This sounded exactly to my taste: Chick lit set in London, featuring a heroine trying to open a restaurant. Within a few pages I knew I’d gone wrong since this clearly isn’t chick lit. And, while the heroine does open a restaurant in London, she and the rest of the characters are completely unlikeable. This left a bad taste in my mouth.
Stephanie is unhappy. Sure, she’s so beautiful that people stare at her, thinking she’s a movie star. And, yes, she’s married to a wealthy older man and lives in a glorious home in London. But Stephanie wants more. She met her husband when she managed a successful restaurant in Montreal and wants to open and manage an exclusive restaurant, Butlers, that will cater solely to upper class patrons. Stephanie needs her husband Giles’ help with financial backing.
Giles is a scum, but he’s clever. Rather than backing Stephanie’s restaurant himself, he sells the idea to one of his wealthy clients. The client is a strange man who has been searching for his supposedly dead older brother Frankie for years. The client has taken in a string of “Frankies.” In order to provide the backing for the restaurant, the client demands that the latest Frankie manage the restaurant.
I hated Stephanie’s husband. He’s an arrogant snob and clearly wanted Stephanie only for her looks. Unfortunately, I didn’t like much of anyone in the book, including Stephanie. Despite her desire to run the restaurant, Stephanie seemed ineffectual. Yes, she came up with the concept, but it was substantially modified by Frankie. She took time off before the opening to show an old friend from Canada around London. And once she decided she wanted a baby, she spent more time thinking about that than the restaurant.
I suppose Frankie might have been likeable if we learned much of anything about him. It’s obvious he’s better suited to run the restaurant than Stephanie. Frankie fired staff Stephanie hired, which was good, as Stephanie’s choices were horrendous.
None of the characters are likeable; both the old upper class and the newly rich actors and athletes who frequent Butlers are portrayed as shallow snobs. When Stephanie and Giles go to Canada to attend a funeral, all of the people they encounter are overweight, stupid, and provincial. Even Stephanie’s young stepson is a selfish snob.
This was reminiscent of a lot of books I read in the 1980s, filled with unpleasant wealthy people, a smattering of celebrities, and much unhappiness. The celebrities who frequent Butlers aren’t named. I guess we’re supposed to feel clever when we figure out who the celebrity is with such descriptions as the chef with blond hair and the foul mouth. It didn’t work for me. I would have preferred to have more likeable main characters and fewer celebrities.
The last two chapters weren’t bad. If the rest of the book hadn’t been so awful I might have enjoyed them more. But I just couldn’t forget how much I hated Stephanie, hated most of the other characters, and just didn’t know Frankie at all. It was too little too late. Add in adultery, sex as a result of a drug-induced high, a few characters who seem to change their sexual preferences on a whim, and you have a book that pretty much stunk.