"Mix in one part Diane Mott Davidson’s delightful culinary adventures with several tablespoons of Jan Karon’s country living and quirky characters, bake at 350 degrees for one rich and warm romance." --Library Journal
A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home—and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn’t even know you were looking
When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.
Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.
With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.
But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.
At the outset of Miller's endearing debut, 32-year-old pastry chef Olivia Rawlings loses her job after she drops a tray of baked Alaska and starts a fire at the prestigious Boston club where she works. In need of comfort, she heads to Guthrie, Vt., to visit her best friend, Hannah Doyle, who lands her a job at the nearby Sugar Maple, a picturesque inn owned by the stern yet protective Margaret Hurley. As Olivia adjusts to her new life, her growing attachment to Margaret's friends, the McCrackens especially Martin, the fiddle-playing son prompts her return to banjo and folk music. But even as she settles in and joins a contra dance band, she struggles to navigate the secrets, gossip, and long-held animosities that animate the town. Miller, a pastry chef herself, writes about food with vivid detail, but her rhythmic prose is even crisper when her interests converge: "From the stage you could see the lattice pattern the dances made, the couples weaving in and out like fluted strips of piecrust." Miller also excels at characterization, revealing her protagonist's complex pasts in subtle ways. Even minor characters such as Alfred, Olivia's coworker at the Sugar Maple, and Henry, the ailing McCracken patriarch, are sharply drawn and memorable. Throughout, the novel's empathetic spirit and unhurried pace allow it to grapple with grief, family, and belonging, while keeping the focus on Olivia's difficult decisions.
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The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is a debut novel by Louise Miller. Olivia “Livvy” Rawlings is walking into the Jefferson Room during the 150th anniversary celebration of the Emerson Club carrying a flaming Baked Alaska when she spots her boss, Jameson Whitaker (and lover) across the room with his wife. Livvy sees Jameson whisper to his wife and then the wife laughs while looking at Livvy. Livvy is surprised and drops the dessert (which weighs 40 pounds). Instantly a tablecloth catches fire (the one under the ice sculpture) and soon the curtains (after the ice sculpture melts and falls). Of course, then the sprinklers kick in. Livvy rushes home, packs a bag, loads her dog, Salty into the car and heads out of town. Livvy calls her friend, Hannah Doyle who lives in Guthrie, Vermont and asks to stay for a few days. Hannah would like Livvy to stay permanently in Guthrie and arranges a job interview for Livvy. The interview is with Margaret Hurley at the Sugar Maple Inn. Margaret has Livvy bake an apple pie (she has an ulterior motive). Livvy gets the job and a place to live. Livvy moves into the old sugarhouse on the property. Livvy soon finds out that Margaret needs Livvy to help her win the Coventry County Fair blue ribbon for an apple pie. Margaret has not won since the death of her husband, Brian (Margaret has a secret). Margaret needs Livvy to help regain her reputation as well as the inn’s. Come join Livvy as she settles into life in small town Guthrie in The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living was an enjoyable novel. It is easy to read, has engaging characters, interesting and beautiful small town, and a lovable dog. There is the requisite romance in the book for Livvy (and a sex scene that was not needed). The small town of Guthrie has the normal gossips, busy bodies, and rivalries. I liked Livvy and her ever changing hair color (it was a new color every week). I give The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living 4 out of 5 stars. The story has a good pace, nice writing and a lovely ending. There are also mouthwatering descriptions of the delicacies. I did not give the novel five stars because of the predictability. I enjoyed reading the book, but I knew how it would end. There is one nice little surprise though (I do not want to give it away). I look forward to reading more books by Louise Miller in the future.
The comparison to Gilmore Girls drew me in. It’s not quite so witty, but the storyline is great, moves quickly and is entertaining. It pulls at your heart strings and makes you wish you could live in a Vermont inn.
Really good way to spend a day
What a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The characters are finely drawn, with nearly every one of them being someone you’d enjoy knowing. I surely did. My only regret was reaching the final pages.