Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Tastings: Braised Chicken, Tomatoes, and Onions from On Lavender Lane

I've missed Friday photo and Saturday snippets because we've been busy taking care of  of our darling Jessie (rescued dog #3) while waiting for her after surgery lab results.  

However, here's Chef Maddy's braised chicken from ON LAVENDER LANE.  My editor asked for this recipe after I turned in the manuscript and not only did she and her husband love it, she raved about how yummy her apartment smelled while it was cooking.  It's truly a lot easier than it might look at first glance and there's a lot of room to put your own ingredients spin on it.  Enjoy! 

               
    Ingredients

4 chicken legs (you can use thighs and drumsticks separately, but Maddy prefers to keep them
attached)
salt
pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 rosemary sprigs
6-8 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced (you can use regular tomatoes, but Romas hold up better.)
1-2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)

Preparation

Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper the night before, or at least eight hours before, if possible. Your chicken will be more flavorable and tender.

Heat a heavy pan over medium heat and when it's warm (test by flicking a bit of water with your fingers into it until it sizzles), add the olive oil.

Using the water test again, when the oil's heated, place the chicken legs into the pan skin side down and cook 12 minutes, or until crisp and brown. (Note: to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan, don't turn until it's completely browned. Test occasionally by just lifting a bit at the edges.) Then turn and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and add your sliced onions. Cook until transluscent, approximately 5 minutes.

Add garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

If you're using wine, now's the time to add it. Simmer, reducing it to half, while scraping up any brown pieces from the bottom of the pan.

Add the diced tomatoes and cook for five minutes. If you haven't used the wine, scrape up the brown bits now.

Arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and pour in any of the juices that collected while it was put aside.

Pour in enough broth to reach halfway up the chicken.

Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook at a low simmer for 45 minutes, checking occasionally.

Discard the bay leaf and rosemary. If necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with braising sauce, including tomatoes and onions, over mashed potatoes.

Bon appétit!

Options

You can also cover the frying pan (if it's ovenproof) or put into a covered baking pan and cook for 45 minutes, or until done, in a 350 degree oven. But it's much more controllable and, Chef Maddy believes, richer, when cooked stovetop.


To add white meat to the dish, substitute two breasts for one set of legs. Brown them with the legs, but don't add them back to the braise until the last fifteen minutes or they'll be tough. Chef Maddy advises this dish is much richer with legs, and even those who think they don't like dark meat may be surprised at the depth of flavor.

Thanks for visiting!  I hope you'll return for my Friday photo and my Saturday snippets from one of my  books or a sneak preview of one I'm currently working on. 

xo,

JoAnn 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday Tastings --- Steamed clams from Sea Glass Winter



Welcome to Tuesday Tasting!  If you've dropped in for a Tuesday Teaser, those have now become Saturday Snippets.  Tuesdays I'll be sharing recipes, many from past, current, or future books.  And speaking of current books, thanks to all of you who've written to tell me how much you've enjoyed RIVER'S BEND, a spin-off of my Shelter Bay books set in Oregon's ranching country where Sweetie and I grew up.   


These are the steamed clams Dillon Slater, a former Army EOD tech turned high school physics teacher and basketball coach, cooks for Claire Templeton when he comes to her Shelter Bay cottage to talk with her problem teenage son in SEA GLASS WINTER (January, 2013).  





Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter or half butter, half very good extra virgin olive oil. I always buy mine from California Olive Ranch because I know it's fresh and tasty.  Since clams grow in salt water, if you don't use unsalted butter, you may find them too salty for your taste. 

3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced very fine
1 1/2 - 2 lbs fresh Manila or Littleneck clams

3/4 bottle Oregon's Full Sail  Amber Ale for a rich, robust depth in fall and winter. In Summer Dillon switches to the brewery's IPA, which has a nice touch of citrus, or a crisp white wine. 

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sourdough or other crunchy bread for dipping

Preparation:

Rinse clams, one at a time, in a colander to get rid of any sand that might linger. If any are open, tap them gently to see if  they close.  Discard any that don’t.

Remember, clams are alive. If you’re not using them immediately, gently lay them in a shallow dish, cover them with a damp paper towel, and store in the refrigerator for up to two-three days. You may want to redampen the towel, but since they need to breathe, don’t cover them with water, keep them in an air-tight container, or cover with plastic wrap.

Melt butter (with olive oil, if you use it) in a large, heavy sauté/braising pan.

Add garlic and cook until it softens and just barely begins to brown. (It gets dark quickly, so it's better to err on the side of lighter.) Toss in approximately 2 1/2 Tablespoons of the parsley and stir, just for a minute or two. 

Add beer or wine and bring to a simmering boil.

Add clams in a single layer, being careful not to crack shells, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for five to seven minutes, or until all the clams open.  Remove them as they open and, again, discard those that don’t.

Place the clams in serving bowls, pour the sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Serve with a crunchy bread which has either been warmed or sliced, brushed lightly with olive oil, then grilled until brown and crunchy.  A crisp white wine or beer is the perfect accompaniment. 

Enjoy the yum!

Serves 2-4 as appetizers; 2 for a meal.  If you bought 2 lbs for two people, depending on size, you may have leftovers to add to linguini for a second meal.    This recipe also works with mussels, which gives you more meat, but Sweetie and I (and J.T.)  slightly prefer the flavor of the clams.) 

xo,

JoAnn 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Legends Lake price cut!



I've good news for those who've been frustrated, as I've been, by the ridiculous $15+ Kindle  and even worse, $18.21 NOOK prices my former publisher has set for LEGENDS LAKE, the third book in my Castlelough, Ireland series, after A WOMAN'S HEART and FAIR HAVEN.


Although Simon and Schuster is putting it out again in June with that new pretty cottage cover you see up on the left (they haven't told me what that price will be), for those who'd rather not wait, it suddenly went on sale on Amazon Kindle for a more reasonable $7.99 with the original horse cover.

Next up is BRIARWOOD COTTAGE, a novella set in Castlelough, in late May/early June.  Then Sedona's story, A SEA CHANGE, will be part Shelter Bay and part Castlelough and come out late this summer in both e-book and paperback.  An excerpt can be found in the back of RIVER'S BEND.

Thanks for visiting! Have a great rest of your weekend and I hope you'll come back for Tuesday Tastings, with a recipe from SEA GLASS WINTER.


xo,

JoAnn 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday Snippet from River's Bend

This week's Saturday snippet is from River's Bend.  Enjoy:

Cooper  rubbed his jaw as he studied her, his leisurely inventory missing nothing, from the top of her head down to her worn running shoes. 

Rachel had a sudden urge to smooth the wrinkles from her New York Giants sweatshirt. An urge she managed to resist.

"Well?" she asked when she couldn't stand his silent scrutiny another minute.

He didn't immediately answer. Instead, he approached within inches of her suddenly too-tense body. "Like I said, I've been thinking about you, Rachel Hathaway."

"Oh, really?"

"Really."  His thumb skimmed the curve of her jaw, leaving a scattering of sparks on her skin. "A whole lot. Have you thought about me?"

"No."  Her voice was calm. She was not.

Cooper laughed softly.

Rachel's heartbeat quickened.

"It's a good thing you're not under oath. I'd have to run you in for perjury."

"Do you always arrest women who resist your advances, Sheriff?"

"I never have before, but now that you bring it up, I'll keep it in mind," he said amiably. "Would you accuse me of police harassment if I kissed you, Rachel?"

She was going to kiss him because she wanted to. Not because the warmth of his gaze was making her knees weak.  "I suppose that would depend on what type of kiss it was."


He smiled, accepting the dare. "Why don't we try it and find out?" 

That's it for this week!  Have a wonderful rest of your weekend and I hope you'll return for 
Tuesday's Tastings, with a recipe from Sea Glass Winter. 

xo,
JoAnn 


Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Photo: One of Oregon's Seven Natural Wonders

One of the reasons I love setting stories in Sweetie's and my home state of Oregon is because there's so much spectacular scenery to share with readers. My Shelter Bay series is set on the Pacific coast, where he proposed to me at the sea wall when I was eighteen and River's Bend is set in Southern Oregon ranching country, where we grew up.  

This next week I'll be crossing the mighty Columbia River that divides Washington and Oregon because a wonderful reader invited me to give writing workshops at her children's  school in a small town near Mount Hood.  

The Columbia is, by volume,  the fourth-largest river in the United States, the largest river in North America's Pacific Northwest, and has the greatest flow of any North American river flowing into the Pacific.  Beginning in British Columbia's Rockies, it's 1,243 miles long and has a drainage basin about the size of France.  It's also one of Oregon's seven natural wonders. 

Quite honestly, I'm amazed anyone was able to narrow the list down to seven.  


To give you a size of scale on this photo, that boat in the background you can barely make out is a huge cargo ship. 

I'll be speaking and making up stories with classes from the second through fifth grades and am so excited!  I'm also going to have the opportunity to eat some great organically grown local food and sample some of Oregon's wonderful wine. 

I'll share more photos here on the blog next week.  Meanwhile, I hope you'll drop back for this week's Saturday snippet and have a wonderful weekend! 

xo,

JoAnn 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Game of Thrones Season III emoji recap

I'm so excited that Game of Thrones is coming back this Sunday!  Not so happy that after having caught up last summer, I won't be able to binge watch and will have to patiently wait for days between episodes.  

I LOVE this emoji "Game of Phones" recap of season three. And the Red Wedding is not only funny, but almost as horrifying in emoji form. If Gorge RR Martin was a teenage girl, this may be how the books/TV series would look.  :)

Enjoy:



Thanks for visiting! I hope to see you back for my Friday photo and Saturday book excerpt snippet.

xo,

JoAnn 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday Tastings: Grilled lamb chops with herb mustard butter


Happy April!  

During the time period River's Bend takes place, Rachel is more focused on fall and winter menus.  But now that it's (finally!!) spring, diners at the New Chance are enjoying lamb from local pastures. 

One of the most popular dishes is grilled lamb chops served with a mustard/thyme sauce that's a savory change from the typical mint served with lamb.  Rachel offers it with either mashed or roasted potatoes and fresh spring green peas.  

Always feel free to add your own twist to these Tuesday Tastings.  Because cooking is all about individuality!  If you're a novice home cook, one easy way to remember what flavors go together when you're cooking lamb, pork, or chicken, is to remember the old Simon and Garfunkel lyrics from Scarborough Fair: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  You don't have to use them all, but they marry well. 

That song was, by the way, the melody I used for the Shelter Bay video I created to take readers on a tour of the coastal town. (You can click on the bottom right hand corner to enlarge it to full screen.)  I'll be putting up another one soon for River's Bend, as soon as I get my photos put together. 


Lamb with mustard-thyme butter

Four servings: 

Ingredients: 8 lamb chops, trimmed of fat

For the marinade: 

2-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 3 teaspoons dried
chopped garlic to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup red vinegar

Place lamb chops in a plastic bag, cover with marinade.  Seal tightly.  Refrigerate and marinate 30 minutes - overnight. Turn bag occasionally to ensure all the meat gets covered.

Bring to room temperature before grilling.  (You can also pan grill, but I cook them outdoors. Even in the winter.)

Herb butter:

Soften 4 Tablespoons of butter (Not melted, just softened enough to mix in herbs.)
Mix in: 
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. (Increase to taste.)  Rachel uses whole-grain
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried

Directions: 

Salt and pepper chops.  Place on pre-heated grill.  Broil the first side until browned.  6-8 minutes. 

Turn over and continue to grill 3-5 more minutes for medium rare. (Note: if you insist on eating your meat well done, don't bother wasting your money on lamb.)

 Transfer to pre-heated serving plates and top with herb butter.  

Suggested sides: roasted or mashed potatoes and peas or asparagus for pretty spring color and flavor.  

Enjoy!

xo,

JoAnn 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Snippets from River's Bend


RIVER'S BEND has been on sale for less than two weeks and I want to thank everyone who bought Cooper and Rachel's story!  And extra smooches to those wonderful readers who've written to tell me you've enjoyed it.  By the way, while you won't find a print copy on B&N, there is one, along with the kindle edition, on Amazon.

I've lots more books coming up this year, so if you want to keep up, I'd advise subscribing to my e-newsletter.  

This is the first week of Saturday Snippets, which is replacing Teaser Tuesday, which is now becoming Tuesday Tastings, with recipes from past, current, and future books. And some I just want to share because they're yummy.  


Here's today's snippet from RIVER'S BEND:  



"Scott's a great kid, Rachel. Bright, inquisitive, polite. You should be proud."

He couldn't have said anything that would have pleased her more. "I am."

"Good. Then you won't be upset when I tell you that he filled me in on all your secrets."

Rachel certainly hoped that wasn't true since her biggest secret was that she’d been all too aware of Cooper Murphy's absence. "Secrets?"

"Secrets," he confirmed. "Such as your vast organizational skills. I'm in the process of trying to clean out the office files and it's driving me insane. Your son assured me that you could straighten both me and my files out in no time."  His green eyes narrowed. "He says you make lists."

"I do."

"And you color code the categories."

"Of course."

"Why am I not surprised?"  

He'd made it sound like a character flaw. "Creating a well-ordered plan prevents disruption and chaos." Two things she definitely knew a great deal about.

"It also disallows for serendipity."

She folded her arms. "Serendipity?"  

"Yeah. The act of experiencing happy or pleasant surprises by accident. Which can more easily be discovered by occasionally going with the flow."

"I know what the word means. But going with the flow doesn't always lead to happy events."  Another thing she was more than a little familiar with. 

"Yet one could argue that your finding Mitzi's ad for the New Chance was a serendipitous event."

"One could also argue that the jury's still out on whether or not that turned out to be a happy accident."

"Well, we'll just have to make it one, won't we?" 

That's it for this Saturday.  Thanks for visiting!  I'm hoping to get some cards made this weekend for Operation Write Home and Cards for Hospitalized Kids, which I'll share here.  Then, as I said, Tuesday is recipe day, and then there's always Friday Photo. 

 I'm going to try to post more the other days of the week, too, but did I mention I'm working on a lot of books?   So, unlike Rachel with her color-coded organizer, I'm allowing myself room for serendipity.   :)

xo,

JoAnn 


Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Photo: Hummer, from River's Bend

This week's Friday photo is Hummer, from River's Bend, reserving energy for those times he goes on street patrol with Sheriff Cooper Murphy or plays with Scott.  



Also, a note, I'm switching things up a bit and starting tomorrow, Tuesday Teasers are going to become Saturday Snippets, making way for Tuesday Tastings, recipes from past, current, and future books.  

Have a super weekend!

xo, 

JoAnn 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Photo: Fall vineyards on the way from River's Bend to Shelter Bay


This week's Friday photo is from River's Bend, which is -- yay! -- now available on kindle, nook, paperback at Amazon, and kobo.  iTunes coming soon and audio this summer.

In this story, set in Southern Oregon ranching country, where Sweetie and I grew up, Sheriff Cooper Murphy and Rachel Hathaway take a weekend trip to Shelter Bay where Chef Maddy makes Rachel a surprising offer.   This was their view of fall vineyards (where the grapes for the famously wonderful Oregon wine are grown), along the way. 

River's Bend is not only a spin-off from my Shelter Bay series (the Bar M is where Maddy sourced the beef Mac ordered in Castaway Cove), it's the first of a trilogy featuring three sexy Murphy brothers.   And yes, for those who've asked, there WILL be more Shelter Bay books.  :)






I hope you'll come back for another Tuesday Teaser excerpt.  Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend!

xo,
JoAnn 

Monday, March 17, 2014

For St. Patrick's Day: A super early excerpt from A SEA CHANGE

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Or, as they'd say in Castlelough, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

For this holiday that's very special in my Irish family, I thought I'd share a super early sneak peek of the first chapter of A SEA CHANGE, Sedona Sullivan's story, that will be out this summer. This will also be in the back of LEGENDS LAKE, the third book in my Irish Castlelough trilogy -- soon to be a series -- that Pocket will be reissuing in June. In it you'll meet two of the five sexy Brennan Brothers. (There's also a fiery Brennan sister.) And for those of you still suffering through winter, this should warm you up!  lol  

Castlelough, Ireland

Although the microbrewery might be a new addition, Brennan’s Microbrewery and Pub had been serving rebels and raiders, smugglers and sailors, poets and patriots since 1650.

And, Sedona Sullivan considered as she watched a young couple share a kiss inside one of the two snugs by the front door, lovers. The leaded glass window kept people’s behavior reasonably sedate while the stained glass door allowed conversations to remain private.

Whiskey bottles gleamed like pirates’ booty in the glow of brass-hooded lamps, a turf fire burned in a large open hearth at one end of the pub, warming against the chill of rain pelting on the slate roof, and heavy wooden tables were crowded onto the stone floor. Booths lined walls covered in football flags, vintage signs, and old photographs, and in the library extension, books and magazines filled shelves and wall racks.

The man murmured something in the woman’s ear, causing her to laugh and toss hair as bright as the peat fire. As the woman lifted her smiling lips to his for a longer, more drawn-out kiss, Sedona felt a stir of envy.

How long had it been since a man had made her laugh with sexy abandon? How long since anyone had kissed her like that man was kissing that pretty Irish redhead?

Sedona did some quick mental math. Finding the sum impossible to believe, she recalculated. Twenty-two months, three weeks, and eight days? Seriously?

Unfortunately, given that she was, after all, a former CPA with excellent math skills and a near-photographic memory, Sedona knew her figures were right on the money. As were those additional sixteen hours she reluctantly tacked on to the initial subtotal.

How could that be possible?

Granted, she’d been busy. After leaving behind a high-powered accounting career in Portland, she’d opened a successful bakery in Shelter Bay, Castlelough’s sister city on the Oregon coast. But still . . . nearly two years?

That was just too depressing.

Unlike last evening, when Brennan’s had been crowded to the ancient wooden rafters with family members and close friends enjoying Mary Joyce and J. T. Douchett’s rehearsal dinner, tonight the pub was nearly deserted, save for the two lovers, three men watching a replay of a rugby match on the TV bolted to the stone wall, and an ancient man somewhere between eighty and a hundred years old who was nursing a foam-topped dark ale and singing sad Irish songs to himself.

And there was Patrick Brennan, owner, bartender, and cook, whose smiling Irish eyes were as darkly brown as the fudge frosting she’d made for J. T. Douchett's chocolate groom’s cake.

Which was what had brought Sedona to her ancestral homeland. She’d met international movie star and award-winning screenwriter Mary Joyce when the Castlelough-born actress had visited Shelter Bay for a film festival featuring her movies. After Mary had gotten engaged to J. T., a former Marine who’d been pressed into service as the actress’s bodyguard, Mary had asked Sedona to make both the groom’s cake and the all-important wedding cake.

Happy to play a part in her friend’s wedding, Sedona had jumped at the chance to revisit the land of her ancestors.

A cheer went up as a player dressed in a green jersey from the Ireland Wolfhounds scored against the England Saxons. After delivering her wine and taking her order, Patrick paused on his way back to the bar long enough to glance up at the screen, and even the old man stopped singing long enough to raise his mug before switching to a ballad celebrating a victory in some ancient but never to be forgotten war.

Sedona was thinking that watching a game when you already knew the final score must be a male thing, when the heavy oak door opened, bringing with it a wet, brisk wind that sent her paper napkin sailing onto the floor.

Before she could reach down and pick it up, her attention was captured by the arrival of a man she had already determined to be trouble on a hot, sexy stick.

His wind-mussed hair, which gave him the look of having just gotten out of bed, fell to a few inches above his broad shoulders and was as black as the sea on a moonless night. As he took off his black leather jacket—revealing a lean, hard, well-muscled body—testosterone radiated off him in bone-weakening waves that had her glad she was sitting down.

“Well, would you look at what the night gale blew in,” Patrick greeted him from behind the bar. “I thought you were leaving town.”

“I was. Am,” Conn Brennan clarified in the roughened, gravelly rocker’s voice recognizable the world over. “I’m flying out of Shannon to catch up with the lads in Frankfurt. But I had a sudden craving for fish and chips and sure, everyone knows there’s no finer food than the pub grub served up by my big brother at Brennan’s.”

Patrick laughed at that. “Sure, with talk like that, some would think you’d be from Blarney,” he shot back in an exaggerated brogue. “So how did the party go? I assume the bride and groom enjoyed themselves?”

“The party was grand, in large part due to the music,” Conn Brennan said. The infamous bad boy rocker known by the single name Conn to his legion of fans around the world had been dubbed “Conn of the Hundred Battles” by the tabloids for his habit of getting into fights with the paparazzi.

“As for the bride and groom, I image they’re shagging their brains out about now. The way they couldn’t keep their hands off each other had the local band lads making bets on whether they’d make it to bed before consummating the nuptials.”

The heels of his metal-buckled black boots rang out on the stone floor as he headed toward the bar, pausing when he almost stepped on Sedona’s dropped napkin. He bent to pick it up, then when he straightened, his startlingly neon blue eyes clashed with hers.

And held for a long, humming moment.

“Well, fancy seeing you here. I would have guessed, after the busy day you’ve had, that you’d be all tucked away in your comfy bed at the inn, dreaming of wedding cakes, sugar plums, and all things sweet.”

He placed the napkin on the table with a dangerously sexy smile he’d directed her way more than once as he’d rocked the reception from the bandstand. When an image of a bare-chested Conn sprawled on her four-poster bed at the inn flashed wickedly through Sedona’s mind, something quivered deep in her stomach.

It was only hunger, she assured herself. Between putting the last touches on the towering wedding cake and working with the serving staff during the reception, she hadn’t taken the time for a proper meal all day.

“I was in the mood for a glass of wine and a late bite.” Her tone, cool as wintry mist over the Burren, was in direct contrast to the heat flooding her body.

He lifted an ebony brow. “Why would you be wanting to go out in this rain? The Copper Beech Inn has excellent room service, and surely your suite came with a minibar well stocked with adult beverages.”

“You’re correct on both counts,” she acknowledged as the old man segued into “The Rare Auld Mountain Dew.”

She took a sip of wine, hoping it would cool the heat rising inside her. It didn’t.

“But I chose to spend my last night in Ireland here at Brennan’s instead of in an impersonal hotel room. Besides, you’re right about your brother’s food. It’s excellent.” While the pub grub menu might be casual dining, Patrick Brennan had proven to be as skilled in the kitchen as he was at pulling pints. “There’s also the fact that the minibar is ridiculously expensive.”

“Ah.” He nodded his satisfaction. “Your parents didn’t merely pass down an Irish surname, Sedona Sullivan. It appears you’ve inherited our Irish frugality.”

“And here I thought that was the Scots.”

“It’s true that they’ve been more than happy to advertise that reputation, despite having stolen the concept from us. Same as they did the pipes, which, if truth be told, were originally intended as an Irish joke on the Scots, who, being dour people without any sense of humor, failed to get it.”

“And didn’t I recognize your famed Irish frugality the moment you roared into town in that fire-engine red Ferrari?”

He threw back his head and laughed, a rich, deep sound that flowed over her and reminded her yet again exactly how much time had passed since she’d been with a man.

Your choice.

“And wouldn’t you be a prime example of appearances being deceiving?” he countered.

“Don’t be disturbing my guests, Conn,” Patrick called out.

“We’re just having a friendly conversation.” Conn’s eyes hadn’t left Sedona’s since he’d stopped at the table. “Am I disturbing you, a stór?”

Yes.

“Not at all,” she lied. The truth was that she’d been feeling wired and edgy from the moment he strode into the hall for a sound check before the reception. “Though you do force me to point out that I’m no one’s darling,” she tacked on. He’d undoubtedly used the generic Irish endearment the way American men used “babe” or “sweetheart."

Even without having read about all the rich and famous women the rocker was reported to have been involved with, any sensible woman would keep her distance from Conn Brennan. Despite having grown up in a commune of former hippies and flower children, Sedona had always considered herself unwaveringly sensible.

Her knowledge of the endearment failed to put a dent in his oversized male ego. Instead, amusement danced in his electric blue eyes.

“Would you have learned that bit of Irish from some local lad attracted by your charms?” he asked as he rubbed a jaw darkened with a day-old stubble that added machismo to his beautiful face. “Which, may I say, despite your short time in our fair village, would not surprise me in the least.”

“My parents believe everyone should speak at least two languages,” she responded mildly. “I’m fluent in Spanish, know just enough French to order a baguette and wine in Paris, and thanks to a year studying abroad at Trinity College Dublin, along with the past few days having an opportunity to practice, I can carry on a bit of a conversation in Irish.”

Raindrops glistened in his black hair as he tilted his head. “Mary wasn’t exaggerating when she was going on about your charms,” he said finally. “And aren’t brains and beauty an enticing combination? As for you not being my darling, Sedona Sullivan, the night’s still young.”

“Perhaps not for those in Dublin or Cork,” she said, struggling against the seductive pull of that smile. The rugby game ended with a score by the red-shirted Saxons. The men who’d been watching the TV shuffled out, muttering curses about allegedly blind referees. “But if you don’t leave soon, you won’t be able to drive your fancy ‘frugal’ import to the airport because Castlelough’s cobblestone streets will have been rolled up.”

He gave her a longer, considering look, his intense blue eyes narrowing as he scrutinized her in silence for what seemed like forever, even as some part of her brain still managing to function told her it must have only been a few seconds.

“Your order’s up,” he said, without having even glanced toward the bar. “Since Patrick’s occupied with my fish and chips, I’ll bring your late bite back with my ale.”

He smelled so amazing, like night rain darkened with the scent of leather and the tang of sweat from having played as energetically for his small-town home crowd of a hundred wedding guests as he had to his recent sell-out crowd of ninety thousand in London’s Wembley Stadium.

Tamping down a reckless urge to lick his dark neck, Sedona forced a faint smile. “Thank you. We certainly wouldn’t want your fish to burn while your brother’s distracted delivering my meal.”

Assuring herself that there wasn’t a woman on the planet who’d be capable of not checking out the very fine butt in those dark jeans, she watched his long, lose-hipped outlaw’s stride to the bar.

Not wanting to be caught staring as he returned with his dark ale and her plate, she turned her gaze back to the couple in the snug. The woman was now sitting on the man’s lap as they tangled tonsils.

Why didn’t they just get a damn room?

“Now, there’s a pair who know how to make the most of a rainy night,” Conn said as he sat down across from her.

There was no way she was going to respond to that. Instead, she turned her attention to the small white plate of deep-fried cheese served on a bed of salad greens with a side of dark port and berry sauce. The triangular piece of cheese that had been fried in a light-as-a-feather beer batter nearly made her swoon. As she’d discovered when making her cakes, Irish dairy farmers seemed to possess a magic that churned milk into pure gold.

“This is amazingly delicious.”

“The French claim to make the best cream and butter, but I’d put ours against theirs any day. That St. Brigid’s cheese you’re eating is a local Camembert from Michael Joyce’s farm.” Michael was Mary Joyce’s older brother. Sedona had met the former war correspondent turned farmer and his American wife at a dinner at the Joyce family home her first night in Castlelough.

“And speaking of delicious,” he said, “I’m remiss in not telling you that your cake had me tempted to lick my plate.”

“Thank you.” When his words brought back her earlier fantasy of licking his neck, she felt color rising in her cheeks.

“Of course, I wouldn’t have,” he continued, thankfully seemingly unaware of her wicked, too tempting thoughts. “Because I promised Mary.”

“You promised Mary you wouldn’t lick your dessert plate?”

“No, despite being an international movie star, Mary can be a bit of a stickler for propriety. So I promised to behave myself.”

He waited a beat, just long enough to let her know something else was coming. “Which was the only reason I didn’t leave a set to the lads and dance with you at the reception.”

“Well, no one can fault you for your confidence.”

“Would you be saying you wouldn’t have given me a dance? If I hadn’t been performing and had asked?”

Dance with this man? From the way he’d watched her from the bandstand, his eyes like blue flames, Sedona had a feeling that dancing wasn’t precisely what he’d had in mind.

“I came here to work,” she said. “Not dance.” Nor hook up with a hot Irish musician.

“It was a grand cake,” he said. “Even better than the one I was served at the White House.” Where he’d received a presidential medal for his social activism, Sedona remembered. “And one of the few that tasted as good as it looked. Most cakes these days seem to have Spackle spread over them.”

She laughed at the too true description. “That’s fondant, which creates a smoother surface to decorate.”

“It’s shite is what it is. When I was growing up, my mam’s carrot cake always won first prize at the county fair. With six children in the family, we’d all have to wait our turn to lick the bowl or she’d never have ended up with enough frosting to cover it, but I always believed that cream cheese frosting was the best part.”

Sedona was relieved when Patrick arrived at the table with his brother’s fish and chips, interrupting a conversation that had returned to licking.

“Something we can agree on,” she said, dipping the cheese into a currant sauce brightened with flavors of ginger, orange, and lemon. “Which is why I used buttercream on the cakes for the wedding.”

He bit into the battered cod. Heaven help her, somehow the man managed to make chewing sexy.

“So,” he said after taking a drink of the dark Rebel Red microbrew, “Mary tells me you make cupcakes back in America.”

“My bakery, Take the Cake, specializes in cupcakes, but I’ve also added pies.”

“Good business move,” he said with a nod. “Who wouldn’t be liking a nice warm piece of pie? Cakes are well enough, but pies are sexy.”

Said the man who obviously had sex on the mind. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone. As she watched him bite into a chip, she found herself wondering how that black face scruff would feel on her breasts. Her stomach. And lower still.

“Well, they’ve proven popular,” she said as her pulse kicked up. “Which was rewarding, given that it proved the validity of months of research.”

He cocked his head. “You researched whether or not people like pie?”

“Well, of course I knew they already like pie. I merely did a survey and analysis to calculate the cost and profit margins.”

“Which told you lots of people like pie.”

He was laughing at her. She could see it in his eyes. “Yes. Do you realize how many businesses fail in any given year? Especially these days?” They were finally in a conversational territory she knew well.

“Probably about as many people who don’t succeed in the music business,” he guessed. “Though I’ve never done a sales analysis before writing a song.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it, now?”

She tried again. “What if you wrote a song that didn’t connect with your fans?”

He shrugged and took another bite of battered cod. “I’d write it off as a mistake and move on. No risk, no reward. I tend to go with my gut, then don’t look back.”

“My father’s the same way,” she murmured, more to herself than to him.

He leaned back in the wooden chair and eyed her over the rim of his glass. “And how has that worked out for him?”

“Very well, actually.”

He lifted the glass. “Point made.”

“Different strokes,” she argued.

“You know what they say about opposites.” His gaze moved slowly over her face, his eyes darkening to a stormy, deep sea blue as they settled on her lips, which had parts of her body tingling that Sedona had forgotten could tingle.

“I have a spreadsheet,” she said.

“I suspect you have quite a few.” When he flashed her a slow, badass grin she suspected had panties dropping across several continents, Sedona sternly reminded herself that she’d never—ever—been attracted to bad boys.

So why had she forgotten how to breathe?

As that fantasy of him sprawled in her bed next door in the Copper Beech Inn came crashing to the forefront of her mind, Sedona reminded herself of those twenty-two months, three weeks, eight days, and sixteen, going on seventeen, hours. Even if she hadn’t been coming off a very long dry spell, every instinct Sedona possessed told her that not only was Conn Brennan trouble, he was way out of her league.

“They’re not all business related. I also have one for men.”

Putting his ale down, he leaned across the small round table and tucked a strand of blond hair, which had fallen from the tidy French twist she’d created for the reception, behind her ear. The brush of fingertips roughened from steel guitar strings caused heat to rise beneath his touch.

“You put us men in boxes.” His eyes somehow managed to look both hot and amused at the same time.

It was not a question. But Sedona answered it anyway. “Not men. Attributes,” she corrected. “What I’d require, and expect, in a mate.”

Oh, God. Why did she have to use that word? While technically accurate, it had taken on an entirely different, impossibly sexy meaning. Desperately wanting to bury her flaming face in her palms, she remained frozen in place as his treacherous finger traced a trail of sparks around her lips, which, despite Ireland’s damp weather, had gone desert dry.

“And where do I fit in your tidy little boxes, Sedona Sullivan?”

Although she was vaguely aware of the couple leaving the snug, and the pub, his steady male gaze was holding her hostage. She could not look away.

“You don’t.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” he said in that deep, gravelly voice that set off vibrations like a tuning fork inside her.

Conn ran his hand down her throat, his thumb skimming over her pulse, which leaped beneath his touch, before cupping her jaw. “Because I’ve never been comfortable fenced into boundaries.”

And growing up in a world of near-absolute freedom, Sedona had never been comfortable without them. “There’s something you need to know.”

“And that would be?”

“I’m not into casual sex.”

“And isn’t that good to know.” He lowered his mouth to within a whisper of hers. “Since there’d be nothing casual about how you affect me.”

She drew in a sharp breath, feeling as if she were standing on the edge of the towering cliff where J.T. and Mary’s wedding had taken place in a circle of ancient stones.

“I’m taking you back to your room.”

Somehow, her hand had lifted to his face. “Your flight . . .”

He parted her lips with the pad of his thumb. “It’s my plane. It takes off when I’m ready.” His other hand was on her leg, his fingers stroking the inside of her thigh through the denim of the jeans she’d put on after returning to her room after the reception. “I’ll ring up the pilot and tell him I’ll be leaving in the morning.”

Then his mouth came down on hers and Conn was kissing her, hard and deep, setting off a mind-blinding supernova inside Sedona.

They left the pub, running through the soft Irish rain into the inn next door. As the old-fashioned gilt cage elevator cranked its way up to her floor, he continued to kiss her breathless, making Sedona forget that she'd never, ever, been attracted to bad boys.

Have a wonderful day, and a grand rest of your week!  I'll be back tomorrow with a shorter excerpt from RIVER'S BEND, a spin-off from my New York Times bestselling Shelter Bay series, which will be out by the end of this month.  

xo,


JoAnn