A Honeysuckle Cocktail for Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor

Welcome to the April/May Cook the Books.   I’m hosting Honeysuckle Season.  Let’s jump right in, shall we.  (Because, I am running a bit late.)  

You can read the announcement post here.

About the Book

From bestselling author Mary Ellen Taylor comes a story about profound loss, hard truths, and an overgrown greenhouse full of old secrets.

Adrift in the wake of her father’s death, a failed marriage, and multiple miscarriages, Libby McKenzie feels truly alone. Though her new life as a wedding photographer provides a semblance of purpose, it’s also a distraction from her profound pain.

When asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estate, Libby meets the owner, Elaine Grant. Hoping to open Woodmont to the public, Elaine has employed young widower Colton Reese to help restore the grounds and asks Libby to photograph the process. Libby is immediately drawn to the old greenhouse shrouded in honeysuckle vines.

As Libby forms relationships and explores the overgrown—yet hauntingly beautiful—Woodmont estate, she finds the emotional courage to sort through her father’s office. There she discovers a letter that changes everything she knows about her parents, herself, and the estate. Beneath the vines of the old greenhouse lie generations of secrets, and it’s up to Libby to tend to the fruits born of long-buried seeds.


What I thought:

I really enjoyed this book. It’s told in alternating points of view through the eyes of three women jumping from the 1940s to 2020.  Most of the plot takes place on a large Virginia estate, then and now.

Sadie, a daughter of moonshiners, is seen by the small rural Virginia community as a wild child. She is trying to aid her widowed mother as her two older brother are off fighting during WWII.

Olivia, one of the “landed gentry,” grew up in London. She marries the wealthy Dr. Carter to escape the Blitz in London.

Libby, a wedding photographer, returns to her hometown to escape the pains of a divorce and the sorrows of not being able to have children.

These women’s lives are intertwined and while I could predict some of the relationships, others blindsided me.

There is a lot of food in the novel but I wanted to riff on honeysuckle and good old Southern bourbon.

Honeysuckle Season Cocktail


If your honeysuckle vine has not flowered yet, use premade tea.


  • 1 honeysuckle herbal tea bag
  • 4 oz. boiling water
  • 1/2 c. local honey
  • 2 oz. good bourbon or whiskey
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • ice
  • lemon wheel to garnish


  1. Make the honeysuckle simple syrup. Place the tea bag in the boiling water and let steep for two minutes. Remove and discard tea bag. Mix honey into the tea mixture. (I use a 2 cup measuring cup for this.) If the honey doesn’t dissolve, microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat if necessary. Set aside to cool. This step can be done ahead of time.
  2. Place 1 oz. of the honeysuckle simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon, lemon juice and ice. Shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lemon wheel.

Yield: 1

I used to have honeysuckle growing on the back fence but as I went to retrieve some for a photo op, I had found that the wisteria had taken over everything.   

Enjoy the cocktail and cheers!

This is a quick read so you might still have time to join up.  If not, plan on joining us for the June/July edition when Simona (briciole)is hosting 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman.

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