Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saving Saffron Sweeting - Book Review

Ever since I can remember I've been fascinated by England, which is a tad bit weird,  I was raised in Mexico with little to no British influence on TV or my surroundings, so no clue how I got to be an anglophile. I haven't visited the country yet, but when I do I'll be right at home thanks to books like "Saving Saffron Sweeting" by Pauline Wiles.

The story begins with Grace Palmer, a down-on-her-luck interior designer, she's a Brit living in San Francisco with her husband James. Before you can say "Keep Calm and Carry On", Grace finds out James cheated on her with her - only - client, confronts him, packs up her bags and goes back to England.

My initial reaction was "Wait a sec, let the man talk! Don't be hasty!" but as soon as Grace arrives in England I thought "James Who?". The way Pauline describes her home-coming is like an insider re-discovering her roots. The narrative is so detailed and intimate that I felt like I was experiencing things, like the chaos of Heathrow, as an every day occurrence.

Grace decides to live in the country for awhile and by chance ends up in a small town called Saffron Sweeting - I Googled it, the town doesn't exist, darn - nevertheless, this place will turn out to be exactly what she needed!

She begins to form a life, get a place to live and work, meet new friends and she finds her niche. Turns out, the town is full of extremely homesick American ex-pats and Grace is the bridge between the Americans who want to spend $$ and the English who wouldn't mind the ££ to keep their business afloat and thriving.

Here is where I get conflicting emotions, as an ardent anglophile I want her to stay in England, describe more of her life and sigh while I imagine myself there. As a romantic, I get worried she is being too hard on James and I feel for him, during the course of the story he keeps popping up. He's very sorry and truly wants her back, my heart breaks for him and I get concerned because Grace is trying to move on and actually begins dating!

The story is full of nuggets of interesting details, adorable characters and a plot that will keep you guessing what will Grace decide at the end. This is a great debut novel by Pauline Wiles, I am very grateful for the advance copy I received and be assured that my love for this book is truly my own.

I have a few more questions about England and Saffron Sweeting on the Interview with the Author.

You can find the book at Amazon:

Or visit her website for more information:

Interview with Pauline Wiles

Saving Saffron Sweeting was full of interesting tidbits about English country life, but I still had more questions for Author Pauline Wiles.

I love how you describe the life in a small town. Have you ever lived in a small town in the country?
The smallest place I've ever lived was a Scottish village near Aberdeen. The community was tight-knit and everyone knew each other's name - and business. And now, my parents live in a village just outside Cambridge, although it's larger than Saffron Sweeting and its shops are thriving. I didn't (deliberately) lift material from real life but I do think small communities provide some fun quirks and characters.

~~ Ellie side note: this beautiful pic came from Pauline's Pinterest, it's Woodbridge, Suffolk, England

Dandelion juice. Do you have a recipe for it? What does it taste like? Would it taste better with tequila or vodka in it?
Dandelion and burdock is best known as an acquired taste and I admit it's not one of my favorites. 'Medicinal' comes to mind, although other people mention root beer and even cherry cough syrup. A fairly straightforward recipe is here:
...although to be honest, if you are keen to try it, it might be simpler to just buy some on Amazon. Vodka might be a big improvement, yes!

~~Ellie side note: I did check online to see where they sold it and found this link:

You made a brief mention about warm beer, and I've always had that doubt. Is it really warm, or is it room temperature but since its always cold over there it evens out?
I think 'warm beer' is mostly an affectionate (?) term for beer that hasn't been chilled. So, yes, typically it would be room temperature. Personally, I really dislike beer, whether hot, warm or icy!

In the book, the villagers had to change their ways in order to accommodate the American way of living and thinking. Do you find that happening in small places?
I do feel small communities are changing to survive, not from the influence of any given nationality, but because our lifestyles and habits are evolving. Rather than resisting change on all levels, to me, it makes more sense for communities to find new ways to succeed together. For example, I can think of a couple of small food businesses close to Cambridge which are thriving because they're providing great quality, convenient food to a niche market.

The book was beautifully written, do you have people (editors, beta readers, writers group, therapists, etc) who helped you in your path and who you would like to mention?
Thanks for that kind comment. I feel lucky that the book got off to a great start, thanks to author Kristin Harmel and my fellow students in Media Bistro's Chick Lit class. ( Several of my beta readers came from that group and they were diligent in their critique! I also self-edited obsessively, literally hunting through the book for words which novice writers tend to over-use.
But I'm certainly still developing my writing skills and style; I'm constantly on the lookout for tips and articles on technique. There were some wonderful sessions at the San Francisco Writers Conference (, which I attended shortly before the book was published.

Make sure to visit Pauline's website, it has links to her Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. Plus more British expressions and a handy Book Club Guide. Thank You Pauline!