Mary Ellen Taylor,
The Union Street Bakery
(Berkley, 2013)

When Daisy McCrae's cushy job disappears from the Washington, D.C., financial arena, she has little choice but to go back home to Alexandria, Virginia. Coincidentally, that's exactly where her two sisters need help in order to keep the family bakery afloat. Daisy fits right in, since she can manage the accounts better than anyone else can. But she's reluctant about making a long-term commitment to the place. She's torn between what she thinks she wants to do and what she may need to do. If she listens to her heart, her loyalties will lie with her family, and not to her preferred professional career.

But Daisy also has some personal demons to face. Her birth mother left her at that same bakery when Daisy was 3. The little girl was lucky that the McCraes decided to take her in and adopt her. The abandonment has naturally haunted Daisy ever since. Now a message and a journal from a dying customer seem to have the power to reconnect Daisy with her real heritage. How does she feel about this? How can the journal of a slave girl from Civil War times be related to Daisy's current situation? Who is the malevolent ghostly entity that keeps materializing in her attic bedroom at night? And what, if anything, should Daisy do about the addition of her former fiance to the neighborhood business community?

The subplots and characters found in The Union Street Bakery raise questions about what it takes to make a family, and what brings a person happiness and satisfaction in life. This is a mainstream novel that mixes aspects of romance with mystery, and tosses in a few elements of historical fiction as well. The combination makes for a satisfying read. This book should find wide appeal among female readers, especially those with independent spirits. The author also includes four recipes for baked goods that are mentioned in the text.

Readers who are intrigued by the retrospective setting of the family bakery may also be interested in picking up a copy of The Bakery Girls by Florence Ditlow. This novel is a fictionalized account of a real-life family business that once operated in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Corinne H. Smith

9 February 2013

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