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The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries

Reading Group Guides: Mistletoe Man (#9)


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  1. Many people don't think of mistletoe as an herb. Did you learn anything surprising about this plant as you read Mistletoe Man?

  2. There are several mysteries in this novel. One involves Ruby Wilcox. What did you think of Ruby's choice of treatment? What are the difficulties involved in exploring this subject in fiction, do you think?

  3. One of the themes of this book is sisterhood—sisters and close friends taking care of the women they love. What are some of the ways this theme plays out in the novel?

  4. In her attempts to discover the secret that Ruby is hiding, China has to confront her own reluctance to pry into somebody else's private life. To what extent, do you think, are we entitled to dig into other people's mysteries? Does China cross the line?

  5. We tend to think of herbs as being sweet and wonderful, but some herbs that have become serious social problems. Marijuana is one of them—what are some others? The drug bust scene in this book is treated lightly, and the police aren't all that effective. Did this work for you?

  6. In a long-running mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth, it can be difficult to set up crimes for the sleuth to solve. Sometimes the situation feels forced or artificial. Did the crime "set-up" seem realistic and natural to you? Why or why not?

Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan's recipe collection. You can check out the recipes at the back of most of the books, at Thyme for Tea or in one of the monthly Tea Parties. Or you can try this recipe, which is related to the book's theme or signature herb:

China's Hot Spiced Christmas Eve Tea

This warm and cheering cranberry- and orange-flavored tea is a natural for Christmas Eve. The recipe makes 12 cups.

  • 12 cups water
  • 12 whole allspice
  • 3 small cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 12 tea bags (an orange-spice tea is nice)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Combine allspice, cinnamon, and cloves with the water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Cover and steep for about 5 minutes. Stir and strain. Strain a second time to clarify (a coffee filter is handy here). Add sugar and stir until dissolved. At serving time, stir in juices, pour into a glass or stainless steel pan and reheat to serving temperature. (Don't boil)