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The Grand Gesture in Romance Novels

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ines Johnson today. She’s here to talk about her new release Pumpkin, a Cindermama story.

Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books!

Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.

Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who are growing up way too fast.

Now it’s on to The Grand Gesture…

Traditionally the Grand Gesture is known to be a common plotting point in romance stories where the hero does something bold or gives up something big in order to show the heroine that his love is true.

In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy puts aside his contempt of Wickham to help save Lydia’s reputation. This grand gesture is what finally convinces Elizabeth to take his hand.

In Twilight, Edward’s grand gesture, the thing that shows his true love of Bella, is when he sucks the poison out of her wrist without killing her.

For more on grand gestures, we’ll turn to the hero of my latest release, Pumpkin: a Cindermama story. This romance is a fairytale retelling of -you guessed it- the Cinderella story.

EXCERPT

The Mistress of Ceremonies hurried through her introductions and then the microphone was in Manny’s hand, but he didn’t take out the notes of his prepared speech.

Pumpkin"Many of you knew my mother," he began. There was a murmur of nostalgic assent throughout the crowd.

"You may not know that after her diagnosis, she spent most of her days watching romantic comedies. She believed she could laugh the illness out of her body. Her favorite moments in these films were something called the Grand Gesture. That scene just after all hope is lost because one of the lovers, normally the guy, has done something stupid that’s led to the end of the relationship. So he thinks up this bold, romantic move to get the woman back."

A glance around the room told Manny that he held the largely female crowd in rapt attention.

"An example of a grand gesture would be a guy telling his estranged wife that she completes him in the midst of an angry mob of women. Or rescuing her underwear from the class geek and returning it to her at her sister’s wedding. Or holding a boom box over his head, in front of her bedroom window, early in the morning, while blasting the song that was playing as he deflowered her."

A different wave of nostalgia swept through the crowd this time as they remembered these treasured moments of Hollywood cinema.

"In the real world, some people might call these behaviors creepy, or stalker-ish. But not my mother. She loved them. She believed in love, believed that when you loved someone you said it loud, you showed it often, and you never gave up."

Manny paused here, partly for effect, mostly to collect himself as visions of his mother’s joyous face played in his head. He rubbed the heel of his hand against his chest.

"The national divorce rate is 50 percent."

There was no surprise in the room, where most of the men were older and the women on their arms were younger.

"There’s never been a divorce in the Charmayne family. Not one recorded anywhere in our family line."

The sparkle of young women’s eyes threatened to blind Manny from where he stood on the stage.

"What that means is when a Charmayne gives you their pledge, they are committed."

The decision was a split second one, but once Manny made it he stuck with it. He stepped around the podium, mic in hand and dropped to one knee. The gasp of every woman in the room was near deafening.

"To earn your vote, I will do whatever I have to, including blast Peter Gabriel in the streets. Charmaynes don’t quit. I’m committed to this, to the people of this town. I hope that I can count on your vote."

The room erupted in thunderous applause, and the women’s eyes sparkled even brighter.

We’ve seen literary heroes perform the feat of a grand gesture near the end of the tale. In Pumpkin: a Cindermama story, my hero Manny talks about this moment in the first act. I take a moment early in the book to teach the reader the rules of the grand gesture in this speech so that they are prepped for later in the book when I break these rules in favor of a more non-traditional grand gesture near the end of the story. To find out who messed up and how they declared their love in a grand way, pick up the book.

Interested in learning more?

Here’s the blurb:

Single mother Malika “Pumpkin” Tavares lost faith in fairytales after she fell for a toad. Now she believes she’s not cut from the storybook, heroine cloth and searches for Mr. Good Enough amongst the sidekicks and supporting men of the town.

Love at first sight isn’t a cliche for town royalty Armand “Manny” Charmayne. For generations the Charmaynes have spotted their soulmates by seeing a golden aura the first time they laid eyes on The One.

When Manny meets Pumpkin he sees…nothing, but sparks fly off the richter scale. The more he gets to know her the more he considers defying fate, if only he can convince her to take a chance on love again.

Purchase at Amazon

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Recipe: Tasty Pumpkin and Cranberry Tagine

This recipe is the tastiest dish I’ve had in ages and is my new favorite way to cook pumpkin. Even though this is a vegetarian dish, I dare meat-eaters to say they don’t enjoy this pumpkin and cranberry tagine.

Pumpkin and Cranberry Tagine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 red onions, thickly sliced
  • 3cm piece fresh root ginger, grated
  • 500g/1lb 2oz pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon,
  • 1 teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon clear honey
  • 700g/24 ounces bottle tomato passata
  • 50g/2 ounces dried cranberries
  • 400g/14 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a tagine or just use an ordinary pot.

2. Add the onions and lightly fry.

3. Add the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, harissa paste and ginger plus the pumpkin.

4. Add the honey, passata and cranberries.

5. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

6. Add the chickpeas about 15 minutes into the cooking.

7. If the dish is too thick add a little water.

8. Garnish with parsley or fresh coriander and serve with couscous or rice.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. Passata is like a liquid tomato puree. When I don’t have any to hand I use two cans of chopped tomatoes and this works just as well.

2. The recipe doesn’t use salt or pepper and you don’t need it. This dish is full of tasty flavor.

3. The recipe calls for dried cranberries but next time I make this I might try some frozen cranberries instead.

4. The photo doesn’t do the dish justice. I took it quite late at night and my photos weren’t as good as I’d hoped.

5. Recipe comes from Good Food magazine, January 2010.

What are your favorite dishes featuring pumpkin or cranberries?

Pumpkins and Kitchen Gadgets

I promised Gabriele a pumpkin soup recipe. There are lots of variations of pumpkin soup. I make a vegetarian version and leave out the bacon. I replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

knob of butter and a little olice oil
1 onion chopped
3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons mild curry paste (I use curry powder)
3 – 4 rashers of bacon, rind removed and chopped
1/2 cup buttercup pumpkin pieces, peeled and seeded
5 cups chicken stock or 4 cups stock and 1 of water
light seasoning of salt and fresh ground black pepper
coconut cream to garnish (I use plain greek yoghurt)
fresh herbs such as coriander or thyme for garnish

Place the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until softened with a gentle heat. Add curry paste and when fragrant (allow about 30 seconds) add the chopped bacon and pumpkin pieces.

Constantly turn the pumpkin to avoid catching. Add stock and cook until the pumpkin softens. Once cooked process with a kitchen whizz until smooth. Season and garnish with coconut cream and fresh herbs.

Note – this soup always tastes better the next day so make it in advance if possible.

And in totally random news – I saw an ad for some new pots. The knobs come off the pot lids. The handles also come off and this allows for easy stacking in cupboards and also the dishwasher. They also have these nifty plastic lids so you can stick them in the fridge. They also come in frypans. I saw some in our local kitchen soup. Man, I’m in love. I’m lusting after these pots, and unfortunately, they’re expensive. I’m not big on kitchen gadgets, preferring to do most things by hand, but I really want these pots!

Do you like kitchen gadgets? Kitchenware shops?