Second Thyme Around
Second Thyme Around made me wish for much more – more humor, more character development, more emotion. Although I enjoyed the pleasantly quirky narrative style, the book never gripped me enough to recommend it, particularly at the hardcover price.
Fey organic farmer Perdita Dylan walks in to the kitchen of one of the restaurants she supplies with produce to find her ex-husband Lucas Gillespie manning the stove and bossing the sous-chefs around. When they last saw each other, Lucas was a yuppie stockbroker who left Perdita for an older, more sophisticated woman, and Perdita was a naive child who was terrified of Lucas’ temper. Now Lucas, single again and a soon-to-be-televised master chef, has appeared practically on Perdita’s doorstep.
You and I might wonder what chain of events led Lucas to the village, but Perdita, frequently ineffectual to the point of stupidity, lets the mystery lie. She’s too busy clashing with Lucas at every opportunity, inciting him to regular temper tantrums. Neither of these characters are particularly likable. They’re both sketched in predictable outlines: Perdita is the ethereal sprite and child of nature, Lucas is an alpha-male ruling his kitchen fiefdom with good intentions and an iron fist. These are characters I’ve met many times before and often enjoyed, but not so much this time because there’s little more to Perdita or Lucas than their too-familiar outlines. They both coast along in the assumption that we’ll understand that Perdita is not an idiot and Lucas is not a tyrant, but seldom pause to reveal any deeper side to their natures. At one point Lucas gives the sort of heart-warming speech that could completely redeem his difficult character. Unfortunately, we aren’t made privy to the contents of the speech, only to the general idea and the effect it has. Sorry, that’s cheating, and it doesn’t work anyway.
The emotions of the book are more fully realized in the relationship between Perdita and her elderly guardian Kitty, a spry eightysomething whose health has just begun to fail. Watching Perdita cope with her impending loss and grief will touch anyone who has ever struggled through a similar situation. But here, too, the story is very predictable, and there are no developments that are not telegraphed many chapters ahead.
The plot is often frustraringly illogical without attaining the daffy charm that saves other “Brit chick lit” books like Bridget Jones’ Diary. I frequently fumed at developments that made no sense, but that could have with only minor revisions. The producers of Lucas’ cooking show don’t want to use the big, glossy kitchen at his restaurant. Instead, they want a quaint, tiny, cramped, ancient cottage, like the one that Perdita has. Trouble is, if even I can tell that Perdita’s kitchen is completely inappropriate, then why don’t the experienced producers realize it? It’s only meant to give a push to the plot, but it makes no sense at all. And since this is a fictional kitchen, remodeling it into something marginally appropriate would only have taken a few strokes of the pen. Instead it was an insult to the reader’s intelligence.
I reviewed this book at the same time as The Last Time I Saw Paris by Elizabeth Adler, which had similar problems. Between the two I found Second Thyme Around to be the more charming – it’s predictable, and thinly characterized, but at least it wasn’t bland. There’s a spark to the author’s writing that I would like to see put to the test with more three-dimensional characters. While I can’t recommend this book, I will be interested to hear about the author’s future projects.