By Stacey Ballis
Author’s Website: http://www.staceyballis.com
Review brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
You’ve Got Mail meets Julie & Julia in the new foodie fiction from the author of Recipe for Disaster.
Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…
Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch…
As an introduction to the writing of Stephanie Ballis, this was wonderful. Full of romance, humor, and food that sounds delicious! I swear, I gained five pounds just reading this book…. or at least I will when I try some of the recipes at the end of the book 🙂
The story begins auspiciously with Sophie Bernstein (pastry chef) on her wedding day to sommelier finance Dexter Kelley IV (DK to his friends). And the menu is to die for (and this is just a sample) …
“Hors d’oeuvres included caramelized shallot tartlets topped with Gorgonzola, cubes of crispy port belly skewered with fresh fig, espresso cups of chilled corn syrup topped with spicy popcorn, mini arepas filled with rare skirt steak and chimichurri and pickled onions, and prawn dumplings with a mango serrano salsa. There is a raw bar with…lightly pickled Brussel sprouts, and hunks of sourdough bread. The dinner will include classic Dover sole amandine with a feather light spinach flan, followed by seared veal chops or duck breast, with creamy polenta, roasted mushrooms, and lacinato kale… etc.”
Unfortunately, all does not go well on Sophie’s wedding day…. the groom has eloped the night before…. When Sophie is apprised of this, she quickly turns this apparent nonwedding into a wonderful party. Her official, Dodged a Bullet celebration. From that moment on, I had great respect for the woman that Sophie was. In the face of adversity, she held it together and went on. I think that set the stage for the entire book.
Sophie must make some tough decisions as a result of the expenses she incurred for this non-wedding. She had originally planned for Dexter to pay some of the bills, but that was not going to happen. Rightfully so, Sophie is having a tough time and as a result, ends up losing her job and must sell her place to pay for the wedding expenses (amounting to more than $50M). So Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles, an octogenarian…a spunky octogenarian I might add. I loved the quirkiness that surrounded Bubbles. She reminded me SO much of my great aunt…. I really bonded with this gal. And the antics that she was involved in just made me laugh so much. Lest we forget…. Sophie’s hippy parents play a prominent role in the story…and they are so engaging.
As Sophie tries to regain control of her life, many new experiences come about. To keep busy until her “dream” job comes about, she begins to work in a neighborhood bakery part-time. Many lessons are learned and self-discovery is abundant, both in a funny way but at times, in a serious context as well. This leads to some interesting story-lines. One such offshoot is that Sophie becomes a wedding advice girl with her own on-line presence. At times…. hilarious. Can’t give away all the details, but the clients she has to interact with will have you laughing, I promise. As well, through this side job, Sophie has met someone (Jake). But will Jake be the one? Time will tell.
I loved the whole story line behind entering the cake baking contest. The cake that Sophie and partner (originally Herman, the bakery shop owner) make sounds wonderful. I also love the explanation as to why Sophie chose to make what she did; it resonates such a love of family and all that it entails.
Only one thing did not sit right with me, but I did get over it quickly, it is that each chapter begins with a reference to a vintage movie. Now if the demarcation had been suitable for e-book, all might have been well. For some reason, it took me longer than normal to figure out how this fit the story. Once I did though…all was good. In fact, I even found that I had watched some of the movies and the passages resonated even more.
All in all, this was a wonderfully crafted romantic story. It kept me engaged, kept me giggling, kept me rooting for good things to happen to Sophie. While this was my first book written by Stephanie Ballis, I predict this certainly won’t be my last.