Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog.
Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Friday, December 30, 2016

"There's No Place Like Home..." by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

Wow, what a wonderful Christmas! My oldest son and his family came down to Memphis from Rockford, Illinois, to join us and my youngest son with his family for the holiday. It was the first time since 2000 that the boys had been together to celebrate.

We all got together on Christmas Eve to open gifts. The squeals of delight from our seven grandchildren as they opened presents was music to my ears. And listening to my sons trade good-natured insults took me back more years than I can remember. My youngest, Brendan, is a certified chef. He split his time between his in-laws and us to make Christmas dinner--Shepherd's Pie. It was fabulous. Also upon request from my Rockford daughter-in-law was Creme Brulee for dessert. It was killer. I think I'm still on a sugar high.

I'm not usually big on nostalgia, but I couldn't help tearing up when son, Kevin, showed off the ornaments he'd made in school through the years to his sons. Each and every one brought back memories of when my boys so proudly gave me their works of art to hang on the tree. Since Brendan had helped us set up the tree, he'd already had his moment of fun when seeing the tree totally decorated with memories special to him.

The grandchildren saw the gifts under the tree and the chorus of, "Can we open them now?" chimed in seven different voices. The answer was "No." We tortured them with anticipation for a few more hours. My youngest granddaughter, Sarah, was particularly aggrieved. The biggest one was for her. And my youngest grandson, Ryan, (2-1/2 years old) found out how to turn on the musical centerpiece on my coffee table. To save all of us our sanity, his mother eventually put it up on shelf in the hall closet. That didn't deter Ryan,  however. He also figured out that a music-making ornament would sing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" when he touched it. It found it's way to the top portion of the tree. Kid's too smart for that age. LOL.

It's all quiet here now. Kevin and his family left for home this morning. The silence is deafening, although I won't miss having to listen to Sponge Bob for hours on end. I do, however, miss them already. This is what Christmas is all about--family, friends, and good times. I believe that is as much as part of the holiday as the birth of Christ. After all, it is a celebration.

I hope all of you had as wonderful a Christmas as I did. May the looming new year of 2017 bring all of you joy, happiness, lively spirits, and good health.

Until next month.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Postponed Due to Plague

A definite lack of fa la la la la this year. We had one of 'those' holidays when each day found some new family member stricken with the prevailing stomach bug. Not all were hit as hard as others, but few have escaped, and those who have are living under the shadow. Our family get-together at my house has been put off until sometime in January, assuming that's any better. At least this particular wretchedness will have passed. I swear by good quality olive leaf and green tea extracts, plus, plus to help strengthen immunity. But yes, I got it too, though not as severely. Unless there's more than one kind...

Speaking of the actual plague, there were some interesting herbal cures and preventatives thought to be of aid. Talk about people madly searching for whatever they could lay their hands on. Those poor folk certainly were. 

The following is from my herbal, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. Many of the herbs mentioned in it are also used today, though not necessarily in the same way. 


Angelica: According to one legend, the sacred herb angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel as a cure for the plague. Another possible explanation for its name is that the plant blooms around May 8th in England, the day of Michael the Archangel. Either way, angelica has strong associations with angels and was thought to be a protection against evil spirits and witchcraft. The entire plant was believed to hold power against spells and enchantment and held in such high esteem it was called, ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.’ 

(Medieval ruins)

Blessed thistle, not to be confused with milk thistle, grows readily in England and most everywhere else, including my garden. It’s a noxious weed, but what a wealth of lore behind this prickly plant. Along the way, blessed thistle developed a reputation as a heal-all herb and was supposed to be able to cure the plague. Any plant thought to do that was revered, thus the reverent titles awarded this humble herb. I still root it out of my gardens but should probably imbibe it

Rue is a vaulted herb and one of the ingredients in the Vinegar of the Four Thievesa fascinating concoction, heavily embellished with legend, that supposedly warded off the bubonic plague. In the Middle Ages and later, it was also considered, in many parts of Europe, a powerful defense against witches, and was used in many spells. It was also believed to bestow second sight. I'm out of rue. Gotta get me some plants.

Plant your sage and rue together,
The sage will grow in any weather . Old herbal quote

(Sage from our garden growing beside larkspur)

Garlic formed the principal ingredient in the ‘Four Thieves Vinegar,’ which was adapted so successfully at Marseilles for protection against the plague when it prevailed there in 1722. This originated, it is said, with four thieves who confessed, that whilst protected by the liberal use of aromatic vinegar during the plague, they plundered the dead bodies of its victims with complete security. It is stated that during an outbreak of infectious fever in certain poor quarters of London, early last century, the French priests who constantly used Garlic in all their dishes, visited the worst cases with impunity, whilst the English clergy caught the infection, and in many instances fell victims to the disease.” (From my herbal. The original quote is attributed to A Modern Herbal.)

ParsleyBy the Middle Ages, parsley had made its appearance in herbal medicines and was credited with curing a great range of ills, especially those having to do with the kidneys and liver. It has also been used against plague, asthma, dropsy, and jaundice as a carminative (an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas), an emmenagogue (promotes menstrual flow) and an aide to digestion. (Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs)

(Parsley in our garden)

SageThe old herbalists recommend the juice of sage in warm water for curing hoarseness and coughs, and say it is also excellent to aid the memory. Of course, the juice of sage, along with vinegar, has been of use in times of the plague. “Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth.” (A Modern Herbal)

'Spices, so common today but rare then, also made their first appearance with the Crusaders. Among these were nutmeg, ginger, and peppercorns, only afforded by the wealthy. Medieval England was mad for these new taste sensations that added zest to their food and helped disguise spoiled meat. Nutmeg was touted as a cure for the plague. 

Ginger also made that claim, and peppercorns were worth their weight in gold. Wars were fought over spices, but back to the plants. Unless an individual lived in an isolated region and gleaned only native species, a Medieval physic garden would have had many varieties. The herbs weren’t grown for their beauty alone, so much as for their healing properties. To the modern eye, they might appear rather weedy. Plants were peoples’ medicine kits, and aesthetics wasn’t the focus. These were not the opulent luxury gardens, but humble and earthy.' ~from my herbal

This info and much, much more is included in Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles, available in print with colorful images and in kindle, also illustrated, at Amazon

Would you believe I highly recommend it? Seriously, though, I refer to this resource all the time. I incorporate herbs into much of my writing--and into my life. 

Book description: An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. 

Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

For more on me visit:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Post Christmas Wishes

~ ~ by Vonnie Davis

I'm writing this on Christmas Day. Our house is quiet except for carols playing on the kitchen radio and Calvin singing as he rides his stationary bike. I can't quite make out the tune, but it sounds like a Beetle's song. We'd decided on a low-key Christmas this year due to Calvin's recent heart attack. Just as well since an intestinal virus hit me yesterday morning. I think it brought a three-piece set of luggage, intent on staying for awhile.

My daughter lives in northern Indiana. My two sons in northern Maryland. Calvin's son and only child lives in Berlin just a few blocks from the terrorist attack this week. We're in southern Virginia. No traveling since I have a deadline looming.

Calvin asked me the other day how much longer he'd only be seeing the top of my head, his gentle way of saying he feels ignored. Time for a husband break and, as I look around, some deep house cleaning wouldn't be a bad thing either. And again, I ask myself how did I get so busy in retirement? Oh, right, I decided to write a book. I'm working on number 21 now.

I have a great-grandson, Benjamin, in Indiana. Here's a Christmas Eve photo of him wearing his Santa suit his crazy great-grandma sent. His Aunt Eleni, our June bride this year, is holding him. Couldn't you just kiss the sweetness off his chubby cheeks?

Family, whether near or far, is so important. In this crazy world, their safety is more valuable than ever. Calvin and I were at Bob Evans restaurant when I got an email from Kelly, Calvin's son. "Tell Dad I'm okay. So is Katrin. We can see the smoke and hear the ambulances from our penthouse balcony. I don't want him to worry. We were home when the terrorist attack occurred. We're safe."


Calvin was on his iPad, reading various news stories. He hadn't mentioned anything happening in Germany. So I turned my laptop around and told him to read Kelly's email. His fingers started flying over his iPad keys until he found the story. We packed up and headed for home to watch the news. Calvin called Kelly just to hear his voice. Parents are like that. We just have to have tangible proof. For him on the other side of the world, Kelly's soft voice calmed him. Kelly is a senior programmer and developer for Mozilla.

We live in a world that seems more and more hate-filled. Maybe it's always been this way and we were blissfully ignorant without the continuous news channels barking at us. I don't know. But for you all, I wish you family to love and take pride in, good health, and safety for yourself and your loved ones. Hugs.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A WREATH - The Circle of Life

by Judy Ann Davis
During the Christmas season, I enjoy looking at the many different wreaths hanging on the doors of homes. They are colorful, artistic and varied, and are often constructed with evergreens adorned with pine cones, ribbons, bells, berries, and bows. But where did the tradition of hanging a wreath on a door for Christmas originate? Although there are many theories, it’s believed the wreath came with the Irish when they immigrated to the United States.

The wreath itself can be traced back to ancient Rome when people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory and celebration. The custom of hanging a Christmas wreath on the front door of the home probably came from this practice. They are also used in ceremonial events in many cultures around the world.

In English-speaking countries, wreaths are now used typically as household ornaments, mainly as an Advent and Christmas decoration. Wreaths have much history and symbolism associated with them. They are usually made from evergreens which symbolize the strength of life overcoming the forces of winter, since evergreens last even throughout the harshest elements. Bay laurel is also be used, and these wreaths are known as laurel wreaths.

The shape of a circle has no beginning and no ending. It is thought that this may represent the eternal nature of a god's love, or the circle of life.

Do you hang a wreath on your door? If not, what do you do to decorate for the holiday season? From my home to yours--wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Follow Judy Ann on her:
My Amazon Author Page
Twitter: @JudyAnnDavis4

                          And coming soon IN 2017:  FOUR WHITE ROSES 
                         Can a wily old ghost help two fractured hearts find love? 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Holiday Novella

Writing a romance set at Christmas has its own complications. Readers buy them expecting certain elements. Writers hope to satisfy their need, with a story that captures a small part of what Christmas can mean-- along with two people who find something more.

My two novellas, written this fall, are set one hundred years apart, from 1905 to contemporary times. The heroines, both older and alone, share disillusionment in common and a need for a new start. The magic of Christmas is such a time for making the impossible possible. 

In Sonoran Christmas, Frederica sets out not to remake her life but to find her daughter. With the help of information from a detective, she journeys to Tucson, Arizona-- where she finds a land like nothing she’s known and a man of the sort she’s only read about in the silly and fictitious dime novels. 

Jeremiah Taggert, from an outlaw family that became infamous thanks to those books, steps forward to help Frederica, and one thing leads to another. He would stay away from this woman, completely beyond his reach, but she needs what a man like him can do. What he doesn’t know is she is the one woman who could bring him to his knees and give him his own happily ever after—if he can stay alive long enough. (no sex but there is gun violence)

Excerpt from Sonoran Christmas-- Book 8 Arizona Historicals:

      “What kind of Christmases have you known?”
She sighed and stared into the fire. “Good when my first husband and son were alive.” She described how she lost them and her own sinking into depression. “When Cat needed me most, I’m afraid. Then I married Irving and that was a mistake on many levels. For me, Christmas has been a time of duty or loss. How about yours?”
     “Drunkenness,” he said taking another long drag on his cigarette. “That’s what it was when I was little. My father fought with his brothers. He was a mean ba--… man. Given how my second son had a brutal streak, maybe it was in his blood.”
     “How sad. But now with your sons having their families, it’s better, isn’t it?”
     “Of course, not that it’s to my credit.”
     She watched his dark expression as he fed more wood into their fire. “You carry around a lot of guilt, don’t you?” she asked when she saw he’d say no more. She realized in that they were two of a kind.
     “I deserve it. A man chooses a trail, and he can’t blame anybody else when it turns out to be a wrong one.”
     “He can turn around.”
     “He can try but my daughter-in-law, Holly, has a word for it—karma. Sometimes there has to be payback.”

Novella available for eReaders at 99¢ until January 1:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Two Characters, Two Christmas Trees

By Sandra Nachlinger

I’ve been thinking about ways to show characters’ personalities and priorities without “telling” and here’s something I came up with for the holiday season.

Lorraine stood in the foyer, arms crossed over her chest, and studied the Christmas tree. A Swarovski star topped the white-flocked spruce and almost touched the twelve-foot ceiling. Porcelain angels clad in the palest pink gowns seemed to flit among the boughs between glistening Waterford snowflakes and opaque Lalique orbs. To complete the creation, strands of pearls draped from branch to branch, illuminated by thousands of tiny clear lights. She nodded and smiled. Pierre had outdone himself this year. Worth every penny he charged.

Jenny sighed, plugged in the vacuum cleaner, and ran it beneath the tree. More needles every day! Meowser seemed to think she’d brought the evergreen into the living room as his personal playground. She jiggled a string of lights until they came back on and straightened the garland the kids had made from construction paper. With a sigh she bent to pick up a papier mache Santa her son had made many years before, then placed it near a branch that held a star cut from a tin pie plate. She nodded and smiled. The tree held so many memories—a priceless journal of the family’s past Christmases. Worth all the mess.

What do you think? Which Christmas tree appeals to you?

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and a joyous 2017.

Bluebonnets for Elly - A Sweet Contemporary Romance
I.O.U. Sex (Co-authored with Sandra Allen) - A Spicy Baby-Boomer Romance


Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Birthday: Nobody's Cinderella @JoanReeves

Five years ago, I published Nobody's Cinderella, a romantic comedy set in San Antonio, Texas, just before Christmas.

I'm celebrating the Book Birthday of Nobody's Cinderella, starting today and continuing through a Facebook party on Dec. 18. Details about the party are below so be sure and read. Better still, plan to attend because I'm giving away prizes and so are my fellow authors at the party.ich feature

About Nobody's Cinderella

A couple of little lies...a wish on a star... Uh oh!

Review: "I love Ms. Reeves' heroines. There is a little bit of them in all of us and that endears them to us even more. Just enough conflict, steam, misunderstandings, and humor."

Darcy Benton is the oldest cliche in the world—a woman in love with her boss. Other than that, she's no-nonsense, practical, mature, and sober. She's just the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. She's definitely not the kind of woman he wants in his bed.

Enter Darcy's meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase's interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies. And a wish on a Christmas star. Darcy should have heeded that old advice: be careful what you wish for.

Why Cinderella Story  Is So Popular

The Cinderella Myth is one of the most popular folk tales in the world. You’ll find it in not only European countries but also in India, Vietnam, and Africa. In truth, it crosses all cultural lines. There are hundreds of folk tale versions of the Cinderella story.

Surprising History

You might be surprised to learn that one of the earliest recorded versions comes from China. According to the Chinese story, the heroine doesn’t have a fairy godmother, but a magical fish who helps her. However, a golden shoe leads a prince to her, and they marry. Some sources say the story actually originated in Greece even earlier.

Nearly 1200 years later, Cinderella is still having her story told by countless authors – including me. See the pretty shoes on the cover? Cinderella always needs a pair of knock ’em dead shoes.

In Nobody’s Cinderella, Darcy Benton is a Cinderella who wishes on a Christmas star instead of waiting for her fairy godmother to cast a spell and send Darcy to the ball in search of her prince. Of course, Darcy already has her prince picked out, and he's Chase Whitaker, owner of an oil exploration/production company.

Most Cinderella stories don’t show Cindy and her prince living happily ever after, but I do. In Cinderella Blue which "stars" Darcy's brother, you get a chance to see Darcy and Chase and their adorable baby. I wanted to give readers a glimpse of Darcy and Chase’s happily-ever-after because I like to see love validated. Isn’t that what a sequel is for?

Nobody's Cinderella is one of my favorite books that I've written. If you read it, I think you'll really like this Christmas Cinderella romance. If you do, please tell your friends and/or post a short review.  As an author, word of mouth is my best friend and greatly appreciated.

Come To The Party

My friends and I who are the Glass Slipper Sisters are having a Holiday Party Sunday evening, December 18, from 6pm to 8pm EST.

Please join us as we celebrate our one year anniversary! To thank the readers who love all the different kinds of Cinderella romances, we’ll be giving away books, prizes, and a special Cinderella-themed grand prize--trust me, you'll love it!!

I'll be there along with some of my Glass Slipper Sisters to answer questions, share excerpts, holiday recipes, give away prizes, and just have fun!

Book Details

Nobody’s Cinderella is available at: Amazon Kindle * iTunes * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords.

Nobody’s Cinderella Audio Book is available in audio at Audible. The audio edition is also available at iTunes.

Post Script

I'll see you at the Glass Slipper Sisters Holiday Party on Facebook. Until then, happy reading and make the most of friendship and love during this holiday season.

Joan Reeves is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Sassy, Sexy Contemporary Romance. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers with audio editions available at  Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. In 2017, new print editions of her books will be published.

All of Joan's books have the same underlying theme: It's never too late to live happily ever after. Joan lives her happily ever after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State.

Sign up for Joan's mailing list/free NL.

Find Joan online: Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Not Your Usual Christmas Book by Paty Jager

While my re-release doesn't have a Christmas theme or title, the book ends on New Years and a portion of the story takes place in December. specifically during the National Finals Rodeo that just finished in Las Vegas, Nevada.

To make my rodeo bareback bronc rider ring true, years ago when I decided to write this book, I interviewed four-time World Champion bareback bronc rider Bobby Mote. He and his wife Kate were very generous with their information.

I arrived at their house as Bobby was returning from a run. He trains like any other athlete, running and strengthening his muscles so his body can take the pounding it does while being whipped back and forth on a 1200+ pound horse. I discovered not only how they traveled from rodeo to rodeo but how they approached each horse and event. It was all fascinating. I tried to insert some of that knowledge into the book without sounding like an infomercial.

The other fascinating job and history I added to the story was my heroine. I sat beside a woman on a plane and we were talking. She was an ER nurse who worked at away places. She was coming back from Fairbanks Alaska to her home in Oregon when I met her. She worked 6-8 weeks at a hospital then had 2-4 weeks off before she went to another hospital. She had she made triple what she would working in the same place all the time and most of the time they hospitals provided housing so she made and saved a lot more money. I made Gina in my book a traveling ER nurse and her backstory was one about sexual abuse. Making her always traveling a good way to not have time to connect with anyone.

Pulling all these elements together, I came up with Bridled Heart, a contemporary western romance. Here's a bit about the book. If you're looking for an uplifting read this holiday season, I'd like to recommend Holt and Gina's story.

ER nurse, Gina Montgomery, uses a self-imposed vow of celibacy to keep from getting too close to anyone. Music saved her from an abusive past. But that same solace compromises her solitary life when her piano playing draws the attention of a handsome bareback rider. 

Holt Reynolds let his sister down when she needed him most. Seeing similarities between his sister and Gina, he can’t get visions of the woman or her poignant music out of his mind. He vows to find a way to free her of her past and prays it doesn’t resurface and destroy their chance at happiness.
Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo   

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Western Romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest