Jane Lovering continues to be a go-to author if you’re looking for a love story with substance and heart and sometimes loveable dogs–The Recipe for Happiness has one of those and recipes for deliciousness!
Blurb: When Seren’s brother Andrew signs her up to Yorkshire Dating, only for them to recommend that she ‘gets a life’ before they find her a match, Seren has to admit that they may have a point. She loves her job cooking at an elder day centre and her little flat, but it’s fair to say her life is a little short of hobbies and friends. Since she was young Seren has felt safer close to home, but now she’s a thirty-something divorcee, it’s time for a change. Change arrives in the shape of alarmingly clever collie Kez, who Seren offers to take in ‘temporarily’, and kind but mysterious new colleague Ned. But as Ned and Kez tempt Seren out of her shell, it means facing her fears. And when Andrew finally reveals the secrets of their childhood, Seren’s need for safety suddenly makes sense. A problem shared is a problem halved, and with friends by her side, Seren might be able to get a life that she loves at last.
Seren is quite happy with her current life. She cooks, cleans, and supervises a senior care/drop-in center while having a an apartment above the center free. Her brother, Andrew, who has recently wed and wants a happily-ever-after for his sister is adamant that isn’t happy. After signing her up for a dating service, he also gets her to commit to doing things outside of her comfort zone like play Dungeons & Dragons, which she has no interest in, or assisting with dog training when she’s skeptical of dogs. But between new hire, Ned, and Kez, a dog she’s reluctantly fostering, Seren begins to move outside of her comfort zone, albeit slowly. Her extreme discomfort forces her to wonder if there is something in her past that has kept her from venturing far, from living the life she deserves.
While The Recipe for Happiness is quite a bit more serious than the other Jane Lovering novels I’ve read with both main characters facing issues of gravity, the addition of the very intelligent Kez, a border collie who Seren aptly anthropomorphizes, as well as the patrons of the center help to keep the novel from being sinking into doldrums. That said, there are aspects that are sad: the acknowledgement that when one grows old, one is frequently in the way; treating dogs as disposable; the effects of covid; amongst others.
Seren is mostly upbeat and pragmatic with a wry way of looking at things. Ned is earnest and good-humored. They complement each other.
The author has interwoven recipes throughout. One stand-out is Earl Grey Scones in which the sultanas/raisins have been soaked in Earl Grey tea and a little of the soaking liquid is added to the batter. Definitely something to try.
The Recipe for Happiness is layered, thoughtful, and hopeful, and may just have recipes for happiness within its pages.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.