From the desk of Sophia Rose:
Jane Austen’s Persuasion gets a modern facelift Desi-style in this standalone sequel to Sonali Dev’s 2019, Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, as Indian American chef, Ashna Raje, and Brazilian footballer, Rico Silva, encounter each other once again as acrimonious cooking partners on a reality TV show. I love that the author has cooked up a series of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s classic works by giving members of the Raje family their chances at romance.
In Recipe for Persuasion Ashna’s family is convinced a reality cooking show is just the jumpstart her dying restaurant needs and she is willing to do anything to preserve this last bit of her father who opened the restaurant.
As a pro footballer at the top of his game, Rico thought he had moved on from Ashna’s rejection. That is until he is injured badly and yet another relationship didn’t work out. He decides he has to do something about not being over his teenage love so signs onto the show to be Ashna’s partner. He vents his long-smoldering anger, but also understands as an adult what his teenage self couldn’t when he learns the true state of Ashna’s affairs. Understanding her leads to an understanding of the past.
Ashna had a difficult childhood. Her father, a prince, was forced out of India for some trouble he got into and lost the lifestyle he was accustomed to making him a bitter, angry man. Her parents were stuck in a loveless marriage where abuse and alcoholism were rife and Ashna was physically abandoned by her mother while the remaining parent’s issues were just as unhealthy for her so that, even after his death, she works to please a father who was never going to be pleased.
It was his dream to go to Paris and become a superb chef which she did for him and she now can’t even create her own dishes without bringing on an anxiety attack. She can only keep his restaurant just as he had it and cook only his dishes which is why the restaurant is failing. Others see it and she refuses to heed them because honoring her father is all she has left. Into this situation steps the boy become man from her past and she hasn’t gotten over him.
When I chose this book, I was enchanted at the thought of the Persuasion story being set in a modern Indian-style setting. I loved the lavish descriptions, the traditions, cultural background, and, oh my stars, the food. I was so hungry reading this one that I had to whip up some hummus. The connection of family was strong including Ashna’s cousin Trisha who had her story in the first book.
I thought the author did well making Austen’s classic the bones of this story and filling it in with modern characters and modern concerns. I glanced at the blurb and noticed it describes Recipe For Persuasion as a RomCom. Personally, I think that gives the wrong impression. This had some humorous moments, but it was not a light story. It read closer to women’s fiction for me because so much had to be addressed before even the romance could grow.
Speaking of the romance, I was underwhelmed. I liked them, especially Rico, as individuals and cheered for them to find peace and their happiness. I wasn’t feeling their adult reunion romance. I couldn’t see what maintained it over the years to that strength since, in this version, they were teens who fell in love and this is way longer a gap in years. In addition, I wasn’t feeling it between them as adults.
Ash was a mess and she was content to stay that way. She was wilting and so down on herself. I struggled with her parts of the narration and even preferred her mother, Shobi’s narrative sections about her miserable past and inability to connect with her own child as a result. So, Ash, as a woman to capture the confident and handsome adult Rico’s interest? Um, no.
And, that brings me to Rico’s prickly anger. Just after they broke up, sure, be angry, but it makes no sense to me that he still feels it so strongly and places so much blame this many years later. Turns out like the original character, his anger was masking something else. I liked the process of his eyes being opened and grasping this new chance. Rico did end up being rather romantic when he got over it. Spoiler alert, sorry Wentworth fans no “You pierce my soul,” letter though he found a different way to be swoony.
In summary, I liked but did not love this book. To be fair, my personal mood and my struggle to read this style book is also a factor. I found the heroine and her romance only mildly engaging, but on the other hand, there was a richness to the setting and background that drew me in, a hero who caught my interest, and the author’s writing style was solid. Again, I would recommend this more to fiction than straight romance fans and those who enjoy modern retellings.
3 out of 5 Stars
Recipe for Persuasion: A Novel, by Sonali Dev
William Morrow Paperbacks (May 26, 2020)
Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (448) pages
Cover image courtesy of William Morrow © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com