Review: The Jam Queens by Josephine Moon


Title: The Jam Queens

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: 13th April 2021, Michael Joseph

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

A sweet novel to savour, The Jam Queens is the seventh charming contemporary fiction novel from Australian author Josephine Moon.

A year after the collapse of her marriage following a devastating loss, Agatha has decided to focus on growing her business, a cafe in the Barossa Valley which features the prizewinning jams Aggie, and the women in her family, are known for. The news that her Great Aunt Myrtle has sold Agatha the building in which Strawberry Sonnets operates is likely to upset Aggie’s mother, Valeria, and in order to both soften the blow, and celebrate Valeria’s seventieth birthday in the wake of a health scare, Myrtle has decided that the three women, along with Aggie’s adult daughter Holly, home on vacation from the US where she works as a teacher, and Myrtle’s best friend and erstwhile traveling companion, Dolce, will take a trip on The Ghan.

Unfolding primarily from the perspectives of Aggie, Myrtle and Valeria, Moon tells a story of family, regret, friendship, loss, and love as the group of women travel from Darwin to Adelaide aboard the famous overland train.

Aggie serves as the central character of the story. She has had a very difficult year and she’s hoping the trip will give her clarity on how to move forward with her life. She’s a very likeable character, who exhibits fortitude and kindness in the face of very trying circumstances. Myrtle is a delight, spirited and generous, if a little bit meddlesome. Both Aggie and her Great Aunt Myrtle hope the journey will help heal their fraught relationship with the uncompromising Valeria, but the complicated history between the trio is not easy to reconcile.

The story is quite busy, as in addition to the secrets and burdens the individual characters carry, and the fraught dynamics of their old, and new, relationships, there are also other important elements. One naturally involves the actual journey on The Ghan and the side excursions enjoyed by the group to places like Uluru and Katherine (Nitmiluk) George, all well described by Moon. Another centres around the role of jam-making in the family, and Aggie’s hopes of winning first place at the Adelaide Royal Show. Foodies will love the delicious recipes contained in the book, including one for Moon’s own blue ribbon winning strawberry jam.

Ripe with drama, romance, travel and food, The Jam Queens is a treat not to be missed.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Cake Maker’s Wish

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: June 2nd 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delicious treat from bestselling author Josephine Moon.

After the loss of her beloved Ma, Olivia Kent’s curiousity about her grandmother’s early life leads her to successfully apply for a project offering the descendants of Stoneden villagers in England’s Cotswold region a subsidised opportunity to relocate. Leaving Tasmania behind, Olivia is excited to launch her business, Rambling Rose Fine Cakes on the village High Street, and give her young son, Darcy, a fresh start, as well as the chance to finally meet his Norwegian father in person.

The Renaissance Project is a fantastic concept and a wonderful element of the story, which also provides a backdrop for some minor intrigue. The initiative is designed to revitalise the community of Stoneden but unfortunately not everyone is happy about it with at least one resident actively trying to sabotage the scheme (and I was surprised to finally learn who, and why).

Nevertheless Olivia and Darcy quickly begin to feel at home in the village, befriending both other ‘imports’ and locals alike. As the story unfolds, Olivia is able to learn more about her grandmother’s past, which leads to a surprise revelation. There is also romance for Olivia with local dairyman Grayson, and Darcy’s visiting father, who is newly separated from his wife, and eager to build a relationship with both his son and Olivia, both vying for her affection. Olivia’s business thrives, particularly after a celebrity couple voice their support. Foodies will appreciate Moon’s delicious descriptions of Olivia’s creations, and delight in the included recipe for her Persian Love Cake.

With a serve of appealing characters, a sprinkle of mystery and a generous dollop of heart, The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delectable story about community, friendship, family and food.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Josephine Moon reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Weekend Cooking: Cake at Midnight by Jessie L. Star

 

Title: Cake at Midnight

Author: Jessie L. Star

Published: January 15th 2018, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

An engaging novel of contemporary romance, Cake at Midnight is a story of friendship and love from Australian author, Jessie L. Star.

Giovanna, Zoë and Declan – the baker, the beauty, and the brains- have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early twenties, they have celebrated one another’s successes, and commiserated with one another during times of heartbreak. For years Gio has nursed a crush on Declan who doesn’t mind taking advantage of her slavish devotion when it suits him, much to the growing disgust of Zoe. And after a disastrous not-a-date Gio realises she has let the situation get out of control, and in order to preserve their friendships, decides to cut Declan out of her life for 30 days. It’s not an easy step for Gio to take, not even cake is enough to dull the hurt, but her new neighbour, the enigmatic Theo, might just be exactly what she needs.

I enjoyed the romance in Cake at Midnight, it develops slowly from an odd sort of companionship, to a ‘friends with benefits’ situation, to the beginnings of a real relationship. Despite their very obvious differences, Gio and Theo complement each other well, though of course their path to true love has obstacles to overcome.

But romance is not all Cake at Midnight is about. It’s also about the friendship between Gio, Zoe and Declan and how it has changed over time as they have matured. There is a layer of emotional complexity relating to the family dynamics of Theo, and Declan. It’s also about being true to oneself.

The foodie element of the novel comes from Gio’s love of baking. She works at Pickle, Peach and Plum, an artisanal bakery, as an apprentice pastry chef.

“You’d perhaps think that, working at a bakery, the last thing I’d want to do upon returning home from a gruelling, every-last-swirl-of-ganache-critiqued, constantly-on-my-feet, nine-hour day, was more baking. You’d be wrong. It was like the difference between reading for school and reading for pleasure. I’d certainly always found during my years of education that the chance to chuck aside a textbook and pick up a recipe book had been a welcome one. That was what home baking was like for me.”

The first cake she bakes for Theo, to both apologise and thank him for rescuing her the night her not-a-date with Declan goes badly, is a Dark Chocolate and Rum Cake. She serves him a two-layer Lemon and Cardamom Cake the first time they kiss. The foodie references and metaphors added to the sweetness of Cake at Midnight.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

or from your preferred retailer via Amazon AU I Amazon US 

 

Review: The Beekeeper’s Secret by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Beekeepers Secret

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: April 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Beekeeper’s Secret is a thoughtful and engaging story of family, secrets, guilt and redemption.

“Now it seemed that what they said was true, that the past would indeed always catch up with you—especially if you had something to hide.”

Though Maria Lindsey has spent decades attempting to atone for her mistakes, first as a nun, and now as the manager, and beekeeper, of Honeybee Haven, whose activities support a Cambodian orphanage, she has always known that the time would come when she would have to confess her sins. She just didn’t expect that the daughter of her estranged sister, Tansy, would be the first to hear the whole sordid tale.

Maria’s decades old secret is a shocking one, related to a topical issue that the author deals with sensitively. It’s a confronting subject, involving misconduct within the Catholic Church, which may be a trigger for some readers, and though the reader may make a guess at Maria’s experience, the truth is likely to be a surprise.

Maria may be ready to break her silence, but there is someone who is determined that she not say a word.

Tansy Butterfield has always wondered what caused the estrangement between her mother, Enid, aunt Florrie, and their eldest sister. With her thirtieth birthday coming up, she’s tracked down Maria, delighted to learn she has been living barely an hours drive away in the Noosa Hinterland, hoping to arrange a surprise reunion.

It is through Tansy, and her relationship with her husband, and her family, that Moon thoughtfully explores the complicated dynamics that unites, and divide, families. While Tansy is getting to know her aunt, she keeps the secret of Maria from her family, something that her mother in particular, is deeply hurt by, when the truth comes out at a family gathering.

Another large part of this novel is devoted to Maria’s role as a beekeeper, and though I’m vaguely aware of the importance of bees to the health of our environment, I found the tidbits of information Moon shared about their habits and behaviour interesting.

A heartfelt contemporary fiction novel with surprising complexity, given the colourful cover, I liked The Beekeeper’s Secret. As the tagline suggests, this is a story with a sting in its tale.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko or Book Depository 

Also by Josephine Moon posted at Book’d Out