Tag Archives: farm lit

Review: Berry on Top, by Valerie Comer

Berry on Top, by Valerie ComerBerry on Top, by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media, 2016)

It’s taken 10 years for Liz Nemesek to be willing to make even a passing stop in her hometown. Too bad the guy who drove her away came back first. Worse still, Mason Waterman is renting her parents’ old house, claims to have changed his life, and is now a good friend of her brother.

Liz can’t deny the changes – they were long overdue – but just because God forgave Mason doesn’t mean she will. Or that she’ll forgive God. Or admit that maybe she bears some responsibility, herself.

Past hurts, secrets, and Liz’ rejection of her childhood faith threaten to keep her from a chance at happiness with Mason, despite the matchmaking attempts of his young twins. But trying to do life her own way just gets her into an even bigger mess.

One of the things I appreciate about Valerie Comer’s romances is that her stories are about more than just the happy-ever-after. They’re filled with real people with real (and sometimes difficult) issues. They don’t gloss over hurt, but as the characters begin to change, we see the difference that God can make in broken lives.

Berry on Top is the sixth and final book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, and readers can look forward to a new series with some carryover of characters: the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series will be set in Spokane, Washington.

As well as the Farm Fresh series, Canadian author Valerie Comer has also written the Riverbend Novellas series and a stand-alone fantasy novel, Majai’s Fury. For more about the author and her books, visit valeriecomer.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Plum Upside Down, by Valerie Comer

Plum Upside Down, by Valerie ComerPlum Upside Down, by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media, 2015)

Chelsea Riehl is fairly new to the farm that her sister Sierra and friends founded. The farm community offer courses and event hosting and Chelsea thought her event planning skills would be her contribution to the mix, but so far she’s spent most of her time peeling plums, processing tomatoes, and cutting up beef.

Everyone else who lives on the farm is married or engaged, except Chelsea… and Keanan, the hippie-style guy with the guitar. Neither one of them is looking for a relationship – especially not with the other.

Chelsea and Keanan are polar opposites – and they start out with an instant dislike for one another. I found that a little irritating at first, but they quickly discover a budding attraction and I just as quickly developed a fondness for them both. Keanan’s faith is so deep that it stirs a longing in Chelsea’s spirit and causes her to struggle with comparisons and a sense of unworthiness.

This is book 5 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, where each novel features different characters from the expanding Green Acres farm community. I’m not really a fan of romance as the main plot thread, but what I like about this series is that along with engaging characters and the romance thread, there’s also a faith thread and the chance to vicariously live life on a self-sustaining farm.

Most, if not all, books in the Farm Fresh series include a recipe (this time it’s Plum Upside Down Cake). New for this story, the author has created a playlist of Keanan’s songs, and a list of the Bible verses that he shared with Chelsea.

Don’t let that last item scare you. This isn’t a preachy novel. Chelsea’s biggest issue is that she doesn’t dare believe that God really loves her personally. Naturally, as she opens up to her friends about this, the conversation will be about faith, but it’s clearly Chelsea’s need and not an author-driven agenda (although I’m sure the author agrees!)

Valerie Comer is a prolific Canadian author of Christian romance (plus one clean mainstream fantasy novel). As well as the Farm Fresh series of novels, she writes the Riverbend Romance novellas. For more about the author and her books, visit valeriecomer.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Sweetened with Honey, by Valerie Comer

Sweetened with Honey, by Valerie ComerSweetened With Honey, by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media, 2014)

Of the three friends who set out to demonstrate sustainable living on Green Acres farm, Sierra Riehl is the only one who’s still single. She’s glad Jo and Claire found such loving husbands, and she appreciates the skills the men have brought to the farm, but sometimes she feels like the odd woman out. And she’s pushing thirty.

Sierra wants to be in love, wants to get married and have children, but if she’s not careful she’ll settle for the only guy in town who’s taken an interest – even though her friends all think he’s selfish and arrogant. Then Gabe Rubachuk (from Raspberries and Vinegar) returns to town. Despite the past, Gabe is the one Sierra has been wishing for. Except he’s still grieving and doesn’t know how to move forward.

Gabe and Sierra do a lot of angsting over one another, especially at first. I confess to a bit of trouble relating to Sierra, likely because she keeps thinking of Tyrell as a viable option for a life partner. (As an action reader, I kind of hoped someone would deck him before the novel ended, but author Valerie Comer demonstrates a more mature Christian attitude toward him. I suspect he may grow up and be someone’s love interest in a later story.)

It’s always fun to take another virtual visit to the farm, and to see how the project is growing. Sweetened With Honey takes place three years after Raspberries and Vinegar, and although the farm hasn’t become the event destination its founders had hoped, they’ve added beekeeping and guided hiking. I learned a bit about bees!

I enjoy the rural and environmentally-conscious atmosphere of this series, and watching how the characters’ ideals are affected by the realities of life – and by their Christian values. It’s good to spend time with realistic characters (flaws and all) as they work through their issues. Sierra’s dealing with the biological clock and her health, and Gabe with grief. If we haven’t been there, we will – or our friends will. Fiction lets us explore common struggles so we’re better prepared to face them in reality.

Sweetened With Honey is book 3 in the Farm Fresh Romance series, with three more to follow. Book 1, Raspberries and Vinegar, won a 2014 Word Award in the Romance category. Author Valerie Comer is a Canadian local-food advocate. Visit her website for tips and recipes: valeriecomer.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Interview: Valerie Comer, Farm Lit author

Valerie ComerValerie Comer is a Canadian author with a passion for local food, faith, and fiction. We’re talking today about her new novel, Wild Mint Tea, and also about healthy eating.

Janet: Welcome back, Valerie, and congratulations on the release of your new novel. The Farm Fresh Romance series features three friends: Jo, Claire and Sierra. This is Claire’s story, right? What do we need to know about her?

Valerie: Thanks for having me back, Janet! Yes, this is Claire’s story. She’s a chef who specializes in local foods and who’s grounded in Green Acres, the farm she bought with her two friends. All her life she’s moved from one place to the next, and she’s so done with it. If she never leaves her new community of Galena Landing, Idaho, again, it will be too soon.

Janet: And Noel, the hero, has an entirely different plan for his life, right?

Valerie: So true. Noel believes the whole world is there for him to explore. It’s why he loves owning a reforestation company. He gets to move around the Pacific Northwest all summer and play hard in the tropics all winter.

Janet: Sounds like they’ll have some obstacles to overcome, but the journey will be worth it. Thinking of Claire’s work as a local-foods chef, I suspect she’s good at adapting recipes. Is that something you do, yourself?

Valerie: I hate to admit it, but I rarely prepare a recipe (at least a savoury one) exactly how I found it. There’s usually some ingredient I don’t have but can substitute for, etc. I think it comes from living on the farm and growing a garden, as there’s always an abundance of some foods and a dearth of others. For one thing, did you know that green beans and asparagus are interchangeable in most recipes? Try it!

Janet: Ooh. I like asparagus! Do you share recipes on your website, or in your author newsletter?

Valerie: I do share recipes on my blog from time to time. Here’s the recipe for Honey-Mustard Potato Salad that I attribute to Noel in Wild Mint Tea. This is entirely my own concoction, and a sweetly pleasing upgrade to the typical potato salad. One day soon it will be summer and I can justify making it again!

Janet: I’ll have to give that one a try myself. Love a good potato salad. We’re tea drinkers in my house, and the word “tea” in Wild Mint Tea caught my eye. Is there a specific connection with the story?

Valerie: There definitely is a connection, one I was able to bring into the story on several levels, including the drink of choice for the characters throughout the tale. Also, mint is a persistent plant. When the conditions are right, it flourishes and is difficult to uproot. Sort of like love.

Janet: That’s a great illustration for love, and I liked how you threaded it through the story. One of the nice things for readers about a series is that we can reconnect with the friends we made in the previous book. I’m looking forward to an update on Jo, Zach and Domino, the Border collie. Has much time passed since the events in Raspberries and Vinegar?

Valerie: There’s 6-7 months between the end of Raspberries and Vinegar and the beginning of Wild Mint Tea. I hadn’t planned for each story to be a March-July tale but, when I figured out the storyline for the second book heralded the beginning of tree-planting season, my hands were tied. When writing stories set in farming and forestry, the season is pre-set and part of the plot.

Janet: You’re also working on another project… something to do with snowflakes, while the rest of us look forward to warmer days?

Valerie: Yes! Snowflake Tiara contains a fun pair of Christmas novellas that will release in one volume this September. My good friend Angela Breidenbach has written a historical tale while mine is contemporary, and both center around the (fictional) Miss Snowflake Pageant in Helena, Montana. Some readers have told me that a story about pageantry seems far removed from my typical farm lit tales, but I found a way to connect them strongly together.

Janet: Sounds fun! This isn’t your first collaboration, either. Are you finding it different from working on Rainbow’s End?

Valerie: Yes and no. Four authors worked together on Rainbow’s End, so there was more input on how things worked—both a positive and a negative. In Snowflake Tiara, Angie and I have only each other to consult, and we’ve made one visit to Helena together, which was a big help. Also, this novella is twice as long at 40,000 words than the one in Rainbow’s End. However, in both cases, I’ve loved the sense of a bigger story and world than I’d imagined myself.

Janet: Let’s get back to Wild Mint Tea. It’s light romance, like Raspberries and Vinegar, but is there an idea or bit of information you’d like readers to take away?

Valerie: There are several themes in the story that are best uncovered in context, but one take away I can mention today is my desire for people to think about where their food comes from. In the context of Wild Mint Tea, some discussions involve using all the parts of an animal and not simply living off chicken breasts… and should it matter to the average person?

Janet: Your covers for the Farm Fresh Romance series are a different style—one might say fresh if you’ll forgive the pun—and I’ve seen a few like them but not many. For me, they work really well to set the books apart as one of the “lit” genres (in this case Farm Lit) as opposed to traditional romance. What prompted you to go for a visible difference?

Valerie: My daughter was my biggest prompter, as she’s the illustrator who created both covers. I think her style suits the genre of the stories, like you said. I’m thankful that my publisher was willing to take a chance on a slightly different cover style because they catch a lot of attention, almost all of it positive.

Janet: There’s another Farm Fresh Romance in the works, right?

Valerie: There is! I’m currently working on the final story of the three young women who bought a farm together. This one is called Sweetened with Honey and is set about two years after the end of Wild Mint Tea. Readers will get to see Green Acres Farm as a more established event destination and enjoy seeing Sierra, the resident naturopath, take on beekeeping as well as romance.

Janet: Sounds good! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Valerie: I have so much advice, I don’t even know where to begin! I’ve written for 12 years now and discovered I do things differently than most other writers (surprise…). I’ve created a free course providing an overview of the fiction-writing process over at towriteastory.com. I want to help newer writers understand what writing fiction entails and what some of the paths are that they might take. I invite your readers to check it out!

Janet: I second that suggestion. I signed up for those emails, myself. Now, we’ve met Valerie the writer, but there’s plenty more that fills your days. Tell us a bit about Valerie the private citizen.

Valerie: Busy. I stopped working an outside job over a year ago, but so much has flooded in to take that empty time. I’m doing some freelance work online as well as writing fulltime. In the summer, I add gardening and food preservation to the mix. No matter what, I always find time to enjoy my three little granddaughters! I love hanging out with them, reading, doing puzzles, or jumping on the trampoline.

Janet: I’ll bet they love to come to visit! Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

Valerie: My husband and I own a small farm in south-eastern BC, Canada. I love rural living and I love having the mountains around me. I truly believe I live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. So blessed.

Janet: I have to ask, since I know local food is important to you: is there something special food-wise that you’ll buy even though it has to be shipped in?

Valerie: Definitely. Like many Canadians and Americans, we like our coffee and chocolate, to name two biggies. However, we try to eat (and drink!) organic not only for the sake of our bodies but also for the sake of the environment and the workers who labor in the fields. Buying organic and fair trade helps protect those workers and our planet.

Janet: I confess to buying Mexican raspberries in the winter. Because of shipping, they’re not as good as locally-sourced ones, but those are strictly a summer treat. Thanks for visiting today, and all the best in the year ahead!


Wild Mint Tea by Valerie Comer

She’s rooted deep. He flies free.

Local-foods chef Claire Halford envisions turning Green Acres Farm into an event destination. Weddings prove trickier than she imagined when the first one comes with a ruggedly handsome brother-of-the-bride, who has everything but a fixed address. Oh, and faith in God.

Noel Kenzie loves the freedom his reforestation company affords him. Why worry about deep stuff like God and commitment when he’s in his prime? Except there’s a woman who might make it worth giving up his wings…and digging in some roots. If he dares.

Click the cover to visit Valerie’s site and read a sample chapter of Wild Mint Tea.

Review: Wild Mint Tea by Valerie Comer

Wild Mint Tea by Valerie ComerWild Mint Tea, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2014)

Claire Hadford and two friends have bought a farm in Northern Idaho with the goal of turning it into a hands-on demonstration of sustainable living. They’ve built an interesting straw-bale house (efficient, warm and dry, and far better than the mouse-infested trailer they started out in) and are ready to begin hosting events.

All three women share the grounds-keeping and gardening work while holding down outside  jobs to help with expenses. Claire is a chef, desperate to find a better gig than the weekend night shifts at the town’s restaurant, The Sizzling Skillet. Her boss is a bully who gives her no scope to highlight the local and seasonal ingredients which are her specialty.

Local-sourcing food is a tough sell, and Claire figures that’s why she doesn’t get the contract to cook for a reforesting crew when they arrive in the area. Good thing she doesn’t know the truth: owner Noel Kenzie thinks she’s too distractingly cute.

To ease his conscience, Noel suggests the farm as a wedding venue for his sister, not realizing how much time he’ll end up spending with his sister and Claire.

He’s a man on the move, planting trees across the US and hitting exotic destinations in the off-season. Claire’s roots in the farm go deep—and she needs that stability after a childhood of being uprooted. Plus, the most important thing she’d want in a man—if she were looking, which she’s not—is that he have a close relationship with the Lord.

Noel is saving that until he’s too old to have fun. And he knows he’s not good enough for Claire. His father abandoned the family and only calls when he’s out of cash. Noel has no idea how to be a good dad—even if Claire would take a chance on him.

Wild Mint Tea is the second in the Farm Fresh Romance series, and I really enjoy these books. The characters are real, complicated, and I care about them. Claire and Noel each carry false beliefs about themselves and their needs, and it’s heartwarming to watch them grow. Fans of book 1, Raspberries and Vinegar, will be glad to see Jo, Zach and Domino again.

And people like me who like a little adventure beyond the romance will enjoy the heavy equipment when it rolls in. That’s all I’m saying.

Valerie Comer is a Canadian author who writes “where food meets faith.” She’s passionate about both and too skilled a writer to be pushy about either. She cooks up a fine tale, properly spiced with humour. To learn more about the author, you can visit her website. And come back here on Friday to read my interview with her.

For a little fun, check out this post by the illustrator, Hanna Sandvig–and view the short-but-sweet book trailer. Click here.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

Review: Raspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer

Raspberries and Vinegar cover artRaspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2013)

What happens when three 20-something single Christian women buy a farm in northern Idaho and set out to demonstrate their beliefs about sustainable living?

The farm is called Green Acres, but unlike Lisa from the classic TV show, Jo Shaw and her friends Claire and Sierra have done their research and are up to the task.

Mostly up to the task. There’s the small matter of a mouse infestation in their temporary dwelling, but Jo’s sure they can handle it.

She’s not so sure she can handle their attractive neighbour, Zach. He’s only home to care for his parents’ farm until his father’s health improves, and he can’t wait to get back to the city. The girls see all the pluses of rural living, but he sees only minuses. They eat ethically-sourced food; he’ll hit the drive-thru any chance he gets. Jo doesn’t think she stands a chance with him anyway, against her friend Sierra’s charms.

Jo, at 25, is only beginning to see the world’s not as black and white as she thinks. And she knows her subject so thoroughly, she forgets the average person doesn’t share her knowledge. When she remembers, she tries to fully educate the person on the spot.

Author Valerie Comer does a great job making Jo a likable character instead of the opinionated shrew she could have been. Jo’s just like any of us: passionate about something that matters to her. And like us, she sometimes reacts first and regrets later. She’s a vulnerable character, despite her spunk.

As a boy, Zach loved the farm but hated the low income level. He’s a newly-qualified veterinarian, looking for a lucrative city post with civilized hours and no cows. Somewhere along the way, his faith has been pushed to the side. Coming home may get him thinking about it again.

Something about these characters connected with me. Maybe it’s Jo’s second-guessing herself, or how she’s so quick to compare herself to others (always to her loss). Maybe it’s Zach’s trying to be an honourable man in his own strength. Maybe it’s both of them, carrying loads they were never intended to shoulder alone.

Like Zach, I don’t know much about “walking gently on the earth,” and I found lots to think about in this book. The information flows organically (couldn’t resist that pun) as the story unfolds, and it doesn’t stop the forward motion of the plot.

The novel’s humour offsets Jo’s serious nature, and there are some heart-tugging moments too. This is a longer romance than you’d see from Love Inspired, so the author had more room to explore her characters and readers can get to know them on a deeper level. Definitely a plus, in my view.

My favourite line (said to Jo by Zach’s grandmother):

“God loves your zeal, I’m sure, but He wants your heart.” [Kindle Location 3528]

Jo does love God, but—like many of us—she has a few control issues. So does Zach, for that matter, and one of the novel’s threads is how they’re each confronted with the need to let go of control and let God be God.

Canadian author Valerie Comer is quietly passionate about food, faith and fiction. Raspberries and Vinegar is the first in a three-novel farm lit series called “A Farm Fresh Romance.” She also has a geo-caching romance novella in the collection, Rainbow’s End. For more, visit Valerie Comer’s website. Or click to read a sample from Raspberries and Vinegar.

This week only, buy a print copy of Raspberries and Vinegar and get bonus material:

Book blast details: Raspberries and Vinegar

[Review copy provided by the author.]