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The All You Can Dream Buffet    by Barbara O'Neal order for
All You Can Dream Buffet
by Barbara O'Neal
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2014 (2014)
Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Barbara O'Neal's The All You Can Dream Buffet is the ultimate comfort read (spiced with enticing recipes, including many for comfort food). It centers around Lavender Honey Farms, owned by blogger/foodie personality Lavender Wills, who has led a full and rich life and now sees its end approaching.

What she needs now is to identify someone to carry on her legacy of 'Lavender and honey, fresh eggs and fine wool.' She built the business from scratch, helped at first by a beloved nephew, whose death left her distraught. Her two surviving nephews have 'no love of the land' and would simply sell up. Lavender has befriended three fellow foodies online. They are all possible heirs, so she invites them to join her at Lavender Honey Farms, so that the Foodie Four can celebrate her eighty-fifth birthday.

Freckle-faced Ginny is a cake baker in Kansas, who has garnered a significant online following for her recipes and spectacular photographs. Unfortunately her newfound fame has lost her local friendships and resulted in criticism from family and her complacent husband. Ginny is not happy in her marriage. Though her mother considers Matthew a good catch, they haven't had sex in twelve years! So Ginny packs up and sets out in her Jeep and Airstream trailer for Oregon, accompanied by her dog Willow. She has quite the adventures en route, including encounters with trucker Jack, with whom she feels an instant connection.

Ruby has a broken heart. She lived with Liam, who loved her fiercely for six years. He suddenly ditched her for another woman, but a final encounter left her pregnant with Liam's child. Though Ruby is a Polyanna personality, she's hurting badly. But when she arrives chez Lavender, she acquires a darling kitten she names Ninja Girl, and gradually falls for Lavender's alluring manager Noah, who's followed by the ghosts of his 'three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan'.

Val suffered a terrible tragedy, losing her husband and two daughters two years before. Now she and her surviving daughter Hannah are trying to make sense of their lives, but Hannah will not talk of those they have lost. Their journeys to Lavender Honey Farms, and the time they spend there, gives each of these women what she needs most.

The All You Can Dream Buffet is a charming tale of food, friendship, endings and new beginnings, and freedom from all that stops one from being true to oneself. If you're in need of the comfort read, this is the one.

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