Fluke takes her popular series way back in time, chronicling the start of Hannah Swensen’s success as Lake Eden’s premier purveyor of tasty treats.
Delores Swensen is in a bad way after the death of her husband, Lars. She just picks at the meals her daughter, Hannah, prepares and hides in her room most of the day. To snap her out of her doldrums, her longtime friends Annie Winters and Grandma Knudson hatch a plot to entice Delores, who never met a party she couldn’t plan, into helping frail old Essie Granger fulfill her dream of re-creating the Christmas Ball she and her husband, Alton, hosted each year at their Albion Hotel. Of course Delores recruits Hannah to bake the cakes for the famous Christmas Cake Parade. As she witnesses her daughter’s kitchen skills, Delores develops a plan of her own to help Hannah, whose interest in grad school has fizzled along with her romance with assistant professor Bradford Ramsey, open her own bake shop. Fluke fans win a trifecta of treats. There’s the origin story of Hannah’s Cookie Jar. There are the complex and challenging preparations for the Cake Parade, complete with recipes for a bevy of Bundt cakes. And there’s a mysterious manuscript Essie has written, which Hannah doles out to her pals more sparingly than her Cashew Butter Blossom cookies, leaving them all to ponder how much of the novel is based on Essie’s own life.
Fluke’s prequel cleverly reinvigorates a series that had been somewhat stalled by her heroine’s marriage (Wedding Cake Murder, 2016) and the subsequent disappearance of her groom (Raspberry Danish Murder, 2018).