Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: The Cake Therapist

Summary: A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author.

Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.

Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.

Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself. -- Berkley

I am super late with my review for THE CAKE THERAPIST by Judith Fertig. I actually read this novel over the summer when we were vacationing in the Outer Banks, but I have seriously procrastinated in putting down my thoughts. I wanted to love this book based on both the cover (one of my recent faves!) and the book's description; however, it just didn't appeal to me like I had hoped.

Neely O'Neil is a pastry chef with a special talent. She can "taste" feelings and get a glimpse into someone's life. As a result, she can come up with some amazing concoctions to help people deal with what's hurting them.

When her life is unravels, she decides to head home to Millcreek Valley and open a bakery that specializes in cakes. Because of her special skills, Neely has the ability to cater certain cakes to the customer's needs -- even making the perfect blend of cake and icing for disagreeing brides and grooms. When Neely finds that one of her "tastes" isn't quite right, she is forced to explore some dark secrets about the past while also trying to forge ahead with her future.

I tried to love THE CAKE THERAPIST but it just didn't work for me. The story had a lot of potential with the amazing descriptions and the complicated main character. I think the basic idea of the novel was sound, and I even appreciated that the author used flashbacks to reveal the past secrets; however, the two different stories took awhile coming together. I much preferred the present day story to the past, and I had issues with how much detail was used to describe everything Neely "tasted."

I will say that the descriptions of the cakes and flavors were quite appealing. Ms. Fertig is a cookbook author in addition to being a novelist, and her comfort level with food was apparent. I craved sweets the entire time I read the book -- actually from the moment I saw the gorgeous cover, and I loved the idea of Neely's bakery in her small hometown.

I hate to be so negative about this novel. It wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I did like certain parts of this story and the author's writing. What I most enjoyed about this novel was the character of Neely. I enjoyed her complexity and how she worked through her issues in her life. In addition, I appreciated how the author used magical realism in the story. I am not a huge fan of magic realism but I think it was an important part of this story. And finally, I did like that there was a mystery aspect to the novel that wasn't totally revealed until the two stories came together.

THE CAKE THERAPIST didn't quite live up to my expectations, but there is definitely an audience for this novel that will love Neely and her special skills. Recommended to fans of foodie books, magical realism, and women's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

I've often had trouble with magical realism, so I bet I'd have the same issues as you did. It's too bad because so much of the book sounds great.

bermudaonion said...

I liked this book but didn't love it. There was too much going on and it took a while for the plot to gel with me, if that makes sense. I'd still read another book by this author, though, because I thought the writing was good.

Kim@Time2Read said...

I'm not sure if I'd enjoy this one. Magical realism is hit and miss for me. This one reminds me just a little of The Language of Flowers in the way she customizes the cake based on the customer's feelings.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Sounds like Like Water for Chocolate!