Book Talk Thursday: SWEET TEA

Althea Dailey has finally arrived. She’s made partner at her prestigious New York law firm. She’s left her hometown of Milford, Georgia firmly in her rearview mirror. Even having to travel south for her new case doesn’t induce her to visit her grandmother in Milford.

But when Allie hears that a filmmaker is making a documentary featuring her grandmother and Granda’s famous recipes, Allie determines to come home and protect both Granda and the recipes.

Jack Darwent may be a trust fund frat guy, but he’s passionate about food and films. Filming Miss Ada, the legendary cook/chef at Milford College, a historically Black college, is going to be the centerpiece of his newest project. When Miss Ada’s granddaughter shows up, with a chip big as a brick on her shoulder and attitude to match, he can only help Miss Ada’s plan to thaw Althea’s hard shell.

The title, SWEET TEA, is a play on words. Sweet tea is at the center of Allie’s lawsuit, and T and Sweet T are her grandmother’s nicknames for her.

SWEET TEA is another departure for Hallmark Publishing. They are definitely trying to diversify their line and it’s showing. With its interracial couple, SWEET TEA is a welcome addition to the Hallmark family. 

Allie and Jack are well rounded characters, not stereotypical and not shallow. I enjoyed their story a lot and I highly recommend it!

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I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not. 

Book Talk Tuesday: THEN CAME YOU

My first Susan May Warren book was NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, featuring PJ Sugar, a heroine I fell in love with from the first line. The man from her past, Boone Buckram, was swoon-worthy, but they were not to be. PJ ended up with someone else.

THEN CAME YOU is Boone on vacation in Deep Haven, where he runs into Vivien Calhoun. We first met Vivien in CRAZY FOR YOU, Peter and Ronnie’s story. I love how these books cross over, but each stand alone.

Each time I open a Deep Haven book, I smile, because I know I’m in for a great story, with relatable characters, in a setting that feels as welcoming as cool sand and water on a hot day.

THEN CAME YOU, by Susan May Warren and Rachel D. Russell, met all my expectations, and then some.

The first line grabbed me: Vivien Calhoun needed a man within the next five minutes.

How can you not keep reading after that? (I’m noticing a trend here. I’m not becoming a first line snob. I promise I give books more than one line to hook me!)

Boone has been put on mandatory vacation status with the Kellogg Police Department after an incident. He picks Deep Haven for his retreat, finds a lakeside cabin, checks-in with the required therapist, and prepares to–if not enjoy, then endure–his break.

Until he meets Vivie his first morning in town. He rescues the vivacious brunette from a situation, then ends up a parade through Deep Haven. Before you can say, Lake Superior, Boone is drawn to Vivie, wanting to help her with her situation, then her amateur theatre group. But after each step closer, Vivie pulls away.

Vivien returned to Deep Haven from New York, determined not to look back. But someone won’t let her go that easily. She can’t let Boone get close, she can’t risk hurting anyone.

Warren and Russell have written another winner entry in the Deep Haven collection. I loved it and can’t wait for the next one!


I received a free advance copy of this book, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE SUNDAY VAN CLUB

This book chronicles the impact one woman had on nine young girls. Dot Powell was their elementary school principal. When she retired, the girls, daughters of Hmong immigrants, formed the Sunday Van Club. With the blessing of their parents, Dot would pick them up, take them to church and on various outings, exposing them to experiences and memories that broadened their educations and lives. Each chapter focuses on a different girl, now a young woman. Dot shares a memory, the young woman also shares a memory or how Dot influenced her. All the young women have pursued higher education. Many are teachers now. This book will never let you question the impact one person can have. The answer is plain: Life changing. Dot Powell changed nine lives with The Sunday Van Club.

I’ve had the privilege to witness Dot and her girls together. Their love and respect for each other is apparent. I met them as young women, always ready to help Dot, to laugh, to support each other. They are special and Dot’s mentoring made a difference.

I loved this book and highly recommend it!


I received an advance copy of The Sunday Van Club, but this did not induce me to review it favorably or not.

I honestly loved it!

Book Talk Tuesday: Once Upon a Royal Summer

ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMER by Teri Wilson is as lovely and sweet and charming as if you combined a fairy tale, Hallmark, and cotton candy. Which is what Wilson and Hallmark Publishers did. With a dash of Disney, sans naming Disney or anything close to copyright infringement.

Lacey Pope is a theme park princess, Princess Sweet Pea. She loves her job. She loves making children happy. She loves being part of a real-life fairy tale. Her fiance’ though, isn’t a fan, and is eager for her to move on to her “real” career. This is one reason they realize they aren’t right for each other and break it off. Lacey wonders why she isn’t more devastated.

Henry is a single dad to Rose. He also happens to be the crown prince of Bella-Moritz, a small kingdom off the south of France. He brings his young daughter to Lacey’s theme park for Rose’s 7th birthday. Rose falls in love with Princess Sweet Pea. As Henry and Lacey spend more time together, their attraction grows. But how can a fairy tale princess and a real life prince have a happily ever after.

Obviously, if you’re a romance lover, you know they’ll find a way.

This is a fun book, perfect for a day at the beach or by the pool. I enjoyed it and recommend it.


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Food Talk Friday: Beach Club

We used to go occasionally to a burger place in Friant, about 20 minutes from us. It was called Sandals and it had great burgers with a casual, beachy atmosphere. Then it closed.

Then it opened as Beaches or Beach Club. But we weren’t able to visit before they closed for the pandemic, then they were open, then they closed for winter.

Well, they’re open again and we finally made it! Beach Club

They have a fun menu, heavy on burgers and sandwiches, but with a Hawaiian twist. They have a sand volleyball pit, and live music on some dates. It’s outdoor/patio dining only. The patio is covered and there are misters for the really scorching days.

Dave ordered the Loco Moco burger. If you’re familiar with the Hawaiian breakfast favorite, the Loco Moco, you know where this is headed. Add a bun, and you’ve got it. The Loco Moco is a scoop of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, topped with brown gravy, topped with an egg. The Loco Moco burger was huge and filling. Dave only ate half and brought half home.

Forgive my photography! It was much tastier than it looks.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures of the food on our plates, so the photos are our leftovers.

We shared onion rings and they were just right. The onion snapped when I bit into it, and didn’t pull out, leaving me with an empty shell of dough. They were hot and the onion was sweet.

I had the Kahlua pork tacos, with rice and beans. I ate all the rice and beans and one taco. The pork was tender, and well-flavored. The cabbage was crisp and added a nice crunch.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit and plan to be back!

Writing Wednesday: Where Do You Get Your Characters?

Writers are often asked where they get ideas for characters. Are they based on real people?

I have a writer friend who once told me her characters always start out based on people she knows before becoming true fictional characters.

I’ve done that, but I’ve also started with totally fictionalized characters sparked by a random comment or idea.

Photo from DepositPhotos

Another friend told me about her cousin who was married to a professional athlete and the demands put on the wives of the team members. We lived in Southern California at the time and attended church with a Los Angeles Dodger team member’s family. I ran into the wife at our shared pediatrician’s office one day and she was dressed gorgeously with perfect hair and make up. I got to thinking about the stress of having to look flawless every time you left the house, even if your child was ill and you were taking him or her to the doctor.

That led to the heroine of my first completed (but still unpublished) novel, Curveball. Cami is intensely private, but ends up in a relationship with a professional baseball player, under constant scrutiny. For added stress, she is stalked. Because I’m mean that way.

The protagonist in my work in progress (WIP) is a young widow. I haven’t been widowed, but I’ve had widowed friends and family members.

I read several books in the last few years with young widowed protagonists that really stayed with me, and they definitely influenced my choice to make my protagonist a young widow.

THE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson. Liz’s husband died six months before the book starts, from an aggressive cancer. She’s barely hanging on, getting her kids to school, keeping the house standing. The beginning of this book is laugh-out-loud funny and had me hooked.

THE LIFE INTENDED by Kristin Harmel. Harmel is making a career for herself now writing World War II fiction set in France. This is not one of those. It’s an earlier book of hers (published in 2014), a contemporary story set in New York City. Kate’s been a widow for over ten years, when her husband was killed in an accident. She was overwhelmed by grief for years, but she’s finally moving on, engaged to a nice man. She should be excited, but she’s not. Then her dead husband starts appearing in her dreams. Very vivid dreams. And Kate sees the life they would have had if he hadn’t died. This leads her to wonder if Patrick is sending her a message and if she’s really ready to move on after all. She learns about sign language and the NY foster care system and her life takes another unexpected turn.

THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS by Abbi Waxman. Lillian has been widowed for three years, and raising her two daughters alone. The youngest is too little to have any real memories of her father, killed in an accident in front of their house. Lillian is an illustrator, and assigned to draw vegetables for a series of guides. Her boss sends her to a gardening class, so she brings her kids and her sister along. The group of beginning gardeners form friendships, and Lillian and the instructor hit it off too.

All of these books showed women working out and through their grief in different ways.

Another friend recently told me a story about a young widow she’d met. The woman was very attractive and someone commented that she must have lots of men pursuing her since she was single, intelligent, and beautiful. The woman said, no, just the opposite, actually. That men felt threatened by her dead husband. In a divorce, there’s no competition. But with death, if the husband was still alive, the new guy wouldn’t be in the picture. That’s definitely a plot element in THE LIFE INTENDED. I’m still working out how much of that to include in my own story.

Stay tuned to see what happens. That book will release February 2022. There will be a cover and title reveal in the coming months!

Book Talk Tuesday: SOUTH BEACH LOVE

This fun book is best read along with a Cuban cookbook. As I was almost done, I told my husband it was making me hungry for a Cubano sandwich. He promptly volunteered to make one for me. So our Memorial Day meal was Cuban sandwiches, with chips and potato salad. Maybe not your typical Memorial Day celebration, but it was delicious!

Tony grew up in Little Havana in Miami, but it’s been several years since he’s been home. He’s a big time chef in New York City now, with a hit restaurant. Yes, he’s burnt out from the paperwork and business of running a restaurant, and he doesn’t get to cook like he used to, but that’s the price he’s willing to pay for the acclaim and success. When his sister calls and asks him to come home to help with the menu planning for his niece’s quinceanera (15th birthday celebration), he’s not sure he can leave the restaurant for that long. But he agrees. He could use the break and he hasn’t been home for too long.

Sara Kelly is Tony’s best friend’s younger sister and she has a restaurant in Miami. She had a crush on Tony when she was a teenager, but she’s over that now. Her restaurant specializes in upscale twists on comfort food and is crowded every night. Her niece is also turning 15, and Sara’s sister-in-law asks Sara to help plan the menu.

Tony visits Sara’s restaurant and is impressed with both the food, and his friend’s all-grown-up sister.

Everything would be headed to a happily-ever-after, except for a reporter. She’s assigned to write a story about the resurgence of quinceaneras among the Cuban population of Miami. When she hears that two acclaimed chefs are handling the two menus, she sees her angle. She deliberately baits Sara and Tony, putting them in competition with each other. She will only feature one chef in her article. Both of them need the exposure and publicity the article will garner. Tony wants to open a new restaurant in Miami, so he can return more often, maybe even move back, closer to family and Sara. Sara wants to open a second restaurant. She trains women who need job skills to work in her kitchen. With another restaurant, she can help more women and ease the crowding at the first restaurant.

Since this is a Hallmark Publishing book, of course, Tony and Sara are able to work out the competition and their relationship. This book was a bit of a departure for Hallmark, in that Cuban and Latin culture, language and food were all featured predominantly. It wasn’t just white people in a white town baking white cake (no offense to people who like white cake–I love it!) But it was refreshing to read about a different culture. And remind me how delicious picadillo and porchetta are. Not to mention that Cubano sandwich.

This was a fun book and I highly recommend it.


I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Media Monday: BritBox and AcornTV

We disconnected the satellite TV a few months ago and are now streaming only. We still get live channels via YouTubeTV. Which we pay about the same amount for as what the satellite company offered to keep us. But we’d made up our minds so we declined their offer. With the streaming subscriptions, we’re saving about $100/month over what we were paying for a bunch of satellite channels we never watched.

Photo from DepositPhotos

We’re watching a lot of British and Canadian shows via BritBox and AcornTV, thanks to Amazon Prime. Which we had watched many of these already, but we’re back at it, and finding some new ones.

I’ve previously written about Murdoch Mysteries, a product of Canada. There were two new seasons we had to catch up on. And talk about a cliffhanger at the end of Season 14! I immediately had to check and be sure they were filming Season 15. Whew! They are.

Murdoch Mysteries

It took us a year to watch all of Midsomer Murders, and last week we watched Season 22.

PBS recently aired a new version of All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by British vet James Herriot. We watched Season 1, then went back and watched the older series from the late 1970s and early ’80s. We’d read all the books, of course. Both the older and newer series followed the same book fairly closely.

After we finished the older series, we went back to Midsomer Mysteries, Season 21, Episode 1, The Point of Balance, when Christopher Timothy, the actor who played James Heriot, guest starred in Midsomer as Ned Barnaby, DCI John Barnaby’s father.

That was very fun to watch! Seeing an older “Herriot” and how he’d aged.

We tried Doc Martin. I had tried it a few years ago, at several friends’ recommendation, but just couldn’t get into it. Stud Muffin and I tackled it together and after a few episodes, decided we enjoyed it enough to continue. But as often happens, (and I’ve told him this), he gets me to watching something that I’m not really wanting to watch (American Idol, Survivor, Longmire, to name a few) and then I get hooked and he decides he doesn’t want to watch anymore. Well sure enough, around Season 6, SM got tired of Doc’s perennial jerkness and said he was done. I do see glimmers of him trying to be better, so I’ll continue with Doc on my own. One of these days.

We’re currently trying Father Brown. After the first 2 episodes, SM said he didn’t care for how the “writers” (he blames all story deficiencies on the writers, never the producers, directors, or editors) portrayed the police officers/detectives/investigators as “bumbling idiots.” I disagreed with him. We did take a break and caught up on Midsomer, and we’re back to Father Brown. He hasn’t complained again. I don’t think he’s changed his mind, but at least he’s not arguing with the television set.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE STEPSISTERS

Susan Mallery is one of my writing examples. She puts out excellent books regularly. She keeps in contact with her readers. She writes stories that touch the heart. And her newest, THE STEPSISTERS, is another wonderful example of her women’s fiction.

Daisy and Sage were stepsisters, once upon a time, when Daisy’s father was married to Sage’s mother. Daisy and Sage share a half-sister, Cassidy. Now they’re all grown up and haven’t seen each other in years and are perfectly fine with that.

But when Cassidy needs help, Daisy and Sage agree to put the past behind them and focus on their sister. They’re all three surprised to learn that things they thought they knew about the past, and each other, may not be the whole truth. When a thoughtless and selfish act threatens their newfound friendship, they must decide if their family is worth fighting for.

While I don’t have stepsisters (or brothers), I do have half-siblings, though we were always treated as full members of the same family. Family dynamics can be tricky to navigate and Mallery shows that so well in THE STEPSISTERS.

I enjoyed this one a lot and highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but was not induced to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday: CRAZY FOR YOU

May is an odd numbered month, so we’re back in Deep Haven! Yay!

CRAZY FOR YOU is the third offering from Sunrise Publishing and I snagged an advance reader copy. It will release Tuesday, May 25. It can be pre-ordered right now for $4.99, and the price will go up once it’s released, so grab it now!

Deep Haven Fire Chief Pete Dahlquist is related to half of Deep Haven. Which makes dating difficult. And all sides of the family want something different from him.

Former military paramedic Ronnie Morales is new to town and needs to keep her job with the newly formed Crisis Response Team. She moved to Deep Haven to get her little brother out of the big city and away from the friends and trouble he was drawn toward.

Sparks (both the good and the bad kind) fly when Pete and Ronnie meet. When tragedy strikes, sides are taken and lines are drawn. Both Pete and Ronnie have to learn hard lessons about forgiveness and humility.

Michelle Sass Aleckson has captured Susan May Warren’s characters, setting, and voice in a wonderful addition to the Deep Haven canon. I loved everything in this story. From Pete’s dilemma of choosing his family or his town to Ronnie having to dial back her intensity to show the people of Deep Haven that she can fit in.

I highly recommend CRAZY FOR YOU!


I received a free advance copy of this book, but it did not induce me to review it favorably or not. I just happened to love it!