This book is two love stories in one: the first involves the main protagonist, Lou, and a man she meets, and the other is about love for the city of Milwaukee, which is, as their tourism center justifiably claims, “a great place by a great lake.”
Lou Johnson is working hard as owner and chef at her small French restaurant named after her grandma, Luella’s, in downtown Milwaukee. But business falls off drastically after a scathing review by the popular restaurant critic A.W. Wodyski, the pseudonym of Al Waters. Lou was indeed having a bad night when the critic came there: she had gone to her fiancé Devlin’s apartment that morning to surprise him for his birthday, bringing her trademark coconut cake (and accidentally running into Al on the way). The surprise was on Lou, however, when she discovered Devlin running out of the bedroom to bring clothes to his intern, Megan, wearing a nightgown. Lou dropped the cake and ran out, bumping into Al the second time that day. Later, at the restaurant, Lou could hardly cook a dish, between her anger, humiliation, and despair.
After Al went to the restaurant and submitted his review panning it, he went to a nearby bar to celebrate yet another snarky triumph. Lou was there drowning her sorrows. They talked – not knowing each other’s true identity, and Al, a transplant from England, revealed how little he liked Milwaukee. Lou offered to show him around, if they could promise not to talk about their work.
Yes, it’s all a bit like “You’ve Got Mail,” but it’s just as entertaining and charming. And for fans of Milwaukee, like I am, it is even more of a delight. Lou introduces Al to such beloved Milwaukee institutions as Alterra coffee, Sendik’s Grocery, cheese curds, Summerfest, the gorgeous Calatrava-designed art museum, baseball at Miller Park, butter burgers, and frozen custard, inter alia.
The coconut cake, which continues to weave in and out of the plot, features prominently in the resolution as well. And to sweeten the deal, the author includes a recipe for it from her own Grandma Luella at the end.
Evaluation: If you like coconut cake, Milwaukee, and/or just endearing romances, this book is a rewarding confection.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2015