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.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Lady Like No Other by Kara O'Neal


My name is Kara O'Neal. This is my first post for Smart Girls Read Romance, and I'm so happy to be included in this group! I never thought I'd be a writer. That was definitely not in my plans as a child.

However, I certainly was an avid reader and had a goal to open a bookstore. My favorite author as a child was Rudyard Kipling. The librarian at my elementary school about had a heart attack when this red-haired, first grader (me) came up to the circulation desk and inquired, "Excuse me, but would you have any books by Rudyard Kipling?".

I don't remember doing that but he told that story to my mother every time he saw her for years.

So, as you can see, I developed a love for books and reading pretty early, and there's a reason why....

Her name was Pauline. Everyone called her Polly or Sammy. But I called her Grandmother....

We didn’t start the fire, and neither did she, but she certainly kept the flame burning bright…

My grandmother was born in Kansas, the baby of six children. Her father died when she was 6, and she never knew her eldest sister because she died at the age of 2.

She was a farm girl, a valedictorian, a football queen, and a college graduate.

She taught English for 30 years, was Teacher of the Year, District, and Region and started the Public Library for a small town in South Texas that probably had the first drug store.

She had two children while she continued to work…

She was the original working mother.

And one night I had the privilege of sleeping in the same room with her and she spoke about the beauty of the nominative participle…until 1 a.m.

There is much to say about her, but I think the poem I wrote in college says it best…

I remember how she used to touch her hair,
and how she labeled all her Tupperware.
I remember when she was Salutatorian at 13 and Valedictorian at 18.
I hope I learn to say “I” instead of “Me”,
and that a deck of cards was missing its 3.
I remember she ate poached eggs for breakfast, had tea at 4:00,
and her students were silent when they heard her steps upon the floor.
Teaching English was her calling, and rightly so, her first students were her dolls,
she taught people all they needed to know.
After praying before a meal, she would always get that look upon her face,
and we knew what she was about to say –
“Did we say grace?”
I remember 40 tubes, with mirrors attached, of Instant Mocha lipstick,
and designer hose bought from Neiman Marcus.
I remember that shade of taupe she always wore,
and how she fooled her husband and didn’t get
her wedding ring melted to the core.
I remember how she said, “Goodnight!”, when she was shocked,
and how her 1000 books were organized into a card catalog.
The library would not have been possible without her,
nor would my education for that matter.
I remember how she put wax paper between her pans,
and that her favorite song could be held in the palm of your hand.
She loved the Aggies, and was once a football queen.
She was always quite the lady it seemed.
Whenever I watch the Sound of Music, I think of her.
Whenever I read the Lockhorns, I think of her.

I will always be able to feel how much she loved her husband and family.
I will always be proud of how much she accomplished
and how much she loved to learn.
And I hope I will learn to be a lady like no other –
A lady like my grandmother.

Grandmother was definitely a "smart girl". Did she read romance?


I discovered that when we had to clean out her house. She had over 1000 books stored in so many places in that one-story, tiny dwelling, and there were romances mixed in with the classics.

I didn't become published until after she passed away, but I know she's proud of me. However, I'm pretty sure she'd take a red pencil to my manuscripts and even the finished product. She did the same to the Valley Morning Star, the town newspaper. She'd mark all the mistakes in the articles, then mail the paper back to the editor. She called it the Valley Morning Disappointment.

She was something. I miss her every day.

I write historical romance, and you can learn more about me at my website. My current series is the TEXAS BRIDES OF PIKE'S RUN, and if you like stories that center around the characters of a small town, similar to the Little House series or the Anne of Green Gables series, then you'll love Pike's Run. I just released book seventeen, THE PRINCESS'S KNIGHT.

Thank you for letting me tell y'all about my grandmother and about me and my books. I love the Pike's Run characters, and I believe y'all will, as well!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Beaing Yourself by Bea Tifton

I remember the first time someone said I was weird. I was in fourth grade. The school store sold these folders that had scenes on them for coloring. My friend Cathy asked several of us to help her color the forest scene she had chosen. I colored a mushroom red and put white spots on it instead of coloring it a solid color.  Cathy called me weird behind my back, which another girl gleefully reported to me. I answered, “I’m not weird, I’m interestingly different.” This response, of course,  made me seem even weirder. For my entire life, honestly without meaning to, I’ve danced to my own tune. 

I was a bully magnet all through school and even at some adult workplaces. But don’t despair, Dear Reader.  Throughout my childhood and into adulthood I’ve learned that the key is to find a tribe that is my kind of weird. I’ve had a few great, loyal friends and that certainty makes the bullies easier to bear. Many creative people are viewed as weird. My friends use the word quirky to describe me now. And they say it with complete acceptance, even admiration in some cases, and much love. So, if you’ve ever been labeled or bullied, here are some quotes to lift you up. 

“Be Yourself, because the people who mind don’t matter. And the people that matter don’t mind.”  Dr. Seuss. 

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

“The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself. “ Rita Mae Brown

“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else. “ Buckminster Fuller

“Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your own thing, and work hard. The right people-the ones who really belong in your life- will come to you, and stay.“ Will Smith

“My philosophy is: it’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”  Sir Anthony Hopkins

“Follow your inner moonlight. Don’t hide the madness.” Allen Ginsberg

“Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”        Dr. Seuss

Beth Trissel is a little under the weather. Get well, soon!  Thanks for letting me fill in.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Legend of North Dakota by Laura Hunsaker

 Hello and good evening to you all. My name is Laura Hunsaker and someone asked me in my day job what made me decide to become a writer? Well, I don't know as I ever decided anything. It's just always been there, behind me, tapping on my shoulder. I've written stories since day one, I think. I have vague memories of scribbling in a journal with my mom when I was about 4 years old. It had strawberries on it and I truly wish I'd kept it. In my head I wrote a story. On the page, I wrote the scribbles of a preschooler.

But one thing really stands out. One moment, where I was a writer that day. And that day, my best friend and I wrote a horror story called The Legend of North Dakota.

In elementary school, I wanted the latest Where's Waldo book. Apparently so did another girl. She and I fought over the book and the librarian made us share it. That is the day I met my best friend. And 30 years later, we still could pick up the phone and chat with each other as if no time has past, no matter we live in different states.

One thing we loved, other than Where's Waldo, was Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. So we wrote our own. We of course made it the scariest any elementary school kid could; it began on Halloween. Our scary story was amazing. It had a headless ghost, kids trick or treating, and of course, a legend. We titled it The Legend of North Dakota. And to this day I'm so bummed I don't have it anymore. 

Now, I don't necessarily write scary stories, at least not about headless ghosts. I write about women stalked by serial killers, men who travel through time, unlikely know, after reading this list, maybe I should add a headless ghost into the mix here and there?

If you're interested in Highlanders, vampires, Highlander vampires, or even FBI heroes who protect their heroines, check out my backlist here: Laura Hunsaker's Book Page 

And in preparation for the next book in my Fatal Instincts series, start with book one, Dark Past.

The small town was supposed to be safe...

Kate Landry is tired of running. Thinking she's safe, she settles in the small logging town of Chester, California to manage a cafe. She may be keeping a low profile, but she's hoping to return to a normal life.
When FBI agent Kyle Donovan visits to Chester to stay with a friend, and to recover from his latest case, he never expects to meet sexy barista Kate.

But someone is following Kate...

Kyle worries he brought trouble to her door, while Kate worries her dark past is coming after her.
With danger lurking around every corner, her safe haven isn't as safe as she'd thought. Kate will finally have to trust someone enough to tell him her secrets. Secrets that may just get them killed...

Sunday, October 24, 2021


 by Judy Ann Davis

This is the time of the year when everyone thinks autumn and the harvest season as leaves change from green to gold, vermilion, and orange. It's the time of pumpkins-- pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream and coffee. . .and pumpkin cookies with that distinctive cinnamon flavor. Here's a recipe for moist, sweet pumpkin cookies with a simple confectioner's sugar glaze.


1 cup canned pumpkin                                               
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening or salad oil
1 egg beaten
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup nuts - optional
1 cup chocolate chips – optional

Combine pumpkin, sugar, shortening and egg. Shift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together; add to pumpkin mixture alternately with soda dissolved in milk. Add vanilla—and if desired: nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful on greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees. Yield: 4 dozen

Glaze: If you desire a glaze, use a simple confectioner's sugar glaze with a dash of vanilla and enough hot milk added to make it spreadable.
                      Now on pre-order for Christmas, my novella for $2.99:

                                                     LINK:   A Maple Cookie Homecoming
                                          "Can maple cookies and a rose quartz stone
                                             relight the love between two old friends?"

When Julien Franklin returns home for Christmas after retiring from the military, his first mission is to taste his home town's maple cookies and find office space for his civilian website business. He's delighted to find the apartment above The Book Bin bookstore is for rent and owned by his old high school sweetheart.

Natalie Pinkett, widow and single parent, has some tragic secrets gnawing at her soul, but she needs to rent the empty rooms to help with her many expenses. To complicate matters, an old love will be literally working above her head—and he owns a rambunctious puppy her daughter has fallen in love with.

Can Julien woo the pretty bookstore owner and get her to reveal her painful past? Will the two be able to cross the divide of twenty-four years and find love again?


Friday, October 22, 2021


Caroline Clemmons for Rain Trueax

I believe it was in my freshman year of college that I heard the phrase “the only constant is change”. At the age of eighteen, I found that profound, but I hadn’t a true understanding of how much change one experiences in a lifetime. Mine is still undergoing change, and so is Rain’s. I suspect yours is, too.

My husband, Hero, and I just had another change. We downsized—again—due to his Parkinson’s and my complications from Covid. This change was rough because we’d already purged our belongings with the first downsize. Tough decisions were required to squeeze into our current abode.

One of the hard parts was weeding out the books we’d keep. We both love to read as well as have research and reference books available. Ai-yi-yi, the choices! But we did it and a nice young estate agent is managing our estate sale as I write this. At least, we hope he’s as nice as he appears.

We managed to retain our favorite books—the ones we re-read from time to time. Some of those I enjoy again include Julie Garwood’s PRINCE CHARMING and the Roses series. I read the former about once a year and it's my all-time favorite book. Louis L’Amor is another favorite author and I read his books when I’m frustrated. My favorites are FALLON, HONDO, CROSSFIRE TRAIL, CONAGHER, and the Sackett books. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Peroit books are always engaging.

In addition to entertaining me, reading allows me to escape to another world and time. My personal problems are left behind as I immerse myself in the story. By the end of the book, I’m usually refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.

Do you re-read books? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Ripple Effect by Liz Flaherty

Hi, everybody. This is my introductory post to Smart Girls. I'm so happy to be here and so glad no one checked my qualifications before inviting me. I seem to have a lot of days lately where smart just doesn't happen. 

But I still read and write romance. I've segued into women's fiction quite a bit and have published two books of essays, but I've found I have trouble separating genres. To me, every story I write is a love story--including the essays. As a reader, if I can't find the love in a book, I generally won't finish it. If the ending isn't at least satisfying, I won't recommend the book. The happier the ending, the more loose ends tied up, the better. 

The other day, on Facebook, a romance author on my friends list referred to Hallmark movies as "insipid."


Does she have any writer friends whose books have appeared on Hallmark or other family channels in movie form? Did she tell them, "Hey, your stories are insipid?" Have her books been optioned? I know mine haven't, but I'd really, really love it if they were. 

One of my favorite parts of the romance community is how we've always supported each other on our chosen paths. Don't like erotic romance? Great--don't read it, but don't do social media monologues on what's wrong with it. Don't like inspirational? Same goes. 

But don't use words like insipid, because, you know, it's just not smart. What you say has a ripple effect, doesn't it? Derogatory words don't apply just to the channel or the story or the actress in the movie--they also end up including the people who write the stories and the ones who read them.

I'd rather say, "Wow, what a great cover!" If something's going to ripple, let it be positive. 


The Christmas Town writers are at it again, and Christmas Town Homecoming will be released tomorrow. Right now, it's 99 cents and in the middle of a book tour and giveaway. Join us on our release journey.

Thanks again for allowing me to join you. See you next month!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Love Mystery by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

Ah, the magic of a good book. I discovered that magic when I was a girl.

I had read all of the "kid" books in my small town library and loved Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but I wanted bigger stories. 

I went to the grownup section and browsed through the shelves. That's when I discovered Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mysteries.

Wow. Suddenly I was transported to New York City. I devoured the books about Steve Carella, his deaf wife Teddy, and the cops of the 87th Precinct.

I've always been glad that the librarian never called my parents to tell them about the books I was reading. Instead, she just looked over her glasses at me and quirked a gray eyebrow but said nothing.

My mom was a reader, and she never questioned the books I checked out. She understood the desire to escape—to dive into an adventure one can't usuallly experience in real life.

Today, October 15, is Ed McBain's birthday. If he were alive, I'd write him a fan letter and tell him how much his books meant to me.

Discover Ed McBain

Ed McBain was born Salvatore Albert Lombino. In 1952, he legally changed his name to Evan Hunter

As an author and screenwriter, he wrote under a number of pen names, most notably Ed McBain which he used for most of his crime fiction. 

The other pseudonyms he used include John Abbott, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, and Richard Marsten.

His 87th Precinct novels were made into movies and a television series. Those books became the foundation of the police procedural genre.

You can learn more about Evan Hunter aka Ed McBain at his Wikipedia page

If you want to discover his 87th Precinct novels, grab a copy of Ed McBain Books in Order by Book List Guru. This Kindle book is on Kindle Unlimited, or buy it for only 99¢. It's a comprehensive list of just about all of the works by Ed McBain.

Mystery and My Writing

Until I discovered romance, I'd planned to be a mystery author. I still love mystery, but most mysteries in the old days had very little to offer in the way of romance. Romance in a mystery meant sex without commitment, and all of it was sex from a man's viewpoint which meant without emotion.

The 87th Precinct novels were a bit different in that Steve Carella was in love with Teddy, his wife who happened to be deaf. McBain was ahead of his time with a love relationship, a woman character who was deaf, and several other aspects uncommon to genre fiction then.

In the last few years, I've begun weaving mystery into some of my romance novels.

Recently I sold video game rights to 2 of my novels, The Key To Kristina, a mystery romance featuring a Quest, and Old Enough To Know Better, a romance, not a mystery,  between an older woman and a younger man. 

The huge tech company that bought the rights will be turning each into a video game somewhat like a "choose your own adventure." I'm excited because they already have a worldwide audience for their games. 

If you're interested in seeing what intrigued the tech company, you're in luck. Old Enough To Know Better is featured in my Reader Friends Newsletter today. It's on sale for only 99¢ until midnight CDT on October 18.

I send my free newsletter each month (except for this summer which had too many family emergencies). 

In my newsletter I offer a free ebook and sale books from me and some of my friends. This newsletter has Just One Look as a free ebook for subscribers.

Until next month, may you read wonderful books!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Third Times' the Charm: The Clafouti That Almost Killed Me


Whew! Ever feel like life's a tornado and you're Dorothy? Sorry for the repost but I just moved and I'm in a snit because I can't find my toothbrush. 

I, Bea Tifton, am a major dork. I know. I know. You see the witty, sophisticated fashionista and think, Oh, no, Bea, that can’t be true. But yes, Dear Readers, it is. And here is my story. 

 I’ve gotten so used to being, er, “Event Prone,” as my lovely and talented mother terms it, that it seems normal to me. But, as my favorite maternal cousin once said with a laugh, “Bea, stuff just happens to you.” Okay, she didn’t say “stuff.” Whether it’s forgetting to unfasten my seat belt, punching myself in the eye trying to change the toilet paper roll (don’t ask), or catching my purse strap on my storm door’s handle almost every time I go out, that’s just part of my daily routine. But recently, things took a surreal turn. 

When the sheet to provide homemade breakfast items for an upcoming reception at church was sent around at my book club, I cheerfully signed up. 

The night before, I put the fruit on to drain and set my alarm for dark thirty the following morning. The next day I hummed as I mixed, stirred, and baked. After extricating myself from the storm door, I carefully put my baking dish in the car and drove to church. Since it was so early, the organizer of the program promised she would have a person outside with a cart so we wouldn’t even have to get out of the car. I hadn’t slept much and I’d cut it pretty close, so I decided to do something I never do. I stayed in my pjs. No one would see me, right? 

But when I got to the church, no one was waiting. Hmmm. It was just a minute after the appointed drop off window, so maybe she gave up early. I got out of the car and peered into the church, ringing the doorbell because it was before the receptionist reported for work. No shower, no makeup, pjs. Our custodian answered and almost fell over as he took in my appearance. He looked as though he was afraid my butter had slipped my biscuit, but as always, he was unfailingly polite as he explained the breakfast was on Wednesday. 

It was Monday. 

The next evening, Tuesday, I set the fruit to drain. Then, Wednesday at dark thirty, I again rose to make my clafouti. I hummed as I mixed, stirred, and baked. This time, I put on light makeup and got dressed. As the timer went off and I took Clafouti II out of the oven, my sleepy mind searched for what was wrong. It smelled great, the pastry had puffed up nicely and browned just slightly, but something was different. The fruit. I had forgotten to put in the fruit. My heart seized as I frantically tried to decide what to do. I looked around and paced a bit 

“That’s it,” I said to my dog. “I can’t do this.” I forced myself to calm down. “Think, Bea. What would a contestant on The Great British Baking Show do?”

They would start again. This time I did not hum as I mixed, stirred, and baked. I hauled fanny. Since I’d memorized the recipe by now, things went much quicker. And I made it to the church with a minute to spare. My friend waved merrily as I drove up. She oohed and ahhed appropriately, and I left dear little Clafouti III to meet its fate. 

Oh, and some of you are probably wondering what happened to Clafouti I. After smelling it in my house and in my car? I ate it. It tasted delicious.


1 TBSP butter
1 1/3 cups milk
2 TBSP sugar
4 large eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 1/3 cups plus 1 TBSP white flour
1 bag frozen fruit of choice, drained (I use a berry medley)

1.  Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Melt the butter in the microwave, then pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and tilt to evenly coat the pan with butter.
3. In a mixer, add milk first, then all remaining ingredients, except fruit and 1 TBSP of the flour. Blend until frothy and well combined.
4. In a small separate bowl, toss together the fruit and the extra flour.
5. Pour the batter into the baking dish, spoon in the coated fruit, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until it’s puffed up and lightly browned.
6. Cut into large square and serve immediately. This also tastes good left over at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Still Life with Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

October in New England, by Peggy Jaeger

Since this is my first post for Smart Girls Read Romance, I thought introducing myself a bit, and telling you a little about where I hail from, was warranted. 
So, the name's Jaeger. Peggy Jaeger.
If you just read that in your head and heard your inner voice say Bond, James Bond - yay!! 

Hee hee.
I write contemporary romcoms, romantic suspense, and I'm dipping my writing quill into paranormal romance.
I currently live in beautiful New England where the calendar is staying true to form this Autumn. Have you ever experienced a New England Fall? Ever taken a road trip up the East Coast anytime right after Labor Day and before Halloween? If you have you'll know the colors that paint the landscape are some of the most vibrant and beautiful in all North America.
This is a picture of my backyard, taken today.

In another week, every bit of green will be gone from those leaves, leaving my backyard awash in ginger golds, Macintosh reds, and burnt oranges. With maybe a little umber mixed in.

And speaking of Macintosh reds, one of my favorite things to do in October is to go apple picking in one of our local orchards. When my daughter was younger, this was the perfect opportunity for a holiday card photo. I think for seven solid years we had a picture of her picking apples as our Christmas card! Nowadays, it's just hubby and me at home with our puppy,  so when we go apple picking I take pictures of him to share, LOL.
Here are a few of us on a recent sojourn. 

We were picking Golden Gingers because I wanted to make applesauce and that species is perfect for it. Naturally sweet and the apples hold up well during canning. BTW, Hubby didn't have his glasses on and couldn't see the camera screen clearly, plus he had a piece of apple in his mouth, which explains the bizarre look on his face.

Have you ever been to New England during the fall season? Are you like me, and live in this beautiful part of the country? Introduce yourself below because I don't know many people on this blog and if you can, add a picture of your little neck of the woods. Inquiring minds want to know all about you.
Okay, it's me. I'm the one with the inquiring ( some would say NOSY ) mind!!!

If you're looking for me, I can usually be found here:

Website/blog TwitterAmazon Author page ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Goodreads ~ Bookbub ~ Instagramyoutube

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Good Books Begin With Change by Joan Reeves (subbing for Keta Diablo)

My friend Keta Diablo is still on sabattical so I'm subbing for her today. 

You can visit Keta's Amazon page to find a list of her books.

Keta and I write different kinds of books, but we share one thing in common. We know a good book begins with change.

Change. Oh, how some people struggle against it as if one could stretch out and seize the world, making it stand still.

Readers may wonder why a good book begins with change so I thought I'd talk about that today.

The Only Thing Constant Is Change

When you begin a book with change, you create a book with forward motion that pulls the reader along.

The best opening sentences show or imply change because change affects a character immediately and the change has downstream effects on the character's life. Change in one's life can have unexpected and surprising effects on a person or a character if we're talking about writing, which we are.

Here are some more samples of opening sentences that foreshadow or show change is coming.

From Dark Rivers of the Heart by Dean Koontz

With the woman on his mind and a deep uneasiness in his heart, Spencer Grant drove through the glistening night, searching for the red door.


He's driving. So he's on a journey of some kind, and journeys involve change.

A woman is on his mind. He's obviously not connected to her already, or she'd have been named.

Uneasiness in his heart. Strange woman and uneasiness = change is coming.

Searching for the red door. Why? What happens when he finds it? Change of some kind is coming.

When you put all of that together, you get a page-turning beginning that's evocative because of his word choice, i.e. uneasiness in his heart, glistening night, red door, and the active voice. Koontz didn't say Grant was driving. He said, Grant drove, searching. Koontz didn't say Grant was thinking about the woman, and he felt uneasy. Look at every part of the sentence and see how the individual elements combine to create a powerful opening sentence.

From Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord—the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.


You know that neighbor is going to be a problem, and that means change to her peace of mind, her life, her entire environment.

Wrap Up

Sure, there are opening sentences that catch the attention without being about change, but when you read a sentence that makes you stop, backup and read it again, chances are pretty good it's because the sentence is about change—either stated directly or implied and picked up by that part of our brain that is receptive to the human shared subconscious.


From the opening of THE KEY TO KRISTINA, my latest Romantic Mystery:

What on earth was she doing here?

She was so far out of her comfort zone she might as well be on Mars. Kristina Rivera looked around the elegant law office which offered a stunning panoramic view of downtown Houston and the pewter-colored sky that portended rain. She’d expected the Gulf coast to be sunny and warm even though it was late September, but, like much of Texas, the weather was often unpredictable.

She shouldn’t have come.

The Key To Kristina is a Kindle Unlimited free read or $3.99 to buy and keep forever.