I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
Xanthe has just relocated from the busyness and drama of London to the village of Marlborough with her mother, where they will be renovating an antiques shop. Both women have each left still nursing the wounds of their last relationship; Xanthe's even causing her to spend some time in jail, though she was innocent.
For this reason, she can relate closely to the injustice of a girl named Alice being locked up, possibly to be hanged, in the seventeenth century for false accusations of stealing a few pieces of silver chain and their trinkets.
Alice’s mother is a ghost inhabiting Xanthe’s new home. She has been waiting for someone special to come along, someone like Xanthe who has the ability to touch certain objects and have visions of their history, someone with the ability to see her. In desperation to save her daughter, the ghost demands that Xanthe use the magic object to stand in the backyard to travel back in time to save her daughter before she is hanged.
The Little Shop of Found Things is an interesting historic mystery, about social justice, religious rights, and being a misfit in society trying to blend in and discover who she is in two challenging worlds and time periods.
Perfect for fans of:
- Alternating timelines/ time periods
- Historical fiction
- Romantic fiction
- How did Xanthe wind up in prison? Why did she take the fall for her boyfriend? Do you think she should have told them police the truth about him? How did her time in a cell affect her in later circumstances in the book, causing panic attacks and claustrophobia?
- What is psychometry and how did having this gift connect Xanthe to the chatelain and Mrs. Merton?
- What are ley lines, and what was the significance of a “point of conversion” occurring in Xanthe’s backyard? What building was there, and what significance did it hold in each time period?
- How is the idea of pursuing a job that makes you happy a modern one? What was often the case in Alice’s time?
- What rights do we have now in our justice system that were denied Alice? What strange loophole did Xanthe find for her?
- What object helped Xanthe return to her own time, and why?
- In the Lovewell’s and the Appleby’s time, which was more respected—the wealthy man’s money or Samuel’s intelligence? Why were they not considered equals by society, especially since Samuel had a skill and Master Lovewell did not? Has society changed much in this regard since then?
- Why would speaking up for Alice have been risking too much?
- What was hidden inside the tapestry? Why, and how did this explain the missing chatelaine items?
- Why couldn’t Samuel and his family risk giving offense by turning down the task of building the jail? How would that have been seen as an insult to the ruler and laws of their time? Why did they have to work so hard to climb to where they stood in society?
- What reasons did Xanthe give for taking up Alice’s cause? What reasons did she not mention?
- Why was the language shift such a challenge for Xanthe? What are some expressions we use in modern language that would not have been appropriate? What are some of the older ways of speaking it helped her to adopt?
The first meal Xanthe and her mother had in their new house was one that consisted of shortbread biscuits (cookies), cheese triangles, and marmalade.
Their neighbor who owned the tea-shop, Flora, brought the ladies a gift of “sticky lemon-drizzle cake.”
When Xanthe appeared at Liam’s house in the middle of the night, looking a little deranged and in need of his help with research, he brought them tea and shortbread biscuits.
To combine the shortbread biscuits with the lemon cake, I’ve created a super simple recipe for Lemon Shortbread Cookies.
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 large lemon, zested
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine lemon zest, sugar, and the softened butter on medium speed for one minute. Drop the mixer to low and slowly add half the flour, followed by the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Continue with the rest of the flour until it begins to look like a crumbly mixture. Then turn up the speed back to medium and continue to mix for another minute or two, until it forms a dough.
- For round cookies that are super easy to cut and bake, roll the dough into an even log, pat the ends flat, and wrap in plastic cling wrap. For shaped cookies that are easy to cut and go, cut the dough in half. For each section, roll the dough out between two long pieces of parchment to about 1/4 inch thick. You want to try to roll it out to the length and width of a cookie baking sheet. Place on a large baking sheet, folding the paper under the dough, and wrap the whole thing in plastic cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably two hours, and up to two days before baking.
- Tip: If your dough is really soft and you are concerned about losing the round log shape, you can freeze it for ten minutes after rolling and wrapping, then move to the refrigerator.
- Preheat your oven to 325° F. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with extra sugar or sprinkles if desired, about two inches apart, as they will spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
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Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Other books by Paula Brackston include the Witches books, such as The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch, The Midnight Witch, and The Silver Witch.
Priest holes also play a part in the books Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, and an especially large role in the riveting ending of The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, which also jumps between past and present timelines to unravel a tragic mystery, involving the ghost who still lives in the house until her story is discovered.
A fantastic period drama about a young woman out of place in Puritan New England, who is rescued at her trial partly by an unexpected person is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It also deals with themes of social justice, right to religion, and being a misfit in society trying to blend in.
Another mystery occurring across generations in an old house is The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright, and a book about crossing timelines between the present and historical periods is In the Shadow of the Moon by Karen White.
For a romantic comedy/drama about a woman starting her own business and struggling to find her place in the world (and in love), read the British novel Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan.
“It’s hardest in the first few months. Then, just about when you think you’ll go mad with it all, everything falls into place. You’ll see.”
“Are we not all of us, at some time or another, dependent on the kindness of others? Would we not wish someone to act selflessly for our sake?”
“Are we not measured by the way in which we treat the most vulnerable members of our society?"
“It does a man no good to set himself above others.”
“It is easier to be brave for oneself, than for someone we care about.”
Xanthe's romantic interests:
© 2019 Amanda Leitch
Shawindi Silva from Sri lanka on January 17, 2019:
I like that book so much and the recipe looks great !!
Naude Lorenzo on January 17, 2019:
A beautiful book and yummy recipe, I'm keeping all of these recipe's to make a folder for each of my great grandkids, I'm sure all of them will become bakers. Thanks Amanda.