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A Family Recipe Book Tour

A Family RecipeOn the book tour for Veronica Henry’s new book called ‘A Family Recipe’, Vervonica shares some of her own favourite recipes.

On my kitchen shelf is a tiny metal box full of index cards, stuffed with recipes from my grandmothers, my parents and me, that I now have in my care. I’ve used many of them throughout my life, as well as adding to the collection. Many of the recipes are reminiscent of important family occasions.

And that was where the idea for A FAMILY RECIPE came from: a little box that holds recipes that relate to the life-changing events of the residents of 11 Lark Hill in Bath, from the war to the present day. Laura finds the box at a difficult time in her life, and uses it to help her move forward.

For this blog tour I am sharing some of my favourite recipes from my own box.

CROQUEMBOUCHE

Birthday cakes have always been important to me – a demonstration of love, but also recognition of a person and what they represent.

When my children were small it was a labour of love to produce something spectacular that didn’t involve huge amounts of skill – I am not in the least bit artistic or crafty, so intricate icing was always going to be out. My eldest son’s first birthday cake was a big round chocolate cake covered in plastic zoo animals: I can still remember buying a bag full from the local toy shop and planting their feet in the sticky icing. I followed that method religiously for years afterwards: making the biggest cake I could manage, then topping it with Thomas the Tank Engine and all his friends, Biker Mice, Mutant Hero Turtles … Another favourite was a cake smothered in the contents of a huge bag of pick ‘n’ mix – lurid, additive-laden but a joy to a horde of small boys.

I used plain Victoria sponge, or the miracle that is Coca Cola cake – ruinously sweet but the most forgiving concoction that works every time and is light, fluffy and squidgy.

Now the boys are bigger they have rather grown out of statement birthday cakes. But I’ve had several friends with landmark birthdays recently, and have discovered the joy of a croquembouche. There is nothing guaranteed to bring a bigger gasp of admiration than these gravity-defying towers, and they are surprisingly easy to assemble.

Profiteroles themselves are quite easy to make – use a recipe from your preferred chef of choice (you can’t go wrong with Delia or Nigella) or you can buy them plain from most supermarkets. I like to fill mine with beaten double cream flavoured with Cointreau and a little icing sugar to thicken it up a bit – poke a hole in the bottom of each profiterole and pipe the cream in until its nearly full.

You can buy a croquembouche cone or make one from cardboard. I use melted white chocolate to stick each profiterole to the cone, starting from the bottom and building them up on top of each other in circles. The beauty of a croquembouche is that it doesn’t have to look perfect – a higgledy-piggedly-ness adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Remember to make it on the plate or board you are going to serve it on – it’s very dangerous to try and move it after assembly! Stick it in the fridge to harden the chocolate and strengthen the structure.

Once the tower is complete you can customise them to your heart’s content, depending on whether you are understated and have the nerve to leave them quite plain with just a drizzling of caramel, or if like me you have to throw everything at it! Sugared almonds are a traditional decoration, inserted randomly into the gaps – either gold or silver, or the pretty pastel ones in pink, white and yellow. I dip random profiteroles in white chocolate and roll them in dried flowers, which looks very rustic and pretty – or you could try crushed raspberries. I also highlight the occasional profiterole with edible gold leaf which looks stunning. There are so many pretty edible decorations available – you can go as rococco and over the top as you like. Traditionally they are covered in a web of spun sugar, but I’m way too scared for that …. For birthdays I stick in half a dozen mini sparklers to mark the occasion, or a single one of those fountain candles would be suitably dramatic and showy.

You can pre-order A Family Recipe from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 17th May 2018.

The Year That Changed Everything By Cathy Kelly

The Year That Changed Everything‘The Year That Changed Everything’ is the latest book by Cathy Kelly.

Ginger isn’t spending her 30th the way she would have planned. Tonight might be the first night of the rest of her life – or a total disaster. Sam is finally pregnant after years of trying. When her waters break on the morning of her 40th birthday, she panics: forget labour, how is she going to be a mother? Callie is celebrating her 50th at a big party in her Dublin home. Then a knock at the door mid-party turns her perfect life upside down . . .

Cathy Kelly is back with another tale of female friendships and complicated relationships that made for bittersweet reading.

In her latest book, we meet three very different women who all share one significant date in their lives. On the day before Ginger’s 30th birthday, she discovers that the people who she thought were her best friends, weren’t her friends at all. Hurt by the way she’s been treated, she sets herself a mission to make her life happier and too rid her life of all the toxicity in her life. Callie is a modest woman with small demands, she’s the opposite to her husband, Jason, who loves to flash his cash around, but it seems that flashing all that cash has gotten him into trouble leaving Callie and their teenage daughter Poppy to deal with the consequences. Meanwhile, after years of trying to have a baby, Sam and her husband Ted finally have a little girl to add to their family unit, but with having the least maternal mother in the world as a role model, Sam fears that she’s unable to be a proper mother.

I really enjoyed this story, it reminded me of a Maeve Binchy novel, a story of friendships and relationships and the issues that women face on a regular basis such as post-natal depression, deception as well self confidence and body issues and Cathy has written about them all in her book, in a frank and charming tale with an injection of Irish wit from the vibrant characters scattered throughout.

The book is filled many different roles from all walks of life. All three leading ladies are wonderful and with all them I felt an immediate connection with, particularly Ginger. She’s a kind, big hearted woman that people take for granted especially her friends and it makes for sad reading, when she’s confronted with how they really feel about her. But instead of wallowing in self pity, she takes on their criticism to use it to make a change to her life for the better and use it to achieve her goals and find love. Callie, has become used to being a kept woman but quickly adapts to change when she finds that the life she she has been living was based on a lie and does everything in her power to protect her moody teenage daughter. And for Sam, I felt a strong empathy for, as she struggled with being a new mother and adjusting to her life and constantly judging herself.

The book is written from the different perspectives of the women, but they flow seamlessly together as the women’s lives begin to interact and their bonds begin to grow. Wonderfully written, filled with compassion, charm and delicious characters, ‘The Year That Changed Everything’ is an inspirational story of life and change and truly goes to show what a difference a year makes. A charming tale!

You can buy The Year that Changed Everything from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Together By Julie Cohen

Together‘Together’ is the latest book by Julie Cohen.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually would. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect

‘Together’ is the first book that I’ve read by Julie Cohen and it was the great introduction to the author, as I consumed the book in one day. I sat up into the late hours one night unable to put the book down until I reached the final page.

What reads as a tender love story that is reminiscent of ‘The Notebook’ is instead a story that left myself and I imagine all the other readers shocked!

In this story, we meet Robbie and Emily, a couple who battled against all odds to be together. The story flows in the past and present tense and is seen through the perspective of both characters, as they fall in love, only to be broke apart but each time they drift apart, they become reconciled and their turbulent relationship continues.

The beginning of the book starts in the present tense, when Robbie wakes up one morning and leaves Emily behind never to return. And then between alternating chapters flow between the pair of them, dating back to 1962 when the couple first laid eyes on each other. The story then follows Emily, a studious young English woman and Robbie, a handsome American Navy man who women fall over. But Robbie has only eyes for Emily and even though they live in different countries, the couple move to America and hope to live happily ever after. But their life is far from perfect, with Emily estranged from her family, she faces the situation were different and hope that one day, she will have some type of relationship with her parents and only sister.

The characters are fascinating and I found myself immersed in the book, unable I found out why Emily and Robbie were against the world. On paper, they seemed the perfect couple, both respected members of the community with professional jobs with their only son Adam.

This story is beautifully written with a suspenseful atmosphere that flows throughout. It reads like a love story, but there is an underlying essence of suspense in the book that really makes the reader engage in the story and wonder why Emily and Robbie live such lonely lives.

An unique tale that grips the readers attention, this poignant tale of forbidden love that spans over five decades, is a twisted love story that really breaks the reader’s hearts.

You can buy Together from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Arrangement Book Tour – Short Story

The ArrangementTo kick off the book tour for Sonya Lalli’s new book ‘The Arrangement’, the lovely author has written a short story that will continue across the other websites of the tour.

Serena’s Story
In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in ‘The Arrangement’!

“I’m done with dating.”

“You don’t mean that,” says Shaylee.

“This time, I mean it.” Serena takes a sip of her lukewarm pinot grigio and thinks about every lousy boyfriend she’s ever had – from first-kiss-worst-kiss Luke in the eleventh grade, to her most recent ex, Kris, who had the emotional intelligence of a granola bar.

Meanwhile, Serena had – for lack of better words – her shit entirely together. She was a successful marketing manager, had great friends and nearly enough in her savings account to finally buy that dream flat. She drove out to the suburbs every Sunday to spend the afternoon with her parents, attended yoga class every Tuesday and Friday morning, and – she thinks modestly – isn’t entirely unattractive.

Wasn’t she a catch? In the words of her spirit animal Charlotte on Sex and the City, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. I’m exhausted. Where is he?” If Mr. Right wasn’t here by now, Serena thinks decidedly, he wasn’t showing up at all.

As Shaylee orders them a plate of nachos, Serena tucks her phone back into her purse to avoid checking it obsessively. Just hours ago, James had texted her a picture of his new kitten poking out of a tea cosy with the caption Garfield is looking forward to our date, too!

And now?

Now, her new coworker James – who’d she been crushing on for weeks –had stood her up. He’d disappeared without so much as a “wait, actually, I’m just not that into you” text, and let her sit by herself at a bar waiting for him. Now, she was still just regular Serena – crushed and crush-less – still on the mend from her breakup with Kris.

“Oh, snap!” Shaylee slides her phone across the table. “The cinema down the road is doing a midnight screening of Mean Girls. Should we go?”

Serena shrugs.

“It’ll cheer you up…”

“OK. I guess.” She smiles, thankful Shaylee had nothing better to do tonight than keep her company. “Doesn’t Raina live nearby? Should we invite her? ”

“She’s on a date tonight.”

“Another one?”

“Her Nani’s fixing her up, remember?”

“Maybe her Nani should set me up.”

“Be careful what you wish for, Serena,” Shaylee says, as she buys the cinema tickets on her phone. “She’s driving Raina crazy right now.”

“Well, I guess I’d rather be alone than crazy.” Serena sets her hands on the table with purpose. “And in fact, I will be. I am never going to date again.”

“You still don’t mean that.”

“Watch me.”

Shaylee leans forward on her elbow, like she’s trying to read Serena’s face.

“I’m serious. This is bullshit. I’m done with dating.”

She reaches across the table and grab’s Serena’s wrist, rotating the watch face upwards. 9:04 pm.

“We have three hours until the movie starts,” Shaylee says. “Three whole hours to kill…”

“Your point is?”

“I’ll make you a deal. In the next three hours, I’ll introduce you to three men. Three men of my choosing.”

“Tonight?”

“Yeah,” Shaylee says. “Tonight. And if you don’t like any of them, I’ll leave you alone. I won’t say all the things friends are supposed to say about ‘taking time for yourself’ or ‘letting yourself heal’ – or anything like that. I’ll let you give up.”

“You’ll let me give up.”

“Not just let you, Serena, I’ll enforce it.”

Three men? Three hours? Would Shaylee pick them out in this very bar? Serena glances around the room, a few strangers already catching her eye. Or, would Shaylee go through Serena’s phone? Message men she’s met up with in the past but has already written off. Connect her with new ones on her dating apps?

“So are you in?”

Tapping her fingers on the table, she shrugs. It’s not like she had anything better to do, or at this point, anything to lose.

Three hours. Three mini-dates. This would be a walk in the park, and then she could sit down and embrace spinsterhood in peace.

“I’m in.”

If you enjoyed this short introduction to the characters, you can buy the book The Arrangement from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Forever House By Veronica Henry

The “Forever House‘The Forever House’ is the latest book by Veronica Henry.

Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

I started this book the other night and fell in love with the bittersweet tale.

When Sally’s husband, Alexander is diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease, they decide to sell up the family home, for something a lot more easier to manage. The home called ‘Hunter’s Moon’ has been in Alexander’s family for generations and holds many memories for the family and both Sally and Alex, as it was the place that they fell in love in, when Sally was hired as the family housekeeper many years. Deciding to move out of my their happy home, they invest their trust into Belinda Baxter, the local estate agent who invests her time and dedication to helping people find their forever home, the kind and gentle woman who feels an empathy towards the elderly couple.

The story is told in the past and present tense, when Sally and Alexander first met back in 1967 and Sally was employed as housekeeper for Hunter’s Moon, when Alexander’s mother, Margot was a bestselling author and invested all her time in writing and let the house go to wrack and ruin, but then Alexander met Sally and thought she would be perfect, homely and organised, she settled into Hunter’s Moon and quickly became part of the family. The present tense, is the elderly couple having to deal with the double blow of leaving their home as well as deal with Alexander’s as they both notice his health deteriorating. Meanwhile, Belinda has her own problems as she tries to find the perfect buyer for Hunter’s Moon, her past reappears bringing with them unhappy memories and old ghosts.

This is truly, a lovely story. It’s a warm hearted and whimsical tale that is filled with charm as well as sadness, as Sally and Alexander prepare to leave their family home and deal with his illness. The scenes about Motor Neurone disease were sensitively written and researched well and I felt a strong empathy for Alexander as he challenged the changes in his body. The relationship between Sally and Alexander is a tender and interesting one, reading through the past chapters, it’s lovely how they went from friends to lovers and how seamlessly their relationship developed. Margot, Alexander’s mother was a vibrant character, self absorbed and dramatic, she loved being the centre of attention and struggled when this wasn’t the case. I particularly loved Belinda, her warm and soft nature and genuine care for clients made for sweet reading and I really empathised with her at times.

Beautifully written, ‘The Forever House’ is a poignant tale of love and loss, with tender characters and storyline, this book was an absolute feel good page turner.

You can buy The Forever House from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops