MUCH ADO ABOUT A SCOT: Release day blog featuring author Gerri Russell & Scottish scones!

For the Love of Scones

In celebration of my latest release, Much Ado About a Scot, book five in the All the King’s Men series, I wanted to take you all on a little journey as I reminisce about a trip I took to Scotland. My goal was two-fold: to do research and to find the perfect scone. Is there such a thing as the perfect scone—that fluffy goodness you can top with honey or jam, lemon curd or clotted cream? Come with me and find out…

I started my search in Glasgow at The Willow Tea Rooms. After walking around Glasgow all day, I was pretty hungry and ended up eating two finger sandwiches before I remembered to take a picture of the three-tiered cake stand. But here’s what remained of the first sampling of traditional scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. The scone was delicious, fluffy, and buttery. That became the baseline for the rest of my trip.

Another stop was in Ardnamurchan, northwest of Fort William, at a gem of a tea room next door to the post office, which was handy since I had some books I wanted to send home—after all, this was a research trip too. Scones at Acharacle were an added bonus. 

I tried a cheese scone this time for variety. And while it was lovely, and just about anything tastes great covered in butter and more cheese, it wasn’t my favorite. I guess I prefer sweet scones to savory ones. 

The next tasting came at the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother’s residence in Caithness, in their tea room. 

After touring the castle, it was nice to sit and have a refreshing pot of tea. I’ve always been a tea drinker, and I prefer my tea black, no milk or sugar. Except when it comes to Scottish tea which is really strong…sometimes you need a splash of milk! 

This time I tried fruit scones—with sultanas/currents. They were served with both butter and clotted cream. I, of course, chose the cream and jam. I can get butter at home. Clotted cream is a little harder to come by. And while the scones were delicious, I was still undecided about which was the best scone in Scotland. 

The last place I looked for scones was in John O’Groats. It was a tiny town on the northeastern tip of Scotland that felt very much like the edge of the world as the cliffs fall off into the sea. 

And here at The Old School House tea room, I found it! The perfect scone. It was light and fluffy, with golden currents. Covered in raspberry jam and clotted cream—it was a little slice of heaven. 

I tasted a lot more than four scones during my three-week trip, but these four were the most memorable. And the scones in John O’Groats really were the best! Now, I know most you will not travel to John O’Groats to find that perfect scone, so I brought back a recipe similar to the one I loved and adapted it to American measurements. These scones are light and fluffy and make only a small batch that is perfect for afternoon tea.

Scottish Scones

1 C. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 stick butter
2 T. sugar
pinch of salt
1 beaten egg
2 T. cream
1/2 C. dried or fresh fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Shred or dice butter into small cubes. Add dry ingredients. With a wooden spoon mix together. Add egg, cream, and optional fruit. Mix until dough is stiff. Turn dough out on a cutting board covered with parchment paper. Form dough into a small circle and cut into four wedges or circles, whichever you prefer. Sprinkle with demerara sugar. Transfer parchment paper and scones to a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until tops brown. Cool for a few minutes before serving with butter and jam.

Here’s a picture of the recipe above that I made without the fruit. 

Now go make yourself a pot of tea and a batch of scones, then grab a good book and enjoy. Slàinte!




ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA: Release day blog featuring author Debra Salonen + GIVEAWAY!

Hello, my friends,

I hope you are doing well in these trying times.

I live in California, which, sadly, has had more than its share of wild fires recently. As I write this blog, my eyes are watering and a weight on my chest reminds me not to step outside. Gray-brown smoke has become our new norm, but I’m hopeful that by the time you read this, our nearby #Creekfire will be under control, and all the other blazes across the west will be out.

One of the beautiful things about writing a series set in Montana is…it’s set in Montana! The air there is clean and clear, and the clouds indicate weather changes by virtue of season—not impending evacuation. Yes, disasters happen in every state, but right now in certain parts of California, we have three seasons: Winter, Spring and Fire. Sigh. 

This summer, my daughter visited western Montana—not far from Marietta. Here are few images she took that added to my sense of place—and to my escape–while I was writing my new release: ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA.

Whether I’m writing or reading a book, the setting becomes my virtual reality. And much the Property Sisters of Montana series is set in one of my favorite Montana towns: Marietta.

With this series, I added a new place of business in downtown Marietta: Brandel’s Baubles, Treasures and Fine Art, which was introduced in MONTANA BLUEPRINT FOR LOVE, became a centerpiece of MEET ME IN MONTANA when heroine Amber fell in love with the store—and the owner’s son, and also plays a role in ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA.

Here’s a snippet from this book:

Jade couldn’t remember ever being this nervous around Zach. He seemed right at home in her old hometown—more than she had any of the times she’d come back since Dad’s health scare. “What time is check-in?”

He glanced at a black-and-lime green, rugged-looking watch that didn’t look like his normal style at all. “Three. Have you stayed at the Graff?”

She made a raspberry. “Time and money conspired against me. As did the fact my mother would disown me if I came to town and checked into a hotel. But I’ve eaten there, and they did a great job on Ruby’s wedding in the courtyard. I wrote a glowing review on Yelp.”

“I probably read it. I like getting the lay of the land before I arrive in a new place.” He stopped at Baubles’s oversize picture window to study the whimsical, yet classy, display that included a rope hammock stretched at an angle with an arrangement of summery items: fishing poles, rusty roller skates, a red, white and blue tricycle, and a scattering of hardback books. “Reading in a hammock on a summer day. What a cool idea,” he said before taking a step back to look upward at the second story. “Brandel’s Baubles, Treasures and Fine Art. It’s just how you described it. I wonder if Amber bought any of Darel’s camels. We should go in and see.”

“Another time?” Jade knew her mother was scheduled to work today, and she’d been avoiding her parents since her arrival for a reason. Her sisters didn’t call her a “blabbermouth” for nothing. “Did I tell you the second-floor apartment remodel is being changed to commercial space to house the offices of Trey’s new digital magazine?”

“Yes. You told me.” 

As inhe’s the one who suggested getting a grant for the work. Duh? What is wrong with my head? ‘Baby brain’? She’d heard Ruby and Amber use the term to explain their current lapses in memory or normal thought processes. Just what I need. More mental challenges. As if having a butterfly brain wasn’t bad enough, now I really could be pregnant.

She watched him run a hand across the building’s quarry rock exterior. Weather and age had added to its stature. A shiver passed down her spine, as though he were touching her. She loved his hands. His touch. Him?

She looked away, not ready to answer that sixty-four-million-dollar question.

“I’m glad Property Sisters picked this building as a project. Every fine lady deserves a facelift.” He did a slow three-sixty. “And you can’t beat the location. I’ve always loved the idea of converting existing space into something fresh and new. Very European. This should be a nice boost to the overall rebirth of the downtown area. What do the locals think? Progress can be a tough sell in some parts of the country.”

The question made her stop dead. “II don’t know. The newspaper did a nice feature on Ruby and Boone’s new ‘Right-Size’ homes.” She frowned as she watched traffic pass. Mostly trucks and all-wheel vehicles. Is that a Prius? Ruby drove a Prius before she and Boone got married. But nothing about the cars or the pace hinted at progress and change. “I was in such a hurry to leave Marietta, I honestly haven’t given my hometown much thought over the years. I’d come back for the holidays, of course, but Dad’s health crisis was the first time I’d stayed for longer than a day or two.”

He took her hand again. “From an outsider’s viewpoint, I’m picking up a good strong revivalist vibe here. And it hasn’t snowed once since I arrived.”

“You mean three hours ago?”

 

In another scene, Jade and Zach meet for lunch at the Main Street Diner—a very popular and frequently visited location in Marietta. (In my very first Tule book, MONTANA COWBOY, an important scene that introduces the hero from second book takes place here.) Here’s a quick snippet. Who doesn’t love Flo?

 

“HelloGabriella,” Zach said, when he spotted the embroidered name on the hostess’s uniform. “I’m supposed to be meeting a friend” He hooked the bow of his sunglasses into the gap of his three-button Henley and nodded toward a blonde sitting alone in a booth halfway across the room. “That girl.”

“Oh, Jade McCall. Lucky you. Right this way.”

She picked up two laminated menus and set off at the snappy pace of someone who was there to work and get things done. As he followed, Zach cataloged a few first impressions: the Main Street Diner was clean and bright with a sort of modern Old West vibe, exposed brick, and an old-fashioned counter with stools at the back. Every spot was filled too. That—and the lack of parking out front—spoke for the viability of commerce in Jade’s hometown, which, he had to admit, gave off a certain hospitable western charm.

“Here you go,” Gabriella said, waiting for Zach to sit before handing him a menu. “Enjoy.”

His heart almost leapt out of his chest when he looked into Jade’s anxious, worried eyes. “Hello, beautiful. You remind me of someone I know in California. Mind if I join you?”

She gave him a dry look. “Has that line worked for you before? And”—she leaned sideways to glance under the table—“what’s with the hiking boots?”

He shrugged. “I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots. But somebody—you, I think—told me it snows here a lot.”

“In winter.”

The sparkle of amusement in her silvery-green eyes made him want to lean across the table and plant a big “She’s mine” kiss on her perfect, pink lips. Unfortunately, their waitress chose that moment to drop two sweating glasses of water in front of them. “Hello, folks. What can I get’cha to drink?” 

The woman was no spring heifer, as Jade might say. Her beehive hairdo seemed straight out of another decadeor ten. But her friendly smile made him feel welcome. Until she turned her attention on Jade and said, “Well, lookee here. It’s Jade McCall, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you in forever and a day. How are you?”

Jade’s gaze shot to the woman’s chest, but a thin sweater with three-quarter sleeves covered her nametag. The panicked look on her face said she didn’t have a clue to the woman’s identity. 

Zach stuck out his hand. “Hello, there. Zachary Masters. And you are?”

“Flo. You’re new here. I’d remember that face.”

Jade’s eyes sparkled with amusement and gratitude. “Flo. Nice to see you again. You’re right, it’s been too long.”

Flo glanced back and forth between them. “Guess you’re back for that TV business I’ve been hearin’ about. Is he thewhat do you call the main star? The talent?”

Jade’s cheeks turned pink. “He’s very talented, but he’s not in the show.”

“Yet,” Zach said. “I’m angling for a walk-on.”

Jade rolled her eyes and said under her breath, “One can dream.”

Flo coughed. “Drinks?”

“Water’s good for me,” Jade said.

“Me, too. Gotta keep my wits about me where this one is concerned,” he added for Flo’s benefit.

Jade’s shoe connected with his ankle. Hard. He was glad he’d chosen to wear hiking boots.

 

Wouldn’t you love to meet up at the Main Street Diner for lunch some day? We could talk about books and catch up on all the news in Marietta. I wonder what those Zabrinskis are up to now? I would order the same thing Jade did: bacon burger with sweet potato fries. Tell me in the comments below, what would you order for lunch at the Main Street Diner? Live large, I’ll pick up the tab. ;-)

And to celebrate my new release, I’ll pick also one winner from those who respond to receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

Happy reading, my friends. Stay well and please pray for all those amazing firefighters and first responders working so hard in all the critical areas across the country and especially on the West coast. 

Deb



THE SLIDE INTO RUIN: Release day blog featuring author Bronwyn Stuart + GIVEAWAY!

Gosh book 2 of my Daughters of Disgrace series has come around quick! It seems like only yesterday I was answering questions about The Road to Ruin and now here we are with The Slide into Ruin right on the horizon. Some of you who read that last interview I gave for book 1 might be a little confused when they pick up book 2 because all I seem to bang on about these days are fierce heroines looking after themselves like it’s no one’s business! Eliza is a little different than Daniella was. I absolutely hate it when the heroine in a romance novel is a victim but sometimes the circumstances behind the why’s are more important than the their start in the book. A victim of circumstance is a different beast altogether. 

You see, Eliza’s father, the Duke of Penfold, has abandoned his children to their fate. He gambled away their legacy on bad decisions and terrible advice and now owes a very large sum of money to some very awful fellows. Intending to sell Eliza’s younger sister to pay the debt, Eliza forges a marriage bargain for herself to save her sister and hold onto the title for her brother who is nearly of age. That’s who Eliza is, she is the protector of her siblings but what happens when Eliza herself also needs protecting in this world of powerful men and their games? Enter Darius!

Darius is an ex-pirate (we met him in book 1) who has turned his sights to legitimacy in business but is illegitimate in truth and England knows it. He also now owns the debt Eliza’s father and his no-good friends were to repay which means he essentially now owns Eliza. The only way to keep her and her siblings safe is to go through with the marriage and collect the inheritance bestowed on her by her late mother so he can repair his storm-battered ship and sail everyone back to Boston and out of harm’s way. 

But don’t think Eliza will go to her fate easily! She is as fierce as her strength will allow her to be since she’s been going without for the sake of her family. She holds an Earl and his heir at gunpoint. She enters a house full of pirates with her young and impressionable siblings. She forged a marriage contract not even fully knowing who she will have to marry or even if he would come to collect! She takes on an Earl, a magistrate, a notorious villain and a new husband. Eliza’s quiet strength and her determination is what makes her a notable heroine in my eyes, and hopefully in yours too… 

Publishers Weekly called The Slide into Ruin ‘pitch perfect’ in their starred review and readers are loving Darius and Eliza, and their bumpy journey to reach their happily ever after.

And stay tuned for book 3 coming soon! Rose Clairmont is the daughter of a careless earl but is also a smuggler who needs no help from anyone until a villain begins to harass her cargo off the coast of Dover. Who better to appeal for help than Anthony Germaine, the son of a notorious pirate, brother to the infamous Daniella? Her plans hit a snag when she discovers Anthony upholds the law and has no plans to help her break it!

Tell me your favourite lead female (in books or screen) for a chance to win one of two ebooks of The Slide into Ruin! Winners will be drawn at random at the end of the week. 

Enjoy!

Bronwyn Stuart.