Book Review for “The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux” by Samantha Vérant.
Summary: “French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of. Until her career goes up in flames. Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard.”
Thanks for the free book, @PRHGlobal/@prhinternational
Age: Adult; Genres: Fiction – Literary, Culinary, Women, Coming-of-age, Romantic; Era: Contemporary, Settings: France, New York.
Okay, confession time – when I got the widget from the PHR International team, I thought I was getting a totally different book. The one I had in mind was actually “Mrs. Graham’s Cold War Cookbook” by Celia Rees, which I still want to read, by the way. Well, I was about 20-25% into the book when I realized what I was reading had nothing to do with spies or wars. However, by that time, I was already intrigued and enjoying a real culinary fiction book (which I don’t think Rees’ book actually is), that has a touch of romance tossed in as a garnish (yes, you may expect me to fold some foodie puns into this review. Sue me!). Mind you, there is a bit of spying that happens in this book, so that is some small compensation.
So, now it is up to me to review the book I read, and not the one that I thought I was going to get. My initial thought was that there’s quite a bland trope here – girl on the cusp of getting everything she ever wanted and then her whole world deflates like an over-cooked soufflé, and as she picks up the pieces of her career, she also finds a bit of love to spice things up in the form of a childhood sweetheart, Rémi. My regular readers know that I’m not into romance novels, but thankfully, this novel doesn’t have Sophie swooning over some guy, at the expense of her taking hold of her life. In fact, I appreciated how Vérant practically went out of her way to make sure that Sophie concentrated on herself and her career much more hungrily than she did over a bunch of muscles. I also liked how Sophie’s drooling came more often while confronted with fresh produce, than when staring at Rémi. Most importantly, I appreciated how Vérant made this into a self-empowering, coming of age story, which also celebrated the life of Sophie’s grandmother.
All of these aspects earn this novel quite high marks from me, but I have to admit that there were a few things that weren’t all to my liking. For example, I believe Vérant made Sophie a bit too insecure throughout the novel. Yes, I understand that a blow to one’s career can do that to someone, and they often need to wallow for a while before they can begin the process of coming back into their own. However, Vérant allowed Sophie’s uncertainties to continue far too long for my taste. Plus, there were a bit too many ups and downs in Sophie’s progress towards becoming more self-assured. Of course, it can be argued against this that there’s always the worry behind any artist or professional (in any field), that one success after failures is just a fluke. The thing is, Vérant tells us that Sophie had been steadily rising the ranks of a two-starred Michelin restaurant for the past five years. You’d think that this experience would have helped her get back her mojo faster, and with fewer pitfalls. Also, I found the ending to be a bit too sweet and conveniently concluded, but readers will be thrilled to get some actual recipes from Vérant’s grandmother at the end, so that made up for this nicely.
I have to say that with all this, and considering it wasn’t the book I thought I was getting, I really did enjoy this novel very much. Vérant’s writing was really attractive, and as I said in the intro to this review, that easily kept me from having regrets for downloading this book. I can easily imagine that those readers who enjoy a really good contemporary women’s fiction novel that includes some romance along with an empowering, coming of age theme, will be giving this book a full five stars, for me, it was worthy of a very healthy four out of five, and I do recommend this book. By the way, although the sophistication of the language here (including the additional bits in French) makes me classify this as adult fiction, I can see this appealing to young adult and new adult readers as well (and no, there are no steamy sex scenes, thank heavens – only a few passionate kisses).
Berkley – Penguin Publishing Group released “The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux” by Samantha Vérant on September 8, 2020. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), or Thriftbooks.com, as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.