Stuff and Nonsense: March 2014


Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James

Helene had a shrewd feeling that she would be besieged with morning callers. No staid matron could chop off all her hair, put on a flagrantly outrageous gown, and disappear from a ballroom with the Earl of Mayne, without every single female acquaintance she had in the world -- and several whom she did not -- developing a burning ambition to take tea at her house.

Your Wicked Ways is the fourth book in Eloisa James's Duchess Quartet. I haven't read the other three, but Your Wicked Ways seemed to stand well enough on its own. James provided just enough background for Helene's besties (heroines of prior novels) for me to understand why they're all friends, but not so much as to make me feel she was padding out Your Wicked Ways by rehashing prior novels (this can be a problem in series).

I know I was very grumpy about historical romances a few months ago and said I would stop reading them, but I changed my mind after James mentioned this novel during the "Steamy Stories -- Bestselling Romance and Erotica Authors" at the Big Book Getaway. A funny but sexy novel about a woman so in want of a child that she would move in with her husband and his mistress to get one? Yes, please!

And I was not disappointed. Your Wicked Ways was, apparently, the tasty romantic candyfloss I'd been secretly yearning for and (aside from the outdoor sexytimes which, briefly, made me what to put the novel aside because sexytimes do not belong outdoors) I gobbled it up in ninety minutes. Seriously. That's one and a half lunch breaks. And I was eating while I read it.

I think Your Wicked Ways is the first historical romance I've read where the male romantic lead is terrible at sex (even his mistress mocks him). Obviously, like real human beings, he gets better with practice and is pretty hot stuff by the end of the novel. And that was quite refreshing, you know, because Romantic Heroes are always Masters of the Sexyverse and the heroine's first time with the hero is always Totes Awesome.

Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James (Avon, 2004)


A Cousinly Connexion by Sheila Simonson

At eighteen Jane Ash fell in love with Edward Wincanton, an ensign in the Royal Navy. The youngest son of a local squire, Wincanton did not seem to Jane's father a suitable match for his only daughter. After some thought, for he was inclined to indulge her, Mr. Ash refused his consent to the match. Jane wept. Ensign Wincanton, his leave up, returned to his ship. Life went on.

Unlike several of her favourite heroines, Jane did not go into a decline, or join the Navy in the guise of a cabin boy, or sit mindless in a ruined tower twining jonquils into her tangled locks. As she was a sensible girl and fond of her father and brothers, she very soon entered again into their ordinary country pursuits. If she occasionally sighed without apparent cause or read the naval news with more eagerness than might have been expected in a female of tender years, her family were careful to take no notice.

A Cousinly Connexion was leant to me by a coworker who enjoys Georgette Heyer's Regency romances ever more than I do. She said it was a charming, thoroughly old-school Regency and she was right. A Cousinly Connexion is a sweet and rather delightful read. The novel begins with a nod to Persuasion and goes on to nicely subvert a few common Regency romance tropes in the form of The Absent Father, The Tulip, etc.

Simonson has a good grasp of Regency culture and history and I felt fully immersed in the time and the place. The characters, too, seemed born to the age -- a nice change from the many historical romance novels I've read where it seems the author thought it was good enough to put thoroughly contemporary people in period dress and let them fling themselves at each other. It never is (unless you've written something like Austenland, but that's a very different kind of romance).

Simsonson wrote five Regency romances and, while they're hard to find in print (my library system owns a paltry two), they are all available as ebooks from Uncial Press. Huzzah.

A Cousinly Connexion by Sheila Simonson (Amazon Digital Services, Kindle Edition)


Wordless Wednesday: Crocus/Crocuses/Croci

First spring blooms! Pretty no matter how they're pluralized.


Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Bucket List

This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about our bookish bucket list. I had a little trouble with this list, so I cheated and looked at some other participant's lists before composing my own and, I think the problem might be that I'm a little spoiled by my own life ...
  1. I've worked at a used bookstore (where the staff were outnumbered by cats).
  2. I am a librarian.
  3. I have a home library walled with proper bookshelves.
  4. I have a sunny window seat flanked by bookshelves.
  5. I feel I am am okay with the number of touristy literary sites I have already visited (tho' I wouldn't mind visiting Wharton's "The Mount" ... only 90 minutes away).
  6. I have already read a ridiculous number of books and will, no doubt, read many more.
  7. I have already read and/or purchased (too many) books in foreign countries.
  8. I have no desire to write or publish a book/ebook/whathaveyou.
Hmm. What's left?
  1. Go to more book signings/author talks. (Big Book Getaway was great fun, after all).
  2. Show my bookish colors by owning (and wearing) the literature-influenced shoes, jewelry, and Modcloth dresses I keep admiring.
  3. Meet (some of) my author crushes. (Not only is this something I really want, it's also something I'm terrified will actually happen as I'm bound to come off as either a gibbering idiot or a frighteningly enthusiastic fangirl).
  4. Throw myself a book-themed birthday party.
  5. Attend Worldcon/Dragon Con/New York Comic Con/PAX East/National Book Festival.
  6. Stop feeling guilty about all the books I'm not reading.
  7. Take a reading vacation (a cabin, a lake, a dribble of Internet, and a suitcase full of books).


Improv Challenge: Sausage & Mushrooms

When I saw that March's Improv Challenge ingredients were mushrooms and sausage, I immediately thought of sausage-stuffed mushrooms. However, I knew I didn't want to make something fiddly or that wouldn't serve as a meal so I set about to create a meal-sized non-fiddly stuffed mushroom. Portobello mushrooms were the obvious choice and sausage had to be in the filling so ... why not use a sausage burger? Et voilà, these elegant-looking (and pretty darn tasty!) sausage and mushroom stacks were born!

Sausage & Portobello Stacks

I topped my stacks with fresh mozzarella and a commercially-prepared bruschetta, but you could easily use sliced provolone and chunky tomato sauce. Or make your own bruschetta. (Or sausage patties, for that matter).

I've not included any amounts in this "recipe," because it depends on how many people you're feeding and how much sauce or cheese you want. I cook for two, so used two caps and patties. We like cheese, so I was generous with the cheese. Didn't want to drown the stacks, so used about two tablespoons bruschetta per stack.


Remove stems from mushroom caps. Gently clean caps with a damp paper towel. Place, gills down, on a large broiler-safe pan. Place sausage patties next to mushrooms. Broil for 5 minutes.


Flip and broil for 5 minutes more.


Meanwhile, slice some fresh mozzarella.


And chiffonade some basil.


Your mushroom caps may have fluid pooling on top. Gently tilt to drain onto the pan. Top caps with sausage patties and fresh mozzarella.


Broil for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Plate. Top with bruschetta and basil. Serve immediately.

Sausage & Portobello Stacks


Wordless Wednesday: Window Cat

Cat on Window Ledge
Shelving reference materials is a lot more fun
with a fuzzy neighbor to look at across the alley.


Top 10 Tuesday: All Time Favorite Funny Romances

All-time favorite funny romances to read when it's March and everything is either frozen, grey, and horrible or wet, grey, and horrible and you're SO COLD all the time and simply tired of EVERYTHING. And then one of your "helpful" coworkers fills your ear about a new storm front (possibly) headed your way and this is exactly how you feel:

  • Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Bargain Bride by Barbara Metzger
  • Bridge Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding
  • Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
  • Jemima J by Jane Green
  • Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes
  • Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie


Wordless Wednesday: Car vs Trash Bin

In the battle of car vs. trash bin, the bin won.


Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Authors I've Never Read

This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about the top ten popular authors we've never read. To compile this list, I paged through Amazon's Author Rank and simply started writing down unread authors (there are lots of 'em!) until I hit 10. I have no grudge against any of the writers listed below ... just, for some reason, nothing they've written "speaks" to me. Well-intentioned friends and co-workers have recommended specific volumes of Macomber, Roberts, and Picoult but I could never get more than a chapter or two in. I figure that's okay, because surely I've recommended books to them that they couldn't get into, either!
  • David Baldacci
  • Lee Child
  • Michael Connelly
  • Debbie Macomber
  • James Patterson
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Nora Roberts/JD Robb
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Nicholas Sparks
  • HM Ward