Maggie Malone is learning to deal with a lot of curveballs at once: she’s a brand new mom, she needs a job, and she’s not really sure where she stands as a newly (almost) single woman. When she sees a contest in Cooking and Women magazine for a single woman to submit an article, with a recipe, about finding Mr. Right she jumps at the chance. After all, what (almost) single woman wouldn’t love to win the prize of $2500 plus a monthly column? What could go wrong (besides the fact that Maggie isn’t quite single, doesn’t know how to cook, and is dealing with a newborn baby)?
When Maggie’s recipe is selected as the grand prize winner, she is just as shocked as anyone, but she gets right to work creating an intricate back-story for herself, including experience as a chef in Paris. She enlists her best friend Justine (who lives in Paris, and whose husband is ACTUALLY a chef) as the contact for Cooking and Women to verify her story. Justine embellishes the reference a little and Maggie ends up having a phony background as a fabulous chef at a small, virtually unknown restaurant where she once had the pleasure of cooking for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! Maggie graciously accepts the grand prize money and the position of monthly columnist, but as her personal life starts to become more chaotic, her professional life also begins to boil over.
This novel was so much fun. Maggie is clearly an amateur cook, and the recipes she creates are geared towards folks who aren’t comfortable throwing around terms like “julienne” and “chiffonade”. The advice column that goes along with the recipes every month (which we get the pleasure of enjoying throughout the novel) is also completely delectable. As Maggie grows in her career, you can watch her blossom into motherhood and really start to find out who she is and what she needs to be happy. Also, the recipes look fantastic.
I enjoyed the flashbacks throughout the book that let us in on Maggie’s past and how she had gotten to this point in her life. As well, the way her life intertwined with her best friend Justine was a heartwarming side-plot. And to see Justine, who was built up to be a superwoman in Maggie’s mind, go through her own struggles was a great touch. As perfect as we think others’ lives are sometimes, we don’t ever quite see the whole story.
J. W. Bull has crafted a delicious story chock full of multifaceted characters, and she’s written a protagonist that you really root for. Although Maggie can seem silly and even naïve at times, she still manages to demonstrate that she’s still really a good person inside. She only wants the best for her daughter, and when she realizes that this is her #1 goal, you just want to stand up and cheer. And with all the delicious recipes and food advice peppered throughout this book, the time will fly by while reading it. I would definitely recommend Pickin' Tomatoes as a great read. A fantastic story, and a new idea for dinner. What else do you need in a book?
Thanks to J.W. Bull for the book in exchange for an honest review.
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