The good: Lovely to revisit familiar characters from The Gingerbread Café series.
The not-so-good: It’s good, but not quite my favourite. Lucy doesn’t have the same kind of sparkle.
Why I chose it: Thank you to Rebecca Raisin for the eARC.
Pages: 384 (eARC)
Publisher: Carina UK
Setting: USA (primarily Ashford, Connecticut)
My rating: 7.5 out of 10
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm is a standalone book, but does contains characters from Rebecca Raisin’s previous series, The Gingerbread Café and The Little Bookshop on the Corner. Fans will be delighted to get further sneak peeks into the lives of CeeCee and Lil, with a brief glimpse or two of Sarah. This book introduces two new main characters into the world of Ashford, Lucy and Clay. Lucy comes to Ashford with a sad history. Her mum is sick, but has asked Lucy to go away and have a year of fun. At home, Lucy and her mum live an existence restricted by doctor’s bills and lack of money. Lucy is a talented artist, but works as a waitress to make ends meet. Lucy’s mum knows that’s no life for a young lady and Lucy reluctantly leaves home with two instructions: to have fun and to consider applying for an art scholarship.
The bus takes Lucy to Ashford and of course, she’s sitting beside the most beloved character of The Gingerbread Café, CeeCee. It’s not long before Lucy is part of the community – taking cooking lessons from Lil and joining in the fun with the female characters. Only her work remains a mystery – Clay has recently inherited the Maple Syrup Farm but he’s a strange character. Sometimes open and warm, sometimes cold and forbidding – who is this man and why is he this way? What’s more important is why Lucy is so desperate to find out – could there by something more?
I enjoyed this light read, especially meeting Lil and CeeCee again – they feel like old friends. A glimpse of Lil’s baking always inspires me to try new creations in the kitchen again! I didn’t connect as much with Lucy though. I felt sorry for the hardships in her life, but she seemed a bit up and down to me – just as I thought I was learning something about her, she would run away again. In a sense, it was similar to the frustration Lucy felt with Clay, who was a hard person to get to know too! I was also desperate to know what was wrong with Lucy’s mother (her illness is not defined until the end of the book) – call me nosy, but I would have felt more comfortable knowing what was wrong before Lucy left her, despite her mum’s urgings. I wasn’t too sure if what Lucy was doing was completely cold hearted or if her mum’s illness was long and chronic.
Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm also has a more serious tone than Rebecca Raisin’s previous books. I think I was expecting the sparkle that radiates off CeeCee and Lil as they make magical creations, but of course Lucy needs to come to Ashford to develop her sparkle. She doesn’t sparkle from the start because of the sadness in her life. Clay too needs the healing powers of Ashford to grow in confidence again. The way the pair grow as characters is lovely to see. As this is a longer book, there are more twists and turns that previous – some easy to see the outcome, some are completely blind! I think this book shows promise that Rebecca Raisin can write about serious issues and tackle them sensitively. I look forward to reading more of what she has to offer us readers!