Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Order Up

By Sara Steven

Nancy Braley is the Chicago Gazettes food editor with a taste for hot chefs and talent for replicating their "secret" recipes. But when she finally gets up the nerve to ask out a hot local café owner, Doug Johnston, she's crushed when he says she's not the "marriage material" he's looking for.

Doug is perplexed by his attraction to Nancy whose take-no-prisoners personality reminds him way too much of his cheating ex. To keep Nancy and his conflicted feelings at bay, he throws out the only excuse he can come up with—she's just not marriage material.

Not one to be deterred, Nancy becomes obsessed with figuring out what exactly that means—partly because she doesn't want to emulate her oft-married but divorce-settlement-wealthy mother, and partly because her attraction to Doug is driving her to distraction. So when a married and very pregnant colleague gets put on bed rest until her baby arrives, Nancy volunteers to feed her family, hoping to get a first-hand look at what marriage is all about. And when Doug's ex opens a new coffee shop nearby, stealing business from his café, it's Nancy who comes to his aid! Eager to call Doug's bluff, can she convince him she's the real deal? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Nancy reminds me of a good friend of mine. In fact, for most of Order Up, it was her image and mannerisms that I saw when witnessing Nancy’s interactions with friends and with Doug. The tough exterior that gives way into having a more sensitive interior. That, although she wants people to believe that nothing phases her, she’s ultimately affected by a lot.

I got the impression that relationships were never high on Nancy’s priority list, most likely a byproduct of seeing the revolving door of husbands her mother has had, but deep down it’s something she yearns for. The security and comfort of knowing that there’s that one special person who understands her better than anyone else. So, when she makes the decision to actually allow herself to be vulnerable with Doug, and he refutes it, she’s confused and not entirely sure where to go from there.

What I liked most about Order Up is the underlying theme behind who Nancy is as a person. For a while, she attempts to become the type of person she thinks Doug wants her to be, vs. being who she is and allowing herself to truly be open with another human being. I think there’s a huge difference between those two distinctions, and it was enjoyable to see that journey for Nancy. I think we forget that seeking acceptance isn’t restricted to our childhood and youth. It’s something that most of us can relate to, even if in our adult years, with friendships and colleagues and romantic relationships. It’s never easy, and I like how that’s reflected in Nancy’s response to Doug and her friends. It’s not a perfect venture, not for any of us.

I also appreciated the opportunity to go back and visit some of the characters in Valentin’s Assignment: Romance series. I love it when story lines from other novels weave into one another, and while all of the books in this series can be read as stand-alones, I got to know the characters even more when told from various perspectives.

Thanks to Barbara Valentin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Barbara Valentin:

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