Thursday, June 30, 2016

How many national parks have you visited? by Denise Devine

Have you ever been to a national park? Chances are that you have visited one of America’s landmarks. Did you know that on August 25th, the National Park Service will celebrate its centennial anniversary? That’s right, one hundred years! In 1916 president Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the national park service and placed it under the Department of Interior. At the time, there were only 35 national parks. Now there are over 400. (Photo of Joshua Tree at sunset - NPS Brad Sutton)

Do you know which park was established first? If you guessed Yellowstone National Park, you’re absolutely right. Yellowstone was established in 1872 when Wyoming and Montana were still territories. Have you ever been to Yellowstone? I have, multiple times and it is one of my favorite parks in the entire country (along with the Grand Canyon).

I dug through my pictures and found a few of our trips across the U.S. I have no idea what happened to many of those pictures, but here are a few of my memories…
This is a picture of my daughter and her friend in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Have you ever been there?

This is Misty standing I front of the Grand Canyon. It was a raining day and we watched wall clouds of rain sweep across the canyon.

Sorry about this one! It's kind of blurry (my husband took this pic). This is a picture of me years ago standing next to a giant redwood in Redwood National Park.

I’d love to see your pictures! Come on over to the Sweet Romance Reads Café and post your memories of fun times with your friends and families.
~     ~     ~

Denise Devine is a USA Today bestselling author who wrote her first book, a mystery, at age thirteen and has been writing ever since. (Here she is with Steve at Pueblo National Park.)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books! and Prizes! - by Magdalena Scott

My local library does a summer reading program. When my son was young, he participated each year. What fun it is for the kids to be rewarded at the end of summer. Read a few books, get a few rewards. Reach the big goal and receive a nice bag of goodies.

Sometimes the goodies are super awesome, like a coupon for a free ice cream at the local soda fountain (my favorite). There was usually a free swim night at the local pool too.

This year I decided (thank you, nice library desk lady) to join the adult version of the summer reading program. In order to "win," I only have to read six books and write reviews of each of them. I'm halfway to the goal.

The books don't have to be from the library, so I'm reading some books I've purchased as well as some from the library. Stephen King's On Writing fits both those categories. First, I read the library's copy, and then I decided to buy one to keep. (I think I gave away a first edition when we downsized, but--oh well--now I have the Tenth Anniversary Edition.)

I'm enjoying a nice mixture of fiction (romance, mystery) and nonfiction (writing stuff).

It's cool to get rewarded for reading, but of course the best prize of all is the reading itself. (Though I wouldn't turn down a coupon for ice cream.)

Do you and/or your family participate in a summer reading program? If so, is it through your library, or a bookstore? Is there ice cream involved?


Magdalena Scott is a USA Today bestselling author of the Serendipity, Indiana series. Please visit her website, and sign up for her infrequent but somewhat charming newsletter.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Baby Showers by Victoria Pinder

A few years ago, I was 30 something and single. I stopped believing that I would find the perfect guy, so I stopped looking. I wrote romance novels. I had friends. I had my apartment. I had a full time job. I figured I must have missed the boat in my twenties and that I had to accept my life as it was.
Children were definitely not on the agenda. I know many single women have children, but that just wasn't going to be me. I knew that. I took my bills and finances too seriously. I enjoyed my self centered life. I found time for vacations, not children.
Then everything changed. I met my husband. I honestly went out with him the first time because I had just cheered up a newly divorced friend who asked me 'what is dating like now?' The truthful answer was 'I wouldn't know.' She stared at me in shock, but I wasn't dating. Not in any true sense, so
when my now husband saw me and asked me out, I said 'yes.' Then of course I proceeded to get sick and cancelled on him. He assumed that meant I wasn't interested. A week later I called him and said 'I'm feeling better now.' (I had a horrible cold/flu.) So we went out and honestly that was it. A few dates later, I knew he was the one for me. We were engaged fast, but we took a year to plan the wedding.
Now I'm over 33 weeks pregnant, and our daughter is becoming super real. In two days our daughter is getting measured for how big she is. And this week, we're setting up the baby supplies so she'll have someplace to sleep when she arrives. We decided to wait until after the baby shower to do this stuff.
So much can change with one decision to open up and try. No expectations brought me peace and that brought me my husband. It is also how we are now pregnant, and I'm so excited to be a mom. Life changes can be amazing. You just have to be open, and this is why honestly I love romance novels. Where else do you get the message in a novel that happy-ever-after is possible? So I'll keep writing and reading. I hope you enjoy.

Victoria Pinder

Friday, June 24, 2016

Weddings Wednesday by Pat Simmons

Sweet Romance reads/Wedding Wednesday.
While on a work assignment at the St. Louis County Courtroom, I learned a few things about cases that are heard in the courtrooms. Mondays are reserved for people who want to change their names; Paternity Tuesdays need no explanation, Wedding Wednesdays, which are open to the public; Probation Revocation are heard on Thursdays; and divorces are granted every day of the week along with other civil and criminal trials.
After learning the schedule of “appearances,” I opted to witness my first courthouse wedding. I was hyped as I counted down the days to Weddings Wednesday. With thirty to forty marriages to preside over in one afternoon, judges’ one-minute nuptials would put speed dating to shame.
Judges performed the ceremonies on a rotating schedule. One judge walked in late, carrying his black robe tucked under his arm. By the time the bailiff had assembled the couples on a first come, first serve basis; the judge had slipped on his robe while cracking jokes to stir up couples and their witnesses. I later found out, ironically, that divorce judges also act as justice of the peace on Weddings Wednesday.
I didn’t know what to expect as I entered the crowded courtroom, but I did hope to capture that “look of love” on brides and grooms’ faces. It was odd to see some couples repeat their vows to the judge instead of gazing into their beloved’s eyes. On my wedding day, thirty plus years ago, I wanted my husband to look me in the eye when he made his promises!
Being a bystander wasn’t enough. Since I’m nosy by nature, I had to ask some brides why they chose the courthouse. Their reasons varied.
“We’ve been together for twenty-five years. We decided to make it legal,” said a woman sitting on the last bench. It seemed to be no big deal to her hubby to-be either who sat stoically beside her.  
I moved on to another bride-to-be and asked a similar question.
“We had planned to get married last year, then I got pregnant with her,” she pointed to the toddler playing at her feet, “so since we’re trying to buy a house, the courthouse worked.”
Besides her, there were a good number of women marrying the father of their children, including some who were pregnant.
The dress attire was as diverse as the nationalities tying the knot. I could count on one hand, okay, maybe seven fingers how many had dressed for the grand occasion. Some looked like they were on their way to a movie, shopping, or even heading back home after the certificate was signed.
There were some eye-catching fairytale brides who wore white or off white. One woman had on a long cream dress. Her hair was adorned with flowers as if they were on a vine. She bounced a baby girl in her arms who was outfitted in a cute orange chiffon dress. “I have my flower girl and bouquet wrapped up in one,” she told me with a smile.
“What made you decide to get married at the courthouse?” I asked.
The groom, decked out in a suit and tie, answered, “I’m about to enlist in the U.S. Navy and I had to be married to make sure my family was taken care of.”
“Awww, so when are you enlisting?”
“You’re just making the cut,” I told him and thanked him for his upcoming service.
On another Weddings Wednesday, I chuckled after a woman, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, rushed inside the courtroom. “Did I miss it?” she asked a couple across the aisle in a voice that wasn’t a whisper. The embarrassed bride and groom shook their heads no.
There so much more, but I’ll share them in a blog or include them in an upcoming story.
Here’s some pictures to share:
This bride, a native of Nigeria, and her fiancé arrived three hours early to be the first couple married.

The young…

The more matured …

Nothing was stopping these lovebirds

From one Mrs. Simmons, I congratulated the Mrs. Simmons, so of course I had to take a picture. Her reason for a courthouse wedding was to give her Midwest family a ceremony, and then have one later in Baltimore for other family members.

On this Weddings Wednesday, a friend of a bride-to-be passed out napkins to newlyweds as they left the courtroom. “I wanted them to have something special from this day,” she said.
Well, that’s it for me this month. I can’t wait to see the July weddings!

I’m Pat Simmons, author, romantic at heart, and your Weddings Wednesday roaming reporter.  

Pat is the multi-published author of more than a dozen Christian titles and is a three-time recipient of the Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance. She has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country.
As a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth, Pat is passionate about researching her ancestors and then casting them in starring roles in her novels. She describes the evidence of the gift of the Holy Ghost as an amazing, unforgettable, life-altering experience. God is the Author who advances the stories she writes.
Pat is currently overseeing the media publicity for the annual RT Booklovers Conventions. She has a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
Pat converted her sofa-strapped, sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter.
Read more about Pat and her books by visiting or on social media.

Download her newest release:JET: Back Story to LOVE LED BY THE SPIRIT for .99.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spread Love

In recent months, I’ve stopped watching television, reading news reports, and turned to great literature for an escape from the craziness. I’m tired of the negativity. I want to live in one of the romance worlds where everyone has a happily ever after. I understand it’s fiction, not reality, but I still want it. I’ve decided there is nothing wrong with wanting to spread a little cheer and happiness, so I made an effort in my own life to inspire and lift up others.

Those who know me are aware of my obsession with Pay it Forward, so I won’t discuss that here. Instead, I started researching some amazing love quotes. Here are a few of those I’ve discovered that inspire me daily.

 “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep the more I give to thee. The more I have, for both are infinite.” ~ William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

“There is no remedy to love, but to love more.” ~ Thoreau

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tries, and a touch that never hurts.” ~ Charles Dickens

“Love is the voice under all silences, hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than stars.” ~ E.E. Cummings

“We were together. I forgot the rest.” ~ Walt Whitman

I hope some of these quotes inspired you, made you smile, or warmed your heart today.

Happy reading!

D.C. Agent Brady Lasiter lives to take down the bad guys. Until journalist Charlotte Rutledge struts into his life with a story that can dismantle his entire Narcotics and Special Investigation Division. 

Charlotte Rutledge lives in small town America, but she hits hard at big town problems as the anonymous creator and editor of a true crime magazine. Fueled by the unsolved murder of her sister, she'll do anything to uncover the truth. Even if it means forcing Lasiter out of his carefully constructed shell. 

After Charlotte's true identity is revealed, she and Brady's lives collide in a battle to save her town from becoming collateral damage. But when Charlotte receives death threats, Brady must choose between his job, his men, or the dream woman who shattered the shield protecting his heart. 

Do you want more information about the authors at Sweet Romance Reads? Sign up for our newsletter! Scroll down the right side of our blog and enter your email address under Newsletter Signup. Also, join us at Sweet Romance Reads Cafe to chat with our authors. We love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Introvert or Extrovert? by Julie Jarnagin

I've been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and it has me thinking a lot about personality types-my own, those of the people around me, readers, and the characters in my books.

Here are a couple of simple definitions of the terms:
Introverts - Tend to be drained of energy by large crowds. They enjoy more time alone or one on one.
Extroverts - Tend to be more outgoing and are energized by socializing.

Have you ever taken the Myers Briggs Personality Test? Here's a link to a quick and free version of the test. I'm an INTJ. I'm an introvert and a thinker. My husband is definitely an extrovert. I think our personalities balance each other. I have a larger social circle because of him (we joke that he makes most of my friends for me), and I encourage him to take time to slow down.

The more I learn about personality types, the more insight it gives me into the characters in the stories I write.

I've written about all kinds of characters, but I have to say the introverted heros (think Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) have been some of the most challenging but also the most rewarding to write. They hold back when expressing their emotions, which can be tricky, but it also means there's great potential for the build up of the romantic tension that can lead to a truly magical ending. My hero in The Wedding Barn is an introvert.

Extroverts, on the other hand, can be a lot of fun to write because they often have a quick comeback, which makes for a lot of entertaining dialogue between the couple. My hero in Kiss the Cowboy is an extrovert with a flair for entertaining a crowd. Think Ferris Bueller. :)

So how about you? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Are your favorite characters usually the same?

Coming Soon:

Cowgirl in the Kitchen

Just as she's about to make her dream come true, disaster strikes. The only way she can get back in the saddle is to strike a bargain—with a man her family despises. 

Jentry Lawson's dream of becoming a world-class barrel racer is about to happen—until she and her horse are injured in a terrible accident. Forced to move back home to Texas to recuperate, her Dallas-based brother makes her an offer she can't refuse. He needs someone he can trust to oversee the renovation and grand opening of his new restaurant. If she'll take that on, he'll finance her return to the arena. It doesn't take Jentry long to discover she bit off more than she can chew. Swallowing her pride, she asks for help from Gavin Easton—a man her brother despises. But he's the one person who can make the restaurant succeed. 

People in Glover never thought Gavin Easton would amount to anything. Ever since his own restaurant in town burned down, he's taken odd jobs to provide for his niece, whom he is raising alone. When beautiful and stubborn Jentry offers him the perfect job, his first reaction is to turn her down flat. No way he's going to do anything to help her brother! But there's more at stake than his pride. Can he trust his future to the woman whose brother tried to ruin his reputation—and his life? 

Besides, how can he manage a restaurant, when he can't manage his heart?

USA Today Best Selling author Julie Jarnagin writes sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.comSign up for her newsletter to be the first to learn about new releases and free books:

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Blackberry Jam and Other Memories by Milou Koenings

My grandmother had apple trees.  And lots and lots of berries.  Gooseberries, blackberries, currants - red and black.   

Steph, cc-by-nc-nd-2.0.
 She would peer at us kids from the kitchen window whenever we sounded a bit too far away.  Because the farther from the kitchen we went, the more fruit there was to pluck off the bushes, to savor, crouching down behind the thickest cluster of leaves, keeping an eye for the twitch of the kitchen curtains while tell-tale juice ran down our chins and stained our dresses.

No matter how many berries our little hands picked though, it didn't seem to reduce the enormous amounts of buckets of fruit that filled the kitchen when it was time to make jam.  Grandma had this strange metal contraption that sat on the stove.  It hissed and it sputtered and it growled while we cowered at the far end of the room.  

When it was time to open the little tap near the bottom of the monstrous pot, we'd get kicked out of the kitchen altogether.  But my cousins and I would peer through the open doorway to watch the ruby and amethyst potions fill one glass jar after another.

Eventually, the jars would be added to those on the wall of shelves in the basement and one by one, show up at breakfast.

old cookbookI got Grandma's cookbook recently.  A five-volume set published in France in 1959 that my mother inherited from her.  My father found it and mailed it to me.  

It's mine now.  

The volumes have been taped together multiple times.  They've been rebound in contact paper.  A coffee table set, this isn't.   

It shows every sign of having been well-used.  

But I love turning the pages and coming upon little notes in Grandma's handwriting, and a few pages later, comments by my mother.   

Every once in a while, I come upon a bookmark; I've found permission slips meant for kids' teachers and store receipts from the 1970s.  And even flight information from January 29, 1964, when my mom and dad were working together running an airline in the Congo.   

note card from 1964

Not surprisingly, one of the five volumes is dedicated to jams and preserves.

So is it any wonder that I've got my characters hard at work making blackberry jam? 

Here's the recipe.  But remember, it starts with harvesting the berries yourself from the backyard!

Phil Long, cc-by-2.0

Blackberry Jam

3.5 kg (7.7 pounds) of blackberries
1 kg (2.2 pounds) of green apples
4 kg (8.8 pounds!) of sugar
1/2 liter (1 pint) of water

  1. Clean the blackberries and peel the apples.
  2. Cover the fruit with sugar and let them sit for several hours.
  3. Pour the mixture in a pot, add the water and cook, stirring.
Elsewhere, the cookbook recommends adding lemon juice to blackberry jam.  But you'll notice the recipe gives no indication as to how long this should cook. The book says it all depends on your stove and how high the flame is ... that's specific, isn't it? 

Have you ever made jam? I confess I never have!

Milou Koenings is a USA Today best-selling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her Green Pines sweet romances, Reclaiming Home and Sweet Blizzard are available on Amazon and

You can find her on her website,, on TwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

An orphan discovers the world – and finds love

My favorite book of the month: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
by Beate Boeker

This book was first published in 1912, but it's still powerful today. It's the story of Jerusha Abbott who prefers to be called Judy. She's a pennyless orphan, and she's sent to a fine school by an unknown benefactor. In return for her education, she only has to do one thing: Write a monthly letter to her unknown benefactor – a job she does with so much warmth and style that this short novel immediately went onto my special shelf where I keep my best-loved books.

I particularly like her wit when it comes to people who treat her with arrogance. In this passage,she describes her rich and superficial roommate, who has just tried to find out all about her family, throwing poor Judy into a panic because the orphanage in her background is a secret.

Her mother was a Rutherford. The family came over in the ark, and were connected by marriage with Henry the VIII. On her father's side they date back further than Adam. On the topmost branches of her family tree there's a superior breed of monkeys with very fine silky hair and extra long tails.

I couldn't stop chuckling when I read that – and often think of this „superior breed of monkeys“ when I have to deal with people who think that they don't have to treat others with respect just because of their position.

Do you have favorite quotes in your preferred books that pop up in your mind in real life? If yes, please share them with us! And if you are looking for new books – and new quotes – then don't forget to sign up for the Sweet Romance Reads newsletter!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Porch Envy

This time of year when the weather is superb but the sun is getting stronger and the flying insect population is increasing, I want a screened porch. Several of my neighbors have them and I am envious.

 When I was a child my family lived in one of those post World War 2 tract houses that had a screened porch on the end. I loved that porch and the way the door to the outside slammed. I really remember that the sound of that door slamming, wood against wood. Anyway, when my younger siblings were born, Dad renovated the porch and turned it into a bedroom for me. It was no longer a screened porch but it did have great windows, which I also love.

When some of my neighbors were having their decks converted into screened porches, I wanted to do it, too, but my husband (never an outdoor guy) couldn’t see the value and was concerned that it would make the family room dark since it would diminish the light entering through two of the windows.  

But this time of year, every year, I think about it again. I’d love a screened porch.
In the world of porches, most of us have front porches of some sort, back porches (called stoops in some areas), or decks (which are definitely a version of porch). I have a morning room with lots of windows but I don’t consider it in the realm of porches because even though I can get an outdoorsy effect by opening all the windows, it isn’t separate from the rest of the house and would impact anyone preferring air conditioning. 
What about you? Do you have a porch? A cement porch? A screened porch? Or just a porch that provides access to a door? Are porches out of fashion? Or coming back into fashion? 

~~~~  Thanks for visiting our Sweet Romance Reads Blog and while you're here, please sign up for our newsletter and check us out on Facebook at the Sweet Romance Reads Cafe ~~~~

 Grace Greene, an award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author, writes women’s fiction and novels of romance, mystery and suspense with a dash of Southern Gothic. A Virginia native and resident, Grace has family ties to North Carolina. She writes books set in both states. The Emerald Isle books are set in North Carolina where “It’s always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach.” Or travel down Virginia Country Roads and “Take a trip to love, mystery and suspense.”

Grace lives in central Virginia. Contact her at and while you’re there, please sign up for her newsletter. You’ll also find Grace here:
Twitter: @Grace_Greene