Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lizzy and Jane

Title: Lizzy and Jane

Series: None

Year: 2014

Author: Katherine Reay

Summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?
(from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Elizabeth Hughes
~ Jane
~ Nick
~ Cecilia

Review: I've had my eye on this book for a while, after loving P&P for over a dozen years and after hearing all the raving reviews for Katherine Reay's Dear Mr. Knightley. I haven't read that one yet, but when I was offered a chance to read an advance review copy of Lizzy and Jane, I jumped at it. Inspired by one of my favorite novels, how bad could it be?

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. I'm not exactly sure what I expected, but this book wasn't it. I guess I envisioned something along the lines of a modern-day P&P retelling, yet even reading the first chapter, I could see that wasn't it. So don't expect a retelling. In all regards, this is more of a Persuasion retelling with bits of Sense and Sensibilty thrown in. We've got a broken hero, a heroine who lost her bloom, and a letter in the end -- sound familiar? In addition, Lizzy and Jane are not the soulmates that Austen's famous sisters are; they fight, and share many, what are described as, Elinor-Marianne moments in the course of the novel. I really appreciated all the Austen references, though. The author is a true JA fan, and it shows. Two thumbs up.

Elizabeth is a successful chef in New York, and she loves her job. Well, that is until her boss tells her she is not up to her usual standards and suggests she take a holiday... after he hires a new sous chef for the restaurant. Feeling replaced, Elizabeth makes the cross-country trip to visit the family in Seattle in she hasn't seen in I-don't-recall-how-many years. Her sister Jane is battling cancer, the same horribleness that stole their mother from them when Elizabeth was still in high school. Returning to Seattle isn't easy for Elizabeth, nor is it easy for Jane to accept her sister back after the hard years between them. It isn't until Elizabeth finds peace helping out in a new way, with the food she loves in blends she never expected, that she feels she's finally doing the right thing. 

Now you'll notice that I only gave this book three stars. Why the three stars? It was a well-written book, the plot was interesting with a few surprise twists, and people interested in this genre will love it, I'm positive. However, it just didn't fit in my definition of a favorite book. I'm not a moody hero/heroine fan, and I really didn't care for all the brooding in several chapters. People feeling sorry for themselves a lot tend to get on my nerves. I liked the minor characters probably the most -- Kate and Danny, Elizabeth's niece and nephew, were fun to read about. The three stars mainly are explained in my advisory later on. Just little things that added up to mount a sour taste in my mouth. And no, that wasn't intended to be a pun or an insult to Elizabeth's potpie.

What I did like was the food references. Elizabeth knew her food, and although there were times I questioned her cooking skills (she adds cinnamon to enhance tomato flavor in sauces and adds black pepper to applesauce; who puts pepper in applesauce? cinnamon - yes; sugar - yes; we even do maple syrup at times, but black pepper? sorry, rant over), I couldn't help but get hungry during the many cooking passages. And Elizabeth made the cooking even more enticing for me by mixing in stuff from classic works. For instance, she crafts Jane's meals out of a love for Jane Austen, using Austen's novels as inspiration. Other meals get Ernest Hemingway inspiration, and she's always quoting something on food from famous works of literature -- including The Wind in the Willows! I thought that especially neat.

Advisory: Romance, obviously. Our romantic couple shares a few kisses and admires each other's physical attractions. Blech. One man talks about an immoral relationship he had years ago and how it's affected him until present day. Umm... there were a few "adult comments" and a word or two of language, so please read with caution. Various characters are described as having cancer, and as Elizabeth visits the hospital, she sees the treatment they undergo. One character accidentally cuts her hand badly (cue blood), but it's not handled too graphically. Just little things here and there that put the book down overall in my opinion. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Click here to buy Lizzy and Jane on Amazon!

*Please note that I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This novel will be released on October 28th.*

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