I have been a long time fan of Rhys Bowen, especially her Royal Spyness series, but I also love many of her stand alone novels as well.
When I saw this one was coming out, I almost put it on preorder until I saw that it was going to be an Audible Escape option. As a subscriber to Audible Escape, that means I get to read any of the romances that are marked as Escape in their catalogue. This book was one of them.
I started it and was ready for it to be full of romance….I mean, it’s in the romance catalogue after all so I went into it expecting romance, but what I got was more of a romance with food.
Isabella Waverly only means to comfort the woman felled on a London street. In her final dying moments, she thrusts a letter into Bella’s hand. It’s an offer of employment in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace, and everything the budding young chef desperately wants: an escape from the constrictions of her life as a lowly servant. In the stranger’s stead, Bella can spread her wings.
Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.
Having prepared the royal guest’s last meal, Bella is suspected of the poisonous crime. An investigation is sure to follow. Her charade will be over. And her new life will come crashing down—if it doesn’t send her to the gallows. (Summary from Goodreads)
In the description, it also promised a murder mystery, though that didn’t happen until like 80% of the way through. I was all primed for it to be a romantic suspense read but it wasn’t really either. This book follows Bella’s life as a chef for Queen Victoria and while I found that all interesting, I was expecting a lot more romance at the very least.
For me, Bella was in some ways very unlikeable. She was kind of snobby and whiny and I just wasn’t a fan of her from the very beginning. I couldn’t understand why she just did tell the truth from the very beginning. Her reasoning was flimsy at best and throughout the book I kept wondering why she didn’t just tell the truth. She was clearly competent enough in her job so why not just be honest? I was really confused by some of her decisions and choices. While I might not have loved Bella, I sure had a hard time putting this book down!
I listened to it every chance I got and I can’t really explain why. I mean the first portion of the book is mostly about Bella getting her job at the palace and how life went in the palace kitchens. There was some romance but only a little bit and the mystery came so late, but I still couldn’t put it down. I loved reading about the food and the narrator was wonderful. She really made the story come alive and I was wrapped up in the story thanks to her. Perhaps if I had read the book on my own I would have read Bella in a different way but with this narrator I read her as snobby but I can’t say that I really minded all that much.
While this might not be Rhys Bowen’s best standalone novel, I can’t wholeheartedly say that it wasn’t a fun read. I mean I really enjoyed the story as a whole and even though I might not have loved Bella, I still found myself wrapped up in the characters in the kitchen.
Where does that leave me in regards to a stared review? I ended up going with 4 stars. I mean I thought about giving it 3 stars but in the end I went with 4 stars because I listened to it rather quickly and found myself wanting to listen to it rather than finding it a chore. Bowen has written other standalones that are in my opinion better but this one was a fun escape nevertheless!