Whatever made us think that a catering business had anything to do with producing food?” asks the exasperated heroine of Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather. Cathy Scarlet and her partner Tom Feather had wanted to open their own catering firm ever since they attended college together. When the perfect location finally becomes available at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, they jump straight into renovations, ignoring the owner’s mysterious eagerness to sell. But as they soon learn, chasing a dream demands far more than just cream puffs and canapés. In the months that follow, Tom and Cathy weather the ups and downs of founding a small business, soothe many a client’s fragile ego, plan and pull off a fairy-tale wedding, minister to two of the most appealingly waifish children this side of Dickens, and generally work themselves to the bone–all the while producing some of the most exquisite food Dublin has ever seen.
Binchy is a master spinner of tales, the kind of storyteller who captures the rich tapestry of relationships at work in even the most ordinary of lives. Tom and Cathy come surrounded by a cast of characters as skillfully drawn as themselves: Neil, Cathy’s activist-lawyer-husband, who’s so busy worrying about the world’s problems that he sometimes forgets to worry about his own; beautiful Marcella, Tom’s girlfriend, who wants to be a top model more than anything else; and most endearingly of all, Maud and Simon, Neil’s neglected 8-year-old cousins, who prove equally talented at wreaking havoc and asking awkward questions. Stir in a full complement of clients, family, friends, and enemies, and you have the makings of a bestseller that’s very busy and very Binchy. Tom and Cathy’s work, after all, is not so different from that of the novelist herself. Like writers, they stage-manage some of the most important events in people’s lives, from weddings and funerals to romances and reunions. Before the year is out, Tom, Cathy, Neil, and Marcella will find themselves changed forever–and Binchy fans will have fallen in love with yet another of her fully realized worlds. –Chloe Byrne
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