The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.
In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.
Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.
The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?
Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.
a richness and sweetness that left me hungering for more.
One of my favorite concepts, the combination of food and a story brings me to my happy place. Food, particularly long-held family recipes and the memories that are attached to learning and preparation are evocative and deeply emotional: nearly everyone has those memories of the smell of the kitchen when baking cookies that holiday meal, or those for special occasions. Amy E. Reichert uses those memories to inform this story of Louella and her own memories and struggles, and that wonderful coconut cake to inform this story, imbuing it with a richness and sweetness that left me hungering for more.
Louella is wonderfully complex: a bit unsure in all of her life EXCEPT in the kitchen when she loses herself in the world of food, she’s got an instant connection to readers that draws you in: she’s a wonderful friend, determined and loving, and exactly the sort of person who deserves that loyalty and admiration.
Gertrude and Otto, John, Harley and Sue. Secondary characters all: the elderly couple who have endeared themselves to Lou and are staunch supporters are testaments to love and caring, offering advice and showing how to love every moment they appear. John, the fashion editor at the paper where Al is the critic: his slow development from outwardly appearing mountain man to GQ ready fashion guru, John is really the only friend Al has, and his influence is dramatic. Lastly Harley and Sue, chefs and friends of Lou: these two are just wonderful in their interactions, sniping and skills: their friendship, support, loyalty and hard work are invaluable in adding background that feels real and plausible.
Here it’s a toss-up between Al and Devlin. Devlin is an ‘upwardly mobile’ lawyer, completely egocentric and about the “look’ of things. His dismissive attitude toward Louella and her own goals and dreams is frustrating, and his inability to realize his own mistakes made him the perfect example of an ex.
Al: uptight, snobby Brit with his own personal angers and frustrations spilling out on the pages of his reviews. He’s that guy who will silence a room with a “you’re so fat” comment, disguised as a joke, and then add a ‘just kidding’ to the end. His own dismissal of the people he works with until he needs their help, and his lack of motivation and curiosity about the world around him, particularly the food scene, is frustrating and until he meets Lou and allows her own enthusiasm to infect his outlook, he’s not particularly likable.
Even though the story trajectory is fairly predictable, the journey and richness that Reichert has penned is as wonderful as that first slice of cake. Mouth-watering descriptions liberally sprinkle the story, giving a depth to the ordinary appearance of rain or cold, making you feel them. Lou is emotionally available: you cheer for her, you want her to succeed, and most of all you understand in an integral way just why people are drawn to embrace her. You worry for her interest in Al, and when (or if) he will ever tell her the truth as they get closer. You don’t want to forgive him for the meanness and deception, but have to appreciate the changes in him as Lou’s passion for life and food start to infect his jaded and cynical outlook. Treks through the known and unknown sites and events in Milwaukee play a large part of this story, and the city comes to life in good weather or bad, becoming a wonderful ‘what to see’ list for the city. More importantly than all of that, however, is the emotional connection that appears: while a light and entertaining story overall, the depth to which readers can escape into the world makes this a perfect curl up and escape read. A nice balance of sweet and savory, you will be craving more and contemplating a re-read just to have the experience again.
I received an eARC copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a realistic romance with a loving cast of characters.
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a realistic romance with a loving cast of characters. In fact, supporting characters Otto and Gertrude stole the spotlight a bit. They are a sweet older couple who pretty much adopt Lou as their own. They are full of wisdom and represent the greatest of love stories. Otto and Gertrude's love story is inspirational in where they are now, but realistic due to all they had to overcome and being able to find a second chance love in one another. In a way, I enjoyed the small bit of time that was spent with Otto and Gertrude more than I did Lou and Al. Otto and Gertrude were the sweet icing to the cake of this story.
Now to the cake and main characters of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Lou and Al. Lou is quiet, keeps to herself, always tries to do the right thing and cares about others. She is a girl who does not fit with a social ladder climbing, self-centered, ungrateful tool like her fiancé Devlin. The best thing he ever did for Lou was get caught with another woman in his apartment at a rather early time in the morning dressed in less than appropriate attire for friendly company. Point being, Lou is much better off without him. Thankfully she is a strong and self-respecting woman who walks away from such a relationship.
Then enters Al, a man who is far from home and is debatably trying to find his true self. Al and Lou are both at a point in their lives when a bit of re-planning is necessary. They find compatibility in wanting to forget about everything that is wrong and out of control in their lives. There is no talk of work and no personal questions, so as you can imagine this leaves quite a bit of room for the unknown.
I found The Coincidence of Coconut Cake to be a bit slow and flat. There were parts of the book I found myself wanting to skip because I was not convinced of it's relevance to the story. Parts felt a bit like filler text rather than important content. I do think this could make a good beach read. The cast of supporting characters are loyal and lovable, the story slow and sweet, and you won't be caught blushing too much in public.