Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Linda Francis Lee - The Glass Kitchen

Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . . and never cook again.
But when she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream. 
The Glass Kitchen is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen--like an island--can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.

Comment: When I got aware of this book, it immediately got my attention and now, after years in the pile, I finally started it and I'm glad to say it worked for, well, most of it.

In this book we meet Portia, she has just returned to the apartment her aunt left her, after her divorce from a very well known politician. Portia has had a complicated childhood and she had this weird knowledge of what was to come through food but she put it all behind her after her beloved grandmother died. Now, the knowing, as she calls it is coming back, especially when she meets Gabriel, the neighbor and owner of the rest of the apartments, which her sisters had already sold. But Gabriel has a complicated life, two daughters to look out for and a no-good charming brother who always seems to want money. Could it be that Portia was destined to come back here to help Gabriel's family somehow?

I did like this book and I liked how easy it was to turn the pages. There is a small component of magical realism, which I tend to enjoy when it feels like it's truly part of the world building and here, I believe it worked well, for it's not something impossible to imagine as being part of someone and it's not over the top.

Portia is a cute character and I can understand why she would have felt the need to contain her small ability and what that meant, but I also thought, since this was a novel about three sisters, that Cordelia and Olivia would also show case some sort of knowing, but it wasn't so. Plus, despite being glad the sisters bonded over several things even though the past affected them all somehow, I also think in part the relationships between them weren't that well developed.

I think that the probable reason for this is that a lot of the story is told, not shown. Now, this doesn't always have to be a bad thing, but it did made for a certain rush in how a lot was told to the reader, which meant many details weren't fully explained, we just infer by context. At the same time, it makes the evolution of things, the progress of the plot a bit inconsistent and focused on just one element. I would have liked more and better context to many of the things Portia goes through or deals with... 

There's a bit of romance, which I was curious about but despite things ending up in a very good place, I think everything could have been a lot more romantic between them. Plus, the pace seemed also a bit rushed and while I can accept this whole "recognition" that something clicked for them as soon as they looked at one another, a sort of identification of a mate if this were to be a PNR, I also would like to have seen more scenes with them learning things about each other or just finding things to do together besides the obvious.

We also have some focus on secondary characters, namely Ariel, she is Gabriel's youngest daughter and a lot we get to understand as seen by her more innocent eyes. But she also has a sort of mission and part of the things she does will affect the end of the novel, with some secrets coming out. I mean, this isn't such a surprise, the plot does lead into this road, but it did feel a lot was on the girl's shoulders and I think this section of the story didn't have to rely so much on convenience.

As the story advances, Portia gives in to her knowing and starts to believe the things she plans - like having a restaurant, just like her grandmother's - will happen but, of course, any reader would know that before the HEA actually comes true, some other lessons must get on the way and while it isn't a novelty that the body of the story follows the usual pattern, I still hoped some clichés wouldn't be used but.... oh well, I still had a good time reading, so that can't be that negative.

All in all, a entertaining story, many elements I liked but I surely think the execution could have been accomplished much better. 
Grade: 7/10

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