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  • Blog

    Read a Romance – the romance of food

    5/25/2015

    The Romance of Food
    Pie FaceIs it just me or do so many of the great moments of life take place over a meal? Food weaves it’s way in and out of so many of our memories. The special birthday cake, the traditional holiday foods or even that catastrophic meal you made for a date are all part of our memories.

    I think it is the same for fictional characters, just as food brings us together in real life I think the same is true in books.

    I’ve noticed my fictional characters like to drink a lot of wine, meet a friend and download over a coffee or plan the perfect date or treat for someone they have their eye on. That’s pretty much how my friends in real life are too. I think it is realistic. Let’s face it food is a big part of our day and who we share it with defines us.

    Who we eat with and what we eat also tells us a lot about a character eating Chinese food alone is very different for one going for dim sum with a new boyfriend, fried chicken at a picnic is different to eating a two-piece feed of KFC on your way between jobs.

    I love books where food is almost a character in the story. I still remember reading Like Water for Chocolate when it was released and how the mood of the characters cooking the food affected the taste. It was so beautiful and so moving.

    I’m a keen cook in real life and I can always taste in the meal the amount of love and care I’ve put into it. You can taste the love in cooking, it’s a fact.

    In my latest series – The Upper Crust Series- the focus is on three friends all have some involvement in a chain of food trucks that make Australian style pies. (I as inspired by the Pie Face franchise, you may have seen in the US which began in Australia.) Day in day out they’re involved in the making and selling of the pies. Obviously food is what brings these girls together and it also makes them hyper-aware of the food they eat on dates and at parties. They’re all about the food and it certainly helps them to find love surrounded by the scents of warm fruit and pastry.

    1. Tell us about a magical moment you remember that had a food element to it.
    The year my husband and I got married we went to Europe. It was a shoe-string budget trip and so we at a lot of pasta, pizza and croissants. One night we were in Assisi and we went in to a tiny hole in the wall restaurant not expecting much. In one half of the restaurant the family sat watching I Dream of Genie on the television with Italian subtitles.

    There was no menu and there were no prices. A woman came and told us our choices and I chose fettucinni with a truffle sauce. At the next table were an older American couple and they were finishing up but they had half a plate green beans left and they insisted we take them “These are the best beans we’ve ever eaten. This is the best meal we’ve ever had. Please take them. We’re so full but we can’t throw them out.”

    We took the beans and ate them. They were amazing. My pasta was the best I’ve ever eaten. It was a strange and wonderful evening. And 20 years later we talk still remember it.

    2. You are stranded on a magical desert island for a year. You can only eat one meal every day for that year. You can have as much as you want of that meal, but that’s the only thing you get to eat. What do you choose?
    That is a hard question. I strongly suspect if left to my own devices I would probably live on homemade popcorn and red wine. (Best I don’t live alone for a while). It’s hot on the island I guess so I’m going to start with coconut shrimp, I’ll have butter chicken and rice for my main and a cheese plate for dessert. And the red wine. If I get a snack I’ll have Smiths Salt and Vinegar Chips…they’re my crack!

    3. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? Why?
    In the world? That’s a big question. I live in Sydney, Australia and there are a lot of fine restaurants here. I’m going to have to choose one by the water and it will have to serve seafood I think.
    I’m a firm believer that best restaurant in the world won’t be amazing if the company is bad. I’m going to choose the Manly Wharf Hotel (and do my bit for Sydney tourism). This hotel/bar/restaurant features in my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels. It is right where you step off the Manly Ferry from Sydney. It’s a popular place to meet friends for a drink, to take a seat if you are a tourist or to enjoy a quiet ale. On weekend nights it’s a place to hand out and maybe meet someone new.

    It brings together lots of elements I love in a restaurant. The food is okay but if you want have a long lunch with friends or get to know someone while the water laps the pier and people kayak of paddle-board past then you couldn’t pick a better place.
    Manly Wharf - Wharf Bar
    Outdoor dining at The Manly Wharf Hotel

  • Blog

    Life is not like a romance novel (or is it?)- thoughts on 21 years of marriage this #MusicalMonday.

    3/8/2015

    Monique McDonell and Husband in HawaiiThis week I will have been married 21 years. I have been pondering what that means about me and my life. A girlfriend pointed out recently I have known my husband for half my life, that seems kind of bizarre to me. Part of me can’t remember what life was like before we got married and another part of me thinks “hang on, I just met this guy.”

    Some days I really don’t like being married. Lots of days, actually. It feels like I have to be nice too much of the time and think about other people too much, and you know, act interested when I’m not. Yeah, see I can’t possibly have been married 21 years with that attitude, right? I’m really a petulant fifteen year old at my core. Most of that has little to do with my husband and a lot to do with who I am as a person.

    My husband is a famously and ridiculously nice guy. I do know a couple of people who don’t like him, but they’re pretty rare, and I kind of think that tells you more about them than him. He’s a far more affable human being than I am. He’s nice to old people, is incredibly helpful with my friends and loves small children. He cooks, he irons, he can build stuff and he tells a great story (even if way too many of them involve fishing these days). In fact one of the most annoying things about him is that he’s so damned pleasant I can’t even complain about him to anyone.

    That doesn’t mean that being married to him every day is like living in a romance novel. He also has no short term memory (like none at all), can’t make a plan to save himself, only acknowledges birthdays and holidays as an act of appeasement and has a job that so lacks rhythm we’ve lost our entire social life as a result.

    We’ve had job losses, grief, financial issues, failed dreams and we’ve battled infertility. We’ve made decisions and had circumstanced thrust upon us that made us both sad and a little angry. It certainly has not gone to plan.

    And we haven’t even started on me yet. My husband and I are actually complete opposites (though I would like to think we were both kind) but for every memory he’s lost I’ve held on to five and for every plan he’s failed to make, I’ve made ten. I love celebrations, themed dinners and organisation. All of which has to annoy the snot out of him.

    And yet here we are.

    I look at marriages that work and those that don’t and wonder why that is. On paper, we don’t work. We just don’t. And yet despite the differences here we are.

    So how is our life like a romance novel then?
    We did romantically meet on a tropical island (just like in my novel Hearts Afire) and we’ve been together ever since.
    We do still make each other laugh.
    We like each other.
    We are kind to each other. We never want to see the other fail or get their come-uppance or relish a chance to say ‘I told you so” (even though we’ve both had plenty of them).
    We’re both people people.
    We both have a sense of adventure.
    We appreciate each others differences – you go fishing, I’m off to the art gallery, see you later.
    We’re both romantic in different ways.
    We still go on dates, we hold hands, we dance in the living room.
    He brings me flowers every now and then (And not from the petrol station!)
    We want to tell each other our stories.
    We want each others dreams to come true.

    So for Musical Monday I give you our wedding dance – Into The Mystic.

     

    Comments

    Ms. Mary
    3/9/2015 01:43:32 am

    Happy Anniversary, you two! I have seen you in action and you are a lovely, lovely couple! And thanks for some awesome Van Morrison on a Monday! 🙂
    Reply
    Monique
    3/10/2015 09:19:28 am

    A little Van Morrison is always good for the soul.

  • Blog

    What does romance look like in real life?

    3/3/2014

    Monique McDonell Wedding PhotoI’m about to head off on a little holiday/vacation with my lovely husband to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (yes, thank you for noticing I was a child bride).

    I have an idea for a novel I think I’ll start while we’re away but of course the anniversary has me pondering what in real life love versus love in a romance novel looks like.

    Like Cassie in Hearts Afire I actually met my husband on a tropical island off the Queensland coast. I was there on my own (long and not very fabulous story involving changed plans and my own battle with chronic fatigue syndrome) and he was there as part of a TV crew. We’re both from Sydney but I don’t think we would have ever met here so I guess it was, as they say, destiny.

    We’re very different people – like totally different – and I don’t think many people thought we’d last long enough to get married and probably once we did marry doubted we’d last this long. And I can see why they felt that way. Since then we’ve done some crazy stuff together – he ran for office and I ran his political campaign (with a lot of help from my friends), we’ve built a house (maybe one day we’ll even finish it) , we’ve travelled, we’ve volunteered, we’ve danced till dawn more often than I can count and of course we’ve had our beautiful daughter. That’s the stuff that makes up the fabric of your life.

    I’m quite romantic in the hearts and flowers sense. Heart shaped pancakes for breakfast on Valentine’s Day (sure), the perfect gift (absolutely) while my husband is really not-so-much. Although in fairness I certainly do get bunches of flowers more than most women I know and he has embraced the all important – flowers from the petrol station don’t count, rule and he certainly will notice how I look and says lovely things to me, a lot.

    But I don’t think that’s what romance looks like really.

    Romance is when you have morning sickness for 22 weeks and he gets you to hospital, gets you some meds and drives you around with a bucket in your lap for that whole time.

    Romance is after you have that baby and you’re miserable in hospital (on day 4) bringing you a bottle of wine and hot pasta to your hospital room because no one can regenerate on hospital food.

    Romance is giving your mother a hand when she needs it. (New pathway, sure. Moving house, no problem. Want that light bulb changed, Ok.)

    Romance is bringing you a cup of tea and all your favourite bits of the Sydney Morning Herald so you can read in bed on a Saturday morning.

    Romance is showing up and helping.

    Romance is designing and creating a mosaic mirror together.

    Romance is picking you and your friends up after dinner so you can all enjoy an adult beverage or two.

    Romance is being nice to your partner’s friends and making them welcome in your home.

    Romance is hanging in the hammock at the end of the day having a chat.

    Romance is dancing like a maniac until 3am.

    Romance is bringing extra hankies to a funeral because he knows you will definitely need them.

    Romance is speaking kindly to you and about you.

    Romance is dangling a child by their ankles and tickling them (or chasing them round the room or pushing them on a swing or playing My Little Pony with them).

    Romance is telling every person he meets that you’ve written a book and handing them a postcard about it (it’s embarrassing and romantic all at once).

    So I guess you could say we have had a fairly romantic time of it over the years by my own definition anyway. It’s just that it might not be such an exciting book to read.

     

    Comments

    MaryK
    3/3/2014 02:49:01 pm

    Happy Anniversary Monique and Romantic Ross! So much wisdom in this post! I especially love this: “Romance is speaking kindly to you and about you.”

    Have a wonderful vacation!
    Reply
    Monique
    3/3/2014 03:44:42 pm

    Thanks MaryK. I certainly don’t always succeed in that area but it is something to strive for 🙂

    Betty
    3/3/2014 09:45:20 pm

    Happy Anniversary kids! May the next 20 years be even better!

    Marygail
    3/3/2014 09:57:38 pm

    What a wonderful love note to Ross on your 20th anniversary. Enjoy your anniversary holiday and many more happy years.
    Reply

  • Blog

    Guest Post from Author Louise Wise – Romance in all its subgenre glory

    1/23/2013

    The Fall of the Misanthrope - Louise Wise - CoverI am a contemporary romance writer. Some may mistake it for chick lit and call it as such. I don’t mind. The term ‘chick lit’ isn’t derogatory to me, like it is to some (dated, yes, but not offensive). But then the entire romance genre is the underdog of the fiction world with ‘chick-lit’ coming in right at the bottom.

    Romance readers (and writers) are used to the snide remarks when it’s discovered what we read or write. You know the ones, the know-it-alls with the ‘what is right for me is right for all’ because ‘they said’. Bless them.

    So, what are the variations of romance? I could list them all but we’d be here forever, so I’ve picked only a few to talk about.

    Of course, romance is straight-talking (either modern or historical), and simple to describe: man and woman meet, fall in love, will they/won’t they, with a not necessarily a happy ending. But these are as varied as life and come in various subgenres—and there are many:

    Category Romance is shorter than other romance genres and put out in monthly ‘lines’ by its publisher (usually Silhouette Special Edition and Harlequin American Romances). Its fewer pages means the romance is the focus with no sub-plots. The largest publisher Mills & Boon.

    Regency Romances (not to be confused with historical romance) is again shorter than the average novel, and pre-Victorian and with little or no mention of sex. This genre was built on the works of Jane Austen.

    Chick-lit doesn’t focus on romance. The main character needn’t be in a relationship, neither does she/he have to be on the lookout for one. Realism lines the genre, too. It’s modern, it’s funny (real life is, let’s face it), and it always, always, has a happy ending! The writing is ‘chatty’ as if the author is writing to her best friend. It’s aimed at the younger woman who are usually, but not always, seeking a Mr Right. It’s easily spotted by the cartoonish cover of a woman, handbags or shoes.

    Contemporary romance is for the older woman (focusing on a more mature theme, but not necessarily older characters) and can cover a wide range of romantic/relationship angles. It’s modern and the character can be male or female.

    There is this ridiculous idea that all the above genres are the same, but fans of the books know this is madness.

    Romance and all its wonderful subgenres are different. Each and every one.

    The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch therefore I am is a contemporary book. I wanted to write about someone who is seriously flawed and my character Valerie Anthrope is struggling to cope with her depression by ignoring it. She is the ‘bitch’ in the book and mellowed by supporting characters, bossy and motherly Ellen, and playboy, Lex.

    It’s on a promotional price of 77p/$1.24 price at the moment.

    UK Amazon: http://amzn.to/U2J4bW

    USA Amazon: http://amzn.to/Syt3Di

    Blurb:
    I thought you were the type of man who could handle a one-night stand.’

    The Fall of the Misanthrope is a hilarious tale of one woman’s handling of the modern world. Snowed under with work, drinking espressos and popping energy pills to keep her awake at night to avoid a recurring nightmare, she plays with
    her health when she realises the depression, which caused her mother to kill herself, has caught her.

    Bossy Ellen Semple thinks she has the answer: maternal love and cream cakes.

    But Valerie begins dating playboy Lex Kendal, unaware that he’s Ellen’s nephew and the very reason why her brokerage has taken ‘exceptionally good business lately’. Ellen believes his ‘bed ’em and leave ’em’ ethos will damage Valerie even more but Lex rubbishes her fears.

    But it’s Lex who falls for Valerie and she dumps him. Then Valerie has a nightmare that turns everything she’s ever known the right way up. She’d been walking on a time-bomb. Or is she losing her mind?

    Excerpt from The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am.

    There was no need for words. Once inside, I walked straight upstairs, my body already aflame. Lex followed, his body so close, every time I took a step up, I brushed against him. We were removing one another’s clothes before the bedroom door had closed behind us. Our mouths seeking one another’s, our hands exploring unfelt flesh.

    We didn’t make the bed at first. Lex lifted me up, and I wrapped my legs around his waist. We made love against my dresser, and again in the bed. I was angry at Ellen’s betrayal. Somehow she’d set out for me and her to meet, and obviously Lex too. But my anger had turned to lust. I wanted Lex or Alex Kendal, and I was going to use
    him to my advantage.

    Media links:
    Blog: http://louisewise.com
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/louise_wise
    FB: https://www.facebook.com/WiseWordsBookBlogger
    Pintererst:http://pinterest.com/BookJunkies/
    Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B003FW6RKM