This contemporary novel of relationships brings together two very different Southern women who speak a common language through their love of food. (The book includes their recipes.)
Shelby Preston comes from a hardscrabble life in Coryville, Georgia, and is determined to move to Atlanta and become a chef. That means leaving behind her six-year-old daughter Miss Ann in the care of her “Mama,” a hairdresser who is setting up shop in the cellar of her “tin-roofed” home. Mallory Lakes is an upper crust Atlantan, who writes food blogs for an online newspaper. Their paths cross when Shelby gets a job at the upscale grocery store in Atlanta where Mallory shops. But it will take a near-fatal drunk driving accident and a near-tragedy with Miss Ann to bring the pair together in friendship as they discover what’s really important in life.
Peggy Lampman is an engaging writer, capturing the heart of Southern living with wit, charm and vivid detail as she alternates chapters between Shelby, Mallory and Miss Ann. When Shelby returns from Atlanta for a visit, for example, she sees Mama with new eyes. “Her peach skin tone is complemented by a lime shift, which hangs straight so her belly roll’s not noticeable. Her hair’s calmed down, too. Not as ratty and the color’s a subtle shade of auburn. But most of all, her smile comes easy, softened by old heartache and fresh hope.”
There are a few minor problems: an overuse of coincidences; a not-quite-believable love story (Mallory’s former boyfriend sees the error of his ways); and neat and tidy happy endings all round. But they don’t detract heavily from the enjoyable writing. And the recipes look delicious.
For readers who enjoy a Southern flavor to their stories, spending time in the company of these fine folks through the pages of Simmer and Smoke will go down as easily as a slice of watermelon on a hot summer’s day.
Also available as an ebook.