The Kitchen Front

BOOK REVIEW

The Kitchen Front is a wonderful book which feels like a World War II based combination of Downton Abbey and the Great British Baking Show. In Fenley Village, England, 1942, Ambrose Hart is reluctantly looking for a radio cohost. His bosses have decided they want a local woman who can help listeners find the best uses for their food rations. A cooking contest begins, and the winner will be Ambrose’s co-host on The Kitchen Front radio show. The four contestants are Audrey, who is trying to raise three sons and wallowing in a mountain of debt, Nell, a kitchen maid who is tired of her poor treatment, Lady Gwendoline Strickland, the haughty grand lady of the manor, who is both Nell’s boss and Audrey’s sister, and Zelda Dupont, an English girl turned London-based French chef who has been forced to cook in a British factory and is not happy about it. As the show progresses, each woman’s life begins to change forever.

I immediately connected with the characters and the story. The “upstairs/downstairs,” “Downton Abbey” type relationship is demonstrated by Lady Gwendoline, Sir Strickland, and their cooks and other staff. The radio show cooking contest reminds me of a World War II radio version of the Great British Baking Show. For the contest, each contestant has to provide a starter, a main dish, and a dessert, all on different episodes of the show. All of the recipes for the contest, plus others mentioned in the story, are included in the book. We are given a window into each contestant’s life, both before and during the contest. Audrey is a grieving war widow. Gwendoline is a neglected wife of a strict and domineering nobleman. Zelda is pregnant and abandoned by the child’s father, and Nell is a young girl who wants to get out of the bonds of service. Interesting tidbits about food and history are included, such as why British sausages are called “bangers,” and how some villagers would run to “Anderson shelters,” to escape the bombings. We even get a little education on World War II era planes. I enjoyed every minute of this book, read it in one day, and will read it again. 

If you love cooking and cooking shows, World War II fiction, and strong female characters, you will enjoy this book.

The Kitchen Front will be released on February 23, 2021. I highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is the author of National Bestseller THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR, THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE, and THE KITCHEN FRONT. Her writing has featured in Literary Hub, Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, The Daily Mail, The Irish Times, The Express, BBC Online, YOU Magazine, The Simple Things Magazine, and Good Reading Magazine. Previously a book editor with The Economist, DK, and the BBC, she moved from London to Washington, DC after marrying, and she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. Her novels are inspired by her grandmother’s tales of the war in Britain.

JENNIFER RYAN’S WEBSITE

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(Released February 23, 2021)

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A Castaway in Cornwall

It is 1812, and Laura Callaway feels like a castaway in Cornwall, where she lives with her uncle and his somewhat disapproving wife. Missing her parents, who are presumed dead, Laura has found solace and purpose in searching the shores after shipwrecks. She finds and collects lost belongings and attempts to return them to the families of their departed owners. She does this under the disapproving eye of the Wreckers, men who try to seize and sell the cargo of wrecked ships, despite laws to the contrary. When a stranger is washed ashore, the Wreckers want to kill him, but Laura saves him too. However, she begins to have questions as more lost items turn up. Can this stranger be trusted?

This is a wonderful, well-researched book by Julie Klassen. The laws and practices surrounding wrecked ships of the time were fascinating. Klassen also provides tidbits of Cornish history, mythology, and practices at the beginning of each chapter. The characters sometimes converse in the old Cornish language. Legendary wrecker Tom Parsons is a major character in this novel, and the Napoleonic wars play a part. The romance is well written, and there is a Christian theme of forgiveness throughout the book.

As always, Julie Klassen transports the reader directly into the time period and setting, and we leave not only with a great story, but having gained new knowledge of that time and place. I would recommend this to any fan of historical fiction and romance.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

UPDATE: A Castaway in Cornwall comes out today, December 1, 2020!

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Link to Julie Klassen’s website

Link to my Goodreads review