Tasty Tuesday: Quinoa & Vegetable Pilaf #sidedish #dinner #recipe from #paranormal #romance #author Lynn Crandall #shifters

Tasty Tuesday brings a healthy side dish to enjoy for dinner, Quinoa and Vegetable Pilaf, by Lynn Crandall. Enjoy!


Thank you, Betty, for having me on your fun blog for Tasty Tuesday!

Probabilities, Book 4 in my Fierce Hearts series, is included in a new Crimson Romance bundle, Hot for Teacher. It’s a fun set of 10 couples, 10 authors, and 10 romances. Probabilities follows the story of two were-lynxes, Tizzy Sands and Quinn Arons, who belong to a colony of shifters.

What I especially enjoyed writing about this couple is that these characters featured contrasting personalities. While teacher Tizzy is a vivacious, outgoing party girl, Quinn is a reserved brainiac with several PhDs. As a genius, Quinn has lived a life of rejection. I like featuring his genius as a problem because I have geniuses in my life and though I enjoy them, sometimes they feel misunderstood and challenged to connect with others. It can be a lonely situation. Our society tends to be so prone to criticizing, some very nice individuals who have something different about them, suffer. For highly intelligent people, their genius doesn’t protect them, it singles them out.

2015-03-29-16-39-51Though Quinn respects Tizzy for her social skills and her vitality, he expects her to reject him as anything more than a friend and co-colony member. But she’s perky, not shallow. They find things they each enjoy and share them, thereby expanding their individual worlds. For instance, Quinn is an environmentalist and practices a number of conservation measures. Tizzy likes to set an appealing table with different, healthy kinds of foods, and incorporates nice touches to the setting. She’d be the one to drape twinkly lights around a room for a romantic atmosphere and Quinn would be the one to contribute fresh asparagus and herbs from his organic garden to the meal. The healthy side dish could be Quinoa and Vegetable Pilaf. Here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

Quinoa and Vegetable Pilaf

Ingredients

1 ¾ chicken broth

1 cup of quinoa

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 c diced orange bell pepper

1 c diced green pepper

½ c sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup chopped asparagus

1 c diced zucchini

½ crumbled feta

2 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp lemon juice

 

  1. In a saucepan, bring broth (or water instead) to a boil. Add quinoa, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with fork.

  2. While quinoa cooks, heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic, peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini. Sauté until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add cooked quinoa (there shouldn’t be any water because the quinoa absorbed it.), lemon juice, and feta. Serve.

hot-teacher-bundle-coverBubbly were-lynx Tizzy Sands thought she knew the path of her life: teaching kindergartners, eventually marrying, and starting a family. But when cancer stole her dream of having children, she fell into a dark place where she believes her life would be too short and too empty to engage in a lifelong relationship. As a member of a were-lynx colony that faces constant danger from nefarious The Nexus Group, she focuses on helping the colony defeat them and tunes out any developing feelings for colony mate Quinn Arons.

With his genius IQ, Quinn isn’t the most socially skilled were-lynx in the colony, and can’t imagine party girl Tizzy could give him a place in her heart. Though his past of molestation as a boy and alcoholism as a young adult haunts him, he cares deeply for Tizzy and can’t accept her attitude that cancer will return and claim her life soon. Instead of persuading her she’s wrong, he patiently shows her life is what you make it.

When working as partners to prevent powerful TNG from launching its Project Powering and changing the world, Tizzy and Quinn begin to wonder whether their individual paths lead them together or send them apart.

Excerpt:

“I still have nightmares and want to douse them with alcohol. That’s when I turn to Lara and her healing touch. But times when I’m keenly aware I’m different, I’m back in my childhood when being different made me a target.”

His shoulders hunched over, he still stared at the table, his head in his hands, as he seemed to struggle with regaining his composure.

Tizzy let down her walls and felt the entire room, the whole house, vibrate with energy. It streamed through her, grounding her in the moment alone with Quinn and his pain.

Gently, she touched Quinn’s shoulder. “You’ve been through so much and still you’ve been so very successful at remaining true to yourself. I’m proud of you, Quinn.” She took his hand and pulled him to his feet, then tenderly cupped his face in her hands. “You bring so much good to the world. You’re beautiful.”

Love, the kind that can bear anything, powered through her. Slowly, she leaned up to his face and placed a soft kiss to his lips. She stood back, breathless, and sought his eyes.

Bright and clear, his eyes welcomed her in. Tizzy lifted her lips to his, and he pressed them to hers, hard and needy.

Her legs got weak, but she wanted more of him. Leaning against him for support, she ran her fingers through his hair and savored his presence, so strong yet vulnerable.

my-best-author-picLynn Crandall lives in the Midwest and writes in the company of her cat. She has been a reader and a writer all her life. Her background is in journalism, but whether writing a magazine or newspaper story or creating a romance, she loves the power stories hold to transport, inspire, and uplift. In her romances, she focuses on vulnerable, embraceable characters who don’t back down.

Amazon http://a.co/8RIQpS9

http://lynn-crandall.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrandallAuthor/

https://twitter.com/lcrandallwriter @lcrandallwriter


I love healthy recipes, so thanks for sharing that one, Lynn! And the story is intriguing, as well. Although I’m not a fan of quinoa despite its healthy qualities. It may be the one time I tried it, it wasn’t cooked right. It seemed tough to chew to me, at least. Anyway, the sautéed veggies sound really yummy. Is there another healthy substitute for quinoa?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Tasty Tuesday: Crown Jewel Tart #dessert #recipe from #historical #romance #author Rachel Miles

Tasty Tuesday is here, bringing a delicious recipe for a tart that features both pineapple and cranberries. Rachel Miles is known for her scrumptious historical romances, and now you get to taste one of the fabulous treats highlighted in her novel, Tempting the Earl. Take it away, Rachel!


In Tempting the Earl, a long separated married couple must discover whether their relationship is worth saving, while they work together to identify a spy. Because it’s the holiday season, food plays an important role, both in teaching the couple about each other and in bringing them to their happily ever after.

When crafty Olivia Levesford, Lady Walgrave, discovers a way out of her marriage, her husband Harrison returns to his estate after an absence of six years. Though Olivia has been an able estate manager, if she is not his wife, then one of his first obligations will be to learn how to manage his properties.

Harrison’s first mistake seems like an innocuous one. He changes the menu for the week’s meals, eliminating something called a Crown Jewel Tart because it uses pineapple—a very expensive ingredient during the period.

But Olivia’s mad chef brooks no control, and Harrison must very humbly apologize or (Olivia threatens) risk having to cook all the meals himself.

Here’s a snippet from that scene:

   “Have I told you, dear ones, about the day I first wore a hat?” The chef—Gilbert Douglas Stanley III—waved his arms, a spatula in one hand. “It was unfortunately cold that day in Queen Catherine’s court when I was called upon to make my famous Crown Jewel Tart. I could only find a straw hat—because of course one must keep one’s head covered to avoid the cold that causes consumption. We knew it was the cold that killed the poor footman—God rest his soul—so untimely a death, it was.”

Harrison watched the chef with a sort of morbid awe. Stanley had wrapped a wool throw around his head, making him look like a mad peasant escaped from bedlam.

Harrison felt the heat of the kitchen, but the chef seemed unfazed, warming his hands in front of the oven door. When he saw Olivia, the man twisted, jumped, then pounced as if he were a giant predator waiting for a mouse.

“Mr. Stanley, I must apologize.” Olivia approached Stanley slowly, as one would a rabid dog or a lion in the wild. “I had no intention of altering your menu in the slightest. You are, as always, our impresario of taste.”

“Then how did it come to be changed?” One edge of the wool flopped in front of his left eye, but he didn’t move it, merely tilted his head to regard her with his right. He looked like a giant, ill-dressed, one-eyed owl.

“My friend wrote on the menu, because he was imagining how his own cook might prepare a menu close to yours. He made alterations because his cook is less skilled and his audience is less adventurous. But he didn’t realize the menu as he adapted it would be returned to you.”

“Is that true?” Stanley pointed at Harrison with one crooked finger.

“Lady Walgrave is far too generous.” Harrison held his hands out apologetically. “I might have hoped my cook could approximate your dishes, but the truth is no one who is not a master of the culinary arts could even hope to approach the originality of your design.”

For a moment Harrison feared he might have misstepped. The tall man, scowling, turned away from Harrison and Olivia in a slow circle, his arms outstretched above his head. But then when his back was fully toward them, he leapt to face them again, smiling madly. “Apology accepted! Now to make my famous Crown Jewel Tart!”

Running across the kitchen, the chef grabbed a bowl of flour from the arms of one of the kitchen maids and held it out of her reach. “No, no, no. My dear, you cannot simply throw the butter and the flour together. The marriage of the ingredients must be harmonious, or my famous Crown Jewel Tart cannot be delightful. No, my dears, we must compose it happily of happy ingredients!” He wagged a long finger at a maid who stifled her laughter behind her apron.

“Do we know that the chickens were happy when they laid these eggs, dear ones? And were Eliza and Beth happy when they churned the butter?”

“Yes.” The maids spoke in a giggly chorus.

“But what do we know of the mill? Was the grain crushed with the appropriate weight? Was the grinding of the grain evenly fine? No?” Stanley’s voice was melodic. “My dears, listen: For my famous Crown Jewel Tart, you must use only the flour that has been milled in the morning by a fresh horse, and one who has been fed an apple before he begins so that he starts his work with a sweet taste in his mouth.”

Harrison leaned into Olivia’s ear. “Is he mad?”

“Quite,” she whispered back.

The Recipe

The Crown Jewel Tart was created with period-appropriate ingredients for Tempting the Earl by my dear friend (and master chef) Paul Wackym of Wackym’s Kitchen.

Ingredients

¾ cup whole milk

1 cup coarse ground cornmeal

4 ounces unsalted butter

8 ounces (approx. 1 cup) dark brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

1/3 cup chopped black walnuts, toasted

12 ounces fresh fen berries (cranberries)

1 pineapple, cored, sliced about as thick as your thumb

4 ¾ ounces (approx. 1 cup) all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

5 ¾ ounces (approx. ¾ cup) sugar

3 whole eggs

½ cup rapeseed (canola) oil

Instructions

Boil (but do not scald) milk.

Stir in cornmeal.

Set aside for 30 minutes

 

In a 12” iron skillet, melt the butter.

Add dark brown sugar, salt, orange juice, and orange zest.

Simmer until the crystals melt.

Sprinkle with the walnuts, then top with the fenberries.

Place pineapple rings attractively atop the nuts and berries.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt

In a second bowl, whisk briskly the sugar and eggs, then add the oil

Add in mixture of cornmeal and milk

Slowly add dry ingredients until blended into a batter.

Warm oven to 350*

Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes in the skillet.

Set a platter on top of the skillet and carefully invert the cake. Serve.

ann-1-dsc_7961-copyRachael Miles writes witty, sexy romance novels set in the British Regency. Her latest book–Tempting the Earl–was named one of Amazon’s Editor’s Best Books for November 2016 as well as an RT Book Reviews Top Pick.

Miles’ debut series The Muses’ Salon (published with Kensington Zebra Shout) has been praised in Publisher’s Weekly, RT Book Reviews, and Booklist. “Impeccably researched and beautifully crafted,” Miles’ ‘cozily scrumptious historical’ novels have been compared to those of Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney.

A native Texan transplanted to upstate NY, Miles (a former professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature) lives in the woods with her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs, an ancient cat, and a herd of deer who love her vegetable garden.

For more information on Rachael or for links to buy her books, check out her website – rachaelmiles.com

rm-tempting-coverTempting the Earl

A double life…

Olivia Walgrave is finished with being a countess. Writing under a pen name, her controversial column for the scandal sheets provides her with some income and far more excitement than managing a country estate. Besides, in the three years since the wars have ended, her dashing husband hasn’t spent one night under their roof. So Olivia has prepared a plan, and an annulment. All she needs is his consent…

Lord Harrison Walgrave let his father coerce him into marriage—but his devotion is to his Parliamentary career—and his secret work for the Home Office. Yet now, with freedom in his grasp, he finds he cannot so easily release his wife. Seeing her stirs a hunger no other woman has reached. A distraction now, when he is a breath away from revealing a ring of traitors, could be deadly. Still, wherever his investigations lead, the thought of Olivia lingers. It might be obsession. It might be treason. But the only way to escape the temptation is to succumb…

ISBN-13: 978-1420140903


Wow to both the story and the tart! Both sound wonderful. Thanks, Rachel, for sharing your scrumptious recipe with us! Maybe a special holiday treat for some of you?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Tasty Tuesday: Evelyn’s Hot Cross Buns #recipe #histfic #romance #books

Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns

I’m kicking off a new series today that I’m calling Tasty Tuesdays. What, you may be asking, is tasty about Tuesdays? Well, in the coming weeks and months, you’ll get to sample a variety of foods along with why they are important or meaningful to a variety of characters by a diverse set of authors. Some of the authors you may know already, while some others will be new to you. You may find some new books you want to read, too!

So to start this journey through stories and recipes, I’m going to share Evelyn’s emotional attachment to Hot Cross Buns stemming from childhood traditions, ones she intends to continue for the sake of her infant son. Peggy is an indentured servant freshly arrived from Ireland and is missing her own family. Here’s a short excerpt from her story, Evelyn’s Promise:

Evelyn’s decision to have Peggy bake buns earlier in the day had proven fortunate. While she held a tradition of making hot cross buns for Good Friday, the notion had popped into her mind to indulge the whim. Along with the steaming cups of chamomile tea they served to satisfy their hunger. Her newly assembled family sat in the modified carriage house, chatting and poking fun at each other. Little Jim had fallen asleep on the folded quilt beside her chair. Arrayed before her sat Jemma and Peggy, with Nathaniel to her right. Everyone had expressed delight at the unusual treat.

“Remember to hang one of the buns in your new kitchen.” Peggy bit into the warm bread with a cross made with strips of unleavened pastry dough.

Evelyn shrugged as she tilted her head to one side. “Why would we do such a silly thing?”

Peggy leaned forward, a conspiratorial grin lighting her eyes. “Some believe hanging a hot cross bun in your kitchen prevents fires and ensures all the other loaves of bread bake properly.”

Nathaniel laughed as he crossed his ankles, relaxing against the chair back. “Sounds like superstition to me.”

“Aye.” Peggy cackled and rose to her feet to stir the cook fire. “It is a bit of whimsy indeed. But none of the kitchens in our town in Ireland ever had a fire they didn’t want.”

“I’d say that’s merely a coincidence.” Nathaniel selected another bun and waved it in the air to punctuate his observation. “My parents’ home never had a kitchen catch fire either and they didn’t adhere to such nonsense.”

Jemma started the rocking chair in motion, her gaze flitting from one person to another. “Will you make them for Easter as well? Seein’ as how you made ’em today.”

“I believe so since it’s not until the twentieth of next month.” Evelyn picked up a bit of sewing she’d started and planned to display in her new house. “I’ll make enough to share with everyone as part of the day’s celebration.”

Can you tell that Nathaniel needs some convincing about traditions? <grin>

Like Evelyn and Peggy, the memories associated with baking cookies and pies and such for holidays are some of the fondest ones I possess. Both baking with my mother while I was a child, and then with my own daughter even through today. In particular, working together to make cutout sugar cookies en masse for Christmas! We bake a lot of cookies to enjoy and to give away.

What about you? What memories do you associate with baking?

Next week, I’ll feature another author and her recipe for a good story! See you then!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Evelyn's PromiseEvelyn’s Promise

Determined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams is determined to make his fortune on the New Frontier. But during a visit to Charlestown, his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathanial to make the hardest decision of his life.

www.bettybolte.com

Between the Lines: Sermon with a View #romance #research #churches

IMG_1508Last week I shared about the pulpit in St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Today, I’d like to share the description of the chancel and nave in the church, and then let you see it through Emily’s eyes, as I wrote it in Emily’s Vow. Like I mentioned last time, George W. Williams wrote and published a bicentennial account of the history of the church, complete with descriptions and, even better, pictures. I’m going to refer to his pages again.

Each of us notices different aspects of the world around us. So I had to “become” Emily when I wrote her story, to show what she’d focus on in the church while listening to the dreaded loyalist rector’s sermon. All she really wanted was to leave the church, but her father would never allow such disrespect on the Sabbath. So she sits still, with an effort, and endures the lesson.

I’ll touch on the history of the interior of the church, for your information, and then I’ll share the description I used in the book, so you can see how I worked in the details from Emily’s perspective.

IMG_1527According to Mr. Williams, the chancel is “Architecturally as well as devotionally the focus of attention” in the church. Thus, the design and decoration of the space received the most attention. In 1772, Corinthian pilasters and a wrought iron rail were added to the area at the front of the church. The chancel is described in great detail in the pages of Mr. Williams’ book.

From St. Michael’s, Charleston, 1751-1951:

“The Chancel is handsome, and is ornamented in a neat and appropriate manner. It is a paneled wainscot, with four Corinthian Pilasters supporting the proper cornice. The usual Tables of the Decalogue, Lord’s Prayer, and Apostles’ Creed, are placed between them.”

And then:

“It seems that then or later the wainscot, the pilasters, and the entablature may have been painted a dark brown against a solid plaster wall, quite possibly blue. The tablets, two to each side in a unit, were in gilded frames with gilt lettering. Decorating the head of each frame was a golden cherub’s head and wings. The half-dome was a thing of simplicity and beauty. It was blue, representing the firmament, with clouds floating in it. At the peak was a ‘glory,’ a golden sun with golden beams radiating into the dome. The entire aspect must have been at once handsome and harmonious.”

The details of this description informed what Emily notices as she gazes about the church. But there are changes that have been made to the church in the years since my story took place, which Mr. Williams notes.

Again from Williams:

“A dwelling immediately to the east of the chancel offered the constant threat of fire to the church, and in 1788 the dignified Palladian window was ‘shut in with brick.’ The large blank area in the chancel thus produced was painted over a dark brown to resemble a curtain and draperies with gilt tassels and fringe.”

Over the years, other changes occurred, such as repainting and regilding, and repairs had to be made after the Civil War when “damage inflicted by Shells” had to be corrected, but the interior was restored “in keeping with the original design.” Then in 1866, the central window was reopened and “filled with colored glass of hexagonal panes with a curling ivy-leaf design.” Not to belabor my point, I’m sharing these details on the changes to show how having the historical description of what the chancel and nave looked like originally and in 1782-83, the years of my A More Perfect Union series, allowed me to accurately reflect on their appearance.

With that detailed description in mind, let’s look at how Emily viewed the chancel and nave in Emily’s Vow:

“She let her eyes stray to the white plaster ceiling with its intricately carved border known as the Wall of Troy, with its four double roses centered on each of four sides of the rectangle above her. She tried projecting the piety of the other women surrounding her though she only wanted to move, to be outside in the sunshine, to dissipate the energy agitating her. The nave felt cool in the dim light. The sun shone through the Palladian glass window at the rear of the chancel, situated some twenty feet behind the pulpit, and brightened the dark blue walls as well as the four brown Corinthian pilaster columns. The half dome above was blue to represent the firmament with white clouds floating on it and a “glory” at the peak, a golden sun with radiating beams spreading across the dome. Two tablets hung on either side of the window containing the words of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed in gilt lettering in gilded frames with a golden cherub’s head and wings at the top. She appreciated the simple elegance of the chancel, but today she had no patience. None.

Outside, the sun shone warmly on the churchyard with its tombstones covered by fallen leaves, and she imagined birds hopped among them searching for dinner. But she remained trapped inside yet again, albeit in a different place.”

Poor Emily! She wants to enjoy the service, but simply misses the familiar rector who fled when the British occupied the city. But don’t worry. She’ll once again go willingly to church, after the enemy departs America’s shores in December 1782.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Emily's Vow Finalist SealAnd of course, if you’d like your own copy of Emily’s Vow, you can buy it at the following links. Thanks!

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1wZML3a

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1obL3tT

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1t75sMh

Google: http://bit.ly/13Bll94

Between the Lines: Preaching from on high #romance #research #churches

In Emily’s Vow, there are a couple of scenes that take place within the walls of St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve traversed the streets of Charleston, following the wonderful walking tour of the historic buildings from the 18th century. I love the city and being among the beautiful buildings and gardens. But I needed to know what IMG_1508the inside of the church looked like in 1782 versus what it looks like today. Thank goodness George W. Williams wrote and published a bicentennial account of the history of the church, complete with descriptions and, even better, pictures. (I had actually stumbled upon this wealth of information when trying to determine the fate of the famous bells of the church, but that’s another story!)

For my purposes, I wanted to have a visual of what Emily would be looking at while the service was being conducted. What would she ignore versus think about to pass the time, given that she didn’t really want to be listening to the rector. Mr. Williams helped me a great deal!

I’ll touch on the history of the interior of the church, for your information, and then I’ll share the description I used in the book, so you can see how I worked in the details from Emily’s perspective.

IMG_1513According to Mr. Williams, the pulpit and tester, along with the reading desk, all remain in the same place as the original, though some damage was sustained by the pulpit during the American Civil War. A staircase gave access to the pulpit, three steps led up to the clerk’s desk from the clergy pew, and the clerk could get to his desk from the aisle.

From St. Michael’s, Charleston, 1751-1951:

IMG_1511“The location of the group is also of significance. As Sir Christopher Wren had indicated, Anglican churches were built to serve as ‘auditories.’ The reading desk and the pulpit should then be placed in the position from which the minister could best be heard by the entire congregation. He must stand high above the heads of his flock in order to overcome the height of the square pews.”

What is fascinating to me is the detailed decoration gracing the exterior of the furniture as well as the lovely woods employed in the design. Williams lists the carved decorations, including “Lawrel Leaves,” “5 Leaved Grass in the Cornish,” “Swelling Torus cut with Foliage Flowers,” and my personal favorite, “1 Pine Apple on the top of the pulpit.” For those who may not be aware, the pineapple has long been a symbol of hospitality. In fact, the hospitality industry today awards a trophy featuring a pineapple.

IMG_1514Again from Williams:

“The two inlays have been miraculously preserved. The panel of the west face is inlaid with several woods. Against a background of quarter-sawed oak, rays of long-leaf pine and walnut stream from a circle of mahogany. The cross and the I H S are of white pine; the symbolic device below adds, in an ebony star of David, a triangle of ivory. The ceiling of the pulpit, the sounding board proper, is also inlaid. On a mahogany field alternating diamonds of long-leaf pine and walnut form a large star in the center of which smaller diamonds of the same woods describe a smaller star, counter-colored. The corners of the hexagon are touched with rays of these woods rising from arcs of long-leaf pine.”

With that detailed description in mind, let’s look at how Emily viewed the pulpit in Emily’s Vow:

The final strains of the hymn died away as the rector climbed the stairs to the elevated pulpit to deliver his sermon. The richly carved furniture boasted inlaid woods ranging from pine to oak to mahogany, and was a work of art unbefitting its occupant, to her mind. His position, towering high above the congregation’s heads, not only ensured everyone could hear his message, but also forced her to look up at him until her neck hurt. Emily chastised herself for detesting this portion of the service, but to no avail.

Emily continues to survey her surroundings, taking in the nave and chancel and missing the patriotic preacher who had been ousted by a loyalist one. Thus, her desire to leave the church. At any rate, what do you think? Do you like the way I wove in the details to provide a visual? Would you be interested in hearing about the chancel and nave and how Emily views them as well? I love to hear from my readers, so please leave a brief comment or question and I’ll be happy to respond.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Emily's Vow Finalist SealAnd of course, if you’d like your own copy of Emily’s Vow, you can buy it at the following links. Thanks!

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1wZML3a

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1obL3tT

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1t75sMh

Google: http://bit.ly/13Bll94

Evelyn’s Promise #Excerpt and #Giveaway @SecretRealmBook

I’m excited to be a part of The Secret Realm Book Reviews and Services first ever blog hop! Be sure to visit their site to find out who else is participating and giving away fabulous prizes. The hop continues through January 17, so you still have chance to sample some great books. You may find a new author or two to follow as well as win a prize or two. A win-win!

Evelyn’s Promise, the fourth and last book in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, will release in a little more than a month. It’s a great feeling having a new book baby about to enter the world! To kick off the celebration, I’m sharing an excerpt from the story of the widow Evelyn and the just-passing-through soldier Nathaniel. Little did he realize there might be something—or someone—that would hinder his westward journey…

To enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of the first book, Emily’s Vow, simply answer one simple question correctly and your name will be entered in the drawing. I’ll post the winner in the comments on 1/14/16 at 1 pm ET to give people time to enter. Be sure to stop back tomorrow afternoon to see if you’ve won. Easy peasey, right?

AMPU-FB-Cover

But wait, you want to know the question, don’t you? Okay. Here it is!

What is Evelyn’s maid’s name?

Without further ado… I present Evelyn’s Promise!

Charlestown, South Carolina–1783

“Will this day never end?” Evelyn Hamilton cast a sidelong glance at the lean man standing beside her, hoping he hadn’t heard her childish grumbling.

No, he apparently hadn’t. Her pulse throbbed in her ears at Nathaniel Williams’ proximity, a sensation she’d only experienced when in fear of her late husband’s next actions. She held still, though actively attempting to calm the alarm inside her chest. She’d learned to mask her inner strength, what she possessed, by bowing her head, studying her hands or even her feet if necessary. In her experience, men could be cruel without a second thought, and she wouldn’t give them a reason to inflict said cruelty upon her person. She surveyed the happy gathering, the friendly mood of the group working its magic. She relaxed a bit, though having the tall, powerful man standing so close caused a fine tremor in her gut. He wouldn’t harm her, not in the present situation at a minimum. Nathaniel’s attention lingered on the three happy couples as they received congratulations from the guests snaking past the newly married. She was exhausted and longed for a quiet room, but remained amidst the jocular gathering.

“Looks like the entire town turned out for the triple wedding and the festivities afterward.” He glanced at her and then returned his gaze to the room at large.

“Yes, food tends to lure people out of their homes.” She kept a smile on her face as she observed the multitude of people milling about in the candlelit and lavishly decorated home.

“I understand you are to thank for the handsome decorations?” He lifted a brow and folded his arms across his chest, shifting his weight to rest on the hip closer to her.

“Thank you.” She’d enjoyed applying her talents to making the house reflect the importance of the day’s event. In truth, the triple wedding made Twelfth Night a livelier and more joyful occasion than in previous years, especially those under British rule, from what she’d been told. “I relished the honor of dressing the house for the happy occasion.”

Nathaniel regarded her with a gentle smile. “After all the horrors of war, the opportunity to enjoy such merriments is a delight to the senses.”

She nodded slowly, shifting the bundle in her arms. “Even during the war, life has a way of pushing through to keep hope alive.”

She looked down as her baby son squirmed in her embrace. A white cap, made with her own hands from fine linen, covered his wispy red-brown hair. His eyelashes fanned on his cheeks as the little mouth pursed in his sleep. The white dress he wore had been handed down from his cousin when he’d outgrown the garment. Even Walter, her deceased husband, had expressed pride in Jim. She’d promised herself that she’d do all in her power to ensure Master James Christopher Hamilton grew up to honor his name. No matter what she must do, she’d prepare Jim for whatever opportunities life brought his way.

She and Nathaniel, a stranger to her up until the rector performed the weddings a few minutes ago, had already paid their compliments to the three pairs of smiling husbands and wives. Her new friends and her sister stood together. Each bride shone with happiness, their smiles vying with the candles for lighting the room. The happy couples made a striking and impressive group.

Candles flickered throughout the newly redecorated house, illuminating bouquets of flowers tied with long curling ribbon secured to the banister and resting on tables. In the parlor, a string quartet played softly. The feeling in the home seemed magical and dreamy, like something out of a play. Even her old gown of silk and taffeta, with its embroidered stomacher and flowing cerulean skirts, appeared revitalized and beautiful. She’d been relieved when the dress fit upon her matronly figure after birthing the baby a mere two months previous.

Nathaniel caught her attention with a tilt of his head and wave of his hand. “Do you know all of these people?”

Evelyn shrugged. “On Twelfth Night, everyone is invited. I hope we don’t run out of the rum punch and egg nog.”

“Would you care for a cup of either, before such a tragic event occurs?” He winked at her, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth. “I’m happy to oblige, if so.”

“No, but thank you. My hands are already full.” She tucked the light blanket around her son’s sleeping face.

“I imagine they will remain so until your son is grown.” He stepped closer to her as guests pushed behind him on their way to the virtually groaning table of refreshments. “It appears the party is just beginning.”

“Yes, it should last for several days as long as the food and drink hold out.”

Nathaniel towered over her petite frame, a giant dressed in fine clothes. She lifted her chin, despite her unease, and studied the stranger’s scarred yet striking features. If not for the still red lines stretching across his right cheek, he’d appear to be of adolescent age. His luxurious chestnut brown hair, shot through with gold, tempted her touch, but she resisted the urge. His earlier brief conversation with Benjamin, her sister’s new husband, revealed he had fought in the state militia. He had come to town at Benjamin’s express invitation. What kind of business could he possibly have with the major? And, more urgent, why did he need to stand so close?

He smiled, a gentle expression. His steel gray eyes searched her face, his gaze flitting from mouth to nose and finally resting upon her eyes. “Unfortunately, I don’t expect to stay for the duration.”

“You’ll miss the celebration of the end of the holidays.” She drew a slow, unsteady breath as he continued to study her with the ghost of a smile. She lowered her eyes, smoothing the baby blanket as an excuse for looking away.

“I’ll miss more than that, I imagine.” He lifted the edge of Jim’s blanket, peered at the sleeping infant before he speared her with his black-rimmed eyes. “He has your nose.”

She giggled, then sobered, annoyed with her immature reaction to the man. What was it about him that provoked such a reflex? She pressed her lips together but a smile forced its way through. “Perhaps he should give it back to me, do you suppose?”

Nathaniel’s smile widened to reveal his teeth. “Mayhap you can share it.”

Laughter bubbled out of her mouth and she quickly stopped it. “That would prove unsatisfactory.”

He chuckled, eyes twinkling. He glanced away and then back. “Looks like we’re about to have some company.”

Evelyn followed his gaze. Her sister Amy and Benjamin led the others to where Evelyn stood with Nathaniel by the cold fireplace, its firebox laid with kindling and tinder for later in the evening. With the press of so many bodies during the middle of the day, Evelyn had decreed no additional heat necessary. She’d been right, too. The doors and windows stood open to let in the cold January air, helping to mitigate the warmth created by the crush of guests.

The ladies had chosen beautiful gowns of their own for this special day. Cousin Emily’s pale yellow gown suited her to perfection, with white roses embroidered around the scooped neck of the bodice and then reaching out in rays down the skirts. She wore her blonde curls in a smooth bun beneath a matching pale yellow hat made from lace and decorated with white silk roses. Amy wore a midnight blue dress overlaid with lavender netting. Her dark locks had been tamed into an intricate hairdo, a few curls left to hang beside her rosy cheeks. Samantha, her new friend and adopted sister, had boldly chosen an emerald velvet gown, with a deep plunge of the neck and scattering of rhinestones across the bodice, which suited her coloring and green eyes. Her ebony hair had been fashioned into an elegant braid for the occasion, with wisps of curls left to dance about her face. Gold bobs hung on her earlobes and a matching chain graced her neck. A lovely trio indeed.

“Evelyn, I cannot thank you enough for your efforts to make the house so beautiful and welcoming.” Emily drew her husband Frank Thomson closer to stand with her at Evelyn’s side. “Everyone is talking about the beautiful flowers and ribbons, oh, and the array of branched candlesticks.”

“You created a beautiful and romantic setting for our special day.” Amy lightly hugged Evelyn, careful to not wake the baby. “A simple thank you cannot convey the depth of my gratitude. Especially after the terrible losses you’ve endured over the past month or so.”

Amy’s comment raised the memory of the gun shots, the violence, and the violations Evelyn had experienced. Her late husband Walter had been a difficult man to please. When she had not produced an heir within a few months of their marriage, he’d turned violent. Fortunately, she conceived a baby and his tirades abated. Until the renegades and scouts took turns scavenging the property. He held his tongue while the invaders took all they wanted, but then he had unleashed his anger upon her. She sniffed and shook off the misery threatening to dampen her spirits. She wouldn’t permit anything to interfere with her happiness on her sister’s wedding day.

“One must look to the future and move on when adversity strikes.” Evelyn joggled Jim as he began to stir. Soon he’d be wide awake and hungry. He must be her focus, not the death of her abusive husband, nor the conflagration that consumed their manor house. Looking forward meant figuring out how she’d provide for her own household.

“I’m pleased you chose to accept our parents’ offer. Since I’m moving out soon, they would be lonely without having one of us with them.” Amy clasped her hands before her as she nodded. “It’s some form of a miracle our father’s finances are sound after all of the trials he’s been through over the course of the war.”

“Indeed. I’m fortunate they do not mind my return to their house.” But Evelyn minded, more than she’d shared with anyone. Her first task was to find her own place to live and raise her son. But how could she afford a house? The money Walter had set aside would last a few months with the current rate of post-war inflation and the devaluation of paper money. Then what?

“At least you have a roof over your head.” Nathaniel shifted his weight, closing the distance between them so his hip nearly touched hers. “I’ve just arrived in town and must find lodgings until I can locate a suitable domicile.”

“I’m certain someone will open their home to you.” His nearness sent shivers through Evelyn’s midriff. He exuded a force she sensed but couldn’t define, one tempting her to touch him. What was wrong with her? She barely knew him. She took a half step away, covering her movement with a peek at Jim.

“We’re a friendly city, now that the bloody Britons have departed.” Frank slipped his arm around Emily’s waist. “What do you think of having a guest?”

Emily glanced at Evelyn and then back to Frank. “If he’d like to stay with us, I’m sure we can make him comfortable.”

Nathaniel inclined his head in thanks. “Very kind of you. However, what about your trip abroad?”

Frank shook his head, his blond hair neatly held in a queue for the occasion. “We’ve decided to remain at home and enjoy our newly refurbished abode instead of traveling at this time of year. But in a little while, we will make a journey.”

“All the more reason for me to decline your generous offer.” Nathaniel shrugged as he glanced at Emily. “I wouldn’t wish to interfere with a newly married couple.”

Trent raised both brows and shook his head. “Do not worry. We’ll help you find lodgings. Perhaps Captain Sullivan will have a place, like he did for Benjamin.”

“Nonsense, my friend. What of southern hospitality? Mr. Williams, you are welcome to stay with us. Isn’t he, dear?” Benjamin, tall, dark haired, and handsome in an elaborately embroidered waistcoat peeking out from under a bright blue coat and trousers, peered at Amy, who slowly nodded. “See? We’d be pleased for you to share our house as long as you might need.”

A host of conflicting emotions flashed across Nathaniel’s face before he shook his head. “I appreciate the offer, but I simply cannot believe the newly married would wish a stranger in their midst. I’m sure if I were in your shoes I’d be reluctant to entertain guests.”

Evelyn avoided meeting Nathaniel’s eyes as he contemplated her with his last words. She hugged Jim close, her cheeks warming under his regard, and looked anywhere but in his direction. He seemed to hint at the underlying meaning of his words to her, provoking the tumult raging in her mind. She needed to remove herself from his presence, and soon.

“That is a valid point.” Benjamin grinned at Nathaniel. “It may be hard to sleep nights.”

Amy swatted Benjamin’s arm, blushing as his meaning spread through the group. “Mind your manners.”

“Where will you stay then? If you won’t stay with any of us, I mean.” Samantha clasped her husband Trent Cunningham’s arm as her gaze shifted from one to another of the group.

Evelyn liked Dr. Trent, and rejoiced that her dear friend had found the love of her life in the sandy-haired handsome man. Like the others, Trent had donned his finest suit, the dark blue setting off his crystal blue eyes and a discreetly patterned waistcoat, both of which showed his strength and elegant carriage.

The rustle of taffeta and the thump of leather shoes on the wood floor drew Evelyn’s attention to the elderly couple approaching. Her parents, Richard and Lucille Abernathy, had aged gracefully, though her mother’s ramrod straight back had bowed a little more each year. Neither head boasted any gray, and their love revealed itself through the angling of their bodies toward each other as well as the looks they shared.

If Evelyn could one day find a man who would treat her with the same respect and concern as her father shared with her mother, she’d be content. But the pickings proved slim after so many men had lost their lives securing the independence of America from British tyranny. Societal expectations weighed on her mind. She should find another husband, one to provide for her two-month old son. If she only had herself to support, she’d manage with sewing or perhaps by being a governess. Jim, her mother had reminded her, needed a father to teach the boy how to be a man, and to ensure he received the requisite care and education to grow to his full maturity. Yet part of her wished to remain unmarried, independent of the needs and demands of a husband. But even knowing of the dearth of eligible bachelors, the next time she accepted a man’s attentions, she’d be very careful and certain of his personality. She’d promised herself no one would hurt her ever again.

“I couldn’t help but overhear. We have room for you and no recently wed occupants to worry about.” Richard Abernathy slapped Nathaniel on the back. “Interested?”

Nathaniel smiled, his attention flicking her way and then back to her father. Evelyn held her breath, squeezing Jim until his murmur of protest made her relax her grip. Would this man be staying under the same roof? She desired distance between them, and suddenly the absolute opposite results hovered in the air. Definitely time for her to find another place to reside.

Nathaniel studied her for two beats of her heart before turning and stretching out his hand to shake with her father. “I’d be honored to accept, as long as it does not inconvenience any one.”

“Not at all. If you’d like, you can ride in the carriage with us back to the house.” Richard grinned and rested his large hand at the small of Lucille’s back. “We intend to leave in a little while. We tire easily as the years go by, so we’re off to say our farewells and then we can depart.”

“Very good.” Nathaniel nodded to Richard as he led his wife away, then fixed his attention on Evelyn. “Do you mind that I accepted your father’s offer? I have no wish to make you uncomfortable in your own home.”

“Why would I mind?” Evelyn kept her eyes on the handsome yet dangerous man regarding her with a serious expression. Dangerous first with regard to the scars he’d suffered during the fighting, indicating he resorted to aggressive behavior when pressed. Dangerous in that he’d also been a party to the raid on her house, a violent invasion of her home by the American militia in search of sustenance for the soldiers. Finally, dangerous to her equilibrium by his mere presence. She straightened her back, stiffening her resolve at the same time. Handsome is as handsome does, after all. “As long as you keep to yourself, we shall get along.”

He nodded slowly but his charming smile slipped back into place. “I shall endeavor to honor your request.”

“See that you do.” A flicker of humor flashed in his eyes and she drew in a breath. “I’m in mourning, so your attentions would be, if not welcome, at best inappropriate.”

The sparkle in his eyes went out. “I see.”

Amy took Benjamin’s hand in hers as she addressed Evelyn. “My dear sister, you, of all people, know how fearful it is to be without a home to live in. Now that your worries are behind you, please don’t begrudge the young man shelter from the elements for a short stay while he makes other arrangements.”

Evelyn angled her head and frowned at her sister. “What do you mean, my worries are behind me?”

“Why, you have a home and the security of our father’s fortune to provide for you and your son.” Amy waved a hand in the space between them. “You need not trouble your head about where and how you’ll live. It’s been decided.”

Surprise swept through Evelyn. “No, it has not been decided.” She espied doubt on the faces of her friends. “I have no intention of living with my parents for long.”

Nathaniel nodded at her. “Looks like we have something in common.”

Evelyn opened her mouth to contradict his claim, but Amy cut into the conversation.

“Look, Benjamin, Mr. and Mrs. Walters are preparing to leave. We must go thank them for their wedding gift.” Amy tugged on Benjamin’s arm, drawing him away from the cluster of friends.

“Will you excuse us?” Benjamin addressed the group at large as he allowed Amy to pull him along behind her.

“Be off with you.” Evelyn waved the three couples on their way. “We’ll catch up with you later.”

“Thanks again for all your help, Evelyn,” Samantha said as Trent proffered his arm.

“My pleasure.” Evelyn shooed them with a happy chuckle. “Go. See to your guests.”

After the chattering friends had blended into the surrounding crowd, Evelyn turned back to Nathaniel. “So, Mr. Williams, will you be staying in town long?”

“I’m not sure. It depends on what Major Hanson has to say to-morrow when we meet.” He peered at her, and a gentle smile emerged on his lips. “And what a certain recent widow might have to say as well. She may wish for me to dawdle in procuring my own residence.”

Evelyn raised one brow at the provocative suggestion and then shook her head. She had absolutely no intention of beginning her husband hunt so soon after becoming widowed. “Do not depend on such an unlikely occurrence, Mr. Williams.”

“Please, my friends all call me Nat. And I shall call you Lyn.” He chuckled and folded his arms. “Since we’ll be living under the same roof for a time, we may as well be friends.”

Evelyn blinked at the man, astonished at the level of his audacity. Yes, he was definitely a dangerous man. Who did he think he was? No one had ever shortened her given name into such a ridiculous nickname. Time to straighten him out as to the proper form of address and thus erect a societal barrier to protect herself. One she desperately needed to erect. “You may call me Mrs. Hamilton, and I will call you Mr. Williams.”

He shook his head, as though sad to correct her. “I think not. Lyn suits you exquisitely better.”

Clearly, the daft man couldn’t be reasoned with, intent on having his way, much like Walter, who had cowed her into doing everything to please him. But no matter what she did or how she behaved, she had never really satisfied her husband. Except maybe in having a son. A son she’d do everything in her power to protect. Squaring her shoulders, she blinked at Nathaniel. She would not travel the path of subjugation ever again.

“I have never answered to a nickname, so if you intend to be friendly, you’ll respect my wishes.” She snugged Jim closer to her, preparing to walk away from the charged space suddenly stretching between them.

Nathaniel smiled at her, and made the beginning of a bow before straightening, glee in his eyes. “If you insist.”

“I do.” The mischievous smirk on his lips did not bode well. She’d seen his type before. She would make certain he behaved properly toward her.

Her young maid appeared out of the crowd. Dressed in her best frock, the black slave soon arrived at Evelyn’s side and reached out to take Jim into her arms. “Want me to carry him? Your arms must be tiring.”

“Yes, thank you, Jemma.” Evelyn gladly transferred the weight of her son to the girl. “He may need a clean napkin, as well.”

“I’ll take care of the young’un.” Jemma nodded and rearranged the blanket over the wide awake boy. “You enjoy yourself, you here?”

Evelyn huffed a laugh as she fingered her skirts. “I have been, but now it’s time we depart.”

“Yes, miss.” Jemma peered at the man beside Evelyn. “Is he coming with us?”

“It appears so. This is Nathaniel Williams.” Evelyn glanced between the maid and the man. “My father invited him to stay with us for as long as he’d enjoy visiting.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jemma.” Nathaniel offered his crooked arm to Evelyn, an invitation to his escort, but also to touch him. “Shall we join your parents?”

His mere propinquity set her heart racing. To lay her hand on his muscular arm would invite an undesired response. Well, actually a much longed for action which would yield most certainly a desired response. One she could not permit herself to experience. She must tread carefully, and see he did as well. “As long as you remember you are a guest in our house, I will treat you with respect and deference.” She had promises to keep, ones made to herself and to her son. Nothing would sway her from her mission. Not even tempting lips and an endearing smile. “I ask you to do the same.”

“You have nothing to fear from me.” He inclined his head and grinned at her when she gingerly rested the tips of her fingers on the heavy fabric of his coat sleeve.

The light yet electric touch of his arm, even through the sleeve, evoked a tiny gasp from deep inside her. Propriety kept her hand in place as they stepped off, making a path through the crowded rooms. They paused in an antechamber to don their warm cloaks and hats, avoiding further contact until he again crooked his arm. After pulling on her gloves, she reluctantly accepted.

As they approached her parents at the open front door, he glanced down at her. “I shall be on my very best behavior, Lyn.”

She gaped at him. The challenge in his expression made her snap her mouth closed as they passed through the door and out onto the street. Her parents climbed into the conveyance as Nathaniel escorted her toward the vehicle. She would refuse to speak to him if he continued to press her in such an improper manner. The corded muscles in his arm flexed beneath her fingers before he took her hand and helped her up into the waiting carriage.

She gathered her long skirts close as she sat on the cushioned bench seat, and then stifled a gasp when Nathaniel squeezed in beside her, Jemma and Jim on his other side. His leg rested against hers, hidden beneath the flap of his coat and her own voluminous skirts. With her parents sitting directly in front of her, she dared not draw attention to his impropriety. She pressed her lips together to keep from chastising him. Oh, she wished she’d been wrong, but she’d been so very right. He was indeed dangerous on all counts.

 

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