From the publisher:

Love is like a perfect recipe…You never want to lose it.

Years ago, Kelly McIntyre and Andrew York were engaged and dreaming of opening a restaurant together. Then he chose an opportunity to study in Paris over the small-town life they’d planned, and their romance came to a bittersweet end.

But Kelly’s doing fine. She’s not only the owner of a potbellied pig named Gray, but also of her own bakery. Business is good—so good that she’s invited to compete in a Valentine’s Day bake-off. As she prepares for the contest, she tries not to get distracted by Andrew’s visit to town.

When Andrew sees Kelly, it stirs up his old feelings. Little does he know that soon, in New York, he’ll compete against her in the bake-off…and they’ll both realize how much their past is a part of them still.

This irresistible romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Honey Almond Cake with Berries and Mascarpone Crème Fraiche.

I found this author after I watched the new Hallmark movie, Sand Dollar Cove. I noticed in the credits that it was based on a novel by Nancy Naigle. The name was not familiar to me, so I checked Hoopla and found several audiobooks by Naigle, including Sand Dollar Cove, but only one ebook, this one, The Perfect Ingredient.

I didn’t love the movie, in fact I’ve pretty much given up on Hallmark movies but every now and then I’ll watch one. It usually reinforces my belief that I don’t know why I watch these things. Sand Dollar Cove had a couple of tiny sand dollars in it, barely, and Chad Michael Murray, who I remembered from the Gilmore Girls, so I watched. There was no chemistry between the main characters whatsoever. The setting was pretty (although apparently they filmed it in Connecticut in March, because that’s what you think of when you think summer beach movie.) The plot was thin; the woman (whose name I forgot already and I only watched it a few days ago) is an architect/designer who was trying to buy this small town’s beachfront property to put in a beach resort. Murray plays the guy who owns the land but there is a broken down pier involved. The real estate company has no interest and wants it torn down; he won’t sell unless they fix the pier. That is the main conflict and it is barely there. So even though I didn’t love the movie, I figured books are almost always better so I’d try one. And it was!

I read it in one sitting, it is a short book and very fast paced. It, too, was made into a Hallmark movie and I tend to watch the food ones, so I probably saw it. But honestly, all their movies are entirely forgettable so who knows. Anyway, the characters definitely could have been developed a bit more, but the premise was good.

Andrew and Kelly were high school sweethearts, engaged to be married. Then he gets an offer that he can’t refuse; spend 6 months in Paris studying pastry. Kelly is the pastry chef, and Andrew much prefers savory, but he can’t turn down this opportunity. Kelly waits for him but instead of returning home, he stays in Paris, continues his culinary education and career. Seven years later, he finally returns.

Kelly is still angry and never really got over him. Andrew has been with women over the years, but no real relationships as no one measures up to Kelly. So when he finally returns, they meet up and try and get past all their history.

Meanwhile, Kelly is invited to participate in a baking competition and heads off to NY. I don’t know how much of this was based in the reality of cooking show competitions, but it was definitely fun to read the behind the scenes stuff.

A happy ending is reached pretty quickly (short book!) and it was a fast, fun read. If you like baking competitions, you will probably enjoy this. I did.

NOTE: Library users, I found this ebook on Hoopla!

Another note: Hallmark Publishing refuses to provide me with advance copies of their books, so usually they are older when I stumble across them, like this one.

7/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SECRET INGREDIENT by Nancy Naigle. Hallmark Publishing (February 12, 2019). ISBN:  978-1947892378. 298 pages.



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