Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Plume
If I could only use two adjectives for this book, they would be charming and delightful.
First published under the title, Simply from Scratch, A Pinch of Love is Alicia Bessette's debut novel. It sure didn't read like a debut novel; Bessette managed to grab my interest right away and then my heart with such characters as: Zell, a young work-at-home medical illustrator whose husband Nick has been dead for close to a year. Zell is having a real hard time getting back into the mainstream of life. She's clinging to Nick's memories and still reads the e-mail he sent her prior to his fatal accident in New Orleans while on a relief mission.
Her new neighbors, single father, Garrett Knox, and his nine year old daughter, Ingrid, are instrumental is bringing Zell out of her grieving despair. When Garrett needs a babysitter, he begs Zell to keep Ingrid for a night while he attends school. Zell, being childless, has no clue what to do with a pre-teen until Ingrid gets her interested in trying to come up with a winning recipe for a bake-off. Ingrid is obsessed with Polly Pinch and her cooking show as she is convinced Polly is her mother and this make for some sticky but ultimately heart-warming moments.
Coming up with a winning recipe looks hopeless at first until they get a little inspiration from Ingrid's step-grandmother, Trudy, who just happens to be Zell's old home ec teacher. Back in the day, she was known as Ye Olde Home Ec Witch but now she's a chain saw wielding sculptor. I adored Trudy; what a hoot she was.
Zell has some very caring friends in town who also want her to get back into life. EJ, Nick's friend who was with him in New Orleans, knows eventually Zell will be able to resume their friendship. There is a minor romantic sub-plot with EJ and the woman he met in New Orleans that enhances the sweetness of the story. I just fell in love with these characters and was rooting for them all the way.
Bessette captures the small New England town feel perfectly, with characters that know each other and their families well and who all seem to have a vested interest in the well being of their neighbors and friends. At times, predictable but that's okay as the characters made the reading journey truly pleasurable. I hope to see more stories from Ms. Bessette in the near future. 4****
Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Plume in exchange for my honest opinion.