Monday, November 30, 2015

A Quick and Easy Christmas Treat by Denise Devine

Do you like sugar cookies at Christmastime? Well, here is a great variation of the classic frosted treat: the sugar cookie bar. This recipe is easy to mix, makes a lot and only takes eleven minutes to bake. Frost it, cut it into squares and you have a hit for parties.

Cookie Bar:
¾ cup sugar
⅔ cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Spread mixture into ungreased 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan with long spatula. Bake for 11 minutes or until set. Cool completely

4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract
3-4 Tbsp half & half (or milk)
Any sugar sprinkles (optional)

Combine powdered sugar, butter and almond extract in medium bowl. Beat at medium speed, gradually adding enough half & half for desired spreading consistency. Spread over cooled bars with spatula and garnish with sprinkles or decorate with a can of icing. Cut into 48 bars.
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Denise Devine is a USA TODAY bestselling author who wrote her first book, a mystery, at age thirteen and has been writing ever since. Her newest publication, A Christmas To Remember, is on sale now for 99 cents. And, yes, it includes a pet!

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mangia! by Karen Rock

Mangia by Karen Rock

In the afterglow of Thanksgiving, I thought it'd be nice to share a recipe with you for the holidays. As a second generation Italian/American, marinara sauce is a staple. You just can't get through the season without it in my family! At the end of summer, we can our plum tomatoes and then use them to make sauce throughout the year.

Between using it plain with pasta, in baked ziti or eggplant parmigiana dishes, it's a must to make a large batch, freeze it in in user-friendly amounts, and then thaw and use when needed during the holiday season. I have such fond memories of watching my Nonna make this sauce and even fonder memories of our three-hour, six course holiday meals (antipasto, pasta & sauce (or another meatless dish, meat dish with a side dish (vegetable), salad, cheese, nuts & fruit, and desert & coffee) Even the youngest children are expected to sit quietly and listen to the adults, even though they speak Italian- and very quickly at that! However, it taught me a lot about self-control and the value of family. To this day, when others rush through a meal, I always wish those years of my childhood back when the dinner table was the gatherings spot, not the TV, where people spoke to each other rather than texted, where healthy eating was a given, not extra work.

I'm thrilled to share my recipe and wish for you to enjoy quality time together this season :)

Marinara Sauce:
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive Oil (be very picky and chose the best!)
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C chopped yellow onion
8 large garlic cloves (split)
112 oz  crushed tomatoes (four 28 oz cans- canned plum tomatoes from garden is best)
8 Tbsp minced basil (fresh)
2 Tsp sugar (or one carrot, cut up)
4 Tsp salt
1 1/2 Tsp ground pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until haze forms, then add butter. Add onions and turn heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, until translucent but not brown, about five minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until soft but not brown, about four minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, then turn heat down to low. Cook, partially covered, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, cover pan, and let sauce rest for at least one hour. Removed all garlic cloves and carrot pieces before separating into containers.

As my Nonna Giovanna would say, (here with her sister), mangia!

 Happy Holidays everyone :) What are some of your favorite dishes you serve every holiday?

Award-winning author, Karen Rock, writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming. Learn about her upcoming releases, giveaways and news at or connect with her at or

Look for more exciting recipes from your favorite sweet romance authors at our Holiday Party at the Sweet Romance Reads Café on Thursday, December 10th.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

What a Difference a Month Makes - by Magdalena Scott


When I posted a blog here a month ago, I was preparing for my trip to Ireland. My first time to have a passport, my first time to try 10 (or 12, depending how you count it) days' travel with just carry-on luggage.

A month ago I hadn't seen first-hand the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, or almost fried my phone by taking way many videos out a tour bus window.

A month ago my black leather ballet flats and I were friends, but we have really, really bonded after strolling the streets of Dublin in pouring rain.

I look at some things differently, including vegetable soup, jet lag, and the word Guinness. (Yup, it's not just for world record books anymore.)

A month ago it wasn't quite Halloween, and next time I write a blog here, Christmas 2015 will be a memory.

I'm really glad that, after returning from Ireland, I ordered a pair of rubber Wellingtons. Although I could have used them on that rainy day in Dublin, and it seems like backward timing, the boots pictured above arrived with several days to spare. Look how tall they are. I have it on good authority (Beate Boeker's post 11-20-2015) that if I leave them outside my door on the evening of December 5th, Nikolaus/Santa Claus will stuff these with treats for me.

Assuming I've been a good girl, which I absolutely have.

You probably guessed I'd like to go back to Ireland, and give my new Wellies a proper breaking in. Crossing fingers that Nikolaus/Santa Claus stuffs them with Euros instead of with candy.

What do you think my chances are?

USA Today Bestselling Author Magdalena Scott writes sweet romance with small town settings. Read her Ireland trip blog, check out her sweet romance author guests, connect via social media, sign up for her newsletter, and learn about her books on her website:


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Friday, November 27, 2015

Babies at Christmas by Susan R. Hughes

There’s just something about a baby born at Christmastime that readers can’t get enough of. My first holiday romance novel, A Baby for Christmas, sells better than any of my other books all through the year. Two years after its release, I’ve finally gotten around to working on a sequel, although it won’t be ready for publication until next fall. The title, as you may be able to guess, is A Baby for New Year’s (or should it be New Year? I haven’t decided).

This time, the plot revolves around a heroine whose young niece is having a baby and needs her help. The hero is the heroine’s former brother-in-law (family complications are half the fun). Usually I write my Christmas romances in the summer, but I’m getting an early jump on this one. There are advantages to writing so far in advance. I’ll have plenty of time for revisions, editing, and gathering the thoughts of my beta readers. And it’s certainly a nice change to be writing about a season as I’m experiencing it, rather than trying to describe winter weather during the hottest days of July.

It’s not all smooth sailing, though. About a third of the way into a manuscript, I usually hit a wall. I look back through everything I’ve written so far – stuff I thought was brilliant while I was writing it – and decide it’s just awful. But I keep going, work through it, revise and edit until eventually the story and the writing are the best they can be. I can’t wait to see if readers of A Baby for Christmas like the sequel just as much.

Susan R. Hughes writes contemporary and historical romance novels set in Canada. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Learn more about her books at
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We are Thankful by the authors of Sweet Romance Reads

This year at Thanksgiving, several of the Sweet Romance Reads Cooperative authors have paused to reflect on their blessings. What are you thankful for this season? Please share with us in the comments section below.

There are so many wonderful things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but I'll keep it to this short list: Captain Cavedweller, sunny days, hope, sweet romance, roses, measures of grace, and really good chocolate.” ~ Shanna Hatfield

“I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the thirty-two happy years we’ve been married, for my two wonderful children, who aren’t children anymore, and for the wonderful life I have in my dream home in the countryside, doing what I love most, writing!” ~ Helen Scott Taylor

“I have so much to be thankful for. I am blessed beyond measure. Most of all, I am thankful for my family and the love we share.” ~ Merrillee Whren

“I'm thankful for friends, family, good health, and a cozy place to live. I'm also very grateful to be a member of Sweet Romance Reads.” ~ Magdalena Scott

“This past summer, my husband retired, we sold our home, and moved to the seaside where I watch the sun rise over the ocean each morning and I am filled with a deep and utter gratitude. When I think about my blessings, my family always comes to mind and warms my heart—my husband, my sons, and my daughters-in-law make me feel loved.” ~ Donna Fasano

“I'm thankful to be born a woman in a free country in a pivotal time in history. Life has never been so complicated, yet hold so many possibilities, especially for women.” ~ Denise Devine

“This Thanksgiving, as always, I'm thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and best buddy, Bailey, my French bulldog. However, I'm also very thankful to be doing what I love for a living and to the readers who've taken the time to let me know how much they've enjoyed my stories.” ~ Raine English 

“I'm thankful for the hope that God gives us as well as my family and friends. Also I'm thankful that I can do something I love as a job.” ~ Margaret Daley

“I'm thankful for my husband and children and our little granddaughter and for the prosperity I often take for granted.” ~ Lyn Cote

“I'm thankful for the love that surrounds me from family and friends, for every day of good health, and of course for my loyal readers. “ ~ Alicia Street

“I'm grateful for a new day job that will start in January! Totally exciting as it involves a move to a different state!” ~ Beate Boeker

“I am thankful for my husband, children, extended family and friends, and for the wonderful readers who make my life as a writer possible. I appreciate you all very much!” ~ Ginny Baird

Wishing you a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday from all of us at Sweet Romance Reads.  

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What are you thankful for?
Two $5.00 Amazon Gift Cards will be randomly awarded to two readers who answer this question. Winners announced Monday, November 30th.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Christmas Decorations by Helen Scott Taylor

I used to love making crafty things, especially when my children were young. At this time of year we would dig out our bits and pieces box to make Christmas cards and tags and Christmas decorations. Now my children are grown, I rarely seem to have time for things like that these days.

The best I can do is something quick and easy, so I cheated a bit and bought some tiny battery-operated Christmas lights and put them in mason jars. They look so pretty that I plan to get more lights in different colors and put them in different shaped jars and bottles around the house.

I’ve also made a wreath from pine cones that I collected while we were on vacation during the summer. I thought it would be a nice reminder of the fun time the family had that I could carry over to Christmas.

Do you make your own Christmas decorations?

Helen lives in South West England near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful, long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie and a burmilla cat. Helen's latest project is a trilogy of sweet Christmas romances that feature pets called Paw Prints on Your Heart. Find Helen on FaceBook and Twitter, or visit her website.

Two wounded hearts are brought together at Christmas by a trusty golden Labrador and an adorable golden retriever puppy.

Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

It Takes a Village

During Thanksgiving week, we all stop and think about the things that we are thankful for in our lives. Many traditions harvest family time, and we sit around our table and share what we are most thankful for in our lives. I know that I’d planned to share the same three things at our dinner table that I do every year; warm home, healthy family and job security. That being said, something happened that changed my answer, and my heart.

Recently, I discovered that my son’s school, a special school for dyslexia, would no longer have a place to hold their classes. This school is a gift to many, since our county school system does not recognize dyslexia as a disability. Also, the only school in all of the metro area that does service this unique learning need, is a school that is over thirty thousand dollars a year, has a three year waiting list, and is a long way from our community. Because my son has gone from not being able to even write his first name without issue, to writing a full paragraph in only a few months, I felt like I couldn’t sit back and let the school fight the battle on its own.

Of course, funding is a crucial need while they search for a new location, build a school, or pay exponentially higher monthly rent to remain in the church they are currently located. I started thinking there had to be a way that I could help, and I spoke to a couple of authors about possibly putting together a multi-author boxed set that all proceeds would benefit this special school. To my surprise, they not only wanted to contribute a novella to the project, but they also wanted to be on a committee to produce this boxed set.

Now, I realize saying ‘It takes a village’ is a cliché, but in this case it was the truth. There is no way I could afford to donate enough to make a difference to the school, but when I made an announcement at my local writers meeting, the village came together. Not just a few, but many asked to be involved in the project. The word has spread and the outpouring of support brings tears to my eyes as I type. Not only authors, but cover artists are donating the cover, a formatter is donating their expertise, a public relations specialist is going to help with advertising, and more. I am truly humbled by support for this project, and I now know exactly what to say on Thursday at our Thanksgiving feast table. I’ll say that I am so thankful to be a part of an amazing author village full of giving, kind, talented and gracious writers.

I hope to be thankful for a permanent location for my son’s school by this time next year. J


Ciara Knight is a USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author who writes 'A Little Edge and A Lot of Heart' that span the heat scales. Her popular sweet romance series, Sweetwater County (rated PG), is a small town romance full of family trials, friendly competition, and community love.

Jenna Mitchell Grayson returns to her hometown to run a center for children with autism. Divorced and raising a child diagnosed with special needs, she tries to put her life back together in the one place she’d sworn never to return. 

Confirmed bachelor, Deputy Walker, has a reputation for being a playboy, but he’s never found the right girl to capture his heart. Not since the girl-next-store, Jenna Grayson, moved away. Now the woman who stole his heart has returned, and he is determined to discover why she left without an explanation or even a goodbye.