So I swore through this whole damn book. Seriously.
I have really enjoyed Stacey Ballis's past works. She can describe food and how to cook certain dishes in such a way that you will have to go and get something to snack on while reading. Also hopefully you have some wine to sip as you go. But I really wanted to take her by the hands and ask her some questions about how she portrayed some of the key African American characters in this book. I don't think it was intentional, but I was over it. And I think the main plot such as it was, was not a bit realistic at all. And some of the same dialogue used by the male hero in this one, was used by the same character in her book "Off the Menu." I even went and checked a few things back and forth between that book and this one and said oh well I guess it's nice she's reusing RJ's commentary.
The main character is Eloise. She is a private chef to a very wealthy family and has another long time client as well. She has not dated in years since her last break-up broke her heart. When she finds out her favorite teacher has passed away, Eloise reconnects with her two high school friends, Teresa and Lynne. The three friends have grown out of touch, though Teresa and Lynne have kept in sporadic contact. When Eloise finds a list she made about what she wanted to accomplish by the age of 40, her three other friends agree that they want to knock some things off their list before their birthdays in May. This leads Eloise to finding and dating a guy who is too perfect by far (and yeah, he is) and leads to some conflict with Lynne.
I will say that there was too much going on in this book. We have Eloise doing her bet with the friends, finding and dating a guy, teaching one of the kids that she cooks for privately how to train for a celebrity cooking show, reading about her attempts to stay active, draw, write, etc., I just didn't care after a while. But really, what got me is that this book started to read a bit too self help for me to enjoy.
Eloise really sticks her nose in the air about what Lynne is doing and I hated how Ballis portrayed her in this book. There was no nuance at all to be had. Eloise is right, Lynne is wrong. There is some bullshit let's say everything we hate about each other crap that Teresa pulls and I got so mad. You don't do that type of shit to people and than somehow everyone loves each other again. I wish that the book had been more honest that the people you are friends with in high school are not the friends you would choose as an adult.
I also didn't even get why people kept telling Eloise to keep Lynne in her life. Lynne was terrible (based on the little we see of her) and there is no point in keeping someone you haven't spoken to in 20 years in your life. The way that Ballis tries to have her cake and eat it too (hey your long time friends are to be put up with even when they are acting like assholes, but also want more things than money and status) drove me up the wall.
And here is where I want to ask Ballis some questions. Did she think it was stereotypical how she portrayed Lynne? Lynne is shown as some light skinned black woman who was all about money/status and didn't really give a crap about love. That Lynne sounded like a woman who wanted to forget her past and deny her black self and Eloise and the author via her give her shit for that.
I don't know enough about Lynne for why she is the way she is, but I hated how one of the few black characters we get in this book is shown in a terrible light when I actually sympathized with her a lot. For many black woman if we are not married, we prove ourselves over and beyond at work. Lynne seems to kick ass at her job, but Ballis shows her as too obsessed with doing well at her job. She gets a bit cartoony after a while and I just got over it. Black women are always being portrayed as either highly emotional or cold. Articulate (read white) or way too black. I could go on and on about things that I was like, oh lord about and just struggled to move on from.
The other African American character, a love interest of Eloise is named Shawn and I rolled my damn eyes at the guy. First of all, I like that Ballis didn't have him speaking "ghetto" but he also sure didn't have what I would call an authentic voice to me. I say this because I said above, some of the phrases and things he does sounds like a previous character in her works. And Ballis breezes past the interracial relationship aspect real quick. Just asks one white character how did they deal with this when they were dating/married and it was all just be honest with each other.
Man. There's honesty and reality. And interracial relationships are hard. There are things you won't get and vice versa. All you need is love is great in concept, and hard in reality. I know a ton of interracial couples and they have to deal with the everyday mess they get from total strangers and family members.
There is also another aspect that would be spoiling things about Shawn that I was 100 percent done with when revealed in the book. Sorry.
The writing was typical Ballis and I have to say that all of the recipes sounded awesome. But if not for the food descriptions I would have DNFed this book.
I think the book should have been edited further down past what we got since most of the book started to just be repetitive after a while with Eloise's conflicts with Lynne.
The ending didn't move me at all and I can say that I will not be re-reading this in the future.