They didn’t start out to be heroes

What’s a hero? Are people destined to be courageous, ready to step up to danger, protect others or their pets or property? At what age does it begin? Or does it ever show up? Are muscles necessary or will innovative ideas work, too?

Small acts of compassion are the beginning. Stephanie Queen came to her fellow authors with the idea of creating a box set filled with heroic romances. One hundred percent of the sale proceeds would go to Ukrainian Refugee Relief. The response was fantastic. Within hours, eleven more ladies joined the venture, donating their time and skills to the project. All are my heroes of the female persuasion – selfless and generous.

Depending on how much this set earns, we have at least three different vetted organizations that will receive 100% of the earnings.

BUY NOW! This fabulous collection of twelve stories by twelve authors is a limited-time release…and a terrific bargain, too!

Here are the authors, titles, and quick synopses of the stories included:

Stephanie Queen – The Beachcombers: Ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise never wanted a partner, but he owed the governor. Working alongside gorgeous Scotland Yard detective Shana George to find a missing heiress would either drive him crazy–or get someone killed… And now the human traffickers have their sights on Shana.

Desiree Holt – Rogue’s Return: Transitioning from being a SEAL to civilian life was tough enough without romance bumping in.

Zoe Dawson – Ruckus: Seal Team Alpha: Gratitude for saving her takes a back seat to falling for the alpha male who’d risk everything to see her safe.

Stacy Eaton – Mission: Believe: The wounded warrior and the idealistic doctor join forces to overcome physical and emotional odds to build a better environment for returning soldiers.

Suzanne Jenkins – A Greektown Wedding: What does a lawyer using a cop as a beard, a beautiful detective in love with a member of the SWAT Team, and a guy with a broken heart have in common? A Wedding!

Tamara Ferguson – That Incredible Kiss: After ten years apart, will unveiling their families’ dark family secrets heal Two Wounded Hearts?

Dani Haviland – One Arctic Summer: Sparks and sutures fly as the Inupiat medico and brash college student work together in America’s most northern city. Twenty years later, would the magic still be there?

Patricia Rosemoor – Rescuing the Virgin: Will the young American woman’s special skills help him bring down the human trafficking ring he’s been after for so long?

Susanne Matthews – The Tigress: There’s a new villain in New Orleans and Detective Ellie Taggart wants to take him down alone. Multi-talented Steve Cassidy insists he can help. Will their feuding – and desires – get in the way?

Christina Tetreault – Born to Protect: Sixteen years ago, he disappeared from her life. Now, he’s the only one who can protect her.

Two Bonus Stories:

 Mimi Barbour – Special Agent Francesca: This special agent flies her own plane, drives like a maniac & jumps at the chance at real undercover work. Nothing scares her except for one thing… MEN.

Suzanne Eglington – High Priority: Gun-toting Tiffany is convinced she’s always right. She was born wealthy, but her hero self has no time for materialism. She was in control until a stop for cat food changes everything.

Available on Amazon, Nook, Apple, Kobo, and Google Play.

Travel with Mona, in Train through Switzerland

We flew to Geneva in August, supposedly the warmest month in Europe and landed through dark clouds and pouring rain. My first impression wasn’t the best.

My first sight of the Lake
with the Geneva Water Fountain
Geneva is well-known as the headquarters
of Europe’s United Nations and Red Cross

From Geneva we boarded the train to Zermatt, in southern Switzerland, a mountain resort renowned for skiing, climbing and hiking.

Zermatt’s main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants, and also has a lively after-ski scene. 
No combustion engine vehicles are allowed in Zermatt. In fact, this Swiss municipality has been free of cars for most of its history. In 1961, the citizens voted to uphold the ban.
After two delightful days in Zermatt, we boarded the Glacier Express Bahnhofstrasse. 
The town, at an elevation of around 1,600m, lies below the iconic, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak.
The slopes of Matterhorn present the magnificent beauty of the landscape and nature. You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding during the winter or hiking during the summer.
The Glacier Express train has panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof. 

A journey with the Glacier Express: The Glacier Express is a direct train from Zermatt to St. Moritz. The train is also referred to as the ‘slowest express train in the world’: the journey takes about 8 hours. There is a good reason for this slow pace: the train squeezes its way through the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges, allowing us to admire breathtaking views.

In Summer
In Winter

St. Moritz: A tiny Swiss mountain town with a big, glitz-infused name, StMoritz is the winter getaway that made the ski holiday a high-life ideal.

In Summer
In Winter
In winter the lake is frozen and becomes a skating rink

From St. Moritz that was outrageously expensive, we traveled by train to Zurich.

The city of Zurich, a global center for banking and finance, lies at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), on either side of the Limmat River, reflect its pre-medieval history. Waterfront promenades like the Limmatquai follow the river toward the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall).

A view of the Old Town

A delightful place for children as they enjoy a train ride.

A waterfront promenade

In Zermatt and Zurich, we ate some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted. Their bread pudding and apple strudel were out of this world.

After a week touring Switzerland, we boarded the train one more time from Zurich to Strasbourg and Paris. But that’s a story for another time.

NEWSLETTER

Reading for February:

NOT READY YET – The Senator’s Family, book 4

NOT READY YET – The Senator’s Family, book 4

They were high school sweethearts in their senior year. The top of the class nerd and the dashing athlete. She helped him with math problems and he helped her shed her bashfulness. In between homework and torrid sex, they shared their goals for a successful future: no marriage, no children, no family, until they realize their dreams.
They meet eighteen years later at a hospital fundraising event. When Ethan Dutton, now a millionaire contractor recognizes the gorgeous Dr. Elyana Matteo, a brilliant pediatric cardio-surgeon, he bets $50,000 at an auction to open the dance with her.
He wants to date her. Elyana has no time for fun. She’s a widow with a teenage daughter and triplet toddlers, and a very busy career. Ethan who’s never taken no for an answer, asks to visit the boys’ daycare center and soon offers to remodel her old mansion. The boys adore him and Elyana falls again under his charm.
But their past threatens to destroy their present…
Can they forgive the selfishness of their youth?
Can they make room for unconditional love?

Travel with Mona, visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Many trips to Israel and the Middle East had often been canceled or postponed because of political turmoil or instability. When a Canadian friend told us about a group from Montreal organizing a guided tourist visit to the Holy Land in March 2010, my husband and I found it an excellent opportunity to finally travel safely through the region.

We flew from New York to Amman, Jordan, where we met the eighteen people coming from Canada. The next day we boarded our comfortable bus and visited Petra that I described in a previous blog. From there we continued along the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel. The security was very tight with x-ray scanning, questioning and bag searches and passport control.

Monastery of the Temptation
 The sycamore-fig tree or  Zacchaeus tree

We stopped for lunch in Jericho, commonly known as “the oldest city in the world” (8000 BCE) and the world’s lowest city (1200 feet under sea level).” Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. It is truly a place where the ancient past comes in contact with the immediate present and where the fragrance of oranges and citrus permeates the air.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea shore. The sea water is rich in minerals and salt, and so muddy. The mud is cleaned and sold as an anti-wrinkle facial cream at $90 the small jar. [Yes, I bought a jar. It didn’t erase a single line.]

The Dome of the Rock or Masgad El Aksa. A cabinet within the building houses a hair from the prophet Mohamad’s beard. Another tradition suggests it’s the mountain where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Olive

Finally we entered Jerusalem in the early night and checked in our hotel that was fully booked for the week. For our bad luck, millions of Christian pilgrims and orthodox Jews had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Passover that all occurred on that same week in the year 2010. The hotel manager had programmed the elevators to stop at each floor in respect for the Jewish patrons who were not allowed to operate the lift. Imagine the slow traffic, going up and down.

In the morning we boarded our bus and headed to Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and in the lowest floor an ancient house that tradition says is the site of the angelic announcement. Not far from it, we visited the Church of St. Joseph, the site of the Holy Family’s house and St. Joseph’s workshop. Later we had lunch on the Lake of Tiberias, and then drove through the verdant hills of Galilea, where we visited three more churches.

Lunch of fish on the Lake Tiberias known for its rough waves.

We spent the evening on the shore of the Jordan River. Many pilgrims wore a white robe to be baptized or renew their baptism vows in the Jordan River.

Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, through which the Jordan River flows.

The next day, we stopped by St. John the Baptist Church, built over the house where he was born. We climbed 154 steps to the Church of the Visitation. Inside the church, 41 plaques, each in a different language, bear the Magnificat.

We visited the Museum of Jerusalem and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, then admired a small model –maquette– of Old Jerusalem, with the Temple, Pilate’s fortress, Herod’ s Castle, and the walls of Jerusalem.

We continued to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

The Church of the Nativity is built above a cave which may have been the place of Jesus’ nativity.
The church was built by Queen Helena in 329, and renovated by the Crusaders. The cave includes two lobes, one with a star marks the place of Jesus’ birth, the other marks the place of the manger.

We passed by the Shepherd’s Field where the sheep and goats used to grate.

Later the hotel offered us a tour of Jerusalem by night, with a stop at Mount Olive. We crossed some villages, stopped by Victoria Hospital and Masada. We saw a temple, built by an American philanthropist on the model of the initial Temple of Solomon. It is said that the Masgad el Aksa, the mosque with the golden dome, was built on the location of the former temple.

On Holy Thursday, we returned to Mount Olive, visited a Jewish cemetery, walked by the Eastern Wall, and the Wailing Wall.

A Jewish crowd
A Christian crowd

We spent Good Friday walking through the Via Dolorosa and visiting old churches, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .

Strolling along the narrow lanes of Via Dolorosa
A view of the Church of Holy Sepulcher
from Mount Olive
The Chapel built on top of Christ’s Tomb in the center of the Holy Sepulcher

It would take ten blogs to describe all that we’ve seen and learned during that week spent in Jerusalem and its surroundings. An amazing trip that will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

My latest published books are part of the Love Plans.

SAILING AWAY PLANS ; DATING PLANS ; RESCUE PLANS ;

WEDDING PLANS ; BABY PLANS

Travel with Mona, visit the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal–A Story of Eternal Love

Often described as one of the wonders of the world, the stunning 17th Century ivory-white marble Taj Mahal was a mausoleum built between 1632 and 1643 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth, as a proof of his eternal love. The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra. 

Docking in Mumbai

We boarded the Princess Cruise ship in Civitavecchia–two hours away from Rome– and cruised the Mediterranean Sea to Naples where we spent a day, and then stopped in Santorini, Greece, before entering the Suez Canal and reaching Akaba on the Red Sea. Following six days at sea, we docked in Dubai and Oman, and then crossed the Indian Ocean, and arrived in Mumbai, India, where we took a bus tour of the city.

Old Indian-architecture in Mumbai
Modern residential building in Mumbai

Our Hindu guide explained that Mumbai hosted the wealthiest billionaires and the poorest of the poor. He also described the habitants as being the most tolerant on Earth, respecting all religions and granting citizens equal rights. In 2012 when we visited India, high ranking government officials included Hindu, Muslims, Catholics,…When we saw cows ambling on the sidewalk and monkeys jumping between trees, our guide explained that no one in India would ever hurt an animal.

The top floors of this high-rise are the penthouse of the wealthiest man in Mumbai.
A typically crowded street in Mumbai

Traveling to Agra

The next day we boarded an Air India plane and flew to New Delhi. We left our five-star hotel at four in the morning and walked for twenty minutes to reach the train station. In the early morning the streets were almost as crowded as during the day, with homeless roaming around, early workers carrying piles of newspapers on their bicycles, or vegetables on their wooden carts. After a three-hour train ride we arrived in Agra and took a bus that dropped us at the entrance of the Taj Mahal. A heavy fog–which apparently is a daily occurrence–veiled the famous mausoleum, but slowly faded as the sun rose higher.

The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. The Taj Mahal is constructed with impeccable symmetry. Minarets flank the domed tomb, and a central pool reflects the main building.

Notice the different colors at different times of the day. The gardens—an earthly representation of paradise—are divided into quadrants, and twin red sandstone buildings (an east-facing mosque and a west-facing guesthouse) give the mausoleum complex a balanced harmony. 
I am standing on the terrace at the entrance of the mausoleum. Notice we had to remove our shoes. The acoustics inside the main dome cause the single note of a flute to reverberate five times.
The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, as the actual graves are located at a much lower level.The sarcophagi are enclosed in an eight-sided chamber ornamented with pietra dura (an inlay with semi-precious stones) and a marble lattice screen. 

The shopping in India is amazing. Vendors boasting their merchandise– jewelry, silk scarves, incrusted boxes, and others, waited for us at the door of our buses , ready to accept any bargain.

After a fabulous day in Agra, we returned to New Delhi and visited a Maharaja castle, and then flew to Cochin, in the South of India where we caught up with our ship and continued our cruise to Thailand and Singapore–more stories for another time.