Monday, March 6, 2017

'The Dangers of Truffle Hunting' by Sunni Overend


True desires will be unearthed … For readers of Zoe Foster-Blake, Candace Bushnell and Gourmet Traveller, a delightful sexy story that spans the Australian wine country, the French provinces and hip bars of Melbourne.

Is life too short to play it safe?

Kit Gossard's life is neatly mapped out. A secure photographic job. A partner ready to commit. A wedding in the family vineyard for her mother to preside over. So why the apprehension? Why a hunger for something ... more? 

Then someone new appears. Earthy, reserved, magnetic, this new man brings out feelings she has long suppressed, and suddenly Kit can't contain her simmering discontent. Black truffle hunting, illicit pastry lessons, vine fruit on flesh - Kit is seduced. It feels right. Before it all goes wrong.

This is a bit like the book form of an Epicurean feast. The main theme is that life is too short for self-denial, when it comes to those sensual things that make it worth living - and that obeying social cues isn't always as sensible as it may sound.

Kit Gossard's pressure to conform comes from all areas of her life, work, family and romantic. She's a food photographer who works for an elegant, minimalist magazine, and hides her desire to take more decadent, elemental photos. Her mother always criticises everything about her, and Kit is engaged to marry high profile furniture designer Scott Baldwin, although her heart yearns for the earthy, rugged Raph, a simple worker at her father's vineyard.

It's the sort of story that surprises the heroine with serendipitous twists coming from seemingly nowhere when she decides to follow her heart, even though she expects her rebellious attitude to lead to disaster. For such a free thinker, Kit actually digs her heels in and tries to cling tight to all those conventional expectations, kicking and screaming. We all know it's not strictly true that things always slot into place for anyone who chooses their own path as brilliantly as they do for Kit, yet it's an easy-reading, relaxing formula. In fact, I can imagine this story as a rom-com movie.

Scott is that successful-but-preoccupied fiance character who clearly needs to get his marching orders. Yet he's a nice guy in his own way. He's designed to cop some flak, but I often think it's probably essential for people like him to prioritise their careers, if they want to retain their illustrious reputations. Often people who have achieved any type of fame have had to make sacrifices, because there's just not enough hours in the day to dazzle fans and also give personal relationships the depth they deserve. He's the sort of person we like to admire in the media, yet sling abuse at when we find out what he's given up to achieve the notoriety. I feel sorry for him, in a way.

The family dynamics of the Gossard family is fun to read. I'm sure we've all come across eye-rolling, down-their-nose snobs like the mother, Annalese, and I wonder if they recognise themselves in books like this. I couldn't warm to her at all, even when she decided to muster a bit of kindness toward the end. But Kit's father and brother, Connor and Marc, are supportive and lovable, as is her best friend, Piper. They can always be relied upon for a bit of fun dialogue, even though the family business is shown to be stressful.

Sexual references and swearing are fairly thick throughout the book. The characters themselves even discuss their fondness for the F-bomb, and spread it around with a shovel. I don't think I'm a prude, but I get bored with any word which is used whenever characters open their mouths. If there has to be swearing, I like it best when characters do it sparsely and under great provocation rather than all the (beep)ing time. Readers who hate swearing would certainly have issues with the quantity in this book, but surely those who don't mind wouldn't ever complain that a novel didn't have enough swearing! For that reason, I think Sunni Overend overdid it a bit, but you do get used to it (which isn't necessarily a good thing.)

Overall, it's not a bad read, with some thought-provoking quotes. 'Scott sensed that Kit didn't like what she did, and thought the solution was what he did. His success was, by default, hers.' This sort of relationship clearly won't cut it. Not when you compare it to Raph's, 'I came seeking nothing, but found everything.'

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia and Net Galley for my review copy.

3.5 stars.

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