Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

From the back of the book: Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend's impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he's in for trouble. He's been hunting for someone to wed, and she'll just get in the way. Although captivated by the whip-smart, free-spirited beauty, he fears she'd be all wrong as a wife...if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Too bad he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone - not Edwin, whom she's sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin's gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker's vow to expose the lovers' deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that's important to him to protect his bride?


I am a huge fan of Sabrina Jeffries - I don’t think there’s been one story of hers that I haven’t read and enjoyed. Oh, let's be truthful - I have a proper author girl-crush on her! Despite having all of her books to choose from, this book will definitely stay in my mind as one of her best to date.

This is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series (after Yvette and Jeremy’s story in "The Art of Sinning"). We were first introduced to Edwin, Clarissa and their basic character traits in that book. For fans of Jeffries’, Edwin is also known as he was the former fiancĂ© of Jane from "If The Viscount Falls" (Duke’s Men Book 4). Having said all that, there is absolutely no need to have read any of the preceding books before reading this one. Everything will make sense and I promise you won’t miss out on any pertinent details.

There’s nothing sexier in my book than a gruff, grumpy man who secretly has a heart of gold and an all consuming love and lust for his lady. Edwin actually went one better by having a sharp sense of humour to boot, which only Clarissa was able to bring out in him. Clarissa herself was sharp, smart and had layers enough to make her a very interesting and likeable character. Her past troubles made her vulnerable and I felt were dealt with realistically. It really made me feel for her.

Together, Edwin and Clarissa had such a palpable chemistry that it was so much fun to read. Clarissa seemed to excel at poking the grumpy bear that was Edwin and he just didn’t know how to deal with her. Except for kissing her, of course!

Overall, this is a witty, fun and sensual novel that will delight fans of a good historical romance. The characters are interesting, sexy and a pairing you can’t help but fall in love with. Sabrina Jeffries has really nailed this story. I can’t recommend this book more. A definite 5 stars.

(As an aside - does anyone else think that the hero on this cover looks like Leonard from The Big Bang Theory?)

5 stars.

* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sinful Suitors series in order:

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare

From the back of the book: snowstorm hath no fury like a spinster scorned!

Miss Elinora Browning grew up yearning for the handsome, intelligent lord-next-door...but he left England without a word of farewell. One night, inspired by a bit too much sherry, Nora poured out her heartbreak on paper. Lord Dashwood Missed Out was a love letter to every young lady who'd been overlooked by gentlemen--and an instant bestseller. Now she's on her way to speak in Spindle Cove when snowy weather delays her coach. She's forced to wait out the storm with the worst possible companion: Lord Dashwood himself.

And he finally seems to have noticed her.

George Travers, Lord Dashwood, has traveled the globe as a cartographer. He returned to England with the goal of marrying and creating an heir-only to find his reputation shredded by an audacious, vexingly attractive bluestocking and her poison pen. Lord Dashwood Missed Out, his arse. Since Nora Browning seems to believe he overlooked the passion of a lifetime, Dash challenges her to prove it.

She has one night.


I think I own most of the books in Dare’s Spindle Cove series but as yet have only read one or two. As this is a novella and would be quite a quick read, I decided not to wait until I’d read the books in the right order but instead jump right into this one.

The premise is fun and something a wee bit different from normal while still sticking to a familiar pattern of young love turning into something real.

Miss Elinora Browning - Nora - is a great character. She’s feisty and fierce while still being true to her bluestocking roots. She felt true to the time period and I could relate to her meaning that I was rooting for her happy ever after.

Interspersed in the book are chapters that bring you to Spindle Cove and those waiting out the snow storm to hear Nora speak of her famous - or infamous - pamphlet. These are the parts that give you a glimpse of the characters of the previous books in the Spindle Cove series, especially Griff and Pauline from Any Duchess Will Do and the heroes from the previous novels. As I said, I’ve not read all the books but these snippets and the banter between the gents has really made me want to pull the Spindle Cove books out and get to reading. Genuinely funny with ease and interesting banter between these characters.

This is the same with Dare’s writing throughout this story. It’s smart, funny and really flows. It’s an easy read and that, in part, is down to the way in which you’re drawn into the story.

So, why didn’t I rate this book higher? Well, I blame George Travers, Lord Dashwood aka Dash. I just couldn’t take to him. Now, I could totally understand his anger at the pamphlet that Nora wrote - she wasn’t exactly subtle about who she was talking about. I could accept if he hadn’t found her attractive when they were younger and hadn’t contemplated marriage. I could even accept that it was definitely a good thing that the pair hadn’t married all those years ago. What I couldn’t accept was his attitude and his manner with Nora. He was rude, condescending (and not in that ‘he’s arrogant but he really cares’ kind of way that I can totally get behind) and his goads and taunts felt borderline mean. Oh, he did get better towards the end of the book and I believed in their intimacy and their happily ever after - I just couldn’t really forgive him for his attitude when he and Nora first reconnected. I do like to hold a grudge!

A fun book with lots going on, an unusual premise and a witty and clever writing style - this is one I would recommend if you want to complete your Spindle Cove collection or introduce yourself to Tessa Dare’s writing. Shame that it couldn’t have been a wee bit better - I blame George!

3 stars. 

Spindle Cove series in order:

Book One: A Night to Surrender
Novella: Once Upon a Winter's Eve
Book Two: A Week to be Wicked
Book Three: A Lady by Midnight
Novella: Beauty and the Blacksmith
Book Four: Any Duchess Will Do
Novella: Lord Dashwood Missed Out
Book Five: Do You Want to Start a Scandal?

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pancakes - good or bad?

Happy Pancake Day!

I have to admit that I wasn't very smart when I did my menu plan for this week and on the table tonight is actually baked chicken Parmesan meatballs in tomato cream sauce - fancy! - instead of pancakes.

In Scotland we have Scotch pancakes instead of crepes on Shrove Tuesday. Of course, we just call them pancakes! I think the English call them dropped scones to differentiate them from pancakes aka crepes. Did I ever mention that all these nationalities that make up the British are properly weird!!?

I'll just have to hope that someone will bring in pancakes to work today so I don't have to go without on a day where you're allowed to treat yourself.

But that bothers me. Why am I "allowed" to treat myself on this day and not others? And for that matter, why do we label some foods as "good" and some as "bad"? Who's to decide which is which?

It's making me think of the ways in which we label our foods

I've noticed that there is so much pressure on people these days. As much as I love the internet, you see the lives of other people and assume that they are superwomen with high-powered jobs, clean houses, well-behaved kids and rocking bodies. Unlike me, you tell yourself.

Fear not - you can have all that, too, according to the media etc. All you have to do is undertake this diet, follow this plan, avoid these pitfalls, get up at 4am and have a positive attitude.

It's bloody exhausting.

And then I've got to create a perfect meal in just 15 minutes and am given this never ending list of  what's good and what's bad. Cheese is too high in fat, chocolate is high fat, dairy is, well, dairy, meat is evil, vegetables have too much sugar, potatoes have carbs - it's enough to drive you to drink. And yay, you can have a glass of wine because it's high in anti-oxidents. But don't have wine because you'll raise your risk of whatever disease you can think of!

Sigh! I'll just sit here and chew my piece of parsley, then.

In my own case, my Ulcerative Colitis means that I have extra problems with what I can eat. I can't tolerate seeds, nuts or grains - so wholemeal things are out the window. It's white bread all the way. The "bad" bread! Vegetables do things to me that I won't upset y'all by talking about (begins with p- and ends with -oop) and plenty of other "good" things leave me in agony.

So I've decided that the people who designate things as "good" or "bad" don't know what they're talking about as every single person is different.

But no-one should finish eating and feel such guilt over whether they have eaten enough of the "good" stuff. No-one should decide to skip meals because they think it's healthier than eating "bad" foods.

No-one should feel any guilt over food at all.

So my new motto is this:

Harold's Planet: Everything in moderation, including moderation...

If we take away the guilt over the foods we're told are "bad" and we stop telling ourselves that these foods are forbidden temptations - they lose their hold over us.

Have as much chocolate cake as you like.

Drink as much coffee as you want.

But...and here's the hard bit...remember that having a licence to do something doesn't mean you should do it all the time.

Just know that you're allowed to treat yourself to a piece of cake when you've been sweating your arse off (sorry for the swearing, mum!) or not eating snacks between meals for a week.

You're allowed to do whatever you want. Just listen to your body, learn to hear the signals of what it needs (rather than just wants) and food will stop becoming an obsession and start becoming a real pleasure.

So that's what' I'm giving up for Lent - labelling food as "good" or "bad" in order to stop my terrible obsession with food.

And now, since this has been a bit of a ranty post - I will leave you with the recipe of my favourite pancakes from Be-ro.


100g (4oz) Self Raising Flour
50g (2oz) salt
1 medium egg
4 x 15ml tbsp milk to mix
few drops lemon essence (optional)


1 Mix flour, salt and sugar, add egg and gradually beat in enough milk to make a thick batter.
2 Add essence, if used.
3 Cook 2 or 3 at a time by dropping spoonfuls of the mixture on a moderately hot, well-greased griddle.
4 Cook until the underside is golden brown and the top is covered with bubbles, about 3 minutes.
5 Turn and brown on the other side. Serve buttered, hot or cold.
N.B A baking griddle should be well-greased, then heated until a little water sprinkled on the surface skips about in balls, evaporating. A frying pan makes a good substitute


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My lovely papa turned the grand old age of 61 years young yesterday.

Or, as I like to lovingly remind him, the start of his 62nd year!

We had presents… of course, but Dad ripped them open and whipped them away to use/play with before I could snap a picture!

There was coffee and scones at Lochend Farm.

Then the family was supposed to gather to eat, drink and laugh...but one of our crew (naming no names - Jason) got Man Flu and the gathering was postponed for 2 weeks!

But the rest of us sat down for a good tea of mince and tatties - Dad’s favourite! Followed by an orange cheesecake complete with candle and obligatory 'happy birthday' sing-song! Poor Tilly was terrified!

Now, in honour of my dear dad, here are some pics…

I always manage to drag him to places that I’m not sure he thinks are very sane to venture.

This, and many of my other quirks and, well, annoyances, leaves his usual expression around me something like this:

So, happy birthday to my dad! Hope you had a lovely day and that your 62nd year is the best one ever.

Love you!

Birthday vector designed by Freepik

Friday, 5 February 2016

Yay for grammar!

I have a confession - I am a grammar pedant without any real understanding of the rules and regulations of the English language.

Due to a woeful lack of decent English language education coupled with a previous teenage indifference to ‘how’ my language actually works - I am now left bereft of any real grammatical smarts. Which really sucks when trying to win an argument about how something is said.

And I find there are a lot of people to argue with these days. (I'm taking creative licence by starting by sentence with 'and' in case you're wondering!!)

However, I was tickled when I saw this on the news today.

It seems like it’s not just me who puts stock in good grammar.


The last time I did online dating I received a message from a man that said something along the lines of:


It’s unfair to ask if there are no decent men left who know how to construct a sentence…so I’ll instead ask ‘are there no decent men who want to date me that also know how to construct a sentence'?!

So this news story brought joy to my heart.

Happy infographic time!

Valentine's Day Grammar 2016 Infographic 

Now I just need to re-read this post a few hundred times to make very sure that I haven't made any grammatical errors!

As a final note - remember, folks - good grammar is sexy!