The scene featuring Jack’s mother and her dog, Monty.


It was a full hour later when his mother breezed into his office, her pug, Monty, in her arms. After Jack gave her the obligatory kiss on her powdered cheek and Monty an obligatory, if reluctant pat on his bony head, they got down to talk about family and how with Diana’s delivery of a baby girl five days ago, she was a grandmother again.

“Leonie is an adorable infant. I can’t wait until Diana allows me to spoil her. “But
let’s talk about something else. For instance, what must be done to encourage MaryBeth to write again. The next installment of the Red Dragon Chronicles is long overdue.”

Jack’s mother featured herself a Chalcott House staff member under more
situations than he was comfortable with.

“MaryBeth is coping with some beastly personal issues. Until they’re settled, I ‘ve
resolved to give her the space she needs.”

“Instead of space, you must give her an incentive.”

Monty looked up at Jack with dark, liquid eyes in which pools of evil lurked. Jack
said, “I don’t agree.”

“But MaryBeth is our bread and butter.” His mother perched on one of the chairs in front of his desk and put Monty down on the floor. “If she’s not writing what will happen? I’m worried for the future of Chalcott House.”

Jack’s immediate worry centered on the present and what Monty, who had begun to sniff at one of the scrolled legs of his side table, was doing. “Do you think if MaryBeth never writes another word that some unforetold terrible thing will happen to Chalcott House? I assure you, we are doing quite well.”

“I know that. You’ve made it quite clear I’m not ever to worry about finances. I
don’t.” She paused to pout. “I really must say, and you know how difficult this is for me, but I feel ignored. Your father considered my advice to be essential to every decision he made. I don’t know why you think my opinions aren’t worthwhile.”

Jack knew his father didn’t value his wife’s opinions though would never say so in the interest of marital peace. Carefully, with as much diplomacy as he could muster, Jack said, “Things have changed since Dad’s time. I don’t believe, considering how busy you’ve been, that you’ve had time to keep up with those changes.”

The way his mother’s nostrils flared, Jack knew, hard as he’d tried not to be, she’d taken his words as more than a bit patronizing. Regrouping he added, “However is there something you think it important that I know, other than MaryBeth missing her latest deadline? I’ll be happy to listen.”

Slightly mollified, she stood. “I want to be part of the decision-making process at
Chalcott House again. I want you to let me come to Board meetings.”


She held up a staying hand. “It wasn’t my fault. Lara assured me when she took
Monty for a walk he had relieved himself properly.”

When asked, Lara, his mother’s dog walker insisted she hadn’t seen Monty at all
that day. “Mum, we cannot have an animal, even one as beloved as Monty—”
“Monty was quite considerate if you think about it. He did his job in the corner of
the room, not underfoot. And dear, just think. Monty only did what was natural.”

“But Mum—”

“Yes, yes.” She waved one languid hand. “Everyone was disgusted. You told me.
But really, defecating indoors is so much better than smoking indoors.

Jack supposed there was some logic there, if nowhere else than in his mother’s
mind. “I understand, but—”

“Really, Jack, it was too bad of you to ban Monty from the boardroom. And you
knew, if he wasn’t welcome, I wouldn’t feel welcome and I want to remind you that I am one of the major stockholders.”

He sighed. “Come to the next meeting. It’s two weeks from Monday.”
“That’s very disappointing. My garden club is making a day trip to see the foliage
in the New Forest. Couldn’t you move the meeting?” She made clucking sounds for Monty to come.

“Sorry, I can’t.” Jack eyed Monty who trotted out from behind his desk. Picking
up the monster, his mother kissed its ugly face. Panting through his flat nose, tongue lolling out the dog glared up at Jack.

Starting toward the door, his mum said, “Well, I hope the subject of Mr. Browne
and the ideas he has for Chalcott House will come up at the meeting.”

Jack stopped thinking about the dog. In a sharp voice, he said, “Do you know
Robert Browne?”

“Oh, I don’t know him.” As she walked down the hallway, she kept kissing Monty.

“I’ve heard he has some wonderful ideas and that perhaps you should listen.”
Jack put a hand on her forearm. “Who did you hear that from?”

“Well, darling, let’s see…my recollection of what I heard and from whom…” She
looked up at one of the hallway’s sconces as if therein she’d find the answer…

“Whatever it was, it left me with very positive feelings.” She patted his cheek and stepped into the anteroom. “I suppose I will have to trust you to take care of my interests.”

“How would you think your interests would be any different than Alice’s or
Diana’s or Rose’s, even mine?” Jack asked. “Haven’t I always taken care of everyone’s interest?”

“Yes, darling. You have. But I am older, now, and I must worry about my future.”
She gave him her cheek for a kiss and swept out. After the delivery of that non-sequitur, Jack remained rooted in place. Max. That was who his mother had heard from concerning what Robert Browne’s ideas were for Chalcott House. An icy-cold resolve settled him. If it was true—and if Max had approached his mother and dragged her into his battle with Browne—he’d guaranteed his own dismissal.


Jack turned to Isabella, who had risen from behind her desk. “Is there anything I
can do for you?”

He needed a respite from thinking about Robert Browne. And he knew how he
was going to get it. “There is one thing.” He slipped his mobile from his pocket.

“Would you re-schedule tomorrow’s meetings for next week? I’ve decided to move up my trip to Brompton Court.” As he began his message to Henry to have the car ready, he added, “Oh, and please look behind my desk to see if Monty has left me a present.”

While Isabella did, Jack re-thought his next step. Until he knew, what it was, he
would have to be alert to every possibility.

Isabella was back. “I saw nothing but a tissue, chewed to bits. I’ve thrown it away.”

“Thank you.” He closed his eyes for a second. God, he was tired of wondering
what his mother was up to. And her dog, too.

Baking frees my writer’s mind

A long time ago, someone told me I should never write a scene where my hero and heroine share a meal. I promptly ignored that advice. Every book I’ve ever written has at least one scene where food is either being consumed or made. In fact, in A DUKE FOR DESSERT my heroine, Annie Lukin, is a Michelin starred chef. The hero loves her food as much as he loves her…well, that’s an exaggeration. 

Here’s a simple recipe for mandelbrot. No, it doesn’t come from Annie. It comes from my recipe box. The word, mandelbrot, comes from the German and means almond cookie or biscuit. The Italian biscotti is its near cousin.
I haven’t included mandelbrot in a book, yet. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. In the meantime, I thought I’d share the recipe with you as it’s a favorite of my family and friends. This is a delicious treat, a little crumbly, sweet, but not-too-sweet, perfect for an afternoon coffee or tea and very simple to make! 

And, as I’m always open for new recipes…yes, I love to bake, but now, since COVID I’m doing a lot of cooking, too…if you’ve got a recipe you particularly like and want to share, please send it to me,

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and place a rack in the center of the oven.

  • 3 1/4 C. flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder (level)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. orange juice
  • 1 C. walnuts or almonds, chopped
  • 1 C. oil (a neutral oil)
  • Cinnamon for dusting

Combine the flour and baking powder. Wisk the sugar into the beaten eggs, and then add the vanilla, maple syrup, lemon and orange juices, and the oil. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and mix. Add the nuts and mix until combined. 

Form football-shaped loaves and place on cookie sheet. Dust the top of each loaf with cinnamon. This recipe should make six loaves. Bake three loaves on each cookie sheet for approximately 28 minutes. Remove from oven when loaves are dry. Remove to a flat platter or board. Once the loaves have cooled, slice each, approximately one inch thick. Place slices on a pan in a toaster oven or back in the oven and toast seven minutes or until brown on both sides. 


Oh, and by the way, just a little heads-up. My next book in the Billionaire Dukes series is out this winter. It’s called WHEN THE DUKE FINDS HIS HEART and I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Keep safe! Keep on reading!