Hi guys! We have J.C. Long popping in today with his upcoming release Hearts In Ireland, we have a brilliant guest post from J.C. and a great excerpt so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Hearts In Ireland
When the future is shrouded and it’s hard to find direction, maybe it’s time to let the heart lead the way….
Ronan Walker stands at a crossroads, unsure how to pursue his education… unsure if he even wants to. Now that his mother is gone, all he has left are the wonderful stories of her youth in Ireland, and he’s drawn to the land of his ancestors. There, he seeks out his mother’s family and meets Fergal Walsh, who works at Ronan’s aunt’s bookstore. A love of literature facilitates a fast friendship between the two men, and even though Ronan cannot deny the potential—and his desire—for more, he cannot see a future for the two of them when he leaves Ireland. Fergal must persuade Ronan to give school in Dublin a chance—and convince Ronan that his heart has already found its home.
Well, Hello to all of you! First of all, I’d like to thank the great people here at MM Good Book Reviews for hosting the kick-off to my Blog Tour for Hearts in Ireland. This is a story that’s near and dear to my heart, and as you follow along on the blog tour you’ll learn why. We’ve got a lot of great things ahead of us, but today is one that I’m particularly excited about.
I want to share with you a recipe from my grandmother, a recipe for an item featured in the book, and that has been a mainstay of Irish cuisine since the 1600s: chocolate potato cake! Potatoes actually add moisture to breads and such; potato pancakes and cakes are so delicious and are never dry or crumbly like some cakes can get. You can do this in a bundt pan or a regular cake pan—I recommend the bundt or the sort of pan you’d make banana bread in.
So what do you need?
- Well, for starters—cold mashed potatoes! It’s better to use unsalted, unbuttered and unmilked mashed potatoes, otherwise you have to adjust for the flavor of the potatoes themselves.
- 2-3 eggs, depending on the texture you prefer; my Gran always used 3.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ a cup of baking cocoa—although its more authentic to use actual grated chocolate.
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (Gran used a tablespoon during the holidays)
- 1 tablespoon of Bailey’s. (you don’t HAVE to, but it’s delicious)
So how do you make it?
- Mix the butter and sugar until it’s got a nice creamy consistency.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time (you can do together but it’s better to determine the consistency you like by doing it one at a time).
- Add the mashed potatoes and mix.
- Add in the baking powder, milk, Bailey’s, cocoa, and the spices
- Last comes the nuts.
- The oven should be pre-heated to 350 degrees F. In the bundt pan it will take about 40 minutes. Test regularly with the toothpick; don’t let it overcook.
My family has never eaten this cake with icing; it’s very rich in flavor and doesn’t at all need it. I highly advise against it.
I hope you enjoy this cake and the little taste of Ireland that it brings to you, and I hope you come along on the journey with me!
At one point in the evening, the conversation turned to the funeral.
“What song did yeh decide on, Richard?” asked Aunt Maris.
“‘Danny Boy,’” my father answered.
Aunt Maris frowned her distaste at that. She was Mom’s younger sister and looked quite a bit like her, though she lacked the same inner fire that had radiated from Mom’s every pore. “It’s a bit stereotypical, innit?”
“It was Mom’s favorite song.” All eyes turned to me, surprised by my interjection. I wondered how many of them had forgotten I was there. “She sang it practically every day. I think it’s a great choice.” I let an edge slip into my voice, a dare for one of them to challenge the wishes of a deceased woman’s son and husband.
“It’s a beautiful song,” Grandma Murphy said, bringing any thought of discussing that to an end. If Grandma Murphy approved, not a word would be spoken against it. “Did yeh get a live singer or will there be a recordin’?”
“A live singer and violin accompanist. Two friends of ours volunteered.”
Talk of the upcoming funeral continued. I didn’t want to listen to the details of what was going to be the worst day of my life being laid out again and again, so I excused myself to the kitchen under the pretense of collecting a drink.
Aunt Gwendolyn, to my surprise, was already in the kitchen, fiddling with a teakettle, her eyes wet. She was Mom’s oldest sister and was coping about as well as I was from the looks of it.
“Ah, Ronan! Want a cuppa?”
I wondered if that was every Irish person’s solution to life’s problems; Mom always offered a cup of tea when things were rough, or I was sad or upset. The day I came out of the closet to her, we had like ten cups each.
I nodded, though, and she poured a cup of steaming hot liquid, placed it in front of me, then poured her own.
“I won’t embarrass us both by asking how you’re holding up.”
I felt a rush of gratitude. I didn’t like the idea of lying to my family, and whenever someone asked that question, they didn’t want the real answer. They never wanted to hear that you were breaking inside, spiraling over a dark black void from which you fear there will be no return. No, it was a mechanical question to which you were expected to give a mechanical response of, “I’m holding up” or “depends on the hour,” which was bullshit. It depended on the minute—the second, even.
Aunt Gwendolyn let her gaze wander to the large calendar on the wall beside the refrigerator, each month featuring a different Irish landscape. Mom bought the same calendar every year.
“Her heart was always in two places,” I said, voice hoarse as I fought back unexpected tears. “Here, and in Ireland.”
“Don’t be silly,” Aunt Gwendolyn said, reaching for my hand. “Yer mother loved Ireland, yes. It was her home. But you, Ronan, you were her heart, and you were always right here, so her heart couldn’t have been in two places.”
“Do you think she regretted coming to America?”
Aunt Gwendolyn snorted. “I don’t think Allanah regretted much in her life. She lived exactly the way she wanted to. When she loved, she loved with everything she had, and she loved your father enough to follow him across the world.”
Hearing that from her made me feel a little better. There was a part of me that feared that I’d held her back, kept her from returning to a place she truly loved and wanted to be. I could have let that eat me up inside, let it destroy me.
“Your mother knew that she always had a home with us in Ireland.” Aunt Gwendolyn paused, finishing her tea. She placed the cup in the sink and ran a little water in it, a practiced motion that probably came without thought for someone who spent their life drinking tea. As she walked out of the kitchen, she stopped beside me and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You do too, Ronan.”
J.C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an Army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his lifelong involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States, J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that.
His favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing, and Korean food (not in that order… okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts, and wishing he were writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.