Soul of a Crow by Abbie Williams

Soul of a Crow picks up with Lorie, Sawyer, and the Carter brothers still making their way across the Midwest to Minnesota. The loss of Gus, who had been such an integral part in each of their lives, hangs heavy over the group; but in a cruel twist of fate, his death has allowed Lorie and Sawyer the freedom to finally be together.

Soul of a Crow

The second book in the series is darker than its predecessor and explores the emotional aftermath of the Civil War. We see into Sawyer’s past and learn just how troubled, heartbroken, and haunted he was by the ghosts of family and friends who had lost their lives, as well as those whose lives he had taken. He had turned to alcohol to dull his pain and it was gentle Gus who helped him to understand that life was worth living and that he’d come too far and survived too much to just give up. We come to understand how Sawyer was able to ride away from Lorie, namely because Gus was there to take care of her, the way he had cared for Sawyer years ago.

Misfortune is never far behind them, but at least the first half of the book provides a much needed respite from the terrifying pursuit they endured in book 1. I have a soft spot for these situations, when characters that have been through hell and back and seemingly can’t catch a break are finally allowed to just relax and enjoy life for a spell. Seeing Lorie and Sawyer able to sleep in and relish peaceful time simply enjoying each other’s company reminded me of the way I felt when Jamie and Claire eventually got some time to themselves in An Echo in the Bone. Jamie and Claire were able to stroll through the streets of Edinburgh doing some mundane shopping for eyeglasses, but such a routine exchange was so much sweeter after all they had been through. Similarly, Lorie and Sawyer are given the down time to develop their relationship and truly get to know one another as they make their way towards their future homestead. It was good to see Lorie happy, eating rock candy, and later homemade ice cream on top of a quilt beneath a sprawling poplar tree, distancing herself from her former life and enjoying her newfound freedom.

As I said in my review of Heart of a Dove, I find myself completely enthralled by Williams’s descriptive writing and her gift for pulling the reader into the landscape. I start to feel myself bumping across the prairie, being warmed by the sun inside a canvas tent, or smelling the smoke from the fire as I listen to Boyd play the fiddle. One of her true talents lies in the ability to make the reader understand what it feels like to live the daily lifestyle of her characters, which serves to create a unique bond and emotional connection that is rare, and extremely impactful.

But my favorite part, by far, was the wedding scene. The Carter boys showed the depth of their kindness and compassionate natures as they took pains to provide Lorie and Sawyer with a proper wedding ceremony. Lorie wore their mother’s silk wedding dress that had been travelling alongside them in a cedar chest. (These are the types of details I relish, because I could so clearly imagine the fresh scent of cedar clinging to the cool fabric of the dress – what Sawyer would smell as he stood next to her – which just added another layer to bring it all to life so clearly.) And I was grinning from ear to ear when Malcom and Boyd wove wildflowers into Lorie’s hair in a scene that further endeared the Carter brothers to my heart. As much as I wanted the wedding to commence for Lorie and Sawyer’s sake, I didn’t want the heartwarming preparations to end.

The past eventually catches up to them of course, and what results is challenging and heartbreaking to read. But I was sad to reach the end of the book and found myself immediately flipping back to reread my favorite sections. I am excited to get my hands on the third book, and I am especially interested in seeing what develops with Boyd, who particularly stood out to me this time around. Malcolm stole my heart in book 1 and now Boyd has done the same.  I look forward to the final installment of this charming and captivating series.

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.


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

—————————————————————————————————————————————— 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.


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.


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!

Outlander Birthday Double Whammy!

Hellooooooo, my long lost friends! I hope you have all been well and happy for the past 3 months! I rather unintentionally took a hiatus from my blog – my brain has been overburdened with heavy philosophical questions and ponderings that I won’t bother you with- but oddly enough, I didn’t even have the slightest desire to blog.

So, what has brought me back to the blogging world? Well, I turned 30 last week (Eeek! Nah, I’m totally over it at this point) and Richie made me an amazing dinner that deserves to be shared. He created an Outlander-themed menu based off of Outlander Kitchen’s incredibly creative blog. (I often read her posts aloud to him because they’re always either cracking me up or blowing me away with imaginativeness…and apparently, he was paying attention!)

First off was Mr. Willoughby’s Coral Knob (a.k.a. cheese balls)

And then came Roger and Bree’s Pizza (or in our case, Richie and Bri’s Pizza, he he)

And for dessert, we had Stephen Bonnet’s Salted Chocolate Pretzel Balls!

The food was seriously amazing, and of course he gets major points on multiple levels, but I was probably most giddy about the Outlander connection :) Richie is obsessed with the pretzel balls, he ate them for breakfast the next day and he actually made them again today. It’s a running joke in our household that he is in love with “Stephen Bonnet’s Balls” ;)

(Richie accidentally deleted the one pic where his eyes were open...)

It was too hot inside, so we relocated outdoors and Levi thought it smelled delicious!

And as if that wasn’t enough…

I had entered Outlander Kitchen’s Giveaway for Outlander themed soaps – a bar of “Jamie’s Soap” and a bar of “Claire’s Soap” from On a Branch Soap shop (on Etsy) – and lo and behold, I WON!!!!! I am still in disbelief because I never win anything! And home-made soaps are literally the one single indulgent item that I allow myself, so if I could’ve chosen a giveaway to win, it would have been this one. I am going to LUXURIATE in these soaps!! I am SO EXCITED I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU. Thank you so much, Theresa and Tara!!!




Claire's soap


I lost my Mamaw, Shirley, 2 weeks ago to cancer. She was vibrant, friendly, thoughtful, loyal and compassionate. She cared about people and animals. She would give you the shirt off her back and seamlessly made everyone around her feel included and welcome. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen and took pleasure in cooking huge, delicious, country meals. She always made me my favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting (even if there were 15 other desserts already made).


She loved the color blue and I’ll always think of her when I see antique blue dishware or blue glass bottles in a windowsill. She always had her nails perfectly painted pink and yet she was tough. She and my Papaw spent a chapter of their lives working together building houses – by themselves. She enjoyed crafting and creating and had a wide range of skill.

The art that she was best known for was quilting and I would describe her as a prolific quilter. I have no idea how many quilts she produced in her lifetime, but I know that she gave one to all of her children and grandchildren every Christmas for many, many years, not to mention all that she gave to other family, friends, and church members. She made one for my husband (who, at the time, was only my boyfriend of 3 months) to welcome him into the family – I guess she just knew that he was a keeper ;)

Our heirloom wedding gift.

This was my gift when I went away to college. It was a bright spot in my dreary dorm room and it's still one of my favorites.

A recent gift to Richie. The amount of hand stitching boggles my mind.

I met many of her friends and fellow church members for the first time at her funeral and almost each person that spoke to me had a story about my Mamaw giving them a quilt, a baby quilt for a grandchild, a wall hanging, a pillow, etc. I was also particularly touched by the fact that most of these people called me by the nickname that my Mamaw had given me. All of these strangers also knew about my husband’s recent health difficulties and each one asked about him. We were always on her mind. It was a very moving experience.

It still hasn’t fully sunken in that I will never see her again and to say that she will be missed is an understatement. The last time I spoke to her, I told her that my interest in quilting was piqued by the baby quilt I recently made for a friend. She told me to take it up and carry on the tradition, and I plan to give it my best shot.