With a dash of Sarah Addison Allen (The Peach Keeper) and a drizzle of Ruth Reichl (Delicious!), Louise Miller creates a charming story about food, relationships, and finding a home in The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living.
After pastry chef Olivia Rawlings drops the flaming baked Alaska in the posh Boston restaurant and sets the whole place on fire, she retreats with her dog to a bucolic Vermont Inn. Her changes of hair color from purple to orange reflect her moods and her talent, as her backstory unravels. Not only a talented baker but also a banjo player, Livvy connects with her new surroundings, despite the small town gossip and her initial ostracism as an outsider.
Some tension between Margaret, Livvy’s boss, an upstanding New Englander who owns the inn, and Jane, an old stalwart rich matron who owns half the town, and seems to be bidding to buy the inn, creates a mysterious rivalry running throughout the story. Although they both grew up together, a dark secret floats around the main plot.
Other characters fill the expected round of friends and family. Livvy’s love interest is a tall dark handsome rebel, who has returned to the fold to help run the family farm when his father, Henry, becomes ill. Henry may be one of the more likable characters, along with Chef Alfred, the behind the scenes admirer.
Miller provides romance, mystery, and some angst but the best is the description of food:
” And then dessert, Pumpkin creme brûlée baked in hollowed out miniature pumpkins. Apple galettes with frangipane in puff pastry. Pears stuffed with cognac-soaked figs and wrapped in phyllo, baked to a crispy golden brown, the fruit inside tender and succulent. Ant then chocolate shells, filled with a thick amber caramel, studded with toasted pecans and a layer of dark chocolate ganache just barely sweetened.”
Is your mouth watering yet?
Overall, the story is easy and captivating – a lovely summer read with a bonus – the recipe (with tips for success) for the award-winning apple pie.