Review: “Brunch at Bittersweet Café” by Carla Laureano

I probably say this any time a book incorporates food in some way, but ya’ll, I love food. I love reading. And I LOVE foodie fiction! Especially when we’re talking about a favorite contemporary romance author like Carla Laureano who combines food and story with great depth. Her latest novel, Brunch at Bittersweet Café, is a new one for my all time favorites list!

About the Book

From the RITA Award-winning author of Five Days in Skye comes a sweet, romantic treat that will leave you hungry for more.

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country–an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A delectable “second course” in the Supper Club series, Brunch at Bittersweet Café offers an engrossing story of friendship, romance, and trust along with its yummy foodie tendencies.

THE FOOD. First off, this story had me wanting to bake all. the. things. with its yummy foods. From things Melody baked to the quaint restaurants she (and Justin) visited, the food selection was eclectic and inspiring. Carla Laureano includes food as an inherent part of the story and naturally in Melody’s life. (And she gets the craziness of the restaurant industry life/schedule/habits SPOT ON!) Next on my own baking list to tackle: eclairs!

THE FRIENDSHIPS. I was happy to see the closeness of the friend group of Rachel, Melody, and Ana continue in this story. With laughter, support, and sometimes in-your-face bossiness, these three exhibit the importance of close friendships amidst the real joys and hard things life can bring. Melody’s new friendship (and more) with Justin challenges her and broadens her perspective in some good ways, too. Which brings me to…

Evidence of my baking. The book made me do it.

THE ROMANCE. All this time I’ve talked about Melody, so here’s where I chime in more about Justin. !!! After some time passes in the story Melody has a revelation about Justin. To paraphrase, his charming exterior really is a front for a serious, sometimes-perfectionist, always-intentional gentleman. This plays into the romance of the story in the BEST ways. I mean, he’s a pilot. (Who knew flying could be so cool?!) They live in Colorado. They have fun non-dates and, eventually, adventurous real dates. The romance is honestly portrayed with a balance of attraction, emotional connection, and true heart-friendship at the center. ❤

THE GROWTH. Melody and Justin meet at a “seemingly” wrong time in their lives for a serious relationship. Through each of their personal journeys (and family dysfunctional issues. we all have those.), they independently learn what it means to trust and hope. For Melody, trusting God’s will over her own path/choices. For Justin, the beginnings of what a strong faith lived out every day looks like.

If you’re looking for a contemporary romance with the perfect balance of depth and charm, Brunch at Bittersweet Café is one to “sample”!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1, The Saturday Night Supper Club.

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Review: “The Saturday Night Supper Club” by Carla Laureano

book quote

Ya’ll know I love food. And books. And foodie fiction, which combines the culinary world and story SO WELL. The latest treat I have had the privilege of reading is the recent release from author Carla Laureano, aptly named The Saturday Night Supper Club.

About the Book

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant.

The Saturday Night Supper Club cover

But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Saturday Night Supper Club impressed me in so many ways: from the vivid descriptions of place and tantalizing food, to the unique and relevant social media fallout angle as a story influence, and to the portrayal of a life journey filled with deep meaning and purpose. Perhaps the most prominent, though, is its complexity of characters and their respective interconnected relationships and backstories. These were revealed one morsel at a time, creating a character arc that is all the more meaningful because of the reader’s understanding by story’s end. This delightful complexity is what will make me proclaim Supper Club as a favorite and best-of-the-year read for many months to come!book quote

If you will allow me to use a food analogy, I will further describe its awesomeness: The foodie atmosphere and eclectic setting are the appetizer, laying the foundation. The character transformation is the main course with great substance. The resulting romance is the dessert, like a salted caramel truffle, ending with a sweet note but not without its “salty” contrasts of reality.

Most impressive to me is that you cannot typecast Alex or Rachel. They are layered so well— as you get deeper and deeper into the story you get equally deeper into who they are, why they make certain choices, and how they play off of and affect each other. There is a romantic aspect of this story, but it is almost distinct and separate from the personal growth of these characters and their friendship~relationship dynamic.

I just want more of this little story world, Alex’s and Rachel’s friends, and with the book 2 teaser at the end, I am up to my elbows in bliss because it’s about Melody and BAKING!

Thank you to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

First Line Fridays #9: The Saturday Night Supper Club

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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You all know I love any combination of story and food, especially when I can eat while reading :). This upcoming foodie fiction release from author Carla Laureano made its way to me this week, so I thought it was time to hint at the story within for First Line Friday! The Saturday Night Supper Club releases February 6th from Tyndale.

The Saturday Night Supper Club

First Line:

Three hours into Saturday night dinner service and she was already running on fumes.

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Mini Review: “With No Reservations” by Laurie Tomlinson

One of my favorite things about this book blogging community is when a trusted blogger friend highly recommends or gushes over a book that sounds like my cup of tea. After a seeing a few good reviews, Carrie’s totally convinced me. Food + blogging + a clean and sweet romance? I’m in!

About the book: There can be more than comfort in food… 

What could well-known and wealthy Graham Cooper Jr. have in common with a blogger like Sloane Bradley, a woman with secrets she’s kept firmly out of the public eye? That is, besides a love of food. Sloane still can’t believe Cooper’s the chef at the restaurant she’s been assigned to promote. But she’s boiling to prove to him that her “little blog” can put his place on the map. She can also fall head over heels for the guy, who has secrets of his own, it turns out…except for one thing. She can’t get past the post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps her walled up in her home studio.


My thoughts:
With No Reservations was a super sweet romance! I especially identified with the food appreciation, restaurant atmosphere, and blogger processes depicted within the story. But, this couple! Oh, I love it when a story shows two people making each other better versions of themselves by story’s end, not just the sparks of attraction and romance. And the turns the story took to get to the happy end were unexpectedly deep and emotionally engaging —- exploring the depths of grief and its lasting and varied impact on life. I will definitely be interested in whatever Laurie writes next!

First Line Fridays #6 Special Foodie & Thanksgiving Edition: With No Reservations

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Today is a special First Line Friday Foodie & Thanksgiving edition!!! If there’s one thing I love as much as books, it’s FOOD (hence the family business 😉 ). Today I’m featuring a fun foodie story that I happen to be reading right now!!! It’s Laurie Tomlinson’s With No Reservations. It has already made me hungry on multiple occasions!

With No Reservations

The first line(s):

A stick of Irish butter, cubed into tiny uniform squares. Half-cup portions of white sugar, brown sugar, glittering in the light.

Is your mouth watering yet? Can you guess what Sloane is cooking up in the very first chapter?

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Well, people, I READ FOODIE BOOKS! And I didn’t realize how many until I started making this list….so many of them focus on a main character with a culinary background of some sort. I’ve already featured a TTT way back about characters who cook/bake, so I’m going with the actual meals this time. Such fun! Join me as we plan an indulgent schedule of eating and snacking.

MEAL PLANNING 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

Breakfast

Count Me INfrom Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

a Kit-Kat Latte – the perfect combination of sweet (chocolate and vanilla) and stout to caffeinate your day.

 

 

from Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnsonwhere-two-hearts-meet

3 words: Caden’s cinnamon rolls. “There was only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. The taste of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. “-chapter 1

 

Reservations for Twofrom Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (but I could say ALL THE FOODS from the “Two Blue Doors” series!)

Blueberry buckwheat breakfast cake (AND there’s even a recipe for it in the book!)

Lunch

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano - mini reviewfrom Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

James’s tuna Nicoise sandwiches with new red potato salad and fresh fruit: “seared tuna, seasoned delicately with olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard, then layered with hard-boiled eggs and spring greens on an artisan roll.”

Tea… er, Coffee Time!

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillanfrom The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Turkish coffee and LEMON CURD SANDWICHES. Merinda would not be herself without her frequent Turkish coffee, and lemon curd is the way to Ray’s heart, apparently 😉

Appetizer

19320758from When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Ahi tartar in a rice noodle cup, garnished with char orange supreme. When the characters are participating in a cooking contest, the result is pretty exotic creations!

Dinner

a-portrait-of-emily-price

from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Chef Benito Vasallo’s Bistecca alla Pizzaiola AKA steak of the pizza maker’s wife: a thick-sauce, wintry Italian dish with “a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and something [Emily] couldn’t name….”

The Wishing Seasonfrom The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Filet steak with garlic butter, asparagus spears, and risotto. A meal fit for a food critic.

Dessert

Dare to Love Againfrom Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

Ghrardelli chocolate bars straight from the factory at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA. This list would not be complete without Julie’s “chocolate kiss” fun!

 

Bonus! Books on my TBR shelf that promise all kinds of yummy foods:

The Romano Family Collection: A Trio of Romances Flavored with Grace by Brandy Bruce

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano (releasing Feb. 2018)

 

Which of these meals sounds the most appetizing to you?  Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you enjoy foodie fiction and have recommendations for me? Comment away!