REVIEW: Flavor of the Month by Georgia Beers
Charlie Stetko had a life to envy. A penthouse in Manhattan, a beautiful girlfriend, and a high-octane marketing career. Or so she thought. When her girlfriend sends her packing, Charlie ends up unemployed. Without a place to live or money of her own, she’s forced to do the one thing she vowed she never would: go back to Shaker Falls, Vermont. Back to her parents and back to the small town life—and the people—she left behind. Back to a part-time job in the new bakery in town.
Emma Grier thought Charlie was the love of her life until that uppity Manhattan entrepreneur swept Charlie off her feet. Charlie left everything in Shaker Falls behind, including Emma’s shattered heart. But Emma picked herself back up and now owns a popular restaurant in town. As for her love life? She doesn’t need one. Something else she doesn’t need? Charlie waltzing into her restaurant to sell her the bakery’s pie.
Dear Ms. Beers,
I’ve known your name for ages but for some reason have never managed to sit down and read one of your books. Well shame on me because this is a nice book – albeit with a suggestive cover – filled with humor, anger (justified), regret, and characters who come to know themselves and what they want from life. This won’t be the last book of yours I read.
The blurb doesn’t quite do justice to the set up of the novel. Charlie and Emma have been best friends since they were children in the small Vermont town that Charlie is now returning to with her tail between her legs. They grew up together, discovered their sexuality together, and became each others first love and lover. Then came college separation and they tried to keep their relationship going but frankly, how well does that ever work? Emma warned Charlie about the high profile entrepreneur who seemed interested in young and naive Charlie but with a chance to put small town Vermont behind her and live the good life in NYC, warnings fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until Charlie was handed her walking papers that she realized how skillfully Darcy had gotten everything she wanted from Charlie and left Charlie with nothing.
Now Charlie is home, licking her wounds, and facing her loss of self confidence. Her plan is to regroup and leave again as soon as possible. But as she settles back into her childhood home, she also realizes how many people she hurt when she left and hardly ever came back. Yep, add some shame to those feelings. Then she discovers that Emma has also returned to Shaker Falls and when Charlie gets a job in a local bakery that sells its pies (which she is making) to Emma’s restaurant, Charlie realizes the two of them are going to cross paths.
I love that Emma has picked up her emotions, dusted them off and with the help of some counseling, managed to get beyond the pain that Charlie caused her. Emma keeps her cool the first time she sees Charlie but I can understand that Emma feels a bit of vindication that what happened to Charlie is exactly what Emma predicted would occur. Yet Emma doesn’t want to see Charlie in pain because Emma once loved Charlie, still cares for Charlie but in a “we were once a thing” way. Nope, Emma isn’t going to get tangled in anything with Charlie anymore.
Meanwhile Charlie finds that she’s got some other fences to mend with her family and honestly, I was also happy that Charlie is made to face these other people who, though they love her, need a space to let out their hurt. Regrets, Charlie’s got a few. Emma also faces some things she wishes she’d explored and worked out before it was too late. Charlie can at least make amends for what she did and wishes she hadn’t done.
Both women have people who will watch their back, people who will give them advice and tell them when they’re about to make a mistake, and people who will still love them enough to let them go ahead and make some whoppers. No one blows smoke up their asses or tries to hide the fact that they’ve got to face the past and then decide what they want. Emma and Charlie have to make choices and no matter what they do, the people in their lives let them know they love them. Charlie’s family is wonderful and I enjoyed their interactions. Emma has had a harder row to hoe and I do wish that she had been given the chance to work out her new family relationship a bit more.
Neither Emma nor Charlie are perfect. One thing I noticed and thought felt real is that at first, Charlie still misses her ex even though Darcy did her wrong. Feelings can’t and aren’t turned on or off in an instant and it makes sense that Charlie still has to sort the remains of her just-ended relationship. I also liked seeing the women at their jobs. Emma loves to create dishes for her restaurant and feels at home in her kitchen there. Chopping vegetables and pounding flat chicken breasts also helps her deal with her frustrations and anger. Charlie does love to bake pies but she also casts her business trained eyes on her boss’s bakery and immediately begins to see ways to improve things – though she does restrain herself from being the Millennial who starts her first day by mouthing off about how to change things.
Brava for Emma that she hasn’t carried a torch for Charlie for four years. Yet the way their relationship ended has affected how Emma views dating which is something else she has to come to terms with. But yay that neither Emma nor Charlie are out for any revenge. Charlie hadn’t wanted to come home and has to face the guilt about that. She also wanted to leave quickly but when the chance arrives, does some soul searching about what she really wants. Emma still feels a lot for Charlie but when they might rekindle something, she has to decide whether or not she’s going to risk all that pain again.
The story plays out quietly and gently. It feels grounded in reality. Nothing felt either dragged out or too rushed. I did feel that Emma was left with a lot of loose threads in her life that I wish had been dealt with more. I appreciate that both women were given time to process their past feelings and become comfortable with their potential future. When they made their choice and declarations, I felt that they were thought out and this time they were ready. B