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When in Doubt, Add Butter

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  10,246 ratings  ·  1,175 reviews

From the New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Always Something There to Remind Me comes a delicious new novel about the search for true love and all the ingredients that go into it.

As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it's her job to cater other peoples' dates, and that's just fine by her. At thirty-sev

Hardcover, 338 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  10,246 ratings  ·  1,175 reviews

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May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
What I hope to find (and what will get me to spend my money quicker and invest hours upon hours of my own time) when I pick up a book is one that doesn’t sound like 95 out of 100 books that I pick up and read the first few pages of, a voice that grabs my nose and yanks harder than a semi-truck in the middle of I-95.

WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD BUTTER is such a book, and it managed this feat admirably from the very first sentence of the very first page. “When I was twelve, a fortune-teller at the Herbert H
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
**review includes mild spoilers**

If I could, I'd give this book 2.5 stars. It was OK, not terrible, but not great either. Gemma is a 37 year old private chef in DC and the book covers her relationships with her clients (one for every night of the week) as well as her relationships outside of work (her cousin Penny, friend Lynn, and her dating interests.)

This is obviously chick-lit, so I tend to have lower expectations for these kinds of books - nothing heavy, just light and engaging. I did zip r
Love Fool
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full.
For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-reviews
Another cheesy-breezy chick-lit novel. Its fun, light, witty and no doubt, mind-blowingly delicious(literally, from its cover to its tid-bits). "When in Doubt, Add Butter" will remind you more of Catherine Zeta-Jones movie "No Reservations".

Its about Gemma, who's in her late 30s, having no life of her own, works as a personal chef for five different clients. She enjoys catering for parties in the weekends at a country club. One day she gets fired by one of her clients, as a result getting a rar
It's weird. I have seen Beth Harbison's books recommended via Amazon the past few years, but have never read her before now. I don't think based on this book I will read her in the future. I did like that the book took place in a setting I know (Maryland and DC), but the main character, Gemma actually started to bother me a lot while reading. When she gets into the weight of one of her clients I was just over it. She is very judgmental and I realized at the end of the book I had zero sense of he ...more
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I received this through GoodReads Giveaways.

I read chick lit only occasionally, but I do enjoy it for quick reads on trips or in hotel rooms.

I wanted to really like this book because of the potential food descriptions and recipes. Alas, there was only miniscule description of food and zero recipes. How can a character boast that she makes the best meatloaf and then not provide a recipe?

The main character Gemma Craig starts off very likable and has an engaging way of describing her clients and t
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
When a book shows up at my doorstep (a Goodreads ARC) with colorful cupcakes on the cover, it has a lot to live up to. When that cover also uses the word “Butter” in the title, whoa, that’s raising the bar even higher. As a chick-lit novel, this book does live up to both those cover points as a tasty confection to inhale curled up in bed.

The book focuses on Gemma Craig, personal chef, with all her personal foibles. She is a somewhat stereotypical late 30s single woman, bemoaning her lack of rel
Oct 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Confident and successful, Gemma is happy to be a career woman. She loves men, loves sex and romance, but she's Ok with being single. She has a fun career as a personal chef catering to the rich and famous of the Washington, DC area. Some clients are tougher than others, like the reality star wannabe who is "allergic" to everything. Far more interesting in the mysterious "Mr. Tuesday," a man whom Gemma never sees but knows everything about his eating preferences. Suddenly, her career starts to ta ...more
Mar 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Send Back this Chicken Soup
(note: contains mild spoilers)

America, land of many appetites: Americans do love their food, and when they’re not eating, they love looking at cooking shows or reading about food. I am no exception, and as a chronic dieter, seek vicarious living through scrumptious food writing, so I considered myself fortunate to receive an Advance Reading Copy of Harbison’s book. (After all, who with a pulse doesn’t love butter?) I was anticipating something along the lines of Choc
When in Doubt, Add Butter

The Characters:


The Story:

I need Ms. Harbison to write more books and faster. Also I need the publisher to hop to it as far as getting audiobooks produced. These books always seem to have the perfect narrator to bring these stories to life. And once you get hooked you’re in for the long haul. I’ve never been so happy to not be able to read a physical or eBook. This story took me through a very long wait at the hospital and I was quite sad when it
Aug 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
When in doubt, don't read this book.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it
I tend to have different expectations of books I read from the chick-lit genre. I like these books to be light and fluffy, expect to read about ridiculous and unrealistic situations, expect nothing truly bad to happen, and expect that everything will all turn out okay. Basically, I want to read them on the beach with a smile on my face and a willingness to set them down and do other vacation stuff. Based on these expectations I enjoyed When in Doubt, Add Butter.

- I enjoyed reading abo
When in Doubt, Add Butter is an airy, happy story where the bad things are uncomfortable but not too bad, and the good things are easy and happy. I think this book is less of a beach read, but a better choice for a rainy day or when you need something to cheer you up.

When in Doubt, Add Butter follows the life of Gemma, a personal chef, for a few months. Having tried other careers, Gemma has found happiness in her passion for cooking and running her own business. Unfortunately, many of the people
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure if I am happy that I waited this long to enjoy this book or sad that I didn't read it sooner. Either way, I found a really great gem in my to read stack!
Melina Merrie
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Nice, light read with all of the loose endings neatly wrapped up. Fun to read!
Jennifer Blaske
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I started this book and enjoyed it at first because I thought it was going to be a quirky, humorous story about the life of a personal chef, the experiences specific to that job, and the colorful cast of characters she works for.

When I finally began to realize that it was not quite that, I continued reading (often skimming, especially toward the end) because I was having fun finding the book's flaws and sort of "playing editor."


1. First of all, am I the only person who r
Jul 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
I get really frustrated by books like this, that seem so cobbled together that you wonder if anyone actually read the final product before releasing it. It wasn't terrible, but the lack of attention to detail, even in a lighter read, really bothered me. Early on, the main character mentions that she delighted her mother by taking a corporate job with benefits at age 26. A few chapters later she mentions that she lost her mother to a heart attack shortly after her 22nd birthday. Really? No one ca ...more
Connie N.
I'd rate this 4.5 stars, but because I have such a feel-good feeling about it, I'm rounding up to 5 stars for Goodreads. What a warm and charming chick-lit. Gemma is a private chef who has a different regular client each day of the week, and we get to know each of them as we get to know her. She's intelligent, funny, and a strong nurturer who does a great job of creating menus for the different lifestyles and preferences of each of her clients. We meet the Van Loudens--extremely picky and uppity ...more
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, adult-chic-lit
I won this ARC copy through the First Reads program and couldn't have been happier to read it! I've read 2 other books by Beth Harbison that I was partial to due to the writing. But this one was a truly fun read. I was hooked after the first chapter...and that is due to the hilarity that ensued.

Gemma Craig (no relation to Jenny Craig) is a personal chef who works for an array of families in the DC area. One is a cast member of a reality show (similar to the RHO franchise), another has some of t
Marathon County Public Library

Private Chef Gemma Craig has given up on dating. Instead, she focuses on her steady catering clients: The Russian family, the high-maintenance society wife, the food-allergy obsessed housewife, "Mr. Tuesday" and the asexual businessman. Each client has their own quirks, but each brings Gemma some degree of satisfaction. When that begins to fall apart, Gemma goes out with her friend and ends up with a one-night stand that will change her life.

The characters are engaging and well developed and th

Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: chicks
I LOVED this book! I almost NEVER read romances but this one was just absolutely perfect in every way and I enjoyed it so much. Gosh, I feel like such a gooey little girl with rose-colored glasses and too much sugar in her veins but it was just so good!

It's so refreshing to read a book written by someone who honest to god knows how to write and tell a good story. If you're looking for a read that you can trust to have a happy ending and will fulfill all your expectations, this is the book for yo
Josephine Sorrell
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't know who recommended " When in Doubt, Add Butter," but I sure am glad I picked it up. Chick Lit, Feel Good books are not usually my forte. I prefer, action, adventure, suspense, you get it. Gemma Craig, (Jenny Craig),the name becomes important with one of her clients as you read, is a personal chef. She goes into people's homes and cooks for them. Gemma on a different day cooks for the Russians, The Snobs, a man she has never met whom she refers to as Mr. Tuesday and so on. On weekends s ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Ok book. Could have used a murder. If he had killed his wife, instead of sleeping around, Gemma could have had Mr. Tuesday for her lawyer. Better "meet-cute" than a hallway.
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is the first book I've ever read by Beth Harbison and while I was ultimately left a little disappointed, I did enjoy her narrative voice enough that I'll be looking for more of her books in the future.

When in Doubt, Add Butter started out as a great book. I liked the main character/narrator, Gemma, and thought her job as a personal chef was cool and different. There are a million books out there about cops, PIs and CEOs but I've never read one about a personal chef before. The pace was good
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I added this book to my TBR all the way back in 2013, on the recommendation of a good friend who then worked at a local bakery (hi, Mariko!). I picked up a copy at a used bookstore, and have since carted it from Alaska to Puerto Rico to Washington, DC, all the while passing it over in favor of either newer/hotter literary fiction or library books that I justified giving precedence because they needed to be returned.

This past weekend, surveying the overflowing shelves in our new DC rowhouse, I de
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chick-lit, romance
Gemma makes her livelihood by cooking for people in their homes and by catering larger events. And though she is 37 years old, she is still maturing. She doesn’t have much savings, so she has nothing for a rainy day. And yes, she soon finds herself in a downpour. She loses some of her steady jobs, though no fault of her own, just when she finds herself needing extra cash. She needs more than butter - she needs help, fast! This romantic novel has endearing and interesting characters in a delightf ...more
Monique Pearson
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brand new author to me. I honestly mostly picked this book because of the title and cover, then the blurb tipped the scale.
I was NOT disappointed! LOVED the story. LOVED the relationship between Gemma and her customers, especially her relationship with her overweight and cynical client. The descriptions of how a person becomes overweight, the assumptions people make about those individuals, and the fear of failure is so completely on point!
Besides the honest emotional scenes this is a light, en
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, audio, humor
This is not the genre of book I would normally read, but when browsing in the audio section I couldn't resist the title! I am so glad I choose to try it. It was a chick lit book with enough humor that it left me smiling. Sometimes that is enough to make a book worthwhile. Additionally, this book book was well written and very well read by Orlagh Cassidy. I would recommend this audio book for anyone who is looking for something light but interesting.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Basically, I’ve been on a “read light fare and avoid reality and all your responsibilities” kick the past few days.

That said, this book was a step above the past few in terms of writing, a consistent storyline and narrator, and a heroine that wasn’t forced.

While it was nothing earth shattering, I really did enjoy the overall plot and recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet escape.
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Beth Harbison grew up in Potomac, Maryland, in the shadow of Washington, D.C. Apart from the occasional irritation at being held up in traffic by a presidential motorcade, she has remained fairly uninvolved in the politics that define her home town. Her next novel, tentatively called THE COOK BOOK BOOK CLUB, comes out October 20, 2020.

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