Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cherry and Brandy Cupcakes for a cherry and brandy couple

Today's cake is Cherry and Brandy Cupcakes. It's the healthy option as I opted for a glace cherry decoration rather than the Cherry Brandy chocolates as specified in the recipe. I did try to find the pesky chocolates, but they appear not to be around at the moment. Oh well.

The other issue with the recipe is that there's way too much cream. I know nobody ever thought they'd hear me say that, but it's true. There's too much cream. Half the amount would have been fine - I shall try to remember for next time. Also the amount of brandy in the cream means it's definitely not one for children, but my husband doesn't appear to be complaining, hey ho.

Who else would like these? I think they're ideal for Danny and Jake in gay romance A Seasonal Reunion, and they do have a Christmas pizzazz about them which would suit the story in question. To my mind, Danny's the brandy and Jake's the cherry (goodness, how rude!), though it could perfectly well be the other way round, of course …

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Gay romances galore with just a touch of fantasy

A double whammy today. First off, gay romance A Seasonal Reunion is now available at Amazon UK and Amazon US, so an ideal time to fill up your Kindle.

And, to make your weekend even hotter, gay romance anthology Lashings of Sauce is now available at a 35% discount direct from JMS Books for this weekend ONLY. It includes my own rather naughty School for Doms. Here's the blurb and a couple of review highlights for that one:

Long-term submissive Christopher is more than happy with his rather quirky career teaching dominants how to succeed in the BDSM world. However, when he meets Joseph in one of his beginners' classes, he begins to wonder if he's taken on rather more than he can handle …


"BDSM is not one of my usual preferences, but Anne Brooke's School for Doms was one hot number. Told from the POV of a sub teaching a class for newbie doms, it focused on the more psychological and sexy elements, and promised a HFN with some staying power. Rawr." [From a 4.5 star review at Jessewave Reviews]

"One very hot bdsm story. Think screen melting hot and very sexy with a touch of serious." [From a 5-star review at Rarely Dusty Books]

Oh, and just as a reminder, gay-themed fantasy The Gifting is still available as a FREE book at Amazon for today only. Happy reading!

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Friday, May 23, 2014

The first roses of summer

The first of our Harlow Carr scented roses are out, as is the last of our rhododendrons. There's also a rather nice pale pink lupin, which is new this year.

Free gay-themed fiction: The Gifting

For today and tomorrow, gay-themed fantasy novel, The Gifting (Gathandria 1) is FREE at Amazon, so don't miss out.

Here's the blurb and a couple of review highlights:

Simon Hartstongue is a mind-reader, and branded a coward and a murderer. When his overlord and lover Ralph Tregannon turns against him, he is forced to embark on a treacherous journey to the distant and magical land of Gathandria in order to save his country and his own soul. During a series of terrifying trials, Simon must encounter the trickery of the deadly Mind Executioner and the secret dealings of those he ought to trust. 


"The Gifting is a unique fantasy where mental and physical worlds merge in a flight of unrestrained imagination. Unlike much fantasy I've read lately, this book soars with hope. It's a story of redemption gained through a mystical journey through earth, air, fire and water that tests the deepest recesses of a man's soul." (Awesome Indies Reviews) 

"The Gifting is merely the introduction to the Gathandrian Trilogy; it's a big world, filled with intrigues and magic, loss and redemption. It's a fantastical place where almost anything is possible, where a coward can become a hero, where the promise for more excitement and enchantment are guaranteed, and I look forward to seeing where Anne Brooke will take us next, as well as discovering what Simon's future holds." (Top2Bottom Reviews)

I hope you enjoy the read - happy bank holiday weekend!

Anne Brooke Books
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)
Gay Reads UK

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale: a dreamy slow-burner of a novel

This is (sorry for the pun) a dreamy slow-burner of a novel. The prose is lyrical and intensely descriptive, but also provides a powerful picture of the novel's main character, Agnes Trussel, as she comes to terms with the crisis she experiences.

Agnes is a fascinating and clear-sighted woman, with a touching innocence about the people she encounters. Her quiet strength of mind is also a driving factor of her story. Not a great deal happens, but the key events which do take place are absolutely crucial and a turning point for Agnes' life. The historical settings are keenly felt and, indeed, London becomes a character in its own right within the book.

I very much enjoyed the relationship of pupil and teacher (and, later and subtly, more) between Agnes and the firework-maker, Blacklock, who takes her in and teaches her his trade. Perhaps the various methods of creating fireworks might be - for me - rather too much depicted in the story and I didn't need to know that level of information, but Agnes remains strong enough to carry me through the occasional plot weakness.

The final chapters are very powerful indeed, and I appreciated the open-ended and ultimately hopeful conclusion. A novel to savour.

Verdict: 4 stars: a worthwhile slow-burner read

Gay romance review: A Seasonal Reunion

There's a thoughtful review of gay romance A Seasonal Reunion over at Hearts on Fire Reviews - and I'm particularly happy that the reviewer was able to put to one side her dislike of books about infidelity and give it a chance:

"He [Danny] was aware of the pain he caused. He was remorseful. I still don’t like reading about cheaters,  but this was done well, and showed a way to redemption that wasn’t overly easy on either of them and actually showed the damage caused."

Because I do appreciate that Danny's story is a difficult one, particularly in respect of how he treats Jake, and indeed Marty. Although the book isn't for everyone, I like to believe there's the hope of redemption in every aspect of life, and Danny - for all his faults - deserves a chance for happiness just as much as the rest of us do.

As a reminder, here's the blurb:
Danny Brigson makes a serious mistake when he sleeps with Marty, an old boyfriend at an ill-advised reunion. He tries to cover it up, but Marty tells all, and the love of Danny's life, Jake, throws him out.
Over the next year, Danny tries to sort his life out, determined to stop relying on drugs and drink to get him through. Can he even dare to hope that one day Jake might give him the chance to put things right?

So, I hope you give the story a chance, and that it's a thought-provoking read for you too. Happy Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Banana, Date & Pecan Loaf and a citrus challenge

Today's cake is banana, date & pecan loaf. Well, that's not quite true. It was supposed to be banana, date and walnut loaf, but there is in the pantry a sad lack of walnuts - so pecans will have to do. I don't suppose it will matter much.

It's a fairly easy recipe, but you might like to check your citrus fruit before you squeeze it (as it were). I merrily grabbed the first likely looking fruit from the bowl and was equally merrily squeezing away when it dawned on me that for lemon juice it was pretty orange and indeed smelt more like an orange than I'd expected from a lemon.

Which was entirely reasonable as the pesky thing was an orange, after all. Hey ho. Back to the fruit bowl in search of the secretive lemon, which was cunningly hiding under one of the bananas. Or trying to be a banana in the attempt to survive a little longer - not a good plan in a banana-based recipe, but I don't expect lemons can read.

Anyway, all smooth-running from there on it - though be warned it does take a good hour and a quarter in the oven. And if I'd known the middle would rise quite so much, I would have put the line of pecans closer to the centre. Still, it's all in the taste, as far as I'm concerned - and it certainly smells amazing.

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Gay thriller A Dangerous Man: review

There's a lovely review of gay thriller A Dangerous Man over at MM Good Book Reviews. Here are some of the comments:

“...brilliant...powerful as hell too... The protagonist, Michael...His obsession is huge, a swallowing emotion that sweeps out of your feet with every line you read... Another astonishing fact is how brilliantly his self-destructiveness is painted...Michael was brilliantly written...” – Thommie, MM Good Book Reviews

And here's the blurb:

Michael Jones, a young gay artist and part-time hooker, will do anything to stage his first exhibition. When he falls in love with rich financier Jack Hutchinson, he seems set to achieve his goal. But as Michael becomes caught between the unforgiving territory of smoky-bar Hackney and the green-garden luxury of upper class London, the consequences of his uncompromising pursuit leave him having to fight for all he holds dear, and in the only way he knows how.

To find out more, and read more reviews, visit the A Dangerous Man web page. And make your weekend a deeper and more dangerous one!

Anne Brooke Books
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The garden today: delights and disease

Here's what's in the garden today:

The pink striped clematis is doing well - it's the second one we bought and is going great guns. There's another bud at least to come.

I couldn't resist a snap of the unopened iris - it looks like a three-cornered hat to me. 

The second rhododendron is now fully out. It's a slightly lighter mauve than the first one. There's a third one to come too, but that's always the last one out.

The Winchester roses are looking good - and smelling nice. The ones on the trellis are also coming out, so some good news there.

All this is taking my mind off the fact that a portion of our garden is now suffering from honey fungus - it was all very upsetting at the weekend as K had to take out my lovely viburnum lollipop tree and half the white roses we planted when we arrived here two years ago. I actually had to walk away as I just couldn't take it. What a wimp, eh … Sadly, the disease isn't curable so we're going to have to line the soil to avoid it spreading and replant the area with resistant plants. And, of course, hope for the best.

Still, I suppose it's a chance for a fresh look at what we call our white border, and we can keep it looking nice for this year by planting a job-lot of annuals. Onward and upward, as they say …

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gay fiction giveaway - A Seasonal Reunion

Hearts on Fire Reviews are giving away a copy of gay romance A Seasonal Reunion - the competition ends on 18 May so don't forget to enter to win! Here's the link:

And, as a reminder, here's the blurb:

Danny Brigson makes a serious mistake when he sleeps with Marty, an old boyfriend at an ill-advised reunion. He tries to cover it up, but Marty tells all, and the love of Danny's life, Jake, throws him out.
Over the next year, Danny tries to sort his life out, determined to stop relying on drugs and drink to get him through. Can he even dare to hope that one day Jake might give him the chance to put things right?

Good luck in the competition!

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gay romance: is infidelity always the end?

Gay romance A Seasonal Reunion is published today at Amber Allure Press. And over at the Amber Quill blog, I'm discussing the issues of infidelity - does it always have to be the end of love?...

Danny Brigson makes a serious mistake when he sleeps with Marty, an old boyfriend at an ill-advised reunion. He tries to cover it up, but Marty tells all, and the love of Danny's life, Jake, throws him out.
Over the next year, Danny tries to sort his life out, determined to stop relying on drugs and drink to get him through. Can he even dare to hope that one day Jake might give him the chance to put things right?

All the way home, my mind was racing, going through what might happen with Jake, over and over again. By the time I arrived, I was even more desperate for a smoke, but I had to put the urge firmly to one side—Jake would be able to tell if I was spaced, and he hated that kind of stuff. It was part of the reason I loved him.
It took me a while to open the front door—I couldn’t seem to get the key in the right place. Sometimes it warped slightly in cold weather, but if you jiggled it around in the lock, it could come free easily enough. Jake must have heard me, but when I finally made it into the hall, he was nowhere in sight. Still, I could hear movement from the kitchen and the sound of the kettle boiling. Around me, the decorations he’d already put up for the holidays glittered like an accusation. My throat suddenly felt dry, and I blinked.
I think I knew then my stupid game was over.
Every step I took toward the kitchen felt as if my feet were weighed down with rock. I was sweating and couldn’t catch my breath. In the kitchen, Jake was facing away from me, leaning on the marble-effect work surface. The kettle clicked off. He didn’t turn round. His mobile phone was lying on the floor, as if he’d flung it away in frustration. Or anger. Or something else. I looked at the way his hair curled against the smooth skin of his neck and knew how much I wanted to touch him. And then I spoke.
He made a sudden movement with his right hand, and I shut up. It looked like an order. I wanted to say I was sorry, but I didn’t dare speak. Instead, I edged into the room and stood in the corner so he could turn and see me if he wanted to. The cupboard carved its shape into my back. I waited.
When Jake spoke, it was quickly and almost a whisper, so I had to lean forward in order to hear him at all. He still wouldn’t face me. “People said you’d be trouble when I met you,” he said ...

Can Danny and Jake ever find their happy ending? Find out more at Amber Allure Press!

Anne Brooke
A Seasonal Reunion
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mary Berry's Seed Cake and a sugar disaster

Today I tried my hand at Old-Fashioned Seed Cake, courtesy of Mary Berry. I tried it before and actually it's quite nice - though it's true to say the seeds do take a little getting used to. I particularly like the addition of candied peel, which gives it a bit of a lift.

Things I've learnt from today's baking: if you forget to put the sugar in before mixing it, then a large part of it seems to fly out of the bowl and needs to be rescued from the four corners of the kitchen. Hey ho. I did wonder why it was proving so tricky this morning - I only realised about the sugar when I went to measure out the candied peel and found the space still occupied.

I am relying on the hope that the act of baking the pesky beast in our high-energy oven might well destroy all potential nasties, but in fact we cleaned the kitchen yesterday so no doubt we will live to fight another day.

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Friday, May 09, 2014

The windy garden: 9 May 2014

Goodness, it's very windy today in the garden, I must say. However, it's unexpectedly sunny too so I managed to get some shots of the estate, ho ho. I did try to get some pics of the glorious Mrs Bradshaw geums which are now out but they wouldn't stay still in the wind, alas. I will have to try when it's calmer.

Here's what's around today:


Azalea (on its way out now but still worth a pic, I think)

View of the back garden with the potted cherry trees

View of the back garden with that azalea in the foreground

A longer view of the back (with one corner of the bridge at the bottom right)

View of the back garden with the bridge (K repainted it last year, but it needs redoing again. I blame our very wet winter …)

One type of striped clematis (we do so love stripes and will always choose them if possible)

The other type of striped clematis.

The first of our three (different) rhododendrons in all its glory.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Gay fiction discount - till Sunday!

I'm happy to announce there's a 40% discount on my gay fiction at Riptide Publishing until Sunday. So you could have:

The Heart's Greater Silence

Mark isn’t sure he believes in love, especially when he finds himself torn between two very different men: his reliable boyfriend, Craig, and his illicit lover and priest, Richard.
Mark knows what he should do, but he can’t bring himself to give Richard up. The sex with Richard is unlike anything he’s ever known with Craig, and he hungers for it as much as—if not more than—the truer intimacy he finds in his boyfriend’s arms.
When Craig discovers his betrayal, Mark is forced to look at his life more closely, but the path to self-knowledge is never an easy one. Richard seeks the way back to God, but Mark finds no solace there. Can he ever discover the truth of his own soul, or is he too afraid of what he will—or won’t—find inside his heart?

Where You Hurt The Most

Adrian is more than happy as high-class escort for a number of regular clients. When his boss and dear friend asks him to entertain his nephew, Adrian readily agrees, but meeting Dan challenges him in ways he'd never imagined.
Dan is scarred inside and out from an accident that destroyed a promising future. Despite Adrian’s loveless lifestyle and Dan’s withdrawal and anger, the two men forge a deep—if unnerving—connection. Soon they find themselves questioning the choices they’ve made and the futures they’ve mapped out for themselves.
Yet even bright young men like Adrian and Dan fear the unknown and take comfort in the familiar. Neither may be strong enough to step away from the life they know and toward the one they dare not hope for. But while it’s true that love can’t heal all wounds, it is the surest balm for where you hurt the most.
And all at a massive 40% off! But the discount ends on Sunday, so pop across now and don't miss out. Happy reading!

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy (gay-themed)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Angels by Marian Keyes: a disappointing romance

I'm afraid that, for me, this book simply didn't have the cutting edge energy that I normally expect from Marian Keyes. Which was a shame as the first couple of sentences are lovely, but the rest of the story doesn't live up to its initial promise. In fact, the overall impression was one of jaded effort.

The problem stems from the fact that our heroine, Maggie, isn't actually that interesting and throughout most of the story doesn't have a cohesive personality to hang on to. Events happen to her - the discovery of her husband's infidelity, her flight home, and then the extended stay with friends in Los Angeles - without her really getting to grips with them or even changing as a result in any deep way. Maggie is - bless her - exactly the same rather facile and worryingly prejudiced woman at the end as she was at the beginning. I found it very frustrating as I kept thinking she might be on the verge of growing a personality but she never did. Indeed, much can be surmised from the fact that I kept forgetting what her name was and having to check ...

On the other hand, some of the secondary characters are far more interesting - I loved Emily and wished on many occasions that she could be the main character, as her story arc was far more gripping. It was just a shame that at the end of the novel Emily seemingly discards her personality and makes several very odd life choices which have had no lead-up previously. It's an opportunity missed for a really powerful end. The epilogue is rather teeth-clenchingly twee too, as is the resolution for Maggie, and this additional chapter could well have been missed out entirely, with nothing lost.

Still, there are one or two laugh-out loud moments, and Keyes makes the most of the Los Angeles setting. I would definitely have loved more scenes with the animal-obsessed film director, Larry Savage. In his three or four pages, he lit up the novel simply by being himself. I do believe, however, that I'm rather wearied of the Walsh family storylines. Oh well.

Verdict: 2.5 stars. Disappointing

Saturday, May 03, 2014

St Lucia Banana Cake: an exotic romance

Today's cake is St Lucia Banana Cake. Here's the recipe.

The cake was fairly simple to make, though you do need a lot of butter when greasing the tins. That said, it's fiddly chopping up the pineapples and walnuts, but I'm easily bored … I found the frosting more of a struggle though, and I'm not sure it's quite gone to plan! I probably shouldn't have used a lighter version of the soft cheese, as the full-fat one would probably have set more easily. Still, it's keeping its shape thus far, more or less, and the taste is great.

This is absolutely an ideal cake for Angie's dream cafe in Pink Champagne and Apple Juice - just perfect for a romance with a hint of the exotic! No doubt she and that talented but tricky chef, Heinrich, would make a far better job of it than I have …

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy

FREE gay-themed fantasy: The Executioner's Cane

Just to let you know that the final book in the gay-themed Gathandrian Trilogy, The Executioner's Cane, is FREE for today and Sunday only at Amazon. You can find it at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Can love ever be revisited where blood has been spilled?…

Simon Hartstongue, accompanied by the mind-cane and the snow-raven, must travel back to the land he came from to offer support to the people he once tried to kill. From Gathandria, Annyeke Hallsfoot endeavours to help him but her attentions are focused on rebuilding the city after the wars. 

Alone and faced with the anger of his people and hindered by the fragility of Ralph Tregannon's leadership, Simon has to find a way to bring healing to a dying country and to renew his relationship with Ralph. But the odds and time itself are stacked against him.

Happy reading.

Anne Brooke
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy
Gay Reads UK

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Naughty but nice book discounts!

Good news for the start of summer! There's a 25% discount on ALL my Amber Quill Press books this month, and the choice is yours! You can have:

Naughty romance and dodgy dealings in downtown London 

or raunchy romance with those Dangerous Delaneys twins 

or even (dare you risk it?) whisky with a hint of obsession and crime in the world of big business 

And if you don't like any of those, well, there are plenty of other options to consider! Which would you choose? Either way, enjoy those discounts and happy reading!

Anne Brooke
Gay Reads UK
The Gathandrian Fantasy Trilogy

Naughty romance with a dash of champagne ...

Naughty romantic comedy Pink Champagne and Apple Juice is now available on the Kindle! Enjoy that essential taste of champagne at Amazon US and Amazon UK!

Angie Howard has one ambition--to escape from her home in the idyllic UK countryside and set up her own cafe in London. Once there, she seeks out her long-lost Uncle John, who runs a gay and sometimes quite naughty nightclub.

Before she can achieve her catering ambitions, Angie has to juggle the needs of a glamorous French waiter, a grouchy German chef and her exuberant, transvestite uncle.

What's more, if she manages to keep the lid on all that, what will she do about the other hidden secrets of her family?

Happy reading!