The Secret Ingredient by Dianne Blacklock is a wonderful read! I know it seems so simple to start a book review that way, but it's true. I devoured this novel in only a few days. It is light and endearing, charming really. It has moments that are emotionally wrought, but not so much so you feel weighed down by the drama unfolding. I would highly recommend this book. I will certainly read titles by this author in the future, to include the books she wrote prior to The Secret Ingredient.
I won this book from Chick Lit Central: The Blog. That in and of itself is exciting - free books! If you've never stopped by their blog, you should. Great reviews, great interviews, and lots of giveaways.
First I want to talk about the cover of the book. I often don't spend a lot of time dwelling on novel art. I believe the story is the most important element, but I do know a solid cover turns heads. The artwork and photograph on the cover of the novel exquisitely complement the plot. I think the picture of the woman shows the kind spirit of the protagonist Andie almost as well as the author's words. The cover of this novel was one of the drives I had to pick it up and start reading. Having a good graphic artist is certainly worth every penny!
Andie is a chef, or was a chef until she met Ross. Ross swept Andie off her proverbial feet into married hell. Although, it takes Andie a long time to realize that's where she is. Ten years, actually. Ross is older and charming and wealthy, but that's not why Andie loves him. She loves him because he made her feel special and precious; his zest for life seems to have increased with age. But, as the marriage reaches the lull many marriages do, Ross and Andie have different ideas on how to bring back the spark. Sadly, Andie litearlly walks into Ross's attempt to spice up his life, and in her own home no less. Her heart is broken. After all, she was once "the other woman" and that is a bitter pill to swallow (a valuable lesson here!) The heartbreak stems not only from the betrayal of her husband, but of the betrayal of herself. She walked away from everything to be his wife and trying to find herself again seems like an insurmountable task. However, she trudges her way back to her former self against plenty of odds to reclaim her long lost goal of being a chef. She takes a greater risk than she ever has before and by doing so, she learns how to live again.
I know I've already gushed a bit about how much I enjoyed this novel. It's true, I loved it. But what I want to focus on here is Blacklock's ability to really portray the depth and range of a woman. The main character, Andie, is the epitome of every woman, and every stupid decision we ever made involving a man in our youth. The reader follows, with trepidation, while she makes decisions, reflects on decisions, and then eventually reaches the decisions we knew she'd get to all along; if she was a woman worth her salt. And it's easy to judge some of the choices she makes, but if we're really honest with ourselves, while our choices may not have been the same - they were equally as stupid. And much like Andie, we had to recover.
I think that's what I just truly enjoyed the most - the realness of the novel. It didn't feel like I was reading yet another romance; it felt like I was reading about someone's life.
Dianne Blacklock is not new on the writing scene. While I've just discovered her, she's written seven novels prior to this one. She has also been a teacher, trainer, counselor, check-out chick, and even one of those annoying market researchers you avoid in shopping centres. Nowadays she tries not to annoy anyone by staying home and writing. The Secret Ingredient is her eighth book.
You can purchase most of her novels on Amazon.com, but she is based out of Australia -yep folks, down under so ebooks are the best way to read her work in the United States. I checked the publishing site for purchasing a paperback and it was $25.00 + $40.00 shipping fee - WOWZA!!! So, I love her, but I'm going to stick to reading her on my Kindle. God bless the ebook reader :-)
As always - Happy Reading