Just Desserts

Barbara Bretton
2008, Contemporary Romance
Jove, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 051514424X

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

In my opinion, a good romance can be likened to a good cake: sweet, just a little bit fluffy, with some rich flavor and pretty decorations. Just Desserts channels this concept very well.

Hayley Goldstein lives a life that, if not completely normal, isnít too out of the ordinary. She has her own bakery in a small New Jersey town, a 14-year-old daughter who is intelligent beyond her years, and an ex-husband who put Hayley in debt and leaves her constantly concerned that thugs and spine crackers will come to her to pay back her his outstanding loans.

However, her mother Jane, a world-renowned oceanographer, has a secret; instead of the sperm donor she told her daughter she used to father her, Hayley is the product of a weekend fling with budding 1970s rock star Tommy Stiles. Tommy is getting married (again) and, while searching for any of his children that might be out there, lawyers find an old, outdated birth certificate for Hayley listing Tommy as her father.

Tommy wants to meet his daughter, but his lawyer (and surrogate son) Finn Rafferty oppose the idea of dropping in on Hayley's life, complete with the mayhem that goes along with the Stiles family. So, instead, Tommy decides to break the ice by asking Finn to commission a custom cake from Hayley. Itís her biggest project yet, and one thatís sorely needed. But itís the rockerís lawyer who really gets her attention.

Since I harbor a secret desire to drop out of college for culinary school and someday open a bakery, imagine my excitement when the heroine of a story is a baker! I was not disappointed, and loved the details Bretton included about life in a bakery. Not to mention the fact that Hayley is a cake decorator on par with those seen on Food Network shows and whom I consider consummate artists. Basically, Hayley is who I want to be when I grow up.

The characters were all real and likable. Hayley has very real concerns, insecurities, and desires. I especially liked her daughter, who adds practicality to Hayleyís more ďbig pictureĒ personality. Finn is also a nice contrast to Hayley Ė she doesnít understand the intricacies of contracts, heís a lawyer. Finn also had a very sweet side to him as well. Not many men would drive four hours to deliver Chinese food.

While Tommy is also a likable character, he seemed a bit too soft for me since, even with multiple marriages under his belt - and eight children to show for it - not to mention the fact that he was a famous rocker for nearly 40 years, heís naÔve and optimistic and just a little too idealistic. This didnít make him an unsympathetic character Ė far from it, in fact - it just made him a bit too good to be true.

The food and baking descriptions in this book will probably make you hungry for dessert. I suggest you indulge since this book is sweet enough to tease your taste buds, without overpowering them.

-- Jane Granville

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