The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Two of my favorite things — books and food — come together in The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. Basically, this is the story of a big-city pastry chef who ends up moving to small-town Vermont. She finds love, friendship, and happiness, all while baking delicious breads and desserts. This book is full of tantalizing descriptions of baked goods, many of which made me quite hungry and hopeful that recipes were included. Sadly, while there is a recipe for apple pie, none of the other dessert recipes are in the book.
That’s okay, though, because while food is a key player here, it’s not the only attraction. The characters in this book are flawed and human, but still utterly likable.
The main character is Olivia Rawlings. She’s got issues, and she also has a somewhat questionable moral compass (our first impression of her is that she’s sleeping with a married man). Still, as a character, she grows and changes as the story progresses, and by the end, you can’t help but like her. Her awesome baking skills certainly contribute to this, but also her loyalty to new friends and the way she cares so deeply about everyone she’s close to really make you want to be one of her friends, even if she can be a little flaky at times.
I actually really enjoyed the romance portion of this book, too, despite its somewhat rocky path and lack of much overt romance. Martin and Olivia seem to have such good chemistry, even as friends, and while I was never sure whether they would really be able to make a go of a relationship, I enjoyed watching their friendship grow and develop. I definitely wouldn’t categorize this book as a romance, though — there’s a bigger focus on the inn and baking, as well as on various friendships, than there is on the romance. So, even if you’re not a fan of romances traditionally, you might still enjoy reading this book.
Margaret, Olivia’s elderly boss, at first seems like a cantankerous old woman, but eventually, we see another side of her. She cares very much about her friends, and while she doesn’t show it in the same way as many people, it is evident that she’s both strong and affectionate. She was my favorite character by far.
There are, of course, a ton of other characters, all of which are quirky and lovable in their own ways. Some of them seem too sweet to be realistic, but I’m betting there are people just like them somewhere, albeit not anywhere that I’ve lived.
Speaking of location — I really want to go to Vermont after reading this. I’ve been there a few times and I’ve really loved it each time, though I’m not sure I could live there. I could picture the beautiful surroundings and I’m so glad the author chose to set the story in such a wonderful place, especially in the fall and winter. I love it when a book transports me to a different place, and while I’m not sure how much of it was the author’s descriptions and how much was my own memories, I really felt ready to go back to Vermont in the fall, drink some apple cider, and maybe seek out a small town or two for a quick visit.
The writing style didn’t thrill me, as I found the flow to be a bit choppy, and I’m not a huge fan of novels written in the first person. Still, something about this book drew me in and kept me reading. It made me feel happy to see how things worked out throughout the course of the book, and when I finished, I was satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I gave this book four stars because while I didn’t love the writing style, I really liked the story and the focus on food.
*ARC from NetGalley