Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bonus Review: The Biscuit Witch

The Biscuit Witch
A Crossroads Café novella, 
Book One of The MacBrides
By Deborah Smith
Belle Bridge Books
Release Date: April 30, 2013

Tallulah Bankhead MacBride is on the run. Her daughter’s father, a New York celebrity chef, is determined to stop the rumors that he has never even seen his five-year-old daughter. Tal is equally determined to protect her child from the man who is “equal parts Bully, Braggart, and All-around Self-Centered jerk.” When an altercation involving cupcakes ends in a warrant for Tal’s arrest, she and her daughter take to the road. Tal needs a sanctuary, and since her sister in California is too far away, she heads toward the place she once called home, the mountains of North Carolina, northwest of Ashville, where her cousin Delta Whittlespoon owns the Crossroads Café.

Delta is away in New York, but the eccentric population of the community proves more than a match for the hired guns the jerky chef has sent after Tal. It turns out that the Crossroads Café needs Tal as much as she needs a safe place to hide. The biscuits Delta shipped from New York have been routed wrongly, and hungry hordes of tourists are scheduled to arrive expecting to be served the world-famous biscuits. Nobody can bake biscuits to match Delta’s--nobody except Tal who, like Delta herself, is a hereditary biscuit witch who can make biscuits by the secret recipe of their common ancestress, Mary Eve Nettie, the wild woman of Wild Woman Ridge. Perhaps Tal can find a place to belong.

The staunchest defender of Tal and her daughter Eve is another beneficiary of Delta’s benevolence and willingness to extend cousinhood to the most remote family connections. Douglas Firth, a whistle-blowing veterinarian from Scotland via Florida, is the third cousin twice removed of Delta’s husband, Sheriff Pike Whittlespoon. That connection is all Delta needs to offer Douglas a place to call home and a job as vet when he is cast out of wealthy racing circles. It takes scarcely more than a second look for the red-haired biscuit whisperer and five-year-old Eve to own the heart of this Scotsman. He opens his home and the ghost town where it is located to Tal and Eve. But Douglas and Tal have stories to share, secrets to unravel, and enemies to defeat before Tal can believe in a future that includes home, family, and a love bigger than her hungry dreams.

“The Biscuit Witch” is the first of a new, three-part novel from Deborah Smith, her first since A Gentle Rain (2007). Smith takes her readers back to the world of A Crossroads Café (2006), a place where the eccentric is ordinary and where outcasts, misfits, and other assorted lost souls find healing, wholeness, and home. The point of view alternates between Tal and Douglas, a technique that expands the reader’s experience.

I loved everything about “The Biscuit Witch”—its quirky characters, its humor of word and situation, the spirit of the large-hearted Delta that saturates the scenes even in her absence, a sense of place so strong that I felt the late November chill and smelled the baking biscuits, and the lyrical prose that touched my heart like an old song from a half-remembered dream. The touch of magical realism was an added delight. According to Flannery O’Connor, “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet.” Deborah Smith has found that crossroads, and she takes her reader there.

When I’m 103 and rocking on the porch of the local nursing home with the latest reading device filled with favorite romance novels and promising new ones in hand, I’ll still be wondering why Deborah Smith’s books aren’t on the bookshelves, print or digital, of every romance reader. Her characters, imperfect and past-haunted, are gloriously real and infinitely interesting. That description applies not only to Tal and Douglas but also to an impressive cast of secondary characters, including Tal’s sister, Gabby (Greta Garbo MacBride), the pickle queen, and her brother, Gus (Groucho Marx MacBride), the kitchen charmer, whose stories will be told in parts two and three. 

If you’ve never read Deborah Smith, “The Biscuit Witch” is a terrific introduction. The Crossroads Café, the novel in which Delta Whittlespoon first appears, is also a powerful and richly emotional tale. The digital version is on sale for $1.99 through the end of this month. I highly recommend both. And if you want more recommendations, A Place to Call Home is one of my all-time top ten favorite romances, and A Gentle Rain, Charming Grace, Sweet Hush, When Venus Fell, and On Bear Mountain all get five-star ratings from me.

Are there writers you love who deserve a much larger audience than the one they have? Who? 


quantum said...

Great review! 'The Biscuit Witch' hasn't made it to Audible yet so I'm going to use my remaining credit to try 'The Crossroads Cafe'.

I think that 'promotion' is one of the biggest problems faced by authors. Probably the best way to get widely known is to offer a book free for a period and claim a spot on Amazon's free books list. I notice that even some NYT best selling authors are doing this now. For example I have recently downloaded free books by Rebecca York, Lindsay Sands and Jennifer Blake.

I think I rely on this blog to help me find the hidden gems amongst neglected romance authors.

Where is the special offer on price available?

Janga said...

Thanks, Q. The $1.99 price is available from Amazon in the U. S., probably from B &N as well. I don't know about international availability. I hope you can find it.

I try to check the free books available, but I have a problem separating the wheat from the chaff. I find that most of the free books I download are either from authors whose work I already know or from an author recommended by a friend.