Summary from Goodreads
Sisters Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan haven’t spoken for decades, torn apart by a dark family secret from their past. They both still live in the family’s crumbling Irish mansion, communicating only through the terse and bitter notes they leave for each other in the hallway. But when their way of life is suddenly threatened by bankruptcy, Ella tries to save their home by opening a café in the ballroom – much to Roberta’s disgust.
As the café begin to thrive, the sisters are drawn into a new battle when Debbie, an American woman searching for her birth mother, starts working at the Ballroom Café. Debbie has little time left but as she sets out to discover who she really is and what happened to her mother, she is met by silence and lies at the local convent. Determined to discover the truth, she begins to uncover an adoption scandal that will rock both the community and the warring sisters.
Powerful and poignant, The Ballroom Café is a moving story of love lost and found.
TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT THE BALLROOM CAFE
1. Did you know my favourite line comes very early in the book? In fact, it is on the second page. Ella O’Callaghan is facing down the snotty bank manager, who has threatened to repossess her treasured home Roscarbury Hall:
“In all my prayerful life, I have never felt so crucified. I will die before I move out of Roscarbury Hall.”
2. Ella, when she bakes her lemon cakes, likes to let them cool on a grid on the big kitchen table, but straight after she has turned them out on the grid she gets an old knitting needle and pricks some holes along the cake before drizzling icing sugar mixed with lemon juice across the cake, careful to push it in to the holes.
3. Bowling Green, Ohio is a real place. I visited it many years ago. It had those lovely wooden houses with verandas at the front and a huge university complex.
4. Ella used her mother’s old china tea sets to serve tea and coffee in her Ballroom Café. Every now and again, Ella worried what her mother would think with the ladies of Rathsorney turning over her china cups to check their provenance.
5. Every spring there were swathes of yellow daffodils among the grass in the extensive parkland of the convent grounds. Pregnant girls waiting to give birth, many within days of delivery, had to go on their hands and knees in October and plant all those bulbs.
6. Ella’s chocolate cake has a secret ingredient but you will have to read the novel to find it.
7. The magnificent Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, appears in one chapter of The Ballroom Café. There, Ella has tea and takes sugar from a silver bowl and milk from a silver jug.
8. Sisters Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan live separate lives; their own kettles, cookers and cupboards. They even have their own delph. Their food supplies are labelled.
9. Chuck Winters has a soft spot for Ella, admiring her cakes and baking skills, but she brushes off his advances. His eyes then settle on somebody else.
10. Ella loved the Weiss pansy brooch but the deep, dark green colour put her mother off. She could not understand why “a flower could not look like a flower.”