Saturday, March 13, 2021

Weekend Cooking: A New York Secret by Ella Carey

I have read a number of Ella Carey books over the last year or so, and I have liked them all, but this one is, in my opinion, her best yet, at least of the ones that I have read.

Lily Rose has grown up in a privileged world. Her mother has her life all planned out for her. She will marry the perfect man who happens to be well connected and wealthy, and most importantly from the right family.  There is only one problem. Lily's passion is for cooking and she loves her job as a sous chef at Valentinos, a prestigious New York restaurant, and she really doesn't want the life that her mother has planned for her which causes conflict between them. 

It's 1942 and one by one the men who work in the kitchen get called up, leaving the owner no choice but to look for other options to keep the restaurant running. With the death of the head chef, Valentino's owner, Giorgio gives his three best prospects the opportunity to lead the restaurant. This puts Lily up against Tom Morelli, and Martine, a woman who is talented in the kitchen but who Lily has struggled to connect with on a personal level. The fact Lily is attracted to Tom only complicates matters as their is no way her snobbish mother will ever accept someone like Tom for her daughter.

For whoever is successful there are challenging time ahead of them. The war is starting to have an impact. Petrol shortages, not to mention how challenging it is to get coffee, and good quality ingredients. And then there is the fact that the men who are left behind won't want to work for a woman. And then there is the big question of whether the people of New York will continue to come to the restaurant if they know that a woman is the head chef.

Lily's relationship with Tom is central to the sotry, especially once he too is drafted and their relationship has to continue to develop through letters, until they too stop. As Lily bonds with his mother, and in turn his mother bonds with Lily's grandmother (who is a wonderful character) she builds a life that she could only have imagined before the war. Now all she needs is for Tom to come home. 

As the war continues yet more women join the team who I imagine will become the characters in the next books in the series, and I am looking forward to reading more.

Whereas some of Carey's other books have been about art, this one is jam packed with food references. From truly decadent meals, to cakes and pastries, to delicious Italian food. Where this book steps away is that the author isn't afraid to explore the shortages that the war inevitably brings with it. Lily is fundamental to coming up with new ideas for the restaurant, ranging from how to use a Victory Garden to provide vegetables to how you can use the ingredients that wouldn't normally see light of day in a fancy restaurant.

There were so many passages that I could have shared but in the end I decided on a passage from early in the book as the threat of shortages takes hold.

"All the talk this morning at the deli was of meat rationing starting next year," Tom said, eyeing the produce stalls. "It made me wonder whether Paddy Jackson will really be able to cover for Valentino's."

"I've been thinking about the sugar problem too," Lily said, slipping back into talk of restaurants and produce easily with him. Giorgio says that sugar from Hawaii and the Philippines isn't coming through anymore, and our signature desserts are going to be even more challenged. And then there's coffee. But yes, I fear our main problem will be lack of meat, no matter how loyal Paddy is to Giorgio, and no matter how determined Georgia is to keep things going."

Tom stepped aside to let Lily pass by and elderly couple and then pulled her arm back towards him, his fingers flickering against Lily's, sending a thrill through her insides.

"This morning," he said, moving on again, her hand still tucked in the crook of his arm, "my mom and I were talking about using more processed meat at Albertina's to make up for the shortages. Hot dogs. Sausages. My mom is experimenting with different types of sausages at the deli, using herbs. How we convince the Valentino's clientele to take on processed meat is a different matter."

Lily looked  up at him. "Can you imagine Giorgio allowing sausages at Valentino's? How adorable for the illustrious clientele."

Tomm grinned, coming to a  stop opposite Albertina's, its picture window filled with displays of olives and hams, prosciutto and yellow and white cheeses. "We Sicilians know how to make the best out of any situation," he said, a twinkle in his eyes "We can conjure something out of nothing. Come on inside.

Book Description:

She looked at the telegram in horror, the words blurring in front of her eyes. She dropped to her knees, feeling that her entire world was ending. The paper slipped from her hands as she put her head in hands, sobs wracking her chest…

1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: the love of her wealthy uptown parents in their beautiful brownstone overlooking the park and her dream job as a chef at one of New York’s finest restaurants, the art deco dream that is Valentino’s. But in her heart, Lily is drawn towards the bohemian Sicilian community in Greenwich Village, where gorgeous fresh fruit spills onto the pavement and the smell of freshly baked cannoli tempt her inside every Italian deli.

Part of the attraction is Tom Morelli, talented chef and handsome grandson of Sicilian immigrants, whose deep brown eyes call to her and set her heart on fire. As wartime rationing bites in the city, Lily and Tom stay up late, dreaming up delicious meals that will see Valentino’s through the war and distract New Yorkers from the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up. Lily knows he has found the key to her heart.

Then Tom receives a devastating summons that changes everything: he is drafted to Italy. He must return to his beautiful homeland to fight a desperate war.

Suddenly alone, with only the memory of Tom’s last kiss, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about her relationship, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, raise children and never work again. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom and give up her job or lose her family and inheritance forever.

Lily knows she must follow her heart to Valentino’s and to Tom. But when Tom is declared missing in action, Lily is totally heartbroken. If she pursues her dreams, will there be anything left for her when the war is over?

From top-ten bestseller Ella Carey comes an utterly heartbreaking historical novel, inspired by true events, about the courage, love and friendships that sustain us in the darkest of days. Fans of Fiona Davis, Rhys Bowen and The Nightingale will be captivated.

Author Bio:

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.

Ella loves to connect with her readers regularly through her facebook page and on her website.

Buy Link:

Thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for the review copy of this book

Weekly meals

Saturday: Out for dinner
Sunday: Nothing
Monday: Takeaway
Tuesday: Beef Rendang with rice and naan bread
Wednesday: Chicken parma
Thursday: Nasi Goreng
Friday: Sausages with Ratatouille

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


  1. I love novels that put food center stage.

  2. I love the sound of this book and if it’s a series I’m all in. I sometimes have difficulties finding Australian authored books where I live but I’ll definitely be looking
    Hoping to linkup for WC later, I’m camping right now!

    1. I was going to say Ella Carey's books are all published by Bookouture so you should be able to get them pretty easily.

  3. So, I'm back! I'm linking Papa Rellenas, a good Cuban dish I love. Also, I bought that Ella Carey book on Amazon, thank you for the recommendation!

  4. Sounds like an amusing mash-up of Australia and New York, like calling it Petrol. Thanks for hosting once again!

    best... mae at

    1. Oops....that was probabably me mentioning petrol rather than gas!lol

  5. Book does sound good, I am adding to my library wish list.

  6. I too am adding this to my list.

  7. Me too! I remember my Grandmother and her wonderful candy recipes she made using the sugar ration coupons during the war to earn some needed cash! Enjoy your week ahead, take care.

  8. This sounds like a book I would definitely enjoy.

    1. I hope you do enjoy it if you read it Diane!