Monday, January 2, 2012

CBR4 #1: The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate

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.
I received this book as part of the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  It has been on my to-read shelf for a while.  Holly Maguire is a loveable character and you are immediately pulling for her as the opening chapters show us how under appreciated she is within her current relationship.  While the plot line (a misfit young woman unsure what to do with her life until she is left something by a dead relative and finds her purpose in life) is not a new concept, I thought that Melissa made the plot her own.

I liked how Melissa incorporated history about Holly's grandmother by incorporating the grandmother's diary entries. Those entries also helped set up some parallel themes with the modern day story (i.e. jealousy and snobbery of residents in Blue Crab Island).

The romance between Liam and Holly is sweet and complicated just like any good romantic comedy movie. I appreciated how the cooking students became friends and supported each other throughout all their life experiences.

I had to chuckle when the bride to be decided to hire Holly as her caterer after her mother and future mother-in-law "failed" her in the tasting.  While that tasting motivated Holly to perfect and hone her cooking skills, it also allowed her to become more comfortable in her own skin as a "real" cook.

I would be curious if Melissa would write a sequel to this book, because I'm sure there are others like me that would be interested in reading more about Holly and Liam and the other residents of Blue Crab Island.

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