Valentine's Day Extravaganza: Day 4 - Valentine Dates

Friday, February 12, 2021

 


Hello, everyone!

Welcome to Day 4 of the Valentine's Day Extravaganza!

I hope no one is tired of my Valentine's Day celebrations on the blog yet! I've had so much fun seeing everyone's reactions to it on social - thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your enthusiasm! 

If you missed the first two posts - Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day Gone Wrong Part 1 and Part 2 - be sure to check them out for all the incredible content. Now, I know as the host I'm technically not supposed to pick favorites, but today is my favorite day because I get to involve my friends in these celebrations! I'm so excited for you all to see all the creativity and thought that everyone has put into their submissions. You'll also finally get to see me participate in the festivities! The prompt for this post was "Plan a date for a favorite fictional couple in either your hometown or your favorite city and plan a 3-course meal for them". Let me tell you, everyone went above and beyond to plan these dates, and ok, let me shut up now so you can get to them!!

Thank you to everyone who signed up to participate (even though I did have to bully some of you into doing it)! :)

Enjoy these entries, friends, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

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Aarya

Book: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Couple: Mehr & Amun


Empire of Sand is one of my favorite books and I’d probably throw copies at people if I weren't worried about getting sued. While it’s technically not shelved in genre romance, I still highly recommend it to romance readers. There is marriage-of-convenience tropey goodness between two people who really don’t want to get married. While the A plot is defeating the Evil Dictator/God who holds them captive, I swooned watching Amun and Mehr learn to love each other amidst impossible circumstances. There is a beautiful scene with consent negotiations and it’s so fucking good. Yes, there is a HEA (I would never betray you like that!) and Empire of Sand works as a standalone for this couple’s arc (the sequel Realm of Ash is about Mehr’s younger sister). 

“I want to court you every day. I want to choose you and ask you to choose me, and know that we are bound because we have chosen each other. I want to know we are bound because we continue to choose to belong to one another.”

Since it’s set in an alternate fantasy world inspired by Mughal India, it’s hard to plan a date in my hometown or favorite city. But this is my Valentine’s Day date and I make the rules, so I’ve decided to invite Amun and Mehr to my home. These poor babies have suffered enough in their book (was that really necessary, Tasha?!), and what better way to spoil them than comfort Indian food?

First up: my mom’s dosa with sambar and potato curry on the side. Not pictured is a spicy onion chutney that is literally the most delicious thing that has ever entered my mouth. I feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of devouring it. :P

  

Full disclosure: I am a terrible cook. So for all my good intentions of feeding Amun and Mehr, I need to emergency dial an Indian restaurant in Philadelphia. My family might help out for dosa, but the rest is up to me. Luckily for me, Indeblue is on speed dial and fancy enough to plate the food nicely. 

The second course is a vegetarian thali. While my guests aren’t vegetarian, it is my home and I’m more comfortable serving food that I can personally vouch for. Thali is basically a platter of food with LOTS of options (chutneys, dahl, curries, rice, naan, dessert, etc). The nice thing about thali is that even if my guests don’t like one dish, there are so many other things to try and love! You can’t go wrong. Also, you don’t know what it’s like to be stuffed unless you’ve eaten a thali with sixteen cups. Yes, SIXTEEN. Thankfully, I am not planning on stuffing Amun and Mehr because they need to eat dessert! 

  

Last, but not certainly least: DESSERT. I considered gulab jamun or carrot halwa, but I want to end the feast on a simple note. Kulfi ice cream! Light, cold, and refreshing. 

Amun and Mehr are new guests to our version of Earth and I don’t want them to accidentally get run over by a car. It’s best that they stay in my house for everyone’s safety. Listen, I don’t fuck with the multiverse, especially after watching Avengers: Endgame. There’s also the small matter of organizing this date during a pandemic. But who needs to visit the Liberty Bell when they can watch Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gam? I bet Bollywood movies will be a big hit for someone who doesn’t know what electricity is. And if they insist on an encore, I’ve also rented out Devdas (Mehr is a dancer and will appreciate the sapphic yearning/dance moves in “Dola Re Dola”) and Jodhaa Akbar (the Mughal costumes will feel like home!).





To be clear: I will not be here for this date! It’s Valentine’s Day, after all, and the newlyweds require privacy and an opportunity to gawk at 21st century appliances. My contribution will be leaving the food in the fridge, making the movies easily accessible, and praying to Shiva that these two don’t burn my house down. 


Find Aarya:
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Amber

Book: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
Couple: Naya & Jake


Naya and Jake spend a day in Chicago!

Pinterest Board

I chose this couple because I’m from Chicago and I’d love to plan a summer date for Jake and Naya that is not in downtown Chicago!

11 a.m. - Hop on the Brown line train for a delicious brunch at Over Easy in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Naya orders for both of them and they gorge themselves on Banana Spiked French Toast, a spicy tofu scramble, and lots of coffee.  

1 p.m. - Take Jake to his first ever Chicago Cubs game and take a mandatory photo in front Wrigley Field. Jake doesn’t follow the game at all, instead he spends most of his time buying Cubs apparel for him and Naya. 

4 p.m. - After game dessert at Cookie Spin. Jake will be horribly disgusted by how thick the cookies are while promptly eating two in a row and trying to help Naya eat hers. 

5 p.m. - Grab an lyft to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood where Naya and Jake spend some time walking around the University of Chicago campus. Naya talks about a seminar she attended once at the university. 

6 p.m. - Walk over to 57th Street Books to browse the selection. Naya can’t be pulled away from the Math and Science section while Jake keeps taking selfies with the President Obama cut-out poster. 

7 p.m. - Jake and Naya argue about what to have for dinner. Jake wants deep dish pizza but Naya wants Thai. Thai obviously wins. Naya googles a place nearby and two end up at

7:30 p.m. - Snail Thai Cuisine. Naya orders a Thai iced coffee and the two share chive dumplings and shumai for an appetizer. For the main course, Naya orders a roast duck curry and Jake gets Singapore noodles (even though Naya samples a good amount of his noodles). Jake insists on dessert and they agree on a Thai coconut custard. 

9:30 p.m. - They take a lyft back to Naya’s for a nightcap and to end the day with some HGTV Home Hunters International and plot their dream home in Scotland. 



Find Amber:
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Ari

Book: The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Couple: Clara & Josh



Valentine’s Day

JOSH

Josh tugged on the collar of his white button-down and let out a breath. He smoothed the sides of his blazer and looked up at his reflection in the hallway mirror.

It was Valentine’s Day—his first Valentine’s Day with a significant other—and he was a nervous wreck.

“Hey Josh,” Clara called from their bedroom. “What time are our reservations again?”

“Seven.” He checked his watch. “We better get a move on it, Connecticut.”

“Two minutes, I swear!” Clara responded as her heels clacked across the wooden floors of their bedroom.

A few weeks after Everett had returned from his tour, Josh and Clara realized that three was a crowd and decided it was time to find their own place. They’ve been playing house for a little over two months now and though they had been together for quite some time, Josh and Clara were somehow still stuck in the honeymoon phase. But it didn’t matter what phase they were stuck in, Josh just couldn’t get enough. 

“Ok, I’m ready.”

Josh looked up and once again his nerves started up. Looking like a vision in black, Clara’s dress was cinched at the waist and flared out at the bottom, accentuating the curves he had come to memorize. Laced-detailing hugged her arms, which was complemented by her dark hair that was styled in loose waves that fell just below her shoulders. 

“How do I look?”

Stepping across the room, Josh came before Clara and cupped her face in his hands. Leaning in, he brought his lips to her until there was nothing more than a breath between them. 

“Like I won’t be taking my eyes off you tonight.”

CLARA

Clara’s cheeks turned a soft pink as she stepped closer to Josh. Placing a hand to his chest, she brought it up to his collar, fixing it back into place. 

“You clean up quite nicely yourself,” Clara whispered before sealing her lips over his. Even now, Clara still found herself falling more in love with Josh every time she was in his arms—and hoped that feeling never faded. 

Josh placed a hand on her hips, bringing Clara closer to deepen the kiss. He moved his palm to the middle of her back but stopped once he felt her cool skin under his fingertips. Josh pulled back and looked down at Clara before spinning her. 

Giving her a quizzical look, Josh asked, “Clara, where is the rest of your dress?” 

Clara chuckled. “There is no rest to the dress. It’s backless.”

Bringing her back to his front, Josh pulled Clara’s hair to the side and placed a kiss on her neck. 

“New plan. How about we skip the restaurant and stay in instead?” Josh suggested. “We can watch Speed for the millionth time and order pizza.”

“No,” Clara replied. “We have reservations and this is our first Valentine’s Day together so we are going out. But when we return, we can most definitely watch Speed for the millionth time again.”

“Nuh uh,” Josh said. “When we return, it will be you, me and the countless orgasms that my tongue will be providing.”

Grabbing the keys to the Corvette, Josh and Clara locked up the apartment and quickly made their way to the car and headed over to West Hollywood. 

JOSH

Josh and Clara arrived at the restaurant right on time and made their way inside to the hostess station. 

“Welcome to Firefly! How can I help you this evening?”

“We have reservations for two, under Conners,” Josh replied. 

The hostess looked down at her list. “Ahh yes, Conners for two.” 

Pulling two menus from under her desk, the hostess turned around and waved a hand over her shoulder. “If you could follow me right this way to your cabana, we’ll get you seated and your server will be right with you.”

Taking Clara’s hand into his, Josh followed the hostess as they made their way towards the back of the restaurant. They reached their table and Josh pulled out Clara’s chair, helping her to get settled before making his way around and taking his seat.

Josh nervously watched Clara as she looked around the restaurant, taking in the soft glow from the fairy lights strung up among the wooden beams on the ceiling and the hushed whispers of the other couples surrounding them. She turned to look at Josh.

“This place is so romantic. It’s perfect,” Clara stated. 

“I’m glad you love it,” Josh replied while trying to calm his racing heartbeat. So far the evening was going exactly how he planned and he just hoped it stayed that way. 

“I—,” Josh started before he was interrupted by the server who had now approached their table. 

“Good evening and welcome to Firefly. My name is Kora and I will be your server for the evening. Can I start you two off with drinks?”

“We’ll take your finest bottle of red wine,” Josh replied.

“No, he’s joking. We’ll take two glasses of your finest red wine to start,” Clara said looking over at Josh with wide eyes.

“Um, okay then. I will get started on your drinks while you look over the menu. Tonight’s specials are listed at the top of the first page so just let me know if you have any other questions.” Spinning around on her heels, the hostess went off to get their drinks.

“Clara—”

“I know you want to make tonight special, but I don’t need fancy wine.” Clara reached across the table and linked her fingers with his. “Just your presence alone is enough.”

Giving her hand a squeeze, Josh said, “You know I love you the most, right?”

“Mhmm, we’ll see,” Clara teased. “Let's get to ordering because I’m starved!”

CLARA 

After going over the menu, Clara and Josh decided on the Chateaubriand and the Mushroom Pappardelle and practically inhaled their dishes once they were served.

“Are you two ready to order dessert?” asked Kora as she gathered up our dinnerware.

“Actually, I think we’ll be skipping dessert. Can we just get the check instead?” Josh asked. 

“Sure thing. I’ll be right back,” Kora replied. 

“What’s wrong?” Clara asked. “Why are we leaving before dessert?”

“Don’t worry, Clara. The night’s not over yet. And you know this sweet tooth of mine would never skip dessert.”

Josh paid the bill and took Clara’s hand in his and led her back to the Vette. Twenty minutes later, they were walking hand in hand on the Santa Monica Pier surrounded by other couples just like them. 

Love was definitely in the air tonight. 

“Come on,” Josh said as he tugged on Clara’s hand. They made their way to the bumper cars. 

“Two tickets, please,” Josh said to the attendant. He paid for the tickets and they made their way over to the cars. 

“You can crash into things all you want here,” Josh joked.

“Don’t be a jerk,” Clara said, giving a glare. “Also, prepare to eat my dust!”

Josh and Clara spent the next few moments racing around the track and even got into some friendly competition with a few other couples.

“Let’s ride the ferris wheel next,” Clara said.

JOSH

Josh shrugged his blazer off his shoulders and placed it on the sand. He sat down and spread his legs, allowing Clara to settle in between and he pulled her close.

Breaking off a piece of the funnel cake, Clara slightly turned in Josh’s arm to slip it between his lips. 

“Mhmm, sweet—just like you,” Josh said as he kissed the side of her forehead. 

“You know, this is the first time I’ve ever had someone to call my own on Valentine’s Day, “ Josh remarked.

“Really? You never told me that. I figured a darling like you would’ve had all the ladies charmed on Valentine’s Day.”

“Haha, very funny.”

Shifting around on the sand, Clara turned to Josh and cupped his cheek, bringing his face closer to hers. 

“Hey, Josh.”

“Yes, Clara?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Clara whispered just before sealing her lips over his.


Find Ari:
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Genesis

Book: Souls Unfractured by Tillie Cole
Couple: Maddie & Flame



’ll be honest, at first, it took me a few moments to really picture Maddie and Flame from the Hades Hangmen series in a date like the one I prepared. Mostly because they have gone through so much darkness, it was hard to seeing them in this setting. But if anyone deserves happiness and a wonderful date is them! 😭
Souls Unfractured by Tillie Cole became an instant favorite when I read it earlier this year. Maddie and Flames characters spoke to me in so many different ways. Here we have a couple that have gone through so much, you wouldn’t think they’d ever move past it. We have Flame, a man who’s been abused because of his Autism. We have Maddie, a woman who, from a very young age, started getting abused and got dealt with the worst of what you can imagine, someone who’s turned so delicate and not trusting in the male gender, yet she finds hope and light in Flame.

Their story will break and mend your heart. I cannot recommend it enough!

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I had to do this date in Puerto Rico, my beautiful island! One of the places I visited recently is El Cañón Blanco in Utuado, Puerto Rico. It’s a river surrounded by massive boulders, which are surrounded by mountains and trees. This is the perfect place to hike or simply chill in the water. Everything is so peaceful and the best part is the view and nature’s sounds!

After spending the day at the river, it’s time for some relaxing time. What better way to spend the evening than the streets of Old San Juan, where music and culture comes to life! I always tell people they need to experience Old San Juan during day time and night time. Each one is so different from the other, so of course, I had to have Maddie and Flame experience it as well! An iconic street in Old San Juan is the “umbrella street” (currently, it has a huge Puerto Rican flag). For picture-taking and enjoying the scenery, it’s perfect!

There’s also “El Parque de las Palomas”, The Pigeon Park. I truly think Maddie would love this place! You get to purchase food for pigeons and you can either throw the food to the floor for them to eat, or keep it in your hands, palms up. They pigeons fly to you and land on your arms and shoulders for a chance to eat the food. They’re harmless, but they’re “feet” will leave some marks.

El Morro is a fort that was built in the 16th Century in PR during the Spanish Rule. This fortification is filled with so much history! And the best part? The outside of it is like a massive yard where you can fly kites!

Now, the lovely couple heads out for a feast! Some major food staples are surtidos and mofongos. Surtidos are basically Puerto Rican hors d'oeuvres, filled with fried cheese, fried plantains, fried chicken, cheese balls. Just thinking about it has my mouth watering. 🤤 We have mofongo, which is mashed plantains! You can eat on the side of a full dish, or you can eat it filled with anything you want (veggies, chicken, shrimp, fish, steak, etc). Lastly, for dessert, I picked my favorite dessert: Fried Cheesecake with vanilla ice cream. It’s an explosion of flavors in your mouth!

Now, it’s time to rest and head to Hotel El Convento, a famous hotel in Old San Juan, also filled with history. This dates back to 1651! It was almost destroyed after it was abandoned, but the “Puerto Rican tourism officials” decided to convert it into a “European-styled luxury hotel”. Now, it’s filled with Spanish features and with a beautiful courtyard where a “300-year-old Níspero fruit tree from Spain still stands”!

I hope Maddie and Flame enjoy their date and stay In Puerto Rico! I sure hope I get to run into them and say hi!

Find Genesis:
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Jenica

Book: Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
Couple: Sienna & Hawke



8:00 am 

Sienna wakes to the smell of burning food and discovers that Hawke decided that while in Appalachia, they should try Appalachian food. Unfortunately, he burned the sausage gravy. They salvage the eggs and eat biscuits out of a can with butter and the homemade jelly their host provided.  Sienna teases him about his cooking and Hawke informs her that he wasn’t sentenced to kitchen duty as frequently as she has been. Somehow, as though inevitable, they fall back into bed together. 

11:00 am 

Hawke and Sienna stop in at Spring Creek Tavern and pick up enough wraps to have the human working the counter widening his eyes like there weren’t bear and cat shifters all around. Hawke made a game out of lightly growling every few seconds while they waited on their food so they could head out on the hike he’d found for them. He was determined to do something nice for his mate, a title he still reveled in. Sienna Lauren Snow was his and he was hers. Their journey to getting to this point was long and winding, but now that they were here and Sienna had a handle on her x-fire, even across the country from Walker for the week they’d taken to come and meet Remi and his pack and spend a few days on their own. Neither of them was overly invested in Valentine’s Day, but Hawke figured it was always nice to have an excuse to spoil Sienna a bit. 

11:30 am

At the start of the Lover’s Leap trail, Sienna smirked at Hawke, “Race you to the top?” Neither of them were familiar with the terrain ahead of time, so while Hawke always had an edge, Sienna had been studying maps of the trail in her free moments for the past month. They negotiated terms, with Sienna ultimately winding up with a ten minute head start and then they set off. Sienna kept her lead for most of the first 15 minutes of the trail, relying on Hawke’s unwillingness to let someone else fall into one of the traps she set for him. He’d caught onto many of her tricks though from all of the times they’d played together at home. Ultimately, it wasn’t the winning that mattered with Hawke, though she was determined the day would come that she would win. 

When they finally reached the top, Hawke waiting for her, smiling so smugly she couldn’t help but laugh, they set out the blanket tucked in the pack Hawke carried for them. It was nice to spend time with Hawke, just the two of them, and with no outside demands on their time. This moment, the pocket of peace they’d carved out, was something she would carry with her for a long while. 

2:30 pm

After lunch, the two had meandered back down the trail and took quick showers back at their cabin before heading back over to Hot Springs Resort and Spa where they had reservations for one of the hot tubs, filled with the spring water that their tub overlooked. The privacy and seclusion was much appreciated as neither of them was good at resisting one another. Sienna stayed cuddled next to Hawke for the entire hour, resting against him while they were both awake, an experience they didn’t usually get to experience. “So this is relaxing,” Hawke had murmured, his lips pressing against Sienna’s head in a quick kiss. “I think I could get used to this.” 

6:00 pm

Hawke had insisted they get dressed to the nines to eat at The Iron Horse Station for the Valentine’s Day dinner the restaurant was hosting, so Sienna had spent so much more time than usual getting ready, curling her hair, doing a smoky eye, and carefully painting her lips red. The dress she wore was red and crushed velvet, a mini dress with a plunging neckline and she knew Hawke was going to lose his mind. She figured it was good they had reservations because she was starving and given how breakfast had gone, it was definitely best if they ate at the restaurant as planned. 

Hawke growled when she stepped out of the bathroom and bounded across the room in one leap, capturing her around her waist and burying his head in her neck smoothly. She arched back against him for a moment before her stomach growled, ready for the food. There was a set Valentine’s meal that included just two types of appetizers so they tried both. Sienna thought the crab cakes were delicious, but the sweet chili Thai sauce on the calamari was Hawke’s favorite. For their entreés, Sienna had the sea bass with lemon caper beurre blanc sauce and Hawke had the prime rib. But the real star of the dinner was the chocolate lava cake Hawke teased Sienna they were sharing, before having his own slice of peanut butter pie brought out so Sienna could indulge her weakness for chocolate in peace.   

11:00 pm

As they eventually fell into bed that night, after spending a few quiet hours outside staring up at the stars and trying to decide if they looked different on the other side of the United States or not, they both reflected that their time away was exactly what they’d needed, even if they hadn’t quite known it. 


Find Jenica:
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Kailia

Book: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Couple: Reena & Nadim



After recently reading and loving Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron I knew I wanted to feature Reena and Nadim for this post. I really wanted to place them in a city close to my heart where they could enjoy a lot of great sightseeing followed by a delicious meal. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to pretend that this date happens post Covid!

But as someone who has grown up in various cities in different countries, this was very difficult. So, to add a little bit of fun to it I decided to bring both characters to my home country of India. Specifically, I wanted to bring them to my birthplace of Kolkata. After a day of showing them my city, I would invite the two into my home for a home cooked meal! 

But first, let’s look at the places I’d show them! 

Howrah/Rabindra Setu Bridge: This is one of my favorite landmarks in Kolkata. My family lives pretty close to the bridge so we’d have to cross it to get home!

Victoria Memorial:
I debated on whether I wanted to include this landmark on this list. There is so much history here about the colonization of India, but I felt that it was an important part of history worth sharing. This is a beautiful structure that takes into account a variety of different architecture types. It’s a museum now but my favorite part is the gardens! 

St. Paul’s Cathedral:
One of my earliest memories as a child is visiting this cathedral. What’s really cool about this cathedral is the mix of Indian and Gothic architecture. It’s a beautiful structure and really shows what a rich history India—and South Asia—has! 

Street markets:
I don’t have a specific street market I can recommend but one of my earliest memories as a child is going shopping with family members. Kolkata is a large city with a large population so the street markets are always full. Not only are you able to find a lot of great items for great prices, but you also get a little bit of a taste for haggling! 

The food: 
Kolkata has a rich culture that is greatly entwined with Bengali culture. I was born and raised here so coming up with this menu was hard but also very easy. I know my favorites but also what would showcase the incredible food of the city. As Reena is a cook and baker, I knew I had to really think about what to make. Without further adieu, here is the three course meal. 

Appetizer: Jhalmuri

This is a little bit cheating because the best jhalmuri to experience is actually on the streets. I have yet to have this dish in other parts of the country that matches up. But I have also mastered the art of making this appetizer. Made of puffed rice (muri), onions, peanuts, tomatoes and spices, this is the perfect light dish to start our meals! Personally, I like mine to have small green chilies to add a bit of spice but I would hold off for Reena and Kadim. 

Main course: Macher Jhol

I knew that I wanted to feature a fish dish for this post as soon as I decided on a location. If there’s one thing Kolkata is known for it's the fish that you can find here. Macher Jhol is a fish curry that is best served with rice. I would use rohu fish (it’s a type of carp) that’s very popular to use in this dish. One of the most interesting aspects of this dish is the fact the potatoes are added as a thickening agent. Aside from the fish and potatoes, I would add the regular ingredients of onions, ginger, garlic, chili, tomatoes and a whole lot of spices! Again, my family loves a good spicy dish and while it’s most common for this dish to be spicy, I would limit that for Reena and Kalid’s sake. 

Dessert: Rasgulla 

I really wanted to feature mishti doi (fermented sweet yogurt) as the dessert for this meal but I thought it would be too simple. Instead, I’m going for a dessert that never fails: rasgulla (or roshogolla in Bengali). Made of balls of cottage cheese and semolina dough that is then soaked in sugar syrup, it’s the perfect way to end the night! 

And there you have it! I understand this is a more simple menu but I really wanted to highlight as much of Kolkata’s rich cuisine as I could.


Find Kailia:
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Kara

Book: Teach Me by Olivia Dade
Couple: Rose & Martin



Extra Credit

A Teach Me and Lovestruck Librarians Crossover Fan Fic 

Original Stories By: Olivia Dade

Fan Fic By: @MzKaraReads


“Where did you say we were going?” Rose shot a curious glance at Martin as he eyed the map on the car’s dashboard.  Before Martin could answer, the GPS interrupted the soft jazz playing on the radio and instructed, “In 200 feet, turn right.”

Martin slid his eyes to the passenger seat. “I didn’t say,” he answered with a grin.  “But I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Rose eyed him suspiciously and sunk deeper into the heated leather seat.  It was a frigid, windy February evening and she appreciated the extra warmth on the way to their mystery destination.

“Well, it was nice of Alfred and Annette to loan us their newest car,” Rose remarked, basking in the luxury of the S-Class Mercedes Benz.

Martin gave an exasperated huff.  “This was the compromise after talking them down from a private jet, helicopter, limo and chauffeured town car.”  Rose’s wealthy former in-laws, Alfred and Annette Buckham, were notorious for their over-the-top antics to get their loved ones to fall in line with their extravagant gift giving.

Rose shook her head and smiled, “I know they’re a lot and even though we’ve agreed to use their island villa this summer, they’re still put out that we haven’t been on our official honeymoon.”

Martin and Rose had married in November over the Thanksgiving holiday.  However as high school teachers, they couldn’t take an extended break while school was in session.  They opted to remain in town during winter recess while Martin’s daughter, Bea, was on break from UW Madison.   Rose stole an admiring look at husband, debonair and confident in his tuxedo.  She’d been right - he’d gotten a lot of use out of that tux since they chaperoned Marysburg High’s prom two years ago.  “Did those two help you plan tonight?” Rose asked.

“They asked about our Valentine’s Day plans and Annette’s Decrepit Hunch of Doom made an immediate appearance when I said we were keeping it simple and going out to dinner,” Martin replied with an eye roll. “She told me about this event and when I mentioned that we were okay with a quiet long weekend to ourselves, that’s when the wheezing started.”  Martin shook his head with disbelief.

Rose snorted.

“I’m serious.  This was next level. I’m completely familiar with their melodrama but it was so realistic

Rogers was ready to begin CPR.  It was unreal,” Martin was aghast.

Rose’s expression changed from amused to shocked.  “She got one over on Rogers?”

“Yes!” Martin exclaimed. “If she had Rogers shook, as the kids say, how would I stand a chance?”

Rogers, the Buckham’s long-suffering butler and house manager, was unflappable in the face of his employers’ shenanigans.  The unaffected Rogers, heaver of beleaguered sighs, deliverer of dry rejoinders, caster of withering glances, had actually panicked.

Rose cackled at the ridiculousness of it all.  Her former in-laws were a mess and they were not above enacting a Shondaland-esque medical drama to get their way.

“They’re awful,” she said.  “But you had to know they were not going to let our first year of marriage proceed with anything less than them spoiling us rotten.  We don’t stand a chance.  We need to go limp and enjoy it, just for the first year.  We’ll shore up our defenses and present a united front after.”

“At any rate, once Annette’s alleged breathing crisis was averted, she calmly gave me details and two tickets for tonight’s event.  After my heart rate returned to normal, I took a closer look.  I think you’ll enjoy our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple.” Martin smiled as he made a smooth left turn at the GPS’ instruction.  “Have I told you how amazing you look?”  He shot a lascivious glance at his wife and Rose blushed under his attention.  “You eventually got around to it,” she quipped.  She reached over and rubbed his bristly cheek, and he turned his head to plant a quick kiss in her palm.  She dropped her hand to his thigh as he continued driving.

The pair spent most of the day apart preparing for tonight’s event.  Instead of his usual conservative cut with the careful side part, he was sporting a smooth slicked back style that held Rose rapt.  His beard, a new addition in the last year, was neatly trimmed.

Rose had received vague instructions to pack an overnight bag and dress formally for the night.  Earlier in the week she visited Lush, her favorite boutique, where she happened upon the perfect outfit. Her dress was clearly a nod to Beyonce’s yellow gown from the 2019 premier of The Lion King, except it was in Rose’s signature color - uninterrupted black.  Rose had been hesitant after seeing the breathtakingly high slit that left little to the imagination, but she could not pass up a dress that played up every curve on her statuesque frame to its best advantage.

While Martin was off at the barber and running his errands, Rose spent the day in a luxury salon and day spa, courtesy of a bridal shower gift certificate from her Marysburg High colleagues. She had given the hairdresser, manicurist, and aesthetician free reign.  Her dark hair was curled and pinned in an elaborate up-do, her freshly manicured nails were gleaming with shiny black polish and her face was beautifully adorned with a dramatic smoky eye and bold red lip.  Martin was out when she returned home from the spa, so she had the house to herself to get ready.

Her finished look had stunned Martin into silence when he walked in and found her waiting in the living room.  Rose smiled to herself remembering how Martin stopped breathing for a moment and dropped the bouquet of black calla lilies he had in hand.  His blue eyes went from awe to lust to complete adoration in about a 15 second span.  It seemed she’d inspired an actual breathing crisis - breathtaking slit indeed.  Rose shook herself out of the memory as she realized Martin was turning into a parking lot.

“Your destination is on the right,” the GPS announced.  Rose glanced at the dashboard and noted that their 45-minute ride had brought them to Thornfield Hall in Niceville, Maryland.  They were a few towns over from Marysburg it would seem.

Rose stared at the huge, stone mansion as Martin pulled around to the valet station.  An eager valet ran to the driver’s door, no doubt anxious for even just a few minutes behind the wheel of the luxury car. Martin popped the trunk to allow an attendant to retrieve their bags, passed the key fob to the valet and hustled around to the passenger’s side to collect his bride.  Martin escorted Rose into the lobby, followed by the attendant, where he checked their bags and coats and collected their room key for the evening.  With the receptionist’s promise to see their belongings to their room, Martin slid the attendant a generous tip and walked Rose down a long corridor to the main ballroom.

When they reached the main ballroom, they were greeted by a cheerful hostess at the door.  She collected their tickets and ushered them to their table.  The hostess pointed them to the open bar and encouraged them to help themselves to the passed hors d’oeuvres.  “Dinner and the remainder of the evening’s festivities will begin in about 20 minutes,” the hostess noted before returning to her post.

Rose looked around, taking in all the sights.  The room was decorated in maroon and gold.  There appeared to be about 50 sweetheart tables set-up throughout the grand ballroom.   Many of the evening’s attendees appeared to be familiar with each other as she saw various couples mingling.  While Rose took in the room, Martin ogled Rose.  As much as he loved seeing her done up, he was strategizing the best approach for a thorough un-doing later tonight.

“Umm, I thought you said this was formal,” she said to Martin as she nodded toward a couple in what could only be described as Pirate cosplay.

Martin reluctantly tore his eyes away from his wife’s smooth leg – this dress was not good for his focus. Martin caught a glimpse of the couple and bit back a laugh, “My instructions did say formal wear.”

Their not-so-private conversation caught the attention of a couple standing nearby.  “That’s Pretend Pirate Clarence and his wife Swashbucklin’ Sharon,” a short curvy blonde offered. “They’re sort of institution here in Niceville, we just roll with it.”

“Oh, I see,” Rose remarked, a bit embarrassed at having been overheard.

“We’re not all nearly as eccentric and quirky…” the woman started but suddenly stopped mid-sentence. She screeched and ran off, leaving Rose and Martin confused.

“Sorry,” the woman’s partner apologized.  “I’m Chris, boyfriend of the dramatic mini-blonde that just went screaming off into the night.  Her best friend and her husband just arrived.” Chris nodded toward the door. “They haven’t seen each other in months.  We may not all be pirate obsessed, but there’s no shortage of characters in this town.” Chris gave Rose and Martin a wry smile and made his way to ballroom entrance where his girlfriend was animatedly talking to a visibly pregnant Black woman and her husband.

Martin did a double take at the couples by the door. “Is that the Naked Carpenter?”

Rose followed his gaze and squinted, “Yes, I think it is.”  They both stared for another minute before turning back to their table.  Rose took her seat while Martin went to the bar for cocktails.

Rose picked up the program at the table and thumbed through the booklet.  Apparently, this Valentine’s Soiree was also a fundraiser for the Nice County Public Library System.  She flipped to the pages with the list of patrons and benefactors and was unsurprised to see Alfred and Annette listed.  She flipped back

to the first page for tonight’s program and saw that they were going to be playing…Bingo?  Bawdy Battlefield Bingo it seemed.  She looked up at Martin as he returned with the drinks.  Martin set down the cocktails and took his seat as she pointed to the evening’s schedule.  “Bingo? Really, Krause?  I put

on formalwear to play Bingo? What kind of Valentine’s Day party is this?” Martin smiled and leaned in to

give her a soft, lingering kiss.  He relished every opportunity to engage in a little PDA. “Just trust me, it’ll be fun,” he reassured her.

A tall blonde in a slinky, form-fitting sequined green dress walked to the front of the room, stepped up to the podium and said, “Good evening everyone and welcome.  I’m Angie Burrowes-Peterson, Manager of Battlefield Library. We’re so glad to have you here and we’re going to get started with dinner in just a few minutes.  As you may know, our Valentine’s event is not only an opportunity to celebrate with our loved ones and partners, but it also serves as a fundraiser for Nice County’s Public Library System.  I am thrilled to announce that through generous donations and ticket sales for tonight’s event, we have

raised enough money to retire our book-mobile, Big Bertha, and replace her with not one, but two, new bookmobiles to be used throughout the county.”

Amidst the enthusiastic applause from the crowd, the couple at the next table cheered so loudly, Rose jumped in her seat and turned to give them a closer look.  The couple then gave each other fist bumps and the gentleman appeared to say, ‘Suck it Marsha!’ while his date hooted even louder.  Rose had been a teacher for over 20 years so her lip-reading skills were on point, but that certainly couldn’t be right. Rose shook her head and turned her attention back to Angie.

“Not only were we able to afford two new bookmobiles, but we were able to make our Valentine’s Soiree even bigger and better than we had originally planned,” Angie continued.  “We were able to move the event from our downtown branch into the beautiful Thornfield Hall.  And instead of your run of the mill formal dining fare, we have special meals planned for every couple.  I want to fill you in on our first sweet surprise for the night.  Each ticket holder was asked to fill out a survey, which included listing out dishes that were particularly meaningful to you as a couple.  Our favorite local caterer, Kara’s Kitchen, has prepared custom meals for every pair tonight.  On your table you’ll see your customized menu.”  There were sounds of surprise at various tables throughout the room. “I’ll be back after dinner and we’ll continue the evening’s events.  Everyone enjoy your meal,” Angie finished.  There was polite applause as the waitstaff sprang into action to serve the first course.  Rose shot a surprised look at Martin and reached for the menu to see what Martin had chosen. Martin studied her quietly, awaiting her reaction.

Rose saw that their starter was the dish she’d prepared for their very first night together.  For their entree, they were having Shakshuka with feta and a salad. Rose got a little teary at the memory of that meal.  She’d hastily prepared the dish the evening they’d reconciled after her very public apology, declaration of love and promposal in the school cafeteria.

I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not ruin this smokey eye.

She sniffed and regained her composure and gave a soft laugh as she saw dessert. They were having

pop-tarts. An elevated, gourmet version of pop-tarts naturally, but pop-tarts.  She looked at Martin with a watery smile. Martin leaned in and whispered, “So, how did I do?”

“It’s perfect, Mr. Krause,” Rose replied, almost losing the fight with her tears.  She leaned in the rest of the way to give him a kiss.  She pulled back just as their server arrived with their starter.

Martin and Rose chatted throughout dinner and took in some of the other dishes that were circulating around the room.  The enthusiastic, fist-bumpers from earlier appeared to be eating French Dip sandwiches and chips as their main course.  “It’s amazing that the caterer was able to pull this off.  This was a lovely surprise Martin.  Everything was delicious,” Rose commented.

Their server brought a plate of warm, fresh pop-tarts and set down a huge mug of dark roast coffee directly in front of Rose – a vat of caffeinated glory as they so lovingly referred to it.

As couples around the room finished dessert, Angie returned to the podium.  “I hope everyone enjoyed their special meal with their loved one.  As you’re wrapping up dessert, we’re going to transition into the next item on our program.  In addition to asking for your favorite meals, we asked you to share meaningful words and phrases about your relationship.  They could be pet names, special places, terms of endearment, inside jokes…or in the case of the depraved Battlefield Library staff, double entrendres, innuendos or things that would generally get us called into a meeting with Tina.”

As the rest of the room laughed, Rose spotted a woman with a severe gray bob and glasses at a table far across the room.  Rose could feel the woman’s angst as she visibly heaved a sigh so deep and world weary it was a wonder the force of it hadn’t expelled her soul from her body.  Gray bob pulled off her glasses and began massaging her forehead as her partner rubbed her back while barely holding in her own laugh.

Angie caught the couple’s moment from her position at the podium.  “Sorry Tina, I promise, no fireable offenses will be committed tonight,” Angie said apologetically.  “At any rate, we used the words for our Bawdy Battlefield Bingo game.  We have some amazing prizes gifted to us by local businesses.  Couples can win an overnight stay here at the amazing Thornfield Hall.  There’s a gift certificate for a couple’s Spa Day at Mountain Valley Massage, valued at $350.  There’s a $250 gift certificate toward a party package at Nice Rack.  We also have a $250 gift card for the Niceville Java & Intimate Emporium – get your buzz on indeed.  Last but certainly not least, we have autographed hard cover first editions of John Williamson’s novels for one lucky couple, including an advance copy of his Spring 2021 release.”  The crowd applauded as Angie gestured toward a table near the front.

Rose visibly perked up and stared wide-eyed as she realized her favorite author was in the room.  Martin watched his wife and started to second-guess the wisdom of their attendance at this event.  He’d noticed many of the author’s novels lining Rose’s mahogany bookshelves and with every new release, he’d listen to her fawn over the lyrical prose, masterful storytelling and on and on and on.  He couldn’t be too upset as Mr. Williamson’s novels often resulted in exceptionally enthusiastic amorous attention from Rose.  Plus, Martin observed, the gentleman appeared to be both uncomfortable with the attention and completely besotted with the petite brunette at his table who was lovingly kissing his cheek and massaging the back of his neck in a gesture of comfort.

“Grab your boards from underneath your centerpieces and let’s begin,” Angie instructed.

Rose found the boards and passed one to Martin as hotel staff rapidly handed out bingo stamps to attendees in the room.

Angie rolled the spinner on the table set-up next to her podium.

“First we have Crash the Crease.  I have no idea what that means but I would love for someone to explain it to me later…in meticulous detail.  Again, Crash the Crease.

Martin scanned his board and made a mark in the lower left-hand corner.  “Have you gotten a good look at some of these?  What the hell kind of library system do they have in this town?” he inquired.

Rose reviewed her own board more closely and snickered.  “A fairly debauched one it seems,” she replied.  They turned their attention back to Angie, who had the next slip of paper in hand.

“Next, we have Rochester.  Rochester.  That brings to mind a snowy New Year’s Eve memory for a couple in the room that shall remain nameless,” Angie commented with pointed stare at John Williamson’s table.

Rose and Martin each marked the word on their boards.

“Next we have Oral Presentations.  Oral Presentations.  If I’m remembering correctly, this was just one of several very fun phrases submitted by a couple of High School Teachers that are in the crowd tonight. Sounds like a lot of hands-on learning.”

Rose snickered and Martin felt his face heat up as he did his best to ignore her.  He found the term and made a mark on his board.

Rose leaned in close to him and murmured, “Oh don’t get coy on me now, Krause, given your expertise in that…area.” She settled back into her chair and crossed her legs.

Angie continued with game.  “Oh, here’s a fun one, Maypole.  As in Helen tied ribbons around Wes’

Maypole.”  The room was filled with raucous laughter.

Rose marked a spot on her board and wondered if they should visit Niceville a little more often.

Storytime Room,” Angie announced.  “I would say more about the Storytime Room, but I enjoy my job and would hate to get fired on what is technically my day off.  So, yeah…Storytime Room.  We’ll leave it there.”

Martin made a mark on his board.

“Ok, our next word is…PromposalPromposal.  I just love these!  Grant, put it on one of your spreadsheets to figure out how to prompose to me sometime this year, ok?”

Rose scanned her board and marked the spot.  She looked over at Martin and before she could speak, he stood up and shouted, “Bingo!”.

“Hey!  Looks like we have may have our first winner.  You and your date can head up to the front and we’ll check it out.”  Martin helped Rose out of her seat, grabbed his board and the walked to the front of the ballroom.  He handed Angie the board and gave her their names at her request.  Angie returned to the microphone and said, “This is Martin and Rose, and they are our first winners of the night.  Which prize would you like?”

Martin looked at Rose and asked, “Do you mind if I pick?”  She patted him on the back and told him to go for it.  “I’d like the autographed John Williamson collection, please.”  He heard Rose’s sharp intake of breath.  Angie said, “I can do you one better.  Our favorite reclusive author has agreed to be personable tonight and he will personalize the copies any way you’d like.”

Martin turned his head and watched as Rose stood there in shock, still holding her breath.  Annette’s fake breathing crisis started all this, wouldn’t it be something if Rose really ended up needing CPR?

Rose managed a shaky, “Yes, yes, thank you, that would be amazing.”

Mr. Williamson got up from his table and gestured to the ballroom entrance where the hostess was waiting with their prize.  Angie said, “Let’s give Martin and Rose a round of applause and see who the next lucky pair will be.”

“Thank you so much,” Rose managed.  Martin nodded his thanks and proceeded to guide his star-struck wife toward the ballroom entrance to meet her favorite author.

Martin stood back as Mr. Williamson made polite conversation with Rose while signing each book.  His normally articulate wife blushed, fidgeted, and could barely hold up her end of the conversation.  Mr. Williamson ended their interaction with a hug for Rose and a firm handshake to Martin before he headed back to his table.  Rose stared after the man and Martin looked around for the room for a defibrillator.  It seemed his wife might be in need of it if she didn’t start breathing soon.

He pulled Rose in close as she clutched one of her newly acquired books to her chest.  “Well, I think this evening turned out even better than I could’ve hoped for,” Martin said, with the rare smugness that looked so good on him.

Rose stared at her man as the shock of the moment began to wear off.  “We need to get ourselves and these books to our room.  Now,” she declared forcefully.  Martin was caught off guard by her tone but then he recognized the look.  “Oh! Okay, yes, right, I have the key,” he managed.  “We just need to get your purse from the table. Ok, yes, I’ll go get it right now.” He jogged to their table, retrieved her purse, and made his way back to the ballroom entrance.

He handed Rose her purse and pulled the room key out of his pocket to double check their room number.  He put the key back in his pants pocket, gathered up the remaining books and ushered Rose out of the ballroom.

“Ok husband, this evening is off to an amazing start but if you’re interested in earning some extra credit, I’ve got something in mind,” Rose stated as she followed Martin through the mansion.

“Let me have it,” Martin replied.

“The history nerd in me loves Williamson’s third book where a character goes on a bit of a tangent about antidisestablishmentarianism.”

They reached their room door and Rose reached into his pocket to grab the room key.  She turned to put the key in the lock and spun back toward him before opening the door.

“As I was saying, Mr. Krause.  I think we should have a spelling bee.  You’ll use your oral proficiency to spell out antidisestablishmentarianism in the manner and the…area…of my choosing. As I’m well aware of your proficiency at oral presentations, I believe you’re up to the challenge.  How does that sound?”

“Like the Best. Valentine’s. Day. Ever.” he replied.


Author Note:  I was so thrilled to discover Olivia Dade and her entire backlist in 2020 and have been fangirling all over her Twitter timeline ever since.  While I enjoyed all of her books, Martin and Rose were the couple that I just couldn’t shake.  I live for an emotionally aware hero!  I hope I’ve done the characters justice.  And Yes, I decided to completely ignore the pandemic and let the fictional people continue their maskless, socializing, travel-filled, loved up existences.  I hope you enjoyed!



Find Kara:
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Katie

Book: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Couple: Livvy & Nicholas



One of my favorite places that I think would make a great date location is São Miguel Island, which is part of the Azores in Portugal. This island is super scenic with lots of outdoor activities and marine life. Nicholas and Livvy are both busy people, but this is a relatively short plane ride away from New York for a nice getaway for when they are feeling restless and want some alone time away from the prying eyes of their small town of Rockville. Once they arrive, they can start the day walking around the main town, Ponta Delgada to take in some history and culture. They then can set out to Lagoa do Fogo, which offers some hiking for a beautiful view of one of São Miguel's many lakes. After grabbing lunch back in Ponta Delgada at the local market for amazing sandwiches on the local bread called bolo levo, they can head west to Ponta da Ferraria for a dip into the ocean water that is naturally heated by the hot spring there. (This, of course, is Livvy's favorite part of the trip). For dinner, Nicholas will drive them back to town to enjoy a 3-course meal that includes a hearty soup, a grilled seafood platter, and São Miguel's specialty pineapple for dessert. I can see Nicholas having some reservations about eating limpets, which are a type of aquatic snails and are basically featured on every menu on the island, but Livvy insists on having the full Azores experience and ultimately does a little hand-holding with her man in trying new foods. 

Find Katie:
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Kelly

Book: Getting Schooled by Emma Chase
Couple: Callie & Garrett





Find Kelly:
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Lisa

Book: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
Couple: Charlotte & Gabriel


I chose Gabriel and Charlotte from Nalini Singh's Rock Hard because 1) they are one of my utmost favourite couples, and 2) Gabriel is filthy rich and therefore can definitely afford to bring Charlotte (and me) on an all-expenses paid trip to Barcelona. One of the best things about Barcelona is that it's built in a way that makes every place reachable by foot (if you don't mind the exercise), so I'd recommend Gabriel and Charlotte to go out early, walk around, and see all the sights. For the 3 course meal, I'd start them off with pan con tomate, followed by seafood paella, and then finished by classic churros and hot chocolate combo. Credits to Mango for reminding me how much I love Barcelona. 

Find Lisa:
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Mazey

Book: The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
Couple: Kate & Anthony




For a man that worked so ferociously to avoid love, nobody fell quite as hard as our dear Anthony Bridgerton. And, little drama queen that he is, it’s no surprise to anyone that this hopeless romantic goes all out on Valentine’s Day, jumping at any and every opportunity to dote on Kate.

Anthony can hardly sleep, he’s so excited for the day, and he wakes Kate up from a deep sleep as the first tendrils of dawn kiss the grounds of the Bridgerton country home. Kate is grumpy at being woken up so early, but the boyish excitement on Anthony’s face wins her over (though she still grumbles a fair amount because she knows he secretly loves it when she’s grumpy). Without giving Kate enough to change out of her nightrail, Anthony tucks her into her warmest cloak, plops on her sturdiest boots, tucks her under his arm, and rushes her out of the house.

It isn’t long before they start running across the grounds, their feet crunching on the morning frost as their laughter echoes in the peaceful morning around them. A little ways from the house, they finally stop, both smiling and panting like lunatics. Anthony spins Kate to face away from him, covering her eyes with his warm palms and guiding her forward. Kate can’t ignore the giddy, effervescent excitement starting in her belly and radiating to the tips of her fingers and toes. After a few paces, Anthony whispers into Kate’s ear that she can look, and his hands slip from her face to wrap around her shoulders, hugging her back to him.

A small structure stands before them, and it only takes a moment for Kate to realize what it is.

A greenhouse. Anthony had built Kate a greenhouse.

 Before she can say a word, Anthony grabs her hand and drags her inside. Kate stops in her tracks, surrounded by tulips of every shape and color. The moments spills out around them in a kaleidoscope of colors and emotions. Kate spins and grabs Anthony’s shirt in a kiss. There isn’t much talking for quite awhile.

After Kate had explored every inch of her hothouse of flowers, it’s her turn to surprise Anthony. Back at the house, with dramatics to befit a queen issuing a knighthood, Kate presents Anthony with matching Lord and Lady Mallets of Death for their Pall Mall set.

Anthony, not a man inclined to tears, does feel a bit misty-eyed at the glorious black lacquered wood and the visions of the countless defeats he would bestow up on his siblings yielding this weapon from Kate. She knows him too well. They spend the rest of the afternoon practicing their shots.

Because I was told that I had to come up with a meal for this couple despite the fact that Anthony is feasting on Kate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner like a KING, I will make them a three-course meal of recipes found in the backs of Lisa Kleypas novels… so like some sort of creamy vegetable soup, maybe some… venison(?), and a meringue they take turns feeding to each other like adorable little minxes.

Then they boink.

The end.


Find Mazey:
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Nick (That's me!)

Couple: Shay & Dominic




I had the most difficult time selecting a couple for my hometown date because:

a) I have the memory of a goldfish  
b) I'm not as creative as everyone else contributing 
c) How do I pick just ONE couple??? 

Finally, two days before the post is supposed to go live, I have my couple: Dominic and Shay from The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I don't have a particularly strong reason for picking this couple, but I thought these two deserved a nice vacation on a tropical island after being the events of The Ex Talk (I won't spoil for those of you who haven't read the book yet). 

For those of you who don't know, I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Mauritius, home of the now-extinct Dodo. It's a very teen tiny dot (it doesn't even appear on some world maps) in the Indian Ocean and considered part of Africa.


My dad migrated there in the early 90s and it's been our home since although I now have been in the US for the last 9 years. 

Anyways, I think it is the perfect destination for Dominic and Shay to escape the media, have a relaxing holiday, and do some romantic touristy things for Valentine's Day.

What's on their Valentine's Day itinerary?

Ecotour at Ile Aux Aigrettes

The first thing on my itinerary for these two lovebirds is a boat trip to Ile-Aux-Aigrettes, which is a small islet off the south-east coast of the island. It's a nature reserve and animal conservatory with a 2-hour walking trail that I think Shay in particular would enjoy. There is plenty of endangered flora and fauna all over the island and the two learn a lot about the rich indigenous plant and animal kingdom on the island and its history (it used to be a military base for the British during WWII and a lot of the forest was cleared off - it's now thriving with trees). Dominic even catches a glimpse of the elusive pink pigeon, which Shay is slightly grumpy about because she missed it!

Chamarel, 7 Colored Earth

Once they are done with the hike and they are back on the mainland, Shay and Dominic make a quick stop at Chamarel, where they get to view a geological formation that has led to 7 different colors of soil. Here, they take some cute coupley photos that they immediately send to their friends and family back in the States.

Chateaux de Labourdonnais 

Next up, is a lunch stop at a castle. The Chateaux de Labourdonnais isn't the typical castle Shay and Dominic probably think of when they think "chateaux" but it's a really cool location! It's a mansion that was built in 1865 with a big orchard and a mini-train. It has a full restaurant as well as a local taste testing bar, where they serve excellent rum! 

Dominic will especially like the interiors of the mansion because they've kept the original antique furniture. He will try to buy them but realize shipping anything back to the US will cost him an arm and a leg! Instead, he makes do with an artisanal souvenir from the gift shop! After taking a walk around the location and admiring the giant tortoises grazing around, Shay and Dominic are hungry and they head off to the fancy restaurant. I've personally selected the menu for them so they can experience the local cuisine, but fancier because it's Valentine's Day!


Appetizer
[Octopus salad]
Grilled octopus served with calabash, fresh coconut, coriander, onions, lemon confit, and fried curry leaves chips.

[Prawns and coconut heart salad]
Prawns braised in Crustacean sauce, coconut heart salad with Mascarpone cheese, herbs coulis, and crispy garlic bread.

Main course
[Rougaille]
A classic spiced tomato-based local dish made with pork sausage.

[Fish curry]
Fish and eggplant in a creamy coconut and tamarind sauce served with a chutney and a side of rice and farata, a Mauritian flat-bread (very similar to paratha from South Asia).

Dessert
[Chocolate mousse and sesame cakes]
Dark chocolate mousse served with sesame cakes filled with creamy peanut.

Following lunch, the two go to the rum-tasting, where Dominic tries not to get too drunk because everyone knows he is a goofy drunk!

Craft Market

Before heading back to the fancy beach resort I've put them up in, Shay and Dominic stop by the craft market. They peruse the local artisan and handmade products and they both find gifts for their friends and family. Shay discovers that she is a pro at haggling the sellers!

 Beach

Following a well-deserved nap (and some Dominic neck kisses) back in their hotel room, the two head to the beach to have a swim and relax. They build sandcastles, try to flick water on each other, and of course, share a swoony kiss as they watch the beautiful sunset. 

Then, they head back to their hotel room and have a steamy night!

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Purabi

Book: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Couple: Luc & Oliver



The pandemic uprooted me from Bengaluru, India- a city with perfectly crisp and cool weather, and gardens to stun and soothe your soul. In my AU, Oliver and Luc would enjoy a morning date in Bengaluru's 'Cubbon Park'. It's lush and green, with plenty of spots to pause, sit, and soak in the sun. They'd then be treated to (yes, treated to, I am a good cook heheh) to a 3 course meal of bacon-wrapped prawns, mushroom ravioli with spinach, and a chocolate souffle with strawberry sauce to end the meal. The meal screams 'comfort' to me, and its what I want for my messy boys. I feel like along with Luc's kind encouragement, Oliver would slowly get better at treating and indulging himself, and this meal feels like it would reward that endeavour. 

And to top it all off, this is the playlist that would play in the background throughout.
Disclaimer about moodboard: none of the pictures are mine

Find Purabi:
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Sharonda

Book: Equivalent Exchange by Christina C. Jones
Couple: Keris & Laken


Date location: Louisiana


Find Sharonda:
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Giveaway

Prizes: 
Please click here to view the prizes on offer.

Rules:
- Must be 18+ to enter.
- Giveaway Feb 15th 2021
3 winners will be selected.
The 1st winner will get 1st choice of their 12 picks of the available prizes. 
2nd winner will get 2nd choice of 10 picks of the unclaimed prizes. 
The 3rd winner will receive the remainder of the prizes.
- Neither the sponsors nor I am responsible for any lost packages.
- All winners will be contacted by Feb 20th 2021 and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I hope you liked all of these fun dates! Many thanks to each and every person who helped make this post extra special!
If you could plan a date for your favorite fictional couple, what would you plan?
Let me know in the comments!



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