Sweet Dreams by Claire

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Published by: Words of Passion
Release Date: December 15, 2023
ISBN13: 978-1-958904-11-4


Get swept away to Claremore, Ireland, where the people are welcoming, the grass sparkles with morning dew, and an ancient legend leads to magical experiences.

Claire Francis has worked in the family bakery since she was a wee girl. Now at 27 she longs for her own shop, a place to make her culinary dreams come true. But her traditional mother has no plans to retire and forbids Claire to explore her creative talents.

With Brigid Cleary’s wedding just around the corner, Claire’s life takes a dramatic turn. Used to a quiet routine, she’s now embroiled in pre-wedding dilemmas. Plus Brigid’s handsome brother, Finn, pushes Claire to question her safe, uneventful life and take a chance on their attraction. But he’s only in town for a week, and worse, he spends his life on the water, the very thing Claire fears the most.

Impetuous and daring, Finn encourages Claire to shed her personal and professional inhibitions. But Claire has a past she can’t escape. As she grows closer to Finn, her secret looms ever bigger, and love and success feel as likely as that imaginary pot of gold. Until a magical gift unlocks a path to her dreams, one sweet taste at a time.

Fall in love with this feel-good, delicious, heartwarming romance. Perfect for fans of Emma Bennet, Holly Martin, Jenny Colgan, and Jenny Hale.

The first kiss between Claire and Finn is exactly what a romance should be.

Bonnie Salamon
Captivating and comforting, this story makes the heart swell as the Irish countryside works its magic.
Denise Birt
My favorite romance novels are not only lovely and tender—they also feature characters who grow and heal on their way to letting their hearts be open to love someone. Set in Ireland, Claire and Finn’s story tick all those boxes and more!
Susan Peterson
Captivating and comforting, this story makes the heart swell as the Irish countryside works its magic.
Denise Birt
Chapter 1

Claremore, County Galway, Ireland

Monday, June 18

Food is more than just nutrition. Food is a gateway to adventure. Which is why my ancestors agreed there are two necessities in life: bread and dreams. The first, to nourish your body and keep it going. The second, to nourish your mind.

Twenty-two years the bakery sign for Bread and Dreams has watched over me, ever since I started helping at the age of five. The five-foot oval on the back wall commands your attention when you first walk in. The sky-blue middle reminds me of a cloudless summer morning and the powdery white trim a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

When I was little there was more adventure with the baking. Mam used to put hidden ingredients in the soda bread—pieces of candied fruit or chocolate—or make a different scone flavour every day. But things changed when my dad had to slow down for health reasons and decided to retire. The oomph fizzled out.

Dad was all for selling the bakery, but Mam couldn’t give it up. The shop has been in her family for generations, going back to my great-great-grandparents. I keep offering to take over more of the baking and introduce some new items, but she won’t hear of it. And now we’re competing with the new castle resort. The only way to stay afloat is to branch out, bring in a younger crowd of customers.

If only Mam weren’t so set in the past. Having to take charge of the finances, the ordering, managing the suppliers—all that can sap your creativity. If I had the money to buy her out now and let her retire, I would. Then I could create and dream to my heart’s content. Because dreaming is what makes baking so much fun. I want to experiment with exotic spices and flavors. Learn new techniques. Incorporate all of that into our food.

With that I look at the sign again, place my hand over my heart, and swear that someday I, Claire Francis, will have my own Bread and Dreams. A shop full of baking adventures. Not just the classic Irish staples like Barmbrack or soda bread—my mother’s favorites. But magical concoctions with lemongrass or chilies or saffron. The ideas make my mouth water, and I long to go practice in the kitchen. Mam would curb my enthusiasm with practicality and satisfying our customers’ needs. Barmbrack and soda bread are perfectly fine for the people we see (and they are tasty). But how can you know what you want if you never venture beyond the ordinary?

It’s not that I don’t love my family. It’s a joy helping Mam with the baking and sales. But it’s up to me to shape my future.

I look over the small shop with its worn wooden counter and eight display shelves. The cracks in the floor that Dad refinished ten years ago. The plates with chips along the edges that hold the free sugar cookies. This is fine for my mother, but I want more.

In the back the heavy aroma of yeast and butter and sugar take me on a baker’s fantasy every time I work. Out here in front the smell is more subtle, a gentle tease that tickles my nose and invites me to explore.

The quiet lets my imagination soar. The counter in my dream shop would be longer than this one—at least an extra six feet—with separate showcases for bread, savory goods, cakes and tarts, and fancy desserts. The British baking show fills my head with visions of profiteroles, roulades, tea cakes, and dacquoises. To the left of the entrance would be a cluster of small tables and chairs for having tea or coffee with a pastry. And a few tables and chairs outside under umbrellas, like a French café. My mother doesn’t want the shop crowded with people sitting, but I quite like the idea. It sounds cozy and neighborly. A way for people to relax and appreciate the food. On the opposite side of the entrance, along the side wall, would be shelves filled with baked goods to go. Cellophane-wrapped mini loaves of quick breads or slices of cake. Plus a variety of tea and coffee in bright canisters.

I tighten my ponytail and push the straight brownish hair behind my shoulder, then tug on my polo shirt, the same blue as our logo with Bread and Dreams in white on the top left side.

Mam comes out from the back and places a tray of cupcakes on the counter. Soft brown curls frame an oval face that seems a little wearier than before. “Six vanilla and six chocolate,” she says. “For the taste testing at the castle.”

“Rodarc Resort? Who’s doing a tasting?” I reach to swipe at the frosting and she bats away my hand.

“A nice woman named Brigid. She’s getting married on Saturday.”

There was a Brigid Fallon here in town, but she married and moved to County Kerry. And Brigid Jordan, much too young for marriage, who went to London for university. Last year there was the big to-do with Brigid Cleary and that author Andrew Connally at Eva’s bookshop. People didn’t stop talking about that for months. But they went back home, across the pond. I clear my thoughts and focus on the task. “Won’t she want something special?” Everyone wants something special. Like spice cupcakes with a candied ginger frosting. Or a chocolate and raspberry swirl with a raspberry sauce. “Let me make some—”

“Claire, these are—”

“It won’t take me a minute. You know how fast—”

“Claire, these are ready to go.”

“But they’re so plain.”

The half-smile on her face is the one she gives me when politeness wars with frustration. And I know I’ve overstepped. “All this giving out to me about the cupcakes. They’re fine,” she says, her voice crisp and direct, signaling an end to our discussion.

“But if she wants the ones we make, why doesn’t she come here for the tasting? Why do we have to take them to her?”

“So many questions, Claire. It’s a wonder your brain has any room for other things. Now get a move on. Brigid is expecting you.”

I pack the cupcakes in a box, careful to keep the frosting intact. Then I quietly sing a little ditty that came to mind the other day.

I gave the Taoiseach cupcakes

He put them to the test.

And with a winning smile he said,

"These are just the best."

Mam sighs. “You know there’s more to life than someone liking your cupcakes.”

I turn to her with a smile of certainty. “But the prime minister’s an important person, so that’s the grand prize. The ultimate success.”

She leans against the counter. “Is it now?”

I nod. “It is. If the head of our country likes them, then it proves I’m the best.”

“Ah, sweet girl,” she says. “You don’t have to prove that to anyone but yourself.”

The bell rings over the front door, interrupting our conversation. I don’t get to tell her, once again, that she’s wrong. What other people think matters. A lot.

She heads to the back and I grab a towel to wipe my hands as footsteps approach the counter. My least favorite customer.

I paste on a fake smile. “Mr. Foley. Welcome to Bread and Dreams.” My whole body tightens in resistance and I want to run. Instead, I grip the counter and force the automatic response. “What can I get you today?”

“Six of your almond scones and a dozen flaky dinner rolls,” he barks. A cloud of sweaty gym socks washes over me. “The really flaky ones,” he adds.

I nod and hold my breath until at least eight feet separate us, then I bend down and drag in clean air. A second or two to relax before I have to face him again. If he could just brush his teeth in the morning. Maybe use a little mouthwash. And in my head, I see Mam shake her head and say, “Now, Claire. Be kind to the man. He’s doing his best.” My mother the saint.

Chewing my lip, I gather his order and place the goods on the counter. “Will there be anything else?” I ask, hoping he’ll say no. I have an errand to run. But he dithers, and ers and ums, and walks the whole length of the counter—twice. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” I say under my breath. He glares. “Excuse me?”

“Nothing, Mr. Foley.” My voice drips with honey. “Did you see anything else you wanted?”

He shakes his head no. Then he holds out payment and we play tug of war with the cash, his way of having a conversation. Too many seconds pass until he lets go, I put the cash in the till, and he grabs the bag and shuffles out of the shop.