- Mass Market Paperback: 343 pages
- Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group (May 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0425196453
- ISBN-13: 978-0425196458
- Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 2.5 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,520,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Being somewhat of a medieval buff and a "foodie", the crafting of the genre dishes and delicacies was well-done, and certainly gave this book a nice flavor, if you'll forgive the pun.
An easy read that had humor and romance at the same time. I'd gladly pick up other novels done by this author.
Julia is a young women who has been in the convent since the age of 10. She has always been headstrong and independent, not really the attributes one would equate to a Nun in Medieval times, the Head Abbess assigns Julia into the Kitchen at a early age to keep her out of making trouble in the convent. Julia takes to the Kitchen like a "duck-to-water" becomes irreplaceable. One evening (during very bad weather) 2 knights traveling through the area stop at the convent to get something to eat (after being told in the nearby village that they will find exceptional faire there) well of course they have a dinner TO DIE FOR and unbeknownst to the Abbess these 2 knights Count has a peculiar ailment............ He has a uncanny disability to pick up every scent there is GOOD AND BAD and he becomes so overwhelmed that it makes him deranged hence he is named "THE BEAST". Because of this ailment he can not enjoy food especially food made from awful cooks that don't know what flavors compliment each other. So when they come upon this convent with Food OUT OF THIS WORLD they try to find out who the cook is, the Abbess knows she has a treasure in her cook so she doesn't allow them to meet Julia. The 2 Knights go away not knowing who the cook is but they are fairly tripping over themselves to return to the Count to tell him of their find. I don't want to get to lengthy about the book description since the 2 previous reviews (as well as Amazon synopsis) does a fine job in telling what the story is about.
When you get down to it I ENJOYED this book there is humor, betrayal, mystery, a feud, the physical attraction is sensual...... all the things that makes reading Historical Romances so lively. Griffin and Julia are a good couple to watch come to their feelings. BK does a excellent job in describing each meal in such detail that you can just taste the buttery crust in Julia's tarts and pasties. Griffin's ailment is rather interesting and I could say the same for the way Julia learns to get around it. There are some secondary characters in the book that add to the overall wholeness of the story. Good Job Ms. Krahn!!!
Griffin, the Comte de Grandaise, has an olfactory peculiarity. He was born with a sense of smell so powerful it will put modern day readers under the impression that it is akin to a super-power. Unable to stomach most food because of his condition, Griffin is enamored of Julia's cooking and determinedly wins her services for a year. Not prepared to be presented with a noble born lady instead of a homely, lower class cook, Griffin finds himself drawn to Julia for more than just her culinary skills.
At first I was as enchanted with "The Marriage Test" as every character in it seemed to be with Julia's food. I loved the large role the food itself played, it really added to the entertainment value of the story. Later, some of the food description did get a little old, but overall I didn't feel it detracted in any way from the story.
Julia is a strong woman, but not headstrong. She realizes she has to play by the rules of her time and does the best she can to arrange her life the way she wants it without the extreme hysterics we so often see from medieval heroines. Later in the story, when Griffin is forced at sword point to marry Julia, her reaction is so real to the situation and afterward her reaction to Griffin's treatment is so genuine I'm moved to tears.
Griffin doesn't fare as well as Julia. His character never quite gets the polish it needs. It seems he has a decent backstory, but it's not explored satisfactorily. In the end, he's a little bit of an enigma and a little bit of an idiot. I can understand Julia's attraction to him, but I'm never quite as sure what his real feelings are.
The romance isn't bad, in fact it has moments of greatness, but they're not enough to make for a stellar read. Toward the end, the love story is resolved a little too early so the author introduces a silly, totally undeveloped hang-up on Griffin's part that has me gritting my teeth as it's an obvious device to add a final bit of drama to the romance. Not that the hang-up was the only problem because the story had really run out of steam before that.
All in all "The Marriage Test" is easy to read and at places truly entertaining and moving, but doesn't quite pull together into a really good book. I give it three stars because two wouldn't do justice to the excellent heroine and the well researched and entertaining plot. I've read a Betina Krahn book before, but I can't remember which one it was, which may not be a good sign. I would read this author again if one of her storylines seemed like something I'd like.
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