This would be a great beach read. It’s fun and sweet and entirely enjoyable without requiring too much thought on the part of the reader. It’s a sweet story about starting over and it has a happy ending. It also features cake. Who doesn’t like cake, right?
Neely runs away from an unhappy marriage and returns to her hometown to open a bakery. She reconnects with her old friends and meets the other residents of her neighborhood, including a crotchety old woman who seems to hate everyone and everything. Throughout the book, Neely makes some personal realizations, develops a new relationship, makes a shocking discovery about a member of the community and then everything is all tied up in a neat little bow at the end.
While I enjoyed the book, there are a few things that prevent me from rating it higher than three stars:
First, the characters. I liked them all but I would have liked a little more development. Some of them seemed a little bit stereotypical – not in an offensive way, just a little flat. The relationships between Neely and these characters also seemed a little unrealistic. She moves back to town after some years away and falls back in with these friends as if nothing at all has changed. Some relationships are like that – no matter how long it’s been, you fall back together like you were never apart. But not all friendships are like that. It just seemed a little too neat to me that she moved and had a whole ready-made life waiting for her. Maybe that’s because there’s not a whole lot of backstory given about Neely. We get only fleeting glimpses of things that have happened before Neely moves back home. Maybe these are friends she’s visited and chatted with often while she’s been away, but as a reader we don’t know this and so it didn’t feel entirely genuine to me.
Second, I was a little bit disappointed in the magical realism in the book. Neely can see someone’s past if she touches them and she can choose perfect flavors to match someone’s personality or what they’re feeling. Using these “powers” she can help people to feel better or reveal true emotions. I love this idea. I just don’t think there was enough of it. I think it either needed to be used more, or left out of the book entirely. As it is, Neely only uses these powers a couple of times and it felt almost like an afterthought. I would have loved to read more about these talents.
Third, I felt like this book was trying to be too many things. There are flashbacks that make it a little bit historical fiction, there’s the magical realism, there’s a bit of romance, there’s some drama. There’s a lot going on but it’s not always clear what the focus of the book is. Is this a book about a woman starting over? A new romance? A historical mystery? A family drama? Paranormal? I would have liked it more if one of these aspects was fleshed out more fully to give the book a definite focus. It almost feels like different stories all tied together by this one woman.
Overall, I enjoyed it. Despite it’s flaws, it’s entertaining, has amazing descriptions of food that made me want to run to my local bakery, and has an interesting main character in Neely. A great beach read for this summer. Just make sure you bring some cupcakes along in your cooler.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.