Heart of a Dove by Abbie Williams

heart of a doveLorissa Blake is a young lady old beyond her years. Sold into prostitution at the age of fifteen after losing her entire family to war and sickness, she bears witness to desperation and despair each night she is forced to sell her body. Learning to play the part of Ginny Hossiter’s star whore, Lila, may have saved Lorissa from starvation on the streets, but it has come at a high price, and she has lost all hope of ever being free and happy again.

The monotony of her existence is unexpectedly broken one night when a band of former Confederate soldiers from Tennessee pays a visit to the saloon. Angus Warfield, the patriarch of the group, is horrified to discover a personal connection to Lorissa and immediately facilitates her escape, despite threats of vengeance from Ginny. Lorissa finds herself journeying north with Angus and his companions, Boyd, Sawyer, and Malcolm – each having also experienced unbearable loss at the hands of the War- as they head to Minnesota to take advantage of the Homestead Act. Life on the trail exceeds all expectations for Lorissa, as she quickly forms deep bonds with her new makeshift family and allows herself to feel joy once again; but this peace is not to last, as they soon discover they are being pursued by a deranged madman hell-bent on revenge.

There is so much to love about this book, I don’t know where to begin. I was sucked in from the very first page and ended up reading it multiple times. The characterizations are so convincing; I could immediately relate to the characters because their mannerisms, speech, and behaviors were so similar to people I have known in real life. Being a native Tennessean myself, I can say that Williams nailed the depictions of Angus, Boyd, Sawyer, and especially Malcolm, who brought back memories of two of my own cousins when they were young men.

Likewise, I have never been to the Midwest, and yet the vivid descriptions of the sprawling, unchanging prairies and the wide open skies made me feel like I was there. I could practically feel the slow bumping of the wooden wagon beneath me, and I could hear the grass moving and sliding beneath the wheels and the gentle noises of the horses as the team slowly trundled their way across the landscape. The deep love of horses conveyed through Lorissa and Sawyer inspired a similar interest in me, and spurred me to invite myself over to an acquaintance’s farm so I could spend a little time with her horses and nuzzle a few soft noses myself.

One of my favorite scenes was when Lorissa’s group encounters another family traveling north, and excited for the company, they have an impromptu dinner party that evening. The imagery was beautiful: an old farm table sitting in the middle of the vast prairie, set with tin plates and cups of lemonade, a baby in a basket on the ground being rocked by her mother’s foot, faces softly lit by the glowing lanterns, all set against the backdrop of a brilliant sunset. Later that evening, Boyd plays his fiddle around the campfire and thousands of lightning bugs blink against the night sky. It was a gorgeous scene and I longed to be there myself.

The heart of the story, of course, is the blooming love between Lorissa and one of her companions. I won’t go into detail about who she falls in love with, so as not to give too much away, but their passion for each other is gripping, and I was on the edge of my seat while they were stealing kisses behind the wagon and sneaking away from camp after dark. This story stands out from other romances in the sense that there is considerable depth to the characters, and the build-up to the love affair is slow and sweet. I found that deliberate build-up to be very refreshing, and it leant a further sense of honesty to the relationship because it allowed time for both the reader and the characters to actually build connections, which doesn’t happen when they instantly jump into bed together.

There are a few typos (perhaps I have an early copy?) and an occasional awkwardness in the dialogue between Lorissa and her beau, but the compelling nature of the narrative prevents them from being a distraction. This book has a lot to offer fans of historical fiction who also enjoy a strong love story. The romance will suck you in and leave you giddy for days (the hallmark of any good love story, in my opinion). This is the first in a trilogy, and I look forward to reading the next book, Soul of a Crow, coming out later this year.

P.S. This book won the 2015 Gold Medal for Romance at the Independent Publishers Book Awards. Congratulations, Abbie!!

When life gives you lemons…

…make lemon and fig scones.

scone collage

The thought struck me while I was at work, so I wrote “scones” on my hand so I wouldn’t forget…

IMG_4523 Today felt like spring, with a gentle rain throughout…perhaps my subconscious was thinking of Scotland.

IMG_4533

I was wishing for some clotted cream, but a little Tennessee honey did the trick just fine.

Lemon and Fig Scones

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) margarine
  • 1/2 cup finely diced dried figs
  • grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Cut in the margarine until the mixture looks crumbly. Add the lemon zest and dried figs. Add the buttermilk and stir just until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead softly. Form into a ball and with a rolling-pin, roll until 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 triangular slices. Place the scones on a silicone baking mat (or well-greased baking sheet) and bake about 12 minutes, until lightly browned.

Catching up

I can’t believe it’s been over two years since my last post. Quite a bit has happened since October 2012…new job, new town, and new house, just to name a few things. Oh, and I went to SCOTLAND! (Pictures and stories forthcoming.)

I woke up today to a beautiful winter wonderland – and the good news that my work office is closed – which means SNOW DAY!!! I’m taking this opportunity to sit down and start blogging again.

snow day collage

Where to begin? I’m happy to report that Richie is doing very well. We celebrated his 3rd “Transplantiversary” back in November, complete with wonderfully apropos lung shaped cookies (thanks to Angela’s incomparable gifting skills).

PicMonkey Collage 1

Ruby and Levi are largely unchanged, still digging lots of holes, sneaking into the garden, and barking at inopportune times.

As for me, I’m a little older and a little wiser. Two of my new favorite hobbies are crochet and vegan cooking. I’ve started doing some serious meal-planning and I only go to the grocery store once a month now, which has really helped out budget-wise. I am going to finally finish the quilt that I began *gulp* 3 years ago (has it really been that long??), and I want to start experimenting with various techniques in the form of mini-quilts (I have learned that it’s perhaps not so wise to take on a queen-sized quilt as your first foray into the craft). I picked up my real camera today for the first time in a very long time, and it felt good.

I’m happy to be back in my little corner of the interwebs. We should have snow days more often :)

The Month of the Pumpkin Lives On!

I’m a little rusty when it comes to this blogging thing…you see, I told myself that I was going to revive The Month of the Pumpkin Challenge this fall (since I essentially missed the entire fall/winter season last year) and I have kept my word! I just forgot to blog about it. But here I am…always the procrastinator ;)

The first dessert I made was a pumpkin cake from Pinterest. My experience with Pinterest recipes thus far has been completely hit or miss, and I still haven’t made my mind up about this one. I was lured in by its simplicity and cheapness, so if I take those factors into consideration, I suppose it was good. It wasn’t a very pretty dish, and I wouldn’t present it at a dinner party, but it served well as an easy, work night dessert.

Here is the link to the recipe.  Sorry, no pics. I just plopped it into a large tupperware container so we could eat it throughout the week, so like I said, it wasn’t very pretty.

picture from noblepig.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————— Next, I wanted to make a pumpkin-y breakfast. I made Pumpkin Oat Muffins from the tried-and-true Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. The only reason they weren’t fantastic is because I accidentally cooked them too long and they got a little dry and a little too brown. As a result, I opted to not take a photo of the sad little burnt muffins, for the sake of their dignity as well as mine ;)

Pumpkin Oat Muffins – adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup rolled oats ( ground in a blender or food processor until they match the consistency of cornmeal)

1 egg

3/4 cup pumpkin (or winter squash or sweet potato puree)

3/4 cup evaporated skim milk

1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

apricot preserves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prep your muffin tins. (My batch made 15 muffins.) In a large bowl, sift together the first 5 ingredients. In another bowl, beat the egg and then add the pumpkin, milk, juice, oil and sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined. Spoon mixture into tins and add a spoonful of apricot preserves on top of each muffin. (The preserves melt and spread out to add a sweet coating to the top of each muffin.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Then we made Creamy Pumpkin Risotto and it was DELICIOUS. This is the dish that spurned me to get off my lazy arse and blog because this one needs to be shared! The recipe came from the Food Network site (click here) and we made a few changes, but this one is a keeper!

We used diced butternut squash (diced very small) and we substituted cream cheese for marscapone (because we are cheap bastards). Also, 35-40 minutes in the oven is not enough, ours went a little over an hour before it was perfectly done. (When we checked it at 40 minutes and it was still a soupy mess, we were quite disheartened and wrote this one off as a total failure. Luckily, we left it in the oven, went back to watching The Shining, and were very pleasantly surprised to find it had morphed into a fluffy, beautiful risotto during those last 20 minutes!)

The next time we make it, we’re going to briefly saute the onions and squash prior to putting it in the oven, just to give it a little more flavor, but seriously, this is one of my new favorite pumpkin dishes.

YUM!

Next up: Eggplant, Green Bean, and Pumpkin Curry!

Outlander Soaps from On a Branch Soaps!

After waiting with bated breath, I finally received my wonderful Outlander soaps from Tara! (They had quite the journey from Ontario to Tennessee!) They both smell amazing, but the lovely lemongrass scent of Claire’s soap was calling my name the loudest, so I tore into it and jumped into the shower. Jamie’s soap smells just as delicious, but I’m saving him for later ;) I consider myself a bit of a home-made soap connoisseur, and I can tell you that these are quality soaps, and I love that she took the time to include a personal, handwritten note! A perfect gift for an Outlander fan! I’m so happy! Thanks again, Tara (and Theresa for hosting the giveaway)!!

Now, go check out On a Branch Soaps on Etsy and buy some!

Instead of being realistic and thinking about Jamie and Claire’s lack of hygiene, from here on out I will imagine them smelling like these beautiful soaps :)

I am banned from time travel!

Each year at work, we are required to do an ethics refresher in which we read over the things we cannot do and then sign a form. There is one particular item that always catches my eye…

Time traveling is questionable conduct?? Whoever wrote this clearly doesn't know Mr. Fraser ;)

And I invariably joke (to myself) about how tragic it is to have a job that seeks to prevent me from going through the stones to see Jamie. It always brings a smile to my face! As you can see, my job is terribly exciting.

Speaking of being sucked into a time-warp, I am on Pinterest now! Whether or not this is a good thing, I have yet to decide, but if you want to be Pinterest friends, click here, and then leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail with your user name so I can follow you! Outlander Kitchen’s latest post inspired me to create an Outlander board :) Happy pinning!