The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

Source: Tandem Literary
Paperback, 304 pgs
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The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig will have mouths watering all over these pages as these gorgeous confections meld savory and sweet and extrapolates memory, emotion, and the past from flavors.  Claire “Neely” Davis returns to her hometown to clear her head after yet another slip-up by her husband, Luke, a famous NFL player.  She leaves behind her five-star life in New York for a life that requires a bit more grit and persistence.  Slowly she finds that she has more than one bakery talent — she sees the lives of others in flavor and color, much like her grandmother did.

Even as she works through her own emotional issues, she dives head first into work.  She’s building her business, Rainbow Cake, from the ground up, but she’s also reconnecting with her past and her family.  Her grandmother’s home will not be vacant because she’s been moved to a nursing home.  Her hometown friends are happy to have her back, and while she’s still recovering, she begins to feel at home too.

“‘It’s a gift, you dope.’  I pressed the box into his stomach.  He read the card that said, ‘Thank you for helping me feather my new nest.’  He opened the box and saw a tiny cake shaped like a bird’s nest in three small round layers of tender, browned-butter vanilla cake with an apricot filling.  A ‘nest’ border of piped rum and mocha buttercream enclosed a clutch of pale blue marzipan eggs and a sugar-paste feather.  The complicated yin and yang of rum and mocha, the ‘everybody loves’ vanilla, Mr. Social white chocolate, tart and witty apricot, and artistic marzipan — all said ‘Gavin’ to me.”  (pg. 16)

Her culinary skills also come in handy when helping her employees and some others in the town cope with their own situations at home and from the past.  As she helps them see the strength in themselves, she becomes more sure of herself and that path she must take into the future.  Claire is an emotional mess, and like many of us, she throws herself into work and something she’s passionate about, leaving the heavier stuff on the back burner.  She often helps others, and that helps her work through her own issues, sometimes without even realizing it.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig is a delightful confection and perfect for summer reading by the pool with some cake and delightful coffee — tea if you’re into that sort of thing.  Fertig has a clear talent for writing foodie fiction, and perhaps that is because of her background in cooking and writing cookbooks.  Bon appétit!

About the Author:

Novelist and cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to cooking school in London and Paris, and now lives in the Kansas City area. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig debuts a new novel that engage the mind, the heart, and all five senses—and celebrates cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.

Novels you can read like cookbooks. Cookbooks you can read like novels. That’s what you get when an English major studies at École de Cuisine La Varenne (formerly in Paris) and The Cordon Bleu in London plus The Iowa Writers Workshop. Fertig often weaves storytelling into her books. Follow her on Twitter.

Mailbox Monday #329

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig, which I received for review in July from Tandem Literary.

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.

2.  Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans from Harper Collins for review for TLC Book Tours.

When Noel Bostock – aged ten, no family – is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge – thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she’s unscrupulous about how she gets it.

Noel’s mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and eclectic approach to education, he has little in common with other children and even less with Vee, who hurtles impulsively from one self-made crisis to the next. The war’s thrown up new opportunities for making money but what Vee needs (and what she’s never had) is a cool head and the ability to make a plan.

On her own, she’s a disaster. With Noel, she’s a team.

Together they cook up an idea. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life.

But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn’t actually safe at all…

What did you receive?