The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
Rating: 4 stars
Lou is the owner of an up and coming French restaurant in Milwaukee, WI. Al is a British born food critic who is becoming well known for his scathing reviews of so many local restaurants. One day they meet by happenstance at a market, Lou later walks in on her fiance with his assistant, and goes to work a huge mess. Of course that happens to be the night Al is set to critique her restaurant – unaware that Lou is actually Elizabeth, the owner of Luella’s. They meet again after his horrendous review comes out and hit it off. Al writes under a pseudonym, so she doesn’t realize who he is either. They begin a friendship, agreeing to never discuss work. While Luella’s business is basically destroyed after the awful review, she distracts herself with touring Al around the best parts of Milwaukee in her days off. They become great friends as Al softens to life in Wisconsin and begins to enjoy many of the restaurants he frequents. But of course the truth eventually comes out and things get heated.
I liked this book because it felt very personal. I was born in Milwaukee, for one. I don’t spend a ton of time there as an adult, but many of the places they visited were also places I’ve been, which made reading about it a lot more fun. I also loved how excited all of the characters became when they were creating new meals. It’s an excitement that I can relate to and really want more of. While her business declines, Lou often talks about the restaurant choices she wished she had made. It frustrated me that instead of implementing those changes right away, she just let everything continue to fail. It felt like with some immediate changes she might have been able to turn things around. It also felt slightly unbelievable to me that two people can spend so much time together and never talk about their work. Especially since she was a chef! She spent mornings at markets picking out fresh food and all day and night at the restaurant. Al admits to being a writer, but doesn’t want anybody to make the connection that he’s also the revered, and sometimes hated, food critic.
Overall, this was a sweet book about finding the courage to own up to who you are and what you actually want out of life. I loved how vibrant the setting was and it made me want to further appreciate all the local festivals and restaurants that I visit. I was rooting for Al and Lou throughout the book and loved how their relationship developed over time. It’s a great book!