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Novels with a Food-Theme: Part 1

Nothing beats a good book, or a great meal, or an irresistable treat…  so it’s even better when these are combined! Here is a selection of some novels with a food-theme. And just so you don’t overindulge, I’ll share more next week:

The Way to a Woman’s Heart – Christina Jones:

Cooking the perfect menu for the perfect date always seems simple at the time…

Escaping from corporate city life into the heart of the Berkshire countryside, Ella Maloney had been expecting to find rural tranquillity and a chance to indulge in her favourite pastime – cooking. So when she meets a devastatingly delicious chef by the name of Ash Lawrence, Ella knows she’s died and gone to food heaven.

Things go from divine to celestial for Ella, however, when her favourite top-rated TV cookery programme – Midnight Feast – comes looking for a venue to film their latest show. But while Ella is pulling out all the culinary stops to become their most successful contestant ever, Ash is busy cooking up the ultimate recipe for winning Ella’s heart – or should that be a recipe for disaster…?

The Christmas Cookie Club – Ann Pearlman:

Every year at Christmastime, Marnie and her closest girlfriends mark their calendars for a cookie exchange.  Everyone brings homemade cookies and a bottle of wine to share, but this year, it’s their stories that are especially important—the passion and hopefulness of new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, the stress of financial troubles.  On this evening, at least, the sisterly love they have for one another rises above it all. Celebrating courage and joy in spite of hard times and honoring the importance of woman’s friendships as well as the embracing bonds of community, the delightful novel speaks to us all.

In addition to laughter and tears, the book is sprinkled with delicious cookie recipes. The Christmas Cookie Club has been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Croatian becoming both an international and national bestseller.

Good Enought to Eat – Stacey Ballis:

She learned how to eat right….living right is the hard part. Former lawyer Melanie Hoffman lost half her body weight and opened a gourmet take-out café specializing in healthy and delicious food. But the first healthy morning muffins are still warm from the oven when her husband announces that he is leaving her…for a woman twice her size.

Reeling from her abandonment, she’s blindsided by a financial crisis. Desperate to relieve some of the money pressures, Melanie reaches out to a quirky roommate with a ton of baggage, moving her into both her home and her business.  Things begin to look up when Melanie becomes involved in a budding romance with a local documentary filmmaker, but she’s not so sure she is really ready for love. In this warm and often laugh-out-loud novel, Melanie discovers that she still has a lot to learn about her friends, her relationships with men, and herself…and that her weight loss was just the beginning of an amazing journey that will transform her life from the inside out.

Chocolate Wishes – Trisha Ashley:

Life is sweet for chocolate maker Chloe Lyon! Business is booming at her artisan chocolate-makers ‘Chocolate Wishes’ in the picture-perfect Lancashire village of Sticklepond – not least because all of Chloe’s sweet treats contain an inspirational prediction for each customer. If only her own life was as easy to read in the cards, perhaps Chloe could have foreseen being jilted at the altar!

But Chloe has long put thoughts of love behind her – after all, life is busy enough, especially as she tries to sort out her friends’ tangled love lives and the village welcomes its new vicar, Raffy Sinclair. However, the village rumour mill goes into overdrive when it is revealed that Raffy is the distinctly unorthodox ex-front man of rock band ‘Mortal Ruin’ – and also happens to be Chloe’s first love, who left her broken-hearted.Whilst Chloe tries to ignore this blast from her past, will she discover that wishes can come true when you least expect it? A charming novel for chocoholics everywhere, perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews.

And if you haven’t checked out my previous blog posts about the food-themed books, The Secret Ingredient, and Aftertaste, you can do so here and here.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog post!

Have you read any of the books I’ve featured today? What do you like about books with a food-theme?

Special Guest Author Interview: Trisha Ashley

I’m thrilled to welcome author Trisha Ashley to the blog today as part of my Mouthwatering May special event.

1) Welcome Trisha! Can you tell us a little about your new book, Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues?

It’s set in rural West Lancashire, like several of my recent books. I didn’t start out to write a series – they’re all stand-alone novels – but there’s some overlapping of places and characters.  The village in Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues is Sticklepond, where A Winter’s Tale and Chocolate Wishes also took place.

My heroine, Tansy, inherits a run-down shoe shop from her great-aunt and, when her life goes all Cinderella without a happy ending, she throws herself into recreating it as a bridal shoe emporium.

It is a huge success, which is a bit unfortunate for reclusive Shakespearian actor Ivo Hawksley, who has moved next door in search of some peace and quiet.  Like Tansy, he has a few demons from his past to deal with – it’s all about coming to terms with what has happened in the past and how it has shaped you, so you can move on.

I suppose I’d describe  my books as romantic comedy, though the humour arises from the characters themselves – I don’t try and write in a funny way, I just write.

2) You also have a book called Chocolate Wishes.  What do you love about writing stories with a food theme?

The research, of course!  The idea for the Chocolate Wishes of the title came about when I remembered making chocolate Easter eggs for my son when he was small and putting in a message from the Easter Bunny: I thought suddenly that fortune cookies would be so much nicer if they were made of chocolate…

Food is often a strong theme in my books because  it can be comforting, exciting, reassuring, celebratory or simply an expression of love.  I have no cookery training, it’s all just recipes I picked up along the way, or learned from my mother.

Other strong themes in my novels are gardening, especially roses and knot gardens, family (even if sometimes a little dysfunctional) and friendship, from which can grow all kinds of love.

 

3) How long does it usually take you to write the first draft of a novel?

On average, I suppose about four months, though the ideas for the next book will have been fermenting gently on the backburner while I was finishing off the last one.  I have twice written a first draft in a fortnight in an unstoppable outpouring, which was exhilarating even if a trifle exhausting.

 

4)  You share recipes in your books.  Do you have an all time favourite recipe?

The rich dark fruit cake recipe in Wedding Tiers: I use it for birthdays, book launches, Christmas… It’s easy and always works.  The very worst that can happen is that the edges catch a little, or the fruit sinks to the bottom, but it will taste wonderful anyway.

 

5)  If you could name three essential ingredients that make up a great novel, what would they be?

The obvious answer would be: a beginning, middle and an end.  By that I mean that a book should immediately transport you to a different place and then take you on a journey through it, with stop-offs to see the sights and have a few adventures.  If a reader writes and says that I have provided them with that escape hatch, that Alice-through-the-looking-glass experience, then there can be no finer compliment.

6)  What do you love most about being an author?

 I usually write in first person and I adore becoming someone else and slipping off into a different world.  But when all the characters have taken on a life of their own and start having conversations in your head when you’re trying to go to sleep at night, that can be annoying.  I know if I don’t put the light on and write it all down, I’ll have forgotten it by morning.

I also enjoy taking two very different people, building the chemistry between them and then finding a way to bring them together.  There have often been traumas in their past lives that make this outcome difficult to achieve, but I find that challenge exciting.

But the bottom line is, to quote Stephen King (I do love his book called On Writing!), writing is the most fun you can have on your own!

7)  Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

This may sound very obvious, but it has to be said: writers write, it’s in the nature of the job description.  You write every day and feel guilty and bereft if you have finished a novel and not started on the next.  So, don’t just think about it, do it. Get in the writing habit, if only for ten or fifteen minutes a day and then build on that.  However busy you are, if you really want to write, you will find the time.

1) If you can’t get started at all, read Natalie Goldberg’s book, ‘Writing Down the Bones’.

2) Once you’ve got into the daily writing habit, then do read Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing ‘ – he really tells it like it is.

3)  Read my novel Happy Endings – the heroine, Tina Devino, is a novelist who also runs a manuscript critique service and there are letters  to and from aspiring novelists throughout the book.  You will learn a lot about what – and what not – to do!

4)  Read a lot of recently published novels in the genre you are aiming at.  Consider what length they are and what the readers of that kind of book expect from a novel.

5)  You will know your main characters are three dimensional when they start having conversations with each other in your head.

But if you never get beyond chapter three don’t despair and give up, but try short stories instead: some of us are built to be sprinters and others for the marathon, you just have to find the writing form that suits you best.

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Thank you so much Trisha for taking the time to visit the blog, you’ve given some valuable advice for aspiring authors, and your book cover is beautiful!

~ Trisha Ashley was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, and now lives in the beautiful surroundings of North Wales. She has written twelve romantic comedies and her last novel, The Magic of Christmas, was a Sunday Times bestseller. A Winter’s Tale and Wedding Tiers have been previously shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan award for romantic comedy. Every Woman for Herself was voted one of the top three romantic novels of the last fifty years.Visit Trisha’s website here, and twitter here.

…Remember, as part of the Mouthwatering May special event, you could win prizes simply by commenting below and on any of the posts during May. Be sure to subscribe to the blog too, to be eligible for prizes 🙂