A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers with Savory Scones

34093599I don’t have the skills to impress upon the page the level of joy I felt when I saw that Joanna Chambers was back with a historical romance, all I can say is that the joy was substantial.  Joanna’s Enlightenment Series is one of my absolute favorites. Her writing just works for me. Her novels are exquisitely set, they always have pointed commentary on the issues of the time, and most importantly her love stories are gorgeous to read.

“A Gathering Storm” is exactly the kind of novel I have come to expect from JC, smart, well researched, and with a solid and lovely romance. But, before I get to the review, I’ll share the recipe!

What could I make for this story? A historical sent in Britain…Scones, of course! I love me a good scone and I don’t think I’ve read a novel by Joanna that does not feature a delicious scone at some point, so I thought it would be fitting. So, I made savory Wild Ramps (wild ramps are a wild spring onion that grows here in the Northeast, it is also know as wild leek in some places) and Gruyere scones to go with this book, and I know I am biased, but they are to die for.  Delicious, crumbly and the subtle garlic/onion taste of the ramps with the Gruyere is just YUM. I made a double batch and it they did not last through the day…

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Now the book…As I said before I think Joanna Chambers is one of the best historical romance writers out there. What I loved about this story, in particular,  is that she gives us two heroes with a lot of insecurities and a bit of callousness, but who  are so genuine in their search for ways to be good to each other. I love a story where people are just people, you know? Most of us would like to think that in the face of certain circumstances, true love or adversity, we will be our better selves, but the reality is that most times, we are just our human selves. That does not mean we are not truly questing to be the best we can be for the one we love.

So Ward and Nick…Ward is fixated on finding a way to gain some connection to his dead brother, even when it comes at the cost of his own reputation. He is adrift without his brother and losing the one person who made him feel known. Nick has never belonged anywhere, his mother, the only person who he had a real connection to is now gone, an he is also adrift.  Finding each other gives both Nick and Ward a place to be anchored.  And yet, they are so different, their birth and stations in life are so distant from each other.

One of the things I love about this novel, is that is does not sugarcoat the disparity between Nick and Ward. They were born to very different circumstances, and this has shaped their worldview.  Nick is guarded and cautious, because he knows a man like him is at the mercy of the will of those who have a higher station than him. Ward expects the world to bend to his will.  Yet, they can still fill the empty spaces in each other. What made this novel so good for me, was how true the emotions felt. It was almost like that supernatural plane that Ward was so preoccupied with was always there for him to find, he just had to fall in love.

Lots to love here, the happy ending is locked tight, the erotica is solid and the book will read again very nicely I reckon…So, get the book and make some scones!

For the recipe:

Wild Ramps and Gruyere Scones (Adapted from Not Derby Pie Blog)

1 3/4 cup flour, plus some extra for rolling
1 tablespoon & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup chopped ramps (or very finely chopped chives)
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing scones
1/4 cup buttermilk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Put bowl in freezer for 5 minutes to chill the flour. Then beat the mixture on low speed if using a mixer) until the butter is broken up into pebble-sized pieces, about 3 minutes.

Add the cheese and ramps. Then pour heavy cream and buttermilk into the bowl and mix just until dough comes together. Scone dough can be very sticky, so make sure you have a well floured surface to knead. Don’t knead too long, just enough to get the dough into a ball. Mold the dough into one or two disks, and refrigerate about 2 hours or stick in the freezer for 15 minutes.
IMG_0170Preheat oven to 375. Roll out disk on lightly floured surface to form one 7-inch round or two 3-4-inch rounds. Cut 12 slices from the large round or 6 wedges from each of the smaller rounds, and arrange on a baking sheet (no need to leave much room between the scones). Brush with cream (this will aid the browning process).

Bake about 20 minutes, until golden on top and browned on the bottom. Serve warm with some butter, I also had a bit of ramp pesto at hand and it was delicious.

Enjoy the book and the scones! Come back and let me know how they turned out!

You can buy “A Gathering Storm” HERE.

You can read about, and buy Joanne Chambers back list HERE.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Enlightened (Enlightment #3) by Joanna Chambers and Buckwheat, Blueberry and Maple Scones.

enlightenedOh this series…What can I even say? I loved it, and this last book in the trilogy might have been my favorite. Joanna Chambers is the real deal when it comes to historical romance. Not only is she on the money when it comes to setting, language, and character development…She completely captures all the nuances that really engage those of us who love period romances. This third and final novel was the PERFECT ending to one of my favorite historicals to date. Murdo and David literally walk into the sunset, and everything about letting them go felt right. It is rare that I finish a series that I love as much as this one and don’t feel like I need more. This was just right. David and Murdo were is such a good place at the close of this book, that the only thing I had to give was a happy sigh.

For this book I wanted to do something that I could see Murdo and David sharing at a meal. I loved the scenes of the two of them having a breakfast at Laverock House, so I came up with a delicious scones recipe that I am 100% sure they would be all over. Buckwheat, blueberry and Maple scones to be enjoyed with LOTS and LOTS of sweet cream butter.

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Back to the story. We come back to Scotland a few months after David suffered a serious injury while helping his friend Elizabeth escape her abusive husband. David has been recovering at Murdo’s home, Laverock House since then. The months living with Murdo have been the best of his life, he has been whole in ways he never thought he could be. But he knows it can’t last. He has to go back to Edinburgh and his practice, and Murdo has his obligations too. It has been so good to have him all to himself, but it will be over soon, how can it not, men like them don’t get to have that kind of happy ending. The thought of walking away from what he has now is too painful to talk about though. Murdo on his part is torn because he is unsure what David is thinking. He doesn’t want to push, because their happiness just seems so fragile, but he wishes he could make promises and say things that will help them both feel like whatever it is they have stands on solid ground. If there could only be a way to convince David that they could make things work in the long term.

However news from Edinburgh that his friend and mentor, Chalmers, might no have long to live, make the decision of returning to the real world one  David can delay no longer. Once they arrive there, they realize that the situation with Elizabeth is still not fully resolved. When Chalmers requests from his deathbed that David go to London and make sure that Elizabeth is safe from ther husband for goood, David does not hesitate. Murdo on his part will not let David, who is still recovering, make that journey alone. So, they head to Murdo’s London home, hoping they can put to rest any possible danger for their friend. Pretty soon it becomes clear that Elizabeth’s husband is not going to go away easily, things escalate quickly and they have to act fast before tragedy strikes.

What I loved best about this series, other than Murdo and David who were magnificent, was the accuracy and coherence of the setting. I really enjoy a historical that is authentic and educating. David and Murdo were both men of their time and their own class, and they acted accordingly ALWAYS. It made their story so much more genuine, they both acted and made decisions based on their circumstances, which made every step they made toward their happy ending that much more solid. There was some ambivalence and a lot of insecurity that happened on both their parts, that’s true, but for me that made complete sense. For men of their time to even contemplate having what they both wanted was not only unlikely, but it was dangerous even for someone with Murdo’s means. When it comes down to it, they both would have to walk away from a lot to be able to be together, the question is how much they were willing to leave behind to have a future.

Again, this trilogy is in my absolute favorites list and definitely one of the best historicals I’ve read in any genre. I really hope Joanna Chambers is just getting warmed up, because I want A LOT more from her.

Totally and completely recommend.

Enlightened will be released tomorrow on Samhain and is available for pre-order here.

Buckwheat, Blueberry and Maple Scones

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet

Makes 8 medium scones

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted Earth Balance buttery spread , in 1/2″ pieces
about 1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for sprinkling


If using fresh berries, rinse and dry them, then place them in a loaf pan or pie plate in a single layer and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle), combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the butter, and work in with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or mix on low with paddle attachment) until the butter has broken down into tiny bits with some larger, pea-sized chunks remaining.

photo 1 (6)Use a rubber spatula to gently stir in the frozen berries. Begin drizzling in the cream, tossing gently with the spatula (or a plastic bench scraper or your hands), adding cream directly to the dry bits, until the dough will hold together and no floury bits remain.

Gently press the dough into a ball and place on a surface dusted lightly with buckwheat flour. Pat the dough into a 6″ round that is 1 1/4″ high. Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Place the scones evenly apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. (At this point, you can wrap and freeze the scones to bake off later.)

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Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper-center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Remove the scones from the freezer, brush with cream and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.

Bake the scones until they are golden-brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove immediately from the pan to prevent from sticking. Let cool until warm as the scones are still cooking from residual heat. Serve warm with butter and extra berries.

The scones will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature. For most delectable results, re-heat in an oven or toaster oven before serving.

Hope you enjoy the book and the scones!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura