Small indulgences

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If you love to bake but are afraid you will eat all the cookies or the whole cake,Dessert for Two: Small Batch Cookies, Brownies, Pies, and Cakes hardcover by Christina Lane is for you! I loved this book.

Unlike many “cut down to size” dessert recipes, Lane doesn’t skimp on quality. Her recipes are the real deal for delicious brownies, cookie, cakes, and tart.

The book has recipes for 10 bakery-style chocolate chip cookies and really good brownies – as well as iced cakes and tarts.  Lane clearly explains techniques and how to keep leftover ingredients when making small-batch baked goods. This is a great book if, like me, you have warring desires for sweet treats and a small seat.

Here is a tempting recipe from the book for a Warm Brownie Sundae

Yield • 1 (6-inch) round cake

Cooking spray1 (1)

4 tablespoons (60 grams)

unsalted butter

½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (42 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

¼ cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons (23 grams) semisweet chocolate chips

1 scoop of your favorite ice cream

Heavy whipped cream (optional)

1 Maraschino cherry (optional)

PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 325°F, and spray a 6-inch

cast-iron skillet (or other ovenproof small skillet) with cooking spray.

Dice the butter into eight pieces and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and cocoa powder on top. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stop, stir, and then microwave for another 30 seconds.

Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave, and stir in the salt and vanilla. Stir for about 30 seconds to cool the mixture. Then, add the egg and stir well.

Sprinkle the flour on top, and then stir vigorously

for fifty strokes, using a wooden spoon. The brownie batter will become thick and glossy. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared skillet. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes. It’s okay for the brownie to stay a little gooey in the middle.

Top with the ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry and serve immediately with two spoons.

Christina says: “I like to end a Friday date-night-at-home dinner with this easy dessert. But, really, it’s great for putting pep back in your step on

a lousy Monday, too. Use your favorite flavor of ice cream on top.

I’m partial to chocolate chip, but mint chip is frequently perched

on top of this brownie in my house, too”.

Reprinted with permission from, “Dessert for Two by Christina Lane”, The Countryman Press 2015.

 

 

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Wacky sexy spy adventure

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The Loving Daylights by Lynsay Sands is a crazy cross between James Bond and Austin Powers but for women. 

Jane Spyrus  is a brilliant but shy inventor for the secret crime-fighting organization B.L.I.S.S. Her parents and grandparents were all agents but she is too timid. 

Jane lives with her grandmother, Maggie, who was injured in a work-related spy accident.  Maggie was once one of the best agents in the business but now is sometimes confused as well as in wheelchair.

When Jane and Maggie’s next door neighbour’s  brother arrives for a visit and finds her missing there is reason to suspect she has been kidnapped.

Soon, Jane, Maggie, and her neighbour’s very attractive brother Abel Andretti are embroiled in a rescue which leads to a bigger spy caper.

Sand’s plot is totally silly but her characters are engaging. The Loving Daylights is a risky spy caper that romance lovers will adore.

 

 

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Unbecoming

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22571781Rebecca Scherm’s debut novel Unbecoming sneaks up on you. It is a wickedly compelling tale about a sad, unloved little girl who steals a family for herself and then goes on to become a master criminal.

As the book opens, Grace is hiding in Paris. She has changed her name and appearance. She is working for a crooked art restorer as well as doing her own little deals on the side. She is terrified her accomplices in a robbery will come looking for her. She has betrayed her husband as well as her childhood friends.

Scherm has crafted a story that grabs and toys with you as it pulls you through a tight and twisted plot. She artfully spreads evil and culpability through her cast of characters so casually you almost forget to be shocked. She just lets it drop that Grace’s childhood boyfriend’s lovely family, a local doctor and his wife, turn a blind eye to their son sleeping with her. Grace is not even 13 when they first have intercourse. His mother fixes her a room in the attic so she can sleep over. Grace’s own parents are too busy with their new twin boys to pay attention or care. So Grace grows up at her boyfriend’s house as his live-in sex partner. Scherm has been compared to Hitchcock and Donna Tartt, but as I read I was reminded of the great writer Daphne du Maurier and the subtle but wonderfully-crafted plot of her famous novel Rebecca

Unbecoming is a fascinating read.

 

 

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A darkly bewitching romance

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In Wildalone, the author Krassi Zourkova draws on Bulgarian legends of the “samodivi” or “wildalones,” – forest witches who seduce and men, drive them mad, and leave them for dead.

Thea Slavin arrives at Princeton from Bulgaria with a secret and mission. The beautiful piano prodigy has discovered that she had a sister who was also a brilliant pianist. Her sister died during her first year at Princeton. Thea’s parent never spoke to Thea who was only three when her sister left home. Her parents brought her up her as an only child.

Now as a freshman at an Ivy League school Thea finds herself in a world of posh eating clubs, pushy professors, and academics. But when she encounters a Greek Art professor who knew her sister Thea is drawn into the mystery off her sister’s death.  As she reads the accounts of her sister’s strange behaviour and death she becomes determined to discover really happened at Princeton 15 years earlier.

Thea is also pursued by a beautiful, dashing and magnetic man, Rhys, who courts her passionately. At first, she believes Rhys to be her “stalker”, an admirer who has been leaving her roses. Thea finally gives in to Rhys’s seduction. She discovers him to be a brilliant pianist. Thea is shocked when she finds out her stalker is his look-alike bother, Jake, who is also attracted to her.

Thea is caught between the two mysterious brothers as she is pulled deeper in the mystery of what happened to her sister.

Wildalone is an intriguing blend of modern gothic romance, mystery, and magic. Lovers of dark romance will fall under ifs spell.

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An Appetite for Violets

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If you love history, romance and intrigue snap this up when it goes on sale in January!

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey is a lusty, greed-driven historical mystery with a delicious foodie theme.

Biddy Leigh, also called Obedience, is an ambitious woman. As young village urchin she saved herself from a life in the coal mines by learning to read and cook. Now as an undercook for the local Lord she has her life planned. Biddy saves her wages until she can marry her sweetheart and start an inn. But Biddy’s plans are swept aside when the new mistress, Lady Carinna, arrives at Mawton Hall. Lady Carinna is a strange young woman and she takes an unusual interest in Biddy.

Suddenly, Biddy is forced to accompany her new mistress to Italy. At the request of her mentor, the old cook at Mawton Hall, Biddy takes with her a household manual called the The Cook’s Jewel. The cook asks her to record her impressions as well as the dishes she tastes and the recipes she learns on her journey.

As Biddy and Lady Carinna travel the continent towards their destination, Biddy slowly learns of the web of lies and greed that threaten her life.

The characters in An Appetite for Violets travel from the North of England to Italy. Baily effortless weaves fascinating historical details through a complex plot of betrayal and revenge.

The author, Martine Bailey, says An Appetite for Violets was inspired by 18th-century recipes. Bailey is also a prize-winning amateur cook. She studied with food historian Ivan Day in preparation for writing this book. Baily’s passion for cookery is what shapes the character of her narrator.

The book is first and foremost a compelling and complex mystery that hooked me from the first pages. Bailey drops tantalizing hints and a weaves a complex web of desires and betrayals. But Biddy, the narrator, is above all a dedicated cook. She revels in the scents, tastes, and techniques of cookery as the tale unfolds across continents.

Set in the 18th century, Baily paints a vivid picture of life and love above and below stairs.

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A new book about the Kennedys

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I have always been fascinated with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I grew up in Boston – the home of the Kennedy clan – and even though I was very young when, her husband, President John F. Kennedy was killed, the impact of the Kennedy era was indelible.

Jackie’s personal style, from her handwritten thank you notes to her rigid personal discipline, has always been an inspiration to generations of American women. As a result, I have read a score of books about Jackie, Jack, and the Kennedy family. So when I received The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America’s Most Public Family by Amber Hunt and David Batcher, I wondered if there really was anything more to know. And while the book does cover much that will be familiar it also manages to uncover new details about the mythic American family.

The book looks at the lives of all the Kennedy wives: Rose, Ethel, Jackie, Joan, and Vicky. It highlights the challenges these very different women faced in marrying men who were determined to lead America. It also tells the human story of five intelligent women who loved and married very rich, powerful, and flawed men.

The Kennedy Wives is as racy and exciting to read as Jackie Collin’s novel – maybe more so because it is fact and not fiction. This is a perfect gift for Jackie lovers!

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More Regency romance

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Sarah MacLean’s Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover may be the sexiest volume in her best-selling Rules of Scoundrels series.

In this final tale of the series, Chase, the mastermind of the Notorious Fallen Angel Gambling Club decided it is time to return to society as Lady Georgiana, the disgraced sister of a Duke. She resolves that she must marry a title and ensure her illegitimate daughters’s future in “society”.

But she suffers a return to society for her daughter’s sake. She wants to marry a titled husband who will overlook her past disgrace in exchange for her fortune and guarantee her daughter’s place in the world.

While attending her first ball, Georgiana runs into a group of “mean girls”. They taunt her with her past and cast aspersions on her daughter. She also comes face to face with powerful newspaper publisher and editor, Duncan West. He once ran a scandalous cartoon about her. West now feels badly about it and is determined to aid Georgiana’s return to society. He is however unaware of the details of her double life.

As the season progress Duncan falls in love with Georgiana. The two are drawn not only in to a burning hot romance but a dangerous web of lies.

This is a sensuous and serious romance that will have lovers of the genre swooning. Fans of the Series will be over the moon with this final stand-alone tale. It’s the perfect book to stay warm with on cold afternoon.

 

 

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