June 2023: Some Romance Book Recommendations by Saskatchewan Romance Writers

I’m putting together this post as I listen to Mary Balogh‘s interview on the Fated Mates podcast. I highly recommend listening to it. Mary is so well spoken, so talented, and very passionate about the romance genre. She’s also a friend and a fellow member of my writing group. So, needless to say, this post is taking forever to write because I’m distracted by listening to one of my favourite writers, Sarah MacLean, talk writing with Mary.

Mary Balogh Regency Romance

Annette Bower Contemporary Romance

Donna Gartshore Love Inspired Romance

Jana Richards Contemporary Romance

Ryshia Kennie Romantic Suspense

Until next time…

Happy reading! I’m always looking for book recommendations, so feel free to share yours!

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve ordered the turkey from a local grocer. I shopped for the rest of the food on ten percent Tuesday. By accident, but still. I’m feeling very organized. It feels like forever since I’ve hosted a holiday meal and I’m very excited about the whole business of setting out a feast.

My Go To Roast Turkey Recipe:

This cookbook, Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step, is over twenty years old. So, I guess you could say it’s vintage. The photos are certainly dated. But the recipes are still awesome. And you get basic step by step visual instructions. It’s one of my favourite cookbooks.

It’s true that in Canada British explorer Martin Frobisher held a thanksgiving feast in Newfoundland 1578 with salted beef and mushy peas so thankful was he for being alive after a failed attempt to discover the Northwest Passage, but Indigenous peoples have held fall harvest celebrations for thousands of years before the first settlers arrived. And no doubt they were tastier too.

Our big dinner is tomorrow, so I’ll be stuffing a turkey and mashing potatoes. There will be carrots and salad and buns. And linens on the dining room table. There will be cranberry sauce and dessert.There will be stories, old and new, told as we sit shoulder to shoulder at the table. If necessary, I’ll steer the talk away from politics. We’ll be together and we’ll hold the ones not able to make it in our hearts.

From our table to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Until next time…

Turkey? Ham? Roast cauliflower? What’s your go to fancy feast dinner?

September Book Recommendation

It’s been an interesting week. Canada is a Commonwealth country, and the Queen’s death has taken over news cycles, not just here, but around the world. Here in Canada, Monday has been declared a federal holiday by the Prime Minister, which means federal employees get the day off. Otherwise, individual provinces are responsible for statutory holidays for other workers. In Saskatchewan, Monday has been proclaimed September 19 as a Day of Mourning but otherwise it is off to work.

I guess now makes it a good time to have read a regency romance about a widow and a Marquess? How’s that for an awkward segue? To Have and to Loathe by Martha Waters is a delightfully witty read. Waters style reminds me of Emily Henry’s books. I have a bit of a nitpick though. I feel like the title is a bit of a mislead. These two do not loathe each other. I’m not sure they even dislike each other that much. They disagree and they bicker and it’s highly amusing but that’s not the same thing. As a big fan of the enemies to lovers trope, I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, still worth the read for the dialogue alone. Just don’t expect any actual loathing. sigh. Also, not sure what that says about me…

Until next time…

Are you planning to watch the Queen’s funeral on Monday? I think I’ll pass. But I totally get why you might want to witness history.

How Is It The End of June Already?

Is anyone else panicking at the thought of summer flying by too fast? I know I am. I also know that’s a sign I’m not living in the moment or being mindful. But there’s just so much stuff happening and I want to make sure I pack it all in, you know?Which means June has been busier than I’d like or would normally plan for.

That’s because we made the big decision to fill in our underground pool. A pool that had SO MANY great memories. But it wasn’t getting as much use as it once did and it needed major repairs. It was quite the process. And.. now it’s a giant garden. Our first tempt at growing vegetables on this scale. Things are sprouting…

Will do an update in July.

I’m determined to get out golfing more this year. Any other golfers out there? love being outside, I love walking, I love spending time with my husband. I enjoy the game. I’m bad at it. But I’m working at being okay with that. To that end, I don’t keep score. I take mulligans. A LOT of mulligans. And I quit when I’m not having fun anymore.

June is also National Indigenous History Month

If you’re wondering how to celebrate, or looking for a way to connect and learn, The McKenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan) is currently hosting a stunning exhibition: Radical Stitch. Showcasing work from 48 artists, it is one of the most significant exhibitions of Indigenous beading in North America.

Radical Stitch Exhibition

It was a incredible experience and I highly recommend checking it out. So many distinct styles (floral, geometric, abstract, and others) that showcase the importance of beading to Indigenous peoples. But also how deeply personal, labour intensive, and complex the art of beading is.

“So to be a bead artist in this moment in time, it’s a radical act as Indigenous people and coming from cultures where colonial governments attempted to halt this practice, because in so many ways it was our strength. Radical Stitch recognizes it’s a radical act.”

Cathy Mattes, guest curator of the exhibit

My Top Favourite Reads by Indigenous Writers:

Until next time…

I’d love to know what you did in June? Have any big projects on the go? Are you trying something new?

*The top photo was taken on Mother’s Day at the McKenzie Art Gallery. FYI: Currently the first Sunday of every month are reserved for visitors who require increased safety protocols because of COVID-19.

Book Talk Friday: Two Great Reads

I read some great books in April. Two of those came in the form of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) from Netgalley and I loved them both! Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Published: Penguin Random House (May 10, 2022)

Categories: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Canadian Author / Canadian Setting /

The Blurb:

Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.
 
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past. 

My Thoughts:

Every Summer After is Carley Fortune’s debut novel. It starts with the present then takes us back to summers in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. It’s no secret that I LOVE a Canadian setting, and there’s nothing better than summer in Canada. On Persephone Fraser’s first day at the lake, she meets the boy next door, Sam Florek.

Best friends and summer neighbours, Persephone and Sam lead separate lives during the school year. But during the summers they are inseparable, spending days an idyllic summer bubble. Until the reality of college and adulting sets in and decisions are made that can’t be undone. Twelve years later they meet again.

Whether you still dream of your first love, or have moved on and left it in the past, this book will speak to you. All the looks back will resonate. You’ll fall in love with Persephone and Sam and Barry’s Bay. I wish I could read it again for the first time. Highly recommend!

Bonus Book: When It all Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee

When It All Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee

Published: Montlake (Amazon Publishing) (June 21, 2022)

Categories: Contemporary Romance / Romance / Single Dad / Family Romance /

The Blurb:

A bittersweet romance about the power of love in the face of heartbreak and loss.

Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.

Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?

As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?

My Thoughts:

This is my first time reading Catherine Bybee and it definitely won’t be my last. The first book in the D’Angelo series, When It All Falls Apart takes place in Little Italy in San Diego. There is enough heart, family and Italian food in this book to satisfy everyone. There is the relationship with Brooke and Luca, of course. But’s it’s also about what happens when relationships with parents are not only hard but heartbreaking. There is no such thing as the perfect family. It’s also true that family leaves scars that are hard to heal.

I loved the dialogue. I loved the setting. Who can resist a loud Italian family? But I also appreciated the honest look at what happens when it all falls apart. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Definitely recommend.

Until next time…

Who else is looking forward to summer? I’d love some summer reading suggestions! Bonus points if they have a Canadian setting.

Appetizers and 80s Movies

We like to keep things interesting. So, this spring and summer season, we decided Friday nights will dinner (in the form of appetizers) followed by an 80s movie.

We started with Flashdance. And a charcuterie board. Yummy!

Believe it or not, this 80s girl had never watched Flashdance. But like every other 80s girl, I owned a version of the grey iconic oversized, falling-off-the-shoulder sweatshirt. You know the one.

Spoiler Alerts Head.

So the plot.

This movie is an 80s era Cinderella tale. Parentless, eighteen year old Alex lives on her own, works two jobs, and dreams of being a prima ballerina. She has no formal training but she’s incredibly talented and dances at night as an exotic dancer at a bar/nightclub. When she’s not dancing, she working her day job as a welder. She also rides her bike all over Pittsburgh. Of course, she falls for her divorced boss, who’s also somewhat young, and very handsome. And successful. Most of the non-dancing scenes follow their budding relationship.

Does it stand the test of time?

The music is awesome. The cinematography is fantastic. The dancing is fabulous. Kind of like a music video. Because, hello, 80s. Other than that, it’s what happens when a man tries to write a romance headlining a strong female character. We end up with a teenager sleeping with her boss. Said boss also secures her the coveted dance audition behind her back. Takes his ex-wife to a function instead of her. But don’t worry it didn’t mean anything, please don’t be mad at me. Here, look, we’ll have more sex and everything will be okay.

Warning; Also includes racial slurs and exploitation of women.

This whole idea of watching retro movies, besides loving the 80s, was inspired by one of my favourite podcasts.

I Hate It But I Love It

Hateful optimists and loving pessimists Kat Angus and Jocelyn Geddie break down movies and TV shows that they totally despise… but also really adore at the same time.

Warning: If you don’t care for swear words this is not the podcast for you! But it’s also funny, smart, and talks about pop culture in a way that’s brilliant and appealing.

Until next time…

Any favourite, and easy, appetizer suggestions? Movie recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

September Musings

September always feels like the start of the new year, rather than January. I love the return to routine after going this way and that way and packing in as much summer goodness as I can into July and August. September is a time to get back at it, whatever your ‘it’ is. Even though we’re in the midst of the 4th wave of this pandemic, and there is a federal election looming, and we’re all tired and frustrated (possibly angry), September is a time to set things back to rights.

My house is relatively organized except for two rooms, my office and the basement bedroom. Oh, and one very large cupboard that is full of memories. My wedding dress is in there. My childhood memories are stored in there. Our children’s memories. This cupboard is packed with all the feels. There is also a tent. I don’t know why.

Reorganizing is a priority right now because we are about to begin renovating the upstairs of our house which was built in the 70s. Very little has changed on our top floor during that time. Removal of wallpaper and painting of bedrooms. Goodbye blue carpet and ugly wallpaper. Have I mentioned that there was either wallpaper or a wallpaper border on every wall of our house. There are also hanging snowflake lights in our bedroom. And a mirrored wall.

Getting everything ready means purging some things that should have gone long ago. Not only the dated decor, but the other stuff. Things that I’ve tucked away and haven’t dealt with. Which makes me wonder why I’m hanging onto certain things. I’m asking myself who will want it? Our children are busy accumulating their own stuff and filling their own nooks and crannies with things that are special and important to them.

I found the article, The psychology of clutter: Why we hold onto ‘stuff’—and what that may be teaching our kids, gave me some insight into why I’m hanging onto an endless amount of craft supplies. I mean I might find a use for them some day, right? Probably not. Why have I held onto it. The answer is guilt. And it will come as a surprise to no one that guilt is not a good reason to hold onto something.

This article was also helpful: 10 Ways to Get Rid of Sentimental Clutter.

I’m relieved to say I’ve made a dent in things. And excited to welcome in the new. Like vinyl plank flooring, soothing spa colours. Fresh, modern, accompanied by less of everything.

What I’m reading:

Print: Bombshell (Hell’s Belle, Book 1) by Sarah MacLean. Finishing the very last few pages of Sesily and Caleb’s story. Sooo good! Definitely recommend.

eBook: Just started an ARC of The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen coming out in early 2022. I’m fascinated by writing duos. And this book is off to a great start!

Audio: A Perilous Undertaking, A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, Book 2, written by Deanna Raybourn and narrated by Angele Masters. LOVING this series! Both the story and the narrator.

Until next time…

Who else thinks of September has the true beginning of the year?

Book Talk Sunday: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! And so begins Book Talk Sunday. I’m not going to give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. I’m just going to offer a few of my thoughts.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Published:  2021 by Simon & Schuster (Originally Published in 2008)

Length: 528 pages

Series: Slains, Book 1

Categories: Fiction / Historical / Romance

Tags: Scottish / Jacobite / Time Slip / Genetic Memory / Time Travel

The Blurb:

1707. The walls of Slains castle shelter Jacobite rebels, who are conspiring to sail the young, exiled James Stewart from France into Scotland to reclaim his crown—and a young woman caught up in their plot.

Present day. Writer Carrie McClelland is enchanted by an impromptu trip to Cruden Bay, Scotland, and decides to settle in the tiny village, hoping to find inspiration for her novel about the Jacobite uprising in the area’s evocative past—and in the haunting ruins of the castle.

She creates a heroine named after one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson, and quickly finds the words flowing, almost faster than she can write them down. But, discovering that her novel inexplicably contains more fact than she can remember researching, Carrie wonders if she could possibly be dealing with ancestral memory—in effect “recalling” what her ancestor lived.

The only way to discover the truth is to continue writing and to bring to light the whole of Sophia’s story. With each new chapter, Carrie uncovers the tale of an innocent entangled in a dangerous enterprise, the secret of forbidden love, and the final betrayal that cost James his throne—and may cost Sophia her heart.

My Thoughts:

It’s probably no surprise that I can’t resist a book who’s main character is a writer. In The Winter Sea Carrie McClelland is busy writing her latest book and has created a character she names after an ancestor that lived in 1707 Scotland. When a brief research trip takes her to Cruden Bay, she feels compelled to stay and rents a cottage. Nearby are the remains of Slains Castle that overlooks the North Sear from its cliff top. The story pours out of her and Carrie soon realizes she knows more details than she should about her long-ago relation’s life, that she has, in fact, inherited her memory.

The characters, both 18th century and 21st century, are richly developed by an author who clearly loves and respects history. The shift in time between the present, written in 1st person, and the 1700s, written is 3rd person, makes for seamless reading. Both time periods are brought to life by the characters, setting, plot, and Kearsley’s attention to detail. I also love how Kearsley handles the idea of Carrie inheriting her ancestor’s genetic memory. It is a type of time travel that fascinates me. There is always some sort of mystical element to Kearsley’s books that draws me right in.

I loved the relationship between Sophie and Moray that takes place in the past. It’s a very slow burn, as much of the emphasis is placed on what is happening around the character and the historical efforts of the Jacobites to return a Stewart King to the throne in Scotland. The relationship between Sophie and Moray is much more nuanced than the relationship between Carrie and Graham in the present. Both are sweet, both are engaging, but the earlier one is definitely given preference.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining, informative, and gorgeously written. I don’t know what more you can ask of a book. Definitely recommend if you are drawn to historicals that take place outside of Victorian and Regency England. Susanna Kearsley’s books would definitely appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

For me, it’s always Susanna Kearsley’s love of detail, her warm writing, and the mystical part of her books that keeps me turning pages, even when there’s a daunting 528 of them.

An overhead view of Slains Castle, which is also said to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s setting in Count Dracula. In a tweet Kearsley explains where the main rooms mentioned in The Winter’s Sea could be found.

Have you read The Winter Sea or any other of Susanna Kearsley’s books? What did you think of them?

Love Audiobooks

Escaping our daily worries can be a challenge, especially these days, and it is no secret that reading can be a powerful tool in balancing our mental health. So, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not reading. Listening to audiobooks provides the same benefits as reading print or ebooks. Each of them is a different experience, but each are valuable. Audiobooks are simply a different way to consume content. They offer us an opportunity to fit books into our day in a new way.

Ways I Listen to Audiobooks and Some Suggestions:

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to the latest hit single on the radio for the 100th time, so instead I might listen to something like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosamund Pike. Hopefully we’ll be out in our yards and gardens soon. This is one of my favourite times to listen to audiobooks. What better way to pass the time pulling weeds, then listening to something by Nora Roberts, like Northern Lights, narrated by Gary Littman. I’m also clumsy. But I can walk and listen without the fear of getting a concussion. Maybe try a Susanna Kearsley book, like her latest The Winter Sea, narrated by Rosalind Landor. And, these days, when keeping our distance is essential, why not try listening to Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, while shopping for groceries and take the boring out of picking out fruit.

The popularity of audiobooks show there is a real thirst for audio content. And as much as audiobooks are for those of us who love reading, they are also popular who people who don’t love books. Not everyone consumes content in the same way. As much as they are a boon to those of us who can’t read enough, they are essential to people who can’t read print or ebooks.

The video below has some great tips on how to get started with audiobooks!

I’m always about romance novel recommendations! Check out Audiofile Magazine’s Listen To These Five Scandalous Romances. “Judge for yourself if these couples are outrageous, skirting propriety, or simply falling in love on their own terms.” With audiobooks by Mary Balogh, Olivia Dade, Rosie Danan, Carly Phillips, and Hadley Beckett.

My romantic suspense series, Aspen Lake (Backlash, Exposed, and Gone), is available in audiobook. So is my romantic suspense, Off The Grid.

I read all three types of books: print, ebook, and audiobook. I don’t have a preference. I just love reading!

Until next time…

Do you enjoy audiobooks? Do you have a favourite narrator? When do you listen to audiobooks? Or drop a recommendation in the comments!

End of October Update

Tomorrow marks the end of another month and 2020 is a mere two months away! Autumn in Saskatchewan never lasts long enough to suit me and this year winter has arrived way too early. Tonight we’ll be carving pumpkins and tomorrow we’ll be setting them out on frozen steps or snowy driveways to attract trick-or-treaters. Well, hopefully not the tricksters…

Speaking of tricksters. I read a couple of great books in October written by a new-to-me author, Eden Robinson, who I met at The Saskatchewan Festival of Words this summer. Below is a photo of her interview with Jael Richardson. And let me tell you, she was has the best laugh! It fills a room and you can’t help but join in.

I started with Son Of A Trickster, Book 1 in The Trickster Trilogy, and finalist for The Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2017. I quickly moved onto Book 2, Trickster Drift, winner of the 2019 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. I loved these books and I can’t wait to read the third one when it comes out.

But for those who steer clear of books with serious accolades to their name, don’t worry.The beautiful thing about these two books is how very readable they are. If you like edgy coming of age stories with a paranormal bent to them, these books might just be the thing for you. Robinson deals with some heavy, tense issues in an authentic way and works at dismantling a lot of old and tired Indigenous stereotypes, and these books will have you smiling in places you least expect to. Add to that, Robinson’s way with dialogue is magic! Click here to read an excerpt! CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is adapting a TV series from her books called The Trickster, set to air in 2020.

 Meet Jared Martin: sixteen-year-old pot cookie dealer, smoker, drinker and son with the scariest mom ever. But Jared’s the pot dealer with a heart of gold–really. Compassionate, caring, and nurturing by nature, Jared’s determined to help hold his family together–whether that means supporting his dad’s new family with the proceeds from his baking or caring for his elderly neighbours. But when it comes to being cared and loved, Jared knows he can’t rely on his family. His only source of love and support was his flatulent pit bull Baby, but she’s dead. And then there’s the talking ravens and the black outs and his grandmother’s perpetual suspicion that he is not human, but the son of a trickster.

As my October recommendation, I urge you to go out and get the two books from The Trickster Series. Tomorrow night I’ll be handing out candy and sending out thoughts to keep all the little (and big) trick-or-treaters warm and safe. Happy Halloween to those of you who enjoy the shenanigans!

Until next time…

What book(s) did you read in October? Inquiring minds want to know!