The Love Goddess’ Cooking School–Melissa Senate

love goddess cooking school

Romance and food.  Who can resist?  They are the reading equivalent of potato chips and french onion dip, right?  Little nutritional value, but very tasty and comforting.  And so it goes with this novel.

When I started reading, I was certain this was another debut novel, but I checked and it was not. Senate has written ten novels previously as well as short stories and essays and an ABC Family television movie.  With that, I was surprised at the clunkiness of some of the plot moves, but the clunkiness disappeared into the background, only occasionally rearing its head, as the characters took over.  Mostly.

Holly has an English degree and a string of job experiences on her resume.  On her personal resume she has a string of relationships.  She is a giver and has not found someone who is willing to commit or to give much back.  Her relationship with her mother is not estranged, but not close.  Holly adores her grandmother, Camilla, and Italian immigrant who lives on Blue Crab Island in Maine and makes a living with her Italian cooking and her ability to tell fortunes.  This relationship seems to be some of the reason for the strain in her relationship with her mother, whose own relationship with her mother is strained and difficult due to, we learn later, people on the island who called Camilla a witch.  Bullies.  Every romance novel needs one–that girl, those women, who look too perfect and act awful.

After yet another relationship ends, Holly runs to her grandmother for comfort and is there for two weeks when Camilla dies in her sleep, leaving her house and business to Holly.  Holly, oddly, does not know how to cook because as a young girl she prepared a special sandwich for Camilla that included, unknown to her because she was just a young girl (hmmmm), rat poison.  The trauma of nearly killing her grandmother turned Holly off from cooking and still haunts her as an adult.  What?  Seriously clunky plot move.

Holly’s mother wants her to sell the house, so, of course, Holly wants to keep it and run the business, so she begins practicing the recipes Camilla has left behind and trying to remember what she saw Camilla do for the many summers and vacations she spent with her.  Each recipe, cutely, requires a wish, a sad or a happy memory.  Cooking as therapy.

The granddaughter of the woman who bullied Camilla (and whose mother bullied Holly’s mother) has a degree in culinary arts and has opened a shop on the small island (go figure–clunky plot move again) and Holly fears losing her grandmother’s business to this woman while she gets her act together.

In walks a cute and precocious twelve-year-0ld girl who wants to be her apprentice for her cooking class and learn how to cook so she can drive away her divorced father’s girlfriend.  This setup is made for Holly’s resume, which most recently has included a divorced dad and young daughter. The dad, oddly enough, is hunky and a regular at Holly’s shop for pasta and sauce (another clunky plot move).  Holly takes her on–what the heck, she only has four students who stayed in the class once Camilla died–and the plot moves forward.

In the class are a divorced dad with a young daughter whose mother is awful and is alienating her daughter’s affections from her father; an old friend who has returned to the island for R&R after the loss of her young daughter; the unmarried sister of a woman whose sister found love thanks to Camilla’s fortune telling and who needs a date to her sister’s wedding.  The twelve year old makes four.

And so the set up.  Holly falls in love with the girl’s dad.  The divorced dad and unmarried woman fall in love.  Holly’s cooking helps heal the broken heart of the old friend.  Their memories and wishes and cooking heal them all and bond them into a close circle.  Holly wins the job catering the sister’s wedding (shop saved) and becomes a good cook.  She finds herself and makes the shop her own (and the house by changing a few pictures on the walls and hanging a new sign).  Everything is awesome.  Potato chips and dip.  Not hard to chew (although sometimes tough to digest), but yummy and comforting.

I liked the theme, which is why I bought the book, but I was distracted by the clumsy plots moves often enough that I won’t seek out another novel by this author.  If one ends up on my pile, however, I would probably read it when I was in the mood for comfort food.

Finished 4/17/15

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Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy’s Diary Vol. 2–Anna Elliott

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I have read these chronicles from Anna Elliott completely out of order, but that was part of the appeal.  I do not know if I would have had as much patience with Kitty Bennet’s silliness otherwise:)

Volume 2 of Elliott’s Pride and Prejudice continuation takes Georgiana and Kitty from the balls and daily concerns of England and the life of the elite to Brussels and the horrors of Waterloo.  Elizabeth gives birth to she and Darcy’s first child and Caroline Bingley finds love, and some humanity.  

I recommend the three volumes as a unit if you are a Pride and Prejudice fan.  This volume is a particularly quick read.

Finished 8/6/13

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice Continued–Anna Elliott (eBook)

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Ok, so I’m lost in Jane Austen’s England.  Again.  For me it’s like eating a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, but without the saddlebags afterwards.

After reading volume three of Anna Elliott’s Jane Austen continuation, I checked her website and saw that volume one is available for free from your favorite eBook retailer, so I headed to Amazon (like getting a spoon out of the drawer) and downloaded.

What a treat.  In volume one, Elliott focuses on Georgiana Darcy, but the fun comes with Anna de Bourgh, whom Georgiana makes her own project.  This plot device echoes that of Kitty making Mary her project in volume three, but it was still fun to see this almost non-existent character fleshed out and given her own story line.  There was also a fun twist with Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Caroline Bingley, two women Austen fans love to dislike.

This diary is another quick read in diary form.  There are a few moments of awkward prose when Georgiana is trying to justify describing in her diary people she obviously knows and would have discussed previously in her diary, but those moments pass quickly.

Finished 8/5/13

Kitty Bennet’s Diary–Anna Elliott

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This is the third in a series of Pride and Prejudice Chronicles.  In the first two Kitty Bennet is engaged in silly and scandalous behavior, engaged to John Ayres, whose prospects are okay, but not wonderful and with whom she is in friendship, but not love; then drawn into a whirlwind flirtation with a cad and off to Brussels nursing the wounded of Waterloo in atonement.

The Kitty of this volume is still lively and prone to laughter with children, but more serious with adults and much more likable than the Kitty of Pride and Prejudice.  She has learned to moderate her behavior and, through the course of the diary, describes her efforts to moderate her tongue.  She has seen a bigger life than that of Meryton and her small social circle and become a woman rather than a silly girl.

She and Mary are in London staying with their Aunt and Uncle Gardiner.  Georgiana and Edward Fitzwilliam are also in town and a very pregnant Jane comes to stay with her young daughter, Amelia, under mysterious circumstances.  Unraveling these circumstances, seeing her through to safe delivery of her child, trying to marry off Mary and then trying to keep her from ruin at the hands of the same cad who nearly ruined Kitty herself, all while falling in love with Lancelot Dalton occupy Kitty’s days and the accounts in her diary.

Anna Elliott’s continuation of Jane Austen’s characters is believable and enjoyable for a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice and her spotlight on the horrors and consequences of Waterloo as well as the social inequalities of London society are a welcome addition to the Austen scenery.

Finished 8/4/13

Do or Di–Eileen Cook (eBook)

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Erin is focused on the future. She wants her own radio show.  She’s wants her boyfriend to leave his wife.  She’s in her thirties and feels the march of time telling her it’s time to make big moves in her life.  When the co-host of a talk show at her station checks into rehab, Erin’s chance at a spot on-air falls into her lap.  It’s not the solo show she wants, and the co-host is the kind of chauvinist she despises, but air time is air time and she takes it.  The show, Male Men, becomes He Said She Said and is a huge hit, but Erin longs for the solo show that is part of her dream.  To advance her chances at that dream, Erin signs up for Positive Partnerships, a pet project for the station’s manager, and is assigned a troubled teen whom she is supposed to mentor.  Diana is tall and awkward and believes she does not need another mentor.  She has one–the ghost of Princess Diana.  Despite her best intentions, Erin is soon drawn in by the gawky teen and her self-confident air and her idea that she should be Erin’s mentor.  

Diana and Erin’s best friend both have plenty to say about her relationship with the station’s lawyer, who told her he was married after the first time they slept together.  Erin has principles–she refuses to sleep with him again until he leaves his wife, but she is okay with dating him.  Diana tells her she can do better and her best friend reminds her of the ethical issues of her position.  

Everything becomes more complicated when the station manager asks Erin and her co-host, Colin, to feign the relationship their listeners have assumed underpins their on-air sexual tension, at least until they get through a syndication review that could launch all of their careers to a new level.

The rest is fairly predictable.  The wise troubled teen has the right of it.  The chauvinist co-host is revealed as a soft and caring gentleman off-air and the married boyfriend is outed as a serial cheater with no backbone and an over-inflated sense of his own appeal.  Of course things go to hell in a hand basket, of course Erin has an epiphany that lying her way to the life she wants, and of course it all turns out in the end because this is a fairy tale.  There’s even a dog.

Along the way it’s a lot of fun.  And that’s what summer reads are all about.

 

Finished 8/1/13

The Girl She Used to Be–David Cristofano

You know when you go to a romantic movie because you want to walk out all warm and fuzzy and see someone’s life work out?  And then it doesn’t and you’re not sure if you should be pissed off or bummed out or just frustrated like a teenager whose parents walked in three minutes too soon?

That’s The Girl She Used to Be.  Melody and her parents witnessed a Mafia hit when she was six years old and their lives ended.  They survived (for awhile), but they entered Witness Protection.  In a fit of teenage snit over a boy, Melody ratted out her parents to a local paper and 29 hours later they were dead.  So she is relocated over and over and over, but this time alone.  The story begins with her ending one identity, making up a threat, and starting another out of ennui.  But then she meets a son of the Mafia family when he breaks into her motel room while her agent walks along the beach and everything turns on its head.  She’s tired of running and living a lie and feeling insecure.  This guy is in love with her after shadowing her for years, wants to save her by taking her into the heart of his family under his protection, and, to top it all off, is gorgeous and well-mannered.  Go figure.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Nicholas Sparks.  Stephanie Meyer.  It’s all about some handsome guy whose whole world revolves around us, around a woman, the woman who is telling the story.  And we eat it up because we want to be that girl with the guy who is tough on the exterior, but soft inside.  Who kicks the ass of the rest of the world, but wants to protect us and kiss us and bring us to climaxes we did not even dream were possible and this just by giving us the look.  Or flashing his abs.  It’s our version of a doe-eyed centerfold.   It’s a little uncomfortable to realize how appealing that story line is, but ok.

Here’s the brutal part.  After pages and pages of Melody whining about her lost life and then pages and pages of her forgetting about the death of her parents as she luxuriates in the pampering that can be bought by Mafia money and the feeling of security from being attached to the baddest bad ass in the room, she ends up alone.  Like, forever alone.   Virgin Queen alone.

So thumbs up for the premise and the first half of the book.  I could have even forgiven the whining if, after following the conventions of romance, the happy caricatures ended up together.  That’s the problem with genre.  When you try to bust it, you risk alienating your audience. Would Pride and Prejudice have been such a hit if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy didn’t end up together?  No way, Jose.  I don’t read romance to have a literary experience.  Or to close the cover feeling worse than when I opened it.  Geez.

As with  a hangover, the best cure for a bad ending is to start reading again.  My fingers are crossed.

Finished 4/23/12