The Ingredients of Bliss … Hot, Sexy, and a cracking yarn to boot
I’ve read a couple of other stories by Lisabet Sarai so I embarked on The Ingredients of Bliss expecting her hallmark stellar writing and elegant characterisation. I was not disappointed.
Mei Lee (Emily) is a feisty, sensuous heroine, a skilled professional on the threshold of what promises to be a glittering career as a celebrity chef. Her Dominant lover, Harry, is a subtle blend of mischievous companion and stern Master. Not a cook himself, Harry still manages to cater superbly to Emily’s submissive nature. He recognises her attraction to her on-screen boss Etienne almost before she does, and encourages her – no, scrub that, instructs her – to pursue it.
The result is a fascinating blend of subtle and complex dynamics as the three of them develop their ménage relationship. Emily’s Domme instincts are revealed, and perhaps no one is more surprised than she is as she puts Etienne through his paces. In one fabulous scene she is playing both top and bottom, and the emotional gymnastics are beautifully described.
Throughout the scenes between the three main characters their professional/public relationships are at odds with their personal roles. Once out of the public eye Etienne desires nothing more than to drop to his knees and obey his Mistress. On-screen he is the glowing celebrity, barking our instructions to his hapless staff. Except for Emily of course. He wouldn’t dare.
For much of the story Emily is conflicted about the complicated threesome she has allowed herself to be drawn into, unsure of just how she feels about each of her lovers. Her relationship with Etienne has been largely orchestrated by Harry. She had thought Harry her one and only, but her uncertainties are showing as the story gathers pace. This comes into sharp focus for her towards the end, and she is left in no doubt where her affections lie.
This is a book of two halves. The first half focuses on the complicated dynamics between three sensual individuals as they explore their secret desires, pushing back the boundaries to discover how far it takes them. The sex is hot, inventive, and kept me awake a night or two.
About half way through though the story suddenly shifts. Both Emily’s lovers are kidnapped, the French police seem worse than useless, so it falls to her to rescue them. She embarks on a dangerous game as she negotiates with Chinese and French drug barons, seeking to play them off against each other. Her own life, and those of the men she adores, are at stake. Here we see another side to Emily. Her cunning, ruthless streak emerges, and I think this is perhaps the Emily I enjoyed the most.
Pushy, determined, inventive, courageous, Emily is everything I love in a heroine. She does what she has to do, and finds some unexpected allies on the way. No spoilers here, but I do like it when a baddie turns out to be, well, not quite what I expected.
The story is played out against a backdrop of high-end cooking. The author’s own culinary knowledge and love of food is evident throughout. The context is authentic, convincing, and by way of a bonus to the sexy characters and fast-paced plot offered an enjoyable insight into the world of haute cuisine and celebrity chefery.
If you like your erotic romance hot, but cleverly constructed and probing below the surface lust to expose the emotions and vulnerabilities lurking beneath, The Ingredients of Bliss is for you. I highly recommend it.