After a disastrous teenage relationship that left her broken-hearted, 37-year-old Gemma is perfectly content sticking to short, I'm-not-getting-attached couplings. At 17, Gemma gave up a baby for adoption, and the boyfriend she thought to be the one disappeared as soon as she revealed the pregnancy. Now, although she does not have her own family to care for, as a personal chef, she has plenty of other families to cook for.
Monday through Friday, Gemma takes over her clients' kitchens where the variety of dishes pales in
comparison to the variety of often crazy personalities she has to cater to. And even though Gemma often wishes she could throw up her hands and leave after another ridiculous request, her bills will not pay themselves. To Gemma, her paycheck to paycheck existence is proof that she is not ready to be anyone's mother.
There's "Mr. Tuesday," a pleasant man — or at least pleasant on the phone since Gemma has never met him in person; the Van Houghtens who request that Gemma cook with no garlic, herbs, butter, onions, dairy, and the list goes on; Lex Prather, the flamboyant department store owner; the Oleksei family, who may or may not be in the mob; Willa, with an obsession for butter despite her doctor's orders that she lose weight; and Marie Lemurra, who unceremoniously fires Gemma after she accidentally runs over her new pet peacock.
Gemma's life is stable and predictable — just the way she likes it — and the kitchen is where she thrives. However, life has a way of throwing us curve balls, and like it or not, Gemma's curve ball may just shake up the predictability she holds so dear.
When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison is a new addition to what I call the "cooking-fiction" genre, and it's certainly a fun ride. Gemma's story is compelling, but her clients steal the show. From men so busy they barely see their own homes, to celebrity-obsessed housewives, Harbison's cast of characters is coo-coo and delightful at the same time. And Gemma's interviews with potential clients after the Lemurra debacle only adds to the fun!
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