One of my favorite things in books is food. I’m on the end of the spectrum where I prefer to make the food than eat it, but I mostly love gobbling up the culinary delights that can be found in the pages of a book. All the better if the book has recipes! Today I have reviews for two books that feature food, specifically lemon pie and pizza, but definitely not a lemon pizza pie. One left me wanting and the other left me hungry for more.
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden
Title: The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie | Author: Rachel Linden | Publisher: Berkley | Publication Date: August 2, 2022 | Genre: Women’s Fiction
An uplifting novel about a heartbroken young pie maker who is granted a magical second chance to live the life she didn’t choose. . . . from the bestselling author of The Enlightenment of Bees.
Lolly Blanchard’s life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother’s tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner’s famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she’s lost.
As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn’t passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn’t broken up with the only man she’s ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.
One Sentence Summary: Lolly is given the chance to live a day in a life she could have had thanks to some magic lemon drops, and must then determine which life she wants to live forever.
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie has all the ingredients for the kind of story I gobble up with great enjoyment: food, family, romance, quirky friends, delightfully mysterious older relatives…and a similar premise to a book I’ve previously enjoyed. I can’t quite tell if it’s because of the story or because I was so enamored with that earlier book, but I was left feeling little more than lukewarm about this book. But that’s not to say this isn’t a good one; it really has a lot of charm and lovely characters, one of whom is placed in an enviable situation.
In the end, The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie does nicely balance the women’s fiction and romance aspects. It does tell a very sweet story of second chances and of figuring out what one ought to do with one’s life. It tells a heartwarming story of family and loss and the drive to do one’s loved ones proud. It also offered Lolly the enviable opportunity to briefly live a life she could have had on her journey to either torture herself with what could have been or to help her find her way from the daily drudgery she’s committed herself to since her mother’s untimely death right when everything was going right for Lolly.
But I found the early focus on an expired romance a little overbearing and the male lead, Rory, rather bland. To me, the romance felt like it was having an elbow fight with the women’s fiction aspect of Lolly figuring out her life. Often, it was jarring, especially during the first half when I could not for the life of me figure out why a failed romance was given such prominence. It does make a lot more sense later on, but I felt like I really had to wait for it, complete with a great deal of frustration, especially since Rory didn’t feel like he deserved Lolly’s devotion. I had such a hard time figuring him out, and I still see little more than a cardboard cutout of a male whenever I try to picture him.
I really liked Lolly. She really tried, she really loved her family, she really put her all into everything to keep her family’s restaurant afloat after her mother’s tragic death. I felt her loss with her use of every lemon drop, every could have been, as well as her deep love and devotion to her mom. Emotionally, it was easy to connect with her, to feel the consequences of every decision and every road not taken. But I seriously struggled with her tight grip on a failed romance, especially since he had moved on. There were so many issues I took with Rory. He felt like he was only there to serve as a romantic partner, his story complex to make their romance complicated, but it didn’t really endear me to him. I didn’t care for him as a partner to Lolly. He simply felt like he didn’t really try hard enough, as though he’d rather sacrifice her than anything else, forcing Lolly to re-imagine her life.
What was really nice, what saved the book for me, were Lolly’s best friend and aunt and the setting. Even though Magnolia, Washington wasn’t terribly detailed, I got a sense of Washington and really loved the beach Lolly loved going to. It was the small details that transported me there, the small town feeling. It felt cozy and lovely. But Lolly’s friend Eve and aunt Gert stole the show. They were such fun ladies, ladies who really grabbed their lives by the horns and tamed it into what they wanted. They lived their lives, they did what made them happy, and I couldn’t help but admire them. They felt entirely at odds with Lolly, which might explain why I liked her, but longed for more for her.
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie has a lot of good ingredients. It’s charming and it has food, including a recipe for the eponymous pie. It details Lolly’s use of three lemon drops, each of which gives her the opportunity to live a life she could have had. But I wish each use had prompted something new in her. Instead, I just felt her regrets piling up, giving me little more than a very sad Lolly who didn’t seem to learn much of herself or her life and just kept trudging on. The part that seemed to have more of an impact on her and what she really wanted was the detailing of exactly how her relationship with Rory started and ended. Overall, it lacked the vibrancy I had hoped for and a woman really trying to search for herself and come to terms with her life. As a romance, though, it was cute and sweet, if a bit bland.
My rating: 3 cups of tea
Six Feet Deep Dish by Mindy Quigley
Title: Six Feet Deep Dish (Deep Dish Mysteries #1) | Author: Mindy Quigley | Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks | Publication date: August 23, 2022 | Genre: Cozy Mystery
Fresh mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and murder: the perfect recipe for a delicious first entry in Mindy Quigley’s Six Feet Deep Dish, a delectable new series…
Delilah O’Leary can’t wait to open her new gourmet deep-dish pizzeria in Geneva Bay, Wisconsin—a charming resort town with a long history as a mobsters’ hideaway, millionaires’ playground, and vacation mecca. Engaged to a hunk with a hefty trust fund, Delilah is poised to begin a life that’s just about as delicious as one of her cheesy creations.
Just before opening night, though, Delilah’s plans for pizza perfection hit the skids when her fiancé dumps her and leaves her with a very large memento from their relationship—Butterball, their spoiled, plus-sized tabby cat.
Delilah’s trouble deepens when she discovers a dead body and finds her elderly aunt holding the murder weapon. Handsome local police detective Calvin Capone, great grandson of the legendary gangster, opens an investigation, threatening to sink Delilah’s pie-in-the-sky ambitions before they can even get off the ground. To save her aunt and get her pizza place generating some dough, Delilah must deliver the real killer.
One Sentence Summary: Just as Delilah, her wealthy fiance, and her restaurant crew are about to open their deep dish pizza restaurant, tragedy strikes and Delilah’s elderly aunt is found holding the smoking gun, making it up to her to ensure the investigation clears her aunt’s name.
Six Feet Deep Dish might just make you crave pizza, with maybe a side of mystery. There’s a lot of food and cooking in this book, but it was very nicely balanced out with Delilah stumbling her way through an investigation. Delilah was a pure delight throughout the book, and I adored her love for her and her fiance’s overweight cat, who had a very nice role in this book. As the first book in a new cozy culinary mystery series, it really delivered on all fronts, and had some nice surprises.
As Six Feet Deep Dish opens, Delilah and her fiance Sam are about to host a soft open for their upscale deep dish pizza restaurant, but things start to go awry and Sam takes off since he can’t stand confrontation, leaving quite a few things in limbo for Delilah and her employees. But it gets worse when there’s a murder and Delilah’s elderly aunt Biz is found holding the gun. Of course Delilah must clear her aunt’s name, and of course the detective in charge must be absolutely handsome, and potentially single. Even if Delilah herself may or may not still be engaged.
At the beginning, I felt lukewarm towards this book. I couldn’t help but see some big similarities to my longtime favorite cozy culinary mystery series. It was a little off putting, but I was invested in the mystery. And I’m glad I kept reading because there were some really nice deviations and some good twists and turns. This is set in Geneva Bay, Wisconsin, a resort town for the wealthy, which offered a delightful playground for both the mystery and the characters to breathe. I liked how the disparity in wealth created problems and offered a rich setting that hopefully has much more to offer in future books. It played well with the mystery as they often went hand-in-hand, but I liked that the focus wasn’t on the wealthy residents, nicely bringing it and the main cast down to Earth.
My favorite part of Six Feet Deep Dish were the characters. There was a surprising amount of diversity, but I liked that their characterizations never relied on stereotypes. They were free to breathe on their own and show their own colors. Delilah was a lot of fun, caring a great deal for her people while stubbornly continuing to investigate. The detective, Calvin Capone, sometimes felt a little slow, but he was really quite brilliant, and there was a lot of depth to him. Watching him and Delilah was a delight and I can’t wait to read more about them. But my favorite has to be Aunt Biz. She’s elderly, but she’s still sharp, and she and Delilah clearly have a special relationship.
Six Feet Deep Dish holds an intriguing mystery, one I wouldn’t necessarily say I solved quickly, though that’s mostly because I’m a poor guesser. But I liked how some things were withheld, and I could feel them so I could just enjoy the ride instead of madly trying to figure out whodunit. There were a lot of moving pieces, a lot of threads Delilah doggedly followed. There were also some surprising twists I didn’t expect, and I really liked how it wrapped up, especially since it harkened back to the beginning, offering a full circle idea while also definitely leaving a door open. But I really appreciated how the story nicely balanced Delilah running a new business and Delilah trying to clear her aunt’s name.
Six Feet Deep Dish is a delicious cozy mystery with some great characters, an intriguing setting, and the promise of more twisting and turning mysteries. While the beginning reminded me too strongly of another mystery series, I liked how it spun off to really come into its own and offer something that delighted me. I look forward to getting to know Delilah and her crew better and see what future books have in store for them.
My rating: 4 pizzas
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for review copies. All opinions expressed are my own.
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