Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Regency reading challenge: entry two

Here is my second installment in the Regency romance reading challenge hosted by -- "A Change of Heart" by Candice Hern

A third son suddenly inherits the family title after the tragic deaths of his father, brothers and nephew. Unlike his own careful management of his small estate, his family had mismanaged theirs, leaving "Black" Jack Raeburn with a mountain of debt that only marrying an heiress would remedy.

Lady Mary Haviland has no interest in marriage, but is drawn to men of roguish repute as distraction and amusement. Mary offers to assist Jack in his search for a bride, not knowing of his true motives for joining the Marriage Mart.

Jack, through his friend Robert (from A Proper Companion), learns Mary is very wealthy in her own right, with no male relatives to negotiate with. So he turns his considerable charm toward Mary, feeling if he must marry, it might as well be someone he enjoys being around.

Enter in the Revelation of the Secret, leading to a Big Misunderstanding, and the couple has to wait for their HEA.

Mary had total disregard for reputation, mostly due to her disinterest in marriage, and seemed to suffer no social repercussions. It comes to light that Mary's father was slightly mad, and very mean. The book delves into the brainwashing effect Mary's father's abuse had on her, and how it affected her relationships, and how she felt the abuse was her fault.

It is unusual for an historical romance book to deal with issues like abuse in more than just passing. This was, other than Mary's emotional scars, an enjoyable read. 4/5 stars

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beef stew

I mentioned before that I had bought a small, 2.5qt crock pot that was better suited to cooking for my small family of 2. Well, today I bought a 6qt. Why? You ask? Well, my small group bible study has a soup supper during our gatherings every other week, which two families provide each time. My little pot was not big enough for my share. So, since I saw they were on sale, I bought one. I is the nice kind, made for traveling, with a lid that latches on.

Today, a friend and her son were coming over for an unspecified amount of time, so I thought, just in case, I would make something for us all to eat. That is what the impetus was to buy the pot today. So I bought the goodies to make beef stew.

My beef stew is an amalgamation of recipes I have read and tried over the years.

3 lb beef chuck roast, cut into chunks
1 small package baby carrots
1 bag frozen chopped onions
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks
Salt, pepper and thyme to taste
1 carton beef stock (this is sold by Swanson, and is richer than beef broth)
1 cup red wine or dark beer (Guinness makes a nice St. Patrick's stew, with some quartered prunes added to counter the bitterness of the beer. Other beer I like is Newcastle Brown Ale)

Place veggies in bottom of crock and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Place meat chunks on top, and season again. Cover and cook until meat and potatoes are tender, 5 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low.

When done, you can either leave the broth thin and soup-like, or you can thicken it. My preferred method of thickening stews with potatoes is using instant mashed potatoes. Sprinkle some in, stir, and repeat until desired thickness. Make sure you wait a bit between additions, as the flakes need to soak up juice.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge book review, part 2

_Charlotte_ by Karen Aminadra

After almost a year of marriage to Mr Collins, Charlotte is getting to know her neighbors in Hunsford. She is also getting tired of Lady Catherine dictating everyone's lives. She determines to open Mr Collins' eyes to Lady Catherine's manipulative ways and claim her future, which does not go as hoped. At first.

This book is very different from other PandP fan fiction I have read. Rather than Charlotte continually regretting her marriage to Mr Collins, she grows to care for him as he realizes his shortcomings and "ridiculousness" and endeavors to improve himself. And we come to like him as well. During this time as well, while struggling with the consequences of thwarting Lady Catherine, Charlotte becomes involved in a flirtation with Colonel Fitzwilliam, which ultimately shows him in a less than flattering light.

It was a light, enjoyable, quick read. 4/5 stars

As a side note, having just read Jennifer Becton's "Charlotte Collins" (review coming another time), it is odd to read about the same people with alternate realities. I have not yet read many PandP variants, just continuations. I am sure it will just get stranger :) Maybe I should leave more time between reading about the same characters!