Short Read for a Lazy Afternoon

bluebonnet bride cover

Sometimes I just want something quick to read for an afternoon. I don’t want to start a full-length book and get sucked in for the next two days. This is the reason I love that there are so many novellas out right now (the Year of Weddings series is perfect for this). But Bluebonnet Bride by Colleen Coble was almost too short of a read. It is only fifty-eight pages long and took about ninety minutes to finish.

Ellie Korpela has accepted an offer of marriage to a man she has never met. She flees her home in Sweden. When she meets Nathan White and his young niece, Hannah, in Texas, she is instantly drawn to them. They are married that day and the first night in their new home Ellie is attacked. Has the evil man she was running from caught up to her or does the attack have something to do with the new job Nathan has taken? Can Nathan protect her, and even more pressing, will their marriage ever be more than an arrangement for Hannah’s sake?

With a book this short, it’s really difficult to have well-developed characters. The story was fast-moving and you wanted to solve the mystery of what was happening with the attacks, but I would have loved to see more of a relationship for between Ellie and the other characters in the story—her neighbor, her husband, and little Hannah.

****BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishing provided me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a positive or a negative review.

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More inside scoop from A Beauty So Rare

a beauty so rare

I hope you’ve been enjoying all of the behind-the-scenes info from Tamera Alexander, author of A Beauty So Rare. This week she shares and interview with the seamstress who made the dress for the cover of her book.

To see photos of the cover shoot, visit Tamera’s blog at http://tameraalexander.blogspot.com/2014/04/photo-shoot-for-beauty-so-rare.html

Meet the Woman Behind the Cover Dress
by Tamera Alexander

Dear friends,

Have you ever wanted to meet the woman who sewed the dress on a novel cover? Then please allow me to introduce you to Beth Schoenherr, the ever-so-talented seamstress who sewed Eleanor Braddock’s dress for the cover of A Beauty So Rare.

I’m thrilled that Beth was willing to share about her experience in making the dress, and I love the behind-the-scenes glimpses she shares. I hope you will, too!

Tamera: Where did inspiration for the dress for A Beauty So Rare come from (both the style and color)?

Beth: The style, of course, was determined by the post–Civil War timing of the story.

I believe the cover designer and editors talked about a garden setting and felt pink would look lovely against the backdrop of the green foliage and other flowers, which it does! I then had the fun of finding the right shade of pink to keep it a believable color for the time. Hot pink or neon pink, of course, would never do!

Tamera: Um, no. LOL! Not even Adelicia Acklen could have coerced Eleanor into neon pink! ; )

Tamera: Have you made dresses for photo shoots before?

Beth: I started doing period costumes for men, women, and children in amateur theater in 1999 and then had opportunities in the following years to progress to working in the costume shop of a professional theater. This is my first costume for a photo shoot, however.

Tamera: How cool, Beth. I’m so grateful for your work on this dress. Well done!

Tamera: Do you have an appreciation for period clothing? And if yes, what’s your favorite style of women’s dresses from history?

Beth: I do enjoy period clothing. I don’t think I can pick one favorite style though. I just enjoy the various and changing silhouettes and fabrics throughout the history of fashion.

Tamera: Understandable. I have many “favorites,” too!

Tamera: What’s the most challenging dress you’ve created for a cover (and what was most challenging about it)? Also, what has been your most challenging sewing project in general?

Beth: As I mentioned, this is the first dress I have made for a cover. It has been really fun and exciting to create this dress from scratch and then see it on the cover of this book. A new experience I had when making this dress was the cartridge pleats at the back of the skirt. The pattern called for the front and side pieces of the skirt to be pleated to fit into the waistband and left only a five-inch opening in the back of the waistband. Then I had to fit the 50-inch-wide piece of fabric for the back part of the skirt into that five-inch opening.

I thought, “There is no way I’m going to get that much fabric into that little space.” But the cartridge pleats worked fabulously at neatly pleating 50” down to 5”.

The most challenging costume I worked on was a waistcoat designed and then cut out by someone else and given to me to sew. Not a single piece matched up in size to its coordinating piece. There was no extra fabric to work with so I had to just rework the pieces I had while making sure the finished garment would still fit the actor it was designed for. Definitely a “make it work” project!

Finally, probably the most thrilling dress I got to make was the first complete dress for a play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Many of my costumes prior to that had to be remakes of existing dresses or costumes due to tight budgets. But I was graciously given the opportunity to sew, from start to finish, the schoolteacher dress in Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, which premiered at the Guthrie and then went on to tour nationally. It was so exciting to see the professionally-designed dress come together step-by-step and then to see it on stage.

Tamera: Wow, Beth, I bet that was a rewarding experience with Little House on the Prairie: the Musical. Congratulations! I’ve always admired people who know how to sew, and sew well!

Thank you for sharing your talent and time with us––and with the cover of my latest novel.

~Tamera
http://www.TameraAlexander.com

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A Special Treat from A Beauty So Rare

a beauty so rare recipe 1

In A Beauty So Rare, Eleanor Braddock loves to cook. It’s her passion. Today I am posting one of Eleanor’s recipes for my readers!! Enjoy

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard
(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander
http://www.TameraAlexander.com

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as “savory custards” in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is “a cook with a dream.” But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or “receipt” as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit http://www.TameraAlexander.com.

Ingredients
1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)
1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)
1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions
Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.

Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust
(makes two large crusts)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander
http://www.TameraAlexander.com

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust “freezes beautifully ” as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then “unfold” it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at http://www.tameraalexander.com/contact.html.

Delicious!!!

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A Stillness of Chimes Review

a stillness of chimes

Once in a while I come across a book that I’m not sure how I feel about it when I’m reading it. I’m entertained and into the book while I’m reading through it, but when I’m finished I’m somehow a little disappointed. Hopefully writing this review will help me workout my issues with the book I just finished, A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley.

Laura Gantt returns home to Prospect, Georgia to take care of things after her mother has passed away. Growing up in the small Georgia town, Laura and her two best friends, Cassie Bright and Sean Halloran, were inseparable and when they were twelve made the promise to always be there for each other, no matter what. But, time, age, and circumstances have a way of making people drift apart. Laura’s father had drowned in the lake when she was eighteen, but now that she’s home rumors are starting to circulate that he has been seen around town. Laura wants to know the truth. Is her father, a man who suffered from PTSD, alive out there. Is he hurt? Is he mentally all right? Sean Halloran, Laura’s former boyfriend, wants to protect Laura from disappointment and hurt. He is still in love with her, still longs to be with her, and to protect her but Laura won’t admit her feelings for him.

There was just so much going on in this story, and while it made the book a very quick read, it also felt like there wasn’t great resolution to a few of the things that were happening in the book. The story is about love and sacrifice, giving something up to protect something else, and understanding the different parts of someone’s life that makes them the person they grow into. I guess my problem with this book is with the ending. I understand that not everything is always wrapped up in the perfect little happily ever after, but the ending of this book was abrupt and I felt like I wanted more. I wanted more of Laura and Sean’s story and I wanted more of how they recovered from the truth of what Laura discovered while looking for her father. So, overall, I would give with book three out of five stars.

***Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers and Blogging for Books provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or a positive review.

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Nashville Sweetheart

nashville sweetheart cover

Sometimes when I’m reviewing books I seem to run into a theme. Recently I was reading a couple of mysteries in a row. This month is seems to be books based in Nashville. The books are very different from each other (the last one I reviewed was a historical romance and the one I’m reviewing today is contemporary). Now, I’m not complaining. As a transplant to Nashville, I love being here. I love this city. It’s a large city that doesn’t feel like a large city. In Nashville Sweetheart, Rachel Hauck gives readers a glimpse into Nashville and the country music scene.

Aubrey James is a country music diva and she knows it. She has been in the music industry for years, but has avoided doing media interviews. Her parents were Gospel music pioneers who died tragically in a car accident when she was a teenager and, at thirty, she is still grieving their loss. Her crazy schedule has caused her to need a break over the summer, but a disgruntled music director, a new record label president, and a fiancé are making her life even more stressful. Aubrey James agrees to do a local interview. Scott Vaughn works for a local television program, Inside NashVegas, and it tapped to do the interview with Aubrey. While interviewing her over the course of a month, Scott sees Aubrey’s tenderness and sincerity, something not many people get to see because Aubrey James tries to keep her private life private.

The book is a little older so there are some dated references in there is you know Nashville (some places that have changed names or are no longer around), but that doesn’t detract from the story. I wasn’t sure what to think of Aubrey James at first but as I got to know her as she told her story, she became more likable and you want her to succeed. This one is definitely another winner by Rachel Hauck.

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Historic Nashville Romance

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Like many others who live in the area, I am a transplant to Nashville, TN. I have lived here sixteen years this summer but never attended elementary or secondary school here so, while I am familiar with many of the historic sites around the area, I don’t actually know a lot of the history. I feel like I learned a little more about my new home (and Belmont Mansion) when I read Tamera  Alexander’s second stand alone novel in her Belmont Mansion series, A Beauty So Rare.

 

Eleanor Braddock’s world is changing. Her father’s illness has caused her to make some hard decisions, including how best to care for him, and relying on her aunt, Adelicia Acklen Cheatham, to support her. Eleanor has not disillusioned about her future, she knows she is not beautiful, and at thirty, will not find a husband. But Eleanor has a dream that she would like her aunt to help her with. That dream morphs into something much bigger than Eleanor, or her aunt for that matter, could ever imagine. Marcus Geoffrey is a man who wants to escape his past, and his heritage, a man who wants to make his own way. Marcus is a very handsome man who is used to women falling over themselves to be near him, but has never had a friendship with a woman. He is intrigued by Adelicia’s niece who is not taken in by his looks upon their first meeting.

 

Eleanor Braddock is most definitely someone the reader cheers for. You ache for her as she is dealing with her father, and love her for serving those less fortunate, you want her to find true happiness. Her dislike of pink and her forthrightness make her that much more loveable.

 

Alexander does a terrific job of weaving fiction with history in A Beauty So Rare (absolutely love the title of this book, by the way) and I was quickly engrossed in the story. Once I met Eleanor and Marcus I didn’t want to put the book down until I found out how their stories ended. And now that I’ve finished the book, I keep thinking about them, and want to go back and re-read parts of their story. That is always a sign of a good book for me. Stay tuned this month for more exclusive content from the author of A Beauty So Rare

 

 

****Bethany House Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was not compensated in any way for either a negative or a positive review.

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A Beauty So Rare Exclusive!!!

I am about halfway through this book and love the historical Nashville setting. As a transplant to the area, I’m feeling like I’m learning a little of Nashville’s history through a great story. Learn what Tamara Alexander’s inspiration for writing A Beauty So Rare was.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVV1ESQ9Cb8&feature=youtu.be

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