The coffee in my books…

I’ve been thinking about coffee.

If you know me, or have read my work, you’re probably thinking, ‘of course your thinking about coffee!’ If it’s not Italy and how to get to Italy and what adventure I’m currenting writing, then I must be thinking about coffee. Though, to be fair, I often think about what we’re going to have for dinner, if I’ve switched the laundry, how am I going to juggle all my work with gardening this summer and the intricacies of the latest Beowulf translation in the world and how it blew my mind!

But this morning, as I’m writing, I was thinking about coffee. Mainly that I have had each cup of coffee my characters have had. Some of them were after the fact, and some were before. Which doesn’t help the age-old query: does life imitate art or does art imitate life.

But for our purposes today. Let’s have some fun. I’d love to share a picture of the coffee I had and what became of it in my books. (And just so you know, I have truly measured out my life in coffee moments.)

Big trouble in little Italy

Chapter 7: 

Dangerous Grounds was a darling hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, a strange steampunk version of the coffee shop from the TV show Friends. It was also halfway between Stacie’s home and mine, making it the perfect meeting place.

It was busy for noon on a Tuesday. I was early so I ordered my tenth coffee of the day, because I wasn’t shaking violently enough already. I found a vacant table in a dimly lit back corner, a lovely nod to the seemingly clandestine meeting my mind had worked this whole thing into.

Chapter 18

My real Autogrill capu


“Is yours already gone?”

“The glory of the Autogrill is that it’s a quick stop. Piss, chug an espresso, get back on the road.”

I took a sip of my cappuccino and turned my back on Parker because he didn’t need to see the surprise on my face and the first moment of joy I’d had since I read that fucking email.

This, was the best cappuccino in the world. Or I’d had shitty cappuccinos my whole life. Which might be entirely possible. I closed my eyes and took one last sip and resisted licking the lingering foam out of the bottom of the cup, before I placed it back on the saucer.

“You okay?”

I turned back and shrugged, “That’s a loaded question.”

He gave a grumbled humph in answer.

Chapter 19:

I followed and entered the front room that housed a quaint café. It was simply done in wood and gold accents. There were six small tables. A large case for all the pastries that were being created in the back. A gorgeous mahogany bar with enough room for seven or eight people to stand. The pastry case and bar were separated by the cash register. And at the end of the bar was the espresso machine.

“Lucrezia, questa è la mia amica, Jessica,” Parker said by way of an introduction when I caught up to them.

“Amica? Friend?” I repeated then muttered, “That’s a bit of a stretch.”

He smiled down at me. “For her own safety, we’re friends.”

Lucrezia interrupted by pulling me to her so she could present me with the obligatory Italian cheek kisses. I did a strange chicken peck, uncertain how to go about the kiss, but before I could figure it out or recover from my awkward attempt, it was over. Lucrezia waved me to sit down at one of the tables in the back of the café and asked Parker a question, of which the only word I understood was caffè.

“Do you want a cappuccino?” he asked.

I nodded and he relayed the answer to Lucrezia. She waved again for us to sit down before heading toward the back.

Lucrezia interrupted any further conversation. She set a plate of fresh pastries in the middle of the table and headed over to the espresso machine.

“Try that one first.” Parker pointed toward an oversized cream puff.

I took a bite and turned abruptly in my chair.

“Now what’s wrong?” he asked.

Nothing was wrong. Only that the first bite was delectable. Dreamy. And I didn’t want Parker to see the joy that a fresh Italian pastry brought. Especially if he was going to point out something as stupid as my smile.

“Jessica.” He reached across the table and pulled on my elbow.

I tugged away from his grasp but settled back in my seat and admitted, “It’s kinda good.”


“Kinda.” I popped the rest in my mouth, “It’s not whip cream.”

“Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full?” he joked.

“Screw you.”

“Whenever you want.” he winked.

I waved away the comment.

“It’s called Chantilly cream,” he explained.

Lucrezia brought two cups and saucers and set them on the table. I took a sip of the cappuccino and bit my lip. Jesus, if the pastries and the cappuccinos were this good, the food that was legendary was bound to blow my mind. If I ever had something other than bread, cheese and chips that was.


Chapter 30:

“This is called a bombolone.” He pointed to a sugary donut on the plate of pastries he’d procured.

We sat outside one of Parker’s favorite cafés in the Piazza Repubblica; famous for being the birthplace of Futurism, an artistic movement that emphasized speed, movement and youth. I think.

He ordered several pastries and cappuccinos, fresh squeezed orange juice and bottled waters. From where I sat, I was able to watch the early morning tourists and locals as they lazily began their day.

“Aren’t you worried someone will see us?” I couldn’t bring myself to say Thomas’ or Luigi’s name aloud.

“We’re safe,” he said.

And because I wanted this pretend life so badly, because I needed it so badly, I believed him.

“So, bombolone. It looks like a donut.”

“Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s a specialty of Tuscany. They only make it here.”

I took a bite of the cream filled pastry and sighed. “I’m going to miss the food the most,” I said with my mouth full.

I rolled my eyes and took another bite of the pastry. He sat back in his chair and glanced around the piazza as he sipped his coffee. Such a normal thing for us to do.

This was the kind of trip I’d imagined a person should take to Italy. Romantic hot nights. Mornings in piazzas with tourists. Amazing food and inspirational sights.

Simply Protocol

Chapter 8

The café had a short line and an overflowing pastry case. She studied the luscious pastries, glazed and packed and preening perfectly for customers. She made a quick decision to have an almond croissant and took a steadying breath.

“Fancy meeting you here.” The unmistakable deep voice so close to her right side jarred her out of her phone studies. She turned and raised a surprised eyebrow at the man standing beside her. “Benji.” 

“Miss Dodd,” he greeted. 

Cassie was so shocked, she allowed herself a minute to study him. He wore black and white Adidas tennis shoes, faded jeans, and an untucked light blue polo shirt with the top two buttons undone. Cassie swallowed the unexpected disappointment that his shirt wasn’t tucked in flat against his abs.

She pointed her phone at him in question. “What are you doing here?” 

Stills inclined his head toward the pastry case. “This is one of the best kept secrets in LA. The pastries remind me of Italy.” 

Stills glanced around the seating area of the café. “Where should we sit?”

“Outside,” she suggested and led the way out a side door that opened to an area walled in on three sides. Each wall boasted lush bougainvillea climbing the full width and height. Box planters lined the bottom, all filled with tall, fragrant lavender. 

There was room for ten tables, spaced perfectly for casual visiting, and five large, blue umbrellas offered full shade over the area.

The server arrived with their coffee and pastries. After setting everything down she asked, “Can I get you anything else?”

Cassie had a list of things she needed, but instead answered with a polite, “No, thank you.” 

She didn’t want to look yet to see if Stills was doing an intensive study of her, now that she’d said he’d been right. 

He took a bite of his éclair and gave a grateful groan. “That’s good.”

If her decision to make éclairs hadn’t been solidified before, it was now.

She cleared her throat. “So these taste like Italy?” she asked and took a bite of her own pastry, finally meeting his gaze.

“Oh yeah.” He took another bite.

“What is Agent Stills’ favorite Italian pastry?”

He waited until he chewed all his food to answer. “It was this puff pastry that was filled with cream and folded into a pocket, then deep-fried and somehow, ended up with a sugary caramelized crust.”

“What? How have I never heard of this? Do we have them in the states?”

“I haven’t found them yet. It’s like…” he nodded to Cassie, “I’m no baker, and I don’t have much to go on, but I think it is like a homemade toaster pastry if you filled it with cream, rolled it in sugar and deep-fried it.”

“What’s it called?”

“A sfoglia.”

Cassie laughed. “Was that a word?”

“It took me forever to learn how to say it, Parker helped.” The name slipped out and his jaw immediately clinched.

The pastry in this pic is a sfoglia

Worth the trouble

 Chapter 5:


Alessandra thankfully stayed in the room, allowing Carlo time to slowly sip his coffee and ignore how it tasted better than anything he’d had in a while. Which was ridiculous. He located the Lavazza coffee bag on the counter, it was the same espresso he used. It was the same espresso most people used. So why the hell did it taste better?


Chapter 10

He was back at the kitchen table; day three of waiting for Parker. Day three of sleeping on a warped sofa bed. Day three of needing a respite, away from this place, so he could logically filter through the reasons he was spending every free moment pretending he had no desire to kiss Alessandra again.

Alessandra was washing a few dishes, and he watched her every move as he sipped his espresso. Espresso that continued to be the best he’d ever had, even though there was absolutely nothing different about the brand or type of espresso maker or the process. It must be the water in Rome; because if it wasn’t, then the only viable explanation was that it was the woman.

He growled his irritation and took another drink, which only elicited another growl.

Maybe Carlo was losing his mind; maybe it was that simple. Because little things –like the warmth of the kitchen and the smells of homemade food, or the way the light played across the large balcony throughout the day– caused him to have fanciful thoughts that would not be deterred as they tried to convince him that magic might be real and it lived in this unassuming apartment.

A Simple Avalanche

Chapter 12:

They slept in and woke with the sun. Once Stills had made the fire, Cassie dressed quickly against the cold morning then snuggled in front of the flames as the percolator and camp stove hurried to caffeinate them.

The sky was scattered with clouds, the sun attempting to break through here and there. After two cups of coffee and a generous amount of sunlight finally shining down to help warm them, Cassie pulled out a few ingredients and began making a breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs.

Let it Snow

Chapter 7:

He had buttoned his shirt back up and was pulling out two delicate porcelain cups along with the coffee pot. Setting them on the table, he nodded to the sugar bowl and asked, “Cream?” 

She shook her head. “Just black.”

He sat down, placing the coffee pot on a trivet. “So, you decide which homes get to be historical?” he asked, doctoring his coffee with sugar. 

Avery sat back and cuddled the cup in her hands, grateful for the distraction. Although, the way his large hands tenderly held the porcelain cup caused her mouth to run dry. What other kind of tender work could this man’s hands do?

Italian Holiday

Chapter 8:

Morning in Florence, in my sister’s kitchen.

The espresso maker began to make a strange gurgling and popping sound. I lifted the small lid to check on the contents, it was almost ready. I stopped the slow heat of the milk and found a bigger coffee cup, hating to forgo the cute espresso cup, but it wouldn’t hold the proper milk to espresso ratio.

I sat down and took a sip. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t bad. It was my own creation in an Italian kitchen.

I picked up my pen and began to write. To write away all the demons that came at me in these quiet moments, attempting to devour the brand-new, paper thin defenses. I wrote to exorcize them out of my head and heart. I suppose that was my super power, writing introspective crap fought off the demons of self doubt.

After a few moments of writing, the worry and fear dissipated, being replaced by lovely sentiments about the early Italian morning. I wrote slowly as my coffee disappeared and the morning light strained to brighten a cloudy February.


Chapter 20:

We walked into a café on the edge of the Piazza della Signoria. Inside, we were enveloped in the noise of clinking spoons and cups against saucers, some wide-eyed tourists, and locals having a quick coffee and pastry before work. I began to make my way to the counter, but Lorenzo reached for my elbow and turned me toward the outdoor seating area. “Let’s go sit down.” He gestured toward the covered tables, surrounded by heaters fighting off the cool morning.

I tried to hold his gaze but couldn’t, so studied my cup instead. Remnants of foam clung to the top of the cup followed by rings of coffee. As if you could count the rings and determine how many minutes old the drink was. Something akin to the cross section of a tree.

Chapter 29:

I taped a note to my door for Lorenzo, and only had to walk two blocks before I found a café that looked perfect for my needs: La Bella Luna.

It was a decadent first floor façade, something right out of the 1920s; a place the Lost Generation might gravitate. The signage that hung in the arches above the double doorway was Great Gatsby-esq. A large outdoor seating area, closed down for the winter months, was an empty stage of possibilities.

“I’m coming back here in the spring,” I whispered, and for a moment, believed myself.

Inside I was greeted by tables decorated with intricate displays of gift boxes, the typical Italian bar, and several glass pastry cases. A showcase of freshly baked pastries and cakes beckoned. Delicate puff pastry dough with chantilly creamed edges sat in glorious artistic pyramids, daring the purchaser to try and buy only one; as if buying just one of the treats would break up a duo or a trio.

There were even Italian sandwiches with fresh ‘bufala’ mozzarella snuggled between a slice of ripe tomato and brilliant green basil, creating a tempting representation of the Italian flag.

The dark wood of the floor and bar contrasted nicely with the glass cases, the perfect background for the endless array of confectionaries for sale.

I ordered, using the phrase Lorenzo had taught me. Beyond that, I reverted to pointing; the young woman at the register nodded in understanding.

She gestured to the large dining area. “You sit, I bring,” she said with a smile.

I pulled out a few euros in question and she waved me away. “After. A Dopo. You sit.”

I followed her instructions, hung my jacket on the chair and went about organizing myself. I opened my notebook to an empty page and phonetically wrote out the word do-po and po-so a-ver-ay un cappuccino.

And I felt alive as I wrote the words. My hand tingled with the accomplishment of writing Italian words as much as saying them. And understanding them.

The young woman delivered my cappuccino and pastry. I offered her a rather confident “Grazie,” to which she replied, “Prego.” You’re welcome.

I stirred in a sugar and gave a clink of the spoon against the cup; the noise rose, joining the early morning chorus of sounds in the café.

Chapter 53:

Cafe in Fiesole

The bus made one last dramatic twist, causing us to grab the seat in front of us as it pulled to a stop at the side of a small piazza.

We exited and I was given my first glimpse of Fiesole; a square piazza surrounded by several cafés, a church, and covered stalls selling cheese, meats and vegetables.

“C’mon, we’ll go to the one with the red and white striped tablecloths.” She pointed to a café across from us. We settled inside next to the window and watched life as it bloomed around us. Locals heading home. A bus of tourists followed a tour guide holding an umbrella above her head as she pointed out the history of the small town…

…The bells of the church marked the hour and echoed around us. And I remembered other bells that had rung, my mind wandering to Lorenzo. I’d told him I thought church bells would remind me of him, and they did.

“You’re thinking about him,” she said after our coffees were delivered.


“I’m calling him.”


“You left him, the same way Annabella left him,” Marie tried.

I shook my head. “It wasn’t like that at all. I’m telling you Marie, he understood.”

After a few more moments, she tried a new tactic, “You’re going to have to talk to him so you can settle up your account.”

“I am,” I agreed. “But Marie, we’re in Fiesole. I just decided to move to Florence. Can we wait a little longer for all of reality to come back?”

She gave a theatrical deep sigh and a mumbled agreement, then after another sip of her coffee waved a hand casually mentioning, “Ya know, there are Roman ruins here.”

La Bella Luna

Chapter 7:

When she entered, the smell of coffee swirled around her. Diana inhaled and her stomach did a flip at the possibility of a good coffee to help her stay awake and sooth her nerves.

She stood back for a few moments to watch how people placed their order. Each customer was presented with a receipt from the cashier, which they then took to the bar to hand over to the barista. One woman had ordered an ‘espresso’ and when the small cup of dark liquid was slipped onto the counter, the steam rising up, Diana knew that was exactly what she wanted.

At her turn, she tentatively asked for an “espresso.” A sum of money was declared and she handed over the twenty euro Lena had given her, a leftover from a previous trip her sister had taken with her husband.

The cashier made change and handed the receipt to Diana, who then repeated what the previous customers had done, handing it to the barista at the bar.

The man glanced at it, set a saucer on the counter by the receipt, and with impressive efficiency, he completed the process and topped the saucer with a small espresso cup and spoon, then slid the offering to Diana with a nod.

Chapter 12:

A pear filled pastry

Once she had an espresso and beautifully plated pastry, she sat down at a table in a corner offering the perfect vantage point to watch the morning ritual of the Italians at their café.

She picked up her cup, but before taking a sip, thought better of it and put it down to snap another picture. She would post these and maybe use some of the lines from the guidebook about how there was more to Pisa than the tower. After all, it was here that Galileo studied the solar system, and Andrea Bocelli attended law school before embarking on his musical career. Or she’d quote the old man in the park, and explain that the tower leans because it’s in her nature to do so.

Or maybe she’d just supply her own observations, that Pisa was a great jet lag city; the perfect place to rest after a long flight, find some good food, see a remarkable sight and begin a journey.

She picked up the pear filled tart she’d ordered and took a bite, smiling out at the streets of Pisa.

Chapter 25:

This was bucket list stuff, and when bucket list stuff presented itself, you lean in.

Handsome Italian man buys you coffee in a café near the Pantheon in Rome: Check.

Chapter 40:

When the complaints of their ravenous stomachs outweighed their passions, Diana and Giovanni put on enough clothing to be decent and tripped up to the covered terrace with juice, espresso, fruit, cheese and pastries.


Well, that’s a good start for now, don’t you think?

As I was working on this, I began running across the food I’ve written about as well. I have a feeling we’ll see a blog post about that one day. 

Until then my friend, I hope you enoyed reading this and daydreaming … beucase let’s be honest, coffee is always a good idea.

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