I am a voracious reader who loves to bake and enjoys books from almost every category of fiction, as well as biographies and memoirs.
What frontier man in need of a sturdy, homemaking wife would ever consider marrying the most expensive prostitute in town? Certainly not a resolute, guileless farmer who’s been saving himself for his future wife. But Michael Hosea, despite living in the hard frontier time of the California Gold Rush, is captivated by Angel, a prostitute since childhood, walking the streets of Pair-a-Dice with her captor.
The only dream Angel has ever allowed herself is that she might escape the brothel and live in a cottage of her own, bought with the gold that men have paid for her. But when Michael comes to visit her room, only ever to talk and beg her to come away and be his wife, Angel balks at his foolishness. Until she angers the one man she shouldn’t, and in desperation, she agrees to marry Michael. But frontier life is harder than she imagined, used to fine silk clothing and never laboring with her hands. Angel is consumed by fear: of other’s judgement, like Michael's brother-in-law, of her own tainted past, and even still of the devilish man who made her who she is-a fear that drives her to run from the only ones who ever truly loved her.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is a story of love’s continuous mercies and how a woman who never dared to hope, discovers that happiness can be found, no matter one’s past, if we’re willing to truly forgive ourselves.
Coffee is served at practically every crisis in this book, as not only something to warm them on cold days, but as a comfort, a balm to the body at least, when Angel refuses to allow her soul to heal or to share what’s in her soul with Michael. The duality of the dark cupcake versus the white frosting is meant to represent Angel’s inner struggle and turmoil throughout most of the novel-though she scrubs and cleans the outside, and it is far more beautiful than most, her heart is blackened by fear and selfishness.
For the cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp espresso granules, (I used Cafe Bustelo, not instant)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup hot, fresh coffee
For the frosting:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp espresso granules, (Cafe Bustelo, or other Cuban coffee))
- 3 tbsp fresh coffee
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and spray down 2 regular muffin tins with nonstick spray, or fill with cupcake liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, baking soda, and espresso in one bowl. In a mixer, combine butter and sugars fro 2 minutes on medium speed.
- Drop the mixer to low and add the liquids (milk, sour cream, vanilla), all except the coffee. Mix on low at first for one minute, then slowly increase to medium and combine about one more minute. Add the flour slowly, in thirds, allowing to disappear before adding more. The mixture will become thick. Add the eggs, one at a time.
- When the eggs are combined, turn off the mixer and slowly add the hot, freshly brewed coffee (yes, hot) to the mixer. Start on low, then slowly increase to medium, being careful not to slosh any on yourself. When it turns glossy and smells rich, stop the mixer and scoop into paper-lined (or greased) cupcake tins. Fill each tin about 3/4 full (I use a large ice cream scoop). Bake at 325 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, (mine took 18) or until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs, not raw batter. Makes 18 cupcakes.
- FOR THE FROSTING: add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 sticks of room temperature butter in a stand mixer. Mix on medium-low speed. Add another cup of powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated, then half of the ¼ cup of milk and the 3 tbsp of cold coffee and mix.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the last cup of powdered sugar and the ¾ tsp. of espresso and mix on medium-low until incorporated, then the last of the milk, the tsp. of vanilla and mix. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. or just heap the frosting on top with a spatula. You’ll want LOTS of frosting on these cupcakes-it’s the best part! Garnish with a couple of whole coffee beans, if desired.
Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Vanilla Coffee Frosting
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- Angel’s father’s relationship with her mother played what role in shaping who she became? How did that one relationship affect how she saw all men, and love, afterward?
- Duke is the one who gave “Angel” this name. Why would he have chosen it? Why did she refuse to tell him, or anyone, her real name for so long? What did it mean to Michael when she did finally tell him, and why?
- Lucky, a fellow prostitute at the brothel in Pair-a-Dice, cautioned Angel that “you gotta have plans. You gotta hope for something in this world.” what do you think Lucky hoped for, or any of the other women there? What was angel afraid to hope for? Or, why was she afraid to hope at all?
- What did Michael mean when he said that he wanted Angel to give him “everything. I want what you don’t even know you have to give”? Is this something all spouses want, on some level? Would that make them closer, or burned out? Why?
- Why couldn’t Paul comprehend why Michael had married Angel? Michael told him, “I’d marry her again if I had to do it over.” How could he feel that way, knowing what she’d done to him, especially how many times she left him?
- Michael says several incredibly perceptive, heartfelt things to Angel. Was there one that stuck with you? For example, when he told her “I want you to love me. I want you to trust me enough to let me love you, and I want you to stay here with me so we can build a life together.”
- Michael’s big problem was “overlooking defects of character in others. He look at at a harlot and saw someone worthy of love.” How was that a problem, and not one at the same time?
- Michael wisely told Amanda that “I learned a long time ago we’ve control of little in this world...All we can change is the way we think and the way we live.” How true is this statement for him, versus for her at the time?
- For Angel, one of the worst things she could do was fall in love. “Falling in love meant you lost control of your emotions and your will and your life. It meant you lost yourself.” Why was this so terrible for her?
- Angel also felt that hope was deadly. Why? How could it have helped her sooner, had she allowed it? How did hope help Michael?
- Michael compared Angel to a bird who’s “been in a cage all your life, and suddenly all the walls are gone, and you’re in the wide open. You’re so afraid you’re looking for any way back into the cage again.” How is this an accurate description of her situation, and many others like her? What would it take to make them overcome their fear?
- Angel and Michael had a conversation about why God would do such a thing to him, as having him marry a woman like Angel. She thought it must be some sort of horrible joke, but Michael said it was to strengthen him. How could that be? How is he able to have such a perspective? Does his saying that already show his strength? What can we learn from him and his observation? Angel was afraid to ask, but what did he mean by saying “I’m not strong enough for what’s yet to come”?
- Amanda noted that “emotion had always been her enemy,” especially with Michael. How could allowing herself to experience the full weight of her emotions be dangerous in her business? How was it also hurting her emotionally, as a person, and relationally, with Michael and even Miriam?
- Angel told Michael “I don’t know what I did wrong...but I understood from the earliest time I can remember that I was never going to be good enough to deserve a decent life.” Who and what made her feel this way? Why? Was any of it her fault, and if some of it wasn’t, why did she feel such shame for things she couldn’t control-even her mother’s profession and father’s lack of interest in her?
- Angel tried to let go of the past of being a harlot, “but the way Paul looked at her made her feel and remember that she still was, no matter what she did.” Why did he have that power over her? Why did he cling to bitterness and anger towards her for so long? How could it be construed as a good thing that his anger drove her to leave again?
- Michael never read his Bible without praying first. “He told her once that he didn’t read until his mind was open enough to receive. She didn’t know what he was talking about.” What did he mean? Why didn't she understand? How is his perspective unique?
- Miriam thinks having children is a woman’s reason for being, and “Our divine privilege: to bring new life into the world and nurture it.” Why does she feel this way? Did Angel ever feel that? What makes their feelings of purpose so different? What about modern women?
- Why did Michael choose to let Angel go the last time, and why did God’s voice tell him to? What did God mean by “Giver her to me”?
- Axle told Angel that :Just because you don’t believe in the Lord, doesn’t mean his power isn’t working for you.” What was he referring to? Were there other times when God was working for Angel and she didn’t realize it? What about for Michael, or Paul, or Miriam?
- Susanna had a “God box” of prayer requests under her bed. Why? Why did Angel later get one? Could that be useful to you?
Other books by Francine Rivers include: Bridge to Haven, A Lineage of Grace, A Voice in the Wind, The Atonement Child, The Scarlet Thread, and many more.
Daughter of Joy by Kathleen Morgan is another historical romance Christian fiction novel about heartbreak and redemption, and it is the first of a trilogy.
The Orphan Train West is a trilogy of short Christian fiction novels about three orphaned girls who were best friends, and how the circumstances of their adoptions forever shape their lives.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is another historical romantic fiction- a classic story about a governess who falls in love with her charge’s father, but due to tragic circumstances, cannot be with him.
The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron is a wonderful historical drama, part women’s empowerment, part love story, surrounding a fairy-tale castle where “the stories were written in generations of weathered stone."
© 2015 Amanda Lorenzo