Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: The Cake Therapist

The Cake TherapistAuthor: Judith Fertig
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Berkley

A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author.

Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.

Red raspberry, orange, and the yellow of lemon and butter. Pistachio, lime, and mint green. The deepest indigo of a fresh blueberry. The violet that blooms when crushed blackberries blend into buttercream.

Lemon. I could just taste it. Above her head, a band of yellow seemed to separate from the rest of the flavor rainbow. As it went into free fall, enveloping us both, I could taste the crumb of a buttery lemon bar that got more and more pucker.

To me, their roasty-toasty flavors said that even if you only had a mere handful of beans and your life went up in flames, you could still create something wonderful. 
A debut fiction novel written by an award-winning cookbook writer? Of course, this is going to be good! Warning up front: Do Not Read When You Are Hungry! Or do, the choice is yours. Judith Fertig’s debut novel knocked me completely off my feet. I started reading and was one hundred pages in before I even realized it. Fertig showers us with the story of Claire O’Neil Davis who comes back to her hometown, Millcreek Valley, in order to fulfill her dream of owning her own bakery. Claire has the unique talent of being able to “read” people extremely well and even attempts to match their mood/inner feelings to a particular flavor of her delicious cake batters. Claire now has her dream shop, Rainbow Cake, and is setup in the perfect town because of its reputation for a popular bridal destination. Claire has luck reading other people’s feelings, but now she just needs to be able to read her own.

This book felt like a warm cup of hot chocolate and nestling in a blanket by the fire. I know that is not really the image you want to conjure in the middle of June, but the book was just that magical and that relaxing. Claire’s cakes sounded to die for and her ability to reach out to the people around her was just as exceptional. The Cake Therapist combines several things that I LOVE in a book: magical realism, a cozy bakery feel, miraculous sweet and savory concoctions, and a small town mystery. The novel spans the past and the present with a dual point of view and it is in this part of the book where mystery evolves. It is not often that I find a book that just keeps me entranced all the way through. I had to stop and pause at many of the eloquent lines written throughout this book. Good news is that Judith Fertig is already working on her next novel!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Berkley Trade in exchange for my honest review***

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