Nov 23 2011 3:00pm

Happy Thanksgiving: Nora Roberts’s Key of Valor

Key of Valor by Nora RobertsWhile Christmas stories abound, it’s no easy task to find a romance book that has a Thanksgiving celebration. In fact, only one book popped into my head: Nora Roberts’s Key of Valor, the third in her Key trilogy. This stuck in my head because like the fourth couple at the feast, Rowena and her warrior lover Pitte, I did not grow up celebrating American Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. I grew up in Toronto: when I crossed the border at Buffalo in 1986, little did I know that 25 years later, American Thanksgiving would be my favorite holiday.

In Canada, Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the second Monday in October. Many families mark the occasion by closing down their summer cottages and preparing them for winter. Some essentials are the same—it’s a time for families to come together and gorge themselves on turkey and football. There are no gifts to buy, trees to trim or carols to sing. For all those similarities, however, a Canadian Thanksgiving is really more of a Harvest Festival—a time to kick through the leaves and enjoy the last crisp days of autumn before the time changes and the days shorten. There are no pilgrims; no weight of 300+ plus years of tradition underpinning the day.

The Key Trilogy is a story of triumph over obstacles—three mortal women accomplish their missions, but they have so much more to celebrate when Zoe vanquishes the evil sorcerer Kane and thus completes the third task. The women have started a business, they’ve each found their soul-mate and along the way, they’ve come to respect, admire and love Rowena and Pitte, refugees in a modern day from an idyllic magical Eden. No time to go into all the deets, but suffice to say, Rowena and Pitte never quite “blend.” There’s always a touch of mystery and magic to everything they do. How are they candidates for a feast that involves eating to excess and loosening belts?

Let’s find out how a mage (Pitte) and his lady (Rowena) enjoy their first Thanksgiving at their magnificent home Warrior’s Peak. Take it away, Zoe:

It wasn’t the way she’d [Zoe] planned to spend the great American holiday, but it seemed appropriate to celebrate it at Warrior’s Peak.

The details of transporting everything, dealing with the food, the preparations, calmed her. Though she had expected the key to be the first order of business, Rowena had other ideas.

“This is an important ritual for you, for your friends,” In the vast dining room Rowena laid plates on the grand table. “It must be observed.”

“It’s a gorge-fest,” Zoe told her …

Rowena and Pitte are outcasts from their world of origin and they have made a new life for themselves in a new world. Those living there, particularly the three couples of the Key Trilogy, have helped them achieve their goals and they have given Pitte and Rowena not just the fruits of their intelligence and perseverance but also they’ve opened their homes and their hearts to them.

Does this have a ring of familiarity? I’ve often wondered how the Pilgrims and the members of (as they say in Canada) the First Nations communicated? Perhaps food and friendship is the universal language. I’m not an historian so I won’t venture into the foods that were native to the time at Plymouth Rock but a mainstay of Thanksgiving today is mashed potatoes.

They gathered around the table with the fire roaring and the candles gleaming. … Platters and bowls were passed from hand to hand in an endless carousel of abundance.

“You’ll want plenty of these,” Zoe told Pitte as she offered him the mashed potatoes. “Rowena made them.”

His eyebrows shot up. “How?”

“The same way women have been doing for a number of years.”

From the other end of the table, Rowena angled her head. “Pitte is now debating whether to risk them. My brave warrior wonders if he’ll be forced to eat past and pretend it’s ambrosia.”

As if to demonstrate his bravery, or his love, Pitte piled a small mountain of potatoes on his plate.

Love and food and always, being with the families of our heart: isn’t that a Thanksgiving tradition that transcends time and space? A celebration that lights the darkness of the waning year and reminds us of all for which we are grateful—that’s why I so love Thanksgiving. If you have stories that celebrate Thanksgiving, won’t you share them?

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1. Magdalen
I really can't top this year. Once again we have my first British husband here as our guest for the weekend, in a 200+ year old house that he and I bought over 11 years ago.

Divorce and remarriage has improved Thanksgiving for me. Even as I write this comment, Brit Hub 1.0 is making the stock we'll need tomorrow for the gravy. (And it smells divine.) Before the divorce, he didn't know how to cook!

So I have two tall, handsome, smart Brits to share this most American of holidays--and one of them helps with the cooking! I have a LOT to be thankful for.
Janet Webb
2. JanetW
That sounds like a lot to be thankful for -- Happy Thanksgiving! If only the walls of your 200+ year old house could talk.
Donna Cummings
3. Donna Cummings
This sounds wonderful! I count mashed potatoes as my favorite food (it's a close second to coffee, and we all know how I feel about *that*), so I love that it's featured in a story like this. Since I work in retail, I view Thanksgiving a little differently. It's the last day before the holiday mania starts. :) My next favorite holiday is going to be New Year's Day. LOL
Janet Webb
4. JanetW
You and me both when it comes to mashed potatoes. I'd have such a hard time if I had to choose between potatoes and bread -- I love them both. Stay strong tomorrow: don't let the Black Friday crowd crush you :)
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