Book Talk Tuesday: Behold, Here’s Poison

Georgette Heyer pretty much invented the historical romance story, in particular the Regency romance.

Only Jane Austen could argue with that.

Beautiful woman in medieval dress winking

Heyer died in 1974 but her books continue to be published, read, and loved.

Many contemporary romance writers point to Heyer when asked who was their first romance novelist.

She also wrote traditional “fair play” mysteries, in the style of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.

I was given a couple of her books by a friend who recently discovered her. I enjoyed them!

BHPThey are definitely indicative of the era they were written in. Readers then were far more patient with description and details than contemporary readers are. But the stories are still good and stand the test of time.

Behold, Here’s Poison is the story of the murder of a disagreeable man. No one is really sorry he’s dead but there’s no reason to suspect foul play. Until his sister, the equally disagreeable Mrs. Lupton, insists on an autopsy and it’s discovered Mr. Matthews was indeed poisoned.

Suspicion swings between household members. His spinster sister who kept house for him, and insisted she didn’t really mind. His widowed sister-in-law who so appreciated his care for her and her children. His nephew was being threatened with being shipped off to South America. The niece he forbade to marry her fiance, the doctor next door. The doctor himself. His other nephew, the heir. There is no shortage of suspects.

The clues are sprinkled fairly, there are plenty of red herrings, enough to keep the story interesting and the reader guessing, but not so many that the solution is unfair.

If you’re tired of contemporary romances or mysteries with their sex and/or violence, and are looking for something different, something “old school,” give Georgette Heyer a try. You just may like her!

Media Monday: Florence Foster Jenkins

Anyone who’s watched Mamma Mia! or Ricki and The Flash knows Meryl Streep can carry a tune. She has a good to great voice. So I can imagine the stretch it was to play Florence Foster Jenkins in her new movie by the same name.

Mrs. Jenkins can sing all right. She just sings … badly. Flat. Off key. And with some rhythmic pacing problems, too. But because she’s rich, she can hire the best accompanists, vocal coaches, and staff. And she does.

FFJThe movie is a dramatization of the life of the real Florence Foster Jenkins, a socialite in the 1930s and ’40s. Mrs. Jenkins loved to sing and she organized one of the New York city musicale societies that were popular then. They would present living tableaus to music.

In real life, Mrs. Jenkins was told she couldn’t sing and received lots of criticism. In the movie, her husband (played by Hugh Grant, who, may I say has been absent from movies for too long, and, while showing his age [finally!], is still looking very fine), works hard to keep all honest opinions far from her ears.

The story is about Mrs. Jenkins deciding to bless New York and returning World War II veterans with a Carnegie Hall concert. Her other concerts were invitation-only affairs, rather easy to keep kind and receptive. Carnegie Hall … not so much.

There is a lovely message about being there for one’s friends, about love persevering, and about following one’s dreams, no matter the cost.

Towards the end of the movie, we hear Florence sing as she hears herself. She acknowledges her critics with a quote, said by the real woman: “They may say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

Isn’t that the kind of people we want to be? Or is it just me?

The kind of person who wants to dance/golf/sing/cook/write/paint/play tennis/design clothing/do anything and who doesn’t let fear of what others will think or say stop them.

That’s a message I can get behind.

The movie is good, if gentle in pacing. The performances are solid, particularly Streep and Grant and a great supporting performance by Simon Helberg as Jenkins’s accompanist. Helberg is better know as Howard on The Big-Bang Theory.

Over all, I enjoyed this movie and recommend it.



Woe! It’s Wednesday: Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not come naturally. At least to me, it doesn’t.

I’m sure you’re much better at forgiving others than I am.

Portrait of sad child

Although I do seem able to move on sooner than some other people I could mention, but I’m trying to be modest here, so I’m going to focus on my issues with forgiveness.

I know all the usual answers:

  • To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis Smedes
  • Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for other person to die ~ Many attributes but I first heard it from Carrie Fisher
  • To err is human; to forgive, divine. ~ Alexander Pope
  • Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. ~ The Lord’s Prayer

I recently came across one more quote. It stopped me right where I was, reached in my chest, gave my heart a little rub, and then whispered in my ear, “This. This is what you’ve been feeling.”

Here it is:

To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, ‘You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.’ ~ Frederick Buechner

I’ve come and read this again and again in the week since I first found it. It still stops me.

So much wisdom.

So much truth.

Detail of a Christmas quilt with scissors


My pride doesn’t want me to forgive others. Pride wants me to wrap my grudge around myself like a warm winter quilt.

The only problem is that eventually that quilt gets thin and smelly. Much like a grudge.

It fades until no one else can see the colors and shapes.

“Here.” I point to a faded triangle of red paisley. “This is when you called me a name. And here”–I rub a green rectangle–“here is when someone else spread gossip.” I can go on, identifying each patch in the ratty old quilt. But eventually even I have to admit I’m the only one who cares anymore.

It’s easier to recognize that although I have a “right” to my hurt feelings, the only one being punished is me.

What about you? Does forgiveness come naturally? Or am I the only one who struggles?


Food Talk Friday: Meatloaf

My meatloaf is amazing. I’m not bragging, just stating a fact. I get compliments whenever I take it to someone needing a meal or when we serve it to guests.

My two secrets:

  • I use a mixture of ground beef and ground pork
  • I use lots of BBQ sauce instead of ketchup or tomato sauce

I don’t have a picture of my own meatloaf and it seems creepy and disingenuous to post a picture of someone else’s, so this recipe will have to be picture-free. Until the next time I make meatloaf.

Carrie’s Amazing Meatloaf

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

About 1/2 C bread crumbs

Two eggs

1 medium red onion, chopped

About 1 1/2 C your favorite bottled BBQ sauce (I use whatever is on sale, or Kraft original)

Mix together thoroughly with your hands. Add more bread crumbs if you don’t like the consistency.

Mold together and place in a good size casserole dish.

Top the meatloaf with another 1/2 cup of sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees, 45 minutes to an hour. Drain off any fat accumulating in the corner.

Enjoy! It also makes great meatloaf sandwiches the next day!



Woe! It’s Wednesday: Reputations

There’s an old Shakespeare quote: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them.

POBoxWe’ve been wrangling with the post office this week. Two families have been receiving mail here for the last ten months. A change of address form was submitted last week for three people. That leaves three people still getting mail here.

Except someone at the post office decided to have all the mail with this address forwarded out of state.

That included some things Stud Muffin and I had ordered.

It took a trip to the post office and multiple calls to find out our mail was on its way to Idaho. A state I’ve never visited, by the way. But my new underwear, ordered from Amazon, will have visited! undies

The post office has become such a source of derision and frustration, that I wondered today:

Does the United States Post Office seek to hire apathetic jerks who don’t give a rip? Or do they hire hard working, conscientious people and train them to become apathetic jerks who don’t give a rip?

In other words, was the post office born incompetent, did it achieve incompetence, or did it have incompetence thrust upon it?

Has it grown too large to sustain itself?

I don’t know the answers to any of that. I just know that before my underwear is ever worn, it will have traveled more this summer than I did.