When I saw When in Doubt, Add Butter by bestselling author Beth Harbison, I started laughing because I immediately thought of one of my favorite TV chefs, Paula Deen. I’m embarrassed to say that was all it took – I didn’t even check to see what the book was about before I snagged it. Luckily, it turned out to be a really fun novel. If you like to read about independent professional women whose personal lives could use a tune-up then this one’s for you – and what woman’s life these days doesn’t fall into that category. Oh, and did I mention there’s a bit of romance thrown in? This is a perfect summer read, whether you’re going away for vacation or having a mini-staycation, and one lucky reader is going to win a copy!
Thirty-seven-year-old Gemma Craig is a professional personal chef who specializes in taking care of her clients’ every culinary need. She currently cooks for five different people/families Monday through Friday, and does special catered events on the weekend. Gemma’s entire life revolves around her business.
And some of her clients have some odd culinary requirements.
The Van Houghtons are her Monday client. Angela Van Houghton is an ex-model and queen of the bizarre eating habits. Angela claims to be allergic to almost everything, but to make it even worse, her entire family has to eat the severely limited diet she says she must have. Gemma’s dying to sneak them a steak or brownies just because they look so starved.
Lex Prather is her Wednesday client. The flamboyant Lex owns a department store, and loves to entertain in a style reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie from a bygone era. He only wants recipes that transport him back to the glamour days of the early 20th century.
The Oleksei family is from Russia and might or might not have ties to the Russian mob. They are her Thursday client. The Olekseis only want recipes from the deceased Mrs. Oleksei’s recipe file box, which are (of course) written in Russian and which Gemma can’t read.
The Lemurras of Georgetown are Gemma’s Friday client. Marie Lemurra is the classic social climber who would give anything to get on one of those “The Wives of…” reality shows and seems to hate Gemma, which makes Fridays all kinds of fun – Not! Marie loves to throw extravagant over-the-top parties that Gemma caters.
“All I know is that one minute I was maneuvering my car toward the kitchen door so I could carry the thirty Cornish hens – and accoutrements – into the house, and the next thing I knew; there was a little scraping sound…frankly, you don’t immediately think, Wait a minute…I know that sound. That’s the sound of a peacock trying to mount and sexually dominate my bumper. Or even that a peacock might be territorially jealous of said car, viewing it as a romantic rival, which is something, I kid you not, I have since learned in my extensive research on peacocks.”
Angela enjoys the challenges of cooking for her clients, particularly Lex and the Oleksei family but she really enjoys cooking for Paul McMann, who she’s never met and who she calls Mr. Tuesday. Mr. Tuesday is the most normal client she has. He loves meatloaf, mac and cheese, and other normal food, and always compliments her on the little culinary surprises she leaves for him. In other words, he’s a joy to cook for.
“Always – always – I would look forward to the notes he’d [Mr. Tuesday] leave me…His response to the appetizers I’d left for a party he was having for his office staff:
Everything was great, but I especially loved the things that I know weren’t Snausages but looked just like them. Is it unreasonable to ask for them with dinner sometime?
They were chicken and sage sausagettes I got from a local butcher and wrapped in pretzel dough, minus the salt but painted with butter…I gave him points for good taste…”
So that’s Gemma’s professional life. As for her personal life, it sucks. She’s given up on dating and believes marriage is not for her. It all started when she was told by a fortune teller at her junior high carnival to avoid marriage like the plague. The fortune teller went on to describe the kind of jerk Gemma would end up with if she made the horrible mistake of getting married.
Even though she later learned the fortune teller was a teacher going through a nasty divorce, the advice somehow stuck anyway. So Gemma’s romantic life has been a series of very short lived liaisons which didn’t really last long enough to be called relationships. There’s just always something wrong with the guys she picks. It’s as if that fortune teller/teacher is sitting on her shoulder saying, “See? I told you so.”
“The good thing about a breakup at two months is that there usually isn’t a lot of acrimony or anguish involved. The bad thing is that it gets tiresome after a while. Honestly, I’m a normal woman. I’d love to be in love. I’d love to have a family to take care of and to surround me as I navigate the years.”
Her friends are determined to get her back into the dating game but Gemma is resisting it for all she’s worth. Can she get past her fear of getting involved with a man? She says she’s perfectly happy with her life the way it is. Is she really? Well, we’re about to find out because her life is about to change…
Gemma is a great character. She’s very likeable, very independent, loves her work and most of her clients, and is floundering personally. She’s the classic case of the cobbler’s kids have no shoes because she’s so busy taking care of everyone else’s lives that she has no time or energy left to take care of her own. I also loved some of her clients, like Lex, Mr. Tuesday, and Viktor Oleksei. I loved to hate some of the others. Mostly I spent a lot of time rooting for Gemma to get her life together so she could have it all, because she really deserved it!
Beth Harbison has written quite a few bestselling novels, and it shows. She has an effortless seeming writing style that just swept me up and carried me away – Calgon’s got nothing on her! I polished off this novel in one day because I couldn’t put it down. Once I became wrapped up in Gemma’s life, I had to see what happened. Even when I strongly suspected what might happen, I still had to see it through before I put it down. When in Doubt, Add Butter is a funny, touching, sweet, and addictive read. And one lucky reader is going to win it!
Can’t wait to read it?
When in Doubt, Add Butter will be published on July 17, 2012; however, it should be available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
I’d love to get your comments on When in Doubt, Add Butter, Beth Harbison or her other work, and/or this review.
If you like this review, please “like” it, +1 it, and share it with your friends!
One lucky reader will win an advance readers copy (ARC) of When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 7/28/2012, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 18 years old to enter this giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form. Even if leaving a comment is part of the giveaway, you must use the form in addition to leaving the comment for the comment to count as an entry.
5) If you already follow PopcornReads on Twitter or Facebook, you must still complete that part of the Rafflecopter form for your follow to count as an entry.
6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you.
7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
If you’ve never used Rafflecopter before to enter a giveaway, here’s a little 45 sec. video on how to do it: