Lacey Hathaway has it all — a job she loves as a local radio DJ, a home with her adored, eccentric aunt and, best of all, a community after a childhood traveling with her musical parents. So what if her life is a little too safe? Marietta is everything to Lacey. Not only is she helping to organize the Bachelor Bake-Off and filming a documentary about the process, she’s also volunteered her brother as a Bachelor. But, when her brother backs out, Lacey has to find a last-minute replacement. And who better than her aunt’s lodger, gorgeous – if taciturn – Zac Malone?

Zac’s not exactly community-minded. In fact, he makes it clear that the sooner he’s out of Marietta the better. But when Lacey persuades him of the powerful impact the Bake-Off funds will have on local children, he decides to give it a go. On one condition. If he has to learn to bake, so does disaster-in-the-kitchen Lacey. Desserts aren’t the only thing heating up, and as the attraction flares and Zac makes plans to leave, Lacey’s beginning to realize that maybe there is a world beyond Marietta’s borders after all… if she’s brave enough to take that step.

Titles in the Bachelor Bake-Off series include:  A Teaspoon of Trouble by Shirley Jump – A Spoonful of Sugar by Kate Hardy – Sprinkled with Love by Jennifer Faye – Baking For Keeps by Jessica Gilmore – A Recipe For Romance by Laura Van Hulzen

Title:  Baking For Keeps
Series:  Bachelor Bake-Off #4
Author:  Jessica Gilmore
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Published:  February 28, 2017
Publisher:  Tule Publishing
My Rating:  4.5 stars

I happen to love the time of year when we’re once again introduced to some handsome bachelors in Marietta, Montana and are allowed into their romantic moments.  Baking For Keeps brings us an unusual couple.  Two travelers at different times in their lives.  One who prefers the road filled with people and familiar places.  The other is running from the past and believes that there is only one person to trust, themselves.  Both are somewhat broken, neither truly realizes that fact or at least acknowledges it.  But one chance business trip, one no-show brother, the magic that can only be called Marietta and a lighthearted baking competition for a good cause will shake up the balance for Zac and Lacey.  Now we simply have to see on what side the scales will tip.

I liked Zac and Lacey.  One standoffish man who needs no other person to be close to will find himself smack in the middle of a town that knows no stranger, a family that is as warm, and down to earth as the delicious creations that come from their kitchen.  Zac is a nomad, moving from place to place for his business.  This time, as the owner, he had to step in and do a project himself.  He may be back in a small town that brings back painful memories, but that doesn’t mean he has to take part in any of it.  Lacey has found her place in Marietta.  After a childhood of the nomadic life traveling with her family of musicians, she’s content with her  job at the radio station and her home with the aunts.  As we spend more time with Zac and Lacey we’ll begin to see the cracks in their beliefs of being perfectly content as they are.  As Zac begins to loosen up his intense desire for alone-ness, Lacey will start to realize that she’s floating, waiting for something that will magically appear without any effort or participation on her part.  Their attraction to each other is a slow awakening to possibilities, but the risks are huge – they have to decide if loving someone else is worth the risk, because there is no guarantee in life but the journey can be sweeter with the right person at your side.

The “Marietta Universe” has become so defined now, that most of us who live in that small town (through the numerous series) can feel quite protective of it.  A story set in Marietta has some living up to that cannot be denied..  I was…impressed… with Ms Gilmore’s first entrance into Marietta.  She got the feel of the town, the sense of community, the small nuances that – well, matter, to a long time reader.  I certainly hope she makes a return visit there very soon for I love when an author “gets” an established community and slides right in like an old comfortable front porch swing.  I admit that I’ve read some stories set in Marietta that did not have that feel, at all… and that always saddens me a bit.  Those are compliments within that paragraph *grin* and I really hope to be reading more of Jessica Gilmore’s works in the near future.

I would recommend Baking For Keeps to any Romance reader who loves a good story, believable characters and a secondary character cast that pull it all together in a natural way.

*I received an e-ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley. That does not change what I think of this story. It is my choice to leave a review giving my personal opinion about this book.*

Available for the Kindle