Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review of The Queen's Gambit by Diane A. S. Stuckart

Diane Stuckart's debut effort featuring Leonardo da Vinci as sleuth extraordinaire is a pleasing cozy mystery. Set in the late fifteenth century at the cast of the duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza, The Queen's Gambit is told in first person from the perspective of Dino, a young apprentice of Leonardo's. The reader soon discovers that Dino is actually Delfina della Fazia, a young woman in disguise. Running away from a life of wife-hood to a man much older than her, Delfina transforms herself into Dino and disappears to Milan. It is impossible for a female to become an apprentice painter, especially to one as renowned as da Vinci. Painting has become her passion and her downfall as a young woman.

The story opens during a break in a live chess match and Dino has stumbled upon the body of the duke's cousin Orlando, the young Conte di Ferraro. He/she reports the crime to the Master, who instantly puts his amazing intellect and some of his fascinating inventions to work solving the mystery.

To the chagrin of the other apprentices, Dino is at the Master's side almost constantly during the investigation. In spite of all her efforts, Delfina's gender is discovered by the local tailor but she manages to negotiate the man's silence, which works in her favor when she is nearly killed when she gets too close to two of the suspects in the conte's murder.

Having a young woman disguised as a man is an interesting choice for sleuth but it may lie in the author's protection of da Vinci. In her author notes, she touches upon suggestions that the Master was gay, but decided to keep his sexuality in question in the story. It could be that Stuckart address this by having da Vinci show more than a passing interest in an apprentice, subconsciously attracted to, unbeknownst to him is actually a beautiful young woman, thus preserving the Master's reputation. Delfina is attracted to the Master, depicted here as a handsome, muscular man, unaware of the raw magnetic sexuality he exudes.

The pains Delfina takes to preserve her identity tend to become amusing at best, but annoying at worst. Occasionally it borders on tiresome.

What doesn't fail to entertain are the glimpses into the genius of Leonardo da Vinci as Delfina/Dino describes various projects, the artistic abilities and the thought processes of the Master. Stuckart even takes a light-hearted swipe at Dan Brown as if his research into Leonardo was lacking.

It's refreshing to see Leonardo da Vinci come alive in this wonderful debut.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Fudge!

This is an awesome recipe from  (Be sure to follow the directions to the letter though)


2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white chocolate chips
7 ounces marshmallow creme
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1.Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil, and set aside.

2.In a 3 quart saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

3.Mix in pumpkin puree and cinnamon; bring back to a boil. Stir in marshmallow creme and butter. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 18 minutes.

4.Remove from heat, and add white chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until creamy and all chips are melted. Pour into prepared pan. Cool, remove from pan, and cut into squares. Store in a cool, dry place.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Revenge: from the Master's Dungeon series available Nov 25!

The latest chapter in the Master Mike and mutt series, Master's Dungeon will be available from loveyoudivine Alterotica on November 25!

A former slave of Master Mike’s is back and now a Master himself.  But he still harbors a grudge against Mike for selling him off years ago.  Now he’s out for revenge!


“I was angry for a very long time,” Master Bert said. “But I came to realize that You did Me a favor. I realized that I was more inclined to be a Master than a slave.”

"That would certainly make a lot of sense," Master Mike responded. "You had an opinion on nearly everything I did and weren't afraid of voicing it."

Bert chuckled and took a drink of His beer. "That should've been My first clue."

"And mine," Master Mike muttered.

Master Bert laughed again. This time it didn't seem natural, more like it was forced. It sounded obsequious to my ears. Was He trying to convince master His anger had subsided simply to placate Him? Why after all this time? Was He nervous? Was He sweating?

i shook my head to clear my thoughts and stop imagining things. my canine persona always brought out the guard dog in me and i was on alert for any threat to Master. But it seemed my imagination was running amok. There wasn't any danger here, was there?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review of The Stroke of Midnight by Wayne Mansfield

Mansfield’s collection of gay horror/erotica contains something for just about everyone, including those who may not always enjoy a spooky tale, from the good ol’ standards with vampires and werewolves (Shadows and Light; The Wolf at the Door), to sea-faring tales (Sea Daemon; The Ghost Ship), to science fiction (Exiled to Tansa) and the delightfully creepy Dead Hungry.

Mansfield knows how to spin great tales and can also keep the sex scenes fresh story after story.

My favorite Stranger on a Stormy Night is a chilling tale of a man who, after a night of unbridled passion, realizes how a momentary drop in his guard marked him for survival. The story is scary but the sex is warm and gentle.

However the sex is anything but in The Ghost Ship. For fans of multiple partner/gang bang scenes, this one is sure to please. It takes plunderin’ for booty to a whole new level.

The only misfire was The Heart’s Desire, a story about a disgruntled writer’s search for love. Maybe Mansfield is getting something off his chest.   :{D-

Overall, in The Stroke of Midnight, the stories are great and the sex is hot!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Turkey Chili - Recipe

This may not sound appetizing but wait until you taste it!  I couldn't find any pictures of this dish that didn't have beans in it.  This recipe has no beans in it but you can certainly add them if you want to give it a different flavor. 

I've taken this to work for pot-luck dinners and had to distribute the recipe to my co-workers.  Enjoy!


2 tbs vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow pepper
2 cloves garlic, mined
2 pounds ground turkey
2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
4 cpus pumpkin puree
3 tbs chili powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion, green bell pepper, yellow bell pepper and garlic until tender.

Stir in the turkey and cook until evenly brown.

Drain and mix in tomatoes and pumpkin. 

Season with chili powder, pepper and salt.

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream (on the top or on the side)

Review of Saturnalia by John Maddox Roberts

Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger is one hero/sleuth who gets to be more fun with each book in John Maddox Roberts' ancient Rome mystery series.  When we last saw Decius, he was bound hand and foot on a ship, being sent into exile by his family, who had become too embarrassed by his antics.  In first century BC Rome, this is no small feat.  Actually, it was Decius' unmitigated gall to confront people far more powerful than him with their wrong-doings and somehow survive.  His exile was partly to protect him.

His family is too well-aware of his ability to solve mysteries, due to his indefatigable curiosity and propensity to investigate the unknown.  They retrieve him from exile when a relative dies under mysterious circumstances and they want Decius to ferret out his murderer.  As with everything those days in Rome, it all comes down to politics.  His deceased kinsman was married to Clodia, a powerful, wealthy and dangerous woman, who is the sister of Clodius, Decius' sworn mortal enemy.

The Metelli want him to find Clodia as the poisoner, but in a bizarre move that stuns even the unflappable Decius, Clodius declares a truce and asks him to clear his sister's name.  Clodius is about to start a year of tribuneship, a very good year for Decius to be absent from Rome, and a scandal could mar his term.  Politics.

All this comes about on the eve of Saturnalia, one of the most joyous, rambunctious celebrations of unbridled revelry of the Roman year. 

For once, Decius moderates his intake of alcohol and is the much better for is.  His knack for getting into trouble is outweighed by his luck in getting out of it, but just barely.  He stumbles onto a coven of witches, celebrating an ancient, forbidden rite.  Only Decius could be insulted when told he isn't good enough to become their human sacrifice.

There's more than just mystery in Saturnalia, the fifth of the series.  Decius is party to many discussion on Caius Julius Caesar's plan to conquer Gaul and Germany, a move his enemies and opponents applaud since they believe it will be the end of him.  Decius also has an interesting conversation on foreign and Roman religions with Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Roberts takes the reader into the wild revelry of Saturnalia with fashions, parties and shenanigans that make it sound like an ancient Mardi Gras.  It feels like a time when, despite its horrors, it was good to be alive.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Triple-Layer Pumpkin Spice Pie (easy as pie!)

I love pumpkin and I am so excited when the holidays come because it's an excuse to eat anything and everything I can find pumpkin to eat.  I didn't realize that JELL-O made a pumpkin spice pudding so I snatched some up.  Next to it was a flyer with two recipes on it for making desserts with JELL-O pumpkin spice pudding.  I made the first one Triple-Layer Pumpkin Spice Cake and it was pretty yummy!  (and easy to make, too)

I like a little more cinnamon in my recipes so I'm added more than what the recipe called for.  But the recipe also said makes 10 servings.  I finished it in four. 


2     cups cold milk
2     pkg (4-serving size each) JELL-O Pumpkin Spice Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
1/4  tsp. ground cinnamon
1     tub (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed
1     graham pie crust
1/2  cup Pecan halves
1     Tbsp. honey

Beat milk, dry pudding mixes and cinnamon with wire whisk until well blended.
Spread 1/ 1/2 cups onto the bottom of the crust.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the whipped topping to remaining pudding mixture; stir gently.
Spoon over layer in crust; top with remaining whpped topping.

Refrigerate 1 hour:  Meanwhile, cook pecans and honey in skillet on medium-low heat 2 to 4 minuts or until pecans are caramelize, separating large clusters.  Cool.  Sprinkle over pie just before serving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review of A Spy for the Redeemer by Candace Robb

The seventh novel in Candace Robb’s Owen Archer series, A Spy for the Redeemer, is an extension of the story in A Gift of Sanctuary. Owen is still in his home country of Wales after the death of his father-in-law after the conclusion of his pilgrimage.

His wife Lucie remains in York with little communication from him and left wondering when he will return. Brother Michaelo, who accompanied Sir Robert and Owen on their pilgrimage to St. David’s, has returned and given Lucie the sad news of her father’s passing. But she is reassured that Sir Robert completed his quest and died in peace.

Owen longs to return to his family but he has commissioned a tomb for Sir Robert. Before it can be completed, the mason dies of an apparent suicide. Owen soon discovers it was murder. The ambitious, unscrupulous bishop of St. David’s charges Owen to find out who murdered the mason, fearing a connection with a Welsh leader with sympathies with the French king, against Edward III.

Lucie is dealing with problems of her own. Since her father’s death, she is the heir of his substantial estate. A local busybody has accused Lucie of negligence that nearly cost her life. And York is rife with rumors that Owen may be tempted to stay in Wales forever. During a visit to her father’s home, the manor is attacked and Lucie suspects someone inside the estate may be in cahoots with the raiders. Without Owen and not knowing if he’ll ever return, she turns to good-looking and recently widowed Roger Moreton and his handsome, mysterious steward Harold Galfrey.

What made A Gift of Sanctuary an intriguing read is the amazing depiction of Owen’s internal conflict concerning his loyalty to his king and duke, and to his people, suffering at the hands of the English. In A Spy for the Redeemer, Owen still struggles with those questions, but his love for Lucie and missing her after all this time adds another element to the mix, muddling his thoughts even more.

Lucie is also conflicted in her faithfulness to Owen and the very present Roger Moreton and Harold Galfrey. Her adopted son jasper feels she is becoming too close to them and Lucie is shocked when she realizes he may be right.

At some points, both mysteries, the murder of the masoner and the conspirator inside Sir Robert’s estate, become muddled and confusing. It’s difficult to see who’s loyalties lie where as Owen seems to be watched and questioned by everyone including his own men.

I think I shall read this one again. The details are what bring the fourteenth century to life but for those of us not familiar with Welsh history, they can be confusing and cloud the story. Still I’d recommend this to any mystery fan.  It's certainly good enough to read a second time!