The Secret Ingredient
The Secret Ingredient is a light and funny book that perfectly illustrates the old saying: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” When Elizabeth Baskin sets out to try and turn her husband back into the man he was when they were first married, the results are exactly what she hoped for – at least at first.
When Roger met Elizabeth, they fell in love almost from the beginning (he rescued her when her car broke down on the freeway). As is true for most people, when their love was new and fresh, he was perfect and could do no wrong in her eyes. Fast forward a few years, and now Roger is not quite the knight in shining armor anymore. He’s a bit bald, a bit pudgy, a bit – well more than just a bit – sloppy, and has become a workaholic who has only enough energy to fall into bed at 11:00 pm every night. As for their sex life, well Roger’s “Freddie” is as tired as he is. Clearly, the honeymoon is over.
Roger’s sloppy ways are magnified in Elizabeth’s eyes by the nature of her job. She is a hotel inspector for a company that rates luxury establishments and gives a few the coveted Five Key award. Roger’s messiness drives the perfectionist Elizabeth even more bonkers than it would an average women. But despite it all, Elizabeth loves Roger very much – it’s just she’d like him better if he could only go back to being the man he used to be. So when she hears about a Doctor Farkus and his magic herbs, she spends an outragous amount of money for the doctor’s stud stimulant.
The stimulant works, oh does it ever! Roger’s libido kicks into overdrive to the point that he is wearing out Elizabeth, his potbelly turns into a six pack and even his slight bald spot disappears. Naturally, this studly creature is soon dressing like a male model, dancing till dawn, and attracting lots of female attention. The new and improved Roger becomes even more perfectionist than Elizabeth and begins to complain about how she dresses, cooks, works, etc. The man would find fault with Martha Stewart. After a few weeks of this, Elizabeth needs the antidote, but Doctor Farkus has disappeared.
The Secret Ingredient is funny, but it has its serious side too. For about three quarters of the book, it is almost Stephanie Plumlike in its humor, but when Roger finds out about how Elizabeth “herbed” him, his hurt is quite real and touching. The ending involves a disgruntled hotel manager who did not get a Five Key rating and has a serious grudge against Elizabeth. The suspenseful and melodramatic ending clashes with the initial humorous tone of the beginning.
There are a few other problems as well. The book is in first person through Elizabeth’s eyes, so she is the only character whom we really get to know. Roger and other, minor characters remain shadowy; I would have liked to have gotten to know them better.
All in all, though, this is an inventive and enjoyable read. Elizabeth is a likable heroine, one who loved her husband even when she didn’t like him very much. There’s no malicious edge to her and the final message of the book is a good one; it’s not magic herbs that ultimately save their marriage, but love, commitment, and communication.
If you are looking for a contemporary story with a light and funny touch and an engaging heroine, you might want to pick up a copy of The Secret Ingredient; it’ll make for a nice evening’s read.