Well, a nice satisfying finish on Louise Miller's The City Baker's Guide to Country Living. My first impression was that this was going to be one of those "happy sighs" types of reads and indeed it turned out to be just that. It was a library book with a long line of readers waiting for me to finish, and I even managed to return it a mere one day late (well worth the fine). I did not, however, get to finish it sitting in front of a piece of apple pie with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream melting on top, which I had fantasized about and which the book totally calls out for, but the holidays are coming and a treat will be had eventually.
I think I already gave you the basic premise of the story:
Olivia (or Livvy as she is known) Rawlings accidentally sets the exclusive dinner club where she works on fire, though I suspect it will be the best accident she will ever have. Baked Alaskas have a way of lighting up a room, though the mischief hers causes isn't quite the effect she's going for. It was meant to be a special anniversary dessert, a particular favorite of the club president. His wife won't allow him such sweet treats. In the end he doesn't get a piece and neither do any of the guests. It's one of those 'hanging head in shame' moments, all the more so when it's suggested she take a little break from the club's kitchen. What does an out of work pastry chef do? Heads northward where her best friend lives and gets a job at a rustic Vermont Inn called the Sugar Maple Inn.
That's the hook but let me fill in a few more details in case you are still not sure if this is the story for you. Livvy heads off to the small Vermont town of Guthrie to the sympathetic fold of her best friend and confidante, Hannah. Hannah has always loved and understood and supported Livvy. Livvy, whose mother decided she didn't want to be a mother left her in the charge of her father, until he sadly dies far too young. But at sixteen Livvy is just old enough to take care of herself and that she does. She is resilient and independent and something of a free spirit. I have to admire someone who is not only such a talented baker but who has no qualms about changing her hair color, and I am not talking about blonde to brown rather to neon blue or perhaps a jazzy purple. She has a buoyant sense of humor and can generally speak her mind without hesitation.
So she doesn't pass up an opportunity to work at the Sugar Maple Inn for the curmudgeonly Margaret. Margaret has a wall full of blue ribbons from her yearly pie submissions at the county fair. A wall of blue, save for the few red ones glaringly out of place. Second prize for the staunch Margaret who likes everything "just-so" is something that has been niggling at her. She hires Olivia, after tasting her best apple pie (how would you like to bake a pie instead of submitting a resumé for a job? Alas, I would not get hired!) with an eye towards winning back that blue ribbon. Livvy moves into the Inn's little cottage where the maple syrup is made and begins to sort out her life.
This might all be temporary--a way to let things calm down before returning to her real life in Boston, but she finds that this little corner of Vermont is more than a place to hang up her rolling pin each night. She finds what she has so long been without--a real home, family and good friends. And maybe even the promise of a little romance. Her sorting out will take a few twists and unexpected turns (as every good story does) with some heartache and happy moments along the way. Livvy is such a likable character, not without her shortcomings but she's so down to earth I could picture sitting in her kitchen eating a scone and chatting away while she bakes for the Inn's guests (much like some of Guthrie's residents do).
If you are at all foodie-inclined or just like a really good story, you have to check out The City Baker's Guide. I think I can just see how a city girl might take to country living.