Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Suzanne Stengl’s On the Way to a Wedding. I adored this book and read it in one sitting.
What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? Aunt Tizzy’s Brandied Peaches (scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe) fits the bill on the both counts. Aunt Tizzy, who figures prominently in the book, is the lovable relative everyone wishes they had. The aunt who loves to spike the wedding punch and gives the bride-to-be a racy shower gift. 😉
And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …
Amazon.com: On the Way to a Wedding
Suzanne Stengl’s Website: http://www.suzannestengl.com/
Ryder O’Callaghan finds Toria Whitney on the side of a forest road with a totaled car, a sprained ankle, and a wedding dress. Both Ryder and Toria are scheduled to be married in three weeks—but not to each other.
Ryder’s pride has him hell bent on proving a point to his father. He’s building an estate home and marrying a sophisticated society girl.
Toria is running scared. She’s called off her wedding to the man her parents approve, and she needs time and space to discover what she really wants. The last thing she needs is the overwhelming attraction she feels for Ryder.
And Ryder, confident in his conviction that love is overrated, denies his surprising fascination for his roadside damsel in distress.
But sometimes love arrives in the most unexpected places.
A 66,000 word novel – Coming of Age, Sweet Contemporary Romance – some Adult Language – features a lovable construction worker who occasionally curses when in the grip of powerful emotions, like when he duels with the heroine or hits his thumb with a hammer.
EXCERPT: ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING
The headlights gleamed over the wet gravel. Rain pelted the truck. And the temperature had dropped. The way his luck was going, this would turn to hail. A chunk of gravel loosened from the edge of the road and dropped into the stream of water flowing through the ditch. At least they were moving to higher ground.
The cabin was supposed to be at the end of this road. But how much farther? And why did it have to rain now? Sure, they needed rain. But why now, for Chrissake?
He gripped the steering wheel and downshifted, scanning the roadside, looking for the lane. They had to be close. Pro had told him?
Good. There it was. The headlights lit up the crooked sign, nailed to a tree. Road’s Inn, it said. This road’s end. The sign was flapping in the wind.
He drove into a short lane and reached a narrow parking area sprinkled with gravel. According to Pro, the cabin was about a hundred feet ahead at the end of a curving dirt path.
Rain hammered over the truck, like it was trying to get inside.
They could just stay put. Stay in the truck. Because if they tried to make it to the cabin, they were going to get wet. Never mind wet. They were going to get soaked.
But—he turned to look at her—she wasn’t getting any warmer. Even with the heater on full, her teeth were still chattering. If they could get to the cabin, he could build a fire. And there would be food in the cabin. He could make her something hot to drink.
“Why are we stopped?”
“Where is here?”
“There’s a cabin here.”
“There is?” She stared out the windshield, trying to see.
So they’d get wet, and cold. But they couldn’t stay in the truck all night. He turned off the ignition, darkness closed over them, and he reached under his seat.
For his flashlight.
Except it wasn’t his flashlight. One of his framers had borrowed his mag light, again, and left this piece of crap. He pulled out the small replacement light and clicked it on. A pale orange glow.
“What’s the matter?”
Everything. The rain. The road. This unexpected passenger. The wedding, his business. His life.
“Slide over here.”
He took her running shoe out of her hands and set it on the dash.
“You can’t c-carry me. Not far.”
“You can’t walk.”
She picked up her shoe. “I c-can sort of w-walk,” she said, teeth chattering. She reached in her shoe, pulled the sock out and shoved it into the pocket of his jacket. Then she started to ease the running shoe over her bandaged foot.
With eyes squeezed shut, she tugged the shoe on. Then she loosely tied the lace. Her hands were shaking and her fingers looked stiff.
“Okay, I—I’m ready.”
Stamina, if nothing else. No brains, but stamina. He felt for the key in his pocket. Pro had given him the key. This was one of Pro’s stupider ideas.
“Do you want your c-coat?”
“No. I’ll get wet anyway.”
“Come on.” He opened the door and stepped into the cold dark rain. The icy wet stung his face and neck. In a few seconds his clothes were drenched.
She slid down next to him, standing on her right foot. Her arm, tentative at first, slipped around his waist. Her hair blew over his throat and her body trembled against his.
He shoved the truck door and heard it latch. Then he put his right arm around her and aimed the dying flashlight at the cabin. He could barely see the path.
With the rain and the wind slamming into his skin, the mud sucked at his boots. She kept her arm around his waist, trying to put weight on her damaged foot.
At least she tried for about three steps. With each step, her whole body tensed. She let herself lean on him more and hopped with her good foot. The mud was slippery. She’d have fallen if he hadn’t been holding her.
They were halfway up the path, when he noticed the mud wasn’t sucking him down anymore. He pointed the flashlight onto the path where the dim light showed interlocking bricks, covered in puddles. Rain peppered the bricks and the wind blasted waves over the water.
And then the flashlight oozed out.
“This way,” she said.
They stumbled forward, in the direction of the cabin. At least he could tell he was walking on bricks. All he had to do was follow the bricks, because he couldn’t see a damn thing.
He could hear though. The wind, the trees swinging and creaking, and . . . water flowing, like they were near a stream?
The eaves troughs. He could hear them, overflowing, splashing down.
“Here,” she said, pausing.
He felt with his boot until he touched the first step of the porch directly in front of him.
He pulled her tighter against his side and lifted her up the step, and then up a second step. And then they were on the porch and out of the rain.
A loud clap of thunder boomed overhead at the same time as a wavering flash of lightning illuminated the door in front of him. Then all was dark again.
Holding the dead flashlight in his hand, he reached for the door and touched it, tapping, metal against wood. Then, still holding the useless light, he felt with the backs of his fingers for the door knob, and the key hole.
She had both her arms around him, like she was trying to press against his warmth. She was shivering, a lot, and she wasn’t letting go.
“I have to get the key,” he said.
She seemed to realize what she was doing, let go of him and moved away. He heard her, hopping toward the door.
Carefully, he took the key out of his jeans pocket and found the lock again. This key had better work.
It did. The wind swung the door open, crashing it inside. He reached out to find her, touched her shoulder, and waited for her to hop into the entrance. Then he followed her inside and closed the door, pushing against the wind. The latch snicked shut and they were out of the storm, standing in complete darkness. His clothes were soaked, and he was cold, and tired, and hungry.
He could hear her, close by, her teeth chattering. Outside, the wind howled and the trees shrieked, but in here, the cabin was quiet and still. Except for the sound of her teeth chattering, and his heart pounding in his ears.
He leaned his forehead against the door, took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
She must have found a chair near the door. He could hear it scraping over the floor as she moved it.
“Is there a table beside you?” Maybe she could feel it. She couldn’t see any better than he could.
She didn’t say anything. Then he heard the rasp of a match and saw the sudden flare of its light. She’d found the matches that Pro had said would be on the table by the door. There was a lantern too. But her hand was shaking so badly the match flickered out.
Maybe he should have left her in the truck until he’d got the fire started.
“I’ll do it,” he said. He felt her ice cold hand take his as she pressed the match box into his palm.
“This way,” she said, setting the box so it was right side up. He felt for a match, lit it, and saw her taking the globe off the lantern. She slid the lantern toward him, he lit the wick, and then took the globe out of her hands and replaced it.
Soft light filled the cold room. Outside, the storm raged, emphasizing the quiet of the cabin. But the lantern’s light made it seem—somehow—warmer.
And maybe if he’d left her in the truck, she wouldn’t have stayed.
She was sitting on the chair beside the table. Her hair was dripping and the jacket she was wearing, his jacket, was plastered to her shivering body. She bent down, and with fumbling fingers she started untying her running shoe. The one on her injured foot. She carefully pulled off the muddy shoe and dropped it on the floor. Then she started plucking at the laces on her other shoe.
Good idea. He got out of his own boots. They were covered in mud but his feet were dry—the only part of him that was dry.
He picked up the matches from the table and walked across the room to the stove, a pot-bellied black stove with a glass door. Next to it, a brass bin held wood and kindling and old, yellowed newspapers. Kneeling in front of the stove, he clinked the door open and—thank you Pro—wood and kindling were laid inside. He lit a match, held it to the kindling, and watched as the fire caught and leapt and spread over the logs. Then he creaked the stove door shut, stood up, and turned around.
She was still sitting on the chair by the door. Her teeth were still chattering and her hair was still dripping.
“Take off your clothes.”
AUTHOR BIO: SUZANNE STENGL
“When I was a child, I shared a bedroom with three of my younger sisters. I used to tell them stories to help them fall asleep. Sometimes, they fell asleep before the stories ended and, unaware, I would keep telling the story, until my mother called up the stairs. “Sue? They’ve gone to sleep.” And then I would quietly finish the story in my head.
I didn’t start writing down my stories until much later. In my last year of university, I collected all the reports from my Marketing Group and wrote up our study like a novel. My classmates liked it, and so did the prof.
Eventually, I found a little two-line invitation to a romance writers organization in the back of the Writers Guild magazine, and I showed up. I had found my people.” Suzanne Stengl writes Sweet Contemporary Romance. Her other title include, ANGEL WINGS and GHOSTLY TREASURE.
Aunt Tizzy’s Brandied Peaches
4 pounds ripe peaches
4 pounds white sugar
3 cups water
1 pint brandy or more, your favourite flavour.
Have about 4 pint jars, lids, rings ready – clean and sterilized. You might need more depending on the size of your peaches.
Blanch your peaches.
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
Score each peach with a little “x” and carefully add it to the boiling water.
Leave it there for about a minute or until the skin splits.
Remove the peach and drop it in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes.
When the peaches are cool enough to handle, peel, pit and quarter them.
Meanwhile, in another large pot, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the peaches. Simmer until soft, about 5 minutes.
Carefully layer peaches into each jar. Use a knife to release any air bubbles.
Boil the remaining syrup until it slightly thickens, then add the brandy. Remove from heat.
Spoon over the peaches, until there is ¼ inch of headroom. Add seals and lids.
Process in a boiling water bath. In Calgary, I do it for 20 minutes. Consult your canning guide for the appropriate time for your altitude.
When the appropriate processing time is done, turn off the heat, remove the cover, and after about 5 minutes remove the jars. Line them up on the counter to cool and do not move them for at least 6 hours. Listen for the pop.
Then after 6 hours, check each seal. Store for up to a year, and hide from Toria.