The Love Goddess' Cooking School

( 40 )


Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces dailyBenvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara ...

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Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces dailyBenvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Melissa Senate

Melissa Senate

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Senate (See Jane Date) serves up a delicious mix of wishes and memories with more than a dash of spice in her latest novel centered on healing and cooking. The story opens as Holly Maguire returns to her grandmother's home on Blue Crab Island in order to make sense of her life, loves, and gifts. Through rebuilding her grandmother's cooking school, Holly learns about events in the past that defined her family's role in local society and established her grandmother as a gifted fortune-teller. Themes of healing, love, and loss circle effortlessly to create mystery, magic, and authentic romance. Voices from Holly's past add gently complicating layers to the narrative and keep the story moving at a satisfying clip. Senate has a tender and humorous touch with her characters and a straightforward style that finds magic in the quotidian. "As she cut out her squares and stuffed each ravioli with the spinach and cheese, she checked the recipe for the final ingredient. A wish." Senate handles the hefty topics of loss and remembrances with lightness and respect and in so doing, redefines comfort food.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal - BookSmack!
Senate imbues her novel of food, family, and memory with tenderness, warmth, and comfort. It's a perfect book to read this Valentine's Day as it celebrates not just the possibility of romantic love, but all the kinds of love that fill a life well lived. When Holly Maguire was little, she spent long summers with her Italian fortune-telling grandmother, Camilla, absorbing how to cook in a very special way: dishes needed wishes, hopes, and dreams to come out right. Now that Holly's life has come out anything but right, she retreats to the safety of Camilla's Cucinotta and Cooking School on Blue Crab Island, ME. But she is allowed only a few brief weeks with her grandmother before Camilla gently passes away, leaving Holly with a cooking school and shop—and not the least idea of how to really cook, much less tell fortunes. Chick-lit fans will delight as Holly slowly finds her way, gathering new friends, connecting with childhood pals, and navigating both love and the island's mean girls who have grown into catty women. With an involving and steady pace, Senate spins a tale featuring likable characters who are finding their voice, descriptions of island life, and cooking (recipes included). The touches of magic and deep family connections help create a supportive, striving, and enchanting tone. — Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 2/3/11
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439107232
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 634,754
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Senate is the author of eight novels, including the bestselling See Jane Date, which was made into an ABC Family TV movie and has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. She's published short pieces in Everything I've Always Wanted to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, It's a Wonderful Lie, Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, and American Girls About Town. A former romance and young adult editor from New York, she now lives on the southern coast of Maine with her son.

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Read an Excerpt


According to Holly Maguire’s late grandmother, revered on Blue Crab Island, Maine, for her fortune-telling as much as her cooking, the great love of Holly’s life would be one of the few people on earth to like sa cordula, an Italian delicacy. It was made of lamb intestines and stewed with onions, tomatoes, and peas in a savory butter sauce that did little to hide the fact that it looked exactly like what it was.

“So I’ll know if someone is ‘the one’ if he likes stewed lamb guts?” Holly had asked repeatedly over the years. “That’s it? That’s my entire fortune?” She’d kept hoping her grandmother would say, Just kidding! Of course that’s not it, bella. Your true fortune is this: you will be very happy.

Holly would be satisfied with that.

Not that Camilla Constantina would ever say just kidding. Or kid, for that matter.

“That is it,” was her grandmother’s response, every time, her gleaming black eyes giving nothing away. “The stones have spoken.”

A month ago, her hand trembling, her heart hoping, Holly had set a plate of sa cordula in front of John Reardon, the man she loved. As she’d been living in California, thousands of miles away from her grandmother in an attic apartment with no oven, she’d paid the Italian butcher’s eighty-six-year-old great-aunt to prepare the dish. Holly and John had been a couple for almost two years. She was practically a stepmother to his four-year-old daughter Lizzie. And more than anything, Holly wanted to become part of their family.

Why had her grandmother saddled her with this fortune? Who could possibly like sa cordula? Holly had tasted it three times before, and it was so . . . slimily awful that even Holly’s grandfather, who, per legend, ate even more reviled “delicacies,” had hated it. But the love of Camilla’s life wasn’t supposed to like it. Her Great Love was to have blond hair and blue eyes, and when in 1957 twenty-two-year-old single Camilla had turned down another eligible, dark-eyed, dark-haired man in her small village near Milan, everyone worried she was crazy like her spinster aunt Marcella, who muttered in a back room. But some months later, the dashing Armando Constantina, with his butter-colored hair and Adriatic blue eyes, had come to town and swept her off her feet all the way to America, and Camilla’s reputation as a fortune-teller had been restored.

Holly’s father, Bud Maguire, had taken one bite of sa cordula during Thanksgiving dinner in 1982 and forever refused to taste anything his mother-in-law cooked unless he recognized it and knew what it was. Bud liked plain old spaghetti doused with jarred Ragu and a piece of garlic bread, which was just fine with Holly’s mother, Luciana Maguire, who went by Lucy and had no interest in her heritage or cooking. Or fortune-telling. Especially because Camilla Constantina’s supposed source of knowledge was a trio of small, smooth stones she’d chosen from the banks of the Po River as a three-year-old. “I’d sooner believe in a crystal ball from the clearance aisle in Walmart,” Holly’s mother had often said with her usual disdain.

It had taken Camilla Constantina until Holly was sixteen to tell her granddaughter her fortune. As an adolescent, Holly had asked her grandmother over and over to sit her down with the stones and tell Holly what she was desperate to know—would Mike Overstill ever ask her out? Would she do okay on the American history test worth 85 percent of her final grade? Would her mother ever stop being such a killjoy? Camilla would just take both her hands and tell her all would be well. But finally, on Holly’s sixteenth birthday, when Mike Overstill had not shown up at six thirty to escort her to the junior prom (he had called twenty minutes later to say, “Sorry, um, I forgot I asked someone else”), her grandmother, who was visiting, reached for her white satin pouch (out of eyesight of Holly’s mother, of course) and said si, it was time. Camilla took the three smooth stones from the pouch and closed her hands around them. As Holly held her breath in anticipation, her grandmother held Holly’s hand with her free one and closed her eyes for a good half minute.

And the long-awaited revelation was that the great love of Holly’s life would like lamb intestines tossed with peas. In butter sauce.

This, from a woman who’d rightly foretold the fates of hundreds of year-rounders and summer tourists on Blue Crab Island and the nearby mainland towns, who’d drive over the bridge to pay twenty-five dollars to sit in the breakfast nook of Camilla Constantina’s famed kitchen and have their fortunes told.

Holly had said she was sure there was something else. Perhaps her grandmother could close her eyes a bit longer? Or just do it all over again? Camilla would only say that sometimes the fortune could not be understood readily, that it held hidden meaning. To the day Camilla Constantina had died, just two weeks ago, the fortune had not changed. Nor had the meaning become clear. Holly had been taking it literally from the first time she’d fallen in love. At nineteen. Then again at twenty-four. And yet again two years ago, at twenty-eight, when she fell in love with John Reardon.

Because she couldn’t, wouldn’t serve lamb intestines to a guy she was crazy about, she’d wait until she knew she was losing him, knew from the way he stopped holding her gaze, started being impatient, started being unavailable. And unkind.

And so to console herself that this man was not her Great Love, she would serve him the sa cordula as an appetizer—a small portion so as not to tip the scales in her favor (who would like a big portion of sheep guts?). And each time, bittersweet success. The love she was losing was not her Great Love. He was just a guy who didn’t like sa cordula—and didn’t love her. It made it easier when he broke up with her.

This time, though, this love, was different. Despite John’s pulling away. Despite his impatience. Despite the way he stopped calling her at midnight to tell her he loved her and wish her sweet dreams. She loved John Reardon. She wanted to marry John Reardon, this man she’d fallen for on a solo vacation to San Francisco, where she’d gone to get over a lesser love. This man she’d stayed for, uprooting herself from Boston, hoping to finally find her . . . destiny, what she was meant to do with her life. And she thought she’d found it in this mini family of two. She wanted to spend the rest of her life baking cookies with Lizzie every other weekend during the child’s visitation with her father; she wanted to shampoo those golden curls, push her on swings, and watch her grow. Everyone, namely her mother, had told her she was crazy for dating a newly divorced man with a kid. But Holly adored Lizzie, loved almost-stepmotherhood. And she loved John enough to wait. Though the past few months, he’d stopped referring to “some day” altogether.

And the past few weeks, he was more distant than ever. They always got together on Wednesday nights, so there Holly was, changing Lizzie into her favorite Curious George pajamas after her bath while John avoided Holly. He was on his cell phone (first with his brother, then with his boss), texting a client, emailing a file, looking for Lizze’s favorite Hello Kitty cup. He was everywhere but next to Holly.

She sat on the brown leather sofa in the living room, Lizzie cross-legged next to her as Holly combed her long, damp, honey-colored curls and sang the ABC song. Lizzie knew all her letters except for LMNOP, which she combined into “ellopy.” Usually when Holly gave Lizzie her bath before dinner and brushed out her beautiful hair and sang silly nursery rhymes that made Lizzie giggle or they got to the “ellopy,” John would stand there with that expression, the one that always assured Holly he loved her, that he was deeply touched at how close she and his daughter were. That one day, some day, maybe soon, he would ask her to marry him. And that this wish she walked around with, slept with every night and woke up with every morning would come true.

This wasn’t a fairy tale, though, and Holly knew in her heart that John wasn’t going to propose. Not in the near future and probably not ever. She knew this with 95 percent certainty, even though she wasn’t psychic like her grandmother.

But how was she supposed to give up on John? Give up on what she wanted so badly? To marry this man, be this child’s stepmother, and start a new life here in this little pale blue house on a San Francisco hill? Yes, things were strained between her and John, though she wasn’t sure why. But that didn’t mean things could not be unstrained. A long-term relationship went through lulls. This was a lull, perhaps.

There was only one way to know.

And so, when Lizzie was occupied with her coloring book and a new pack of Crayolas, Holly went heavy-hearted into the kitchen to make the dinner she’d promised Lizzie, cheeseburgers in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head (the only food she cooked really well) and to heat up the Great Love test. With the cheeseburgers in front of them all, a side of linguini for Lizzie in butter sauce with peas (which looked a bit like the sa cordula) and two small plates of sa cordula before her and John, Holly sat down beside this pair she loved so much—and waited.

If John liked the sa cordula, she could relax, accept what he said, that he was just “tired, distracted by work.” Etcetera, etcetera. He was her Great Love. If he didn’t like it, then what? No, she wouldn’t let herself go there. Her breath caught somewhere in her body as John placed his napkin on his lap and picked up his fork, eyeing the sa cordula. In one moment, everything between them would change because of hope or lack thereof, and yet John looked exactly the same as he always did, sitting there at the dinner table in front of the bay window, so handsome, his thick sandy-blond hair hand-swept back from his face, the slight crinkles at the edges of his hazel eyes, the chiseled jawline with its slight darkening of five o’clock shadow.

Holly sucked in a quiet breath and took the quickest bite, keeping her expression neutral—despite the gritty, slimy texture of the sa cordula. The intestines of a lamb did not taste “just like chicken.” Did not taste like anything but what it looked like. Savory butter sauce or not. And as if the peas could help.

John forked a bite and stared at it for a moment. “What is this again?” he asked.

“An old-world Italian dish my nonna sometimes makes,” Holly said, trying not to stare at his fork.

Lizzie twirled her fork in her linguini the way Holly had taught her. “I wish I had a nonna.

“You do, pumpkin,” Holly said, treasuring the idea of Camilla Constantina showing Lizzie how to roll out pasta with a tiny rolling pin. “You have two. Your mom’s mother and your dad’s mother.”

“But if you and Daddy get married, then I’ll have a nonna Holly too.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Holly smiled. John stiffened. Lizzie twirled her linguini.

And then, as if in slow motion, John slid the fork of lamb intestines, topped with one pea, into his mouth. He paled a bit, his entire face contorting. He spit it out into his napkin. “I’m sorry, Holly, but this is the most disgusting thing I ever ate. No offense to your grandmother.”

Or me, she thought, her heart breaking.

Maybe her grandmother was wrong.

But forty minutes later, after Holly had helped Lizzie brush her teeth, pulled the comforter up over her chest, read half of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and then kissed the sleeping girl’s green-apple-scented head, John had come right out and said it. That he was sorry, it-wasn’t-her-it-was-him, that despite not meaning to, he’d fallen in love with his administrative assistant, and she had a young son, so they really understood each other. And no, he didn’t think it was a good idea if Holly continued to see Lizzie, even once a month for a trip to the playground or for ice cream. “She’s four, Holl. She’ll forget about you in a couple of weeks. Let’s not complicate anything, okay?”

Holly wanted to complicate things. She wanted to complicate this whole breakup. And so she pleaded her case, reminded him of their two years together, of Lizzie’s attachment to her, of the plans they’d made for the future. Which, Holly had had to concede, had dwindled to maybe going to the San Francisco Zoo the weekend after next. And when he just stood there, not saying anything and taking a sideways glance at the clock, she realized he was waiting for her to leave so he could call his new girlfriend and tell her he’d finally done it, he’d dumped Holly.

As if in slow motion, Holly went into the bathroom, afraid to look at him, afraid to look at anything, lest she start screaming like a lunatic. She closed the door and slid down against the back of it, covering her face with her hands as she cried. She sucked in a deep breath, then forced herself up to splash water on her face. She looked in the mirror over the sink, at the dark brown eyes, the dark brown hair, and the fair skin, so like her grandmother’s, and told herself, He’s not your great love. He’s not meant to be. It was little consolation.

And what if he had liked the sa cordula? Then what? How could she fight for a great love with someone who’d said he didn’t love her as easily as he’d said the sa cordula was disgusting?

After a gentle yet impatient, “Holly, you can’t stay in there all night,” she came out of the bathroom. He handed her a shopping bag of her possessions he’d clearly packed earlier that day in anticipation of dumping her—a few articles of clothing and her toothbrush, and again said he was sorry, that he never wanted to hurt her. And then she stood in the doorway of Lizzie’s room, watching the girl’s slight body rise and fall with each sleeping breath.

“Good-bye, sweet girl,” she whispered. “I’ll bet if I’d given you a taste of the sa cordula, you would have asked for another.”

© 2010 melissa senate

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 40 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 3, 2011

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    A Pleasant Summertime Read

    This novel begins with a painful loss but is really about friendship, forgiveness, finding connections and yes, even love. It was an easy read, pulling on the heartstrings without being maudlin or overly sentimental. I particularly liked the way the recipes were woven into the actual narrative instead of used as introductions or set apart in some way. The Love Goddess' Cooking School made my weekend fly by, and really, what more can you ask of a novel on a hot July weekend?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

    A good read

    I loved the story but got tired of the flash backs especially when I knew how the story would go. I also do not like books that give the recipes throughout but it was written during a time when this was the "it" thing with publishers. But, oncw you accept these, you move along with a really nice story. A good read for a rainy weekend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Good read - Made me hungry

    I devoured this book in about two days, it was a cute story and I liked the way she carried out the cooking scenes. The story didn't get bogged down in the relationship dramas, thankfully, which helped make it a quick and delicious read.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    4 1/2 stars - loved it!

    At the beginning of The Love Goddess' Cooking School, Holly Maguire gets dumped by her boyfriend (manfriend?) of two years. She sees it coming, so she gives it one last shot. She feeds him the special (gross) Italian meal her grandmother assures her will be enjoyed by her true love. When he tells her it's disgusting, she knows deep down it's over, even if she doesn't want it to be. Heartbroken, she goes to visit her grandmother on Blue Crab Island to mend her heart and take stock of her life.

    A few short weeks after her arrival, her grandmother dies, leaving her Camilla's Cucinotta, her grandmother's home/kitchen where she sells authentic Italian cooking and tells fortunes. Holly isn't much of a cook and definitely does not have the gift of fortune telling, but she decides she feels like she's home and wants to make a go of the Cucinotta, starting by taking over the cooking classes that start in a month.

    This book was absolutely wonderful. I completely lost myself in reading the story - I imagined myself there on the tiny island, stopping in the store looking for delicious Italian take-out, sitting on the dock looking over the water, visiting the picturesque hotel. The characters were inviting -I hate cooking but I wanted to be a part of Holly's cooking class! There was more than one storyline, but Ms. Senate did a fabulous job of not letting the others overshadow Holly's story - it was more of a blend, and it worked. The wishes and dreams of the Holly's friends that are revealed over the backdrop of cooking were sometimes happy, sometimes sad, but somehow made me feel like part of the group.

    Here are some of the things that surprised me:
    ~I don't normally like kids in books - but Mia was adorable. Not obnoxious and I actually liked her and wanted good things for her.

    ~I don't normally like "flashbacks", but I found myself wanting more of Holly's grandmother's diary entries - how she came over from Italy and the local women didn't like her, how she became the local "witch", how she knew her daughter would never be happy on Blue Crab Island but even before Holly was born she knew her granddaughter would call it home.

    ~I don't normally read "chick lit", but the cover blurb caught my attention and the writing kept my attention. This book made me want to do something I absolutely never do - I wanted to skip ahead and read the back page to find out if she trusted in her Grandmother's memory enough to overcome her fear and feed Liam the sa cordula.

    After gorging myself on paranormal and urban fantasy over the last few weeks, this book was a breath of fresh air. Don't get me wrong, it was not all sunshine and happiness; because as we all know, you have to go through the hard times to appreciate the good times. I enjoyed taking this journey with Holly. The ending was a bit abrubt but that's my only complaint.

    If you like to cook, there are 5 recipes included in the book, and they all include the "special ingredient" (don't even go there - you know who you are!) that is a theme throughout the book.

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  • Posted January 19, 2011

    Easy, entertaining read!

    When Holly Maguire's grandmother Camilla passes away Holly inherits her famed cooking school, pasta take-out shop, and fortune-telling legacy. The biggest problem is that Holly can't cook. Ever since she almost killed her grandmother with food poisoning she has been unable to create the magical dishes. Her next problem is her seriously failing love life. Camilla foretold that Holly's true love would eat sa cordula, but every man Holly falls for hates the Italian delicacy. If she can't cook and can't even understand her own fortune how can she save Camilla's Cucinotta?

    The Love Goddess' Cooking School is a sweet and entertaining read, perfect for the January doldrums. The food descriptions hit the spot and I especially loved that many scenes of Holly learning to cook, and often failing miserably, were included. The supporting characters were interesting without being overly cutesy and twelve year old Mia stole the story for me. The plot could have been a little less predictible, but overall this easy, entertaining read was satisfying.

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  • Posted October 28, 2010

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    Bridget's Review

    It took me a little while to get into this book. I don't know if it was the actual book or if I just had too much on my mind. Anyway, after I was about a third through it, I found myself engrossed in the book. FYI, if you like italian food, this book will make you hungry. The plot was good and I really liked the character, especially Camilla. When you're looking for a good romance to curl up with on the couch, this is the book you're looking for. Just make sure you have some pasta on hand.

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  • Posted October 26, 2010

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    This was my first taste of reading a book by Melissa Senate. I have to say she has the recipe for a great, feel good story down to a tee! From page one this book had me! The book starts off with Holly making sa cordula otherwise known as lamb intestines to her boyfriend of two years. If he doesn't like it, it means he is not the love of her life according to her grandmother. Of course he hates it and Holly goes home to Maine to be with her grandmother. When her grandmother passes, Holly takes over her business teaching Italian cooking. One problem..Holly can't cook. Holly soon learns that there is more to cooking than following a recipe. She learns more about her grandmother through her grandmother's diaries. Holly's students each have their own story also. I like when secondary characters are given a side storyline. It gives them a life, I think. Makes them a bit more real. I became involved in their stories as well as Holly's. I loved Holly and her grandmother. They had a very special relationship and it was heartwarming to read about. Will Holly be able to keep her grandmother's business going? Will she ever find a man who likes sa cordula? Melissa Senate even included some recipes from the class in the back of the book which I hope to soon try out. If you read this book you will want to try them out too. I was wishing I could reach into the book during the cooking classes and sample the recipes myself except of course for the sa cordula. This book is one that will leave you feeling good and fulfilled at the end. I absolutely adored this book! If you like a warm, charming story than this is the book for you. It is as comforting as the food that was made in the book.

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