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Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  570 ratings  ·  105 reviews
FIRST PLACE FICTION: 2015, Royal Dragonfly Book Awards
SILVER MEDAL: 2016, Ben Franklin Award for Best First Book



Shelby Preston—a young, single mother trapped in a hardscrabble life in rural Georgia—escapes her reality as she fantasizes herself a respected chef in a kitchen of gleaming
Paperback, 380 pages
Published June 25th 2015 by CreateSpace
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+Digital copy gently provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review+

2.8 overcooked stars

As a child, at my aunt's, bored during the siesta, I use to read some old "Vanidades" -a fashion magazine-, where a catch-phrase get my attention: "Less is More"; meaning, before you leave your house dressed up look at you in the mirror and remove something. Well, this novel didn't follow that advise; instead, is like putting too many ingredients inside a pot. Prejudice, racism, classism, all themes t
I received a copy of Peggy Lampman's The Promise Kitchen through Lampman has a gift for descriptive language and a keen eye for the many causes of human suffering. However, she overdoes both of these talents. She often uses many unique and poetic images to describe the same event or emotion. It gets tedious. But what really ruined what could have been an enjoyable story for me was Lampman's decision to attack almost all of the social injustices and conservation issues we face in t ...more
Rhiannon Johnson
Read my full review here:

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. 

My Review:
I'm always excited to read books set in Atlanta or Georgia but sometimes the cliches can get in the way of a good story. Not so with The Promise Kitchen. Author, Peggy Lampman, juxtaposes single-mother Shelby with career woman Mallory, and rural Georgia life with Atlanta city life very vividly. The dual na
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern-fiction
This is a Southern book about friendship and family and food and even provides recipes at the end for some real Southern down home food. It's the story of Shelby and Mallory, two friends in Georgia who over the course of a year need to be strong women to try to make their dreams come true. It's a fun book to read and my advice is not to read it on an empty stomach because the food descriptions will make you even hungrier.

It was a fun book to read.

Thanks to goodreads for a copy of this book in ex
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, southern
A sweet, southern themed "foodie" novel that seemed to be trying a little too hard at times.

The southern stereo-typical characters were just were a little too over the top for me (ahem, a true GRITS ;) ) to really connect with. I ended up liking this book more than I initially thought I would, though. There is a good message to it, including improving your circumstances and bring true to yourself. The characters will grow on you:) I really enjoyed the food talk and recipes, and plan to try sever
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a delicious first by me by this author and definitely didn’t disappoint! I loved this! I laughed and cried at times during this book as it’s filled with so many emotions and relatable characters as well as story line. These characters Shelby and Mallory have lived very different lives and their love of food finds them to be very unlikely friends that both find that friendship and support brings their dreams together to make the most perfect recipe! A pure delight and must read! I c ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I know it is a good book when I keep wanting to go back to it and then realize that I have already finished it!
A digitized ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review WIP

2016/10/29 UPDATES: BTW, if you've read my long rant about how dissatisfied I am with the book cover, they actually gave out credit: (view spoiler) The fact that "Getty Images" is being listed still makes me think the publiseher is partially if not most to blame.

(Man, I wish I could h
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway. No one asked me to review it.

I don't know what to say about this book. I liked it. I felt like I lived these things along with the characters. But I was a little disconcerted. When I read the blurb for this book I got the impression that it was about the interaction between two women who met and became friends. And, well, it is. Sort of.

The two women meet about 1/3 of the way through the book. Mallory is a food blogger and Shelby wants to be a chef (and i
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Food, friendship, family, and a fresh start. Shelby Preston, a young single mother, is at a crossroads. She feels suffocated by her hardscrabble life in rural Georgia and dreams of becoming a professional chef. Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good. In Atlanta, Mallory Lakes is reeling from a bad breakup. The newspaper food columnist is also bracing for major changes at work that could put her job at risk. Determined to find the perfect recipe for how to reinvent herself, she g ...more
Angela Sanford
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Promise Kitchen is a beautifully written novel about two young women that are the complete opposites of each other. Shelby has lived in rural Georgia all of her life, just getting by. Mallory grew up in a wealthy home with all of the advantages that Shelby could only dream about. Shelby has a young daughter, Miss Ann, that she is raising by herself. Miss Ann's father left after she was born without one of her eyes. With all the love of Shelby and her grandmother, Miss Ann may not have a lot ...more
Lisa Redfern
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, food
Heat and flame transform substances from one thing into another.

Simmer and Smoke is a very well executed debut novel. The subtitle—A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice—gives an accurate description of the sentiment of the book.

The story follows the lives of Mallory and Shelby—women who live near Atlanta, Georgia. They have divergent economic and social status and challenge ineffectual feelings, failures and self-doubt as they strive toward their personal and professional goals.

The mother daughter r
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-s-fiction
Simmer and Smoke is such a fun read. It has been a long time since I read a book and truly enjoyed it. Usually I complain about the author’s lack of knowledge of the subject matter, grammar, pacing, and unlikable characters, at least to myself.

Ms. Lampman creates a likable underdog in Shelby who can cook, but comes from a poor background. In Mallory, she creates a driven woman who leaves her daughter with her mother to enter the culinary world. A great balance of internal and external conflict a
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I was asked by the author to read this book and give a review. I wish I could add another half a star. I would rate this book at a 3.5.
The story was good, but I felt there was to much description. I am an avid reader and love to get into a book a feel it, but I felt this book went over board many times in the descriptions of things that weren't always relevant to the story. This bugged over the course of the book. I do however feel that she did a really good job at helping you know exactly how
Beth Agejew
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Southern Literature at Its Finest!

I have always been a fan of Southern literature and, over the years, I have read quite a bit. Simmer and Smoke: A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice ranks right up there with the best. The story centers around two women, Mallory and Shelby, who come from two very different worlds. Mallory has had a priveledged upbrining, while Shelby has had to fight for every penny. Throughout the book, events unfold which bring the two women together. Those events will make you l
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From reading the description of this novel, I figured this is right up my alley. It sounds like something I would devour and enjoy. Unfortunately, I found this book to be a bit slow. I wasn't too invested in the characters and felt that they were given very little depth. The food element in this story was lacking for me and some of the descriptions of slaughtering animals were thrown in and a turn off.

This story line could've been really good if it was developed more. The book itself was long b
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. 3.5 stars

This book is about family, love, food and friendship. It tells the stories of Shelby, a single mum struggling to fulfil her dream of becoming a chef and Mallory, a famous cook and food blogger and how their lives become enriched by each other. The writing was really lovely and the story flowed really well. I liked how it was told from the points of view of Shelby and Mallory and even Miss Ann for a couple of chapters. The characters in this
Pam Mooney
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Delightful! I love the culinary back drop that really pulls the family and friendship connections together. As advertised with romance and recipes but a bit deeper as choices and sacrifices are made as women try to follow their dreams. A good read.

Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a bit of an odd start, but really a wonderful story. I almost want to read it again. I loved each character. I could see them, want to know them. Thank you Peggy Lampman for this great book!
Lady Heather

"An ARC has been provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review"
This book has been sitting on my ereader for a long time.  Now I'm upset that I didn't read it sooner.

Shelby is a young single mother who follows food blogger Mallory and loves to make her recipes.  She wants to be a chef but that would require her to leave her daughter with her mother in southern Georgia and move to Atlanta to work and go to school.

The newspaper Mallory writes for has just moved totally online and she has thrown herself into creating a new, indispensable, digital persona.

In The Promise Kitchen, Peggy Lampman weaves the story of two women together to create one lovely tale.

Shelby Preston is a single mom. She lives with her mom and is living primarily in poverty. But Shelby has dreams - she wants to bake and cook and do more with her life. She wants to go to cooking school - but it will require really big sacrifices. She'll need to move - and leave her little girl with her mom. This isn't a permanent move - she will be able to bring her daughter with someday, but
Karen Whittard

I love books about food, cafes, shops.

Shelby Preston is in need of a clean break. Her family could certainly do with a good deal of comfort. This book sees Shelby move to Georgia to start a new life perusing her dream of opening her own restaurant and becoming a professional chef.

Meanwhile Mallory is recovering from a bad breakup and is bracing herself for massive changes in her job as a food columnist. Determined to find a way to reinvent herself Mallory gets involved in a new movement that s
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very timely book. The two protagonists are a nearly 40 college-educated, formally trained chef has lived a life of privilege and now writes a popular food blog in Atlanta and a mid-twenties uneducated single mother who is untrained but a gifted cook and dreams of making a better life for her and her daughter. On the surface they couldn't be more different, but their lives entertwine in unexpected ways, leading to redemption and hope for both. The climax of the plot is an accident in wh ...more
Peggy Lampman brings to the table a heart-warming tale of two southern ladies, Shelby Preston and Mallory Lakes, who couldn't be more different from one another.

The tale is told in two parts with alternating chapters from Shelby, Mallory, and Miss Ann. You will see how they get together through their love of food.

Shelby, who feels constricted in her poverty stricken life in a suburban town of Coryville, Georgia, dreams of becoming a chef. A job that will bring a better life for herself and her d
Debbi Hicks
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Some books you fly right through and some you'll want to savour. Such was the case with The Promise Kitchen. Peggy Lampman is a beautiful writer that has crafted a story of hope and dreams presented by a cast of well developed characters I thoroughly enjoyed meeting, even the ones that were only briefly encountered. Her vivid descriptions put you right there and what fun I had. This story is both funny and touching as we experience the merging of two entirely different women's lives Mallory and
Lynn Demsky
An interesting but often boring tale of a young, single mother who gets to follow her dreams (with a ton of pitfalls in them) to better her daughters’ life and her own! The recipes were interesting but most had ingredients that I had no idea what they were and got tired of looking them up – had 20 recipes included in the back of the book. I enjoyed her families and friends support and her love of them all that spilled the novel with warmth. Was supper long and I fell asleep through the boring pa ...more
While I enjoyed this book, I didn't enjoy it and connect with the main characters in the same way that I did The Welcome Home Diner.
I loved Shelby's determination; Mallory's descent into depression was painful to watch. And she really got lucky despite the bad choices she continually made.
One of the best aspects of Lampman's writing is her ability to shed light on societal concerns or injustices in a way that is real and authentic: she gives voice to the problem without it seeming too contrive
Michele Minor
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, e-books
Shelby Preston and Mallory Lakes are two women from two different worlds who end up meeting each other in Atlanta, GA. Shelby is trying to make a better life for her and her child while Mallory is fighting for her career due to changes at the newspaper that she works at. There is only a little bit of romance in the book but the book is mainly about friendship and how the two of them cope with circumstances thrown at them. I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review from Netgalley.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters are richly drawn and luminously real. Along with the gritty descriptions of the southern setting there is a lyrical quality to the writing. We are taken into the lives of two, strong women - polar opposites in terms of background, but equally ambitious. As their paths converge, an unlikely friendship results. I loved the melding of great storytelling and a culinary backdrop. Highly recommend.
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