Lindsay Bingham is a small town girl who finds herself in St. Michel, a small European country similar to Monaco, as a bridesmaid to her friend Sophie, who is marring the crown prince of said country. At the wedding, she meets the gaze of one hot celebrity chef, Carlos Montigo, and the attraction is immediate. As Carlos goes off to fetch champagne for them both after a short but charged conversation on the balcony, another man, a television producer, asks her to dance and drops an amazing opportunity in her lap: television show hostess for his newly-purchased cooking network. Sophie, the princess of the previous book in this series, has pulled some strings for her best friend.
Lindsay used to be in television. Now she’s a receptionist at a job she assures herself is important, and she doesn’t want to get back into the television life, especially after it (ominous moment ahead) cost her so much in the past. But upon realizing that her job really isn’t all that (heads up! rapid change of priority and plot and understanding of the main character!) she turns the car around (she’s not the only one with whiplash, here) and heads to the audition. Surprise: you can has new job as hostess of a television spot, live from (the conveniently located and timed) food and wine festival.
Carlos doesn’t want to be attracted to Lindsay, and when he finds himself the subject of her first interview, he turns the tables on her and surprises her in front of the camera – only the impromptu performance is more interesting than they’d hoped, and Producer man is very intrigued.
Surprise again: Carlos and Lindsay are now the co-hosts of an hour-long show, driving all over Europe in a red Ferrari sampling cuisine and small town delicacies while info dumping through voice over dialogue onto both the television audience and the reader.
With slim connections to the Cinderella myth and limited character development beyond selfish caricatures of past loves causing interminable pathos in the confidence and emotional development of the protagonists (“He was mean to me!” “She scarred my soul!” Say it with me now: “I can’t trust you!”), this book was sparkling in its setting and dull in its execution.
If you don’t want to know how it ends, stop now. Seriously. Stop here.
Everything that went wrong with this book went wrong in the end. The majority of my ire and review focuses on the ending. Ergo, there are spoilers. Ergo ergo, they’re below the fold. Read on at your own peril.
There were so many things that ticked me off, I have a list.
1. Yo, lady heroine. Sorry, your best friend is like totally a princess, but you’re getting a tv gig. And you should decide you want it and then question yourself so quickly and with such hairpin turns of mental dexterity, it’s a good thing you’re driving a Ferrari. Consider a Bugatti for your next television gig. You could combine cars and food for excellent tv viewing.
2. Yo, Mr. Producer Man. Are you good, bad, or just like wet toast in possession of a lot of money? You’re more inconsistent than the heroine’s decision making process. You’re malevolent! You’re benevolent! You’re volatile! You’re unreasonable! You’re careful! You write ridiculous clauses in to contracts! I give up. You’re not only cardboard, you’re spinning cardboard.
3. Yo, plot. Let’s wrap this mess up in a hurry! We have some conflict, we have some trust issues, and we have five pages to make this work so those crazy kids and drive off into the sunset. Ready, set, go!
Lindsay: you’re amazing. Your cookies impress the chef du awesome in a small-town in France, giving you a standing job offer because your late mother’s recipe is simply incredible. Magic, you has it.
Carlos, you smoldering cook, you. You know that dream of a kitchen for troubled teens to learn job skills? You know that small town in Florida you love so much? You reminisce about? You long for as you drive the Coupe de Lurrrve all over Europe? You know, your home?
Totally unnecessary. Put that mess on the market. Why?
Because you’re going to give up your property and your dream, the location you’ve mentioned so many times, so you can… go to a town where Lindsay lives (with no job, since that pesky tv gig came along) because… well, I have NO IDEA WHY.
Linday’s said repeatedly that her current home is in nowhere’s suburb, and the narrative has spent exactly four pages there. I as the reader had absolutely no concept of where this happy ending is taking place.
Remember all those whiplash decisions Lindsay made earlier? Where she’d muse about one thing than a page or two later realize she was wrong and that reality was somewhat, or, a whole pile of a lot different? At first, it seemed she was really good at deluding herself. But by the end, it was impossible to believe she had any sense whatsoever.
After seeming to enjoy the tv show role, though not enjoying the uncertainty of it, at the end, she realizes in a fit of missing-Carlos-depression that she is really a homebody who wants to bake all day, because that’s what she does when she’s sad. Better keep on doing it, then.
So ultimately, she tours Europe with a hot chef in a sports car… and comes to the last minute realization that she wants to be in the nowhereville town she just ran like hell away from, and bake all the time.
What really ticked me off was that the ending betrayed the theme of the book. Home was where they are. They were at home in Paris, in Carcassonne, wherever they were together, they were happy and attracted and alive, and being together meant belonging.
But in the end, home has to be where she is, because he’s going drop everything and move to her.
Yeah, that inspires my confidence. I don’t have any impression of where this place is. She’s never there during the course of the narrative. It even has a boring ass name compared to his current hometown in Florida. But there they are – and why? I couldn’t possibly tell you.
By the time I reached the final page, I was incredulous. I wanted to beat them both with their shoes for twisting around once again and tacking an entirely out-of-character and unnecessarily bizarre ending on an otherwise flighty but tolerable story.