Angelica has grown up in the family restaurant business started by her Italian father, Giovanni, and his English wife, Laura. Surrounded by gorgeous Italian food, now she wants to try something different. Defying her father’s wishes, she moves to Paris to learn French cuisine. There, caught up in the excitement and emotion of the May ’68 student riots, she falls in love with a charismatic but unreliable man.
Back in London with him, Angelica’s future career blossoms at the Savoy Hotel and further develops when she becomes a food writer. What happens to her marriage is another matter and her parents’ concerns are proved painfully justified.
Moving back to run the inn on her family’s estate in Gloucestershire may feel like failure, but little does Angelica know that what awaits her there is the greatest challenge of her life – and a second chance at love.
This is Book Two in the Food of Love Trilogy, but as I hadn’t read the first one I can reliably say this can be read as a stand-alone. The book essentially tells the story of Angelica as she makes her way room from cloakroom attendant in the family restaurant to top caterer and telly chef. Of course it’s not plain sailing, and love and life challenges inevitably rock the boat along the way. In addition we are also kept up to date with the happenings in the wider family (and it’s quite a large and not always like-able family).
While I enjoyed this book I have to say for me it fell into two halves. The first half which concentrated on the younger Angelica, her years in Paris with the unstable Mario and her foray into her first restaurant job had me hooked. I especially loved the Paris period, where she lived in a tiny apartment in Montmartre. It had a curious mix of Bohemian charm with pavement cafes and bars running alongside the political and economic changes that resulted in the student riots. I liked that Angelica was a trailblazer for women in the very masculine if not chauvinistic world of restaurant and hotel kitchens.
The second half of the book slowed a little for me, and I sometimes felt that as Angelica progressed her career there was too much information. As we are reading about an area in which for once the author is an expert in the field, that is perhaps to be expected. For me it sometimes read more like a memoir than fiction. However, I appreciate that for others this would be a plus, but I would occasionally have preferred fewer facts. None of this though detracts from my wanting to continue to read what happened next.
This is a book that foodies and lovers of family sagas especially will love.