March is flying by. Not much to tell you about except that the writing is going well. So, yay!
My heroine is not only looking to open up her family home as a bed and breakfast. She has a sideline gig as a baker. She also makes petit fours, which are delicate little cakes, for her friend, Clare, and her ladies aid group to sell at the Whisper Creek farmer’s market.
So, if you’re in the mood for tiny cakes inspiration, check out this recipe tutorial for stencilled petit fours from Cake Journal. Aren’t they adorable? And made with store bought pound cake!
The great thing about being a writer is getting to incorporate ideas into a book that I can’t make happen in my everyday life. I love the idea of stepping through a large metal ring into another part of a garden. I’ve given Charlotte that dream and Ridge, the hero, is just the person to make her landscape dreams happen. I love the idea of a moon gate leading to a midnight garden. It sets a very romantic mood. Who knows what can happen when one finds themselves in such a garden? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Landscape Design: Davis Dalbok & Tim O’Shea Photo Credit: Davis Dalbok Source: SFGate
There is both a parlour and a library in the book. Below is my inspiration for the library. I love the dark blue colour of the builtins combined with the rug and the light. I could spend hours in this room curled up with a good book. In the early days of Darcy House, which was built in the early 1900s, this room would have been Charlotte’s great great grandfather’s office. I like to think this maintains the mood of what would have been his domain and turns it into something that appeals to everyone looking for a cozy spot.
One of my reading goals for 2023, actually my only reading goal, is to read more Canadian authors who’ve written stories set in Canada. Particularly when it comes to the romance genre, which is my favourite for obvious reasons. But I’m also looking for that criteria in general fiction too. Which led me to Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel.
Categories: Historical Fiction / Fiction / Canadian History / Canadian Setting /
1657. Marie, a gifted healer of the Deer Clan, does not want to marry the green-eyed soldier from France who has asked for her hand. But her people are threatened by disease and starvation and need help against the Iroquois and their English allies if they are to survive. When her chief begs her to accept the white man’s proposal, she cannot refuse him, and sheds her deerskin tunic for a borrowed blue wedding dress to become Pierre’s bride.
1675. Jeanne, Marie’s oldest child, is seventeen, neither white nor Algonquin, caught between worlds. Caught by her own desires, too. Her heart belongs to a girl named Josephine, but soon her father will have to find her a husband or be forced to pay a hefty fine to the French crown. Among her mother’s people, Jeanne would have been considered blessed, her two-spirited nature a sign of special wisdom. To the settlers of New France, and even to her own father, Jeanne is unnatural, sinful—a woman to be shunned, beaten, and much worse.
With the poignant, unforgettable story of Marie and Jeanne, Danielle Daniel reaches back through the centuries to touch the very origin of the long history of violence against Indigenous women and the deliberate, equally violent disruption of First Nations cultures.
Set in the 1600s, Daughters of the Deer is a very moving and heart wrenching story of how Indigenous women were stripped of their humanity and culture under colonization. Daniel writes of Marie, an Algonkin woman, who is forced to marry a French settler, whose religious ethics clash with Marie’s Algonquin beliefs. She details Marie’s life and gives us a thought provoking look into an Indigenous woman’s experiences with early settlers that few people have heard or been taught. Daniel’s ability to intertwine those harsh realities with the details of everyday life for Marie and the community make for a very compelling and thought provoking read. This book is going to stay with me for a long time. Definitely recommend.
Does it make sense to say the days were long but the month flew by? I’ve been in hibernation mode, or wintering, for most of this month. I baked a couple of things, I read a couple of books and I revised a couple of scenes.
I will say that this January had to have been very pretty, a real winter wonderland. We have had lots of fog here, which is a departure from the norm, which resulted in rime frost.
Book Round Up:
I finished Eden Robinson‘s Trickster trilogy. I loved this book and this trilogy. Eden Robinson’s way of weaving carnage and humour makes for an epic read. The final instalment, Return of the Trickster, was a page turner full of magical realism, complicated intergenerational family dynamics and rich storytelling. So much happening. So many characters. Yet, manageable, if that make sense. And Jared. I kept rooting for him. Kept hoping he’d remain tender-hearted while he figured out how to survive all the time supported by a fabulous cast of fierce female characters.
I also read a book by a dear writer friend, Donna Gartshore. Finding Her Voice is a lovely, tenderhearted story of what it looks like to move forward from trauma. They’re both looking for a fresh start while keeping up the walls that have protected them after life dealt bitter hurts. They both have plans for the clinic where Bridget work and both are at cross purposes. But when Sawyer’s grief stricken daughter bonds with Bridget’s shy dog, they have to look deep to take the next step. Sweet, charming, and set in the lovely town of Green Valley, Finding Her Voice will tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for Bridget and Sawyer.
And my book recommendation for January is Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn, who is one of my favourite authors and you can read my review here.
Baking Round Up:
I made my favourite muffin recipe, Blueberry Turmeric Muffins from Renee Kohlman’s lovely cookbook, All The Sweet Things. You can find her blog, Sweet Sugar Bean here. If you love cookbooks, Renee Kohlman’s two cookbooks are beautiful and include personal stories and I highly recommend buying either of the them. Bonus she’s from Saskatchewan!
I read some great books in April. Two of those came in the form of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) from Netgalley and I loved them both! Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and When It Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee.
Categories: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Canadian Author / Canadian Setting /
Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.
Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.
For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.
When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.
Every Summer After is Carley Fortune’s debut novel. It starts with the present then takes us back to summers in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. It’s no secret that I LOVE a Canadian setting, and there’s nothing better than summer in Canada. On Persephone Fraser’s first day at the lake, she meets the boy next door, Sam Florek.
Best friends and summer neighbours, Persephone and Sam lead separate lives during the school year. But during the summers they are inseparable, spending days an idyllic summer bubble. Until the reality of college and adulting sets in and decisions are made that can’t be undone. Twelve years later they meet again.
Whether you still dream of your first love, or have moved on and left it in the past, this book will speak to you. All the looks back will resonate. You’ll fall in love with Persephone and Sam and Barry’s Bay. I wish I could read it again for the first time. Highly recommend!
Bonus Book: When It all Falls Apart by Catherine Bybee
Categories: Contemporary Romance / Romance / Single Dad / Family Romance /
A bittersweet romance about the power of love in the face of heartbreak and loss.
Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.
Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?
As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?
This is my first time reading Catherine Bybee and it definitely won’t be my last. The first book in the D’Angelo series, When It All Falls Apart takes place in Little Italy in San Diego. There is enough heart, family and Italian food in this book to satisfy everyone. There is the relationship with Brooke and Luca, of course. But’s it’s also about what happens when relationships with parents are not only hard but heartbreaking. There is no such thing as the perfect family. It’s also true that family leaves scars that are hard to heal.
I loved the dialogue. I loved the setting. Who can resist a loud Italian family? But I also appreciated the honest look at what happens when it all falls apart. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the next one in the series. Definitely recommend.
Until next time…
Who else is looking forward to summer? I’d love some summer reading suggestions! Bonus points if they have a Canadian setting.
Where I talk about books I’ve read and enjoyed. Especially if they’re written by a Canadian and set in Canada. This week I’m sharing my thoughts on Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin.
Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
Published: HarperAvenue 04/06/2021
Length: 368 pages
Categories: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / RomCom / Canadian Author / Canadian Canadian
From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail,” set in two competing halal restaurants
Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.
When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.
As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.
I really enjoyed this book. If you loved You’ve Got Mail, you’ll find many familiar parallels in this book. I loved the main characters, Hana and Aydin. Both passionate about their chosen paths, both equally invested in succeeding. There’s also plenty of colourful secondary characters to love too. All set in a vibrant neighbourhood in Toronto that comes alive because of the people trying to maintain and protect a sense of community.
There are plenty of rom-com moments that made me smile and gave me all the feels. But there are other moments. Ones that bring attention to the despicable acts of hatred and Islamophobia that continue to happen across this country. How Jalaluddin weaves together a story full of resilience, hope, and the power of love (all kinds) is the real magic of this book.
Uzma Jalaluddin is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. I’ve shared my thoughts on Ayesha at Last in this Book Talk post.
The other good news is that Hana Khan Carries On is being adapted into film by Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios.
Categories: Mystery / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Detectives / Canadian Setting
After surviving a horrific trauma in Nigeria, international aid worker Amanda Doucette returns to Canada to rebuild her life and her shaken ideals. There, the once-passionate, adventurous woman needs all her strength and ingenuity when a friend and fellow survivor goes missing along with his son.
A trained first-aid and crisis responder, Doucette — always accompanied by her beloved dog Kaylee — joins forces with RCMP officer Chris Tymko to discover the truth about the disappearance. Their search leads them to the Great Northern Peninsula, a rugged landscape of Viking history, icebergs, whales, and fierce ocean storms. Elsewhere, a body gets hauled up in a fisherman’s net, and evidence is mounting of an unsettling connection with Amanda’s search for her friend. Fradkin writes evocatively of the beautiful, often hostile, Newfoundland landscape where Amanda soon finds herself fighting for her very survival.
Fire in the Stars is the first book in Fradkin’s Amanda Doucette mystery series. Amanda, an international aid worker, has returned to Canada to recover from the trauma she experienced during her time in Nigeria. She plans a camping holiday in Newfoundland with her friend and former co-worker. When she shows up, she finds he’s gone missing along with his young son. What follows is a search through parts of Newfoundland’s more remote areas with the help of RCMP officer, Chris Tymko.
There are plenty of twists and turns in this book and we get a real sense of the rugged and beautiful province of Newfoundland. Amanda is on a mission to find and help her friend, Phil, before the worst happens. This places her in several precarious situations as she’s always ready to wade into trouble. Almost too ready, as she took more and more chances. Some to the point of folly and against sound advice. The author makes it clear that Amanda was in the habit of making crucial decisions with few resources in her former job. Still…it became a bit frustrating.
There is a lot happening in this book. We are learning who Amanda is, what drives her and the lengths she’s willing to go to protect the people she cares about. Dog lovers will enjoy the antics of Kaylee, Amanda’s faithful canine companion. Amanda and Tim grow close as they search for their friend. And plenty of other secondary and minor characters show up. It’s a complicated plot. Bodies start to turn up and the situation continues to escalate. All the different things at play make for a confusing read at times.
Overall, I think it’s an interesting start to a series that will take Amanda across Canada, which is an intriguing concept. If you’re looking for an interesting Canadian setting, a daring amateur sleuth, and a mystery that isn’t the least bit cozy, I recommend giving the Amanda Doucette series a try.
Here is a map of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fire in the Stars takes place mainly on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m talking about Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin.
AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.
When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.
Ayesha Shamsi has no time for a relationship, and even less interest in an arranged marriage. She’s busy adulting, putting aside her passion, and accepting a job that will allow her to repay her uncle and aunt for the financial and emotional support her family received since immigrating to Canada. Her younger cousin is on a different path. One slightly more self-absorbed and flightier. Ayesha is enlisted to encourage Hafsa to make a success of her latest career adventure. Hafsa is busy collecting marriage proposals. Enter ultra conservative Khalid, who becomes engaged to Hafsa, sort of…
I loved everything about this modern Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a Muslim community in Toronto. It’s full of interesting and complex characters who bring the setting to life. The main characters, Ayesha and Khalid have very differing views on arranged marriages and I wondered how the author would bring these two together. I knew very little of how arranged marriages look in contemporary times. But the book is full of relationships, both past and present, that give insight into all the different ways people find each other.
I felt an immediate connection to Ayesha, much like I did with Elizabeth Bennett. And Khalid was a challenge at the beginning, much like Mr. Darcy. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to say Khalid turned out to be one of my favourite romance heroes. But before that happened, I had to work through some perceived misconceptions of how I thought arranged marriages work and what the power dynamic looks like within an arranged marriage.
This book is full of humour and witty, charming dialogue. The plot is perfect. The writing is rich and generous and the author managed to make me laugh while also tugging on my heartstrings. Highly recommend!
Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m taking An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen, which is an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).
An Image in the Lake: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery by Gail Bowen
Published: ECW Press, September 7, 2021
Length: 350 pages
Categories: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Setting
A dark secret threatens the future of the Shreve family
It’s August 24 and Joanne Shreve and her husband, Zack, are savoring the last lazy days of summer and looking forward to the birth of a new grandchild; involvement in the campaign of Ali Janvier, a gifted politician with a solid chance of becoming the province’s next premier; and the debut of Sisters and Strangers, the six-part series Joanne co-wrote that focuses on her early life. The series is the flagship of a new slate of programming, and MediaNation is counting on a big return. Joanne and Zack’s stake in the series’s success is personal. Their daughter, Taylor, is in a relationship with one of the show’s stars, and Vale Frazier is already like family to them.
It seems the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” will be a bountiful one for the Shreves. But when a charismatic young woman wearing a grief amulet that contains a lock of her dead brother’s hair and a dark secret becomes part of their lives, the success of Sisters and Strangers and the future of Taylor and Vale’s relationship are jeopardized, and only Joanne and Zack can put an end to the threat.
Joanne Shreve and her husband Zack are enjoying the last days of summer, determined to spend more time together and less time at work. But strange things are happening at MediaNation. They are about to air the line-up of fall programs which includes Sisters and Strangers, a six-part series co-written by Joanne about her early life. Then people start to disappear. Joanne and Zack are drawn into the search for answers when information comes to light about a group of four young people who are prepared to break the law in their quest to get to the top.
An Image in the Lake is classic Gail Bowen. Plenty of colourful and familiar faces show up, and we catch up with Joanne’s children and grandchildren. The meandering twists and turns that make Bowen one of Canada’s best mystery writers lead us on a slow but dark and entertaining path to the truth. Joanne (Kilbourn) Shreve is one of my favourite fictional characters. There is a calmness and a self-assuredness about her that is immensely appealing. After reading this book, I can tell you she is a lot for forgiving then I am. She’s also a wonderful example of a woman in her fifties who lives life to the fullest. Her life is never perfect but it’s always compelling.
I really enjoyed this book. And always love a Canadian setting. We need more of those. I would definitely recommend it.
An Image in the Lake is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My home city. I love reading books set in Regina. Regina is also a great city to visit with lots of fun activities and opportunities to offer visitors!