Book Talk Tuesday: Innocent Deceptions


A friend and critique partner recommend Innocent Deceptions by Gwyneth Atlee. She knew I was working on a historical romance set in the Civil War with spying and she’d recently been reading this one. I put it on my Kindle and dug in.

Innocent Deceptions


I’m almost done and I’m to the part where I can see how they’ll get their “happily ever after,” but I’m trusting we will get there.

Charlotte Randolph’s Memphis home has been overtaken by Yankees. She flees with her young brother, but her older brother insists she return home to live with the Union soldiers and to pass on information that she acquires.

Against her will and good judgment, Charlotte acquiesces.

She flirts with the men. She bats her eyes. She tells three different soldiers that she’s in love with them. She accepts marriage proposals.

All the men in the house believe her feminine wiles.

All, that is, except Ben Chandler, a Texan who’s already lost one leg to the war and is assigned to General Branard at the Randolph house as an easy job while he recuperates. He’s also doing a bit of spying on the aged general. 

Ben knows Charlotte isn’t being honest, but he can’t help falling for her.

Charlotte knows Ben doesn’t believe her and is watching her every move. But why can’t she can’t get him and their stolen kiss out of her mind.

Charlotte flees home with her brother when she realizes her game will have deadly consequences for the young boy. Ben chases and finds her and they declare their love.

Charlotte returns to Memphis and is placed under arrest.

That’s where I am.

I love this story.

It’s not a “Christian” or inspirational romance, there is a love scene. There’s a few cuss words.

It’s a good story excellently told and recommended for lovers of historical romance. 

It’s loosely based on the true story of Confederate spy Antonia Ford.


Fiction Friday


I’ve done it again. Bitten off more than I can chew.



I’m overwhelmed so Fiction Friday and the Bandbox Hat is on hiatus until Friday April 13.

Thanks for understanding.


Book Talk Tuesday: A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City



Bride's Portrait


A great book with a bad name. Well, maybe not a bad name, but a poor one. This name tells nothing about the book, except yes, it takes place in Dodge City and there’s photography. And of course, a bride (two, actually) at the end, because it’s a romance.

Addie Reid came to Dodge City hoping to leave her past behind her. Deputy Miles Carr hoped the same thing. Both are unaware how much their pasts have in common and that their hopes are doomed.

When Vin Rutter, a former member of the Walker Gang, comes to town, he brings the hidden secrets to the open. When the owner of the mercantile is murdered, Miles is put in charge of the investigation. He soon realizes that his past is going to come to light.

Addie is trying to hold on to her business but Vin is determined to get something from her that she doesn’t have. Her studio is demolished and her hopes of saving her business and keeping her secrets are dashed.

I enjoyed this book. I took my time reading it, and each time I picked it up, I was able to easily rejoin the story world. Dodge City and the early days of photography are recreated on the page. Bat Masterson and the law enforcement of a bustling cattle town are characters in the novel and nicely drawn.

I recommend A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City by Erica Vetsch, especially to fans of historical romance.


Wednesday’s Woe on a Thursday

I got busy yesterday and didn’t sit down at the computer until 5 pm and by then my brain was empty and fried, similar to how I like my breakfast eggs cooked.


People –well, Dave—makes fun of how I like my eggs. But I like ‘em how I like ‘em.

I’m not a big fan of eggs anyway. I like them in things, like cakes and pie crust and cookies.

Just to eat an egg, it has to be prepared a certain way.

Deviled with mayo – sure.

Scrambled – not a chance.

Hardboiled, diced in a salad – I’m okay with that.

Sunnyside up – Uhhh …. No.

Over easy – not going down.

I used to be able to eat scrambled eggs until about ten years ago.

Then, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get scrambled eggs past my lips. I decided that every person is allotted a certain amount of scrambled eggs to eat in a lifetime and when you’ve reached your limit, you’re done. I happened to reach my quota at age 42. You may be different.

I can still eat them scrambled if they have cheese and/or veggies added. Then I’m eating the additional ingredients and the eggs are along for the ride. But to eat a scrambled egg by itself – not happening.

In order for me to eat an egg for breakfast, it has to be prepared to exact specifications:

Heat a skillet.

Add a little butter and melt it on the bottom of the skillet.

Break the egg into the skillet and (this is very important), immediately take one half of the broken shell and pierce the yolk. I’m not kidding when I say immediately. I mean before your hand stops hovering over the melted butter. Immediately. Yes, the yolk runs all over the white.

This is the point.

Add salt and pepper, a couple shakes of each.

DO NOT SCRAMBLE. Or mix together or add anything.

When the white is set and the yolk is well on it’s way to rubber, flip it over. When the yolk is completely done, the egg may be served. It also must be eaten immediately. No waiting for grace to be said or for bacon to come to the table.

Skillet-to-plate-to-mouth in the length of time it takes to read this sentence.

That is the only way I eat eggs for breakfast.

I know. I’m weird. But you knew that already.


Book Talk Tuesday

I write and schedule the book reviews ahead of time and last week I inadvertently posted two reviews on Tuesday. So I’m going to skip a review this week.

I’m in the middle of several books and not close enough to the end of any of them to write a decent review. I need to spend more time reading and writing and I’m entering into a very busy season.

I have a conference I’m preparing for, a contest I agreed to help judge, taxes to do, Easter to host, and a couple of freelance editing jobs.

Whew. Now I feel even more overwhelmed since listing it all.

I’ll try to write and schedule some reviews as I finish the books so check back here next week.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Sarah returned to the coffee shop for what she thinks is a meeting with a pollster or survey taker. She’s mortified to realize that there was an open casting call at the coffee shop for a reality dating show called Date My Son! and she was mistaken for a contestant. She and the assistant laugh about it and she gets up to leave but he tells her he really does want her to be on the show.


Chapter Twenty-One


I drove home and it was only God’s grace that I made it safely. I kept turning over Liam’s assurance that I’d do well on his show.

Of course I’d heard of Date My Son but I’d never watched it. All those contrived dating shows seemed too stupid to me. If falling in love and making it last was as simple as starting with a large pool of possible and then winnowing it down to a few, then why didn’t more of these primetime couples make it?

Liam had given me a couple DVDs of the last season. I’d promised to watch and to think about my answer. I’d also be praying more than a little.

Once locked into my apartment, I started the first episode.

The bachelor Noah had dark close-cut hair and was great looking. He seemed to care about his mom’s opinions and thoughts and he listened to her take on all the girls with intent nods.

His mom Kathryn seemed like perfect mother-in-law material. She encouraged the girls to talk about themselves and their hopes and dreams for love and marriage and the future.

It took the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday, but I watched the whole season until Kathryn proposed on Noah’s behalf to the red-headed Brooke. I howled with laughter at the cheesy set-up: Brooke in a flowing evening gown on the beach, Noah in a tux and down on one knee. All I could think was I hope that’s a rental because it’s ruined now with the dirt and the salt water. Kathryn did the talking, telling Brooke how she’d dreamed of her future daughter-in-law and the Sunday suppers they would have all together and the grandchildren in her future and how she knew Brooke and Noah were made for each other and would Brooke do them both the honor of becoming a part of the family.

My giggles subsided though and in another moment I wiped tears from my cheeks. Brooke accepted and Noah slid a diamond solitaire on her finger. They kissed and the whole dopey scene and Kathryn faded away and all I could see was Noah looking into Brooke’s eyes and the – yeah, I’m gonna say it – the love there was clear.

I watched the credits scroll by. Liam’s name was there so this was legit. The show had gone to Belize and Prague and Edinburgh. All places I’d love to see in person someday.

Longing and regret knotted in my stomach. I pulled a fresh tissue from the box on my side table and dabbed my eyes. A yearning to travel was no reason to consider going on a reality show and embarrassing myself and my family and my faith and my hometown. Because that’s all I could foresee: embarrassment and ridicule with a dash of horror if I were to go on this show.

The other girls were all long-legged drop-dead gorgeous model types. I was a grammar school teacher who wore skirts below her knees and had never owned a pair of short shorts or platform flip-flops. Platform anythings.

I picked up my phone to find Liam’s number. I’d thank him for the opportunity but decline.

Before I started to dial, the phone rang in my hand. It was such a reflex to answer the phone with a perky voice that I accepted the call without thinking.


“Sarah Jane.”

My heart dropped into my stomach. “Anna.”

“April misses you.”

I gave a little hiccuppy sigh. “I miss her, too.”

“When can I tell her you’ll be home?”

“I don’t know, Anna. I have a long-term substituting job. I’ve just been offered another opportunity that will take my whole summer if I do it.”

Anna breezed on as if I hadn’t spoken. “Look, we know you’re grieving, but don’t you think the best place for that is with your family who loves you and offer you comfort? You’re down there all by yourself. You must be lonely. What do you do in the evenings? Watch the paint dry? I know you’re not going out to clubs.”

Irritation rose in my chest. “What if I was, Anna? Would it be so terrible to go out and make a new friend and maybe dance? Or even travel?”

“You’ve already gone to LA. Where else is there?”

Visions of Brooke and Noah and Kathryn rose before me and I spoke without thinking. “Belize. I could go to Belize. Or Prague.”

Anna’s piercing shriek of laughter made me pull the phone away from my ear and put her on speaker. “You. In Belize. Do you even know where Belize is? Or Prague for that matter?”

“I teach second grade. I know my world geography. Probably better than you do, Anna.”

“Sure. That’s the reason I don’t travel—I don’t know where the countries are. Come on, Sarah Jane. Your place is here. Come home. Your brothers miss you. Mrs. Enns said this morning at church that Josiah asked where you were. He’s always had a crush on you.”

“I don’t need you to be a matchmaker for me.”

“Sure you do. Who else is going to find someone to put up with you?”

My jaw dropped with disbelief. “Are you seriously telling me that you think I can’t find a husband because I’m so difficult to get along with?”

She back-pedaled. “That’s not what I meant.”

I grew tired of the game. “I have to go, Anna. Bye.” I disconnected but instead of throwing the phone into the couch pillow as I wanted, I forced myself to stay calm and look for Liam’s number on the contract he’d given me.

I signed with a flourish and then stabbed in his number.


“Liam, it’s Sarah Richter. If you still want me, I’m interested.”


Woe! It’s Wednesday

It really is a small world.

And we’re all interconnected.

A long time friend of ours (we’ll call him … Buford) had a best friend growing up named … Bubba. Bubba played the french horn.

Bubba and Buford grew up and remained friends until Bubba died suddenly as a young husband and dad. His widow Sissy moved to Fresno to be closer to her family. She joined a local church. She remarried.

Buford came to visit us and we went to church where he ran into Sissy for the first time in seventeen years, give or take.

A few years later, the choir director at our church decided to start an orchestra. Another friend of ours, Giuseppe, played french horn but his horn was old and not in good shape. Sissy offered to let Giuseppe borrow Bubba’s horn to play as long as he liked. Giuseppe played it for years and in fact bought it from Sissy.

I played french horn in the high school band. My first high school had four horn players. My second had only two, me and Rufus. I graduated a year before Rufus and never saw him again.

We reconnected on Facebook a few months ago. The first thing he messaged to me was, “I was thinking about you the other day. The church we go to has two horn players in the orchestra, one male and one female.”

Yep. Rufus and his wife recently began attending our church.

So many intersecting points.

I never knew Bubba but I know his widow, his best friend as a kid, and the man who plays his horn now. I went thirty-four years without seeing Rufus, but now I see him almost weekly. He (and many others at church) enjoy the worship which includes a french horn with history.

I just learned today that (okay, fair warning, you’ll have to pay attention to follow this one) my hair stylist’s ex-husband and his wife attend our church too. His mother-in-law has been a longtime volunteer in the Sunday School department, where she ministered alongside my daughter when she taught second graders.

This reminds me of another story … when we lived in Southern California, we went to a very large church. Where (at least) four members (that I knew of at the time) all graduated from a tiny high school in a tiny town west of Fresno. I think my graduating class had about 120 kids, give or take. I presume the other classes had about the same. That four of us from three different classes all landed at the same church seemed unlikely to me. But it happened.

Because we’re all interconnected.

It really is a small world.


Book Talk Tuesday: Cinnamon Roll Murder

I’ve heard lots of praise for Joanne Fluke and her Hannah Swenson culinary mysteries. I received an Advanced Reader Copy from Kensington Books for review purposes and I dove in with great anticipation.

Hannah Swenson and her sister help an injured jazz band when their tour bus is in an accident. Hannah feels responsible to investigate when one of the musicians is later murdered at the hospital. She’s also being prodded by her family and friends to break up her former boyfriend’s upcoming wedding to a scheming and evil usurper of his affections.

Both plots overlap in a convincing way. The mystery isn’t all that complex but the red herrings are laid out fairly and nicely interspersed with the real clues. One of the deaths is pretty much ignored after it’s determined that it could have been an accident. I would have liked a bit more resolution there. Was he murdered or not?

The book is as much cookbook/recipe book as it is mystery.

The recipes look delicious and they are written so that even the most novice of cooks can follow the directions easily.

Since this is a series and I hadn’t read any of the previous books, I did have a bit of problem sorting out all the characters. I also found some of the characters to be behaving a bit illogically, but I’m willing to say that if I knew them better, it might make more sense.

I understand that in the cozy genre, more latitude is given to activities such as cooking, knitting, or gardening, but I often found myself wanting to skim the parts where Hannah and her partner or her sister would discuss what they were going to bake next and whether they had enough flour on hand for a full batch or something and then listing the utensils they would need. That got a bit tedious and could have tightened up the scene if it had been streamlined.

Overall, I recommend Cinnamon Roll Murder and I look forward to reading another.


I received a free copy of Cinnamon Roll Murder for review purposes but it did not influence my review.

Book Talk Tuesday: Tiger Lillie

book cover of 

Tiger Lillie 


Lisa Samson

Tiger Lillie came out in 2004. I heard really good things about it. I’ve read a few other Lisa Samson titles and I enjoyed them, I just never got around to Tiger Lillie. Until last week.

I could not put it down.

Lillie is a Strong Hungarian Woman, just like her mother and grandmother. She’s single, a little overweight, and the bean-counting partner in a wedding planning business. 

Lillie’s struggles and feelings are real and pure. Even though I’m a Weak California Woman, Lillie’s emotions resonated with me.

Her sister is disappearing into a marriage to a control and religion freak. Her parents are getting older and distraught at the changes they see in the daughter who is slipping away.

I’ve also read Songbird by Lisa.

Songbird  Several people told me they couldn’t get into Songbird, but I thought the voice was so distinct and the story and protagonist so strong, I couldn’t not get into it.  If you know what I mean.

I admit it. I’m a Lisa Samson fangirl.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: At the local Starbucks on a Saturday morning, Sarah Jane is given a survey to fill out. She assumes it’s for someone’s statistics class or a poll and she fills it out. The man taking the papers back asks her a few questions about her Mennonite heritage and asks her to come back that afternoon for an interview. She agrees, then overhears two beautiful women mock her unassuming dress and hair.

Chapter Twenty

At 3:23 I pulled into a parking spot in the lot behind the coffee shop. I turned off the ignition but sat, my knuckles white on the steering wheel.

Why did I let those women get to me? So what if I didn’t wear the latest styles? I dressed in comfortable classic pieces. Yes, my hair was long and straight but so I was hardly the only one who wore it pulled it back most of the time.

I sighed and opened the door. I told the guy I’d be back for his interview, and I always kept my word so I trudged across the asphalt and into the rear door.

The store had cleared out quite a bit compared to this morning. I scanned the room for my survey buddy but he was sitting with one of the beautiful girls. Not either of the ones who mocked me this morning, I was gratified to see, but still. This one was just as gorgeous with blonde hair in a high pony tail that cascaded over one shoulder.

They both stood, and shook hands. “We’ll be in touch,” he said.

She hoisted a purse the size of a feed bag into the crook of her arm and made her way to the front door, so lopsided I almost followed behind to catch her if she suddenly toppled over.

“Sarah, right?” He turned his attention to me.

I nodded. “I didn’t get your name.”

“Sorry. I’m Liam. Assistant to the assistant producer.” He gestured to the seat the blonde had just vacated.

I sat, the warmth from her legs seeping through my capris. “I didn’t realize survey takers were called producers, but I guess that makes sense.”

“Hmm hmm.” He shuffled through a stack of papers, searching for something. He finally extracted one page and put it on top of the stack. “Tell me about yourself, Sarah.” His gaze never lifted from the tablet computer while he typed, presumably moving info from the sheet of paper to the device.

“Well, I’m new to the LA area. Although I have family here.” That made me sound like not quite the hick who fell off the hay truck yesterday. So what if I hadn’t seen or talked to my sister in years. Liam didn’t have to know that. “I’m a teacher.”

“That’s great, teachers always engender lots of good fan reaction.” He glanced up then, giving me an assessing look before turning back to his iPad.

“And you’re available for filming the first week of June, right? Otherwise what’s the point of the application.”

Something skittered up my back and it wasn’t a caffeine jitter. But I answered his question. “School’s out the week after Memorial Day.”

“Good, good.”

“Ummm … Liam?” The uneasy grew until I had to ask.

“What do you mean ‘filming’? And I didn’t fill out an application.”

“Sure you did. I have it right here.” He tapped the paper on in front of him. “On the surface, you’re perfect for the small town sweetheart.”

“No. I filled out a survey for you. Aren’t you taking a poll or doing some sort of statistical analysis?”

That got his attention because his head rose and he finally looked at me like I was really there, not someone he was instant messaging with online. “Noo … I’m not doing any survey. I’m assistant to Leah Banks, assistant to Miles Travis, the executive producer of Date My Son!

“But that’s a-a reality show. A dating show.” My throat was closing up and I had to choke out the last words.

He nodded. “That’s right. We had an open casting call this morning. You filled out an application.” Something dawned in his eyes and he shook his head. “You weren’t here for an audition.”

Heat warmed my cheeks and I gulped. “I came in for coffee. I thought you were taking a survey.”

His head fell back and a laugh rose from his chest.

I stared at him, but I couldn’t help it. I joined in and laughed until tears ran down my cheeks. We’d get a grip and then one of us would catch the other’s eye and we’d be off again. Everyone in the shop stared but we couldn’t seem to stop.

I finally dried my eyes and sighed. “Well, that explains so much. I’m so sorry for taking up your time.” I stood.

Liam got to his feet more slowly. “So that’s it? You’re not interested?”

“You don’t want me for a dating show.” The idea was crazy.

He chuckled again. “I knew exactly what I was getting when I asked you to come back for an interview. I think you’d be great on the show.”

I sank back into my chair. “You want me … to be on the television show …Date My Son!

He leaned over and whispered in my ear. “I think you can win the thing.”