Spicy Red Lentil Soup: A Recipe from the Damselfly Inn

Something a little hot just for you!

A few fictional years  have passed since Nan Grady was feeding her friends at the Damselfly Inn, but she’s still very much a voice in my head. Married now, and going by Nan Fuller, and still feeding her friends. I imagine them gathered around the big farm table in her kitchen, guests out enjoying the art museum or a play at the college, or warming up by the fire in the parlor. It’s cold and snowy outside. The pastures are white; the Fuller herd is in the barns. The sun goes down early, so the sky outside is dark, but the lights are burning bright in the yellow Victorian on County Road, and soup is on the menu.

Nan likes easy comfort food, but with a little something spicy and unexpected, so this recipe is one I can easily see her making. Pull up a seat at her table, and enjoy!

  • 2 T. coconut oil (olive is fine, too)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • fresh grated ginger to taste (I used a couple of tablespoons)*
  • 1 T. Thai red curry paste*
  • 2 T. Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Tuong Ot Toi)*
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 T.  finely chopped garlic*
  • 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds*
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander*
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric*
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 4 c. vegetable or chicken stock/broth
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • good pinch of saffron threads*
  • chopped fresh cilantro (if you’re into that)
  • plain greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, then sauté the onions until they are softened and translucent, but not browned. Add everything from the ginger to the turmeric and sauté for a minute. Dump in the tomatoes, broth, and lentils. Give it a stir, then add the saffron threads. Simmer for about 15 minutes. If you like, you can immersion blend it at the end for smoothness, but it’s not necessary.

Serve topped with cilantro and yogurt (or other dairy). Yum!

*Basically, adjust all the flavors to suit what you like.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Damselfly Inn is FREE for a limited time at Amazon, and you can pick up Buck’s Landing for just 99¢!

Cinnamon Girl: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Romance: Cinnamon Girl: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Story, Part 3

Continued from Part 2, or you can start from the beginning.

“Patty, why are we doing this again?” Walt trudged through the rows of blue spruce with his sister while his niece and nephew covered one another in snow and fallen needles.

Patty grinned. “Because Mom’s not home to remind you, I’m leaving in three days, and we’ll be with Gary’s family for Christmas, and Joe will probably forget what day it is. If we don’t get you a Christmas tree now, you won’t have one at all, and that’s just sad.” She stopped, hands on her hips, and peered through the row at an eight footer a few feet away. “That one.”

Walt followed the line of her gaze and approached the tree in question. “This one?”

“Yes.” One of the kids squealed from somewhere behind them, and Patty hollered back without looking. “Leave your sister alone.”

Walt knelt under the tree, shaking some of the snow off the boughs before he notched the hand saw into the bark. “You know mom’s going to stay with Aunt Yolie. There’s no point in a tree at the farm.”

His sister was uncharacteristically silent. He heard her boots crunching through the snow toward him. Her voice, when she spoke, was gentle. “Mom can’t hide herself away with at Yolie’s for the rest of her life.”

Walt finished notching the tree, then eased out from underneath it to hand the saw to Patty. “Hold that.”

Patty took the saw. “Okay, fine. Mom probably will stay with Yolie in town.”

Walt took the saw back and crawled under on the other side of the trunk to finish the job.

“You could always invite that pretty redhead from the funeral over to help you trim your tree.”

Walt’s head snapped up and he thwacked it on a low branch, muttering a curse in Patty’s direction as the remaining snow in the boughs fell on him with a soft whump.

Patty and the kids laughed; Walt couldn’t help grinning at himself. “Thanks, Sissy. I needed that.”

“The laugh or the tree?” Patty asked, nudging her kids back into the snow to play.

Walt looked between the kids wrestling in the dirty track and his sister standing over the fallen fir, and channeled the memory of his Pop—intentionally this time. “Ayuh.”

Patty’s eyes misted over. “Let’s get this tree back to the truck.” She brushed away the emotion and hollered again at the kids. “Ellen, Alex, back to the truck!”

Walt grabbed the tree by a lower branch and dragged it along. When he caught up to Patty, she gave him a sly look.

“Who is the redhead anyhow?”

His cold-stung cheeks warmed a bit. “Molly Sanders.”

“She’s pretty. How’d you meet?”

“You remember the day I stranded the truck out by the bridge?” He paused; Patty nodded. “Molly and her cousin Jane picked me up and brought me back to the farm.”

Patty rounded on him. “You met that girl last week?”

Walt stopped. “Yeah, why?”

“Not every girl shows up at a family funeral for a second look. Unless you were slipping out at night to meet her after Thanksgiving?”

“Patty.” They’d eaten the holiday meal around the kitchen table, too sad and tired to put much into it.

Patty clicked her tongue. “You’re a goner.”

“Uncle Walt! Look!” Alex, six, came barreling back to them, holding a robin’s nest in his mittened hands.

“Hold onto that,” Patty said. “They’re good luck in a Christmas tree, and your uncle’s going to need it.”

Walt shook his head, but he didn’t argue. Patty started walking again, but stopped after a few steps to turn back to him. “Invite her over to trim the tree.”

He didn’t have the heart to tell his sister that Molly Sanders was probably back at her college in Saratoga Springs, and not likely to waste much more time on a homebody like him.

To be continued…

Cinnamon Girl: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Romance: Cinnamon Girl: A Thornton Vermont Christmas Story, Part 1

It’s December, and time for the 6th annual holiday romance! This Christmas, we return to Thornton’s near past, and the valley in which the heart of the series lies. There’s a reason Joss Fuller is the man he is, and it has a lot to do with the people who raised him.

They weren’t always grandparents-in-waiting, though. In the winter of 1977, they were just two kids, figuring out their futures…
Walt Fuller’s father dropped dead repairing a pasture fence a week before Thanksgiving.

Walt missed his Pop something fierce, but his  mother’s pain overshadowed his grief. She descended into mourning that lasted until the day she died. Jed’s broad-chested, bull-headed life had been the center of hers, and when his light went out, Tory Fuller switched hers off as well.

If she left Walt alone in the dark, he didn’t have the heart to say.

Within a day, the three bedroom farmhouse on the Fuller’s dairy farm was full to brimming with funereal closeness. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends poured in; the house swelled up with grief and goodwill. His oldest sister Patty came up from Connecticut with her husband and the babies and set up camp in the spare room. His brother was sleeping in his camper in the driveway, but he still came in to eat and use the toilet.

Walt couldn’t say for sure if Joe was showering at all.

He lasted three days among the mourners before taking his Pop’s truck west on County Road and driving until he could breathe again. A few yards shy of the Lake Champlain bridge, the truck ran out of gas. Cursing both the rare impulse and his father’s unexpected death, Walt hopped out of the truck to hitch a ride home.

If his fingers hadn’t been nearly frozen in the pockets of his Levis, the snow-scented wind off Lake Champlain would have made him smile. Walt relished the anticipation of long, dark Vermont winters. The dormant silence of a frozen pasture at dawn eased him in a way even the calving and greening of spring never could. The bovine warmth of the twilight barns comforted him like the drafty farmhouse never had.

He was contemplating the far-distant top of the Crown Point light house memorial when a blue Beetle honked and pulled onto the gravel shoulder. The girl who pushed out of the car had hair the color of cinnamon that curled out of her wool cap, and curves her bell-bottoms and a fair-isle ski sweater did nothing to hide. She came around the backside of the bug and leaned a hip against the rear hatch.

“Need a ride?” Her clear blue eyes were sparkling with suppressed laughter, taking in his truck and lack of a jacket.

The driver waved her hand. She was singing along with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” drumming delicately on the steering wheel of the VW.

Cinnamon Girl grinned, returned to the open passenger side door, and pushed her seat forward to open up the back. “By the way, that’s Jane, and I’m Molly.”

Walt arranged his limbs in the back of Jane’s bug. The car was cramped, and his knees pressed into the seats. He rested one arm on one of about a half-dozen paper bags crammed in with him.

“Where to?” Molly shifted in her seat to crane her neck. Her eyes crinkled when she smiled.

“Fuller Farm. It’’s just—“

“Up County Road another coupl’a miles,” Jane said. She half-turned to Molly as she eased the VW back onto the road. “You must be Walt.”

He blinked at the girl driving. She was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pretty in a catalog kind of way. “Ayuh.”

He heard his father in the old-timer response, and his chest squeezed.

Molly giggled, still twisted around to watch him. “Jane’s mom works at Town Hall. She knows everyone.”

Jane’s gaze flicked to Walt in the rearview mirror. “I’m sorry about your father.”

A cloud of concern passed across Molly’s face. “Oh, I—“

He cut off Molly’s sympathy. “Thanks.”

Molly reached out an arm, laying her slightly freckled hand on his knee. He felt the warmth of that touch through his flannel-lined denim. “Really. I’m sorry, too.”

Her crinkly eyes were wide with sympathy. It was too much. “So, where were you heading?
Before you rescued me?”

“Jane came to get me for Thanksgiving break,” Molly said. “I’m doing my last semester at Empire State in Saratoga Springs.”

“We’re cousins.” Jane’s eyes stayed on the road.

The bags in the backseat made a little more sense. “Do you always pack in grocery sacks?”

Molly’s answering laugh was deep and true; Walt wanted to make her laugh again.

Jane sighed. “She’s hopeless.”

Molly wrapped her arms around the headrest and laid her cheek on the seat with a helpless grin. “My laundry bag ripped.”

Jane slowed the car, turning into the driveway at the farm. He caught her slightly narrowed glance at his brother’s derelict camper, huddled among the jumble of cars, and felt an answering stain rise up the back of his neck. As soon as the car stopped, he leaned forward, ready to flee.

Molly opened her door and climbed out, flipping the lever to release the passenger seat as she did. Walt pushed it forward and crawled out of the little blue car. He turned, ducking down to address Jane. “Thanks for the ride.”

Jane gave him a pitying half-smile. When he straightened, Molly’s gaze was waiting. “I’ll be home all week. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

He pushed his bare hands deep into his pockets. He meant to say, “Going to be busy with all this family, the funeral…” What came out sounded a lot like, “Maybe.”
To be continued…

Missed a previous Christmas story? You can find Joy: Three Christmas Stories, and others at Amazon.com.

A Maverick Year, or my book comes out tomorrow, but I’m writing about something else entirely.

I’m pretty sure that on the day before your book comes out you’re not supposed to be blogging about a work-in-progress, but I’m having what I like to call a maverick year over here, so I’ll just do what I want.

(A maverick year, for the record, means I have blogged once in a year’s time. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

I was in Portland, Maine, this weekend, for about 24 hours. Unremarkable, really, since I live about two hours from Portland, and have dear friends there who feed me and let me sleep in their house. These same friends own Rising Tide Brewing Company, which is the relevant (and remarkable–because how awesome is that?) part.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but some years ago on a similar visit to Portland, it was suggested to me by someone that brewing wasn’t sexy in the romance novel kind of way. I like gauntlets, so I pick up the shiny ones and take them home to mull over. Sometimes, shiny gauntlets get turned over so often, they end up resembling drafts of novels about a brewer and an actress, and they are set in Portland.

Now I find myself, on the eve of SWEET PEASE’s publication, pondering a delicious Pilsner I tasted over the weekend, one I completely coincidentally named my story after. Or one they completely coincidentally named after my yet-to-be published book. Either way.

I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of my return to Thornton and Kate Pease, but know that I’ve been hard at work on book three there, and this new thing, too.

I hope y’all are ready for more words, because I’m ready to give them to you.

And if you haven’t already: Click the image below to get your copy (print or Kindle!) of Sweet Pease, available Tuesday, November 14, 2017.


It’s My Birthday and I’m Giving Away Damselfly Inn to Celebrate!

According to my mother-in-law, I cease to age today. Pretty good deal, I guess. Honestly, I’m not too fussed about staring down 40, (except for maybe those pesky wrinkles around my eyes and smile — turns out I’m a little vain about those). Truthfully, a great many of my friends, the women in my family, and my tribe of authors have rocked or are rocking their 40s pretty hard. I am psched to join their ranks.

Come at me, 40.

Just not until next year 😉

To celebrate this auspicious birthday, Damselfly Inn is free for your Kindles and Kindle apps until Sunday (Which is my dad’s birthday. Family partying!), and there’s a signed paperback to give away as well (just keep reading!).  Tell your friends! Your mothers-in-law! Your dads (if they’re into romances)!

If you want to give me a birthday present, please leave a quick review on Amazon if you like what you read. It’s super easy. Here are some things you might say:

  • Great characters!
  • I want to move to Thornton!
  • Despite the lack of aliens in time-and-space-traveling phone boxes, this was a pretty swell book!
  • Really enjoyed this read!
  • Where can I get the recipe for Kate’s chocolate-cherry cookies?

Easy! What better gift? You guys are fantastic! Now, back to finishing up Sweet Pease, so we can all go back to Thornton.

Damselfly Inn (Bannerwing Books 2015)


The picturesque college town of Thornton, Vermont is the perfect place to open an inn. Or so Nan Grady thinks until a late summer storm drops a tree branch through her roof and local contractor Joss Fuller into her path.

Romance has been the last thing on her career-oriented mind, but Nan can’t deny the attraction between them. Nor can she deny the history between Joss and her most important guest: a sophisticated Manhattan academic.

And then there is the mysterious vandal targeting her home and livelihood.

As summer fades to autumn and Joss becomes a fixture around the Damselfly Inn, Nan navigates the joys and complications of life in her new home town. But when the vandalism becomes increasingly upsetting, threatening Nan and her guests, as well as her budding relationship with Joss, Nan questions her place in the town, at the inn, and in Joss’s heart.

Julie C. Gardner, author of Letters for Scarlet (Velvet Morning Press) calls the romance between Nan and Joss “slow burning and delicious.” Andra Watkins, NYT Bestselling author of Not Without My Father and To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey Of Meriwether Lewis (Word Hermit Press) calls Damselfly Inn “a perfect beach read, a best pick for a vacation or a delicious page-turner to wile away any afternoon.”

FREE ON Amazon!
B&N | Signed Paperbacks

And if you made it all the way to the end? I’m giving away a signed copy of Damselfly Inn!. I’ll inscribe, sign, and mail it off to you or your recipient of choice anywhere in the USA. Just leave a comment here by April 27th, and I’ll pick a random winner using highly advanced techniques which will probably include letting the Not-So-Small Boy draw a name from a hat. Or a Lego bin. We’ve got loads of those.