Monday, December 5, 2011

The Secret Ingredient by Dianne Blacklock

Taste was such an evocative sense; Andie had closed her eyes, with the scone melting in her mouth, and been transported back to her grandmother's kitchen... 

Nourishment is nurture. That's what Andie learned from her grandmother and what she's always believed about cooking. But somehow, since marrying Ross, she's allowed her love of food to take a back seat and given up her dream of becoming a chef. 

Lately she's been craving more. And when her marriage falls apart, she's determined to find herself again and take back control of her destiny. 

The first step is taking a job in the kitchen of renowned chef Dominic Gerou. The brooding Englishman is more than Andie bargains for, but the new Andie is ready for anything, even a bad-tempered chef who makes it clear he won't tolerate mistakes. 

In this beautiful new novel, Dianne Blacklock takes us on a sumptuous journey of the heart as Andie uncovers the secret ingredient for her new life, and shows that no matter how many false starts you may have, if you hold on to your passion and your dreams, anything is possible.

The Secret Ingredient is the latest (and my first) novel by (crazily ;)) prolific Australian contemporary women's writer, Dianne Blacklock. 

I had a mixed experience reading it... a lot of which I blame on the back cover blurb :) I had assumed Andie's marriage break-up and kitchen job would be the inciting incident for the novel, yet they actually occur around the mid-point section, with the first half of the novel spent introducing characters, their personalities, back stories and the love and tension between them all. The novel is presented from multiple view points, which takes a while to establish, but ultimately adds tremendous depth to the full cast of characters (not only with their personalities, but also to the themes presented). 

I think I kept waiting for the novel to find it's stride and I would have settled in a lot better if I hadn't been so anxious to get to the brooding Englishman and kitchen adventures part ;) SO don't make my mistake ~ settle in and relax into the story :)

The Secret Ingredient feels truly Australian. Sharing the story from so many characters points of view en-likened it to watching an Aussie drama mini-series (I could picture Andie as Claudia Karvan, and I kind of had a vibe of Love My Way happening in my mind ~ one of my fave Australian TV Series). That was definitely cool.

The Secret Ingredient has it's share of genuine, heart-felt and complex family relationships, mingled with some characters who felt somewhat cliche in their roles (the cheating husband was particularly shallow and typecast, it made it hard for me to buy into Andie's commitment to him in the first place).

I enjoyed the second half a lot more. The restaurant setting is like being in foodies heaven, the atmosphere was rife with tension, life and energy. I almost felt exhausted just reading about it (they work LONG hours. I'm glad I only had to live through ti vicariously, I would not be cut-out for that immense pressure). And it definitely got my taste buds salivating (as in, DYING for some gourmet food ;)). 

The Secret Ingredient feels meticulously researched ~ everything was so atmospheric, food so richly described, places authentic ~ yet without drowning the reader in descriptions. It was ridiculously easy to walk among the pages of this book alongside the characters. 

Recommended: Ultimately, it is a story of following your dreams, about not being afraid to start out again, having a go. It's also go fantastically messy, yet touching, family dynamics. It's right in the niche for all Masterchef lovers. It's unapologetically, gorgeously Australian :D. This one is for fans of womens' fiction and Australian drama. Also, it's an easy, yet compelling read for people who are casual/holiday readers.  

The secret Ingredient is available now (in Australia)

Dianne Blacklock's website
The Secret Ingredient @ goodreads
The Secret Ingredient @ PanMacmillan
Alpha reader's (shining) review of The Secret Ingredient
Interview with Dianne Blacklock (@ Alpha Reader) > check out this post for some FINE eye candy in the form of chefs ;)

More books by Dianne Blacklock

Thanks to PanMacmillan for my review copy ~ it looks gorgeous in person :)


  1. Taking your warning on board, it sounds like one I'd love. I do adore foodie stories and messy family dynamics is a bonus :)
    Great review Nomes!

  2. I've only recently started reading adult lit, and I wonder if it's some sort of unspoken rule for the story to take off around midway point- like this one, and a few others as well. I think I'm just too used to fast-paced YA, but I love both YA and adult nevertheless :)

  3. Thanks for the warning, I think I got the same idea as you from the back blurb, and I would have been disappointed if I had gone in and what I Expected didn't happen until the mid-point.

    Still, it sounds like a good story and I've been craving some Australian fiction lately!

  4. I really liked this one (but I have a bizarre crush on nearly every celebrity TV chef. Even though I can't cook worth a damn).

    Great review :)

  5. Nice to see a review from you Nomes! I hope you are well.

    I am scouting books for my book club and this one looks nice. Thanks as always for sharing.


Thanks for the commenty love :)