Bree T's Reviews > The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient by Dianne Blacklock
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's review
Dec 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: australian, chick-lit, contemporary, library-reads, romance, women-s-fiction
Read from December 03 to 04, 2011

Andie had a dream to become a chef. After her mother passed away she left her business degree at university (her mothers dream, not hers) and set about becoming a qualified chef. After gaining her qualifications, whilst working front of house at a restaurant, she met Ross. Charismatic, charming, older than her…and married. Although he swore it was over, they were just living together for the sake of the kids. In this case Ross did leave his wife and he and Andie got married. Ross didn’t like the late/night hours being a chef would entail so Andie gave up her dream. She has been a good wife to Ross for 10 years now, accompanying him on business trips, putting him and his needs first. In return Ross found a deli which he thought would be perfect for Andie and purchased it, although Andie repaid his investment in full, not comfortable with the idea of being a kept wife. She enjoys the deli and all it involves, but she finds herself longing to work as a chef, to finally realise her dream.

To Andie’s surprise, Ross is fully supportive this time around, even arranging a trial for Andie in a well known and prestigious restaurant under the eye of head chef Dominic Gerou. Andie has been a long time out of the chef industry and when her trial doesn’t go too well she returns home early only to discover that her marriage is falling apart. Her life as she knows it is at an end and Andie suddenly realises that this is her turn to take what she wants. She has spent her whole life doing what other people want, doing what makes other people happy: her mother, Ross. It’s gotten her no where so she swallows her pride and goes back to Dominic Gerou to beg him for a second chance. Andie wants to be a chef and she’s willing to do anything and work harder than she’s ever worked before in order to make that happen.

I’ve read a couple of Dianne Blacklock novels in the past so when this one was released, I was very interested to read it. As a second wife myself, I identified a lot with Andie and the difficulty she went through in being one. Although our circumstances were different (my husband was long separated when we met) I certainly understood the challenges she faced, such as dealing with Ross’s ex-wife and his children, one of which is not much younger than her and who certainly didn’t rush to accept Andie into the family. Although Blacklock is careful to keep Andie’s integrity as in tact as possible in the details of her relationship with Ross in its humble beginnings, when Andie herself is betrayed she begins to really think about how Ross’s first wife felt when their marriage began to break down and how Ross, charming and egotistical that he is, manipulated the both of them, twisting things to better shine a light on himself. She sees that no matter how she thought that things were bad between Ross and his wife, the reality was – he was still married. And all she had to go by was whatever he happened to be spinning at the time.

Andie grows and changes a lot over the course of the novel. She’s an indulged second wife (there we differ too!) and although she does work, it’s not something she is really very passionate about, it’s more something to do so that she isn’t shopping or sitting at home all day. She moves from this sort of frame of mind to a woman that moves to where she wants to live, takes the sort of job that she wants to do and makes decisions for the benefit of her and her alone. She realises what it’s like to work at a job that she loves and needs, something that makes her feel happy and fulfilled and requires her to work very hard and under those more qualified than her who have worked in the industry longer.

I enjoyed all facets of The Secret Ingredient. I really liked and as I mentioned before, indenitified, at least on some levels, with Andie and I found the relationships portrayed in the novel to be very realistic. That sense of expectation of fulfilling other people’s wishes and dreams for her, that Andie had, her feeling of inadequacy relating to her sister and her trepidation and attempts to relate to her stepchildren and Ross’s ex-wife all rang very true for me. Although I have to say, Andie was a far better person than I am! If I discovered my marriage falling apart the way she did, then my husband would never see me again unless it was in relation to our two children and even that would be dealt with mostly through a third party. Andie spends a significant amount of time with Ross, supporting him through something difficult and lengthy even though she is reluctant to, she feels obligated. She puts her personal feelings aside for long enough to help him through his situation with a grace that I am not sure I would be able to find in her position and to the extent of creating a negative impact on her new and flourishing personal life. I didn’t judge her harshly for her decision though, as the stress she felt of being pulled in two different directions (obligation and freedom) was so skilfully done.

A fulfilling read comprising friendships, love, betrayal, heartbreak and food in a very appealing story.

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