Review: Then, Again by Karen Stivali

Posted May 28, 2013 by Karen in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Then, AgainTitle: Then, Again
Author: Karen Stivali
Genre: Romance/ Foodie Romance
Grade/Rating: 4 out 5


Sometimes you have to lose it all to find what you really need.

Photographer Kay Turner is dealt a double whammy when she flies home for her grandmother’s funeral to find her boyfriend with another woman. Now with two losses to mourn, she retreats to her newly inherited beach house to clear her head.

Everything at the beach is familiar: the sounds of the ocean, the scent of her grandmother’s perfume—and the irresistible smile of James Margolis. The man Kay spent her adolescence pining for is every bit as charming as she remembers.

James always thought of Kay as “a nice kid”, but he feels something very different for the woman she’s become. Especially when he asks if she’d be willing to part with some of her grandmother’s recipes for his new restaurant—and they wind up sharing much more than culinary secrets.

But as their relationship deepens, Kay finds herself caught between the demands of her dream career as a travel photographer, and a chance for happiness with the one man she’s wanted for a lifetime.

Warning: This foodie romance contains sensual scone baking, a heroine who discovers one bad apple hasn’t spoiled her appetite, and a delicious hero you can’t help but crave. Blend well, serve hot.

My Review:

                Then, Again is a story of love and strength but also finding and then holding on to what matters most in life. 

In this story we meet Kay, a successful photo journalist with a passport full of stamps and files full of gorgeous shots that would make even the most experienced photographer jealous.  In her life, Kay doesn’t have much family to speak of but has the love and support of the one person who’s meant the most to her, Gram.  Unfortunately we don’t get to meet Gram but through Kay’s memories we see exactly how important she is to the story and maybe, just maybe, what she had been cooking up for Kay all along.  During her grief stricken return home, she also run smack dab into James Margolis…her old high school crush and boy, was that just the start of something that was long overdue.   Just imagine how you would react if you crossed paths with that one heart-thumping boy you secretly crushed over for years and here he was before you, even better looking than you remember.  Just let that soak in a bit…

He was drawn to her with a force that made his head hurt if he tried to think about it. She pulled him in like the ocean, soothing, exciting, and terrifying all at once.

                Kay has already seen the world and knows there’s more out there for her but yet here she sits, in Gram’s house, the one she grew up in, surrounded by memories and to top it off, she’s got James revealing even more and more for her. They don’t have a relationship like that of a new, instant attraction, couple but one that feels right and with the right level of flirtatious banter paired with a sweet little shared history which is the recipe for good chemistry in my book.  They are very endearing together and can be very relatable to anyone.

         Of course, you can’t have a cute romance without a few struggles and this one comes with its fair, but realistic, share of them.  Being that Kay and James have grown up from the fumbling teenagers they once were, they each bring to the story their own speed bumps.  James is currently on the cusp of opening what could be the most popular restaurant in town and at no point did he plan for any sort of relationship that didn’t include a purchase order.  It’s his relationship with Kay’s grandmother that keeps her close -just where he’s been dying for her to be- and of course you can’t have a sweet Grandmother in the mix without some old family recipes sparking memories while making new ones.  In this story we get inside James’ head and hear his inner thoughts which I thoroughly enjoyed. He was sweet and typically male without sounding like a jerk and it was nice hearing the insecure teenaged-like boy laid eyes on the one girl who he always had his eye on but never pursued.  I won’t spoil it for you here; you’re just going to have to read it for yourself. 😉

              With this tasty little romance, we also get a peek inside Gram’s recipe box along with the pleasure of watching a very handsome James in the kitchen.  This was clearly not a duck-out-of-water scenario and he certainly makes an apron look sexy!  The food highlighted here is nothing short of mouth-watering. I think I highlighted more of the food references than I did the steamy stuff.  I don’t know if that says anything about me but Ms. Stivali certainly knows her way around some culinary terms. 😉 Seriously…with things like “Butternut squash ravioli with asparagus in a delicate cream sauce” or “Seared duck breast finished with brandy and mixed berry compote alongside a timbale of wild rice” AND “a huge tray with a combination of desserts, classic crème brule, a layered mango-and-vanilla mousse, chocolate torte with raspberry sauce and white chocolate truffles”…the culinarian in me nearly got up off my duff just to go to the store for the ingredients so I too could have this array of flavors and textures blissfully assault my taste buds.  And, dare I mention them, the scones. Good gracious, the scones had me salivating like a starved woman and having James (apron included) standing there with his hands all dirty playing with these tempestuous ingredients just made them that more enticing.  I think I will be making some scones this week after all.

                 This story is an easy read with plenty of steam and “aww”s and is beautifully constructed to the very end.  I enjoyed seeing two grown adults finding each other and having a shared past made it that much more endearing.  We have careers on the line alongside the fragile heart and that makes for plenty of angst in itself. Throw in some not-so-great ex’s and some family drama and you’ve got the recipe for a great story.  I enjoyed every one of Ms. Stivali’s previous books and this one did not disappoint at all.  I highly recommend this to all romance readers looking for something other than the formula romances that are gracing the shelves and I definitely see myself reading this one again!

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