Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal

Several years ago I read a romance entitled In the Midnight Rain by Ruth Wind. It was for Wind a breakout “big book” after a series of Harlequin romances, and break out she did. Mention the title to anyone else who has read it, and In the Midnight Rain conjures up echoes of the blues and that hot, humid orchid greenhouse….mmmm…but I digress. Then I read and enjoyed many books written by Barbara Samuel (a/k/a Ruth Wind) including Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas, No Place Like Home, and The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue (a favorite). Now I have read and somewhat enjoyed The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal (a/k/a Barbara Samuel a/k/a Ruth Wind).
From Publishers WeeklyTwenty years ago, Elena Alvarez, the chef heroine of O'Neal's bland kitchen romance, was the sole survivor of a car accident that left her badly scarred and haunted by the sister and boyfriend she lost in the crash. Attempting to escape the specter of the accident and buoyed by her love of cooking, Elena drifted to culinary school in Europe and eventually ends up at an upscale Vancouver restaurant, where her passion and skills capture the attention of celebrity restaurateur Julian Liswood, who hires her as the executive chef of a new restaurant he is opening in Aspen, Colo. Elena relishes the opportunity, even as she recognizes the potential disasters, both romantic and job-related, inherent in the feelings she has for her boss. As the new endeavor finds its footing in Aspen's restaurant scene, she, too, begins to find a home.

It took me some time to settle in to The Lost Recipe for Happiness. For many pages, I couldn’t figure out why. The characters were engaging; their situations, intriguing; the dog Alvin, more than loveable. Finally, it hit me: Frame of reference. I love books where recipes add their special flavor to the story; however, southwestern cuisine just doesn’t do it for me. So, there was a huge sensorial gap in this reading experience for me.

If I were to attach a prior persona to the author and The Lost Recipe for Happiness, I would definitely say more Ruth Wind than Barbara Samuel. The heat in the kitchen rivaled that southern greenhouse. Oh, my, yes.
Finished on February 28, 2009
Rating: 3/5 (Fiction Scale)
Pages: 447
Publisher: Bantam (Discovery)
Copyright: 2008
Format: Trade Paperback

Dedication: For Christopher Robin (aka Neal Barlow), with love. You know why.

Epigraph: None

Awards:  2010 Rita Award - Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements


Les said...

Having just finished a FABULOUS culinary novel (The School of Essential Ingredients), I find myself craving more food-related stories. This sounds like just the ticket. I'll add it to my list to check out tomorrow at work. Thanks, Marcia!

Marcia said...

School of Essential Ingredients is sitting on my book shelf and will probably be one of the next one or two I pick up. The other title waiting is A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg (non-fiction). So much culinary reading, so little cooking....