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coffee & ink

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Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years
Annette R. Federico, Sandra M. Gilbert
Annette LaPointe
A Trifle Dead (Café La Femme, #1) - Livia Day pseudonym of Tansy Rayner Roberts

This is a mystery set in Hobart, Tasmania, and a confection as delightful as its name. Tabitha Darling owns a cafe and loves pastries, pretty frocks, and gossip. She does not love the cops who frequent her cafe and complain about how she's eased out traditional greasy spoon fare for really very delicious-sounding fusion fare -- not because they complain, but because they are keeping a close eye on her for the sake of her father, who used to be chief of police, and her mother, who used to make the police commissary a place where the food was actually good. (Dad ran off with a younger woman, and Mom quit and went off to meditate in the country. Tabitha is not happy with Dad.)

She gets entangled in a mystery when a corpse is discovered upstairs in the practice space rented by a band. (She was delivering blue corn muffins. The band's current publicity stunt is eating nothing but blue things for a month.) The mystery is fairly predictable, but the real pleasure of the book is the lively sense of the local Hobart arts and foodie scenes, the soul-calming love of the mountains in the distance, and the small-town intimacy which means Tabitha seems to have dated half the people involved in the case during college. It is also very thoroughly seen through the female gaze, so much so that I sometimes got impatient with Tabitha evaluating the hotness of every guy who walked through the door. Tabitha is clearly attracted to many more people in daily life than I am. Given some of the later developments in the book, I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up trying poly in Book 2.

That's making it sound like this is a book very focused on men, whereas it's a book with lots of relationships between women where the protagonist happens to be very straight. There are indeed queer and non-gender-normative characters. My favorite is probably the granny whose art consistents of obscene pastry, but I am also fond of Tabitha's gorgeous frenemy and her extremely grumpy cafe assistant who makes excellent cappuccino.

This was a quick breezy read that was mounds of fun -- the kind of thing people call beach reads, if they go to the beach, and that is a great distraction from whatever is stressful or even minorly annoying in your life.

Also, I want to eat every dish Tabitha makes in the entire book.