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"The Winter Rose" Book Discussion and Blackberry Pie Bites 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.


“I walked through a storm and fell asleep in an empty house; when I woke there was a dead man beside me…”

Two sisters are preparing for harvest to end and winter to arrive, one is engaged to a farmer, and one is as wild as the autumn winds and her namesake, Rois (Rose). Their lives are changed when a blond stranger named Corbet appears to reclaim his family’s old house, now in great disrepair. His father had abandoned it many years ago, as most in the village believe, after killing his own father, Corbet’s grandfather.

Corbet enlists the help of some men of the village to repair only a few of the rooms, before he disappears as well, but not after he has enjoyed many nights at dinner with the two sisters, leaving with both their hearts, trapped between worlds only one girl can find.

Rois will face an ancient, powerful magic, “the dead of winter”, that few have seen and lived, to save the one she truly sees and knows, as no other can.

For anyone who has ever pined over love lost, or searched for magic in the snow or autumn winds or in a deep well, The Winter Rose is a poetically-written, tragic, romantic fantasy that will enthrall and warm you through the long winter.

Perfect for fans of

  • fantasy fiction
  • period dramas
  • the woods/countryside
  • magic fiction
  • family mysteries
  • creepy old houses
  • romantic drama
  • tragedy
  • winter tales
  • unsolved mysteries
  • sister stories
  • romantic triangles
  • hidden world/magic places
  • snow queen

Discussion Questions

  1. What might it have been like to live in a village where each person had their own trade, passed down for generations, such as an apothecary, a smithy, a baker, a weaver, and a chandler? What other job did the apothecary have that sent people back to him with questions about a body?
  2. What did Rois see that made her run from Crispin’s wedding into the wood, even abandoning her shoes in a corn crib?
  3. What was the connection between all the forms of the curse the villagers had heard, and Corbet’s statement “Truth is a simple place reached by many different roads”?
  4. Why was it that in “that huge, beautiful house,” and all Leta and her friends saw was two rooms? What was their significance?
  5. Why did Anis, Shave Turl’s great-aunt, hear one curse, and practically all the other oldest villagers each heard their own? Why did young Tearle sometimes go to her house and play with or watch her children, even though he was older than they were? What finally stopped him?
  6. Where did Corbet go when no one else wanted him as a child? Who wanted him now?
  7. When Rois drank wine out of the silver cup Corbet gave her, she “saw the world out of Corbet’s eyes.” What did that mean?
  8. What did Rois’s mother and Corbet’s mother as well die of? What other mortal maids might this have happened to?
  9. Why was Corbet “only a daydream. Nothing solid, nothing real, to start a life with”? If so, why was Laurel so caught up in it?

The Recipe

Laurel and Rois’ father aged apple brandy in oak barrels.

Rois found blackberries “hanging huge and sweet on the brambles”in the woods. “Beda baked them into pies flavored with a nip of apple brandy.”

At Crispin’s wedding, they had “cake dense with apples and nuts.”

In the wood, the harvest winds blew…”still carrying scents of ripe apple, blackberry, and warm earth” after Rois ran from the wedding.

Perrin first kissed Laurel under the blackberries.

The accompanying recipe based on all these foods mentioned is for Apple (optional) Blackberry Pie Bites.



For the crust:

  • 6 tbsp cold butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:

  • 1/3 cup blackberry jam
  • 1 large Gala or Fuji apple, peeled and diced very small
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour with one tablespoon of sugar. Place the butter on top and use a pastry cutter to mix the butter in for a couple minutes until it resembles small crumbs. Then add the ice water, drizzling in a couple tablespoons at a time, and fold the water into the flour mix by hand. You may need a bit more or less water than listed depending on humidity (you want just enough water for all the flour in the dough to come together, but not to be soggy). Make sure the water you add is icy cold. When the flour is fully combined into a dough, roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. **Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.**
  2. In a small sauce pot on medium-high heat, cook the diced apples, the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar, and the blackberry jam for 3-4 minutes until the apples are soft and the mixture is boiling. Boil for one minute. Allow to cool ten to fifteen minutes at least before using.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Spray a mini cupcake tin liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out the dough onto a heavily floured flat surface (I used 3/4 cup) to about 1/16 inch thick or the height of a thin cookie (see picture below). Cut the dough into small circles just slightly larger than the holes of the tin, using a small cup. Then place each round in each hole of the tin and press down gently, floured side down.
  4. Repeat the rolling and cutting out process until the dough is all used up. Fill each pressed dough round with about a teaspoon of raspberry filling. Don’t fill them above the line of the tin or they will boil over. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the edges of the pie crust begin to turn brown. Carefully remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before removing. Top with a little whipped cream if you’d like. Makes 1 1/2-2 dozen pie bites.
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Similar Reads

Other books by Patricia McKillip most similar to this one are The Changeling Sea, The Bell at Sealey Head, In the Forests of Serre, and Solstice Wood. She has written nearly forty wonderful fantasy novels.

Another wood with an enchantment is Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley. This story is much like the tale of Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is also a tragic love story about a girl, a boy who has magic abilities, and the impending cold, lonely winter.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is another wonderful fantasy story about love, nature, choices, and even includes a few renovations of old fairy tales combined into one new adventure.


“It’s something to do. Telling stories of the dead, to remind them that they are alive.”

“I saw you, shaping out of light beside the secret well; you are not human, you are wood; you are the hidden underground river; you are nothing we know to name.”

“I did not know, until then, that you could disappear into someone’s gaze, that bone and heart and breath could melt like shadow into light, until only light was left.”

“People gather, and drink, and dance, feelings begin to fly like trapped birds, things get spoken without words, music suggests things that simply can’t be...Lovers suddenly wear too-familiar faces, and other faces promise other worlds.”

“Have you seen the winds hunt?”

“Water has its moods, flowing or still; it can lure you like a lover, or look as bleak as a broken heart.”

“You want to dissolve into light, ride the wild animals. I saw you, that night. You wanted to flow like moonlight out of your own body.”

“It was a song out of a forgotten kingdom, out of the deep, secret heart of the wood. It burned wild and sweet in my lured and beckoned…”

“I pick roses out of water. I talk to voices in the wind. I see ghosts walk out of light.”

“Winds muttered now instead of shrieking. Waking, I wished I could understand their broken incantations. They knew something I needed to know; they teased and hinted, but they would not tell.”

“I could never pretend to you. You saw me too well.”

“I am winter’s song. I am the shadow of the bloody moon and all the winds that harvest in it. I am the dead of winter.”

© 2018 Amanda Lorenzo


Patricia Skeete from USA on November 23, 2018:

What a perfect combination of great book and delicious food:)

Naude Lorenzo on November 19, 2018:

A beautiful suite story, worth it to be read, and of course a delicious recipe by Amanda, I truly enjoy it; Thanks again Amanda.

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