This pairing was totally unintentional. I picked up Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak on a whim—it was new, available in digital form form my library and had an eye-catching cover—and I'm so glad I did. I adore family stories with complicated relationships, secrets and revelations, and this one also adds a liberal dose of humor, making it even more riveting.
The Birch family is on quarantine for the ten days of Christmas holiday in their run-down country estate because Olivia, the elder daughter, has just arrived home from Africa where she was treating victims of Haag (a made up Ebola like illness). Emma is thrilled to have her globe-trotting daughter home for once, while her father, Andrew, has always had a hard time connecting with his elder daughter and is more ambivalent. Once a war correspondent, he came home at his wife's insistence and now writes scathing reviews of local restaurants. He brings Phoebe, his younger daughter, along to commiserate over the disastrous meals. A bit self-centered and superficial, Phoebe resents
Olivia for pulling focus from her and her upcoming wedding. As the minutes of quarantine tick by, unexpected visitors arrive on the doorstep, forcing long-held secrets to come to the surface and the members of the Birch family to reevaluate themselves and their relationships with each other.
A few days after I finished this one, I won two stacks of books in a silent auction. One of the books was The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert. I had been hearing good things about this book for a while, so it was the first one I picked up. It is as sweet and delightful as the title implies. This book also features a restaurant critic with an attitude problem. Al Waters is a Brit who has landed a job in Milwaukee and is convinced no place on earth could be less interesting. He dines at Luella's restaurant on an off night—the owner, Lou Johnson, has just found her fiancé with another woman—and writes a horrible review. When he coincidentally befriends Lou a few days later and she agrees to show him the beauty of her native city, he doesn't know she is the owner of Luella's and she doesn't know he is the writer who has sent her restaurant downhill (he writes under a pen name).
As Al and Lou begin to fall for each other, the tension mounts. When will they figure out their connection and how will that secret affect their budding relationship? The story of romance with a twist of mistaken identity is certainly not new, but the quirky characters, luscious food language and descriptions of the city of Milwaukee make the story fresh and delicious.