• bookstore vector
    Blog

    My new store is open here on the website – finally!

    bookstore vectorI can’t believe my store is finally here.

    Are you a procrastinator?

    I am. Not when it comes to my writing, but I really am not a fan of admin or technical tasks. Sometimes the very thought of them stops me in my tracks.

    I’ve had  the task of creating my online bookstore on the to-do list for months and today I tackled the beast!

    My bookstore is live! (It doesn’t look quite like this in real life, but it sure does in my imagination. I kept picturing Allegra’s bookstore from Mr Right and Other Mongrels – that store is totally real in my mind.)

    The task turned out to be a whole lot easier than I expected and I’ve loaded up all the books I currently have in stock onto the site. At this stage it is only for Australian readers (postage from here would make the books cost prohibitive).

    I will be adding Bookplates which I can ship interntionally – they’re ordered and should arrive in a couple of weeks so that will be exciting!

    (All the books will be available on Amazon as well).

    So if you would like paperback copies of my books, click here and see what’s available.

    My original standalone novels have their original illustrated covers and not their updated ones. It’s kind of fun to have the past and the present merging.

    I’m looking forward to adding my Marlin Shores Trilogy  (Saltwater Song, Saltwater Tears and Saltwater Wishes) and two more No Brides Club books  (No Time for Trouble and No Time for Tears ) in August . The remaining Cinnamon Bay Books, the Jewel Sisters and Courtside Romance series will follow quickly and then the Upper Crust Series.

    Anyway, that’s my big achievement for today. The shop is a work in progress but I’m very happy with the progress thus far.

    Happy Shopping.

     

     

  • Blog

    It’s release Day for Any Way You Wish It.

    Any Way You Wish It sale banner

    Release Day grphic for anyWay You Wish It

     

    Release Day for Any Way You Wish It.

    Can you believe it. It’s finally release day for Any Way You Wish It, book  9 in the Upper Crust series. It has been a long time coming and a labor of love. I’m so thrilled that it is finally in the wild. This is Jacob’s story. We first met him as Lucy’s ex way back i Any Way You Dream It, the second book in the series. This is his redemption story and I hope a perfect way to pull all the characters together.

    I hope you love this sweet Christmas story to pieces.

    Blurb

    Any Way You Wish It is the latest book in the Upper Crust series from USA Today Bestselling author Monique McDonell.

    Sometimes you get more than just presents at Christmas.

    After Jacob’s wife has finally leaves him and his two young daughters, help arrives in the form of a nanny named Angel. It’s like she has been sent from heaven when she takes their chaotic home and creates calm. He knows what he’s feeling is more than just gratitude, and when his wife comes back to town threatening his new life, he needs more from Angel than just a nanny.

    Working for Jacob is a dream and somehow when his ex-wife returns unannounced, she and Jacob find themselves pretending to be so much more than employee and employer. The feelings she has for him are anything but fake, but Angel has already lost one love and isn’t ready to risk her heart again.

    Can two broken people help mend each other and find love this holiday season?

    If you like second chances, fake relationships ,sexy single dads and sweet small town romances Any Way You Wish It is for you.

    This book is part of the Upper Crust Series but it can be enjoyed as a stand alone novel.

    The entire Upper Crust Series is free in Kinde Unlimited…and this week Books 1&2 are free and Books 3-8 are just 99cents so why not load up your Kindle?

  • First half 2021 food collage
    Blog

    Taste of Tuesday – a recap of the last couple of months

    Taste of Tuesday

    It’s a funny thing how when your life changes you expect certain things to be the same and they’re just not. I don’t know why that is exactly, that we don’t think change will be as universal as it often is.

    You may not be aware but for a long time I had a food blog called My Sydney Kitchen which you can visit here. I was pretty diligent in posting there. 2021 I did 72 posts. (Side bar I also started this blog in 2012 and I posted a WHOLE lot. Where did I get the extra time? I gave up volunteering on my daughter’s P&C and probably gained back 10-20 hours a week of time. Crazy right? It’s a good reminder to be nice to volunteers, they keep the world running!)

    Even though I apparently haven’t posted there in a few years, I continued to take pictures of our food and drinks in the belief I would blog there again. You should see how many unused images I have from the past five years of homemade pizzas, gozleme, cakes and salads – based on the ones from 2020 alone it was clear I intended to share them. Even with our daughter away at college, I continued to cook creatively.

    Then a funny thing happened. We moved up to Newcastle. Our kitchen is functional, but I don’t love it. The induction cook-top, something some people love, disappoints compared to the old gas one. The oven is half the size, and an ill-placed smoke alarm meant even cooking toast was annoying. Thankfully, the last problem is solved. Add in the fact the move wiped us out, and we were eating simple foods, mainly on the grill and the photos dried up.

    Another interesting difference is we eat out a lot more. We can walk to loads of restaurants, cafes and pubs. It’s fun but not all the food warrants a photo.

    It’s funny how you don’t always notice change until it passes.

    I went to get photos for a recap of the past few months and I was surprised at how few there were. Here are a few images from the past few months from homemade seafood salads, to oysters and cocktails, this is just a small taste of the past little while – and coffee of course, there’s always coffee.

    First half 2021 food collage
    Food collage

    The whole process has made me nostalgic for my food blog…maybe I’ll start it up again, with all my free time.

  • Blog

    Travel Thursday – we’re off to Boldt Castle with Jean C. Gordon

    Travel Thursday

    Today we take a journey with author Jean C. Gordon to Boldt Castle on the US/Candian Border and celebrate her new release Trusting  His Heart.

    With spring and romance in the air, what could be more romantic than a trip to a castle on a heart-shaped island? I know of one that fits the bill ~ Boldt Castle ~ which isn’t TOO far from me. I’ll admit right off that I’ve never actually been to Heart Island, but I’ve long meant to visit it. 😀 So let’s go.

    We’re headed west from Albany, NY, first on the Thruway (I-90) before we turn north toward Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands. The Thousand Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada.

    While we’re driving, here’s the romantic/tragic history of the castle. In the late 1800s, George C. Boldt, millionaire owner of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full-size Rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on Heart Island. The creation of the grand structure was a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

    Beginning in 1900, 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six-story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, Alster tower (children’s playhouse), and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared.

    But in January 1904, tragedy struck. Louise died suddenly. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately stop all construction. Broken hearted, Boldt couldn’t imagine his dream castle without his beloved Louise. He never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

    For more than 70 years, the castle and various stone structures were left to decay and vandalism. Then the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and renovated it to be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

    Heart Island is accessible from the U.S. and Canada only by a tour boat or personal pleasure craft. We’re taking our personal pleasure craft. Feel that river spray. Arriving at the island’s docks, we’re off to the castle and our virtual tour starting with the Alster Tower, followed by the Castle itself, Dove-coat, Entry Arch, Garden and Grounds, and Power House: TAKE THE VIRTUAL TOUR.

    What did you think? I can’t wait to see it in person. Maybe this summer . . .

    And while we’re in the Adirondack Mountains, I invite you to take a side trip east to Paradox Lake in my new release Trusting His Heart

    After being widowed and subsequently discovering her husband’s infidelities and shaky business practices, Dr. Anne O’Conner Howard is restarting her life by teaching an environmental program at North County Community College and maintaining her company Green Spaces Environmental Engineering, LLC. The last thing Anne expects is for the boy who took her to Junior Prom to walk into her office as a prospective student.

    Neal Hazard had planned to go to college to become an environmental engineer, but instead he became a single dad at 17 and raised a terrific daughter named Autumn. With Autumn in a nursing program and doing well, electrician Neal has left the National Guard and is going back to school to finish his dream. Discovering that Anne is his student advisor is a shock and takes a little getting used to.

    Neither Neal nor Anne’s lives turned out as planned, but both are charting new directions. Then an unexpected tragedy throws Anne’s world into chaos. Neal is a strong shoulder to lean on as Anne once again reevaluates her future. Will these unexpected life changes allow them to discover what their hearts truly want?

    Welcome to Paradox Lake

    Any fan of sweet romance will love settling into the stories of small-town love in the Paradox Lake Sweet Romance series. Grab your tea or coffee, settle into your favorite chair, and be swept away into the cozy Adirondack town where complex characters navigate challenging situations as they find their way to love. Whether it’s love at first blush, old flames reuniting, or second chance romance, you’ll find pure reading enjoyment and satisfy your craving for sweet, wholesome romance.

    Part of an ongoing series full of familiar faces, each story will stand on its own. With novel and novella lengths available, there’s something for everyone. Paradox Lake is written by USA Today Bestselling sweet romance author, Jean C. Gordon, who’s penned stories for the No Brides Clubs Series, Indigo Bay Series, and Harlequin Love Inspired, as well as for multiple sweet romance collections.

    BUY: Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo | Google Books

     

    Jean C. Gordon’s writing is a natural extension of her love of reading. From that day in first grade when she realized t-h-e was the word “the,” she’s been reading everything she can put her hands on. She and her college-sweetheart husband tried the city life in Los Angeles, but quickly returned home to their native small-town Upstate New York, where she sets many of her books. She and her husband share a 175-year-old farmhouse in Upstate New York with their daughter and her family. Their son lives nearby.

    Contact Jean on her website at JeanCGordon.com.

  • Writing Book Blurbs that sell
    Blog

    Writers on Wednesday with Belinda Williams author of Writing Book Blurbs that Sell

    Writers on Wednesday - Rose

    Today for Writers On Wednesday Blog I have my lovely friend Belinda Williams.

    Belinda and I met at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference a few years back. (Belinda is giving a blurb writing workshop at the RWA2021 on the Gold Coast) She lived close to me in Sydney and we’ve met up several times since for a coffee and a chat about all things publishing. Belinda writes romantic comedies, but she also has a blurb writing business and has released a book about blurb writing for authors – Writing Book Blurbs that sSell.
    I asked Belinda what are the three most common mistakes we writers make in blurb writing- check out her answers below.
    3 Book Blurbs Mistakes Writers Make
    • Your blurb reads like a synopsis. A book blurb should never detail your complete storyline. It’s as much about what you don’t say as what you do say.
    • Your blurb is too long. I recommend keeping book blurbs to under 250 words, ideally somewhere between 150 and 200 words if you can, otherwise you risk losing readers.
    • Failing to pinpoint the main conflict. Writers generally know it’s important to include stakes in a book blurb, but unless these are linked to the main conflict of your story, your blurb will most likely miss the mark with potential readers.
    Writing Book Blurbs that sell
    Writing Book Blurbs that Sell

    Now here’s the official book blurb:

    Enticing a reader to buy your book relies on an intriguing blurb that captures attention and encourages people to hit the ‘buy’ button. Unfortunately, not all book blurbs are created equal, and the difference between a good or bad book blurb can impact your sales.

    In this no-fuss, actionable book, you’ll learn the art of writing book blurbs with one main aim: to sell more books. Topics covered include:

    • What a book blurb is, and more importantly, what it isn’t
    • The essential components of a book blurb
    • What to include in a book blurb and what to leave out
    • Examples from a range of fiction genres
    • How a book blurb should look (and why)
    • The difference between fiction and non-fiction book blurbs
    • Terrific taglines, tone of voice, plus much more!

    Whether this is your first or twentieth book, your book deserves an impossible-to-resist ‘I want to read more’ book blurb that converts book browsers to readers and proves to the world that your book is worth reading. This book will show you how.

    Visit her website to learn more about her books.

    About Belinda Williams

    Belinda Williams is a copywriter turned fiction author with more than twenty years of experience in marketing. She can switch from writing steamy romance to punching out attention-grabbing sales copy before you have time to say, ‘book blurb!’ With her unique skill set, she aims to help other authors market their books.

    Belinda Williams

    Belinda Williams is a marketing copywriter who fell in love with romance and writes romantic comedy as well as romantic suspense featuring good guys. She’s occasionally tempted by bad boys, but prefers to write strong women characters and men with big hearts.

    When she’s not writing, Belinda is a music lover who sings lead vocals in cover bands, and her eclectic taste forms the foundation for many of her writing ideas.

    Her other love is the water. She can often be found counting laps instead of words at her local swimming pool. Or you might also spot her boating on the harbour with her husband and son in her home town of Sydney, Australia.

  • Happy Blogaversary
    Blog

    This blog is officially 9 years old!

    Happy Blogaversary

    So this is what 9 years of blogging looks like

    Mr Right and Other Mongrels Mug and Postcards Promotional Material
    How adorable was my original cover and swag? Pity about the poor photography skills!

    I started my blogging journey as a way to talk about my books and my writing 9 years ago because that’s almost how long it’s been since my first book, Mr Right and Other Mongrels was published. I never would have imagined back then I would have published over 40 books across multiple pen names and over thirty in my own name.

    Since then I’ve hosted hundreds of authors on here doing Q&A’s and other posts. Those have also been shared on my Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest accounts as well.

    I’ve announced many, many new releases and hosted umpteen cover reveals.

    We’ve shared book recommendations, favourite songs, and some cracking recipes over the years too.

    There have been the highs and lows of my publishing career – though I tend to keep the lows to myself because nobody cares about those except me.

    It’s been a fun journey. I haven’t always been consistent, and I have certainly considered quitting. I used to think I was a quitter, but it turns out that isn’t always true – I just quit the nasty stuff.

    Anyway, a huge thank you to the many authors, editors, VA’s and friends from across the globe who have been part of my blogging journey with me. Along the way this blog has helped me feel part of a community, make friends, discover new authors and new books and learn an awful lot about publishing.

    This month, as well as the regular features I run, I’ll be revisiting some memories, running some giveaways and looking to the future. So hang on and enjoy the ride. (Or is that read?)

    Monique McDonell Kindle Digital Launch Mr Right and Other Mongrels
    Release day for Mr Right and Other Mongrels.

     

  • Travel Thursday
    Blog

    Travel Thursday – this week we’re off to Scone

    Travel Thursday

    I’m adding a new weekly theme to the Blog – Welcome to the first Travel Thursday Post

    It’s a while since I shaken things up here and I got to thinking about some fun new things to add. I know none of us has travelled much in the last year, and here in Australia we won’t be going beyond our shores, largely until 2022 but because COVID is pretty under control here we are allowed to travel internally. Not only that, but I’ve recently moved to a new area where there are lots of things for me to explore and share with you. Plus, many of my author friends feature travel in their books and I love a bit of vicarious travel every now and then so off we go on some adventures.

    A Trip to Scone in the Upper Hunter.

    A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went with a couple of friends to Scone, NSW. It’s located in the Upper Hunter about 2 hours from where we live now in Newcastle.

    We chose this place because a longtime mutual friend of ours owns a B&B in Scone. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might recall I was in a writing group for a long time called The Writer’s Dozen. It formed out of a writing course at the NSW Writers Centre, where we aimed to write a novel in a year. Well, my friend Angella was in that original group, as was Jen who owns the B&B, so it made sense we’d plan our overnight jaunt there.

     

    Me, jen and Angella
    L-R – Monique, Jen, Angella

    Turns out we didn’t see too much of the town itself but we saw lots of our friends so here’s a little recap.

    Pre-COVID Angella and I often met up at the Customs House Library in Sydney for a Friday writing session and lunch and we hope to get that started again soon.

    Our first stop was the Two Rivers Winery for wine tasting and a lovely charcuterie plate. We sat outside in the glorious sunshine and sampled their delicious wine. The cheese plate was so good we asked where the cheese was from and that led us to the (Cheese factory) so we could grab some cheese and crackers for our hostess, we already had the champagne on ice.

    Two Rivers Winery
    Highlights from Two Rivers Winery

    Jen’s B&B – Russley Rural Retreat is all kinds of adorable. I had been there before but not for four years and it was just as adorable as I remembered it. It was also lovely to see Jen who is hands-down one of my favourite people on the planet. She always, always brings a smile to my face.

    These are some pictures of Russley Rural Retreat.

    Russley Rural Retreat
    Images from Russley Rural Retreat

    That night we went to the Linga Longa Inn which we chose because – that name is so Australian. It was basic pub fare, nothing to write home about except the company. Afterwards we sat under the stars talking and laughing for hours. It was food the soul.

    Linga Longa

    After a delicious breakfast and a lot more talking, we headed back towards Newcastle. We stopped at the another  winery – Hollydane – which was gorgeous and I would love to have a long lunch there one day soon (Expect a blog post about that!). We tried some wine (and bought a couple of bottles) and when we were finished a family was taking off in their own private helicopter, which was fascinating to watch.

    We meandered back home after a lovely night away.

    It was a good reminder that sometimes all you need is a change of scene, lots of laughs and good friends to reinvigorate you.

  • Writers on Wednesday - Rose
    Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – a little writing update

    Writers on WednesdayAs much as I love having other people on my blog and I do, sometimes it’s good for me to pop back and give you an update on what’s happening in my writing life. I share a lot of this information on my social media and in my newsletter, but sometimes I forget I have a blog to share it as well! There are so many balls to juggle in a writer’s life.

    Since I’ve moved to my new home, I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to join two writers’ groups which I’ve done. One meets once a month, we have dinner at a club and then talk about writing romance for 2 hours. Such fun!  Many of the members I’d met already at various Romance Writers of Australia conferences over the years. That group is a mix of indie and traditionally published authors and indie authors, so there’s always lots to learn. The second one has largely met online because the members are more geographically spread and there’s slightly more of an indie focus with that group. I feel so lucky to have been included in both these groups and I’ve also met up with several of the authors to talk books over a coffee or a drink, which has made my transition to my new life so much easier.

    Meanwhile, I have Saltwater Wishes in hand and I’m getting ready to send it off to the editor next week. (If she’s reading this, she will be thrilled to know I’m on schedule for once!) It’s up on preorder for its end of May release.

    After that it’s back to work on Any Way You Wish It – I know several readers are waiting patiently for the 9th book in the Upper Crust Series after a wait of over 2 years. I’m writing Jacob’s story and it’s a redemption tale, so that’s always fun.

    We’re always at May which is also known as #ChickLitMay. If you’re on Facebook, please join us for the

    Annual Chicklit Hop.

    ChickLit May 2021
    #chicklitmay2021

    That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’m launching my new Travel Thursday meme here on the blog. Maybe we’re not going far these days, but many of my author friends allow us to travel vicariously through their books! Also, I’m doing a bit of local travel and discovery I’d love to start sharing with you.

  • Blog

    Writers on Wednesday – A Q&A with author Sophie Barlow

    Writers on Wednesday

    Today Sophie Barlow talks about the inspiration for her Swan Harbor series.

    1. What was the inspiration for your current novel?

    A swan. I find them to be fascinating and when I created my town of Swan Harbor, I began researching. There are ‘beliefs’ behind swans that revolve around hope and communication and purity. I’ve taken that and in several books have this: 

    “Swans are symbols of purity, beauty, grace and love. Some say when they are around, they help your communication with other people. Some say they are a sign of marital fidelity. And others say they combine the elements of air and water and embody eternal life. And what is the first step to forever?”

    Hope.

    And I’ve tied the ‘hope’ of the town and whether it can survive or not to a swan, Jonesy. He is first talked about in this Kittens, Puppies & Love. And then the story of hope plays out through five books. Swan Harbor’s Hope. 

     2. Why do you write in the genre you do?

    I love to read romance and mysteries. I also love interconnected stories where couples come in/out. A what better way to combine all of those then to write small town romantic mysteries.

    3. When did you take up writing? 

    I’ve always had an active imagination but after 30+years working w/ adult strokes, it is fun to jump into something totally different. 

    4. How important is setting/place in your writing?

    Huge. I have tried to set up my small town of Swan Harbor as a character in and of itself. I want people to want to live there and to be able to picture it in their heads. And as a visual person, I have created an interactive map on my website. It’s still a work in progress but fun. Some of the spots have ‘pictures’ of the owners and I talk about which I saw stories the place in.  Interactive map.


    5. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?

    I love Captain Jack. He’s an eccentric older guy who believes he can understand a swan and who seems to know what others need before they ask. And if I had to cast him, Sean Connery fits the image in my head.  

    6. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

    That each scene needs to push the plot. Don’t use the same words in a paragraph and/or to start each sentence. Read out loud when editing.  

    7. Do you have a schedule for writing?

    Whenever I can. If I’m in the middle of a book, I’ve been known to write all day. But I still work as a speech/language pathologist Tues/Wed/Thurs so those days, it’s a bit different. And lately, I’ve been trying to learn the marketing end, which means my writing has been limited to making notes. 

    8. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?

    Generally, I fly by the seat of my pants. I know the name of the characters and that’s about it. But if I get ‘ideas’ while writing another book, I jot notes. I also don’t write in order. In Hope, I wrote an ending scene before the beginning and then I wrote chapters 2-26 before I wrote chapter 1.

    9. Can you name three of four of your current favourite books? 

    This is hard because I am horrible at keeping track of titles. But I like just about anything by Nora Roberts. Same for Lisa Jackson. Shannon McKenna has series , The McCloud Brothers, that stand out in my mind.

    10. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?

    My next book is going to be pulling from a thread I left dangling in my first book, From Darkness into Love. And while it will have a story that has a beginning/end, inside of it there will be two other threads that lead into the next 5 books. (wish me luck)

    11. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?

    Start with fanfiction. You can get feedback and you don’t have to worry about creating the entire picture. Plus, you don’t have to worry about creating an entire story. It can be just scene or two. 

    Blurb:

    The word cloak means to cover, hide, or disguise. 
    Would you shed yours and expose your heart for love?

    Veterinarian Emma Foster arrives in Swan Harbor with her goal list in one hand and clinging to the many layers of her cloak with the other. But she didn’t anticipate the lure of the small town or the pull of a man’s magnetic blue eyes. Their potent combination threatens to derail her well-ordered plans. 

    Investigator Killian Reade has used his good looks, flirty talk, and sexy accent to layer masks over his true self. Until a flash of yellow peels off one. And the people of Swan Harbor add cracks in another. But when Emma looks through him, instead of at him, he’s forced to take a journey. One that has him searching for the man he’s meant to be. 

    As their barriers begin to fade, an off-hand comment made by Emma leads Killian to uncover disturbing behavior in their small town. When all is revealed, will they wrap the layers tighter or will they allow love in and set their hearts free?

    Buy Links Kittens, Puppies and LoveKittens Trailer  I also have a prequel novella that is free on my website as well as on StoryOrigin  Free Novella Guided by Light

    Social Links   https://sophiebartow.com/      https://linktr.ee/sophiebartow 

    Also, I’m part of an author group who just started a new FB group. We talk about books, movies, etc.  Adventures in Book Reading: Romance, Mystery & More  

    Author bio: Sophie is a married mother of four who has spent the last 30+ years as a Speech/Language Pathologist working with adult post-stroke patients. Now that her youngest (twin girls) are freshmen in college, it’s time for a new journey. I love books that have complex characters, romance, and a touch of mystery and strive to include those in all my stories.

  • Blog

    Let’s talk french cooking with Carolyn Eychenne, author of Sunrise over Paris

    Taste of Tuesday

    It’s Taste of Tuesday and today we’re off to Paris with

    Carolyn Eychenne, author of Sunrise over Paris

    Many of the readers of my novel Sunrise over Paris have written that they thought the daube in chapter 5 sounded good.  If you feel that way too, wait until you try the recipe below:  8-hour lamb.  Mine is bubbling away right now—we’re on the home stretch of the 8-hour marathon—and my house smells wonderful.  The last time I checked to see if there is enough cooking liquid, I sampled a little piece of meat and it, too, was wonderful.

    You might be thinking that 8 hours is a huge investment for a meal.  It’s not.  Not for the French and not for Stacey, the main character of my novel.  Food is an important part of Sunrise over Paris. Some of the key moments of the story occur over a meal: the fateful dinner in one of the opening scenes where we see Stacey’s, the heroine’s, difficult relationship with her husband and teenage children, the brief moment of harmony while dining on daube, the lunch during which Stacey watches the results of one of her revenge plots, and the luxurious brunch she shares with her two kids as they create a new, stronger, more adult bond.

    Stacey is a foodie, of course, but this is not an oddity in France.  Food is a big deal here.  The French invest a lot of time and energy in eating, at special holiday meals of course, but also every day.  Art de vivre, living so well it becomes an artform, does include everyday meals.  Cooked fresh when possible.  Always seasonal. Always balanced.

    What makes for a balanced meal à la française?

    First of all, three courses.  The starter (interestingly, it’s called l’entrée), the main dish (the entrée in English!), dessert.  Sometimes, there is cheese.  Not every day, but when there is, it comes between the main course and dessert.

    There are somewhere between 1,000 and 1,600 different varieties of cheese: cheese from cow, goat, and ewe’s milk are all standard fare.  Some are hard cheeses, some soft and crumbly, others very fresh and creamy.  Some are inoculated with mold (yes, that’s what gives Roquefort cheese its distinctive flavor), some are rolled in herbs, and others have inclusions, like a beautiful Brillat Savarin with truffles which I discovered only a year ago, despite living here for over 30 years.

    Until then, I didn’t really like truffles.  Now… Wow!

    As said earlier, the French don’t have cheese at the end of every meal. And they don’t have very much at a time.  While it’s completely acceptable to have seconds of the other courses, it’s considered rude to have seconds of cheese.  If you do, it’s a way of saying that your hostess hasn’t given you enough to eat.

    Like cheese, dessert isn’t an everyday thing either. At least, not the macarons or petits fours or éclairs au chocolat you’re thinking about right now.  Most days, dessert is a yogurt or a piece of fruit.  But it’s still called ‘dessert’ which can be disappointing for some of us.

    Entrée literally means entrance.  The same word is used for your front door, which makes it a logical name for the starter in a meal.  In traditional French cuisine, a salad is fine for every day, but not something you would serve to company.  Depending on your guests, you might prepare a terrine with a little salad on the side, some lox with buttered toast and lemon wedges, or vol au vent, a little basket made from puff pastry in which you serve snails or shellfish in a creamy bechamel sauce.

    By the way, soupe à l’oignon with its croutons and cheese melting on top is not as common as you might think. I’ve had it many times in restaurants, but never in anyone’s home other than my own.  And, since I’m American-born, that might not count.

    After the starter, the main dish.  This can look like a typical American meal—meat or fish, cooked vegetable and rice, pasta or potato.  Or this can be a plat en sauce, a stew-like dish, which combines the meat and vegetable in one dish which is then served over rice or pasta.  The daube which Stacey cooks in Sunrise over Paris is an example of this.  You might also know boeuf bourguignon or blanquette de veau.  One of my favorite meals is pot-au-feu, literally pot in the fire, because it used to be made in a large cast-iron dutch oven in the coals of the family fireplace. Several different cuts of beef, leeks, carrots, turnips, onions and potatoes all cook together for several hours, creating an amazing broth which you eat as the starter before having the meat and vegetable along with kosher salt, pickles and Dijon mustard for the main course.

    Second only to 8-hour lamb.

    Which brings me back to the recipe.  Please try—and let me know how you like it.  If you overcook it, forgetting it for 11 hours instead of 8, you can always say that you preferred the French author Colette’s recipe to mine! 

    By Carolyn Eychenne

    The recipe:  8-hour lamb

    1 leg of lamb (about 5 pounds)

    3 carrots (I use 4 – 5)

    3 onions

    2 small leeks (I use 4)

    ½ celeriac

    3 cloves

    1 “bouquet garni” (parsley, bay leaf, thyme, celery branch)

    1 entire head of garlic

    10 peppercorns

    2 tablespoons salt

     

    Brown the leg of lamb in a cast iron Dutch oven.  Take out, reserve.

    On the bottom of the Dutch oven, place all the vegetables peeled and chopped into 1-2” sized pieces. Add the garlic, bouquet garni and seasonings. Put the leg of lamb back on top.

    Add water to cover the vegetables but only just touching the lamb.

    Cover and simmer for 8 hours, checking every so often that there is enough liquid. Add if necessary.

    To serve:  Remove the lamb and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Remove the vegetables and place in a strainer over the Dutch oven (the idea is to catch the cooking juices). Handle them carefully so they retain their shape.

    Increase the temperature under the Dutch oven to bring the cooking juices to a boil. Reduce.

    Serve the leg of lamb covered in this sauce with the vegetables on the side. The lamb is so tender, you might have a hard time cutting it!

    sunrise over paris

    Sunrise Over Rise Blurb:

    What would you do if you found out your husband was cheating on you?
    When Stacey Dupont, an American in Paris, learns that her French husband has been cheating, her happy life crumbles and obsession begins.  Stalking and revenge lead to surprising results!  With Paris as the backdrop and the River Seine playing a main role, Sunrise over Paris follows Stacey on her surprising, emotional, and sometimes zany journey of personal discovery across the City of Light.

    Get it here

     You can learn more about Carolyn here: 
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    www.carolyneychenne.com

     

    About Carolyn

    Carolyn Eychenne is an author of fiction and non-fiction works. Sunrise over Paris is her first novel but not the first book she has published, the other being a French-language book about digital platforms. It led her back to her true love, writing.

    Not quite “an American in Paris,” Carolyn Eychenne has lived most of her adult life in the suburbs of Paris, after growing up in southern California.

    Note from Monique: Please comment below and let me know if you made Carolyn’s recipe or what your favorite French meal is.