by Milly Johnson
Marnie opened up another bottle of wine as they messaged back and forth. Somehow the conversation segued from recipes for cheesecakes to recipes of disaster – i.e. Marnie’s life. Lubricated by fermented grapes, a dam burst inside her and out it all poured in a torrent. Everything…. And Marnie went past caring if the person she was typing to was a genuine elderly lady, a Daily Mail reporter or a serial killer called Darren.
As usual, Milly Johnson does not disappoint. In this one, Marnie Salt is an attractive, smart, ambitious woman who is also good and kind. She is greatly flawed, as is typical in Milly’s heroines, in that she makes very poor choices as far as her relationships with men and friends are concerned. She is epically embarrassed at work due to still another poor choice. She quits her job and moves to a small village, virtually owned by a new older friend she meets in a chat forum online, and finds her mojo and her happy ending. This is not a spoiler as all of Milly Johnson’s endings are super happy and satisfying. There is a little magic involved and more than one mystery. And Cheesecake! If you don’t like cheesecake, you might not like this book.
As Marnie repairs herself, the reader finds out more and more about her painful past and her destructive mother and sister. Milly really likes to pile on her heroines before she triumphantly resurrects them. But the gradual reveal of what Marnie had to endure as a child helps us to understand her so we can’t blame her.
What a vile family you have, dear. No wonder you have so much difficulty negotiating life. They’ve imprinted a faulty map in you. Totally understandable why you keep losing your way. I have the same map imprinted on me too. We have more in common than you could know.
I can’t help but think this is a book that might have a sequel at some future date. Or at least be revisited in a future book. Although the ending is very cathartic and answers many questions we have been teased with throughout the book, there are a few questions and mysteries left unexplained. Spoiler Alert Is there a connection between Mrs. McMaid and Wychwell? Who were Marnie’s biological parents? Is she related to Lillian’s family in any way? why the resemblance between Marnie and a family portrait in the Manor House? Where is the baby’s body that was supposedly killed with the witch? Did it live? Will her terrible sister resurface and get her comeuppance? And most importantly, What is the Cheesecake’s secret ingredient? In looking at all the questions, I think the reader does know the answers, other than to the last question. Starting with, yes, there was a baby and yes it did live. End Spoiler
Marnie was a great character in a book of great characters. She is smart, successful, funny, and has a good heart. Although she frustrated me to start out with as far as her poor choice in men, I like that when she learned her lesson, she did not backslide into more poor choices, although she did have me worried a few times. She got more strong and powerful as the book went on without losing her kind and generous nature.
She wasn’t someone on a piece of elastic that could be dropped and picked up again when it suited. Nope, she wasn’t that Marnie now and the awareness that she wasn’t shocked her in a warm way. Could she be actually growing up at last? Thanks to a batty old lady who had seen her warts and all and still valued her as something precious? **5 out of 5 stars**January 4, 2021