Jan 2010. 385 p. Bantam, paperback, $15.00. (9780553385526).
Tessa Harlow is on the move again. A travel guide, she’s lived all over the world since she was a child, following Renaissance Faires with her hippie father; but after an accident in a Montana river, she’s been sidelined. When she decides it’s once again time to move, she heads to a small northern New Mexico town called Los Ladrones. The small town is being revived, thanks to the tourists, and she’s testing the waters for work, visiting hotels, restaurants, and churches; but in doing so, she uncovers multiple secrets. Many years ago, she and her father lived on a commune outside of Los Ladrones, now an organic farm, with many of the same residents who now seem to know something she doesn’t. The farm raises more questions than it answers about her family, and memories of something tragic and long buried in her subconscious are resurfacing and cannot be ignored. O’Neal has created a powerful and intriguing story rich in detailed and vivid descriptions of the Southwest.
— Hilary Hatton
from Romantic Times
THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING
4 1/2 stars
Readers will identify with this story and the multilayered characters as the
themes of home, family, love and food have a strong emotional resonance.
With the vibrant and colorful descriptions, you’ll easily be absorbed into
the sights and sounds of Los Ladrones, N.M. And with some of the
tantalizing recipes for dishes served at the 100 Breakfasts cafe included,
O’Neal provides a feast not only for the imagination but the taste buds as
Summary: After a peripatetic childhood and several years leading
adventurous vacation tours around the world, Tessa Harlow tells people she’s
from everywhere but has never felt truly at home anywhere. After a horrific
accident on one of her trips, she decides to take a break and go searching
for her past. This takes her to the mountains of Los Ladrones, where she
spent time as a child. It’s now a draw for the hip and wealthy with its
wonderful restaurants and local art scene. Tessa doesn’t know it, but once
she steps into 100 Breakfasts, the most exciting adventure of her life is
about to begin. (Bantam, Jan., 400 pgs, $15.00)
from Fresh Fiction
Tessa Harlow never thought of Los Ladrones, New Mexico as a hiking tour destination. At least not until her last tour ended in an unfortunate accident. A similar accident at the age of four had erased all her early childhood memories, but this recent accident is bringing them back in broken bits and pieces. Tessa needs to make peace with the loss of life in this unfortunate accident and also peace with her past.
Tessa works as a tour guide for Rambling Tours, based in California. Currently, she is recuperating at her dad’s place in Santa Cruz from s broken arm and a nasty spider bite. However, she is antsy to get back out there to lead tours and comes up with an idea for a tour trip to Los Ladrones. She pitches this to her boss, and he sends her out for a week to investigate the possibilities. Tessa has another agenda in mind, as well.
Tessa was born in a commune near Los Ladrones in the early 1970s, during the hippie generation. She only knows what her dad, Sam, has told her about her life before she almost drowned in a river there. She wants to piece together the small glimpses that are coming back to her and maybe learn more about her years there.
One of the first people she meets in Los Ladrones is Vince Grasso. He does firefighting/search and rescue by trade. There are instant sparks between the two and they both want to see and explore more of each other. However, Vince is a widower with three little children and has issues of his own.
As Tessa explores the area, she also explores her past. She feels if she doesn’t know where she has been, she won’t know where she is headed in the future. Her dad is not encouraging her, telling her there are evil spirits in Los Ladrones. He also admonishes her to look forward, not back. But she learns there are many secrets here, secrets in which her life are intertwined.
You’ll enjoying exploring the past with Tessa and learning the many secrets that unfold. Barbara O’Neal has masterfully woven local culture, the beauty of nature, her love of food and restaurants, and a little romance into this magnificent novel. And there is a bonus — many fantastic recipes are sprinkled throughout its pages.
from Publishers Weekly
Tessa Harlow returns home to her father and her birthplace, Las Ladronas, N.Mex., after a traumatic accident. There she meets Vince, a single father with three high-spirited girls. Vince and Tessa soon become lovers, but know they can’t have anything more permanent, because as Tessa tells him, she’s a “wanderer.” Also, as Tessa snoops into town history, she uncovers secrets that call into question everything she thinks she knows about her parents. Too many interlinking plots and convenient resolutions temper the firm grasp O’Neal (The Lost Recipe for Happiness) has of the spiritual Southwest. In her favor is a talent for persuasively portraying men, women and children and a definite reverence for cooking. So while the contrived climax may annoy, the recipes and the depth of the characters will please. (Jan.)