Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt

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Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Immoral behaviour and crimes of passion collide with a bang in this sinfully delicious tale of family life spiralling out of control. A fun, enjoyable read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 978-1847396549

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There's evidently a market for scandalous tales, or else many a women's weekly would have gone out of business by now, but this book, though full of scandal, is slightly different. This isn't council estate scandal or even trashy celebrity scandal, it's juicy, firmly middle class scandal of the type Zoë Heller might write about, and it's wickedly captivating.

Even from the start, it's clear Alberta, or Bertie, has a slightly unusual family situation. She lives with partner-not-husband Tony and his parents in Bath. Her precocious teenage son still lives at home, while her older daughter, Hannah, and Tony's son of the same age have flown the nest. The daughter of a retired but still prolific politician, Bertie was widowed when her own daughter was young, while Tony's ex-wife is still kicking around somewhere, but not really in their lives. Still, with a nice career as a caterer, and an unusually good relationship with her in-laws, on the whole Alberta has a rather nice life, thank you very much.

With a set up like that, not to mention the title of the book, you can guess that the only way is down, and indeed as one scandal after another hits the extended family, Bertie is left reeling from the aftershocks, and the knowledge that life will never be quite the same again.

The one thing I found confusing about this book was the way a few characters were introduced, but then rather unceremoniously dumped by the wayside as the story progressed. The new teacher from Bertie's son's school is a prime example – it seems at the start that she might be quite an important person in the story to come, but really her role is quite minor. It was hard to know when reading who to pay close attention to, and who really was just passing through.

I was surprised, but in a good way, by the way the story developed, especially following the initial scandal as I had assumed that this might be it in terms of gossip-worthy news. In fact, it is just one of various indiscretions, some milder than others, that engulf the different family members throughout the course of the book, providing an abundance of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Think gone-but-not-forgotten teenage crushes, marital problems and rather compromising positions, not to mention handsome strangers and it's no wonder the tabloids and chat shows are interested.

The story is told from the viewpoints of three generations of women: grandmother Philippa, her daughter Bertie and her daughter Hannah but the chapters are spread out quite unevenly, and Bertie takes centre stage for most of the time. Though it's clear who has the focus at any one point, I didn't think there was sufficient contrast between the women, and their age differences weren't as apparent as you would expect them to be (the life of a 20-something being notably different from the life of a 70-something, for example).

Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed the story immensely and found it engaging and entertaining, not to mention intelligent and intriguing. It's an easy read but has a certain depth to it. I loved the writing style and the neat observations of the peculiarities of the various characters, especially Bertie's brother and his wife. The book has a lovely tone to it, packed full of lilting language and shrewd observations. It is not your standard, fleeting chit lit thanks to the superb character descriptions, the juicy storyline and the quirky insights into the life of different generations, and for this I can forgive it the odd blip described above.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

If you like the sound of this, The Cookie Club is another read worth a look as it too combines various different women's stories into a simply delicious tale, while for a more exotic setting, The Gypsy Tearoom weaves a multi-layered story with a dazzling Italian backdrop.

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Buy Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Recipe For Scandal by Debby Holt at


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