Strawberry-Jasmine Jam for The Girl in the Painting

Welcome to the latest stop on the TLC Book Tour, one for The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper. I did receive a free copy for an honest review.  

About the Book:

A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship— having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

Purchase Links

Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Tea

Website | Facebook | Twitter |Instagram

About the Author:

Tea is an award winning Australian author of  historical fiction. In a past life she was a teacher, a journalist and a farmer. These days she haunts museums and indulges her passion for storytelling. She is the bestselling author of several novels, including The Horse Thief,The Cedar CutterThe Currency LassThe Naturalist’s DaughterThe Woman in the Green Dress and The Girl in the Painting.   Her historical fiction is published by Harper Collins.  Tea is a member of the Historical Novel Society of Australasia, The Australian Society of Authors, Hunter Romance Writers, the Australian Romance Readers Association and Wollombi’s Pencil Orchids. She is currently working on her next historical mystery.

What I Thought…

I enjoyed this tale set in the mid-19th century and alternating with a later storyline in the early 20th century.

I won’t retell the plot points here but it is interesting and what I would describe as realistic.   This would have been a five star review but I had a few issues with characterization.  Before I get to that, a bit more is needed to understand the premise (more than what is listed in the blurb above).

Michael Quinn comes to Australia with his five-year-old sister in the mid 1850s.  His parents have already established themselves on the continent.  He has high expectations upon his arrival but they are dashed.  He has to leave his young sister with strangers as he travels to the goldfields to figure things out.  Michael becomes a respected leader in Australia and is truly a self-made man.

Elizabeth Quinn is the sister.  To say she’s endured hardships is an understatement.  She is a very intelligent soul and is able to help Michael immensely with his business.   There’s some emotional baggage that she has to delve into to literally find herself.

Jane, the math genius and ward of the Quinns, is presented early on as almost a savant with little social skills. I kept thinking of The Queen’s Gambit. As the book progresses, even though Jane is gifted with numbers, that first description of the girl in the orphanage is gone. It felt like Cooper was stretching it a bit as Jane grew older when she had her thinking about patterns.  I know she matured and was definitely nurtured by Michael and Elizabeth, but she presented as a different person. I did respect Jane’s dedication to the Quinns.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around Elizabeth. Yes, she had some loss in her life but I wonder how she lived to her fifties without ever having a flashback, yet it was brought about by some semi-Impressionistic paintings?  It was just a bit too contrived.

In hindsight, I wanted more of the life Elizabeth and Michael were living in the present (1906-1916) and a little less of how they got there, even though it did have everything to do with Elizabeth’s “dilemma.” I was glad that this situation was due to her childhood and not that she was going through menopause!

The tale is told well and I would recommend this book to others, especially if you like historical fiction with a lot of twists and turns.  Women’s rights and the plight of Chinese workers are alluded to in the novel.  A rendition of the real girl in the painting from the artwork that prompted Elizabeth to remember would have been a better front cover.

The Food:

This is not a food-centric book by any means but there’s a lot of tea times (in the English tradition via Australia), Chinese food, and simple meals.   Elizabeth also enjoys kedegree for breakfast a couple of times.  (There was no way I was diving into that!) Iced VoVos were mentioned a couple of times as well.   Not being Australian, I had to look that one up.

I was struck by a couple of scenes revolving around the young Elizabeth longing for her brother.  When he arrived for visits, he would treat her to strawberry ice.   He also takes her on an outing to see Prince Albert and strawberries are included in that picnic.   Jasmine tea (also associated with Elizabeth) reminds her of her first love.  

As I was rustling through the freezer recently, I found a bag of frozen crushed strawberries, ready for jam.  I decided to combine the strawberries and the jasmine tea from Elizabeth’s early life into a preserve.   This preserve would be perfect at tea.

Strawberry-Jasmine Jam

Debra

You’ll notice just a hint of jasmine as you spread this on your morning toast.

Ingredients

  • 5 c. crushed strawberries
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 6 T. powdered pectin (I use bulk.)
  • 7 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 T. loose jasmine dried flowers

Instructions

  1. Prepare boiling water canner. Sterilize jars.  Simmer lids in water but do not boil.
  2. Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a large kettle.  Place the jasmine in a cheesecloth pouch or a large tea ball.  Add it to the pot to infuse the strawberries while they cook.
  3. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.  Remove tea ball (or sachet).

    The mixture will turn a deeper red after the sugar is added.

  5. Ladle hot jam into hot STERILIZED jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  6. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Yield: 8 (8 oz. jars)

I used a hodge-podge of jars including one antique Atlas one.  Since I’m still kind of hoarding canning lids, I used some larger jars and recycled some.   Please note that the “recycled” jar here will only be stored in the refrigerated.   After the other appropriate canning jars with lids are water-bathed, they will be stored in the pantry.  I also used one freezer container.  We will eat from it first.

It had been a while since I had made strawberry jam so this was a real treat.   I’m anxious to see if the jasmine flavor intensifies while it sets in the jar.

Please check out what other’s thought on the review tour:

Monday, March 1st: Mammanatty’s Raves and Reviews

Tuesday, March 2nd: Read Eat Repeat

Wednesday, March 3rd: Pacific Northwest Bookworm and @pnwbookworm

Thursday, March 4th: @lovemybooks2020

Friday, March 5th: She Just Loves Books and @shejustlovesbooks

Saturday, March 6th: @suethebookie

Monday, March 8th: Reading Reality

Monday, March 8th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Tuesday, March 9th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, March 10th: @irishgirliereads

Thursday, March 11th: Buried Under Books

Friday, March 12th: @mynovelmenagerie

Monday, March 15th: Books with Jams and @bookswithjams

Monday, March 15th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews

Tuesday, March 16th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, March 17th: @booksloveandunderstanding

Thursday, March 18th: @booksaremagictoo

Friday, March 19th: The Sketchy Reader

Monday, March 22nd: @megsbookclub

Monday, March 22nd: Amy’s Book-et List and @amysbooketlist

Tuesday, March 23rd: Christian Chick’s Thoughts and @cctblog

Wednesday, March 24th: Girl Who Reads

Thursday, March 25th: The OC Book Girl and @theocbookgirl

Friday, March 26th: @lowkey.bookish

Monday, March 29th: @rendezvous_with_reading

Monday, March 29th: What is That Book About

Tuesday, March 30th: @lovelyplacebooks

Tuesday, March 30th: Blooming with Books

Wednesday, March 31st: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Thursday, April 1st: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Friday, April 2nd: @booktimistic

Monday, April 5th: Eliot’s Eats

Wednesday, April 7th: Blooming with Books

 

I’m linking up with Foodies Read.
For all my TLC book reviews, click here.

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