Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

“So. I might not deserve you. And you might forgive too much. But I’m damned glad to have you.”

“Things don’t have to stay as what they started out as.”

A story about found family, the comfort and joy of community, and the struggle of self-reinvention, Booktails’ November pick is perfect for those of us who love to feel all gooey and inspired after finishing a book. Warning: reading this story may cause an intense craving for caffeine and pastries. 

Usually, I read a book BEFORE choosing to review it for Booktails, but this month we did things a little differently. I asked my followers on Instagram (@beniciabooktails) to vote on the November Booktails pick and read the winning book, knowing I would be sharing it with you all the following month.

Out of four (very different) books, Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree won by a landslide.

Initially written for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month (a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that promotes creative writing around the world and encourages writers to start and finish a novel in November), Baldree self-published Legends & Lattes in 2022 before Tor Publishing picked it up a few months later due to its quickly growing popularity, publishing the novel in its current form. 

Looking at the cover, it’s no surprise that Legends & Lattes is a high-fantasy novel sure to grab the attention of any Dungeons & Dragons player.

One of the most popular “cozy fantasy” books to date, this low-stakes novel is guaranteed to melt your heart. 

Our main character, Viv, is an Orc barbarian dreaming of leaving her violent life as a mercenary to settle down and enjoy a peaceful life in a small town. After obtaining a relic that may or may not bring luck, Viv lands in the town of Thune and immediately sets out to open a cafe. A very risky move, considering the citizens of Thune have never even heard of the Dwarven drink called “coffee.” 

With the help of a carpenter named Cal, an artistic barista named Tandri, and a loveable genius baker named Thimble, Viv slowly transforms an old livery stable into an inviting coffee house. If you find home renovation shows satisfying, you’ll enjoy this part of the story. Baldree does a fantastic job making details often left out of books wildly entertaining to read as he expertly portrays the indescribable feeling of being in your favorite local coffee shop drinking the perfect, delicate, and rich latte. 

Another quality Legends & Lattes possesses is something that even the most impressive fantasy novels don’t often get right.

In his cozy debut novel, Baldree has found a way to expand the world beyond what is seen, heard, and experienced by our main characters. It’s easy to imagine millions of little stories playing out with the characters on the periphery. 

I was surprised by how involved the story felt, even without the action and politics I tend to prioritize in fantasy books. Although bad things do happen in the book, there is an overall sense that people strive to be decent and kind. There is also a romance element, but it is a tiny part of the story and grows with a refreshingly realistic slowness. 

I don’t have much to critique about Legends & Lattes beyond the genre as a whole not being for everyone.

Some readers will get bored and may feel the story is an unnecessarily long epilogue to the books they prefer to read. But Baldree writes with a subtle humor and optimistic tone that will paint a smile on your face from start to finish, and if you’re looking for the book version of a warm blanket and hot beverage, look no further than this adorable read. 

You can find a copy of Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree to purchase at Bookshop Benicia. I highly recommend pairing this gem of story with your favorite fall coffee and a tasty cinnamon roll from Fox & Fawn.

Hot White Russian

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup Lyres Coffee Originale (Kahlua for a boozy option)
  • ¼ cup Ritual Vodka (or your choice of vodka)
  • Whipped heavy cream for garnish

Preparation:

  1. Fill four mugs with hot water and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, stir together the coffee, cream, coffee liqueur, and vodka and cook over medium heat until hot. 
  3. Pour the water out of the mugs and then divide the mixture among these heated mugs.
  4. Garnish with whipped cream.