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Kicking It with British historical romance novels

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

The day after I retired, I started reading. Now my habit is to read at least four books a week or more but given the right title, I’ve been known to inhale a book in 24 hours. Mostly I read pure fluff, British historical romance novels.

Thanks to the San Diego library system, I can download (or is it upload) up to 25 books every 21 days which means I always have something to read.

While some of you may scoff at me for going digital, there are many advantages. For instance, books can be heavy. Smelly. Dog eared. Or both. And let’s face it, 25 books take up space.

Before I turned to digital, I read a lot of books. What was awkward was using a clip-on book light to read myself to sleep. I mention this only to let you know I tried to be faithful to the printed word.

My reading choices are unlimited now because I have free access to every library book in San Diego County. There must be millions at the flick of my finger. Plus, Barnes & Noble has a free Nook library too. With my inexhaustible reading habit, I never have to dispose of the hundreds of books I read each year. My only reading limitation is the battery life, which is why I keep 2 six-foot cables plugged in at each end of the house.

Even though I primarily read British historical romances, I need an occasional break. That is when I search through different genres with happy endings like Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods'' or the complete works of James Alfred Wight aka James Herriot.

I also like to snoop into the lives of famous people. Or sometimes I’ll read about the not-so-famous folks like the Dublin busker and his stray cat. I’ve read a lot about Frank Sinatra. I feel we had a connection. After all, years and years ago when a bunch of us were working a Las Vegas convention, we went prowling the streets of old downtown Vegas afterwards and popped into a no-name club just as Frank Jr. was passing out autographed pictures of himself. Yes, you know I had to get one. No. I still don't have it. I gave it to my girlfriend Mary who was an autograph hound.

I’ve read a lot about Elizabeth Taylor. I’ve read every word I can find written about Winston Churchill’s remarkable mother Lady Randolph. Did you know, the most scandalous book in the UK in 2020 was written by a retired lady-in-waiting to the Queen. Naturally, I read that. I wanted to be up to date on my (canceled) European trek. But honestly, by American standards, that book was PG 13.

Still, I always return to my favorite writers like Lisa Kleypas, Grace Burrowes. Mary Balogh, Celeste Bradley, Susan Wiggs, Olivia Drake, Brenda Joyce, Stephanie Laurens, Susan Enoch, and Marion Chesney (M.C.) Beaton.

What I find appealing about Beaton’s stories is how quickly she dispenses with any unscrupulous cur that threatens her heroine. Beaton will knock off the bad guy faster than anyone else in the business that pens Penguin romances.

When a spurned villain presses his unwelcome advances, Beaton writes the bugger’s carriage right off the side of a bridge into the Thames River, without injuring the horses! Justice is dispensed with a few strokes of her pen’s nib.

This past week, while rereading one of her short books, Beaton added a quote above each chapter.

This morning at the preface of chapter two of “Belinda Goes to Bath,” she quoted James Payn (1830-1898).

“I never had a piece of toast,

Particularly long and wide,

But fell upon the sanded floor,

And always on the buttered side.”

Which reminded me, like Payn, I too have had a life long struggle with certain foods. Actually, primarily, it’s been an ongoing confrontation with a condiment. Mustard and I have a history. It always finds a way on to the front of my shirt. It is mendacious!

The fact of the matter is there are other vegetables that have a grudge against my person. For one. Bell peppers. Regardless of color, they destroy my digestive track erupting back up my esophagus. And, to me, brussels sprouts taste like dirt. Blech.

On the other hand, carrots are sweet and I do esteem green beans, peas, raw cauliflower, fresh tomatoes and avocados.

Still while I am on the subject of vegetables, I am a great fan of my husband’s green cabbage salad. This recipe was the result of him cleaning out the vegetable bins in the fridge. Gathering the leftover bits of veggies, he coarsely chopped an orphan wedge of cabbage, snagged the last of the celery and straggly carrots, and added the lone apple. He threw in slices of pepperoncini, a handful of craisins and a few walnuts. Once he stirred in some ranch dressing, he’d created a delicious substitute for a bland lettuce salad. It’s one of our favorites now.

Staying in the produce department, Beaton offers up, “fine words don’t butter any parsnips,” but the topper is this anonymous bit of wisdom, “a wife and a melon are hard to choose.”

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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