For years, things have run quite smoothly for Perdita and her organic gardening business. So what if her hair needs a complete overhaul, her sweater has more holes than Swiss cheese, and there's no hope of a boyfriend on the horizon? The last thing Perdita wants is a meddlesome man in her life-but she's about to get one, in the form of her completely infuriating ex-husband, Lucas.
Lucas in disagreeable, curt, arrogant, and smolderingly gorgeous. He's also the new chef at Grantly House, Perdita's number-one customer. Worse, Mr. Grantly has the insane idea of starting a television cooking show that will put Lucas and Perdita together as "The Gourmet and the Gardener."
Now, things are heating up in the kitchen--and elsewhere. With the bright lights blazing and old feelings stirring the pot, it could be a recipe for disaster...or absolute delight.
British author Fforde's sixth novel is an extremely good-natured, if rather predictable, romantic comedy. "Well, at least I'm completely over him," Perdita, an unattached organic gardener who's approaching 30, prophetically mutters to herself when her ex-husband, Lucas, suddenly resurfaces as the local inn's new chef. She has remained single since the divorce, focusing more on building her business than on dating. The most important person in her life is her mother's godmother, Kitty, a sprightly 87-year-old who shares Perdita's love of gardening and has doted on her since she was a girl. Kitty, along with Perdita's other friends mainly the colorful locals to whom she sells her produce angle cheerfully for her to go out more, get a makeover and a boyfriend, to little effect. It turns out that Lucas is to be the star of a new cooking show, and its producers commandeer Perdita's kitchen and Perdita herself, too, as cohost thus throwing the fractured couple together again, much to her displeasure. Sparks start to fly before filming even begins. Perdita's interpretation of independence is exasperating at times (she figures the only way to show Lucas that she's over him is to find herself a new boyfriend), but Fforde (Life Skills; Stately Pursuits) infuses life into the story via other characters and subplots. Lucy, an old school friend, begs for help arranging the perfect English country Christmas; Janey, who works in Lucas's kitchen, develops a crush on him; illness forces the autonomous, free-thinking Kitty to relinquish control to various doctors and caretakers and a long-lost relative threatens to take away all that Perdita has worked for. There are few uncharted turns here, but the characters are all appealing, and romantics will be taken with Fforde's clever interweaving of love, friendship, horticulture and cuisine.