Nina is my “Author of the Month” for May, and I am SO looking forward to getting caught up on all of her stories.
After selling her successful bakery back in New York, Parker Powell decides to visit her best friend Charlotte in Hope Lake, Pennsylvania to figure out her next steps. As she acquaints herself with the people in town, she begins to wonder why she ever loved city life in the first place. Between the Golden Girls (a.k.a. the senior citizen women who hold court), the response from the town to her sweet treats, and Nick Arthur, the ever-charming local owner of a landscaping business she spent time with during her last visit, Parker finds a community of cheerleaders who encourage her to get her baking mojo back.
At first, everything is great—she collaborates with the Golden Girls to put new twists on traditional confections, and thanks to Nick’s advice, she’s quickly learning the stark differences between big city and small-town business practices. Although Nick has quickly become her friend and confidant, Parker’s determined to keep things platonic—especially since his girlfriend isn’t a fan of their friendship. But just when things fall into place so they can finally be together, Parker’s dream bakery is threatened by a major corporation who wants to take her down using the very bit of advice that Nick gave her.
With a recipe for disaster looming, Parker must cook up a new scheme, figuring out how to keep the business—and man—she’s come to love before she loses it all.
I’ve been following this author for many years, and have been rooting for her through several stages of her writing journey. She’s a joy, and her stories are filled with heart and laughter. I walked into this one, fulling expecting to love it.
What I loved:
This story is a picture perfect HEA. Parker and Nick fit into those “small town romance” boxes, yet they’re both still full of interesting layers and quirks. The story is lighthearted in all the right places, funny, heartwarming, and hopeful. The two leads definitely have some things to get through… things that are hard and uncomfortable. But Nina gets us to those conflicts, and gets us through them, with genuine emotion and just the right amount of levity.
I love how much the how a place can almost become a part of the cast of characters. Hope Lake is a perfect example of this. The residents include a few groups of friends who’ve been through a lot together. I really enjoyed the way the town’s “Golden Girls” were brought into the story, how they interacted with everyone, and the part they play in the growth of our leading lady and leading man.
What I didn’t love:
There was a pretty important conversation I felt should have happened much sooner in the story. I kept waiting for the moment to happen, and while it did – eventually – I would have liked it to be earlier. I also didn’t love that Parker didn’t seem to take much of the (deserved, I felt) blame for her role in the major conflict she and Nick had to work through.
I made a rookie mistake with this one. This is book three in the series, and while I do own the previous two books, they’re still resting on my TBR pile. (insert facepalm emoji here) I definitely recommend that a) everyone read this book… it really is SO good, but b) read the rest of the series first.
It’s funny to me, since I *have* been following Nina for so many years, that I can actually see quite a bit of her in some of the situations and ideas in this story. I’m pretty sure it made me love the story even more.
If you’re a fan of second-chance romance, THE INGREDIENTS OF YOU AND ME is definitely a book for you. This was such a fantastic read, and I can’t wait to go back (to ON THE CORNER OF LOVE AND HATE, and MEET ME ON LOVE LANE) to get to know the rest of the “hopeless romantics.”