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REVIEW: Aftertaste {a novel in five courses} by Meredith Mileti

Dear Ms. Mileti

What got me interested in trying your first book is the excerpt you sent us and the opening scene in it. Here is a woman wronged who apparently didn’t take her husband’s betrayal of their marriage vows lightly but who, in this modern age, found herself treated as the villain of the piece whereas in ages past she probably would have been lauded for what she did. Instead, after attacking the woman she caught in flagrante delicto with Jake on the sofa in the office of their restaurant Grappa, it’s Mira who ends up being carted away in handcuffs. At least Mira managed to tear out some of the cagna’s hair before the police arrived and she got slapped with a restraining order.

aftertaste-a-novel-in-five-coursesMari has managed to – pretty much – control herself through 7 months of working the lunch shift at Grappa while Jake is the dinner chef. Her court appointed anger management classes aren’t going so well since she thinks the therapist is full of it but except for one session where she lost control and described what landed her there – with far too much relish in the therapist’s opinion – Mira has even kept a lid on her simmering anger there as well. It’s when she discovers during their final divorce proceedings that Jake and his slut are expecting a baby – when she couldn’t get Jake interested in their own infant daughter – and that he’s going to manage to get Grappa as well, that Mira loses it again and this time has to take Chloe and leave the city.

At first, Mira has no intention of staying in her hometown of Pittsburgh longer than the court order for her to stay out of NYC lasts. Despite the fact that her widowed father lives there as well as a older friend from her childhood, Mira sees nothing for herself there. Yet as she begins to settle and, without quite realizing it, inadvertently start growing roots there again, she starts to heal and slowly to discover who and what is important in her life. Could what she’s always been looking for have been there all along?

I wouldn’t call this Chick Lit by any means despite the first person POV tale of a woman’s journey of self discovery. Mira is older, a divorced mother and can pack a mean wallop when she gets pissed off. I see this more as women’s fiction with a dollop of romance sprinkled on at the very end. Kind of like the finishing touch that a chef adds the moment before the plated dinner heads out of the kitchen and to the diner. Yes, the food references are deliberate as food is such an integral part of who Mira is. She lives to cook and can “foodie” with the best of them. If faced with a medley of foodstuffs, her mind is immediately spinning and whirling as she pairs them and dresses them and invents new recipes on the spot. Discovering the secret yet essential ingredient in a dish she’s trying to reproduce is like a delicious game to her. It’s amazing I didn’t end up eating the entire contents of my kitchen after reading about so much wonderful food.

Mira did need to get away from the source of her anger and betrayal but it still takes her a long time to get over what Jake did to her. As indeed I think it would take anyone. The ache is there yet Mira also has to face the reality behind her marriage and come to finally accept it for what it was. Watching her pull herself out of the funk she was in and start to rebuild her confidence isn’t easy but seeing the finished Mira – who is so much stronger a woman than she was before – is worth the effort.

It’s not just herself she needs to rethink though as Mira is, let’s be honest, a bit of a snob, and not only where food is concerned. The relationships of those around her also challenge her to be more understanding but that doesn’t come easily either. Her professor father’s romance with a secretary, who Mira sees as beneath him, ruffles her feathers and her long sober alcoholic friend’s fall from sobriety wrenches Mira’s heart but in the end, it all helps mature her.

The romance ends on a HFN note as Mira is now finally ready to take a chance on her heart and on a man she wouldn’t have been ready for a year ago. And she’ll be back to doing what she loves, cooking in her own restaurant, but a better, more … seasoned if you will… woman who finally knows herself better and is ready to confidently move forward with her life. B-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

15 Comments

  1. joanne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:15:34

    Aw, you almost pulled me into a purchase with your review Jayne but I can’t get passed my least favorite thing in a “woman betrayed” storyline.

    Why smack around the other woman? The husband broke the promise and betrayed his vows and okey-dokey if she kicked his ass – but the other woman’s? That’s just stupid, IMO.

    Nice review on something a little different though, thank you.

  2. HelenB
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:47:32

    I would have smacked both of them, him for being a cheating snake and the woman for going out with a married man. Simple.

  3. Kay
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:52:22

    I don’t like smacking around the other woman either, but I do like a heroine who has a lot of work to do. The foodie element is great. How was the writing? If you weren’t rating the book as a romance, but more in general, how would you rate the book?

  4. DS
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 14:32:37

    Agreed, unless the other woman is someone who owed an obligation of friendship/loyalty to the wronged woman, the guy is the one who deserves the hair pulling and smacking IMO. Never did understand displacing anger at the unfaithful partner onto the person who the partner was unfaithful with. It just gets you in trouble, as Mira found out.

  5. Anon
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 15:53:50

    And is using misogynistic language (slut, cagna) really necessary? It’s bad enough when men do it, but when a woman does it’s double the offense, imo.

    From the sounds of it, Mira deserved to be carted off in cuffs. Psychotic.

  6. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 19:19:05

    @Kay: Without any romantic elements? Maybe a B grade then. The back scenes of the restaurant and Mira’s fascination with food and what she can do with it are interesting to read.

  7. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 19:20:29

    @DS: The other woman was the hostess for their restaurant who got hired for the job when Mira was about 7 months pregnant. So yes, some loyalty should have been expected from her for her employers, IMO.

  8. Jayne
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 19:21:26

    @Anon: Mira definitely has her psycho moments but she does finally acknowledge them and work on changing.

  9. Kay
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 21:04:39

    @Jayne: Thanks for the clarification, including about Mira’s situation with the other woman. I’m going to go get the sample of this one.

  10. Bronte
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 04:04:52

    Wow, always shocked when women defend another woman who knowingly cheated with a married man. I don’t care what your relationship with is with the wronged woman in question, to me honour and decency say do the right thing and keep your legs closed. Plenty of other single men out there. Anyone who takes such a course without thinking of the people they are hurting deserves what they get – hopefully a nasty STD at the least.

  11. joanne
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 05:21:51

    I’ve been a little uncomfortable about my post so I came back to clarify. I don’t think anyone, male or female, should put their hands on anyone in anger unless it’s self defense. I was commenting on the story that the author wrote. As DS said it is the misplaced anger that bothers me.

    If I really had my druthers then fictional characters wouldn’t default to physical violence when an alternate behavior would not only suffice but probably would be more interesting to write and to read.

    @Bronte: I wasn’t defending the other woman in any way, shape or form but then I don’t know if your comments were directed at me.

  12. Bronte
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 08:20:11

    @joanne My post wasn’t directed at you. I actually agree with you. Physical violence is never the answer no matter how tempted you are. However I actually think it is interesting to address this in fiction. Violence is horrible but does occur in relationships. I’m actually kind of interested in reading this book just to see how it is addressed, and how the heroine grows.

  13. DS
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 09:59:40

    @Jayne: Thanks for additional information. I threw this scenario out for discussion at lunch, with the employee angle added. None of use had read the book. We thought that Mira got off lightly with therapy– and a restraining order (?). If her husband had wanted the child he probably could have ended up with primary custody and she would have been paying him child support.

    The conclusion was that this was probably a plot. Mira’s husband wanted her out of the way while he kept the restaurant. He knew she was on the edge, played on her insecurity then set it up so that she caught them in a compromising position and she went off like a firecracker.

    Had she kept her cool, whipped out her cell phone and taken a picture she would have had a perfect opportunity for a fault based divorce.

    (The counter move by the husband (if she had done this instead of assaulting the hostess) would be to get her to reconcile and resume marital relations. Once the adultery is forgiven– and people fall for this a lot– THEN he moves out and files for divorce.)

    The only thing we couldn’t decide on was whether the hostess’ ability to seek compensation for any injuries from Mira’s assault would be confined to Workers’ Compensation Insurance.

    @Bronte: I’m not defending the other woman. But there are a whole world of potential “other women” out there, and if you (general you, not you specifically) fail to address that the partner was the one who took and broke the vow and instead displace the anger on the other woman (or man for that matter) then there is no growth. My question to the other woman would be, “If he wasn’t faithful to this previous wife, what makes you think he would be faithful to you?” And most of the time he won’t be.

  14. Kay
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 19:23:44

    All right, after finishing Aftertaste a few hours ago, I still feel it was amazing. I’d easily give the book an A- by non-romance standards. The narrative voice, the breadth of characters (including a variety of single parents, an important one adoptive) and sense of community, the food (predominantly Italian, some Jewish, some “Pittsburgh”), the food industry, the indefinable click of reader with story… I loved it. Mira struck me as very human and very much herself, and her qualities worked both for and against her. She winds up with quite a journey.

    @DS: Your last paragraph was addressed. ;) (Also, there was indeed a restraining order. I want to say much more, but perhaps you’ll read it?)

    For all that it wasn’t a genre romance novel, here’s a quote from a smitten man, the morning after he’s seen Mira in action as a chef (actually, after he’s worked with her for several hours): “That’s really what got me going. You made it all seem so easy. You were formidable, commanding, quick. It was very, very sexy.” I believed him.

  15. Susan/DC
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 20:42:08

    If anybody reading this lives in Washington DC or its suburbs, Ms. Mileti is going to be at the Chevy Chase (DC) library this coming Saturday (12 November) at 2:00 PM to talk about the book – and she’s bringing biscotti based on a recipe in the book. I’m sure she’d be happy to respond to any questions or comments.

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