The Ninth Ingredient by Leon Mauvais

This short novella undoubtedly could have befitted from a longer length, and less elaboration on certain scene descriptions.

What’s it About? 

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The Renaissance has invaded France! When a Medici princess lands with her army of Italian bakers, the royal kitchens of Fontainebleau erupt into chaos.

The Italians serve up something new, gelato, a dessert so fashionable, so chilled, it captures the tongues of the French court. The French bakers are left scrambling. Henri, a young apprentice, is tasked with discovering the secret recipe.

But when he falls for its maker, things heat up beyond the hearth. Is he willing to betray his new love for a list of ingredients? Espionage has never tasted sweeter!

First Impressions

Henri wasn’t a terribly like-able character in the beginning. Considering how short this novella is at just 98 pages, when you think of the “beginning” of the story we’re essentially dealing with a rather large portion of it. He has a false sense of superiority over his fellow apprentices in the Fontainebleau kitchens. When our novella opens he seems confident that his culinary creations will soon have him rise to the position of personal pâtissier of the king. However, as things progress we see that his culinary prowess is less than spectacular. Let’s just say he wouldn’t last very long in a taping of the Great British Bake Off. He’s quick to criticize and humiliate his fellow apprentices, even giving them derogatory nicknames. However, we soon learn that this criticism has nothing to do with their own lack of skills, but rather speaks more to Henri’s own personal doubts of his abilities, not to mention his desperation to move up in the hierarchy of the kitchens.

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Enter the Italian Gelato Maker

Henri makes one too many faux pas to the point where the continuation of his apprenticeship is on the line. He is given one week to steal the recipe for gelato, the creation of an Italian baker/alchemist. 9 ingredients for this delectable dessert are all that seemingly stand between Henri and achieving his ultimate dreams of rising in the ranks. A romance soon develops between Henri and this Italian baker, and while certainly intriguing, I was ultimately left wanting for more between these two bakers. Firstly, they don’t really talk much. There’s certainly a language barrier between the two, but it seems like they’re quickly smitten with each other in spite of not really knowing anything about the other. In addition, while we eventually discover that our gelato maker was aware of Henri’s attempt at thievery for some time, we never really see them discuss this deceit, nor the fact that it could be brushed aside without issue.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: The foundations for an interesting story of romance were certainly all there in terms of espionage, lustful attraction, and infiltrating an enemy’s kitchen in pursuit of personal gains. However, more attention and editing was needed to bring it all together into a cohesive read. There were several scenes which were excessively poetic and flowery in their description to the point that it was difficult to understand what was actually being discussed in terms of the plot. I would often find myself re-reading paragraphs a few times, and having to continue on with a mere hope that I understood what was happening. Then on the flip-side when it came to the romance developing between Henri and the Italian, there was a lack of description to the point where it’s hard to tell what it was that made these two men fall into each other’s arms beyond just mere attraction. Or perhaps that’s really all there was to their relationship? Hard to tell! I’ll tell ya one thing though, it certainly had me craving gelato and other sweet treats!

Smut Level: This was another area that was kind of bizarre. Some kind of winged contraption is used to restrain Henri and keep him elevated off the ground. The fact that it has birds wings, a mask, and multiple cranks made it kind of hard to follow along with what it actually looked like.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. JMS Books LLC. 98 Pages

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