Tag Archives: Bewitched

Home for the Holidays Hop – German Holiday Cookies

The Romance Troupe
German Holiday Cookies: Spekulatius*

I’ve always been a huge fan of Spekulatius, German holiday cookies, but I’ve found the following recipe only last year — and it has already become one of my favourite holiday cookies! Not the least because this receipe is just perfect for cookie stamps. 🙂 (If you don’t have a cookie stamp, never fear: the cookies taste fantastic with or without stamped motif)

You will need:

  • 250 g / 9 oz plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50 g / 2 oz skinned and ground almonds
  • 100 g / 3,5 oz softened butter
  • 100 g / 3,5 oz brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a pinch each of ground cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cardamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g / 2 oz flaked almonds

Mix the flour with the baking powder and the ground almonds. Cream together the butter with the sugar, the vanilla sugar, the spices, and the salt. Add the egg, mix together, then add the flour mixture and quickly mix in.

Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200° C / 392° F (fan-assisted oven: 180° C / 356° F).

Line two baking trays with baking paper and sprinkle the flaked almonds onto the paper.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface about 4 mm thick. Cut in rectangles. OR run wild with your cookie stamp(s) and your cookie cutters. 🙂

Place the cookies onto the baking trays and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown. Place the cookies onto a baking rack until cool, then store them in a pretty tin. (They developed their full taste only after a few days.)

Now you have the cookies, it’s time to grab a cup of tea (or coffee) (or hot cocoa) and snuggle up on your couch with a nice book! And since you’re warm and comfy, what could be better than a book partly set in the stark, bleak landscape of the wintry fenlands?

When BEWITCHED was first released, Kathe Robin from RT Book Reviews called the novel a “captivating tale of a spell gone wrong, a love potion gone right, deceit, revenge, black magic and redemption.”

Sweet passion …

After a magical mishap that turned her uncle’s house blue, Miss Amelia Bourne was stripped of her powers and sent to London in order to be introduced into polite society—and to find a suitable husband. Handsome, rakish Sebastian “Fox” Stapleton was all that and more. He was her true love. Wasn’t he?

… or the bitter taste of deceit?

At Rawdon Park, the country estate of the Stapletons, Amy began to wonder. Several inexplicable events suggested that one sip of bitter punch had changed her life forever—that this love, this lust, was nothing but an illusion. She and Fox were pawns in some mysterious game, and black magic had followed them out of Town. Without her powers, would she be strong enough to battle those dark forces and win? And would she be able to claim her heart’s true desire? Magic potion or no, what she felt for Fox was a spell that could never be broken.

~~~~~~~~~~

Do you have a favourite kind of holiday cookie or any other favourite holiday food?

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* The recipe is based on the Spekulatius recipe from the book Lieblings-Weihnachtsplätzchen by GU. The original recipe can be found online here.

On Fake Ruins and Pineapples: Garden Follies

As a lover of all things weird and wondrous, I’m a big fan of garden follies, and I try to put as many as I possibly can into my novels.

Follies were, and still are, an important element in the landscape gardens that became so popular in the early 1700s. These gardens were fashioned to imitate nature, and follies were used as vocal points: they were supposed to steer the gaze of the people ambling about the gardens and to present the finishing touch to a pretty vista. They could serve more practical purposes, too, and, indeed, many of them were used as tea houses or bathing houses.

Many follies were built in the neo-classical style, with clean, symmetrical lines (as far as follies go, they are of the plain variety). But if you were rich (well, let’s face it, if you could afford a landscape garden with a few follies thrown in, you inevitably were rich) and had eccentric tastes, you would want some more … uhm … colourful stuff in your garden.

Crazy about Egypt? Put a mini pyramid in your garden.

Love all things China? A Chinese pagoda is the way to go.

Do you like nothing more than pineapples? Well then, there’s no need to just grow them in your hothouse. Put stone pineapples onto your garden follies!

Are you fascinated by the Middle Ages and chivalry and tales about King Arthur and the Tableround? In that case, I would suggest a gothic temple (or two) and some fake ruins. You can never go wrong with fake ruins!

The sketch at the top of this post shows the fake ruins in the park of Rousham House (sorry for the crappy quality of the picture; for some reason, Blogger doesn’t want to upload a cleaner version – duh). I love those ruins; they are one of my favourite follies. So of course, I just had to use them in The Lily Brand, given that it was my first published novel and all that. (If you’d like to find out more about fake ruins and the appeal of the gothic, come over to Bookish, where I’ll be doing a guest post next week as part of their SPOOK-tastic Bookish Halloween.)

There are no garden follies in Castle of the Wolf, alas. But hey, they live in a halfway ruined castle on top of a hill – where would I have put a garden folly in that scenario??? Bewitched, however, more than makes up for the lack of follies in Castle: the hero’s family has this lovely big country estate, whose park simply begged to be filled with exotic architecture. A small pavilion in the garden of Veitshöchheim in Bavaria provided the inspiration for the following:

Fox drew her along the path. “Come on, there must be a bench somewhere around here.”

Still laughing, Amy complied. “If you think I’ll let you talk me into shedding my boot and stocking, you belong in Bedlam!”

“Hush. This is serious. Oh, look here! There’s the small pavilion. Even better than a mere bench.”

“There are pineapples on top of it.”

“Stone pineapples.” He urged her to sit down onto one of the benches in the pavilion.

“Why are there pineapples on top of it?” It struck her as absurd.

He shrugged. “Because grandfather liked pineapples?” he suggested. “I really don’t know. Now show me your foot.”

She laughed. “You’re mad.”

He went down on one knee in front of her, which brought their faces nearly on one level. With an impatient gesture, he whipped his hat off his head and put it on the other bench. A few strands of coppery hair tumbled into his face.

Oh my, she thought. He looks delicious. Her stomach lurched. This time, her laugh sounded more like a squeak.  “You are mad.”

Putting his hands on the bench on each side of her, he leaned forward until they were nearly nose to nose. “Mad with love,” he whispered.

This time, her stomach didn’t lurch, it somersaulted. Oh my. Ohmyohmyohmy.

By the way, did you know that Bewitched is available for only $ 0.99 right now? Grab your copy here. (For some strange reason, the German price is much higher. So far I haven’t been able to figure out why; I might need to contact the KDP support team about that.)

Proofreading Bewitched

And the proofreading continues. (Today I was held up by a migraine, which was annoying. Grrrr.) (Also, I urgently needed to go food-shopping* after the bank holiday yesterday.) Here’s a bit from Chapter One, where we are introduced to Fox & his friends:

“But still, Miss Bourne is exquisite.” Drew reached over and took Fox’s glass. “Have you danced with her?” He regarded his friends over the rim of the glass while he took a deep gulp of the wine.
“Pansy-eyed, blond little chit, reaches up to about here?” Cyril indicated a spot in the middle of his chest. “Yes, I have.” He shrugged. “A bit disconcerting, if you ask me, such a little bit. Makes you wonder how …” He frowned. “If … you know.”
Drew grimaced in distaste. “Heavens, Cy, don’t be vulgar! At least not while Miss Bourne still holds my heart.”
“Soul,” Fox corrected. “Give me my wine back.”
“Did I say soul?”
“You did.” He held out his hand. “My wine.”
Drew drank the rest of the wine and handed the glass back. “I guess I must have. How many times did Munty dance with her? Did he say?”
Mournfully, Fox regarded his empty glass. “If you weren’t my friend, I’d have to call you out now.”
Cyril snorted and answered the question. “Twice.”
“Two dances? Goodness!” Drew slumped back in his chair. “I am devastated! I had only one!”

“Serves you right. You drank my wine,” Fox muttered darkly.

________

* Among other things, I bought a chocolate Easter bunny (which I proceeded to ate up in the course of the afternoon – the horrible bunny killer, that’s me) and a half-neikkid chocolate Easter man (= the perfect chocolate for a romance writer!)

Proofreading BEWITCHED

I’m currently proofreading Bewitched in order to get it ready for re-publication – and I’m falling in love with Fox and Amy all over again. 🙂 Here’s Amy, not at all happy with the balls in London:*

“Puh.” Clutching her glass of lemonade like a deadly weapon, Amy flopped down on a chair at the edge of the dancing floor, where the gossiping matrons and unfortunate wallflowers had gathered.

Being a wallflower sounded awfully good at the moment. She grimaced and wriggled her aching toes. Every blasted man younger than seventy at this blasted ball had wanted to dance with her at least once. They had given her foolish smiles, had talked to her in avuncular tones while leering at her bossom, and — to make matters worse — some of them had actually stepped on her toes. One hundred and eighty pounds of solid male stepping on one’s toes while they were ensheathed in only the lightest satin slipper could by no means be regarded as amusing.

_____________________
* I have to admit that I’m guilty of letting the trauma of the dancing lessons I had when I was seventeen or thereabouts influence my heroines’ enjoyment of balls. It is most unfair, I know.  But what can I do? *shrugs*

New covers!

Would you like to have a look at the new covers for my old novels? I hope you’ll like them just as much as I do!

For Castle of the Wolf, I’ve decided to go with another grumpy-looking (but scrumptious!) man in blue.

And for The Lily Brand, we need some chesticles, of course!

Lady Rawdon’s China

Remember the dowager countess’s china?

“How could I not? I have the loveliest room.” Stirring her tea, Amy was distracted by the sight of even more exotic birds on the delicate, gold and fuchsia rimmed cup. Inadvertently, her gaze was drawn to the curtains and wallpaper, then back.

At her flabbergasted look, the countess laughed. “My mother-in-law so wished for a room that matched the china that we couldn’t help choosing this decor when we redecorated the breakfast parlor a few years ago.”

“Oh,” Amy said faintly. To think of it: that somebody would choose their wallpaper to go with the china, of all things!

The china in this scene is modelled on the decor “Indian Birds” from Höchst, which is the local china manufacturer here in Frankfurt (named after the town Höchst). Indian birds came into existence in 1765 — I figured that the dowager countess would own slightly old-fashioned china. 🙂

Want to read some further analysis of this scene in regard to research? Then join me on the Romance Divas Forum for “No iPods for Regency Rakes”!

Of Black Butter

BEWITCHED got a truly lovely review from Heather Hiestand from Romance Reader at Heart:

It’s so refreshing to read historical romance that’s actually, well…. feels historical. Schwab’s gift for detail and description really makes this story come alive. I still remember the black butter for instance. I’d never heard of it before but the way she introduced it, then explained it, then had another character comment on it showed wonderful writer skills. Her powers of description defied my usual skimming technique.

Actually, this is a paranormal story with a great conflict, not just a circa 1820 historical romance. What do you do when you realize you were only in love with a man because you were under a spell? And you know that, but you still half feel all those great love feelings, and half realize it’s a spell? Even worse, the man is totally under the spell, doesn’t believe in magic, and you’ve already given your… oh wait, don’t want to throw a spoiler in here!

BEWITCHED is thoroughly delightful, and if you are a historical romance fan you should definitely pick this up, whether or not you like paranormal. Lovers of witch books will find this fabulous as well. It’s great!

*happy sigh*

In case you’re wondering about the black butter: I found the recipe in THE JANE AUSTEN COOKBOOK by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye:

From the sixteenth century, apples, pears and soft fruits improved so much in quality that cooked fruit mixtures became very popular for pies and tarts and as spreads. Dark-coloured mulberries, currants and blackberries in particular supplemented well the less tasty but pectin-rich apples for making the stiff mixtures which came to be called jams and, because the were the same consistency as the dairy foods, butters and cheeses. Although adults enjoyed them and served them to their guests, they were also considered wholesome (and cheap) treats for children.

In one of Jane [Austen]’s letters we find references to ‘black butter’ (perhaps blackberry and apple) being eaten by her family as a treat.

This reminded me of the apple butter I had enjoyed so much on my first trip to the US, which is why I let Amy eat black butter in the novel. Besides, the name “black butter” is wonderfully quaint, isn’t it? 🙂

This and that and a review

Two years or so ago I already mentioned the computer games up on Orisinal: Morning Sunshine. But as they are so very sweet, it’s worth mentioning them again. In fact, these are the sweetest computer games I know of and each is accompanied by uplifting little melodies, so the whole package never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I love the Ladybug game, where you let a little girl jump up and down and make dozens of colorful ladybugs fly away.

And the game where you let a little bunny jump from silver bell to silver bell is just wonderfully Christmasy (and indeed, it was added some time around Christmas).

And that keek-sound the little star-gatherer makes when she jumps always, always make me smile. Not to forget the eeeek the piggies emit when they land on top of each other! That’s always worth a giggle! *g*

Now there’s a new game called Sunny Day Sky, in which you make some sort of little animal open an umbrella and fly across cars. Have I mentioned the music? Totally love the music! 🙂

~*~~*~~*~~*~

Today a new review of BEWITCHED went online on ParaNormalRomance and the reviewer, Chere Gruver had lovely things to say about my novel:

BEWITCHED is a funny, adventurous paranormal romance. Sandra Schwab has definitely done her research before she ever started on this story, and it shows. With her descriptions of the balls and clothes and events during the “season” in London to the foggy Fenlands, Sandra Schwab vividly transported me to each and every place. The secondary characters are all as wonderful as the hero and heroine as well. I really loved Fox’s niece and his valet. We watch as Amy grows from a young woman playing with her magic to an adult doing what she must to keep the people she loves safe. And our hero isn’t left alone either, he must learn to deal with his step-father’s abuse, the fact he’s a bastard and come to terms with realizing there is magic in his world. All in all, this is a very entertaining and delightful story and well worth the time spent reading it.

It’s always nice to end your day with a “Wheeee!” 🙂

New Review

AtzecLady posted a lovely review of BEWITCHED on Karen Scott’s blog. And here are my favourite bits:

Like Castle of the Wolf, Bewitched is very much a romance. Like Castle of the Wolf, it is also something more, something else, something different.

And:

Amy is such a wonderful character. She is strong even when she fears her own weakness, and lets her generous heart guide her during moments of darkness and uncertainty. For his part, Sebastian’s reactions and feelings are so well drawn, so deeply felt, that my heart ached for both of them.

And of course:

This is a total winner and gets 9 out of 10