I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.
A castle in a forest inspires the stories of three women, scattered across centuries. Adeline is engaged to a Duke in 18th century France, though her opinions are more aligned with the “rabble” than the wealthy aristocracy to which she will belong. But when the Duke’s castle is burned by angry serfs, and Adeline as well, on the night of her engagement party, she must hide and find a new identity until her fiance returns.
Viola was witness to a bombing at her office in London during WWII and has also decided to also subvert conventionalities and the expectations for women and join with Allied forces in France to stop the Germans from taking over. She is a linguist who will summon her deepest courage, and meet the most unfathomable man, and carry a story with her to the brink of Alzheimer’s for her granddaughter to find.
Ellie has no one left but her Grandmother, Lady Vi, and is shocked to discover she knows little about the most dominant and enchanting period of her life. Ellie flies to a French chateau beside a winery, where she meets a delightfully obstinate old man, his amazing cook of a wife, and their Irish grandson, who will, often reluctantly, help her unravel the secrets of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the brazen women who brought it back to life. The Lost Castle is part historical drama, part women’s empowerment, part love story, surrounding a fairy-tale castle where “the stories were written in generations of weathered stone."
- Aveline wondered how luxuries of the heart such as love, marriage, and alliances could survive “when death remained such a cruel provocateur.” Who was able to find love despite war or death, and how?
- What was the connection between “La belle au bois dormant” the Sleeping Beauty legend (both the actual fairy tale and the story circulating about the real woman), the castle and Aveline (and even the woodcutter’s cottage)?
- Vi told Ellie that the fox brooch was “all he had to give.” About whom was she speaking, and was she correct?
- How did “the day at the chapel change everything” for Lady Vi, and what did her husband understand and still marry her?
- “War changed everything. Vanity of every kind was extinct in their savage world.” What were some of the vanities Vi had to lay aside? Were there any Aveline gave up as well?
- The RES bombing was the first time anyone died before Lady Vi’s eyes. Was it the last? How did these deaths affect her?
- What was le marche nocturne—the night market—and what did Ellie take away from there?
- Why wasn’t Robert the one to inherit the land he loved so much?
- How did reading books like Utopia and The Wealth of Nations affect how Aveline saw her world versus the lower classes?
- How did Aveline feel about the realization that, for her, “everything was bought with nothing more than a selection and a smile...everything on the estate was commissioned and managed by the hand of her father, and one day, when she married, by her husband”? Did most women she knew find that a comfort?
- Why did Vi pray that God would never allow her to go back to who she was before—even a few weeks? What did that have to do peace sometimes being earned with the sacrifices of those willing to run into the fight? Who made such sacrifices?
- How was Julien’s leg actually a savior for him?
- How was defending the land and clinging to hope fighting back in the war?
- What did it mean for the people that “seigneurial rights of the nobility have been abolished, and the dime tithe to the clergy is wiped out.” How did this make noblemen, peasants, and clergy equal standing before God?
- For Titus “the woods always have the same feel. The same smells and sounds. They never go away once they’re burned in our memory….it is still with me.” How does this explain how he could get around in them despite his physical handicap?
- Part of the way Vi coped with “death chasing us all” was to not allow herself to do what? How did her will keep her heart beating?
- “Vi knew she’d never find a grander meal or lovelier memory in all her life.” What memory was she speaking of?
- How was Quinn’s grandfather Titus responsible for “starting up [Quinn’s] arrest record”?
- Where did the violets come from?
- The time in France forever changed Vi. “And if it’s succeeded, isn’t that what a story should do? Change us in some way?”
Vi huddled on the floor of a chapel, surrounded by crates of Anjou pears and a burlap bag of walnuts. The pear and "the old chapel had become her unwitting saviors.” From the flavor of the pear, she was able to tear away from the fearful memories of all she’d been through, “the sweet combination of honey and tart pulling her back to the present” moments before she would meet Julian. To combine all these, I created a recipe for
Pear and Walnut Mini Tarts drizzled with Honey
Pear and Walnut Mini Tarts
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
- 8 tbsp cold salted butter, divided into 6 and 2
- 1/3-1/2 cup ice water
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp room temperature water, divided
- 2 Anjou pears, peeled and diced small
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped into small pieces
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- honey, for drizzling
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, one tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Place the 6 tablespoons of butter on top and use a pastry cutter to mix the butter in until it resembles small crumbs. Then add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and mix by hand. You may need a bit more or less water than listed, just make sure it is icy cold. When the dough is fully combined, roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- While you’re waiting on the dough, cook 2 tablespoons of butter and diced pears in a nonstick pan over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so to prevent burning. Add two tablespoons of sugar, one heaping quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, and stir, then 3/4 cup of water and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the pears are soft. Combine the cornstarch and two tablespoons of water in a small bowl and add to the pears. Stir continuously until the mixture begins to boil. After about two-three minutes, once the pear filling is thick and difficult to stir, remove it from the heat and add the chopped walnuts. Allow to cool to room temperature about 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a mini cupcake tin liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and cut into small circles just slightly larger than the holes of the tin, using a small cup. Then place each round in each hole of the tin and press down gently. Fill each dough round with about a half tablespoon of cooked pear and walnut filling. Don’t fill them completely to the line of the tin or they will boil over. Bake for 20 minutes, then allow to cool 5-10 minutes before devouring. Drizzle with a tiny bit of honey atop the filling after it sinks as its cooling. Top with a little whipped cream if you’d like. Makes about 36 mini tarts.
Pear and Walnut Mini Tarts
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Other books by Kristy Cambron include The Butterfly and the Violin (book one of the Hidden Masterpiece series), The Ringmaster’s Wife, A Sparrow in Terezin, The Illusionist’s Apprentice, and she is currently working on the next book in this Lost Castle Series.
Other similar Christian historical fiction romantic novels are Redeeming Love or Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers, The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy #1) by Sarah Sundin, Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain #1) by Joanne Bischof, and The Weaver's Daughter by Sarah E. Ladd.
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson is also set in France in a lavender field with an abandoned house being restored, and a new couple in love.
Divine Interruption by Amy Lyon is about new beginnings and new love despite difficult circumstances, including an ailing mother with Alzheimer’s.
“There was a princess once who’d been lost somewhere out in the fairy-tale wood. She disappeared. Never came back, and the castle was named for her—The Sleeping Beauty, because she wouldn’t tell her secrets. Just like the ruins.”
“The woods always have the same feel. The same smells and sounds. They never go away once they’re burned in our memory. I may not set eyes on the grove any longer, but it is still with me.”
“There’s a story there. Waiting for me. I can feel it. I can’t explain why; it’s just there in the silence.”
“I pray that God would never allow me to go back to who I was before—even to those few weeks ago. I must move forward. I don’t care if there’s no risk, all risk, or something in between. I still desire peace, and an end to this war. But sometimes, peace must be earned with the sacrifices of those willing to run into the fight, not away from it.”
“They’d been tossed together by a story and would be separated the same way.”
“She also loved in this place, and even if it was only for a short time, that time forever changed her. And if it’s succeeded, isn’t that what a story should do? Change us in some way?”
“The story we’re writing in this life, day by day, it’s a gift from God and we can’t afford to waste a moment of it.”
© 2018 Amanda Leitch