FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from HER REBEL TO KISS by Debra Salonen #Love, Montana

Book 3 – Love, Montana


A masked ball. Two star-crossed lovers. A New Year’s Eve kiss at midnight. Who says Fate doesn’t have a sense of humor?


Excerpt HER REBEL TO KISS © Tule Publishing:

“It’s that time, my friends. Grab a glass of champagne and that special person. Here we go. Ten…nine…”

Bailey’s voice got drowned out by the crowd.


He closed his arms around Nicole to keep her safe as more people flooded onto the dance floor.

“Six,” she said, looking directly into his eyes. The lights had come up so he could study the subtle hues mixed in the blue of her irises.

Beautiful eyes.Familiar, somehow.

“Five,” a voice boomed to his left.

Tucker, who was holding Amanda the same way Justin held Nicole, gave Justin a guy-nod that seemed to say, “Way to go, bro!”

Justin liked to think he didn’t need his friends’ validation to feel good about his choices, but this time he was navigating new waters. Dangerous waters. This woman was about to become his boss. That couldn’t be good.

But Nicole didn’t feel dangerous or threatening.


She felt as though she’d been made to dance with him. They fit together perfectly. He liked every thing about her, except her job.

“Three…” If he and Nicole were going to do this, he had to make sure they had an end game in place.

New Year’s Eve. Maybe the weekend. They’d play that part by ear, but after Monday nothing could happen between them.

“Two,” he said softly.

“One,” she whispered, looking into his eyes with a question he was ready to answer.

“Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” he said before lowering his head to press his lips to hers.

He expected the usual few minutes of testing the waters, feeling each other out, but that didn’t happen. From the moment their lips met, he felt as if he’d crossed the Rubicon. This wasn’t a one-time deal. They’d done this a million times. Together. Theirs was a reunion of souls kissing across eons, remembering.

Her lips parted, her tongue seeking his without hesitation. He hadn’t expected such frankness, but her greedy pleasure made him need more, too.

He closed his eyes and immersed himself in her sweetness, a combination of honey and spice. He would have gone on exploring this newfound fascination forever if not for the sensation of something touching his head. He pulled back and look around.

“The balloons,” Nicole cried, letting go of him to tap at the large white, gold and silver balloons cascading around them.

Confetti shot from somewhere nearby added to the glitter and excitement. Nicole was pulled from his arms to exchange air kisses and hugs with perfect strangers. Justin found himself in a bear hug, too.

“Helluva thing, huh? Beats the crap out of last year,” Tucker said.

Justin clapped Tucker on the back. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I mean starting the year off with someone you care about. There’s a first time for everything, Ona always says.”

Ona, Tucker’s Cajun grandmother, was a font of truisms. Justin had met her twice and loved the dear woman as the grandmother he’d never had. I wonder what Ona would say about me kissing my future boss? Probably something arcane about not defecating where you eat, damn it.

He caught up with Nicole before anyone else could dance her away. He grabbed her hand and spun her slightly off-balance back into his arms. “Unfinished business,” he mumbled against her lips.

She may have started to protest but her reaction changed the minute she realized this kiss meant business. His tongue wasn’t polite or inquisitive. Justin knew what he wanted, and it started now. They were both breathless when he broke off the kiss before embarrassing himself too badly. His body reacted to her in a way he didn’t remember happening with any of his previous lovers.

“You’re coming with me, right?”

“That depends on which of our rooms is closer.”

Available here: AMAZON   iBOOKS  KOBO   NOOK



Happy reading, my friends! 


First Kiss=Tuesday from HER ROGUE TO TAME by Debra Salonen #Love, Montana



Love, Montana, Book II

Roommates with benefits. A temporary arrangement between two people with time on their hands. Who could possibly get hurt?

“Get your Zip On” – That’s Tucker Montgomery‘s slogan for the new zip line he’s building near Marietta, Montana. But before Tucker can get the first pole in the ground, he suffers an injury that could cost him everything, until help arrives in a surprising–but gorgeous–package: Amanda Heller. They’ll share her grandmother’s guesthouse while he supervises the old Victorian’s restoration… all with the added benefit of exploring a sizzling mutual attraction.

Amanda Heller knows her exile to Montana is her family’s excuse to spare them the embarrassing fallout from her very public break-up with her ex-boss’s son that left her jobless and living in her parent’s Manhattan home. But then Amanda strikes a bargain with injured, sexy businessman Tucker Montgomery, who needs a place to stay while recovering. A hot summer fling seems just the thing for Amanda and Tucker, something to enjoy for a month or two tops. Most certainly not long enough to fall in love….


         FIRST KISS ©Tule Publishing:

He let out a sigh of relief when saw Justin catch up to Amanda. He could see them arguing but couldn’t hear a word over the rumble of a second cement truck idling in line. The concrete guys all huddled in readiness to shovel the wet cement into the hole and spread it around the four-foot square base as soon as the wet concoction started down the chute.

At the last possible second, Justin snatched the box from Amanda’s hands and dove for the hole. Luckily, the plan called for six inches of cement to go into the hole as a base for the pole that would then be raised in place using winches and pulleys.

Tucker held his breath as he saw Justin check the box then reach into the hole as far as he could. A second later, with the help of two concrete guys, he popped back to his feet.

Justin spun around to give Tucker a thumbs-up gesture at the same moment Amanda kicked him in the shins and stormed off.

Tucker was still laughing when Amanda reached him. “Your friend’s a glory hog. That was my job.”

“He didn’t want you to get dirty.”

“You didn’t trust me to do it right.”

It struck him that he and Justin accidentally had hurt her feelings. Did society girls suffer from wounded pride the way normal people did? “I was afraid you were going to break your neck or get run over by the cement truck.”

She crossed her arms and glared at him. “I’m tougher than I look. You have to be to survive in a family like mine. Next time you ask for my help, forget it.”

He moved closer and did something he knew he’d regret later. He grabbed her firmly by the shoulders, letting his crutches fall. Balancing all his weight on his good leg, he pulled her to him and kissed her. Hard, but not fast. The opposite of fast. He took his time to experience every damn nuance, like how she resisted him for three and a half seconds. And how, when she gave in, her mouth softened and her lips parted to invite him in.

The thought crossed his mind that this was one of those I’ll-remember-this-moment-forever sort of thing. Was it? Would he never forget the first time he kissed Amanda Heller?

Of course not. She was just a pretty girl who kissed like a damn siren luring him to the wicked rocks where he’d crash and burn. There was nothing special about her. Other than her taste, maybe. Honey sweet but with some intangible something all her own.

But even if Amanda was different from all the other girls he’d kissed–and enjoyed–over the years, she most definitely wasn’t a long-term prospect. God, no. Not that he was looking for a forever love–something he knew existed because Ona and Twig had been inseparable right up till the day he died.

But even if Tucker bought into that happily-ever-after fantasy, he had way too much on his plate to get involved with Amanda Heller–even for the short term.

Too bad he had a feeling that decision was completely out of his hands. Her kiss told him she might be up for a little tryst he decided to call: “Roommates with benefits.”



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TULE (print)


Happy reading, my friends!



EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Rogenna Brewer’s Beer Batter Wahoo


Food=love in my books.

photo My guest blogger today is my On Fire Fiction pal, Rogenna Brewer,  whose Celebrate Romance story takes place on the 4th of July. You’re  going to love this great story, AND check out the amazing cover Ro designed for our bundle.

If you’re an author looking for that perfect cover at an affordable price, check out Ro’s website: SweetToHeat. Wait till you see what she’s come up with for my “naughty novella” bundle, coming later this fall. Did she find the perfect Judy? You be the judge. 😉



She made a new cover for each of our  stories. See the little fold back up in the corner? That’s where you’ll see the title that goes with that cover. How cool is that?

If you haven’t read this series, please check it out. Only 99¢ for 5 authors, 5 holidays, 5 great reads: BN  AMAZON

And I will feature a special recipe from each author for that holiday’s cover reveal. Today’s recipe is called: Beer Batter Wahoo.


Ro is a Navy veteran who writes from experience–I’m guessing the part about the T-shirts is authentic, too. 😉 According to Ro: “A T-shirt makes a handy pot holder as long as it doesn’t catch on fire. Although the guys may try to convince you it needs to be your T-shirt, DO NOT let them fool you. Point to the nearest sailor and tell him to take off his shirt. The rest will follow. Sit back and enjoy the show.




EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Rogenna Brewer’s Beer Batter Wahoo
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: American as you get
Author: Rogenna Brewer
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2-10
Beer Batter Wahoo: there’s a good chance you have to join the Navy to do this recipe right, but…what the heck, improvise! And have a great 4th of July!!!
  • Flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 can of beer. Your preferred brand will suffice.
  1. Spend the day deep sea fishing with your fellow sailors from a converted military landing craft. Bring a couple coolers full of beer so you have leftovers.
  2. Catch the biggest Wahoo while the guys are heaving over the side. Talk one of them into filleting the fish. This is best done out to sea or off the dock to attract sharks. Sharks are not repelled by heaving sailors (though you may be).
  3. When drunken sailors start playing with sharks it is time to return to base.
  4. Build a fire on the beach. Mix the first four ingredients to a batter-like consistency. Coat fish. Wrap loosely in aluminum foil and toss onto fire. Poke with a stick until done. Please note poking does not decrease cooking time.
  5. Do not let drunken sailors grab the aluminum foil from the flames. A T-shirt makes a handy pot holder as long as it doesn’t catch on fire. Although the guys may try to convince you it needs to be your T-shirt DO NOT let them fool you. Point to the nearest sailor and tell him to take off his shirt. The rest will follow. Sit back and enjoy the show.






    Chapter 1

            Hat in hand, he stood in her office doorway. From spit-shined shoes, up military creases, to the eagles pinned on khaki collar points, he commanded attention. The rank of captain gave him the authority to demand it.

            Lieutenant Lindsey Alexander marked her already forgotten place and closed the ancient tome. Her desk chair creaked as she straightened her spine. How long had he been standing there, staring?

            How long had she?

            Removing her reading glasses to cover her embarrassment, Lindsey set aside the funky frames and theology lesson before pushing to her feet, the proper show of respect for his rank. “May I help you, Captain?”

            From his superior height he frowned down at her, at the world in general—she couldn’t be certain. Lindsey smiled her brightest, but he didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. His scowl deepened, drawing jet-black brows above nefarious jade green eyes in a potentially lethal combination.

            “You’re a woman.”

            She didn’t need to hear the affront behind his words to know he’d assumed chaplain and man were synonymous. She stretched her smile in spite of, or perhaps because he’d insulted both her gender and profession in just three little words. It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last.

            “And you would be, Captain…Reese.” She read his nametag above his right breast pocket. On the left, his rack of ribbons read like an impressive resume. The gold wings above the neat rows further identified him as a naval aviator.

            Top Gun plowed a hand through jet-black hair threaded with silver, spoiling the severe effect of the barber’s precision military cut.

            No doubt about it, the gender confusion was all one sided.

            “Doug Reese. I have an appointment.”

            It was Lindsey’s turn to draw her brows. The name Reese didn’t ring any bells. Should it? She unburied her appointment book and flipped it open. Despite his obvious impatience, she took her time going through the day’s schedule.

            No Reese, Captain or otherwise.

            In truth, she wasn’t very well organized, but she never forgot a name or a face or a scheduled appointment for that matter. Knowing her tendency toward disorganization, she always wrote everything down.

            “I’m early.” Holding his hat by the brim, he crossed his arms. “My ship just pulled in for repairs two weeks ago.”

            Something about the way in which he emphasized the words my ship sent those alarm bells clanging like a five-alarm fire.

            Flipping the calendar page, she found Commanding Officer, USS Enterprise CVN-65 penciled in the yeoman’s neat hand under, 1300–tomorrow. “Looks like an hour and a day early–”

            “I’m a busy man, Chaplain, I’d like to get this over with.” The scowl remained a permanent fixture, but he tempered his demand. “I won’t take but a minute of your time.”

            Lindsey met Captain Reese’s continued glare with the unwavering dedication of her profession. She would have taken responsibility for the mistake regardless, but she had a feeling the man knew exactly what he was doing, showing up a day early and on her lunch hour.

            She was just curious enough to want to know why. What was one more counseling session out of her overbooked day? It was her job to help. If the Captain needed her…

            Well, then, she was here to serve.

            “Have a seat.” She gestured toward one of two overflowing chairs.

            The walls seemed to move in as he stepped into her crowded cubby with its floor to ceiling shelves. He cocked a dark brow as he picked up a stack of files from the seat, and then looked around for a place to put them.

            “Sorry, packing. Our office is on the list of base closures.” Lindsey plucked the files from his hands. If military budget cuts didn’t elicit a comment from the good Captain, what would? He continued to hover over her five foot five—in sensible boon dockers—while she maneuvered around him, dumping the stack of papers on the floor by the shelf before closing the door.

            He probably wasn’t an inch or two over six feet, but the too small space became suffocating, filling with the tang of saltwater on skin—not an all-together unpleasant scent—except the hint of JP-5. Lindsey had never been stationed aboard a ship, but she could identify carrier crews by the smell of jet fuel that permeated their pores.

            With surprising consideration, the Captain waited until Lindsey settled beside her corner desk, and then took up the now empty seat across from her. He looked around her office with the same disdain he’d directed toward her.

            Captain Reese had his strong, silent and judgy act down pat.

            Tension radiated from the man. Although the only outward sign was the way he fidgeted with his hat, now balanced on his knee as he tapped a folded piece of paper impatiently against his cover.

            He may have been trying hard not to project his discomfort, but she could sense it, feel it. “Would you be more comfortable with another chaplain?”

            It was a legitimate question, and since he’d expressed some reservation about her gender, one she felt compelled to ask.

            “Would you?”

            Did his scowl switch to a smirk?

            “No,” Lindsey answered honestly.

            Though if they were following strict protocol, she should refer the Captain to her superior, Commander Elliot. However, being short staffed, down to only herself and the Catholic Priest, Father Elliot was just as overworked as she was. Between them, they shared one chaplain’s yeoman, a Religious Program Specialist Third Class.

            Perhaps the Captain had chosen her in accordance with his own beliefs despite his prejudicial comment.

            “You’ll do,” he said.

            “Fine.” Lindsey exhaled the word. Had she actually been holding her breath, waiting for his decision? “I just need you to fill out this counseling form and then we’ll get started.” Stretching across the space, she handed him a clipboard with attached pen and paper.

            A knock sounded on the door. The RP poked her head in, “Chaplain Alexander, I have your lunch,” she announced. “Oops, sorry. I didn’t know you were in session.”

            “It’s okay, Brenda.  We’re just getting started.” Lindsey got up to meet the yeoman at the door. Thanks,” she said, taking the containers of Chinese food.

            “Your change.” Brenda handed over lose coins and a couple wadded bills as Lindsey juggled containers to take the money.

            “Maybe the Captain would like a cup of coffee—”

            “No, the Captain would not.” He cut her off without bothering to look up from the clipboard. On the other side of the door, Brenda mouthed another apology for the interruption.

            “Hold my calls,” Lindsey instructed. “But buzz me when my one o’clock gets here.”

            “Sure thing. I mean, yes, ma’am.” The RP closed the door.

            “I’m sorry,” Lindsey apologized. She suspected she’d gone down another notch in his estimation. Then again, he was the one who’d showed up on her lunch hour uninvited. “LoMein?”

            “No.” He extended the clipboard, all business.

            Lindsey wrestled her lunch down to the desk and stuffed the loose change and bills into the middle drawer. Taking the clipboard from him, she released the counseling form and then groped for her reading glasses. She put them on and sank back to her seat, staring in disbelief at the blank page. Almost blank page.

            Name, rank and serial number had been filled in.

            “Captain Reese—”

            “If I were a prisoner of war that’s all I’d be required to give.”

            “This isn’t an interrogation.”

            “No, it’s not,” he agreed. “Thank you for your time, Chaplain.”

            Her gaze followed his upward movement. He’d certainly been right about only taking a minute of her time. Even though it looked like her curiosity wouldn’t be satisfied, she’d have a hot lunch as a consolation prize. Small comfort compared to the satisfaction she got from doing her job. “How can I help—?”

            “You can’t. I just want it to go on record that I was here.” He slapped his cover against his thigh. “Good day.”

            Lindsey beat him to the door and barred his way with a crossed arm stance.

            “Lieutenant,” he said, calling deliberate attention to her rank. “Step aside. That’s an order.”

            Her short-lived career flashed before her eyes and she swallowed hard. She couldn’t keep him here against his will. Still, she could get her point across. “If it’s important enough to come here in the first place, it’s important enough to stay and talk.”

            “I’m not going to warn you again.”

            “Fine.” She edged away from the door. “But uncooperative is going in my counseling notes.” She tried to infuse a little humor into the situation that had quickly gotten out of hand.

            “You can write whatever you want, Chaplain. As long as you don’t share that information with anyone, I don’t care.”

            “It would be unethical for me to reveal any information about your visit.”

            “I’m counting on that.”

            He paused long enough to look her in the eye. She hoped he saw the disappointment reflected there because if ever a man needed her, Captain Doug Reese did. She couldn’t be expected to save the world. She just wanted to help one person at a time. Unfortunately, her heart took a hit every time she failed.

            Lindsey stared at his departing back. The man’s visit was obviously a desperate cry for help. Yeah, right. Captain Doug Reese looked about as self-sufficient as they came. It was her need to butt into everyone’s business that made her the desperate one. How many times had Brenda told her to get a life? How many times had Chaplain Elliot counseled her against getting overly involved?

            With a heavy sigh, she scooped up another stack of folders occupying the one remaining chair. She’d need both for her one o’clock. Her next appointment was a young couple in premarital counseling.

            No real problems there. In fact, the upcoming wedding on July 4th—her first as an officiate—was something she actually looked forward to. She’d met the bride-to-be. The intended groom was just back from sea.

            Lindsey stopped and let that sink in a moment. Followed by a quick glance toward the door. “Nah.”

            The bride was closer to Lindsey’s age, mid-twenties.

            The Captain had to be at least forty and most likely married.

            Not that a May, December…more like September, romance was out of the question. The Captain was fighter pilot fit and handsome to the extreme—despite the permanent case of indigestion apparent in his facial expression. What she couldn’t remember was whether or not he wore a wedding band.

            Which should matter to her, why?

            Arms full and looking for more nonexistent floor space, Lindsey noticed a folded piece of paper by the chair leg. Setting the stack back down, she picked up the missive and unfolded it. The letter was addressed to Captain Reese from COMCARSTRIKEGRU THIRTEEN, Commander Carrier Strike Group Thirteen (CCSG-13). She quickly folded it back up, but not before the word counseling jumped off the page.

            The Good Captain had been ordered into counseling.

            The shrill ringing of the outer office telephone gave her a guilty start. Brenda answered in quiet tones while Lindsey tucked the paper into her skirt pocket and grabbed her cover from beside the door.

            “Chaplain, it’s for you,” the RP called through the open door.

            “Take a message, Brenda. There’s something I need to do.” Like catch up with the Captain. She checked her watch. She had plenty of time before her next appointment.

            Brenda covered the mouthpiece. “It’s Rear Admiral Dunning.”

            “Commander Carrier Strike Group Thirteen?” Lindsey had never had the occasion to meet a flag officer before, let alone speak with one. “What could he possibly want…?” Her hand went to her skirt pocket. “I’ll take it in my office.”

Bon appetit! Happy reading! And…Happy 4th of July!!



EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Alissa Callen’s Aussie Lamingtons


Food=love in my books.

Today I’m excited to introduce another new-to-me author, Alissa Callen, a 2013 Finalist for the Australian Romance Readers Awards. image

 Her new release, Down Outback Roads, from Random House Australia just hit bookshelves and e-venders in the US. From Alissa’s blog:

Down Outback Roads, the second book in my Red Dust Outback series, is now out in the wild:)

 Down Outback Roads features the same small rural town of Glenalla that appears in Beneath Outback Skies. The drought has now broken but the close-knit Glenalla community still have many challenges to face. My local country area provided the visual inspiration behind Down Outback Roads. From the bushranger murals at Eugowra, to an old Cobb and Co. coach station at Molong, to a tin hut standing alone and aloof in a canola crop, many threads of central western NSW are woven into my story. I hope you enjoy visiting Glenalla as much as I enjoyed bringing this fictional rural world to life. Happy reading.

To learn more about Alissa, check out her website: and keep scrolling to read a snippet from DOWN OUTBACK ROADS.

Alissa Callen x

Today you get to try a recipe straight from Down Under –Aussie Lamingtons! They sound so darn easy and yummy. I had one of those “Why didn’t I think of this” moments!


Aussie Lamingtons
Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: sweets
Author: Alissa Callen
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
A fun tasty treat from Down Under!
  • 1 plain and unfilled sponge or vanilla cake cut into squares. Can be made from scratch, from a packet mix or purchased.
  • Chocolate icing:
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar/mixture
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 C desiccated coconut
  • Whipped cream or jam (optional)
  1. Sift together dry ingredients, whisk in water until smooth.
  2. Tip 2 cups desiccated coconut into a wide-mouthed bowl.
  3. Roll chocolate-covered cake in coconut until evenly coated.
  4. Lamingtons can also be sliced and filled with whipped cream or jam before being rolled in the chocolate icing and coconut.
  5. Allow to set and then enjoy!

Here’s a snippet from DOWN OUTBACK ROADS

DOR - medium


Found him. Alive.

Ewan Mackenzie stared at Travis’s text message. The noise and bustle of the outback search and rescue command post behind him faded to an indistinct murmur. Three simple words and the world could breathe again. All the police, emergency services, farmers and Glenalla townsfolk who’d searched for the missing American backpacker could now take their lives off pause.

Relief pushed Ewan’s exhaustion aside and dulled the tension that had been gripping him tighter than any tourniquet. The eighteen-year-old gap-year traveller hadn’t fallen victim to the vastness and isolation of the Australian bush. For the first time in two days, the sun warmed Ewan’s skin and he registered the rustle of the autumn breeze in the nearby silver-tipped gum trees.

His hand shook, blurring the letters on the small screen before him. He slipped the phone into his jeans pocket and swiped his cold palms over the dusty denim covering his thighs. The tremble in his fingers transferred to his shoulders.

It seemed it didn’t matter how often he helped search and rescue achieve a positive outcome, the blood on his hands would never rub off.

The thump of Whiskey’s tail sounded from the ute tray-back, directly in front of Ewan. The kelpie gazed at him with anxious eyes and whined. Ewan booted his anguish into the bottomless pit where it belonged. Whiskey sensed his every mood, and his guilt was not the dog’s to carry.

‘It’s okay, mate,’ he said, voice soft, as he tousled the kelpie’s thick, black coat. ‘All’s good. Our job’s done. They’ve found Kree’s brother.’

Whiskey sidled closer, unconvinced. Ewan forced a lightness he didn’t feel into his tone. ‘We’re heading home, Whisk. There’s cold beer in the shed fridge, and if you’re lucky Midget won’t have found the bone you buried under the orange tree.’

He ruffled Whiskey’s neck again and his doggy-mate’s eyes closed. But Whiskey’s contentment failed to quell the emptiness that had begun to seep through Ewan. Now that Seth Garrett had been found, his dark-haired sister, who’d flown all night to help look for him, would return home.

From the moment Kree had walked into the tin hall that housed their make-shift command post, the sadness of her brave smile had pummelled his defences. Winter-pale and pretty, her quiet courage had stirred something deep within him, something he’d thought was long dead. He knew how much strength it took to go on when the world collapsed around you. But despite his sense of affinity, instinct had cautioned him to stay away from the attractive American. He’d managed to keep a polite distance until she’d approached him after lunch yesterday while he’d consulted the map spread out on his ute bonnet.

‘Ewan? Ewan Mackenzie?’ she’d asked in her smooth and modulated accent.

He’d caught the subtle scent of vanilla before turning to meet her blue eyes. The beat of his heart had tripped. ‘Yes.’

‘Old Harry tells me you’re the next spotter in Travis’s plane?’

Throat dry, Ewan had nodded.

She’d extended a hand towards him. ‘Thank you.’

‘No worries.’ He’d hesitated and then returned the universal gesture of gratitude. ‘We’re doing everything we can to find your brother.’

‘I know.’ Her voice had lowered and her fine-boned fingers had curled around his as though they belonged there. Lips parted, she’d stared at him for a solemn second that stretched into two, and then, hand trembling, she’d slipped her fingers free.

‘Thanks again.’

Ewan’s blood had pounded long after she’d returned inside the hall. Even the compass pointing North on the map before him hadn’t been able to centre him. A fleeting smile in a woman’s eyes had never affected him so much.


Ooh, I really need to read this. Might save me the cost of a flight to Australia! Such a deal! I hope you’ll give Alissa a try. Here are some buy links:


Google play


Bon appetit and happy reading,



EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Kaira Rouda’s Skillet French Toast & Preserves


Food=love in my books.

I’m excited to introduce a new-to-me author, Kaira Rouda. She’s got a book coming from Tule Publishing in the near future, but her newest release, IN THE MIRROR, just hit bookshelves–and it sounds wonderful!


“I am one of those people who look up the recipe each time I try something – no recipe loyalty, so to speak, but everybody needs a good recipe for a Mother’s Day Brunch, right?” Kaira says. “And this one sounds delicious!”

So, that’s what you get to try today–Skillet French Toast & Preserves!

skillet french toast

Skillet French Toast & Preserves Casserole
Recipe Type: main dish
Cuisine: brunch
Author: Kaira Rouda
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Perfect for Mother’s Day!
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup Fruit Preserves (your choice)
  • 8 croissants, torn into rustic 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • Confectioner’s sugar, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the milk, egg yolks, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Heat the preserves in a small saucepan until warm and pourable, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Arrange half of the croissant pieces in the bottom of a 2 1/2-quart cast iron skillet and drizzle with half of the warm preserves. Pour half of the egg mixture over the croissants. Repeat with remaining croissant pieces, preserves, and egg mixture. Lightly press the croissants with a spoon to help saturate with liquid, but do not submerge completely. Set aside for 20 – 30 minutes before baking.
  4. Sprinkle the casserole with pecans and raspberries. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue cooking until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving; garnish with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Now, check out IN THE MIRROR–What choices would you make if you knew you may die soon?



Warning: Prompt medical attention is critical for adults as well as children, even if you do not notice any symptoms.

Chapter 1

Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed. My reflection said it all.

Everything had changed.

I looked like death.

I blinked, moving my gaze from the mirror, and noticed the calendar. It was Monday again. That meant everything in the real world. It meant groaning about the morning and getting the kids off to school. It meant struggling to get to the office on time and then forcing yourself to move through the day. It meant the start of something new and fresh and undetermined.

But Mondays meant nothing at Shady Valley. We lived in the “pause” world, between “play” and “stop.” Suspension was the toughest part for me.

And loneliness.

Sure, I had visitors, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by people in motion. I’d been on fast-forward in the real world, juggling two kids and my business, struggling to stay connected to my husband, my friends. At Shady Valley, with beige-colored day after cottage-cheese-tasting day, my pace was, well – I had to get moving.

I supposed my longing for activity was behind my rather childish wish to throw a party for myself. At least it gave me a mission of sorts. A delineation of time beyond what the latest in a long line of cancer treatments dictated. It had been more than 18 months of treatments, doctor’s appointments, hospitalizations and the like. I embraced the solidity of a deadline. The finality of putting a date on the calendar and knowing that at least this, my party, was something I could control.

I noticed the veins standing tall and blue and bubbly atop my pale, bony hands. I felt a swell of gratitude for the snakelike signs of life, the entry points for experimental treatments; without them, I’d be worse than on pause by now. I pulled my favorite blue sweatshirt over my head and tugged on my matching blue sweatpants.

Moving at last, I brushed my teeth and then headed next door to Ralph’s. He was my best friend at Shady Valley—a special all-suite, last-ditch-effort experimental facility for the sick and dying—or at least he had been until I began planning my party. I was on his last nerve with this, but he’d welcome the company, if not the topic. He was paused too.

My thick cotton socks helped me shuffle across my fake wood floor, but it was slow going once I reached the grassy knoll—the leaf-green carpet that had overgrown the hallway. An institutional attempt at Eden, I supposed.

On our good days, Ralph and I sometimes sneaked my son’s plastic bowling set out there to partake in vicious matches. We had both been highly competitive, type-A people in the “real” world and the suspended reality of hushed voices and tiptoeing relatives was unbearable at times.

“I’ve narrowed it down to three choices,” I said, reaching Ralph’s open door. “’Please come celebrate my life on the eve of my death. RSVP immediately. I’m running out of time.’”

“Oh, honestly,” Ralph said, rolling his head back onto the pillows propping him up.

I knew my time in Shady Valley was only bearable because of this man, his humanizing presence. Even though we both looked like shadows of our outside, real-world selves, we carried on a relationship as if we were healthy, alive. I ignored the surgery scars on his bald, now misshapen head. He constantly told me I was beautiful. It worked for us.

“Too morbid? How about: ‘Only two months left. Come see the incredible, shrinking woman. Learn diet secrets of the doomed,’” I said, smiling then, hoping he’d join in.

“Jennifer, give it a rest would you?” Ralph said.

“You don’t have to be so testy. Do you want me to leave?” I asked, ready to retreat back to my room.

“No, come in. Let’s just talk about something else, OK, beautiful?”

Ralph was lonely, too. Friends from his days as the city’s most promising young investment banker had turned their backs—they didn’t or couldn’t make time for his death. His wife, Barbara, and their three teenage kids were his only regular visitors.

Some days, I felt closer to Ralph than to my own family, who seemed increasingly more absorbed in their own lives despite weekly flowers from Daddy and dutiful visits from Henry, my husband of six years.

Poor Henry. It was hard to have meaningful visits at Shady Valley, with nurses and treatments and all manner of interruptions. We still held hands and kissed, but intimacy—even when I was feeling up to it—was impossible.

So, there we were, Ralph and I, two near-death invalids fighting for our lives and planning a party to celebrate that fact. It seemed perfectly reasonable, at least to me, because while I knew I should be living in the moment, the future seemed a little hazy without a party to focus on. “Seriously, I need input on my party invitations. It’s got to be right before I hand it over to Mother. I value your judgment, Ralph; is that too much to ask?”

“For God’s sake, let me see them.” Ralph snatched the paper out of my hand. After a moment, he handed it back to me. “The last one’s the best. The others are too, well, self-pitying and stupid. Are you sure you can’t just have a funeral like the rest of us?”

I glared at him, but agreed, “That’s my favorite, too.”

Mr. & Mrs. E. David Wells request your presence at a celebration in honor of their daughter Jennifer Wells Benson

Please see insert for your party time

Shady Valley Center

2700 Hocking Ridge Road

RSVP to Mrs. Juliana Duncan Wells

No gifts please—donations to breast cancer research appreciated.


Oh, wow! What would you do if you only had so long to live? Click HERE to go to Kaira’s website where you’ll find buy links to BN and IndieBound, or click HERE for Amazon Kindle.

Bon appetit! And happy reading, my friends!



EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Lois Winston’s Veal Parmesan with Mushrooms and Baby Spinach


Food=love in my books.

Award-winning author Lois Winston’s fabulous recipe today appears in her new book, Hooking Mr. Right.

Lois writes romance, romantic suspense, mystery, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

Visit Lois at

Visit Emma at

Visit Anastasia at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog,

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Now, here’s the recipe that Lois’s heroine Thea actually cooks in the snippet that follows. Enjoy!

Thea’s Veal Parmesan with Mushrooms and Baby Spinach
Recipe Type: main dish
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lois Winston
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
In Hooking Mr. Right, Thea finds solace in cooking. Here’s one of the recipes from the book:
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh tomato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1-1/2 pounds veal cutlets
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Mix mushrooms, spinach, tomato, onion and garlic together. Fold in ricotta cheese. Set aside.
  2. Place veal between sheets of wax paper and pound lightly to flatten. Lay cutlets on flat surface. Sprinkle with olive oil. Spoon vegetable-ricotta mixture onto center of each cutlet. Roll cutlets and secure with toothpicks. Brown in oil on all sides. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Spoon a small amount of marinara sauce in bottom of baking dish. Arrange cutlet rolls in dish. Remove toothpicks. Pour remaining sauce over cutlets. Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes.

Hooking Mr. Right

Thea Chandler, a total failure when it comes to relationships, is secretly bestselling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. Much to his dismay, Luke Bennett has been dubbed NY’s most eligible bachelor, and hordes of women throughout New York are using Thea’s books to try to snare him. When Luke and Thea accidentally meet, he believes he’s finally found an honest woman, but Thea’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Can a butt-ugly alley cat named Cupid bring together two people driven apart by secrets and lies?


She owed Luke an apology. He wasn’t at fault here. Steve was. And Madeline. She couldn’t even place any blame on Grace for her collusion with Hedda or for trying to renege on their deal. The bean counters had blackmailed Grace into a corner. No. As far as Trulee was concerned, she had no one to blame but herself. After all, she opted to compromise her ethics and take the easy way out. Grace dangled the gold coins under her nose, but no one had forced Thea to grab the bag.

Thea had noticed the way Luke’s gaze had kept darting toward the kitchen. He had practically drooled on his rumpled pinstripe. She suspected Melvin the doorman heard his grumbling stomach twelve floors below.

She checked the contents of the oven. Sauce bubbling, cheese browned to a golden perfection, her veal parmesan with mushrooms and baby spinach set off a loud protest in her own stomach. Tom, Dick, and Harry, connoisseurs of Italian cuisine, were demanding their dinner. With their propensity toward red sauce and pasta maybe she should have named them Tomasso, Federico, and…what was the Italian form of Harry? Enrico? Thea shrugged. She had a more pressing problem at the moment. Adjusting the light under a pot of linguini, she turned her attention to the dilemma.

Her sprained wrist had healed well enough to prepare the meal with only a bit of minor inconvenience. She had compensated. Besides, at the time she’d been more concerned with doing something to take her mind off her troubles, and cooking always worked as a panacea for whatever troubled her.

As a child, she had constantly gravitated to the kitchen whenever her loneliness consumed her or her unladylike behavior triggered a reproachful lecture from her mother. A deep bond developed between her and Yolanda Marie, her family’s French-Italian cook. While her parents ignored her and fussed over Madeline, Thea received the attention she craved from Yolanda Marie—along with cooking lessons from the master Cordon Blue chef.

Years later, she still sought and found solace in the kitchen, the only place where she had complete control over her world. The only place where she could truly be herself.

Thea had placed the food in a small casserole which proved easy to slip into the oven single handed. Removing the piping hot dish was an entirely different problem. She opened the oven door, pulled out the wire rack containing her dinner, and bit down on her lower lip while she mulled over her limited options.

The most sensible course of action was to knock on Luke’s door, invite him to dinner, then have him lift the baking dish onto the counter. Sensible, but smacking of ulterior motive. He’d think she only invited him because she couldn’t remove the dish herself. Strike that idea. She wasn’t about to offer him an apology with strings attached.

Thea plopped into a kitchen chair, propped her elbow on her knee, and cupped her chin in the palm of her good hand. She stared at the veal parmesan. She frowned at her bandaged wrist. The seconds ticked away.

Three minutes later she was still scowling alternately between her wrist and the meal. “Oh, the hell with it!” She rose to her feet. “It’s not going to grow legs and walk out of the oven.” She slipped her arm from the sling and donned a couple of oven mitts. Holding her breath and gritting her teeth, she lifted the dish out of the oven. The pain proved bearable. Barely.

Ten minutes later, after downing a couple of aspirin to offset the renewed ache in her wrist, she stood in front of Luke’s door. Balanced between her hip and good arm, she held a large wicker basket complete with main course, a plastic container in which she had placed the drained linguini, another filled with Caesar salad, a small loaf of Italian bread, and a bottle of chilled Asti Spumanti.

She rang the doorbell with her elbow.

Kindle   Nook  iTunes  Kobo Bookstore Without Borders 

And the story continues…


…in Finding Mr. Right, a mini-sequel to Hooking Mr. Right. Editor Grace Wainwright has taken over the role of bestselling author and romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. Thea Chandler, the original Trulee, is now married to her Mr. Right and is a successful cookbook author. She and Grace host the top-rated Love Recipes cooking show. When producer Becket Delaney announces the first two shows in February will have a Valentine’s Day theme, Grace freaks out. The worst day of her life occurred on Valentine’s Day ten years ago, and she wants no reminders of it. Beck has his own reasons for hating the holiday, but the show must go on, and he absolutely refuses to deal with an uncooperative prima donna. When a citywide blackout traps him and Grace in his thirty-fourth floor office, their adversarial relationship really begins to heat up.

 Finding Mr. Right is available as part of the Love, Valentine Style anthology of six Valentine-themed romance novellas by six award-winning and Amazon bestselling authors. For a limited time this collection is available only from Amazon and for a mere .99 cents.

Buy here: Kindle

Thank you, Lois! Now, nobody has any excuse not to fix a romantic meal for Valentine’s Day and we have every reason to buy some romantic fun for just 99¢!!

Happy reading–and eating!



EAT=LOVE=TUESDAYS: Linda Barrett’s Rugelahs


This is a story about how a written family recipe was born…

 Once upon a time, long before I became a grandma, I believed that real grandmas had big, jiggly arms.  My grandma did, and when I cuddled up to her on the couch, my head fit perfectly against her unique pillow.  She’d read to me in her accented English, “Vee, Villie, Vinkie vent through the town…” It sounded just fine.

I was certain, too, that a real grandmother knew how to knit.  When my grandma started a sweater, she actually finished it.  Long after I’d go to bed, she’d continue to knit and leave her work-in-progress where I could see it first thing in the morning.  I was always amazed at how navy blue string could turn into a bulky garment, a thing of substance, just by moving two long needles against each other.  It seemed like magic, but Grandma could do it.

My real grandma also filled the house with scrumptious aromas, and needed the special assistance of a ten year old granddaughter.  She made apple pies so delicious, they’d disappear in an hour. And her strudel had dough so thin you could see through it. But the specialty that remains most strongly with me was her rugelahs–rolled out dough covered with sugar, cinnamon and raisons, then cut into triangles and rolled up into crescents. All of these delights are in my mind’s eye as clearly today as when Gram and I shared my mother’s kitchen so long ago.

“Lindala, you’ll scrape the orange and lemon like this,” she said as she gave me the four-sided metal grater used for such work. I took the grater proudly. This was not a baby job! She crushed walnuts, set aside raisins and kneaded the dough. The finished products looked like miracles to me, but Grandma just nodded at her efforts and brushed the flour from her hands.

Those delicious fragrances filled my childhood home, but no recipe was written down.  How could she write: a pinch of this, a little of that, with enough of the other until it was right?  Grandma’s kitchen methods extended beyond baking.  She made chicken soup in exactly the same way.  This artistic style continued until I was about twelve years old.  

Whether I had a flash of insight or whether I slowly forced myself to acknowledge Grandma’s age, I don’t honestly recall.  But I do remember thinking and worrying about her dying some day.  After my initial grief at this realization, I took action.

“Grandma,” I said, while holding pen and paper in my hand, “exactly how do you make rugelahs?” 

And she told me.  Slowly.  We worked the amounts out together.  A written recipe was finally born in our family and it was perfect.  Anyway, that’s what my boys told me years later as they snagged an extra rugelah on their way through my kitchen. Rugelahs baked by their mother!

At that time, my boys had two grandmas, both in their mid-seventies. One did aerobics and one played catch with them using a hard ball and a baseball glove. My sons thought that real grandmas were athletes, worked full-time until forced to retire at 75, and that the only food grandmas knew how to cook was chicken, the quintessential low cholesterol choice.  They never saw either grandma bake so much as a chocolate chip cookie or knit the ubiquitous scarf.  But if you’d ask them about their grandmothers, as I did, they’d tell you that those ladies were absolutely perfect, and that they were very real grandmas.  Just like mine was.

Grandma Annie’s Rugelahs
Recipe Type: pastry
Author: Linda Barrett
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Recipes, like great books, are often passed down from one generation to the next. Here’s a great one from author Linda Barrett.
  • ½ lb. Crisco
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 eggs or equivalent
  • substitute
  • 1 cup orange or pineapple juice
  • Enough flour until dough is workable
  • sugar/cinnamon mixture
  • raisins
  1. Mix first four ingredients together. Need elbow grease!
  2. Add eggs. Mix.
  3. Add juice. Mix some more.
  4. Add flour about a cup at a time until dough is formed.
  5. Take section of dough and knead on floured table. Roll out with rolling pin.
  6. Spread sugar/cin. mixture
  7. Cut into triangles. (Hint – dipping knife into flour will help cut through the dough without sticking)
  8. Sprinkle raisons on each triangle
  9. Roll from wide end until you have crescent.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes on lightly greased cookie sheet.
  11. Should be golden brown.

To read more of Linda’s from-the-heart blogs and books, check out her website: Linda Barrett. And here’s a little excerpt from Linda’s book Man Of The House, which is part of Celebrate!



ON SALE for ONLY 99¢ at: Amazon BN



           My mom doesn’t understand anything. Especially about guys. She thinks that Phillip and the others really care about pulling their grades up. They don’t give a flying you-know-what about their grades.  I’d use the F-bomb but that would make me as gross as those jerks. No better than guys I’ll have to keep beating up if they call my mom a MILF one more time. 

          I bet she doesn’t even know what that means. My mother is very pretty, real-ly pretty, and she doesn’t even know it. But they know it. That’s what guys my age do.  They look at girls…and women…and maybe they look harder at a woman without a husband.  Well, they’d better stop staring at her. And Steve Duggan had better stop, too. He’s been hanging around Mom for the last few months, and I think she likes him! The whole thing gives me a stomach ache. And I don’t get bad stomach aches anymore, not since after Dad died.

          I guess I haven’t been afraid of anything much since I passed my thirteenth birthday last year and stopped being a kid. Personally, I think thirteen is where the line is drawn. On one side, you’re just a boy. Step over it, and you’re a man. As soon as I hit thirteen, I looked at my little family—Mom and me—and realized I was the “man” of the house. The idea felt comfortable. I felt comfortable. It seemed right.

         But as soon as Mom introduced me to Steve Duggan, my comfortable world shifted. I thought the earth jumped right off its axis. When I looked into Duggan’s face on that first day, I knew I was looking at trouble. It wasn’t because he was big—heck, some of my coaches are bigger–or because he had these gray eyes that gleamed like the sun shining off metal, or because those eyes stared right at me, maybe even through me. His strong handshake didn’t scare me either. Not then. I could have handled all those things easily, except for one small hitch: my mom. 

        The person who scared me most on that first day was my own mother. And that’s how I knew Steve Duggan spelled trouble.

Happy reading! Don’t forget to CELEBRATE! life and love, every day.


A Season to Love

I’m a four seasons kind of girl, and Autumn is MY fave.

daisy 1002
My mom in 1998 enjoying the aspens of Lake Tahoe at age 85.

Back-to-school. Chilly nights. Harvest moons. Frost on the pumpkins. Even, football.

(Oh, my Niners, I still love you, I do. Don’t disappoint me again.)





And September is one of my favorite months. I gave birth to my first baby on September 11 (long before evil tattooed that date on our collective consciousness).

All grown up and driving a school bus!
All grown up and driving a school bus!

And, now, I have a new reason to celebrate. September 12 is the release date for my new book, ARE WE THERE YET?  It will be available both in Print ($8.99) and all eBook formats ($3.79). PRE-ORDER HERE.


One woman’s funny, quirky, risqué journey of self-discovery on the road to love.

         She may be over the hill by some standards, but 50-something divorcee Judy Banger knows she’s sick and tired of plodding along the same old road to retirement. She joins a gym and charts a new course in search of a healthier, happier, more adventurous Judy. But the road less traveled is not without hazards, speed bumps and detours. Her first attempt to re-ignite her sex life winds up with a 911 call. 

        Add Judy’s platinumdigger BFF, a sue-happy lawyer, a carpenter with a Mrs. Robinson fixation, and a young cop who thinks Judy is in need of sex addiction therapy, and Judy’s ready to burn the map, give up her exercise class and move in with her hypercritical mother…until she meets Judge Wilson “Wiley” Canby. Wiley embodies the sexy fire and smoldering angst of every romance hero Judy ever imagined all in one perfect package. Too bad Judy’s never considered herself romance heroine material. And to make matters worse, their first meeting involves a black lace bustier, fishnet stockings and a whip named Gerald. 

 If this is the road to love, where’s the closest exit?


Throughout the month of September, I’ll be blogging about:

Road Trips–I’d love to hear your Best and/or Worst!

Bucket Lists–I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours–

and why I HEART Indie writing.


Instead of a month-long contest, I plan to do FOUR week-long contests. I’m also planning to try a Goodreads giveaway. Are you one of my Goodreads friends? Click here to join the fun.

More to come…





Love springs eternal

I’ve heard that expression forever but really never thought about it until I caught this post on a popular online site that I accidentally joined. (That happens a lot since I’m still wandering around the Net blind, most of the time.)

Here’s the headline that caught my eye: Elizabeth Taylor, 78, Engaged for the Ninth Time.

Ms. Taylor has since recinded that announcement via Twitter–good heavens, Liz Tweets? Another amazing thing!–but, for a moment, I was heartened by the thought that no matter your age or infirmity, as long as the heart is beating, that need for love, companionship and hope, well…springs eternal.

Sure, the cynics among you might have a problem with this given her marital record alone–who can forget Larry Whatshisname, right?–but I say, “If not now, when?”

Of course, that could be the romantic in me talking. I am a romance novelist, after all. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be as suspect of a 49-year-old man’s intentions as we would be of a young female gold-digger tying the knot with a man thirty years her senior. My point is simply that a heart that beats still craves love,  and while fame and wealth might bring you more offers–realistic or not–who can blame someone for wanting love–at any age?

The world is full of critics who snub romance novels as being too unreal. But as Mark Twain pointed out, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” – Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

I don’t have a former screen goddess in a wheelchair poised–or not–to marry for the nineth time in one of my books, but I love the possibility. The heart, like Truth, makes its own possibilities.

Tell me a “real life,” unlikely love story and your name will be entered into a drawing for the first copy of my new release, UNTIL HE MET RACHEL (got the title right this time, I think), as soon as my review copies arrive.

Happy Tuesday to all my fellow Glee fans!