Review: Love and Saffron by Kim Fay

Review: Love and Saffron by Kim FayLove & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love by Kim Fay
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: foodie fiction, historical fiction, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 208
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 8, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook

The #1 Indie Next Pick, in the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road and Meet Me at the Museum, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter--as well as a gift of saffron--to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she's never tasted fresh garlic--exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.
Food and a good life--they can't be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen's decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen's friendship--a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.
A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.

My Review:

It’s 1962 and the world is about to change. Neither Joan Bergstrom in LA nor Imogen Fortier on Camano Island (in Puget Sound outside Seattle) have any foreknowledge of what the 60s are going to bring, either to the country or to themselves.

They are both writers, and their correspondence begins when 27-year-old Joan writes a fan letter to 59-year-old Imogen about Imogen’s monthly column in a Seattle-based lifestyle magazine, Northwest Home & Life. Imogen is kind of who and what Joan wants to be when she grows up. Joan is Imogen’s chance to help, befriend, advise and share her soul with a woman living on the cusp of change.

They tell their stories to each other in letters over the next four years as the country grieves through the assassination of JFK and watches the Civil Rights Movement come to life. They mourn together, they hope together, and most importantly for their friendship, they explore the cuisines of the world together even though they’re usually eating more than 1,000 miles apart.

But they begin their friendship, their correspondence, and that delicious sharing with Joan’s first letter. It includes both a recipe and a few, precious strands of saffron to make the flavors come to life. And they do.

Joan is the explorer while Immy supports her and cheers her on. Joan starts out wanting to explore the cuisines of her native Los Angeles, and ends up finding the love of her life. Immy shares Joan’s discoveries, her recipes and her saffron, and discovers whole new facets of her husband of over 40 years. Both of their worlds expand because of their friendship with each other.

It all makes for a beautiful story, a sharing of hearts, minds and perspectives. With an ending that will make even the hardest of hearts shed a tear that it doesn’t last forever.

Escape Rating A: This is a bit more Charing Cross Road than Meet Me at the Museum, but it is every bit as marvelous as they are. It’s just that the ending has the bittersweetness of the former more than the hope of the latter. Not that both of those things aren’t part of its story.

I did figure out how this was going to end long before I got there but it honestly didn’t matter. This is one of those stories that are about the journey and not the destination.

More than anything else, what I read was that this journey was all about opening. Joan and Immy begin their journey far apart, in geography, in age, in circumstance. While those gaps aren’t bridged, they cease to matter. Because what they open up to each other are both their minds and their hearts.

They laugh together, they cry together, they share their triumphs, their tragedies, and their innermost thoughts. They inspire and encourage each other to leap and believe that the net will appear – even if the other has to provide that net. It’s impossible not to envy the depth of their friendship.

This is also not a book to read if you’re already hungry. From the very first letter, they share recipes, occasionally actual food and condiments, and encourage each other to explore new tastes and new cuisines at a time when the height of suburban culinary achievement was a fancy jello mold. They encourage each other to live a bigger life than they have been.

Love & Saffron is a very quick read with a lot of heart that kind of sidles up to the issues that were fomenting during the mid-1960s. We’re led into Joan and Immy’s sometimes sideways discussion of the Civil Rights Movement, racial prejudice and women’s rights through the perspectives of two intelligent women who are in the midst of having their eyes opened and their consciousness raised and figuring out where they are going to stand. It was easy to feel with them and for them and this is just a story that I’m very glad I read.

Review: Devoted in Death by J.D. Robb

Review: Devoted in Death by J.D. RobbDevoted in Death (In Death, #41) by J.D. Robb
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: In Death #41
Pages: 384
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 15th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Eve Dallas tracks a couple whose passion is fueled by cold brutality in the newest crime thriller from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Obsession in Death and Festive in Death.
When Lieutenant Eve Dallas examines a body in a downtown Manhattan alleyway, the victim’s injuries are so extensive that she almost misses the clue. Carved into the skin is the shape of a heart—and initials inside reading E and D . . .
Ella-Loo and her boyfriend, Darryl, had been separated while Darryl was a guest of the state of Oklahoma, and now that his sentence has been served they don’t ever intend to part again. Ella-Loo’s got dreams. And Darryl believes there are better ways to achieve your dreams than working for them. So they hit the road, and when their car breaks down in Arkansas, they make plans to take someone else’s. Then things get messy and they wind up killing someone—an experience that stokes a fierce, wild desire in Ella-Loo. A desire for Darryl. And a desire to kill again.
As they cross state lines on their way to New York to find the life they think they deserve, they will leave a trail of evil behind them. But now they’ve landed in the jurisdiction of Lieutenant Dallas and her team at the New York Police and Security Department. And with her husband, Roarke, at her side, she has every intention of hunting them down and giving them what they truly deserve . . .

My Review:

I read this in the car while we were coming back from Cincinnati. It had me so completely absorbed that I zoned out and left my poor but wonderful husband to do all the driving with no good radio stations for a large chunk of the way. I was bad but the book was good.

The story here is always two-fold. On the one hand, we have a case of a spree-killing Bonnie and Clyde who make the mistake of coming to New York City and continuing their spree on Eve Dallas’ turf.

The second story is, as always, the continuing adventures of the family that Eve and Roarke have created – their friends and and Eve’s colleagues and cops at NYPSD Central. The line between friends, colleagues and subordinates has blurred so far that it is usually hard for Eve to figure out which is which, especially since she never thought she would have anything other than colleagues kept at arm’s reach.

The case is a particularly nasty one. A couple of spree-killers have discovered that torturing and murdering a victim sends their sex life into overdrive. They aren’t really all that smart, but they really are scary. They are also very, very lucky, and they’ve found a formula that works for them all too well. Pick a lonely spot. Entice a victim. Knock them out, throw them in the trunk, and carry them off to whatever flop they have secured for two days of fun and torture, until they kill their prey and dump the body far from wherever the crime took place. Then they move on down the road, heading for New York.

And that’s where Eve gets involved. Ella-Loo and Darryl decide to take up residence in New York City, where Eve and her merry band of murder cops have all the latest equipment and a whole lot of savvy about what makes people kill, and how to catch the ones that do.

A clock ticks during this story. Ella-Loo and Darryl have picked up what looks like their first NYC victim, and everyone involved in the case knows that Eve has at most 48 hours to find the lover/killers before they dump this body and grab another one.

So as Eve hunts down her prey, she tracks back through all the places that Ella-Loo and Darryl have struck, and in the process discovers a couple of places where small-town law enforcement preferred to hope that there was no murder, in spite of the evidence, rather than bring down a whole lot of federal oversight. There were too many times when these two killers could have been caught, long before their spree stretched to 24 bodies and counting.

A lot of heads will roll in a lot of places, but first Eve has to catch the killers before they rack up more bodies on her watch.

Escape Rating A-: This was one of the good ones in this series, because the race to find the killers remained front and center during the entire story. Long time fans do get some marvelous moments with the crew, and we do get to see how everyone is doing and what’s happening in their lives. But the focus of this story is always on finding Ella-Loo and Darryl before they finish their grisly business.

We also see how much police work has changed between our now and Eve’s 2060. In NYC, there is a lot of technology, a ton of resources, and a tremendous number of places where the killers can slip up just because they don’t know how much of live in NYC is observed by cameras. Which doesn’t help a whole lot until Eve has a clue of who they are looking for and where to look. Basic investigative work is still basic.

At the same time, we get a glimpse at police life outside NYC, where it doesn’t seem like things have changed all that much. One of the local law enforcement officers along Ella-Loo and Darryl’s route to questionable glory has never been satisfied with the accidental death verdict on a couple of their early victims. Deputy William Banner arrives from Oklahoma to tell Eve everything he knows, and everything he suspects, in the hopes that she can finally get justice for all the victims. He’s able to help the team deal with a lot of law enforcement agencies back home that don’t want to expose their mistakes to big city cops like Eve.

The FBI is going to be digging itself out of its part in this screw up for months, and that’s a good thing. As this case progresses, and we see who failed whom, we want them to eat their share of crow in this mess.

In the end, good triumphs, evil gets its just desserts and Eve and her crew go home to fight crime another day. The ending of the story is marvelously cathartic, as one of the regulars gets a much deserved boost just in time to let the accumulated tension out of the reader and the story.