Friday, April 26, 2013

When in Doubt, Add Butter

By Beth Harbison

Gemma Craig is a personal chef. She has five clients she cooks for every week. One of her most difficult clients is Angela Van Houghten, who claims to have a lot of food allergies. She requires foods with no diary, no onion, no soy, no nuts, no honey, no warm spices, no garlic, and so on. Plus she makes her husband and son adhere to her strict diet. Gemma cooks for the Van Houghtens on Mondays.
Tuesday is Paul McMann, a lawyer, who Gemma has never met in person, but who seems to appreciate her cooking judging by the kind and often humorous notes he leaves for her. Wednesdays in Lex Prather, who is also enjoyable to cook for, a pleasant man who enjoys fine cuisine. Thursdays are the Oleksei family, Russian immigrants who Gemma suspects of being gangsters. She is cooking recipes from their grandmother's cookbook and really enjoying learning about Russian foods. Friday is Marie Lemurra, who is almost as difficult to cook for as Angela, but not because she is so picky, she is just an unpleasant person to work for. Gemma soon loses Friday's client when she accidentally runs over Marie's pet peacock.
Money is tight so losing a client is bad news. So Gemma's friend takes her out drinking and Gemma hooks up with a man from the bar. They retire to her friend's place and have sex. He gives her his name and she promptly loses it. They run into each other at a store and he tries to give her his business card but hands her the wrong one and she doesn't realize it until he has left. Seems like they are fated to never connect again.
The weeks go by and Gemma comes to realize she is pregnant. The condoms they used were way past their use-by date. Now it is more important than ever that she locate Mr. Wonderful, if only to let him know he is going to be a daddy. But it turns out not to be that hard to find him, he has been right under her nose all the time.

I really enjoyed this story a lot, despite its rather contrived premise. It has a lot of humor, although it is not really a funny novel. Gemma has a lot of problems to deal with, including some unknown person trying to sabotage her career. Plus she has a lot of baggage from some poor decisions in her past. But I liked Gemma and liked this book. It was a good read. And the sex is not graphic, which I really appreciated. When they started to take each other's clothes off in the friend's apartment, I thought to myself, "OK, be prepared to skip ahead." But no skipping was required!

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