Monthly Archives: December 2013

Book Review – Sonata For a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson

Every once in a while, I read a story where the author’s passion truly shines Sonatathrough. Such is the case with Sonata For a Scoundrel, by Anthea Lawson. This story, set in the 1830s, when women were not readily accepted as musical composers, centers around Clara Becker, who is gifted at composition. And who must hide behind her brother’s name, even as she yearns to tell Europe’s most gifted musician, Darien Reynard, that she writes what he plays. That she writes for him.

This story is filled with angst and joy and, most of all, with passion. For music and for love. I was mesmerized and highly recommend this story. Even if you don’t generally read historicals (as is the case with me), I think you’ll find the emotion in Sonata For a Scoundrel pulls you in.

Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:

The Muse…

Clara Becker is a supremely gifted composer–a talent of little to use to a woman in 1830s Europe. Her compositions only have worth when they are published under her brother’s name, yet this deception barely enables them to scrape out a living in the poorest quarter of London.

Meets the Master…

Darien Reynard, the most celebrated musician in Europe, pursues success with a single-minded intensity. When he comes across Becker’s compositions, he knows that this music will secure his place in history. Darien tracks the composer down and, with some difficulty, convinces the man to tour with him. Mr. Becker agrees, but with the most unusual condition that he bring along his sister…

Set against the glittering backdrop of 19th century celebrity, Sonata for a Scoundrel is the newest full-length historical romance novel from RITA-nominated author Anthea Lawson.


I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Everything is pretty much back to some sort of normality here in the UK and the sales are in full swing. From Christmas Eve most of the ads on TV are for the sales which start here on Boxing Day (traditionally the day after Christmas when servants would receive gifts from their masters which became known as a “Christmas box”). Having shopped-out prior to Christmas, I always think I’ll be happy to give the sales a miss, and yet I always seem to be ready to bag a bargain!

But mostly the period between Christmas and New Year finds me in reflective mode and, can I say, a little melancholy. Not sure why, and I wonder if most everyone feels this way. It’s not so much the let down after the frenzy of the season, but more reflecting back on what I’ve achieved the past year and whether I feel I’ve made the most of it.

Looking back, I’ve met most of the goals I set myself for 2013 – written two fiction novels and one non-fiction book, boarded what seems a plethora of puppies for Guide Dogs, had some lovely trips away, and finished some jobs around the home that seem to have been at the planning stage for ages. All in all it’s been a pretty great year. But have I fulfilled the potential of the year? It’s always hard to say. What I do know is the year has gone by at lightning speed and I spent most of it in busy mode.

So here I am reflecting on last year and planning for next. Some of my goals so far are to be more organised (that’s a big one), write two more novels, take more trips away with AJ, but mostly I plan to take time to savour and value everything. To, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “suck out all the marrow of life”.

That’s the plan anyway. How about you? What are your goals for 2014?

Christmas Day


Warm wishes for a beautiful Holiday Season and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

Christmas Eve eve

I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of walking down memory lane lately. I’m not sure why I’m in such a reflective mood, but it’s not a bad thing. I love visiting with memories, especially the good ones. Like Christmas.

I’ve probably told this story before, but I’m still going to talk about it again. As one of five children living in a house with only ONE bathroom (yes, when I was little, houses only had one), getting ready for anything was…interesting. And Christmas was no exception.

Laurie young

A young Laurie after the pin curls.

The night before, my sisters and I got baths, then Mom would pin curl our hair while our younger brothers got their baths. The next morning, we’d get all dressed up and go to 8AM mass. After mass, we’d come home and cook a BIG breakfast.

You’d think, then, we could open gifts. Nosiree. We had to clean up from breakfast first. Put the food away, do the dishes (wash AND dry) and have everything in its place. Then, and only then, did we get to open gifts.

It was agonizing at the time. And now it’s one of my fondest memories growing up. I got a lot of mileage out of it, too. My kids didn’t hear the “I had to walk 5 miles to school, in the snow, with no shoes, uphill both ways” story growing up. They heard the “I had to wait until everything was done Christmas morning to open my gifts” story. And, since there was a certain amount of “waiting” in their young lives, I’m pretty sure their kids are stuck with the same hardship story. Lol.

Ahhh, aren’t traditions wonderful? 🙂

What about you? Do you open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Do you have fond childhood memories you’d like to share? We love hearing about traditions and other folks stories.

And, whether you celebrate this Christmas or catch a new movie (since theaters are about the only thing open on Christmas Day), I hope your day is filled with food, family and friends, and fun.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Caroling We Go! by Valerie J. Patterson (sort of)

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping, and visiting, I thought we could use a bit of a break to use our brains for something fun and perhaps relaxing.

Okay, every year someone inevitably sends me this Christmas carol quiz and every year it seems to grow longer and longer.  I generally do very well with it, and it’s always fun to see if I can guess them.  So–without checking google for the answers (considered cheating…and Santa IS watching you)–see how many you know!

1. Exclamation, Member of the Round Table with missing areas.

2. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad’s Mom by a precipitous darling.

3. Wanted in December: Top forward incisors.

4.The hotel room of two psychiatrists.

5. The lad is a diminutive percussionist.

6. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis.

7. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element.

8. Exclamation, small Israeli Urban Center.

9. Kong, Lear, & Cole–That is us!

10. Duodecimal enumeration of the Passage of the Yuletide Season.

11. Far off in a hay bin.

12. Leave the broadcast from an elevation.

13.Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your Yuletide Season.

14. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully.

15. Jubilation to the entire terrestrial globe.

16. Do you perceive the same vibrations that stimulate the auditory sense organs?

17. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster.

18. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans.

19. An event that arrived on a cloudless witching hour.

20. Uncouth Dolt with the flaming proboscis is aware of the nature of precipitation.

21. As the guardians of the wooly animals protected their charges in the dark hours.

22. I beheld a trio of nautical vessels moving in this direction.

23. Small, wingless, bloodsucking insect that has a father in Armada.

24. Punch out the passages.

25. Query Regarding Identity of Descendant

26. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle

27. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings

Hope you enjoyed this little bit of carol quizzing.  I’ll post all answers over the weekend.

Until next time…may the blessings of the season be yours always.




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I was wondering if we could pretend it is Wednesday, that would give us one extra day to get ready for Christmas and no one would know that I am again late with my blog. Could I blame it on … Continue reading

A Holly Story for the Holly-Days!

Last year I accepted a challenge from a writer friend who wanted to feature 500 word stories on her blog for the month of December. There were two rules: Under 500 words and use of the word holly. (And I know the picture isn’t holly but I took it at my friend’s house and I love it). I did the story and liked it so well that I shared it on my own blog a week or so ago. Lavada asked me if I would share it here as a gift for the season for our followers/readers and after I preened for a while that she would ask, I said I would, so here it is. I hope you get some joy of the season out of it.


“Yeouch. That hurt.” Alana put her bloody index finger in her mouth and sucked on it.
“Grabbing a holly plant by the leaf is asking for it, isn’t it?” Her friend Norah asked with a giggle.
“I love how sympathetic you are. Come on. We’ve gotta go. I wanted some holly to decorate my mantel but I didn’t want to lose a limb in the process.”
Norah glanced about then looked at Alana and whispered, “Don’t turn around but here comes that guy you had a crush on in tenth grade.”
Before Alana could process whom Norah meant, a handsome dark-haired man in a polo shirt and khakis was at her elbow.
“How are you?” He smiled.
His dimples reminded Alana immediately of the days she mooned over him in biology class before he’d moved away. “I’m fine, but having an issue with the holly,”
He reached up and easily took down a massive amount. “You just have to know how to handle it. Kind of like handling a woman.” He winked.
Norah raised her brows and walked off.
Alana, hands on hips, said, “You’ve got to explain that one.”
“Holly is like a woman. She can be beautiful but sometimes put up barriers to intimacy. Those are the spiny parts of the leaves. She can also say things that may make a man not want to be around. That’s the poison in the berries. A man with a gentle touch can tame the wildness and bitterness and hold her in his arms with no problem.”
“Well, you’re some salesman. I’ll take the holly.” Alana held out her arms for the branches.
“You might hurt yourself. Maybe I should deliver it?”
“Wow, I didn’t know this Christmas tree lot made deliveries. That would be great. Do you offer decorating services as well?”
“No, but I offer to take you to dinner.” His smile made her knees weak.
“Sure but I have to take Norah home. What time do you get off?”
“I can meet you in an hour. How about the Italian place across the street? After, I can take the holly to your house.”
“Okay. Let me pay for it. I’ll see you in an hour.”
“I’ll get it. You can pay me later.”
She smiled, caught up to her friend and dashed home to change clothes.
She made it to the restaurant a few minutes late. She walked in and gasped. James, the guy from biology class was dressed in an expensive suit. There was no one in the place but him and two waiters. Holly was draped on every surface and a hundred candles glowed.
“What’s this?” Alana smiled.
“A nice dinner for two.”
“How can you afford to close a restaurant as a Christmas tree salesman?”
“I own this place. It was your mistake to think I worked at the lot.”
“So now what?”
“We dine and then I show you how I hold a woman as if she were holly.”
Alana shivered in anticipation.
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Christmas Past and Present

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Life is changing and for the first time I am planning to send out limited cards and no Christmas letter. I say plan because knowing me I could well change my mind. I find a lot of comfort in doing … Continue reading

Back to Normal…Sort of

Well, after a wonderful week in the sunshine, I’m having trouble getting back into my normal schedule. (Hence the late blog today). Hubby and I wanted some warmth and sunshine, so we headed to the Caribbean on a cruise for a week. We did a southern route, so visited Curacao and Aruba.

Curacao, especially, was interesting. We visited these bat caves and it was 1) claustrophobic, and 2) freaking me out with all these fruit bats flying around. It was pretty cool at the same time, seeing all the rock formations and stalactites (hanging from ceiling) and stalagmites (forming from the floor up). The romance author in me loved that when these two formations were reaching for each other, they called them “engaged”, but when they met and intertwined, they were “married”. 🙂

We also got to taste some authentic Curacao liquor, which was quite good, especially the Rum Raisin flavor. Yum!

Honestly, though, what we did is relaxed. I spent more time than ever before laying beside the pool on board reading. Got through more than 5 books, reading for pleasure. So it was a relaxing and fun week for us.

Then Saturday, we left Ft. Lauderdale in 80 degree weather and arrived home that night to ten degree weather. Our coats were in the car, so we shivered, along with all the Mexico and Palm Springs returnees, while waiting for the shuttle. Brrrr.

Now we’re home and I’m back to a busy schedule. But the relaxing worked. I’m plugging away at things with a smile on my face. 🙂

How about you? When’s the last time you took a vacation and truly relaxed? And where did you go? (I’m looking for future relaxing trip ideas.)


chefpicI had this at a neighborhood coffee last month and loved it. And for the first time I have a rhubarb plant in my yard so will have some readily available.


1 ½ cups brown sugar
2/3 cup liquid shortening
1 egg
1 cup sour milk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups diced rhubarb
½ cups nuts
½ tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. butter
½ cup sugar

Oil bottoms of two loaf pans. Blend sugar, shortening and egg. Add sour milk, soda, flour and salt and mix. Mix in rhubarb, nuts and vanilla and turn into greased loaf pans. Blend topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of dough, pressing lightly into batter. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes before removing.