by Deborah Smith, contemporary (2013)
Bell Bridge Books, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-61194-304-7
Deborah Smith returns to the contemporary setting after a while, and The Biscuit Witch is the first novella in a trilogy revolving around the MacBride siblings. Two sisters and a brother, each has a way with food. Our heroine, Tallulah MacBride, is called the Biscuit Queen by their now dearly departed mother because it just takes one bite of her biscuits to make anyone experience a divine gastrointestinal experience.
Tal and her siblings are related to Delta Whittlespoon, who first appeared in The Crossroads Café. Incidentally, this story is set in the "It's too amazing to be real... right?" paradise of Crossroads Cove, but you don't have to read that book to understand this story. The plot in this story has nothing to do with that of the other book.
So, Tal. When the story opens, she's decided to pack up whatever she has left and take her daughter, Eve, with her to a fresh start... somewhere. Since Delta's related to her mother and that woman has been sending care packages and postcards regularly, Tal reasonably heads to Crossroads Cove. She has some problems with Eve's father, so she needs a place to lay low for a while. It turns out that Delta is away, but fortunately, most of the locals, including our hero Douglas Firth, are happy to welcome her as one of their own.
Just like The Crossroads Café; The Biscuit Witch can be really sappy at many instances, but at the same time, the author's narrative is always engaging and even beautiful at many instances, so I find myself often torn between cringing and sighing. Tal and Doug have a pretty nice romance going here, with their relationship bearing the author's recognizable flair when it comes to emotional bonding and healing of broken souls. Eve is pretty non-annoying for a special super-cute precious little girl thing, and the various secondary characters add charm and even emotional poignancy to the story without becoming too much like crazy clowns having broken loose from some crazy house nearby.
I wish the author had the space to develop further the amusing relationship between Cleo, the surly lady in charge while Delta's away, and Tal, as Cleo is a memorable secondary character because she doesn't turn into putty in Tal's presence from the get go. But I guess I can't have everything.
Aside from the occasional over-the-top sap, my issue with this story is how, after a while, I feel that the story has overloaded me with too much information about how awesome and amazing the whole place is, and how the locals are some of the most wonderful people one can ever meet. This place even have wireless Internet! If it exists and I can cut the immigration red tape, I'd move to this place right away. Still, when it comes to this story, I can only take so many pages of picturesque descriptions before I wish that the focus will go back to the relationship between Tal and Doug.
The constant sight-seeing tour also ends up downplaying Tal's reasons for leaving town, as her behavior here is more akin to a blissful tourist having the time of her life. A part of me will always wonder whether dropping everything and running away with the daughter is the wisest thing to do, especially when the father in question is more of an asshole than a psychotic jerk. Isn't there a less drastic way to get the man off their back? Running away from everything is a drastic thing to do, and seeing Tal going all "The hills are alive!" only has me scratching my head more.
At the end of the day, The Biscuit Witch is a nice read, and if you are new to the author's short story in the anthology Summer In Mossy Creek, for example), and this one is "just" pretty good in comparison.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: