Secrets and Sins: Malachim is dark, dangerous and delish

Secrets and Sins MalachimChances are excellent you won’t be putting Secrets and Sins: Malachim down for something as trivial as eating, or sleeping. Nope, it’s going to take something a lot bigger to pry this one out of your hands.

In this, the second book of the Secrets and Sins series, Naima Simone grabs you by the throat from the opening line and just refuses to let go. I won’t mislead anyone, the first chapter is dark and ugly, setting the stage for a heroine with a very long way to go before she can find anything resembling a happily ever after. For some readers that sort of thing isn’t what they want to see when the crack open a romance novel. But as much as I enjoy a great fantasy book, I really love to dig into stories that reflect real life. Malachim hits reality out of the park while maintaining the romance arc.

Danielle is an abused wife until the night she realizes she is only one moment of crazed madness away from death. She puts her abusive husband behind bars, divorces him and flees, creating a new identity for herself in another state. She begins life over again in Boston, where she meets Malachim, a lawyer on the edge of losing everything and in desperate need of a paralegal. Out of options and despite her apparent lack of experience, he offers Danielle the job.

Sparks fly between the two from the start, but each has reasons to hold back from exploring their feelings. Both are keeping deadly secrets and both are harboring emotional damage. Each has their past come crashing in one brick at a time until the world seems to be crumbling down around them. Since I don’t do spoilers here, I’ll just leave it there.

Luckily for you, Ms Simone has three more books in the series, beginning with Gabriel, followed by Malachim, Raphael, and finally Chayot. Each is connected as the four men are all best friends, but each also works as a stand alone story. 

One more thing makes this your Friday Read this week. Malachim is free (as of this posting). So go! Get thee post haste to the nearest book purveyor of your choice and grab a copy!

Oh, and if anyone can tell me where I have to go to find that man on the cover, I will be forever in your debt. Not for ME, I’m happily married! It’s for my Man Candy board on Pinterest…there’s an opening.

Can’t have an open space on a Pinterest board…right?

Happy Friday reading everyone and enjoy the weekend!



Secrets on the Sand by Roxanne St Claire

We all have authors who can be counted on to deliver on pretty much every single book. You don’t even have to read the back cover, just grab and go. Roxanne St Claire is one of those authors for me.

Edge of Sight - The Guardian AngelinosShe first hooked me with her Guardian Angelinos romantic suspense series. Then I found and promptly fell in love with the Bullet Catcher series. At this point she has so many books out I’ve given up counting and that suits me just fine. It’s always good to know that when I finish reading a story, more are waiting!

My current favorite is one I didn’t expect, a light contemporary romance set on a beach, with a billionaire geek for a hero. Yup, apparently I have taken a minor detour from brooding, emotionally damaged men with tats to spend some time drooling over an uber rich guy, in a suit, who is a wiz with numbers. I know! Who saw that coming??

Well actually anyone who knows Roxanne’s writing would see that coming. She does emotionally deep, intense characters as well as anyone out there, a skill she uses with a bit more restraint but just as effectively in light contemporary romance. So as deeply, madly in love as I am with my messed up book boyfriends (hey, someone has to love the broken ones!), I am utterly charmed by the hero of Secrets on the SandBook 1 in the Billionaires of Barefoot Bay series.Secrets on the Sand

With a name like “Ezekiel” (known in school as “Ezekiel the Geekiel”) you’d think Zeke, as he is now known, would have a very long road to trudge before climbing the mountain to Hot Stud status. Secrets on the Sand blows that premise right out of the water. This time it’s the guy whose is “all grown up” and filled out in all the right ways. Zeke has never forgotten the beautiful girl he went to school with, the way he felt about her, or the time she stood up for him when no one else did.

Amanda (Mandy) hasn’t fared as well, and has been reduced from the prettiest girl in school to a maid struggling to make ends meet. They reunite when she has to clean his suite at an exclusive beach resort. Divorced from an abusive, controlling man who left her broke, Mandy’s one goal beyond survival is to never trust a man again. Especially a rich man.

I’m going to stop right there, because some secrets are best revealed in their own sweet time.

If you’re looking for a great beach read, and you know the clock is ticking on what’s left of summer, Secrets on the Sand will not disappoint. Oh yeah, and there’s one more thing…

Right now, its free. So run your little fingers right out of here and get yourself over to the e-book supplier of choice and grab it while the grabbing is good.

After that you can slather on the sunblock, set up your chaise lounge and sip something sweet and summery while you read. It just doesn’t get any better than that!


Retro Read: The Crossroads Cafe

It’s the last Friday of the month which means it time for a Retro Read! These are stories that have been around a while, not old enough to be classics, but way too good to forget about. Some stories might not completely follow today’s writing rules, some might be a bit long, or takes a bit more time to develop. But they all have one thing in common, they’ve earned their place on the keeper shelf.

The Crossroads Cafe


This month’s Retro Read is “The Crossroads Cafe” by Deborah Smith. Breaking all sorts of “rules” (although talented writers can certainly scoff at such things!) the story opens with a prologue of a scene that actually happens later in the story. Believe it or not, this isn’t confusing and it works as the first line grabs and draws you right in:


Before the accident, I never had to seduce a man in the dark. I dazzled millions in the brutal glare of kliegs on the red carpets of Hollywood, the flash of cameras at the Oscars, the glare of sunlight on the beaches of Cannes. Beautiful women don’t fear the glint of lust and judgment in men’s eyes, or the bitter gleam of envy in women’s. Beautiful women welcome even the brightest light. Once upon a time I had been the most beautiful woman in the world.

Now I needed the night, the darkness, the shadows.

“Put the gun down,” I ordered, as I let my bra and sweatshirt fall to the ground.

The story is told in alternating first person points of view by the two main characters, Thomas and Cathy.  Both are tragically damaged in different but very public ways, one physically, one emotionally.  Their worlds collide when they both end up in the small town of Crossroads, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge mountains. Taking a huge secondary role is Delta, owner of the Cafe, the emotional hub of the small town, and the inadvertent reason Thomas and Cathy are living in Crossroads.

Filled with quirky yet down to earth, realistic secondary characters who have their own baggage and scars, the story runs an emotional gauntlet from tragic to humorous and everything in between. The growth of the Crossroads Cafemain characters,  innocently narcissistic to fully rounded, tragically suicidal to accepting and forgiving of self and others, is a tour de force for the reader and a classic lesson in character arc 101 for a writer. Nobody escapes unscathed, but there is plenty of natural humor sprinkled strategically to lighten the mood and counteract what could have been a painful read.  There are a multitude of social and personal issues woven into the fabric of the Crossroads Cafe, along with the romance, and Deborah Smith did a masterful job of approaching harsh subjects with an unflinching yet extraordinarily sensitive hand.

The HEA is here, tempered with reality, making this story heartwarming and easy to love, just like Delta’s biscuits and gravy. The Crossroads Cafe is a keeper on my bookshelf, a terrific read and a reminder that while we all have our scars, what really matters is how we choose to carry them. As they say at the Cafe…

“The Lard Works in Mysterious Ways”


Those Dog Days of Summer

Dogs in the garden

Is that a squirrel? In this heat??

Ah the dog days of summer. That stretch of sultry, humid weather that brings anything remotely strenuous to a standstill. Ask most people where the term comes from and you might get something about it being too hot for even a dog to move.  There’s a lot of truth to that, as my dogs can attest.

Dogs eating watermelonOutdoor time these days consists of short trots instead of runs, followed by a rest in the shade under the squash plants before finishing up with a plate of watermelon on the deck.

Yeah… I know, it’s a hard life.

It turns out the phrase “dog days of summer” has some interesting history. Ancient celestial observers noted that Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, appeared in the Eastern skies just before dawn during late summer. Mythology has it that those observers attributed the star’s appearance, rising right before the burning August sun, as responsible for the undue heat and humidity that occurs with this time of year. Since Sirius is about 7000 degrees hotter than our own sun, there might be some truth to the myth!

If you’re interested in seeing Sirius, you won’t have any Canis Majorproblem finding it. Go outside just before dawn on a clear early morning and look to the East for the brightest star in the sky at that time.  It might be bright white tinged with blue or flicker with colors, either way, you’ll know it when you see it.Orion If you know your constellations and want a truly spectacular show, find Orion’s belt (the three bright stars close together in the middle) and draw a straight line outward and down to Sirius.


On a more serious note, it IS hot out there. Be extra careful if you work outside and keep your animal’s comfort in mind as well.  Dogs get sunburned, heat stroke and suffer from exposure, just like you. Never leave a dog or a child in a car, even with the windows down. It only takes minutes for an irreversible tragedy to take place.

Alternatives to leaving your pet in the car

Image courtesy of PetFinder

When life hands you eggs…

….And I mean LOTS of eggs, you have to do two things: Get creative and go big.Eggs

The thing about farming on any scale, is not only do you know what the phrase “Season of Plenty” means, you live it.

For those who don’t, it means most of whatever you’re growing is procreating like Nature tripped the “End of Days” switch. Weird things start happening.  Your neighbors, friends and co-workers seem to disappear when you come around, usually after you start bringing in zucchini resembling a prototype for a new Louisville slugger. Anything you planted from the squash family is outrunning kudzu for most distance grown by a vine in 15 minutes. Even the chickens have turned into fluffy, single minded little laying machines.

When the count gets up to four dozen eggs in the fridge and even the guy down the street who always takes your excess zucchini (but only after you’ve turned it into bread) refuses to answer the door, you have to come up with meal ideas that chew, no pun intended, through the bounty quickly. That’s where recipes like this one come in.

So with that in mind, I’m offering up my first blog recipe. Many versions of this idea are floating around, it’s hardly anything new. What makes this worth writing about is how easy it is to pull together, how flexible the ingredients can be, and the fact you can turn leftovers into a very tasty dish just about everyone will like.

So without further ado, I give you: Baked Egg Casserole

4 cups shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, gruyere, cheddar and swiss in varying amounts)
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of
1 thin sliced onions
1 thin slice yellow and 1 thin sliced red bell pepper
1 pound meat (I used ground pork sausage)
8 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Baked Egg Casserole

Ready to go into the oven

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Combine cheeses in a bowl, mix well; place 3 cups cheese mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook onions and peppers until tender. Gently fold vegetables into meat and sauce, then spread vegi/meat mix over cheese in the pan.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese evenly over the top.
4. Beat eggs in a bowl; mix in milk, flour, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture into baking dish.
5. Bake in preheated oven until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting so the dish can firm up.

I love to experiment with food so I whipped up a mix of some sriracha mayonnaise I had on hand with a more or less equal amount of peach preserves into a sweet/spicy sauce that I folded into the meat. Not much, just enough to bring an amazing depth of flavor to the meat. The peaches cooled any undue heat to a gentle warmth and even the less culinary adventuresome in my house gave the dish two thumbs up. For other vegetables you could use sliced greens (Kale, Swiss Chard), thin sliced carrots (slightly precooked), pretty much anything you have on hand. Just think color, the more you bring to the dish the healthier it becomes.




Wendy Sparrow Gets Past My Defenses

Wendy SparPast My Defensesrow delivers a sexy and fun paranormal romp with a twist in her June release, Past My Defenses. The heroine, Vanessa (Nessa) is a shape-shifting Lycan heroine with some pretty serious allergies. After a run through pollen infested woods, a tangle with a cat triggers a reaction that knocks her out.  She wakes up to find herself locked in a cage and scent mated to a very puzzled but completely intrigued human, Dane. No fast talking on her part will convince him that he didn’t see what he just saw as she shifted into her human form. Her very naked human form. 

Sparks fly and the tension builds as they are caught between the pack’s Alpha leader, poachers and the irresistible bond growing between them.

Dane is strong, sweet and sexy, and not afraid to challenge Nessa’s alpha ruler when it comes to matters concerning her. He’s everything readers want from their literary hero. In this story however, it is Nessa who captures my heart and carries the day. Quirky, flighty and carrying a short fuse, she checks off character flaws like a how-to list from “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days”. It’s no secret I love me a damaged hero but they are a lot more prevalent  than damaged heroines, hence my fascination here.

Bless her little furry heart, Nessa and her list of issues are right up my alley. At times she’s enough to drive a man, human or wolf, bat shit crazy and she doesn’t hesitate to go her own way when she feels she must.  That makes her interesting and someone I can relate to.

Granted, it might make also her my long lost sister… but that’s a blog post for another time.

Vanessa is the fastest Lycan around. In wolf form, the only threat she can’t outrun is her allergies. After a feline dander-bomb takes her down, she wakes up naked in a cage staring at a hot park ranger who had no idea what he’d trapped. But ooooh, he smells so good. Mine.

Dane hoped to tame the silver wolf in his kennel, but all bets are off with the deliciously sweet Vanessa on two legs. Her temper makes his pulse race, and he can’t escape the feeling they belong together.

They’re hot as a forest fire even before they scent-match, but Glacier Peak’s Alpha considers Dane a danger to the pack. Meanwhile, Lycans are being poached, and Vanessa has been targeted. Dane will have to keep her close to protect her, but with Vanessa in heat and mad to mate, who will protect him?

Tawny Weber Has The Best Four Pack In Town!

A Seal's Seduction Tawny Weber has four stories that add up to some of the best reading you can find, perfect for a long, sultry July 4th weekend spent lying on the beach. That’s right, instead of a single book I’m suggesting you pick up four of them in honor of the holiday and of course, the military. There could also be a teeny bit of truth to the rumor that I’m a huge fan of Tawny’s and I kinda, sorta devour her books as fast as she can write them.

The Uniformly Hot stories have Seal heroes, men with smoking hot, hard bodies and actual functioning brains!  Men who take their creed “Failure is not an option” right into the bedroom and A Seal's Surrenderstraight into a woman’s heart…and maybe a few other places *wink*

Hold on while I pause to catch my breath here…

What makes this series even better you ask? I’m happy to tell you! She’s got at least five more books in the works and it’s quite evident she plans on going through the entire Seal team, the hussy! I can’t begin to tell you how happy it makes me knowing more Seals are deploying soon to a Kindle near me.

A Seal's SalvationSo if you’re interested in grabbing a few books to hold you over for the long weekend, or looking to start a new series that just keeps getting better with each installment, I’m recommending you start with “A Seal’s Seduction” followed by “Surrender“,  “Salvation” and “Kiss“.  The writing is great, the stories are tight and the characters are yummy. I even like the heroines, and you have no idea how much of an effort that can be for me at times!

These stories fall into the category of what I like to think of A Seal's Kissas “contemporary realistic fantasy” and THANK GOODNESS for that kind of story! Who doesn’t need some fantasy now and then/every weekend??

Besides, how many times in life can you combine the pleasure of picking up an entire weekend of great reading AND doing something patriotic? Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Most of us will be getting together with family and friends today. There are many places in the world where this can’t even be imagined, where freedom can’t even be conceived as a dream. I’ll take a moment today to reflect and be thankful I live here.

I will also take time to remember our military men and women. Many of them will be away from home and the celebrations. They’re in combat zones and diplomatic posts, on ships, submarines and foreign shores all over the world, protecting us and others. They sacrifice a lot, sometimes everything, and they deserve, at minimum, our thoughts and best wishes for a safe return. So I’m saying thank you to each and every member of our armed forces, men and women whoever you are, wherever you are, for your sacrifice, your dedication and your service. Please stay safe.

Another thanks goes out to Tawny, and all authors of military hero books for reminding us of our soldiers, and giving us great summer reads in the process. The tagline for the Uniformly Hot series really does say it all, not just about her books, but also the real men and women who inspire the stories…

“The few, the proud, the sexy as hell.”

Happy 4th of July everyone!


Thanks to for the great photo

There’s a snake in the barn

“Uh Mom, there’s a snake in the barn.”

Not what you want to hear on a busy Saturday afternoon. Truthfully not something you want to hear anytime ever. But at my house this sort of thing isn’t all that unusual.

So on a hot summer afternoon Dman and I dutifully trudged into the barn, hoping for a mistake. Snake in the BarnAfter all, there are a lot of things that could be mistaken for a snake. A length of rope or a hose. I’ve even seen a stray vine find a way in and grow a few inches. Luck however was not with us and there, coiled up on the skinny side of a 2 x 4 was this…

Yup, that’s a snake alright!

After a good long discussion (because when you have people standing around everyone has an opinion on how to handle the crisis) during which the snake stuck around, tongue flickering in and out, watching us watch him, the suggestions were as follows:

1. Ignore it

2. Kill it

3. Keep it for a pet

4. Relocate it

Number 1:   I think we can all agree it’s really hard to ignore a snake, even a small one. I’m not an expert and we couldn’t figure out what type it was. It looked like a python. If it was an exotic, that’s a problem. Granted it wouldn’t survive our winter but it meant someone was careless. They might lose something else, something a lot more dangerous.

Number 2:   I don’t have a problem killing an animal if I need to, but it was really hard to justify this one. Without knowing what it was, I couldn’t do it.

Number 3:   No, I’m looking at you Ryan. No.

Number 4:   When you run out of other options, you go with what’s left.

Before we could implement this grand scheme, we had to catch and confine the snake without hurting it or ourselves and before releasing, we had to identify it. With one brave soul to help me, we moved equipment out of the way, found a large bucket and gingerly positioned it under the snake’s perch. A nudge of the tail with the handle of a hoe livened things up immediately.

Snakes move very fast. It’s kinda scary. Lesson learned.

Snake bundledAfter a bad moment where it looked like the snake might escape, I nudged it again and it wrapped its tail around the handle. That gave me the leverage I needed to manuever it into the bucket. From there it was easy to slip it into a pillowcase, proving once and for all that my obsessive watching of Animal Planet has paid off.

Dman drove me down to the local pet supply store, staffed by people who know their stuff. A quick peek into the bag revealed the identity of my guest, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum, an Eastern milk snake. Adults range 3 to as much as 5 feet long. An expert climber (obviously) often ascending porches and vines, they will enter houses looking for mice.

Milk snakes are considered beneficial, superior hunters of mice and rats. Living with “good” snakes is difficult to contemplate, although like spiders they often slip away before you see them. They Milk Snake close upalso have a big strike against them for me. Larger adults will eat eggs and attack chickens. Anything going after my chickens has to confront Mr. Roo. At 12 pounds with solid two inch spurs, he’s a formidable opponent and very protective of the Ladies. Add in three large dogs, frustrated by the daily taunting and daring escapes of our local squirrel tribe, and it’s not going to go well for the snake. So off we went to a nearby conservation area, where we released it.

That is the last I saw of it, and I’m good with that.

I must pay homage to my stalwart helper in this escapade. Miss Vicki, who stands about 5 foot nothing and weighs 98 pounds soaking wet with a brick in each back pocket, was fearless. She volunteered to hold the bucket under the snake and never flinched, even during the more dicey moments.

Today is her birthday and so, in addition to wishing her a happy one, I’m giving her the “Balls of Steel” award.

Display it proudly, you earned girl!

Balls of Steel


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