In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn't slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn--as as Mrs. Eaden did before them--that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.
Kathryn - 4 Star
I was in England a few years ago and watched a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake-Off. I’m all for a reality show about food and this one was completely mesmerising (because who doesn’t like dessert?). I returned to Canada though and forgot about the program and how delightful it was until I came across this novel by Sarah Vaughan.
Now, I am no expert on The Great British Bake-Off and also no expert on baking but this novel was enchanting not only because of its’ loosely drawing on the television program but also because of the characters participating in the contest.
I found it difficult to keep the different women straight at first and created some little tricks to remind myself who was who. I think their names seemed similar and this was a little distracting at first but once I had them clearly sorted out I soon got into their chapters and gobbled up the next bit of their story. There was a good assortment of troubles that these ladies were experiencing which made the plot move quickly. I liked that they gradually befriended each other, despite the competition and fledgling friendships began. They all needed some good friends around them and you could see the author was hoping to create that bond, despite the competition and their very different backgrounds. There was a token male contestant that we didn’t hear much from and I’m not sure he was entirely necessary to the plot- I liked him though and it would have been nicer to have his situation told like the others. It was a nice touch too to have Kathleen’s story unfold with the others- her life was really the reason they were all there so it would have felt less special if she wasn’t given as much voice as the present day contestants.
On the whole the novel was heart-warming, the personal stories and contest aspect were equally represented and I loved the way it was written. There were only a couple of little things that, if tweaked, would have made it a perfect read for me. One of the ladies stories didn’t quite wrap up for me and I wish Mike had been left out or brought in more definitely.
Thank you to St Martin's Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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