Pairing books with tea (Tea with Mr. Rochester)

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I’ve been making an effort to read more short stories. They pack a punch in just a few short pages. I’m left thinking and rethinking about the plot for days after I finish the story. Tea with Mr. Rochester is one such short story collection.

When I think of Mr. Rochester, I think of the character from Jane Eyre. If that’s who you thought of too, then you can probably guess the common theme of each story in this collection: love. Most of the stories don’t necessarily end happily. Or maybe they do, depending on your view. The beauty of a short story is that it doesn’t tell you how or what to think. You are left thinking and analyzing for days afterwards.

Take for example, the sixth story in this collection, Spade Man from over the Water. It takes place inside the drawing room of a married woman, Mrs. Penny, who is entertaining her new neighbor. The new neighbor, Mrs. Asher, hopes she can become good friends with Mrs. Penny. All we know at this point is that Mrs. Penny has a husband who travels often. He seems to never be in the picture. Her husband discourages Mrs. Penny from having friends, but she yearns for the friendship of women. Mrs. Asher and her children move into the cottage near Mrs. Penny. She too has a husband who travels a lot. When Mrs. Asher sees a picture of Mrs. Penny’s husband she grows quiet and mysterious. They end the evening proclaiming they will become good friends. But that never happens, much to the disappointment of Mrs. Penny. The cottage is emptied virtually overnight. Mrs. Asher and her children disappear, never to be heard of again.

This ending left me stumped. The only solution that I can come up with is that Mrs. Penny’s husband leads a double life with Mrs. Asher. This might be why Mrs. Asher disappears after seeing the photograph of Mrs. Penny’s husband.

For this short story collection, I’d pair Fortnum’s Fortmason tea. The tea is black, strong and heavily infused with orange blossoms. You’ll need a strong tea to get through some of these (very excellent, some sweet, some bizarre) short stories.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Other Bennet Sister)

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Normally I pair tea with books I’ve read. Today is an exception because I haven’t read The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow yet, but I will. I’m currently half-way through Square Haunting and am looking forward to picking up The Other Bennet Sister.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, “an introvert in a family of extroverts.” Janice Hadlow gives Mary, the sister I’ve always found annoying, a voice in a story that’s over 600 pages long. So it’s definitely a tome to get lost in and forget the troubles around us. And boy do we have a lot of troubles right now. I’m looking forward to reading Mary’s story and getting to know her better.

I’m going to assume, this being a Jane Austen continuation, there is a wedding. If not Mary’s wedding, then at least someone else’s. Fortnum’s Wedding Breakfast Tea would pair well while reading this book. What do you think?

xoxo, Jane

PS. Speaking of tea, if you love tea as much as I do, then stop by my Instagram where I post about tea (and books and flowers).

Pairing books with tea (The Mistress of Spices)

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I read The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni many moons ago. I was a college student and reading literary novels and essays and the required literary criticism, like all good English majors do. But I was bored and found myself fighting to keep my eyes open after reading yet another western, white male writer. Not that there is anything wrong with reading white male writers. But my life seemed to be consumed by them and I could not relate to any of them or their stories. (Except for the part where they locked themselves away in their studies, you know, those studies that are filled with overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookcases, where they whiled away the hours writing, which I envied.)

I never stopped to think about why it was that I was only given male authors to study and I hope today it’s different at universities across the country. But when I read the first few lines of The Mistress of Spices I realized I was missing something in my life: women writers who wrote interesting stories about the nuances of life and provided a satisfactory happy ending.

The Mistress of Spices is one such book. The main character, Tilo, is trained from birth to understand the magic of the spices. When Tilo’s training is complete, she is ordained as a Mistress of Spices. Tilo is magically transported to Oakland, California where she practices her magic while running a spice shop. Although she is young and beautiful, she is placed inside the body of an elderly woman.

I am a Mistress of Spices. I can work the others too. Mineral, metal, earth and sand and stone. The gems with their cold clear light. The liquids that burn their hues into your eyes till you see nothing else. I learned them all on the island. But the spices are my love.

Through Tilo’s spices, and her new identity inhabiting the body of an elderly woman, she begins to live her destiny, which is to fix the lives of others.

Each chapter is named after a spice. For example, one of the chapters is titled “Fennel” because fennel is the “spice for Wednesdays, the day of averages, of middle-aged people.” Tilo orders a customer in an abusive marriage to take a pinch of fennel, promising her that it will give her mental strength for what she must do. Tilo doesn’t say anything else. After all, no one must know what or who she really is.

One day Tilo meets a man named Raven who looks into her eyes and sees exactly who she really is. Raven knows that she isn’t an old woman and slowly they begin to fall in love with each other.  However, this is against the rules for Tilo and falling in love causes a catastrophe. It’s a wonderful, magical story that has stayed with me all these years.

Which tea shall we pair with this book? I think a chai tea pairs best. Tilo would certainly approve of all the spices that go into this Chai tea by Fortnum & Mason (my favorite purveyor of teas).

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #39

I hope you had a merry day yesterday. It’s bittersweet that another year is coming to a close and 2020 is on the horizon. Oh, in case you didn’t know, 2020 is a leap year!

Last year on the blog: The Fortnum’s Cook Book.

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Image via Fortnum and Mason.

How cute is this fish and chips chocolate set?

On this day in 1805, Napoleon signed the Treaty of Pressburg.

Review of Stalin and the Fate of Europe by Norman M. Naimark.

Nine Translated French-to-English Books All About French Society.

Why Royal Guests Have Always Been a Royal Pain. This backs up what I said about aristocrats going broke after hosting Edward VII.

Now that we’ve watched every Christmas movie on Hallmark and Netflix, we can read about the real setting of Netflix’s Christmas Prince.

Speaking of A Christmas Prince, now you can read a comprehensive breakdown of the latest installment.

l’m going to make this recipe for Banana Bread but I plan to add chocolate chips.

How adorable is the Sussex e-Christmas Card?

And just a programming note, the blog will be back in early January.

Happy New Year!!

xoxo, Jane

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is a historical fiction set in Canada and England. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author. The story centers around three women, two from the past and one in our present day.

Description:

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

All three main characters are lovely, but I connected the most with Frenchwoman Miriam. Miriam is a survivor of Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp for women. (If you want to learn more about this concentration camp, then visit this page on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.) It is clearly obvious the author did her research and she did it very well. Miriam reminded me of my mother who also survived the Nazis (though unlike Miriam, my mother was not sent to a concentration camp).

Even though Miriam was kind, well-spoken, a diligent seamstress and never gave anything away about her past (at least initially) I could sense her sadness and despair. I really bonded with Miriam as a character. This is what makes Jennifer Robson such a good author.

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What I love

I love the history and background about the Queen’s wedding dress. We (the reader) are literally in the sewing studio, watching the seamstresses hard at work. I was able to visualize every stitch. The author got everything right because she interviewed one of the four seamstresses who worked on the actual royal wedding dress. Again and again, it becomes obvious that serious research went into this story. But in a seamless way, which made this book so enjoyable to read.

There is one scene, where Heather, the modern-day character, spends an afternoon shopping at Fortnum & Mason. This really made me smile as I love Fortnums and was happy it played a small part in the novel.

What I don’t love

There is a rape scene. It’s not graphic or detailed, but it’s a major reason why one of the characters ends up on a different path in life. Had I known there was a rape scene in this book, I probably would not have read it. I’m really sensitive to scenes where women and children get hurt. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t know about it, because I’m happy I read The Gown. It was heartwarming and touching and I will be thinking of the characters for months to come.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but all three women have their happy ending. I guess I just want to throw that out there in case you think the subject matter is too sad. It was a phenomenal book and the months-long library hold was worth it.

Will you be reading The Gown?

xoxo, Jane

First image of the novel and a peek of my own wedding dress by me. Second image via Pexels.com

 

Gilded Age reading and a tea recommendation

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I’m really excited for the Downton Abbey movie. With few exceptions, I prefer watching movies at home. It’s just more comfortable for me. Nothing beats pjs, bunny slippers and a good cup of tea. But I’ll have to stay patient for a little while longer and not read any spoilers.

In honor of the Downton Abbey movie, let’s talk about two timely, but fun, books.

To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

I love this book! I actually read it years before Downton Abbey premiered and it’s the book that inspired Julian Fellowes to create Downton Abbey. That’s where Cora’s character comes from because this book talks about all of the rich American girls who exchanged dollars (dowries) for titles. The book has an abundance of pictures and illustrations and an actual American heiress directory for your perusal.

The Husband Hunters by Anne De Courcy

In a similar vein, this book is about the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy. One such heiress was Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s mama. We keep forgetting Churchill was half-American. The book has a generous amount of illustrations and photographs and a great bibliography for further reference.

Podcast recommendation

If you’d rather listen than read, then I recommend The History Chicks’ episode on this very subject, Gilded Age Servants and Heiresses. The episode is over an hour long.

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Tea recommendation

Time for a tea recommendation. Fortnum’s Royal Blend is perfect for reading, quiet evenings at home or watching movies (like the Downton Abbey film).

If you’ve seen the movie, don’t give me any spoilers but let me know what you thought!

xoxo, Jane

This week’s library loot

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I’m currently reading The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson (outstanding) and I also borrowed two classic Sandra Brown books (I’m going through a serious Sandra Brown phase) and a fun children’s book, Bad Girls Throughout History. I recommend it for all ages, though. We are never too old to learn about incredible, fearless women.

What are you currently reading?

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I also enjoyed a lovely cup of Fortnum’s Royal Blend today. It was a change from my usual Countess Grey.

Have a great new week!

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight)

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This week’s tea and book pairing is for a very sweet story, Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole. It’s a short love story featuring Agnes Moor, a black woman who has a position at the court of King James IV (Scotland) as the “favorite.” The King and Queen consider her their “exotic.” But Agnes is so much more than just something to show off. She is extremely intelligent, brave, beautiful and poised. She also speaks Gaelic.

This story has it all. There is a jousting tournament, a knight in shining armor (known as “The Wild Knight”) and a happily ever after. This is an interracial romance set in the Scottish Highlands and it’s really a must-read because I don’t know of any other story like it, plus the character Agnes Moor is inspired by a real woman.

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Tea image via Fortnum & Mason.

It was fun to decide which tea to pair with this book. I think Fortnum’s Breakfast Blend goes well with this story because Breakfast Tea was first blended in Edinburgh* and the story is set in Scotland.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

*Queen Victoria enjoyed drinking this blend during her trips to Scotland and it soon became popular in England.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Encyclopedia of the Exquisite)

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Today’s book/tea pairing is for an encyclopedia!

When you were a kid, (and I’m talking to those of you who were around long before Wikipedia) did you read encyclopedias for fun? I totally did! I couldn’t get enough. There was just so much about the world to read and learn and the encyclopedias made it so easy, everything in one place. 

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite – An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins is just what the title says, an encyclopedia of elegant delights.

From the front flap:

Taking a cue from the exotic encyclopedias of the sixteenth century, which brimmed with mysterious artifacts, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins’s Encyclopedia of the Exquisite focuses on the elegant, the rare, the commonplace, and the delightful. A com­pendium of style, it merges whimsy and practicality, traipsing through the fine arts and the worlds of fashion, food, travel, home, garden, and beauty.

Each entry features several engaging anecdotes, illuminating the curious past of each enduring source of beauty. Subjects covered include the explosive history of champagne; the art of lounging on a divan; the emergence of “frillies,” the first lacy, racy lingerie; the ancient uses of sweet-smelling saffron; the wild riot incited by the appearance of London’s first top hat; Julia Child’s tip for cooking the perfect omelet; the polarizing practice of wearing red lipstick during World War II; Louis XIV’s fondness for the luscious Bartlett pear; the Indian origin of badminton; Parliament’s 1650 attempt to suppress Europe’s beauty mark fad; the evolution of the Japanese kimono; the pil­grimage of Central Park’s Egyptian obelisk; and the fanciful thrill of dining alfresco.

Cleverly illustrated, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is an ode to life’s plenty, from the extravagant to the eccentric. It is a cele­bration of luxury that doesn’t necessarily require money.

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The book is gorgeous, even without the beautiful cover.

Some of the encyclopedic entries are about: Painted Ladies, Red Lipstick, Tea and Quintessence. It is such a beautiful book, both inside and out. The cover is gorgeous and the book has whimsical illustrations to accompany the entries. I’ve owned Encyclopedia of the Exquisite since 2010 and I still take it off my bookshelf to reread an entry or two.

So, which tea do we pair with this gorgeous, lovely book?

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This book is unique and has interesting entries that make you want to keep reading and learning. I think the perfect tea pairing is with Fortnum’s Chai. The sweet spices in Chai match the exotic entries. Plus, Chai is a tea that is perfect for any time of day. Just like reading this book!

What do you think of this tea pairing?

xoxo, Jane

 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

 

 

A fun little Q&A

Hi, friends. So, I was inspired by kitty marie’s reading corner to do this fun Q&A.  Thanks for humoring me!

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Any Jane Austen novel.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one book character, who would you choose?

Anne Elliott from Jane Austen’s Persuasion because she is the nicest and is never judgmental. Plus Captain Wentworth would miss her a lot and come rescue us anyway.

Vaclav Havel
Not book-related, but I just love this quote by Vaclav Havel and it’s more true today than ever.

If you wrote a book, what would its genre be?

I do write books. I’m a romance and women’s fiction writer and working towards publication.

What is your favorite book?

Persuasion by Jane Austen. (I wrote about my love for Persuasion here.)

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What is your favorite coffee flavor? (Or another type of drink, if you don’t drink coffee.)

I am a tea connoisseur and I love Fortnum’s Countess Grey best of all. It’s a softer, lovelier version of Earl Grey.

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My precious copies of Persuasion and Jane Eyre.

What is your least favorite book?

I had to think about this one and it’s Catcher in the Rye. It kind of left me feeling depressed. I prefer uplifting stories.

Is there any book coming out this year that you’re looking forward to reading?

I have so many books on my TBR shelf that I don’t dare look ahead to what’s being published next week or next month. I need to give my TBR shelf a little TLC. #love.books.so.so.much

What completed book series would you like to see one more new volume for? 

Harry Potter. A girl can dream.

What genre do you read the most?

Romance and women’s fiction. But I read a lot of nonfiction too. Usually biographies.

Thanks, Kittie Marie, for the great questions and inspiration! This was super fun! Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments. I love getting to know my readers!! xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Time-Traveling Fashionista)

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The Time-Traveling Fashionista is a YA series of three fashionable books by Bianca Turetsky. In the first book of the series, The Time-Traveling Fashionista On Board The Titanic, we are introduced to our main character, Louise Lambert, a young teenage girl living in an old rambling Tudor house in Connecticut with her American father and British mother.

Louise has one true love: vintage fashion. Thanks to her well-read tome, Shopping for Vintage: The Definite Guide to Fashion,* Louise knows more about vintage fashion than the average young person.

When Louise receives a mysterious invitation to an exclusive, invitation-only vintage sale, she accidentally discovers a time-traveling portal via the vintage dresses.

Where does it take her? Onboard the Titanic! While onboard, she encounters several adventures with her new friend Anna, a lady’s maid. But the real questions are whether she can return home before the ship sinks and if Anna can be saved.

I won’t give it away, but I will say that it is a delightful read with gorgeous illustrations.

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My own fascination with vintage fashion makes me daydream about the history of the clothing and who previous owners might have been. I own several vintage clothing and accessories that belonged to my late mother. They are very special to me because she loved her clothes and took good care of everything she owned. She was very poor as a young lady, so I know it was a sacrifice to buy the things I ended up inheriting. This book series resonated with me because Louise is mindful of the history of clothing.

The other two books in the series are The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette and The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile.

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I’m breaking my tea rule because this book (the entire series, actually) needs a big mug of hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream. I recommend Fortnum’s Hot Chocolate! It’s not the fine-powdered inexpensive chocolate. It’s large chunks of chocolate pieces which require milk (not water). Enjoying a decadent cup of Fortnum’s hot chocolate is perfect for this fashionable and adventurous series.

Fortnum's Chocolate*Not a real book, but for something similar try Vintage Paris Couture: The French Woman’s Guide to Shopping or The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping: Insider Tips, Helpful Hints, Hip Shops.

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

 

Pairing books with tea (Miss Buncle Married)

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I felt really happy after I finished reading Miss Buncle Married. This is the wonderful sequel to Miss Buncle’s Book (a very hilarious read!). In the sequel Miss Buncle (now Mrs. Abbott) has a new village to explore and more opportunities for hijinks. Even her lovely new husband can’t stop her misadventures!

D.E. Stevenson wrote this dedication to the sequel: “Dedicated to those who liked Miss Buncle and asked for more.” I’m so glad she wrote this sequel. It’s an enjoyable, happy read. Even the cover is a sunny color.

If you need something uplifting and funny and wholesome to read this summer, then I suggest you pick up a copy of Miss Buncle Married. And when you do, enjoy it with a cup of Fortnum’s Afternoon Blend.

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Why Afternoon Blend? Because reading this book is like taking a walk through a field of flowers on a sunny afternoon (and while holding and sipping out of a dainty, flowery teacup, why not!). If I sound cheesy, I can’t help it. Books (and tea) make me happy! xoxo, Jane