Can a purple-haired pastry chef with a whisk and spatula tattoo on her derriere find happiness baking in rustic Vermont?
After 32-year-old Olivia Rawlings, carrying a flambé dessert, accidentally sets fire to the swank private club in Boston where she works, she flees north to Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend lives. By unlikely coincidence, there's an opening for a pastry chef at the picturesque Sugar Maple Inn nearby. Although she's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has been nominated for a James Beard award, Olivia soon falls into step with her small-town colleagues, even the inn’s prickly proprietor, Margaret Hurley, whose personality approximates biting “into a raw cranberry.” Olivia whips up many a frangipane tart as she becomes enmeshed in the small town’s intrigues. She becomes increasingly enamored of Martin McCracken, a laconic Seattle teacher and musician, who grew up in Guthrie but bolted to elude his close-knit family’s smothering grasp and has now returned to help out with the farm since his father has cancer. Olivia, who has some weaknesses when it comes to both alcohol and men, discovers too late that Martin has a fiancee back home in Seattle. By then, Martin’s mother and ailing father have become surrogate parents to Olivia, whose mother abandoned her as a baby. Meanwhile, no one in Guthrie seems to be bothered by Olivia's bizarre hair-color changes (“Manic Panic Atomic Turquoise,” anyone?) and occasionally coarse language (“God, what is up that woman’s butt?”). Will Olivia be able to hold on to the elusive Martin? Will she help Margaret win the prestigious annual apple pie competition at the Coventry County Fair? Debut novelist Miller, herself a Boston pastry chef, initially succeeds in making these small-town concerns engaging with her witty writing. But what starts out as homespun charm in the first half of the book becomes treacly in the second.
A promising author who doesn’t have the recipe quite right yet.