Food and interesting stories. Each is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so when they are skillfully woven together into a book, we get twice the happiness. Today I’m reviewing The Tea House on Mulberry Street (2005), by Sharon Owens, in this episode of Bookin’ and Cookin.’
In her debut novel, Sharon Owens has woven together an ensemble cast of twisty Irish characters, set in the sometimes grim face of Belfast. Penny and Daniel Stanley own and operate Muldoon’s Tea Rooms, which Penny inherited from her parents, but they’ve both got secrets. Brenda Brown lives next door in a crumbling apartment and creates dark paintings that reflect her sad spirit — and she’s a “true fan” of Nicholas Cage. The Crawley sisters have devoted their life to helping others and basking in the reflected glory of their father’s WWII bravery. Rose is lonely and dispirited in her flower shop, and Henry is aghast at his wife Aurora’s need to impress people through her book club and enormous new conservatory. Arnold and Sadie co-exist in a loveless marriage, with Arnold’s success selling conservatories and replacement windows giving him an excuse for philandering and leaving Sadie with the care of his aging parents. Claire and Peter lost track of each other seventeen years ago and have never since been able to establish good relationships because they are still in love. In each story, which interconnect in the style of Love Actually, there are twists and turns, and some are even unexpected. I suspect you will cheer for Sadie and wonder if Penny and Daniel can ever make up for their years of hurts and secrets. Because these characters are mature people with problems that can occur in mature relationships, it’s not really chick lit for the reader looking for something light.
These stories are set on the daily plate of tempting goodies that come out of the kitchen at Muldoon’s Tea Rooms and will have you determined to find a tea room of your own to visit. Although there’s only one recipe actually at the back of the book, there’s a lot of creative inspiration here for your own tea party.
With a devastating review on amazon.com from Publishers’ Weekly and mixed reviews from both Amazon and goodreads viewers, you might find this book to be Maeve Binchy “lite.” I listened to it on audio, and found Caroline Winterson’s interpretation to be sprightly and compelling. Still, it gets four stars from both sets of reviewers, so I don’t think I’m alone in suggesting that The Tea House on Mulberry Street is worth reading.
While Nigella Lawson is apparently now sold on no-bake Cherry Cheesecake, this recipe for baked New York Cheesecake from smitten kitten is more like what Daniel and Penny served at Muldoon’s. As for me, I’m still savoring the special treat that Sandy made me several years ago and I’m generally able to satisfy my cheesecake cravings locally by shopping at Eli’s Cheesecake — and I go to the outlet whenever I need cheesecake for a large group!