Tressa is a successful food writer and kitchen designer living and working in Manhattan. But while her professional life is flourishing, her personal life is lacking. Tressa wants a husband and a family but still hasn't met the right man. And considering her flings with arrogant chefs in the industry are leading nowhere fast, she doesn't have much hope of meeting anyone anytime soon.
Until she does.
Dan, the super at her building, is hot. And he's into her. REALLY into her. And when - just a few months after beginning their relationship - he proposes, Tressa feels she has to say yes. But by the time they return from their honeymoon she realizes she's made a huge mistake; Tressa doesn't love Dan.
Tressa's ideal marriage is based on the one her grandparents had. One of such passion that they lasted for fifty years. But Tressa doesn't know the whole story about her grandparents' relationship. She doesn't know, for example, that her grandmother wasn't in love when she got married either...
I'm going to go ahead and admit that I kind of (really) didn't like Tressa when Recipes began. All of her time and energy focused on how much she hated Dan was mean! I sympathized with her. I definitely sympathized with her! I'm sure everyone can relate to realizing a relationship is wrong. And I'm sure plenty of people (based on the statistics out there) have come to that conclusion after getting married.
But Dan's a nice guy. A really nice guy who's trying in spite of the fact that Tressa is making it so hard on him. Part of me wonders if he would have seriously considered her having some sort of mood disorder based on the abuse he takes from her!
And Tressa's grandmother, Bernadine, isn't much better with her husband James. At least there she's still harboring hurt over losing the man she really was in love with. But James, too, tries. And puts up with a lot.
I should point out that I don't need to fall in love with a character in order to enjoy their story. This is one perfect example why: the characters' evolution is the story.
While Tressa is trying to decide what to do about her marriage, how soon is appropriate to begin talks of divorce, she's decided to write a cookbook using her grandmother's old recipes. Each section of the book begins with one of those classic recipes, adding more to the theme of "Recipes for a Perfect Marriage." It's right there in the beginning of the book with the first lines:
The heart of a recipe, what makes it work, is a mystery. Taste is such a personal thing and yet the right recipe can open a person’s mind to a food they thought they didn’t like. Then again, you can put all the right ingredients together, follow the instructions exactly, and still have a disaster on your hands.
And it's there in the recipe for Tressa's grandmother's rhubarb tart with the comment that the rhubarb alone is too bitter to be palatable. Tressa and her grandmother both are like that rhubarb - bitter. For Tressa, it's of her own making. For her grandmother it's because of an unfortunate series of circumstances. But their husbands, to my mind, are the sugar (even for the reader, considering they're both more likable in the beginning than their wives are!).
How or whether their relationships come together in harmony or become the disasters Tressa notes in the lines above is for you to find out. I can promise you that even if you don't like rhubarb, though, you'll love following both Tressa and Bernadine's stories!