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Texas Cooking    by Lisa Wingate order for
Texas Cooking
by Lisa Wingate
Order:  USA  Can
Onyx, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Soon after newspaper reporter Colleen "Collie" Collins was fired from her D.C. job after refusing to lie under oath during a libel trial, her boyfriend of six years broke up with her. She languishes on the couch for weeks feeling sorry for herself, until her college roommate Laura calls with the offer of a job. The only catch is the task itself - writing a series of articles on Texas cooking for Southern Woman magazine. Collie considers this fluff compared to the business articles she is used to writing, but finally agrees to go forward, with a trip to Texas for research.

Stumbling her way to San Saline, she encounters a series of obstacles. Horror stories about rattlesnakes scare her, and then her rental car breaks down at night outside a tractor dealership in the middle of nowhere. With no cell phone service, a non-functional car, and no one in sight, Collie is at her wit's end, when True McKitrick shows up and helps out. The Hawthorne House Bed and Breakfast is a breath of fresh air, complete with Southern hospitality. There's a hilarious turn of events the next morning, and Collie is introduced to many residents of the town, all with stories to tell about food, family, and friendship.

As the days pass, Collie finds herself more at home than she believed possible. Writing about her experiences is 'like opening a treasure chest filled with wonderful stories and endless possibilities.' Collie and True grow closer, helping each other through funny and frustrating incidents. True enjoys seeing this 'city girl' blunder her way through small town life, and Collie rolls her eyes at True's ignorance of what she considers the 'real world.' But what is True hiding behind his 'aw-shucks' demeanor? When Collie is summoned back to D.C. to give interviews about a big scandal, she quickly falls back into her old lifestyle. Is there hope for Collie and True, or is their relationship doomed because they come from two different worlds?

This is another finely crafted winner from consummate storyteller Lisa Wingate. It's rich in description and memorable characters, full of delicious humor and charm. Collie and True have a wonderful romance, yet both their pasts keep creeping into the idyllic present. Collie is a feisty go-getter, who comes to discover her softer side. True has hardened his cowboy heart, only to have Collie surprisingly break through. The stories told by the different people of the town, and the vivid descriptions of food make Texas Cooking something to savor. I found myself writing different quotes in my journal to ponder over later, thoughts about friendship, life, and love.

The political storyline toward the end seemed out of place and detracted from the heart-warming story for me, with too much time spent on descriptions of the scandal, which didn't add to the plot. But as a whole, Texas Cooking is one of the best love stories I have read this year, one that kept me devouring pages late into the night.

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