From the desk of Sophia Rose:
A modern-day Persuasion retelling set in Edinburgh against the backdrop of the high-end restaurant world. What could be more delicious? I eagerly picked up this book by a debut author who knows her way around a professional kitchen and resided in Edinburgh. It was quite obvious the author made these, along with her love of literature, the superb ingredients she stirred into a low-heat second chance romance.
Susan Napier closes a restaurant in London and her life there. The failure hadn’t been her fault—that lay with her father who knew nothing about food and even less about business. She is flying ahead of her family to Edinburgh and back to her grandfather’s original Elliott’s to take over this flagging restaurant that once was the gem of the Royal Mile and, hopefully, can turn it around again. Unfortunately, this return brings with it all the regrets and painful memories of her past. It was at this Elliott’s under her grandfather and her mother’s tutelage in the kitchen where she met and fell in love with both food and a certain red-haired up and coming chef her grandfather gave a chance to. Then she lost her grandfather, her mother, and, because she gave up in a weak moment, the only man she could love. Years have passed and her dad has handed over the baton when the situation has grown dire. She has to shake off the past and forge ahead with an innovative menu, updated restaurant, and a motivated staff behind her if she is to save her grandfather’s legacy and prove to herself, her family, and beyond that she has what it takes.
She no sooner sets foot in Edinburgh than she runs smack into her still handsome ex, Chris Baker, and her biggest regret. Chris went on to become a celebrity chef and amazingly successful from his humble roots in the rough streets of Leith. Now, he seems to barely notice her existence and can’t think of a good thing to say about her family’s restaurant. Susan needs to step up her game whether it’s joining forces with her fashionable older sister to redo the restaurant interior, helping her younger sister through her neurosis and marriage troubles, keeping her dad’s spending in check, fighting off a sharkish reporter who wants to see something more than food sizzling, or taking on a celebrity chef in a cooking contest.
All Stirred Up took the bones of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and built its modern equivalent in a new place and setting. It takes it’s time and doesn’t rush through the setup of characters, their backgrounds, the professional kitchen world, or a slice of life in Edinburgh. I enjoyed how the author had Susan come into her own from her under-appreciated, dull-looking, and lacking in self-confidence self to a woman who set her goals and pressed forward with grit and hard work. The deck was stacked against her on all fronts and I loved seeing her quietly step up and meet the challenges.
Most of the book is narrated from Susan’s point of view, but I liked that there were a few scenes with Chris doing the narrating, so I got a good picture from both perspectives. This was necessary because I probably wouldn’t have liked Chris without them. He feels that he was wronged in the past and it has festered a bit so contact with Susan or those around her produce some bitter remarks. But, it doesn’t get over the top making it tough to root on the potential of romance for this pair. I liked them both working separately toward their goals and working out the past.
I think the most welcome surprise was what the author did with the surrounding cast of characters. They might be flawed or quirky, but they are fully-fleshed out and not just fillers. Susan might have been at odds with her family, but when the chips are down, they are there for her. I enjoyed the flamboyant personalities in her kitchen staff that she, like her grandfather, gave them their chance. On Chris’ end, he has some equally engaging kitchen staff, a hilarious sister, and a dog that is oh so adorable.
The author doesn’t let her description of Edinburgh take over, but I enjoyed how it was organic to the story weaving in and out of the characters and the plot. The people feel like they really live there and the Edinburgh of the story was easy to picture in my mind.
The story is slow going and slow-building, but the conflict is steadily building with some good tension moments throughout. The ending left a huge smile on my face and I thought the epilogue was a good balance to all that came before it.
All in all, I loved this foodie lovers nod to a classic that crosses over between women’s fic and contemporary romance.
5 out of 5 Stars
All Stirred Up: A Novel, by Brianne Moore
Alcove Press (September 08, 2020)
Trade paperback, & eBook (320) pages
Cover image, book description, excerpt, and author bio courtesy of Alcove Press © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com