The Emma Project

The Emma Project (The Rajes #4) by Sonali Dev

When I first read Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev and really enjoyed it, but each book since then has gotten worse and worse.

Before I read this book I suspected that I wasn’t going to like this book from the previous one as the person who is supposed to be Knightley is terrible. I mean she is manipulative, takes advantage of Yash, and exhibits truly horrible abusive behavior as she tries to force him to stay with her.

But I tried to keep an open mind, even though those actions are nothing like Mr. Knightley. But I was over this book in the beginning pages.

Picking up were we left off in Incense and Sensibility; we have Knightlina (Naina)/Mr. Knightley and Vansh Raje/Emma are in the balcony after Yash won the governor’s seat in the previous book, and they are joined by Yash (Edward Ferrars) and India (Elinor Dashwood) who have left his party for the balcony to get it on. They are then joined by his sister Nisha and brother-in-law Neel Graff who have also left the party to get it on. They interrupt them and then who should come along but Ashna Raje and Rico Silva who are also getting it on. The only one missing is DJ and Trishna. And lo and behold, they have been there in the pool house the whole time. Really? There is a fine like between cute and saccharine; with this being the latter.

Naina has a foundation she has been working on and was supposed to get an endowment from Jiggy Mehta but after she and Yash are a no go he has instead given it to her and Vansh forcing them to work together. Vansh has been traveling around the globe helping people, but all Dev seems to want to talk about regarding his personality is that “he’s hot”. We don’t really know much else about him. Vansh agrees to take the money and will create an app to solve homelessness. Why has he concentrated on homelessness? Well he found a guy working on Yash’s campaign who is homeless and it opened his eyes to the fact that homelessness can exist in his home town. Even though he’s 24 and from the Bay Area, he’s never seen homelessness before 2022. Wow, homelessness in the Bay Area has existed before I was born. And I’m older than Vansh. I know this is supposed to make me “feel” for Vansh; but instead just makes me think wow this guy is so privileged that he’s been all around the globe and just now realized that gee whiz homelessness exists in America.

Seriously

Also they don’t even go over this but Yash can’t afford to pay his staff enough to live off the streets. Wow, he sure cares about the average man.

So not to be rude but I feel like this author doesn’t understand what it is like to grow up in California. I really felt that in the previous book a lot, especially as there is an absence of Latino people and no one even mentions the Latino vote which really angers me as a Latina who grew up in California, and has lived in the Bay Area, and knows what governors always talk about when they run. But I digress…

Anyways, Naina and Vansh fight constantly, yep that’s right they are NOT friends, and even though they fight through a majority of the book but for then for some reason end up falling in love and together blah, blah, blah.

And then Esha is suddenly healed when she meets Siddharta Dashwood the brother of India and China. And the two fall in love and are married even though their conversations barely make any sense.

Huh

So this book was really boring I was only a few chapters in it and skimmed the rest of the book as it held zero of my attention.

I really did not care for it as Vansh and Naina are nothing like their counterparts. To be honest with you I think Dev wants to write a story about expectations that Indian women face and abuse in Indian households rather than a reimagined Jane Austen novel, but the problem was she had already mentioned in her first book that she had four Jane Austen books planned out and I’m sure she was also contracted with her publisher, so she had to complete it those stories-instead of writing her stories.

And why do I say that? Because the character of Mr. Knightley is a kind and caring friend who loves his family and would do anything for them; along with anything for the one he loves-even if it means giving up his home, status of man of the house, etc. The way he treats Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, his annoying brother John; is very admirable; but instead that is replaced with a woman who has made herself be alone as she’s has been hurt and abused by her father. She not only has no friends but no boyfriends; and is sealed like a tomb. Do you see any similarities?

Then we have Emma, in the novel she is a wealthy woman who grew up with no one really pushing her or making her apply herself; getting bored she sets herself to matchmaking and helping a girl that doesn’t know her background or history. In this Vansh is a man that has gone around the globe in the peace corps but we never hear anything that he does and we don’t know anything about him other than he knows everyone and is “hot”. Like that’s it. His family also hates Naina and all try to dissuade them from being together. He wants to help Hari “sort of” but his main focus from page one is getting Naina in bed.

Ugh…this guy

She also took one of the most comedic books in Austen’s repertoire and made it depressing.

Also have you noticed that since the first book all everyone has terrible parents and are all in awe of the HSH Rajes. Like DJ had a good family- but Ashna’s parents were terrible; Rico had a terrible father and then he has an aunt we know nothing about and one Rico doesn’t even go to see or call when he’s back in the US so I’m guessing he doesn’t like her (I mean family day on the cooking show she wasn’t invited); India and China have a mom who’s not truly terrible but she’s not memorable or “the” family the Rajes are. In this the adoration is extremely thick!

When I first heard that Dav was going to stop her Austen retellings after this book, I was sad. I was interested to see how she would do Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. But after reading this, I realized I am more than happy for this to be over. I think Dev was done with this series a while ago and that she needs to move on to writing other things, what she really wants to write now.

For more Emma, go to Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Emma

For more Emma adaptions, go to Is You’ve Got Mail Really an Adaption of Pride and Prejudice?

For more on The Rajes, go to Incense and Sensibility

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Beside Two Rivers

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Scones

When my book club met to discuss The Secret, Book, & Scone Society, we also had to have snacks and not just any snacks we needed to have scones! Why scones? Because in the novel one of the characters, Hester, is a baker and makes comfort scones. These scones are based on what she thinks her patrons will be comforted by.

“I just ate the most amazing scone at the Gingerbread House, but the baker said the recipe couldn’t be duplicated because her scones are based on people’s fondest memories. She told me that she uses a basic recipe and adds certain ingredients after talking to each customer.” “That’s what I’ve heard as well,” Nora said.”

The Secret, Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams

Hester makes quite a few scones in this mystery but I decided to go with a peppermint chocolate one as she makes that for the character who gets murdered, as his death is the catalyst that brings our ladies together and what forms the The Secret, Book, and Scone Society

“Even though he ordered a comfort scone, I sensed that he didn’t think he was worthy of comfort. He seemed weighed down by guilt. When people with an untroubled conscience enter my bakery, their faces light up like a Christmas-tree star. If they’ve come to Miracle Springs to seek relief from cancer or arthritis pain or what-have-you, they still glow with that firefly light when the aroma of fresh-baked bread envelops them. That scent speaks of coming home…but this guy’s lips were practically zippered closed. I decided it would take a powerful flavor combination to coax a good memory to the surface, so I went out on a limb and chose a wintery recipe: Peppermint mocha.”

The Secret, Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams

As Hester doesn’t give an exact recipe, I went looking online and found this Peppermint Scone recipe from Domestically Blissful. In The Secret, Book, and Scone Society Hester mentions putting mocha in her scones, I don’t like mocha so I chose a recipe without it.

Ingredients for Scones:

  • 2 & 3/4 Cups Flour + Extra for Stickiness
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Cold Butter
  • ½ Cup Half & Half
  • ½ Cup + 3 Tablespoons French Vanilla Creamer
  • 1 Teaspoon Peppermint Extract
  • 2 Tablespoons French Vanilla Creamer, optional

Ingredients for Icing

  • 2–3 Tablespoons French Vanilla Creamer
  • 1 Dash Peppermint Extract
  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1–2 Candy Canes, crushed

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. First, preheat your oven to 400° degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl sift together 2 & 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 pinch of salt.
  3. Use a cheese grater to crumble 1/2 cup of butter into the dry ingredients.
  4. Then stir the butter crumbles into the dry ingredients.
  5. Next, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the 1/2 cup of half & half, ½ cup + 3 tablespoons French vanilla creamer, and 1 teaspoon peppermint extract.
  6. Stir until combined and then form the dough into a ball.
  7. Flatten with your hands and fold the dough in half. Repeat this process 3-4 more times to create layers.
  8. Roll the dough out so that it is 2-3 inches tall then use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into scones.
  9. Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush the top of each scone with French vanilla creamer.
  10. Place the scones in your preheated oven and bake your scones for 12-17 minutes.
  11. Let cool slightly and then top them with peppermint icing created by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of French vanilla creamer, 1 dash peppermint extract, and 1 cup powdered sugar to your desired thickness.
  12. Before the icing hardens, sprinkle crushed candy cane on top of each scone.

These were absolutely delicious! We all loved them and were very comforted as we discussed our book. As we met in February or discuss this book, I had plenty of candy canes left to go on top.

For more scones, go to Sweet Cream Scones

For more recipes, go to Brown Butter Matcha Brownies

I Won the Ellery Adams’ September 2020 Giveaway + My Review of the First Two Books in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society Series

So two years ago, (I wasn’t kidding when I said I was behind on my posts), I won the Ellery Adams giveaway. You know me and free, I just can’t resist.

Anytime I see a giveaway I have to enter it.

So I ended up winning a copy of Solve it With Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Gripping Casebook of Stories.

I loved the Solve It book as I have always been a huge fan of Encyclopedia Brown and other mini mysteries. As I’m also a giant Sherlock Holmes fan, it was just perfect for me and I was so happy to have won it!

I also enjoyed Sherlock Holmes: A Gripping Casebook of Stories; which has the first Sherlock Holmes book (A Study in Scarlet) and fourteen other cases. Loved it!

Mystery, you say?

Ellery Adams also give me a cute I Love Mr. Darcy Bag, which you might have spotted I some other posts. It has popped up in several photos.

She also included a copy of her book, The Whispered Word (Secret, Book, & Scone Society #2).

We decided to read it for my book club, and of course as we read that one, we ended up reading the first book in the series.

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society (The Secret, Book, & Scone Society #1) by Ellery Adams

Nora Pennington has a terrible secret, and equally terrible burn scars. She moved to Miracle Springs, North Caroline to get away from it all and start her life anew. She runs a little bookshop called Miracle Books where people can come and receive bibliotherapy; books to help with whatever sadness, depression, anxiety, or other issues they are facing.

“She held up her hands. “This won’t be like a traditional counseling session where we sit down and you talk for a long period of time. You won’t need to go into detail with me. I only need a broad brushstroke—a brief glimpse into the heart of your pain. That way, I can select the right books. After that, you can start reading your way to a fresh start this evening.”

-The Secret, Book, & Scone Society (The Secret, Book, & Scone Society #1) by Ellery Adams

A businessman comes to town who is very upset and Nora recommends him getting a comfort scone from the bakery while she gathers a stack of books to help him overcomes his troubles. Before he can make his appointment with her he is found dead on the railroad tracks.

The man made a real impression on Nora and she starts investigating; being joined by three other women-Hester Winthrop, owner of the Gingerbread House bakery; Estella Sadler, owner of Magnolia Salon and Spa; and June Dixon, Miracle Springs Thermal Pools employee. None of these women want any friends, but they find themselves growing closer together and creating their own little book club, sharing their secrets along with their hopes and dreams. As they investigate into a development scheme, things turn to more troubling than they originally thought with one of the book club members getting arrested. Will the ladies be able to discover the truth and save their friend? Or will things turn deadly.

All those in our book club really enjoyed the book and the way that Adams incorporated all these twists and turns in the mystery. We also loved the characters, each of them were very unique but also very real; reminding you of people you know or people you have met.

As this was an indie author, our group had a few questions and reached out to her. She very kindly responded to them.

Me: Hello, my book club is reading your first book and we had a couple questions for you: Where did you get the idea of the comfort scone? Had someone ever made that for you? And the different secrets the ladies have, how did you come up with them? Did you know people who had experienced similar traumas? Was there anyone you knew that had suffered burns?

Adams: I witnessed a terrible burn incident at a county fair about a year before I started writing this book. She was a beautiful young woman and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. After that, I did lots of research on burn victims.

Adams: As for the womens’ pasts, I knew women with similar secrets. I was in a Bible study group with about 30 women for years and the women were of all ages and backgrounds. I heard all kinds of stories during that time but never repeat anything exactly out of respect for them.

Adams: The comfort scone just popped in my head 😊

Me: We loved the comfort scone and all those scenes. What about the bibliotherapy? Is that something you did or someone did for you?

Adams: I feel like all book lovers do it—we offer certain books to certain people, knowing they’re a good match. I’ve done that for years, but like Nora, I’m not trained in the practice and haven’t had a session myself.

Me: Thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions. 😊

The Whispered Word (The Secret, Book, & Scone Society #2) by Ellery Adams

In book two, Nora and the woman have formed a strong bond and are ready to handle anything…that is until an injured, emaciated woman shows up in the bookstore. The woman want to help this “Abilene Tyler”, but it’s hard when they know so little about her and she’s not sharing anything. To further complicate things a woman all disliked turns up dead, presumed suicide; however Nora feels it is murder. And even though the woman was unpleasant in life, Nora still plains to honor her.

The ladies are not sure if they can trust the new sheriff, and end up on the case, although when it turns out that Abilene might have a connection to the murder, will their group grow closer or split apart?

Hmm…

And if that wasn’t enough on the ladies’ plate, a new business rolled into town that seems too good to be true. Many of their friends and neighbors are falling victim to the scheme and these ladies are doing all they can to stop them.

Will the ladies be able to handle this mystery as well? Or will this be their final case?

We also all really liked this book as we saw the characters continue to grow and trust each other from the previous one. I really enjoyed that the characters wanted to help this stranger, as they could see she was in need of it, but at the same time were still cautious. I read another book, Patterns in the Sand (A Seaside Knitters Mystery #2) by Sally Goldenbaum, where something similar happened and I did not care for it at all. In Patterns in the Sand all the women instantly trust this stranger found in the shop and defend her innocence because she is a “talented artist”. This was super annoying as a reader. I think Adams did it better by having the women want to help, they could see she fled a troubling situation, but were also hesitant as they don’t know her or anything about her past.

We also loved the solution to the mystery, one we all did not see coming at all. I read so many mysteries, but this solution was right in front of my face and I was completely blind to it. Very well written.

If you enjoy mysteries and are a book lover, you should definitely give her books a read.

For more giveaway reviews, go to I Won the Tea and Me Blog & Harts of America Giveaway

For more on Sherlock Holmes, go to I Won the Cederberg Tea Giveaway + Book Club Picks: The Insanity of God

For more mysteries, go to Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Northanger Abbey