Lou is recently engaged to a lawyer and operating her own little restaurant in Milwaukee. It's been hard work, but she's finally seeing good results and making a profit. Things are looking great, even if there's a bit of a nudge in her head about getting married. Devlin wants a wife who puts on dinner parties, dresses well, and makes him the focus of her life. Lou is slightly messy, slightly heavy, and spends hours at her restaurant, Luella's. Can they make a successful marriage? Lou's too darn busy to try and figure it out.
Lou decides to make things up to Devlin by baking her famous coconut cake and delivering it to his apartment before he goes to work. On the way there, she bumps into a slightly crabby stranger at the local food market. A brief exchange about coffee, a whiff of coconut cake, and this stranger--Al--is intrigued.
What Lou doesn't know is that Al is the restaurant critic for the local newspaper, and he's reviewing her restaurant that night. All would be well, except Lou finds another woman in Devlin's apartment and returns to the restaurant an emotional mess. And Al is one crabby Englishman who has decided Milwaukee is the armpit of the world and has no redeeming values--especially food. He's itching to write another bad restaurant review.
So yes, as you imagine, the worst happens. Lou's professionalism takes a dive that particular evening, and her food suffers. Al writes a scathing review, and Luella's hemorrhages customers. Lou and Al connect again, and Al challenges Lou to show him the food and the excitement of Milwaukee and convince him Milwaukee is a wonderful place to live. Both agree not to talk about their careers, so neither knows who the other one is...yes, this train is going to derail!
How can there possibly be a happy ending? What happens when Al realizes who Lou is, and what he's done to her career? Does he give up love and walk away?
I don't have anything much negative to say about this novel. I can't think beyond that darn cake on the cover. Lou and Al are both fun characters--both flawed, both works in progress. Together they make a great team, if only they can reach a point where they realize how good they are for one another. The sights, sounds, and tastes of Milwaukee infuse what could be a so-so novel with a bit of Midwest magic. Doing what you love and doing it well are big themes in this novel. Being honest to yourself, not settling, evolving and growing are also major threads. It never hurts to take a good hard look at your life.
*bonus coconut cake recipe included!
Rating 7/10 for a purely fun look at food, love, and Milwaukee, land of the "fests".
Available in paperback, e-book, and audio.