I have to declare upfront that I’m not a great fan of romance novels but this one started out well.
After moving to Rome when she married, Margherita has held out hope for years that life there would improve but all her dreams have come to naught. The final straw for Margherita comes on top of receiving an eviction notice and an unsuccessful job interview. She discovers her husband is not only feckless and lazy but also unfaithful. His lover Meg, who lives in the same building, comes to say they have been having an affair for 18 months, she loves Francesco and she doesn’t want to share him with his wife.
Cooking is spiritual balm for Margherita and she cooks all Francesco’s favourite dishes before leaving him a wonderful letter describing her life with him as ‘one small, stifling, sweet hell’ (page 23), taking her pets and moving back to Tuscany to live with her father. Of course, Francesco follows and begs her to return and I admire the way she turns him down and follows her own goals, indulging her passion for cooking in the hope of eventually having enough money to reopen her late mother’s restaurant.
She takes a job as a personal chef to the new, rich, business man in town. While the Tuscan countryside and its inhabitants are warmly described, as are Margherita’s recipes, I found it hard to care about the deepening relationship between her and boss, Nicola. Margherita is a ‘real’ person with a real passion for food – right from its production to serving it at the table. In contrast Nicola is a cardboard cut-out, embodying all that is bad about big business where all that matters is the bottom line. His volte-face in falling for Margherita via her food is unconvincing.
As is typical of such romance stories there are other sub-plots that disrupt the lovers’ relationship such as her father’s gambling and Nicola’s hidden agenda to produce low quality wine along with other crossed wires. My recommendation is even if you enjoy romance novels, give it a miss.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 6
Released by: Simon &Schuster Australia
Release Date: April 2017
RRP: $19.99 paperback, $12.99 eBook