Monday, July 4, 2011

Jenn's Review: The Love Goddess' Cooking School

The Love Goddess' Cooking SchoolSummary:  Camilla's Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces daily. Benvenuti! (Welcome!) 

Holly Maguire's grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine--a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can't make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that's why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla's Cucinotta, she's determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother's legacy.

But Holly's four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla's chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter's heart. Juliet, Holly's childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can't find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla's essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed--and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Review:  I always have a hard time reading romances because they tend to be plot driven instead of character driven.  This is not one of those occasions.  The Love Goddess' Cooking School is a wonderful, romantic Food-Lit and I can't wait to share it. I think Melissa Senate's writing is much like Sarah Addison Allen without the magical realism... and you all know how much I love Sarah Addison Allen.

Melissa Senate has created characters that are incredibly easy to identify with - flawed but redeemable. It's been a long time since I read a novel where I felt connected with almost every character. Ms. Senate does an incredible job of making them empathetic. I loved them all.  From Liam, the single dad trying to keep his daughter's world from crumbling without her mother, to the recently divorced Simon who is finding his way as a 'weekend dad', to Mia who is trying so hard to figure out where she fits, to Tamara the frustrated serial dater, and Juliet the heartbroken -whose story definitely struck a chord.  It's Holly, however with whom I identify the most. Holly can't seem to find a place for herself, falls for the wrong guys, and sometimes sets too much stock in fate and destiny. I love her determination and her desire to see things through.  I love that she chose to continue her Nonna's legacy, even though it meant facing her fears and striking out on her own.

As I mentioned, this book is not plot driven, but the unfolding of the character's lives pulls the reader through it at a wonderful pace so that I wasn't racing to see what was going to happen next, but enjoying what was happening now.  Did I know where the book was headed?  Yes.  But it was one of those rare times when I wasn't in a hurry to get there.  I was just enjoying the world of Blue Crab Island and it's inhabitants.

The only thing that seemed a tad out of place were the recipes at the end of the book.  Not that they weren't related to the story, they were certainly recipes for the meals made at the cooking school.  Perhaps it was because the story was so fabulous, but, in the end, the recipes seemed a little superfluous.  I can see not wanting to break the continuity of the story by placing them at the ends of chapters, but I think to be included, they needed to be incorporated into the book somehow because it came off feeling like an afterthought.  Though not a bad afterthought and that is only my opinion...

I've used the word loved a lot in this post but that's because I thought this book was marvelous  - I'm actually running out of synonyms for excellent.  This review has been difficult to write because I don't want to gush about it, I'd rather just curl up inside it.  It's the perfect balance of love, friendship, and of course, good food.

Final Take:  5/5

PS.  There is a Reading Group Guide included for those with book clubs.  

*Also, read the first chapter here: Simon and Schuster


My Book Affair July 4, 2011 at 5:40 AM  

Well you have just convinced me to give this one a go. Thanks!!

Vanessa@Luxuria July 4, 2011 at 6:45 AM  

Altho' not a lover of romance novels, I am a real foodie, so am happily convinced to add this to my summer reading list :-)

quirky girls July 9, 2011 at 9:15 PM  

I love stories that revolve around food, whether it be books or movies. I am definitely writing this one down!

"This review has been difficult to write because I don't want to gush about it, I'd rather just curl up inside it."

I really love that line and it just makes me want to read it even more. :)


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