The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique is lovely, entertaining, and heartwarming contemporary foodie romance with hate to love trope.
The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique by Samantha Verant
Publication Date : December 6, 2022
Publisher : Berkley Books
Genre : Romance / Contemporary
Pages : 353
Tea for this book : Indian Masala
Disclaimer – Many thanks to publisher for eARC via NetGalley.
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A talented chef discovers how spices and scents can transport her–and, more importantly, how self-confidence can unlock the greatest magic of all: love–in this perfectly seasoned new novel by Samantha Vérant.
Kate Jenkins doesn’t believe in fate. She believes in a clear vision, meticulous planning, and hard work in order to achieve her culinary dreams. On the cusp of opening her own Parisian restaurant, Bistro Exotique, she isn’t even concerned when her standoffish–and annoyingly sexy–neighbor dismisses her as a crazy American tourist or when she meets the wildly eccentric Garrance, the self-proclaimed Spice Master of Paris, who ominously warns her of the previous owner’s failures.
Confident and optimistic, Kate keeps calm and cooks on. Until a series of unfortunate events derail her plans and her entire staff quits.
Kate is about to throw in the kitchen towel on her lifelong dream when Garrance offers to use her mastery of scents and spices to help her, but it comes at a price: Kate must work with Garrance’s son, Charles, a world-class chef and total jerk. After Kate hesitantly concedes to the deal, she slowly learns to open her heart and mind to new concepts, not quite sure if the magic she’s experiencing comes from Garrance’s spices, from within herself, or from the growing chemistry with Charles. One thing is certain, though: her kitchen is getting increasingly hot.
The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique is heartwarming hate-to-love contemporary romance that follows Kate Jenkins finally about to live her dream of her own restaurant, Bistro Exotique. After a perfect plan and hard work, nothing will stop her success, not even Garrance, the self-proclaimed Spice Master of Paris, whose shop is in the building next to her restaurant, who ominously warns her of the previous owner’s failures.
But things start going wrong pretty soon. A Series of unfortunate events leads to she failing her dream but then Garrance offers her help with her mastery of scents and spices. She has no choice but follow Garrance’s conditions one of which is to work with her Michelin star son, Charles, who also turns out annoying neighbor she hates.
It was interesting to see how she will work with Charles, how they will work together without using their knives on each other and if Kate can save her restaurant and dream.
Writing is entertaining, gripping and fast paced with first person narrative from Kate’s perspective. Plot and concept of magic of spices that transport to places or hitting with hypnotic wave of nostalgia was really good.
I loved the first half of the book which is all about Kate and her dream and meeting other characters. Kate is lovely, controlling but kind, confident, full of spirit and hope. Her passion for food was infectious. It was easy to empathize with her when things started going wrong, how much she was struggling to keep things going, seeing her vulnerable and less confident side. I love her for being fun and easygoing even with all the struggles in life. It was great to see how she kept an open mind and took a leap of faith with Garrance and worked on saving her dream.
Charles is an obnoxious, rude, and pompous neighbor at first but as he starts working with Kate we see other side of him, kind, gentle and lovely. We see how past burnt him and his most reactions are out of grief and people who betrayed him and stayed with him only for his money. Let’s just say I get him but he is not as impressive as other male characters I’ve read in romcoms.
There is interesting meddlesome mothers. While Kate’s mother is entertaining with her sex therapist experience and sage advices. Charles’s mother, Garrance has sad past. She is wise and smart. It was amazing to see her building her own life with spices and perfumes, the way she created and used them. Her exotic garden is awe-inspiring and it was fantastic to see how her spices and perfumes transported Kate to many fantasies in different settings.
The setting of Paris is one of my favorites and it was interesting to see non-touristy part of it. the farmer’s market, street rules, customs was interesting to read. I have never seen them mentioned in other Paris setting books I read before. Description of food and effects of spices and scents was second best thing.
Romance was okay. I liked initial hate-to-love arc and how both Kate and Charles connected through their love for food. I liked the drama just before the climax but climax is anti-climatic. Charles’ action was unfair and there wasn’t a solid enough reason for him to behave like he did and then Kate forgave him too easily for my liking. The end is uplifting and lovely but I didn’t end up loving the book as I expected in the beginning.
Why 3.5 stars-
In the beginning I thought this will be sraight 5 star read but second half isn’t as good as first half. I didn’t feel the chemistry and dialogues between Kate and Charles are chunky. It didn’t feel romantic when they talked. Honestly, I liked both hating and bantering in first half more than both loving each other!
Overall, The Spice Master at Bistro Exotique is lovely, entertaining, and heartwarming contemporary foodie romance but I didn’t love it as much as I expected.
I recommend this if you like,
Hate to love trope
Rich falling for normal person arc
non-touristy side of Paris
Meddlesome mothers interfering in characters’ lives
Little bit of drama
Dream and passion
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