In this 5th book in the Briar Creek series Miles gives us Kara Hastings, a woman who has a fairly flaky past but is desperate to get her cookie bakery off the ground to prove to everyone she can stick to something and has grown up. New to town is Nate Griffin, nephew of the owner of the local B&B and permanent Christmas Grinch.
I really like Kara. She's so determined to make the bakery work that she's working past exhaustion and it doesn't feel like she has much support. While she has friends and family that love her they don't take her ambitions very seriously because of her past behavior. She's never been particularly irresponsible but she doesn't have a history of sticking to things.I admired Kara's determination to make it work on her own even when it crossed into stubbornness.
I found Nate a little harder to connect to. He's definitely guarded and has a chip on his shoulder about growing up in poverty. I could understand his desire to prosper and take care of his parents but his hangups seemed a little much at times. I really didn't love his reaction to Kara using her inheritance to start her bakery. The word "inheritance" doesn't mean millions of dollars. His assumption that Kara is just an idle rich girl even when he sees nothing to confirm that she is and everything to confirm that she is working her butt off annoyed me at times. That isn't to say I didn't like him. I loved how loyal he is to his Aunt Maggie even when he thinks she's nuts. I loved how he acted with Kara and how much he was really trying to help her.
Overall, I really enjoy this series. It's not all light and fluff. The characters have real troubles and real worries that while aren't always hugely dramatic make them feel very real. While the book is definitely a romance there is a lot of focus on the town of Briar Creek as a whole and on Kara's struggles with getting her business off the ground. The focus is mostly on the emotional connection and while there is a little heat it's mostly the fade to black kind.
Oh and the cookies! How can I not talk about the cookies? Because Kara isn't just starting up any business - she's starting up a cookie business! And there's lots of talk about cookies. There's gingerbread, oatmeal cookies, scads of cream cheese sugar cookies and just every kind of cookie you could think of. The ones that really made my mouth water were some she was making called Red Velvet Cream Cheese Candy Canes. Anyone have a recipe for something like that? They sound like cookie perfection!
Since I don't currently have the Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cookie recipe (there's no recipes at the back of the book - I double checked) I thought I'd look up some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes and share one. These Tender Toffee-Chocolate Rounds from King Arthur Flour's Cookie Companion looks like they can fill the void for a little while!
Tender Toffee-Chocolate Rounds
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup toffee bits
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
In the microwave, or in a saucepan set over very low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until smooth. Set mixture aside to cool to lukewarm.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt. Beat in the melted chocolate, then stir in the flour, toffee bits, and chocolate chips.
Drop the dough by tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookes for about 12 minutes, or until the tops are cracked and dry but the cookies are still soft to the touch. Don't overbake these; they'll become firm as they cool. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
I haven't made these yet but they're on my list of holiday cookies to make this year. I think a little taste testing might be in order very soon though! I love chocolate and toffee. What are your favorite holiday cookies?
I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads