Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stacey Ballis - Recipe for Disaster

To an outside observer, Anneke Stroudt is a mess—her shirts are stained, her fingernails stubby, her language colorful. But, despite her flaws, Anneke’s life is close to perfect. She has a beautiful historic house to restore and a loving fiancé who cooks like a dream.
 Until Anneke’s charmed existence falls apart when she loses both her job and her future husband in one terrible day. In need of a new start, she packs up her disgruntled schnauzer and moves into her half-finished home, where she throws her pent-up frustration—and what little savings she has—into finishing the renovation.

But at the first step into the house’s overhaul, Anneke is sidetracked when she discovers a mysterious leather-bound book, long hidden away, filled with tempting recipes and steamy secrets from Gemma Ditmore-Smythe, the cook for the house’s original owners. Slowly, with the help of some delicious food and Emma’s life lessons, Anneke begins to realize that, just like a flawless recipe, she’s been waiting for the right ingredients to cook up a perfect life all along…

Comment: I no longer remember but I probably got interested in this book because it mentioned a cookbook as an element that would be important for the development of the story. Since I'm one of those who likes certain cook shows on TV, I found the idea interesting enough. I got the book and finally managed to pick it up.

This is the story of Anneke, she is a home builder, she does all the heavy work as well as any man but she is the first to admit she can't be as friendly or as lazy as some so she isn't the most well loved person in her company nor with the costumers who, according to her, always need to be reassured and have no idea how to do things properly. 
However, Anneke has a good life, she doesn't always like what her work entails but she likes when a project is finished and the owners are happy. She has a chef fiancé, she has a small but true group of friends and her life seems on track until the day she can't stand it anymore and she quits. That is also the day she ends her relationship. Can Anneke now hold on enough to find her way again? She now only has a house she is fixing and a cookbook...

Overall, I did enjoy reading this novel. I got the feeling it had enough terms and situations to make a renovation seem believable and the character interactions' also felt realistic and interesting to follow. I guess I'd say my biggest issue was how lengthy it is, I think some editing wouldn't have ruined the story and a couple of more boring stages of the novel might not have been so. 

This is a first person narrator story so we see everything from Anneke's perspective and she is a good narrator, especially from a certain point on.
This is a book as about Anneke's life as it is about those who surround her and why they matter. I think the interactions between everyone were interesting, they seem to be realistic portrayals of how friends behave, of how people react to specific situations.
Anneke has some challenges to overcome when it comes to personal relationships but it was fun to watch her deal with a former co-worker, to her fiancé and how they ended, with her absent mother (closer to the end of the story), so let's say Anneke's emotions were a huge part of the novel and I liked to follow her mind.

Nowadays, if one watch TV, cooks hows and renovation shows are a huge hit in most countries and I really liked how the author combined both in this novel. Anneke is a woman dedicated to building and fixing houses so the bigger part of the novel is dedicated to that and because I'm not an expert, everything felt quite believable even if it's not. I just think that some passages were a bit too technical and it wasn't always easy to simply imagine it.
The cooking aspect was not the focus but it was incredible to see how an old cookbook helped Anneke  and allowed her to find something else she was good at, such as learning some recipes and making them something to be proud of.

I think Anneke had a very mature reaction to the end of her relationship, especially because of how it ended. Obviously this meant we would expect a romance to happen later on. The romance did happen but it felt so subtle...I guess I can understand why, considering the increasing external drama that was building up, which I think was understandable and realistic. But the epilogue was a bit of a letdown. There is a gap of 6 months if I remember correctly, between the end of the novel and the epilogue and only in the epilogue do we see any sort of resolution when it comes to romance and even accepting it, I was disappointed by, despite being sort of poetic, how it wasn't as decisive as I think both deserved!

I did have a great time reading, though. The characters and their lives were interesting, appealing, the writing easy enough. I just think it was a bit too much and the end wasn't as brilliant. I'd say this is a mix of contemporary/slight drama/slight chick-lit/woman's fiction so it can be difficult to pinpoint something more than just my little quibbles and impressions about it as a potential problem. I still think it's recommendable.
Grade: 7/10

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