Posts tagged with: Christmas

Snippets from Christmas Day at the Ferrell’s

Amid the chaos that happens in a house with five kids under the age of seven, twin babies and a puppy just over a year old on Christmas Day, I found time to enjoy and observe the family (sometimes known as the thundering horde that invades my peaceful domain–said with great love and affection). So I thought I’d share some of that evening with you.

The meal was lovely and we noted more eating was taking place at the adult table and lots of giggling was happening over at the kids’ table. This could be that the kids were having more fun or perhaps the adults were realizing this is the “Only happens on Christmas” meal and were devouring it with great intent? (Menu: Grilled flank steak, grilled Atlantic Salmon, Shrimp cocktail platter–made by me and not prefrozen, Augratin potatoes, crab stuffed mushrooms and bacon and broccoli salad.)

Then we dug into the Christmas stockings.

all-natural-beef-shank-bone-for-dogs-1Oh, wait. FIRST we neutralized the investigative nose of one very curious and energetic boxer/redhealer mix puppy. Yes, Rusty Puppy got a BIG beef ribeye bone to keep him out of the chaos. Of course that didn’t stop him from lying right in the middle of the family room while he gnawed happily on his gift!

Tradition continued. So, stockings…Lots of candy, do-dads, guitar/bass/mandolin strings (we have three guitarists in the family), ornaments, and toys for the kiddos. But the biggest hit, heard said by at least four adults, “We got toothbrushes. Yea! Mom forgot those last year.” Seriously people, traditions are strong with this bunch. Forget the toothbrushes once and you hear about it for years!

Almost all the presents were given out and opened, when the Jazzman got one from me to him and all the grandkids. It’s a book titled, The Book Without Any Pictures. They all gathered round and he read it to them, complete with crazy expressions and funny voices. It was a hit. Lots of giggling going on. (I couldn’t video tape it as I had my hands full of one baby and a bottle, but here is a Youtube of a teacher reading it so you can imagine the story at our house! Foods Bag

Funniest thing. At one point I notice my oldest grandson walking around with a paperbag, with handles, carrying everything he got inside. No matter where he went in the house, that bag went with him. :) Cracked me up, but I had to know why? His answer: Because Grandma Suzie, when I was at Nanny’s house (his other grandmother) I forgot a present and it made me cry. I don’t want to forget anything this time.” I’m still laughing over it!

Odd moment. I was listening to my oldest granddaughter read to me from her new read alone books, when I noticed the grownup kids in a circle on the far side of the room. Focusing my attention a moment, I realized they were discussing the flaws in the newest Superman movie to the actual comic story. Uhm, who knows the cannons of comic books so well that they can have a heated discussion on the merits of the new movie vs the actual original story? My kids/in-laws!

51SG6-Q8c4L._SY300_Quiet moment. My second grandson, who sort of does his own thing, brought me his new Planes book and asked me to read it to him. He crawled up beside me with a sugar cookie in his hand. He told me the name of each plane as we went and listened to the story of Dusty Crophopper. When I finished, he said, “I’ll be right back.” He returned with another cookie, cuddled up close and said, “Read it again, Grandma.” Which, of course, I did.

Peaceful scene. My son’s girlfriend got the girls big poster size coloring pages from the Frozen movie. Well, the crayons in the stockings were all spanking new, so the youngest granddaughter and the girlfriend’s little boy hunkered down in a spot and colored quietly and with great purpose.

Finally, the Jazzman was starting to doze off and the last family was packing up to leave. As soon as they went out the door…silence. No seriously, the entire house seemed to settle down into peace, quiet and ready for a long nap.

What your favorite moment from your holiday celebration? Any traditions started? Any you forgot and will now here about for an entire year?

Christmas Book Exchange, Plus Contest News

Merry Christmas from the Banditas

Thank you so much for joining our informal little holiday fete. We offered to give the cabana boys the day off, but the sweet lads couldn’t think of anywhere else they’d rather be. They’ve brought several large, cushy sectionals into the Lair, their glistening muscles softly lit by the twinkling lights on our beautiful tree.

Her Christmas Earl: A Regency NovellaThere’s a variety of finger foods over by the fireplace. It’s a potluck, so I hope you brought a dish to share.

It’s a very low-key sort of festive, the perfect setting for our virtual Christmas Book Exchange. It’s sort of like Secret Santa, Bandita style. What book did you bring, and what do you love about it? (No fair bringing a book that you wrote!)

My contribution is HER CHRISTMAS EARL by our very own Anna Campbell! Not only is this the perfect treat for keeping that Christmas feeling going just a little while longer, but the red on the cover matches our holiday décor.

The party is very come-and-go today. We’re all spending the day with our families, and popping in as we have time to visit with our wonderful friends here.

Speaking of which… you should pop over to the Secret Room at to enter the Paperback-a-Day Bookapalooza. Which is just what it sounds like… during the month of December, I’m giving away a book every single day.

Kate Carlisle Contest

Again, wishing you the very happiest of holidays! May your day be filled with love.

What finger food did you bring to the party? And more importantly, what book did you bring to the book exchange?

Festive Fun – English Style – Quick Five!

IMG_1839Yes, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year’! Only two more sleeps! (Assuming you can sleep on Christmas Eve!)

I know it’s fashionable to be all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas (or Hannukah/Festivus/Kwanzaa etc), but I really do love this holiday season. From the twinkling lights, the decorated tree and house, the festive food, the cheesy, schmaltzy films to the presents, celebrations and traditions. Speaking of traditions, I thought it would be fun to share with you some our English Christmas traditions.

Because we don’t have Thanksgiving over here in England, the period between Christmas and New Year is extra-special for us. It’s a time when most people try to have a few days off, so they can do the rounds of the family and also chill out!

Also related to not having Thanksgiving, we don’t decorate until the 1st of December at the earliest. And we’re very strict about decorations having to be down by midnight on twelfth night (Jan 5th) – it’s believed to be unlucky. Unfortunately, as we’re away at a new year wedding, we’ll have to take them down on the 6th this year. Hopefully, if it’s still the 5th somewhere in the world, we’ll be okay!

DSC_2272We’re very traditional about our food too. Yes, some people do actually make a point of having goose or try to be different with turducken or beef, but most of us stick with turkey. It’s always served with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce, brussel sprouts, roasted parsnips and roasted potatoes. Often, there will be added accompaniments like pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon) or a chestnut dish and even Yorkshire Pudding. In recent years cranberry sauce has made an appearance on many tables. Most families also have their own traditional extra dish. In our family, it’s cream cheese stuffed mushrooms.

Another one of our traditions is Christmas crackers. We all pull crackers, wear the silly paper hats, share the terrible little jokes  and laugh at the usually useless prize inside. (That’s me pulling a cracker with Doc Cambridge’s dad!)

DSC_0077 - CopyAfter lunch, or as dessert if you have room, there is the flaming Christmas pudding (often with a sixpence or silver treat inside – the person who finds it is very lucky!), Christmas cake and/or mince pies with brandy butter or cream. I’m not one for Christmas pudding, but I love Christmas cake and mince pies. My favourite dessrt, though, is trifle!

In the past, everyone listened to or watched the annual Queen’s Speech. Even those Brits around the world and people in Commonwealth countries would tune in to the BBC World Service, to hear what she had to say. These days, with social media, the internet and everyone needing to have a scoop, the text is available in advance. Also in the past, because we had very few channels, and no videos or DVDs, there would be a battle between the two major stations (BBC and ITV) for the big Christmas blockbuster movie premiere – which was usually at least a year old! These days, everything gets to TV so quickly and there are so many other options available, that the Christmas line-up, while still featuring a movie premier, concentrates more on Christmas specials of favourite shows like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, and the evening soaps.

A Perfect CatchMany families also avoid the TV and play board or card games! I find it’s the perfect time to sit down and read a book, uninterrupted except for someone handing you a mince pie or a drink!

And then there is Boxing Day – but those of you who have been with us in the Lair, know all about that! One of my old Boxing Day posts – which includes my famous Boxing Day Soup is here.

So, without further ado, it’s time for you to share your holiday traditions in the special festive edition of Quick Five! As part of the annual 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, not one, but two lucky commenters will win a signed copy of A Perfect Catch – and receive it before it’s released on Feb 1! If you’ve also signed up for my newsletter, you can receive a bonus exclusive Anna Sugden keyring (let me know in your comment).

1. Let’s talk lights – coloured or white, twinkling or static, just on the tree or elsewhere too?

2. Christmas lunch – what do you have and what’s your family’s traditional extra?

3. Christmas dessert or sweet treats – what’s your favourite?

4. Traditional Christmas activity – watch TV, play games or something else?

5. Do you open presents on Christmas Eve, in the morning or in the afternoon? Are you a rip into them all at once, or savour each one carefully? Does everyone open all at once or do you take turns?

Close To Christmas Weddings

Wh2c32c4b2bf91d7a296545f98fd37ee1aen I was a teenager, my older cousin Cindy got married.

It was in Ohio.

In December.

In the cold and snow.

I was all of 13, but fit in well with two of her sisters who were a year older and younger than me, so I was quickly enlisted in the bridesmaid corp. It was my first winter wedding. It was my first wedding as part of the wedding party.

We wore burgundy velvet, floor length gowns. Our hair pieces were head bands with silk poinsettias glued to them and instead of bouquets of flowers, we carried white furry muffs with another poinsettia pinned to the front of them. It was an afternoon wedding, but the grey winter sky that threatened more snow made it feel like late evening, almost dusk.

I remember little about the ceremony itself. My cousin married the man who is still her husband nearly 40 years later. My cousins and I had fun getting ready, doing our hair, walking down the aisle and partying with everyone later.

That was a much different wedding than the other important December wedding in my life, the one that took place between my mother and father.

They decided to get married 3 days before Christmas. They had very little money, so they just went to the Justice of the Peace in their little hometown to elope. No months of pre-wedding planning. No bridesmaids, no bestmen/ushers, no flowers, no cake. Just two people deciding they wanted to spend their lives together.

And they did.

For the next 61 and 1/2 years they stayed together. Through thin times (and there were many of those in the beginning) and through thick. Through rich and poor. Through sickness and health. Through three kids, three in-laws, eight grandchildren, and a bunch of great-grandkids. Through ups and downs. They stuck it out. Close to Christmas final

The last fall I was home before my daddy passed away, I noticed something. They touched each other often. Daddy would walk by Mom as she sat at the table talking to me. He’d just pat her shoulder and she’d reach up and pat his hand. Then he’d head to the family room. This happened several times a day. It seemed the older they got, the more the need to touch each other became. When I asked Mom about it, she said, “We just like to remind each other we’re glad we’re here.”

When I moved away from home many, many years ago, I decided it would be fun to send my parents a flower arrangement for their anniversary. It was usually a centerpiece of holly and evergreen and red candles for their dining room table or poinsettias for their fireplace. Sending it on the twenty-second let me surprise them on their anniversary and know they could enjoy them through the holiday season.

The last two years, since Daddy died, I’ve made sure there were red roses in the arrangement. See, he grew roses, Mom’s favorite flower, and every day during rose season, (May-Sept in Ohio), he’d cut fresh roses for her vases in the kitchen and family rooms.

So, when I decided to write a Christmas novella for the Westen series, I naturally titled it CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS. And when I think of the phrase close to Christmas, it reminds me of my parents anniversary which was always…close to Christmas. :) And winter weddings can be such fun.

Here’s the blurb for the novella:

It’s been a long dangerous year for the town folks of Westen. A celebration is just what they need. It’s four days before Christmas and the town is not only decked out in their holiday best, but looking forward to the wedding of Sheriff Gage Justice and his love, Deputy Bobby Roberts.

First Bobby’s lawyer sister, Chloe comes to town looking over her shoulder, which has the quiet deputy, Wes Strong wondering what has her running scared. Then problems start to happen with the wedding plans.

Has Chloe brought trouble to Westen?

Or does someone in town want to ruin the wedding this close to Christmas?

And I even borrowed my parents wedding anniversary for the date Gage and Bobby are getting married. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So, do you know anyone who was married close to Christmas? Have you ever been in a winter wedding? Do you think they’re romantic? Have you been a bridesmaid? How many times? (I was 6 and a matron of honor once.) 

Since this is a little launch party and I’m celbrating my parents anniversary in two days, how about I give out 2 print copies for CLOSE TO CHRISTMAS as part of the Bandita 12 Days of Christmas?


Holiday Twists

I love the holidays and am a big fan of traditions.  But sometimes, twists are even better.  I have been laughing so hard at the various videos and memes out this season that either twist, tweak or simply torture those traditions.  They are so fun, and better, funny!  I think thats one of my favorite joys of the holiday season–the laughter and lighthearted fun.

Here are a few of my favorites.

 I adore all things Star Trek:TGN and giggled my way through watching this (four or five times), then had an almost uncontrollable urge to start watching the entire 7 seasons.  But we’re in holiday movie mode right now, so I decided to hold off on my Picard love until the new year.  Although I am watching the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol tomorrow.   evil elf

I shared this meme with my sister-in-law with instructions to hide it from my niece, who loves the Elf on a Shelf tradition.  I’m having more fun watching the mocking of the Elf on a Shelf than having anything else.  whore in a drawerAnd then there’s the alternate to Elf on a Shelf (sorry, I know it’s totally inappropriate but I laugh like crazy whenever I see it) Whore in a Drawer.

There are a lot of holiday light memes floating around. The palm tree one makes me snicker every time I see it but I figured I was pushing the bounds of politeness posting Whore in a Drawer so I figured I wouldn’t post that one (you can google it though *g*). xmas lights So here’s a fun light meme that I’d love to do some year!

xmas cat And then there are those holiday truisms, like cats and trees are a combination for a funny mess.

And, okay, this is from last year apparently but I just saw it this week so I had to share.  Vrai Anna, this ones for you!!!

Are there any twists on tradition videos or memes that you’ve enjoyed this season?

And since I’m heading into the cave until the end of the month, I’m sending you all Holiday Hugs and Happy Wishes!! I hope your season is filled with joy, laughter and fun.  

It’s A Wonderful Life

Just like George Bailey, I thought we’d take a trip back to Christmas’ past in the Bandit time machine. Come closer….gaze with me into the crystal ball. See what we were up to in 2008:popcorn

We’ve been very busy here in The Lair getting ready for the holidays. Demetrius cut down the Christmas tree with his gladius and Lucien has been stringing popcorn which has taken longer than we anticipated as he eats two bowls of the stuff for every  one that makes it on the string! The GR was in charge of ornaments, flapping up to the boughs to place each ornament just so….which also took extra long as he kept getting distracted by all the shiny balls. The hockey hunks solved that by replacinbroken ones with pucks!

Marcus keeps shaking the packages while Sven insists that today is NOT the first day of Bandit Christmas but Lucia day….a tradition from his home country where it is believed man and beast require extra nourishment……..Stop! Boys! Stay away from the cookies!!!cookies

Yes, we are steeped in tradition, steeped in good will, steeped in eggnogg…..Oh, wait! That’s just Anna C.  and AC  (squints at shoes sticking out from beneath the table) maybe….Suz???

xmas tree

Tawny, Jo stop standing under the mistletoe winking at the glads….no…no. ack! Jeanne! Stop shaking the packages! No, there is not C4 in the green one…no! Really! Don’t. Shake. It.

Oh, wonderful. Anna S. just breezed in from England with a huge bowl of wassel….like we NEED more alcohol…and now she’s taking down the mistletoe and chasing the hockey guys around!
What? Yes, yes Donna that corset is very pretty in green and red. Oh, my…it lights up…and in the most interesting places. Look, Susan and Kate have just arrived from the cave…..nice Elf hats girls. Do ya’ll hear that? What is that carol Nancy, Caren and Christie are singing? “Deck the Halls with SuperHero Figures”…no, I think the words are…
Stop! Stop! Kirsten, honey really I don’t think doughnuts will hold up as a wreath..the glaze don’t you know. Ah, Christine…just in time….I need help with….what have you got on your head? A candle wreath? You say you’re name is Lucia??? Sven! Sven…come back here and finish the wreath! Beth, Trish….step away from the long, weapon like package KJ just put under the tree…um, don’t put it close to that green package!
Now, excuse me….Cassondra is putting TRUCK NUTS in the stockings!!!!
This party is getting out of control and we haven’t even served the cake…er, pie…er, cake.
(Collapses against reindeer) Never mind. Let’s get on with the Christmas trivia.
**Wow, that was so much fun! Remembering those early days in The Lair. Fond memories of our Bandits who are trailing other paths. Memories of fun with the young cock….er…GOLDEN Rooster! Yeah, that’s the ticket. He’s kind of creaky in the wishbone nowadays. A lot of wonderful BB’s and more characters than you can shake a, a chicken, er a magical shillelagh at. I’ll need all of you to get us through the day. I’ll be at work and will only be able to pop in now and again. So once you answer these Christmas trivia questions, post one of your own. Grab some eggnog and let’s do it!

"Naughty, naughty, ooo...nice..."

“Naughty, naughty, ooo…nice…”


1. What do the carolers in the song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” insist they be given?

2. Who wins the decorating contest in “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”
3. Where did the Grinch steal Christmas?
4. When a Ukrainian finds a spider web in their Christmas tree, what does it signify?
5. Who was the first ghost to appear to Ebenezzer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?”
6. What Christmas song was introduced in the movie “Holiday Inn”?
7. What non-traditonal Christmas movie sports the character Oogie Boogie?
8. What actor won an Academy award playing Santa Clause?
9. What branch of the American military is associated with Toys for Tots?
10. What did Carol Brady lose that jeopardized the Brady’s Christmas celebration?

Party Hearty!







Hi Everyone!

Have you heard about our Facebook Holiday Extravaganza  tomorrow? (That’s the 12th of December. The details of the event are here. Make sure you join us throughout the day as we celebrate the holiday season and give away lots of prizes!

The best thing about virtual parties is you can have anything you want–neither expense nor reality is a consideration. Hire a tropical island and some cabana boys, get Paolo and Sven (not to mention Sven’s taciturn brother, Lars) making cocktails, giving massages, the hockey hunks and Romans mingling with the croU135P200T1D353428F8DT20101224023730wd and… Wait, that sounds very familiar…

Our lair parties are the stuff of legend, but how about something a leetle more sophisticated? A marquee on the lawn with an oyster bar and Champagne? Or how about the great old Aussie barbie, with lashings of seafood and ice cold beer? A Spanish theme with paella and sangria?

Then there are the costume parties, which can be a lot of fun. These seem to be getting fewer and farther between for me these days but there’s nothing better to break the ice than checking out how ridiculous everyone looks.

Of course, if you’re in the northern hemisphere right now you’re probably thinking about mulled wine, roasting chestnuts and eggnog, but above all, you’re thinking about having your Christmas party somewhere warm.

Party_and_event_planning_disco_resizeMeanwhile, we in Australia are trying to beat the heat. For those of us who insist on doing the traditional things, Christmas fare can be a bit of a mixed blessing! The difference in season doesn’t stop us singing all the old traditional carols like “Let it Snow” and “Jingle Bells”, though. Our children grow up a tad confused about the whole Christmas thing.

What’s your favourite sort of party? What’s the last costume party you went to and what did you go as? Are you going to join us for Christmas frivolity tomorrow?

This is my last blog for the year, so I want to thank you all for the wonderful times we’ve had in 2014 and with you happy holidays and a fabulous New Year!

Exclusive Excerpt from Her Christmas Earl

Earl low resHartley Manor, Wiltshire, Christmas Eve, 1823

HER HEART RACING, Philippa Sanders inched the massive oak door into the bedroom open. She prayed that nobody emerged into the lamplit corridor and caught her in a place where no lady of good reputation should be. Especially near midnight.

Quick and silent as a cat, she slipped into the shadowy room and carefully closed the door after her. In the stillness, the latch’s snick resounded like a gunshot. Her breath jammed in her throat, and she stood still and trembling, waiting for someone to investigate the noise. But the rambling old house remained quiet. She sucked in some desperately needed air and berated herself for being a jumpy widgeon.

The room, as she’d known it would be, was empty. Before coming here, she’d checked that Lord Erskine remained downstairs, carousing with his drunken cronies. If the last three nights were any indication, his flirtation with the brandy bottle would continue into the early hours. That left Philippa plenty of time to search his belongings undisturbed.

The thought did little to calm her nerves. Should anyone catch her alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, worse, such a notorious gentleman, there would be the devil to pay.

If only the stakes weren’t so high. If only her sister Amelia wasn’t such a ninnyhammer. If only Erskine wasn’t a man who turned even sensible women silly.

Philippa sighed and straightened away from the door. “If only” wouldn’t help. It was imperative that she found and destroyed the compromising letter her henwitted sister had sent Erskine before her engagement to Mr. Gerald Fox had been announced last night.

Then Philippa would take to her heels and never think about the rakish Lord Erskine again.

By the light of the fire blazing in the hearth, she surveyed her surroundings with a jaundiced air. The chamber was large and luxurious. Her aunt must be trying to turn Lord Erskine up sweet, in the hope that he’d offer for her horse-faced daughter Caroline. Given the trouble his libertine lordship had caused, Philippa almost wished her vile cousin on him. Over the last few days, she’d observed him closely. She couldn’t approve of the cynical light in his eyes and the way he arrogantly assumed that any chit in his vicinity must swoon at his merest word.

However Philippa wouldn’t be female without admitting that he was a spectacular specimen of masculinity.

She’d worried that it might take too long to locate the letter, or that he might carry it as a trophy, but her gaze immediately fell on a beautiful mahogany writing slope left open on the window seat. She could hardly believe her luck. Pulses kicking with relief, she rushed toward the window.

Then stopped on a horrified gasp when she heard the doorknob squeak as it turned.

Lord save her…

Frantically she dived across the few feet of floor to the dressing room. She had time to notice dark coats hanging from rows of pegs and shelves neatly stacked with clothing. Hands shaking, she tugged the door closed until she cowered in thick darkness. Thick darkness redolent with leather and soap and sandalwood—and something undefined that teased her senses.

Dizzy with fear and that unfamiliar but pleasant scent, she silently prayed that whoever had come in would finish what they were doing and go. Much as she strained, she couldn’t hear a thing, even with her ear pressed to the door. The thick wood blocked all sound, just as it blocked all light.

The dressing room door jerked open, unbalancing her. She only just saved herself from tumbling to the floor in an undignified heap. As she stared up at the looming figure above her, panic hammered through her, turned her blood to ice.

“What have we here?” The Scottish burr in the deep drawl brushed across her nerves like sandpaper.

Sick with dread, Philippa lurched away, crowding against the coats lined against the back wall. This was beyond awful. What must he think? What might he do?

Lord Erskine’s chest was bare and a white shirt dangled from one elegant hand. The wall lamp near the doorway spilled gold over a terrifying expanse of gleaming skin. His lordship’s sardonic green gaze focused on her.

His calmness only built her fright. One would imagine that he was accustomed to discovering well-bred virgins huddled in his undergarments. Curse him, he probably was. Philippa had only met Blair Hume three days ago, but like most of the nation, she knew his reputation for subverting even the most virtuous ladies.

“My lord—” Desperately she struggled not to stare at his impressive chest with its scattering of dark hair.

“Miss Philippa Sanders.” With unconcealed irony, he bowed. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

To her horror, he stepped into the confined space. The dressing room had been tiny before. Now it was suffocating. Her heart pounded with fear. That cursed elusive scent made her head swim as she wedged herself into the wall, wishing she could disappear altogether.

Still his tall body remained scant inches away. Surely it was only in her imagination that a subtle heat radiated out to envelop her.

“I mistook the room,” she stammered.

She made the error of glancing at his chest. Broad. Powerful. Sculpted with muscle. She gulped for air. Watching the farm workers from a distance without their shirts wasn’t at all the same as facing down a half-dressed rake in his bedroom.

A wry smile curled the rake’s thin, expressive lips. “By a whole wing, apparently.”

She straightened and glared at him, struggling to ignore the way his thick black hair was ruffled and his eyes devoured her. A gentleman would pretend to believe her, however feeble her lie.

Clearly Lord Erskine was no gentleman.

“It’s late,” she said with hard-won steadiness, telling herself that if she kept her head, she might yet escape unscathed. By Lord Erskine or by scandal. “I must return to my room.”

He didn’t step aside to let her pass. Definitely no gentleman. “Not quite yet.”

Meeting his gaze required every ounce of faltering courage. “Not before you return my sister’s letter at any rate.”

Surprisingly he laughed. “Huzzah, Miss Sanders. I knew there was more to you than the little shadow glowering at me from the corner.”

She flushed with chagrin. She’d had no idea this darling of the ton had noticed her, let alone remarked her disapproval. “My lord, I insist that you give me Amelia’s letter immediately.”

“Or what?” Dark eyebrows tilted in supercilious inquiry. At least he’d stopped staring at her like he meant to gobble her up like a Christmas bonbon. “You’ll unfold all my shirts and stamp on them?”

Welcome anger bolstered her defiance. “A man of honor would return the letter.”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

“Why?” Her fists clenched at her sides as the urge to clout him thundered through her. “What do you intend to do with it?”

His smile broadened, and in spite of irritation, frustration and fear, his male beauty made her throat tighten. No wonder Amelia had made such a fool of herself over him. Right now, even clever, pragmatic Philippa Sanders felt a little giddy to have all that glorious virility focused on her humble self.

“I intend to do precisely nothing, my sweet little Yuletide burglar.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”

His smile intensified. “It means that I burned it immediately after I read it.”

She drew her first full breath in what felt like days. Since Amelia’s tearful confession of her arrant stupidity, apprehension had knotted Philippa’s belly. If Erskine wanted to cause trouble, he could use her sister’s letter to spark an awful scandal—not to mention scupper Amelia’s newly minted engagement to a nice young man of substantial means.

Philippa paused, knowing she owed Lord Erskine her heartfelt thanks for his unexpected chivalry and, even more urgently, an apology for invading his room. But her response sounded grudging, even in her own ears. “That was…generous of you.”

The mocking smile didn’t fade. “I’m glad you think so.”

All night, anger had lurked beneath her fear. Firstly at Amelia for being such a rattlebrain and creating this mess, then at herself for getting caught. Most futile of all was her anger at Lord Erskine for coming in at such an inopportune moment. Although at least now she knew what had happened to the letter. “I must go.”

“No rush, my fascinating Miss Sanders.” He shifted closer and the light behind him lent his face a suddenly sinister expression.

“I’m not your Miss Sanders,” she snapped with a resurgence of dread. A chill trickled down her spine. Awareness of her own danger swamped any gratitude for Amelia’s reprieve.

“Not yet, at any rate,” he said mildly, pulling the door shut behind him.

Darkness wrapped around them. Rage and terror spurred Philippa to surge forward, shoving hard at Lord Erskine. Her hands met smooth, warm skin and an immovable male body. The silky hair on his chest created soft friction against her palms. “Let me out of here.”

“Devil take you, do you never say please?” He shifted to break the contact, but not nearly quickly enough for her peace of mind.

As he leaned away, she pushed past him to tug madly at the doorknob, but even using both hands, she couldn’t budge it. As she struggled, her shoulder brushed Erskine’s arm. To her surprise, he made no attempt to hinder her departure. If he intended seduction, he was insultingly half-hearted.

Hardly surprising. She wasn’t nearly beautiful enough to appeal to that famous connoisseur of female loveliness, Blair Hume.

She told herself she didn’t mind. And didn’t believe it for a minute.

“Stop this nonsense immediately and open this door,” she demanded breathlessly.

“Have I persuaded you against breaking into anyone else’s room?” he asked without shifting. “Especially if the anyone else is a man.”

Shock made her hand drop away from the doorknob. “You’re trying to teach me a lesson?” she hissed incredulously.

That familiar soft laugh played up and down her backbone like music, and she realized with an unwelcome frisson that the evocative scent filling the room was Lord Erskine’s own. The intimacy of recognizing his personal essence scared her more than being trapped with a rake.

“I am indeed.” In the tight space, she was close enough to hear him draw breath. More encroaching intimacy. “Step aside and I’ll set you free, chastened but unharmed. And hopefully a little wiser.”

Her snort was derisive. If her mother had heard the unmannerly response, she’d have a fit. But then so much of what Philippa did gave her mother the vapors. “Who on earth do you think you are? What a cheek.”

“Miss Sanders, I feel some humility is called for.” He still sounded as though he found her endlessly diverting. “If you’re as clever as you think you are, you wouldn’t be stuck here with a rake while your sister sleeps comfortably in her own bed, safely beyond scandal’s reach.”

The comment’s justice rankled. “You’re a very annoying man,” she muttered, wishing to heaven she’d left Amelia to solve her own problems.

“Undoubtedly,” he said without inflection. “But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about you needing to temper valor with discretion.”

She bit back a blistering response about profligate libertines following their own advice and waited impatiently for him to let her out. She very much feared that if she spent much longer with the irritating Earl of Erskine, she’d strangle him with one of his neck cloths.

For what seemed a ridiculous length of time, Erskine rattled the doorknob.

“Stop playing games,” she said sharply, tired of his antics. He might find his teasing funny. She just wanted to leave this room and say goodnight and never see him again. “Unlock the door and let me out.”

He stopped tugging on the doorknob. A fraught silence fell. For the first time when he spoke, no trace of humor warmed his deep voice. “It’s stuck.”

Holiday Recipe Share

Betty Lewis, 1950I always think of my mother, Betty Lewis, at this time of the year because she was such a traditional, old-fashioned cook, and I like using the recipes she handed down to me over the years.

One Christmas gift I cherish came from my sister-in-law who copied and framed one of my mom’s recipes in her own handwriting.  It’s a lovely idea and a special gift.

The holiday season is creeping up on us all too fast.  I’m not one of those who shops a little all year long, so at the last minute I have tons of crafts and gifts, decorations and food preparation.

One of the great treasures of this time of the year is sharing favorite recipes.  In remembrance of my mother and as a nod to my family, I’d like to share a few recipes from my files.

My husband’s mother was a meat-and-potatoes woman who overcooked everything, but no one could beat her in the homemade candy-making department.  Every Christmas she mailed us a package of her assorted candies:  fudge, divinity, caramels with nuts, and her famous penuche, Dr. Big’s favorite:


Butter an8x 8×2 inch pan.  Coarsely chop and set aside 3/4 cup pecans.  Mix together in a heavy  2 quart saucepan 3 cups firmly packed brown sugar, 1 cup plus 2 TB milk, 1/2 t. salt.

Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat and bring mixture to boiling, stirring frequently.  Put candy thermometer in place.  Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches 234 degrees F. (soft ball stage — remove from heat while testing).  During cooking, wash crystals from sides of pan.  Remove from heat.  Set aside until just cool enough to hold pan on hand.  Do not jar pan or stir.

When cool, add 3 TB butter, 1 1/2 t. vanilla.  Beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss.  With a few strokes stir in the chopped nuts.  Quickly candy #1turn into the buttered pan without scraping bottom and sides of saucepan and spread evenly.  Set aside to cool.

Note:  I love how Mabel gives these little added tips which are helpful for new candy-makers!  Also, I like a richer candy, so I use half and half or evaporated milk instead of regular milk.  I don’t think 1 and 2 percent milk was available back in the day.




  • 1 pkg frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 8-oz. carton sour cream
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 can cream of chicken souppotato casserole
  • 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 c. corn flakes

Mix all ingredients together, except 1/2 stick butter and corn flakes.  Pour into 9 by 13 pan.  Melt 1/2 stick butter with corn flakes and sprinkle on potato mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Note:  This is a great side-dish and super easy to make ahead.

cookiesWhat are your favorite, go-to recipes for the holiday season?  Any ideas of what to make with the left-over turkey or ham?  I need some additions to my recipe file, so please share!


Christmas with the Earl!

Earl low resIt’s a launch party in the lair!

But first, an apology!

I know it’s far too early to be talking Christmas – even when it’s only Christmas books. Please don’t take this post as a signal to run off and give your list to Santa! It’s still a bit over six weeks until the fat, jolly bloke with the facial hair squeezes down your chimney!

So having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my latest release, HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA!

While it mightn’t be the time yet to wrap the gifts for under the tree, it’s definitely the time of year when it’s nice to have something romantic and short to read while the world goes crazy around us. I think novellas are really great when there’s Holidays everywhere and all the other end of the year madness. You get your romance fix and still have time and attention to deal with any crises that pop up!

Writing a novella at this time of year is almost a public service!

Haddon 2So given how chaotic things get in the lair in the lead up to the festive season, I thought we’d have a practice run so the cabana boys have everything down to a T when the real time comes.

But before I introduce your Yuletide entertainment, let me introduce HER CHRISTMAS EARL. Firstly, here’s the blurb:

No good deed goes unpunished…
To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways?
haddon 1Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Does fate offer him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion to last a lifetime?You can read an excerpt on my website here:

And all of that Christmassy Earlish goodness for the measly price of 99 cents!

Goodness, I think you should go and buy 10! Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?

If you click on that pretty red cover at the top of this piece, it will take you right to Amazon (we like to make things easy for you!).

You can also buy HER CHRISTMAS EARL from Smashwords: 2

The story starts on Christmas Eve during a country house party in Wiltshire – a good excuse for me to share a couple of favorite photos from beautiful Haddon Hall which is in Derbyshire but was very much on my mind when I wrote this.

So I asked the cabana boys to turn the lair into a stately home in Regency England at Christmas. But I fear they didn’t get quite the right idea!

Plastic Christmas trees in lovely Hartley Manor in 1823? Sacre bleu as the French chef there is fond of saying!
christmas 1And what about the  plastic reindeers that light up? It’s enough to send Wellington back to Waterloo in disgust! And Napoleon off for a nap!

So if you were arranging a lovely Christmas party in snowy Wiltshire for an Earl and his new bride, what would you do to make the house atmospheric and lovely? Mince pies? Carol singers? Roaring log fires? Lots of mistletoe for the earl and his bride to kiss under – not that they need much encouragement!

BanditBootyI have three downloads of HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA up for grabs today to people who comment so get talking Christmas decorations! Good luck!

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