Thursday, October 28, 2010

THE BLACK MOTH, by Georgette Heyer

For a person unlearned in the ways and dialogue of Regency England, it is amazing to me that I might attempt the task of reading The Black Moth, by Georgette Heyer. However, the novel came highly recommended by Joyce DiPastena, so I decided to give it a read. (Of course she has more knowledge and experience in this era.)

Reading this novel reminded me of past trips to Europe, where you ask a question, the local gives the answer (or directions as unfortunately was sometimes the case), and though both parties spoke quite simply there has been an absolute miscommunication.

While reading The Black Moth, I had several ‘scratching my head’ moments where I wondered what in the world they were going on about. Of course finding yourself lost or experiencing a language barrier is much less frightening in a novel, because all you’ve got to do is read over the confusing passage a couple of times, and then read on. You eventually clue in.

I learned a few things about the era, such as many of the wealthy were carted from place to place by “chair.” My mind conjures up the image of Cleopatra riding on a shaded platform mounted on two large poles and carried by strong men—and I speculate that this was probably the first taxi.

At the risk of sounding thick-headed, I must confess that I got to page 100 before deciding absolutely what the plot was about and what the Black Moth had to do with anything. Since I had only just read The Scarlet Pimpernel, I thought the Black Moth was going to be some type of spy. I was wrong.

The book was engaging though a trifle too full of French phrases, but only once was I tempted to use the Internet language translator.

So, here’s the skinny on The Black Moth:

At a time when a man’s honor was paramount, Jack Carstares—heir to his family’s fortune and the title of earl, is accused of cheating. Disgraced, he leaves the country for six years rather than deny it and accuse his younger brother, Richard. Richard would have confessed a hundred times over the past years if it weren’t for his lovely bride, Lavinia. To admit his dastardly deed will also disgrace her—and she will have no part of it. Lavinia threatens to leave him should he confess.

Jack knows he can never go back home and take up his title and honor without betraying his beloved brother. However, yearning for home, Jack finally comes back to England under mask and poses part time as a country gentleman, and employs himself as a thieving highwayman. When he comes upon a different type of highway robbery—one where a beautiful young lady’s virtue is at stake, Jack makes no hesitation in coming to her rescue, and nearly losing his life in the process.

The lovely Diana and her aunt nurse Jack back to health and Diana and Jack fall in love. Unfortunately, Jack believes that marrying her would selfishly bring dishonor to her and her household because of his “spotty” past.

While the first of the book is paced rather slow, taking its time introducing characters and giving us a feel of the era, the last half of the book is paced a little faster as we begin to wonder—will Richard ever confess he was the cheater—will his wife Lavinia stay or will she leave him and marry another—will Jack and Diana get their happy ending—or will the Black Moth succeed in yet another kidnapping, and gain her hand in marriage.

Although the novel as a whole is quite engaging, it was wrapped up rather quickly. One thing I’ve noticed is that authors during Ms. Heyer’s era liked to wrap things up quickly at the end, whereas nowadays authors spend more time on the “Ahh” moment in the end. Nevertheless, it was a good read and I would read another of Georgette Heyer’s books.

Friday, October 22, 2010


And I’m a guest on Christine Bryant’s blog It’s on her blog that I first divulge my secret identity as the tree whisperer. Haha. Not really, but I did climb trees as a girl.

For those who visit me here, I’m including a yummy recipe for caramel apple dip.

It’s finally fall in Arizona with (at least temporarily) the chilly weather that we wait for all year long. It’s time for apple pie, apple cakes, caramel apples, candy apples—and apple pancakes with apple syrup. I had them for breakfast this morning. YUM! Nothing says autumn like apples. And, as they say, “An apple a day …”

My son-in-law has this great recipe for apple-dipping caramel. I’ve made it several times, and my kids lick the bowl clean. It makes a great FHE dessert.


1 can of Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

1 C. light Karo (if all you have is the dark, it’s equally good in this recipe, I’ve tried it)

2 C. brown sugar

2 sticks of real butter

Mix ingredients together in a medium-sized pot, and melt over medium heat. Bring just to a simmer. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Inspired by the television show, Hell’s Kitchen, I decided to make risotto. I’d never had it before, never even been to a restaurant where it was on the menu. But at every season of Hell’s Kitchen, they make risotto. It must be good.

I got curious, so I did an Internet search and found a risotto recipe using dried tomato and fresh basil—two ingredients that I happened to have on hand. The recipe called for white wine, but since I’m not an alcohol drinker, I substituted white grape juice and added a tablespoon of vinegar.

Another Internet site explained the importance of warming the liquids before adding them. Making risotto didn’t look hard at all, and it wasn’t hard, actually. When the rice started looking like it might be done (I didn’t want the mushy risotto that makes Gordon Ramsey so angry), I tasted it. It was good.

One of the main flavor ingredients in risotto—and a constant in all the recipes I looked up—is parmesan cheese. Still, a cup seemed like an awful lot. I added about 2/3 cup instead, and the full recipe of dried tomato and basil.

The smell almost choked me! Dog vomit. (I’ve had a lot of recent experience with this, so I know.) Short grain rice isn’t cheap, however. Neither were the other ingredients—over a quart of chicken stock, the cheese, and the fresh basil and dried tomato—and I’d spent over a half hour making it.

I tasted it—almost like it smelled. Unfortunate. The kids ate it and said it wasn’t that bad, but there were still leftovers the next day. Brave soul that I was, or desperate, I added more chicken stock and luckily it helped. But I still won’t make that particular recipe again; too many bad memories of the first time.

What went wrong? I’m pretty sure it was my choice of parmesan cheese. It was the kind they sell in a jar already grated into dust-like bits. I have enough of the short grain rice to make another batch, and I will. I’ll just use a different recipe, and less parmesan. I can always add more if needs be, but once it’s stirred in, there’s no going back. Maybe I’ll try to find a recipe for the kind of green risotto that Gordon Ramsey makes (unless it’s green because of green olives).

When you try new recipes, they can’t all be wonderful. Right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

I had never read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, but recently did so at the recommendation of my friend, Joyce DiPastena. It is set during revolutionary France and is a compelling read from the very first sentence. And, as a teaser, here is the first sentence: “A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate.”

Since this book is a classic, there are a few differences between it and contemporary novels. The publisher made full use of the paper with only quarter inch to eighth of an inch margins. The type is small (think scripture-sized font) possibly size 10.

The novel is written with a European flare and spelling, and there are occasional words that were spelled differently back then—today, for instance is spelled to-day, realize is spelled realise, and for me, there is a general overuse of commas that is sometimes confusing.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read and all I could think about is what was going to happen next. While I was making dinner, I had to check on poor Marguerite and see exactly how she was doing for a page or two until the timer chimed. While writing my own novel, Marguerite’s awful dilemma ticked at the back of my head until I took a break from writing to see if she would survive her latest ordeal.

It’s not that I didn’t guess what was going to happen before it did, because I did guess correctly more often than not. However, with a good novel the joy is in the journey. And as long as you’re reading, there’s still the uncertainty of how they (the main characters) will arrive to the end of their story.

Unfortunately, I must dare to admit right here that I was slightly disappointed in the last chapter. The baroness had gone into great detail showing us Marguerite’s emotions and motivations throughout the novel, until this last chapter where it is all wrapped up neatly in narrative that seems to say, “That’s all folks!” And, having enjoyed the novel immensely until then, was definitely not ready for a summarized ending.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Warm Fuzzies for All

My husband and I were on our way to the temple today and the radio was turned to a talk show. They asked the question: “What does your spouse do that really bugs you?” I'll share two of them. One guy blew his nose in the shower—now that’s pretty gross! Another guy liked to cook in the nude—whether a bbq outside, or cereal in the house. The wife was fearful that the neighbors would complain (and rightly so).

This evening, we had the missionaries over for dinner. After we’d finished eating, my husband went to the kitchen and was cleaning up. I’m thinking: “Why don’t you quit worrying about the kitchen, and come and visit with the missionaries?” Anyway, after the missionaries were done sharing their message with us and challenging us to place a Book of Mormon this week, my husband says, “I’ve made you guys a plate.”

So, while I was wondering why he didn’t come sit down, my husband was making a “to go” meal for the missionaries. Very thoughtful, don’t you think?

To tie this all together, my thought was this: We (meaning people in general) spend far too much time rehashing in our minds the things that our loved ones do that irritate us, and far too little time feeling grateful for the blessing they are in our lives.

If any of you have a nice story to share—something that your spouse does that you really love, please share. I’d love to hear your story.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale

It was exciting for me to hear about The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale—a story about a Mormon housewife, mainly because I had been told repeatedly that national publishers will not publish novels with LDS main characters.

Shannon Hale busted the myth and has laid the groundwork for us all. Thank you!

Although The Actor and the Housewife is a comedy, it’s more than fluff, and it comes with my WARNING: there are several poignant moments. (Meaning you may cry. I did.)

Hale delves quite expertly into LDS family relationships and encourages the reader to question what is truth. Is it okay for married people to have best friends of the opposite sex? Can it even happen without one or the other falling in love with that friend? What kinds of activities are acceptable for this type of friendship without putting the marriage in jeopardy?

We can feel nonreligious Felix’s pain when he attends a ward dinner with the Jack family. We can sympathize with Becky when she’s feeling oh-so-awkward at a cast party. We can understand handsome-movie-star-Felix’s confusion as he becomes increasingly attracted to Becky, a Utah-Mormon-mother-of-four.

There are plenty of times when this friendship works as easy as breathing, but there are numerous times when we as readers worry, worry, worry about the depth of their friendship—Will Becky cross the lines and allow it to turn into something more?

So, how does a sexy-supermodel-wife cope with (or even process) her husband’s growing attraction and emotional connection to a poorly dressed, frumpy Mormon mother—especially when this actor refuses to have children of his own? The answer is sometimes quite graciously and other times not so well at all.

And, how does even the most secure husband deal with his wife becoming LIVER (Love-like Intensity Via Emotional Rapport) to a sexy-heartthrob movie star? The answer to that is also: sometimes quite graciously, and other times not so well at all. After time, he accepts his wife’s friendship but this is only because of his ironclad belief in his wife’s ultimate fidelity.

Becky’s meeting Felix (the actor that she’s drooled over for several years) is purely coincidence, as is their second and third meeting—and due to the fact that they’re both staying at the same hotel. Although he’s wary of meeting anyone (apparently he’s tired of all the adoring fans, and would like a little privacy), Becky is quick-witted and keeps up with his banter, never once fawning over his celebrity.

So, although she’s big with child, he’s intrigued. Becky becomes his link to reality. She keeps him grounded and loves to poke fun at his looks, stardom, accent—you name it. This is something that his sexy-supermodel-wife couldn’t do for him or even understand. Becky fills a void in his life.

The void that Felix fills for Becky is that of her high school chum, Augie. She missed the free flowing banter they had—until Felix. He is able to draw Becky away from all things mundane and makes her feel special in a way that neither her husband nor her children can.

This is a book full of serendipity and what-ifs, and Hale takes us on an amazing roller coaster ride while answering each question with sensitivity and wit. Although the book would be rated PG at most, the subject matter: will two LIVER’s keep their friendship without becoming lovers, might make some readers nervous.

As for me? I’m going to find her other books at the library and read them all. I’ve included a link to her blog so that if you’d like, you can see her cute new twins. Congrats Shannon Hale on their safe arrival!