Highfell Grimoires by Langley Hyde and Lemon Lavender Cakelets w Lemon Lavender Curd Filling and a Limoncello Spritzer

highfellYou know when you read a book and you KNOW, like deep inside of you that you are in on something amazing? That you are reading something important. That’s how I felt reading this book, like “Wow, I’m one of the first people reading this book, and this book is going to BLOW PEOPLE AWAY.” That’s what I was thinking throughout Highfell Grimoires, from the moment I started reading I knew I was in for something remarkable. Let’s start with the genre, the book is a Steampunk novel, and without exaggerating even a little bit I can say it is the best one I’ve read in this genre, full stop. Second, it channeled some serious Victorian Gothic magic, think Brontë, think Poe, think Dickens…Think BIG, because that is exactly what the writing in this novel was. The excellent world building, the intriguing characters, twisted and fascinating foes, vulnerable and noble heroes, the piercing look at class, inequality, justice, gender biases, misogynistic societal norms, hypocrisy, kindness, love, loyalty, friendship, higher causes, greater good…The whole enchilada my friends. This novel HAS IT ALL…And then THEN, there’s Neil, Leofa and their boys.

Where do I even start? Because seriously if I wasn’t a happily married woman I would have proposed to Langley Hyde about a third into this book. But I digress, let’s talk food and drink, before I dive into the book. Like I said this book is steampunk, and set in a place very reminiscent of Victorian England (with a twist!), given the setting there is a lot of High Teas and such going on in the book. So, I wanted to make something that grooved with that as well as, something the heroes would love. I decided on Lemon Lavender Cakelets with Lemon Curd filling and a Prosecco/Limoncello Spritzer. This was  bit of a labor intensive recipe, I admit, but it paid off beautifully. It’s one of the best things I’ve made. For the cocktail I infused a bottle of limoncello with lavender buds for about 10 days and it gave the spritzer a lovely flavor. I used the Cupcake brand prosecco, which is nice and dry, with lovely hint of lemon, PERFECT for this cocktail, a bottle goes for about $11.

photo 3Now the story…Neil Franklin’s life has been taken away from him. After his parent’s accidental death him and his sister are suddenly faced with a crippling family debt, and to repay it he agrees to leave the city of Herrow and his studies, to become a teacher at his uncle’s charity boarding school for boys. The school is up in an eatherium, estates that float in the air powered by aether. So he will have to leave his sister in the care of his uncle. As much as Neil loves those big floating ship-like structures in the sky, and the excitement of possibly taking part in forming young minds, he is low, because he knows he will never be able to pay the debt he owes, and his sister’a future might be in jeopardy as much as his.

Things get grimmer the moment he arrives at the school, the conditions there are less then optimal, and his students seems to be a group of disreputable urchins…And that’s not not the worst of it, the Nobsnippes, the family who runs the school seem to be pretty shady characters. Neil is not sure what he’s gotten himself into, but the more he learns of the conditions he is to live in the more he despairs. Then he meets Leofa, the “garderner” for the school who he is supposed to be roommates with (the horror), not only is the whole thing unseemly and completely below someone’s Neil social status, but Leofa makes him jumpy. He is all kinds of mysterious and confusing. He is a bit rough with Neil, yet so kind and gentle with the boys. He goes out of his way to feed them and care for them as much as he can…He is also big and beautiful, and that out of everything is the very worst part. Neil cannot have feelings for this man, it is not well regarded for two men to be “involved” and besides he’s not too sure if “gardening” is really what Leofa is getting up to wherever he spends his days…As a matter of fact some of the boys are going in there too and coming back hurt. None of this is Neil’s problem though, he cannot get attached to the boys or Leofa, what he needs is to find a way to get out of the situation he is in, the whole thing is beneath him. Not at all what he signed for, the Nobsnippes give him the creeps, they are nasty people, the boys are barely manageable and then there’s the sleeping arrangement with Leofa…Neil is in over his head, that is for sure!

From the voice (Neil is our narrator in first person POV), to the world, the characters, the toys, flying machines, intrigue, magic, secrets and romance this book was LUSCIOUS. Visually the world is gorgeous, my mind was working overtime to keep up with flying aetheriums,  victorian dresses a la Tim Burton, and magical books secured with hazardous bloodlocks. Neil, like all the others, is a wonderfully developed character. He is so much a man of his time, but he has an ingrained sense of nobility and fairness, he is attached to his place in society and what it has provided for him, but he understands the injustices that exist in his world. When he is faced with the conditions which the boys he grows to care about are forced to live in, out the carelessness of others he struggles with that. He struggles with the reality that a good man like Leofa is forced to work for pennies by nasty people because of circumstances that were not his doing. It is an unfair world, and it shames him that he has never paid much  attention to it before.

Then of course is what he finds in Leofa and those boys. He finds his heart and his purpose. What had never seemed important before becomes paramount, because soon he realizes that these boys and that man are important, not just to him, but they are important because they ARE. Strange things are happening and he fears they might all be in danger, nothing seems to be like he thought it was. Seems like Neil may have been living in the clouds before he got up on the aetherium, ironically, but he’s never been a coward and now is not the the time to start when his, Leofa’s, the boys and his sister’s fate are in the balance.

I won’t go into the mystery or magic because that was such a wonderful part of this book, that I will leave you to discover it yourselves. This story is nothing but goodness, the heroes are brave and valiant, the villains are twisted and grotesque…The archetypes are done exquisitely. The romance between Neil and Leofa is subtle and understated but no less was powerful and moving. I did not miss the erotica (although there were intimate moments), for me the big payoff  for me came from getting to know them and their world. Not that there is not enough in their love story to make one swoon, because THERE IS! It’s a read like you don’t run across very often.

I cannot say enough good things, if I could I would make reading this novel mandatory. For steampunk and fantasy fans this is required reading. For fans of Victorian novels, also a MUST…And if you are fan of good books with good writing, go buy this book NOW.

Effusively and enthusiastically recommend. I hope beyond all hope there is a lot more from Langley Hyde coming our way in the near future, I especially hope that this one not the last form Neil, Leofa and their gang.

Highfell Grimoires will be released by Blind Eye Books and it is available for pre-order here.

For a free copy of Highfell Grimoires comment below or tweet me @readingtipsy and let me know what your favorite decadent dessert is!

Lemon-Lavender Pound Cakelets, with Lemon-Lavender Curd with Whipped Cream Topping

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet

Be sure to use organic, culinary lavendar for these cakes. I got 4oz on Amazon for about $8.00.

For the cakes:
1 cup organic sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender buds (ground in coffee grinder or vitamix)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter (or vegan butter spread), softened
zest of two lemons (preferably Meyers)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup of almond milk with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

Grind the lavender buds with the sugar in a coffee grinder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, ground lavender, butter and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined, scraping as needed.

photo 1In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, add half the dries, mix until combined. Add the buttermilk (or almond milk mixture), mix to combine, and then add the rest of the dries. Give the batter a final fold with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly mixed, then divide the batter among the 10 muffin cups. 

Bake the cupcakes, rotating once halfway through the baking time, for 20 – 25 minutes. The tops should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger, and a tester should come out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Lemon-Lavender Curd

This recipe makes about 1 cup of curd, which is twice what you will need to fill the cakes. .
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender buds
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
2 ounces (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, in 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half
pinch salt

Directions:
In a small saucepan, heat the zest, juice and buds to just below a simmer. Cover and let steep for 10 or 20 minutes, once they have steeped strain out the buds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg and yolks to combine. Bring the lemon juice mixture back to a bare simmer, and, whisking constantly, slowly pour into the egg mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the sides, bottom, and corners of the pot.

Cook until thickened to the consistency of gravy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and immediately whisk in the cold butter, cream and salt until combined. Strain through a fine mesh seive and into a small bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd, and chill in the refrigerator until needed. The curd will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

photo 2Lemon Lavender Whipped Cream

1 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon of ground lavender

Directions:

Put the cream and vanilla on mixer and whip on medium for about a minute, once it starts thickening put on high until you see high peaks. Once you are done, fold in the zest and lavender.

To assemble the cakes:

Remove the paper lining once the cakes are cook. Carefully cut the cakelets across the center, spoon the lemon curd onto the bottom half then cover with the top. Put a dollop of the cream on top of each cakelet.

photo 5For the cocktail:

If you infused the limoncello, make sure you use a strainer to pour it onto a bowl or glass. Pour about one tablespoon of limoncello on a champagne flute and top with chilled prosecco.

I really do hope you give this book a try, I completely loved and think Langley Hyde is one of the most promising new voices in the genre. The cakes were kind of a special project, so I wouldn’t be offended if the challenge to make them is not taken up!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

Advertisements

Guest Post: Rhys on her Boys’ Toys,The Machines of Clockwork Tangerine

ClockworkTangerineLG

When the Tipsy Reader pinged me and said; “Hey, you know what would be cool for you to write about? The mechanicals Robin Harris creates in Clockwork Tangerine?” My first thought was, “Damn did I write about enough of them?”

And yeah, there were a few things I thought—you know, those would be good to talk about.

One mechanical object making an appearance in the novella actually plays a significant role although it does so off screen—well except for showing up on the cover; because it does that nicely.

It is the Skitter.

It has another name but that’s the term the general public came up with following its deadly appearance. A flying burrower, the skitter, was invented by a very young Robin Harris—and then used by a shadowy organization called the Heretic Society to sow chaos throughout the British Empire. Following the Society’s eradication, inactive or dud skitters were discovered. Oftentimes, something would trigger one, and it would complete its original mission; assassinating the nearest person.

In one case, this person was Marcus’ father, a duke giving a speech in the Saint Francisco Parliament.

The reader never actually sees this event, but it’s one that shapes both of the heroes’ lives. Marcus loses his beloved father but at the same time, this loss leaves him with a purpose of being. He is a man of his word and with strong ethics—which are tested when he rescues his father’s unintentional murderer, Robin Harris, from what could have been a fatal beating.

Robin, however, has spent his time since being betrayed by the Society rebuilding his life and also, trying to contribute to a world he nearly helped take down. Other mechanicals he created during the story include gyro-magical prosthesis limbs and a working eye replacement, although how well it works isn’t determined because well, issues.

Now packing this into a novella was difficult. Novellas, by their very nature, deal more with themes than characterization which makes building unforgettable and loveable characters difficult. What do you sacrifice in a story this short? I tried to sacrifice very little, and hoped I provided a good glimpse at these men who fall in love, despite the blood shed between them and the British social rules that keep their love hidden.

Building a steampunk world is not without its dangers. Too much “world” leaves the reader without a sense of people inside of it yet focusing solely on the characters means there’s not a whiff of that golden tea flavor one should get in an alternate universe story. In the end though, it is about these two men—Marcus and Robin.

I want to visit them again soon, and hope you’ll come with me.

Clockwork Tangerine Blurb

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

Order Clockwork Tangerine at: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4718

I’m Rhys Ford. I am an author and also a reader. You can find me at the following places:

My Blog: http://www.rhysford.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhys.ford.author

Twitter: @Rhys_Ford

And at the Starbucks down the street. No really, they’re 24/7. And a drive-thru. It’s like heaven.

My books can be purchased, folded and first chapters read at Dreamspinner Press. http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford and a Tasty Tempranillo

ClockworkTangerineLGRhys does steampunk…And she does it well. It is hard to believe Rhys Ford hadn’t dabbled in this genre yet. Her mind is so creative and her writing so vivid. Her style just seems like a match made in heaven for this genre. In this story she takes us to her beloved Bay Area.  San Francisco, actually, St. Francisco. We go to the city when it was part of the British Commonwealth. She takes us right into the thick of things, Little Orient, where our heroes have their fateful meeting. From the get go we are taken into a delightful adventure, with a good dose of political intrigue, very engaging characters (fiesty Dowager included!) and a vivid setting.  Marcus Stenhill, the Viscount of Westwood, happens upon a man receiving a terrible beating while on an errand in Little Orient. Marcus being a man who won’t sit idly while a gang of four, beat on a single man when he is down, comes to the fellow’s rescue. The man Marcus rescues should be his foe, a mortal enemy. Even though they have never faced each other their histories are bound in a sinister way. Robin Harris had a part in Marcus’ father murder, indirect, but a part nonetheless. He should hate him, but instead is flumoxed by his desire for the man. Things won’t be easy…Not only are his unnatural desires criminal in the commonwealth, but Robin himself is a marked man. Pursuing anything with him may be too much folly, even for someone with Marcus’ influence and wealth.

For the men of Clockwork Tangerine I chose a lovely Spanish Tempranillo, which if not a super popular wine in most of the British Empire, certainly a common one to find in territory so close to the Spanish Empire’s holding a bit to the South. The 2011 Dacu Tempranillo from the Ribera del Guadiana in Spain, is an absolute WINNER.  It is very earthy and smooth with a distinct flavoring that will appeal to Zinfandel lovers. At about $10.00, you cannot go wrong with this bottle.

photo (5)

Now back to the story…Once Marcus takes on rescuing Robin, he goes all the way. He takes Robin back to his house, and does not leave his side until he is recovered. From the moment Marcus steps into Robin’s home he can see that the inventions which were taken and bastardized by the Society to bring down the Empire were not the last Robin’s mind had to give. There are all kinds of magical contraptions all over the house. Harris has apparently successfully developed prosthetics that are aiding people to walk and see. Marcus is enthralled. By the time Robin comes around a few weeks later after the beating, Marcus is a mainstay in his life.

Robin is taken aback by the kindness, by the presence of the man. Of all people, Marcus should loathe him, yet he gives him nothing but gentleness. There is also the issue of the man’s beauty. Robin can barely take being close to him without working himself up to complete discombobulation. Robin just does not understand what the man could be after…Maybe he feels the same, there have been hints here and there…But, but…No it can’t be, there is no way possible that someone as tainted as he could end up with a man like Marcus in his bed and a life of happiness. Robin can have his doubts, but Marcus will show Robin to never underestimate a man who knows EXACTLY his worth, his position and his heart, and what he is willing to do for those he loves.

For the length of this novella, all in all, we get quite the story. Not only did we get a very strong sense of the place and world, but we got to know both men and their individual stories pretty well. The world was solidly set as well, we got a good understanding of how the society works, and the foes who have and could threaten their world. I would love to see a sequel for this book where Robin and Marcus united to defend their beloved British Empire. There is a lot to love about the world Rhys created, but at the nucleus it is a strong love story. Marcus saves Robin from a life of isolation and guilt, and together the life they will build will make them both whole.

Lovely story. Totally recommend. Stop by tomorrow to read more about Clockwork Tangerine and Robin’s inventions. The lovely Ms. Ford wrote a bit about Robin’s machines and their relevance to her story!

Clockwork Tangerine will be released tomorrow from Dreamspinner Press.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura