Despite some strong campaigning by BGC Jane Austen connoisseur Robyn Jordan, I haven’t watched or read the original Persuasion in quite some time. So please read this review knowing there will be no direct comparison between the two works. Rather, the comparison I can and will make will be to the initial book in The Raje series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev.
Recipe for Persuasion is book two in the series, picking up where the previous book left off by having Ashna, cousin/sister to the protagonist of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors, lead a story on personal growth and romance. Ashna, who played a major part in her cousin finding a partner in the first book, is the resident chef of the family and runs her own restaurant which has been in decline for years. We learn that one of the many factors responsible for the restaurant’s issues is that Ashna finds herself unable to cook anything outside of the restaurant’s original menu without having devastating anxiety attacks. The trauma behind her unique situation gets explored after she’s convinced to enter a celebrity cook-off show wherein talented chefs are paired with celebrities and compete against other pairs for a large prize that could help her to restore the restaurant to its former glory.
Rico Silva is a soccer superstar who is forced into early retirement after a dire sports injury. Something of a romantic, the first thing he can think to do with his newfound time off is gain closure on a relationship that ended up defining his approach to love decades ago. When he learns that his first love, Ashna, is joining a cook off show he seizes the opportunity to get the closure he needs with her. Little does he know that opening up the former relationship for inspection means also investigating the trauma Ashna experienced and her ability to perform during the show.
Recipe for Persuasion is a fitting sequel, taking us further into parts of the Bay Area where the Raje family thrive. The studio where they shoot the cooking show is in San Francisco, Ashna frequently visits the Raje mansion in the burbs an hour away, and she lives along the route to Stanford. In reading this continuation of the series, it feels like the author has given more care to describing an area each of her characters are enchanted with. From the descriptions of the cafe the Raje family has long patroned to roads traveled by Ashna as she commutes throughout the area, it is clear that the family holds a lot of love for where they live. This affection contrasts with Ashna’s apprehension with cooking, an activity she’s trained to love, her reactions to her estranged mother, and her inability to recognize the bond she has with Rico.
While I found the underlying trauma behind Ashna’s anxiety and relationship issues with Rico and her mother to be illustrative of real-world actions, there should be a trigger warning for themes that come up in this book like self-harm, domestic violence, rape, and suicide. If these are items you can read through, I recommend reading the book for a romance story that is more character growth and journey than it is two people becoming wrapped up in each other.