Inside Scoop on Good Fortune

Please welcome Vicki Essex and boy does she have some yummy talking going on. I love Chinese food, like many of us, but there’s nothing better than getting the inside scoop.  Thanks Vicki!

Chinese Food…or As I Call It, “Food”

This month marks the launch of Back to the Good Fortune Diner, my second book with Essex_9780373718283_cover 312x496Harlequin Superromance, and one that features a Chinese American heroine.

Being Chinese Canadian myself, I’ve always wanted to share my culture in the pages of a Harlequin romance book. An important part of that lies in the traditional foods my family eats regularly. Unfortunately, Tiffany Cheung, my heroine, she doesn’t see a lot of the world-class Chinese cuisine in the small fictional town of Everville. In fact, her family runs an American-style Chinese restaurant where they serve sweet and sour chicken balls, egg rolls, and chop suey.

These aren’t delicacies we eat at home. Ironically, having grown up in Toronto, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to American-Chinese food until I was much older, so I had to research what menu items the Good Fortune Diner might serve. I read a couple of great books: Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States by Andrew Coe, and Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada by Lily Cho. They provided some really interesting insight into the history and migration of Chinese cuisine across North America.

Since I didn’t get to share all of the delicious recipes I know in the book, I thought I’d talk about what my family would order at a Chinese restaurant.

For four or five diners, I recommend three or four dishes to share, plus white rice. The dishes should look different at a glance, with colors across the rainbow and at least two meat choices and one vegetable dish. If the restaurant is authentic, they will also frequently provide a soup course—usually a thin pork or chicken-based broth with various dried goods and herbs—and a dessert course, which could be a sweetened bean soup like red bean soup, or fruit, usually orange slices.

Are you looking to get a little more adventurous than General Tao chicken? Want to impress people the next time you have to order food? Try some of these simple but delicious menu items:

Sauteed snow pea shoots with garlic: I love this green. It’s wholesome and delicious and is like a meatier and sweeter version of spinach.

Braised beef brisket: This stewed beef is frequently made with daikon or turnip, ginger, onions and star anise, and is delicious with its sauce on rice or on noodles.

Gailan with oyster-flavored sauce: Sometimes called Chinese broccoli, this dark green vegetable has a slightly bitter flavor, with a thick, meaty stalk and thick green leaves that are delicious and healthy for you. It’s also easy to make at home—just boil for 5 minutes with salt and oil in water, and serve with oyster flavored sauce.

Yow gai: This is a simple boiled chicken, usually available in a half or whole chicken portion, served with ginger and scallion oil/sauce on the side. It’s frequently available at Chinese barbecue houses.

Lobster: Many Chinese seafood restaurants have a lobster special. I recommend lobsters in ginger sauce, a staple in Chinese banquets. The lobster is chopped up and stir fried with garlic, ginger and scallions. Very tasty, though it can be a little challenging to eat. And yes, it will be the whole lobster, so be prepared to have a lobster head on your plate. It’s IMG_4445 WEB Smallactually a very tasty part to eat.

Do you have a favorite dish you order from your local Chinese restaurant? Leave a comment below and I will randomly draw a name to win a signed copy of Back to the Good Fortune Diner.

Learn more about Vicki and her books at You can also find her on Facebook at and on Twitter @vickiessex.

Red Wine, Chocolate and…X-files?

Today I welcome Tara Kingston .She’s here to tell us about her new release Love Potilovepotion7_msr-1on #7 and a little bit about herself. Was I ever surprised to see we share three very similar interests. A total X-File junkie, red wine lover and what goes better with it than dark chocolate. Welcome to our world.

I like having guests; it’s kind of like having a party. Everyone comes to see what’s going on, hopefully leaves a message or two for Tara and comes back often to visit the blog later.

Thanks for joining us today, Tara!

 Hi Cristal. I’m really happy to be here. My latest release, Love Potion #7, features a football star hero. I love sports, and athletes make natural inspiration for romantic heroes. They’re fit, passionate about their sport, and relish competition and conquest. Readers, which athletes could inspire a romantic hero? Leave a comment and let me know who you think should serve as a model for the hero in my next romance. One commenter will be chosen at random to win a copy of Love Potion #7.

 1)     Tell us a bit about your new release, Love Potion #7.

 Love Potion #7 is a light-hearted paranormal love story, a battle-of-the-sexes tale of a witch with a score to settle who sets out to teach a playboy football star a lesson in seduction and broken hearts. Here’s a little more about the story:

Chelsea York is a witch on a mission. Quarterback Jake Wilder’s broken one heart too many, and Chelsea’s out to give the legendary passer a taste of his own medicine. She calls upon the city’s resident spellcaster to conjure the perfect brew for her task, Love Potion #7.

Jake Wilder left the game of football for the quiet of his hometown, but he hasn’t left fame behind. When a bewitching bookstore owner engages him in a sensuous battle of the sexes, he decides to teach the woman he believes to be a gold digger why she shouldn’t play with fire.

With seduction as their mission, both set out to become the victor in their sexual play. But they both get in over their heads when struck with desire neither can deny. And surrendering to the pleasure of temptation will lead them to discover how some passions are more potent than any spell.

 2)     Where do you get your ideas?

 I’m a huge football junkie. I love the sport—the excitement of the game, the feeling of camaraderie that comes from joining with others to cheer on your team, and the gorgeous men who play the game. A certain quarterback who shall remain nameless served as inspiration for my hero, Jake Wilder. Football fans who read the book will have fun trying to figure out which one was the model for Jake.

3)     What do you find draws you most to write?

 I love the emotion of romance in my stories, but I also enjoy writing fun, witty dialogue between the hero and heroine. A battle-of-the-sexes story in my head inspires me to put myself in a chair and write, write, write.

4)     What else do you have in the works?

 I’m plotting a sequel to Love Potion #7 featuring the hero’s sister and an incredibly sexy warlock. Can’t wait to finish it.

 5)     How do you name your characters? Any special tricks?

 I wish I could say I had a method for naming my characters, but really, they tend to name themselves. I get an idea of the characters’ appearances and personalities, and from there I test out names that fit. Often, I’ll change characters’ names at some point during the writing of the story. Thank heavens for “find/replace” in my word processing software.

 6)     Do you own an ebook reader or read on an electronic device? If so, what?

 Actually, I own two e-readers. I have a Sony my husband gave me a couple of years ago that I really love, and I just got a Kindle to take advantage of the awesome deals you find on Kindle books.

7)     As a romance/erotica reader, what sort of stories do you personally prefer?

 I love a story with emotion, passion and sensuality. I gravitate toward contemporary romance with a sense of humor (no sad stories for this gal!) and historical romance set in the Victorian era or the American Civil War. I also love historical and contemporary romantic suspense with kick-ass heroines and a sense of adventure.

8)     What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

 Dark chocolate, a glass of white wine, and a book that sweeps me away.

9)     Any vacation or appearance plans this year?

 My husband and I are planning a trip to New Orleans later in the year, and I’m heading to Romanticon in the fall. Can’t wait to meet my readers.

 10)  What would your readers by very surprised to learn about you?

I am an X-Files fanatic, and I adore the old British spy show, The Avengers, with Mrs. Peel and John Steed.

For details on Love Potion #7 please visit or Ellora’s Cave. You can also find Love Potion #7 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other e-book retailers.