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Suggested Book Club Questions

“The Whip” can be more than any usual book club meeting. Why not cook up some chili or bake a rum cake? Uncork some wine, sip some whiskey or sarsaparilla. Grab your whip, put on your Cowboy hat and wear your favorite button down shirt and vest. Be creative and have fun!

Visit the book club photo gallery for more ideas.

Recipes for your western themed book club meeting at bottom of the page.

DividerQuestions? Want your book club’s photo in the gallery? E-mail Karen here

Enjoyed “The Whip?” We would love your review on Amazon and or Barnes and Noble

Linda's homemade Rum Cake with Stagecoach Figurine - Porter Valley Women's Book Club

Linda’s homemade Rum Cake with Stagecoach Figurine – Porter Valley Women’s Book Club


Suggested Questions for your Book Club discussion on The Whip:

1) The river or theme that runs through The Whip is the question regarding  forgiveness… What would you do if someone destroyed the person you love most? Could you forgive them..? And if not, what would you do?

2) The book is also about strength and survival and putting your arms around life, no matter what life gives you – to make something ‘good’ out of it. Do you believe that “in every problem there is a ‘gift’ in it’s hand, and that we create the problem because we need the ‘gift’?” Give examples of this to be true in your own life.  What gifts did Charley discover in her life that came out of her suffering? How did it change her?

Hags on Nags Saddle Club, Wisconsin.

It’s fun to dress up! – Hags on Nags Saddle Club, Wisconsin

3) As a woman in the Old West, it was impossible to live your dreams – unless you were happy to be a wife, teacher (only if you could read) or prostitute. Knowing your own personal dreams—could you have survived as some women did, living part or all of your life as a man in exchange for the freedom that men had then? Could you have kept that secret and handled the loneliness and emotional isolation that that kind of life engendered?

4) If Charley didn’t put on ‘britches’ and go to California to track down Lee, what do you think might have happened to her?

5) Who were your favorite characters in the book and why?

6) What did you take away from the book to perhaps inspire you to go after a secret dream you’ve hidden away?

Table setting ideas for your western themed book club


Be creative! Make a table centerpiece - Porter Valley Women's Book Club

Be creative! Make a table centerpiece – Porter Valley Women’s Book Club

Chocolate covered cactus pretzel and Stagecoach Table Ornament – SBC Book Club, Pasadena, CA


Recipes for your western themed book club (click to enlarge):



Rum Cake suggested by Linda Thompson, with her cooking notes below

Divider Recipes courtesy of Dorothy, Sandy, Anne, Frances, April and Valerie
of the Coosaw Point Book Club (Beaufort, SC)

Coosaw Point Book Club baked 1800s recipes, including: Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, Vinegar Custard Pie with Meringue and Blackberry Mash

Coosaw Point Book Club baked 1800s dishes, including: Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, Vinegar Custard Pie with Meringue and Blackberry Mash


Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread
Recipe by Bethany Weathersby

  1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.
2. Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Divider
Rhode Island Johnny Cakes
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cornmeal (white)
3-5 T milk
1tsp salt
1Tbs sugar
Butter – for frying
1. Combine dry ingredients (cornmeal,salt,sugar)
2. Add boiling water – stir well
3. Add milk to thin, making spoonfuls easy to drop
4. Melt butter in pan (cast iron works well) lots of butter on simmer or low.
5. Drop by tablespoon into hot buttered pan. Keep the pan full of butter.
6. Flip when very brown.
7. Dust with powdered sugar, or serve with jellies. Good hot or cold.


Vinegar Custard Pie with Meringue  
1Tbs Butter
3 Eggs (separate, yolks for filling, whites for meringue)
2Tbs Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
2Tbs Vinegar (white or apple cider)
1. Preheat over to 325 degrees
1. Whisk together all ingredients except eggs.
2. Separate eggs (save whites for meringue)
3. Whisk egg yolks until frothy
4. Combine
5. Bake pastry pie crust 10-20 min
6. Add to baked pie crust
6. Bake for 20 min, then start watching. It is a custard, so jiggly is fine,         ready when brown on top
3 Egg Whites
1/8 tbs lemon juice
1 Cup sugar
1. Whisk egg whites with lemon juice until soft peeks appear and takes on a shinny appearance.
2. Slowly add sugar in stages while beating mixture.
3. Stop when stiff peeks appear.
4. Keep cool until needed


BlackBerry Mash 
Any fresh berries are good to use
2 Quarts of Berries  (4 cups = 1 quart) so…8 cups
2 Cups Sugar (maple syrup substitute for sugar)
1 tsp Salt
–  Graham flour (graham cracker crumbs)
1 Quart Water (4 cups)
If making pie or tarts, crust of choice is a graham flour or shortbread pre-made, no bake.
1. Boil berries, salt, and sugar in water, beginning a reduction for about 15 minutes.
2. Reduce heat, cook slowly another 5 minutes.
3. Add graham four 1/4 cup at a time until reduction thickens.
4. Cook another 3-5 min after thickened.
5. Add to graham flour crust, or dessert bowls.


One-Hour Texas Chili

by Alex Witchel
Yield 6 to 8 servings
Time1 hour 40 minutes

6 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 dried chipotle chiles, or substitute canned chipotle chiles and forgo soaking them
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rendered bacon fat
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds ground beef chuck, preferably coarsely ground passed through the large holes of a grinder only once
4 dried pequin chiles or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons masa harina, or as needed
2 tablespoons lime juice
Grated Cheddar cheese, for garnish
Diced onions, for garnish
Pickled jalapeños, sliced, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Fritos, for serving, optional

1. In a large heavy skillet, heat the dried ancho and chipotle chiles on medium-high heat about a minute on each side. Turn off the heat, cover the chiles with water and soak them until rehydrated, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon fat. Add the onions and sauté until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Transfer to a blender.

3. Form the ground beef into balls the size of marbles. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or bacon fat and, when it is hot, add the meatballs. Stir occasionally until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

4. Drain the chiles well, and remove and discard stems and seeds. Add the chiles to the blender. Add the canned chipotles, if using, pequin chiles or cayenne, cumin, oregano, cloves, cinnamon and 1 cup water. Blend until smooth. Add to the Dutch oven with the browned meatballs along with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. If the chili looks too thin, slowly stir in the masa harina. Add the lime juice, and simmer for 15 minutes more. Serve topped with grated cheese, diced onions, pickled jalapeños and sour cream. Or serve as Frito pie: For each serving, mound 1 cup Fritos in a bowl and top with 1 cup chili, ¼ cup grated cheese, 1 tablespoon diced onions, sliced jalapeños and sour cream.


Firehouse Chili Gumbo

by Sam Sifton
Yield 8 to 10 servings
Time 2hrs

Ingredients for the Chili

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
  • 3 pounds ground beef, ideally coarse-ground
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes

Ingredients for the Gumbo

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 to 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, or to taste

  1. Make the chili. Heat the oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the beef, stirring often, until it has begun to brown at the edges. Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned meat to a bowl.
  2. Pour off excess fat, turn heat down to medium and return the browned beef to the skillet or pot. Add salt, peppers, chile powder, turmeric, oregano and cumin, and stir to combine. Add steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce and diced tomatoes, and stir again. Cover the skillet or pot, and cook, stirring a few times, for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Make the gumbo. Place a large pot with a heavy bottom over medium heat, and put the butter and oil into it. When the butter is melted and foaming, sprinkle the flour into the pan, and whisk to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture is golden brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Add the onion, shallots, bell peppers, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have started to soften, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Make the chili gumbo. Add the beef mixture to the pot with the vegetables along with the tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato juice and ketchup, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, then add apple-cider vinegar and hot sauce to taste. Take the pot off the heat, and serve, or allow to cool and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to cure. Heat before serving.