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Apr 12, 2015 MET Books

The Union Street Bakery

The Union Street Bakery

Life can turn on a dime.

It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us…
Stuff happens.

Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters. She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business. Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship. Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters.

Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850s, written by a slave girl named Susie. As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family—and her own heritage—than she ever dreamed. Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her,” she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family.

What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage and desire she thought she lost for good.

Excerpt

Life can turn on a dime. It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us. Stuff happens.

In the light of day, I’ve always been able to acknowledge that life’s really bad curveballs are out of our control. I mean come on, who really wants cancer? Who expects lightning to strike a plane and send it plummeting into the ocean? And ladies, how could we really have known that Mr. Say-All-the-Right-Things was such a schmuck?

Bad things happen to good people. When I’m at the office carving into my to-do list, sharing a joke with friends, or running at a breakneck pace on the treadmill, I understand this concept. I really do.

Ask me those same questions during the darkest time of night when there is nothing to distract me, however, and my answer won’t be as philosophical. Without life’s distracting whirl and buzz, my rational logic quickly surrenders to shadowy emotions that lurk and wait to strike. When alone, the promise of control whispers that happiness is mine for the having only if I work very, very hard. Hold on tight. Run fast. Work hard. Dress right. If I can do everything right then maybe, just maybe, the herd, the clan, friends, coworkers, or whomever, will keep me close.

When I was a kid, this gut feeling translated into socks and lunch boxes. In grade school I believed that if my socks matched my dress, if I carried the right Barbie lunch box, and if I made all A’s, I’d have friends, charm teachers, be a success. I just knew if I could be perfect I’d somehow be more deserving of…love.

This obsession with belonging followed me from grade school through high school, college, and into the professional world. No detail was small enough to be managed. No problems were too insignificant to obsess over. My therapist once said, “Life listens to no master.” Good, sound advice that I really wanted to embrace but never quite managed to.

And so I did what I did best and focused more attention on all the details, no matter how tiny, believing that somehow I would remain a step ahead.

I’d earned a master’s degree in business administration and a Chartered Financial Analyst certificate and quickly established myself as a rising star in a Washington, D.C., money management firm. I also spent wisely and invested in my company stocks. Donated to the SPCA and the United Way. I had friends, a sub-lease on an apartment with sweeping views of Rock Creek Park, and jam-packed purposeful days that left little time for worry or second-guessing. Having done everything right, I fully expected that circumstances would never turn on any damn dime, and my life would not only be filled with love, but that the flock would always embrace me.

And then the chief financial officer of our firm swaggered up to the stock market’s metaphorical poker table holding two of a kind and bet most of the chips. The house, however, held a full house and with its better hand swiped the company winnings off the table. I, along with a few others, suggested that the CFO retrench. Back off. Don’t expose us so much. Unmoved by logic and seemingly imbued with confidence, the CFO raised the bet on the mortgage market. This time he held a straight—better, but not enough to beat the house’s royal flush.

The staggering loss knifed into the firm’s investment accounts, which quickly started hemorrhaging. No matter how hard the investment team and I tried to stop the bleeding, we could not. Soon, clients bailed. The CFO resigned. And finally, in a New Year’s Day panic, the firm’s big boss sold our investment shop to a larger bank, which quickly declared all the members of the investment team obsolete.

One second I was at my desk talking to a client, assuring him that my investments, though battered, remained tied up with the company like his. And in the next, the new CFO had me in his office and was spouting phrases like: This is no reflection of you, Daisy. We respect what you did.… Before I had time to shake off the shock, I had to stumble through a maze of gray cubicles toward the elevators, the buzzing fluorescents mingling with the whispers of coworkers. Tucked under my arm was a single box holding a plant, a framed picture of my parents standing in front of their bakery, a black mug, and my two diplomas. Someone had called out their best wishes to me but I was too stunned and too humiliated to turn. The elevator doors opened and I woodenly stepped into the car. In a blink, the doors closed on the last decade of my life.

Now, as I sat on the edge of the pullout sofa in my parents’ attic room and watched the shadows dance and sway over roughly hewn ceiling beams, I wondered for the hundredth time what I could have done differently to stop the explosion that rocked my life. I had seen the CFO’s moodiness deepen daily and had felt the weight of his stress. I had known something was wrong but had assumed his plight was personal, not professional. I should have pushed through my own worries and spoken to him privately. I should have muzzled my insecurities and demanded to see his trades. I should have stood up on my desk and screamed, Houston, we have a problem!

But I didn’t do any of those things. I kept my head down, basically obsessed over trimming the trees while the forest burned.

“Shit.” I swung my legs over the side of the sofa to the cold wooden floor. My toes curled and my heart drummed faster against my ribs as I stared at the fortress of crates, boxes, and suitcases crammed into the attic room. Beyond the barrier, my road bike leaned against one wall, stacks of books piled high on the floor, and my laptop rested on an old sewing table. All my worldly goods had been wedged into boxes and trash bags and stowed in every available corner.

I dug long fingers through my black hair and then pressed the heels of my hands to my forehead.

Though I might not have always loved my job, I had done it well and it had rewarded me with success and pride. Never had I once thought that the job was me or I was the job. We were two separate entities.

But as I raised my gaze to the moonlight streaming into the room’s single window, I had to concede that the job had wormed into my identity like sprawling ivy vines, which over time, slowly and carefully had burrowed into the mortar, brick, and foundation of my life.

With the job gone, I was left damaged and marked like bricks stripped clean of ivy. I was lost. Adrift. Who the hell was I if I wasn’t Daisy-S-McCrae-vice-president-Suburban Enterprises?

Panic scraped at the back of my head and made my skin crawl. It would be so easy to just scream and cry at the utter futility of this mess. But I’d learned at a very young age that crying never solved anything, nor did it calm the chaos.

“Shit.” I stared at my toes and the chipped red polish from a weeks-old pedicure.

Finance jobs in the area were few and far between in recent months and with each new no, not now, overqualified, under qualified, my sense of helplessness grew. Never in my life had I worked so hard and received so many rejections.

Soon, showers and a clean change of clothes had stopped being an everyday thing. My appetite vanished. I avoided friends and family. I couldn’t seem to untangle the net that had me trapped.

My cell phone, sitting on a makeshift moving box-turned-nightstand, shrilled an alarm that cut through the silence and startled me. I quickly shut off the glaring noise and checked the time. Three twenty-one.

I could barely think or function, and yet it was time to get up. Tears welled up in my throat, and as much as I wanted to pull my sleeping bag over my head and hide, I didn’t. I swallowed. No tears. Daisy McCrae did not cry. How did I get here?

Here was Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. My new—but I have been quick to say, temporary home—was the top floor apartment in my parents’ 120-year-old brick town house. It was the room I’d shared with my sisters as a kid, where I’d played dress up, dreamed of my birth mother, Renee, and traded secrets with imaginary friends. It was ground zero, square one of my life, and I was back.

Oh God.

Dropping back against the lumpy mattress, I did pull the sleeping bag over my head.

Reviews

“This book has mystery, history, a little romance, the paranormal, and a strong family saga. Nothing is over the top. Even the ghosts are just a thread in the pattern. Readers will love Daisy and the McCrae family and be engrossed in both the historical and the present puzzles Daisy and her family must solve. Taylor never takes the simple plot path or gives in to melodrama. The story feels real . . . highly recommended for anyone who loves family stories with intelligence and heart.”
Blogcritics

“Taylor serves up a great mix of vivid setting, history, drama and everyday life in THE UNION STREET BAKERY. Here’s hoping she writes more like it.”
Herald-Sun, Durham, NC

“A superbly written book with emotional issues handled in a sensitive and delicate manner, and a finish with a feel-good ending.”
The Courier, Montgomery County, Texas

“A wonderful story about sisters, family, and the things that matter most. I loved this beautifully written journey of self-discovery.”
Wendy Wax, USA Today bestselling author

“Lots of good character development as Daisy comes to terms with herself and her family, deals with a couple of ghosts, and there are even a few recipes at the end. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.”
Mary Jo Putney, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“I found myself so caught up in this family’s lives and turning the pages late into the night. You will not be able to put this book down until you turn the very last page. As a bonus, Mary Ellen has included some of the recipes from the bakery. I can’t wait to read more by Ms. Taylor.”
Fresh Fiction

“Intrigued me from the very first page! . . . you will not put this book down until you’ve read every last word.”
Night Owl Reviews

“An excellent job of showing how important a family can be and who your real family is. Ms. Taylor . . . makes you care not only about Daisy but about all the family and friends involved . . . I enjoyed reading this book and walking along with Daisy as she grows . . . get a copy and settle in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea or coffee . . . You might also want a pastry. “
Long and Short Reviews

“Interesting and intriguing . . . [a] fast paced story of sisters, family, what really matters, betrayal, faith, healing, and life in general. If you enjoy historical facts, heritage, adoption, family and love you will enjoy “Union Street Bakery”. Modern day story mixed with historical facts, a ghost, mystery and romance brings this story and characters to life. Oh at the back of the book are some Union Street Bakery recipes. Wonderful story!”
My Book Addiction Reviews

“I thought The Union Street Bakery was a marvelous read! If you like ghost stories and history, don’t pass this one up . . . I loved the ending . . . this is a book I highly recommend!”
Chick Lit Plus

“I loved the way [Burton] wove history and modern times together . . . a really fun read, one that’ll have you pulling out your mixing bowl and baking supplies from the pantry.”
The Novel World

“An endearing story that focuses on the essence of family . . . a superb job of painting credible dynamics of sisterly love . . . she has done Old Town Alexandria and the allure of the mighty Potomac River justice . . . Ms. Taylor has managed to create more than an escape or entertaining account for the reader. Rather, she beckons the reader to walk alongside her and listen to the beautiful tale she shares with her strong voice. I look forward to hearing her next story.”
Feathered Quill Book Reviews

“Daisy is dealing her past, her future, and just trying to get through one day at a time. You’ll want to go through this journey with her. This first women’s fiction novel by Richmond area author Mary Ellen Taylor will speak to you with the beauty of the writing, as well as, the story.”
Examiner(Richmond)

“Heartwarming . . . The Union Street Bakery has a unique mystery that is center stage throughout . . . a wonderful story that will pique your interest from the first page and not let go until the last . . . witty dialogue, realistic characters…this is definitely a book that I will recommend to friends and family!” I loved watching Daisy grow and discover just who she is as a person . . . if you are looking for a tender and fantastically written novel Taylor’s book is for you!”
Endless Days of Books

“The title and the cover grabbed me on this one! But the story kept me turning the pages . . . I couldn’t put this one down . . . I loved the cooking/baking in this novel, the family ties, and the mysterious journal . . . The bakery was a lovely character in itself.”
Bookalicious Babe

“It was a quick read, complete with amazing recipes that I cannot wait to try, and characters that were easy to like.”
A Patchwork of Books

“What a great book. I was sneaking in every moment possible to read through this book. Let’s just say a lot of housework was left undone. It was worth it. This is a book to read and recommend to others.”
BookReviewsRUs.com

“I really enjoyed this book from the very first page . . . This story is full of intrigue but really it’s a story about family and what makes a true family. It’s about how some people are just meant to be a part of our lives and they make it so much better. . . If you like a great story about family with a hint of mystery then you will love this book.”
Dive Under the Cover

“I loved the mystery behind the story and I loved how the journal of this slave girl brings Daisy and her sisters closer together . . . the mystery unveiled itself chapter by chapter . . . I was impressed by the culture, history, and historical feel that Taylor was able to bring to these pages.”
Charming Chelsey

“Ideal for the fans of the Karen White , THE UNION STREET BAKERY by the freshest new voice in fiction, Mary Ellen Taylor, is the perfect blend of family drama, historical mystery, romance and the paranormal . . . THE UNION STREET BAKERY is surely not to be missed.”
Dad of Divas Reviews

“This book has elements of intrigue, the supernatural, history and romance . . . Mary Ellen Taylor weaved a wonderful story.”
Collar City Brownstone

“What a magical little gem Taylor has written . . . evoking memories of WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, THE NIGHT KITCHEN and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, Taylor brings us a story that is Southern Gothic Light. Well written and timely . . . the moments between Daisy and her birth mother are heart wrenching . . . a perfect book club read.”
Paperback Dolls

“This was a well-written and extremely interesting story that kept me turning page after page and provided me with both chills and thrills. I never expected what Daisy was soon to find out.”
Book Bag Lady

“Union Street Bakery is a delicious treat to read. I was hooked after the first chapter. The characters are fun, and the mystery and paranormal elements are very believable . . . the author is brilliant in her ability to keep it up beat and easy to understand. I love the way the mystery is opened up little by little . . . I would recommend this to anyone who loves paranormal and mystery.”
Bitten by Paranormal Romance

“The title and the cover grabbed me on this one! But the story kept me turning the pages . . . I couldn’t put this one down . . . I loved the cooking/baking in this novel, the family ties, and the mysterious journal . . . The bakery was a lovely character in itself.”
Bookalicious Babe

“I really enjoyed this book from the very first page . . . the story is full of intrigue . . . If you like a great story about family with a hint of mystery then you will love this book.”
House of A La Mode

“What a magical little gem Taylor has written . . . evoking memories of WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, THE NIGHT KITCHEN and FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, Taylor brings us a story that is Southern Gothic Light. Well written and timely . . . the moments between Daisy and her birth mother are heart wrenching . . . a perfect book club read.”
Paperback Dolls

“I loved the mystery behind the story and I loved how the journal of this slave girl brings Daisy and her sisters closer together . . . the mystery unveiled itself chapter by chapter . . . I was impressed by the culture, history, and historical feel that Taylor was able to bring to these pages.”
Charming Chelsey

“Ideal for the fans of the Karen White , THE UNION STREET BAKERY by the freshest new voice in fiction, Mary Ellen Taylor, is the perfect blend of family drama, historical mystery, romance and the paranormal . . . THE UNION STREET BAKERY is surely not to be missed.”
Dad of Divas Reviews

“I loved the way [Burton] wove history and modern times together . . . a really fun read, one that’ll have you pulling out your mixing bowl and baking supplies from the pantry.”
The Novel World

“This book has elements of intrigue, the supernatural, history and romance . . . Mary Ellen Taylor weaved a wonderful story.”
Collar City Brownstone

“Union Street Bakery is a delicious treat to read. I was hooked after the first chapter. The characters are fun, and the mystery and paranormal elements are very believable . . . the author is brilliant in her ability to keep it up beat and easy to understand. I love the way the mystery is opened up little by little . . . I would recommend this to anyone who loves paranormal and mystery.”
Bitten by Paranormal Romance

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