Sunday, August 1, 2010

Delicious by Sherry Thomas

Book Description:
Famous in Paris, infamous in London, Verity Durant is as well-known for her mouthwatering cuisine as for her scandalous love life. But that's the least of the surprises awaiting her new employer when he arrives at the estate of Fairleigh Park following the unexpected death of his brother.

Lawyer Stuart Somerset worked himself up from the slums of Manchester to become one of the rising political stars of England's Parliament. To him, Verity Durant is just a name and food is just food until her first dish touches his lips. Only one other time has he felt such pure arousal—a dangerous night of passion with a stranger, a young woman who disappeared at dawn. Ten years is a long time to wait for the main course, but when Verity Durant arrives at his table, there's only one thing that will satisfy Stuart's appetite for more. But is his hunger for lust, revenge—or that rarest of delicacies, love? For Verity's past has a secret that could devour them both even as they reach for the most delicious fruit of all...


Another fantastic romance,  I had to get her next one right away!  I found Delicious a bit complicated to get into at first, I'm realizing that Thomas' novels go back and forth in time.  Usually, the hero and heroine have met previously, years go by and we switch back and forth to the "before" and the "now" time periods.  This is fine with me, I love these types of story lines, but it's confusing when you're still waiting for the story to "gel" in your mind.  The story is intricate in of itself and it took me a while to understand all the ins and out of what was going on, but once I did I couldn't put this down - it was so good!

Verity is a cook at a grand estate, Fairleigh Park.  The owner of the estate, a single, middle aged man has just dropped dead.   We soon learn that Verity had a torrid affair with him ten years earlier yet still remained as his cook afterwards, though at the time she was notorious, for he almost married her.  Huh?  An aristocrat marry his own cook?  Scandalous!  She must be pretty good at what she does!   Verity, now in her early thirties or so, awaits the new owner of Fairleigh Park, the half brother of the deceased, Stuart Somerset.  Stuart Somerset, recently engaged, is an up and coming MP and hopes to be Prime Minister some day.  He's also a bastard son who has overcome his humble beginnings and made the most of his life.  He's looking forward to marrying, settling down with a respectable woman and furthering his career.

Verity outdoes herself with his first meal at Fairleigh Park.  Unfortunately, he is not that interested in food and barely eats anything, but what he does eat is fabulous, a sensual feast of the senses - unforgettably delicious!  Verity is one of the best cooks in England and she has a reason for why she wants to impress Somerset, but we, as the reader, are still unsure what her motive is.  She plans on seducing Somerset with food at first and then herself - why? 

Stuart learns soon enough about his notorious cook, but they've never met face to face.  One day, they do meet under the strangest, most erotic circumstances.  It's really quite amazing, and I won't spoil it, but it's one of my favorite parts, and one of my favorite lines, here's a clue with one of his frantic thoughts:

Why, oh why had he never installed a chandelier directly over the tub?

I laughed out loud, he is so flummoxed by her!  Afterwards he cannot forget her, though he has yet to see her face.  This is key.  They ultimately begin a mysterious and erotic fling, though he keeps telling himself he must stop since he's engaged to be married and he is the upright Stuart Somerset, MP - a dignified gentleman who can't afford any scandals in his life.  Yet the pull of Verity - and her food - turns his staid and predictable world upside down!

Ah, but soon the reader finds out that Stuart did once have a certain someone in his life, he's not the invincible man he liked everyone to think he is.   As it turns out, Verity and Stuart had met years before and had one night of passion.  He didn't know her name and thinks of her only as "Cinderella."  He proposed marriage to Verity that night, but she turned him down, knowing there was no possible way she could accept, she was his brother's cook and their affair had just ended!  It's very complicated, but this is why Verity can't show Stuart her face for fear he'll recognize her - or not recognize her!  She has loved him ever since, as has he, but he never had any way to find her or find out who she was.

We also learn that Verity is not really who she seems to be.  Who is her family, and why can't she return to them?   Can her past catch up with her - and will she reveal who she really is eventually?

I loved Verity and Stuart, they had such charisma together, I was caught up in their story and couldn't wait to find out how it all turned out.  Both characters are well drawn, fully developed, not easy to do, for the plot was tough to manoeuvre around, but Thomas manages it perfectly all the way to the very end - amazing!  Another favorite scene of mine is emotional and poignant, when Stuart finally faces Verity once he knows the truth of who she is that she could have come to him for ten long years and never did.  He is torn, angry and heartbroken, but inside glad to have found her and know she is alive,

"Ten years I squandered on you, ten years of faithful devotion. I spent money I swore I'd never touch on three sets of detectives, looking for you. I could have married, I could have had children. I needed not to have worshipped your sham idol, but I did, because you never had the decency to let me go. You let me cling to false memories and false hopes."

I nearly cried at this point. I loved it how he was able to face her and tell her how he felt, as awful as it was for both of them! Such emotion, it broke my heart!

The thing I love about Thomas' plotlines is that they are so involved, deep and complex.  This is not your usual hero meets heroine, they fall in love, have sex and then some calamity happens and he must rescue her to prove his love for her and they live happily ever after.  Thomas' heroines have made mistakes, they've usually wished things had gone differently, but they've picked up the pieces and gone on, they're strong, independent women.  The heroes are real men, flawed and full of emotion and normal every day fears, hopes and dreams (they also happen to be handsome and rich).  They are looking for their one true love, a woman they can trust,  and usually, they've been burned too - either by the woman they love, or someone else.  We follow the transformation of both the hero and heroine and the journey to find that elusive thing called love.  It's magic and an amazing tale to get there. 

Delicious follows this trail.  It's sensuous, erotic, poignant and hard to put down, the whole food sensuality thing was fantastic and added an entirely new dimension to the novel!  I don't know if it's intentional or not, but there is one scene in the book that is very reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  Verity thinks at one point if she'll ever have her Mr. Darcy and  by the end, in an astounding speech that left me with tears in my eyes, Stuart does become her Darcy and announces to her aunt that he will love Verity forever and nothing will stand in his way to keep her.  Sigh, it was wonderful!   There are so many wonderful moments in this book, but I think the best are saved for the ending.

I'm leaving a lot out of this review, but take my word for it, Sherry Thomas' books are special.  Her side characters are great too.  Will Marsden, Somerset's secretary was great as well as Lizzie, Somerset's erstwhile fiancee, who's not all she seems to be.  Their story was fantastic as well!  I loved it and I hope you will too!  Sherry Thomas is an auto buy for me from now on!

Also, congratulations to Sherry for winning best historical 2010 RITA last night in Orlando for Not Quite a Husband, which I just finished myself yesterday - I'm not surprised at all that you won!  I loved it as well!  Look for my review of it coming up!


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