EEEEEEEEEEEE! Look what my friend gave me!


Yes! It’s a KitchenAid stand mixer! Mine died a couple of years ago and I have YEARNED, I have read recipes and despaired of making them, but now ALL THAT IS AT AN END. Thank youuuuuuu, kind friend! What should I make first?

I am strongly considering this Plum and Polenta Cake from The Tucci Cookbook, a lovely cookbook featuring, among other things, photos of Stanley Tucci in an apron using the brick oven in his backyard. Also, I need to share this piece of information with you:

STANLEY TUCCI [on proscuitto with figs]: “I find it to be an elegant and profoundly sexual appetizer–but since this is a family cookbook I’ll leave it at that!”

So, you know, if you want to add artistic verisimilitude to your fantasies about a dinner date with Stanley Tucci.

I’m adding a new feature to my blog posts, self-explanatorily entitled “Research book I am currently most excited about.” This week’s entry: The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950.

I can never be thankful enough

From The Angel in the House:

“In Coelebs [in Search of a Wife, a novel by Hannah More], Charles, the hero of the novel, speaks to the Stanleys’ lame gardener, who details all the kind things Lucilla and her family have done for him. The gardener ends his recital with, ‘At Christmas they give me a new suit from top to toe, so that I want for nothing but a more thankful heart, for I never can be grateful enough to God and my benefactors.'[…]According to Peter M. Blau, who applies Mauss’s observations [on gift economies] to a capitalist society in his Exchange and Power in Social Life, the dual obligation to receive and to repay a gift ‘makes it possible for largess to become a source of subordination over others, that is, for the distribution of goods and services to others to be a means of establishing superiority over them.’ Lucilla’s charity, then, is a gift that marks her generosity, but it is also a way of establishing superiority and power over those socially beneath her, as well as changing the meaning of the exchange of goods and services between them. The gardener, as an employee on the Stanley estate, receives pay for work done, and, under the terms of a market economy, he could be seen as a ‘free’ agent exchanging his labor for a wage. By extending charity toward him, the Stanleys displace the market economy with a gift economy that obligates the gardener and makes his labor insufficient as a repayment for goods received. Thus the ‘economy of charity,’ based on the type of gift exchange in wihich there is a ‘unilateral supply of benefits,’ makes the poor or laboring-class recipients of philanthropy ‘obligated to and dependent on those who furnish [those benefits] and thus subject to their power,’ whether the poor are dependents on a rural estate or urban laborers. Of course, if women are the primary agents of charitable giving, this way of defining their activity puts them in a position of considerable power and authority over those they ‘serve’–a position they would not normally hold in customary market exchanges.”

First draft!

I swear I meant to post today, but guys, I am LITERALLY THREE SCENES AWAY (maybe four, whatever, LESS THAN FIVE IS THE POINT, LESS THAN FIVE) FROM THE END OF A ROUGH DRAFT OF CRIMSON JOY. So I spent all morning working on that, instead. There is nothing like the feeling of being ALMOST DONE, it’s like being on a bike going downhill, only without that oh shit oh shit feeling that I personally get when on a bike going downhill. Effortless and urgent, I think is what I want to convey. I am babbling. I have end-of-draft euphoria. I will have a rough draft of this book by the end of the week if not sooner. Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

New contest: "A Lady Awakened" by Cecilia Grant!

ETA: This contest is closed. Chelsea B. won the book!

So…I just read the third Blackshear book, A Woman Entangled, which is a bit of a problem because ALL I WANT TO DO RIGHT NOW IS TALK ABOUT HOW GREAT THAT BOOK IS. So great! Not to mention perfectly structured and completely satisfying all the way to the last page. I ended that book with the biggest smile on my face, and I love all the characters, and the protagonists’ unique combination of showmanship/romanticism and practicality/conventionality, was so incredibly appealing and vividly drawn. So I thought this might be a good time to give away a signed copy of the first Blackshear book, A Lady Awakened!

Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate—and housemaids—from a predatory brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes…for a fee.

Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh–only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all…love?

I was honored to have Cecilia as a guest on her blog tour back when ALA first came out. You can read her awesome interview and also read me fangirling all over her about

1) the sex scenes, which Martha steadfastly refuses to enjoy for quite a while and poor rakish Theo starts out sort of bemused (“but…my prowess!”) and ends up really quite overset by the whole thing (before, obviously, a turnaround full of orgasms and other pleasant things!). Very unique, and VERY hot
2) the tightly emotionally controlled heroine and the hero who helps her open up (one of my favorite things in the ENTIRE WORLD as you…may have guessed from reading my books, although I like to think that my next couple of books will be a bit different)
3) Cecilia’s great taste in TV
4) &c.

Here is what Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell had to say about it: “I am throwing my hands up at the idea that you may not read this book. Please go get a copy. It is to be savored and enjoyed while each character grows into someone amazing, people I have not been able to stop thinking about.”

SO. Just comment on this post to enter, and make sure you enter your e-mail address on the comment form (not in the body of the comment itself, just where it says NAME: URL: EMAIL:). It won’t show up to other commenters, but I’ll get it and then I can easily notify you of your win. As always, if you want to be alerted when a new contest goes up, I recommend signing up for my newsletter.

NB: Cecilia isn’t involved in the giveaway and the book isn’t personalized. So if you want to tell her how much you loved her book, this isn’t the place. That would be her website. (But this IS the place to tell ME how much you loved it!)