The Biscuit Witch
Grade : A

Deborah Smith is the consummate southern storyteller. Filled with humor, charm, and emotion, her books are love songs to the south, and home, and family. The Biscuit Witch, a novella tied to a previous novel, The Crossroads Cafe, is a welcome addition to her playlist. In it we are introduced to Tallulah MacBride, The Biscuit Witch, and her older siblings, The Pickle Queen and Kitchen Charmer.

The book opens with a letter from Delta Whittlespoon to yet another one of her far-flung cousins, this time a Scottish veterinarian named Douglas Firth. In it she exhorts him to come to Crossroads Cove because a vet is needed there, and so that Delta can "rehabilitate his lost soul". We find out later that Douglas, in a bind due to blowing the whistle on unscrupulous race horse owners, agrees to relocate and moves into an early twentieth century fixer-upper in what used to be a bicycle manufacturing village near Crossroads Cove.

Douglas meets the heroine when she and her daughter are accosted by a bear on the same road upon which Douglas and some of his neighbors are running a herd of sheep. The bear, Tagger, so named because of the many tags on his ears from being captured and returned to the wild, forces his way into Tallulah MacBride's car. He's only after her daughter Eve's cupcakes, but the experience is understandably frightening. Tal, who merely stopped to consult a map and then found her car unable to restart, is thrilled when Douglas arrives and leads the bear away.

Tal is on the run from the law and Eve's father, Tal's perfidious ex-boyfriend. Tal's plan is to stay with her cousin Delta for a while so that long term plans can be made for Eve's safety. But when Tal arrives at Delta's Crossroads Cafe she is met with suspicion and uproar. Delta is in New York, competing in a televised cooking challenge, where, coincidentally, Tal's ex is a judge. Delta has been shipping her famous biscuits to the Cafe on a regular basis in order to satisfy their customers, but the last shipment went awry and hundreds of biscuits are needed for a group set to arrive shortly. This unwelcome news arrives at the same time as Tal, Eve and Douglas. Tal volunteers to make the biscuits because she was taught by the same ancestor as Delta, but the woman running the place for Delta doesn't know Tal, suspects she's no real relative, and is certain that there's something hinky about Tal's abrupt arrival. Tal's biscuits end up saving the day, but the suspicions are born out when two obviously bad characters arrive at the restaurant asking for Tal.

Douglas knows that Tallulah is the only woman for him almost upon meeting her, and he feels an instant connection to Eve as well. So, Douglas takes advantage of the opportunity and presses Tal to come home with him to hide and recharge. Tal has a magic that lets her smell the essence of a person, and Douglas' smell, of cinnamon and whiskey, convinces her that Douglas can be trusted. Therefore she allows him to care for her and Eve, at least for a little while. Tal and Eve quickly fall in love with Douglas, his little village and his many animals, which begins an affecting love story.

Experienced readers of Deborah Smith will not be surprised, but newcomers will undoubtedly marvel at the author's expressive and evocative turn of phrase. For instance, when Douglas becomes impatient with the traffic jam caused by the sheep who've stopped for the bear drama, he thinks:

Sheep are the lookie-loos of the herd world. Give them any distraction whatsoever, and they'll cause a traffic jam. You'd have better luck making good time on a city highway during rush hour behind a stalled bus full of naked strippers giving away free Lotto tickets.

That one made me laugh out loud. Conversely, when you read the scene where the six year old Tallulah lays on her mother's chest as her mother lay dying, listening to her heartbeat slow and then stop, you can't help but feel sorrow. Its amazing how much drama, humor, and romance the author can evoke within one short novella, all beautifully rendered with her quirky, engaging style.

The drama is absolutely splendid, and completely unexpected. If Delta's cooking competition and the predations of Tal's ex aren't enough, Tal's sister Gabby, The Pickle Queen's, drama is mentioned when she advises that she's been arrested but is now out on bail. Also, the manufacturing village is the epicenter of a generations-old mystery that involves love triangles, greed, fraud, and revenge that affects Tallulah and her siblings to the present day. There is some resolution in this novella, but the denouement will evidently occur in one of the next two books in the series.

Ms. Smith also excels at giving personality to her secondary characters. She draws such a beautiful portrait of Tal's brother, Gus, a soldier in Afghanistan and aforementioned Kitchen Charmer, just by describing his picture and relating one of his texts to his sister. The character that will undoubtedly become his romantic heroine is also vividly described. She's extremely damaged from having been raped by a pair of drug addicts and I can't wait to find out how the Kitchen Charmer pulls that one off. We also briefly meet Tal's sister and her romantic pairing, almost certainly a match made in hell.

I can't say it enough. This is a fantastic story. And if its sometimes a little too clever and irreverent, well, that's a problem I don't mind having.

Reviewed by Wendy Clyde
Grade : A

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : July 18, 2013

Publication Date: 2013/05

Recent Comments …

  1. Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.

  2. I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…

  3. But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…

Wendy Clyde

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