Title: A Little Bite of Magic
Author: M.J. O’Shea
Cover Artist: Kalen O’Donnell
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Paranormal
Length: Novella (104 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Witchy-foodie goodness with some issues for me
In a family full of powerful witches, Frankie Vallerand is the black sheep. He doesn’t care about honing his magic. All he wants is to open up a restaurant and spend his days serving up delicious food. But when he sees a customer crying and wishes for her to be happy, he inadvertently transforms his old wooden soup spoon into a wand, and realizes that maybe a little bit of kitchen magic is just what his customers need.
Addison Allbright is The Phantom Foodie, an anonymous food critic notorious for his scathing reviews. For most people, being paid to eat would be a dream job. Not for Addison. He doesn’t care for overpriced designer food. He’s a tea and toast kind of guy. Until both the food and the owner of L’Osteria Di Pomodoro sweep him off his feet and throw his neat, orderly life completely off-kilter.
Frankie isn’t sure how to tell Addison he’s a witch, or that he charmed Addison’s food the night they first met, without sounding totally crazy. But little does he know that Addison has secrets too. Not only did he snark Frankie’s restaurant in his last review column, he’s also engaged to be married…to a woman.
This book was previously published by another publisher. It’s been rewritten and re-edited for this version.
I’m a big fan of this author’s writing, so when I saw that she released (or, more accurately, re-wrote, -edited and -released) a story surrounding food set in San Francisco, I was totally on board. Throw in some witchy action and I’m loving it more. A Little Bite of Magic hit a lot of my buttons and was a fun, quick read overall, but I had a few niggles that prevented me from rating it higher than I did. More on that later, though.
Let’s talk about what worked for me first:
First, there’s the food. Nuff said.
Second was the restaurant. I was all over that and wish that it really was in SF ‘cause I’d totally brave the Bridge to eat there. And if I were to open my own place, it would be essentially the kind Frankie created: single-item, prix fixe menu daily. I can see it now: down-to-earth simple pastas and soups and stews and casseroles and salads and…just yum. I lost myself in this part of the story.
Frankie. Loved. Him. Loved how he thought about food and making his meals. Loved that his wand was his wooden spoon (only thing better would have been a whisk). Loved the continual accidental magic:
Frankie hadn’t been expecting it, and it tickled. He giggled and jumped. A tingle went down his arm, through the spoon, and into the sauce he was stirring.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I really liked that the author didn’t have them jumping right into bed, and any book that has the first date (or ten) be a kiss-fest, I’m going to positively call it out.
I had two big issues, one of which blew my niggle-meter off the scale and brought the rating down one full star because of it: the female characters. All three prominent women in this story were total, irredeemable, very black and white bitches. I loathed them – and it wasn’t a “love to hate them” kind of feeling that sometimes you get from the baddies in stories. They were “I want to punch you in the face” emotions that made me tense up when they appeared on page, causing me to lose the relaxing, feel-good vibe I was getting from the rest of the tale. The fiancée? Should have been kicked to the curb long before the story even started. The mothers? I would have disowned them. I kept hoping that at least one of them – though perhaps making the plot a bit predicable – would actually turn herself around and realize the error of her evil ways. Nope. And what I kept thinking was “this is totally unnecessary, there is no reason to make these women this way” and that I was surprised at O’Shea. While I can’t say that I’ve read everything she’s put out, I can’t remember her doing this before.
Second, I never warmed up to Addison. While I could see a change when he was with Frankie, for much of the story he is a doormat by his mother, his fiancée, his boss. We get an explanation as to why, but it just didn’t do it for me. He felt like a wimpy, weak, boring pushover, and even when he grows a pair, it was too late for me. I had no sympathy for him by that point and I couldn’t bring myself to care much.
Lastly – and this is less of a problem for me than the other two – I am on the fence about this situation with him and the fact that he is still technically engaged for some of the story while he is with Frankie. I think this is one of those times where it is a gray area, but those of you who will not read a story where one MC is committed – even reluctantly – and begins a relationship with a third, you will have problems here. For me, I look at it as a) it isn’t something he really wanted (but was too friggin’ wishy-washy to do anything about it), b) he did try to break it off (but was too friggin’ wishy-washy to push that it was a done deal), and c) he did break it off, but the biotches wouldn’t listen or accept it.
Looking for a cute, quick, food-filled read and don’t mind a doormat protag and annoying, hate-filled female characters (or can overlook them)? Try A Little Bite of Magic.