About the Book
Title: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe
Author: Carla Laureano
Genre: Christian Romance
Release date: February 5, 2019
Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.
Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.
Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.
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About the Author
Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.
Guest Post from Carla
“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”
Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.
I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.
Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.
Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.
So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.
It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.
In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.
Fortunately, macarons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.
I am a newbie when it comes to Carla Laureano’s novels. Prior to Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I had only read Starstruck. I really enjoyed Starstruck, so when Celebrate Lit sent out sign-ups for Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I knew I had to jump on the offer. And I was not disappointed. Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe is a great story that kept me reading past my bedtime. The characters are well written and highly endearing. The romance is super sweet with the perfect amount of tension between the hero and heroine. And, the food! Oh my, I was not prepared for the delicious descriptions of food. I may have figuratively gained a pound or two while reading this book.
Melody is my favorite character in this story. I absolutely love her attitude, her creativity, and her love for books and baked goods. I often felt for Melody throughout the reading of this book because of her childhood. It clearly impacted her in some negative ways. Having a high profile mother who often left her in the shadows was NOT a fun way to grow up, and it left Melody chasing love in all the wrong places. All she desperately wants is someone to love her first, to cherish her, and to sacrifice himself for her needs. Is that too much to ask?! Because of this strong need for true love, Melody has entered into past relationships with men that were damaging, that left her feeling weak and worthless. Melody sold pieces of herself at very high cost gaining nothing in return. She has claimed belief and faith in God, but is frustrated that life continually throws curve balls her way. Why is God allowing all this bad to happen to her? She cannot understand why men don’t choose her, why they don’t love her unconditionally. But honestly, her claimed faith is surface-level at best. She is her own boss making choices for herself. She never turns to God to see what He wants, and becomes frustrated with Him for not giving her what she thinks she needs. My favorite moment in this story is when Melody realizes that she can’t be her own boss AND say God is the boss at the same time. No one can have both. We either acknowledge that God is our Boss, or we try to control our lives on our own terms. When Melody lets Jesus take the wheel, so to speak, and makes the conscious choice to break her bad love habits, she ends up realizing that life and love work better with God in the lead.
Another theme I appreciated in this novel is the discussion on what I call baby faith versus mature faith. People with baby faith in God raise fists in anger every time something bad happens. Often, because their faith is so small, they believe the lie that God really doesn’t exist, or if He does He doesn’t care about them. People with mature faith, however, ride out storms with God knowing that He is going to bring them to places on their paths that make them stronger and better. Mature faithers may get frustrated during the roughest parts of the storm, but their relationship with God remains intact. Both Melody and Justin come to a place in this story where they have to evaluate their faith levels. Where they once believed they were certain in who God is, they quickly realize that they were staunch baby faithers. Because of this, they were trying to be the bosses of their lives, and things were not going well. I really love this theme, and I appreciate the opportunity to evaluate my faith in God. Am I a baby faither? Do I shake my fist at God in anger when things go wrong or when bad things happen? Or am I mature in my faith, leaning into God when life gets chaotic and devastating? I think these are really excellent questions we should all contemplate from time to time to make sure we are on the right track — God’s track!
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe is a really good read. I enjoyed the engaging plot, and very much loved Justin and Melody. I am sad to see my time with these characters is over, but I do look forward to book 3 in this series. If you are looking for a fast-paced, sweet contemporary Christian romance with timely themes, then I highly recommend Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe.
I received a review copy of this novel in paperback (ARC) form from the author via Celebrate Lit. I also purchased this book in eBook form from Amazon on February 13, 2019 to read and review. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away a grand prize package of a macaron baking mat, a macaron book, and a paperback copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway!
Click the link below to enter.
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