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The Marriage Test    by Betina Krahn order for
Marriage Test
by Betina Krahn
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Orphaned at age ten, Julia of Childress is delivered to the Convent of the Brides of Virtue. Under the guidance (and eagle eye) of the formidable Abbess, Julia is assigned to work in the kitchens and there discovers her true calling. Julia's culinary creations soon rival those of France's most celebrated chefs.

When a pair of knights stop at the Convent for food and shelter and sample her fare, they feel it's their duty to report their findings to their lord. Griffin de Grandaise's kitchens have been without a proper chef for much too long. After discovering for himself that the convent's cook is indeed as talented as his men claim, Griffin strikes a bargain with the Abbess: he'll pay a steep fee and in exchange will secure Julia's services for one year, after which he'll personally return her to the convent to take her vows.

Julia is annoyed that no one bothered to consult her about her future. She has no desire to return to the convent and take her vows. All she's ever wanted is a husband and a real home. She soon realizes that being assigned to the de Grandaise kitchens could be her salvation and that she might well have found her true place in life. But it takes considerable doing and plenty of cooking to convince the surly Griffin de Grandaise that she possesses many other enticing qualities in addition to her talents in his kitchens.

This 3rd in Betina Krahn's charming 'Sisters of Virtue' series again blends wonderful characterizations, fine plotting and the author's flair for painting the time period into a wonderful and often amusing story. The old adage 'the way to a manís heart is through his stomach' rings true in this zesty tale. According to Krahn's Afterward, the palate of the High Middle Ages was very partial to flaky pastries, pasties, pies (both meat and fruit), and many other tempting and intricate delicacies that were surely the forerunners of today's haute cuisine.

Krahn does a fine job of incorporating these sumptuous recipes into the plot development. She even injects an amusing scene that involves truffles and a family of pet pigs, who sniff them out and save the day, making The Marriage Test a truly mouth watering romance.

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