Recipe for Persuasion

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2) by Sonali Dev

Last year I reviewed the first in the series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors and I really enjoyed that book! I liked the way Dev took Pride and Prejudice and made it her own, I enjoyed the characters and the themes, but most of all I loved the multiracial characters of DJ and Emma. Growing up biracial there was never a lot of material to read or watch that touched on those issues and I am always happy to read one.

So when Dev said that she was planning on writing another book, this one being a retelling of Persuasion, I was jazzed. I could not wait to read it!

Then I finally got my hands on a copy, I read it all in one setting and I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I would. So I decided to let my thoughts steep for a while and think about what it was that made me not love the sequel when I had really loved the first book in the series.

Hmm…

This book is about Trisha’s cousin Ashna Raje. Ashna is an Indian princess; her father (a prince) married a cricket star, but was constantly getting into trouble and causing scandal, so he was sent away from India to to America to be with his older brother (who would hopefully help whip him into shape). There he built a home and a restaurant, cooking Indian and fancy cuisine.

Ashna lived with her father in California, spending most of her time living with her Raje cousins, as her mother was always gone as she traveled around the world trying to better women’s lives. Ashna’s father died when Ashna was graduating high school and after his death she decided to carry on his legacy and traveled to Paris to attend Cordeon Bleu (meeting and befriending DJ, from the previous story). When she returned home eager to put her education to work and carry on her father’s dreams, she discovered that the people she left in charge of the business had embezzled a large portion of the profits and fled, the resturant is dwindling in customers, and that nearly every time she tries to make something new or deviate from the original menu she has panic attacks.

DJ tries to help her revamp the menu, but she struggles trying to do anything. Her customers continue to dwindle and her sous chef leaves her for a better position.

Ashna feels alone and lost when her mother, who left her as a child, calls and makes her feel worse about her life and her choices (as always); along with trying to convince her to sell the resturant and do something else. Ashna becomes angry that her mother is again belittling her life choices and decides to do the one thing she never thought she would ever do, agree to be on her friend, China Dashwood’s, cooking show competition.

China Dashwood is producing a new show, Cooking With the Stars, that pairs a local chef up with a celebrity. Ashna was set against it, but being on the show will be good for business and help stick it to her mom, who Ashna has a lot of unresolved issues with.

Meanwhile, in England, World Cup Winner Rico Silva is trying to decide what to do next with his life. Rico was born in a favela in Brasil, the illegitimate son of a famous fútball star. When his mother passed away, he was sent to America to stay with his Tia. There he started playing soccer; along with meeting and falling in love with Ashna.

But Ashna was always ashamed of him and never wanted him to meet her father or family, always keeping him hidden from them and a secret, just like his dad treated his mom. One day, Rico went to see her father and he said horrible things to him and about his family. Ashna never spoke to Rico after that, completely ignoring all his texts and calls.

Now Rico is a famous fútball player who’s knee injury has forced him to retire. Feeling bad for himself at a friend’s bachelor party, he starts thinking of his string of failed relationships, as he has never been able to move past Ashna. He decides to google her and discovers she is going to be on a cooking show. Not making the most logical decisions, he decides to go on it too, be her partner, and get his revenge? Find closure? Maybe a mix of both?

Ashna is extremely nervous to be on the show, but when she sees that her partner is Rico, the man who broke her heart-she is so surprised she drops her knife, nearly slicing off her toes. Luckily Rico dives and saves her.

Ashna is uncertain how she will make it through this competition while being so close to Rico, this whole situation is so painful and brings back both good and bad memories. Meanwhile, Rico starts regretting being alongside someone who still has so much emotional power over him.

They should not have done this.

But even if both wanted to back out, it is impossible now as they are leading the charts with their chemistry. Ratings are a dream as everyone is tuned in to see what will happen next in the cooking romance. But can the two work as a team? Or is the heat between then too much for this kitchen?

Hmmm…

So the story wasn’t bad but I wasn’t really as invested in these characters as I was with the ones from the previous book. It’s weird as I was really interested to have more Ashna, as I liked her in the previous book, but I felt like something was off in thiI think it is because the circumstances didn’t pull on my heart as much in this book as they did in the original Persuasion and in the previous book. In Persuasion, first we have the fear of loss of security as their family is running out of money and Anne’s father Sir Walter and sister Elizabeth are making no effort to change that. Anne gets a glimpse of her unhappy future as she stays with her horrible sister Mary and brother-in-law. In Recipe for Persuasion, there is the fear of losing her father’s resturant, but I had a harder time finding connecting to that as she still has the property and the house-both of which are prime Bay Area real estate, she could sell them and get millions. And if she did lose her place as she had too much debt that would be paid after the sale, she could always stay at the Raje family compound. Her family is amazing and she used to live with them, so it isn’t as scary an end. I mean it is still sad to have failed and to lose your dream, but she wouldn’t be lost or alone as all would be willing to help her as she regrouped and figured out what was next.

Also in Persuasion, when Wentworth comes back successful and has both the Musgrove sisters fawning over him, he enjoys the attention, especially as it is in front of the woman who rejected him-while Anne definitely feels less then and sad that she let him go. Then when Captain Wentworth realizes he still loves her, he is stuck waiting to see what will happen to Louisa as his attention to her made everyone assume they are to be engaged and he can’t abandon an injured woman. With this there is no block to their happiness, I mean Rico gets over his hurt fairly quickly and is trying to get with Ashna pretty early on in the book. The author does try to mislead us and Ashna with KDrama star Song and Rico growing close, but she isn’t a serious contender. She is never more than just friendly to him.

The other 1/3-1/2 of the book focused on Ashna’s mother’s story, Shobi, who’s storyline is very sad. The first part of Shobi’s story describes how she was in love with another man but her father wouldn’t let her marry a poor Muslim, and instead agreed to a marriage with the prince, Ashna’s father who wanted her. The prince is a horrible abusive man who rapes her on her wedding night. That part I didn’t have an issue with, having been in an abusive relationship I felt they dealt with her story well. What bothered me was the way she justifies leaving her child to help children all over the world and the anger she has at her ex-husband blaming him for her and her daughter’s decaying relationship. Now I will never condemn someone for leaving their abusive partner, but the way she belittles not being there for her daughter because she had a “greater good” to serve really bothered me. Her husband did not paint Shobi in the best light to her daughter, but I felt that she also needs to take responsibility for the choices she made, especially after her husband died. She still hardly spends time with Ashna, doesn’t listen to what she wants, just drops in without warning believing that will fix everything, threatens to sell the store if Ashna doesn’t listen to her, etc. And if she did apologize and recognize her failings to Ashna, instead of telling her again and again these impoverished women are more important than her own daughter, I would have liked her more.

I also didn’t like how easily Ashna and her mother Shobi resolve their issues. Ashna realizes that her being with Rico wasn’t what made her father commit suicide, but that her mother served him with divorce papers. That brought a bunch of memories of how horrible her father treated her mother and she instantly forgives her and is happy to hear her mother is in a happy relationship with another man (who Shobi has been dating for almost all of her married life). I understand what the author is doing and wanting to wrap up that thread, but I used to work with grieving adults and kids and it is never, ever that easy. This exact scenario happened with a preteen I was working with. The mom stayed with her abusive husband because of the kids, but was finally planning on leaving him. He found out and killed himself, the daughter being the one who found the body. The daughter hated her mom as she blamed her for the death, and idolized her father (just like Ashna) and after a lot of therapy and the art class they were in a better place; but she was still very angry with her mom, and it was a continual process. There were also adults who went to the grief class and had a similar scenario happen in their life and had never dealt with those issues. After the art therapy class they were in a better place with their parent-but still had hurt and blame over their mother “causing the death” of their father. I found it extemely unrealistic that Ashna who has never been in any therapy regarding her mother was able to get over the abandonment of her mother; moved past feeling second best to her mother’s charity work, and accepted that this whole time her mother had a secret life/relationship with another man in an instant. What? I would have liked it better if her mother and her started talking and then showing years later they are in a good place instead of it all fixed in one night.

Hmm…

There are also some interesting writing choices in this book as well. We have a chapter where we are in we are in Ashna’s POV and then it suddenly switches to her mom. It was a bit disorientating.

I also had a really hard time with all the Portuguese in this book. Being half Mexican I grew up with Spanish and Portuguese is not Spanish. This is nothing against the author or the language, I just struggled with it and cautioning other Spanish speakers/readers you too might have a bit of a struggle as well.

So that’s all that I did not care for, now what did I like? First of all I loved that again we have an interracial relationship with Ashna (Indian) and Rico (Brazilian). Growing up biracial there wasn’t a lot of media that had interracial or multiracial couples/characters. Anytime there is anything that has even a tiny shard of it, I am excited to see. I loved that scene when they blend Rico’s favorite dish from Brasil with pieces of an Indian recipe that Ashna’s grandma used to make. That scene was just wonderful! It made me think of my own life when blending traditions from both sides of my culture.

Like Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors, this book was also a love letter to food. I like how it highlights the comfort, love, and traditions of it. I also love how we have the two bond of cooking. Rico, having only been a part to get back at Ashna, actually find himself enjoying creating these different dishes with Ashna. And Ashna finds herself having a renewed interest in it, and finding herself once again being creative and not stuck in the past and past recipes. In a sense, then cooking together really is what begins to help heal what transpired between them. And of course there is the constant Chais that Ashna creates and blends for her cousins. It made me want some, real chai, so bad.

And of course, Rico writes Ashna a letter to convince her that he’s serious in his feelings for her. You know me, I’m a sucker for a character writing a love letter. It gets me every time.

I also liked how the author shared about the struggles women face in other places of the world along with Shobi’s struggle with abuse and marital rape. I think both of these issues are important and I’m glad that Sonali Dev didn’t shy away from it all.

So I didn’t hate it and I don’t think it was a bad story-there was just something missing for me…a missing ingredient that I felt the previous book had and this one lacked.

She just published a third book, Incense and Sensibility, and I have read and will be posting on it soon (I hope).

Because of the content of those book I want to end this post with this: Are you in an abusive relationship? Do you need help or assistance? If you are in need of help please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides essential tools and support to help survivors of domestic violence so they can live their lives free of abuse. You can reach them at 1.800.799.7233

For more Persuasion, go to Jane in Love

For more Persuasion adaptions, go to Holiday Mix Tape

For more on The Rajes, go to Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to I Watched Northanger Abbey (2007) With My 13 Year Old Niece

Who Kidnapped the Girls’ Soccer Stars?: North Mammon, Criminal Minds (2006)

So Criminal Minds-I was a HUGE fan when it first aired and I watched it faithfully for seven years-only stopping when I moved from the dorms to an apartment that didn’t have cable.

I was so invested in this show as I was deeply interested in behavioral analysis. When I first went to college I studied psychology, hoping to work for the FBI one day…however, I hated the psychology classes as we kept having to talk about ourselves (I ended up switching to history).

One of the other reasons I wanted to watch this show was for Thomas Gibson.

So Handsome!!!

Yes, I was a fan of his from Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas and Dharma and Greg. So when I saw the content of the show with this actor-I was gone. I needed to watch it-the remote is MINE!

I have to watch it.

And to top it all off-Mandy Pantinkin, his most famous role being of course, Inigo Montoya, was also in the show. I love him!

So the show is about the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit which is comprised of the leader Agent Hotchner and Jason Gideon. The rest of the team consists of Elle Greenaway, the sexual predator profiler (who ends up leaving and is replaced by Emily Prentiss). We also have Derek Morgan (played by the very handsome Shermar Moore) and appears to be the standard tough guy, ex-athlethe, charming, ladies’ man-but you find out there is far more to him than what appears at first glance. Spencer Reid is a super genius and the youngest member of the unit. He is only 22 in the first episode but already has three PhDs, two BAs, and has a photographic memory. Reid is utterly adorable.

Rounding out the team is Agent Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau, the liasion between the FBI and the town they move into to help out. She’s sweet, kind, adorable; and when the show dropped her the fans revolted, bringing her back. Rounding the team out is Penelope Garcia, the quirky, adorable computer whiz and annoying Emily Prentiss (I don’t like her).

That’s just how I am.

There are a lot of memorable Criminal Minds episodes, but the one that really stuck in my mind was this episode, “North Mammon”. I think it largely had to do with the fact that it was a “J.J.” episode. Every team member had their “special episodes” were something in a case resonated with them and brought out why they were interested in this line of work and some of the reasons they took the path they did. As J.J. is one of my favorite characters it made this episode extremely memorable.

So the episode starts off in North Mammon, PA. The high school and town are going crazy with a pep rally as the BIG GAME is happening in a week. Having gone to an art school, I never experienced this but I have seen Friday Night Lights-football is huge in some towns.

Three girls are unimpressed and OMG one of the girls is the crazy girl in Accused at 17-the one that murders the girl and then tries to frame her friend. Oh, no…I looked it up. She just looks like the same girl but isn’t. Phew! That wouldn’t have boded well.

The three girls are having a girls’ weekend-house to themselves, pizza, probably movies. Two go in first while the third girl stops to bring in the trash barrels, and is kidnapped. The kidnapper threatens to kill her and uses that to grab the others. All are put in a concrete slab basement. Even creepier-the man knew their names. Why is he doing this? Who is he? One of the girls has a bad cough, and being in that basement only aggravates it.

Their kidnapper wants them to choose: two can live while the third will be murdered, their choice.

So as you can tell, this episode has a lot of Saw feeling to it. Saw came out in 2004, and spanned all kinds of sequels so it heavily influenced the media. Although when I was watching this, the scene with the girls on the basement made me think of Glass, when the cheerleaders have been kidnapped.

So the mom of one of the missing girls contacts J.J. through her friend, J.J.’s aunt-knowing that J.J. was a soccer star like her missing daughter she thinks she’ll understand that her daughter didn’t run off. You see they have been missing for five days and no one is looking for them or taking her concerns seriously.

Such a man!

Brooke Chambers’ father went out of town and her two best friends stayed with her-Polly Holmfeild and Kelly Seymour. The two girls disappeared, but left a message about going off on a road trip-the exact verbatim message.

That’s not a real message, they have been threatened.

When J.J. presents this to the team they question whether the girls just to off-but J.J. shuts them down. She was one of those girls, and knows they wouldn’t mess up full ride scholarships by taking off like this.

Gideon also points out that the message says they would be back on Friday, they only have a few days left to find them.

The team heads out to North Mammon and meets Police Chief Yates, who isn’t worried. They haven’t been able to locate Brooke’s father either-but that isn’t unusual, he often goes on long business trips-he’s a lawyer.

The team immediately knows that whoever this person is has been watching the girls as they know a lot about them-they knew they wouldn’t be at homecoming, that Brooke’s father was gone, that the other girls’ parents were at the pep rally, and that they could have the girls leave them messages, etc. Someone has been stalking and watching them and in a town that small it isn’t an outside-someone in the community.

So which person is a secret psycho?

from Psycho II

I know a lot of people didn’t like it but I thought it was an interesting concept and take. A short of When a Stranger Calls, but with a community instead of house. Most likely the guy will be someone who seems trustworthy or normal.

Hmm…

Gideon starts walking to find a vantage point of where the person was watching them and discovers a spot with a perfect view littered with cigarette butts. There are a ton, someone has spent a lot of time watching.

Hmm…

So the town is still in celebration mode for the homecoming game, Chief Yates is a former football star back in the day and sees nothing wrong with it.

Meanwhile back with the girls they are starting to turn. It has been five days with no food, little waterm trapped in a basement, and being taunted by a man. The girls have started to unravel, unsure of how much time they have spent there. Brooke is growing sicker and sicker with her cough. Polly is by her side while Kelly is seriously going crazy-crazy and angry being trapped in their.

I’m going crazy.

The team finds the girls’ car and search it. They discover the quarterback’s cap, but he’s ruled out as everyone saw him at the pep rally. Mr. Chambers finally shows up (hey-he’s the dad from the Mentalist “Red Tide” episode.) Mr. Chambers comes in during the debriefing and makes a scene. He sure doesn’t look like a lawyer to me or talk like one-sounds more blue collar.

The team shares that the guy they are looking for is a predatory abductor, they usually build a nest before they take someone, and it is always a secret and secure place. They will also inject themselves into the investigation. The person will also, obviously, be missing from the pep rally.

Hmmm…

They run the cigarette butts and the DNA matches with the girls’ soccer coach. They go to get him but Chambers gets there first and starts beating his legs with a tire iron-revealing he’s had a pedophile charge, soliciting an underage minor (she was a prostitute that “lied about her age”) and Mr. Chambers got his old football buddy off.

However, Don was seen at the pep rally and it seems off that kidnapper would leave cigarette butts full of DNA when he was so precise and removed all trace of himself in the house, so someone is obviously framing him.

Yes, whoever this person is wants these community “leaders” to all turn on each other. While the town is doing that-so do the girls in the basement. Kelly has a plan and Brooke can tell it is a dark one-one that doesn’t bode well for her.

The next day the trash guys discover the girls’ soccer uniforms behind the motel. The team moves to the motel and find out that one guy, John Sherman, uses the room once a month and pays an extra $100 to leave no paper trails-its Mr. Chambers. That’s right, he never left town.

Seriously

They then question Mr. Chambers and it turns out he did lie about being away. He was staying at the motel where he meets a friend once a month-a man. It is a small town and he wants to keep that hidden.

So watching this, it is clear that whoever is doing this is trying to turn these “football stars” against each other and reveal secrets. Who could dislike them so much? Is there someone they bullied who is trying to get revenge? Is it someone who never got the recognition they felt they deserved? A fourth wheel to this golden trio? But if it is is to get back at these football stars why take these girls when only one is related to them? What is the plan here?

Hmm…

The girls are growing worse and Kelly tries to convince Polly to give Brooke up to be killed so they can be free. Polly refuses because she will not sacrifice her friend. But how long will that last?

Kelly tries to use the love Polly has for her mom to convince her-after all Brooke is cick-she is going to die anyway. Kelly works on her and wins her over. Kelly calls to the kidnaper who throws in a hammer to the room. They not only have to choose who will die, but but kill them.

The next shot we see Polly wrapped in a blanket and another girl coming out of a basement wrapped up in a blanket too so we can’t see her. Is it Kelly? Or Brooke?

Hmmm…

Meanwhile the parents are going insane. They are supposed to be working together on finding out who the kidnapper could be, but are just gossiping, yelling, and blaming each other. J.J. has had enough and yells at them all.

I know a lot of fans didn’t like this episode as they felt it was unrealistic, but in this moment it reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “Monsters on Maple Street”, how a little thing that causes mistrust can make people turn against each other.

The unsub drive the girls to North Mammon…weird.

Meanwhile, the agents have decided enough is enough-time to split the guys up. Before they can, Brooke Chambers’ phone turns on and they get a hit. The two girls were dropped right outside the police station.

Man this unsub is ballsy. Just right in front of them-no fear this sicko.

The first girl is Polly, as we all knew, and the second one is Brooke-Kelly is dead.

Ohhhh?!!! What happened? I can’t say I’m sad as Kelly proved to be an awful friend as she was going to kill her friend.

Kelly’s father brings up that they all played football together-the championship being tonight. J.J. thinks that might be the clue they need-maybe someone on the team?

Hmm…

The girls are in shock, but J.J. speaks to Polly. J.J. is the heart of the team and relaxes and reaches out to her-calming her and bringing her to the present.

Meanwhile, Brooke is sharing what happened with the police and other agents- they were hungry, thirsty, and cold. Kelly was trying to get Polly to help her kill Brooke. Meanwhile, Brooke hits Kelly with the hammer and collapses.

Poor Brooke-hearing your friends plan to kill you and then having to kill someone to save yourself-someone you thought was your very best friend.

These girls are going to be needing double the therapy.

Polly picks out their kidnapper from the football photo and it is Marcus Younger-the garbage man who found the girls’ soccer uniforms. It turned out he was the former star of the team until he blew his knee out-right before the championship game.

They find his house and check the storm cellar-and there he is, just waiting. Just sitting there with Kelly’s dead body waiting or the FBI and police to find him. This to me is one of the creepiest scenes-he is smug, relaxed, calm, even delighted to be found-and chilling next to a dead body.

He smugly tells them I never touched the girls or came into the room, I just revealed their inner nature.

What a jerkwad! He wants revenge for how he was treated when he got hurt-how he was tossed aside and forgotten. His teammates weren’t his true friends, and he wanted to show that these girls they are teammates that are also not true friends, that when the chips are down they would betray you.

What a jerkwad crazy psycho man. They don’t make it clear whether he has been plotting this for a while and waiting for them to get to the right age, or if it was just seeing them and the cheer for the championship that he snapped.

I know a lot of people didn’t like this, but I found this to be a very intriguing episode and unsub. Definitely one that sticks with you.

Wow!

J.J. is upset over everything on the plane home as all the memories from her childhood are coming back. I really like this post scene as Hotch encourages her to be a profiler, and J.J. shares she prefers being where she is, as she likes being the one the family can turn to, and the one to choose the next case. It is really touching as we the viewer and the team all got to know J.J. better and see into more of who she is.

I enjoyed it as it was so different from the other episodes and a real look into J.J.

For more on Criminal Minds, go to Fantastic Fantasies

For more horror TV episodes, go to To All the Ghouls I’ve Loved Before: The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)