Monday, December 15, 2014

The Fruitcake Challenge Novel Review, Recipe, Fun Poll and Giveaway!

My thoughts on The Fruitcake Challenge by Carrie Fancett Pagels:

This book should come with a warning:
  1. You will be drawn in by the plot and characters. 
  2. You will not want to put it down until you've read every last word! 
  3. You will laugh and possibly shed a tear.
  4. You will have an unexplainable desire to bake and/or taste every kind of fruitcake known to man.
  5. You will find yourself talking about this book to those around you. (Don't worry. That's a good thing.)

This story delighted me from the start. Cover, blurb, characters, plot, from my first glimpse right on to the very end. One of these reasons is because the heroine is a redhead. I've always wanted to be a redhead. No, seriously. When I was little, I prayed God would give me beautiful red hair or at least dark brunette like my "Teresa" Barbie doll. I got brunette. Later I found out I was redheaded as a newborn. Drat. Something got lost in translation.

Aaaanyways... Where was I? *awkward face*
Then we have the heroine's over-protective, brawny brothers, which show us just what kind of character our hero is--what he will stand for, what he won't take sitting down. Plus, the rest of the cast each has his/her own unique place in my memory. And the interactions between the hero and heroine? The romance is sweet, warm, sigh-worthy and wholesome. And you've gotta love the premise...

From the back cover:
When new lumberjack, Tom Jeffries, tells the camp cook, Jo Christy, that he’ll marry her if she can make a fruitcake, “as good as the one my mother makes,” she rises to the occasion. After all, he’s the handsomest, smartest, and strongest axman her camp-boss father has ever had in his camp—and the cockiest. And she intends to bring this lumberjack down a notch or three by refusing his proposal. The fruitcake wars are on!

Hey, look! It's a poll! ;) I made this poll just for fun:

If your sweetheart said he'd propose if you could make him a fruitcake just like his mother's, would you accept the challenge?
Maybe I'd accept, then use salt instead of sugar to take him down a notch.
Yes. I'd even cheat and call his mother for her recipe if I had to. :)
I'd accept, make the best fruitcake ever, then refuse his proposal, hehe.
No way.
Other (please specify in blog comments).

Poll Maker


1 lb. vanilla wafers - crushed
1 can coconut
1 jar maraschino cherries
1 cup raisins
1 lb. chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Blend all ingredients well with hands. Pack into loaf pan. Refrigerate before slicing. Store in fridge.

Carrie has generously offered to give away an e-copy of The Fruitcake Challenge! Winner announced in a post this Saturday 12/20/14. Also, it's only $2.99 for Kindle right now! If you can't wait to see if you won it, buy it here. ;)

To enter, comment and share your first memories of fruitcake. Good? Bad? So-so? Loved it? Never tried it?


  1. Absolutely LOVED your post, Natalie!!! TY for reviewing my novella! I'm so thrilled that you really "got" my characters and my story! As a writer, you know how valuable that is to hear!!! I'm going to come back later and share my fruitcake recipe, too! Hugs!

  2. Hi, Natalie!!

    Loved your fun post - thank you!! I plan to try that fruitcake recipe. Re: the poll, I would have been insulted by the fruitcake proposal unless I had known that it was totally for fun.

    I loved "The Fruitcake Challenge" for all the reasons you mentioned and already have both the eBook and paperback, so no need to enter me for the free copy.


    Shared post!!

  3. Aw! I'm glad you liked it, Carrie!!! Every once in a while I run across a story that has all the ingredients I look for in a read and all the ones I hope to include in my own writing. TFC fit those ingredients perfectly! :) Can't wait to read your recipe!

  4. Hi, BONTON! Great to have you on the Sweet South Blog! Wasn't this book fun? I admit, I would have been insulted as well. It's hard to imagine the full impact of how humiliating that would be... a handsome guy she's already crushing on, but she knows she doesn't want a logger, then he all but implies she's a desperate spinster by challenging her this way. I'd probably react the same way she did with plans to refuse him, lol!

  5. Natalie, your grandmother always said she wanted a red-headed little girl. There are red-heads on your daddy's side of the family for sure. Also, your grandmother used a "no bake" recipe for fruitcake that had crushed graham crackers and melted marshmallows.

  6. What a fun review of a thoroughly enjoyable story. And that fruitcake recipe sounds to-die-for. I answered other in the poll because my mother in law has certain recipes I admire such as her meatballs and spaghetti sauce, and her mayonnaise cake, but I have never known her to make fruitcake, and to be honest, neither do I. LOL. But I might try the no-bake. Just saying. Thank God my future with my beloved did not depend on any cooking or baking ability on my part. But I could see myself wanting to make something better than his mom. Heehee

  7. Hi Natalie and Carrie

    This is such a unique premise for a story and excellent review. Thank goodness I didn't have to depend on my baking to win my husband. I used to make old-fashioned fruitcake, though, and I may be one of the three people in the world who likes candied citron.

  8. Okay, Natalie, this has to rank up there with one of the most clever and most FUN reviews I've ever read!!!

    I swear if I hadn't already read (and devoured) this book, I would read it based on this review alone, although I pretty much will read ANYTHING Carrie writes because I love her and her writing THAT much!!

    You nailed it, my friend, and I'm going to go and post this on FB right now!


  9. BONNIE, I just tried to picture what my mother would have done if some smarty pants educated guy had strolled in and tried that on her! and
    NATALIE totally nailed Jo's reaction--humiliation at the implication that she was a spinster and would just swoon with Tom's challenge/proposition!!!

    The red hair is courtesy of the cover change we had to make, lol! She originally had black hair like her brothers! But Cindy Hickey, who did the cover, pointed out that the auburn tresses really fit with that little Irish temper Jo has!!!

  10. If I'm given a fruitcake, it either gets regifted to my mother or my brother. Sorry. Ugh. Can't do all the candied fruit... LOL.

  11. KATHY, Yes, good thing I didn't have to cook to win Jeff's heart or vice versa lol! It's funny how you can write a story and you know what a character says and does and you can still walk away not being exactly sure why they did it. That's how I feel about Tom. He's still kind of an enigmatic hero to me. I picture him as a guy who doesn't really know what he says and does some of the dumb things he does--but God uses everything to the good of those who love him!

  12. LOL ELAINE! I used to like candied citron. It's really expensive to buy these days. I hope you get a chance to read the story and I hope you'll enjoy it! Blessings!

  13. JULIE, THANKS so much for your kind words and your support! I learned from the best! Go to your mirror to see one! Thanks for sharing, too! Big hugs!!!

  14. Hi, Anonymous! We made Maw Maw's fruitcake recipe last year, but I haven't been able to find it yet this year in the usual recipe box. Time to take down all the recipe books and look through them! :)

  15. KATHLEEN, welcome to the Sweet South Blog! Mmmm! Spaghetti and Meatballs sounds delicious right about now! :)

  16. Elaine! Thank you! That's what grabbed my attention about this story in the beginning. The story idea was so unique and just what I'd love to read about!

    My mom likes the candied fruit in fruitcake. I'm not a fan. But I'm planning to experiment with a fruitcake recipe subbing dried cranberries, pineapple and corn syrup. We'll see how it turns out. :)

  17. JULIE!!!!!! Oh my goodness! I'm flattered from my head to my toes! So glad you enjoyed the review! Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Carrie! That is so interesting to learn about Jo's hair being influence by the cover! When reading the story, I kept picturing the actress who played Daniel Boone's wife on the old Disney show. All that Irish sass and beautiful hair! :)

  19. LAUREL, welcome to the Sweet South Blog! I'm not a fan of the candied fruit, either! Non-citron-eaters unite! ;P I'm planning on trying a recipe using dried cranberries and pineapple this year. I love those by themselves, so maybe I'll like them in a fruitcake! :)

  20. Hi Natalie and Carrie! Loved your review, Natalie and I totally loved "The Fruitcake Challenge". Carrie had such a fun and unique storyline, and I caught myself chuckling over the banter constantly going on between Jo and Tom. And I love that Carrie used one of my FAVORITE songs as inspiration in her story ("Hope in Front of Me" by Danny Gokey). I have to say that I've never had fruitcake in my entire life. But Carrie's story and your recipe make me want to try it. No need to enter me as I've been privileged to be a promoter for Carrie and I have a copy of the book. :)

  21. I really want too read this book now!! I have never had fruitcake. It sounds interesting though!

  22. Sounds great ... and loved your review!

  23. OKAY, so here is my fruitcake recipe: Make a pound cake any way that is your favorite. The old-fashioned way is 1 lb. butter, 1 lb. sugar, 1 lb. flour, and 1 lb. eggs. Here's a link to one method that is close to what I use but I do NOT use a cold oven--I pre-heat

    ADD whatever dried fruit you want, e.g., cranberries and pineapple like Natalie mentioned. Add the nuts you want in it. Use some of the flour from the recipe to coat the fruit and nuts before you mix them into the batter. You can make your cake as packed with fruits and nuts or as lightly mixed with them as you want! It is YOUR fruitcake recipe after all, so feel free to tinker with it! ENJOY!

  24. I have never been a fruitcake lover, but I'll be honest, your recipe got me interested. :) It really does look like a fun read too!
    Your quiz was seriously fun too!
    I have to say that I am not sure what I would have done if my husband challenged me to make a treat like his mother's for a proposal. I might get a little ornery about it.
    Although I have to admit to some silly challenges back in college. I told a guy once that I would go on a date with him if he got a 95 on his computer exam. Of course I completely wanted to date him. So he could have gotten a big ole goose egg, and I would have gone out with him anyway.
    Enjoyed your review!

  25. Hi, Angi! *waves*
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the review! I'm going to have to listen to "Hope In Front of Me" now! :)

  26. Hi, Ashley! Great to see you! I love your blog! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  27. Hi, Connie! Glad you enjoyed it! Best wishes in the giveaway!

  28. Oh, my goodness, Carrie! That fruitcake recipe looks delicious! I love pound cake!!!

  29. KELLY, that's such a fun story! Haha! I wonder what the guy thought. LOL. Thank you for sharing! Best wishes in the contest! Glad you enjoyed the quiz! I just threw that in there, thinking, "What can it hurt?" but it's been really fun seeing the different answers! :)

  30. My husband and his brother FIGHT over their mother's fruitcake, so I definitely have a MIL who could have fit this, would I have done it...nope, I'm stubborn like that, I would have refused so he would have known I don't need him at all.....yeah, it's a wonder I ever got married....

  31. I've never eaten fruitcake. Never ever.
    Your review sooo makes me want to read this! :)

    I would make the fruitcake with salt...because that would be hilarious.

  32. I was a beta reader for Carrie and have a lovely print copy, so I'm not here for the drawing. I just want to say how much I love Carrie and appreciate her genuine affection for her readers! And she still likes me even though she knows I abhor fruitcake :) So my answer would be Other. No way would I bake a fruitcake. I would probably have told my sweetie if he wanted one that bad, he could get his moma to make it! Of course, he already knew I was sort of a smarty pants when he asked me out the first time, so he would have just laughed and proposed anyway ;)

  33. KELLY, that IS funny! My character, Tom Jeffries, isn't exactly sure why he's posed this challenge to Jo. He's gotten kind of full of himself.

    COURTNEY, I hope you get to read this. Only 99 cents right now! Since Jo is a camp cook, she can't waste anything so salt wasn't really an option unless she only put salt in one little cake for him. But she thought she'd fix him and she almost found herself another beau in so doing!

  34. I never had a fruitcake before.

  35. ANNE, you are such a blessing! That's why you are not the inspiration for Jo, lol!!! Love you, Anne!

  36. Natalie, as far as the college guy. He got a 100 on the computer test and had the professor take it to the Scantron to get the grade immediately. He was pretty into me too. :) He was my college sweetheart for four years. ;)


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