Olivia Rawlings is a renowned baker at an exclusive Boston dinner club when she sets the room on fire instead of her Baked Alaska. That public embarrassment is the tip of the iceberg, so she flees to rural Vermont for a weekend away, but it becomes somewhat permanent when she begins to work for a woman who owns an inn. Even though she tells herself it’s temporary, Olivia soon finds herself drawn to the people in the small town of Guthrie, and she finds herself drawn to Martin, a man who says little but clearly feels a lot.
The first half of this debut novel by real-life pastry chef Loiuse Miller is charming, smart, and oftentimes very witty. A fresh take on the fish-out-of-water story, Olivia is a charming heroine with a sidekick in her giant dog. There’s a lot to like in this story about a city girl finding new life in the country, and the characters who populate the small town in Vermont provide much of the novel’s charm, even as they engage in petty jealousies and rivalries.
The slow-burn romance between Olivia and the mysterious Martin is also fairly compelling, with a genuine chemistry between the two characters. Although the end of the novel feels a bit too tidy (and maybe even overly-saccharine), the start of this romance is certainly interesting enough to keep the pages turning. An unhurried romance, as well as an unhurried plot, help illustrate the slower way things happen in rural life.
It’s not until the end of the book that the story goes off the rails slightly. What was a strong, smart, witty novel turns into one that’s a wee bit too sweet, and the ending is so tidy and provincial that it’s almost as though it’s two separate novels. Still, Miller is an author with promise, and it’s an enjoyable, if not totally believable, ride.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. Pamela Dorman Books: 2016. Library copy.