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"Christmas in Vermont" Book Discussion and Maple Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.

Pair "Christmas in Vermont" with maple cinnamon shortbread cookies!

Pair "Christmas in Vermont" with maple cinnamon shortbread cookies!

Book Summary

Emma has a problematic habit: after one year of dating, she realizes each guy she’s with just isn’t marriage material, and she breaks up with him. So now, she’s suffering through winter in New York with a broken radiator (when she should have been on a tropical vacation with her now ex-boyfriend), working on a makeup marketing account for her job. To make matters worse, it's Christmas.

When she takes a break from her depressing apartment to sell a bracelet from her latest breakup at a second-hand jewelry shop, she finds an engraved watch she gave to her college sweetheart, Fletcher—the only man she ever thought she’d marry. Years ago, he moved to London to pursue a directing career in the theater while she stayed in New York, breaking both their hearts.

Emma's best friend, Bronwyn, believes that destiny caused Emma to find Fletcher’s watch now, so she books Emma a room at a cozy Vermont inn in a town called Snowberry, where Fletcher’s social media account lists he’ll be staying from Christmas to New Year’s. There’s just one condition: Emma has to replace the leader of the kid’s club, who had to cancel at the last minute with the flu.

Fletcher has a beautiful nine-year-old daughter, Lola, and is engaged to a gorgeous, young blonde actress. The last thing on his mind (after years of therapy to help him get over her) is the girl he loved in college, Emma. Ten years ago at Christmas, Emma’s watch almost stopped his wedding to his now ex-wife. But Fletcher is trying to take his best friend’s advice and help his daughter and fiancee find some things in common, as well as learn to share his attention. And having his daughter in a kid’s club at the inn might just help him balance his time.

The widowed innkeeper is also having problems—financial ones from the leftover debts after her husband's passing. So Fletcher's daughter decides she and Emma should put on a talent show fundraiser on New Year’s Eve and invite everyone in Snowberry to enter, with an entry fee and all the proceeds going to help keep the inn running.

Very reminiscent of the classic movie White Christmas, Christmas in Vermont is perfect for anyone looking for a cozy romantic comedy set in Vermont in winter, with two people destined for love and a sagacious little girl out to save the world.

You'll Love This Book if You Love ...

  • Romantic comedies/dramas
  • Christmas comedies/dramas
  • Stories about inns
  • Stories about first loves/college romances
  • Vermont and New England

Discussion Questions

  1. Why couldn’t Emma marry Scott? Why do you think she had the habit of ending things after a year?
  2. What was she going to do with the money for the bracelet? What happened instead?
  3. Who was the only guy Emma ever regretted breaking up with?
  4. If you’ve seen Sleepless in Seattle, Emma’s favorite Christmas movie, what similarities do you see between Emma’s story and that movie? What’s your favorite Christmas movie?
  5. What were the once-a-month “you days” Scott planned for him and Emma? What do you think of this idea?
  6. What was the “catch” in Bronwyn’s Christmas present to Emma?
  7. What do you think of Fletcher’s friend Graham’s advice about Emma, to “stop looking for ghosts of the past, it will only make you unhappy”?
  8. When Fletcher couldn’t afford to take Emma to New York for Christmas, what did he do for her instead at the apartment they shared?
  9. How did Emma’s watch almost stop Fletcher’s wedding to Cassandra?
  10. What was Lola’s solution to Betty’s financial problems with the inn?
  11. Lola noticed that Emma and Fletcher “... can talk to each other forever and never run out of things to say. And dad looks comfortable around you. Sometimes when he’s with Megan he gets this anxious look, like he’s afraid of saying the wrong thing.” How did this foreshadow how one woman was better for him than the other?

Recipe: Maple Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies

Emma, Bronwyn, and the girls baked cinnamon cookies together before Emma left on her Vermont adventure. Bronwyn also ordered cinnamon rolls brought to her house while they discussed it.

Vermont is the maple syrup capital of New England (and possibly the world), so there were many references to foods covered in maple syrup, and even snow covered in it.

Betty often served shortbread cookies to Emma and the guests at the inn.

Fletcher’s best friend Graham sent special shortbread Christmas cookies to his goddaughter and Fletcher’s daughter, Lola.

Betty also made homemade cinnamon buns for her guests at the inn.

The restaurant Fletcher took Lola and Megan to was famous for having the best maple walnut cake in town.

To combine these elements, I created a maple cinnamon shortbread cookie with optional walnuts or whatever chopped nuts you prefer.

This recipe was inspired by references to cookies, shortbread, cinnamon, and maple syrup in "Christmas in Vermont."

This recipe was inspired by references to cookies, shortbread, cinnamon, and maple syrup in "Christmas in Vermont."

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup / 1 1/2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, pistachios, or almonds (optional)
Maple cinnamon shortbread cookies

Maple cinnamon shortbread cookies

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, cinnamon, and the softened butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Drop the mixer to low and slowly add half the flour, followed by the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Continue with the rest of the flour until it begins to look like a crumbly mixture. Then turn up the speed back to medium and continue to mix for 1 to 2 minutes until it forms a dough. Add the chopped walnuts (or whichever types of nuts you are using) and mix for about 1 minute on medium speed or until the nuts look evenly distributed.
  2. For round cookies that are super easy to cut and bake, roll the dough into an even log, pat the ends flat, and wrap in plastic cling wrap. For shaped cookies that are easy to cut and go, cut the dough in half. For each section, roll the dough out between two long pieces of parchment to about 1/4 inch thick. You want to try to roll it out to the length and width of a cookie baking sheet. Place on a large baking sheet, fold the paper under the dough and wrap the whole thing in plastic cling wrap.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, and up to 2 days before baking. (Tip: If your dough is really soft and you are concerned about losing the round log shape, you can freeze it for 10 minutes after rolling and wrapping, then move to the refrigerator.)
  4. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with extra sugar or sprinkles if desired, about 2 inches apart, as they will spread out. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about two dozen cookies.

Similar Reads

  • Other Christmas books by Anita Hughes: Christmas at the Chalet, Christmas in London, and Christmas in Paris. Books about other locales by her but not set at Christmastime are Rome in Love, Market Street, Santorini Sunsets, California Summer, Lake Como, French Coast, and more.
  • Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock: A Grinchy cab driver is battling against all the insufferably happy Christmas people and trying to maintain a living despite all the new versions of drivers available. Then he is asked to pick up a forgetful older lady to take to a doctor's appointment, and he finds himself unintentionally helping her more than once, eventually meeting her gorgeous, single, overworked granddaughter who will need him as much as he does her.
  • The Christmas Cabin: A NY lawyer named Abbey gets away for Christmas to a cabin in the Adirondack mountains, where she meets a forest ranger who helps her with a broken furnace, then they wind up stranded together.
  • The Christmas Tree Inn: Molly helped her mother run the family business when her father died. Years later, she wants to leave and use her new college degree, but a handsome guest on a skiing weekend changes her ideas.
  • The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan: Flora grew up on a small Scottish island and left behind some unkind words to her father after the death of her mother for a life in the city. But now she must return to help her boss and their firm’s biggest client with a huge new building project there—against the wishes of the locals and her family. But maybe her handsome boss will finally see her in the same romantic light she views him.
  • A Christmas by the Sea: Wendy wants to get out of debt by selling her family’s beachside cottage in Maine, so she and her 12-year-old son start renovations themselves. The plan is to move after selling, but a local craftsman and the town begin charming her in ways she can’t deny.

Notable Quotes

  • “All these dating apps make young people think there’s something better out there, but when you find the person you love you should stick to them like toffee on a candy apple.”
  • “Stirring up an old flame could be as unhealthy as going outside in December without a jacket.”
  • “True love is magical. It casts a spell that nothing can break.”
  • “Emma’s life was like the donuts at the Cider Mill. It was missing a center. Without that special person to share things with, the ups and downs were becoming hollow.”
  • “Passion doesn’t have to be about your career, it can be for anything that makes you happy.”
  • “I love it when you step on the snow and it crunches.”
  • “My mom believes in destiny: you know, that there’s some big mystical plan that guides you through life ... Maybe it was fate that made me take so long to tie my shoelaces and overhear Betty’s conversation. Now we’re going to have a fundraiser and help her save the inn.”
  • “You [and dad] can talk to each other forever and never run out of things to say. And dad looks comfortable around you. Sometimes when he’s with Megan he gets this anxious look, like he’s afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

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© 2019 Amanda Lorenzo