Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Georgia's Kitchen by Jenny Nelson

I love to cook and enjoy hearing people tell me I am good at it. The reality is that I follow a recipe with the best of them. The fact that I need to follow someone else's directions in the kitchen has not stopped me from the occasional daydream about working as a chef in a restaurant. Luckily there are creative, wonderful, impeccably trained chefs out there who can actually indulge their dream.

Georgia, the main character in Georgia's Kitchen, is a rising star in the restaurant world, working as head chef in the kitchen of another chef's eponymously named restaurant. She is engaged to a successful lawyer whom her mother adores. She has dreams of one day opening her own restaurant. It seems like her life is charmed. But then her life comes crashing down around her ears: a poor review unfairly blamed on her, fired from her job, and dumped by her fiance. So she reevaluates her life and heads to Italy to refresh her skills and work in a rustic Italian kitchen in a brand new restaurant. Once she arrives in Tuscany, she discovers that the amazing job she's come for isn't exactly what she's expected. And what Italian-set novel would be complete without a gorgeous neighbor? Gianni owns the vineyard next door to the restaurant and he is completely tempting to Georgia. But the focus here is really on Georgia and the life she is creating, learning, and testing.

Nelson captures the allure of Tuscany and does a wonderful job evoking the place. While the plot is romantic and charming, Nelson does a good job creating Georgia as a main character who learns to be true to herself rather than writing a standard "woman handed life-long dream thanks to intervention of gorgeous man" novel. In fact, all of the characters do a pretty good job of defying stereotype and come off as entertaining and sympathetic to the reader. There's a feeling of gentle insistence as the plot unspools toward Georgia's ultimate decision. The supporting characters are well drawn and the tale, while occasionally predictable, is ultimately delightfully feel-good. There's enough meat here to make this a winner for book clubs although you might run into the problem of everyone liking it too much to have a varied discussion. Not necessarily a bad problem to have. A fun and mouth-watering read, I thoroughly enjoyed Georgia and want her to come and cook for me.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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