GoodReads): Holly Maguire's grandmother 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 from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend.
And here's what I thought: This statement might be cringe-inducing, but I really devoured this book. No, seriously --- I picked it up and could not put it down, resorting to sneaking a page or two even when I was brushing my teeth! Which I do, you know, because I'm a book addict. I was originally intrigued by what the book was supposed to be about: a woman who has inheirited her grandmother's business, but isn't really a cook. Not only do I enjoy eating Italian food, I like to prepare Italian food (and cook/bake, in general). So, I figured I'd get a good story that might make me a little hungry.
This story has a great warm, conversational cadence to it, and a quick pace. I was surprised how quickly I was caught up in Holly's story, but she's a really likeable character. I appreciated how she had to learn Camilla's recipes, and go through trial and error, and weather through her mistakes -- this made it real. I mean, how many times do any of us make a recipe perfectly the first time through? And many of us associate memories and food, just as Holly did. An element of the story that I thought was interesting was how each of Camilla's recipes had an essential ingredient consisting of a wish, or a memory. It was an addition that lent depth not only to Holly, but also to the other characters in the book, as well. I also liked how the author gave us portions of Camilla's diaries; by having Holly read these, we not only learned about Camilla, but also learned about Holly at the same time. The diaries also gave insight into the small town that Holly lives in, since some of those same people mentioned are still living there, and have grandchildren around Holly's age. Her interactions with some of these people gave some extra layers to this story, which I liked. And speaking of Blue Crab Island, I thought this sounded like a pretty nice place (probably because I've had two enjoyable vacations in Maine).
The story, itself, is relatively simple, and told in a straightforward way. The act of cooking brings together some people who seem like they have nothing in common, and then builds those relationships. I appreciated that Holly's relationships weren't always easy, but she kept pushing through, relying on the comfort of her cooking and the strength she found from her grandmother. I thought this was a great feel-good book, with well-written female characters of varying ages (and it made me hungry). It's got a bit of romance, a bit of drama, and an all-around solid story.
First Sentence: "According to Holly Maguire's late grandmother, revered on Blue Crab Island, Maine, for her fortune-telling as much as her cooking, the great love of Holly's life would be one of the few people on earth of like sa cordula, an Italian delicacy. It was made of lamb intestines and stewed with onions, tomatoes, and peas in a savory butter sauce that did little to hide the fact that it looked exactly like what it was."
Thoughts on the Cover: The copy I received was an ARC, and had no cover art. However, I found the cover art on GoodReads --- I like how it reflects the way Holly's kitchen is described, and is simple (and not too girly).
Where I got this book: I was contacted by the publisher to provide a review in exchange for an advance, uncorrected proof of this book. I really appreciate being contacted -- this was a great book!