For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Laura Frantz to join us. Laura writes historical romance. Her latest release, A Heart Adrift, is set in 1755 Virginia. It’s a beautiful story. It is also about a chocolatier. So I asked Laura to tell us more about chocolate and its use in her story.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado … Laura, please introduce yourself and tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you?
I’m Laura Frantz and I once lived on an island like my heroine in A Heart Adrift. Not a southern one like Indigo Island but Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. One of the highlights of my life!
Your latest novel, A Heart Adrift, released from Revell in January … can you tell us about it?
A colonial chocolatier and a privateering sea captain collide once more after a failed love affair of a decade before. Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart? Or will a new shared vision reunite them?
What made you choose a chocolatier for your main character?
A lifelong love of chocolate and a fascination for chocolate history. Our Hershey and whatnot today is very different than colonial chocolate! I had a delightful time concocting a heroine like Esmée Shaw who plies her delicious cocoa on Water Street in York, Virginia, present day Yorktown.
What research was required to give authenticity to her job? How did you go about that research?
Pounds were added in the creation of this chocolate-laden tale 😊 I shadowed chocolate historians online and dove deep into cocoa research to find that chocolate was as beloved in the colonial era as it is now. Much of colonial cocoa was enjoyed as hot chocolate, a favorite of George and Martha Washington. Chocolate tarts were also very popular as well as steamed chocolate pudding and even chocolate biscuits. American Heritage Chocolate is said to be the most authentic to 18th-century chocolate today. Revell and I included their chocolate samples in book club boxes for A Heart Adrift along with 2 chocolate recipes, one of them historic.
Is there a difference between the chocolate then and the chocolate today?
A vast difference. Back then, chocolate was expensive and had to be imported as raw cocoa then laboriously processed by hand. It was also very bitter and dark. Today we have several varieties of chocolate, even white chocolate, and the process is mechanized. Though a candy bar is still said to take up to a week to make, it’s inexpensive to purchase. In the colonial era chocolate was more luxury though officers in George Washington’s army were given chocolate on military campaigns.
In the book, Esmée, the chocolatier, makes several different types of chocolate treats. Can you tell us about those?
Chocolate almonds were considered a sweetmeat back then and were very popular. Esmée also sells bricks of cocoa in her chocolate shop, including chocolate pots for making hot chocolate. These pots were different than teapots and came with a whisk or molinillo to blend the drink. Chocolatiers relied on a great deal of sugar and fruit and spice like orange, cinnamon, and anise to flavor chocolate. Chocolate tarts were also very popular as well as steamed chocolate pudding and even chocolate biscuits.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
There is a huge amount of maritime history that wasn’t included in the novel. Black Jacks, as they were called – free Africans – crewed many ships and were competent, seasoned salts aka sailors. Our hero, Captain Lennox, and crew represent those intrepid real-life mariners that laid the foundation for the future United States Navy.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. If you would like to purchase a copy of A Heart Adrift, you can find it at online and brick & mortar stores. To support an indie bookstore, visit Baker Book House.
If you would like to learn about Laura or her other books, here is what she suggests … I’m active on social media, mostly Instagram and Facebook. If you visit my website at www.laurafrantz.net you’re invited to sign up for my seasonal newsletter. I love meeting new readers. Also, my brand new website will go live this spring and it’s going to be a beauty!
Over Sunday Dinner next week, I invited a local Wisconsinite to join us in order to give first-hand, contemporary understanding into an aspect of Lily’s job, from my historical romance, A Strike to the Heart. See you then!