Feb 27 2014 5:30pm

First Look: Barbara O’Neal’s All You Can Dream Buffet (March 4, 2014)

Barbara O'Neal
All You Can Dream Buffet
Random House / March 4, 2014 / $15.00 print / $7.99 digital

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.

Barbara O’Neal has a way with telling heartfelt stories, and she continues this successful trend in her newest release. Plus the women in this book are such unique individuals. But what kept me turning the pages was the need to know the rest of the story.

Lavender doesn’t feel in ill health, but she knows that there is season for everyone. But after she sees the vision of her deceased best friend she wonders if her time on earth is coming to a close:

It was only as she turned the last corner that she saw Ginger near the beehives, her long red hair loose over her shoulders, her face young and remarkably beautiful again. It was the first time Lavender had seen this particular ghost, her friend of nearly sixty years, who had died last year in Carmel.

With this feeling, Lavender realizes that she needs to make plans to protect Lavender Honey Farms from her indifferent nephews, who have no love for the land. She has the perfect manager:

“He’ll ruin it, Noah, every bit of it. He’ll just turn it into another Wade Markum Enterprise, and everything I’ve been working for all this time will be lost.”

“You keep telling me this, but I’m not sure what you want me to do. Sell it now. Rewrite your will.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You’re the one I want.”

“No can do,” he said, shaking his head. “Sorry.”

So Lavender turns to her fellow bloggers.

Ginny wanted to go out in the world but found herself pregnant, and then married almost right out of high school. While she followed the traditional path, she refused to just be a wife and mother, and found a job outside the home in a grocery store bakery. She also found the gumption to start her own blog, Cake of Dreams, but kept it secret. With over 60,000 followers, she caught the attention of Martha Stewart Living, and that article ousted her. Instead of being proud of her, most of her many of her family and friends either ignore her now or ridicule her accomplishments. It is their attitude that finally gives her the courage to travel outside Dead Gulch, Kansas.

“I’m going,” she said to Matthew. “And I’m going alone. There’s a fresh pot of coffee, and I’ll have my cell phone so you can call me.”

He stared hard at her, visibly trembling. “If you walk out that door, Ginny, don’t come back.”

“Don’t say things you don’t mean.”

“Oh, I mean it. You’ve made me a laughingstock in this town. Mr. Cake. The husband of the famous blogger. I’ve been patient, but this going too far. Not one of my friends can understand why I’m letting you go.”

“You’re not letting me, because I don’t have to ask permission! We’ve never had that kind of marriage.”

. . . “Is this about the sex, Ginny?”

Ruby Zarlingo learned the true meaning of grit and resilience after she developed leukemia and her mother left, unable to handle having a sick child. Now at twenty six, she finds herself single and pregnant:

Nine months ago, he had announced out of nowhere that he was leaving. He moved out of their apartment into the apartment of another woman. Ruby had been absolutely shell-shocked. It made no sense. It was anti-sense. He’d had no inkling whatsoever. . .

She’d been a nutcase, sure there was some mistake, that he could come to his senses, that something was playing out on a karmic level, maybe, and he’d come back. They were working together still, and he sometimes seemed as if he could not resist her—taking her in the walk-in, fiercely, or as if he was angry.

And it was in anger that her baby was conceived, but no matter how the baby was conceived, it is Ruby’s own miracle, especially since she was told she couldn’t get pregnant.

And with her pending motherhood, she can’t help spying on her mother via Google maps and Zillow:

Ruby was not actually a stalker, however, because the house belonged to her mother. Or, rather to her mother’s husband because her mother was a stay-at-home mom to three soccer-playing kids, two girls and a boy, the youngest. She drove a minivan, which was sometimes parked in the driveway in the photos. Once electrifyingly, the satellite photo had captured Cammy herself, in lean blond perfection, carrying groceries into the house. The picture was so detailed that Ruby could read the Whole Food Market logo on the recyclable grocery bags.

Valerie hadn’t planned on going to Lavender Honey Farms. After her husband and two of her daughters were killed in a small plane crash, she and her remaining daughter have had a difficult time. But the friendship between the women is powerful, and it pulls her there.

Will one of the fellow bloggers take over the farm or will Noah change his mind? Is there a new man for Ruby or will Liam come back? Can Matthew’s and Ginny’s marriage be saved? Can Valerie and her daughter move forward?

Of course you know I am not going to tell. You will want to find out for yourself.


Learn more about or pre-order a copy of All You Can Dream by Barbara O'Neal, available March 4, 2014:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound


Leigh Davis, Blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
I love this author and read eveything she publishes. She makes me cry and laugh and feel along with her characters.
3. Janga
I too love this author's books, whatever name she chooses to use. I read The All You Can Dream Buffet this week and fell in love with the characters and their world--a predictable response to this author.
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