Recipes & Wooden Spoons: Tales from Grace Chapel Inn #2
In RECIPES & WOODEN SPOONS, Judy Baer continues the Tales from Grace Chapel Inn series begun by Melody Carlson in BACK HOME AGAIN. In this book, Jane, an artsy 50-year-old divorcée with a flair for cooking, takes center stage. She and her two aged sisters --- Alice, a practical nurse who has always been single, and Louise, a widowed musician --- have gotten their bed and breakfast off and running in their old Victorian family home. If you haven't read BACK HOME AGAIN, stop now and begin with book one --- it lays the groundwork for everything in RECIPES & WOODEN SPOONS.
When Jane, the designated innkeeper and chef, finds an old recipe book belonging to Madeleine, her mother who died at her birth, she discovers more than just recipes. She finds a window of understanding into her own personality and glimpses of the mother she never knew. Her crotchety Aunt Ethel tells her that her mother is where she gets her "foolishness," doing such things as in-line skating around the small town of Acorn Hill, Pennsylvania. And, "You've always been different from the rest of us," her sister Louise tells her. Jane hungers to know more about her mother. The ladies in her church had often assured her that she was like her mother in personality and style. But, "Who was she really? Who was Madeleine in the privacy of her own thoughts and the emotions of her heart?" Jane wonders.
Things are not all wine and roses at the upstart B&B. Louise is on the warpath about the cost of the ingredients Jane is using in her mouthwatering meals. Jane, a professional chef, is determined to serve only the best. More squabbles ensue. Were her sisters afraid of failing with the new B&B? Is Jane being overly sensitive? And can Jane let go of the guilt she feels over her mother's death when she was born? The tension doesn't rise much more than this throughout the book, making it a quiet, relaxing read with some light drama.
Meanwhile, is it romance or friendship that is blooming between Jane and Pastor Ken Thompson? Aunt Ethel tells Jane she's robbing the cradle. At 45 years old or so, Pastor Ken is a good five years younger than Jane is. And what about the handsome traveling pharmacist who comes to stay? Is he interested in Jane also? Faith helps Jane keep her sense of humor and is the axis upon which the B&B revolves. Muses Jane, "God was tapping on her shoulder every day. From now on she would pay attention and rely on His guiding hand."
There are plenty of people in Acorn Hill who need God's help --- and that of the sisters. Sylvia, the proprietor of Sylvia's Buttons, is chockfull of artistic talent, just waiting for someone to help her realize her potential. Young Josie is a cute but somewhat neglected little girl, and Joe Morales is a homeless Hispanic man looking for work. But, as Jane tells a guest whose unexpected stroke lengthens her stay, "You aren't the only one who came to Acorn Hill to heal. I came with plenty of wounds myself."
Baer spins her tale with only a few problems. Sometimes, the words Madeleine pens in the cookbook seem overly prescient. "Maybe someday one of my daughters will open this book, try a recipe or two and think of me. It's odd, but I never think of myself as an old woman baking for my grandchildren. Is it because I will never have grandchildren, or because I will never be old?" Would a woman really write this in her cookbook? But the actual recipes sprinkled throughout the novel are a treat: mouthwatering items such as Swedish pancakes, porcupine meatballs and chocolate waffles. Most involve just a few ingredients, although some, like "Madeleine's Truffles," are a little more involved preparation-wise.
It's a winning combination. Readers who like a cozy, relaxing read and delicious recipes should enjoy this latest installment in the series.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 15, 2006