Owens made bestsellerdom in Ireland with this debut that intertwines the stories of the various customers of a small Belfast restaurant/café.
Daniel and Penny Stanley run Muldoon’s, which had belonged to Penny’s parents. A cast of regular—and occasional—patrons frequent Muldoon’s for breakfast, lunch, and baked specialties, in particular the cherry cheesecake (recipe included). Brenda Brown, an eccentric young artist whose flat is next door to the restaurant, writes fan letters to Nicholas Cage and paints art that doesn’t sell. Bookstore owner Henry Blackstock, partial to Muldoon’s breakfasts, allows his wife to destroy his beloved garden so she can build a conservatory for her literary club. Ample Sadie Smith, who breaks her frequent diets at Muldoon’s, suspects that her husband, the builder of the Blackstock conservatory, is cheating on her while she tirelessly cares for his aging parents. Clare Fitzgerald, a publishing executive in New York who lived in Brenda’s flat as a student, met the love of her life at Muldoon’s, lost contact through a freak accident (shades of An Affair to Remember) and has returned to search for him. At the center, Daniel and Penny are in a marital crisis that threatens the future of both their marriage and their restaurant. Miserly Daniel refuses to have children and cares only about the business. Penny, emotionally exhausted, begins an affair with a customer, a real-estate agent who inadvertently drops a bombshell about Daniel’s past. Meanwhile, Henry falls in love with the recently divorced florist across the street; Sadie catches her swinish husband in bed with his skinny mistress, who used to be Brenda’s boss; Clare buys a painting from Brenda, whose flat then burns up in a fire that also destroys Muldoon’s; and Daniel saves Penny and realizes that, although he married her for the restaurant, he does love her . . . .
A sugar-and-spice toy for Maeve Binchy fans.