Sep 23 2008
Dear Ms. Holquist:
I almost didn’t write this review because it was such a struggle for me to pinpoint why I didn’t respond well to it given that I liked The Sexiest Man Alive so much. Ultimately, I think I failed to connect to the hero and heroine in a "it’s not you, it’s me" manner.
Amy Burns is a psychic who went on to Oprah to reveal Oprah’s one true love. Unfortunately, Amy and her psychic voice Maddie have had some communication problems of late and just when Amy needs her (in front a live Oprah audience), Maddie decides to stop talking to Amy altogether. Amy’s goal, notwithstanding her humiliation in front of Oprah, is to find Maddie.
Amy tracks Maddie to a gypsy named Roni to a restaurant in Philly called Les Fleurs. There she finds the hot chef/owner James LaChance but no Roni. Amy expends a huge amount of effort to find Roni which is extraordinary in that Amy’s only other huge expenditure of effort in the past is related to doing nothing, being a ne’er do well.
James LaChance’s claim to fame, other than his cooking prowess, is his bedroom prowess. He’s well known for his virility and the fact that his overpriced dishes are all inspired by women. All the dishes are named Denise, Josie, Trudy, Amanda, etc.
Throughout the story Amy has imaginary interviews with Oprah and James has imaginary sex with Amy. They spar and look at each other hungrily. All this is observed by a young Rom boy who works for James and dreams of being the next Top Chef (actually really just dreams of being a rich and famous chef like James).
From my many hours watching Top Chef and my own wait staff experiences, the restaurant parts are full of authenticity. Amy’s character growth from being an irresponsible and immature girl to a woman is appealing and James’ exudes a lot of macho sex appeal. James’s restaurant and James’ as a chef are my favorite parts of the book. I loved the waitstaff and the foul mouthed sous chefs. I loved James’ idea that the restaurant was a team and everyone had everyone else’s back even if he arbitrarily decides what mistakes get you kicked off (showing up late) and what keep you on (being hot like Amy). (That’s really not what I see when I watch Kitchen Nightmares but that would probably explain why those restaurants are going out of business and why James is close to getting his third star).
Food + sex = greatness in most equations so why did this story take me a week to read? I had a hard time with Amy as the con. I wasn’t sure if she ran cons because she liked the thrill; because it was the only way to make a living and she did so reluctantly. It seemed like the morality of the story was that the cons were run on bad people so the con was essentially good. But Amy runs cons on everyone from fifteen year old Tony to thirty something James. It’s not that Amy doesn’t grow. She totally does. By the end of the book, she’s changed. But I really wanted to know the “why” of the con so that I could believe in the fact that she could give it up. Further, I never really bought any depth of relationship between James and Amy. After four days of Amy working in James’ restaurant, he declares her his biggest weakness. Really James? That kind of shows that you’ve got the depth of a saute pan. Maybe women are your greatness weakness but Amy, a chick you’ve known all of four days?
I keep thinking as I review this book that I should have liked it. And maybe it was PMS. Bad time of the month, season, year, and that had I tried some other time, I would have appreciated it. Alas, I’ll blame this lackluster response on Gisele. Of course, I’m still up for the next book and I suspect I might re-read this one in a few months and see if I have a different response. In essence, this review is a plea for someone else to read the book and tell me that I am all wet. Or right. B-