Estranged from her family, Camilla Fetherwell now lives in the United States and owns a successful catering business. Returning to England for her father's funeral, she reunites with her first love, Billy, whom she hasn't seen since her father broke up their teenage romance. Billy seems eager to resume their love affair. But after one blissful night together, things take a turn.
Camilla suspects her father may have led a secret life, and when Billy reveals something he, too, has discovered, her apprehension grows. Billy holds her heart, but their relationship might be tainted by her father's hidden life. A reunion seems impossible.
Her life feels as splattered as her catering apron. As she watches her food stylist make a strawberry look luscious with a swipe of lipstick, Camilla wonders if a gloss has been put over a family secret? Can she and Billy survive what's underneath?
Margaret Ann Spence writes about women, the choices they make, and what happens next.
An avid baker and much less successful organic gardener, she draws on the mishaps and joys of these pursuits within the family mysteries unwrapped in her novels, Joyous Lies and Lipstick on the Strawberry.
Lipstick on the Strawberry won the Romantic Elements Category in the First Coast Romance Writers 2015 Beacon Contest. The novel was a finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Award and in the 2019 Next Generation Indie Awards.
Margaret’s second novel, Joyous Lies, released February 15, 2021.
A sophisticated romance with depth and emotional power.
A food photographer puts lipstick on a strawberry in order to make it gleam deliciously, if deceptively. The main character in this excellent novel is a divorced caterer, Camilla, a Brit who’s set up shop in Boston, so the title works for her role. But it is also the perfect metaphor for the intertwined themes of this book. Not everything is as it first appears. What’s hiding underneath the respectable cover might be a painful secret. Then again, strawberries in their unadorned state are quite delicious, so lift the lipstick and you might find exactly what you most desire. There’s plenty of tasteful desire in this book, along with smart, complicated family dynamics and the realistic push and pull between human beings who love each other, siblings, parents and children, and, not surprisingly, lovers. There are so many layers to this tale, you’ll stay glued. There is so much that’s smart and graceful about this book, you’ll stay alive and engrossed.
Spence’s language is a constant pleasure. Camilla carries her love of food into her way of seeing the world. People are often described as like this or that vivid edible. When Camilla looks at her sister Tilda and herself, she thinks, “We both had hair the color of tea. Mine was a darker English Breakfast while Tilda’s reminded me of Orange Pekoe.” Pay attention to that orange tinge, it matters. This is a tightly written, masterful piece with nothing wasted. Early in the novel, after Camilla has met a handsome artist with whom she discovers an immediate attraction that she does not express, she captures that glorious, confused feeling with this look out a window: “I could see the ships at rest in the harbor. It was a still day, so still that for a second the harbor below looked like a painting by Canaletto, the passers-by little figures marching across the composition, not quite like a camera’s image but placed just so by the artist’s sense of rightness. Then the feeling was gone, and I heard the noise of the city, muted by the water, pulling me back to the everyday world.”
It’s hard not to love a novel that sets its arc before you with this twist of humor, irony and insight: “It was an amazing coincidence, it occurred to me now. I was rolling pastry when I met my first lover, and I was rolling pastry when my father died. Not that anyone could anticipate that bashing a piece of dough with a wooden cylinder would change your life. You trudge or hurtle through the days, depending on your mood, and you can’t possibly know what ordinary actions signify until much later, when the pie is baked and the four and twenty blackbirds fly up to the sky.”
Dip into Margaret Spence’s Lipstick on the Strawberry and discover a delicious read.
With a rich caste of characters and a family secret to uncover, Lipstick on the Strawberry makes for a delectable read. Just when Boston caterer, Camilla Fetherwell, thinks she's got her business up and running, she must return to England for her father's funeral. An old flame, a problematic sister, and a disturbing family secret make Camilla's journey home much more than she'd bargained for. Camilla wants to hold onto the life and identity she has built for herself in Boston. But, she feels the pull of the familiar once she's back on her home turf. With a strong female protagonist, two love interests, and the unsolved mystery of why her parents were the way they were, this novel has plenty to offer those who like vivid characterizations, unexpected plot twists, and psychological depth. I truly cared about Camilla and hoped that she could get her life sorted out.
Camilla runs a catering company in Boston and returns home to England after the death of her father. Filled with regret over not visiting, she's helping her sister empty out his house to put it up for sale, while dealing with her own trials and tribulations (problems at work, potentially unrequited love, loss, regrets) in LIPSTICK ON THE STRAWBERRY by Margaret Ann Spence.
Likes: The seamless blending of food into the story. I've read other stories where authors incorporated the H/h passions/hobbies/jobs into the story but this one was incredibly well done. Everything from how the food looked to prep to set up and staff made me feel as if I was in the room as it was happening.
Dislikes: It's difficult to explain this without giving away a spoiler, but I will try. Also, I will add that this is entirely my opinion and others may feel differently about it. That said, as you've read from the summary, there's a bit of a mystery in the family that Camille is anxious to solve. While I can appreciate the drama and the suspense over what was happening, I kept asking myself why it was such a big deal. Camille's hysteria came across as too over the top and dated. I was under the assumption that the story took place around now, in which case, I've no idea why any of it was so scandalous to her.
Overall, this is a good story. It's well-written. The emotion and drama is expressed well and I found it to be a page-turner but at the same time, I found myself growing impatient and the happily ever after was cause for much relief. I did enjoy Ms. Spence's writing style and I'm interested in checking out some of her other work.
This review was originally posted on The Romance Reviews.
Lipstick on the Strawberry is a great romance mystery, starts off with devastating news of death in the family for Camilla. Camilla runs a catering company in Boston but returns home to England after the death of her father. While filled with guilt of not visiting sooner she helps her older sister go through his belongings before putting things up for sale . But all the while dealing with the lose of her father Camilla has to deal with troubles of her own.
It seems that the death of her father has set off an unwanted string of events and unveiling of troubling times. Her complicated love life is full of questions and is only one part of her complicated issues at hand. Camilla discovers things that could tear her entire family apart, not to mention her already rocky love life. While trying to be in two places at once Camilla is torn at finding the truth about her family, and more importantly finding herself .
Love, Loss, regrets, Camilla has been through enough and with an ex showing up things don’t seem to be anymore complicated. Will things settle down and smooth out over time? Or will the truth ruin the lives of all involved? You’ll have to read Lipstick on the Strawberry to find out!
A heartwarming story, though at times it really grips at your heart in other ways. The characters are very well written and there’s a wonderful flow to the story. Great read! I’m looking forward to more books by Margaret Ann Spence!
Delectable Depiction of Love, Food, and Family Secrets
Caterer Camilla Fetherwell can’t find happiness until she solves the mystery of her family’s secrets. Struggling to build her catering business in Boston, she returns to her English homeland when her father dies. She soon discovers that this seemingly virtuous man kept secrets from his family. Camilla’s discoveries threaten her relationship with a long lost love. She must get her family to face the truth before she can be happy.
This novel will please readers who enjoy a detailed exploration of personal and family relationships. Characters are sharply drawn and come to life through their actions and words. This book will also please those who want to hear about life in the catering world and in English families. Finally, since Camilla is a caterer, the author enriches the reading experiences with savory descriptions of meals and food preparation.
Anyone who looks at the cover of this book may think it’s a sweet romance. Or, the title may give them the impression it’s a little steamy. They’d be wrong. This book is so much more than expected. When someone dies with a secret that affects others, untangling that secret may become complicated. In this story, as in real life, it seems that one deception leads to another. The author conveys this in a way that will surprise you rather than confuse you. You become involved in the drama and not able to stop reading until you find the truth. Ms. Spence also did a wonderful job developing her characters – flaws and all. There’s a great secondary story that fills out the main character, Camilla, without distracting from the main plot. To sum it up – this could happen in any family, it’s that realistic. But I hope it never happens in mine. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters in a sequel. Perhaps what happens next for Camilla’s sister or Rachael?
This book is an absolute pleasure to read. The characters are three dimensional and flawed in ways that are both realistic and sometimes frustrating. All the better to advance the plot, and what a wonderful plot it is.
We follow divorced British caterer Camilla Fetherwell as she grows her business in Boston, navigates family issues in Great Britain, and finds what? Love perhaps? On both sides of the Atlantic. Throw in a mysterious young woman who may hold the answers to a decades old mystery, and you've got the recipe (pun intended) for a page turner.
The relationships in this novel are handled with finesse, and the settings are described so beautifully you can imagine sitting down for a cup of tea or admiring an English garden.
This book is beautifully written and deeply satisfying. As a bonus it contains some of Camilla's favorite recipes.
**ARC received from the author, publisher, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
It was a very well-written novel that presented characters and their struggles well. The two settings (Boston and England) were well-described and contrasted too, as well as the attitudes of the chracters who resided in each place.
My issue with the book, that took away one star from the rating are the many loose ends and unresolved issues by the end that kept me a bit wanting and unsatisfied. For all of the main character's obsession about other little things, how could she let a business-altering offense go? What of the good characters she left behind? And many other similar feelings and questions are left behind in my mind.
It's still worth a read though, and doesn't take away from it being a good read.
Spence gives us a full reading experience touching on a variety of themes: the life of an ex-patriot, family secrets, the lasting impact of first love, the orphaned feeling of losing parents even as an adult, rebuilding a life after divorce. All are expertly woven together and made all the more delicious by the main character's love of cooking. Spence provides sensual details of the meals served as family drama unfolds. While a dalliance and a deeper romantic love play out, the book has more depth than a mere romance. It touches on so many passages in life that it resonates after the last page is turned. Plus I'll never look at food photos the same way again. Lipstick on the Strawberry is a perfect title for a book about the illusions we create to get through life.
This tale of two "children" who have grown into adults and now live an ocean apart... twists and turns many times as the characters are developed. The families of these two people are intertwined... which adds to the mystery to be solved. Acceptance and rejection come and go... as do relationships in the tale. The reader can almost taste the wonderful creations made by the caterer...mmmmmmmm! So many convoluted relationships... enjoy this delightful tale and its intricasies... you'll be glad you did!
Delightful, perceptive but easy and entertaining read. Well-observed amusing commentaries on two nations divided by a common language. Likeable but flawed characters - what else could one ask of a novel? Well... recipes apparently. The details of the trials and damn hard work of an outside caterer were engaging and I loved the detail of the cooking processes. Spence has created an enjoyable read, and had much to recommend it.
What a story Camilla Fetherwell has a lot of things that she has to overcome. The characters in this book make you see that all families have some quirks that must be met with a lot of patience and understanding. This book makes you feel like you are right there watching it unfold. This is a new Author who I will be following to see what other books she does. I received a copy of this book and I am voluntarily reviewing it
Fun and entertaining read about a young woman, divorced, estranged from her father, and struggling owner of a catering business. There's a love triangle, a family secret, a twist on DNA results, and a genuine love story.