Author Kristen Ethridge & Jalapeno Bullets?

Kristen Ethridge

My guest today is Kristen Ethridge, a new author to me and maybe to you. She sounds like my kind of girl, loves food! And is sharing a recipe with us. I’m not really into HOT food, slightly spicy is my choice. So proceed with caution. :-) Here’s Kristen:

A Texas-Sized Treat on the Grill!

Isn’t it fun how food and fiction go together? I think it’s because food is often a part of memories and special times in our lives, and as writers, we can’t help but weave the things we’re influenced by into the books we write.

One of our favorite things to do is to grill.

My husband is pretty much a master at the grill. He cooks for us in the backyard and has catered events for more than 2,000 people—that’s a LOT of brisket! In fact, it’s probably pretty apropos that we met at a football tailgate, when he was behind the grill.

These days, one of our favorite things to do

is have friends over in the summer. We’re lucky to have a pool in the backyard so we can beat the Texas heat, and there’s nothing better than snacking all afternoon long while you splash. While burgers or a brisket is often the star of the show, we’ve even been known to grill pizzas. One of our favorite recipes to kick off grill time is this jalapeno bullet recipe.

jalapeno bullet recipe

Only three ingredients: cream cheese, jalapenos, and bacon (your choice, but maple bacon adds sweetness)

  • Slice jalapenos in half length-wise and then de-seed them.  It’s crucial to de-seed them—they’ll be too hot to eat otherwise. Gloves are recommended if you’re not used to de-seeding peppers. If you get the oils from the seeds on your hands and then you wipe your eyes, you’ll be miserable.
  • Spread cream cheese into the de-seeded jalapeno halves.  Press them back together.
  • Wrap in bacon and put a toothpick through each to hold together.
  • Place on grill until bacon is cooked and crispy
  • Enjoy!

 

FINAL Storm Surge

In my August release, The Doctor’s Unexpected Family,

one of the ways that Pete and Angela celebrate the island reaching a recovery milestone after Hurricane Hope is to grill burgers out on the deck of beach house that faces the Gulf of Mexico. The local grocery store has just opened that afternoon for the first time since the hurricane’s landfall. Angela celebrates the simple pleasure of just being able to bite into a salty, greasy potato chip alongside a freshly-grilled burger.

I’m so excited about the Port Provident: Hurricane Hope series that began in July with Second Chance Sweethearts, not only because I’m going to be following the town of Port Provident through their recovery from Hurricane Hope, but because I’m also sharing my own personal story as part of it.

In the wake of Hurricane Ike,

I started a non-fiction book on the life lessons I learned from Hurricane Ike. Called Storm Surge: Life Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Ike and How You Can Rise Above Life’s Storms, it is my first non-fiction book and it will release on September 13, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Ike. I wrote this memoir with a Christian living twist because I knew that not everyone goes through a hurricane in their life, but we all go through storms. And it is how we weather them that shapes our lives.

And the best part is

that I want to share this series that’s so close to my heart with you, the readers here. The next book in the series, The Doctor’s Unexpected Family, releases on August 1. But through the end of July, you can pick up a copy for your Kindle at a special pre-order price of 99 cents! (And in August, you’ll be able to preorder Storm Surge in advance of its September release!)

I hope you’ll spend the end of the summer on the beach in Port Provident with me and The Doctor’s Unexpected Family! (Click to purchase.)

BLURB:

GRACE FINDS YOU IN THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES…

Dr. Pete Shipley is on a mission to save lives and he’s ready to move to another corner of the world where his skills are needed. City Councilwoman Angela Ruiz is a single parent fighting to save her hometown after Hurricane Hope tears through Port Provident, leaving destruction across the community she has sworn to serve. Together, they team up to found The Grace Space, a Christian-based community gathering spot in the heart of Angela’s district, where residents can get food, household goods, and basic medical care while Port Provident rebuilds after the storm.

When Pete’s appointment to an international medical mission comes, will the doctor follow his lifelong dream and leave Port Provident, The Grace Space, and Angela and her daughter—or will he stay with the family he didn’t expect to love and realize he can change the world without leaving home?

Hurricane Hope: One storm changes Port Provident forever…and for good.”–Kristen

For more online:

www.kristenethridge.com

Facebook at www.facebook.com/kristenethridgebooks

Port Provident Hurricane Hope Logo

 

Well, I don’t know if I’ll try the jalapenos in this recipe; I might substitute grilled banana peppers and add some seasoning to the cream cheese. I’m good with the bacon! WHAT ABOUT YOU? Thanks, Kristen!–Lyn

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Lyn Reviews Best-Selling Author Lorena McCourtney’s Death Takes a Ride

Death Takes a Ride (The Cate Kincaid Files, #3)

Death Takes a Ride by Lorena McCourtney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ANOTHER MADCAP McCOURTNEY MYSTERY! Leave a comment and enter a drawing for my copy of DEATH TAKES A RIDE!

I love Lorena McCourtney cozy mysteries!!! Lorena is an online friend but that makes no difference to this review. Death Takes a Ride is quintessential McCourtney with a brave and sometimes naive amateur sleuth (though Cate is finally about to receive her PI license).

I also like Cate’s hero Mitch and his very realistic pursuit of Cate. (This is a real man who is more at home with circuits and RAM than women.) I also love the cast of secondary characters, including Mitch’s new dog and Cate’s cat. Just fun! And an interesting mystery of course!

I look forward to Lorena’s next cozy!

View all my reviews

Hope you don’t mind, but I had to slip in another cozy mystery review.

QUESTION: I love to read them but never tried to write one. Wonder if I should? What do you think? :-) Lyn

To purchase, click the cover.

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Limited Time Only 99 cent Ebook Sale–Winter’s Secret

Click cover to purchase.

WINTER’S SECRET

The first book in my “Northern Intrigue” romantic suspense series is on sale through Sunday. This is an ebook sale. To purchase, click here.

BLURB:

Smashed heirlooms, ripped upholstery and rifled drawers–who is breaking into homes–stealing and vandalizing? And targeting the most vulnerable–the seniors of the small town?

As the new sheriff, Rodd Durand, home again to small town Steadfast, Wisconsin, takes on the Snowmobile Burglar. In the course of her duties, Wendy Carey, the home health nurse, discovers each new break-in. The small town reels as the burglar eludes capture and steps up his crimes.

A vindictive woman and a secret baby heighten the suspense. When Wendy and Rodd begin to fall in love, family complicates matters. But the real stumbling block to their love lies within. Can they break through their own insecurities over the past?

This goes on sale very rarely and please share it with your friends. You can click the social icons just below this post to do that. Thanks–Lyn

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Author Anita Higman & Magic in the Kitchen Or Taste Buds Doing the Tango

Anita Higman

My guest today is author Anita Higman who is going to share her mother’s sort of recipe. Anita will also offer a giveaway (US ONLY) of her latest novel through a drawing to one commenter so be sure to look for the QUESTION below. Here’s Anita:

Magic in the Kitchen

The Breitling side of our clan never got into the habit of writing down their special family recipes. The passing down of these culinary delights from generation to generation became more of an “oral tradition”—pun intended. :-)  I learned how to make various ethnic dishes from watching and listening as my mother did her magic in the kitchen.

One such magic trick

was her creamed cucumbers, which came from our German heritage. It was a simple dish—the cukes swam mostly in a bath of half and half and vinegar—but they were also creamy and zesty and perfect as a side dish during the holidays.

Now that I’ve got your taste buds doing the tango,

you may want this recipe, right? Sorry. I still don’t have it. Even my own kids had to learn how to make this dish by watching me do my kitchen magic rather than just getting a recipe card. Yes, the dish might turn out a little differently each time, but that is part of the delight. And as an added bonus, we discovered that this oral tradition fosters comradery in the kitchen too!

For those of you who must give this tangy treate a try,

just google the words “creamed cucumbers,” and I promise you’ll find a plethora of recipes to choose from! And I think the grandmother in my latest novel, Summer’s List, passes on family recipes in just that way too. –Anita

Summer's List

To purchase, click here. Summer’s List

Blurb:

Life and love keep going awry for Summer Snow, until her grandmother sends her on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree—a kind and quirky young man from Summer’s past. With Laney the Chihuahua along for the ride, a childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

My family was just like Anita’s. I call it being a “pinch cook.” A pinch of this, taste, a pinch more—you get it. Here’s Anita’s QUESTION. Leave a comment to enter drawing.

 So what special family dish has been passed down to you in the same way as my creamed cucumbers?

BTW, have you signed up yet for my newsletter (see above on right side of banner). My newest book BLESSING will come out July 1st. I’m going to giveaway one copy in a drawing of my new and active newsletter subscribers during July. So don’t miss this. Sign up today!

For more online:

www.anitahigman.com

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnitaHigman

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Author Maureen Lang & Marriage of Convenience Romances

Maureen Lang

My guest today is author Maureen Lang who’s recently written one of my favorite type of romance, the marriage of convenience. Maureen is offering one copy of THE CONVENIENT BRIDE COLLECTION so be sure to comment on today’s QUESTION below. Here’s Maureen:

Ever since I discovered romance novels, I’ve always loved marriage of convenience stories. I think I was around twelve when I read my first. I bought the book for ten cents at a neighborhood garage sale, an early Harlequin Romance (back in the days it was associated with the British publisher, Mills & Boon). Although I don’t recall the title, the story of a handsome hero marrying the innocent young girl in his employment just to present himself as a married man still brings a smile to my face.

So when I learned Barbour was coming out with a collection of stories using this same tried-and-true literary device, I jumped on it. I’ve always wanted to write one! As with any romance, the trick is to keep apart two people whom everyone knows (including the characters, at some level) are perfect for one another.

Convenient Bride

To purchase, click here. The Convenient Bride Collection: 9 Romances Grow from Marriage Partnerships Formed Out of Necessity

“Bonnets and Bees,” one of nine romantic stories from The Convenient Brides Collection.

By 1871 standards Virginia Haversack is a spinster. She’s spent most of her time caring for her aging father as well as running their bonnet shop in Milwaukee. She has a knack for designing bonnets for each unique face, so the store is as successful as it is demanding—leaving Virginia little time for husband hunting.

She discovers upon her father’s death that he was more worried than she realized about her unmarried state. Knowing she would do anything to keep the bonnet shop, he stipulates in his will that she must marry—or lose the shop to a distant cousin.

Virginia’s best friend Sarah offers a way to solver her problem and finally get Virginia into her family. Her unmarried, reclusive, bee-loving farmer brother-in-law might just do Virginia the favor of marrying her. After all, he rarely leaves those bee hives of his long enough to get to know anyone, so having a bride delivered without any demands might be something he’d happily agree to doing.

Paul Turnbridge’s study of bees keeps him busy, and his introverted nature has left him little hope for marriage. He doesn’t mind doing his sister-in-law a favor, once it’s clear neither party will expect anything of the other. That is, until a fire destroys Virginia’s bonnet shop. Between Chicago’s Great Fire and Pestigo’s conflagration, a number of insurance companies in the area go out of business—including Virginia’s.

Though Virginia is left destitute, she has no intention of being beaten. She’ll rebuild the shop—somehow. She most definitely won’t ask for help from the man who might legally be her husband, someone she hasn’t seen in the five months since their wedding, but owes her nothing. In fact, she’s the one who owes him for marrying her in the first place.

Little does she know her husband’s unheralded good intentions won’t be thwarted by her independence!

12 Brides of SummerNovella2_SocialMediaPosts

To purchase, click here. The 12 Brides of Summer – Novella Collection #2

Please also consider a second new release from Maureen Lang, from the 12 Brides of Summer Collection, The Summer Harvest Bride. Shy Sally Hobson is practically engaged to the mayor’s son, but when Lukas Daughton comes to town to build a grist mill, Sally has to start speaking up for what she wants for her future. Which would be much easier if she could only trust Lukas . . .

Very interesting, Maureen. QUESTION FOR BOOK DRAWING: Do you enjoy marriage of convenience stories–why or why not? Have a favorite?–Lyn

For more online:

Sign up for Maureen’s Newsletter on her website, www.maureenlang.com or visit her on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-Lang/77586161029?ref=hl

BTW, have you signed up yet for my newsletter (see above on right side of banner). My newest book BLESSING will came out July 1st. I’m going to giveaway one copy in a drawing of my new and active newsletter subscribers during July. So don’t miss this. Sign up today!

PS-Sunnie won my copy of Robin Lee Hatcher’s WHENEVER YOU COME AROUND. Thanks for commenting, Sunnie!

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Lyn Cote’s Less Pasta, More Zucchini Recipe

Rachel's joy when baking copy

A few years ago my dh and I decided to try a more healthy lifestyle, which included lowering our carb intake. But we still wanted a hearty Italian meal so I made this up. Since we’re now in garden season, I thought you all might enjoy a recipe that will use up zucchini, one of the most prolific plants in any garden!

Lyn Cote’s Less Pasta, More Zucchini Recipe

1 lb. ground turkey

1 lb. ground beef

3 medium zucchini, quartered and diced into 1/2” cubes

1 large onion, diced

1 pkg fresh mushrooms, quartered (Portobello or white–may substitute canned)

1 15 oz. can, Italian style minced tomatoes (drained)

1/2 bottle or can of spaghetti sauce (your choice of brand)

1 Tb. Orrington Farms Broth Base & Seasoning, Beef flavor

1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp minced garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1 c. shredded mozzarella

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Brown turkey and beef in large skillet. Add veggies and spices. Mix gently. Cover and simmer for an hour. Top with cheeses the last ten minutes to melt.

May be served over your choice of pasta. Or alone.

The one variable that you must take into consideration is the quantity of liquid from the zucchini.

  • I have spooned off excess liquid before serving.
  • I’ve also mixed in 1-2 handfuls of uncooked whole wheat pasta about halfway through the cooking time to absorb the liquid.
  • Instead of the pasta you might substitute a crunchy French or Italian bread that could be dipped into the juice at the table.

You’ll need to play around and see what works for you!

I make this large batch because from it we eat 1 supper, 1 lunch and many breakfasts. Leftovers mixed with scrambled eggs the next morning are very tasty!

But this recipe should easily feed a large family so if you don’t like leftovers and have a smaller family, you can reduce the amount by 1/2. But the leftovers are really good and my dh says get better overnight!

BTW, have you signed up yet for my newsletter (see above on right side of banner). My newest book BLESSING will come out July 1st. I’m going to giveaway one copy in a drawing of my new and active newsletter subscribers during July. So don’t miss this. Sign up today!

QUESTION: Have you ever made up a recipe?–Lyn 

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Lyn Reviews Robin Lee Hatcher’s Whenever You Come Around

After reading the review, look for the QUESTION to answer to enter a DRAWING for my copy.
Whenever You Come Around (Kings Meadow Romance, #3)Whenever You Come Around by Robin Lee Hatcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Whenever You Come Around by Robin Lee Hatcher was a GOOD book!

The only reason I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that RLH spoiled me. In both A Promise Kept and Love Without End, RLH interwove two stories: one present and one past.

So Whenever You Come Around was a lovely romance but I’m a spoiled reader. Boo-hoo. 😉

In any event! I’ve loved all these stories set in KING’S MEADOW, Idaho. And this latest one featuring a woman who needs healing for her heart and a hero who needs healing for his body is captivating.

I highly recommend it and hope RLH will write another story with parallel story lines–YOU DO THAT REALLY GOOD, ROBIN!

View all my reviews

If you’d like to enter a drawing for my copy of this book, please leave a comment.

QUESTION: What do you think causes the timeless attraction to stories with cowboys or Western settings? 

I also reviewed Love Without End in this series http://booksbylyncote.com/SWBS/book-review/lyn-reviews-ro…ve-without-end

and the book that led to the King’s Meadow series:  A Promise Kept http://booksbylyncote.com/SWBS/book-review/lyn-reviews-aw…s-promise-kept ?

 

PS-Jane Squires won Louise Gouge’s book Cowgirl for Keeps! Congrats!

*****BTW, have you signed up yet for my newsletter (see above on right side of banner). My newest book BLESSING will come out July 1st. I’m going to giveaway one copy in a drawing of my new and active newsletter subscribers during July. So don’t miss this. Sign up today!–Lyn 

 Coming on Weds–Lyn’s New Recipe for Zucchini!
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Author Danica Favorite & Grandma Sopz’s Potato Salad

Danica Favorite

My guest today is a fairly new author Danica Favorite who writes for Love Inspired Historical. She is going to share about her book The Lawman’s Redemption and Grandma Sopz’s Potato Salad. Here’s Danica:

inspires me

One of the example of strong women that inspires me is in my husband’s family and family history. They came to America and settled in Leadville, Colorado, with little to their name, and a great deal of hope for the future. I’ve long admired their pioneering spirit, and that is the spirit you’ll find in my books. While my Leadville books are not about his family, that same strength is found in my characters.

he downside of being strong

My heroine in The Lawman’s Redemption, Mary Stone, had to be strong for her family. But sometimes the downside of being strong is that you think you have to do it all on your own. Mary learns that strength isn’t always about having to do it yourself, but about being strong enough to rely on others to help you.

everyone in the family is there

Working together is one of the big lessons of strength I’ve learned from my husband’s family. No matter what the project, what the need, everyone in the family is there to pitch in. And when the work is done, we all eat!

One of the most popular items to show up in the community meals

in Leadville is potato salad. Every family has their own special recipe, and I can’t imagine that the church picnic my hero and heroine attend wouldn’t have potato salad.

This recipe is from my husband’s grandmother. I never met her, but based on the stories I’ve heard about her, she was one strong woman!

Grandma Sopz’s Potato Salad

4 red potatoes cooked until tender, peel and cut in cubes

4 eggs hard boiled, cut in cubes

½ cup chopped sweet onion or green onion (Grandma Sopz would not use the green parts of the onion, but I like them, so I use them. You can do whichever way you prefer.)

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 Tbs sweet relish

Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

½ tsp white vinegar

½ tsp white sugar

3 Tbs milk

Mix ingredients for dressing together. Mix dressing into vegetables thoroughly. Chill. (Side note: my family is dairy-free, and we use unsweetened plain rice milk in place of the regular milk, and the salad is still delicious.)

To make potato salad look extra fancy, slice an extra hard-boiled egg and place slices on top of the salad.”–Danica

To purchase, click cover or the link below.
BLURB:

Lawman on a Mission 

Former deputy Will Lawson is fighting to regain his reputation—and Mary Stone is his only lead to the bandit who framed him. Now that he’s tracked Mary to Leadville, Colorado, Will needs the proud beauty to reveal her past. Instead, his efforts spark a mighty inconvenient attraction…

Mary’s only real crime is that she once believed an outlaw’s lies. Still, she fears disclosing the truth to Will may land her in jail—and leave her young siblings without protection. Now she must choose between honesty and safeguarding her family. And if Will does clear his own name, can he convince the woman he loves to share it?

For more online:

Website: http://www.danicafavorite.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/danicafavorite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanicaFavoriteAuthor 

Purchase:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373283202/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d4_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=1MD6815Q90T8F4DAWPMT&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2118394622&pf_rd_i=desktop

 

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Author Louise Gouge & DIL Heidi & Book Giveaway

Louise M. Gouge Portrait January 2010 005

My guest today is a good online friend, author Louise Gouge. She is going to tell her about her dil (daughter in law) Heidi and is also offering a book for a drawing (US Only). BTW, have you signed up for my newsletter. Don’t miss this opportunity. Here’s Louise:

Lyn, thank you for inviting me to guest write for your blog. I’ve enjoyed my previous guest appearances, and I hope your readers have, too. Your theme of strong women appeals to me because of the strong women in my own family and how they’ve inspired my own strength in times of difficulty.

my beautiful daughter-in-law, Heidi

The latest example of this strength is my beautiful daughter-in-law, Heidi. When my son Timothy was struck with brain cancer just over a year ago, we were all devastated. We’d already been through the cancer death of my son-in-law and my husband’s cancer battle that is ongoing. Without going into long, drawn-out details, I’ll simply say that Heidi has stood strong and resilient for these past sixteen months. She has accompanied Timothy to the hospital and doctor visits, cared for her home, and cooked family meals, all the while working full time. She’s guided their daughter through high school graduation and her first year of college. During this entire experience, Heidi maintains a sunny, optimistic personality…and her delightful, quirky sense of humor. You’ll never hear her complaining or feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she looks to the Lord for her strength and joy. Is it any wonder I love and admire this dear woman? She is God’s gift to our entire family and continually inspires me.

Cowgirl for Keep

To purchase, click here.Cowgirl for Keeps (Four Stones Ranch)

Cowgirl for Keeps

Even though I can’t directly relate Heidi’s journey to the heroine of my brand new release, Cowgirl for Keeps, I will say that they share many personality traits. Rosamond Northam is the only daughter in a ranching family. Like Heidi, she has to be strong and assertive to succeed in what matters most to her.

rises to the challenge

While Rosamond loves ranching and can excel at any task her three brothers can do, she has decided to set her own path in life: building a high school for her small Colorado community. So when her father decides she needs to take on a second project—building a hotel in partnership with a stuffy, obnoxious, albeit handsome Englishman—Rosamond rises to the challenge. An even bigger challenge is letting the Lord change her and make her into the woman He wants her to be. But isn’t that the challenge we all face when we walk with our Lord Jesus Christ?

Here’s the story about “lassoing the cowgirl”:

Rosamond Northam’s plans of building a high school take an unexpected turn when her father informs her she’ll be overseeing construction of a new hotel instead—with Englishman Garrick Wakefield. The newly arrived aristocrat seems to turn his nose up at all she loves about her Colorado hometown. The man is entirely insufferable…yet undoubtedly handsome. Garrick wants nothing more than to prove himself to his uncle, who has backed the building of this hotel. But he finds himself ever at odds with his pretty cowgirl partner over the plans. The American West is so different from his British home, but with Rosamond showing him the ropes, maybe he’ll commit to Western life…and a Western lass.

I would love to give away a copy of Cowgirl for Keeps to a resident of the U. S”–Louise.

QUESTION: Please leave a comment about a challenge you’ve faced and overcome with the Lord’s help.

For more online:

Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historicals. She received the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in 2005 and placed in 2011; and place in the Laurel Wreath in 2012. Her indie novel Then Came Love is a finalist for the 2015 IRCA. When she isn’t writing or teaching her college classes, she and David, her husband of fifty years, enjoy visiting historical sites and museums. Please visit her Web site at http://blog.Louisemgouge.com

BTW, have you signed up yet for my newsletter (see above on right side of banner). My newest book BLESSING will come out July 1st. I’m going to giveaway one copy in a drawing of my new and active newsletter subscribers during July. So don’t miss this. Sign up today!–Lyn 

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Blessing Debuts

Blessing

Here is the beginning of Blessing as I promised yesterday. Blessing Debuts today! Hope you enjoy it. Is this the kind of story that catches your interest?

Chapter One

Seneca Falls, New York

July 19, 1848

On the high bench of the farmer’s open wagon, Gerard Ramsay tried to take a deep breath, but the heaviness of life, a constant pressure over his heart, made it difficult–not to mention the July heat. Under the cloudless, royal blue sky, the New York countryside blazed green with healthy crops and full-leafed trees.

From the corner of his eye, Gerard observed with increasing chagrin his lifelong friend Kennan Buckley, sitting next to him and whose expression radiated a kind of unholy glee.

Kennan’s devilish sense of humor had lightened their boarding school and university years, but now that they were nearing thirty…  Gerard almost asked, “This isn’t one of your foolhardy pranks, is it?”

Then nearing a town, the rough wagon lurched over a deep rut and Gerard had to hold onto both his seat and his silk top hat. “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Gerard growled into Kennan’s ear. “I left Boston for Saratoga for some horse racing and light flirtation at the springs–” Another deep rut jarred them. “–not this.”

“Do you want to let your own cousin down?” Kennan retorted. “And of course, I had nothing better to do than bump along a country road in this heat?”

Gerard sucked in hot July air and felt the starch in his shirt wilting in the blazing sun. “All right,” he said under his breath. “The whole idea seems inconceivable.”

“Well, conceive it. Stoddard Henry is in danger of becoming ensnared by a female–and a female who would lure him to a women’s rights meeting. Have you ever?”

“I–“

“Whoa!” The driver announced. “Here we are, gents. Wesley Chapel.” The wagon rolled to a halt. The two horses flicked their tails high, swishing away the irritating flies.

After Kennan, Gerard scrambled down from the bench, resisting the urge to rub his bruised posterior. He glanced around at the small town. He immediately recognized his destination, a large brick building on the corner surrounded by tall leafy oaks and maples, with a few hundred people gathered around the door. A few hundred standing outside in this heat and in this out of the way village? “Look. Would you believe it–a crowd?”

“What did I tell you?” Kennan said, striding away toward the building.

Gerard turned to pay the farmer. Kennan wouldn’t. But they’d been lucky to find this man and his wagon. When they’d arrived this morning on the early train from Saratoga, all the carriages at the station had been taken. They’d persuaded this farmer who’d been picking up a package to bring them the few miles here.

“Gent, I’ll be going back this way in a few days.” The farmer mopped his face with a large frayed kerchief. “Should I stop and pick you up?”

Gerard hesitated. “Is there an inn here?”

“A few. The best is the Seneca Farmer’s Inn, best food, clean sheets.”

“When you come through, check for me–Gerard Ramsay–there then. I’ll leave word whether to find me or forget me.” Gerard added an extra two bits.

The farmer beamed at him. “You can count on me, gent. I’m Jim Patterson. Everybody around here knows me.” The man tugged the brim of his straw hat, pocketed the money and slapped the reins.

Gerard hurried into the shade of the tall trees near the Wesleyan Chapel. He too took out his handkerchief and wiped the grime and perspiration from his face and hands. This crisis would have to land right at the very height and heat of summer.

A large crowd of women and–unbelievably some men–waited outside the double doors of the chapel. Something odd was going on there. Two men were lifting a boy up to a window near the door. The lad opened the latch and slipped inside. Soon to everyone’s loud approval, he opened the chapel doors from within. No one had a key to open the chapel door? What kind of ill-prepared meeting was this?

Gerard already knew the answer to that. A bunch of lunatics and radicals. He hurried forward, craning to see above the crowd, looking for his tall cousin.

“There!” Kennan shouted across the people surging inside and gestured toward the door.

Gerard glimpsed his cousin–who at the sound of Kennan’s voice–turned just as the door swallowed him from sight.

Kennan jogged back to Gerard. “So did you see her?”

“No.” Gerard felt irritation–hot and unpleasant like the summer air–roll through him.

“She’s a very pretty blonde and she was right beside him.”

Gerard chewed on this information. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Believe it.”

Gerard started forward.

Kennan grabbed his arm. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going after Stoddard.”

“Into that women’s meeting?” Kennan’s voice rose. “Are you out of your senses too?”

“Maybe he’ll come to his senses when he sees me.” Gerard pulled away and hurried toward the chapel.

“Suit yourself. And I’ll do the same. I’m going to find a tavern and some cool wet ale. Isn’t that better than charging into bedlam? Stoddard will come out at luncheon–“

Gerard shook his head as he hurried to the chapel door. At seven years of age, all three of them Kennan, Stoddard and Gerard, had been sent away to boarding school; Stoddard and Kennan had been unwanted stepsons and Gerard had felt like one. The three had learned to count only on each other. The bond still held and he must find his cousin and stop him from making a fool of himself.

Inside the chapel, Gerard tried to glimpse Stoddard but it was so crowded that he couldn’t. And since the seats were all taken, he found himself obliged to stand in the back. When a woman stepped to the pulpit to address the congregation, Gerard felt his jaw drop. A woman addressing a group of females and males–in public?

Astounded, Gerard stumbled outside toward a bench in the shade under an old oak. What had Stoddard got himself into?

“Hey! Ramsay!”

The vaguely familiar Boston-accented voice stopped Gerard in his tracks. He turned to see who had called.

“It’s been a long time,” a stranger said, holding out his hand.

Suddenly recognizing him, Gerard felt a wave of disgust. Ambushed. Conklin had been a scholarship student at the same university as Gerard, Stoddard and Kennan. He forced himself to shake the man’s hand. “Conklin, what brings you here?”

“Working.” Conklin waved a notebook. “I’m covering this Women’s Rights Convention. Have you ever heard of anything so outlandish?” The man chuckled, mocking. “What is the scion of one of Boston’s most swank (c 1810)–uh, I mean, most prestigious families doing here?”

Gerard stared at the man, trying to hide his discomfort at being recognized by a journalist. This meant Stoddard’s folly might be written up in the Boston papers. Worse and worse. “Just happened to stop here,” Gerard said, trying to smooth matters over. “I’m trying to find some place cooler. Thought of the Finger Lakes.”

“Really?” The journalist rocked on his heels, his expression amused.

“Really. Now if it’s not against the law, I’m going to sit in the shade and relax.”

Conklin studied Gerard for a moment. “Wish I could. But I have work to do.”

Fuming, Gerard watched the journalist hurry into the chapel. He could only hope that Conklin wouldn’t see Stoddard and would find more to write about than the fact that a Boston Ramsay had come to Seneca Falls on the same day that fanatics and lunatics had gathered for a big meeting, promoting the rights of women. Unbelievable.

Within him bloomed the urge to strangle Kennan for leaving him to deal with Stoddard alone. And a second urge, to throw a bucket of ice cold water into Stoddard’s face, shocked him back to his senses. Gerard would have been happier in Boston and he hated Boston.

#

In a few hours at the time for luncheon, people began to exit the chapel, and Gerard rose to watch for his cousin. Finally he saw Stoddard’s head above all the others. Gerard hurried forward. “Stoddard!” he called out.

Stoddard turned, looked startled and then pushed his way from the throng and hurried toward Gerard.

“Cousin, what are you doing here?” Stoddard gripped his shoulder, grinning but looking puzzled.

“I met Kennan in Saratoga, expecting to see you too, but  he said you were here so we came to find you.”

Stoddard’s grin tightened. “Come to save me from my own folly?”

What could he say here in this crowd? “Yes,” Gerard said, leaning close, “how could you ever think coming to a meeting like this was a good idea?”

Stoddard chuckled in reply.

Gerard glimpsed Conklin, the reporter, dodging in and out of the crowd, heading straight for them. “Cousin, there’s a Boston reporter here. Remember Conklin–“

“Stoddard,” a soft feminine voice from behind his cousin interrupted Gerard.

A truly lovely blonde, dressed in the height of fashion and almost as tall as Stoddard, claimed his cousin’s arm.

Beside her walked a petite Quakeress dressed in simple gray and white, her prettier than average face framed by a plain white bonnet. The ladies were arm in arm, but in total contrast. They looked to be from two different worlds.

Gerard snapped his mouth shut so he wouldn’t blurt out any ill-considered words. Over heads, he glimpsed that the reporter Conklin had been snagged and button-holed (c. 1834) by another attendee. Saved.

Stoddard chuckled, shaking his head at Gerard. “Ladies, may I introduce you to my cousin? This is Miss Xantippe ‘Tippy’ Foster and her friend, Mrs. Blessing Brightman, a widow, both of Cincinnati. Ladies, my cousin Gerard Ramsay of Boston.”

Gerard commanded himself enough to accept the blond’s curtsey and their proffered gloved hands in turn. “Ladies, a pleasure I’m sure,” he mouthed the social lie.

“Don’t you mean a surprise?” Xantippe laughed merrily as if he’d made a jest.

Gerard stiffened.

“Gerard Ramsay, won’t thee join us for luncheon?” the Quakeress invited, speaking in the Quaker way, dispensing with any title, even Mister. “Expecting we might meet a friend, we reserved a table for four at our inn.” Without waiting for his answer, the woman started walking briskly toward the street of shops and inns of the town.

Stoddard offered his arm to Miss Foster and nodded Gerard toward Mrs. Brightman.

Gerard could not disobey years of training in proper manners. He edged forward as efficiently as he could through the crush of the surrounding crowd.

The Quaker lady paused, letting Stoddard and the blonde precede them. Then she gazed up at Gerard with a look that he might have used when trying to decide whether a glass of milk had soured without tasting it. It unnerved him. He tried to step back but bumped against a stranger. He swallowed an unkind word.

She cocked her head, still studying him.

He’d had enough. He offered her his arm. “May I escort you, ma’am?” he said as if issuing a challenge.

“Yes, but I do not need to cling to thy arm. I am quite capable of walking unaided.”

More startled than insulted, Gerard held back a sharp reply. As audacious as she might be, a gentleman did not contradict a lady. Peering ahead, he observed the possessive way the tall blonde clung to Stoddard’s arm. He wanted to snatch up his cousin and run.

“I did not mean to be rude or uncivil,” the Quakeress continued, walking beside him. “I’m sure thee offered thy arm simply from courtesy. But after this morning’s meeting, I am afraid I see more clearly the proscribed manners between gentlemen and women as a form of bondage.”

The equation of courtesy with bondage sent prickly disbelief rippling through him. “I beg your pardon.” And with the press of the crowd though feeling bowled over, he was forced to walk faster to keep up with the other two. What would this woman say next?

She looked up at him. A mischievous smile lightened her face and he saw now that it was not just a pretty face but a beautiful face–big blue eyes, a pert nose, generous pink lips and thick chestnut hair peeping out around her close bonnet.

Her smile did something to him, something unexpected yet welcome. The heaviness he always carried lightened and he could draw breath freely. What was going on here?

“What is thy stand on abolition?” she asked, completely ignoring what should be the proscribed polite conversation between a man and woman upon first meeting. They should be discussing the weather and then move on to discreetly find out about each other’s family connections.

He stared at her. Ahead, Stoddard was chuckling at something his lady had said. The sound wrapped Gerard’s nerves tighter.

The Quakeress shook her head at him, still grinning. “Very well. I don’t mean to be impolite. I will follow propriety.” She cleared her throat. “Gerard Ramsay, what brings thee to Seneca Falls this day?”

He swallowed and tried to come up with a palatable conventional reply. He failed. “I’m against slavery,” he said instead.

“I am happy to hear that, but I asked, what thy stand on abolition is.”

He was not accustomed to women who put forth opinions and her tone though cheerful, was almost cavalier as if she were making fun of him. Usually with him, people did that to their own peril. But this Quakeress had pushed him off balance. “You are in favor of abolition?” he ventured, trying to find his feet in this discussion.

She laughed softly, the sound reminding him of the children playing. “Yes, I am in favor of abolition. Has thee ever met Frederick Douglass?”

“No,” he said, trying to keep up with her unexpected questions and her brisk pace without bumping into anyone. “Would thee like to meet Frederick Douglass?” she asked.

“Who is Frederick Douglass?” He looked down at her again, her face attracting him in spite of himself.

“Thee hasn’t read his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave? It was published three years ago and has sold over five thousand copies.”

Distracted, he wished he could overhear what the other lady was saying to his cousin. “I’ve not had the pleasure.”

“Indeed thee hasn’t read it then. It is not a pleasant book to read. It is as harsh as the slavery that bound him.”

Gerard felt as if he were back on the wagon, only riding over an even bumpier road. Primarily concerned with Stoddard’s flirtation, he scrambled to keep up with the Quakeress’s odd conversation. “He’s a fugitive slave then?”

“He is a free man of color who left the state and master that enslaved him.”

Gerard gaped at her. Ladies didn’t discuss slavery. No woman had ever spoken so frankly to him in his life. All his usual sangfroid evaporated.

“I see my direct manner has disconcerted thee. I apologize.” She smiled and said in a sweetly conversational tone, “When does thee think this hot weather will ebb?”

His mind whirled but he wouldn’t bow in defeat. “Is this Frederick Douglass attending your…convention?”

“Gerard Ramsay, thee must make up thy mind whether thee wishes me to be conventional or not. I own fault. I started by speaking frankly as I always do with people with whom I’m acquainted, not strangers like thee. But this morning’s discussion of the ‘Declaration of Sentiments for Women’ has made me overbold with thee–one who is not at all acquainted with me.”

She tilted her head like an inquisitive robin. “I apologize. Should we try to follow convention or continue with frankness?” She looked at him expectantly as she continued walking. “Please choose. I do not wish to be rude.”

He inhaled the hot humid air. Her candor irritated him and he would be cursed if he let this woman best him. “Mrs. Brightman,” he drawled, ”I must confess your conversational style is completely unparalleled in my experience.”

She laughed again, again sounding almost musical.

Was this woman being artless or artful? He glanced at the blonde again. The two women differed in costume, but did they both share this uncommon originality? Was it this uniqueness that had entrapped Stoddard?

The foursome arrived at the besieged Seneca Farmer’s Inn. Telling them to wait, Stoddard threaded his way through the crowd and then at the door turned, motioning for Ramsay to lead the ladies to join him. “They saved us our table!” He waved them forward. “Come.”

They followed a flustered-looking hostess to a table at the rear of the inn, just outside under a shade tree. She pointed out the bill of fare, posted on the outside wall near the door, and left them, promising to bring them glasses of cold spring water.

“Oh, this is so much cooler,” Miss Foster commented as Stoddard helped seat her.

Gerard was at a loss. He was a gentleman and had duties as such. He never broke any of society’s rules around ladies, no matter what he thought of them. Should he offer to help the unpredictable Mrs. Brightman sit or not?

The Quakeress peered up at him. “Which does thee choose?”

“What?”

“Should I sit with or without thy assistance?”

Her perspicacity nicked him. He swallowed down his discomfort, his tight collar constricting his throat. He could not let her get the best of him. “I would feel unmannerly if I didn’t assist you.”

“Then please help me.” She beamed at him as if this were all a game. Maybe to her it was, but Stoddard’s presence here was serious to him.

He seated her. Then he took his place and sent a tart questioning look at Stoddard.

The waitress delivered the sweating glasses of spring water and then took their orders. They all chose cold sandwiches of ham and cheese. Then the four of them were left alone.

Gerard could not think of a word to say, an unusual occurrence. And each moment he watched Stoddard and Miss Foster interact with little glances and intimate smiles upset him more and more. This did not appear to be a mere holiday flirtation with which Stoddard was diverting himself. This was different because the woman was too. Had the sense of novelty ensnared his cousin?

Blessing took her time sizing up Gerard Ramsay as he turned his attention to his cousin. Ramsay was of medium height, a good build, very expensively dressed yet without any dandyism. His dark brown hair curled slightly which gave him a boyish appeal, but his guarded dark brown eyes and cynical mouth warned her that he was not merely the proper Boston gentleman that he seemed.

She tried to detect a family resemblance between the cousins but saw none. Fairer and taller, Stoddard had red-hair and striking green eyes. He was well dressed, but not as expensively as his cousin.

She’d ruffled Gerard Ramsay with her frankness yet she hadn’t meant to be rude. But the stirring phrases discussed this morning had tilted something inside her–…He has…destroyed her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to…lead a dependent…life.

The old hurt twisted inside her, a physical pain. She drew in air and then sipped her cold spring water, quieting herself. The past had been buried. She was free now. But the deep scars remained and could never be sponged away by anyone or any words.

“So cousin, what did you think of this morning’s meeting?” Stoddard asked.

“Sitting outside, I heard only snatches,” Ramsay replied with a sour twist.

Both men spoke with the Boston accent so Blessing heard “Sittin’ outside, I hea’d only snah-tches.” She noted that just like Stoddard, Gerard dropped ‘r’s” in most words and the “g” in “ing.” She had heard this accent in other Eastern abolitionists and wondered why they didn’t like “r’s” or “ing.” Midwesterners certainly enjoyed the sounds.

“No doubt Mr. Ramsay questions your sanity, Stoddard,” Miss Foster said, grinning. “Whatever are you thinking, man,” the lady mimicked a man’s voice, “going to a women’s rights convention?”

Blessing hid her smile behind her glass. “Tippy, don’t tease Gerard Ramsay. It’s not fair. As a gentleman, he can’t contradict thee.”

Ramsay glanced at her but revealed nothing of what he was thinking.

But Blessing could guess. Did he suspect that she too had reservations about this new romance?

Tippy inhaled deeply and sat back in her chair. “I can’t tell you how invigorating this morning has been. I have never felt so liberated before, so free.”

Ramsay frowned.

“We are not being polite, Tippy,” Blessing said, not unsympathetic to the man from Boston who disapproved. “Gerard Ramsay, please tell us about thyself. I confess I am curious.”

The man shrugged. “Stodda’d is my cousin. A good friend saw my cousin near Saratoga Springs and asked me to come and enjoy the Finger Lakes region. Said it would be cooler.” He pronounced the last word, “coolah.”

“It should be cooler here,” Stoddard replied, touching his upper lip with his folded handkerchief. “After this convention, I want to spend a few days relaxin’ by the Cayuga Lake near here. Mother has been takin’ the waters at Saratoga. That is how I met Miss Foster.”

Blessing began to become familiar with the accent. It was different an had a certain appeal.

“Yes, my mother was there also drinking the waters,” Tippy said and then lifted her glass in a mock salute and took a sip.

“When Tippy read about this meeting in the newspaper, she sent me a telegram,” Blessing spoke up. “I set off immediately from Cincinnati and arrived yesterday. I wish there had been more advance notice. I barely made it in time.”

“You’re both from Cincinnati?” Ramsay asked.

“Yes, we’re longtime friends,” Tippy replied, reaching for the Quakeress’s hand. “Blessing is a very exceptional and interesting woman. I know my life would be quite flat without her.”

Blessing shook her head but accepted Tippy’s hand. “Tippy, my life would be flat without thee.” And very lonely. There were few she could trust with her secret missions.

Their food was served and luncheon ended up being brief. Soon the four of them rose to cede their table to waiting hungry convention attendees.

“Well, Gerard,” Stoddard said, saying something more like ‘Ge-ahd’ and looking mischievous, “I take it you won’t be joining us this afternoon?” Before Gerard could reply, he went on, “I have a room here at the inn and you can bunk with me tonight if you wish. Kennan too if he doesn’t mind some crowdin’ a bit.”

“Thanks, I will stay with you and tell Kennan.” Gerard turned to Blessing and Tippy. “It has been a pleasure to meet you, ladies.”

“Don’t you mean a surprise?” Tippy teased.

“Mind thy manners, Tippy,” Blessing scolded gently. Blessing offered her hand to Ramsay. “I enjoyed our conversation, Gerard Ramsay. I hope thee finds something interesting and cool to occupy thyself with today.”

Ramsay merely bowed over her hand.

The four walked through the crowded, noisy inn together and then parted at the door. Blessing resisted the urge to turn around and glance once more at Ramsay. He had gained her attention, something few men did. Maybe it was the accent; maybe something more.

She drew in the hot, thick air and pushed him from her mind. Thinking of the afternoon of spirited discussion ahead, she quickened her step on the dusty street and walked arm in arm with Tippy who laughed out loud for no reason. The two of them drew ahead of Stoddard.

“Stodda’d, may I have a private word with you?” Gerard asked, sounding a bit desperate.

“Ladies, I’ll just be a moment,” Stoddard called. “I’ll catch up with you.” He drew Gerard into the greenery around the outdoor dining area. “I’m goin’ to the meeting. It’s the most interesting, most revolutionary event I’ve ever attended. And you don’t have to stay and chaperone me. I know what I’m doing.”

Gerard steamed with aggravation. “Do you? That reporter is here. He might include our names as attendin’ this farce.”

“You’re not concerned about him mentioning your name. Just think how you’d enjoy the unpleasant jolt that would give your father. A Ramsay at a radical meeting.” Stoddard paused. “And I don’t care one whit if all Boston–indeed all Massachusetts–knows I’ve attended a women’s rights convention.”

Gerard nearly swallowed his tongue.

Stoddard laughed and shoved Gerard’s shoulder. “Go find Kennan. He’s probably somewhere getting drunk. Then stay or go back to Saratoga Springs or Boston, whichever you choose. But be happy for me, Cousin. I’ve found a woman who defies our dismal concept of womanhood and the bondage we considered marriage.”

Gerard tried to interrupt.

“And I’m not going to let Tippy or her exciting ideas slip from my grasp. I’m tired of my lonely bachelorhood and stifling Beacon Hill society. I’m moving to Cincinnati, cousin. I’m going west!”

***************************

So did that catch your interest? I always enjoy a good battle of wills! Like Tracy and Hepburn. Scarlett vs. Rhett. Do you enjoy a plot where the hero and heroine try to best one another?–Lyn

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