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Food, family, and secrets combine in Cathy Lamb’s emotional and deeply honest novel as one woman discovers the recipes and life lessons that have shaped her family’s past, and could guide her toward a second chance at happiness.
Two years ago, Olivia Martindale left behind her Montana hometown and her husband, Jace, certain it was the best decision for both of them. Back temporarily to protect her almost-adopted daughters from their biological mother, she discovers an old, handwritten cookbook in the attic. Its pages are stained and torn, their edges scorched by flame. Some have been smeared by water . . . or tears. The recipes are written in different hands and in different languages. In between the pages are intriguing mementos, including a feather, a pressed rose, a charm, and unfamiliar photographs.
Hoping the recipes will offer a window into her grandmother’s closely guarded past, Olivia decides to make each dish, along with their favorite family cake recipes, and records her attempts. The result, like much of her life to date, involves a parade of near-disasters and chaotic appearances by her doctor mother, her blunt grandma, her short-tempered sister, and Olivia’s two hilarious daughters. The project is messy, real—and an unintended hit with viewers.
Even more surprising is the family history Olivia is uncovering, and her own reemerging ties to Montana, and to Jace. Generations of women have shared these recipes, offering strength and nourishment to each other and their loved ones. Now it’s Olivia’s turn to find healing—and determine where her home and her heart truly belong.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
January 2010 Kalulell, Montana Olivia Martindale
Do not drive in blizzards.
Especially in Montana, at night.
It will make your heart pound as if it's trying to escape from your chest, your foot on the accelerator shake, and your mind leap in a thousand panicked directions. It's dangerous, it's life-threatening.
I am stupid.
We left Oregon early this morning. To be honest, I rushed us out of Oregon. I had my reasons. The reasons scared me to my bones and made them rattle. Suffice it to say: We needed out. Immediately. As soon as I had written permission, we left.
It was cool in Oregon, raining and misting, sweater weather only. We drove east, then north, and all was well, until we had a flat outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I hauled out the jack and changed the tire, but we got behind. It started snowing lightly when we started up the mountains; became worse at the top; and, coming into Kalulell, the snow turned into a blizzard. My phone was dead, so that added to my teeth-grinding anxiety.
But I was close to home, close to the log cabin with the red door that my granddad and grandma had built together, in 1945.
I saw a familiar sign announcing Kalulell. It was almost covered with snow, but I knew I had only a few miles to go. The snow fell faster, thicker, and my wiper blades could not keep up with it. My tires, even with chains on, slid sporadically over the ice. The wind that whistled around my car as if taunting me, the sideways snow that made me feel upside-down, and the fact that I could hardly see ten feet in front of my face yanked my fear up to stratospheric levels.
I gripped the steering wheel with tight hands and tried not to have a panic attack. I breathed deeply, then panicked when I couldn't breathe deeply again. I tried to breathe shallowly, then panicked when I thought I wasn't getting enough air. Maybe I was having a heart attack. Oh dear, oh no, I could not have a heart attack now. Not now.
I had to fix things first. I had to protect them.
Growing up here in Montana, I learned how to do a lot of things. I can break a horse, no matter how rebellious. I can work outside all day on our property. I can chop wood for hours, I can milk cows, and I can ski on one foot. One time I faced down a bull because I knew I couldn't sprint to the fence fast enough. He turned away.
But I don't drive in blizzards. Call it a personal hysteria button.
I reclenched the steering wheel, my black cowgirl boot shaking on the accelerator, and saw another sign. I looked away. I knew what lay beyond that particular sign, in a place where the grass was green in the summer, the buttercups a golden blanket. I also knew what was on top of that hill, way across the meadow, with a view of magical sunsets. I felt a thump in my heart and wanted to cry.
"Stop it," I whispered to myself. "Stop it now, you baby. Buck up."
But I didn't buck up. I couldn't. And that's the problem when you return to a place, a place you called home, and things happened that were shattering and you leave and it's easier because you don't have to be reminded of the things you don't want to think about when you're gone, but then you come back, and there it all is, like mini lightning strikes to your soul.
Through the swirling snow I could see the outline of a familiar white fence, which meant that the river was now on my other side. Fence on the left, river on the right. The river would be filled with snow and ice, dangerous and fast, a gray, slithering snake.
I had driven alongside this fence more times than I could count, and it was a comfort to me in some ways. I knew where I was. And yet seeing it made breathing hard and I tried to inhale and the air seemed to get stuck in my lungs.
The wind hit my car with a howl out of hell itself, and I felt it shift, snow covering my windshield. Through my silly tears the white twirled all around me, like a snow tornado. It was then that I hit a patch of ice. We skidded, like a marble across a wood floor, careening to the right, then the left, back to the right. I thought of the raging river snake below us.
I braked, we spun in a final circle, I screamed.
They woke up and screamed along with me. They had had more than their share of screams in their young lives, and this was not fair. They did not deserve any more screams.
We tipped, a horrible jerk over the edge of the road, the front of my car pointing down toward the broken ice in the churning river, a skinny tree trunk smashed into my right side.
We were going to die.
Oh no. We were going to die.
I had left my job as a sous-chef two weeks ago, after I threw a chicken at my boss.
"What are you doing, Olivia?" Carter shrieked, turning toward me in his state-of-the-art, cold and sterile stainless steel kitchen.
It wasn't a live chicken — that would not have been kind to the chicken — but a whole, plucked chicken. Clearly I was losing my mind. Probably because of the phone calls I had been getting. The underlying threats. "Stop yelling at Brayonna, Carter."
"What?" His face, sweaty and flushed, scrunched up in fury. "What?"
"She burned the crème brûlée, Carter. That's it. It's a dessert. Only a dessert. No one was hurt. No one was in danger. She doesn't deserve to be yelled at."
That I interfered in the middle of his swearing tantrum enflamed him and his ego. "It's not just a dessert, Olivia. It's my famous crème brûlée." He stabbed his finger at me. "This is my restaurant and everything must be done flawlessly, perfectly. If she can't do perfect, she's out."
All of the other chefs were suddenly quiet, standing still over bubbling pots, gas-fired stoves, bowls full of cake batter and soups, thick steaks and shrimp, fresh fruits and vegetables ready to be sliced. Outside the double doors we had customers waiting, people who had sat on waiting lists for weeks, tonight a special event for them.
"You yelled at Ethan tonight, too, Carter, because you said his sauce wasn't creamy enough. You berated him until he cried and left."
"It wasn't creamy enough," he seethed, then slammed down a wooden spoon. "Not. Creamy. Enough!"
"It's sauce. It's not life." Of all the things to get upset about. Crème brûlée. Sauce. It made me want to cry. These are not things in life to melt down over. "You knocked Georgia's hat off her head tonight because you said she didn't add enough butter. It's butter. That's all it is. Chill out."
"No, Olivia!" His voice spiked as he charged over to me. "It's not. Butter makes or breaks my recipes, so it makes or breaks my reputation. No one can blemish my reputation!" He threw a dish towel to the floor. "And stay out of this! Who asked you what you thought?" "I always say what I think, and what I think is that it's only butter. From a cow." I had had it. I knew it at that moment. Carter demeaned people constantly. Everyone hated him, except his henchman, Ralphie, who smirked at me. Every dictator has a right-hand henchman who doesn't think for himself. I don't hate anyone, but Carter was one of the meanest people I have ever met. I think that's why I picked up an egg and threw it at him. He ducked and I missed, which was disappointing. I take pride in my aim — being a Montana girl I knew how to shoot a gun and a bow and arrow — so I threw a second one. Got him. He dodged to the left, then to the right. I pelted an egg at the smirking, nonthinking Ralphie, too. Target hit.
"What the hell, Olivia?" Carter lurched left. I got him again.
I wasn't angry. Some part of my mind couldn't believe what I was doing. The other part thought that a man who could actually turn into a frothing Tasmanian devil over crème brûlée deserved to have eggs thrown at him. Did he not read the newspaper? Did he not see what happened to people? Now, that was worth melting down over. I myself had had a total meltdown two years ago. It had had nothing to do with crème brûlée.
"You need to stop yelling at people, Carter. You need to treat people like humans. Don't be a frightening prick."
He gasped. "I do treat them like humans unless they're screwing up my restaurant! What? Ethan can't make sauce right after I've shown him twice? Brayonna still can't make crème brûlée without burning it? Are they stupid?"
"No." For some reason I thought I should throw a potato at him, so I did, and he ducked and swore, but I had anticipated the duck, so the potato smacked him. I chucked one at smirking Ralphie, too. Dead center. He said, "Ooph."
Carter's was now a popular restaurant in Portland. I had worked for him as his sous-chef since I left Montana, two years ago. I was in charge of the kitchen when Carter wasn't there. I was in charge of the menu, including all of the specials, and often worked twelve-hour shifts. Carter would not admit it, but his restaurant was not doing well when I arrived on the scene. In fact, he was close to going belly-up.
He and I sat down and revamped the menu. We cooked together. I showed him my recipes. We made them and he loved them. I had the restaurant remodeled. We had an excellent review in the paper, then another one, and it was word of mouth from then on out.
I think of it as American fine dining, elegant and plentiful, with a splash of Italian and the colors and spices of Mexico. I needed the job when Carter hired me. I had nothing. He gave it to me and I was grateful, but he was a temperamental and explosive chef, and my frayed nerves couldn't take him anymore.
"I'm out." I turned to the other people, my coworkers, who were equally fed up with crazy Carter, and said, "I'm sorry."
Two people closest to me reached over and gave me a hug, then more came. "Please don't go," they whispered. "I can't handle Carter without you ... don't do this ... Leave now, come back tomorrow, please, Olivia ... I can't take his screaming with you gone...."
"Olivia!" Carter yelled at me, his finger waving, egg dripping down his white chef's coat. "If you leave here, you can never come back! If you come back tomorrow, I will close the door. If you come back in a week, probably I will keep the door shut. If you come crawling back in a month, I will think about letting you back in, so do not leave. I have made you the chef you are. You owe me!"
I laughed. So did a bunch of other people. It was so patently false that in response I picked up an onion and pitched it at him, and then, my finale, because he had yelled and yelled at me for months, carrots. He dodged and ducked and swore as one after another hit. Ralphie was hiding behind the island. I managed to land an onion on him anyhow. Again: I take pride in my aim.
I heard the other chefs smothering their laughter.
I took off my hat, and the net, my brown hair tumbling down my back. I grabbed my bag, all of my recipes that I'd collected in a notebook, and my knives, and I walked out through the front door, waving at the waitstaff, their faces confused.
I went home to my small, one-bedroom apartment in downtown Portland. The girls, six and seven years old, were in bed, my bed, as I was now on the couch in the family room, and I paid the babysitter. She has tattoos and piercings and is sweet and loves to do crafts with the girls.
I took a shower, unfolded the couch into a bed, piled on the blankets, and opened my computer. I had some savings. Not a lot. The attorney had cost a bucket of money. My car had broken down, too, which was expensive. I missed the truck I had had in Montana. I had to sell it to pay the attorney. I made another payment to the hospital. A few months ago I had had to spend four days there for a bleeding ulcer that hit an artery. My deductible was $6,800. I would be making payments for months.
I was a single mother. It was still hard for me to grasp that after six months. But I might not be their mother forever. There were complications, problems, issues. Terrifying things. And now I had no job. Fear, strangling and tight, curled around my entire being.
The next morning, early, I got another call. The woman's words terrorized me.
And that's when I knew we had to leave, to escape, immediately.
The car teetered on the edge of the icy road, as if we were on a multi-ton seesaw.
"What's happening?" Stephi yelled.
"Aunt Olivia, what's going on?" Lucy said.
The car wobbled, up and down, again. My windshield wipers were still on, but they were hardly making a dent in the snow coming down like a white, cold blanket, ready to smother anyone who stood too long in one place.
I knew what was below us. I knew what would happen when the car tilted down a few inches in the wrong direction. "Don't move," I choked out. "Don't move." The car stopped, the engine growling.
"Don't move?" Stephi said. "Oh no oh no. Oh no."
"Right. Stay still."
"I'm scared," Lucy said. "So scared. Help, Aunt Olivia! Help me!"
"I know, baby. But don't move."
I could hardly see. The wind battered the car. I didn't want to open the door, because I didn't know if I would drop down the side, between the road and the car, and disappear. But I couldn't stay in the car with them and risk plunging down the cliff into the river. I had a vivid image of the car filling with freezing water and ice as I struggled to yank the girls through a window. I shoved down bubbling hysteria, knowing hysteria would not help this situation.
We teetered again, and I jammed my teeth together so I didn't let loose a bloodcurdling scream. I opened the door to the car, slowly, so slowly, to see if my half of the car was still on the highway. If it was, I would carefully climb over the seat and haul the girls out. I would not think about how the three of us would survive in a blizzard once we were out. At least we would have a chance. The river offered no chances; the river snake would drown us.
Snow flew in when I opened the door, and the girls whimpered. I wanted to whimper, too. How far over the edge were we? How much pavement was on my side? Should I have the girls climb out on their own and stay where I was to balance the car out?
The wind whooshed through the car and the girls screamed, the noises blending together. Then the car rocked up and down. We were going down the cliff and into the river. At that cataclysmic moment, between life and death, I thought of her.
She had breathed into the phone the morning after I'd quit my job. Heavy. Deliberate. She lowered her voice. "I have a surprise for you, Olivia."
I would not like the surprise, I knew that.
"Want to know what the surprise is?"
"No." I hated her calls. I gripped the lid of the blender. I was making the girls a fruit smoothie with raspberries, bananas, and strawberries.
She giggled. "Surprises are fun." She sang the word fun. "Fun and exciting."
I waited, my throat tight.
"You're going to lose, Olivia."
I closed my eyes.
"You lose," she singsonged. "I win, win, win."
"Don't call me again."
"Why? I like talking to you."
"I don't like talking to you."
She laughed and laughed. "Olivia, you have no idea what's going to happen soon. None. But I know and I like it. You won't like it. You won't like it at all."
"What are you talking about?" I walked away from the blender, passing a mirror I have in the nook. My green eyes, cat eyes I'm told, that tilt up at the corners, looked stricken.
"It's a secret. I like secrets."
"Last time, what are you talking about?" I felt my whole body clench, as if waiting for a blow.
"What am I talking about?" she whispered. "What am I talking about? That's easy." She giggled again. "Revenge, Olivia. I'm talking about revenge."
I hung up on her laughter. She thinks she's so funny.
I don't find her funny at all.
Her sick rage echoed in my ear.
Her harsh words cut through my heart.
Her hissed threats clogged my throat until I could hardly breathe.
I gripped the counter in front of me, the silence a sickening contrast to the evil conversation I'd had. Outside my apartment the gray clouds rolled, the rain pouring down, blurring everything.
I had to get out of Oregon.
I had to go where she could not find me, find us.
I knew exactly where to go.
I called my attorney.
In two weeks, with permission, with hands that trembled, I began to pack. Then I gave away our furniture.
I would keep them safe. I would hold them close.
I would never let her come near them again.
That's why I had to survive this car accident. Because of her. For them.
Through the open door, I could see that my car, on my side, was still on the pavement. How much pavement I didn't know, the snow near blinding. It couldn't be much, as we were rocking back and forth. "Unlock your seat belts, Lucy and Stephi. I'm coming to get you."
The car tilted forward again. "Stop! Don't move. Wait!" The car leveled out.
Excerpted from "No Place I'd Rather Be"
Copyright © 2017 Cathy Lamb.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I laughed. I cried. I loved these characters. They were funny and very human. A romance with action. I had lunch with my daughter and kept reading her funny passages from this book through the whole meal. Read this book, you'll cry, but mostly you'll laugh. It put a smile on my face.
Cooking Up Solutions! Cathy Lamb uses a unique brand of storytelling as she shares the story of Olivia Martindale. She is returning to Montana after losing her job as head chef in Portland. She has two young girls in tow as she almost veers off of a cliff but her estranged husband, Jace is right there to rescue them. The story takes off as Lamb cooks up a plethora of subplots like Olivia's tasty recipes.She retells her grandmother's escape from war-torn Europe after the losses of her many Jewish relatives. Her stories are interwoven through recipes and sketches created by family members down through the generations. It is a sacred family heirloom which Olivia discovers and it encourages their grandmother to open up and share her past. Olivia also is fighting for custody of two sisters who were abused and she doesn't know if the courts will see her as a better parent than their birth mother who is about to be released from jail. Also, Lamb successfully speaks in the voice of a teen with Asperger's disease. He is Olivia's nephew Kyle and he lovable though quite different. This book has several subplots just like the treasured cookbook is filled with snippets of their ancestor's lives. Many things have to be resolved before there is a peaceable denouncement. Read this Montana woman's story and see how her handsome cowboy, Jace helps her put the pieces back together again!
Measure. Mix. Stir. Whip. Bake. Sometimes all you need is a little Martindale Cake Therapy. Or maybe I just heard that from Ruthie. She tends to stay up late, cleaning her gun. Did you hear she has a boyfriend? Younger than her too! Cathy Lamb has hit it out of the park with this one. No Place I’d Rather Be is a fantastically wonderful story of love lost, love found, and coming home. Olivia returning from Portland with her two girls in tow, I have not connected with a mother in a long time as I have with Olivia in this book. The way your heart can ache for a child because you only want what is best for them, you want them to have a good life. You want to protect them at all costs. This theme runs rampant through the entire book though, not just with Olivia. It is clear that her sister Chloe, mother Mary Beth and grandmother Gisela, and even Jace, have a love and devotion so strong, they would do anything for family. They are a strong group of Montana women, those Martindale girls. They heal the sick, fix the bones, bake the cakes and love with all they have. From Russia, to Germany, to England, Portland and Montana, this book will fill your heart. But not your stomach, actually, it will just remind you of how hungry you are. You probably will need a Carefree Coconut Chocolate Cake. Or perhaps a Feminist Fun Caramel and Chocolate with pecans? I think I might prefer a Kick Ass Carrot Cake. It fits the theme of the book, after all. This just might be my favorite Cathy Lamb book yet. Well, done Cathy. You kicked some ass. (Chloe would be proud). I received an advance review copy of this book from the Great Thought's Ninja Review Team. All opinions are my own.
“There’s No Place Like Home” Olivia Martindale’s back in her hometown after a two-year absence. Her arrival is not an ordinary one—especially driving in a blizzard, complete with an icy roadway, with two little girls in tow. Rescued? Certainly—by a hunky gentleman named Jace Rivera, who also has played a major role in Olivia’s life. Just as in other small towns and villages, news travels fast, whether it is correct or not. Where would we be without our family members? Olivia is no different. I must interject here that I love the Author’s Characters. She paints them in words and actions so vividly, that you would swear you know them, or someone very much like them in your own town. Olivia’s well-respected Grandmother, Mrs. Gisela, dispenses common sense along with herbal remedies and a dash or so of love. Olivia’s Mother, Dr. Mary Beth Martindale, heals the infirmed with a sharp tongue as well as a sharp mind and keen eye—no one tussles with Dr. Martindale’s diagnosis or procedures. Olivia’s Sister Chloe is fearless in her day-to-day occupations as Paramedic, and sometimes, search and rescue Helicopter Pilot. But, Beneath her buxom figure lives a woman yearning for a good man—not that there will ever be as wonderful a man as her Husband, the late Teddy Razolli, who completed the brave duo to a T. As crazy as I am about Mrs. Gisela, it is Chloe’s Son, Kyle who really steals my heart—a victim of Asperger’s, he has a heart of gold and amazing talents that help him navigate through the roughest waters of life. I’d love to pat him on the back three times, anytime. When Olivia stumbles on an attic box full of precious memories, they also bring with them a lifetime full of questions, sadness and strength. Will the truth ever be revealed? Will the answers make a difference to the future of others? Why, when they obviously love each other, don’t Olivia and Jace reconcile? Will Olivia be allowed to adopt Lucy and Stephi? Or, is there an evil force lurking around to destroy a happy family union? The lessons revealed will tug at your heart, and have you gasping, crying, laughing, and, ultimately, cheering. I have previously loved Ms. Lamb’s books and this one is no exception. Every little town seems to have some variety of “Larry’s Diner”—be it good or bad. The only thing I wish could be different is the book’s cover—perhaps with a striking red door and a window box filled to overflowing with red geraniums? You understand their meaning when you read the book. Save some room on your bookshelf for a trip to Kalulell, Montana—You won’t be disappointed! Nancy L. Narma
Emotions run high in this wonderful story. Family, friendship, secrets, truths, and second chances are all front and center in this one. Events of the past will definitely shape the future of all the characters. Olivia Martindale left Montana and her husband two years ago. It seemed the best thing to do at the time. Now she's back for a time to help her almost adopted daughter. While home she comes upon a family recipe book. The book will become much more than family recipes and keepsakes as Olivia decides to make each of the recipes. Going through the book and recipes proves to be a healing power for Olivia. A great story that will take you on a memorable journey. I highly recommend this one.
MY REVIEW OF " NO PLACE I'D RATHER BE" by Cathy Lamb Kudos to Cathy Lamb, author of "No Place I'd Rather Be" for writing such a descriptive and intriguing story of family, life, and love. The recipe of family and love, is based on an old family cookbook, where the ingredients include, history, secrets, tears, blood, sweat, tradition, faith, despair and hope. Symbolically this recently found cookbook registers several generations of family that have recorded struggles to survive under adverse circumstance. Family pictures and drawings and special recipes for favorite family foods are written in this book. The genres for this book are fiction, historical fiction and a dash of romance. The timeline for this story is mostly in the present with visits to the past to explain the times and characters. Cathy Lamb describes the characters as complex and complicated. Olivia Martindale, famous chef returns home to her family in Montana. Olivia is accompanied by two young girls, sisters, that she hopes to adopt. The girls come from an abusive mother and father, and Olivia wants them to provide them with a safe home full of love and safety. I really like Olivia's family. Olivia's grandmother holds many secrets, but is the voice of reason. Olivia's mother is a physician, who tells it like it is. She "shoots" from the hip. Olivia's sisteris courageous, quirky and fun. I especially like Kyle, Olivia's nephew, that has a big heart. When the family is upset, they bake and cook, and whip up intriguing creations. Cooking and the newly discovered cookbook helps to bring the family together. It is difficult for Olivia to come home to Montana. She has been separated from her husband Jake. Olivia has secrets of her own. I appreciate that Cathy Lamb brings up historical references to the persecution of minorities. The author also discusses issues such as bullying, drug abuse, mental illness, autism and children on the spectrum. I love that Cathy Lamb describes family, love, hope and faith. I would highly recommend this novel as a captivating and enjoyable layered story. I received an advance review copy from NetGalley and the Great Thoughts Ninja Review team for my honest review.
Having collected family history, snippets and recipes then put them onto a CD to disperse to family I was eager to read this story. This book does tell the history of a long line of brave women who shared down through the years one book in which they preserved not only recipes but so much more. Tucked away and found decades later then cooked from by those remaining in the current era the recipes brought back missing memories and tastes of the past for the woman who hid it away so many years before. As the recipes were made and talked about so were the people from the past and their histories. Olivia returns home to Montana with two young once abused foster daughters looking for security that she turned her back on two years before. She still loves her husband but feels that they have a problem too big to deal with - I have to say I felt she was a bit immature in her behavior and couldn’t really understand why perfect Jace waited for her so long. Olivia’s grandmother who tucked the cookbook away with other items was strong, serene and a healer with much pain in her past. Olivia’s mother was a physician that was outspoken and blunt (where did her personality come from?) and Olivia’s sister was almost a caricature with superhuman abilities in her overlarge frame and outspoken voice. Kyle with Asperger’s was a wonderful young man that I wished the best for. The family interactions were interesting, the little girls precious, the romance drawn out then it seems time had to be made up for and I am not sure why but at times I felt the book was a bit preachy or teachy…not much…just sometimes. Anyway, this book had many topics discussed within it: abuse, war, racism, bigotry, bullying, natural healing, mental illness, family, loss, cooking, misogyny, harassment…and more. All in all it is a feel good book with a happy ending for all but. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC – this is my honest review.