Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

3 / 5 stars
Read in May 2020
Book #2 in The Rajes series

Ashna Raje is struggling. Her restaurant could use some major renovations, and she can barely fill thirty of the dining room’s one hundred tables on a good night. She never seems to see eye-to-eye with her very successful mother, who lives in India and rarely makes time to visit Ashna in the San Francisco Bay Area. And now, Ashna’s cousin and best friend want her to star on a celebrity cooking show, where she’ll be paired off with a famous partner and have the chance to win enough money to turn her restaurant around. The restaurant is all that remains of her father, so determined to hold onto it, Ashna reluctantly agrees.

Frederico “Rico” Silva is also struggling. A recent knee injury led him to an early retirement as a world-renown FIFA player. At his teammate’s bachelor party, Rico begins reminiscing about all the women he’s ever dated and finds himself fixated on the one girl with whom he never found closure. A quick internet search reveals she’s to be a contestant on the Food Network’s upcoming celebrity cooking show, and before he allows himself time to reconsider, Rico picks up his phone and asks his agent to book him the gig.

Despite this lighthearted premise, Recipe for Persuasion is not the romantic comedy its description makes it out to be. While it contains some upbeat moments, including Ashna and Rico’s TV cook-offs or Ashna’s close relationships with her cousins, the book explores several heavier topics that better categorize it as a drama. Ashna and Rico’s romance is one of rekindled love that forces them to reexamine their past relationship as they fall for each other again; however, in doing so, they must revisit the severe traumas they respectively faced as children that impacted their breakup.

The book also heavily focuses on Ashna’s strained relationship with her mother, Shobi, and includes many chapters from Shobi’s point of view, past and present. This element serves well as a tie-in to the series’ overarching theme of the Raje family’s intricate relationships and offers a revealing look at the older generation who came before Ashna (and Trisha, for those who read the first book).

Fans of Trisha’s story will not be shocked to hear that Ashna’s tale also contains somber topics, nor will they be surprised to know that Sonali Dev‘s beautiful and poignant writing will take you on an emotional roller coaster. It was lovely seeing how Ashna and Rico found home in one another after being lost for so long. Although the Raje family drama overshadowed their romance, Ashna’s heart-wrenching, vulnerable examination of herself and her relationship with Shobi and even with her father is where this book truly shines.

Lastly, I’m looking forward to Dev’s retelling of Sense and Sensibility, as I don’t think the appearance of sisters China and India Dashwood in this book was simply a coincidence.

Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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