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Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Meal Made in Heaven

A great meal is the nectar of the gods. It’s heavenly. Sometimes it’s better than sex. I love writing books about chefs and cooks. Such fun.

All four of my grandparents were from the Abruzzo region of Italy. My grandmothers and my Italian mother-in-law were terrific cooks. However, of all the wonderful meals I’ve eaten through the years, one stands out above the rest.

In 2006, my husband and I traveled to Abruzzo, Italy, to join a tour run by my Australian cousin, Luciana. A cousin from Arizona joined us. Luciana had just started her tour company, and this was the maiden tour.

As we traveled through mountainous, wildly beautiful Abruzzo, we ate the most scrumptious food every day. Luciana had arranged the meals and the elegant wines to complement them. We ate at several agrituristicas, farms that grow and serve organic foods and are subsidized by the Italian government in an effort to bring more tourism into the lesser-known regions of Italy.

One such agrituristica, Ill Nespolo, was run by a husband and wife, Maria Angela, from the province of Calabria, and Gabriele, from Abruzzo. Here’s the menu for that meal:

Antipasto consisting of home-made sausage, cheeses with honey and saffron, marinated vegetables, bruschetta with olive paste.

Primo(First Course)-Gnocchi al pomodoro-gnocchi alle verdue
(Gnocchi with tomato sauce and with green vegetable sauce)

Secondo(Second Course)-Petto di tacchino con arancia e rucola (turkey breast with orange and rocket. Rocket is similar to arugula)

Dolce(Dessert)-Home-made biscotti with honey

All served with local Abruzzese wines.

Our hosts provided us with a surprise dish--saffron gnocchi with fresh-shaved truffle. Oh. My. God. That was the best food, hands down, I’ve ever eaten. Ever. In my life.

All the food we ate on that trip was incredible, delicious, wonderful. And the wines were exquisite. But nothing compared to the heavenly delight of saffron gnocchi with fresh-shaved truffle. During the meal, my husband whispered that he might have to divorce me and marry Maria Angela because she cooked like an angel. Couldn’t blame him. I wanted to marry her myself. Our group went nuts over all the food at that meal, but especially the saffron gnocchi. There wasn’t a scrap left of anything when we were done. To this day, I can’t eat gnocchi because nothing will ever be as good as the dish I ate at Ill Nespolo.

Food is more than eating. It’s companionship and memories. I have the most marvelous memories of that trip and of the meals shared with family and new friends. I can’t think of that meal and the others without remembering Luciana and what a great host and tour guide she was. I got to spend more time with my cousin Kevin from Arizona, whom my husband and I traveled with to Australia a few years earlier; the friendship of the others in our group, all Australian, warmed me. As a group, we grew close, sharing some rough times, like when our van got stuck in road ruts in the Abruzzo wilderness. Or when we hiked one of Italy’s national parks on a scorching hot day. Or visited medieval monasteries carved into the sides of mountains. All the memories are bound together with the food we ate.

That trip, and the food, connected me to generations of my family who are as much a part of that region as the stark mountains and hillside villages.

Here are pictures of the gnocchi, the truffle being shaved, and our group. I’m second from left in the turquoise top, holding a glass, conversing with the man next to me.

My romantic suspense, Murder, Mi Amore, is set almost entirely in Italy. Every setting is authentic, based on places we visited and stayed during that 2006 trip. The meals I mention in that book are actual meals we ate. My very first published book, from Avalon Books, A Catered Affair,(reissued under the title A Catered Romance) featured a caterer heroine. Lots of food references in that book. My most current foodie book is Capri Nights, set on the Isle of Capri.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Abruzzo region of Italy or taking a trip there, check out Luciana’s website:

Check out all my books at:

Buy Murder, Mi Amore:

Danger. Deception. Desire.

Murder, jewel thieves and terrorists intrude on an American woman's Roman holiday; can she trust the sexy, mysterious Italian man who comes to her aid?

Buy A Catered Romance:

Delicious. Hot. Sensuous.

There's more than business brewing between two old high school flames...

Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her with no appetite for love. 

Buy Capri Nights:

Sensual. Sumptuous. Sizzling.

Love under an Italian sky.

A San Francisco sous chef discovers she might have bitten off more than she can chew when a scrumptious Italian man stirs up a recipe for romance on the delicious Isle of Capri.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


Summer, as I write this is three hours away...and while my cats do pretty well have the laid-back summer attitude down, and the couch is comfy... I hope to get out and experience a little bit of  the awesomeness that is summer days.I love the beach, the mountains, and yes, even the desert. In fact, I've just returned from a short driving trip along the Loneliest Highway in America, Route 50 in Nevada. I wanted to put up a few pics but am having some upload issues. Suffice it to say, we drove over 600 miles and saw more cows than cars.

My hubs and I love it, though. The occasional ghost town, a couple of antelopes (Oh give me a home...), herd of wild horses...all the cattle. It's hard to remember sometimes that there is such open space, but we're sure grateful for it.

What do you like to do in this warmest of seasons?

I'm especially proud to be part of a group of authors this year. We began calling ourselved the Dragon Sisters when we participated in Stoking the Flames last year, but now Stoking the Flames II is available, including a story by myself and Dara Fraser.

Here's a taste...

Prologue - 1824

“Are you sure this will hold them, sire?” The town pastor shook visibly as he stared around the cave where the town stored its valuable documents. Safe from fire and flood, the stone chamber was fitted with a steel door even the most determined thief would have a hard time penetrating without the spell to open it.
“If you are having regrets, ’twould be wise for you to remember where the others who held such concerns are.” Councilman Jones cast him a threatening glare then approached the flat rock where he’d unrolled the municipal charter and set the orb upon the document. The sphere began to glow. He knew he’d have no trouble from the trembling clergyman. Three other council members had balked at the notion of holding the dragons captive and freeing the townsmen from their curse. All three balkers were now piles of ash
“Not a regret, sire. Just making sure our plan is going smoothly.” The clergyman lied despite his vows, but Jones didn’t care so long as he went along with the plan. Even a fool like him would know this was better than the fate the town would otherwise endure—a fiery death.
Jones came from an ancient family made up of powerful dragons, or at least they had been until his great-grandfather wronged a fair maiden by taking her innocence after she refused his suit. He had wrongly assumed the only retribution would be a forced marriage, achieving his ends by different means. He’d been proven wrong, for the fair maiden’s family was powerful in ways others could not have seen, and, instead of bowing to the traditions of the time and giving his daughter to the brute, her father stole not only his dragon but the dragons of the entire family line.
As with all family oral histories, the story was twisted in its telling, and Jones grew up believing that dragons were a curse his family avoided, taught by his adoring parents to believe he was to be the savior of the entire village no matter the cost. What were a few lives if he saved the village? A hero must consider the whole picture.
“It is going magnificently.” He tested his palms on the orb and mumbled a spell in a language even he didn’t begin to comprehend, one he’d literally sold two small children to procure.
Lights flickered through the entrance as if being pulled to the orb, which they were, yet they were not lights, they were the dragon spirits of the entire town and everyone within a two hundred mile radius. Contrary to the belief Jones had that placing the orb on the charter that it would save his town—they were, after all, descendants of the cursers but only a short distance away and they deserved no saving.
The pastor lay on the floor, unnoticed by Jones as he watched the dragons seep into the orb one at a time, not lifting his hands until the orb cooled to almost ice beneath him.
“It is done.” He cackled before taking the orb and lowering it into the hidden chamber his father had discovered years ago. It would be safe there, needing to be guarded for no more than a generation. After that, the dragons would be dead along with their hosts, and the entire village would be saved from the curse.
“Wake up, old man.” He walked over, pushing the pastor with his foot.
The pastor moved not at all, for he couldn’t—with his dragon fled his life. It was the fate of over half the village. A small price to pay to end the curse, Jones reconciled. They’d need a new pastor though, to guide the people in their newfound freedom, and he knew he was just the man to do it for he was the one to save them after all.
And just like that, they became the town where dragons could not be spoken of, written about, or even thought about. To do so would resort in a fiery death—because only a witch would have such notions. It took two generations to wipe the memories from the village and six more children to shield the village from visitors until the last with the memory of dragons had passed from this earth.
Jones, being a vain man, could not let his victory go unrecognized, at least in future generations. He wrote his personal version of his heroism and sealed it in a spelled place only to be seen in such a time as needed—or so he thought.
What Jones hadn’t known was that one of the children, little Rosey, stole the heart of said witch’s daughter, Bethany, who stole her away from her mother and began a new life among the dragons. While she was never able to bring Rosey’s dragon back to her, Bethany had been able to alter the future of their town bestowing upon the family Rosey left behind the ability to foresee what was needed to be seen, for it was a descendent of Rosey who, along with her true mate, would one day set the dragons free.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Get #Targeted today with guest blogger Beverley Bateman #RB4U #Romance #Suspense @kelownawriter

Welcome to Romance Books 4 Us, a place for all romance and all genres. We’re very happy to have you here with us today. First, tell us a little bit about yourself…
Please tell us a little about yourself...

What kind of research do you do for a novel and how extensive do you get?
This depends on what is needed. My western series set in Montana. I did a lot of research on Montana, the weather, landscape, flora and fauna and distances. I also did a lot of research on ranching and managing a ranch. I want to do enough research that my readers can relate to characters and settings in my books.

Do you find yourself going back to the same inspiration for each story or is it always something different?
Now that’s an interesting question I haven’t thought about before. I think it’s always something different.  I have a western r/s series but each one has different themes – one is the witness protection plan, one is a child kidnapping and another is murder based on greed.

When do you write?  Early morning? During the day sometime or all day?  After the kids go to bed?
I usually write at night. I’m a night owl. I start writing after dinner and write until I finish a scene, or a particular part of the plot, or start to fall asleep.
Is there any other genre that you would love to try writing?  If so, what is it?
There are a couple of genres that interest me and I’ve considered writing. Women’s fiction because I love the idea of women supporting women and helping each other grow. I do have four women working together, helping each other in my WIP, but it’s still more a romantic suspense. YA is also a genre that interests me, but I don’t know if I can write at that age level.

As a reader, what types of genres do you enjoy? And do you think they influence the genre/genres you write in?
I enjoy romantic suspense, mystery and suspense, cozies, women’s fiction and paranormal. I think every book probably adds something to my writing; a heroine characteristic, a surprise twist or a conflict between the h/h.    

What is your favorite method of in laptop, desktop, iPad or the old-fashioned pencil and paper?  And do you plot out your story or go with the flow of your muse?
I prefer my desktop. I like the size of the screen and the space to work, but when I travel I also use my laptop a lot. And both of them are still Windows 7 – which I love. I dread when I have to change to Windows 10. I sort of plot (maybe an online for each chapter or about the conflict) and then I go with the flow or where my characters take me, which can be very different than I first plotted. 

Is there anything about yourself nobody knows that you would like to share with our readers?
I’m pretty much an open book, but I do play the Native American flute and have three flutes (so far) in different keys.

Share your favorites:
Favorite color – Red
Favorite dessert/snack – Rocky Road anything
Favorite Season – Fall – I love leaf scuffling and the warm earthy smells
Favorite sad song – Candle in the Wind by Elton John
Favorite Romantic movie – An Affair to Remember
Favorite Actor – That’s hard, but I’m going to go with Tom Hanks
Favorite Actress – I loved Katherine Hepburn, and today It’s Meryl Streep
Favorite way to relax – Listening to the waves at the beach
Where can our readers find you?
Twitter: @kelownawriter

Is there an upcoming or current release you would like to share with us today and where can we find it?

After an eleven year absence Janna Kincaid inherits a ranch and is forced to return to a town she only remembers with unhappiness, a man to whom she was briefly married and never wants to see again, and someone is trying to kill her.
Kye Hawkins has loved Janna since he first met her. They were married but a few weeks later she ran away, without an explanation. He still hasn’t figured out why. Now she’s coming back. Does she still love him? Can he rekindle the romance and also prevent her from being killed.
Janna doesn’t want Kye’s help in anyway, yet he always seems to be there when she’s in trouble. Can they work together to find a killer, save the Native burial ground and home of the spirits, and find romance again?

Buy Links:

About the Author

Beverley Bateman is a Canadian author who now lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta, exchanging the Okanagan vineyards and orchards for ranches and farms.
She lives there with her husband and Shiba Inu dogs. Winters she’s a snowbird and heads south. She writes her latest romantic suspense in both places. Hunted, Missing and the newest – Targeted are part of her Montana, Hawkins Ranch series. She also has her Holly Devine series; A Cruise to Remember, and a Murder to Forget. Don’t Go is her darker romantic suspense.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Father's Day

my parents' honeymoon, 1948
Every romance writer comes to it differently. For me, the path was a happy one. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were in love for every one of the 56 years they were married. My father was, is, has always been, my rock, my hero, my biggest supporter--well, after a while, he was one of two.

I married young. None of our friends thought it would work. 34 years later, we still laugh and say we told you so. I still can't believe my luck some days. He's always there for me, and the most supportive spouse a writer could have.

Son's wedding, with granddaughter
So my belief in romance, in happily ever after comes from strong foundations. But the realist in me knows that in life, ever after isn't really forever. I saw that when my mother passed, and now, at 93, my father has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. My ever-supportive husband is busily making a bedroom and bathroom in our house handicap accessible. He never once suggested my father should be anywhere else.
Dad's 90th 2014

And their legacy lives on. With those examples, plus that of my amazing in-laws, I've watched my sons grow to be good, loving, caring men. One is a great father, the other may not choose that route. But love and loyalty are part of their makeup. Even if I might soon have to say goodbye to the first love of my life, I'm still surrounded by love, and I'm one lucky woman.

Dad with great-granddaughter, 2016 (ages 4 & 92)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Get to know #Romance Author Kelli A. Wilkins today on the #RB4U Blog @KWilkinsauthor

Welcome to Romance Books 4 Us, a place for all romance and all genres. We’re very happy to have author Kelli A. Wilkins here with us today. First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

What or who initially inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been an avid reader, and I started writing short stories when I was in high school. I always give credit to Rod Serling and Stephen King for being two of my main inspirations, because I learned the mechanics of great storytelling from watching The Twilight Zone and reading King’s fiction. I started out writing horror stories and eventually tried my hand at romances. Now I write in a variety of genres.

What kind of research do you do for a novel and how extensive do you get?
That depends on the type of book or short story I’m writing. When I write a historical romance I have to do a lot of research and learn everything that was going on in the world during that time period. I read about historical events, what life was like, what people ate, what types of jobs they had, what they wore, etc.

I don’t use all of it in the story, and I don’t dump a lot of historical facts on readers, but I use the details as background for the plot, setting, or I have the characters comment on something from the time period. When I write contemporary romances I don’t need to do a lot of research, unless I’m writing about something I’m not familiar with. However, I did a lot of research for my paranormal comedy, Beauty & the Bigfoot. My main character is an expert on Bigfoot, so I had to become one, too! It was fun to incorporate my research into that book.

Do you plot out your story or go with the flow of your muse?
I’m definitely a plotter! Before I start writing a word, I make an outline for each scene; decide which character’s point-of-view the scene will be in, high points of the scene, and any snippets of dialog I want to include. When I sit down to write the book I have a map of where the story is going. I find that it’s easier (and faster) for me to write this way, and I don’t get lost in the middle.

But even though I plot out my books, I always give the characters (and myself) permission to add new scenes as needed, veer off course, or take scenes in an unexpected direction. The plot for A Deceptive Match came to me in a dream, so I wrote the outline based on the dream, and then wrote the book from there. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, but it’s nice when it does!

Do you find yourself going back to the same inspiration for each story or is it always something different?
Every story (whether a romance novel or a horror story) comes to me in a different way. Sometimes I’ll have an entire story “jump” into my head, and I’ll know everything that happens to the characters. (That happened with A Deceptive Match, A Most Unusual Princess, Trust with Hearts, and The Viking’s Witch.)

Other times, I’ll get bits and pieces of the story and parts of the characters. Once in a while, I’ll have a character come first, and once I get to “know” and develop the character, I’ll find out the story. Then the other pieces fall into place, like a puzzle. (That happened with Four Days with Jack, Beauty & the Bigfoot, Killer in Wolf’s Clothing, Redemption from a Dark Past, and Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover.)

Before I start a book, I think about the story. I need to know who the characters are and what’s going to happen to them. After that, I outline the scenes and start writing. As I write, I allow myself some leeway to explore things I hadn’t considered in my outline. Writing a new book is always an adventure for me and I never know where the characters or stories will take me.

When do you write? Early morning? During the day sometime or all day?
I write anywhere, anytime the mood strikes. If I’m in the middle of writing a new book, I’ll probably start writing early in the morning, then take a break for a while and then write for a few more hours in the late afternoon or evening. I don’t force myself to stick to a specific writing schedule; I just go with the flow.

Do you ever see yourself as the heroine/hero or find yourself relating to them when you write a story?
I relate to all of my characters as I write my stories. Male or female, gay or straight, romance or horror character, hero or villain, I connect with all of them! I think authors have to identify with each character in a story in order to get in their heads and see the story through each character’s point-of-view, otherwise, you run the risk of all the characters sounding alike.

Do you have a special place you like to do your writing? Such as an office, a spare room, the dining room table, your couch?
I write the first draft of everything (short stories and novels) in longhand with pen and paper, so I can (and do) write anywhere. I like to write outside whenever possible, so I do a lot of my actual writing and editing during the warmer months, then during winter I type my new manuscripts.

When you need a break or some time off from the trials of being a writer, what can you be found doing?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading, gardening, traveling, going to flea markets, or hanging out with my husband and friends. I try to balance my writing life with my “regular” life, so I’m not being anti-social and slaving away writing or posting on social media when I could be out enjoying the world. I like going places and seeing new things, because you never know when something will spark an idea for a story or a character.

Is there anything about yourself nobody knows that you would like to share with our readers?
Even though I write horror stories, nobody ever asks me about the paranormal. One thing you probably wouldn’t think to ask is: “Do you believe in ghosts and the supernatural?” The answer is definitely yes!
Share your favorites:
Favorite color – green
Favorite dessert/snack – mint chocolate ice cream
Favorite Season – autumn
Favorite way to relax – reading a book I didn’t write!

Where can our readers find you online?
Here’s a list of where readers can find me and my books:
Newsletter sign-up:
Is there an upcoming or current release you would like to share with us today and where can we find it?

Yes! My new historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past was just released. This full-length Gothic romance novel is set in an isolated mountain castle in 1700s Hungary and blends a sensual romance with mystery and suspense.

Here’s the book blurb:

Redemption from a Dark Past

Lord Sebestyen Adrik has an unsavory reputation as a madman, murderer… and worse. Lonely and searching for love, he seeks the companionship of local young women, hoping one of them will ease his torment and bring him the happiness he longs for. Katarina is his last chance—but will she fear him like all the others? Or is she the one who can lift his curse?

Desperate to avoid a forced marriage, Katarina agrees to become Lord Adrik’s latest companion, despite the rumors she has heard about him. She discovers the “Dark Lord’s” secret past and realizes he’s not the monster everyone thinks he is.

As their love blossoms, she renews his passion for life—yet they cannot escape the ghosts of the past.

When a meeting of the nobility goes horribly wrong, Sebestyen’s world unravels, and his enemies plot to destroy him. As all seems lost, a mysterious stranger arrives at the castle. Sebestyen must decide if he is a friend or a foe…and if he can find redemption in his love for Katarina, or lose her and everything else that he holds dear.

Book links:

The book was a lot of fun to write and I hope that romance readers will check it out! Summaries, excerpts, and reviews for all of my romances are on my site. I also post “the making of…” blogs for each book on my blog.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with readers. I invite everyone to follow me online. I welcome questions and comments from readers and other authors.

Happy Reading,
Kelli A. Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books.
Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
Kelli’s writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
Her Gothic historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past was released in June, 2018.

Visit her website and blog to learn more about all of her writings.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Cathedrals Of St.Petersburg, Russia

Posted by R. Ann Siracusa

My July release, All For Spilled Blood, fourth book in the Tour Director Extraordinaire romantic suspense series, is set in St. Petersburg. I visited there in 2004 and found it to be a fascinating and beautiful city with canals like Venice, earning it the nickname Venice of the North.
St. Petersburg, second largest city in Russia, was built by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. Although the Tsar set out to make his capital city as European as possible, it still has the unique Russian flare for design, and the most magnificent buildings are the cathedrals.
In spite of the confiscation of churches by the government after the October Revolution of 1917 and the destruction and looting of religious sanctuaries in the 1920’s, many of these marvelous cathedrals have been restored. While many artifacts and works of art were lost, the restorations have captured some of the prior splendor. But don’t look for pews or seats in the churches still used for Russian Orthodox services. There aren’t any. It is customary to stand during the service.
A few of the many examples follow. The Church On Spilled Blood is my favorite, and figures prominently in the title of my upcoming release, so let’s start our tour there.
This Russian Revival-style church, built between 1883 and 1907, is known as Resurrection of Christ Church or The Church of Our Savior On The Spilled Blood, but it is generally called The Church On Spilled Blood.
It marks the exact spot where, in 1881, Emperor Alexander II was assassinated by a group of revolutionaries who threw a bomb into his royal carriage. His heir and younger brother, Alexander III, insisted on building the church on the exact spot of the assassination. 
Photos: Marc Perrotta - Elle Croft 

Designed in the Baroque style, SS Peter and Paul was built between 1712 and 1733, and is the oldest landmark in St. Petersburg. This was the first wooden church to be erected at SS Peter and Paul Fort on Valsilyevsky Island after St. Petersburg was officially founded. It is the burial site for nearly all the rulers of Russia since Peter the Great through Alexander III. The bell tower makes it unusual among Russian Churches.
The cathedral closed in 1919 and became a museum in 1924. It is still a museum, but services have been held there regularly since 2000.

According to Wikipedia, “When renovators were cleaning the angel on the spire in 1997, they found a note in a bottle left in one of the folds of the angel’s gown. In the note, renovators from 1953 apologized for what they felt was rushed and shoddy work.” It is rumored another note was found also in the same renovation, but the message has never been revealed to the public.


This cathedral, built between 1748 and 1761, was part of a complex planned by Empress Elizabeth to include a nunnery and a school for girls.

The cathedral was completed, but when Elizabeth died, the work on the monastery came to a halt. By the early 1830s, much of the cathedral had fallen into disrepair until it was restored in 1832 by Nicholas I.    Photo: Wikipedia               

Of the ten churches in the city named the Annunciation of the Mother of God, this is one of the only two surviving structures. Some sources named this as the first wooden church built there in the earliest years of St. Petersburg.

At that time, Vasilevskiy was planned as the center of the city. In 1750, by which time Vasilevsky was predominantly a merchant quarter, construction began on a stone church, funded by wealthy members of the congregation, and principally the Chirkiniy family of brewers.


Sometimes called the Troitsky Cathedral, this building is an example of the Empire style, built between 1828 and 1835. According to the Russian tradition, each regiment of the imperial guards had its own cathedral. The Trinity Cathedral was the regimental church of the Izmailovsky Regiment of Imperial guards, which moved to Saint Petersburg when the city was established as the Russian capital under Empress Anna Ioannovna (1693-1740).

Constructed during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I to replace a wooden church built in 1754-56 (damaged during a flood in 1824) began in May 1828, and the cathedral was consecrated in May 1835.
The cathedral rises to a height of more than 80 meters, and dominates the skyline of the surrounding area. After the revolution, most of the cathedral’s icons and valuables were stolen and the building was closed in 1938. At one point it was a warehouse of the Ministry of Telecommunications. It was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. It is functioning but most bare inside.


This Gothic-Revival style church was built  between 1777 and 1780 at the direction of Catherine the Great. It was the house church for the Chesme Palace, a stopover estate between St. Petersburg and the summer palace of the royal family in Tsarskoe Selo. It is now within the city of St. Petersburg. This striking red-and-white structure commemorates Alexsei Orlov’s victory over Turkish forces in 1770 at the Bay of Chesme.   

Fortunately, the unique piece of architecture has survived almost intact during the period of repressions and abandonment of religious monuments under the Soviet government. The land surrounding the church has been used for burial of war heroes of the Siege of Leningrad. Church services are held here regularly. Photos:


Designed by Civil Engineer Nikolay Sultanov in typical Russian Orthodox (Kievan Russian style), the Cathedral at Peterhof Palace aimed at providing a larger church for local residents who weren’t allowed into palace churches.

Construction started in the mid-eighteen-nineties and was finally completed under Nicholas II in 1905. In 1935 the church was shut down. During World War II it was seriously damaged as the whole Peterhof. It was used by German military forces as artillery headquarter, to spy on Soviet ships and then it became a warehouse. Eventually after long restoration works, the first church service was celebrated on January, 19, 1990.

CHURCH OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR SAVIOR - Kizhi IslandTwo of the most remarkable churches I saw in Russia are located side by side on Kizhi Island. a small island of the Kizhi Archipelago in Lake Onega, about 300 miles northeast of St. Petersburg.
Both the Church of the Transfiguration of our Savior, with twenty-two domes, and the adjacent Intercession Church, with nine domes, are constructed of spruce and pine log frameworks covered by birch bark overlaid by 30,000 hand cut, hand carved, and interlocking aspen shingles. Typical of construction in that area, there are no nails or other metals involved in either structure.  However, in certain light, the domes seem to gleam like silver metal.
The Church of the Transfiguration, the larger structure built in 1714, stands 121 feet. It is not heated and used only for summer services. Intercession Church is the “winter” church.
The structures were almost lost to deterioration, but in 1990 the entire island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, smoking is prohibited except in certain identified areas due to the nature of the wooden structures. Also, no one lives on the island and staying there overnight is prohibited.Photos:

Release Date in July 2018

Book Four Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
Desert Breeze Publishing
She’s young, intelligent, fun, and determined to be the best tour director ever. When she meets Europol spy Will Talbot on her first solo tour in Morocco, her ordinary and predictable life turns upside down and will never be the same again.  Little did she know that smuggling a dead body out of Morocco was only the beginning.
Tall, dark and to-die-for gorgeous, this spy has a troubled past, huge issues with trust and guilt, and a calling to rescue innocent victims. But nothing in his action-filled, dangerous existence could have prepared him for Harriet Ruby.
Harriet and Will’s intense magnetic attraction to each other creates a volatile combination.  Together, they experience hilarious misadventures, great sex, and life-threatening journeys in pursuit of murderers, smugglers, terrorists, and a once-in-a-lifetime love.
Harriet Ruby, tour director extraordinaire, and her fiancé and favorite spy, Will Talbot, travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, undercover as tour directors for the US delegation to an international youth conference.  Harriet tackles her first covert assignment for the Department of Homeland Security to investigate smuggled artwork while Will’s mission is to locate and destroy a group of terrorists recruiting young computer experts.
Their marriage plans hit a snag when Will locates a long-lost cousin with startling news about his heritage.  When the artwork being smuggled has particular significance to one of the terrorist sympathizers, their missions entangle and begin to unravel, leaving Will at the mercy of terrorist kidnappers and Harriet holding the bag.


As we kissed, he lifted my sweater and ran his hand up my rib cage. “You came prepared.”
“No point in wasting time. First one naked gets to be on top.”
As we kissed, he lifted my sweater and ran his hand up my rib cage. “You came prepared.”

He let me go, but kept his hands on my arms. “Not so fast. I have to secure the door.” Still holding one of my wrists, he clicked all his spy locks into place. “Besides, we’re not in a hurry.”

“We’re not? What’s changed?” Usually we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.
“Nothing, except this could be our last uninterrupted time together for a while. I want to take it slow.” I hadn’t seen that coming, but he gave me a kiss that sent me reeling. I knew he meant business, no matter how long it took. “Besides, I have something for you.”
He detached himself and went into the bathroom. I had something for him, too. I’d stripped down to my thong when he returned carrying a small container like a miniscule ice chest.
I hesitated, scrutinizing it with a frown. “What’s that? It looks like one of those sterile containers for transporting medical supplies.”
“You’re close. It’s the refrigerated version for transporting donor organs.” He set it on the table. With great ceremony he went about unlocking it and popped open the lid. “Take a look.”
Donor organs? Oh boy. I hesitated and did a nose wrinkle. I hoped it didn’t contain body parts.  Ice cream would be good, though. I gathered my courage and peered inside.
“Bubble wrap?” I’d expected to see ice. At least a frozen cooler pack.
“Open it.”
While I had no desire to do that, I didn’t want to appear ungrateful. I lifted out the wrapped objects and unwound them from the plastic. My eyes widened.
“Reddi-wip and chocolate syrup? Yum. My favorites.” I licked my lips. “Where did these come from?”
He had already kicked off his shoes and unzipped his slacks. “For me to know and for you to enjoy.”
He moved so slowly, I began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt, just to hurry things along.  “C’mon, tell me.”
“Don’t you want to know what I’m going to do with it?”
“I already have a pretty good idea what.” I shoved off his shirt and ran my fingers through the fine hairs on his chest, then ran my tongue around one of his nipples. His muscles bunched under my touch and he shuddered. “I also know you can’t buy aerosol cans of whipped cream in Russia, and you didn’t bring it with you last night. How did you get it?”
He grinned and kicked off the pants from around his ankles. His undershorts followed. “I severely abused my authority, I’m afraid.”
Trepidation skittered through me, and my heart skipped a beat. “You’re not going to get in trouble, are you?”
“No, at least not before we use them.” He picked up the can, squirted me on the chest, then scooped me into his arms and licked the whipped cream off my breast. “This may get messy.”
My wiggling out of his arms smeared both of us with whipped cream. “You only get one taste until you tell me.”
He pulled me into his embrace. “The Air Force transported it in. Before I left, I flashed my credentials, gave them a story about an organ exchange as part of my top secret mission, and here it is. Just in time for the operation.” He let me go, grabbed up the can, and squirted me again, lower this time. “I know how much you like it.”
I stood there, dripping whipped cream onto the carpet, and gaped at him. “You did that for me? Are you sweet, or what?”
“Not as sweet as I’m going to be. Ready?”
Was I ever! Chocolate and whipped cream are my best colors.□

     Travel to Foreign Lands for Romance and Intrigue with a Novel by      AUTHOR R. ANN SIRACUSAFacebook    Twitter  GooglePlus  Website   Amazon Link,_Saint_Petersburg,_Saint_Petersburgдостопримечательности/Peter_and_Paul_Fortress   

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