The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

ALCHEMY by Ailsa Abraham


Genre: Magical Realism / Religion

Book 1 of the Alchemy series

Release Date:  27th January 2014

Publisher: Crooked Cat Publishers

A world without war? 
Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen.  
But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is skeptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. 
How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? 
Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together – reluctantly at first – to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before “The Changes”. 

ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman's Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned.  

EXTRACT

Daniel stood beside me, pointing out the “Who’s Who” of this august gathering.

“The guys in leather are the Odinists, old Norse religion. Obviously, the chap with the sickle is the Chief Druid, yes, that is a fox-head he’s wearing as a headdress. Now, that one there, the shaven-headed one in a kilt-type thing. He’s the High Priest of the Egyptians. I think they have a few sub-divisions but… oh yes, here comes the High Priestess of Isis, she’s his female counterpart.”
By this time my jaw was dropping. The lady in the wig, smothered in jewellery was like something straight out of a Cleopatra movie and eye-wateringly gorgeous. Daniel nudged me again and I thought for a moment that a Christian monk in traditional brown robes had sneaked in.

“That tall woman in white. That is Lady Solus, she will probably try to take over. She’s a bit of a tartar and that young man with her is her assistant. Bright chap by all accounts. Oops! Looks like one of the Dianics is going to make a fuss.” I had no idea what one of those was but just made sure the camera was running, kept my mouth shut and watched. A woman with a shaven-head and a bow slung across her back stood up and pointed at the painfully thin monk-like youngster.
“Abomination!” she hissed. “He leaves!”

The priestess indicated to me as Lady Solus turned very slowly and gave her a glare that would have frozen water in two seconds.

“He stays. I do not argue with stray cats.”
The young man in question had said nothing, remaining two paces behind his boss. I caught his eye and thought there was something vaguely familiar about him. Although his face remained impassive, a pair of bright blue eyes fixed me and very slowly one eyelid dropped in an almost imperceptible wink. I was too busy to think about it then but I would have to remember where I had seen him before.

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ABOUT AILSA ABRAHAM
Ailsa Abraham writes under two names and is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman's Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon.
She has lived in France since 1990, enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell's Angel in town. Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family. She runs an orphanage for homeless teddy bears and contributes a lot of work to Knit for Africa. She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

A little bit of Provence in your plate...

Picture this...It's lunch time. You are on holiday somewhere hot, and you have set the table outside in the shade. The cicadas are singing, the garden smells of lavender, thyme and rosemary. It is hot so you fancy a light lunch with fresh, tasty ingredients bursting with flavours. And hopefully, you will find it here...
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
This is my last post featuring recipes from the beautiful settings in the bestselling romantic anthology LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES. Since my short story is set in the Camargue region of France, I have going to treat you to a complete Provençal meal...
LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES blurb - What if a life-changing letter arrived in today's mail? Now imagine it leads to love and adventure! From the northern British Isles, across the mainland of Europe, and on to Turkey, nine international Award-winning and Multi-published Romance Authors share spellbinding love stories told across time. This collection includes contemporary, historical and futuristic time travel romances touched by magic. And each begins with a letter...
SONS OF THE WIND blurb   
Provence 1826. Ten years after her brother disappeared in the marshes of the Camargue, Venetia Rigby receives a letter suggesting he is alive. Will Philippe Dantès, half-gipsy master of Terres Mortes, help her find him when he has his own demons to fight?
Photo courtesy of PIxabay
LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES is available here for only £0.99!

And now for the recipes... They are all for 4 people (except the pudding) and very easy to prepare!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
For starter I chose a typical Provençal appetizer:
Tapenade made with olives (black olive paste)
This is an easy recipe which takes about 15 minutes to prepare and is delicious on toasts, or slices of fresh baguette or homemade bread.

Ingredients for 4 people
150 gr of black olives (without the stones)
3 anchovy fillets (you can leave those out if you don't like the taste)
2 cherry tomatoes
3 teaspoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic

Preparation
Crush the garlic. Put all other ingredients in a food processor and blend. Then pour the mixture into a small bowl, and prepare the toasts. Alternatively you can use the tapenade as a dip. That's what we do when I eat this at my sister's in Marseille!

For a variety of tastes and flavours, you can also prepare canapés with goat cheese. Serve with a glass Pastis or chilled rosé wine, or read the end of this post for a refreshing homemade lemonade.

My main course is very light as well: Provençal Goat Cheese and Tomato 'Feuilletés' (in Puff Pastry) with Niçoise Salad
Ingredients (for 4 people = 4 'feuilletés')
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
300 gr of puff pastry (frozen is fine, just make sure it is thoroughly defrosted)
4 thick slices of beef tomato
4 thick slices of goat cheese (works better if from a goat cheese log)
4 teaspoons of pesto rosso (sun dried tomato paste that you buy or can make yourself)
Fresh basil
Herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary...)
Black pepper
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
It takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake in the oven.
Pre-heat your oven at 200̊ C.
Take off the tomato peeps and the crust from the goat cheese log.
Roll out the puff pastry and divide into 4 equal squares. Cover with the pesto rosso. Fold the corners of each square, then put one slice of goat cheese, topped with one slice of tomato. Sprinkle the herbs and pepper.
Put in the oven. It should be ready in about 15 minutes.
Take out, sprinkle fresh basil and enjoy!

Niçoise Salad
Ingredients for 4 people
4 tomatoes
4 hard boiled eggs
12 anchovy fillets
1 cucumber
1 green pepper
1 large white onion
fresh basil
1 garlic clove
black olives
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Photo courtesy of PIxabay
This takes about 20 minutes to prepare.
Peel and slice the cucumber. Sprinkle with salt and leave.
Boil the eggs. Slice when ready.
Wash and slice the tomatoes.
Peel the pepper, take out the inside and cut into thin slices.
Peel and cut the onion and the garlic and mix everything with the olive oil and the fresh basil.
Then arrange the slices of tomatoes, cucumber and eggs on a dish. Rinse the anchovy fillets and arrange with the salad vegetables together with the sliced eggs and the black olives. Pour the basil and olive oil sauce or keep separate.

And now for dessert...Cherry Clafoutis
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Ingredients for 8 people (it makes either 2 clafoutis using 2 cake tins of 15 cm diametre each, or 1 large one)
·        500 gr of cherries
·        250 ml of milk
·        250 ml of single cream
·        30 g of unsalted butter
·        1 vanilla pod
·        4 eggs
·        75 g of caster sugar or soft  brown sugar (it is called 'cassonade' in France)
·        50 g of flour
·        Icing sugar to sprinkle on the clafoutis for decoration

It takes 15 minutes to prepare and needs 35 minutes in the oven (thermostat at 180̊ )
1. Pre-heat the oven at 180°C. Grease the cake tin (or cake tins if you are making 2 smaller Clafoutis) well with butter. Wash, dry and take the stones out of the cherries. Place most of the cherries at the bottom of the cake tin, but keep some for later.
2. Heat up the milk and the single cream with the butter and the vanilla pod in a pan. Whilst this is heating, take a bowl and whisk the eggs with the soft brown sugar (or caster sugar), then add the flour. Whisk well in order to obtain a smooth mixture.
When the milk comes to the boil, take the vanilla pod out and pour on the egg mixture. Carry on whisking well.
3. Pour the mixture into the cake tin (or the 2 cake tins) and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes at thermostat 180°C.
4. After about 15 minutes, put the rest of the cherries on top of the cake and put the cake back in the oven (if you put them on earlier, they will sink and it won't look at nice.)
5. Finish baking. When ready take the clafoutis out of the oven and place it on a cake cooling tray. Wait until it has cooled down completely to remove from the tin and sprinkle with icing sugar (it becomes harder as it cools down).
Et voilà! It is delicious on its own, or with some whipping cream or vanilla ice-cream.

And now for drinks... You can drink a chilled rosé wine, or if you fancy a delicious soft drink, why not try and make your own lemonade? I have just the recipe.

Ingredients for 2 people
600 ml mineral water (sparkly or still)
1 yellow lemon
120 gr of strawberries
fresh mint
This takes 10 minutes to prepare but you need to leave it in the fridge for 24 hours. Wash the fruits. Slice the lemon. Cut the strawberries. In a pitcher, put all the fruit, add a few leaves of fresh mint and the mineral water, then leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

I hope you enjoyed my Provençal meal. I know I feel very hungry now, so I am off to the kitchen...