by Sonali Dev
Series: The Rajes #2
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors comes another , clever, deeply layered, and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows in the Jane Austen tradition—this time, with a twist on Persuasion.
Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen?
Rico Silva, that’s what.
Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster.
FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva isn't too happy to be paired up with Ashna either. Losing Ashna years ago almost destroyed him. The only silver lining to this bizarre situation is that he can finally prove to Ashna that he's definitely over her.
But when their catastrophic first meeting goes viral, social media becomes obsessed with their chemistry. The competition on the show is fierce…and so is the simmering desire between Ashna and Rico. Every minute they spend together rekindles feelings that pull them toward their disastrous past. Will letting go again be another recipe for heartbreak—or a recipe for persuasion…?
In Recipe for Persuasion, Sonali Dev once again takes readers on an unforgettable adventure in this fresh, fun, and enchanting romantic comedy.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »marital rape, forced marriage, verbal abuse of a child, MC witnesses dad’s suicide (before book, but described multiple times on page), panic attacks (on page), depression, PTSD, alcoholism (MC’s father was an alcoholic), chronic pain (due to soccer injury and surgery) « Hide Spoiler
While I had my issues with the first Raje family book, most of it had to do with the handling of Emma’s medical issues, so I was hoping for, well, less Trisha in this book. Plus, since this is a Persuasion retelling, it has my favorite trope – second chance romance. Whatever the reasons, I liked this book better than the first, though I still had some issues.
Once one of the hottest restaurants in Palo Alto under her father’s ownership, Curried Dreams is now a sad and rundown remnant of its former self. Ashna, still struggling with her grief over her father’s death and now her mother’s sudden decision to come back into her life, not to mention how to keep the restaurant afloat. When her cousins pressure her to join a reality TV cooking competition, it seems like it may be her only hope for saving the restaurant. Rico is coming to terms with his career-ending injury when a friend’s bachelor party makes him realize that he’s still hung up on his high school first love – Ashna. Convinced that only closure with her will allow him to move forward with his romantic life, he finagles his way into the same TV show. When their reunion becomes a viral video, it seems like they might have a chance. But can they rid themselves of enough of their past baggage to see if they can have a future together?
“It might be time to stop believing the thing that’s easiest to believe.”
I waffled back and forth over calling this a romance. While Ashna and Rico are the main characters, there’s simply too much else going on that pulls the focus from their relationship. For instance, for the first ten chapters, the POV is balanced between Ashna and Rico, and then suddenly we switch to Shobi, Ashna’s absent mom. I enjoyed exploring Shobi’s own experiences with second chance love and contrasting and comparing it to Ashna’s experiences, at times more than I enjoyed Ashna’s. One of the things I didn’t like about the previous book was that every character had a wildly tragic soap opera-style backstory, whether it was a plane crash or abuse. I can’t speak for other readers, but that degree of tragedy doesn’t exactly spell romcom to me. That’s still true in this book, but it felt more integrated into the story this time. I also enjoyed the cooking competition portions, though I wish there had been more to it.
“What? I might have found someone to melt through the famous Ashna Raje ice.”
The problem wasn’t the melting. All it took was for them to be in the same room and there were puddles all over the place, not a sliver of ice in sight. The problem was the ghosts of their pasts, and how much those ghosts had altered them both. The problem was finding each other around the ghosts, melted or otherwise.”
Both Ashna and Rico are laboring under a lot of emotional baggage, and their mistaken understandings of the events that led to their breakup are the least of it. For Ashna, despite her training, whenever she tries to cook anything that isn’t one of her Baba’s recipes, she has a panic attack. It doesn’t take a psychologist to link that back to her turbulent home environment with an alcoholic father and a mostly absent mother. Rico had his own trauma, with being ripped from his home and sent to live with an aunt after his parents died in a car crash. Their relationship as teenagers is mainly based on seeing each other clearly, even if they keep it a secret from those around them. Their reconnection as adults, or at least as much of it as we get in between all the other family drama, is piercingly bittersweet. I would’ve loved to have more time devoted to it, because what was there was enthralling. As for everything else, I wasn’t completely happy with the resolution, either View Spoiler »Ashna’s reconciliation with her mother or her choice to embrace cooking « Hide Spoiler.
Overall, I thought this was a dramatic and interesting take on Persuasion, if not the romance I was looking for. I’d give this 3.5 stars and recommend to anyone looking for a heartwrenching multicultural drama.