Monday, June 12, 2023

Review & Giveaway - - Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly

Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly
by Marie Bostwick
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: May 30, 2023
Reviewed by PJ

Esme Cahill thinks she has failed spectacularly: fired from her New York City publishing job, divorced from her husband, and possessing little more than a broken-down car and a pile of unfinished manuscripts, she drives home to Asheville at the request of her late grandmother, Adele, who had begged her, just before she died, to return to the place she grew up.

There she discovers the once-charming lakeside retreat run by her family is sliding toward financial ruin, so with the help of her grandfather, George; estranged mother, Robyn; and a travelling chef Dawes (maker of the world’s best grilled cheese sandwich) they set to work. In the attic, Esme unearths a trove of museum-worthy art quilts, sewn by Adele. Piecing together the inspiration behind them, Esme discovers a forgotten chapter in her family history and her grandmother’s untold story, that of a gifted artist who never received her due.

This is an always-emotional, sometimes humorous, very human novel of what it means to be family—the ties that bind us together and the unintentional hurts that can rend us apart. And, along the way, Esme learns that failure can be the first step toward the life you’re meant to find.

PJ's Thoughts:

Family, connections, following your dreams, starting over, and, sometimes, accepting that the path life leads you to, the one that brings you to true happiness, might not be the one you had planned. That's the premise of this new thought provoking, humorous, quintessentially southern, and deeply satisfying novel by Marie Bostwick. Like a tall glass of sweet tea, a front porch swing, and a sultry summer's day, I couldn't get enough. 

It's the characters who drive this book with a cast assembled by Bostwick that is intriguing, complex, relatable, and authentic. I happily immersed myself into their lives, celebrating their triumphs, mourning their losses, cringing, laughing, and shedding tears in more than a few places. Esme's relationship with her grandmother was lovingly portrayed and easily relatable. I was fascinated with Adele's (the grandmother) story as it emerged, the historical tie-in of which I was previously unaware, and the impact Adele's journey had on Esme's own life journey. George is the kind of grandfather I think we'd all enjoy having and the flashbacks to his love story with Adele were both entertaining and endearing. 

I appreciated the care Bostwick used in creating the characters in this book, the ones mentioned above as well as others who all have some type of role in this story. Even the ones that would appear at first glance to be the villains have complex layers, unseen challenges, and growth that reveal unexpected qualities, eventually leading to understanding, forgiveness, and mended relationships. 

The theme of family is strong in this book: biological family, found family, and chosen family. And, in one particularly poignant scene, Bostwick brings everything full circle, with caramel cake, from 10-year-old Esme and her grandmother to 33-year-old Esme and 4-year-old Hannah. It's a full-heart, tear-inducing, hopeful moment - one more layer of goodness on an already wonderful story.

Add in a backdrop of the soul-stirring, atmospheric beauty of Western North Carolina's mountains, streams, and waterfalls, the richly artistic and quirky vibe of Asheville, and the historical grandeur of the Biltmore Estate and I was well and truly hooked. Give this one a try. It has my enthusiastic recommendation.

One note: don't be put off by the title of this book. While Esme does experience failures (many, many failures), this book is about growth, learning from one's experiences, and picking yourself up and starting over when things go wrong. It has good messages and a successful, happy conclusion. 

Have you read Marie Bostwick yet?

Have you ever visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC?

Do you quilt or engage in other artistic endeavors?

Have you ever had caramel cake? 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, June 14 will receive a print copy of Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly

*U.S. only

*Must be 18




  1. I have read and enjoyed every book that Marie Bostwick has written and I look forward to enjoying this captivating novel. I haven't visited the Biltmore estate but I did visit Asheville. I haven't tried caramel cake but would love to. I am not a craft person but do create unique, and special gift baskets for family and friends.

  2. I've read a few of her books. I've dabbled in quilting. I have had caramel cake.


  3. I haven't read any of her books but I think this book sound great. Yes I have had Carmel cake but my favorite cane from my childhood was a southern Butternut cake my moms BF made, her friend was from Georgia. I wish I had that recipe.

  4. I read Marie's last book The Restoration of Celia Fairchild and enjoyed it. This sounds like another interesting story. I did visit Biltmore about 30 years ago - reminds me of the great houses of England. I've done some quilting & crafting, but recently have done more mending.

  5. It has been awhile since I've read Marie's books. It has also been awhile since I've visited Biltmore we went as a family a couple times and I went another time with an ex and his family. Sadly, I am not very artistic and the last time I quilted was when I went to a quilting bee with my grandmother - I think I was 12?? Caramel Cake?? It sounds devine! I wonder if Marie has a recipe on her website?

    1. She Does Have a Recipe for Caramel Cake!!! YAY!

  6. Wow! Love your 5* books!
    I have not read any of Marie’s stories.
    I have been to the Cary area of NC. We have not ventured to Asheville.
    I like caramel sauce on ice cream. I have never had caramel cake. I also like Russell Stover caramels.
    I do not know how to quilt. I do knit and I do embroidery.

  7. I have not read anything by Ms Bostwick. It is evident, that is my loss. I have not been to North Carolina, so no to Biltmore. Again, my loss. When my children were young, I tried to start a quilt. Life interfered and I never returned to it. I admire anyone who is able to create anything. I do not fall into that category. I fill a space, but am unable to create. Caramel cake - I never met a ;piece of cake I didn't like, so yep, that sounds good to me. I need to look into this book and Ms Bostwick's writing. Thanks for the review. I like family storeis.

  8. This sounds like a wonderful book, thank you for the recommendation! I do not know how to quilt, but I do crochet quite a bit. It's a wonderful distraction from the chaos of life, just like reading!

  9. This book sounds amazing !!!! Sadly I have to answer No to all of the above questions, but The Biltmore is on my bucket list

  10. I haven’t read her books yet. I haven’t visited the Biltmore Estate, but I have read about it. I’ve never had caramel cake. I like the cover of this book and would love to read it.

  11. I have found the blurbs for her books interesting, but have not yet read anything by her. This book, like many of her others, sounds like a worthwhile and touching read.
    We live about 60 miles from Asheville. I love the town and the area. We have visited the Biltmore several times since we moved to this area. It is a fascinating place reflecting a way of life that is a bit difficult to imagine. As someone who tended to know where the kids were in the house and what they were up to, the sheer size of the place makes me wonder if I would ever have been able to even find them had we lived there. It was definitely a different time and style of functioning as a family and member of society.
    I love quilts and have several nice ones. I tried my hand at quilting, but it wasn't something I was drawn to. I do enjoy sewing and embroidery when I have the time.
    I had not had caramel cake until we moved to the South. I love it.

  12. I am not familiar with the author, but feel compelled to check out this book. I've been on vacation to Asheville several times and enjoyed my stays. Visiting Biltmore was an experience worth the time (and money), but I think I am more in love with the restaurants in Asheville. I pieced together a quilt, but did not complete it. A family friend finished it and it is hers. My craft efforts go more towards flower arranging and wreath decorating. One of our local grocery stores offers caramel cake by the slice and I have indulged a few times!

    1. I am LauraL. Google didn't log me in.

  13. Thank you for a review! I realized I really don't get out . . . I am not familiar with the author, I haven't been anywhere near, done a little quilting (though not very good at it), and have not had caramel cake. Thank goodness for books to "get out" and about.