Pie by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash: The Modern Reader

Book Review: The Secret Ingredient

My book journey so far this year has covered a lot of heavy subjects (murder, abuse, and WII on multiple occasions), so I was looking for something light to change things up a bit. I love a good romance novel every once in a while, and when I saw that The Secret Ingredient was published by Harlequin, I knew this was just what the doctor ordered. I mean, we’re talking about reality television here… it’s the ultimate guilty pleasure.

Look for it in stores February 12, 2019 (just in time for Valentine’s Day!).

Love is like a perfect recipe… You never want to lose it.

Years ago, Kelly McIntyre and Andrew York were engaged and dreaming of opening a restaurant together. Then he chose an opportunity to study in Paris over the small-town life they’d planned, and their romance came to a bittersweet end.

But Kelly’s doing fine. She’s not only the owner of a potbellied pig named Gray, but also of her own bakery. Business is good—so good that she’s invited to compete in a Valentine’s Day bake-off. As she prepares for the contest, she tries not to get distracted by Andrew’s visit to town.

When Andrew sees Kelly, it stirs up his old feelings. Little does he know that soon, in New York, he’ll compete against her in the bake-off…and they’ll both realize how much their past is a part of them still.

My musings
I really got a sense of Kelly and Andrew and their families. I understand why they made the decisions they did in their younger years, and I like that we got to see them blossom from young people into mature adults with more at stake. With that being said, I don’t find it totally believable that someone has close to his family as Andrew is wouldn’t make the time to come back even once in seven years. It sounds as though he and his sister, Dawn, have a really close relationship, and for him to have been gone since they were practically just out of high school means he probably missed some pretty important life events. I also feel like Dawn could have been fleshed out a little bit more to make the crux of the story seem more natural. Despite those little holes, however, there were bits that kept creeping in that surprised me and kept me entertained from beginning to end.

While I liked the fact that the story took place in both Kelly’s and Andrew’s perspectives, I was disappointed that the bake-off only began in the final third of the book. One of the reasons I was drawn to the book was because of the reality TV element, and even though I found the portion that was depicted was well done, I was longing for more. The love story was satisfying (it truly is a love story more than a romance, in my opinion), and the other relationships in the novel were nicely wrapped at the story’s conclusion.

Nancy Naigle has a writing style that I don’t normally get to see in typical romance novels—she really takes the time to describe the surroundings and mention tiny details that put me right in the story. When we were taken to The Bake Factory, I could picture everything from the decor to what the staff was wearing, and I could see important aspects of Bailey’s Fork and why Kelly would want to build her life there. I really appreciated these details and it is one of the main reasons I kept powering through the pages, asking for more. And the bonus recipe at the end of the book is a really nice touch.

4 stars

Food for thought
Although the subtitle seems a bit ironic, Kelly’s famous Honey Almond Cake with Berries and Mascarpone Crème Fraiche really put me in the baking mood. Maybe I’ll whip up a batch of my almost-famous caramel blondies. What’s your favourite sweet treat to bake?

Home can only be one place. I want to make my home in Bailey’s Fork. I hope it’ll be with you. It’s where we belong. With our families. That’s home. —Nancy Naigle, The Secret Ingredient


Thank you to NetGalley and Hallmark Publishing for the advanced copy, and to Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash for the photo of the pie.

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