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Haunting Heartbreakers--Heroes or Hellions?

HAUNTING HEARTBREAKERS: Heroes or Hellions?

by Virginia Campbell 

My fascination with Vampires began at an early age. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins on "Dark Shadows" started it. Bram Stoker's "Dracula" fueled it. Frank Langella's superbly sensual "Dracula" immortalized it. David Boreanaz's sweet, conflicted "Angel" renewed it. Vampires are awesome! Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is the Grand Vamp of them all. There are many film portrayals of The Count, with my favorite being the superb Frank Langella! I can also say that Louis Jordan and Jack Palance both put their own intriguing mark on the character of "Dracula". Nods to Bella Lugosi and Christopher Lee as well. However, no one has captured the seductive, sensual, invasive evil of Dracula as captivatingly as Frank Langella! That voice! I can only imagine him in his live stage performances as "Dracula", his audience spellbound as his voice wrapped around them!!! I watched the film in the theater when it first came out in 1979. When I watched it again, thirty years later, it still hit me like a lightning bolt. The climactic (non-nude) "love scene" was one of the most erotic things I've ever seen on film! Still powerful! There is a modern renaissance of Vampire fascination and fanaticism. There are Vamps of all types, but the indelible image of a tall, dark, handsome and powerfully compelling male Vampire remains the touchstone. "When a Vamp loves a woman", she is not just food for thought...she is his "soul provider". Who could be a darker hero? Who could be needier of redemption than a legendary Master Vamp? 

October is my favorite month of the year. Autumn is glorious. I love so many things about this season. Every year, I try to breathe it all in and keep it stored in my memories. Since we celebrate Halloween this month, I decided to offer you a wonderful array of treats--Handsome Hunks and Haunting Heartbreakers. Heroes with bite, or at the very least, some seriously sweet and sexy nibbles. "The Bite" is very sensual because the neck is an erogenous zone. Offering it up to be bitten is sexual surrender. When the fangs sink in, it's an erotic rush for the Vamp and his "soul provider". Paranormal romance takes love beyond yearning and turns it into craving. Even when it is written in a humorous vein, it is still intense, and HEA is not guaranteed. It's really quite amazing how soulful the undead can be, especially when love is unrequited. I love it when vampires, “immortal undead”, can be brought to their knees by innocence. Fatally pure innocence. Love….as the sharpest, strongest stake to the heart. I hope you will enjoy reading about these rascals, rogues, and rapscallions. Some of them are sensually seductive supernaturals, and the others are just naturally nice & naughty! Some are deliciously devilish...and some may be devils in disguise!   

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake  

One of my favorite ghosts is "Dev" from a paranormal romance with an unusual twist: "Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake" by Laurie Brown. A modern career woman is thrust back in time into the glittering Regency period and the arms of an unscrupulous rake. Josephine Drummond is a professional paranormal researcher (aka, a ghostbuster) hired to prove that the ghost of Lord Deverell Thornton, the very handsome Earl and a notorious rake in his time, haunts the crumbling Waite Castle. But the ghost drags Josephine back to the Regency period to help him try to prevent the swindle that impoverished the Earl and threatens to turn his castle into a most undignified modern-day tourist attraction. Josephine has to contend with being a modern career woman trying to navigate the complex social scene of the Regency period, make sure no one discovers her real identity and unmask a charlatan. But all of these are easier than resisting her undeniable attraction to the Earl, who is clearly determined to sweep her off her feet. Very good read!

   Must Love Vampires 

Must Love Vampires", by Heidi Betts, is wicked, wild, wanton, and wonderfully wacky! It's a fabulous fun feast for lovers of hunky vampires with irresistible charm. Sebastian and Aidan Raines are two tall, dark and delicious brothers who live the undead life in Las Vegas. That's right--Vegas. The perfect city for two vampire entrepreneurs to take advantage of nightlife extraordinaire! Sebastian is the brother in charge, and Aidan is the brother who lives large. Neither of them expects to be captivated and captured by a gorgeous woman who has inherited the looks and legs of her showgirl mother. However, that's exactly what happens to each brother when they meet identical twin beauties Charlotte "aka Chuck" and Chloe Lamoreaux. Chloe is a dancer at a club owned by Sebastian, and Chuck is a writer for a tattle-sheet tabloid. One fateful night, Chuck impersonates Chloe in the chorus line as part of an undercover report investigation of the successful, secretive, and oh-so-sexy Sebastian. While Chuck is shaking her booty on stage, Chloe elopes with Aidan, whom she has been dating for only a short time. Mistaken identities, scorching erotic romps, hilarious chaos and poignant secrets are all a part of this marvelous mix of mayhem and paranormal passion! Prepare to alternate between laughing out loud and furiously fanning yourself as those two lucky lady twins discover the delight of the bite! Bodacious bad boy brothers--fangtastic!

   The Devil's Temptress   

"The Devil's Temptress", by Laura Navarre, is a superbly told tale of medieval political intrigue and the two passionate lovers caught in the court's spidery web. Alienore of Lyonstone is the personal scribe and favored lady-in-waiting of Eleanor of Aquitane, the displaced wife of Henry Plantagenet, King of England. Secretly trained in the skills of a knight of battle, Alienore takes up the cause of women she believes to have been wronged. She meets her match on the battlefield in the form of a mysterious dark knight known as the "Raven". Scarred inside and out, the Raven uses his position as master-at-arms to cloak his hidden agendas. Is the black knight honorable, or is he the Devil in human form? Should Alienore give in to the powerful longings created by the Raven's tough and tender manner? Will he give his heart, something he has vowed never to do again? Ms. Navarre spins this enthralling romantic tale with great skill and historical detail. "The Devil's Temptress" is a very involving adventure which is also richly characterized. Highly recommended!   

Secrets of a Scandalous Bride (Widows Club, #4)   

If you are attracted to heroes with a darker side, one terrific example of a redeemed villain is found in The Widows Club Series by Sophia Nash. In the third book of the series, Love With the Perfect Scoundrel, we are introduced to the villain of the piece, Rowland Manning. Driven by the hardships of his early life, Rowland is ruthless in his actions, even attempting at one point to kill his own brother. In the fourth book, Secrets of a Scandalous Bride, Rowland is the tortured hero of his own story. We get to know the reasons for his harsh, often brutal behavior. The cruelty and deprivations he suffered in his youth made him a lean, mean, vengeance machine. To keep himself "fighting mean," he even deprives himself of the pleasures of good food, surviving on a daily regimen of rigidly bare meals. One of the ways the heroine breaks through to him is to continue to ply him with delicious food. Gingerbread, with its deep, dark spicy goodness, is a loaded weapon to man so self-deprived. When the gingerbread is served to him by a beautiful, caring woman, how could Rowland not succumb to temptation? Just like The Grinch, Rowland's heart grew three sizes that day! Enjoy this book while indulging in your favorite gingerbread recipe, which, like Rowland, is unexpectedly sweet beneath the tartness!

    Claiming His Runaway Bride (Silhouette Desire, #1890) 

"Claiming His Runaway Bride" by Yvonne Lindsay is a perfect example of why I have been a lifelong lover of category romance. It also was a terrific reminder of why I love my favorite authors. This is a very intense story line with a taut air of mystery mixed with sexual tension, and that electric chemistry between the man and woman is tainted by the thrall of power and possession. Luc Tanner is very much a scarred anti-hero. Love is not a word in his thought processes, even when it comes to his wife, Belinda, the woman he desires above all others. Struggling to regain her memory after a traumatic accident in which her husband was also injured, Belinda both loves and desires her husband. However, she senses that there are elements of their life together which don't fit the image of a happily married couple. Luc sees love as a weakness, one that led to his mother's death at the hands of his own father. The abuse that Luc and his mother suffered from his father forced Luc to armor plate his heart and to focus on becoming an untouchable, unrivaled force in the business world. He thinks that he only desires Belinda, and that she is necessary for his plan for success, but his heart knows better than his mind. It is only by letting go of what he holds most important that Luc will eventually gain more than he ever imagined. Wonderful storytelling!   

To Beguile a Beast (Legend of the Four Soldiers, #3)

To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt is not a typical historical romance. The hero, Sir Alistair Munroe, is physically flawed, but principled and intelligent. The heroine, Helen Fitzwilliam, while classically beautiful, has taken some wrong turns in life. In order to find safe harbor for herself and her two children, she must flee the powerful man, the Duke of Lister, to whom she has been a mistress for more than ten years. While the Duke feels no real love for Helen, or the two children she has borne him, he refuses to let Helen leave him of her own free will. Forced to assume the identify of a housekeeper, Helen surprises Alistair at his run down castle with a recommendation from a mutual acquaintance. Alistair has been living in increasing despair and disorder. At first, he insists that Helen and the children cannot stay, but he soon comes to enjoy the life and light they bring to his home. Helen is no housekeeper or cook, but she applies herself to setting things to right. The children overcome their initial apprehension at the disfigurement Alistair has suffered, and they spend more and more time with him, learning from his scientific mind. It is not science which draws Alistair and Helen together, but sizzling chemistry! When the Duke kidnaps his own children to force Helen to return to him, Alistair must examine his own moral code and the deep love he feels for Helen and the children.

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What makes a hero unforgettable? Is there a particular characteristic that appeals to you? Are you all for Alphas, or are Betas better? Are you intrigued by well-spoken, cultured charmers, or do actions speak louder to your heart than words? Who's your favorite haunting heartbreaker? Now that I have whetted your appetites with thoughts of delightfully decadent daring devils, here are some recipes to tantalize your taste buds!

Chocolate Gingerbread Squares

4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick), melted
1/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tsp ground ginger
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1/8 Tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 Cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 Cup molasses
1 large egg
1/2 Cup sour cream
1 Tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Butter and lightly flour an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, spices and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in vanilla extract and chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly firm to touch. When cool, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Cut into 16 squares. Store in airtight container.  

Cheese & Sausage Bites

2 lbs Pork Sausage
1 1/2 cups all-purpose baking mix
4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic salt

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir well. Form into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet; bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. If desired, serve with a variety of dips like honey mustard, ranch dressing or chili sauce.

 

English Trifle

2 pkgs. ladyfingers; 1/2 cup rum or brandy; 12 oz. strawberry preserves; 2 (3 oz.) pkgs. regular vanilla pudding mix (not instant); 4 c. whole milk; 1 large can sliced peaches, drainedl 1 pt. blueberries*; 1 pt. raspberries or strawberries*; 1 pt. heavy cream; 1 tbsp. rum or brandy;
*reserve small amount of berries for garnishlarge clear glass bowl

Line bottom of the trifle bowl with 1/2 of the ladyfingers. Sprinkle with half of rum or brandy. Prepare vanilla pudding according to package directions using 4 cups milk. Top ladyfingers with 1/2 jar strawberry preserves. After pudding is partially cooled, put 1/2 pudding on top of preserves. Add a layer of 1/2 fruit (peaches and berries). Repeat using the remaining ladyfingers, rum or brandy, strawberry preserves, vanilla pudding, and fruit. Whip the cream -- adding 1/2 ounce rum -- and frost the top of the trifle. Garnish with remaining berries. Refrigerate. Can be made 1 day ahead.   

Chicken Tenders with Cranberry-Mustard Sauce 

1 pound fresh, uncoated chicken breast tenders
Flour
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup  Dried Cranberries
1/4 cup sliced green onions, green part only

Lightly toss chicken pieces with flour; shake off excess. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and oil in a large skillet. Add half of the chicken; cook about 2 minutes, turning once until chicken is golden brown on each side and cooked through. Add more butter and oil if needed. Remove to a platter; keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken. Add wine, chicken broth and mustard to skillet, scraping up browned bits. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir into skillet. Add dried cranberries. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in green onions; cook 1 more minute. Pour sauce over chicken.

 

Butterscotch Apple Bars

1 cup packed brown sugar; 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened; 1/4 cup shortening; 1 3/4 cups  all-purpose flour; 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped peeled tart apples (3 medium); 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 1 (11 oz) bag butterscotch chips

 Heat oven to 400ºF. Mix brown sugar, butter and shortening in large bowl. Stir in 1 3/4 cups flour, the oats, salt and baking soda. Reserve 2 cups oat mixture; press remaining oat mixture in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches. Toss apples and 3 tablespoons flour; spread over mixture in pan. Sprinkle butterscotch chips evenly over apples. Top evenly with reserved oat mixture; press lightly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender. Cool and cut into bars. Store covered in refrigerator.       

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Savory Dip 

4 or 5 Medium Sweet Potatoes; 1/4 Cup Olive Oil; seasoned salt; ranch dressing or French onion dip

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut in half lengthwise, cut each half into 1/4” thick slices. Pour olive oil into a large bowl. Place the fries in the bowl with the oil and toss until all fries are thoroughly coated. Spread the fries out on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle fries lightly and evenly with seasoned salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning half way through. Serve with ranch dressing or French onion dip.