Book review: Recipe for Love by Sasha Wagstaff

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If you fancy a trip to Italy’s breathtaking resort of Sorrento this summer but haven’t the funds to finance your dream, then do the next best thing ... chill out with Sasha Wagstaff’s sunshine sizzler.

It’s a mouth-watering mix of passion, drama, handsome hunks, glamorous gals, stunning scenery and heavenly food.

Now if you think that sounds like another regulation poolside romance, you’d be totally wrong!

Recipe for Love has so much more on the menu than a light confection of love, Lotharios and laughter. Wagstaff’s cast is as rich as the delicious Italian dishes she serves up and as diverse as the plotline that moves from London to Sorrento with a stop-off at Vegas.

Wagstaff, a former City banker, has perfected the fine art of descriptive writing which enables her to whisk away readers to whichever part of the world she has set her sights on, and recreate on paper the essence of a place, its people... and its fine food.

The star of her latest tasty treat is Cassia Marini, a writer for Scrumptious, London’s food magazine of the moment. Daughter of flamboyant TV actress Diana Marini-Blake and the late, great restaurateur Marco Marini, Cassia’s erotically charged food descriptions ‘make Nigella Lawson sound prudish and prissy.’

Cassia had a wild and impulsive youth but her eight-year relationship with the handsome but uninspiring City lawyer Finn Sunderland has killed her spontaneity and made her far too sensible. Occasionally she allows herself to look back longingly at her crazy youth but knows that Finn and his shrewish and acerbic mother Grace would disapprove.

Despite just a shiver of misgiving, Cassia accepts Finn’s proposal but before they can get down to the planning the wedding that summer, Cassia gets another offer she can’t refuse.

Italian chef Rocco Disanti, talented, passionate and notoriously private, never talks to journalists but has suddenly granted her magazine an exclusive, all-access interview.

When Cassia is offered the assignment, she can’t resist the thought of a trip to Sorrento and the opportunity to research the family background of her father who arrived in England as an orphan boy from southern Italy.

With just three months to organise the wedding, Cassia goes against her better judgment, hands over the planning to her frosty future mother-in-law and flies out to Italy to spend time with Rocco.

But Rocco isn’t exactly looking forward to Cassia’s arrival. Persuaded to do the interview to help publicise his business, he has enough on his plate with his fiery girlfriend and wedding-obsessed sister.

His recently widowed grandmother Sofia is convinced that an age-old curse has befallen the family and it looks like she could be right because someone is trying to sabotage his restaurants.

Cassia’s summer in Sorrento is shaping up to be a recipe for disaster...

Wagstaff’s funny, clever and exhilarating novels have become must reading for discerning girls of every generation. Her wicked humour, sparkling dialogue and gift for portraying the glitz and glamour of a world most of us cannot begin to imagine are the perfect escape from everyday life.

So if food, fun and the incomparable charms of Italy are some of your favourite things, Recipe for Love could be the perfect summer feast.

(Headline Review, paperback, £6.99)