3 Hour Dad by Adam T Hourlution

I have received a free e-copy of the book 3 Hour Dad: Reading is Believing by Adam T Hourlution to review. To find out more about the author, you may visit his website.

3 Hour Dad by Adam T Hourlution

Here is the book blurb.

What would you do if you were suddenly told you were going to be a mum or dad without any notice? How would you react? What thoughts would go through your head? You haven’t prepared to be a parent, you’ve not made any arrangements and nobody in your family is aware.

Now imagine that not even the mum-to-be knew that she had been hiding a little person inside her tummy the entire time.

One day Adam, just your average, typical guy receives a call from his mother-in-law (to be !) summoning him to the hospital following his girlfriend being rushed in with suspected appendicitis only to discover that she is in fact having contractions and has been admitted to the labour ward.

This heart-warming and true story invites readers to step into Adam’s shoes and experience what it is like to be a 3 Hour Dad.

Adam is woken in the night by a phone call from his girlfriend’s mum. She tells him that Lyndsay has gone to hospital with suspected appendicitis but is in fact in labour. This is a huge shock, as neither Adam nor Lindsay herself even knew she was pregnant, no bump or symptoms at all. They hadn’t even been trying to conceive and Lindsay was on the pill and had been abseiling the previous weekend.

Adam rushes to the hospital and finds Lindsay in denial. But 3 hours after the bombshell news, their baby daughter is born weighing 8lb, 3 oz. They have nothing prepared for this unexpected baby, so new grandparents will hit the shops as soon as they open.

Just imagine putting yourself in either Adam’s or Lindsay’s shoes. No time to come to terms with your changing status. They weren’t even living together. Adam shares the story from his perspective, a male who had never even held a baby in his life before.

Also it was heartwarming to note that Adam has decided to donate a proportion of sales to a random act of kindness fund that is used to surprise others.

3 Hour Dad is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.83 in Kindle format. A truly lovely tale. Highly recommended.


Here is an extract from the beginning of the book.

Intro

I was destined to be a rock star! I had songs written, I was ready to record, I just needed to find my band mates and we would be ready to go! Until this great adventure was to begin, my main aim was to complete my vintage Star Wars collection; and to book as many cheeky breaks (dirty weekends if you will!) and holidays with my girlfriend.

It was 11th May 2015. Just another typical weekday evening spent alone in my home, focused on winning that all important eBay auction and securing Greedo, the last Star Wars figure I needed to complete the set. I had a dedicated guitar room, a blossoming relationship with the love of my life and hours of laptop time every night………well I did until the phone rang.

Chapter One – May The Force Be With You

I remember it as if it was yesterday. In fact I often still find myself drifting off into day dream mode where I re-live the moment. It was a normal working day; I had been in a meeting out of town and, although not too far away, I was not going to get back until at least 7.30pm. I was actually supposed to have been staying overnight in a hotel about 200 miles away but those arrangements had been changed. Although my girlfriend worked locally and was in the process of moving in, she didn’t fancy coming back to an empty house and so went home to her Mum’s straight from work.

I hadn’t heard from her since her lunch hour which wasn’t out of the ordinary. I knew she was planning to cook a spag bol for her Mum and catch up on the soaps. I had a pizza ready to throw into the oven and a mixed fruit Kopperberg chilling in the fridge, which I had been looking forward to all day. As soon as I walked through the front door I turned on the oven, powered up the laptop and eagerly logged into eBay, loading the bidding screen for the auction which I knew had only a few hours left.

I would say I am one of those people who are blessed with a high metabolism; I can lose weight easily but really struggle to put it on. Well at least that was my justification for consuming the entire pizza even though I had to eat it with Daddies sauce because the supermarket had run out of my usual brand of brown sauce. One episode of the Vampire diaries later and after the perfect cup of tea, I was climbing into bed with my laptop ready to fight it out in the virtual battlefield for that elusive figure. I had already decided that I was going to win this particular auction and stopped paying attention to other listings of the same figure. I don’t know why I was drawn to this particular listing but I was literally in touching distance of claiming my victory.

Success! With 5 seconds to go my winning bid beat the competition. I quickly paid via PayPal and excitedly selected the delivery address as my home. I was going to be the proud owner of a vintage Greedo figure (plus his original weapon and a free gift!). What a find, what a deal, what a brilliant evening! I didn’t care that he wasn’t free delivery, I didn’t care (nor ask) what the free gift was; I was going to have a complete Star Wars collection!! I had set out for this after all. I had imagined the display cabinet which I would proudly present them in and knew where on the wall it would be fixed. My fantasy of 12 months ago was actually going to manifest itself. Don’t get me wrong it had come at a big price, but these figures were priceless to me and so in that respect they were worth every penny.

As the adrenaline began to wear off, I could feel the long day creeping up on me. I flopped back, pulling off my glasses and pushing the laptop to my partner’s side of the bed. After all, it would ultimately go into hibernation mode and shut itself down; it most definitely deserved a place on the bed! It wasn’t long before I was drifting off and sinking into the calmness of the night. I was still faintly tuned into the fans on my laptop and remember them slowing down until there was complete and utter silence. What bliss.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Guest post: Coconut Oil – Miracle House Hold Remedy

Coconut oil has several uses that make it a super household item that you must always keep it in your home. It can be used in food for better health, in skin and hair care products and as a natural treatment for certain diseases in certain medicines. If you are unaware of benefits coconut oil, this blog is dedicated to you.

Coconut Oil and Weight Loss:

Coconut oil has magnificent health benefits for you. Coconut oil contains High-density lipoprotein cholesterol that is healthy cholesterol which helps in elimination of fat lipids from the body by carrying them to the liver. In addition to this, coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that fight against harmful microbes in your body and maintain the balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria. This keeps your gut flora healthy and as a result, your digestive system improves. Similarly, there are two reasons behind weight gain either it is the weak immune system or weak digestive system. Taking coconut oil resolves both of these issues. In addition to this, the saturated fatty acid in coconut oil reduces your appetite naturally and helps to maintain sugar level. All these benefits aid in weight loss. You can cook your meal in coconut oil or just eat a tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning.

Coconut Oil and Hair Care:

Shampooing and conditioning are not all that your hair requires for thickness and shine. You owe to show some extra love to your hairs by taking advantage of nature’s gifts to keep your hairs healthy. One of these is coconut oil. Do you know why people living in Tropical coastal areas have thick and shiny hairs? The most suitable answer is that they use naturally extracted coconut oil on their hairs. Coconut oil contains a chain of fatty acids such as capric acid and lauric acid that behaves as an antifungal and anti-bacterial that kills the bacteria and detoxifies the scalp. In addition to this, Coconut oil also contains vitamin E that helps to protect the skin cells on the scalp, reduces oxidative stress in the scalp and improves blood flow which results in better hair health. According to Home Remedies for Life, Coconut oil is among best oils that can be used for better hair growth. However, using extra virgin coconut oil is a better option as compared to other commercially available coconut oil as they also contain mineral oils that reduce its efficiency.

Coconut Oil for Skin Care:

Coconut oil is one of the perfect moisturizers you can apply to your skin. As mentioned previously coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties, not only this it is also a natural coolant. Therefore, if coconut oil is applied to the skin it can help in reducing sunburn, itching or burning. In addition to this, the mono-saturated fats present in coconut oil promote collagen growth that makes the cell wall stronger and Vitamin K aids new cell production that helps in reducing stretch marks. Coconut oil can be used to get rid of skin conditions such as rashes or eczema as it fights against bacteria and nourishes your skin.

You can also use coconut oil to prevent bacteria enter your dead skin. Coconut oil also contains healing properties. You can apply it on wounds and the Multi-Chain fatty acids will boost up the healing process.

DIY Coconut Oil and Sugar Scrub:

Coconut oil is used in various skin care products however these products are filled with harsh chemicals. Therefore, we are sharing a recipe to make exfoliator at home. You will require:

  1. ½ cup of Sugar
  2. ½ cup of coconut oil
  3. Few drops of essential oil or Lemon juice.

Mix all the three ingredients and use once a week. Sugar granules will remove the dead skin that will help coconut oil penetrate in the skin easily which will nourish your skin. You can use this scrub on dark patches on your body to reduce them.

Coconut oil for Dental Health:

Oil pulling is a method used for dental health as coconut oil has antimicrobial properties performing oil pulling with coconut oil can help in preventing tooth decay and tooth loss. However, on the other hand, multi-chain fatty acids will make gum stronger that will result in less gum bleeding.

Coconut Oil as Makeup Remover:

You can use coconut oil as a makeup remover; it will also hydrate your skin and will keep it moisturized without any side effects.

Author Bio:

Jane Scott is currently working as a nutritionist at a renowned firm. With an experience of more than a decade, she is considered as a go-to person in her field of work. She also writes blogs for her website Home Remedies for Life.

Guest post by Jane Scott

My Laird’s Seduction by Tammy Andresen

I have received a free e-copy of the book My Laird’s Seduction by Tammy Andresen to review.

My Laird's Seduction by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

Lady Ainsley McDougal has long been the bell of the ball. But there is one beau she cannot tame, which, of course, is her favorite kind. She’ll catch her man yet.

Laird James McPherson is a Highland Laird, an English Earl, a soldier of the Indian War, and a privateer for the British Navy simply for the joy of it. He’ll be damned before one tiny blond spitfire of a Scottish lass brings him to his knees and ties him down in wedlock. But even he can’t deny that he’s tempted…

This is the fourth book in A Laird To Love series, of which I have previously read and reviewed all the earlier titles including the introductory Christmas novella. Here are the links to my reviews of titles one, two and three.

Lady Ainsley and her mother have gone to stay with her cousin Clarissa and Ewan for the birth of baby Eva. But apart from time spent with the gorgeous baby, Ainsley is bored, so she is very interested when two eligible bachelors arrive, Lord Callum Tate and Laird James McPherson. Lord Callum is very friendly but she only has eyes for the rude arrogant Laird James. Meanwhile he considers her a vain peacock. But when she calls him James, rather than by his formal title, he becomes a different man and kisses her. She almost forgets how much she hates him. But he is so inconsistent, the next day avoiding her. Will they sort out their differences or not?

My Laird’s Seduction is available on Amazon, currently priced at £2.89 in Kindle format. The fourth title in A Laird To Love series, but also works fine as a stand-alone read. As always with Tammy’s books, this is a nice romantic easy read to curl up with, in-between some thrillers.


About the author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Coconut Haystacks

Are you often like me, wondering what to do with leftover egg white? I usually cook it as a small pale omelette, then cut it into strips and toss them in a soup. But I know there must be so many more ideas out there. Well I suddenly remembered a recipe I used to make as a child with my mum, and decided to give it a go. This was Coconut Haystacks, so called because it looked the shape of the old-fashioned haystack, that you never see any more, now that hay is just bundled in bales.

coconut haystacks

Coconut Haystacks

Ingredients (makes about 10)

1 large egg white
50g golden granulated sugar
125g desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Whisk the egg white until it is peaky.
Whisk in the sugar.
Mix in the coconut.
Scoop some mixture with an egg cup, pressing in well.
Gently tap out onto the lined baking sheet.
Repeat until you have used all the mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes until slightly golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

coconut haystacks

I’d love to hear your ideas for using up egg white.

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Guest post: My top ten inspirational authors by Kathleen Webb

Guest post by Kathleen Webb, author of “The Past is Present”.

The Past is Present by Kathleen Webb

My top ten inspirational authors are as follows:

1.Dean Koontz  .. I admire him so much.  Although in the past I have read many of his books, it was his life story that adhered me to him.  Against all odds, he was still able to achieve his passion for story writing;  remarkable.

2.Stephen King .. Again his passion to please the reader – however dark the novel, is something you have to admire.  His ethic for writing is brilliant and one I hope I can duplicate.

3.Khaled Hosseini .. Although once a doctor, his passion for writing comes through in his novels.  Once he left Afghanistan it seems there was no holding him back.  His books are original and I think contain some elements of his previous life;   great inspirational man and author.

4.James Patterson.. A great inspirational man to get you writing; I love his style, short sentences and descriptions and great stories.

5.John Grisham.. I have read many of his books which were of the Jury and Legal genre, but I particularly liked one of his recent books – “Camino Island”;  Something different from him.

6.Victoria Hislop .. I like her writing style.  I think my favourite was “The Island”.

7.J.K.Rowling.. I have only read two of the Harry Potter books.  I like the way she writes in this series, expressive and compelling. I haven’t, as yet, read her adult novels.

8.Patricia Cornwall.. Her upbringing was difficult which helped to  drive her to achieve the amazing success she has enjoyed.  Her previous employment in Crime detection definitely gave her the edge; marvellous crime novels.

9 and 10.  ..   P.D.James and Ruth Rendell... These two authors wrote great mystery/thriller stories, every one different.  My then teenage daughters read most of their novels.  Wonderful books across the age groups.

And you may read my review of Kathleen’s book here, plus have a chance to win yourself a paperback copy.

Author photo - Kathleen Webb

Kathleen Webb

The Past is Present by Kathleen Webb plus giveaway

I have received a free e-copy of the book “The Past is Present” by Kathleen Webb to review. This is Kathleen’s debut novel.

The Past is Present by Kathleen Webb

Here is the book blurb.

After the untimely death of her mother and father, twenty-four year old Catherine Morgan leaves the Cambridge home where she has spent the better part of her life, to move to Cornwall. She takes a job as a teacher, working in an old rambling school which has been converted from a domestic home, perched high up on a hilltop, overlooking the beautiful Cornish coastline.

Out of the blue a letter arrives from a bank in Switzerland, advising Catherine that she is the sole heir to a fortune of over thirty million dollars. With no living relatives, save for a great aunt in the USA, Catherine sets out to uncover the source of this staggering inheritance, and to unravel the mystery that lies behind it.

With the help of her great aunt, Catherine begins to dig deep into long forgotten family secrets. Strange dreams begin to plague her. She is haunted by the eerie feeling that someone from her family’s past is trying to help her. Catherine must work to make sense of the past while defending herself, and her fortune, from someone in the present who will stop at nothing to secure the money for themselves.

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I read the words “family history” in the blurb. One of my favourite genres.

It starts in 2010 with Catherine getting a new job as a teacher in Cornwall. As we are introduced to Catherine, we discover that she has recently started to suffer from disturbing visions. It is as if someone is trying to tell her something. A house features in many of these dreams, but how can Catherine identify it?

We then move back to 1985 where we meet best friends Rachael and Susie who are about to start studying at Yale.

The story continues to move back and forth between 2010 and 1985. A few weeks later, Catherine’s only relative, Great Aunt Izzy arranges to fly over for a visit, but before she does so, Catherine receives a redirected letter. She can’t believe the contents. It is from a Swiss Bank about an account in her name valued at over $30m. She phones Izzy, who tells her the letter is genuine but that she can’t explain until she arrives, and to hide it as she could be in danger.

Lots more to come in this as we unravel al the strands of the mystery. I found it so gripping that I read the whole book in one day, although I have to say I wasn’t overly fond of the writing style.

This book is newly published on Amazon currently priced at £9.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. A gripping read. Highly recommended.

About the author

Living in Hertfordshire, Kathleen Webb has always held a passion for writing and since retiring she’s finally found the time to realise her dream and complete her first novel. When not writing she can be found spending quality time with her grandchildren and children and baking delicious decorative cakes.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a paperback copy of this book to 2 lucky winners.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.


I’m participating in the book tour and you may like to check out some of the other blog stops on the tour.

The Past is Present by Kathleen Webb

And look out this afternoon for a guest post on my blog by Kathleen.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Father’s Day gift idea – hamper review plus giveaway

Guess what lovely item I have received free to review?

Prestige hamper unboxing

Prestige hamper unboxing

Yes it is a gorgeous hamper. When I unpacked it, I discovered all the following goodies, carefully packed in an attractive tray. Not even a single cracker was broken, which shows how much care was taken. I was also impressed to read the leaflet detailing their environmental packaging policy. And delivery was super speedy too.

Prestige hamper unboxing

The contents were:-
Primera Luz Chile Sauvignon Blanc Wine 75cl
Simply Cornish Clotted Cream, Apple & Blackberry Shortbread 200g
Crunch Craving Fruit & Nut Mix
Grate Britain Cheddar Crackers 45g
Linden Lady Handmade Luxury Florentines
Oloves Basil & Garlic Natural Green Pitted Olives 30g

Shortbread from Prestige Hampers

Plus the Shortbread, Crackers and Florentines are all handmade and utterly delicious. Just the sort of thing you never buy for yourself but are always delighted to receive.

Crackers from Prestige Hampers

Florentines from Prestige Hampers

This hamper is from Prestige Hampers who offer a wide range of gifts from letterbox size right through to huge wicker picnic baskets, full of tempting treats. And they have something suitable for every occasion.

So with Father’s Day just round the corner, how about taking a look. Certainly the Dad in our household gave the thumbs up to all the treats in our hamper.

You may see their Father’s Day range here.
https://www.prestigehampers.co.uk/fathers-day

There are hampers with sweet treats, cheese, fruit, wine, beer and various spirits to name but a few. And you can add a personal message.

The hamper I received was from their luxury range and is called a Tray of Delights. It currently retails for £34.99 and can be ordered for next day delivery.

Although this particular hamper includes products containing nuts, some of the range are nut-free. And they do cater for a range of other dietary requirements including gluten free, diabetic and vegan.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a gorgeous hamper just like the one I received, courtesy of Prestige Hampers to 1 lucky winner.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your ideas of goodies to include in a hamper.

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Family Fever

Disclosure. This post includes a review of a product that I received for free. All opinions are my own.

Potato Cake Surprise

My uncle sometimes messages me some very tempting recipe videos from ChefClub. The only difficulty is that they are always in french, have no quantities or written directions, so I have to use guesswork. I’ve adapted this from one called Beignets de pomme de terre surprise. Also I’ve chosen to cook mine in the oven rather than deep frying.

Potato Cake Surprise

Potato Cake Surprise

Ingredients (makes 6)

800g potatoes
3 rashers of bacon
100g cheddar cheese
2tbsp plain flour
6 eggs
2 slices of stale bread
pinch of salt and pepper
pinch of mixed herbs

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Line a rectangular baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Peel and chop the potatoes.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.
Add the potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile grill the bacon.
Grate the cheese.
Tear the bread into small pieces.
Using an electric blender, whizz the bread into breadcrumbs.
Cut the bacon into small pieces.
Drain and mash the potatoes.
Mix in the cheese and bacon.
Season with salt, pepper and mixed herbs.
Spread the mash out on the lined baking tray, flattening and pressing into corners.
Put mash in fridge for an hour.
Lift the mash and paper out of tray onto a chopping board, retaining the paper underneath.
Meanwhile grease the baking tray.
Using a circular cutter, cut out 6 circles for the lids.
Reform the remaining mash into a smaller thicker block on the paper and cut out 6 more circles for the bases.
Position the cutter around a base and then press an egg cup down in the middle of the base, to form a cavity.
Repeat for the other 5 bases.
Separate the first egg and place the yolk in a cavity.
Repeat for the other 5 eggs, reserving 3 egg whites for later, (The other egg whites are not required, so can be used in a different recipe).
Put the lids onto the bases.
Spread the flour on a chopping board.
Beat the 3 egg whites in a shallow dish.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a second shallow dish.
Coat the first Potato Cake Surprise fully in flour.
Then coat in egg white.
Finally coat in breadcrumbs.
Place on the baking tray.
Repeat the coating process, for the other 5.
Bake in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes, so that yolk is still runny.
Serve with your choice of vegetables.
Enjoy.

Potato Cake Surprise

Potato Cake Surprise

Doesn’t that look so tempting once you cut into it, with the surprise egg yolk oozing out. And it tasted delicious too.

I’d love to hear about your ideas of recipes with a mystery surprise element.

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Clutch by Lisa Becker

I have received a free e-copy of the book Clutch by Lisa Becker to review. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

Clutch by Lisa Becker

Here is the book blurb.

Clutch: a novel is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit romance chronicling the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer who compares her unsuccessful romantic relationships to styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc. With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks a lot of Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to discover the “Clutch” or someone she wants to hold onto.

If you page down, you’ll see an extract of the first few pages from the book. This is where we are introduced to Caroline Johnson, who gained her love of handbags as a child from her Great Aunt Mimi. Caroline meets her new best friend Mike at Harvard business school. They do sleep together once but agree it was a big mistake. After college, they both set up their new businesses in LA, where Caroline creates her own handbag line, Clutch and Mike opens a bar, The Last Drop.

We then follow Caroline through a series of 12 unsuccessful romances, where she compares each one to a style of bag before she finally finds someone she wants to Clutch and hold onto. First up is like a Hobo bag. This is Jason, a homeless artist, who quickly moves into Caroline’s apartment, sponges off her and even steals her money, before she plucks up the courage to order him to leave.

Each time Mike is there for Caroline. After Hobo, we meet Demi-Bag, Coin Purse, Messenger, Doctor Bag, Baguette, Diaper Bag, Fanny Pack, Briefcase, Wallet, Cosmetic Bag, Backpack and lastly Clutch.

All very humorous and I’ve certainly learnt some handbag types that I’d never heard of before. I loved this book, just as much as when I read Links, another of Lisa’s titles.

Clutch is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.00 in Kindle format and is also available in paperback. A nice romantic comedy.


Here is an extract of the first few pages of the book for you to read.

Mimi Johnson was casually dressed in a brightly-colored blouse with enormous turquoise jewelry and equally-oversized glasses. Despite that largesse, the only thing truly bigger than her personality (and her bosom) was her handbag. Always perfectly matched to her clothing, shoes, and jewelry, she was like a walking Chico’s advertisement, if you added forty years, forty pounds, and a Virginia Slims cigarette. From her Mary Poppins-like bag, she pulled out a box, impeccably-wrapped in glossy pink paper with a white grosgrain ribbon bow. A cigarette teetered between her two fingers while she produced a lung-hacking cough.

“Open it… <cough, cough> …sweetie. Open it,” she said to her seven-year-old great niece, Caroline, a beautiful and vibrant girl with long blonde hair and oversized blue eyes.

Alive with anticipation, sweet young Caroline eagerly took the box and smiled up at Mimi. She gingerly removed the ribbon, planning to save it for later. The glossy paper was of less interest and she ripped through it quickly. She opened the box and gently lifted out a hot pink purse, adorned with pale pink flowers and rhinestones. An enormous smile overcame her. Caroline nearly set her own hair on fire from Mimi’s cigarette as she bounded into her aunt’s arms.

“Oh, thank you, Aunt Mimi. It’s lovely.”

And that was when Caroline’s love of handbags began. From big and loud ones that would make Mimi proud to unimposing wristlets, from bowler bags to satchels; it didn’t matter if they were made of canvas or calf-skin leather, were distressed or embellished with metal studs. Hell, she didn’t care if you called them pocketbooks or purses. She just loved them all – almost as much as she loved Mimi.

By the time she was a junior in high school and well on her way to being class valedictorian, it was the hundreds of bags Caroline owned that helped her conceptualize her ticket out of her suffocating small Georgian town. She would design handbags. And it was Mimi who was her steadfast cheerleader.

“Caroline, sweetie… <cough, cough> …you find something you love and you just hold onto it.” It had never mattered if Caroline was asking Mimi’s advice about a friend, lover, or career. The advice was always the same: “Find something you love and hold onto it.”

Mimi’s words ever-present in her mind, Caroline headed to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and spent four years in Los Angeles learning everything there was to know to pursue her passion. Then, right out of college, she spent three years working in the design and marketing departments of two of the world’s leading, high-end handbag designers.

She was schooled in beauty and how to accessorize the perfectly-coiffed women on the way to their Botox appointments. But Caroline was pulled by the nagging feeling that the very person who had inspired her career, Mimi, could never afford the bags she designed, even if Caroline used her generous employee discount on Mimi’s behalf. And God forbid Mimi would ever accept one as a gift, always preferring to give rather than receive. But Caroline believed there was no reason for anyone to be denied the ultimate in accessories. She saw an untapped market of designing beautiful and affordable bags, but she just wasn’t sure she was start-up potential. Again, it was Mimi who nudged her to learn the business side of things and apply to MBA programs. When Caroline was accepted to Harvard Business School, Mimi, of course, encouraged her.

“You’ve got this, sweetie. <cough, cough>,” she said. “It’s in the bag.”

•••

Caroline was sitting in Financial Reporting and Control on her first day of Harvard classes (and yes, the class turned out to be as boring as it sounded). That’s when she first eyed Mike, who was wearing a faded pair of Levi jeans, a washed-out vintage Rolling Stones T-shirt, and Converse sneakers. He oozed charisma. Turning her head away from him and back toward the front of the lecture hall, Caroline thought that if he were a handbag, he would be a grey leather tote – confident and dependable, but not trying too hard.

Mike surveyed the large lecture hall as he walked in, a Starbucks coffee cup in each hand. After descending the steps slowly, he took a seat next to Caroline and planted one of the white and green cups on her desk.

Flashing a wide, dimpled smile, which she mused he reserved for getting girls to drop their panties, he said, “Here. You look like you’re going to need this.”

“Thanks,” she replied in a suspicious tone, turning her head sideways to look at him and raising an eyebrow.

“I’m Mike,” he said, again flashing a smile and reaching out for a handshake.

“I’m Caroline. Thanks for the…”

“Latte.”

“Latte,” she confirmed. “Thanks. But just so you know, I’m not gonna sleep with you,” she said in an apparent attempt to establish up front she wasn’t taken in by his obvious charm.

“I know,” he replied matter-of-fact.

Before she could respond, Professor Beauregard, a stout man with excessive eyebrows, spoke up. “Please take note of where you are seated. I will send around a seating chart for you to mark your spot. This will be your seat for the remainder of the semester.”

“Looks like we’ll be seatmates,” Mike said, grinning at her.

“Looks like it.”

•••

About three months into the first semester, Caroline learned that her fun-loving, easy-going, new best buddy Mike wasn’t exactly who he appeared to be.

A blanket of white snow dusted the Harvard grounds and it was a particularly slow day in another mutual class, LEAD – Leadership and Organizational Behavior. Professor Moss, a frail man who weighed less than his years, was droning on and on about establishing productive relationships with subordinates or something to that effect. He initiated a discussion about what works better – the carrot or stick approach.

“Mr. Barnsworth,” he called, referring to his seating chart and scanning the room until he found Mike in the fifth row. “What are your thoughts?”

“Well, it seems to me that good management is all about empathy and being able to enthuse and inspire your staff. You know, appreciating them and respecting them. Showing you care,” he said, placing his hand over his heart in a gesture of true compassion and concern. “And if they can’t get that through their thick skulls, you fire ‘em,” he continued, drawing his finger across his throat.

Several students sitting around them started to chuckle while Caroline stifled a laugh. Mike looked around the room and nodded his head, soaking in the appreciation of his sense of humor.

“Mr. Barnsworth,” said Professor Moss in a menacing tone, “I would have expected a better answer from you, considering your family history.”

Confused by the conversation unfolding before her, Caroline leaned over and whispered to Mike, “What is he talkin’ about?” Mike put up a hand to quiet her.

“Later,” he hissed.

Twenty minutes later, the two shared a bench outside Baker Library, the chill of winter causing Caroline to pull her scarf closer around her neck.

“What was that all about?” she asked, scrunching up her nose in confusion.
Reluctantly, Mike began to speak. “My full name is Michael Frederick Barnsworth the Third. My family owns a large brokerage firm in New York,” he confessed, unsure of how Caroline would react.

Caroline listened as she took in just how old money his family really was. Mike’s great, great, great, great – actually it was hard to keep track of how many “greats” it went back – grandfather ran the first Bank of the United States, which Congress chartered in the early 1800s. His family had advised presidents, dined with royalty, and amassed a fortune that continued today through the Barnsworth Brokerage Firm.

“I’m the seventh person in my family to attend Harvard including my father, uncle, three cousins, and grandfather, who was a classmate of Professor Moss,” he continued.

Surprised by this unexpected news, she joked, “So you’re just slummin’ with a simple Southern girl like me – and makin’ me pay for drinks, mind you – until you go join the family business and marry someone named Muffy…”

“That’s my family’s plan,” Mike laughed. “There’s even an office in the Woolworth Building owned by my family, sitting empty, until I finish business school,” he said reluctantly.

“But…” she pressed, touching his hand gently, sensing the family plan may not actually be Mike’s plan – though they had never discussed his plans before.

“I want to open a bar,” he said, matter of fact and looking her square in the eye.

Caroline’s head leaned back as she let out a raucous laugh. “You want to own a bar?” she questioned, her shoulders shaking from laughter. “Now I get your goal to drink at every one of the six hundred bars in Boston before you graduate.”

“Yup, it’s research,” he said emphatically.

“Research?”

“Yeah. Every time my parents call, which isn’t very often – they are usually off with their snobby society friends or at Met Balls – I tell them I’m working hard and doing research.”

“Gotta give you credit. That’s pretty clever,” she replied, nodding her head.

“And true. If I’m going to open the best bar ever, I need to know what works and what doesn’t.”

“Okay. I get why you don’t want to be a wizard of Wall Street. But why a bar?” she asked, not understanding his desire for the life of a bar back.

“My parents weren’t around a lot growing up. My father spent more time in the office than my mother spent jetting between boutiques in Paris and ski chalets in Switzerland. And believe me, that was a lot,” he confessed. Caroline looked down in her lap, her heart sinking at the thought of the small boy with the winning smile being ignored by his family.

“I was pretty much raised by a series of au pairs. My favorite was Linnea who was nineteen when she came from Sweden to live with our family. She was obsessed with Tom Cruise movies and we would watch them all the time,” he explained, a wistful look on his face as he recalled fond memories.

“Cocktail!” Caroline exclaimed.

“Yup, I want to be the sole proprietor of a place where you can shake margaritas bare-chested,” Mike laughed. “It’s going to be called The Last Drop,” he stated, not looking for her approval.

“Great name,” she admitted, nodding her head. “Especially when your folks drop kick you out of the family.”

“I know. I’m preparing to be disowned, which is why I’m getting you used to buying the drinks,” he said, flashing her a smile.

“Well with any luck my business will allow me to continue payin’ for drinks.”

“The purse thing?”

“Yes. The purse thing,” she said, mocking him. “I aim to start a line called Clutch, because it’s one of my favorite handbag styles, and in honor of my aunt Mimi. She always says ‘Find somethin’ you love and just hold onto it.’”

“Sounds like a smart lady.”


About the author

Lisa Becker is a romance writer who spends her time like she spends her money – on books and margaritas.  In addition to Clutch: a novel, she is the author of the Click trilogy, a contemporary romance series about online dating and Links, a standalone, second chance romance readers.  As Lisa’s grandmother used to say, “For every chair, there’s a tush.” Lisa is now happily married to a wonderful man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach, California with him and their two daughters. So, if it happened for her, there’s hope for anyone! You can share your love stories with her at www.lisawbecker.com.


General Q&A with Lisa Becker

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m a romance writer who spends her time like she spends her money – on margaritas and books. In addition to my romantic comedy novels, which reviewers call clever, hilarious, sexy and smart, I’ve written bylined articles and participated in interviews about relationships, online dating and romance for a range of media including Reader’s DigestMind Body Green, Cupid’s Pulse, The Perfect Soulmate and TV Grapevine. My grandmother used to say, “For every chair, there’s a tush.” I’m now happily married to a wonderful man I met online and live in Manhattan Beach, California with him and our two daughters. So, if it happened for me, there’s hope for anyone!

Tell us about your most recent release.

A light-hearted, second chance romance, Links explores what happens when nerdy girl Charlotte reconnects with her unrequited schoolgirl crush, star athlete Garrett, 15 years after high school.

Did you have an unrequited crush in high school?

I’m not too ashamed to admit I had such a fierce crush on a boy, I willingly sat with him in the bathroom at parties while he puked up wine coolers, just so I could spend time with him. Thankfully, that soul-crushing time in my life is over, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I came upon that secret crush today as a confident, successful woman.

One of your books is based on how you met your husband. Can you tell us more about that?

I’m most known for the Clicktrilogy comprised of Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click,which is loosely inspired by how I met my husbandThe series follows a young woman’s search for love online in Los Angeles with the entire series unfolding in emails between our heroine, her friends and her hilarious dates. Fraught with BCC’s, FWD’s and inadvertent Reply to All’s, readers will cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends. And ultimately, they will root for Renee to “click” with the right man.

What is next for you?

This spring, I will re-release a novel I published several years ago called Clutch. The re-release includes five new chapters, a new cover and audiobook.  It is a laugh-out-loud romance chronicling the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer who compares her unsuccessful romantic relationships to styles of handbags (the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.) as she searches for the “Clutch” or someone she wants to hold onto.

Is Clutch also inspired by your real life?

When I was writing the Click trilogy I was obsessed with NCIS re-runs and would have the show on in the background as I wrote. There was an episode where a character refers to a man as a “handbag husband,” or something useless you carry on your arm.  I started thinking about that, and the idea for Clutch grew from there. I believe that everyone deserves a happily ever after and would like to think there’s a “clutch,” or someone worth holding onto, out there for everyone.

If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?

I think Eloise Mumford, who played Kate in Fifty Shades of Grey, would make an outstanding Caroline. She has the right mixture of warmth, gumption, vulnerability, and beauty to bring this character to life. I still can’t decide who would play Mike, although I know I’d love to sit in on those casting sessions.  😉

At the end of your life, when it is all said and done, what would you want your tombstone to read?

Here lies Lisa Willet Becker – a great wife, mother, friend and citizen who wrote books and movies people loved.

How can readers connect with you?

I love hearing from readers, especially when I’ve brought some humor, heart or happiness into their worlds with my writing.

And you can find Lisa Becker on social media as follows:-

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

BBQ Smokey Bacon Wrapped Chicken plus giveaway

Regular readers of my blog may remember that last year I was introduced to the Real Good Ketchup brand when I got a bottle as part of a competition prize. I used some in my meat loaf recipe which I shared with you.

I’m now a big fan of Real Good Ketchup which contains no added refined sugar and 70% less sugars and 70% less salt than other regular branded ketchups. It also has no artificial flavourings or preservatives. This is ideal for our family, particularly as son2 goes through ketchup at a rate of knots. He even has it in his favourite chicken and cucumber sandwiches. Ever since, I’ve been keeping my eye out for it to appear in my local branch of the Co-op, but sadly it hasn’t hit the shelves there yet, although can get via Ocado.

I’ve now received a bottle of the other flavour in the Real Good range, free to review. This is BBQ Smokey ketchup, which comes in a 285g glass bottle. And again with no added sugar.Real Good BBQ Smokey Ketchup

Of course, I had to try it out in a recipe so here is my BBQ Smokey Bacon Wrapped Chicken recipe. And for son2 who won’t eat bacon, I made some homemade chicken nuggets served with the BBQ Smokey ketchup as a dip on the side of the plate. You may page down for that recipe.


Chicken nuggets and BBQ Smokey bacon wrapped chicken

BBQ Smokey Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Ingredients (makes 6)

1 chicken breast
6 rashers of bacon
2 tbsp Real Good BBQ smokey ketchup
1 tbsp plain flour

Method

Cut the chicken into strips.
Sprinkle the flour over a chopping board.
Roll each chicken strip in a rasher of bacon.
Tip the BBQ Smokey ketchup onto a plate.
Place the bacon wrapped chicken strips on top of the ketchup.
Turn several times until they are smothered in ketchup.
Cook on a George Foreman grill (or similar) for about 8 minutes.
Serve with your choice of vegetables.
Enjoy.

Chicken wrapped in bacon



Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients (makes approx 20)

2-3 chicken breasts
1 slice of stale white bread
1 egg
salt
pepper
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

Cut the chicken into small pieces.
Tear the bread into pieces and whizz to crumbs in food processor.
Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.
Beat the egg.
Sprinkle the flour on a chopping board.
Coat the chicken in flour.
Then dip in the egg.
Then roll in the breadcrumbs to fully coat.
Heat oil in frying pan.
Cook the chicken nuggets on a moderate heat, turning occasionally.
Serve with your choice of vegetables and BBQ Smokey ketchup.
Enjoy.

Homemade Chicken nuggets

3 of us loved the BBQ Smokey ketchup, but son2 preferred the original tomato flavour.

Real Good Ketchup is available in selected Morrisons Stores, Co-op, Ocado, Amazon, Wholefoods Market and selected health food stores. You can find local retail stores here http://realgoodketchup.com/find-your-local-store/.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 1 bottle of Smoky BBQ flavour Real Good Ketchup to 3 lucky winners. Please note that winners can choose between receiving a product with Best Before date of end June 2018 or waiting until the next batch is made in late July.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your ideas for a recipe using either flavour of Real Good Ketchup.

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Disclosure. This post includes a review of a product I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.