Title: The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
Length: 402 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs—Barbara O’Neal’s new novel of food, friendship, and the freedom to grow your dreams brings together four very different women longing to savor the true taste of happiness.
Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?
There’s Ginny, the freckle-faced Kansas cake baker whose online writing is about to lead her out of a broken marriage and into a world of sensual delights. And Ruby, young, pregnant, devoted to the organic movement, who’s looking for roots—and the perfect recipe to heal a shattered heart. Finally, Val, smart and sophisticated, a wine enthusiast who needs a fresh start for her teenage daughter after tragedy has rocked their lives. Coming together will change the Foodie Four in ways they could never have imagined, uniting them in love and a common purpose. As they realize that life doesn’t always offer a perfect recipe for happiness, they also discover that the moments worth savoring are flavored with some tears, a few surprises, and generous helping of joy.
The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal is a beautiful novel of friendship, new beginnings and love. It is a poignant yet uplifting story about group of women bloggers (the Foodie Four) who connect on line through their different blogs and form a close friendship despite their differences in ages and locations.
The oldest of the Foodie Four, Lavender has lived a full life and returned to the family farm after living an exciting life as a stewardess. The youngest of the group, Ruby, is delighted with her unexpected pregnancy, but she is broken hearted over her recent breakup. Middle-aged Ginny revels in her newfound freedom as she breaks away from her small hometown and unhappy marriage. Val and her daughter Hannah are struggling to overcome the unrelenting grief of their tragic loss. At a turning point in each of their lives, the trip to Lavender Honey Farms becomes a life-altering journey for each of the women.
While the novel touches briefly on Lavender and Val, the story focuses mainly on Ruby and Ginny. Ruby is a vivacious young woman with a sunny disposition who has endured her fair share of difficulties. Stunned by the end of her six year relationship, she is at loose ends when she arrives at Lavender’s. Upbeat and positive, Ruby is struggling to figure out what her next step should be and she is surprised by how much she likes life on the farm. Equally surprising is the easy friendship she finds with Noah, a former soldier who now manages Lavender Honey Farms.
Ginny has let her fears and other people’s expectations control her fate up to this point but once she decides to go to Lavender’s, she does not let anything stand in her way. She discovers a whole new world outside of Kansas and although she has a few mishaps only the way, she revels in her new-found freedom. While Ginny has never considered leaving her husband, the distance from her everyday life and an unexpected attraction to a man she meets on her journey provide her with some much needed clarity and she is finally ready to take control of her life.
There is a wonderful feeling of camaraderie once everyone gathers at Lavender’s. They exchange confidences without fear of being judged for their decisions, offer advice when asked and cheer one another as they face their futures. The women are incredibly supportive of one another and their scenes are warm and cozy.
Barbara O’Neal celebrates all phases of life in The All You Can Dream Buffet. The characters are richly developed, the plot is realistic and the landscape springs vividly to life. The diversity of ages and backgrounds adds depth to the overall storyline and offers readers of all ages someone to relate to. A vibrant, engaging story with just a hint of whimsy that will delight anyone who enjoys contemporary novels.