Penthouse Player by Tara Leigh – Spotlight


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Tara Leigh as she is celebrating the release of her newest book Penthouse Player.

Abandoned by her mother and spurned by her father, Reina St. James is tired of being treated like a dirty little secret. It wasn’t easy making her way into the high-risk, high-reward Wall Street world ruled by financial kings and trust fund tyrants. But now that she’s got a stiletto-clad toe into one of the swankiest firms in Manhattan, Reina is determined to prove she’s more than just a pretty face hiding an ugly past.

For Tristan Xavier Bettencourt IV, escaping the shadow cast by generations of family fortune has been difficult, and success hasn’t come without sacrifice. Tristan has always put business before pleasure… Until Reina’s curved lips prove an invitation he can’t resist.

Walking away from their explosive night together won’t be easy, even if the heat between them might consume both of their careers. Will Reina and Tristan risk everything by betting on each other?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Reina

“Do you speed walk in the office for exercise, or is this your normal clip?”

Tristan ushered me inside and closed the door, spinning me around and backing me up against it. “I was feeling impatient,” he growled.

My breath left my lungs in a whoosh, and I felt weightless. “Did you see the tweet last night?” I squeaked. “We can’t afford to do this.”

“Yeah, I saw it, and it was deliberately vague. But this, what’s between us, is damned impossible to ignore.”

His breath fanned my ear, sending a shiver through my entire body. I looked up at his face, his blue eyes as deep and rich as the midnight sky. Mistake. Big mistake. Tristan’s eyes should come with a warning sign. Hazardous. Will cause extreme heat. My lungs felt scorched, but I breathed deep anyway. “Tristan, I—”

“I know. We shouldn’t be doing this.” His expression said the exact opposite.

Barely two inches separated us, and if I was being honest with myself, that was the only thing that felt wrong about the situation. I wanted to feel the length of his body against mine, go skin to skin with the solid bulk of his muscles. I wanted him to crush my face to his own, kiss me until I couldn’t breathe. A slow burn ignited deep in my stomach and I felt an irresistible urge to have him inside of me. Now. My eyes pleaded with his, but what I was begging for . . . I didn’t even know anymore.

He gave a slow nod. “You’re right,” and stepped back. I nearly cried out from his absence, sagging slightly, although somehow I remained upright. “This isn’t how I want to have you.”

I blinked. Have me? “It’s not?” I should have been relieved. Tristan could have me all he wanted, but in a professional way. I could compile research, populate spreadsheets, organize presentations. I was willing—no, eager—to work hard and make personal sacrifices for the sake of my career. A career that would never get off the ground if anyone knew I was standing in the supply room closet with my boss, the door closed, oozing with disappointment that he wasn’t trying to get inside my skirt. I was a lot of things, but relieved wasn’t one of them.

Clearing my throat, I wrapped my fingers tightly around the doorknob. What now? “I’m glad we agree.” It was a bluff, a pathetic attempt to save face. And if it worked, I was going to need the nearest ledge..

Tristan

Fuck. Agree? What exactly was Reina agreeing to? That I would leave her alone? That I would let her walk out the door without tasting her lips once more? I’d grown up in the world of banking and big business, had already made a lot of deals, but allowing Reina to walk away from me wasn’t even on the table.

I took a step toward her, covered her hand with my own. Reina’s eyes were wide open and staring at me, the faintest hint of purple smudges beneath them. Obviously neither one of us had slept well last night. I let my gaze travel the full length of her body, from the blond hair captured in a bun at the base of her scalp, begging me to release it, to the nude heels with the red soles that should have been pointed at the ceiling as I thrust between her thighs.

When I returned to her face, Reina’s lips were parted slightly, her cheeks flushed. “You want me every bit as much as I want you,” I said, taking pleasure in stating the obvious.

Reina took her time answering, and when she did it was in a whisper. “I know.”

“If you didn’t, if this was just a one-sided thing, I’d let you walk out the door right now.”

“I know that too.”

“Are you sure? The details of our lives are pretty complicated right now.” I paused, not sure how honest I should be. Fuck it. Reina was a breath of fresh air, and I wanted her in my life. Hiding my feelings, obscuring my intentions—what was the point? “But what I feel for you isn’t complicated. It’s pretty damn simple, actually. I need you.”

Reina’s lips tilted upward at the edges, and I leaned down, pausing an inch away. I could taste her breath, spearmint with just the faintest hint of morning coffee. One second went by. Then two. And then I felt her hand curl around the back of my neck and draw me closer. Much better.

About the Author: Tara Leigh attended Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia Business School in New York, and worked on Wall Street and Main Street before “retiring” to become a wife and mother. When the people in her head became just as real as the people in her life, she decided to put their stories on paper. Tara currently lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut with her husband, children and fur-baby, Pixie. She is the author of Penthouse Player and Deal Breaker.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, or Google Play.

Friday Spotlight: A Clockwork Christmas Authors

All a Steampunk Author Wants for Christmas
by
A Clockwork Christmas authors

So, now it’s time for the A Clockwork Christmas authors to confess what their dream steampunk devices would be. Remember, comment on any post this week to go in the draw to win a set of A Clockwork Christmas romance trading cards.

***

J K Coi

My ideal steampunk device? Well, I asked my son this question because he’s also fascinated by steampunk, and he said … a steampunk Transformer! Wouldn’t that be cool?

***

P G Forte

I think  my ideal steampunk device already exists, at least in some fashion: a steampowered coffee maker.  Really, what more could an author want?

In the fantasy realm, however, I would love a telectroscope.  http://gothamist.com/2008/05/22/telectroscope_t.php#photo-1

***

Stacy Gail

Oh, this one is EASY.  I love writing on my laptop, really.  Sometimes, though, a story will hit a brick wall, and that’s when I throw my brain a change-up and reach for a pen.  What I wouldn’t give to reach for a pen like this one:

http://mental-design.blogspot.com/

But I would like to add a few things to it:

  • A Taser device
  • A blowgun equipped with tranquilizer darts
  • A perfume atomizer (filled with Pleasures, from Estee Lauder =D)
  • Lip balm
  • Maybe a Geiger counter or zombie detector built into the handle.  You know… just in case.

***

Jenny Schwartz

I wish I owned a Cabinet of Curiosities House, one that unfolded like a pop-up book, shooting out new rooms as and when they were needed. It would be so convenient. Guest bedrooms that only needed cleaning when someone visited. A dining room that only emerged at Christmas or big formal gatherings. More spectacularly, imagine having a fold-out ballroom or a dirigible landing platform? Yup, I definitely want a Cabine of Curiosities House.

However, in the real world, I’m happy to settle for my beloved copy of “The Steampunk Bible” (http://steampunkbible.com/). It’s full of inspiration and provides a strong sense of the vibrant Steampunk community — one which welcomes everyone! I love the fantastic Steampunk ethos Bruce Sterling shares in the book, “The past is a kind of future that has already happened.” p.13.

***

How about you? Any steampunk devices you wish you had? Or are lucky enough to own? Or make us truly envious and tell us about anything steampunkish that you’ve created.

***

A Clockwork Christmas

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

Anthology includes:

“Crime Wave in a Corset” by Stacy Gail

“This Winter Heart” by PG Forte

“Wanted: One Scoundrel” by Jenny Schwartz

“Far From Broken” by JK Coi

Stories also available for purchase separately.

Thursday Spotlight: A Clockwork Christmas Authors

Jed Reeve, an Inventive Scoundrel
by
Jenny Schwartz

I’m delighted to introduce the hero of Wanted: One Scoundrel, Jed
Reeve, to LSR.

Jed is a Californian inventor, newly
arrived in the Swan River Colony, Australia. Patents on a range of devices, from
an auto-valet that knots the perfect tie to a transportable, extendable bridge,
have made him independently wealthy. His dream is to build a bounding-vehicle
based on the motion of jumping kangaroos, using pedal power and a kinetic
energy capture system. Although adding an artificial ‘roo tail to the design is
proving a problem.

Jed’s determination to design a
bounding-vehicle comes from his fascination with Dayenne’s mechanical models of
animals. Jed owns a Dayenne horse in which steel replaces bone, cogs and gears
replace muscle and the whole is driven by clockwork. The metal horse is a
tribute to the elegant efficiency of the natural world.

If Jed were to walk out of the pages of Wanted: One Scoundrel I know his first action would be to book a ticket
to France. The steampunk creatures of Nantes are triumphs of
imagination and engineering skill.

***

For your chance to go into the draw to
win a set of A Clockwork Christmas Romance Trading Cards, remember
to leave a comment below.

***

All suffragette Esme Smith wants is a
man. A scoundrel to be precise. Someone who can be persuaded to represent her
political views at men-only clubs. As the daughter of the richest man in
Australia, Esme can afford to make it worth the right man’s while.

Fresh off the boat, American inventor
Jed Reeve is intrigued by Esme’s proposal, but even more interested in the
beauty herself. Amused that she takes him for a man who lives by his wits, he
accepts the job—made easier by the fact that he already shares her ideals.
Soon, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue, kidnapping and
blackmail, and trying to convince his employer he’s more than just a scoundrel…

***

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman
must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always
what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an
American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a
clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

Anthology includes:

“Crime Wave in a Corset” by
Stacy Gail

“This Winter Heart” by PG
Forte

“Wanted: One Scoundrel” by
Jenny Schwartz

“Far From Broken” by JK Coi

Stories also available for purchase
separately.

***

Jenny Schwartz is a West Australian
author, born and bred. She studied Australian social history at university,
never dreaming she’d end up re-writing it with a Steampunk twist.

Wednesday Spotlight: A Clockwork Christmas Authors


Roderick Coddington, Professor of Vengeance
by
Stacy Gail

I’d like to introduce CRIME WAVE IN A CORSET‘s hero, Roderick Coddington, by answering a few questions about him and
his favorite (albeit deadly) invention.

WHO: Roderick Coddington is an
Engineering Professor at Cambridge University.  He is a mechanical
genius, especially when it comes to inventing his own never-before-seen
devices.  His favorite device: a perpetual-motion timepiece that
masquerades as a wristlet, but in fact is a timer counting down to midnight,
Christmas morning.  Once zero-hour is struck, it won’t be just
peace on earth.  It’ll be death for the wearer.

WHY: There’s only one reason Roderick
would create such a deadly device—revenge.  Six months earlier, a
Faberge egg was stolen from his dying sister.  The only thought he
has is to get that egg back, and the key to making that happen is getting to
the thief who stole it in the first place—the ever-elusive Cornelia
Peabody.  Getting Cornelia to steal back the egg would be a virtual
impossibility unless she had proper motivation.  And that leads to…
WHEN: Midnight, Christmas morning is
zero-hour for the timepiece.  Once Roderick manages to lock his
diabolical device onto Cornelia’s wrist, he believes he is in complete control
of the situation.  Little does he know that the heart is the one
thing that can’t be mechanically manipulated to do his bidding.
****
For your chance to go into the draw to
win a set of A Clockwork Christmas Romance Trading Cards, remember
to leave a comment below.
****

Boston, Massachusetts—December, 1899
Roderick Coddington is on a mission to
make Cornelia Peabody pay. After identifying her as the thief who stole a
priceless Faberge egg from his dying sister, he finds her and shackles a deadly
timepiece to her arm. If she doesn’t return the egg by Christmas morning, she
will die.

Normally seven days is more than enough
time for Cornelia to carry out the perfect crime, but Roderick’s intrusion into
her life is beyond distracting. He challenges her mind, and ignites her body
with desire she’s never felt before. But worst of all, he threatens the
independence she values above all else…

As Roderick spends time with Cornelia,
he realizes there’s a lonely soul hidden beneath her beautiful but criminal
veneer.  Falling for a thief wasn’t part of Roderick’s plan, but
plans can change and he has no intention of letting another priceless treasure
get away from him.
*****

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman
must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always
what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an
American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a
clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

Anthology includes:
“Crime Wave in a Corset” by
Stacy Gail
“This Winter Heart” by PG
Forte
“Wanted: One Scoundrel” by
Jenny Schwartz

“Far From Broken” by JK Coi

Stories also available for purchase
separately.
*****

A competitive figure skater from the age
of eight, Stacy Gail began writing stories in between events to pass the time.
By the age of fourteen, she told her parents she was either going to be a
figure skating coach who was also a published romance writer, or a romance
writer who was also a skating pro. Now with a day job of playing on the ice
with her students, and writing everything from steampunk to cyberpunk, contemporary
to paranormal at night, both dreams have come true.
You can find Stacy Gail at:

Tuesday Spotlight: A Clockwork Christmas Authors

Dario Leonides
by
PG Forte

Today I’d like to introduce you to Dario
Leonides, the hero of This Winter Heart.

When we first meet Dario, he’s a bitter
man who feels himself betrayed. Worse yet, he believes he’s let his family down
and doomed himself to a life of loneliness by giving his heart to the wrong
woman.

The last surviving member of a once rich
and powerful family, Dario had gone against his parents’ wishes to wed the
daughter of a brilliant but eccentric scientist/inventor. He knew he and
Ophelia were not born into the same social strata, but he believed love would
conquer all. It never occurred to him to wonder whether his bride might be a
machine!

I think Dario’s favorite steampunk
device is the “mechanical greenhouse” (complete with robotic bees) that he
commissioned his father-in-law to design for him as a present for his wife.

Super-heated water flowing in pipes
beneath the garden’s surface kept the soil warm, even in
winter.  Hidden valves allowed steam to vent above ground while
elaborate engines kept the temperature constant, balmy and warm, and created an
artificial breeze to help circulate the air.

Overhead, an electrified wire-mesh dome
allowed sunlight to enter and could be set to either keep the heat in or, in
during the summer months, keep the excess heat out. The shiny, reflective wire
was almost impossible to make out, but if you stared hard enough, you could
just discern the faint metallic sheen behind the shimmering illusion of a
cloudless, blue sky.

***

For your chance to go into the draw to
win a set of A Clockwork Christmas Romance Trading Cards, remember
to leave a comment below.

***

Santa Fe, The Republic of New
Texacali, 1870


Eight years ago, Ophelia Leonides’s
husband cast her off when he discovered she was not the woman he thought she
was. Now destitute after the death of her father, Ophelia is forced to turn to
Dario for help raising the child she never told him about.

Dario is furious that Ophelia has
returned, and refuses to believe Arthur is his son—after all, he thought his
wife was barren. But to avoid gossip, he agrees to let them spend the holidays
at his villa. While he cannot resist the desire he still feels for Ophelia, Dario
despises himself for being hopelessly in love with a woman who can never love
him back.

But Dario is wrong: Ophelia’s emotions
are all too human, and she was brokenhearted when he rejected her. Unsure if
she can trust the man she desperately loves, she fears for her life, her
freedom and her son if anyone else learns of her true nature…

***

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman
must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always
what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an
American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a
clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

Anthology includes:

“Crime Wave in a Corset” by
Stacy Gail

“This Winter Heart” by PG
Forte

“Wanted: One Scoundrel” by
Jenny Schwartz

“Far From Broken” by JK Coi

Stories also available for purchase
separately.

***

PG Forte wrote her first
serialized story when she was still in her teens.  The sexy, adventure
tales were very popular at her oh-so-proper, all girls, Catholic High School,
where they helped to liven up otherwise dull classes.  Even if her teachers
didn’t always think so. 

Monday Spotlight: A Clockwork Christmas Authors

Colonel Jasper Carlisle
by
JK Coi

Please let me introduce the hero from my novella, Far From Broken, Colonel Jasper Carlisle.

When I wrote this book for Carina Press’s Steampunk themed holiday anthology, A Clockwork Christmas, I knew immediately what it was going to be about. Jasper had already been talking to me for months, you see (even though I’d been trying hard not to listen because I was so busy with other projects).

But it got to the point where I could no longer ignore the story that Jasper was trying to tell me. It was one of heartache, loss, guilt, pain, betrayal and danger…but also acceptance, forgiveness, strength, and love.

I couldn’t resist.

Lord Jasper Carlisle is a Colonel turned spy for Britain’s War Office. He’s always been a soldier and wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he didn’t have that anymore. He’s also desperately in love with his wife, a beautiful ballerina who wants him to give up his dangerous job.

One last mission destroyed everything.

Now while Callie is broken in body and Jasper is broken in spirit, he can’t help but hope that a spark of the love they shared can be rekindled. He’ll move heaven and earth to give his wife what she needs to heal, and to help her find some joy in being alive. But it’s a long, dark road for them, and it doesn’t help that every time he looks at her he sees how badly she was hurt…because of him.

What would Jasper’s favourite steampunk technology be?

I think he thanks God for the technology that saved Callie’s life, even though she hates the iron posts, balls and gears that make up her new legs, hand and eye. He is also fascinated by the nano-organisms in her bloodstream that make her strong and carry messages through her body so she can control the limbs.

***

For your chance to go into the draw to win a set of A Clockwork Christmas Romance Trading Cards, remember to leave a comment below.

***

Far From Broken 

Soldier. Spymaster. Husband.

Colonel Jasper Carlisle was defined by his work until he met his wife. When the prima ballerina swept into his life with her affection, bright laughter and graceful movements, he knew that she was the reason for his existence, and that their love would be forever.

But their world is shattered when Callie is kidnapped and brutally tortured by the foes Jasper has been hunting. Mechanical parts have replaced her legs, her hand, her eye…and possibly her heart. Though she survived, her anger at Jasper consumes her, while Jasper’s guilt drives him from the woman he loves. He longs for the chance to show her their love can withstand anything…including her new clockwork parts.

As the holiday season approaches, Jasper realizes he must fight not just for his wife’s love and forgiveness…but also her life, as his enemy once again attempts to tear them apart.

***

A Clockwork Christmas 

We Wish You a Steampunk Christmas 

Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband’s love. A man learns that love isn’t always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas. 

Anthology includes:

Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail

This Winter Heart by PG Forte

Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz

Far From Broken by JK Coi

Stories also available for purchase separately.

***

J.K. Coi is a multi-published, award winning author of contemporary, paranormal, steampunk romance and urban fantasy. She makes her home in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and son and a feisty black cat who is the uncontested head of the household. While she spends her days immersed in the litigious world of insurance law, she is very happy to spend her nights writing dark and sexy characters who leap off the page and into readers’ hearts.

You can find her online

Website: www.jkcoi.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jkcoi

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JKCoiAuthor

She also writes Upper YA as Chloe Jacobs (www.chloejacobs.com)

Friday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Inspired by Archaeology

I can’t believe it! My last day is here so soon. And just when I was getting used to the place. I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting with me as much as I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Keep sending me photos. I love seeing your projects and your own interpretations of my recipe.

For my final piece today, I’d like to talk to you about archaeology. I sometimes think in another life I would have liked to have been an archaeologist. But that’s the great thing about being a writer. This week I can be medieval lady living in a big stone tower, and next week I can dig up the tower looking for artifacts from the medieval lady who once lived there. But what the average reader doesn’t know, and most writers don’t realize, is that if it weren’t for archaeology we couldn’t have the understanding of the past that enables us to appreciate historical novels.

Almost daily I read articles about something newly discovered somewhere in the world. Just when you think every inch of the planet has been excavated, explored and trodden upon, a lowly digger in a bog somewhere in the Irish midlands uncovers a book touted as the Irish Dead Sea Scrolls. Now called the Faddan Mor Psalter, radiocarbon dating estimates the psalter was written sometime in 800 AD on sheets of velum {animal skins}. A couple years into preservation and investigation, scientists discovered Egyptian papyrus in the folds of the leather cover! That leads to the question of how Egyptian papyrus got into an Irish religious book.

Irish bogs have also given up human remains dating back millennia. Bogs are incredible at preservation, as with the psalter. Bog bodies are no different. Facial features, hair, nails and garments are usually still very distinguishable and offer us a glimpse into that person’s life and of the times.

Clonycavan Man was discovered in an Irish bog too. Evidence suggests he was placed there as part of a ritual about 2300 years ago. Radiocarbon dating suggests he was about twenty years of age, and he was probably killing in the summer months, a time when crops were harvested. Tests on his hair show his diet at the time was vegetarian, which is was typical back then as meat was consumed mainly in winter months.

Feature-wise, he had a fine beard and wore a Mohawk hair style which had been treated with a resin made of oil and pine resin to make the hair stand up, possibly to make him look taller. Incredibly, in those times hair resin had only been seen around Northern Spain in the Galicia region {Spain’s Celtic region}. This simple hair ‘gel’ gives rise to the notion that Ireland traded within Europe well before Romans had any influence. This also indicates that the man was probably fairly wealthy, as he could afford imported hair products.

Most recently one of the most unusual finds in all Irish archaeology was discovered in a forgotten graveyard in the north Irish midlands. This is a typical religious graveyard where people were buried by loved ones in an east-west fashion. Gravesites are all parallel to one another and there’s nothing remarkable about the place other than the site contains an estimated 3000 burials. Yes, 3000! And a graveyard of this size, used from approximately 700-1400 AD, to disappear so thoroughly is also unusual. More so were two graves excavated just this past September—two had stones wedged in their mouths!

Similar remains have been found in burial sites in other parts of Europe, rumors running rampant about zombies and vampires, and that the stones were wedged in their mouths to prevent the person from chewing their way out of their coffins or shrouds, or depriving them of feeding on subterranean creatures to keep them alive until they could dig their way to the surface and find humans to feed upon. Ireland has a long and interesting past. It’s a country where spirits, fairies and Leprechauns are part of the culture, fantastical as they are. But there really hasn’t been a history of vampirism until recently when old stories have been unearthed, so to speak, and now these unusual burials. It makes one wonder if such stories are what really gave Bram Stoker his inspiration for Dracula.

It’s not only bogs and burial grounds being excavated. Thanks to modern road works, ancient settlements and long lost castles have been unearthed, the artifacts of which give us a glimpse into the past—

A settlement at Wood Quay in Dublin City dates back to Viking times and is the largest ever discovered in Ireland. This excavation lasted nearly ten years and resulted in thousands of finds, each telling us how the people lived back then, what they ate and how they dressed. Postholes indicate where homes were and how large. Paths and roads indicated routes in and out of the settlement. And the most important were middens, or refuse heaps, which revealed items people of the time deemed unwanted—food scraps, broken household items, bones, etc.

Carrickmines Castle was the largest medieval settlement of those surrounding Dublin City. It formed part of the perimeter of a region known as The Pale, an area completely under English government. The term ‘pale’ comes from the Latin ‘palus’ meaning a stake to support a fence or indicate a perimeter or boundary. This gave us the term ‘beyond the pale,’ meaning anything outside the boundary. Within the Pale were laws and government. Beyond the Pale was unrest and lawlessness. Carrickmines Castle was eventually destroyed in the 17th century and buried by Mother Nature. Its location forgotten until road works unearthed it.

And let’s not forget the famous Shinrone Gown which was also unearthed in an Irish bog. It dates back to the 17th century and is the best preserved garment every discovered. Until its discovery, we could only rely on paintings from the past to see how people dressed so long ago. And those paintings were generally all of wealthy merchants and their families, not of the poor or peasant classes.

And hoards of goods are still being found around the country—

In County Waterford few years ago, a hoard of coins and gold were discovered in a cave estimated around 800 years old.

During street works in Cork City, small medieval cottages were discovered, and inside one of them a small jar filled with dirt. It was set aside until it was knocked over and out spilled handfuls of coins. Makes me wonder what happened to make a person leave their home and forget so much money. I can understand hiding it in a cave and hoping to return for it later. Loads of hoards of money and gold have been found in bogs, too. But to leave a jar in a wall niche and walk away?

It’s the past that draws us to reading and writing stories set in historical times. And the more our tastes develop and mature, we demand stories be as accurate as possible. We don’t have to get into an excavation site alongside archaeologist though because the internet gives us a fly on the wall view of just about anything we care to research.

There’s no denying the upsurge in the demand for historicals. Just look at TV programming these days with series such as The Tudors, The Borgias and to some degree Game of Thrones. And we’re seeing an upsurge in historical novels, too—Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, Edward Rutherford, Sharon Kay Penman, Phillippa Gregory, etc.

I could go on, and probably would if I thought I could get away with it. My point here is that without archaeology, we wouldn’t have an appreciation of the past. Because of archaeology, every historical book we read and every historical show we watch puts history in the palms of our hands and it allows us to participate in history rather than just speculate. And for me, every interesting tidbit I read lights a creative fire in my head and inspires me to write.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on archaeology . . . and the rest of it over the week. I’ve really enjoyed spending this time with you and hope I’ve given you a peak into the life of a writer when she’s away from the keyboard.

I’ll leave you with this, as the holidays are upon us. Have a wonderful season. Knit some. Eat some. Explore some. And read lots!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
www.Scarlett-Valentine.com
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Thursday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Ghost of a Story

{Note: Today’s post is a little longer because there’s lots of information and photos. No recipes or patterns, but hopefully something to add to your ‘must see’ list if you decide to visit Ireland.}

Wow! This week is just whizzing by. I’m glad you’re here beside me. I’ll need the company today because I’m going to talk about castles, castle hunting . . . and ghosts!

Specifically, I’m going to talk about Irish castles because I live in Ireland and have been to a lot of them. I’m lazy by nature, but if you show me a castle on a map then tell me there’s no car access, I’ll walk to it . . . and probably get there before you! I especially love the abandoned ruins. I like the ones turned into tourist attractions and overpriced hotels, but the ruins are like stepping back in time. There are no modern conveniences like lighting, plumbing and heating. Heck, most don’t even have a roof, windows or doors! But armed with a flashlight and a camera, I’ll poke around for hours.

Ireland is not just noted for castles, but also for her haunted castles—such as D’Aubin’s Castle in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. It was built in the 13th century by a Norman knight called Reginald D’Aubin. This small keep practically beside Carrickfergus Castle, which was actually a military barracks. A tunnel was constructed in subsequent years, which allowed people to go between the keep and the barracks in inclement weather. The keep remained in the D’Aubin family for centuries and eventually the old Norman name was Anglicized as Dobbin.

By the 17th century, the keep was owned by Hugh Dobbin and his wife Elizabeth, who was also known as Maud. Hugh was the commander at the barracks and would often be away on campaign. Loneliness got the better of Elizabeth and she fell in love with a knight from the barracks known as Buttoncap. Elizabeth used the tunnel while her husband was away to see her lover who could not leave his post. One day Hugh returned early from campaign hoping to surprise his wife. He was the one surprised! Discovering her infidelity, he killed both Elizabeth and Buttoncap!

Today, Elizabeth’s ghost haunts the hotel in her search for her lover. She only shows herself to men, often waking them at night by stroking their cheeks lovingly. Buttoncap haunts the barracks, sometimes being seen on the battlements searching across the road to the keep for Elizabeth. Modern street-works discovered the previously lost tunnel during pipe-laying, but it has now been recorded on Ordnance Survey maps.

Dobbins castle was renovated and turned into a small hotel in 1946. The original medieval kitchen can still be seen today in the lobby of the hotel, and in the back where the restaurant is now was once the walled garden. Architectural features are retained in the walls. Here’s the URL for the hotel if you ever make it to Ireland and want to stay in a haunted castle— http://www.dobbinsinnhotel.co.uk/location.html

Okay, Dobbins is not a ruin, but you have to admit, it’s pretty cool.

How about Charles Fort near Kinsale in South Cork? Charles Fort was built in the 1670s on designs created by King Charles II. A similar fort was constructed years earlier on the opposite side of the harbor entrance and called James’ Fort, named after King James I. These forts were built to protect Kinsale Harbour from French and Spanish fleets—Kinsale having suffered tremendously in 1601 when region was assaulted by the Spanish during the Siege of Kinsale.

What’s remarkable about Charles Fort is its star shape, the walls of which measure six meters in thickness—approximately twenty feet!

As a military barracks, the fort has some interesting history, but nothing more interesting than the tale of the White Lady.

Wilful {a popular name in the 17th century} Warrender was the daughter of the governor. Motherless, she was raised by her over-protective father, and when he was stationed at Charles Fort, he brought Wilful with him. At 17, Wilful fell in love with an officer named Sir Trevor Ashurt {tell me that’s not a name straight out of a Regency novel!}. Her father approved of her choice of husband and threw them a lavish wedding and reception in the fort, no expense spared.

At twilight, before turning in for the evening, the newlyweds took a stroll along the ramparts looking out to sea and the sunset over the ocean. True to her name, Wilful saw some flowers growing in the grass outside the fort at the foundations and wanted them. A nearby sentry offered to get them for her, but the groom would need to stand in for him and guard his post. The men exchanged jackets and hats and the sentry left to fetch the flowers. So that Wilful didn’t have to suffer the chilly evening air, Sir Trevor sent her back to their quarters to wait for him. The sentry took his time and Sir Trevor fell asleep at his post.

Some time later, the commander, making his last rounds before turning in, spotted the sleeping sentry. When it appeared the sentry ignored the commander’s summons, the commander promptly drew his pistol and shot the sentry dead.

It’s unclear who told Wilful of her husband’s death, but it’s said she ran from her quarters in her white night dress to her husband’s side and was so distraught that her father had killed him, she flung herself over the battlements. Stricken with uncontrollable grief, the commander took his own life later that night.

The commander and Sir Trevor seem to have peace in their deaths, but Wilful has been seen many times at the fort, still in her white night dress. They say she was Wilful in life and remains willful in death as, while the fort still operated as a barracks, she has been blamed for many accidents—a barracks doctor was pushed down a flight of stairs, ranking officers have been harried, and on more than one occasion, children of officer’s wives who lived within the barrack’s walls have had mishaps . . . all claiming they saw a lady in a white dress either before or just after their accidents. One tale says she tried to take the life of a small boy while he slept, perhaps to have the child she was never able to, as when she died she was still a virgin.

Wilful is now simply known as the White Lady, and her legend lives on in Kinsale today, She is still occasionally spotted standing at the ramparts where she and her husband once stood watching the sunset on their wedding night.

White Lady Of Kinsale from LB Frames on Vimeo.

There are several similar tales of love gone wrong and the spirits of lovers left behind, searching each other out for all eternity. But how about something a little darker?

Leap Castle is today Ireland’s most haunted castle. Its name in Irish is Leim ui Bhanain, which translates to Leap of the O’Bannon’s. The O’Bannon’s were the secondary chieftains under the O’Carroll clan. As the legend goes, two brothers contested the chieftainship of the O’Bannon clan. To settle the argument, they had to display a feat of strength and bravery; they both agreed jumping off the rocky promontory where they wanted to build their castle was a good idea! The survivor had the right to be clan chief and build his castle. Thus began a bloody and tumultuous history at Leap Castle, which, by the way, is pronounced Lep.

Another interesting piece of history says the site had been used by Druids for initiation ceremonies centuries before the castle was built. Perhaps this is where the O’Bannon brothers got their idea!

Around 1900, the Darby’s occupied Leap Castle. Mildred Darby was a practitioner of the arts, shall we say, holding séances and reciting incantations. Around that time, two things happened. The first was the discovery of an oubliette—a dungeon or ‘place of forgetting.’ At the bottom of the oubliette were the skeletal remains of several people. So many in fact, that it took three cartloads to haul away the bones—about 150 bodies!

Around this same time, a spirit known as The Elemental made his presence known. Some think it was the discovery of the bodies, others say it was Mildred’s meddling in things she knew nothing about. Whatever it was, for decades this spirit has been seen regularly {in the shape of a decomposing corpse} walking the halls, right up the castle’s destruction in 1922 during the Irish War for Independence. The castle remained ruins until 1974 when it was bought and restored, and the Elemental became active again. Ghost Hunters, Jason and Grant, came over recently with their crew and had experiences of their own. Admittedly skeptics, they were suitably freaked out. That says something, doesn’t it?

Well, there’s a taste of haunted Irish castles. Every castle has a ghost and a tale to tell. If only there was enough time to explore them all firsthand!

If you want to read about other castles in Ireland, I’ve published some travel articles that include Irish castles. You can find them online at www.all-ireland.com. Just click on attractions.

I hope you enjoyed this peak into some of Ireland’s most haunted castles. On a similar theme, tomorrow I’ll be talking about another of my passions—archaeology! But this one has a twist, one I’m sure the lover in you all will appreciate!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
www.Scarlett-Valentine.com
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Wednesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

A Garden of Inspiration

Happy Hump Day! And thanks for joining me again. By now you should have a warm neck and have your senses stimulated. I hope it’s all good in your house today!

If you liked my recipe yesterday, maybe you want to grow some vegetables of your own to cook, but maybe you don’t have a lot of room in your garden. Why not grow them in your house? Really! My office is at the front of the house and has a big window that gets a decent amount of sun. I say ‘decent’ because it rains a lot here! But it still gets a lot of light which is what vegetables need.

We’ve been in our current house two years now. Last year I thought it would be fun to try tomatoes again. I’d tried them years ago, but they never did well. Not enough light. Water wasn’t the problem, as the pot was on my kitchen sill just behind the sink. But my office gets a lot of sun, which tomatoes love. A friend grows them in her enclosed front porch in grow bags so I thought why not in a proper pot of dirt?

So I got a pot, filled it with dirt and put in a couple seedlings. They went all kinds of crazy, but I didn’t get a lot of tomatoes out of them. Head in hand, I talked to my friend, Chris, who’s a gardener extraordinaire, and learned a few things for next time.

Next time was this year. I grabbed the same pot filled it with fresh dirt and put in a couple seedlings. This year for fun, I thought I’d try yellow tomatoes—Golden Sunrises. How’s that for inspiring? Just the name reminds me of the old bodice ripper romances with the hero holding onto the heroine with the heaving bosom against a . . . well . . . golden sunrise. I also planted a Roma tomato because they’re one of the most flavorful tomatoes to cook with.

As it turns out, the lessons I learned from last year, and the great and friendly advice, came in handy. My vines this year have been wildly producing loads of little yellow fruits. {yes, tomatoes are fruits, folks!}

And here it is, the end of November, and the plant is still a triffid.

What lessons did I learn? Pretty simple, actually. Pinch the suckers—they grow between the leaf and stem. Water—a lot. Fertilize—regularly.

I also learned that tomatoes require fertilization, which is where bees come in. But being indoors, how was I going to make this happen? Easy! I got a little {and clean} paint brush and went around dabbing all the flowers. Kinda tedious, but necessary. And with all the fruit that came on in subsequent weeks, the fruits of my labor resulted in . . . well . . . fruit. The odd part is the Golden Sunrise pretty much took over. I only got two . . . count ‘em . . . two Romas. But how cool was it to see them growing in an irregular red shape against the round yellow ones?! And they were tasty. I used them and a bunch of the yellow ones in the recipe from yesterday.

So what do I do with all my homegrown tomatoes? Loads of things—Frittata, Quiche, Salsa, my aforementioned simmered veg, and my husband likes them in his sandwiches and salad. Hmm . . . maybe I should be thinking Fried Green Tomatoes some day.

How about a recipe for homemade salsa?

2 medium ripe tomatoes, deseeded, skinned and rough chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 medium garlic clove, finely diced
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced {can use Ortega roasted chilies, about 1 tbsp or to taste}
cilantro, a small bunch, finely chop the leafy parts, discard the stems
splash lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Add all of your ingredients to a bowl as you cut them. Mix well with a spoon, adding a small splash of lime juice. Grab your favorite tortilla chip to taste for flavor, adding salt and pepper to taste, or more lime, cilantro or chilies. Salsa is subjective, so just add whatever extra flavors you want until it’s perfect for you.

This recipe is very easy to double or even quadruple if you’re feeling hungry or having friends around. It goes great as an accompaniment to a frittata or quiche, on pretty much anything Mexican, and if you have any ripe avocados, add the salsa to the mashed avocado for a FABulous guacamole.

Good lord! I’m craving Mexican food now. LOL

So you may be asking, how does gardening inspire my work? Gardening, like any hobby, is relaxing and therapeutic. Maybe it’s the communing with nature thing—I enjoy getting my hands in the soil and imagining how a medieval healer would have grown her herbs and kept her garden. Maybe it’s sometimes I grow the food I eat and I wonder how the taste of foods have changed over the centuries. And maybe it’s that all my plants fill the office with fresh oxygen—really, there are a lot of plants in my office!

Whatever it is, I find having plants around me makes me happy. And a happy writer is a prolific writer.

Thanks for hanging out with me again today. We’re getting to be great pals, aren’t we?

Drop me a note in comments and let me know if you grow produce in your house, and if so, what is it and how did you cook with it? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?

I’m sure I don’t have to mention there are prizes this week! So come back again tomorrow. I’ll be talking about yet another of my passions—Castle hunting!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
www.Scarlett-Valentine.com
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Tuesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Cooking Up A Storm

Hey! Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the pattern yesterday. Did anyone cast-on? If so, email me a picture and some details. What kind of yarn did you use? Who’s the scarf for? Comments? Photos! Remember, there could be a spot prize in it for you.
Not into knitting? Maybe today’s topic is more up your cutting board. Today I’m talking about one of my other passions—cooking.

When did I first realize I liked to cook? Probably the instant I realized I liked to eat and if I wanted to keep eating I needed to learn to cook! Vicious circle.

One of my first memories of ‘cooking’ was when I was five, maybe six. Mom would make these great pecan cinnamon rolls very early in the morning. She’d set them out to rise then spend a couple hours helping Dad pack up the van for a camping trip. We were always ready to go just about the time the rolls had risen properly for baking. Mom would wrap them in thick layers of tinfoil and give them to dad who would then wire them to the engine block. True story! I swear it. {crossing heart} The heat from the motor cooked the rolls while we drove. We’d have milk chilling in the cooler, and when we got about an hour out of town, we’d pull over at a rest spot. Mom would get out the paper plates and plastic forks and Dad would get out the oven mitts and wire cutters. Then we’d sit down to homemade, freshly cooked, gooey pecan cinnamon rolls and cold milk. Oh man, those were the days! I’m drooling just thinking about those rolls. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little tug on my heart with nostalgia.

Through my formative years, I remember all kinds of foods I loved. Today, those same foods bring back the same nostalgia those pecan cinnamon rolls do—chocolate chip cookies, taco feasts, pumpkin pies . . . even going fishing with my dad, bringing home our catch, preparing the fish and serving it up for dinner. Yes, I’ve gutted my fair share of fish. Not for the squeamish, but it was real ‘farm to fork’ eating. Really, the way it should be.

When I made the big step to get my own place, suddenly gone were Mom’s fabulous dinners and Dad’s barbeque. I had to learn to cook! I can’t begin to list the different dishes I’ve made or tried to recreate from Mom’s repertoire {really, who can match Mom’s cooking?}, but with time and practice, I’ve actually created a couple things that have become my own signature dishes. One of which I’ll share with you. Get your bib on. I’ll wait!

First let me say, on their own, I’m not keen about any of these ingredients. Some I tolerate. Generally speaking, they wouldn’t be first on my grocery list for a stand-alone dish. Some of you may think the same thing when you read the recipe. But if you trust me on nothing else, try this dish. I bet if you don’t love it, you’ll at least like it a whole lot. So here it is—

Simmered Vegetables with Poached Chicken and Potato Skin Croutons

Ingredients

Olive oil
2 big onions {I like white, but yellow are more flavorful}
2 yellow bell peppers
2 zucchini {or courgettes if you’re in the EU}
1 small eggplant {or aubergine if you’re in the EU}
2-3 big cloves garlic
2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs
2 chicken stock cubes {I prefer Knorr’s stock pots/gelatin based stock}
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 can of chopped tomatoes {or about a half pound of prepared fresh, deseeded tomatoes}
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large prebaked Russet potato skins, or other large potato with a thick skin

Get out a big pan with a lid and let’s get cooking!

Going down the ingredients list, put the pan on medium-high heat to warm and drizzle in some olive oil. You can be generous because it’s good for you, just don’t put too much that you end up shallow frying your vegetables.

While your pan is heating, rough chop the onions and peppers and toss them into the pan. Give them a little stir to coat them in oil so they cook evenly. While those are sautéing, rough chop the zucchini and eggplant then toss them in the pan too, mixing well.

Rough chop your fresh garlic. Add more if you like garlic, less if you don’t, but garlic is good for you too, so whack it in. Then add in the chopped tomatoes, mixed herbs, stock pots/cubes and paprika, mixing well.

While the pan is coming up to simmer, chop the chicken breasts into big chunks and scatter on top of the veg. Press them down into the veg so their surrounded but not totally covered. Cover the pan and turn down the heat so it simmers slowly. Give it about 45 minutes to an hour on low. Check occasionally to be sure enough liquid is developing from the vegetables as they cook down.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve up, prepare your potato skins.
Pour some olive oil into another pan, enough to shallow fry them. Alternatively, if you’re bold and have a deep fat fryer, use that.

The potato skins should be from prebaked and gutted potatoes. Chop the skins into big chunks roughly the size of the veg when you chopped them.

Fry the skins until they’re crispy. Cook in batches to ensure crispiness. As you pull them out of the oil, drain them on paper towels. Use a little sea salt to flavor, or a mix of salt and paprika.

Dish up the veg and chicken, and top with your potato skin croutons.

Eat with a big spoon!

Note: This is a dish you can prepare ahead of time, perhaps a day, and reheat. I like to make a huge batch and portion out two servings per container {one for myself and one for himself} and freeze. When I want to use one, I either defrost it in a pan on low heat until it simmers, or put it in the microwave. In the time it takes to do either, you can make the croutons.

So, how does cooking inspire my writing? Well, food can be very sensual. It awakens all of your senses—flavors on your taste buds, scents fill your nostrils, the color contrast in the pan can entice, the texture of the meat and veg in your mouth and its warmth is so comforting, and you just can’t help but groan with pleasure as the flavors envelop you.

Some believe certain fruits and vegetables have aphrodisiac qualities. For example, zucchinis, and to a degree eggplant, are phallus shaped. Tomatoes are known as ‘love apples’ and contain high doses of lycopene which is a known libido-enhancer.
Peppers, including bell peppers, onions and garlic turn up the body’s heat, sending blood to ALL the organs. And chicken is a great source of protein and releases nutrients slowly into the body, meaning you can go . . . all . . . night!

So what’s not to love about this dish? Have a bowl and crank up your libido!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear comments back from readers. Let me know if you tried it and liked it {or didn’t}, and any additions or substitutions you might make if you make it again.

Thanks again for hanging out with me today. Remember there will be prizes this week {a spot prize and a grand prize at the end}, so join me tomorrow when I’ll be chatting about another one of my passions—Gardening. Get on your gloves and find a sunny room in your house, as I bring outdoor gardening inside!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
www.Scarlett-Valentine.com
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series