"Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years old.
I have seen a great many lists of her drawing-up,
at various times, of books that she meant to read . . ."
—Mr. Knightley to Mrs. Weston, Emma
Many of you have told me that you belong to informal discussion groups that meet regularly to share thoughts about books you have chosen to read together. I'm in one myself, and it's a wonderful chance to share good books (and often, good food!) with friends.
I've been delighted to hear from a number of readers that their book discussion groups are reading the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries. (In fact, I've had the pleasure of attending a few such meetings in person and online, including a "group read" of Pride and Prescience on the Republic of Pemberley website—you can read the archived discussion, which includes an author Q&A at the end.) Because many groups appreciate discussion questions to help prompt their thoughts, Reading Group Guides are available for the first two novels.
Link to my publisher's website: www.tor-forge.com
For a particularly memorable book group meeting, put yourselves in a Regency mood by enjoying your discussion over tea. Depending upon the time of day and how formal you'd like to be, you can serve anything from fresh bakery to finger sandwiches and/or dainty desserts. Here are a couple of my favorite teatime recipes:
Berry Pecan Scones
|2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces
|3/4 cup berries & cherries blend dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4-6 ounces plain yogurt
grated peel of 1/2 lemon or orange
milk for brushing on top
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in sugar. With a pastry blender, cut in butter (or rub in with your fingers) until texture is crumbly. Add dried fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, combine egg, yogurt, and lemon peel. Add wet ingredients to dry, initally stirring with a fork but eventually abandoning the fork to use your hands. When blended, the dough will just barely hold together. Divide dough in half, forming each half into a ball. On a floured surface, with floured hands, pat one ball into a round about ?-inch thick. With a knife, cut into 8 wedges. Repeat with second half of dough. Transfer to baking sheet and brush tops with milk. Bake about 12 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter. Yields 16 scones.
Variations: Experiment with different combinations of dried fruit and nuts to find your favorite. Cranberries and walnuts make another great combination, as do apricots and sliced almonds. Dough can be cut with a biscuit cutter if round scones are preferred.
Regina Ferrars cannot resist the tarts Elizabeth Darcy serves in Suspense and Sensibility, and your guests will be just as tempted by these dainty additions to your tea or buffet table. The best part is that they're deceptively simple and quick to make, leaving you more time to read. (Your guests need never know!)
|1 package unfold-and-bake refrigerated pie crust
(or pastry for 2-crust pie)
3 cups berries or diced fruit (fresh or canned)
|1/2 cup seedless jam, jelly, or all-fruit spread (red or purple for dark fruits such as berries; apricot for light-colored fruits)|
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease and flour standard muffin cups and set aside. Unfold crusts and roll out slightly thinner than packaged. Cut out 3-inch circles using a round biscuit or cookie cutter. (One with a fluted or scalloped edge provides a pretty touch.) Combine pastry scraps, roll out and repeat until all dough is used. Put rounds in bottom of muffin cups and prick with fork. (To prevent air pockets, you may wish to put a small circle of parchment paper on top of each and add dry beans for weight.) Bake 5-6 minutes, or until golden. Cool shells completely, then fill with fruit. Melt jam and spoon over fruit as a glaze. Yields approximately 30 tartlets.
Tips: For a colorful presentation, use more than one type of fruit. You can also vary your choices with the season. Experiment with your favorites—I have successfully tried fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwis, pears, and apples; and canned peaches, apricots, mandarin oranges, and pears. If using fresh apples or pears, add a dash of cinnamon to the peeled and diced pieces, cover, and microwave until soft before filling the shells.