Have always loved romance fiction, especially historical romances, and now have discovered paranormal and all kinds of different scenarios. After all, romance told against any background and in any configuration is grand!
He's visiting a military buddy in a medical rehab facility, a man who is in the throes of a lot of pain, right at that point in the rehab process where it would be so easy to just forget about ever getting well. It's just too painful! Enter a hardnosed, bratty, brash, and bossy physical therapist whose indomitable spirit is packed into the most attractive "package" that Leonardo Santini has ever seen. And so begins the saga of these two unlikely lovers, both of whom have seen the worst and the best of the military life and neither of whom are really in the market for anything permanent in their lives that has to do with love and romance.
Author Melissa Schroeder has become known in the literary romance fiction genre as one who brings the various aspects of military experience into her sizzling romances. As a military "brat" she is well equipped to flavor her stories with the realities of being a member of a branch of the armed services, the challenges to personal relationship, the hurt and destruction that seems to characterize many stillborn relationships that go "south" because of distance and long absences. This four-piece series of novellas has brought the Santini family to readers, four brothers who are all serving in one of the military branches, and all four still single. They all love their folks, they are deeply committed as brothers to one another and share that deep allegiance to country, but none have taken the time or perhaps have not been willing to open themselves up to the challenges of being in a love relationship that will be tested strenuously by absence and distance.
These are not the first of Schroeder's work that I have read and reviewed. She is one of those authors whose work almost automatically ends up on my reader--when I see her name I just buy it. Without fail the reader will heat up noticably, and all her stuff is full of zing and sizzle and romance that keeps the reader riveted to each page. No matter how long her pieces, they are never long enough. Her characters are people who are strong and independent individuals, experiencing life with all its warts and bunions, dealing with hurts that are common to us all, but trying to find a way to keep balance in their lives. She writes about unapologetic alpha males, many of whom are living within a version of the BDSM lifestyle, who are not reluctant to make a case for being in charge in the bedroom, but who treat women with respect that is often "over the top." I find these men to be interesting in that they are not afraid of being who they are, willing to allow a woman to be who she is, but who have a very definite sense of how it's going to be between them and their lovers/partners. That's just who they are. Perhaps it's Schroeder's own upbringing among authoritarian types where she witnessed the best and the worst that comes when men are given that kind of authority over others. I know that the six years that hubby was in the Army certainly taught me the difference.
Each of these novellas stands alone yet the reader can get a bit of continuation in the lives of the brothers featured in previous stories as the series moves along. I found book one to be very intense and book two to be somewhat less so. But looking back on them, I think the intensity level has as much to do with the characters' own personality, their style of relating to others. Leonardo and Gianni are more outgoing than Marco who even within the family framework was the "quiet" brother. Gianni is the youngest and his sense of self, though just as developed, is still more of a work-in-progress kind of thing. It shows up as such in the way he woos his lady. The final novella, Vincente, in now available and I have only just downloaded it. Vince is the oldest brother and sort of the "last man standing" among the four. Yet his love interest has been long in coming to him so his story has been the last to be told.
Lastly, the covers on these books are definitely drool-worthy. I know we all recognize the usual poses on many of the romance novels we read, but these are very attention getting and what female reader wouldn't just like to sit and gaze, eh? There may be snow on the mountain top but there is still fire deep down inside, or so I have been told.
Don't hesitate to invest in these novellas. I don't think I would have bought them if it hadn't been for the fact that I just happen to really like this author. But in the end, I'm glad to have read them and I wanted to share them with you.
S he came to us five years ago, sick, nearly starved to death, full of infection from having lost her last litter of kittens--we're sure she had nothing physically to sustain those offspring, and having lived for an unknown period of time on the street. She had recently been in some kind of altercation and had a wound over her right eye that had affected her ability to focus. She was a complete mess. And why we even thought about keeping her is a complete mystery to me now. But one of my daughters was visiting, the one that had become a "cat person" over the years, and she challenged us to either (1) take her to animal control and have her euthanized, or (2) take her to the vet, have her tested and checked out, and decide then what to do. (Her offer to pay for the vet visit helped us decide to go that route.)
Sophie was indeed a mess. She had mastitis, was full of parasites, tested positive for feline HIV, and needed lots of good meals. Yet the vet was sure that she hadn't manifested any signs of AIDS, wasn't a threat to any other animals, and could expect to live a good life as long as she was not put in situations where her immune system was challenged. As she was an inside cat, we took her home.
And so began the saga of Sophie as a part of our family. We named her that because she was all black, and had the most amazing sea-green eyes--almond shaped and so very mysterious. Just like that illusive thing called "Sophia" by the Greeks--wisdom and mystery. She was very shy and reticent. She hissed and rumbled at the picture of a gray wolf we had hanging on the office wall. She hid under the beds whenever anyone came to the house, but she began to accept the fact that she was a part of a family, even getting along famously with our English Shepherd, Mickey. She fattened up, got rid of her parasites, and we spayed her as soon as her infections were eliminated.
Sophie loved to sit on people's laps, especially when we were working at the computer. I don't know if it was because we were sitting in a cramped space and that made her feel more secure, or if she just took a liking to the fact that we were sitting in the same place for long periods. She would also decide which lap was preferable each evening as we were sitting down to watch the evening news and such. The rest of the time she was silent skulking around the house, and after our second rescue English Shepherd Beau came to live with us (he was a tri-color--black, white, and tan), she and Beau began to take their naps together. When Beau had a stroke about two years ago, Sophie seemed to be the one who took this absence the hardest.
Three months ago, right after moving to Tennessee, Sophie's tail quit working--she no longer swished it around like most cats do, but simply dragged it around behind her. We didn't think much about it as we had moved recently and thought perhaps she had injured it in some way during the move. Then 10 days ago the rear half of her body began dragging on the floor. We took her to the vet--I was concerned that she may have had a small stroke--and found out that all the disks in her rear spine were gone and she had significant arthritis in her pelvic region. We began the usual treatments of anti arthritic meds and steroids in low doses to curb the discomfort, but she just got less and less mobile over those few days. My "cat" daughter said that cats suffer in silence, that they are the world's most pronounced stoics. So it was with Sophie and by Memorial Day weekend, she wasn't even moving to come out for her feedings. We were taking the food to her. She was making it to the cat box less and less, and we knew she had to be in pain. Walking was a very obvious chore.
So hubby and I made the hard decision, and on Tuesday we said good-bye to our good and faithful friend. She was meowing to us plaintively as they took her back into the inner regions of the vet's offices, and we sat their grieving as we waited for them to bring back our cat carrier.
I guess we know that when we take these marvelous creatures into our lives and homes we will have to endure this kind of experience. That doesn't make it any easier. And having Sophie for only five years doesn't seem fair. She was such a good companion to Vashti and our dogs. Mickey and Beau are both gone now as well, but our present English Shepherd, Murphy, has been pacing around the house at all hours trying to find her. Vashti has been all over us the last two days, just as she was when Mickey died. We know that we are not the only ones who miss her. Hubby and I know that we miss her terribly already, but we are blessed to have had her in our lives. Go With God, Sophie.
Yet, that's right! They're my three daughters and there has never been a mom that is more proud of these very special women. I can't believe, as I look back over my life, that I was so blessed to have them in my heart and to fill my days. Even in the years since they have begun following their own paths, our relationship has broadened and deepened and is a factor that keeps my heart filled with a sense of joy and pleasure just thinking about them.
I guess Mother's Day brings so many of these thoughts to the fore, and it humbles me to know that the Powers Beyond deigned to bless me with these three wonderful women. Only daughter One was planned -- the other two were surprises--or maybe I should be really honest and use the word "shocked." We weren't really "ready" for more kids but by the time each of them has been born we were delighted and more than happy that our little family wasn't quite so little anymore.
Our oldest is a warm, vibrant, and highly motivated woman who has two grown daughters and is doing some remarkable stuff in the aero-space industry. We're living closer to her now and both hubby and I are so happy to be able to spend time with her and be a part of her life in a more direct way. This was the first Mother's Day we have spent together in quite a few years. Our middle daughter is a talented professional musician in the field of church music, co-owns her own interior decorating business and is a loving presence in the lives of her nieces and nephew. While she has not had children of her own she has "adopted" all the kids of her siblings and they love her like another parent. Our youngest daughter has two beautiful daughters and is in possession of a mind that often leaves me in awe. I'm a smart woman but there are times when I think about all the kinds of things she can do -- all at the same time -- and I am humbled, to say the least. And her memory: I don't know what to make of it sometimes. We are both book reviewers and read piles and mountains of books, but she can remember stuff that puts me right under the table.
Suffice it to say that I am so thankful that these very wonderful women are a part of my life. Love all three of you, bunches and bunches!!
Yep!! Mom's Day has come and gone and it was a very nice day at my house. Oldest daughter and her hubby and mom-in-law came for a day visit, brought half the meal (I fixed the other half) and then she gave me a beautiful cymbidiam orchid and a very nice little cross necklace. But the best part was just being together.
Now hubby really went all out: he gave me a really BIG mom's day gift: a new riding mower so that I can take care of the nearly two acres of lawn we have to mow every week. And yes, it's a blast to ride and a really neat "toy." He told me that he was going to do his part -- haven't seen that happen yet. I guess the thoughts I had most, though, were that there were so many women who aren't biological mothers, yet they have "mothered" me at some critical times through the years.
There was the really special lady that lived upstairs from us when I was living in Chicago -- a 7 or 8 year old kid in a neighborhood that was not particularly an easy place to make friends. Lots of apartments, lots of fences, and apart from some kids from school, it was a lonely time. She was a retired school teacher, and she invited me upstairs two or three times a week and we sat and talked about stuff--what was happening in school, what kind of books I liked, and so on. We read together, and I think she was partly responsible for my love of reading, for moving me ahead of many my age in that we read some pretty hefty stuff. She will always be special to me.
And then there was the ninth grade English teacher who was about 4'10'' and yet her presence was enormous. She was a stickler for getting the parts of speech right, for not ending a sentence with a preposition, and for thinking through what one says before it is said. She was also one of those visionary readers--she helped us to visualize what the words in the story were trying to convey, and for me that was like pushing open a huge door to my imagination. I will always treasure the gifts she gave me.
Lastly, I am especially grateful for my grandmother--Willie Pearl Woodring Vaughn, a woman who was always ahead of her time. She was the U. S. Postmistress of her town when she was 17--no one else would do it--and she taught school in the one room school house after she graduated from high school. She was one of the few girls who had a high school education and in her day, that was almost the same as graduating from college now. Have you seen what they had to know then in order to graduate? It's mind boggling!! She raised all her siblings--four sisters and one brother--and she successfully predicted the winner of every presidential election her entire life. She graduated from college when she was 72 years old. And she always understood and applauded every choice I made in my life, even when others in my family were not so supportive.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the women who have impacted us. What would we have done without them?
Mother's Day Recipe -- Roast Beef (Brisket) and Roasted Potatoes
One fresh brisket -- 4-7 lbs.
Onion Soup mix
Peeled russet potatoes
Place fresh brisket in large baking/roasting pan, fat side up.. Surround brisket with peeled russet potatoes. Sprinkle meat and potatoes heavily with garlic salt--meat should look almost white. Don't worry; it's not too much. Sprinkle dry onion soup mix over meat and potatoes. (One envelope is usually sufficient.) Pour water carefully into pan--avoid pouring on meat or potatoes--until about half way up the side of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 12-14 hours in 200 degree oven.
Meat will be extremely tender. Best to cool in refrig, slice in 1/4 inch slices, and then reheat in microwave. May keep juice as au jus or make gravy. Will yield lots of good meals and makes absolutely wonderful roast beef sandwiches.
Every once in awhile I come across a series or trilogy of stories that seem to grab my interest and imagination more than is usual. The first book has been on my eReader for a very long time and for some reason I just haven't taken the time to read it. Don't know why I bought it in the first place--probably because of some blurb on All Romance eBooks or some such website. Suffice it to say, when I got around to reading it recently, I was hooked and I mean really hooked!
This is the first book in the Crossfire Trilogy. A deadly mercenary wakes up in the home of Marcelle Deschamps, a woman he has never met, but who haunts his dreams. As the weeks go by, and his body heals, he finds himself falling in love with her, but can he overcome the guilt he feels at the life stolen from her? Will the dark side of his psyche, the result of his terrible past, triumph and hurt her? If she finds out his part in the death of her husband, will she chase him away or grant him absolution?
Marcelle Deschamps, the golden girl of world cycling, struggles to cope with life after the death of her husband, a famous racing driver. Life is a challenge, where even a restful night’s sleep is impossible. She saves Stefan Ziegler’s life when she finds him helpless and wounded, and gives him shelter in her home. Soon she finds out that her patient has the uncanny ability to grant her the peace that has eluded her for two years. Claude, a close friend, warns her that Stefan is a soulless killer, and not the man he pretends to be. Should she believe Claude, or listen to what her heart tells her? Can she risk trusting the man who holds her heart in his hands?
This first book really sets the stage for all that comes from here on out. It is filled with people who are good to the core, some who flirt with danger or skirt the rules of society, and there are those who are evil through and through. Stefan is a man with a sad and destructive past, an upbringing that has made him first and foremost into a survivor, a man who has learned to discount the value of human life, especially those who think it is OK to kill innocents for political gain or because of their loyalty to fanatical causes. It is just such a person who has wounded Stefan seriously and whose life is inextricably linked to Stefan and Marcelle throughout all three books. Yet for both of the main characters, their meeting has now opened up new possibilities, the kind neither ever expected and which neither know how to manage. Stefan is truly in love for the first time in his life; Marcelle, however, is struggling with the grief over her first husband, a man who accepted her, her need for winning, her unpredictable lifestyle, and her sometimes killer mood-swings and who loved her unconditionally. How does one move on from that kind of loss? Yet loss is a reality and an ever-present component of Stefan's life, one he is becoming less and less able to tolerate as time goes on and as his love for Marcelle grows.
Stefan tries to find his way back into Marcelle's heart, but his betrayal had wounded her deeply, and she had fallen into a destructive lifestyle. To save Marcelle's life, he kidnaps her and takes her back to La Montagne. Will this turn out to be the biggest mistake he has ever made? Will she ever trust him again?
Falling in love is one thing, managing and sustaining a long-term relationship built on that emotion is often not easy. For these two very intense and very differently motivated people, just keeping their schedules coordinated takes skill. Their hearts are not atuned to putting someone else's interest first. For Marcelle it is all about winning, and she begins to slide down the slippery slope that plagues many professional athletes when she becomes involved with prescription and performance enhancing drugs. Yet it all goes back to her unwillingness to move on from her husband's death--the "ice" of numbing grief keeps on threatening to encase her insides. Only Stefan has been able to melt that coldness and now he is distant from her, with their break-up once again putting her back into that lonely, dark place where the ice can once again paralyze her. Stefan is a man of action and only his intervention can stop her destructive behaviors. It is a book that will further entrap the reader in a story that just keeps on getting more and more complicated. This story brings background characters more to the forefront of the story, with their contributions to the situation that binds Stefan and Marcelle.
Stefan's worst fears come true when Marcelle disappears after a meeting with her cycling team manager on his smallholding outside Paris. As Omega, an anti-terrorist organisation, starts a race against the clock, desperate to find her before it’s too late, Stefan goes to pieces, blaming himself for drawing her into his world. Can their marriage survive such a cruel test? Will Marcelle’s bitter experiences at the hands of her captors change her forever, even if she survives? Will she blame Stefan? Can he stop blaming himself?
What keeps coming out in these three books is the fact that Stefan is a man with a genius IQ, a person who has put together an anti-terrorist organization that is sought by individuals and governments alike, and a man who has never really resolved his own personal sense of loos and guilt over what has happened in his past. Add in his fear that his enemies will take Marcelle as a way of getting to him, and you have a potent mixture of emotions, fears, and anxiety that continues to play out in the situations in this story. Stefan is so fearful of making Marcelle a target, that he insists on keeping their relationship a secret and gives her a necklace, a locket shaped out of a ruby that contains evidences of his love for her. Yet his worst fears become a reality. The first half of this novel tell of Marcelle's personal trip to hell as she is tortured by Stefan's enemies, some of whom he thought he had eliminated. The second half is about her recovery, her difficulties trying to re-enter a "normal" life (if you can call Stefan's world normal), and the rocky ups and downs of trying to keep their relationship intact. What is most distressing is the fact that both these powerful and intense people have a skewed sense of reality that has been warped by their past experiences, all of which are painful and destructive.
This trilogy is intense, deeply emotional, filled with suspense, pain, and deep hurt, balanced by the healing and redeeming power of love that each of these characters desire so desperately. By the end of the third book I had really mixed feelings: on the one hand I was really worn out over all that these two had endured. On the other hand, there was a pressing desire to read a sequel that would prove that these two were able to put their relationship together in a sustainable way. I don't know if the author can do that, but perhaps in writing additional stories about the Omega personnel, author Niki Savage can also provide some updates on Stefan and Marcelle. I know that lots of reviewers would love to know that they got past all the PTSD that has plagued them and found a sure foundation for a life together that endures.
This is the first work I have read by this author but I think she has done a great job. All the books are well written and the stories flow in such a way that it is obvious to me that the author has a good grasp of the stories as a whole. When I was teaching creative writing it was always obvious when a student was sort of making it up as they went along without some sort of plan that gave the story structure. Not so here. It is a series/trilogy that readers can sink their teeth into, that will hold their interest from the beginning and will involve the reader both intellectually as well as emotionally. One warning: some reviewers have been impatient because the recovery phase in book three seems extended. That's the whole point. Both Stefan and Marcelle are faced with the necessity of facing their wounds and dealing with them in constructive ways, not just "stuffing" them away as many are wont to do. These are not easy books to read and they will put the reader's patience to the test. I think that's OK in this instance. What these two have endured is not easy to overcome.
So read and enjoy -- these books came out in 2011 and 2012. But they were new to me and I found them well worth the time and effort to experience.
I guess it's really no mystery why I inevitably end up with my nose in a book at almost every opportunity. I learned to read when I was four years old and I can clearly remember the first time I read words out of the reading primer I had, the absolute delight at having successfully translated those marks on the page into language both my mother and I could understand. Yes, it was the Dick and Jane book, but it was nowhere but 'up' from that point.
Reading has always been my safe haven . . . the entry into that magical world of literary entertainment or learning that has always fascinated me. During my growing up years I was prone to have four or five books "going" at once, scattered all around my house, so that no matter what my mom gave me to do, there was a book handy and I could keep it in one hand while struggling to do something with the other. I never had any trouble keeping the stories straight either.
Now I have walked through several decades of life, raised children with my hubby of many years, and all through those personal and professional times I have had my friends: my books. Our recent move turned out to be far more expensive than we planned, largely because of all my books. My hubby would have gladly had a book-burning for the whole neighborhood but it would have been like a wholesale massacre of my "friends." And in recent years, reading for enjoyment as well as for book reviews has taken up time but none of those moments spent reading have been difficult. Now my hubby gets irritated when he sees my nose in a book more often than not, but as much as he loves to read it has never been the safe place for him as it has for me.
Now with my daughter's near and close skirmish with cancer, reading has been where I have gone for stress relief. I know others who love games on the computer or their iPads or iPods or cell phones, but I just have my stack of books and that's where I find it so relaxing to roam amid the lives of others, learn about far away places and times long gone, and appreciate the scholarship and efforts of those writers who give us non-fiction tomes as well as committed literary artisans who craft stories of fantasy. How I wish I could have done something like that. Of course, I realize I can do things others can't, so I guess it's important that I appreciate and treasure my own gifts as well as others.
I just know that reading has been a constant in my life for all but about four years, and I can't conceive of it ever being different. I wonder sometimes what I would do if my sight were to be threatened or fail. I guess that would open up the world of audiobooks. In any event, I don't think I can ever imagine my life without the companionship of books. They are truly the doorway to the world and to a kind of tension release I don't think I could have done without.
It's absolutely the truth and when it happened, it caught us all unawares. Death tried to come calling, and needless to say, and that almost-visit managed to be a significant wake-up call. Enough with the flowery language. We've had a scare in our family.
For my family which is made up of a preponderance of women, the spectre of breast cancer had never been a problem. We were all careful to get our mammograms, to do our self-examinations, to eat well and keep our immune systems health. But at least one woman in every generation(on my mother's side) of my family have had cystic breast disease so we have sort of held our collective breath to see if the condition would get lethal. Well, it finally has.
Last week, one of my three daughters had breast cancer surgery. And yet, her story is one of those that almost has the listener's jaw dropping. She had her regular mammogram at the end of 2012. Clear as a bell! Thankfully, she has a family doctor who looked at those films and didn't like what she saw. The radiologist didn't either. So there was enough uneasiness that they convinced the insurance to pay for a MRI biopsy on the left breast. Benign! But . . . the MRI revealed a mass in the right breast that didn't even show up on the mammogram. So another MRI biopsy was scheduled. Again . . . benign. So since the masses were fairly significant, the oncology surgeon recommended removal which was done. No problem, right? Wrong. When the mass from the right breast was examined post op in the pathology lab, it was discovered that it was malignant. All this after a mammogram and two biopsies that declared everything was fine. Good thing she had doctors who weren't comfortable with the test results.
Now she has had the follow-up mastectomy with the beginnings of reconstruction and is doing well in her post-op recovery. I did tell her that getting up in the middle of the night to give her pain medication was reminiscent of night feedings, and helping her with her showers was a whole lot more trouble than when I used to give her baths in the kitchen sink when she was a baby. But all in all, she's doing well, and even when she had a bit of an emotional melt-down--something we all have when we are on the other side of a crisis -- she had to admit that the idea of being a cancer survivor was mind-boggling to say the least.
We seldom realize how close death comes . . . we may not even realize that we were just "that close" to having a terrible accident, or that if we had been just a few moment early or late we would have been in a life-threatening situation. We live without concern that we may be days away from heart attack or stroke (those kinds of things happen to other people) or that people we love are in some kind of danger that could bring about their death. So now that we have felt the faint breeze caused by the flapping robes of the Grim Reaper in our family as he made his presence known, we all have a new appreciation for the joy of living, of knowing that every day is precious.
Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow isn't here yet.
We only have today, and that is why we call it "The Present."
Many, many thanks for the gift of today and the lives we all share.