Today, we’re having Nell Iris on a visit, and I have to say as someone who works with mushrooms, it’s nice to see them appear in a book LOL. Since I also like talking food in books, I think this post is awesome 😀 Welcome, Nell!
Hi Holly, hi Holly’s readers! It’s me again, Nell Iris, and I’m here to talk about my third and final Meet Cute Chronicles book, They Met in the Woods. I really appreciate you lending me this space, you’re most generous! 😘
They Met in the Woods open with Måns being lost in the forest. He’s spent the morning foraging for mushrooms and when we meet him, he’s got a basketful of yummy chanterelles and he’s ready to head back home and prepare a chanterelle toast for a late, decadent lunch. Unfortunately, he’s wandered wherever the mushrooms have taken him and is lost. And his phone battery is dead, so he can’t use the map app he’s downloaded just for the occasion.
Foraging for mushrooms is something we do a lot in Sweden. (Everyone in Sweden has the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land with the exception of private gardens, near a dwelling house, or land under cultivation. We call it the Freedom to Roam, and this principle is protected by law). In fall, all my social media feeds are filled with pictures of family and friends being out in the forests picking berries or mushrooms. And when I say “mushrooms” I mean chanterelles, which is what most people are after. Then all of them (not exaggerating) goes home with their bounty and make a chanterelle toast. That’s the law, too (or at least you’d think so considering how common it is 😊 )
And Måns in my story is no exception to the rule. In fact, I’m 100% sure that if his phone battery hadn’t died, he would have made a chanterelle toast, snapped a picture of it, and posted it on Instagram. But instead, he found Viggo…
This is the recipe for the toast Måns would’ve made if he hadn’t been too busy to drool over Viggo:
A bunch of freshly picked chanterelles. (They’ll be extra tasty if you avoided getting lost in the forest while foraging for them)
Finely chopped shallot
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
Rustic, crusty bread
Sauté the chanterelles in a dollop of butter for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add shallot and sauté for a while longer. Pour in a splash of cream and cook it slowly until it thickens, finish it off by adding the parsley, and then serve on top of the crusty bread. Take a picture and post it on social media. Then, and only then, you can eat it! 😊
The battery is dead. Completely and utterly d-e-a-d, and I glare at my phone, shaking it a little as if that would help. But no. It stays black, not a single pixel lighting up.
Scowl deepening, I shove the blasted thing into my pocket so I won’t accidentally throw it into the nearest tree. Even if it would be satisfying to see it shatter against a wide, rough tree trunk, it wouldn’t help my situation, and if a kind stranger happened to walk by with a power bank they agreed to lend me, it’d be very unfortunate if the phone was lying smashed in a million pieces.
With a big, dramatic huff, I plop my ass down where I stand, the low blueberry bushes cushioning my behind. I cross my legs at the ankles, rest my elbows on my knees and hang my head, letting out a long groooooaaaaaan that’s bound to scare off any moose set on investigating who’s being so noisy in their territory.
I had a plan. Well thought out, meticulously thought out. I filled my backpack with a vacuum flask of coffee, a tall stack of open-faced fried-egg sandwiches—the superior food to eat on outdoorsy activities—my mushroom book, brought the huge basket I bought second hand, and drove to a nearby forest I’d learned online is the prime mushroom picking spot. And since I only moved to the area a couple months ago and don’t know my way around, I made sure my phone was fully charged and marked the spot where I parked in the map app before heading out so I would be able to find my way back.
What I didn’t take into consideration was that the new app I downloaded—excellent for hikers according to the app store—apparently drains the battery faster than if it was a human taking their first drink of water after being lost in the desert for a week. It doesn’t help that my phone is getting up there in age, at least as far as cell phones go.
It also hasn’t helped that it’s been a gorgeous fall morning; rays of sun filtering through the vegetation and keeping me company, the air crisp and clear, and the mushrooms plentiful. All that took me further and further into the forest until I have no idea from where I came.
Only when my basket was overflowing with mushrooms—the internet wasn’t lying when it suggested this spot for foraging—and my stomach was starting to demand attention since I finished my egg sandwiches hours ago, I decided to go back to the car, drive home and make chanterelle toast for a late lunch.
Too bad I can’t wake up my freaking phone and find my way out of here.
What do I do now?
Until recently, I’ve been living in the city all my life and don’t have any experience finding my way out of a forest if I get lost. But yes. Lesson learned. One should not rely too heavily on technology. For my next mushroom foraging session, I’ll have to find an old-school map, printed on actual paper, to have as a back-up. Are there even paper maps these days? And if there are, are there maps for forests?
So many questions, so few answers. And no phone to use for googling.
I heave out a sigh and look around. There’s an almost-uprooted tree that would have fallen if it weren’t leaning heavily on its neighbor, and I know I walked by it on my way to my current position because I noticed its predicament. So I’ll just head in that direction, pay extra close attention to my surroundings and search for other clues I recognize. I’m not a damsel in distress; I’m a capable forty-year-old man who can find my way out of a benign forest. I can. Maybe if I tell myself enough times, it’ll come true.
“Finally a plan,” I say as I jump to my feet. “Everything is better with a plan.”
I pat my pockets to make sure I have everything. Phone, check. Mushroom book—I didn’t want to pick any dangerous ones and accidentally poison myself to death—check.
I pick up the basket and walk to the semi-fallen tree. Another tree, that I noticed earlier because its leaves are so intensely red, is familiar, and I walk toward it.
Great job, Måns. You’ve got this.
A little while later, I’m forced to admit that ‘you’ve got this’ was a bit optimistic, and that I, in fact, don’t.
Måns Elemander had A Plan. A researched and well-thought-out one, devised to help him avoid getting lost while foraging for mushrooms in an unfamiliar forest. But his cell phone battery didn’t get the memo, died unexpectedly, and thwarted The Plan, leaving Måns with a basket full of mushrooms, but no idea where to go. Until the sounds of someone chopping wood reaches him.
Måns follows the sound and finds a quaint cabin…and its owner, Viggo Moberg. Viggo is kind, understanding of the situation, and willing to help. He’s also smoking hot and their connection is instant, threatening to ignite and burn down the woods. Will the sparks burn fast and fizzle out, or will the attraction grow roots, just like the trees in the forest?
M/M Contemporary / 17388 words
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.
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