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Highland-set novel is a tasty slice of heaven

By Margaret Chrystall

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This week’s Star Read is Liz Treacher’s almost irresistibly titled Vegan Recipes For New Age Men which is 186 pages of fun, insight, wisdom and Highland magic cooked up in a satisfying plot.

Vegan Recipes For New Age Men by Liz Treacher.
Vegan Recipes For New Age Men by Liz Treacher.

Lauren has a Highland cottage to rent out – happy with her proofreading job in London and handsome boyfriend Patrick – when she encounters the next client for her cottage Fois which the book tells us means 'peace' in Geelic.

Like Lauren, we become mildly obsessed with Nash’s hairy toes, nice teeth and vow to write his book during his stay in the Highlands, near 'Door Knock' – Dornoch – and Loch Fleet.

Inevitably, Lauren ends up heading home, having found Nash’s new age presence popping up in her thoughts, with things she would rather not think too much about – such as the mysterious death of her mother Esther who left her the idyllic cottage.

But always expect the unexpected in this treasure of a novel – Liz Treacher is usually two steps ahead of you, if not three.


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And there are not many good reads that come with their own selection of vegan recipes (as we get the occasional insight into what Nash is writing) – and cooking. Though there is a disclaimer at the start of the book: "Nash is not as good a chef as he thinks he is. Readers should approach his recipes with extreme caution!"

And Nash? You are never likely to have come across a love interest so full of surprising life.

"...Nash is standing in a T-shirt, hugging the plants. Well, not literally hugging. HIs arms are stretched out in a sort of socially-distanced hug, in the way a conductor embraces an orchestra. His eyes are closed and his lips are vibrating in a strange, continuous hum. But what is even stranger is that the plants are vibrating too, their leaves quivering in response

'Reiki,' he says, without opening his eyes. At first Lauren thinks he is talking to the plants, then she realises he has heard her approach.

'Why?' It's a genuine question.

Nash lowers his arms and opens his eyes. 'They needed it.'

... Lauren glances at the plants. They look both exhausted and revitalised, as if they have had a deep tissue massage.... Then suddenly Lauren starts to giggle. It's too surreal. Getting up at dawn to discover that Nash is turning the house plants into triffids ... And once she starts, she can't stop..."

Loch Fleet. Picture:Alan Hendry
Loch Fleet. Picture:Alan Hendry

The descriptions of the Highlands are masterfully executed – you will smell them, see them, hear them – just like Patrick, long after.

"The beach seems to have been taken over by birds. Arctic terns run past leaving tiny footprints in the sand. Eider ducks fly along the shoreline, their long wings like floppy ears. They land on the loch and start making cooing calls, oohing and aahing like gossipig ladies ... Marram grasses swish against her legs and she has to watch her step over the uneven, boggy ground. Small Blue butterflies race ahead. Yellow Rockrose flowers light the way. In the distance, a Highland cow calls to her calf..."

But maybe the best description of this book and its top quality, like Nash’s ‘sexy scone’ recipe, is it is: “ ...as light and fluffy as the clouds above Glastonbury”.

Yet this original romance is also a wise and a satisfying look at how humans really cope with the tough stuff.

Characters such as feisty Granny Amelia and Lauren’s social circle add meat to the bones of this skilfully planned story, the writer never giving in to the temptation to overwrite or over-egg the pudding.

A chameleon of a novel, light on its toes.

Vegan Recipes For New Age Men by Liz Treacher (Skelbo, £8.99).

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