After her mother dies, Berkley Whitmore moves to Cedar Key, Fla., to open a chocolate shop, hoping to find the answers to a family mystery she’s uncovered; along the way, she’ll find the home she’s always dreamed of, with a new community of friends and the possibility of true love.
Berkley’s lived her 40-something years in New England, working with her mother and grandmother in the family chocolate business. After her mother dies, she finds a stack of postcards that lead her to the small island community of Cedar Key, where her mother apparently spent a number of months without Berkley, who was 5 at the time. Convinced the mystery has some significance and will help her overcome some of her ambivalence toward her mother, she begins to ask questions of the friendly, close-knit community. The move and the quest bring her closer to an aunt she’s never really known, the other business owners in Cedar Key and to a local author she feels she can fall in love with. She’s happier than she’s ever been, and her chocolates seem to be having a positive influence on the town too. Despite its intriguing premise, a cozy, small-town backdrop, and even the hint of some magic, this book fails to rise to its potential. The narrative tells rather than shows nearly every emotional element of the plot, and what could be an interesting unveiling of the mystery at the center of the story is so poorly handled that the answers are dumped together in an amateurish way, as well as blunted by the awkward and ham-fisted “climax” scene. The internal and external dialogue is often generic and unrealistic, and the characters are simplistic and two-dimensional. Even the core romance lacks tension, either emotional or sexual, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of conflict throughout most of the book, other than The Mystery, which the main character makes no real progress on until near the end of the book, when suddenly all the pieces fall into place, though, it’s not completely clear why some of those same pieces couldn’t have assembled themselves more than 100 pages earlier.
Lackluster writing and storytelling, as well as inconsistent plot elements, diminish the book’s impact, but many romance and DuLong fans will find this sweet story, set in a friendly community with some unique, texturizing details, enough to keep them interested.