It’s weird. I have seen Beth Harbison’s books recommended via Amazon the past few years, but have never read her before now. I don’t think based on this book I will read her in the future. I did like that the book took place in a setting I know (Maryland and DC), but the main character, Gemma actually started to bother me a lot while reading. When she gets into the weight of one of her clients I was just over it. She is very judgmental and I realized at the end of the book I had zero sense of her as a person. The whole book is focused on her “wacky” clients and their lives. She’s just a ghost floating through their lives cooking for them. The romance didn’t really work, but in the end I didn’t much care because I was wrapping up the book.
“When In Doubt, Add Butter” follows 37 year old personal chef, Gemma. Gemma has changed up her plans in life throughout the years, but she has finally found personal satisfaction with cooking. Though she’s single, Gemma always ends up losing interest in a man fairly quickly. However, after a hot one night stand, Gemma starts to wonder about trying to put herself out there again. Along with this though, Gemma is dealing with losing clients left and right and worrying about how can she possibly support herself in the long-run.
Gemma was okay at first. I smiled at the descriptions she had for her clients. However, after a while I just got bored by it. Gemma at times is dancing towards rude to her clients (Mr. Tuesday) or annoyed/judgy as all get out towards them (Van Houghtens, the Russian family, and the other family she initially worked for). Due to her being friendly with one of her clients (who she also judges and wonders if he is gay or not) he introduces her to his niece who also needs a personal chef since she is trying a weight loss regime.
As you can see above there is a lot of judginess with Gemma and it surprised me too based on what Harbison lets you know about Gemma’s youth and the choices she made. You would think she would realize that you can’t know what is going on in people’s lives since you are not them and let it go at that. I found myself getting bored with her after a while since it becomes apparent without her clients, Gemma’s life is just not that interesting. I think we hear about her home once and she is never really there in the course of this book. She’s at clients’ homes or her cousin’s house. I also don’t get why Gemma loved to cook so much. The book was so sparse on that. We do get a few scenes of her cooking and how she prepares dishes, but other than that I hard shrugged about it.
The other characters are not very developed. That’s because we are only given glimpses into them. The romance didn’t really work because I had a hard time even believing it and the coincidence thrown in just made me roll my eyes.
The writing was good. Harbison had to have spent time in the DC area since she has the destinations down pat and her asides about the traffic made me laugh and sigh. The flow was just okay. I think the book lingered a bit too far here and there.
The ending was just okay. I didn’t buy any of it, but we get to the HEA part and for a romance you want to make sure you at least give your readers that.