If your January needs spicing up, then celebrated chef, food writer and Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith has all the right ingredients.
Betrayal, drama, passion and food, glorious food prove a delicious mix in the second book of Leith’s The Angelotti Chronicles, epic multi-generational family sagas which were originally published as The Food of Love series and are now charming romance lovers and foodie fans.
Star players in these action-packed stories – all enjoyable as standalone reads – are the various members of an extended Anglo-Italian family in the rapidly evolving and expanding restaurant trade in the decades after the Second World War.
The first book, The House at Chorlton, a tale of prejudice and ambition, featured the love affair between Laura Oliver, a beautiful and tempestuous young Englishwoman, and Giovanni Angelotti, an Italian ex-prisoner-of-war, who together overcame obstacles to carve out their own life in the food business.
In this exciting new chapter in the Angelottis’ turbulent life, it’s 1967 and we meet Laura and Giovanni’s rebellious 17-year-old daughter, Angelica, who is determined to strike out on her own away from her family in London.
Angelica has grown up in her family’s Italian food business but is eager to study French cuisine at the École Gastronomique in Paris. And when her charismatic but unreliable cousin, Mario, starts showing too much interest in her, Angelica’s parents finally agree to let their daughter enrol at the cookery school the following year.
Caught up in the excitement and wild emotion of student riots and barricades, Angelica meets Mario again after he followed her to Paris. Amidst the glamour and Bohemian charm of the city’s Montmartre district, she falls madly in love with him.
When they move in together, their life together seems idyllic but Mario is a manic depressive, ten years older than herself, and now disillusioned and unhappy, the two lovers return to London. Angelica finds work at the prestigious Savoy Hotel, a job which launches her into the world of food writing and presenting, but navigating a successful career alongside an increasingly toxic relationship eventually proves impossible.
Angelica has to leave Mario and she makes the decision to move back to the family’s Chorlton estate in Gloucestershire to help Mario’s brother, her other cousin Silvano, with a new branch of the family business… reopening the local pub, the Frampton Arms, as a restaurant.
And as the two of them get know each other better, Angelica realises that she made a terrible mistake and chose the wrong brother. When Mario reappears, determined to win her back, and as other jealous relatives plot the downfall of the Frampton Arms, will Angelica be able to hold on to her business and the man she has come to love?
Using her own experiences as a food writer, cook, restaurateur and businesswoman, Leith takes her readers on an emotional rollercoaster ride through Angelica’s journey from wayward teenager to the joys and disasters of life in vibrant Sixties Paris, heartbreak and disappointment, and on to culinary success in London’s top eateries.
With fascinating snippets of social history and culinary fashions to tickle the taste buds, a drama-packed romance, and lashings of tasty recipes and mouth-watering dishes to savour along the way, this is Leith at her fabulous foodie and storytelling best.
(Quercus, paperback, £8.99)