[I was given an advanced digital copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Louisa Graham puts in long hours at a NYC bakery, saving money in order to open her own restaurant. She gets an incredible opportunity to travel to London for a few days and work with some celebrity chefs she admires, all expenses paid, as long as she fills in for the star of Baking With Bianca for a special Christmas program. They are in desperate need of a replacement as the star of the show has fallen ill.
Bianca’s assistant, Noah, treats Louisa very well, putting her up in a large suite at Claridge’s, providing clothing, make-up and hair stylists, travel arrangements, and anything else she might need. Louisa is able to get a whirlwind tour of London as they film segments for the show. Louisa and Noah quickly start to have feelings for each other, but they do get in frequent arguments, however, because Noah is critical and suspicious of attention Louisa is receiving from one of the celebrity chefs. She is blind to that attention and is also unaware that jealousy is the reason for Noah’s irrational behavior.
A secondary story follows the show’s producer, Kate, after she runs into her former best friend. Their story is partially told in flashbacks of their time together at St. Andrews College in Scotland ten years earlier. Trevor had always been in love with Kate but waited too long to say anything. I never saw them as being compatible because he never wanted to do anything she liked, i.e. casually socialize with other college students or go to any special events she invited him to. He missed his chance when she found another boy to fill that role. They had a serious misunderstanding on the day of their graduation which abruptly severed their friendship. Although they both continue to carry a flame for each other, they are still recycling their old issues.
Similar to Louisa and Noah’s pattern, Kate and Trevor are often oblivious to what the other person is thinking and frequently get in unnecessary arguments–because neither one of these couples knows how to communicate. My biggest disappointment with this story is I didn’t believe that either couple would make it in the long run. Both men had a problem with immediately rushing to judgment, not trusting these women they supposedly loved, and just walking away from any problems instead of facing them. They all seemed rather ho-hum about their romantic relationships. I didn’t see any progression in feelings emerging between the characters. The reader is told that they have feelings for each other, but I wasn’t convinced.
I was hoping that the two stories would be tied together somehow, that Kate and Trevor would have learned from their past mistakes and shared their newfound knowledge with the newly coupled Louisa and Noah, saving them from all the years of heartache the other two experienced.
Something I noticed (perhaps it was intentional by the author?), but very often when Noah walked into the room, his arrival was prefaced by the phrase, “Louisa looked up to see a man in the doorway”. He was usually described wearing his leather jacket, then Louisa would suddenly become aware it was Noah. This happened often. I found it curious.
Even with my doubts about the longevity of these couples, I found the writing pleasant to read, and I think this will be enjoyed by anyone who likes a travelogue for foodies. Every touristy detail is shared of the places visited and food eaten, right down to the pattern of the bone china and the wallpaper design.
There was a cute idea of Louisa sending postcards to her boss’ daughter every day with a new kid-friendly Christmas recipe, i.e. Melting Snowman Biscuits (where decorated marshmallows are placed on top of gingerbread men and then melted on top). I’m hoping the collection of recipes will be included in the final draft of this book.