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The Lost Recipe for Happiness

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  3,225 ratings  ·  474 reviews
In this sumptuous new novel, Barbara O’Neal offers readers a celebration of food, family, and love as a woman searches for the elusive ingredient we’re all hoping to find….

It’s the opportunity Elena Alvarez has been waiting for–the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant. Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena knows better
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Paperback, 452 pages
Published December 30th 2008 by Bantam Discovery
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Community Reviews

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Shonda
I have to admit when I first skimmed the book description, I thought the plot would be: girl breaks up with current boy, relocates to new city for a fresh start, meets new boy, not sure if she should get involved with new boy, ends up getting involved with new boy and they begin new relationship. Ok, so maybe The Lost Recipe for Happiness can be summed up that way. But honestly, it’s so much more than that.

Elena Alvarez is a complicated character, but extremely likable. She’s haunted by her past
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Briana
I was really excited about this book - I liked the premise and the story about characters overcoming tragedy and choosing to take risks. I have also been reading some other non-fiction about food, so I enjoyed the fictional tie-in with all the recipes and narrative about creating new food in the restaurant.

I was, however, put off by a few things. First of all, if an author is going to write a character who speaks Spanish, get an editor for the Spanish!! 75% of what Elena said was completely inc
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Nicole
I am giving this book 3 stars, instead of 4 for 2 different reasons. First, the author used the F word way too much and it was always in such a crude manner that it was disgusting every time it was used. The second reason is that most of the book was clean and told a good story...until it hit about halfway through the book when the author decided she all of a sudden needed to add disgustingly descriptive sex scenes. All I can say is thank goodness I was listening to the audio book so I could fas ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
This isn't "Sex in the City" chic lit--this one actually has some seriousness and some heft. Elena, the lone survivor of a horrific car wreck that killed a number of her family and her boyfriend, is a chef now, living with her damaged body and her more damaged soul in the tough, male dominated world of high end cuisine. She's offered her first executive chef position with the challenge of renovating and recreating a restaurant in Aspen. I absolutely FELL into this book. I identified with the kit ...more
Kimberly Kincaid
I would give this book a BILLION stars if I could, and it is easily on my list of Top 5 Books I'd Want if Stranded of a Desert Island. What an amazing, poignant, sensual, wonderful book! From the minute I picked it up, I was hooked- the characters are fabulous and perfectly flawed, the plot is well-thought-out and engaging, and the book moves incredibly well.

I had empathy for Elena right from the beginning, but she's anything but a poor woe-is-me character. I loved her sense of strength, loved
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Jackie
This isn't "Sex in the City" chic lit--this one actually has some seriousness and some heft. Elena, the lone survivor of a horrific car wreck that killed a number of her family and her boyfriend, is a chef now, living with her damaged body and her more damaged soul in the tough, male dominated world of high end cuisine. She's offered her first executive chef position with the challenge of renovating and recreating a restaurant in Aspen. I absolutely FELL into this book. I identified with the kit ...more
Nancy
This is an airport book, good for nothing more than a long flight. Elena wants to be executive chef of a really cool restaurant and have everybody think she's The Shit. But she is Haunted. By the ghosts of her sister and her Soul Mate. Any author that can use the words "soul mate" over and over again, without a single soupcon of irony, is not an author anyone wants to read anywhere but on a very boring flight.

And also, there is a LOT of sex in this book (spoiler alert: she even gets all sexy wit
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Mandy
Books like these, where suddenly the male character is inexplicably, devastatingly in love with the female character just leave me feeling flat. I wish the writer had better developed the characters, written characters I could care about, and somehow shown why these two people fell in love. The story just felt incomplete to me. And the sex scenes seemed really forced, thrown in because it's a "romance," I guess. They added absolutely nothing. Revealed nothing about character desire or about the ...more
Sonja
Finally a book I really liked and I finished! Elena is a woman who has suffered tragedy and survived. She is strong and focused on her career in a man's world of restaurant chefs. The story follows her as she has the opportunity (after being fired)to pursue her dream of being the head chef of her own restaurant.
I loved the character development, the fact that everyone was not perfect and how they each dealt with their own issues. I am not a cook, but the recipes woven through out the story make
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Marleen
I was extremely moved by this book. The characters were beautifully written; they were flawed, broken, hurt. I could really feel the pain they had in their souls because of past tragedies. There's despair and disillusionment, but not to a point where they had given up all hope – just nearly.

Although I'm not that familiar with this cuisine, I enjoyed the pages with all the recipes on Southwestern cooking. Normally I’m not too fond when there’s a lot of cooking and talk of food in a novel, but he
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Jac (For Love and Books)
After reading How to Bake a Perfect Life (also by Barbara O'Neal) I had to have more of her stories! Based in Colorado, and in the kitchen - her writing style is perfect for this amateur baker from the Southern Front Range! The Lost Recipe For Happiness sounded cute, a chef in Aspen? And the cover was gorgeous too, so I dove right in. And I couldn't put it down!

Barbara O'Neal's writing is breathtaking, vivid and passionate. As you are turning the pages, you can clearly see the kitchen in the Or
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Karalee
In this food lovers' novel, Elena Alvarez is an accomplished Santa Fe-trained chef with Mexican roots and a Southwestern flair to her elegant food. When she is offered the opportunity to become the executive chef at a new restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, owned by a Hollywood director who dabbles in the restaurant business, Elena jumps at the opportunity. But the process of opening the restaurant and developing the menu turns out to be more challenging than Elena expected. She must deal with Ivan, ...more
Holli
Loved it. Just absolutely loved this book. About 60 pages in I started slowing down my reading of it just so it would last longer. The characters were excellent....even down to people in her past and her dog. All of them were meaningful and important. This is definitely not a cute, light read... it's more edgy and lightly explores a lot of subjects that some consider controversial. None of the topics bothered me though...

The writing felt true to life and the characters have stuck with me since I
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Brandie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carolyn F.
This book is mostly a contemporary romance with a twist. Elena is a sous chef who is fired by the executive chef and ex-lover when an article in the local newspaper is more about her than the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant Julian Liswood wants her to be executive chef in his new Aspen restaurant and asks to meet with her when she's leaving with all her stuff. Elena survived a horrible accident, Julian is trying to be a better dad. Throw in some friends and co-workers, great book. Very s ...more
Beth
Another excellent offering by Barbara Samuel/O'Neal. Even better than the Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue, my most recent favorite of her books. The Lost Recipe for Happiness is a wonderful story of damaged people finding the healing they need via the love of soul mates--and maybe a little help from ghostly relatives. I will warn you that since the main character of this book is a chef, a lot of the action takes place in kitchens, and Barbara's descriptions of food are SO sensual, you will be hungry ...more
BJ Rose
Oct 22, 2010 BJ Rose rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to BJ Rose by: Rossy ~*~ Ehrotic ~*~
The Lost Recipe for Happiness was my first book by O'Neal. It has a romance interwoven into the story, but this is basically a story of survival, and knowing when to finally let go of what might have been so you can embrace what might be even better. It's a heart-wrenching story but I liked it a lot and gave it 4*
KC Lynn
I listed to this audio book and I really loved it. I enjoyed my ride to work and looked forward to the book. I loved all the food descriptions along with all the characters. It got a little corny at the end but corny every once in a while is okay with me!
Yy
Nov 30, 2009 Yy added it
The Lost Recipe for Happiness, Monday, November 30th, 2009
By Ying Ying Ruan
“The lost recipe for happiness” is a book for food lovers, and also tells a great story in a wonderful manner. My response to this novel will be mostly positive, because I found it to be a unique narrative amongst the few books I had read so far. The author Barbara O’Neal has used her writing talents to combined different aspect of a woman life to present a story that is exotic and extremely interesting. Elena Alvarez’s
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Susan
Apr 23, 2011 Susan added it
Shelves: group-reads
Chef Elena had a rough childhood – a father who died before her birth, a mother who abandoned her, and as a saving grace, a grandmother who loved her completely. Her childhood ended with a horrible car wreck, and Elena was the only passenger who survived, barely. So, of course, she carries a lot of emotional as well as physical damage, and certainly doesn't want anyone too close to her. Not even the ghosts of her past.

This is a sweet romance novel but not the type I would normally choose to read
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Steven
Elena Alvarez is fired in the first pages of this engaging story. The same day she's hired as executive chef of a new restaurant in Aspen, Colorado. She's a brilliant chef (which is both why she was fired and hired) with the talent, warmth, and toughness to unite her new staff and make this new restaurant world-class. Although her career is successful she's never found a love that would endure. She might now. Elena also has ghosts that haunt her--a sister and boyfriend who were both killed in th ...more
Gail
This book whispers magic in sweet ghost companions and lingering pains from the past. Elena Alvarez is a gifted chef with a talent for cooking rooted in knowledge, training, and her New Mexico roots. Her body is in pain from a devastating accident in her teens and she is accompanied -- not haunted -- by the ghosts of her sister, cousin, and lover who died. With gentleness and passion, this story is told of how on the day she was fired for daring to draw attention from the executive chef and her ...more
Gail
I liked this book. It was a little more slow-paced than I like, and a little more "flowery" in the language, but overall, I enjoyed reading it. (If a section got a little hard to plow through, I just skipped ahead. I read for story...)

The heroine is a chef. She's in pretty bad physical shape, with a bad scar down her back, and she's just broken up with her chef boyfriend-boss. There's a tragedy in her past, but she doesn't like to talk about it. When the story opens, an article about her in the
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Rory
Imagine coming home from a hard, yet satisfying day of work. You've done some good in your part of the world. Your family or boyfriend or girlfriend comes home not long after, and dinner is many of your favorite foods. The mail has brought the latest issue of your favorite magazine. On TV, reruns, but in particular, a rerun of your favorite episode of your favorite show. Feel that bliss, that warmth, that peace, that love? That is what a novel by Barbara O'Neal feels like. This is what "The Lost ...more
R.L. Syme
This book is like great food: you can't scarf it, you need to savor it. Honestly, I can't remember when I've read a romance novel I liked more than this. The writing is evocative and beautiful, the characters are flawed, engaging, redeemable people. The story is so well-crafted, I found myself floating along in the book, caught up in the beauty and the experience of the food and the connection with the characters... and before I knew it, it was over.

This is a book I will be reading over and over
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Luisa
I liked this book even more than How to Bake a Perfect Life. The heroine is flawed, physically and emotionally, by a tragic accident in which she was the lone survivor and lost her boyfriend and her sister. Because of this she lives her life feeling alone and unwilling to commit to a relationship. Then she's offered a position as head chef in a restaurant owned by a Hollywood director who has been married 4 times and there's a recipe for disaster. I loved the book because the author presents cha ...more
Tara Bilbao
I just love Barbara O'Neal books. Her stories include ingredients for the perfect literary mix - a ghost, a dog, great food, hot men and women overcoming obstacles in their lives. What more can you ask for?
Nicole
If this book had been a mass-market paperback, without having the pretense of being anything but an incredibly cheesy romance novel (with the "romance" being some of the worst written ever)...it would have still be no more than two stars. But, at least it would be honest about what it is. Still, the plot isn't horrible, and it is definitely not a contender for "worst book ever" (see Breaking Dawn, The Saturday Wife, and a few others). This is ok--but, a little less than, because of the pretense ...more
Just - The romance reader
I don't remember exactly when I read this, it's been a while so the details are a bit fuzzy for me. I added it to my list and rated it 5 stars about a year ago, so I obviously really loved the book.

Much of the story's focus is on food and the delight it can bring to ones life, hence the title. An added bonus is that the book contains some recipes mentioned/inspired by the story. The Lost Recipe For Happiness is a touching and very emotional story. The characters each have their own struggles, bu
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Suzanne
This was my first Barbara O'Neal book, but certainly won't be my last! From the book cover, I was expecting something very light and fluffy, entertaining but not too taxing. I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the characters and the strength of Elena. This was not a sappy romance; rather it was a genuine love story that moved me to tears with it's conclusion. Life issues, hurts, and disappointments were not glossed over, but dealt with in an honestly reassuring manner. Which made the ulti ...more
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Barbara Samuel (also known as Barbara O’Neal) is the bestselling author of more than 40 books, and has won Romance Writers of America’s RITA award an astounding six times. Her books have been published around the world, including France, Germany, Italy, and Australia/New Zealand, among others. One of her recent women’s fiction titles, The Lost Recipe for Happiness (written as Barbara O’Neal) went ...more
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