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3.7 39
by Sherry Thomas

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Famous in Paris, infamous in London, Verity Durant is as well-known for her mouthwatering cuisine as for her scandalous love life. But that’s the least of the surprises awaiting her new employer when he arrives at the estate of Fairleigh Park following the unexpected death of his brother.

To rising political star Stuart Somerset, Verity Durant is just a


Famous in Paris, infamous in London, Verity Durant is as well-known for her mouthwatering cuisine as for her scandalous love life. But that’s the least of the surprises awaiting her new employer when he arrives at the estate of Fairleigh Park following the unexpected death of his brother.

To rising political star Stuart Somerset, Verity Durant is just a name and food is just food, until her first dish touches his lips. Only one other time had he felt such pure arousal–a dangerous night of passion with a stranger, who disappeared at dawn. Ten years is a long time to wait for the main course, but when Verity Durant arrives at his table, there’s only one thing that will satisfy Stuart’s appetite for more. But is his hunger for lust, revenge–or that rarest of delicacies, love? For Verity’s past has a secret that could devour them both even as they reach for the most delicious fruit of all.…

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A Cinderella story with a compelling culinary twist, Thomas's scrumptious Victorian confection (after Private Arrangements) proves impossible to resist. Madame Verity Durant works for Bertram "Bertie" Somerset at his estate, Fairleigh Park-after serving as the mistress he failed to marry (due to a questionable background that includes an illegitimate child). When Bertie dies unexpectedly at 38, Verity worries as Bertie's "bastard-born" brother, Stuart-now London's foremost barrister -takes over the estate. Verity had shared a secret, mouthwatering affair with Stuart 10 years earlier, and she doesn't expect him to keep her on, especially since he's affianced to the very proper Miss Lizzy Bessler. What ensues, however, is "happiness on a plate," as Thomas shows that hunger for passion, and madeleines, never dies. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Noted for her exceptional cooking ability as well as a slightly tarnished reputation, mysterious Verity Durant is very much her own woman. Yet when her employer dies and his brother, aspiring politician Stuart Somerset, inherits his estate, she knows it's only a matter of time before her secrets come to light. A skillful mix of past and present and complex characters bring to life a story of love, loss, and reconciliation. Food infuses this lush, passionate romance with its erotic qualities, flavoring the story with a seductive magic that will make fans hunger for more. Rarely have food and culinary expertise been made so exquisitely essential to the overall feel of a romance; the only disappointment will be that no recipes are included. Thomas (Private Arrangements) lives in central Texas.

—Kristin Ramsdell
From the Publisher
~ Best Romance of the Year (Library Journal)

"Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today."–Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

“This seductive, magical historical rewards readers with exquisite language, nearly erotic culinary descriptions, and a fairy-tale ending. A delectable treat.”—Library Journal
“A Cinderella story with a compelling culinary twist, Thomas's scrumptious Victorian confection proves impossible to resist.”—Publishers Weekly
“Packed with engaging characters, gripping dialogue, a devious plot, steamy sex and smart writing. This is definitely an author on the rise. Another keeper! Get it!”–Reader to Reader 
“Delicious, delectable and a mouthwatering blend of Cinderella, Top Chef and Like Water for Chocolate, not to mention Chocolat. [Sherry Thomas] dazzles with her intelligent, compelling story and memorable characters. This well-crafted romance places her among the very finest of the next generation of authors.”—Romantic Times, Top Pick!
“Entertaining and thoroughly absorbing.”—Romance Reviews Today
Delicious just about says it all: Sherry Thomas's second novel is a multi-course banquet of delectable story-telling, scrumptious characters, and delightful verbal treats.”—The Romance Reader

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In retrospect people said it was a Cinderella story.

Notably missing was the personage of the Fairy Godmother. But other than that, the narrative seemed to contain all the elements of the fairy tale.

There was something of a modern prince. He had no royal blood, but he was a powerful man—London's foremost barrister, Mr. Gladstone's right hand—a man who would very likely one day occupy 10 Downing Street.

There was a woman who spent much of her life in the kitchen. In the eyes of many, she was a nobody. To others, she was one of the greatest cooks of her generation, her food said to be so divine that old men dined with the gusto of adolescent boys, and so seductive that lovers forsook each other as long as a single crumb remained on the table.

There was a ball; not the usual sort of ball that made it into fairy tales or even ordinary tales, but a ball nevertheless. There was the requisite Evilish Female Relative. And mostly importantly for connoisseurs of fairy tales, there was footgear left behind in a hurry—nothing so frivolous or fancy as glass slippers, yet carefully kept and cherished, with a flickering flame of hope, for years upon years.

A Cinderella story indeed.

Or was it?

It all began—or resumed, depending on how one looked at it—the day Bertie Somerset died.

November 1892

The kitchen at Fairleigh Park was palatial in dimension, as grand as anything to be found at Chatsworth or Blenheim, and certainly several times larger than what one would expect for a manor the size of Fairleigh Park.

Bertie Somerset had the entire kitchen complex renovated in 1877—shortly after he inherited, two years before Verity Durant came to work for him. After the improvements, the complex boasted a dairy, a scullery, and a pantry, each the size of a small cottage; separate larders for meat, game, and fish; two smokehouses; and a mushroom house where a heap of composted manure provided edible mushrooms year-round.

The main kitchen, floored in cool rectangles of gray flagstone, with oak duckboards where the kitchen staff most often stood, had an old-fashioned open hearth and two modern, closed ranges. The ceiling rose twenty feet above the floor. Windows were set high and faced only north and east, so that not a single beam of sunlight would ever stray inside. But still it was sweaty work in winter; in summer the temperatures rose hot enough to immolate.

Three maids toiled in the adjacent scullery, washing up all the plates, cups, and flatware from the servants' afternoon tea. One of Verity's apprentices stuffed tiny eggplants at the central work table, the other three stood at their respective stations about the room, attending to the rigors of dinner for the staff as well as for the master of the house.

The soup course had just been carried out, trailing behind it a murmur of the sweetness of caramelized onion. From the stove billowed the steam of a white wine broth, in the last stages of reduction before being made into a sauce for a filet of brill that had been earlier poached in it. Over the great hearth a quartet of teals roasted on a spit turned by a kitchen maid. She also looked after the civet of hare slowly stewing in the coals, which emitted a powerful, gamy smell every time it was stirred.

The odors of her kitchen were as beautiful to Verity as the sounds of an orchestra. This kitchen was her fiefdom, her sanctuary. She cooked with an absolute, almost nerveless concentration, her awareness extending to the subtlest stimulation of the senses and the least movement on the part of her underlings.

The sound of her favorite apprentice not stirring the hazelnut butter made her turn her head slightly. "Mademoiselle Porter, the butter," she said, her voice stern. Her voice was always stern in the kitchen.

"Yes, Madame. Sorry, Madame," said Becky Porter. The girl would be purple with embarrassment now—she knew very well that it took only a few seconds of inattention before hazelnut butter became black butter.

Verity gave Tim Cartwright, the apprentice standing before the white wine reduction, a hard stare. The young man blanched. He cooked like a dream, his sauces as velvety and breathtaking as a starry night, his souffles taller than chefs' toques. But Verity would not hesitate to let him go without a letter of character if he made an improper advance toward Becky—Becky who'd been with Verity since joining her staff as a thirteen-year-old child.

Most of the hazelnut butter would be consumed at dinner. But a portion of it was to be saved for the midnight repast her employer had requested: one steak au poivre, a dozen oysters in sauce Mornay, potato croquettes Æ la Dauphine, a small lemon tart, still warm, and half a dozen dessert crepes spread with, mais bien sur, hazelnut butter.

Crepes with hazelnut butter—Mrs. Danner tonight. Three days ago it had been Mrs. Childs. Bertie was becoming promiscuous in his middle age. Verity removed the cassoulet from the oven and grinned a little to herself, imagining the scenes that would ensue should Mrs. Danner and Mrs. Childs find out that they shared Bertie's less-than-undying devotion.

The service hatch burst open. The door slammed into a dresser, rattling the rows of copper lids hanging on pin rails, startling one of them off its anchor. The lid hit the floor hard, bounced and wobbled, its metallic bangs and scrapes echoing in the steam and smolder of the kitchen. Verity looked up sharply. The footmen in this house knew better than to throw open doors like that.
"Madame!" Dickie, the first footman, gasped from the doorway, sweat dampening his hair despite the November chill. "Mr. Somerset—Mr. Somerset, he be not right!"

Something about Dickie's wild expression suggested that Bertie was far worse than "not right." Verity motioned Letty Briggs, her lead apprentice, to take over her spot before the stove. She wiped her hands on a clean towel and went to the door.

"Carry on," she instructed her crew before closing the door behind Dickie and herself. Dickie was already scrambling in the direction of the house.

"What's the matter?" she said, lengthening her strides to keep up with the footman.

"He be out cold, Madame."

"Has someone sent for Dr. Sergeant?"

"Mick from the stables just rode out."

She'd forgotten her shawl. The air in the unheated passage between kitchen and manor chilled the sheen of perspiration on her face and neck. Dickie pushed open doors: doors to the warming kitchen, doors to another passage, doors to the butler's pantry. Her heart thumped as they entered the dining room. But it was empty, save for an ominously overturned chair. On the floor by the chair were a puddle of water and, a little away, a miraculously unbroken crystal goblet, glinting in the light of the candelabra. A forlorn, half-finished bowl of onion soup still sat at the head of the table, waiting for dinner to resume.

Dickie led her to a drawing room deeper inside the house. A gaggle of housemaids stood by the door, clutching one another's sleeves and peering in cautiously. They fell back at Verity's approach and bobbed unnecessary curtsies.

Her erstwhile lover reclined, supine, on a settee of dark blue. He wore a disconcertingly peaceful expression. Someone had loosened his necktie and opened his shirt at the collar. This state of undress contrasted sharply against his stiff positioning: his hands folded together above his breastbone like those of an effigy atop a stone sarcophagus.

Mr. Prior, the butler, stood guard over Bertie's inert body. At her entrance, he hurried to her side and whispered, "He's not breathing."

Her own breath quite left her at that. "Since when?"

"Since before Dickie went to the kitchen, Madame," said the butler. His hands trembled very slightly.

Was that five minutes? Seven? Verity stood immobile a long moment, unable to think. It didn't make any sense. Bertie was a healthy man who experienced few physical maladies.

She crossed the room and dipped to one knee before the settee. "Bertie," she called softly, addressing him more intimately than she had at any point in the past decade. "Can you hear me, Bertie?"

He did not respond. No dramatic fluttering of the eyelids. No looking at her as if he were Snow White freshly awakened from a poisoned sleep and she the prince who brought him back to life.

She touched him, something else she hadn't done in ten years. His palm was wet, as was his starched cuff. He was still warm, but her finger pressed over his wrist could detect no pulse, only an obstinate stillness.

She dug the pad of her thumb into his veins. Could he possibly be dead? He was only thirty-eight years old. He hadn't even been ill. And he had an assignation with Mrs. Danner tonight. The oysters for his postcoital fortification were resting on a bed of ice in the cold larder and the hazelnut butter was ready for the dessert crepes beloved by Mrs. Danner.

His pulse refused to beat.

She released his hand and rose, her mind numb. The kitchen crew had stayed put at her command. But the rest of the indoor staff had assembled in the drawing room, the men behind Mr. Prior, the women behind Mrs. Boyce, the housekeeper . . . everyone pressed close to the walls, a sea of black uniforms with foam caps of white collars and aprons.

In response to Mrs. Boyce's inquiring gaze, Verity shook her head. The man who was once to be her prince was dead. He had taken her up to his castle, but had not kept her there. In the end she had returned to the kitchen, dumped the shards of her delusion in the rubbish bin, and carried on as if she'd never believed that she stood to become the mistress of this esteemed house.

"We'd better cable his solicitors, then," said Mrs. Boyce. "They'll need to inform his brother that Fairleigh Park is now his."

His brother. In all the drama of Bertie's abrupt passing, Verity had not even thought of the succession of Fairleigh Park. Now she shook somewhere deep inside, like a dish of aspic set down too hard.

She nodded vaguely. "I'll be in the kitchen should you need me."


In her copy of Taillevent's Le Viandier, where the book opened to a recipe for gilded chicken with quenelles, Verity kept a brown envelope marked List of Cheese Merchants in the 16th Arondissement.

The envelope contained, among other things, a news clipping from the county fish wrapper, about the Liberals' recent victory in the general election after six years in opposition. Verity had written the date in a corner: 16.08.1892. In the middle of the article, a grainy photograph of Stuart Somerset gazed back at her.

She never touched his image, for fear that her strokes would blur it. Sometimes she looked at it very closely, the clipping almost at her nose. Sometimes she put it as far as her lap, but never farther, never beyond reach.

The man in the photograph was dramatically handsome—the face of a Shakespearean actor in his prime, all sharp peaks and deep angles. From afar she'd watched his meteoric rise—one of London's most sought-after barristers, and now, with the Liberals back in power, Mr. Gladstone's Chief Whip in the House of Commons—quite something for a man who'd spent his first nine years in a Manchester slum.

He'd accomplished it all on his own merits, of course, but she'd played her small part. She'd walked away from him, from hopes and dreams enough to spawn a generation of poets, so that he could be the man he was meant to be, the man whose face on her clipping she dared not touch.

Chapter Two


We've known each other a long time, Miss Bessler," said Stuart Somerset.

At the Besslers' Hanover Square house, the drawing room had once been a rather ghastly green. But Miss Bessler, taking the reins of the household after her mother's passing, had papered the walls in a shade of carmine that was almost sensual, yet still solemn enough for the home of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Miss Bessler raised a severe eyebrow at Stuart. She looked very fine tonight: Her eyes were bright, her cheeks held a tinge of becoming blush, her Prussian blue gown was pure drama against the crimson chaise longue on which they sat nearly knee to knee.

"We've been friends a long time, Mr. Somerset," she corrected him.

They'd met years before she'd made her official debut, when both Stuart and the Besslers had been guests at a weeklong house party at Lyndhurst Hall. He'd been alone in the garden, smoking a cigarette, thinking of someone else. And she'd escaped from the nursery to watch the dancing in the ballroom, indignant that a mature, clever girl such as herself wasn't allowed to join the fun.

"Yes, we have indeed been friends a long time," he said.

And it had been with pride and affection that he'd watched the lovely child—though she'd always insisted that at only a few weeks short of fifteen, she'd been no child—grow into an even lovelier young woman.

"That's much better," said Miss Bessler. "Now, won't you please hurry and ask the question so I may tell you how delighted and honored I will be to be your wife?"

Stuart chuckled. It was as he'd thought. Mr. Bessler hadn't been able to keep the news to himself. He took her hands in his. "In that case, would you make me very happy by consenting to become my wife?"

"Yes, I would," she said firmly. She looked happy—and relieved, as if she hadn't quite believed until this moment that he really would offer for her. Her hands squeezed his. "Thank you. We both know that I'm not getting any younger."

He still thought her a young woman, because of the twelve-year difference in their ages. But there was some unfortunate truth to her words. At twenty-five, with eight seasons under her belt, she was far older than the usual adolescents on display in London's ballrooms and drawing rooms.

"Not that it would change my answer, because I'm too practical and selfish to give you up," she said, "but I do hope you haven't proposed entirely out of pity, my dear Stuart—may I at last call you Stuart?"

"Pity is the last of my motives, Lizzy," he said. "There is no one else in all of Society with whom I'd rather spend my life."

He'd delayed looking for a wife until he was old enough to have sired the current crop of debutantes. He didn't want a seventeen-year-old, either on his arm or in his bed. He needed a more seasoned spouse who would not be flustered by the demands of an MP's household. Lizzy was a descendant of an old and highly regarded family, a statesman's daughter, and a gracious and competent hostess. And she was beautiful. She was everything Stuart could sensibly hope for in a wife at this stage in his life.

There were, of course, his more insensible hopes—but he'd had to accept that some dreams were stillborn and some memories mirages.

From the Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Sherry Thomas burst onto the romance scene with Private Arrangements, one of the most anticipated debut historical romances in recent history and a Publishers Weekly Best of the Year book. Lisa Kleypas calls her “the most powerfully original historical romance author working today.” Her books have received stellar reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Romantic Times, along with enthusiastic praises from many of the most highly trafficked romance review websites and blogs.

Her story is all the more interesting given that English is Sherry's second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger's Sweet Savage Love with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys creating stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.

From the Paperback edition.

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Delicious 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the way this author chooses characters who are not perfect and do not always find happily ever after the first time around. Her heroines are not simpering virgins and her heroes are not lust crazed he-men. There are two lovely romances here and the food makes your mouth water as well. A great read! I was very sorry to see things end. Perhaps Michael will have his own story soon.
srbSH More than 1 year ago
Headstrong Verity Durant, once Lady Vera Drake, was banished from her society family at 16 when she became pregnant. Ambitious Stuart Somerset, the by-blow of a wealthy family and finally legitimized, has risen to power in the government. There's some history between Verity and Stuart: Long ago she had run away to London from her lover Bertie, a lord who refused to marry her, but who had been paying for her son's education. In London, she was rescued by Stuart from thugs, and they spent one stunning night together. But, leaving only a boot behind, Verity returned to Bertie, not as his mistress any longer but only as his sensational, renowned cook so that she can continue to watch over her son. (Stuart has spent years searching for her in vain). Stuart's estranged step-brother, the very same Bertie, brings things to a boil when he suddenly dies, and Stuart takes over the estate. Although viscerally drawn to the famous cook - now HIS famous cook - Stuart doesn't know that she's Verity. He becomes engaged to too young Elizabeth Bessler and starts entertaining. His secretary William Marsden actually does Stuart's wooing (with flowers, thoughtful gifts) and captures the heart of Stuart's fiancee. The cook does wooing of her own - through food and other delicious ways - slowly reminding Stuart of his lost love. This time he won't let her get away, even with the demands of the reigning arbiter of ton behavior - and Verity's aunt - to let her go. Thus Stuart wins Verity whose title is now restored, and Lady Vera can watch over her godson.
Lover_of_Romance More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. In the beginning of the book I was confused and almost put it down, but continued on and I am glad I did. She jumps back and forth in time without warning so I had a hard time following the story until I understood what she was doing. It was a great love story and kept me on the edge to find out how it was going to end. The love scenes could have been more detailed for my liking, but that is only because I wanted more. You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is interesting. It jumps between different time periods. It refers to being a cinderella story in which the characters must suffer for years in poverty. Not my kind of reading.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
Sherry again delights (maybe shocks) us by breaking from the mold of run-of-the-mill historical romance novels with Delicious. Verity and Stuart brought forward some toe-curling tension as they played cat-and-mouse with each other, although Stuart has been otherwise spoken-for. I enjoyed watching Verity bring some color into Stuart's monotonous life. While the main story is not quite the fairy tale that opens the Delicious, it falls into play when the secret of Verity's past was finally revealed toward the end.
DagneyTaggartAZ More than 1 year ago
I've read everything from the top Regency Romance writers - Lisa Kleypas, Gaeleen Foley, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, etc. and Thomas has arrived. Her prose are beautiful and evocative and her story is captivating with involved and progressive character development. She's now a top favorite, but unfortunately, she only has 3 books. Read her works and anxiously await the next, she's fabulous. The only draw back to 'Delicious' is that you might gain a pound reading it because this book makes you hungry...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The half of the book was pretty borring.The other half was better with a good ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two very interesting love stories because all four characters are so well written. The interactions between each couple are not just sexy or romantic in the usual romantic fiction way, but rather fascinating as each character has a unique personality, not stereotypical as you might expect and often run into in this genre. Not to say that there aren't certain aspects of the story that are definitely steretypical but Sherry Thomas is one of the better romance writers and this book was fun to read because of her desriptive powers...highly recommend!
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hmsuzy More than 1 year ago
Well worth the time, not the usual historical romance. Plot, intrigue , twists. This one evokes emotion about the final outcome.
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