Category Archives: Romantic Reads

Off to Brunnenburg, Italy!

IMG_2709I’m excited to introduce an extra special guest blogger, my daughter, Rylie. We hope you enjoy the first of her posts about her ten-day excursion to northern Italy. (Our lucky winner of Jeannie Moon’s debut novel, The Temporary Wife, is announced below!) 

Our student group traveled via Air Berlin out of JFK in New York to Germany on a seven-and-a-half hour flight with a five hour layover, and then on a one-and-a-half hour flight in a hopper plane to Venice, Italy. Our ultimate destination of Brunnenburg was a bumpy three hour ride into the Italian Alps, making the trip a total of approximately seventeen hours.
The allure of a trip overseas makes the discomfort of sitting upright between a rambunctious ten-year-old and a stranger bearable. Too wired to sleep, I managed thirty minutes or so of dozing around midnight New York time before the flight attendant offered us a breakfast of salami, tomatoes, fruit, and crackers. I ignored the cramping in my knees upon departure into Düsseldorf airport, and literally skipped through customs with joy. I was in Germany! I was officially abroad!

The best croissants ever...
The best croissants ever…

My second wind kicked in about an hour after getting our passports stamped. Off I went to explore while my classmates charged their iPods and iPads. Even the airport was a feast to my eyes, between the young German businessmen by baggage claim with their trimmed scruff and designer suits and an entire section of the building devoted to selling every type of chocolate you can imagine. I noted some differences between there and American airports. Some cool things: the bathrooms aren’t stalls, they’re little rooms. If you accidentally lock yourself in, you can’t crawl under the door to freedom. That may sound silly, but it happened several times to members of our group. Dusseldorf bathrooms are so clean that a person like me with OCD tendencies would feel comfortable making a sandwich on the bare floor. Speaking of food, instead of fast food restaurants like we see in many American airports, there were several cafés. They all sold these basic items: croissants, salads, fruit, a few types of sandwiches, and a lot of coffee and alcohol. I highly recommend the croissants. They were flaky, buttery, and filled with warm, gooey chocolate. (Do you notice a theme here? Yeah, I’m a fan of the sweet stuff.)

Chocolate HEAVEN!
Chocolate HEAVEN!
GLEE fans would appreciate this.

On our quick flight to Venice, I was unconscious from the time I buckled my seat belt until we shakily landed on the tarmac. We then boarded the coach bus that would take us north to Dorf Tirol, Italy, a small tourist town about ten miles southeast of the Austrian/Italian border. The drive up was awesome. Street signs on the highways are massive enough for the most near-sighted of drivers to easily read them, and there are emergency sections every few hundred meters (yes, meters) where the little hybrid cars can pull over. The highway walls are transparent with little bird decals on them, and there were very few housing developments. As our vehicle climbed further north, we spotted castles along the mountainsides. Vineyards and farms, with horses, sheep, cows and goats, dotted the lush landscape.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Allison Lloyd
PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

When I was in Bermuda last summer, I took a cab back to the shipyard with my cousins. The ride was terrifying – the driver easily surpassed New York speed limits, the streets were barely wide enough for two cars to fit, and pedestrians appeared unfazed by the stream of vehicles speeding by them. Multiply that fear by ten and that’s what I felt during the last bit of our drive to Dorf Tirol. The town is set into the side of a mountain, and the 1.5 lane roads run along cliff drop-offs when they’re not at impossibly steep up and downhill angles. Stop signs seemed to be a suggestion to the drivers, as did the speed limit.

Umm. We didn't even slow down for this sign.
Umm. We didn’t even slow down for this sign.

The fear effectively eliminated any leftover grogginess from the second flight, though, and soon enough we had reached the winding downhill drive of Brunnenburg Castle. From aerial views, the castle appears to emerge gracefully from the Küchelberg cliff side, nestled in a cluster of evergreens and ivy. Up close, the estate is quaint and quiet despite the many goats and chickens that call the grounds home, and as I lugged my suitcase under a stone archway toward the converted dorms, it suddenly hit me that I would actually be spending the next week in a castle, in Italy.
I couldn’t wait for the real adventure to begin.

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd
PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

Next week: The first days at Brunnenburg…sightseeing, the valley’s history, and lots and lots of shopping. Many more pictures to come!

Do you have any funny or harrowing travel experiences to share? Have you ever been to Italy?


And the winner is…

Rhonda Hopkins. Congratulations, Rhonda! Contact me with your email address and kind of device you’ll use to read your free ebook, The Temporary Wife, courtesy of Jeannie Moon. Thanks, Jeannie! Until next week, I hope you spend your days doing what you love. Remember to live your life out loud, right?

Exciting News!

Today’s Moment has a little something for everyone, and it’s all good.

Romance Review

Jeannie Moon writes contemporary romance, the kind you have trouble putting down because she draws you into the story with beautifully crafted characters, sensual tension, and realistic, compelling conflicts.

Meg, the heroine of The Temporary Wife, is someone you’d want as a friend. Since I’m a woman with two careers myself, I like that Meg has a career she enjoys, and that it’s depicted as an important part of her life. Jason, her hero, is sexy but down-to-earth and loyal (even if he is a billionaire). I also liked the family dynamics in the story, and adore the little one, Molly. Ms. Moon’s descriptions brought back vivid memories of my daughter at that age.

The crux of the story is that Meg marries Jason to protect Molly from the child’s cold-hearted grandparents. This is the first time Jason and Meg have been together since he ended their relationship due to peer pressure as a teen. Jason doesn’t know he was Meg’s first love, or that she’s used her feelings for him as a barometer for every romantic relationship in her life since–and they all came up short. How will Meg hold onto her heart for the year before the pre-arranged divorce? How will their relationship affect the little girl she loves? How will Jason prove to Meg he’s not the guy he was in the past? How will they overcome all the obstacles of family dynamics and past hurts to give them their forever love?

Just writing this review pulls at my heartstrings, and I’m tempted to reread the book already. If you love sweet, romantic escapes that leave you with a satisfied, mushy glow of happiness, you’ll love Jeannie Moon’s debut novel, The Temporary Wife. Be sure to comment on this week’s post for a chance to win your own copy of this book, courtesy of the author. To read a sample chapter of this book or to order your copy, click on the book cover photo to the left.

Guest Blogger News

As you may recall, my daughter recently graduated from college. As a culminating experience for a creative writing course, she traveled to northern Italy for a ten-day excursion. I’m so excited to announce she has agreed (without any twisting of arms or other forms of persuasion) to guest post about her recent adventures in the coming weeks! What better way to kick off Margarita Moments’ third year than incredible scenes like this:

Dorf Tirol, Italy

And, last but not least…

the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card from last week’s blogiversary celebration is Jill Weatherholt! Congratulations, Jill. Please email me at to arrange for your gift’s delivery.

For everyone else, this is your lucky day, too, because I’m honored to give away a free ebook of Jeannie Moon’s spectacular debut novel, The Temporary Wife. To be entered into the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment. (Winner will be announced Monday, June 10th.)

What juicy book have you read recently? Any blog ideas for our third year at Margarita Moments? More TV guilty pleasures or romantic escapes?

Milestones, Memorial Day, and Mash-Ups


Tis the season of weddings, First Communions, and graduations. Last week, my family celebrated our daughter’s college graduation. I was tempted to cry, but she wouldn’t have approved. I’m thrilled for her, confident she is ready for the next step of her journey. It also doesn’t hurt that she’ll be home with us for a year before moving onto medical school. (How can a mom resist that cute face?)

Hard to believe, but Margarita Moments & Other Escapes celebrates its second blogiversary on Friday! One randomly selected reader will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, just for commenting on today’s post. You’ve got to enter to win!*  

Memorial Day…

All Gave Some, Some Gave All.

As much as we enjoy our Memorial Day weekend barbeques and pool parties, the meaning behind this holiday is bittersweet. Our hearts and minds remember those who have fought and died for us to have the many freedoms we savor as Americans.

Never forget.

Have a safe, relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Celebrate on behalf of those who can’t because they’re too busy keeping us safe.

…and Mash-Ups!


1.5 L White Wine (ie. Mescato)

1.5 cups Peach Absolut Vodka

1-2 cans of frozen lemonade

Strawberries (in chunks)

Granny Smith Apples (in chunks)

Serve over Ice or with Seltzer



Now it’s your turn.

Share any milestones, Memorial Day stories, suggested summer drink recipes or poolside reads. We’d love to enjoy them with you. Remember to leave a comment to be entered into this week’s drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card.


*Winner must provide a valid email address in order to receive gift card via email. Winner will be announced Monday, June 3rd, 2013. Good luck!

Summer’s Grace

Dusk descends upon us,

Relief from the heat of the day,

We’re drawn to the wooden boardwalk,

Where flowery fragrance fills the air,

Hidden creatures chirp their mating songs,

And svelte swans grace the lawn.

Away from the raucous festivities,

Warm bodies, pulsing music, and stilted small talk,

Into the cool, calm quiet.

Rare is our solitude, rare is the perfect June night.

~Jolyse Barnett

Love is in the Air

Valentines Day Basic Graphic MINEIn honor of Valentine’s Day, this week’s post is all about romance.  There’s the traditional candlelit dinner, bouquet of roses, chocolates, whispered sweet nothings–all leading up to a wonderfully intimate evening to celebrate your love. Simple, yet elegant. Then, there are the more extravagant declarations of love, like jewelry or an overnight stay at your favorite hotel. It’s all good.

After twenty-odd February fourteenths, my Valentine surprised me a few years ago with what I consider his most thoughtful present ever, a gift basket of my favorite romantic comedy DVDs. To top it off, we watched one that night while snuggling on the couch with our wine and strawberries.

If you’re thinking about a cozy night in with your Valentine this year, here’s one of my new favorites, Leap Year:

If you missed this romantic comedy from 2010, Leap Year stars Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. Amy’s character, Anna, reminds me of the the girl from the Taylor Swift song about a guy who makes a “rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.”

Anna is a proper, control freak on the verge of moving uptown with her safe, predictable cardiologist. Still ringless after four years, she decides to take matters into her own hands and travel to Dublin where her boyfriend is at a medical conference. She believes there to be an Irish tradition where a women can ask a man to marry her on February 29th. Of course, her journey meets with many obstacles. Matthew Goode plays Declan, who is adorable and maddenly interesting but financially unstable. Yet, Anna can’t help falling in love with him along their rocky road to Dublin. Click on Matthew’s photo to see Anna and Declan’s first kiss.

Not only is Leap Year’s story cute and fast-paced, but the scenery is incredible. You may be tempted to visit the Irish Isles after seeing this flick.

I’m not the only one with romance on my mind this week. Check out this cool movie blog post featuring romantic movie moments from a variety of genres. Which movie moment would get your vote?

Well, I have to run…time to write love notes for my Valentine.



Get Lost…in a Book

Winter Chill

An avid reader doesn’t need an excuse to enjoy a good book, yet there’s something especially appealing about skipping errands in favor of curling up on your favorite piece of furniture and losing yourself in a story. I think this is doubly true during winter, sitting quietly a welcome change after all the excitement of December. Are you in the mood to revisit a beloved novel, read your favorite author’s newest release, make a dent in your to-be-read pile, or discover a new author?

As a novice owner of a Kindle Fire, I chose to read CROSS MY HEART, a book by Abigail Strom that ranks as the number one contemporary romance on Kindle. Its ranking may have had something to do with the book’s price, a mere ninety-nine cents. But that alone didn’t convince me to give her novel a try. It was Abigail Strom’s website bio, book blurbs, reader reviews, and excerpts that did.

CROSS MY HEART is Abigail’s third book, and the second in the Landry trilogy. The heroine, Jenna, is a singer/guitarist from a recently defunct rock band. She is back home in rural Iowa for the summer, housesitting for relatives. Michael Stone is a divorced, part-time father and workaholic cardiac surgeon who lives next door. They are attracted to each other, but don’t actually have a conversation until his teenage daughter arrives for her two-week visit. The daughter begs Michael to help her meet Jenna, one of her favorite singers. In the end, Jenna teaches Michael about music and having faith in himself as a dad, and he teaches her that love is worth compromise.

Abigail wrote the daughter, Claire with such a realistic teenage personality. The family and other interpersonal dynamics pull at the heartstrings, too, with believable, compelling conflicts. I was rooting for these characters, and I felt that the three of them would make a terrific family unit. I had to keep reading to see how they worked it all out. I wasn’t disappointed.

I finished Jenna Landry’s story only to dive into another Strom book. In WAITING FOR YOU, Jake Landry has returned from Afghanistan after four tours of military duty. He’s a strong man, trying to move forward in his life, but he suffers from PTSD. This prevents him from reconnecting with his family. He rejects his feelings toward Erin, the girl-next-door he’d left behind, determined not to ruin her innocence with his jaded perspective and numb heart. He leaves town after one incredible night with Erin, only to return six months later to learn the encounter had lasting consequences. I cried twice while reading this book; that’s how invested I became in Jake and Erin’s story.

The last of Abigail Strom’s books I’ve read is THE MILLIONAIRE’S WISH. This happens to be the first in the Landry trilogy and was published as a Silhouette Special Edition. I was quickly drawn into Allison and Rick’s lives. Allison is the oldest Landry sibling, and completely turned off to men after a violent ending to her first relationship back in high school. Her youngest sister died of cancer, and Allison has dedicated her adult life to her non-profit foundation helping families affected by the disease. She needs Rick’s money to help keep her dreams alive. He agrees, but on one condition. That condition forces the two to face their personal issues. Eventually, they realize they are crazy in love with each other and are ready to move forward as a couple. This story was satifying overall and answered all my story questions (with inclusion of an epilogue), yet the ending felt a bit rushed compared to the other two.

Abigail’s no-nonsense prose allows the reader to focus on the characters and their journey to their happily-ever-after. Her voice makes for a quick, seamless read. I would love for her to weave in a few more setting details in future novels, especially if she writes another trilogy. Stories where the community essentially becomes another character and part of the plot, as in Jodi Thomas’ HARMONY series, may add even more depth to an already well-crafted book. Then again, that’s just my opinion.

In Strom’s Landry trilogy, the emotional and sexual tension is her forte. CROSS MY HEART has the steamiest and greatest number of detailed, yet tasteful romantic scenes, and WAITING FOR YOU has sex scenes that are not only hot, but incredibly emotional.

In a nutshell, Abigail Strom writes a sweet, sexy, and satisfying read.

My Reading Spot

Why not sink into your favorite chair and get lost in a story? What will you be reading?