REVIEW: Crazy Days of Christmas by Jill Barry
Lucy Stephenson is facing a Christmas nightmare.
Her bistro, ‘The Town Mouse’, is in a bad financial way when her sous chef, Emily, drops the bomb that she’s leaving her in the lurch just weeks before Christmas. Lucy is in a rut, unable to see how she can turn her business around, without a head chef and at the busiest time of year. She reaches out to Dustin at a cookery agency to find a temporary chef.
In a stroke of luck, Dustin says he has the perfect man for the job. In fact, this candidate seems too good to be true and Lucy doesn’t understand why such a talented and experienced chef is without a job at Christmas and willing to accept a position below his station and salary. But when James Drummond gets a call from the agency he signed up with a while back, he’s intrigued by the bistro in Dexford.
Just back from New York, where he had visited his injured son Sam, James in unsure whether to accept a glamorous job in a London hotel or a stop-gap job in a cosy bistro. Drummond, professional and practical, never takes a job without scouting its potential and travels to Dexford to inspect ‘The Town Mouse’ incognito.
But when he sees how busy the restaurant is, and how pushed the staff are, he feels guilty not doing anything to help. Thinking on his feet, he charges into the kitchen and offers a hand. Lucy is surprised to see a stranger in her kitchen, a gorgeous one at that, but she’s glad of the help.
As the two work together through the night, feelings stir between them and Lucy in desperate need of holiday help, offers this mystery man a job. He doesn’t respond to the offer and won’t tell her his name. Disappointed to see this beautiful enigmatic man go, Lucy decides she must interview whoever it is Dustin has lined up. She has no choice.
So when the man with no name walks through her door the next day claiming to be her interviewee, Lucy is in shock. Although she’s glad to see him again, she’s not sure she can bare his arrogance. James’ normal mantra is Get in, Revolutionise, Get out. But will it be that simple with The Town Mouse?
Will Lucy be able to digest his wacky ideas for the restaurant and deal with him pointing out the flaws in her business every step of the way? Will they be able to repress their feelings for each other and save the restaurant from ruin? Who knows, is love on the menu?
Dear Ms. Barry,
Chefs are temperamental and can be cranky and both James and Lucy – Lucy especially – give evidence of that. Lucy does have some excuse as she is left a chef short on 10 minutes notice right before the holiday crush season swings into full gear. The introduction to James and his kitchen abilities is also not conventional – I mean who lets an unknown person into their kitchen to cook for customers? Yep, the plot needs this, I guess, but were I sitting out front waiting for my fish pie, I’d want to be assured that the owner knows who has his or her hands all over what is going to be plated. Lucy also seems to be woefully ignorant of most aspects of marketing. James might be who saves the place but when a newbie is pointing out your deficiencies within 1 day, it doesn’t make Lucy come off as intelligent or savvy.
The relationship progresses forward in bizarre jolts. One minute Lucy and James are discussing menu changes and fish batter then suddenly James is tossing in questions about belief in soul mates – neither does, meeting significant others and relationship status. That’s after kissing Lucy on the third day they know each other with only professional interactions so far. It’s no wonder that Lucy feels caught off balance by his style. I’m just reading this and occasionally feel wrong footed in what the emphasis of the scene is on. Then after a lovely dinner, it’s apparently weeks of avoiding anything between them besides work. Right up until the end when suddenly both decide to make a move and test the waters before a quick declaration of love. Well now. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to believe that given the fits and starts that have characterized this romance. C-