Book Club



Lobsters, Life & Literature

Last week, my kids and I enjoyed mouth-watering, fresh Atlantic lobster with my parents. The poor little crustaceans were taken out of the water Friday morning, and were on my plate by suppertime. Talk about succulent!

Lobsters boiled to perfection.

Lobsters boiled to perfection.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the great joys of living in a seaport on the east coast. The weather leaves much to be desired, but the food is divine. To all my dear friends and relatives living “on the mainland” … eat your hearts out.

Dad, a true gourmet, has always taken great pride in orchestrating elaborate meals for those with refined and discerning palates. This melt-in-your-mouth lobster is merely the tip of the iceberg. My childhood is filled with memories of stuffed fresh Atlantic salmon (too big to fit in Mom’s oven!), flambé crown pork roast and chocolate éclairs (yes, completely from scratch). There was an octopus in there somewhere too.

Now, nearing the age of 70, Dad has begun to pass on some of his coveted culinary secrets to my son (aged 13 and 51 weeks, but who’s counting?). My young man has inherited his grandfather’s love of cooking and all things food. He stuffed and cooked his first turkey (a whopping 30 pounder) when he was only nine – homemade dressing and all.

Why have I chosen to write about this in a blog that is supposed to be about the trials and tribulations of writing a debut novel? First of all, the lobster really was that good. And yes, I’m fiercely proud of my father and my son and will gush about them both every chance I get. But those aren’t the reasons.

It’s because family – the importance of it, the definition of it and the bonds between generations – is an important theme in my novel, Crossing the Rubicon.

My protagonist’s father is about as far from Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) as you can get. He’s a guy on the edge. His focus is on accumulating material wealth and he’s at risk of losing it all. He’s become a negligent parent, a disrespectful husband and frankly, a total jerk.

Without an effective father, my character still needs a father figure to guide him through his coming of age. This is pretty standard stuff in literature. Harry Potter had Mr. Weasley and Sirius Black (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling), Tom Ward had the Spook (The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney), and so on. In my case, Al Archer has his grandfather (Liam Finnegan).

In a way it’s a throw-back to times gone by, when several generations lived under one roof. That was quite common here in Newfoundland, and in many other cultures too of course. It still is in some areas.

Fresh Atlantic Lobster

Fresh Atlantic Lobster

I haven’t included a lobster boil in Crossing the Rubicon, but it’s exactly the kind of scene that would be right at home in my story. The wise grandfather passing on sage advice to the young grandson taking his first tentative steps into manhood. Staging this conversation while the characters are cooking opens up all kids of opportunities for subtext and metaphors.

Oh yeah, a lobster boil will absolutely show up somewhere in one of the other books I have planned for the series. I already have one sandwich-making scene in Crossing the Rubicon, but I foresee many more meal descriptions in the future.

So Dad, son, what’s next? Some jumbo shrimp perhaps? Rotisserie chicken on the bbq? Or maybe a little prime rib …

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

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Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

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Valerie Francis

The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket. The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in

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