Death is always hard to understand and accept, but harder still when death is murder and when murder is done in the name of love. China’s latest mystery takes her down a trail of bleeding hearts.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra sp.) is a shade-loving perennial herb, native to the Orient and happiest in cool, moist woodlands. The plant was once assigned to the Papaveraceae family (which also includes the opium poppy, from which morphine is derived). Now a member of the Fumariaceae, it has sedative and cardiovascular effects, lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Misused, it can be deadly.
Bleeding Heart takes its name from its unique blossoms, which are shaped like delicate, dangling hearts in shades of red, pink, lavender, or white. In some forms, the red inner petals give the appearance of drops of blood. It has several cousins with descriptive common names: Mary’s Heart, Golden Eardrops, and Dutchman’s Breeches.
Dicentra cucullaria, Bleeding Heart’s white-flowering cousin, was used by Menominee Indians as a powerful love charm and aphrodisiac. The blossom was thrown by a young man at the girl he fancied; if it hit her, she was bound to fall in love with him. The young man chewed the plant’s root and then breathed on the object of his affection. It was believed that the fragrance of his breath charmed her, even against her will.
Praise for The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
“Quirky, enlightening and surprisingly profound, Albert’s China Bayles mysteries are an absolute delight to read: head and shoulders above most other amateur whodunits.” —Ransom Notes, Barnes & Noble
“China’s followers will delight in the complicated relationships, recipes and historical flower information.” —Kirkus Reviews
“China’s warmth and sensitivity…endear her to readers, while her investigative skills make her a leader among female sleuths…A leisurely cozy with a Southwestern flair.” —Publishers Weekly
“A diabolically clever sleuth…China and Ruby make Batman and Robin look like amateurs.” —Harriet Klausner
“Add another fragrant bloom to the dozen already in the bouquet of Albert’s herbal cozies.” —Publishers Weekly
Reading Group Guides: Bleeding Hearts – book 14
Discussion Questions – Warning! Contains spoilers (plot hints).
- China opens this book with reflections on “bleeding hearts.” What are the ways in which hearts bleed in this story? Whose hearts? Why?
- Throughout this series, there have been several “book-bridging plots,” plots that continue from one book to another. Ruby’s romance with Colin Fowler is one example of a “book-bridging plot.” What do we know about Colin up to this point? How did the Ruby/Colin story begin? What happens in this book? What do you think might happen in the next book? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of book-bridging plots?
- One of the most important people in this book is a young woman—Angela Lopez—whom China is never able to meet, but whose character seems to grow and change as the story moves along. How does China learn about Angela? From whom? How does China’s view of this young woman (and our view, too) change with each of the informants?
- Brian raises an important question in Chapter 6: to what extent can we involve ourselves in somebody else’s problem. How does Brian resolve this dilemma? How does China resolve it? How essential is this question to the book as a whole?
- One of the subplots of Hearts involves the Scrappers’ quilt show and the theft of a quilt. How does this story fit into the other stories that make up the overall plot of this book? Could it have been left out, do you think? What would have happened (or what wouldn’t have happened) if it had been omitted?
- In this book, China is given the chance (or perhaps given a push?) to look into a mystery in her own family: her father’s relationship to Laura Danforth and her own relationship to Laura Danforth’s son. Are there any parallels between this story and the Angela Lopez/Tim Duffy story?
Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan’s recipe collection. There are several recipes in Bleeding Hearts. Also, the February tea party has some recipes that are especially suited to a book that takes place around Valentine’s Day.
- 2 cups flour
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 egg
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1½ tsp. vanilla
- 2 tbsp. dried rosemary, crushed fine
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon balm or lemon balm, minced fine
Mix flour, baking powder and lemon zest. In large bowl, cream shortening, egg, and sugar until well mixed. Add the flour mixture. Add lemon juice, vanilla, rosemary, and lemon herb. Mix together very well. Roll out 1/4″ thick and cut into heart shapes, using a heart cookie cutter. Bake at 350° until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.