Recipe for Persuasion
Recipe for Persuasion is Sonali Dev’s latest Jane Austen inspired novel. A sweet second chance at love tale, this delicious romance will have you savoring every second you spend reading it.
This is book two of The Raje Series but you don’t need to read book one – Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors – to enjoy this one.
We’ve all had them. Those days when life seems determined to poison the lemonade we’ve made out of the lemons it has handed us. Ashna Raje feels those are the only kinds of days she’s been having lately. Keeping her beloved father’s failing restaurant open has been almost impossible. Endless foreclosure notices from her bank are the only mail she receives and the fact that she has panic attacks if she cooks anything but her Baba’s recipes means she can’t even update the menu to lure more customers in. She stays after hours to mop floors and scrub toilets because she had to let the cleaning service go. But all of that is nothing compared to her sous chef and close friend quitting without notice.
That’s the night her cousin Trisha and best friend China show up just as she’s wiping down the kitchen. She’s not really surprised. Everyone knows Ashna works long hours and that makes her a favorite late night snack source. This time, though, she’s not being asked to provide refreshments. China’s been working on a reality show for Food Network called Cooking with the Stars, a program which teams chefs with celebrities for a culinary competition and she’s hit a big snag. One of the cooks had to quit and they need a last minute replacement. Ashna is a chef, she’s local, and most importantly, beautiful and desperate. A spot on the show will give her enough money to keep the foreclosure at bay. The only trouble? Ashna’s cooking induced panic attacks. She gives China a (mostly) firm no.
Then Ashna’s mother Shobi calls. She’s receiving a Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India. She wants Ashna to do the introduction at the awards dinner and like all their conversations, this one quickly degenerates into a fight. Shobi had pursued her career at Ashna’s expense, spending more time promoting her girls in sports programs than she ever spent with her own daughter. Ashna has no desire to repay her mother’s desertion with a speech rhapsodizing about her accomplishments. Stung by Shobi’s insistence that she has nothing more pressing to do, she impulsively tells her she’s taken a position on Cooking with the Stars.
FIFA soccer star Rico Silva has never forgotten – or forgiven – the girl who broke his heart when he was a young, lonely, vulnerable teenager. Now that he’s been forced to retire due to an injury, he decides it’s finally time to lay this ghost to rest. He begins by googling Ashna and that’s when he discovers the Entertainment Weekly article about Cooking with the Stars. One phone call to his agent and he’s on the show, paired with the girl who kicked him while he was down. His plan is to rub in her face that the boy her father said wasn’t worthy of her is now wildly successful, fabulously rich, and disgustingly famous.
Ashna is completely blindsided when she sees Rico again. Their meeting results in her losing her grip on the knife she’s using to chop vegetables and Rico being rushed to the emergency room, and the clip of a seemingly star-smitten Ashna practically swooning at the sight of him as he heroically saves her from self-injury goes viral. They become social media darlings, rocketing the anticipation for the show to heights a Food Network program has never received. It’s made clear to Ashna that there is no chance she will be released from her contract so she can get out of the disastrous situation. Deciding to make the best of it, she convinces Rico they need to use their explosive chemistry to charm the pants off the judges. But the judges aren’t the ones whom they are really interested in seeing naked.
Recipe for Persuasion is a fast, fun contemporary romance with two fabulous leads. It would have been easy for the anxiety ridden Ashna to come across as helpless and weak but the author does a fantastic job of giving her a backstory that keeps that from happening. We see a nice balance between the sensitive girl tied down by a painful past and familial expectations, and the loving, fascinating, competent young woman who shines when she’s away from those debilitating ties.
Rico’s plan to confront Ashna in front of the cameras could easily have had him coming across as a complete ass, but he is humble, kind, thoughtful, helpful and caring throughout the tale – especially to the person against whom he supposedly is seeking revenge. From the moment he saves her from the wayward knife to the way he smoothly covers her faux pas in front of the camera, he becomes the champion Ashna deserves.
Their path to an HEA is filled with humor, sexual tension, tender moments and witty banter. The scenes where they are on the show are especially enjoyable, portraying them at their very best.
Most of the attention is focused on Ashna and Rico but there is a secondary romance toward the end of the book and the entire story is filled with an amazing cast of supporting characters. I especially enjoyed the super sweet Song, a K-drama actress also appearing in the competition and Ashna’s Aunt Mina, who was the maternal figure her biological mom had never been.
This author loves angst and Ashna’s and Rico’s histories provide plenty of deep, emotional elements that create a much richer read than the cover leads one to expect. It would be easy to get lost in all the drama but Ms. Dev does a nice job of combining the turmoil with lighter ingredients to give us a story that is sweet as well as savory.
Most books have flaws, though, and this one has a few which kept it from reaching DIK status. While I appreciated the gravitas and sensitivity Ashna’s parental issues give her character, they are so complicated and traumatic their resolution takes up a great deal of page space. As a result, the book reads more like women’s fiction than romance. Additionally, while the storyline with Shobi allows the author to address the draconic patriarchal system of India’s past it makes Shobi less a character and more a mouthpiece, someone who was on the page simply to sermonize. Combined with the political conversations centered around Ashna’s cousin running for governor, this causes the text to have moments where it teeters on being preachy, especially since the style used is very much telling over showing.
Those quibbles aside, eloquent prose and excellent character building make Recipe for Persuasion a clever, charming story about two people who rediscover their authentic selves by finding love. I think the author’s legions of fans will adore this book, as will anyone who enjoys a good contemporary love story.