The Chef’s Secret

Written by Crystal King
Review by J. Lynn Else

Renaissance Italy, 1577. Bartolomeo Scappi has died. The famed chef of several popes and orchestrator of the most lavish banquets known to Rome, Scappi has left his fortune to his protégé and nephew, Giovanni. Stunned, Giovanni soon finds his uncle’s journals. Written in cypher, Giovanni painstakingly works to unlock the code of Scappi’s past. As he does, he learns soul-shattering secrets about the man he thought he knew—secrets which could jeopardize Giovanni’s future if discovered by the wrong people. All the while, there are men who plot to steal Scappi’s famed recipes and will stop at nothing to get them.

Unlike King’s first novel, Feast of Sorrow, in which somewhat unlikeable characters are trying to make up for the mistakes of their pasts, this book dishes out the opposite character issues. These characters, instead of learning from their mistakes, keep committing them. They are then forced to take drastic steps to keep their secrets safe, making the characters less likeable as the story progresses.

Plot-wise, King twists in romance, mystery, cultural richness, and some zesty research. Scappi’s secrets are unveiled at a pace that simmers with intrigue. The romance is quite steamy. Mixed together with decadent banquets and sweeping historical detail, King has a recipe that entices the senses. While I didn’t connect with a few characters, Giovanni’s world is vibrant in both visual and flavorful detail.