Posted by: raesalley | April 19, 2016

Overdue speed reviews!

Good Earl Gone Bad (Manda Collins)

Horses. It’s all about the horses.

We have a headstrong woman with a father who just does not know what to do with her. Instead of letting her go be herself and do all the things she wants, he undermines her and then gives her away when she becomes to be too much trouble. At least the man he loses her hand in cards to is a mostly moral individual who knows this isn’t going to be easy for her. Unlike her dad, he understands what is important to her and makes sure that her horses come home. And, on the way, they fall in a bit of love.

The Unforgettable Hero (Valerie Bowman)


Have you ever wanted to live inside a book? This is the one written for that little piece inside of all of us who really wanted to be the heroine to the point where we cast our friends in the delusion. The fun of this is that it casts a gentlemen as a duke who has no such aspirations, a heroine who’s determined to save herself from a fate worse than death (a terrible marriage), conniving guardians and glimpses of some of our favorite Playful Brides.

The Hunter (Kerrigan Byrne)

In my former life, I worked in theater. Having a book that takes place in/around/near theater is fun. Some of the things that happen at the theater were bothersome to my modern theatrical sensibilities. Not to mention that this has all the feelings of a Beauty and the Beast/Stockholm love story at points. If I boxed the theater part of my brain, I enjoyed the way our hero was willing to put the darkness in him aside for this woman. But. I would have liked a better build up on the villain.

Wedding Night with the Earl (Amelia Grey)

I don’t think this could have been telegraphed harder. I don’t want to give anything away, but we’ve got a hero brooding and shut himself away after his beloved wife dies in childbed. Like many women, she blamed him for the big baby that eventually killed her and the child in labor. Like many men, he took it seriously and was prepared to never do this again. Except, he’s somehow an heir, with an earldom to manage and an orphan from a branch of the family to raise as heir. Finding his way back to society requires serious effort, and a guiding hand from a young lady. It was quite fun, even though I desperately wanted to beat the husband over the head with a frying pan after a bit for insisting he couldn’t possibly risk losing another woman he loved.

Posted by: raesalley | January 6, 2016

I am not a “Mrs.”

I grew up with a long, rather annoying last name. It has caused both my mother and sister-in-law to just go by “Z” with their high school class rooms. I had that name for the first 30ish years of my life and made a successful theater career with it and still use it when I’m working professionally in that venue. Personally though, with the day job and with my kids, I use my married name when I have to – usually when introducing myself (FN LN) or very rarely with the title “Ms.” For me, the “Mrs.” is something I associate with the old guard methodology that women take their husband’s names and become their possession. I blame my mother for this and her 60s/70s feminist ideals. I use my husband’s name because it is easier for my children to spell and easier to associate with them for school purposes. It is shorter, easier to pronounce, easier to spell and moved me alphabetically to the beginning of the alphabet after years of dealing with sorting to the end of every list. I correct all the places I can and get rather frustrated in the places I can’t (i.e. plane tickets). More often than not, I don’t use a title at all. I’ve even entertained working on a Ph.D. just to get the “Dr.” title to avoid this situation. However, this is not often a problem as I have a rather rare first name and most people know me by that and my department…usually referring to me as the person who solves things.

As I’m getting settled in to the chaos of the early day this morning, I hear the heavier steps of uniform shoes I associate with the security detail on our site. About four or five months ago, they changed up their processes to include more frequent laps through the building and not an hour goes by that I don’t hear them go by. They don’t interact with the staff as I’ve been able to observe, but seem to do their work efficiently as they pass through the building and grounds making sure we all have our badges and our cars have our green dots. Mind you, I sit with my back to the door of my cubicle in my office. It’s the only way the cubicle built-in counters & cabinets work for my methods. It isn’t ideal, but there’s a mirror on the cabinet right in front of me so I can see behind me as people walk by all day. In some ways, it is distracting, to have that constant movement in the corner of my eye as I stare at my screen processing emails, hunting down clues to various problems and connecting disparate pieces of information to remove roadblocks for the assorted people and teams I work with on a daily basis. It’s as if you’re constantly Dug from Up having a conversation about things that are –SQUIRREL- interrupted. I hear “Good Morning Mrs. LastName” causing me to start and mildly panic about who was around. It was the security guard and either in an attempt to be friendly because I looked up as he passed or in a big brother attempt to terrify me he called out a greeting as he passed.

This proceeded to bother me for the next several minutes and discomfort me. What this means is that if you use the wrong title when addressing me, I know that you don’t actually know me nor care about me as a person. If you did know me, you’d use my first name. You might call me by any of the half dozen or so variations of names I use or have used online – some that are not related to my name at all but an online handle. You might even use a term of endearment that we have accepted as reasonable between us. But you wouldn’t call me “Mrs.” Not if you know who me. Maybe I haven’t given up being a Yankee as of yet.

Posted by: raesalley | November 2, 2015

Review: The Irresistible Rogue by Valerie Bowman

When I was pitched this book, I was offered a Regency version of Philadelphia Story with a spy twist. Not having seen the Grant/Hepburn vehicle, I had to google the reference. Secret marriage to protect the girl and now she wants out for her “real” marriage that would be appropriate for society? Sold.

I started reading the book and it begins right in the thick of it all. If you have read the previous entries in the Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman, you’ve met Lady Daphne Swift as she first disappears for two weeks, then is caught trying to sneak out of a ball and finally as a co-conspirator. Getting to read her story is like icing on the cake after reading the previous entries. We had glimpses of her brother, his friends and the couple she helped bring together while not being overwhelmed by their happy lives. It was good to see that Lucy was still causing trouble, Jane was after all the teacakes and Cass was the calming influence on them all.

If you haven’t read the previous entries, this book does work like a bottle episode. While we get glimpses of the couples from the previous novels, none of the actors or their interconnected lives has major roles to play with the unfolding spy work being done by Lady Daphne and her Captain Rafe Cavendish. Lady Daphne is the younger sister of Julian (hero of Accidental Countess) and he served with Captain Cavendish. To be honest, there were times where my first read through were more enjoyable than the second time through after re-reading the previous books in the series. Lady Daphne seems to have gotten significantly more timid and proper at the start of the novel than we saw her in the previous novels. I’d love to know what happened between her trying to sneak out a window (to see the injured Rafe) and the start of this novel to make her want to be so perfectly prim.

What I loved about this book was that we jumped right in. Everyone wants what is best for Daphne, but the only one who is willing to contradict her and point out that what she thinks is best is not what she really wants is Rafe until after the fact. Daphne is sure that she is making the right decision and has a list with rankings to back her up on her selection of a husband, even if he is dull and a social climber that none of her family or friends would willingly seek out for friendship. Everything breaks after a few glasses of champagne and we are tossed into the spy portion of the book.

I will say that this is where it gets a little muddy for me. I understand a slip of a girl in her mid-teens being able to pose as a cabin-boy, but from the descriptions of Daphne, other than her opposite of tall status she has the figure of a girl which might be a little harder to hide when she’s in her breeches role. But assume the role she does and works hard to earn her place with the other men onboard, even convincing Rafe to teach her to throw knives (Chekhov’s skill, anyone?). Rafe keeps her out of the way, using her when the mission calls for her Russian language skills, but otherwise avoiding her to keep his hands off of her. As required in a story like this, the girl he’s sworn to protect has to get in danger at some point – and despite her proving that she can defend herself, Rafe gets her out of harms way as fast as possible. This is where the Daphne we know returns, and convinces Rafe that he needs people and more specifically he needs her.

The push-pull in this book was an interesting one. We have the Big Misunderstanding — Daphne saw a blonde doxy in Rafe’s bed on their previous outing together and firmly believes that she was there for him, despite what he says. We have the heroine masquerading as a boy to have the freedom and adventure she wanted as a girl. We have the non-titled hero who thinks that all the titled folks are worthless snobs unless they served in the war or came at their title from some other way. We have spies to hunt down in France and revenge for a lost brother/associate. We have the hero thinking he can’t have the girl because of guilt and her being too good for him — despite him believing someone who (on paper) is good enough for her is wrong for her. All these elements blend together quite nicely and allow for a lovely story that wraps up quite well, right up into the epilogue, but that’s another’s tale.

Posted by: raesalley | May 10, 2015

#100DaysOfRA! 5/9&10 D31&32

Happy Anniversary to me and my Bald One. In getting ready to say something mushy (on Facebook – sigh) about the fact that we’ve married for nine years I realized that in that nine years we have been through quite a bit. I’ve been unemployed, he’s been unemployed twice, we bought a house, had two kids, changed our entire lives around because of said tiny people who now rule everything. We’ve lost a cat and we’ve seen family die – both expected and unfortunate. But we’ve been there together through it all.

We celebrated by being off together for forty-eight hours (woohoo!) and running errands. One of those errands involved getting our cake slice from the restaurant we had our post-wedding dinner. As usual, it was a delicious sugar rush that went very quickly due to two tiny people helping us eat.

Next year we might do something splendid, since it will be a nice solid ten years of married life.

Posted by: raesalley | May 8, 2015

#100DaysofRA! – Kindergarten Prep

Yesterday, I couldn’t talk about it since I was totally distracted by the fantastic-ness of food trucks. Plus, part of me was in Denial (no longer a river in Egypt!). That Denial is related to the fact that Gummi Bear starts Kindergarten.

It must be true, as the Bald One took her to her Kindergarten Orientation. Not that she remembers it five minutes after it happened, but she went. And she’s looking forward to the insanity, because they have a blue slide for her to play on. No other reason, although I have a feeling that she doesn’t know about the Lego play room that they use for the STEM portion of the curriculum.

I’m looking forward to her taking this next step. She needs a bigger challenge than just seeing how she can out-smart her brother. I’m also looking forward to her getting up and getting ready even though it means that my world is about to go crazy since my morning routine (where I barely can get myself organized and out the door) is about to go through a fundamental shift. To that end, she’s starting to get up and have breakfast with me. So far (on day two), she’s doing well. We’ll see how she holds out.

Posted by: raesalley | May 7, 2015

Day job perks…


I often miss my theater career and the crazy hours and fun of it all. I decided a long time ago to live here and accept the fact that I would need a day job to live the life I wanted if I wanted to be here and do theater. And when Gummi Bear and Buddy Roo came on the scene, forcing me to take the Mommy Track in theater and take a few years off, I take solace in the fact that my day job has some of the same elements that I love in theater.

The day job definitely had its perks: 401k, travel,  insurance and a decent paycheck top the list. But every once in a while they do something ridiculously fun. Today,  lunch is free & in the form of a food truck rodeo. I’m going to have the best balls in the Triangle. Thanks day job.

Posted by: raesalley | April 30, 2015

Stormy skies

imageThe view just made me happy. I’d look in my rearview mirror and I’d see all the stormy skies behind me…I was hopeful, it felt like the grey skies were past us and we were looking into a bright future with sunshine, blue skies and giant fluffy white clouds.

What really happened was I sat in traffic that felt like it would never end before reaching my home to pick up Gummi Bear prior to her weekly gymnastics fun. Once at gymnastics, you could feel the pressure change and see the sky getting darker all around as the kids tumbled through their classes. Several classes finish up around seven, and as the boys and girls gathered their shoes and water bottles the skies opened up. Gummi Bear and her class were still in the foam block pit where they end all their classes as the rain battered the roof. Instead of their usual waiting for dismissal as a class, each one was released to their waiting parent the second they emerged from the foam with a sticker and flyer in hand.

Gummi Bear and I sat, waiting for the torrents to slow outside and make it so we could at least see our way to the car. When it finally started to lighten a bit, I remembered we could go out the back door since I parked, for once, at that end of the gym. This only involved us being in the wet for brief moments, instead of having to ford a small lake in the parking lot and run uphill in my soft sided shoes and her crocs. We drove carefully home, watching the puddles fly up as other cars flew by and then ran quickly to our front door.

But looking at this photo, you’d never believe the storm that came or the rainbow that followed.

Posted by: raesalley | April 28, 2015

Day 20/21 — Some Introspection…

As we wrap up the month that my girl was born, I think about one of the thoughts I heard on a podcast I listen to regularly. The discussion was related to movies involving the YA/NA  / coming-of-age genre. It’s an interesting media group, one that I regularly read, because it is focusing on a major crossroads for the main characters. It’s the point in life where you’re finally starting to make decisions for yourself and one of the big focusing factors is the difference between intentional family and real family.

How many different books or movies do you see where one of the characters has to have a terrible upbringing – absentee or abusive parents, usually – but still turns out to be normal due to the folks that step up and raise the child and become the surrogate parents? Or, more often, there’s the kid that is always going over to their friends place and chooses that family over their “flesh & blood”? More often with the YA/NA genre you’ll see that the characters as they step out into adult-hood select their friends over or in addition to their family. This network of friends (or family of friends) becomes the intentional family for the individual.

The intentional family can be for reasons other than crappy family life – sometimes you are looking for people who are close to your ideological base or sociological values. Other times there is a perception of the individual of having come from a different socioeconomic stratus than the family actually resides and as the individual comes into their own, they want to be with those they feel more comfortable being around.

One of the comments I heard most when I was pregnant is “oh my – how ever are you going to live with yourself, depriving your child of her grandparents?” or some variant of that. It’s true, my children are two or a ten hour drive from their biological grandparents. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have adequate older generation role models. Our closest friends, who we refer to as our daughter’s godparents, have their parents (and step parents) close and these five individuals have stepped up to fill a void at times. But my children do travel well and still see their actual grandparents. But increasingly I see that we have a very strong intentional family around us that fills all the spaces that might have been filled by extended blood relations – Sunday dinners, holiday plans and occasional babysitters among other things. So I don’t feel they’re missing out, I think they’re gaining

Posted by: raesalley | April 27, 2015

Real (estate) discussions

Following on the meeting yesterday with the painters, we’re continuing to dip our toe into the whole idea that we’re going to have to move. (Can you tell I really don’t want to accept this concept?) For today’s toe-in-the-water, we had a meeting with a real estate agent.

I started the discussion on a shallow, low commitment email via Zillow to a real estate agent who has had a number of sales in our area. I blatantly said we’re not selling right now, but we know we’re going to have to sell in the next two years and to that end, we want a professional to take a look at our place and let us know where to focus our energies. And, when we are ready to sell, well, you’ll have first dibs if we all like each other.

I’m not home (stupid work) when she arrives, but she walks around the house with the Bald One taking looks at the outside first. There’s nail pops on the siding, trim work that needs painting, gutters need cleaning and the patio is gorgeous. The yard looks low maintenance but well done. The front porch needs an overhaul (already scheduled). Then she steps in the house, and asks how many cats we have (three). We really need to clear out the cats and all the odor related to them to not make people leave the second they walk in. Part of that would be removing the remaining carpets and checking the duct work through the house, which were both planned in the next two years. Oddly, she loved the flooring we have replaced and had no idea that it was laminate. Next on her hit list were some easy, understood things: we have too much stuff, and too much personal stuff on the walls. When we take it all down, we’ll likely want to paint the entire place. The rustic-feel of the exposed bricks and the laminate are lovely and charming, but the kitchen needs a bit of work with an updated dishwasher and hinges. The master bath vanity should be redone, which unfortunately means the flooring needs to be done.

The good news is almost everything she mentioned is something we were planning on dealing with ourselves in the next 18 months or so. Now we just have to do it, figure out what we want in a new house, and begin the paring down of all the things. Wish us luck, please.

Posted by: raesalley | April 26, 2015

Paint Shop Boys

I live in a quirky house. I love my quirky house. It’s older (30+ years), it has character, it isn’t a standard square and it has a lovely arrangement of rooms that don’t allow for a single baby gate. There are stairs all over the place, a master bedroom that is sort of public, but sort of private. The room we originally used as a nursery was at the top of the stairs and we’d just see Gummi Bear peaking out of her crib at us when we’d come to the bottom of the stairs. With the backyard patio we’ve added, the landscaping that has been done and the plants coming into bloom in the spring it is a lovely getaway from the world. Add to the fact that we are within walking distance of two decent parks, a quiet neighborhood and minutes away from shopping or downtown and you’d think we have an ideal place.

Then we had a second child. If we had stopped at the first one, we might have been okay. But we wanted two kids, and thus we outgrew our house. At least we can toss the older one in the backyard to run around, but since Buddy Roo has issues with self-preservation we can’t throw them both outside to play. Add to that the amount of rain we’ve had of late and it gets a little confining.

Because of this, the Bald One and I have realized that we need to look at getting ready to sell. See how I eased myself into that thinking? We’re not really there yet, are we…it’s just, to better position ourselves we need to do a few things. And who says we can’t enjoy it while we have it? Like the back patio, it needed to be fixed or replaced and now it is a lovely place to sit and read or have dinner with friends. The flooring that was also done last spring feels great, cleans up well and was a lovely change from the evil Berber carpet. The next logical outdoor step is painting, maybe. And since we have no idea what we’re doing there, maybe we should talk to someone about what that entails.

Enter a bright-eyed college junior running a small business under a larger umbrella. He comes into our kitchen, talks with us about options and finds out who we are and what we’re looking for. He walks around and talks about what he sees (peeling spots here, not much of an issue there, bare untreated wood that will need two coats) and goes off to crunch numbers. We decide painting really isn’t the priority compared to a few other things (like getting our HVAC to behave), but the bare wood really should be painted to fit in with everything else. He breaks it down for us, and he gets a check with the promise to visit in a few months to go over specifics of color and schedule with the hopes of being able to get us to sign on for painting the rest of the house.

But that feels like a commitment. A step towards an unknown future house for us and different owners for this quirky little place. Hopefully they’ll love it too.

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