Book Review

Delicious by Sherry Thomas

B

Title: Delicious
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Info: Bantam July 2008
ISBN: 0440244323
Genre: Historical: European

Book CoverThe trouble with stories wherein one party is betrothed to another is that the jilted   person must either be unspeakably awful, or really wonderful but not quite right for the protagonist. It’s a tough balance. Unspeakably awful calls into question the judgment of the protagonist, and you can’t have a reader wondering if the hero or heroine is secretly a complete idiot for having chosen that turnip head in the first place. If the jilted party is pretty spiffy in his or her own right, there’s the risk that their relative spiffyness will cause the protagonist to pale in comparison, or cause the one what does the jilting to look like a complete arse with no moral compass much less a sense of decency or honor.

To my happy pleasure and vexing frustration, despite having had exactly 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, Sherry Thomas’ Delicious kept me reading when I would have loved to have mashed my face against the bulkhead and slept.

There’s a ton of plot summaries out there for this book, so here’s the nutshell. Hot promising lawyer of questionable background gains social esteem, and proposes marriage to lovely woman of excellent connections. Hot lawyer has hot toddy in his past, a woman he cannot forget. Hot toddy woman is now a marvelously seductive chef who invokes epic drama with her chicken broth (we won’t speak of what she can do with chocolate or lemons) and hot lawyer finds himself inheriting house in which hot toddy chef is in residence. Turn up the burner and use a potholder, for God’s sake. You’ll burn yourself at the bathtub scenes if you’re not careful.

What I love about this book is a simple list of three: Place, Past, and Present.

Place: Victorian era = hot hot hot. The Regency will probably have to pretend its Empire waist is now corseted so its behind looks the size of a cruise ship (Victorian fashion can be one big WTF Fiesta) to keep up, because the balance of new technology and creativity in industry against repressed sexual urges in a strict society is just feisty hot.

Past: Thomas has two major skills in her corner and she’s working those skills like she’s beating whipped cream from scratch. She has Mad Word Power like holy crap.  (Can I just say that I do try sometimes to make my reviews more quote-worthy? I do. I know how much reviews mean to authors. And I fail like deflated cake. I know quotes help in various arenas but words like “effortless strength of lexicon and prose” or “her story sparkles with wit and words I had to look up” seem pale and butterless in comparison.)  Gone are the tired words that are retread in historical after historical. Thomas mixes a fairy tale, a social imbalance, and a knife-sharp grasp of language so well that I was in turns dizzy with the hope for a happy ending, thoughtfully mulling the social problems in that time period and how they reflect current times, and wishing I had learned that word and this word and that one over there because omg words they are like chocolate ginger cookies and I cannot stop at one so someone take the package away from me please.

Present: As I mentioned, Thomas sets up a smart weave of fiction and fact, setting Verity and Stuart against the class wars, the changing of the social guard, and the horrible facts of what happens to people who don’t have those almighty powerful connections to help them. Even when Thomas revealed a painful fate for a character, another character’s moral goodness and efforts to help soothed the sharp despair I felt. I cared about ancillary characters who were told in backstory, and who weren’t part of the narrative, and I was impressed with the nuanced portrayal of all the characters who were both generous and rigid, spiteful and deeply caring – in other words, human. They were flawed, they made decisions that were unattractive and deviated severely from the norm of heroine and hero in romance fiction.

What stopped this book from being an outright A – because nothing makes me a happy Sarah than a book’s meal of smart writing, sharp words, and deft storytelling – is that by invoking a fairy tale, the ending, which I won’t give away, came across as too over-the-top, too impossible, too completely cotton candy fairy tale sparkly glitter happy ending with a wave of a magic personality switching wand, that I couldn’t entirely trust it. Based on the suppositions of the hero of what he might be able to do, and the brusque assurances of a character whose turnabout was moments from the finale, I wasn’t entirely confident of the ending, and was cautiously optimistic instead of assured and happy myself.

I am, however, pleased that I persevered from the moment in reading the book when I wondered how on earth all these problems would work out by the end of the story, because I loved Stuart, his restrained passion and attempts to remake himself. I loved that there were real regrets in the story that weren’t going to be solved, and I loved that Verity, though flawed, tried to remain true to herself as much as possible, recognizing that her own mistakes weren’t necessarily going to doom everyone around her as much as she’d thought.

Most of all, I loved the writing. I love being told a story in layered language that reflects the careful layering of the narrative itself.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ana says:

    I bought a bunch of books yesterday including this one and I was wondering which one to read first. Now I know. Thanks for the review .

    Oh, can we also mention the cover? It is so beautiful and tasteful.

  2. 2
    Joanne says:

    Ah, I think that is a perfect review Sarah of a Historical Romance that isn’t more of the same old, same old … even with only a little sleep you hit all the goodness (and the bath scenes…)

    I loved this book when I was sure I wasn’t going to even like it. I also thought that she wrote an excellent and interesting group of secondary characters….

    and I was very, very happy to get on the scale the next morning after reading Delicious and find out I hadn’t gained any weight!

  3. 3
    Lovecow2000 says:

    This is a fun book.  I thought at times that the prose wasn’t always as felicitous as indicated here and on Dear Author, but I loved the characters and the story itself. The upstairs/downstairs romance layered in with the Irish Question made for compelling reading.  Another nuance that Thomas really worked out well into the story is the issue of accent and class, which still persists to this day in the UK.  Overall, a wonderfully clever book.

    Also, I think we can add Verity to the list of heroines who aren’t body perfect.  As a mature woman in her 30s, she far, far more interesting and fun than she would have been in her 20s.

  4. 4
    SonomaLass says:

    I loved this book!  I also finished it in one night (nom, nom, nom), despite my best intentions to savor it and make it last.  I have a personal weakness for stories about couples who failed at love the first time but get a second chance together when they are older and wiser (what can I say?  Biography at work).  Plus the food angle was terrific, and the sensuality/sexuality was, well, hawt!

    I probably could have done without the fairy-tale framework myself, and I agree that the final HEA was a little fast.  She set it up very well, but it still felt contrived—and since that was the ONLY point in the whole book that didn’t feel completely genuine to me, I noticed it more .  It didn’t bug me anywhere near as much as the epilogue of Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways, though, and it won’t stop me from shilling this book shamelessly to my friends and sisters.

    I agree about the excitement possible in the Victorian period.  My DP is an industrial archeology geek, and the Industrial Revolution is a great setting for romances to explore issues of class and gender differently than in Regencies.

    I agree that the cover is wonderful; it makes a great set with her earlier novel, Private Arrangements, too.

  5. 5
    Christine says:

    Excellent review, Sarah. I picked this one up last week and am really looking forward to reading it.

  6. 6
    jessica says:

    Loved the book and your review Sarah. I like the fairy tale background just because it made more sense with how they met initially and how they loved each other, and then came back together.

  7. 7
    Danae says:

    I think I will get this book just because of the food references.
    I love to cook and I love it when food is used in a storyline.
    I’ve never read anything by Thomas, but it sounds intriguing.

    P.S. The G. Heyer book was waiting for me when I arrived at my mother’s home in the United States.  I don’t think I will have time to read it while I’m here, but I do have a 13 hour flight back to S. Korea to look forward to and I think it would be a great time for me to become acquainted with Heyer.

  8. 8
    Kathy says:

    I liked this book too.  Sarah made all the points I would have about the plot, characters, ending, everything.  This review is right on.  I liked that it had a touch of fairy tale with a sexy, humanly flawed twist.  Thanks Sarah.

    small65-telling me I will be small at 65?

  9. 9
    Elaine says:

    I really enjoyed Thomas’ writing style and the details about life and work belowstairs in the kitchens, and Victorian era British politics.  Stuart was a wonderful hero with a believable transformation.  Verity was more difficult to warm up to.  I really wanted to like her, but she didn’t seem to make much transformation in character during the course of her book.  Her behavior upon meeting Stuart again after 10 years was really strange for a sexually experienced heroine – I kept rolling my eyes each time Verity encountered Stuart in a darkened hallway or bathroom and begged prettily to keep the lights off.  Also, the sex scene in the bathtub with the black silk scarf over her eyes, please, so cheesy!  Fine, it’s a romance novel so hot sex is a requirement, but we are way into Velveeta overload here.  Those gripes aside, Delicious was a great read and had lots of interesting details.

  10. 10
    Iasmin says:

    Wonder of wonders, they had this in the pharmacy as I was waiting for my prescription to be filled today and based on the Smart Bitches (and me remembering the cover from the review) I actually picked this up. Now, do I skive off some work today in order to start it and not stay up all night like Sarah or do I get my bon bons prepared for the long haul and warn the Better Half that he’ll just have to deal with the light being on while he sleeps? Decisions, decisions.

    Thanks for the recommendation of this one, Bitches!

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