Dinner and a Good Book: On the Way to a Wedding by Suzanne Stengl

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.


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?”

“We’re here.”

“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.”


“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.



Dinner and a Good Book: Devin’s Second Chance by Lorraine Paton

Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This weekend curl up with Lorraine Paton’s Devin’s Second Chance. Everyone deserves a second chance. Does Devin? His mom thinks so, but does Claire?

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? This blog post is going live during the peak of grilling season. We grilled steaks last night and had a couple leftover that will work just perfectly in this Steak Tortilla recipe.  And the leftover mangos we had for dessert would re-purpose well in a Mango Smoothie.   Sometimes the second time around is even better. 😉

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …


Get your copy of Devin’s Second Chance

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DevinsSecondChance_LorrainePaton_KindleCowboy Devin Trent can’t believe his matchmaking mom is trying to set him up with Claire Best, the photographer at the local art gallery.  She should know better than anyone why he doesn’t deserve a second chance at love. What surprises him even more is that he is drawn to Claire and she seems interested in him, too. Their mutual attraction grows every time they see one another, but when he suspects Claire is keeping a secret he becomes wary. After all, his first marriage was ruined by secrets and lies. Can Devin earn Claire’s trust? Or, will Claire’s secret end their relationship before it begins?


Devin stared at Claire and cursed. Why the hell was she here? No, he could figure that out well enough. His mother and her schemes were going to kill him. Tonight, the minute he got home, he’d be sitting down with his darling meddling mother and they’d have a long chat about how she was going to quit interfering.

Claire had cringed when she saw him, then she glanced away. Her reaction was exactly what he would have expected. She’d told him clearly enough he was an ass the last time they’d been together. He’d had his hand in her pants, and she’d told him to get lost. That was pretty damn clear.

When she looked at him a second time, he motioned for her to come down. He probably should go up there and explain things, but she was sitting in front of Hanna May, the busiest busybody on the circuit. That woman didn’t miss many rodeos and she certainly never missed any gossip. His mother had probably planned that, too.

Claire took a deep breath, then nodded. When she stood, Devin had to drag his gaze away. She was wearing a snug T-shirt and jeans, displaying her tight little body. Making him think about things he really shouldn’t…couldn’t. He was not going to gawk at her breasts pressing against the thin material.

He wasn’t.


LorrainePatonI’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of wonderful things in my life… and plan to do a lot more!

During my adventures, I’ve learned about:

  • patience when searching for Nessie from Urquhart Castle,
  • exhilaration when landing a Cessna during my one flying lesson,
  • curiosity of the exotic while wilting on a trip down the Belize River,
  • discovery during an archaeological dig in Italy,
  • stage fright while being interviewed for an article on writing romance,
  • nature while sailing in the Gulf Islands with marine biologists,
  • leisure when soaking in the hot springs in Banff National Park,
  • team work as President of the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association,
  • seizing the opportunity when climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa,
  • opulence when celebrating New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas,
  • history when going on a ghost tour in Edinburgh, and
  • sex when visiting the brothel paintings that were preserved in Pompeii. 😉


I’ve loved writing since I was a little girl, and, over the last decade or so, I’ve been making writing a priority in my life.

So I figured that if I could let go of an airplane wing with only a parachute on my back and a one-way radio strapped to my front, I should be able to let go of my stories and send them out into the world.

Dinner & a Good Book: Julian’s Chance by Jessica L Jackson

Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This weekend curl up with Jessica L. Jackson’s Julian’s Chance.  Every man wants a beautiful angel; Julian Gath is about to get one. 

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? I definitely recommend this Fallen Angel from Imbibe Magazine, made with creme de menthe and gin. And to eat? This book begs angel food cake so … we have a long line of raspberry bushes against the side of our house and I’m thinkin’ this Raspberry Fool with Toasted Angel Food Cake from Bon Appetit will be a must-try this summer.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …

Cover_Julians Chance

On Amazon: Julian’s Chance
Jessica’s Website: http://www.jessicaleolajackson.com/
Jessica on Facebook

“I’m telling you straight out now, honey, that I’m the most selfish bastard you will ever know.”

Gabriella is returning to Earth with a new assignment. She’s to help Julian Gath learn how to love. She’ll be reborn as a mortal and only come into the knowledge of who she is—an angel—on her twenty-fifth birthday. When she completes her mission, she will return to Heaven. That is the way of things for angels for she proved her worthiness many lifetimes before. This is Julian’s chance to prove his.

But, the moment her eyes are open, she knows that this mission is different for her. The love she feels for this powerful, compelling man goes far beyond the charitable love she usually has for her charges. He makes her yearn for life…

Julian Gath wants Gabriella. To him, she radiates something pure and good. He has to have her—to feel as if all that goodness is working in his favor. Something in his life has to be right and good. No matter what it takes, he will win her for his own. He will not love her, however, because love is a weak, useless emotion that does not last. She will be the one bright star shining in his shadowy world…



Most have just one opportunity to don mortal bodies, to determine what this strange new life could teach them. Some noble and valiant spirits return again and again, living only until some important point has adjusted in the favor of the Father, stealing away an advantage from the lost spirits whose sole goal is to destroy every mortal’s chance at eternal joy.

A soft cough sounded and Gabriella looked up from her studies of the intricate DNA combinations necessary to create an earthworm. Her supervisor smiled and bustled into her chamber.

“How are the studies going, hmm?”

Gabriella leaned back to allow Marta to look at her work. A soft sigh escaped her lips before she could contain it. With Marta here, clearly another assignment awaited. Not that she minded, precisely, but she felt herself to be at the brink of a true understanding of DNA. The knowledge hovered just out of her reach, teasing her. Perhaps, after this assignment, she would be able to easily take hold of the figurative brass ring, for with each rebirth, life, and death, came greater clarity of understanding.

“Almost there, almost there.” Marta patted Gabriella’s slender arm and settled her plump self into a nearby chair. Her brown eyes, usually so merry, contained the serious light that confirmed Gabriella’s suspicions. “His name is Julian Gath and he will need to learn how to love. On the dawn of your twenty-fifth birthday, you will come to a remembrance of your mission…”

Dinner & a Good Book: Never Pick a Pretty Woman by Mary M. Forbes

Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Mary M. Forbe’s Never Pick a Pretty WomanSophie Donnelly is looking for a home, a husband and children; Jake McCallum needs a wife to help with his ranch. 

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? Unfortunately, Sophie can’t cook, but I’m betting even she could handle these delicious choices.  Shortrib Sandwiches courtesy of The Pioneer Woman, washed down with a strong cuppa coffee … Cowboy Coffee from Michael Smith at the Food Network.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …
Never Pick a Pretty Woman_Cover
Amazon.com: Never Pick a Pretty Woman
Mary M. Forbes’s  Website:   http://marymforbes.wordpress.com





Sophie cupped her face in her hands, elbows digging into her upper legs and rocked. Her legs and arms trembled. Surely something would come to her. Then it did. She wanted to go back home. She wanted to see her mom. Her mom, her only real true friend, would have the right answers.  Her mom would help her.

She sensed a presence beside her. Someone crouched nearby.  Somebody brushed her arm with a hand. But she dared not look, so sure it would be Dennis. Dennis must never realize how much he hurt her.  She couldn’t give him that satisfaction. Besides she might well start punching that smug know-it-all face.

“What can I do to help you?

Her head whipped around and her green eyes widened in shock. This wasn’t Dennis. This apparition appeared to be a cowboy in her dreams.  His eyes were narrowed, sultry and dark with long black lashes to match his short dark hair. A cowboy hat was tilted back to reveal his incredible features. His eyes suddenly widened in surprise when he saw her face, then dropped to the ground.  He swore. Perplexed, she wanted to ask him what that was about. Before she had the chance, she noticed he was dangling the straps of her sandals with one finger.

“Prince Charming?” Light banter slipped easily inside. Something familiar and calming.

“You want your shoes back little princess?”

He smiled. It took her a moment to compose herself. His smile was breathtaking and vaguely familiar. Had she met him somewhere? No, surely she would remember if she had.


Born and bred on  western stories by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, I grew up in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan.  Although modern life intervened, I soon realized the similarities between my life and North American western past. From riding horses, playing cowboys and Indians with real Indians combined with the scenery of vast, open prairies and endless horizons I was living my dream.


Dinner & a Good Book: Katya Binks Came Home From Away by Mahrie Reid

Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This weekend curl up with Mahrie G. Reid’s Katya Binks Came Home From Away. It’s set in the fictional Nova Scotia community of Caleb Cove and, as such, is part of the Caleb Cove series Mahrie writes.

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? This Lobster Chowder from Nova Scotia Tourism is fabulously simple. Ditto for this Lunenburg Lemonade from Taste of Nova Scotia.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …

Katya Binks Came Home From AwayLINKS
Amazon.com: Katya Binks Came Home From Away
Mahrie G Reid’s  Website:   www.mahriegreid.com

Kelsey Maxwell searches for her birth father and walks into an investigation with dead bodies and a knife wielding maniac. Not what she had in mind when she started her quest. She teams up with ex-cop Sam Logan to evade a kidnap attempt, the killer and, in the end, the police. As the stakes rise, she may have to shoot to kill in order to save her birth father. Will she get a chance to know him? And what about the sexy Sam Logan? No matter what happens, her life is changed forever.



Kelsey added a frown to the finger wag. “Whatever you heard, if Dad wanted you to know, he’d have invited you to the meeting. To talk about it is gossiping.”

“Andy asked Dad, and I quote, for your hand in marriage.”

Kelsey spit coffee. “What.” Forget the no-gossip rule. This involved her. She grabbed a napkin and wiped up the coffee spatter.

“Figured you might feel like that.” Brock grinned. “I know how it is with Becky and me,” he said and blushed. “and I never got the idea you and Andy were like that.”

“No bloody way,” Kelsey said. “We work together. We’ve gone to company parties and movies. But that’s it.” She sliced a hand through the air. “Period. End of sentence. End of story.” What possessed Andy to think she’d marry him?

Brock snorted. “Well, Andy never did mention love and Dad never asked. They talked about you becoming a partner at the firm and about Andy and you helping run the ranch. The benefits of you two getting married. That type of thing. The conversation held all the charm of selling a prized heifer.”

Top 10 Literacy Spoilers for Kids

Originally published at CanadianLiving.com

A staggering 22 per cent of adult Canadians have serious difficulty reading and understanding any printed material and experts draw a clear line between low literacy and lower incomes.

In 1999, ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation(TM) launched a family literacy day to draw awareness to the importance of family reading and learning. According to ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation(TM) president and CEO Christine Featherstone, being actively involved in your child’s literacy is much simpler than people may think.

For tips on how to encourage reading and literacy skill in your own family, check out the easy antidotes to common literacy spoilers below. 

1. Treating reading like a chore. Reading can be a magical escape into the lives and worlds beyond your own but it can become a chore if you don’t make it fun for your children. With a little forethought and planning, reluctant readers can be transformed into enthusiastic adventurers into the magical land of the written word. 

2. Expecting your kids to read without being a reader yourself. Are you a good reading role model? Kids are sensitive to our values and if you don’t see reading as fun and enjoyable, chances are your kids won’t either. 

3. Overlooking routine opportunities to read. Reading skills can be sharpened by everyday activities like reading cereal boxes and the liner notes on a favourite CD. Double up on the learning curve by letting your child pick out dinner recipes and then helping you prepare a special meal. Rediscover the magic of a bedtime story. 

4. Watching too much television. Turn off the tube and turn on to afterschool reading. But also recognize the tool that television can be. Many books have been adapted to movies or television shows. Read the book; watch the program. Or pair a favourite show with its counterpart in reading material. If your child shows an interest in science fiction, suggest a book in that genre. 

5. Not having books in your house. Make books readily available in your house by setting up a personal library in your child’s room with a collection of his or her favourite books. Make a comfortable and inviting spot to read somewhere in the house. 

6. Pressuring your child to read. Do you push your children to read? Be aware of how much tension you’re imposing on your child and think about how doing so affects his or her attitude towards books. 

7. Failing to nurture the art of storytelling. Make storytelling an important part of your family and culture by encouraging grandparents, aunts and uncles to share their stories. Tip: Everyone loves to be read to. Ask out-of-town grandparents to record themselves reading a book to your child and then make the recording a gift (add the book for the child to follow along with). 

8. Choosing your child’s reading material for him/her. Does your child have input into what he or she is reading? Tip: The library can be a wonderful resource for reading choices. Younger children especially enjoy the responsibility and entitlement that comes from having their very own library cards. But don’t stop there. Take advantage of library programs (often free!) and book clubs. 

9. Selecting the wrong material for your child. Is your child reading age-appropriate material? Be sensitive to the individual interests of your children. Allowing them to choose reading material that reflects their own interests will increase their love of reading. 

10. Do you value the written word? Writing and reading go hand in hand. Encourage expression through reading and writing with your kids. Keep an interactive family journal of notes to each other. Make a habit of writing thank you notes for gifts and letters to grandparents. 

BONUS TIP: Celebrate ABC CANADA Family Literacy Day(TM) on January 27! Recognize literacy as a personal and family priority every day of the year.

Always keep in mind the First Rule of Reading: Keep it Fun!

Visit these sites for more ways to keep your kids reading: 

ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation(TM) 

Robert Munsch Listen to Canada’s favourite storyteller read The Paper Bag Princess, Thomas’ Snowsuit, Love You Forever or many of his other classic stories for kids.

 Fun Brain Torpedo parachuting penguins with snowballs as they try to land on your floating iceberg, play prehistoric Mad Libs Junior, or read the daily entries in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There are tons of games and activities you’ll enjoy as much as your child will.

Jack the Ripper – Was He a Freemason?

Theory: Jack the Ripper Was a Freemason

More than 100 years later, the words “Jack the Ripper” still elicit a chilling response. There has been much speculation about the identity of Jack the Ripper, a sadistic murderer responsible for the deaths of five women in England in 1888. Was he a member of the Royal family, a surgeon, a butcher, a doctor, a Russian secret agent, a mental patient, a convicted criminal, or a boot maker?

And was he, as some have speculated, a Freemason?

One story has His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward falling in love with, and secretly marrying, a commoner named Annie Elizabeth Crook. According to that version, the couple produced a daughter in 1885. When Mary Kelly, close friend to Annie Crook, told her fellow prostitutes about the secret liaison, they decided to blackmail the Royal family. Prince Eddy’s marriage to a lowly commoner might be enough to unravel the monarchy and, with it, the Freemasons who were in comfortable government positions.

As the theory goes, Sir William Gull, physician to the Queen and a Freemason, was spurred on either by the Queen herself or the prime minister to contact fellow Masons and enlist their help to kill the women involved. Gull trapped the women and brutally murdered them. Although this theory identifies only Gull as Jack the Ripper, the Masons who may have known are accused of keeping Gull’s identity secret as part of their oath to protect fellow Masons.

There’s no evidence to support this theory, but for those who endeavor to link Freemasons with evil conspiracies, it’s a titillating story.

For more bite-sized conspiracy theories, check out my book – Conspiracy Theories –  online at Kindle.

What’s Your Favorite Book?

That’s one of my least favorite questions.

How does one answer that? Only with a series of questions. What, today?  In which genre? At what point in my life? For which mood? 

On any given day, at any given mood of my life, the answer might be totally different.

I spent a summer in my teens reading every science fiction book in the few shelves the local library had set aside for the genre.  Isacc Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey – all treasured names from my past reading habits.

When I was much younger, I devoured Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, published in 1977. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale about life on Earth after a comet hits. Sounds trite now, with all of the similiar stories and movies, but back then it was a breath taking read, nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1978. I re-read it recently and, while it didn’t have the same punch it had back then, I loved it.

Neville Shute’s On the Beach haunts me still. I grew up under the shadow of the threat of nuclear annhilation, a time when we thought we might stand a chance at surviving a nuclear bomb if we hid under our desks. On the Beach crushed those naive beliefs for me and turned me into something of an anti-nuclear crusader for a time.

Margaret Laurence’s Stone Angel kept me in tears for a long time, more so now as my own parents age and my mother fades under the fist of Alzheimer’s. In a similar vein, Larry’s Party by Carol Shields had me literally crying in the aisles of a bookstore while my young daughter watched in confusion, unable to understand how a fictional story could reduce her mother to a sobbing mess.

These days I bury myself in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve read every book in the series twice and will probably go back for a third read before the fourth season of Game of Thrones airs. It might not be literature, but it’s a damn good story. For the same reason – a damn good story – I enjoy countless other writers.  Lucy Maud Montgomery, Steve Martini, Kate Mosse, Laini Taylor, Leigh Bardugo, Brad Meltzer, Tana French, Suzanne Collins, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, Dan Brown, Markus Zusak, Max Brooks, William Landay, Adam Mitzner, Patricia Highsmith …

What’s my favorite book? It would be a sad thing indeed if I could answer that question with a single title.