager to see James during their families’ annual joint holiday-themed yacht adventure. But when they’re the only people who show up, James and Hannah are stuck together on the high seas for days. As the former lovers try to make the best of the Christmas snafu, they soon realize the best things in life can’t be planned, and sometimes love is sweeter the second time around. 

 

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All of the tasks the matchmaker sets for the heroine are amusing as well as the people living in her building. I saw the conclusion of the story and figured out the big surprise quickly but still stuck around because the heroine was a hoot. 

 

For Cassie Beaumont, it’s meeting her perfect match. Cassie, at thirty-three, wants a husband and kids, and so far nothing’s worked. Not blind dates, not the internet and certainly not leaving love to chance.
What other options are there? Well…she could hire a professional matchmaker. Simon Dodson has quite a reputation, but he’s very choosy about the clients he takes on—and very expensive. Cassie considers him a difficult, acerbic know-it-all, and she’s astonished when he accepts her as a client.
Claiming he has her perfect mate in mind, Simon assigns her three tasks to complete before she meets this paragon. Three tasks that are all about Christmas: being a charity bell-ringer, dressing up as Santa’s elf at a mall and preparing a traditional turkey dinner for her neighbors (most of whom she happens to dislike). Despite a number of comical mishaps, Cassie does it all—and then she’s finally ready to meet her match.
But just like the perfect Christmas gift, he turns out to be a wonderful surprise! 

 

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This is my favorite this year. I’m a sucker for a quaint English village setting! This is one that I bought way back in September in anticipation for Christmas reading. 

When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say “Bah, humbug.” The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn’t exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate’s found fulfillment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt’s neighborhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men. The odds must finally be in her favor . . . right?

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before–and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures–Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it’s least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it’s been right under her nose all along. . . .

 

Also, for those who don’t want a Christmas theme here are some of my favorite books set during winter….

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A rethink of Rumpelstiltskin, I really liked the adventurous Miryem. 

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. She will face an impossible challenge and, along with two unlikely allies, uncover a secret that threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike.

 

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A very well done Beauty and the Beast reboot. I recommended it last year too. And, it’s on sale for Kindle right now!

Amarrah Brewer is desperate and grief-stricken.
For ages, the town of Bitterburn has sent tribute to the Keep at the End of the World, but a harsh winter leaves them unable to pay the toll that keeps the Beast at bay. Amarrah volunteers to brave what no one has before–to end the threat or die trying.

The Beast of Bitterburn has lost all hope.
One way or another, Njål has been a prisoner for his entire life. Monstrous evil has left him trapped and lonely, and he believes that will never change. There is only darkness in his endless exile, never light. Never warmth. Until she arrives.

It’s a tale as old as time… where Beauty goes to confront the Beast and falls in love instead.

 

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Definitely a winter story. My favorite scene is the literary themed party Zachary attends at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC. No one writes party scenes like Erin Morgenstern! 

 

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

 

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Also, may I humbly recommend: 

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The skies they were ashen and sober; The leaves they were crisped and sere— The leaves they were withering and sere; It was night in the lonesome October Of my most immemorial year: It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, In the misty mid region of Weir— It was down by the dank tarn of Auber, In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

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Here once, through an alley Titanic, Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul— Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul. These were days when my heart was volcanic As the scoriac rivers that roll— As the lavas that restlessly roll Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek In the ultimate climes of the pole— That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek In the realms of the boreal pole.

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Excerpt of Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe

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I picked this up on the advice of SBTB and am really enjoying it! It’s a three book series and I’ve just finished the first! Fun yet creepy and with really great world building and monsters galore, and I loved it! Oh! And It’s on sale for 4.99, not sure how long that’s going to last.

I’m off to buy the next two in the series now, have a happy Halloween!

The first book in a delightfully witty fantasy series in which Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, must defend London from both supernatural ailments and a bloodthirsty cult

Greta Helsing inherited her family’s highly specialized and highly peculiar medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills: vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although she barely makes ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice and her life.

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May I also humbly recommend:

TDS Blurb + Jacket

When I was creating the world of Dragon’s Pawn I looked to the excellent artists of DeviantArt for inspiration and found Alex Pascenko. His illustrations were exactly what I’d been envisioning for the members of MechUnit 503 assigned to patrol the border at Elko checkpoint.

To celebrate the second anniversary of Dragon’s Pawn here is a special excerpt:

CHAPTER 11

He sat at the kitchen table. The lights dimmed and then she walked in with the cake. It was a small brown lump with a sparse coating of frosting. Nothing like the stacked up confections he’d seen in vids but to him it was the best thing ever.

             The glow of three candles lit the woman’s face as she walked from the kitchen. She wasn’t especially pretty, handsome was what he’d heard people call her; she had straight straw colored hair that was cropped at the jaw and her face had been aged by a hard life. Her eyes though, the color of a summer sky, were beautiful and lit with happiness, she was smiling at him as she started to sing. The voices of at least two other people joined her in singing the birthday song although he could not see them beyond the glow of the candles.

            She sat the cake in front of him and those around him clapped happily. His mouth was watering but he waited, wanting to save this moment. The scent of the chocolate, he could feel warmth from the flames of the candles on his face, it was all so perfect.

            “Well? Make a wish, silly!”

            He looked across the table to find Mia smiling at him. She was dressed, as he’d last seen her, in jeans and the olive drab utility jacket of a Tower messenger. Her brown eyes were dark in the low light. He drew in a breath and blew out the candles.

            A light flashed then the scene changed.

            He was in the watchtower overlooking the border at Elko Checkpoint.

            “Anything buzzing up there, Bookworm?”

            He targeted the fifty some people passing through the narrow checkpoint gates, his TOS searching for unusual readings. “All clear,” he reported.

            “Stay alert, there’s been chatter of Rager activity in Salt Lake.”

            “Copy that,” he answered.

            Folks in pairs and family groups passed beneath him as the members of 503 unit cleared them. His TOS lit up as alone figure dressed in a utility jacket with the hood pulled up stepped up to the clearance point. All singles were flagged for additional security and his Captain, MECH5030195, and MECH5030150 took the guy into the secure pen and began the search. Suddenly his coms went dead. Cap. Nine-five and Five-oh were tussling with the stranger.

            “Boomer! Boomer!” someone yelled.

            The checkpoint was instantly thrown into chaos as people ran in every direction. The three other members of 503 were trying to rush to the pen through the surge of panicked people.

            “My TOS is offline!” shouted someone through the din.

            “Fucking EMP!” yelled another.

            “Two-four, Two-four!” he heard Nine-five shout to him. “Brain him! Shoot! Shoot!”

            His TOS acquired and his rifle went hot, he had the subject’s cerebellum in his crosshairs, a shot there would turn the guy off like a switch. He was about to pull the trigger when the subject’s hood fell back revealing his face. It was Mia.

            He hesitated.

            Fire erupted; a wall of heat lifted him up, tearing the watchtower out from under him. His ears filled with screams then he was falling, he was burning…

            Adam took great gulp of air breaking the surface of his nightmare. He found he was already on his feet at the side of his bed, his right arm extended, his rifle augment glowing with an ammo charge.

            His TOS was screaming at him. ABORT-ABORT-ABORT!

            He was about to blow a hole in the wall of his apartment, not only his but Mrs. Liu’s as well. Quickly he shut down his weapon, retracting the barrel of the rifle and swinging his hand back down to reattach to his wrist. He backed up and sat heavily on his bed, gripping his left hand over his right fist. Concentrating on his breath he tried to calm down. He shivered as his sweat soaked skin cooled.

            WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAVE birthday_memory/dream NEW VERSION?

YES?  NO?

            “Oh God, fuck no!” he rasped.

             It wasn’t like he’d be able to forget the dream anytime soon. It had been a few months since he’d had one that bad. It was a combo of his best dream and worst dream. Both were recurring but never had he experienced both at the same time, and to stick Mia in there had been just cruel. Way to go subconscious, awesome, thanks a million!

            The birthday dream he’d been having for years, the first time a few months after his augmentation. Most of it stayed the same, the blue-eyed woman, the cake, and the kitchen, even the birthday song.

            He’d started saving it to his TOS when he’d begun to suspect it wasn’t just a dream. The details were so specific and repeated with such clarity that he thought maybe it might be a memory.

            Other MECHs had reported similar experiences. The corporate Medtechs chalked it up to synapse noise missed by the scrubbers that emptied out a soldier’s head.

            “The human mind is a strange contraption,” one Med had told him, “It may be real or it could be something your brain made up, it’s hard to say for sure.”

            Adam had his own theory; it was mostly based on wishful thinking, but still. It was the woman in the dream. They had the same eyes, same shape and color, same nose, same mouth. He’d done an image match and their features were so similar they had to be related. Was the dream a missed thread of memory that floated up to the surface while he was sleeping? He liked to think it was.

            The other dream, the bad dream, he knew for certain was real. He’d lived it fourteen months, eight days, twenty-two hours, nine minutes, six seconds ago…and counting.

            It was the reason he had been decommissioned, it was the reason why twenty-one of those innocent citizens, plus his 503 unit were dead. It was his fault.

            Elko Checkpoint was one of many along the southern Cascadian border that stretched along I-80 through the southern regions of Utah and Nevada. Not really a hot spot like others closer to Reno but fairly busy with folks wanting to enter Cascadia or make their way to up the Freelands in Montana.

             Occasionally though they got they got a Rager. They were a left over from the Urban Outrage. As far as they were concerned the war was far from over. They sent their fellows loaded up with boomers and suicide vests to blow things up and create general mayhem for the NTA.

            That’s what had happened that day. Just like in the dream the Rager had rolled up with the rest, triggered a limited range EMP and shut down the COMS his MECH unit shared, it also disabled their weapons. Adam had been far enough away from the EMP that his rifle had still been functioning.

            Cap and Five-oh had been trying to keep the guy’s hands off the detonator of his boomer vest. In the struggle his hood had fallen off and reveled his face. He was just a kid, maybe fifteen, no more. Acne spotted and the barest peach fuzz of recently sprouted facial hair, the boy looked terrified. And Adam hesitated. The boy slipped Five-oh’s grasp and hit his detonator.

            He awoke in the MECHtech facility in Salt Lake. The silence in his head had been deafening. MECH squads were a collective; their TOS were networked and so Adam had essentially shared a consciousness with his team. They had been a constant presence, Cap Nine-five, Five-oh, Eight-seven, Four-three, and Six-six, all gone.

            His TOS was reviewed confirming what he already knew. His .90-millisecond response delay had been the cause of failure. Had he taken the shot when his Captain ordered him to the boy would have been subdued before he’d been able to reach the detonator.

            They’d scrubbed the vital info off his TOS: codes, locations, and other things of a sensitive or classified nature. After he’d passed his psych-eval they gave him some clothes and a few credits to get him up the road then shown him the door. See ya kid, thank you for your service.

            He tramped from Salt Lake up to Oregon picking up work here and there. Mostly he’d avoided populated areas sticking to the old hiking trails that paralleled the rivers. Eventually he came to Red City. The anonymity of a big city and Trashtown in particular had appealed.

** ** ** **

Dragon’s Pawn is available on Amazon and in hardcover from Blurb.

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Happy October! 

The above picture is from Pixbay

Browned Butter Oatmeal & Apple cookies Joy always comes up the the best seasonal treats! 

Have you heard the new Chillhop Music Fall album? 

This photographer spent seven years capturing portraits of redheads from around the world.

How to make rolled wax candles with bonus calming ASMR goodness. 

It’s the tenth year anniversary of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For me it’s the ultimate autumn read! 

And speaking of book anniversaries, Dragon’s Pawn by yours truly, was published two years ago on October 24th. To celebrate I’m releasing a special excerpt on that day. Stay tuned! 

Here’s the Clam Chowder recipe I made for our recent camping trip to the coast. 

Recent discovery: These paper butterflies are delightful and really do look like the real thing! (they have bats for October too!)

And finally, this rechargeable arc lighter is perfect for lighting all those pumpkin scented candles you bought. I have one and I love it! 

 

clam chowder

I made clam chowder to take on our camping trip to the coast. It’s based on the recipe from The Chowder Bowl on Nye Beach in Newport Oregon. 

Clam Chowder

1/2 cup (one stick) Butter

1/2 cup Flour

2 cups Whole Milk

2 cups Clam Juice or Fish Stock

1 medium sized Sweet Yellow Onion (diced)

2 medium sized Russet Potatoes

3 6oz cans of Clams (drained)

Salt and Pepper

1 cup chopped Fresh Dill + extra for garnish. 

 

In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until soft and translucent- about 3-5 minutes.

Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook for 3 minutes whisking often so it does not burn. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Add the clam juice. Your soup should be thick but not gloopy- add more milk if necessary.

Season with salt and pepper. 

Peel and chop the potatoes into bite sized cubes and add to the soup. Turn the heat to low and cook covered for 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Test doneness of potatoes with the tip of a sharp knife (it should easily pierce the potato).

Add the canned clams. Cook covered until they are warmed through. 

Add the fresh dill and stir to combine. 

Serve with a big hunk of sourdough and more dill to garnish. 

Note: if making ahead like I did, place into a sturdy container and let the chowder cool completely before refrigerating or freezing. Reheat over low heat stirring often so it does not burn.

 

Hello! Lately I’ve been dabbling in witchcraft. KInd of. My reading picks have been decidedly witchy. Is there a better time than October/Halloween to indulge in stories about badass witches?

I read the first of The Vine Witch series last year and this year I’m having fun reading the second and third of the trilogy. Set at the turn of the 20th century in France It follows three witches Elena, Yvette, and Sidra. The descriptions of the Belle Epoque era in Paris are swoon worthy.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel is a feminist rethink of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from Katrina’s point of view. Ichabod is a worthy romance hero and not depicted as the milquetoast you’ve seen in other renditions. A complaint I ran into on Goodreads was that it’s more mystery/suspense rather than horror. That was fine by me but thought i’d mention it in case you were looking for a scary Halloween read.

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When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo’s The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won’t erase.

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And finally a duology by Paula Brackston. I really enjoyed The Winter Witch last year and these books are set to be a favorite. Bess’ story is one for the ages and I stayed up way too late reading many nights unable to put it down.

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate at the hands of the panicked mob: the Warlock Gideon Masters, and his Book of Shadows. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself, tending her garden and selling herbs and oils at the local farmers’ market. But her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl called Tegan starts hanging around. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth begins teaching Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories–and demons–long thought forgotten.

Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, Paula Brackston’s New York Times bestseller, The Witch’s Daughter, is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of Witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality to remain true to herself, and protect the protégé she comes to love.

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May I also humbly recommend: 

TDS Blurb + Jacket

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Hello my friends and happy autumn to you!

I think I’ve already said, but this is my favorite season. The days are still bright and the evenings are cool. It’s sweater weather, soup weather and I always make a big pot of chili on Halloween. I know all the summer lovers in my life roll their eyes when I enthusiastically unpack my cardigans and buy my first bag of pumpkin spice flavored coffee, but there is a new fun holiday every month during autumn and winter, so I can’t help but be excited.

I have bit of news to impart:

You can buy the complete Revel Night Saga for Kindle on Amazon for $11.96

For you hardback lovers out there they are available at Blurb.com

In other book news, I am working on my next offering now! It will be a stand alone novel and very much a departure for me. (Here’s a hint) I’m having the best time researching and getting to know the characters that will fill these pages! I’m hoping to release it next year.

As always, stay tuned to this blog and Instagram for upcoming reveals, I really can’t wait to show you what I’m up to 🙂

Until next time, be well!

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RNS series advert

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Hello Everyone! 

I hope your summer has gone well. Mine has been chock full of birthday celebrations, camping trips, book launches, and broken Aircon units. Along the way I saved a few links that I thought you would like.  So let’s kick back with a cold iced tea or lemonade and do some Sunday surfing. 

 

How to Take a Group Selfie circa 1911 

The Great Sandwich Scandal  

(In case you were wondering what it’s like living in Oregon) Exploding Whale Memorial Park

The World’s Largest Monastery Library (A virtual tour) 

The dressing you’ll be making all summer long

Does Disney own our National Myth? 

Finding Easter Eggs in Real Life

I Used to Fear Being a Nobody, then I Left Social Media 

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I love finding a series that has a long backlist! Not that I didn’t zoom through all nine in record time and now sit twiddling my thumbs impatiently until the next book comes out next year. (sigh)

Anyway if you love a good mystery with a smattering of romance set in the 1830’s this is definitely for you!

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Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.

Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage—a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.

When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…

 

 

 

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May I also humbly recommend…

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