Title: The Recipe For Hope
Originally published as ‘The French For Christmas’
(French For #3)
Author: Fiona Valpy
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 3rd 2014
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 19th 2022
“I guess you know you are really and truly alone when even your own reflection deserts you.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
I’ve been meaning to try one of Fiona Valpy‘s books for quite some time now, so I decided to get a copy of The Recipe For Hope on a whim. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this isn’t exactly a new story; it was first published back in 2014 under the name The French For Christmas, and it’s actually book number three of a series. And while it’s true that this story can be read as a stand-alone, I would have liked to know this as apparently at least some of the characters appear in the previous books as well. This wasn’t the reason why this story sadly didn’t work for me though; more about this below.
First of all, I have to say that I do love the Dordogne setting and the descriptions really made the wintery French setting come alive for me. I also loved the food element and the many different descriptions of local food and preparations both made me want to cook and crave the food mentioned. The setting made for a great backdrop for this Christmas story and the food itself was festive inspired as well. It was probably these two elements that made me keep reading, because I did have some major issues with this story.
I think part of the problem is the fact that I was expecting an uplifting Christmas read, and instead The Recipe For Hope is mostly very heavy and almost depressive. There is a huge focus on dealing with a stillbirth and grief in general, and instead of balancing things out the heaviness seemed to go on forever. The hope came only in a small portion and the lighter moments weren’t really spaced out evenly enough to make the plot feel more balanced. Especially the final part almost felt like a cliche Hallmark movie, and the characters themselves lacked fleshing out for me. I did like the community feel of the small village, but most of the characters felt rather flat to me.
The writing itself is beautiful, which in a way is such a contrast with a rather uninspiring and predictable plot… In the end it couldn’t save the story for me. To make things worse, there is even a love triangle introduced, which kind of sealed the deal for me. I’m never a fan of the trope, but in this story it seemed completely unnecessary and it ruined whatever positive feelings I had left towards this book. A warning is also in place for the mention/description of animal slaughter; I know that there are a lot of people out there who could have done without this element.
As a whole, The Recipe For Hope unfortunately ended up being a total miss for me, and it was most definitely not the cheerful and uplifting Christmas read I hoped it would be. The food descriptions and Dordogne setting were great though.