Author: Betsy St. Amant
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Love doesn't always look the way we expect
The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so that she's created her own version of the famous Parisian love-lock wall at the bakery where she works in Story, Kansas. She never expects a video involving the wall to go viral--or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He's definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for an epic love story like the one her parents had--and that certainly will not include the love-scorning Gerard.
Just when it seems the Pastry Puff is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just the bakery but the pedestal she's kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri's recipe just needs to be tweaked.
Reviewer: Robbie Pink
The Key to Love, by Betsy St. Amant, is a contemporary romance novel about a bakery, The Pastry Puff, and its owners and an employee in Story, Kansas. This is the first book I have read by Betsy St. Amant.
The story is populated by several characters, from the previous owner’s daughter, Abrielle “Bri” Duvall to the nefarious Charles Richmond, Bri’s ex-boyfriend, who is a lawyer intent on getting The Pastry Puff by any means available (and maybe some that aren’t!). The true stars of the book appear to be the bakery, the Parisian-styled love lock fence and the “love angels,” Mabel and Agnes, who are the bakery’s new owners.
I had a hard time becoming invested in the main characters, Bri Duval and Gerard Fortier. Their ongoing disagreements felt somewhat immature and off-putting. The book also contains some mild vulgar words (though not profanity) and innuendo, with very little spiritually uplifting content.
The Key to Love was, overall, a cute book you could lose yourself in for a few hours, with several laugh-out-loud moments created by the love angels, Mable and Agnes.
I received this book courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Joan Dowell
The cover of this book isn’t the only sweet thing to this story. The small-town feel pulls you into the storyline with every turn of the page. This book gets better as the story builds. This is truly a treasure that has it’s happily-ever-after. I do wish that there were more Christian content throughout the book. But all in all this was a good read. I look forward to reading this author again in the near future.
I received a print copy of this book from Revell through Interviews & Reviews in return for my honest review.
Reviewer: June McCrary Jacobs
A contemporary small-town romance with a varied cast of characters . . .
Travel writer, Gerard Fortier, is sent to a small town in Kansas to write a feature on the town's bakery, the Pastry Puff. Charged with writing about the bakery's love-lock wall and the matchmaking 'Love Angels.' Gerard makes it obvious he does not want to accept the assignment. Since his boss gives him no other option, he travels to Story, Kansas, with a chip on his shoulder and motivated only by the possibility he will lose his job if he doesn't come through with a well-written article.
The bakery's pastry chef, Bri Duval, is all about Paris, baking, and romance. She has a skewed view of her parents' love story, which causes her to see the world and love from the opposite perspective from Gerard. Bri is a loving, kind, generous member of her hometown community, and she is a talented baker who has followed in her mother's footsteps by working at the Pastry Puff.
The volume of angst between the two lead characters for the first half of the book was an obstacle to my enjoyment of the story. The humor supplied by the senior citizen sister owners of the bakery who have been dubbed 'The Love Angels', Agnes and Mable, was a delight. They were loyal and kind friends and mentors to Bri. I also enjoyed the side story involving Bri's friend, Casey.
Charles, a member of the community, is trying to purchase the Pastry Puff from Agnes and Mabel. He and Bri have a 'history,' and his hard feelings toward Bri make him seem like a villain at every turn, in my opinion. The town gossip, Sandra, is a force to be reckoned with her vicious gossip and unkindness.
A faith theme was not a strong thread in the story until the final few chapters. When it did appear, it was heartfelt and heartwarming. The local church's pastor, John, became one of my favorite characters as he shared his wisdom and faith. John's words were inspirational to me in the way that a book character can sometimes reach beyond the pages of the story to touch a reader's heart.
I enjoyed the 'One year later . . . ' section the author included at the end of the final chapter. It's always fun to see what is going on in the lives of the main characters one year on.
This book is completely clean in language and content.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Baker Publishing/Revell through Interviews & Reviews. These opinions are solely my own.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"The only thing Bri Duval loved more than romance was a perfectly executed French macaron."
Working with sweets all day in a small town bakery keeps Bri Duval thinking about . . . . . well naturally, she thinks about sweets, leaving it up to her iconic aunts to share in Story, Kansas' actual matchmaking duties. . . . . until, they hit the big leagues with a nearly love-at-first-sight story that goes viral. Now the whole world (actually, maybe just part of the whole world) knows about Bri's little version of a Parisian love-lock wall tucked conveniently behind the Pastry Puff.
The social media buzz about the Kansas love-lock wall draws the attention of a Chicago based travel magazine, whose editor decides to send one of his best journalists (who just happens to be a confirmed bachelor) on location to write a feature article about Bri and the infamous wall. All preconceived notions about the keys to love go flying out the door the moment Gerard Fortier comes sauntering up to Bri's counter, complaining about the coffee. He's handsome, he's blunt, he dares to call her "cupcake", but can she deem him friend or foe? Will the power of Gerard's words sway pubic opinion, for unfortunately the future of the Pastry Puff hangs in the balance.
This sweet little story has its hiccups, but that's simply what they were . . . leaving plenty of room for deeper, more significant themes to shine through the ups and downs of everyday life in a delightful fictional town. It's the sort of book that improves with every page and ultimately satisfies one's longing for a happily-ever-after that doesn't have to be perfect.
" . . . there was an unfinished story lingering in the back of his mind . . . . Theirs."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
Thank you in advance to Revell (a division of Baker Books) for providing a complimentary review copy through the Revell Reads Blogger Program. A positive review was not required and all words are my own.
This is the first book I’ve read by Betsy St. Amant, and after reading the blurb, I really wanted to read this story. So, I was honestly surprised how honest and realistic it was when it came to romance.
The cover, which is more fitting for a Valentine’s Day release, is cute and sweet – and that drew me in. But, it’s the inside where the story actually has its heart and soul in this seemingly standalone read.
Bri loves romance – everything about it. Her view is from the oh-so-sweet romance/marriage her late parents had, or so she thinks they had. Gerard hates it – doesn’t do weddings, love, or romance. Most of his discontent is from someone he admired, as well as a failed relationship.
Then there are the two elderly owners of The Pastry Puff – a sweet little bakery where Bri works, where her mother had once worked.
The plot? Trying to save the Pastry Puff from Bri’s ex-boyfriend Charles who wants to put in a coffee chain.But, this isn’t the “aw, shucks; pretty cute; feel good” type of romance. It is the type of book that puts everything into an honest, realistic perspective that still remains hopeful at the core. This is where the reader will either see it as a weakness, or like me, recognize it as the strength of the story. The pessimistic love approach was something I honestly didn’t like, but it didn’t hinder the story, more like helped it and guided it to the climax and lesson. But, there are also dashes of humor along the way. More of this negative perspective comes from Gerard who doesn’t sugar-coat things.
Despite him seeming like my ideal man (6’ 2”; dark hair; broad shoulders; I prefer lighter eyes though) – he is definitely not the hero of the story. If anything he is the anti-hero. But, he balances out the story without coming off too abrasive. He isn’t that romantic either.
There to write an article about the love-lock wall and the bakery, he is using this assignment to leap ahead to what he thinks are greater things – politics, third world economics. And, he makes no secret of how he really feels about The Pastry Puff. This is all told in what seems like the perfect “Hallmark” movie way. And, things don’t get off to a great start for Bri when he walks into the bakery.
The author made an interesting point with one couple’s engagement – “it was easy to love when everything is perfect, it is a lot harder to love during a mess. And, it doesn’t help that Gerard is also in that mess. From making Bri re-think romance, to re-thinking “Pride and Prejudice”, the man always had something to say. Even calling Bri “cupcake” most of the time. There were times I was over him and his condescending nature. But, was he right about romance?
Not only does the success of the Pastry Puff depend on Gerard’s article, but also a “make or break” event – a wedding which is saved by Gerard in an uncharacteristic way.
Another interesting side of this story was Bri learning about her parents’ romance as well as some letters. I really loved how the author put this mystery in there, and what is more interesting is how this connects Bri and Gerard in a way they didn’t know. Bri ends up learning that real love is hard, messy, loud, full of grit, kindess, patience, and forgiveness. While she was busy looking for her idea of romantic love, she learned something new. The romance between the two doesn’t really pick up until about two-thirds (2/3) of the way in. And, Gerard’s turn-around isn’t an overnight epiphany. The author keeps it real and authentic to his character.
One plot point I wanted to see the conclusion of was about Gerard’s mom. I wanted to see how that was going to end – her getting help, or him to stop enabling her. That was about the only thing I missed when it came to the end. I did end up crying sad, happy, and messy tears at the end which was realistic and beautiful.
One thing that made this such a quick and fun read was St. Amant’s use of short chapters. That is one thing I honestly love when reading – short chapters. It, to me, makes the story go fast without lingering. Not that I won’t read a “long” chapter book, just a preference. And, with the author’s writing, this sails right through to the end. It’s almost like a walk in the park. It isn’t like she is rushing the action though. I was definitely hooked after the first chapter, and wanted to keep reading while wanting to put it down and daydream about love.
While it is distributed by Revell, a Christian/faith themed publisher, there are very few references to God or the bible in this. There are more at the end. But, these are not preachy in tone or an integral part of the story. There is a moment when Gerard reconsiders going to church and listens to a pastor who admits he still sins here or there. It is a refreshing take on faith.
There are some references to domestic violence and alcohol abuse. These are minor and not a huge part of the story, but readers sensitive to these subjects should take note.
Fans of the author and/or genre are sure to enjoy this book. And, after reading it, I am definitely inclined to seek out her next novel; if not her past ones as well.
Reviewer: Mindy Houng
"Somehow, being in Story - more specifically, watching Bri interact with her community - was like having a front-row seat to a play, one deserving of a snack and the full experience."
Contemporary romcom doesn't get better than this! Nestled in a tiny town called Story, Kansas, this novel brings together everything that makes contemporary romance delicious - a quirky and charming small-town life, a fun premise, a well-paced plot with some surprises, deep and multi-dimensional characters who are totally lovable, excellent banter and witty dialogue, and gentle reminders of spiritual truths that often get lost in the busyness of life. And this book will definitely make you hungry so you'd better grab a snack before settling down for a wonderful read that will make you laugh out loud, hurt, sigh, and feel satisfied as the story unfolds.
Bri and Gerard are complete opposites; Bri is the cheerful, naive, romantic pastry chef who is compassionate and loving. She finds fulfillment in embracing her community and hates taking risks. Gerard is a toughened and embittered world-travel writer whose sole goal is a promotion and thrives on adrenaline. Yet they're thrown together by a meddlesome boss who sends Gerard to write about a love-drenched French-themed cafe and two meddling "love angels" who find every opportunity to push Bri towards Gerard. Delightful small-town life tumbles around them as they work on the article; both Bri and Gerard learn life lessons as their worlds careen closer together with late night snack deliveries, freezing dives into a fountain, late autumn picnics, and old love letters.
If you enjoy contemporary romance, you will absolutely love this book.
I received a copy of the book from Revell/Baker House Publishing Group and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
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