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REVIEW: Delicious by Sherry Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas,

book review When I read your historical romance debut, Private Arrangements, in February of this year, I was enchanted. The note I wrote in my book log reads as follows: “Excellent, excellent debut. Beautifully written and characterized, and quite different from the usual historical romance (especially in allowing a heroine to be less than saintly). My only complaint is it could have been a little longer – the ending felt a bit rushed.”

So, my anticipation level was quite high when I opened Delicious. Happily, I was not disappointed.

The story begins with this irresistible line:

In retrospect people said it was a Cinderella story.

…that line and my experience with your earlier book were enough to signal that I was in for one subversive fairy tale. And who doesn’t love a subversive fairy tale?

In 1892, Bertie Somerset unexpectedly drops dead at his Yorkshire estate. The death comes as a shock to everyone; Bertie was only 38 years old and not known to be in bad health. Among the surprised mourners are Bertie’s notorious cook and erstwhile lover, Verity Durant, and his estranged half-brother, barrister and rising politician Stuart Somerset. Bertie’s tangled and fraught relationships with both Stuart and Verity, and Stuart and Verity’s with each other, form the heart of the plot of Delicious.

I should probably take a moment to note that as with Private Arrangements, Delicious is told partly through flashbacks. Chapters Three, Five, Seven and Nine flash back ten years to 1882, and detail some of Verity’s history with Bertie, as well as her first meeting with Stuart. I recall some readers complaining about the flashbacks in Private Arrangements, a complaint I didn’t agree with. I felt that that book was actually enriched by not being written in a linear fashion. I feel the same way about Delicious – in fact, in the case of this book, I think a linear plot would have detracted from the story a great deal, since the threads that tie these characters together are only gradually revealed in the course of the story.

Stuart is a wonderful hero – the illegitimate son of a nobleman, he has tried to make up for his disreputable origins by becoming a model of rectitude. He is a politician concerned with social justice, but also, like any politician, he’s ambitious, and his chances of rising high indeed look very good. Stuart becomes engaged to a family friend early in the story, a young woman whom he likes and feels will be an asset to his career.

Verity is at first a little harder to get a handle on – she’s a woman with a murky past who has had to recreate herself, and her personality is marked both by sadness over losses she’s never quite gotten over, and at times an impetuousness that would seem to belong to a younger woman. She is definitely an unusual and sympathetic heroine.

Delicious interestingly juxtaposes Verity’s vocation as a cook against Stuart’s, for lack of a better phrase, food issues. Unlike his sybaritic brother, Stuart’s relationship with food is joyless and purely functional, at least until Verity comes back into his life. Stuart’s first taste of Verity’s cooking (a cucumber soup that is, he thinks, “sublime”) is described thusly:

He cared nothing for food. Hadn’t in ages and ages. Food was sustenance, something to keep him alive and healthy, nothing more. A dinner at the Tour d’Argent was no different from a dinner at the lowliest fish-and-chip shop: just dinner.

This was not just dinner. This was as dangerous and unpredictable as the presence of a scantily clad woman in the cell of a monk who’d taken a vow of chastity.

He set down his spoon. Thirty years ago he’d have begged for one more sip.

Twenty years ago he’d have been thrilled to discover that his sense of taste hadn’t permanently atrophied. Ten years ago he might have taken this sudden reawakening of his palate for an augury of wonderful things to come, things he’d wished for with the single-mindedness of a long-buried seed seeking the unbearable beauty of a world drenched in light.

Today he wished only to read his newspaper at dinner without being distracted—or profoundly disturbed—by a bowl of soup.

Food plays an important part in Delicious, and some of the descriptions were mouth-watering enough to make me hungry.

Speaking of mouth-watering – I’ve become one of those jaded romance readers who more often than not ho-hums at love scenes. That said, the love scenes in Delicious were very effective, and yes, hot. Especially the first one, involving Stuart coming upon Verity in his bathtub (the scene was so luscious that I forgave it its contrived set-up).

There is a nice secondary romance between Stuart’s fiancée Lizzy and his secretary, both of whom have hidden depths behind their proper facades.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading a historical romance free of spies, nefarious plots and mustache-twirling villains. The villains in Delicious, such as they are, are merely real, flawed people – selfish and misguided, with their own hurts motivating their bad behavior.

I also have to say, without giving anything away, that I loved both Stuart’s and Verity’s behavior near the end of the book. They were such adults – in the best sense of the word. They behaved with honor, but not the self-sacrificing faux-honor of so many romance heroes and heroines (especially the heroines). They had made those mistakes in the past and learned from them. How refreshing!

My final grade for Delicious is an A. Ms. Thomas, I will be eagerly anticipating your next book; you’re well on your way to being one of my favorite historical romance authors.

Best regards,

Jennie

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format on July 29, 2008.

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

22 Comments

  1. Janine
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 13:03:24

    I recall some readers complaining about the flashbacks in Private Arrangements, a complaint I didn't agree with. I felt that that book was actually enriched by not being written in a linear fashion. I feel the same way about Delicious – in fact, in the case of this book, I think a linear plot would have detracted from the story a great deal, since the threads that tie these characters together are only gradually revealed in the course of the story.

    I agree with you on that — I really enjoyed the non-linear structure of both books. I have the impression that there are fewer flashbacks in Delicious than in Private Arrangments, and the characters in Delicious are also less flawed, so I’m curious to see how readers will respond to Delicious.

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  2. Keri M
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 13:04:21

    Jennie, that was a great review. Do we know from the beginning what the ages are of Verity and Stuart?

    Not that it makes a difference, it was just from your review, it sounds that they may be of an older generation, instead of the usual just out of the schoolroom, into the ballroom, into the marriage bed kind of historical, It sounds like a refreshing change. I haven’t been reading historicals lately except for Pamela Claire, but I may give this one a try. Keri

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  3. joanne
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 13:04:43

    Jennie the first line of your review made me want to read more of your comments. The first line of the story made me want to have the book.

    I’m so happy to read a review of a love story — a real romance without mistaken identitys or Dukes & Spys or innocent virgins looking for lessons in love (authors: Please give that last one a rest!).

    Delicious has gone on my to-buy list, thank you.

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  4. Jill Myles
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 14:38:44

    I scored an early copy of this and have to agree. I’m a little jaded when it comes to the historical romance genre, but I adored this book. I went from openly skeptical to loving the story, and the ending made me want to do a fistpump and scream “YES!!!!”

    Great book. Definitely an author to add to my autobuy list.

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  5. Marg
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 15:44:57

    I am very much looking forward to reading this one!

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  6. SonomaLass
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 16:31:40

    Sherry Thomas has a wonderful writing voice and a fresh perspective on historical romance. I especially appreciate the long story arcs (made possible with flashbacks) that allow the main characters to be a little older and wiser by the time they get their HEA.

    I loved Private Arrangements, and the excerpt in the back from Delicious made me eager for that, too. I promised myself that I would get it as soon as it came out, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been in a bookstore in weeks. So I’m heading to Borders to buy it for myself — a present for all the work (labor of love, naturally) involved in putting together my son’s wedding (Friday — eeek!).

    Excellent review — it says a lot about why you liked the book without giving too much away.

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  7. Devon
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 17:31:31

    This sounds great! I love uptight heroes, proper heroes.

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  8. SonomaLass
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 19:24:05

    :( Borders was OUT of Delicious. Sigh. I was REALLY looking forward to it! They will re-stock soon, I’m sure. Just have to be patient. Yeah, right.

    I bet there will be copies at RWA, though. :(

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  9. Jennie F.
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 20:24:58

    Do we know from the beginning what the ages are of Verity and Stuart?

    Not that it makes a difference, it was just from your review, it sounds that they may be of an older generation, instead of the usual just out of the schoolroom, into the ballroom, into the marriage bed kind of historical, It sounds like a refreshing change.

    Hmm, I know I worked it out when I read the book, and again just a week ago when I was rereading parts for the review. Damn memory. I *think* Verity is 33. She refers to herself several times as “middle-aged”, which I suppose is both due to the fact that people were older at a younger age then (if you know what I mean), and I think she just feels older – she’s a little world-weary. So when she first meets Stuart, she’s 23.

    Stuart…I want to say he’s 39, but I’m not sure where I get that from. I think he’s a few years older than Verity, and I apparently managed to remember Bertie’s age long enough to put it in the review (he was 38); I got the sense that Bertie and Stuart were quite close in age, though I don’t remember which one was older; somehow I thought it was Bertie…

    What a reviewer I am! In fairness to Ms. Thomas, my inability to remember such details is no reflection on her lovely, lovely book; it’s just that my memory now suuuuucccks! (And apparently I’m right at the age for a coronary, if Bertie is anything to judge by.)

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  10. Robin
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 23:16:54

    Argh, I can only find this in Mobipocket and Microsoft Reader on Fictionwise.

    Macintosh: it’s not the enemy!

    And I was so excited when Fictionwise bought eReader. *sigh*

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  11. Janine
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 23:23:20

    There’s always the old tree book technology.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

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  12. Robin
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 23:27:00

    Yeah, but that takes two more days to get than an ebook! And it’s more clutter on my bookshelves (which are already threatening to collapse under the weight of so many books). Plus I love my Buywise rebate on Fictionwise.

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  13. Janine
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 23:42:36

    I know what you mean about clutter… I’m in the process of trying to pare down my book collection and it’s not easy. But you might be able to find Delicious today (or rather, tomorrow) if you call brick and mortar stores in your area around. I plan to try the grocery store across the street myself. They had Private Arrangements.

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  14. Meanne
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 04:00:46

    Lovely review, Jennie!

    I, too, enjoyed Private Arrangements a lot and your review just whetted my appetite for Delicious (pun intended!).

    Just bought the ebook from Fictionwise…( Am also a fan of their Buywise rebate…)

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  15. Kim H
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 09:38:46

    I read it last night. One of those up all night with bloodshot eyes, and had to sleep the morning away to recover things:P I totally loved it. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book. I was one of those people who had some problems with the flashbacks in Private Arrangements. I appreciated the non-linear storyline, and it really seemed like the only practical way to tell the story, but it still seemed just the slightest bit heavy-handed to me. The use of flashbacks in Delicious was flawless though. Just the right amount. I also had some initial misgivings about *another* ten year separation, but it really worked here. And the thing about the galoshes… Oh my…

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  16. FanLit
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 11:53:54

    I started this book last night and am thoroughly enjoying it. Ms. Thomas has a terrific way with descriptions and dialogue. My vocabulary is quite good, but she always manages to insert a word that has me reaching for a dictionary. I mean that in a good way.

    I enjoyed her non-linear writing in PA, so I won’t have a problem with it here. I think it makes the scenes more memorable because we see the characters in the present and a bit jaded. Then we see how they’ve changed by watching them interact at a younger age.

    I’ll have to re-read the beginning, but I believe Stuart is 37. He’s younger than Bertie. Stuart made 37 seem positively ancient.

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  17. Keri M
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:18:47

    Thanks Jennie, I might just give this one a try, it sounds like something I just might like.

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  18. Aoife
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 12:14:32

    I just finished this last night, and it is one of the few new books that I have read recently that I wasn’t in the least bit tempted to put down. I loved Verity, I loved Stuart, and I loved the secondary romance. But….

    POSSIBLE SPOILERS

    I just didn’t really believe in the resolution. I’m trying not to give anything major away, but the actions of Verity’s nemesis didn’t really ring true to me at the end. After all those years, all that suffering, all those judgements made about Verity, suddenly everything is happy-happy-happy? And she thinks that she is actually going to be able to present Verity at court? And make all those years of cooking, etc., etc. go away so that Stuart’s career isn’t ruined? I so did not buy it. I totally bought in to the HEA between the characters, but because I believed in the strength of Verity and Stuart’s relationship, not because I think everything else was going to be neatly fixed up by the Dowager. In that sense, the ending was a bit of a let-down, I would have preferred something a tiny bit more realistic, but because of the strength of the rest of the book, the ending wasn’t a deal-breaker.

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  19. joanne
    Aug 03, 2008 @ 08:17:04

    Well, this was a page-turner…. A very nice change from the same-ole, same-ole and I thought the ending was almost bound to happen with the not so subtle hints of the Dutchess and her reaction to dinner at Stuart’s home…. not to mention, how much unhappiness is one couple suppose to endure?

    It was a lovely change of pace from all my current paranormal and romantic suspense reads and I thought the writing absolutely wonderful even when it leaned a little toward violet. I love finding a new author.

    An Aside: I think I gained 5 pounds by osmosis…

    thanks so much for this recommendation.

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  20. Review: Delicious, by Sherry Thomas « Racy Romance Reviews
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 22:58:11

    [...] Jennie, Dear Author, Grade: A [...]

  21. Moth
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 13:47:41

    Finally got this book from my local library. Finished it yesterday. One sitting. Very well-done.

    Verity is 33, Stuart is 37.

    I liked this much better that PA. I agree with the person who said the flashbacks were heavy-handed in PA. They were much more organic to the plot and flow of the story in this novel. I LOVED the part with the galoshes.

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  22. Bonnie
    Jul 21, 2009 @ 19:32:31

    Oh, my God, I am enjoying this book immensely. So delightfully different from the usual historical.

    But I’m hungry all the damn time! It’s ruining my diet.

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