Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate

*****
This came as an Amazon recommendation, which I know can be a bit hit and miss, but I do give some of them a go and I'm so pleased I did as I'd never have found this book by myself and I loved it!  With similarities to Nicky Pellegrino and Adriana Trigiani it charts a young women's journey in finding herself through food...what's not to love?!
Holly's Italian grandmother ran a cookery class on Blue Crab Island, Maine, where she combined her culinary genius with her fortune telling skills and ability to weave magical wishes into her dishes.  She became known as the "Love Goddess" and despite some antagonism to her good looks and mysterious knowledge she carved out a thriving business with Camilla's Cucinotta.
Holly has meandered through life following her romantic inclinations rather than making her own way.  A prediction from her grandmother on her sixteenth birthday that her true love will like sa cordula (an extremely unappetising old Italian dish) gives her some hope, but she's not found her man yet and the final break up with (the rather unpleasant) John, on whom she'd pinned all her hopes makes Holly pack up and go to Blue Crab island to lick her wounds.
Inheriting her grandmother's house and business is an unexpected development and Holly decides to give it a go, but she needs to learn how to cook, especially as she has a course for four new students to teach.  Each student has a reason to join the class, but will the Love Goddesses magic still work and will they be able to find the recipe for their own happiness?
Firstly, although I have given this book five stars, I must make it clear that I give the ratings out to books I love, not because they're perfect!  Maybe it also helped reading a lovely gentle book about food when I was particularly mellow between Christmas and New Year!  But the combination of food, pretty setting with a bit of wish fulfilment was brilliant; there's also recipes included (which has become an increasing feature in many books similar to this, I never try them, so can't comment!)
The story is told by weaving Holly's present tale with diary extracts from Camilla, where her grandmother's experiences and wisdom enlighten current events and relationships.
The island contains the usual small town enemies and nastiness but the main characters despite their problems are a pretty upbeat lot, except Juliet, an old friend from Holly's past who has to deal with her grief and find a way of moving on.  Holly develops through the book from a bit of a wet whinger who has no idea who or what she is and only exists for the man she is currently trying to get to marry her, through to a self-doubting but more determined character to someone who is able to take control of her own destiny...but gets the perfect man!  My favourite character was twelve year old Mia who was probably the only person who who knew what she wanted from the start and takes strong action to get it.  It's even Mia that manages to sort out the happy ending!
Love interest Liam seem a bit thinly drawn for me and I got annoyed with some of his behaviour when his ex reappears, but as in all good chic-lit, everything is resolved and forgiven!
So, to sum up, it's not a book that will change your life, but a cosy, happy read that'll make you feel hungry throughout...there's only so much pasta and tiramisu you can stand reading about without delving into the fridge...and I thoroughly enjoyed it!