A couple of weeks ago, I featured The Secret Spice Cafe trilogy here on Andi's Book Reviews and told you that I would be reviewing the first book soon. Today I'm sharing my thoughts with you. I was pleasantly surprised! You can also see an excerpt and then even more thoughts if you follow the tour. Be sure to let the author know what you think. And best of luck entering the giveaway!
Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?
A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.
Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.
The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef's mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there's always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.
An Official Pulpwood Queens Book Club Selection, and read by Ann Marie Gideon, COOKING FOR GHOSTS is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.
Read an excerpt:
Unconcerned with what her business partners were up to, Rohini was giggling with excitement. Hugging herself, she whirled in circles, then flung her arms up over her head and collapsed back in dizzy elation onto the enormous bed in the glorious stateroom. Everything was glorious. She was here. This was her room. The Secret Spice was, in part, her restaurant.
And when she’d first seen the Queen from the back seat of Cynthia’s preposterous little car, she knew she was headed to exactly where she should be. She couldn’t stop smiling, until, abruptly, a lump formed in her throat and her eyes misted with tears.
“I made it, Zahir,” she whispered. “I made it.”
She sobered as she thought of him, of all he’d done for her, and all that she might still need to do on her own.
But that wasn’t for today. Today was for celebration and thankfulness. Getting up from the bed, she opened her case, pulled out all the little plastic sacks of spices and herbs she’d packed, and sighed with relief. Not a one had opened or torn. Even so, she could smell their pungent bouquet right through the protective wrappings. Rauvolfia, Serpentina, Jaiphal, Javitri, Khus Khus, Ashwagandha and more — why did cinnamon always smell the strongest? There were dozens of varieties that she’d stuffed inside shirt sleeves and trouser legs and white cotton gym socks, just like a drug dealer might hide a stash. The TSA had missed them completely. They’d even affixed a sticker to the top of her bag: “Checked by Homeland Security.”
Giggling again at that, Rohini placed all the smaller sacks into a large white bag she’d found in the wardrobe. The bag had a price list for various laundry services printed on it. With that mission accomplished, she took her treasures downstairs to the kitchen.
But she wasn’t two steps in before she stopped stock still and remained right where she was, listening.
“Oh, my,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, my, my, my.”
Now she understood why she’d felt that the ship had summoned her. To anyone else who might peek in, the kitchen appeared silent and empty. But not to Rohini. She could hear the walls sighing.
Gradually, she walked further inside, and the sighs turned to whispers. She stood still, breathing cautiously, waiting, watching. In unison, the stainless steel cooking utensils dangling from the long, narrow cylinders that were screwed to the walls began to sway, soundlessly. The copper pots that hung from the ceiling over the two spanking-new ovens and eight burner stoves began to twirl, gracefully. Every inanimate object in the room that wasn’t bolted down was waltzing eerily, on its own. To Rohini, the dance seemed sad rather than ghoulish.
Walking quietly, listening carefully, she followed the hushed sounds as they moved along the walls, leading her back to the scullery. As she approached, an ancient, enormous, floor-to-ceiling freezer blew out a puff of ice cold air as its door swung wide open as though it were greeting her, then gently clicked closed again.
Unafraid, Rohini observed it all. Still clinging to the laundry bag filled with her precious sacks of spice, s she turned in a full circle, leisurely, so as not to miss any of it. After a while, she set the bag down on one of the gleaming stainless steel work tables. Bending into a full and formal curtsy, she spoke aloud.
“It is my great honor to meet you, Your Majesty.”
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I wasn't sure what to expect from this story at all. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to be so delighted with the author's debut novel.
I admit that I did not like any of the characters at the beginning. But you know that all four of them are coming from difficult pasts and are starting their lives over again. There's hope for them as they start to heal and share about their pasts, which are somewhat of a mystery to each other and slowly come to light. As we learn more about each of them, we understand their quirks and can forgive them.
And there are all of the other characters who bring out the more likable sides of the characters - the daughter, the other employees. But most importantly is the main character, the
ship. The Queen Mary. She is full of more secrets than these four friends who have taken on a restaurant onboard. She slowly reveals some of them, while also being very protective of her new tenants. I think I like her the best of all.
This book has so much going on - friendship, second chance romance, coming of age, magic, psychic powers, mystery, suspense, paranormal, ghostly encounters, history, and more. But all of these different cogs work together seamlessly to tell a fascinating story that keeps you turning the pages all evening until you are done. Strong storytelling makes every scene clearly play out in your mind, almost as if you are watching a movie at the same time. I think this would make for a great movie or miniseries.
A bonus is that several of the stories are based in fact. Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end, but only after you have read the whole book.
I'm now curious about the rest of the series.
Thank you to the author and to Goddess Fish for supplying me with a requested review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Patricia V. Davis will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway