Ellery Adams, 2017
Nora has scars, both visible and invisible. A bookstore owner and self-taught bibliotherapist, she discerns her customers’ pain and suggests books that could help. Bakery owner Hester does the same thing with customized scones. June and Estella are a spa manager and salon owner, respectively, and each brings her own brand of courage and humor to the group. All four women have secrets. Together, they are the Secret, Book, & Scone Society.
This is a pretty standard cozy mystery, and the author’s attention to minute detail evokes Debbie Macomber’s books – with a little more spice. (I actually looked up photos of the author to verify that Ellery Adams is not a pseudonym for Ms. Macomber.) The writing style, along with the presence of Jedediah, the handsome, brave, and highly moral EMT who shows promise as Nora’s love interest, nudges the book into romance category; that’s why it’s funny that at one point Nora scoffs at romance novels with handsome, brave knights in shining armor.
Along with the romance, there’s a subtle touch of magic; Hester’s scones, each one intuitively crafted for its intended customer, evoke healing childhood memories while Nora’s book recommendations, also specially selected for the recipient, inspire epiphanies and clarity.
There is one awkward literary device – the author uses “me” instead of “I” twice, as in “Me and Lucy like matte lip gloss.” (Not an actual sentence in the book.) At first I wondered how these errors slipped past editors and proofreaders, then I realized that both times the same character was speaking. It feels like an attempt at colloquial dialogue, and it doesn’t work.
The mystery component in this plot is pleasantly complex, but the best part of the book is the books. I’m grateful for the author’s penchant for specificity. Nora references an eclectic selection of classic and popular literature that any reader could use to build a nice reading list, and she includes both titles and authors. I’m disappointed that there aren’t any corresponding scone recipes from Hester, but I’ve only read the first book so there’s always hope. I’ll be checking future books in the series for recipes. Oh – and I’ll also be checking to find out what the answer is to a mystery that involves EMT Jed and his mother. I think I know what it is . . . .