Review: Sugar and Salt

Jerome “Sugar” Barnes learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street.

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome Sugar’s bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s grandmother, the lively, opinionated Ida, and the older woman proves to be a good mentor. Margot thinks Jerome is gorgeous, and despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful–even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her…

Don’t let the cover fool you on this one… what looks like a light, sweet romance book on the outside is actually drama-packed, emotional, and intense. Honestly, that made the book stand out from other ones that are about bakery/restaurant owners. 

Right from the start you know something is up with Margot because of the prologue and her actions when she first meets Jerome. She hasn’t had an easy past, but she never let that stop her from achieving her dream of opening a restaurant. However, the past keeps her from letting anyone in, so when she and Jerome get closer, she knows she has to tell him about her past before it catches up to her. Everything that she had gone through makes her a complex and interesting character, which I really enjoyed and hurt with her when the story focuses in on her past.

“To tell the truth is a beautiful act, even if the truth itself is ugly.”

The book itself has good pacing, even with the flashbacks to Ida and Margot’s pasts. The storylines of the pasts were enjoyable, though I felt like Ida’s wasn’t completely necessary to the overall story. I get that it connects with Jerome’s character and later gives Ida the insight to give Margot some advice, but Ida’s whole background could’ve been a book of its own. I know that I personally could’ve done without that part of the story, since the focus was supposed to be on Margot’s past effecting her present.

When the book dips into Margot’s past after she decides to tell Jerome about it, that’s where all the emotions hit. I’m putting a trigger warning here that it deals with sexual abuse and death, so it’s not for those who cannot read about it. It’s not very graphic, but the incident is played out to go into depth of how much it hurt Margot. There’s also issues with the justice system, as Margot is wrongly jailed for quite some time after the incident, and that just had me raging at the police and family that put her in there. I even had dreams about this book after reading halfway through Margot’s past… that’s how much it got to me.

Overall, this is a really good book. It was my first Susan Wiggs book, and I will be honest… I picked it up because of the cover. I’m glad I did and that I stuck through reading it (because Ida’s past made me want to DNF as it didn’t seem relevant to me) because it was a good story overall. The emotions are real in this book, as it deals with so many hard topic issues, and it just made the book have that much more of an impact while I was reading. I highly recommend this one!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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