My Town Monday: Ohio, the Heart of It All – for Romance Novels! released an interesting study last week: The Most Romantic Cities in the U.S. They based this on per-capita purchases by customers in cities of over 100,000 people – as in how many romance novels they bought, how many romantic comedy movies and television shows they rented or purchased, and purchases of CDs and sexual health products.

The results may surprise you; I know I was. Apparently, Virginia is still for Lovers, but not as much as last year – and not as much as Tennessee and Florida. New York certainly isn’t – NYC was at the very bottom of the list. The other surprise? Two Ohio cities made the top 20: Cincinnati at #5, and Dayton at #9!

So where are all the romance novels that take place in Ohio? It’s the first place that comes to mind when choosing a setting… oh wait, that’s just me. Or is it?

If you’re looking for a good contemporary romance, turns out it’s not hard to find one set in Ohio. Big name authors like Lori Foster, Jennifer Crusie, Toni Blake, and Diane Castell have all written a number of romances that take place in Ohio. Some are in big cities, like Columbus or Cincinnati, while others feature the ever-popular small-town romance, like Toni Blake’s series set in the fictitious town of Destiny. A recent read I enjoyed was Forever Material, a romantic comedy by Athena Grayson, which takes place in an unnamed suburb of Cincinnati.

Time's Enemy CoverBut what about historical romance, or paranormal? Those are a little trickier. The only historical that quickly comes to mind is Into the Valley, by Roseanne Bittner, which is several years old, but very good. For paranormal, there’s Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Waling urban fantasy series. I haven’t read these, so I don’t know how much romance is in them, if any.

Those all take place in Cincinnati. So where’s the love for #9 on the list, Dayton? Offhand, I can’t think of any romance novels set in Dayton except for one, and you need venture no further than this website for that. Time’s Enemy is historical, it’s contemporary, it’s paranormal. And it’s set in Dayton.

Do you know of any good romance novels set in Ohio? Especially historical or paranormal? Especially Dayton?? Bring ’em on! I want to read them.

My Town Monday: Castles in Ohio? Why, Yes!

Or, Caves, Castles and Camaros, Part Two

Camaros grace the lawn at Mac-o-cheek Castle

For the second leg of last month’s Fall Foliage Cruise, sixteen Camaros (and one Saturn Sky) stopped at Mac-o-cheek Castle in Logan County.

I had no idea this place existed.

To be sure, it’s not a “castle” like we associate with in Europe and the UK. Mac-o-cheek (and its neighbor, Mac-o-chee) are more like large estate homes, more in the vein of Casa Loma in Toronto. Neither of these is as big as Casa Loma, but they are older.

Mac-o-cheek Castle

The two castles were built by brothers Abram and Donn Piatt, in the 1860s-70s. Mac-o-cheek Castle was Abram’s, and is the smaller of the two. It was also completed first, and its ownership has stayed in the family since.

What’s really impressive about Mac-o-cheek Castle is the interior. The walls are covered in beautiful wood paneling from native trees, and trimmed by artful scrollwork. All of the furniture inside was actually used by the Piatt family.

Neither of the Piatt brothers had the intention of opening his home to the public, but people were continually stopping by and asking to see. Unwilling to be rude, the family admitted the tourists. This went on beyond the turn of the century, until weary of the intrusions, the families decided to charge admission, thinking it would discourage would-be visitors. Instead, it had the opposite effect.

Elaborate woodwork graces the interior of Mac-o-cheek Castle

Still offering tours, the Piatt family occupied Mac-o-cheek until 1989, moving first into the back rooms of the house, and later into the servants’ quarters. After that, the tours continued, along with ongoing restoration work.

Mac-o-chee Castle sits a little less than a mile away, and was built by Donn Piatt, the elder of the brothers. Mac-o-chee is the larger and more elaborate of the two homes, but is not as well-preserved. Unlike its neighbor, Mac-o-chee was sold out of the family around the turn of the century. Three owners and six decades later, Piatt descendants regained ownership of the home, but it had suffered a good deal of damage in the interim.

Sixteen Camaros parked outside Mac-o-chee Castle enhance the property's beauty

Like Mac-o-cheek, Mac-o-chee is filled with beautifully-crafted woodwork. It also boasts painted ceilings reminiscent of those found in the great castles of Europe. Sadly, the majority are not in good condition, and due to the sales, the antique furniture inside is also not original to the property.

Both properties are well worth the price of admission, which is $12 per castle, or $20 for both. Children get an additional discount, as do groups of 20 or more with reservations. So if you’re in the area and are looking for a day trip, consider the castles! As for the sixteen Camaros and their occupants, a good time was had by all.

Did you know there was anything like this in Ohio? What about where you live?

My (Friends’) Town Monday: Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in Columbus

The other day, my husband, daughter and I rode our Harleys up to visit some friends in Columbus, and had the chance to partake in some tasty history there at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. Located in historic German Village, Schmidt’s is a well-known foodie landmark, thanks in part to the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. This is what led us there as well.

We arrived at Schmidt’s around 2PM, hoping such an off time would result in an easy in. We had a half hour wait for our party of five, so we went and checked out Schmidt’s Fudge Shop, across the street, where an integrated paging system would alert us to our table being ready. Once we were seated a half hour later, to the minute, we learned that a half hour wait time at any time on a Saturday was short. Our server told us the typical Saturday wait time, even at 2pm, was two hours!

DH and I pose in the photo frame stand outside the restaurant

However, once we were seated, the wait time was almost nothing. My husband, daughter, and both our friends chose the Autobahn Buffet, which featured four types of sausage, sauerkraut, chicken, potato salad, and tons of choices for traditional salads. The latter was especially appreciated by one of our friends who, in a twist of irony, is vegan. She’d insisted it was no problem to go to Schmidt’s, when we asked, as she’d figured she could get a side salad then something at home later, if need be. No worries – she found plenty to fill up on in the salad bar! Schmidt’s also has Mountain Dew, which is always a plus for me. 🙂

To my surprise, my meal arrived just a few minutes after the others had loaded up their plates at the buffet. I had the Hoffbrau Schnitzel, which was pork tenderloin with mushroom gravy. Yum! But the best part was dessert – our group minus my vegan friend split two of Schmidt’s legendary half-pound cream puffs, which were featured in coconut that day – my favorite! There were four impending food comas afterward, which we managed to shake off by going bowling. Good weather, good ride, good time, good friends, good food. Can’t ask for a better Saturday!

There are a couple other restaurants in Columbus that have been featured on Man vs. Food, which is one of my family’s favorite shows, so we plan to visit those in the future. Dayton has yet to be featured on a show like this. Has your hometown had any local eateries featured on a national TV show, and if so, have you been there?

My Town Monday: What the Heck is a 90-Minute Market, Anyway?

Dayton mapNot too long ago, I ran across the phrase “90-minute market” – maybe it was on the Dayton Daily News website, an ad, or maybe something I was researching, I can’t remember. But I did remember what it meant, and where I’d first seen it: years ago, on a phone book cover. And 90-minute market was in reference to the fact that, whatever you’re looking for as a consumer in the Dayton area, you probably won’t have to drive more than an hour and a half to get there.

Fifth Third FieldIt’s true: for example, Dayton doesn’t have a zoo, but we’re within 90 minutes of two cities that do, Cincinnati and Columbus. We have our own art museum, orchestra and performing arts groups that might be smaller than Cincinnati’s or Columbus’s, but they’re often cheaper than those of our neighbors, and easier to get to. Baseball? You can go to Cincy to see the Reds play – or if you’re willing to settle for minor league, go watch the Dayton Dragons. Sure, they don’t have the winning record the Reds currently do, but you’ll spend far less money, get in and out with no hassle, and few sporting events can match a Dragons game for fun for all ages.

I’m sure there’s something I can’t get to within a 90-minute drive… oh yeah, a Space Shuttle. (New York? Really???) Moving on…

I did a little searching, trying to figure out where I saw the term recently, and ran across a snarky blog post by a Dayton Daily News columnist that reminded me of an Andy Rooney segment, only less funny. The main point was  about how the idea never really caught on in the 80s. Maybe so, but the real estate companies, shipping companies, local business groups, and especially the airport are doing their best to revive it. The blog post was in response to a more positive take on the concept from a couple weeks earlier.  What it comes down to is, a business in the Dayton area, has quick, easy access to a big customer base as well as suppliers and business partners. If you’re talking about flying, they say it’s the nations #1 90-minute market. (They leave out the part where you wait for security and such at the airport, but even that’s not so bad in Dayton.)

And if you want to drive across town during rush hour? Thirty minutes, and that’s even with a few orange barrels. 

What do you like about your hometown? What does your hometown lack, that you can still find nearby?

More at the My Town Monday Blog

Dayton Map via city of Dayton website
Photo of Fifth Third Field via Wikimedia Commons