Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

A quirky cover. A charming story reminiscent of Ghost. The only thing that stopped me reading this in one sitting was my body’s need for sleep (when a book hits you in the face, sometimes you have to accept that sleep is called for). Here’s the blurb:

Lucy Muir is leaving her husband. It’s complicated. They’re joint owners and chefs at one of the best restaurants in town, so making a clean break is tough. But, let’s face it, a woman can only take so much cheating, recipe stealing and lack of good grace. Despondently driving around the back streets of Woolloomooloo one night, Lucy happens upon an old, empty terrace that was once the city’s hottest restaurant: Fortune. One minute she’s peering through grimy windows into an abandoned space, the next she’s planning a pop-up bistro.

When Lucy fires up Fortune’s old kitchen she discovers a little red recipe book that belonged to the former chef, the infamous Frankie Summers. As she cries over the ingredients for Frankie’s French Onion Soup, she imagines what Fortune was like in its heyday. It’s strange, Lucy can sense Frankie beside her, almost see him there … This fiery chef, who lived with a passion for food and women in almost equal measure, just might help Lucy cook herself up a better life. But is she brave enough to believe?

J.D. Barrett serves up an entertaining blend of magical realism and romantic fantasy in The Secret Recipe for Second Chances, combining her own love of food and understanding of audience engagement (as a television writer and producer) for a winning formula. It’s an easy and engaging read filled with lovable and memorable characters all looking for a second chance, whether it’s Lucy trying to re-start her life, Frankie trying to find out who killed him and why, and Bill, a homeless man who keeps an eye on the dilapidated restaurant. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, as well as moments when you want to shake characters(like Leith, Lucy’s selfish ex), and others when you, like Lucy, want to believe in the magic of the moment.

My only gripe was that the final few chapters cram too much in, giving a rushed feel, pushing readers towards the climax, the big moment, rather than teasing it out some more. The pacing felt wrong and for me, it reduced the impact it should have had. Overall, though, it’s a lot of fun, and the recipes scattered through the book, an added and welcome bonus for this food lover.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Hachette.





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