Windmere Bakery and the building it occupies has been in Marianne Windmere’s family since the 1800s. Marianne is the proud owner, though she had some rough patches to get there. And she’s definitely had some bad feelings about the tenets of the suite next door, ever since her father sold it back in the sixties. But when her customers constantly complain there’s no place to park in the lot, her feelings grow even more negative toward the Cairo Grill next door.
When a snow storm knocks out the power, Cairo Grill owner Rana Wahbi is stuck because of the snow and Marianne invites her over just so she can keep warm. The attraction between them is instant, but despite a nice evening, the parking issue ends up causing an argument.
Both women realize it’s not their customers causing the problem for the other, and Marianne and Rana band together to try and get the parking lot back. As their friendship grows, the mystery deepens about who is using the lot and who actually owns the space. It turns into a much bigger fight than Marianne ever anticipated. And when it all comes to a head, Marianne has to fight for her right to keep her family’s bakery, the building, and her budding romance with Rana.
I thought the blurb for this one sounded cute, and though the book turned out not to be what I expected, it was definitely a good story. The characters absolutely shine here, and really make this story worth reading, even if the plot didn’t quite strike my fancy.
What I particularly loved about this story was the effortless and organic way the author portrayed a truly diverse cast of characters. Not only with the MCs, but all the supporting secondary characters as well. The story includes people from all across the queer spectrum, different religions and races, and personalities. Set in a small town, there was an easy way the characters interacted, the way they knew each other, and the way they had for years. Being a small town, there is some bigotry and prejudice shown, but it doesn’t take over the story, and it doesn’t drive the plot, which was great to see. Instead, we have an inclusive cast that doesn’t feel forced or as if it was just “boxes ticked.” I loved the openness and ease with which the characters interacted, and I loved the way it highlighted just how diverse the world is.
The romance here takes a back seat to the larger plot line. I would have definitely liked to see more in that regard. Marianne and Rana have a rocky start to friendship, but even as that blooms, it doesn’t really progress to more until the very end. Marianne is bi and ace, but her asexuality doesn’t come into play much, and isn’t really even mentioned until almost the end. For me, this isn’t exactly a romance. Not because Marianne is asexual, but because Marianne and Rana aren’t more than friends until the very end. So I would call this book fiction with a romantic subplot.
As far as the old secrets the blurb mentions? Well, to be frank, it was obvious where that was going from the moment it came to light. And I would definitely have liked to see a different twist here. It wasn’t until about the two thirds point that things really started to take off, and then the ending was a touch too easy. I’m not saying it needed to be complicated, or even that it wasn’t satisfying in its way. Because we all read for the HEA. But I would have liked it to be a bit more realistic, or for things to start earlier on in the narrative so the ending didn’t feel quite so pat.
Overall, I liked this book, mostly because of the wonderful cast of characters. There are some things that would have, had they been different, made this a more satisfying read for me. But the MCs and delightful secondary characters made this worth the read.