It is hard to go too far wrong with a book that takes a passion for food as its central theme, but Marita Conlon-McKenna's new adult novel takes a long time to come to the boil.
Central character Alice Kinsella has a visceral love for all things foodie and that is the only thing that helps her to keep afloat when her husband leaves her for a younger woman. The mother of three takes some comfort in cooking up a storm for her close friends.
That, however, does little to ease the loneliness of separation. After trying out a few part-time jobs, she hits on the idea of setting up a cookery school in her own home.
And what better forum than a school to draw together the cast of characters -- there's widower Rob, jobless Lucy, bored, singleton Tessa and serial nightclass-goer Kitty, to mention but a few.
The stage is set for some very interesting interaction, but the reader has to get through some banal dialogue and plodding exposition before children's writer Conlon-McKenna warms up to her characteristic engaging style.
About half-way through, things pick up, and the twists and turns help flesh out the characters. Kerrie O'Neill, a high-achiever from Tallaght, emerges as my favourite. She is trying to hide her background and the fact that she can't cook from her upper-class fiancé.
Conlon-McKenna has empathy in spades as well as a sharp eye for detail -- southside Dublin is mapped in almost cartographic detail. A Taste of Love starts on a slow heat but it cooks up into something a whole lot better.