ePistols at Dawn by Z.A. Maxfield and my take on Pozole Verde

epistols at dawnFor some reason I’m not completely sure of, I had not yet read Epistols at Dawn by Z.A. Maxfield. Not only am I a HUGE fan of her books, but I happen to LOVE episolary stories. There are few things I find more charming than a story of two people getting to know each other at a distance. The excitment of getting a new email or letter. Reading i,  and uncovering new things you didn’t know about the other person. I’ve always had a soft spot for a story like that. This story had charm to spare, and it was also thought provoking. This book was published in 2009, and in the course of the story California went from gay marriage being legal to having it revoked. Marriage equality, mental illness, fandom, privacy,the trials of growing older, friendship, courage, cowardice, all these things and more are touched upon in this novel, with what I thought was true wisdom. I am really glad this book managed to slip by me actually and that I  didn’t read it until now. I don’t think I would have appreciated what a wonderfully rich story it is early on during my compulsive reading days.

For this book I actually made a recipe which isn’t precisely a full match for the story, but I had wanted to make this recipe for another ZAM book  I reviewed and did not have time. So for Epistols at Dawn, I made a super easy and hearty version of Pozole Verde. Pozole is a soup made with hominy corn, and it has a very rich and unique flavor. My version is a vegan and gluten free recipe,  but it does not lack in taste at all. I paired it with an Italian white table wine, which is reminiscent of a viognier. It was not what it expected when I bought it, but it went well with the spiciness of the pozole. The wine I chose is a  Piccini Memoro White table wine, its a heady wine and very full for a white. I got a bottle for $7.99 on sale, but it usually goes for about $12.00, I would buy this again for sure, I really liked it with the meal.

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Back to the story…All the trouble starts with a bet. Kelly Mackay, author, screenwriter and recluse, loses a bet to his houseboy (yes, houseboy) and has to write a smut filled parody of his own book. The book, Doorways, is a coming of age novel which he wrote while in college, under the name Kieran Anders. It is his only published novel, the book  and he have become a sort of pop culture myth. The book has enormous significance to gay men, it is a pained tale that many a young man can relate to, during their own agonizing time to come out to the world.  Kelly knew he was sort of messing with something sacred, but what the heck?! It had been twenty years! The whole thing was sort of fun to be honest. Specially since it made said houseboy, Will Lanier, all purpose twink extraoridnaire and his BFF, super happy.

It’s all fun and games until you piss of a gigantic Korean journalist…Jae-Sun Fields is NOT a happy camper. He is convinced some insane pseudo-erotica lady writer has taken the most important book he’s ever read and turned it into a mockery.  Porn with plot is what this parody is, Windows ( and who even thinks THAT play one words is even clever?!). He can barely contain he’s anger, and oh he’s on a mission to find out who this impostor is!!! He won’t stop until he unmasks this Kelly Kendall person. Since he works for a newspaper that has made a name for itself by ‘outing’ those who wish to hide their truth, Jae gets to work to try and find out who this lady is. He starts by sending messages to Kelly under the guise of crazy fangirl, SBerry Fields. Apparently everyone involved in Gay love stories from authors, to readers to publishers are all women…WHO WOULDA KNOWN?! The whole fandom thing is completely puzzling, bue Jae can bullshit with the best of them and pretty soon, he and Kelly Kendall are veritable pen pals. The thing is the guy (I mean LADY!) is kind of awesome, funny and clever and surprisingly introspective. Before very long Jae is looking forward to new messages from Kelly, and enjoying their exchanges more and more. Actually the conversations with Kelly are one of the few things in his life which he is finding genuinely exciting. Jae is finding his job harder and harder to do, mostly because it feels like there are too many instances these days when he is toeing the line of his ethics and moral compass.

Then something bad happens and he realizes just how much he has already crossed it…

The apparent suicide of famous Hollywood actor Hunter Leighton is all over the news, and surprisingly Will has taken the news particularly bad. The man was outed by a newspaper about a year ago, and apparently things did not go well for him after that. Kelly feels terrible for Will, he is not sure what Will past was like, but he also knows that the boy rarely expresses any strong feelings at all, and to see his strong, brave friend so sad makes him want to do whatever he can to make it better. Kelly uses his connections in the industry to attend Leighton’s funeral. Once they are there they run into the reporter who was tied to Hunter when he was outed. The guy is HUGE and HOT, and is totally rocking the gothy/mysterious look. He makes Kelly’s mouth go dry with want. It’s been awhile since he’s even looked twice at someone, much less have enough interest that he is willing to go outside his VERY small comfort zone. But this guy in particular he just screams out DANGER. For Kelly who is almost crippled by the thought of losing his anonimity, getting close to this man would not be wise. Things are about to change, somehow, he can feel it, but can he change with them? Can he really be brave enough to reach out for a chance at love?

I enjoyed the romance between Jae and Kelly, not because it was epic or intense, but because they had missteps and setbacks. They had all kinds of twists and turns in their coming together, but all different ways in which life pulled them back to each other seemed to strong to deny in the end.  There was also plenty of humor,  from all the characters, not just from Jae and Kelly, but from Kelly and Will.  This book in many ways had  the feel of a 1950s Rom Com. A lot of fantastic dialogue, lots of misunderstandings and comic relief that came just at the right time. I loved Will’s character, and thought he added a lot to the story. I like that ZAM goes for the unconventional in her stories when it comes to relationship dynamics at times. Will and Kelly were a unit in ways, and Jae had to accept that dynamic if he wanted to be in Kelly’s life.

As humorous as this story was, there was a strong commentary, even personally the book touched aspects of my own life that I don’t regularly stop to think about. Like what is my role in the online community as a reader/reviewer? What it really means to stand for a cause? Is it enough to support quietly or is it our duty to stand in the light and say it?

In the end this was a satisfying  love story for me. I thought the way ZAM played out their coming together made sense, and I specially appreciated that none of it was magically resolved. A really great book, and one I am glad I picked up now. I think my views of myself as a romance reader, and about this community have evolved a lot since I came to is a few years ago, so I can appreciate the ironic humor in all of it, and really applaud her for going there!

I certainly recommend this one. ePistols at Dawn is available for purchase at Amazon.

Pozole Verde

1 28 and 2 14.5 oz  cans of White Hominy drained

1 28 oz can of Tomatillos drained

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used Del Monte Zesty Jalapeno)

1/2 red onion cut into large chunks

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/4 cup of fresh cilantro

1 Large Poblano pepper roasted

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon of Ancho Chili Powder (if you have it)

2 cups of vegetable broth

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 cups of uncooked rice (cook the rice separately)

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Directions

In a dutch oven or stock pot, add the olive oil, once it’s hot sautee the onion and garlic for a few minutes. Once they are well cooked then add the tomatillos and the diced tomatoes. With the heat still high add the cilantro and the spices. Wait until it comes to a boil and then lower the heat and cover. Cooke covered for about 30 minutes. Stir so the soup doesn’t stick. Once that has cooked, take of the heat, add the deveined and seeded poblano pepper to the pot and blend with w hand held blender. Once it s very well blended then pour the mixture into a slow cooker, add the hominy to it and cook on high for three hours.

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Take of the lid for the last hour. Serve your pozole with warm tortillas, lime wedges, avocado, a scoop of rice and radish slices on the side.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. This soup is absolutely delicious, totally vegan and gluten free. So nice on these winter nights.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

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Grime Doesn’t Pay by Z.A. Maxfield with Black Bean and Corn Tamales, and a gorgeous French Rose.

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This is the second book in the Grime Brothers series, and it’s Eddie story. He is the second of the three friends we met in the first book, Grime and Punishment, who own an industrial cleaning service in Fullerton, Calirfornia. The tone in this book like in the previous one was a little serious, but this one was not as dark and Jack an Ryan’s story. I really liked the love story and Eddie might give a Tristan a run for his money for my all time favorite Z.A. Maxfield character. I loved him. He was so earnest, and so so deeply kind, I just wanted him to feel adored.

For this story I asked ZAM what I should make for her guys, and she recommended tamales…Her wish is my command, and so I made me some Mexican holiday goodness. I made  Black Bean and Corn Tamales that came out AMAZING. Tamales are naturally gluten free, and with the vegan filling, a delish addition to holiday meals. I paired them with a light, fruity french Rose that could not be a better choice for the spicy and fresh  flavors of the tamales.  The 2012 La Veille Ferme Rose from Cotes Du Ventoux winery is a Granache, Syrah and Cinsault ble,d. It’s got a strong cherry base, with brown sugar undertones, making it very flavorful and lovely to sip well chilled. At $8.99 a bottle. it’s great value as well.

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Now back to the story…Eddie has had a crush on his niece’s First grade teacher ALL YEAR. B Andrew Daley is pretty much tailor made for Eddie. He’s all the things that he wants in one package. He’s hot for teacher, no doubt. He’s just so unsure of himself around Andrew. The guy is always talking about books, and asking Eddie stuff that makes him feel UNCOMFORTABLE. Eddie has a serious learning disability, and reading really isn’t and option for him. He’s always approached his dyslexia like a dragon he is constantly slaying, he HAS overcome it, but it makes him self-conscious. He is afraid that Andrew might see him differently if he ever finds out.

One day dropping off his niece, Eddie’s old teacher, Mrs. Henderson, shows up at the school looking disoriented, and not making any sense. She’s seems to be delusional and Eddie comes to her aid instantly, that was the lady that saved his life in school. The one person who figured out that Eddie just needed to be taught differently. Eddie coming to the rescue gives Mr. Daley the opportunity to finally makes his move and ask him out. From that first date (despite the awful movie),  it is very clear to both of them that they make a good pair. They are meant to be together. They just FIT, perfectly. The thing is they both have A LOT  baggage they drag around. Andrew’s dad has a serious hoarding issue, and he’s so scared for anyone to know. He’s embarrassed that his dad has let things get that out of control, and he’s so frightened he might end up that way too.

Things are so uncertain they just are both so unsure of what they other will do if they see all the bad stuff they bring with them to the relationship.

“Will you still love me tomorrow?”

That’s the big question for them both, and the only way to find out , is to open up, and hope that they can both be strong enough to move forward despite the challenges. I enjoyed Eddie so much, he was so steady. Andrew was a hot mess a lot of the time, and Eddie did not let him thing even for a minute that he would be scared off. He made him see, what it was like to be with a person that he could count on. They were sweet, and oh so very hot. This was a very nice read  all in all, and I am very much looking forward to the angsty wreck that will be Gabe and Dave in the next book.

The lovely Ms. Maxfield sent me the playlist she used for inspiration writing the story, and that was super fun to listen to while writing my review…Here is a list of the songs.

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Z.A. Maxfield is beyond  a sure thing for me, and I totally recommend this one. Grime Doesn’t Pay is for sale here.

Now the food…

Black Bean and Corn Tamales

For the masa:

3 cups MASECA®

3/4 tsp. Salt

1/2 tbsp. Baking powder

2/3 cups Vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance)

4 cups Vegetable broth

For filling:

1 14.5oz can of Organic Black Beans

1 cup of frozen sweet corn

1 small onion chopped

1 small can of Herdez Salsa Ranchera 

1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a not skillet put the oil and saute onions for about two minutes, add beans, corn and salsa to the mix. Cook at medium heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the beans.

15 dry corn husks (soak corn husks in warm water for at least 10 minutes before you start assembling tamales)

Directions: Combine all the ingredients for the masa, adding the broth last, until it’s slightly sticky. Just spread some of the dough over a corn husk. You want the dough about 1/4″ thick, and make sure you spread it as far across that corn husk as possible. It give you more room for the roll-up.

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Once you have your tamales rolled up tie on both ends with strips of the corn husks. Once they are prepared, steam them on for about one hour, then serve.

YUM!

YUM!

These are insanely delicious and super great with the Rose I chose today. Enjoy while reading about Andrew and Eddie!

Cheers and Happy Reading.