Dear Ms. Meader:
On the plus side, this is NOT a small town contemporary. Cue cheers. It’s an entirely serviceable story set in Chicago with a believable plot and likeable characters but for some reason I didn’t love it like I thought I would. This is totally a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.”
The heroine, Lili DeLuca, is a full figured woman who has put off career plans of her own to take care of her mother who contracted cancer. Her sister, who hasn’t helped out much at home, has arranged for a celebrity chef, Jack Kilroy, to come and help revive the family restaurant. Jack is to engage in a cook off with the DeLuca patriarch. The DeLuca restaurant fortunes are flagging because of Tony DeLuca’s refusal to modernize.
Lili is attracted to Jack right away which makes the sister, Cara, smirk because she brought Jack to the restaurant just for Lili. The problem is that Jack doesn’t want an easy hookup. He’s not sure what he wants but falling into bed with Lili doesn’t seem quite right, no matter how much she short circuits his brain. Still he can’t stop kissing her. When a clinch of theirs becomes a YouTube sensation, Lili has to deal with her father’s disapprobation as well as the internet commenters calling her fat. She’s had to struggle with her weight all her life and was just coming to accept her curvier stature.
Thus, there seems to be a whole lot of conflict going on. On Jack’s side, he’s pursuing his celebrity and a new TV show but he often finds himself thinking of his old kitchen staff and how much he misses the camaraderie of the restaurant family he made.
There is a lot of food and cooking in this book and much of Jack’s attraction to Lili is bound up in her passion of his cooking. If the idea of sex in the kitchen turns a reader off, this book should be avoided. There are many of cooking related metaphor.
He’s a glazed doughnut, a bundle of empty calories, a walking tabloid, she told her weakening resolve.
Her father might not be as successful as Lord Sexpot, but they were cut from the same dough.
Lili spoke again, her voice as smooth as warmed butter,
On the one hand it made sense for Jack to think of everything in terms of food but I wasn’t convinced Lili was the same. After all, she was a photographer so if she was making metaphors in her head, wouldn’t they be photography related? Nonetheless, it was suited to the storyline that felt overly schmaltzy at times. Jack decided early on that everything was better with Lili and he had to fight to overcome her family and her fear of the public eye due to her concern about her weight. But Jack’s bulldozing butts up against Lili’s natural proclivity to subsume her own desires to elevate those around her.
As I said in the beginning, the characters are decent, it is set in a big city with a large family and equally large problems. But while the story flowed well, it felt like an overstuff canoli at times. C+