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What's Wanderlust Got To Do With It?

USA TODAY bestselling author Robin Bielman discusses her own recent adventure and why she loves the  81MVaySXHuL._SL1500_ globetrotting heroes in her Take A Risk series. The latest book in the series, His Million Dollar Risk, is now available.

I recently crossed something major off my bucket list. Here’s how it went down: My mom (yep, she crossed it off her list at the same time) and I arrived at a small airport. We filled out some paperwork, giggling the whole time because holy hamburger, we were really doing this. Then with zero time to contemplate what we’d just signed, we met our awesome instructors to gear up for, you guessed it, skydiving!

Harness ready, and trying to remember everything my instructor told me (put my hands where?), we walked to the airplane—the very small propeller airplane. At this point I thought my heart would be pounding out of my chest, but you know what? I was fine. Happy. Excited. I couldn’t wait to be in the sky. And knowing this was a tandem jump and I’d be connected to my instructor wiped out any nervous energy.

We talked and joked on the way up to 10,000 feet. With views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other, I couldn’t have asked for better scenery. When the time came for my instructor to open the door and scoot us out, all I remember feeling was a sense of anticipation. Then, ready…set…go! The jump was amazing. There really aren’t enough words to adequately express the sensation of free-falling, but once the parachute opened and we were floating, I wanted to stay up there forever. The remarkable peacefulness seeped into every inch of my being, and I can’t wait to jump again.

Now that I’ve traveled to the sky, I’m pretty sure I can tackle any adventure. With a family and day job, though, I don’t get to venture to new places as often as I’d like. So how do I visit faraway lands and spots closer to home that I’ve yet to see? By writing about a group of heroes in the heritage protection field who travel the globe to preserve historical sites against conflict, neglect, and natural disasters, that’s how.

These guys have got a serious case of wanderlust and love being outdoors. Through them, I can pretend to be a female Indiana Jones and get into all sorts of pickles. I also get to torture them with romantic entanglements that threaten their latest project. They may be fierce in their dedication to the environment, but they’ll risk everything for the women they believe in.

In His Million Dollar Risk, we get to take a road trip and travel Route 66. My hero, Connor, has got a reporter tagging along to help bring attention to the highway and several monuments under preservation. This is my heroine’s first big story and her first time taking a trip like this. So as soon as they hit the road, she unintentionally messes with Connor’s steadfast plans. He’s all about responsibility and his commitment to preservation. She’s all about letting go a little and experiencing each new place to the fullest. But pretty soon they’re all about each other. Adventure? Check. Love? Double check.

Driving the historic Route is just one of the many excursions I hope to still experience. Live out of a suitcase for a little while? I could do that. Until then, as long as I’ve got my Kindle with me, I’m good to go anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daring Leading Men: Guest Post by Shannon McKenna

Reflections upon what makes a hero “hot!”


81hNxOGW0DL._SL1500_shannonmckennaI’ve given a great deal of thought over the years to this topic, having dreamed up twenty-five romance heroes in all. The bottom line is, I have to fall in love with him myself. He has to be smart, intense, brave, creative, and emotionally alive. He can be flawed almost to the point of ruin, like Seth in Behind Closed Doors, Nick, in Extreme Danger, Val in Ultimate Weapon, or Aaron in One Wrong Move, but not quite—he must be redeemable. He has to be courageous, because apart from the mortal peril he will face in the story, he will have a painful journey of self-discovery to become a viable romance hero. Usually, volcanic sexual lust is the catalyst. True love takes my heroes by surprise, completely, and for all time. I love it when love brings a difficult hero to his knees inside, melts his barriers, sweeps away his emotional blocks. It takes him apart, tears him open to make space for the new reality, the new paradigm. Then he can finally bond, grow, take root in his own life, become a lover, a husband, or a father. That moment of sweet surrender is such a huge turn-on. It’s the true payoff for his valor.

As far as I’m concerned, heroes can have huge range of personality types, from the reluctant, difficult ones I mentioned above, to the more tender, romantic ones, like Connor in Standing in the Shadows, or Kev in Fade To Midnight, or Bruno in Blood and Fire. The latter guys fell fast and hard, and were willing to commit immediately—they knew what they liked when they found it. They trusted their own instincts and wasted no time in claiming it, putting a ring on it, hanging onto it with white-knuckled hands. Davy McCloud from Out of Control was a tougher nut to crack, but once he cracked, oh, boy.

Then there was Miles, who took me by surprise. I never expected him to evolve into a romance hero back in Standing in the Shadows, when he shuffled out of his parents’ basement. He fell into the clutches of the McCloud brothers, who took him on as their personal project. Fast forward twelve years: he learns martial arts and gets buff, then its laser surgery to lose the glasses, he learns the sacred art of male grooming from Sean McCloud, but still, most of those changes were just cosmetic. Miles was still unsure of himself and pining for the wrong girl. But mortal combat sharpens him, being held to the McCloud’s high standard toughens him, and his adventures at the end of One Wrong Move temper him. By the time he gets to his own adventure, Fatal Strike, he’s ready to fight to protect his new, true love.

Sam Petrie of In for the Kill is the last of the McCloud & Friends Series heroes, and one of my favorites. He came relatively late to the McCloud crowd, and only to follow the elusive Sveti around, though she spurned him for years. Sam wouldn’t give up—and when he’s given a chance to protect her, defend her, and stick to her like glue, he takes it, no matter the danger. He’s not ashamed to offer his heart, held nothing back, and he’ll put everything on the line for his chosen lady.

Ah, romance. I can never get enough of it. Here’s to the unflinching valor of all the hot and daring heroes out there, both fictional and real! 

 

Finding Love Again: Guest Post by Author Angela Claire

Claire_PostFormer Harvard lawyer Angela Claire, author of Tempting the CEO, discusses how golden handcuffs and unbreakable glass ceilings led to Boardroom daydreaming and a career in romance.

When people ask me how I got into romance writing, I say “golden handcuffs and glass ceilings.” And I’m not talking about BDSM for rich folks or mirrors above the bed. No, I’m talking corporate. Golden handcuffs are where they’ll pay you a ridiculous amount of money if they fire you, in order to incentivize you to stay. You never want to quit because you “lose” your illusory severance. The glass ceiling is when you’ve gone as far as you can in a company because of invisible barriers. The two combined can keep you in a job that’s both boring and stressful for years on end.

In my case, they led to romance.

I never wanted to be a lawyer. Not really. From a very early age, all I ever really wanted to do was to be taken by a handsome—and I mean, like, super handsome—pirate and whisked away to his cabin to be seduced. I studied hard in high school and college and kept my true aspirations under wraps…because after all, there wasn’t much of a future in being the love mate of a pirate on the high seas. But I made somebody a small fortune reading about those types of adventures if I couldn’t live them.

 By the time I graduated from Harvard Law School, my romance-reading tendencies took a backseat to the sheer amount of legal minutia I had to master in my new profession. I headed off to Wall Street to get a return on my educational investment (i.e., pay back my student loans) and then later out into corporate America.

Over the years, I sat through endless meetings—golden handcuffs firmly in place and that glass ceiling not even tested by me anymore—until finally something funny happened. The part of my brain I needed to stay on my feet legal-wise got smaller and smaller as corporate law became second nature to me and the part of my brain that wasn’t otherwise occupied…well…it sought out that pirate ship again. I’d find myself in a boardroom listening to a fascinating presentation on the metrics of inventory turnover and I’d be drifting off to a tropical island. Tall, dark and handsome definitely involved.

The pirate ship gave way to a more familiar venue, the corporate setting, and instead of the gray haired men all around me, I’d imagine hot alpha CEOs. Instead of me, a forty-something—well, never mind how old I am—I’d imagine a young feisty heroine, smart, gorgeous, fit for a pirate ship but savvy enough to command a company if she chose, no glass ceiling in sight. I’d plot out snappy dialogue and intense emotions. And yes, blush, blush, passion…although I usually waited until I got home for that part of the daydream.

I took to writing my stories down and eventually got brave enough to submit them for publication. I was still undercover at my day job, giving no clue that I was anything other than your average corporate lawyer. But by this time, I wanted to be something else, something very different. No, not a pirate captain’s wench (though that would have been nice), but a romance writer.

It took a few years of my dual identity to work up my courage, and those long boring meetings helped a lot, but one day I managed to break out of the golden handcuffs and turn my back on the glass ceiling forever. Now I daydream and write at home, not sorry I lost my illusory severance. I’ve never been happier.

And I don’t miss inventory turnover at all.

Guest Post by Stacy Finz, Author of the Nugget Romance Series

Small Towns, Starting Over and Finding Love Again

51sBQCxda1L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Author Stacy Finz, the Nugget Romance series: Going Home, Finding Hope, and Second Chances, highlights her must-have reading list for small town contemporary romance series.

Nothing takes me away from the disorder of real life quite like a story about love and starting over in a small town. Something about close-knit communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business appeals to me. Maybe because I grew up in a small town. We even had a party telephone line, where my sister and I would listen in to our neighbor’s conversations (I know, terrible).  Now I live in a big city, where most of the time I don’t even know my neighbor’s name. So when I want to return to the quirky characters of my youth or disappear into a gorgeous setting, where everyone looks out for one another and the magic of love is in every page this is where I go:

Virgin River by Robyn Carr: This was my gateway drug to small-town romance. After reading this book, the first in the Virgin River series, about a small community in Northern California and the relationship between a former Marine and a midwife who has recently relocated to Virgin River after tragedy has struck, I was hooked. I read every book in the series and went looking for other contemporary small-town romances. Carr is the quintessential storyteller and a great influence on my work.

Sugar’s Twice as Sweet by Marina Adair: This is a new series by Adair about Sugar, Georgia and a socialite who falls for the local bad-boy golf champion. The story is delicious and sexy and reminded me a little of the great Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Wynette Texas series with her eccentric, but truly credible characters. But Adair has her own distinct voice and Sugar is a place I will be visiting often.

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis: This is the first book in Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series and boy can this woman write. She’s fun, snappy and at times poignant and this small Washington town is a great escape. In Simply Irresistible a big city girl who has just been fired from her Hollywood job comes to Lucky Harbor to claim her inheritance, a ramshackle inn which she shares with the two sisters she hardly knows. They hire the hottest contractor in town to fix the place . . . Well, you get the picture.

The Best Man by Kristan Higgins: This is the first in her Blue Heron Series about a small town in New York’s Finger Lakes district where Faith Holland has decided to return to her family’s winery and deal with her past—a very public jilting by her former fiancé. Then she reunites with the best man and things get interesting. Higgins is a beautiful writer, who can make me laugh and cry at the same time. I’ll read anything she writes.  

Suzanne Enoch's Favorite Romantic Heroes

New York Times best-selling romance author Suzanne Enoch shares the inspiration for her latest hero, and gives us a list of the leading men of romance who set her pulse racing. Her latest work can be found in the holiday anthology "Christmas Brides," available on Kindle now.

Christmas BridesAt this very moment I have a photo of Joe Manganiello pinned on my desktop, as the physical inspiration for the hero I’m currently writing. I get to spend all day referring to his dark, unruly hair and his fine physique, and in my mind he also has a hot Scottish accent. Yep, it’s rough being a romance writer.

A romance hunk doesn’t always start out being a hero, of course. Sure, he has to have at least one redeeming quality, something that keeps the reader both interested in reading more about him and rooting for him to become a better man. He can be perfectly handsome from the beginning, but if on page one he’s a perfect character, that’s just boring. Maybe he’s selfish, or careless, or distrustful, abandoned, or wounded, vampiric, or werewolfian. What incentive, then, does this handsome lad have to improve himself? Ah, that would be the heroine. He has to see something special about her, something that calls to the best part of himself.

The male protagonist of a historical romance, which is the genre I write, has a fair number of employment (or lack thereof) possibilities from where he can begin his transformation into hunky hero – he can be the younger son of an earl, a soldier of fortune, a gambler, a duke, or a down-on-his-luck adventurer, among many other things.

And then there are princes, especially tall, black-haired, green-eyed princes like Prince Wulfiniski from Karen Hawkins's How to Pursue a Princess. That man has it all - broad shoulders, smoldering green eyes, and a wicked sense of humor that threw the poor heroine - and me! - into a flutter every time he walked into the room. All that and he's a prince to boot. What's not to love?

I never could resist a knight in shining armor, either, and Sir Gareth of Caerleon in Teresa Medeiros's Shadows and Lace is particularly irresistible. When the deliciously dark and brooding Gareth wins the fair Lady Rowena in a dice game with her deadbeat dad, he has to decide if his lust for revenge or his lust for Rowena will win out. This one has all of the humor, passion and charm you'd expect from a Teresa Medeiros romance and Gareth is a hero for all ages!

Oh, and then there's something about an American hero in Victorian England – especially when he's as smart as he is handsome, a self-made man with an eye toward the future and a wicked sense of humor that's impossible to resist. Even if the very proper heroine in Victoria Alexander's The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride is determined to do just that. Come on. We've met him. She doesn't stand a chance.

In my Rogue with a Brogue, Arran MacLawry is the heir apparent to the leader of clan MacLawry in the Scottish Highlands. He’s suspicious of the English, and even more so of any Campbells, the long-time enemies of his own clan. The last person he would ever intend to fall in love with is Mary Campbell, then, but that’s just what he does. And she falls for him as well, because he’s a Scottish laird’s brother and tall and broad-shouldered, with black hair that falls over his brow in the breeze, eyes bluer than a Highlands summer morning sky, and he dances a fair waltz. Yes, he’s drop-dead gorgeous – and he’s fair minded and witty and honorable even if he does like to fight and tends to kiss young ladies in public. You know, a hunk. A hero.

Do you have a favorite romance hero? Did you like him from page one, or did he grow on you during the course of the novel?

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Love is a Funny Thing for Tawna Fenske

Romance author Tawna Fenske gives us a hilarious look at how her everyday life experiences inspire her to write about the funny side of romance. Her latest novel, Fiancee for Hire, is on sale now.

TawnafenskeTen minutes ago, I was sitting at my desk giving thoughtful consideration to a topic for this blog post.

Okay, that’s a lie. I was actually googling photos of nudist weddings. It’s for a book, I swear.

In any case, I was nibbling frozen peas as I’m wont to do when I’m deep in thought on a writing project. One of the little guys slipped through my fingers and tumbled down the front of my shirt, wedging itself in my cleavage.

Naturally, that’s when my husband walked in the room. “Why is your hand in your bra?”

“I dropped a frozen pea.”

“Is this like last week when I found you licking your keyboard?”

“No, that’s totally different,” I insisted. “What else am I supposed to do when I spill yogurt on it?”

He walked out of the room shaking his head. “Remind me to stop asking questions when you’re writing.”

I share that exchange with you not because I had a fervent desire to fit the words “cleavage,” “yogurt,” and “nudist weddings” into one blog post (though for the record, that’s a worthy goal). It’s more [as] an illustration of my answer to one of the most common questions I get in interviews, which is this:

Why do you write romantic comedy?

As you might have gathered by now, I write romantic comedy because I would be abysmally bad at crafting serious tomes on existentialism.

I write romantic comedy because I once waxed off my own eyebrow and mistakenly used a green eyeliner to draw it back on. I write romantic comedy because I attended a fancy luncheon where I spit gristle into a linen napkin, fumbled it into the purse of the woman next to me, and got caught trying to retrieve it. I write romantic comedy because I unintentionally texted a boob pic to my realtor. Twice.

The great thing about being a magnet for ridiculousness is that I’m pretty much guaranteed to never run out of fodder for my books. Even more fortuitous is that Entangled Publishing has a home for my love-tinged absurdities with their Lovestruck line.

Lovestruck novels are all centered around witty dialogue, meet-cutes, and twists on classic tropes. Throw in a few heaping handfuls of sexytimes, and you’ve got yourself a fabulous beach read. I love writing them almost as much as I love reading them. 

Thanks to Lovestruck, readers of Marine for Hire have gotten to meet Sam, the Marine sniper turned undercover nanny who confuses the steps for changing diapers with the steps for disassembling a M-16 rifle (and learns they’re actually not that different).

Thanks to Lovestruck, readers of Protector for Hire (coming Dec. 2014) can meet Anna, a woman who makes a living planning weird weddings that include things like paintball wars or ceremonies in which everyone dresses festively in their birthday suits.

See? I told you it was for a book.

Readers can also meet their respective love matches and see how they set the sheets ablaze (hey, there’s an idea for a candlelit love scene gone awry…)

Now if I could just get that damn pea out of my bra.

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Jill Shalvis on the Making of "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Merry Christmas BabyWild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed. She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to impending fatherhood. So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the party will give him a chance to set things right. But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time. While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart, an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up...and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen. Here, Jill Shalvis talks about the inspiration behind writing Merry Christmas, Baby.

I love the holidays.  All the kids are home, and it’s usually snowing outside and warm inside from the baking of cookies – or in my case, the burning of the cookies…

Last year when this happened, our new fire alarm went off and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  We have really high ceilings and there was no way to reach the smoke detector.  A neighbor called the police, and a sheriff came to the door.  He looked a little rumpled and a lot overworked, but he smiled when he saw the burnt cookies.

“My wife does that a lot,” he said with obvious warmth and love.

It reminded me that one of my favorite couples--sexy sheriff Sawyer Thompson and wildcard Chloe Traeger from my book Head Over Heels--would be celebrating this holiday too, and chances were that Chloe was doing something to both irritate Sawyer and yet turn him on at the same time.

The thought wouldn’t leave me alone. But how I could I do justice in a novella to a couple who had an undeniably explosive chemistry and whirlwind romance the first time around?  I also didn’t want to give them some silly misunderstanding or lightweight conflict and take away from their intense and fierce relationship, the one I’d painstakingly built in Head Over Heels.  I mean, to be honest, those two nearly drove me to drink the first time around.

Then it hit me, the idea for the story I could tell that would at once both heighten their relationship and yet change it forever.  Picture me cackling and rubbing my hands together in glee over my laptop as I spun the new web.  I’m not going to tell you what I did, or what Chloe and Sawyer have to go through, but suffice it to say I loved every minute of the writing of this story, Merry Christmas, Baby.   

Though I was so happy to revisit these characters, it was also a little bittersweet since this would be the last Lucky Harbor – for now.  I never say never, especially since readers tend to get upset when they realize this might be goodbye to Lucky Harbor.  So let’s just call it a goodbye for now, okay?  Can we all live with that?  And I promise to come back and visit it when the time is right.

Happy Reading,
Jill Shalvis

Writing Big-Family Romances with Melissa Foster

As families across the country sit down together this week for Thanksgiving, New York Times best-selling author Melissa Foster shares how her personal insights into the large-family dynamic helps her experience the joys and appreciate the challenges of writing big-family romances. The latest novel in her Love in Bloom series, Seaside Sunsets, is available for pre-order now.

Seaside sunsetsAs the only girl in a family of seven children, writing about siblings—brothers, specifically—and large families is kind of my thing. The danger of writing these big-family romances is that I become attached to my characters and never want to let them go. This is why my Love in Bloom series is the umbrella for five family subseries so far, with two more planned for the future. Characters from each family appear in future subseries, which is not only exciting for me, but it gives fans a chance to read about the growth of characters after they’ve reached their happily ever afters.

Jealousies, secrets, trust, and loyalty all come into play in real-life families, and bringing those challenges to life for my fans in a realistic way is one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of writing big-family romance novels. Large families often have significant issues that those outside of the family rarely see, and since most of my characters tend to have emotionally rooted barriers rather than typical tropes of conflicting goals, I explore rich backstories with intimate, and often conflicting, relationships between siblings and parents.

While it’s important to know a character’s image and style, who a character is goes far deeper than physical appearances. We must understand what their lives were like before the story begins—from the schools they’ve attended to their previous relationships with friends and lovers and the emotional scars endured—and the ones they’ve left behind. Characters’ failures and successes help to form their fears and insecurities as well as their confidence, and each plays a major role in their development as an adult.

Understanding the roles between family members and how they will grow and change over the life of the series is also imperative in family romances. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but overcoming them within a family circle is vital in order to move forward as confident alpha heroes and smart, sexy heroines of romance novels. It would be easy to gloss over the families and make them happy-go-lucky, but that would not reflect real life, and I’m all about reality. The relationships we have with our siblings as teenagers are not the same as the ones we have as adults, and I try to bring those changing dynamics into the story. Although I have to admit that while certain parts of those relationships change, others never do—like the teasing and wrestling that goes on between brothers even as grown men.

For those of you who are wondering, no, my brothers do not mirror my heroes. However, at times in their lives, they certainly have played the parts. My older brothers were quick to come to my defense as teenagers, and they were just as quick to lock me in the basement with the crickets when I was too short to reach the light switch.

Creating large families isn’t about creating perfect, beautiful people. It’s about creating beautifully flawed characters with believable bonds that stand the test of time and provide a solid foundation for when a member of the family needs it most. My Snow Sisters, Bradens, Remingtons, Ryders, and even my Seaside Summers characters (who have become a family among friends) were all developed with that in mind. And, of course, family loyalty is a big theme in all of my books, because as Hal Braden reminds us often, family knows no boundaries.

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Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Rosanna Chiofalo

Wrapping up our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1, part 2, part 3). Last but not least is Rosanna Chiofalo with her recipe for fried honey balls. Her latest work can be found in the holiday collaboration, When the Snow Falls.

WhenthesnowfallsRosanna Chiofalo’s Fried Honey Balls (also known as Pignolata or Struffoli)

Every year for Christmas I helped my mother make Fried Honey Balls. In my Sicilian dialect, they’re called Pignolata, but many Italians also know the golden balls coated in honey and adorned with colorful confetti as Struffoli. Whatever you call them, the appearance of these gumball-sized fried pieces of dough signify Christmas, and can be found in many Italian American bakeries during the season.

Cooking and baking was one way for my family and me to share the food from our culture, along with the other customs surrounding the holiday. In addition to special dishes, another custom my we shared while I was growing up was playing cards for pennies after our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve—just the way my character Bianca Simone and her family gather to play cards in my novella “Seven Days of Christmas.”

Last year I decided to finally take on the challenge of making Pignolata to continue my mother’s tradition, especially now she’s older and does not bake or cook as much for the holidays. The gods of baking were with me, not only did my Pignolata come out great, but my husband even thought it was better than my mother’s! Shhh! Don’t tell my mother!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and share it with your loved ones during the holiday season!

Rosanna Chiofalo    

Fried Honey Balls

(also known as “Pignolata” or “Struffoli”)

DOUGH

3 eggs

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, add extra if needed

Vegetable oil for frying

SYRUP

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 ½ cups honey

Colored candy sprinkles

To make the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk, then beat in the sugar, salt, and oil. Sift in the flour, and with a wooden spoon, mix to form soft, but not sticky, dough. Add a bit more flour if the dough is sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes (until the dough has a smooth consistency). Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll, one at a time, into ropes about ½-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut each rope into ½-inch pieces, and transfer the pieces onto a lightly floured baking sheet, separating them so they don’t stick to one another. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rest while you heat the oil.

In a large, deep, heavy saucepan or pot, heat 3-inches of oil to 350⁰ (use a deep-fry or candy thermometer). Fry a handful of the pieces of dough at a time in the hot oil, stirring with a wooden spoon so they brown evenly, until they are a deep golden brown, for about 3 minutes. Resist the temptation to add too many pieces of dough to the hot oil as this will lower the temperature of the cooking oil. Drain the fried pieces of dough on paper towels.

To make the syrup:

In a large pot or deep frying pan, bring the water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the honey. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the little balls, stirring to coat them evenly with the syrup. Be careful while working with this syrup. It is very, very hot. Continue to cook and stir for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the balls have absorbed some of the syrup and look glazed. Be sure not to let the syrup get too dark. Turn the balls of dough onto a large platter. Using a metal spoon dipped in water, form the balls into a pyramid. Add sprinkles.

Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Lin Stepp

Continuing our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1, part 2). Up next is Lin Stepp, author of the Smoky Mountain series. Her latest work can be found in the holiday collaboration, When the Snow Falls.

WhenthesnowfallsIn my short novel A Smoky Mountain Gift, Veda Trent makes up a recipe of her Aunt Rita Jean’s Christmas Cookies with the eager and excited help of eight year-old Pamela.  They cut out sugar cookie shapes of trees, stars, ornaments, snowmen, Santas, and reindeer, and then lavishly decorate the baked cookies with colored icings, candy sprinkles, silver balls, and cinnamon dots.  The book’s happy scene reminds Veda of loving times with her Aunt Rita Jean baking cookies in the same farmhouse kitchen. The scene also brings back memories of my childhood days making sugar cookies with my mother and of later decorating warm, fragrant cookies with my own eager, excited children … The recipe below from mountain storyteller Rita Jean O’Neill is also my recipe passed down from my mother.

 

        RITA JEAN’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Ingredients:

2/3 cup solid shortening                            

3/4 cup sugar                                                           

1 tsp vanilla                                                  

1 egg

4 tsp milk

2 cups plain flour

1/ 4 tsp salt

1 and 1/ 2 tsp baking power                                                             

Directions:

Thoroughly cream shortening, sugar, and vanilla by hand.  Add egg. Beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in milk. Sift together dry ingredients – flour, salt, and baking powder – and blend into creamed mixture. Chill for one hour; then roll out the dough 1/ 8 inch thick on lightly floured counter. Cut with Christmas cookie cutters.

Bake cookies 6-8 minutes at 375 degrees.  Cool slightly, and then remove. 

Decorate with colored icings and add assorted sprinkles, silver balls, cinnamon dots and decorative outlining as desired. … And above all, have fun!!!    

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