Visit Sweden with Mona

We spent a week in Sweden in the nineties and more recently, a Baltic Cruise allowed us to pay a new visit to Stockholm with a bus tour of the city, followed by a boat ride in the Baltic Sea.

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, encompasses 14 islands and more than 50 bridges on an extensive Baltic Sea archipelago. Ferries and sightseeing boats shuttle passengers between the islands.

Stockholm has a mix of opulent, traditional architecture in the form of royal palaces and state buildings, as well as the sleek minimalism the country is famous for today.

The City Hall Tower is 106 meters tall, with a beautiful panoramic view of central Stockholm

Stockholm City Hall became famous for its grand ceremonial halls and unique art pieces, but especially for being the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet which is held each year in the Blue Hall on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

 Parliament House (Riksdag) was constructed between 1897 and 1905. n 1889, a competition had been held to select a design for the new Parliament building, that Johansson won. Upon opening, it replaced the Old Riksdag Building. The two buildings of the complex were originally constructed to house the Riksdag in one, and the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish National Bank) in the second, of a semicircular shape.
In this picture taken from the boat, we can see the Storkyrkan Church, the oldest church in Stockholm that lies in the center of Stockholm in Gamla stan, between Stockholm Palace (on the right) and Stortorget, the old main square of Stockholm (on the left). 

The cobblestone streets and ochre-colored buildings of Gamla Stan (the old town) are home to the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum, which focuses on the Nobel Prize.

Stortorget is the main square in Stockholm’s old town, and the oldest square in the city. It was mentioned as early as 1420.

Stortorget (“Grand Square”) in Gamla Stan was created gradually, with buildings and blocks surrounding the square, still sloping west, occasionally added
haphazardly. The old square is an
artistic and shopping hub, renowned for its annual Christmas market, traditional handicrafts and culinary delights.
In this picture taken from a bus, we can locate a plaque on the royal palace with the name of King Carl XI.

Riddarholmen Church is located on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace. Initially, the church was the former medieval Greyfriars Monastery in Stockholm. Now it serves as the final resting place of most Swedish monarchs.

The historic Riddarholmen Church dates back to the 13th century. Since 1807, it has been used as a funeral and memorial church, with several chapels dedicated to the various kings of Sweden.

An interesting contrast between old architecture and modern one in Stockholm.

What is special about Stockholm, Sweden?

The city is built on 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges. It has 96 beaches, and the people of Stockholm own around 200,000 boats. This earned the Swedish capital the nickname ‘Beauty on the Water’. Although the weather is relatively cold and the place quite expensive, if you have a chance, don’t hesitate to visit Sweden.

And don’t forget to download my latest published contemporary novels.

New Release — WE’RE ALL HEROES

They’re all heroes who pay a big price for freedom—The Ukrainian mom who spies for her country; her three small kids who struggle to survive; the wounded major who gets them out of a war-zone; Lauren, the flight attendant who brings them to the U.S.A. ; her parents who receive them in their home; and her ex-fiancé, Dr. Jake, who operates on the injured. And let’s not forget the two German shepherd puppies that dive in a pool to save a two-year old. Will the many crises they face head-on strengthen or destroy Lauren and Jake’s relationship?

We’re All Heroes is book 12 of the Love Plans Series.

New Release — WE’RE ALL WINNERS

Handsome doctors are lying, cheating, self-centered bastards, particularly Vince Cooper, the charming resident, Casey Benton had the misfortune to fall in love with in medical school. Fate protected her by sending him to the other side of the country for a fellowship. Three years later, he’s standing in her parents’ living room, and she curses her bad luck.

Vince Cooper blesses his good luck when his dog finds a lost toddler in the park and allows him to reconnect with the woman he could never forget. After Casey reveals she adopted her son–a patient’s baby—attraction sizzles between them and romance blooms. But Casey doesn’t trust him completely, and Vince has a feeling she’s hiding something. When the truth explodes and nasty secrets pop out, will there be room for love and a happy future together?

We’re All Winners is book 14 of the Love Plans Series.

The Case for Bodice Ripper Sex-Ed * by @TaylorLeeWrites

NEWS FLASH!  We romance writers have been vindicated. According to none other than the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times: “Romance Novels Are The Best Sex-Ed.”

Sex-Ed

Seriously, this is news. The January 21, Sunday New York Times featured a sensational article by contributing opinion writer Jennifer Weiner titled: “We Need Bodice-Ripping Sex-Ed.” In her clever, insightful article Weiner claims that she got a smidgen of information about sex from her well-meaning parents. Another sliver came from junior high sex-ed classes that named body parts and detailed all the bad things that can happen to you if you have sex.  (Think hideous diseases and of course, the ultimate curse, pregnancy.) Fortunately for Weiner, like a lot of us, she was a reader.  And what did she read? Yep, you guessed it: Romance novels.

Weiner throws a bone to the likely readers of the NYT when she concedes:  “The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance, erotica or popular novels about love and marriage.”  She adds, “Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.”

Not so, says Weiner.

In the central theme of the article she insists as an information-hungry teenager, the romance novels she read, “for all their soft core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not so quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. [And] shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.”

WOW! True vindication for those of us as teenagers who hid in the closet gobbling up everything from Gone With the Wind (you know the scene on the stairs when Rhett apparently has his way with a blushing Scarlet…) to  Judith Krantz, to Erica Jong etc., etc. Without understanding that we were being “brainwashed”, we romance readers came to believe that female pleasure was a must, something that we should insist upon.

Weiner explains, “Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: they were the ones who left a woman “burning and unsatisfied.” She cites “Shirley Conran’s “LACE” that features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she used an egg-timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do.” Weiner adds with what I’m sure was a grin, “At 14, I never looked at hard- boiled eggs the same way again.”

Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants

Weiner takes her argument in favor of romance novels into the political issue of the day, the #MeToo Movement.  She quotes Bea Koch, the co-owner of the Ripped Bodice bookstore who says, “Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship….In some instances it can be a literal roadmap for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a roadmap to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even get on touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.”

Are romance novels “just porn” as so many reviewers sniff?  Given the rampant availability of porn, that is a worthwhile question to ask.  One recent study found that “79 percent of men and 76 percent of women look at a pornographic website at least every month, another that three out of 10 men in that age group were daily viewers.” In contrast, those of us who read and write about a range of intimacy know that while “sex might be easy, relationships are hard.” Comparing romance novels to porn, Weiner says, “The book has the ability to paint a deeper picture. A 400 page novel can teach you more about relationships that any X-rated clip.”

In the current climate where so many people, men and women, are wrestling with crossed wires and mixed signals, Weiner concludes, “If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connection, to talk honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.”

Amen.

*Confession:  This is a repeat of a previous blog. I think it is one of my best. And frankly given the “sneers” we get from mainstream press, Jennifer Weiner’s insightful and laugh aloud message is worthy of reading again … and again.

P.S. If you like your Bodice Ripper books with no holds barred, check out:  The Olive or Twist Series. Trust me. These guys and gals don’t need egg-timers.

What makes the Olive or Twist the hottest bar in Albuquerque?

Hint: It isn’t the Martinis.

Ask the legal and law enforcement superstars who’ve claimed it as their own.

The Olive or Twist Saga is a steamy legal and law-enforcement escapade. If you like smart lawyers, tough-talking cops and scorching passion, you’ll love my sizzling thrill-ride. Discover how challenging love affairs can be when sex and violence are in the mix. Grab The Olive or Twist Saga today and prepare to be wowed!

And while you are at it, gobble up my Author Billboard buddies latest box set:

Unforgettable Devotion

My book in the series is “Tara”.

She’s a brash newspaper editor and declared environmental activist. He’s an arrogant land developer. A broken elevator forces them to confront each other, not as diehard adversaries, but as a powerful man confronting a vulnerable woman.

New Year, New Book Boyfriends by Stephanie Queen

That’s right—a fresh new batch of book boyfriends for you this New Year!

What are your top five traits for the best book boyfriend?

Are you looking for hot guys with rippling muscles or sweet guys who bring you flowers? Guys who make you laugh til you cry or quiet guys who will protect you til the end?
The list could go on, but here are my faves–

SQ’s Top 5 Traits for the Best Book Boyfriends:

  1. Hot & Sexy and knows how to make a lady feel that way
  2. Brings new meaning to the old rule: Lady’s First
  3. Master of self-control—except when his lady drives him crazy
  4. Would sacrifice the world for the woman he loves—and proves it
  5. Tough enough to show how much he loves his mom—and kittens too

What are your top five traits for the best book boyfriend?

Take advantage of this promotion and help keep your winter warmed up with these fab romances.

What’s your favorite? Do you like it steamy? Do you love bad boys? Are you into angsty, swoony guys and gals who frustrate you in the best way possible–aka, the slow burn?

We have rock stars, viscounts, football players and billionaires to keep your heart warm and your nights far from dull. Check out this video aesthetic to get you excited with anticipation for a Happy New Year!

This promo has it all and you owe it to yourself to check it out here!

African Sweet Potato Soup by @Donna_Fasano

This recipe for African Sweet Potato Soup comes from my novel Two Hearts in Winter. My protagonist, Heather Phillips, cooks an international meal for her friends to celebrate the holiday. This soup is served as part of that meal in the opening scenes of the book. There is nothing more comforting during the cold winter months than a bowl of hot, flavorful sweet potato soup. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Soup

African Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth (store-bought is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/3 cup chopped, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced fine

Directions:

1. Add the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté the onion until golden, about 8-10 min. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot. Cook and stir for 5 minutes.

2. Pour the broth into the saucepan. Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

3. Remove the soup mixture from heat. Using a food processor or blender, blend the soup and peanuts until almost smooth. Return to the saucepan. Whisk in the peanut butter, and cook on medium heat until just heated through. Serve warm topped with minced parsley.

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Sweet Potato Soup

Loss and betrayal have caused Heather Phillips to give up on love. She’s thrown herself into running The Lonely Loon, her Bed and Breakfast located on the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland. The “off season” in this tourist town is usually a time of rest and reflection for her; however, DB Atwell, a famous author, arrives at The Loon for the winter to finish his long-overdue novel. Daniel, too, has faced grief, and tragedy continues to haunt him. Once Heather and Daniel meet, their lives will never be the same.

Reminiscent of Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks and culminating in a happily-ever-after similar to the great Nora Roberts, Two Hearts in Winter is a story about learning to let go of the past, about realizing that, though hardship affects us, it need not define us, and about coming to understand and truly believe that beauty is sometimes covered in scars. The human heart has an amazing ability to forgive, to heal, and to hope, especially when touched by love.

Titles in the Ocean City Boardwalk Series:
Following His Heart, Book 1
Two Hearts in Winter, Book 2
Wild Hearts of Summer, Book 3