Cover Image: The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was a poignant and heartwarming culinary journey. There are elements of grief, community and love. The writing captured me at the beginning and infused me with warmth and emotion. Food connects us.
Many thanks to HarperCollins UK and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?

🎧Audiobook Review🎧


I want to thank NetGalley for approving me for an ARC of this book.

💞Starting Over

This was such a beautiful story that really tugged at my heartstrings. The multiple POV really brought the characters to life and I loved how entwined their lives became. The delicious recipes were the icing on the cake!


Was this review helpful?

Kate Shaw is angry with her life and her late husband for leaving her alone. She never resolved things with him and feels responsible for the accident that killed him. He was the chef of the family, she just used to sit in the kitchen and admire his skill. Unfortunately keeping busy at work hasn't helped her so she decides things have to change beginning with an attempt to cook something for herself. We follow Kate's journey, connecting to her neighbours and finding her way back. I really enjoyed reading this book.

Was this review helpful?

As I delved into the story, I found myself walking alongside Kate Shaw, our protagonist, lost in the depths of grief and guilt following a sudden upheaval in her life. The book is more than just a story; it's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love and compassion to heal. With its beautifully drawn characters and heartwarming narrative, this book left me feeling inspired and uplifted.

Was this review helpful?

The download date was unfortunately missed, I would be happy to re-review if it became available again. I have awarded stars for the book cover and description as they both appeal to me. I would be more than happy to re-read and review if a download becomes available. If you would like me to re-review please feel free to contact me at or via social media The_secret_bookreview (Instagram) or Secret_bookblog (Twitter). Thank you.

Was this review helpful?

I just adored this book! The characters, the storylines, the found family aspects, everything. The use of food as a tool to bring a whole community together was so creative and is such an integral way that we all use to connect and bond with others. I loved the way they all came together. Mary and Charles were such perfect characters too. I loved seeing their relationship and their commitment to and love for each other. It was incredibly moving.

This book had me so emotional in places. The exploration of love, of loss and of trauma was beautifully done. It’s so hard to express those feelings of loss and not being good enough at times and at times, it felt like I could have been reading passages from my own diaries over the years.

I loved it - all the stars! And I now want to make all the recipes!!

Was this review helpful?

A sweet story with sweet characters!

Kate Shaw is done being angry. She has quit her job as a teacher and has decided to finally use her kitchen to make pancakes. Her husband passed away three years earlier and she knows she needs to move forward. He was a great cook and she misses him dearly and all the special dishes he used to make for them.

While she's attempting to cook, someone knocks at her door. The old man's name is Charles and he tells her, her house used to be a tea place. His wife Mary and he used to enjoy many afternoons there. He wonders if she would cook something for his Mary. After talking with Charles for a while, Kate finds herself saying yes. She will cook scones for them.

Next, Kate bumps into her neighbor, Della. Della is divorced and her faithful companion is her dog. They start a conversation and soon Kate invites Della to the meal she is preparing for Mary and Charles.

During all these events, Kate keeps on running into another one of her neighbors, Jack. He has recently moved close by and their first few interactions weren't great. However, Kate soon learns what happened to Jack to make him react the way he did.

The Secret Ingredient gives us a little bit of everything. There is loss, there is sadness but there is also hope, friendship, and memories. Food is a great memory inducer. A certain food smell can trigger a wonderful memory of someone you loved who has cooked for you. A food memory can also be comforting. I know it happens to me when I get sick and I just want to smell my mother's chicken soup recipe.

I haven't tried any of the recipes in this book but I want to.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by One More Chapter via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

What a sweet story The secret ingredient was.
A village where everyone knows everyone, but maybe isn't aware of the heartache each of them experienced and still carries around with them.
Kate only lives in the village for some years, but had her share of life tragedy. Now new neighbour Jack arrived and things aren't going as smooth as you would like with a new neighbour. But nobody knows the secret Jack brought with him to join the group of life tragedies.
There is Delia and the old couple Charles and Mary. Charles forgets often things and mixes things up, especially when he starts talking to strangers. As Katy experiences when one day he stands at her door and she thinks he might soon be in need of an ambulance. But maybe it wasn't all as it seems, as soon a list of events starts to unfold and life takes a different path. One of friendship, lots of cooking, new experiences and love.
This is a sweet story, but one with strong and interesting characters which take you very quickly along with them and have you smile because of some phrase or a new experience not going that perfect!
I was not fully convinced when sighning up for the book, but intrigued enough. It turned out to be a beautiful story full of strenght that was needed for all of the story's characters. I love Charles in this story, but as well Delia, Mary....each character has its own ingredient to make a perfect friendship.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publishers for my copy of this heart-warming book.

The Secret Ingredient is a book filled with a concoction of emotions, with the story centring around friendship, love and loss/grief. The novel is written well and as a lover of food, I connected with it and the recipes it explores too!

A good book which I would recommend to others.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to netgalley for the chance to read this book.

My first read from this author and I was not disappointed.

Kate a widower of three years is planning on changing her life. She quits her teaching job and makes the decision to venture back into her late husband Eddie’s domain - the kitchen. She knows nothing about cooking but is determined to learn. Jack a chef who has been unable to work in a kitchen since his last episode of covid when he lost both his sense of taste and smell wants to lock himself away and never step foot in a kitchen again. When Kate and Jack meet through a circle of neighbours they help each other overcome their difficulties and move forward.

Was this review helpful?

Oh wow, this book hits hard and right from the beginning. I was ugly crying right from the first chapter. It took me longer to finish reading it since I had to be mindful of when I was reading since it just hit me in the feels so intensely. There was so much beauty and joy and grief and anguish and it was so perfectly written that your heart just broke and mended, over and over as you read. It's such a wonderful book about grief, guilt, healing, and found family and you'll fall in love with all of the characters in it's pages.

I felt like all of the characters were so well written and there were parts of each that I really connected with. I enjoyed the shifting perspective as well from chapter to chapter getting more insight into each person and their experiences. I think my favourite was Charles but I always have a soft spot for the sweet, old man in these books. He was endearing in his devotion and love for his wife but I also loved his mischievous side as he played matchmaker.

The whole recipe book idea was beautiful with each character bringing recipes into the book and sharing parts of their lives through the meals and foods that meant something to them. A wonderful reminder of how food can bring us together and how we make such strong memories on these special treats or meals.

I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?

Grab your tissues with this one! The characters throughout this book were so perfect. They brought you in, made you feel their love, and want to be at the table with them.

The way love, grief, and guilt were handle were relatable and raw. This was a beautiful book.

Was this review helpful?

Kate Shaw has decided after a long period of time to stop being angry at the world and step into her kitchen and attempt pancakes, with disastrous results but the tentative start of a culinary journey.

I loved the characters and felt they’re back stories were really lovingly developed, each and every one of them, the community feel to one street was wholesome and the recipes (definitely made note of a few!) sounded scrumptious, made my mouth water.

Wow what a novel, had me laughing, crying and gave me a sense of warm satisfaction at the end!

Was this review helpful?

I just adored Kate ❤️❤️this is such a touching and uplifting read that will resonate with readers of all ages. the exquisite prose and heartfelt storytelling make this novel a true gem, and ensure that it will be cherished by readers for years to come. Great story and great recipes and just a great book!!!

Was this review helpful?

A big warm hug in a book from. Lots of love for the recipes and the love of cooking that shined through this book. It will work a way into your heart and if like me you will speed read it.

Was this review helpful?

Reading The Secret Ingredient haas been just like being wrapped in a warm hug. Filled with tasty recipes, this book has had me itching to get into the kitchen and start baking. The recipes, while certainly an integral part of the book, are not the main feature. Here we have a group of people, all living on the same street, and all brought together through the course of the story by food. Kate is the central character. She is wracked with guilt and loss when the story opens, having been widowed three year earlier. In the time since her husband Eddie’s death, she’s thrown herself into work so she won’t have to deal with living without him, however she’s decided to stop teaching and take the time to come to grips with her life. Jack, a former chef who’s unable to continue with that career having lost his sense of taste courtesy of a virus, is nearly run over by Kate on the day he’s moving into a rental on her street. He’s decided that since he can no longer cook for a living, he’ll resume photography, which was a childhood passion. Despite their unauspicious meeting and some angry words, Kate and Jack slowly become friends. Charles is elderly and his wife Mary, the love of his life, is dying. They had their first date in Kate’s house decades earlier when it was a tea room and Charles is determined to relive those memories by taking Mary back there for tea and some cake. He arrives at Kate’s door, apparently elderly and confused, and ends up going in for a cup of tea. It’s clear Kate can’t cook; her kitchen is covered in flour and pancake batter after an unsuccessful attempt, so Charles offers his wife Mary as a baking tutor since she used to love baking but can no longer lift the pans thanks to arthritis. It’s not long before Kate, Mary and Charles become friends. Della is Kate’s neighbour. Like Kate, she’s suffered loss; her husband Justin left after thirty years of marriage and she’s riddled with shame. She’s a fabulous gardener and Kate meets her on a day when her new puppy has just dug up the plants she’s lovingly put in to mark the grave of her former dog. She too begins to join in the gatherings at Kate’s home and as time passes, the group become firm friends, each helping the other in different ways. This whole story made me smile again and again. It’s been emotionally engaging throughout and I’ve really loved reading it.

Was this review helpful?

What a gorgeous book! I first became aware of The Secret Ingredient when I was invited to join the cover reveal, and I knew it was a book I had to read. I'm a sucker for this kind of book anyway (healing, friendship, found family etc) and if it involves food, then it's another boxed ticked for me!I found the story compelling from the start (oh my gosh, that first chapter...!) and was invested in Kate's story. I liked the way it was written from the points of view of the different characters - it really helped to get to know them and understand their backgrounds and motivations. The characters were a fabulous bunch - Charles and Mary were an inspirational couple, and Della was someone I would like to be friends with. I really felt for Kate, who had terrible guilt as well as grief. I loved the way all the characters interacted. The book is brimming with emotion and certainly pulls at the heartstrings.There are so many elements to the story that provide interest and depth. I really enjoyed the way the characters all got to know each other and the way they each benefited from their connections. The sharing of food and recipes was an integral part of the story for all of them, and Kate's it was really well written in a way that enhanced the narrative. The book tackles grief, death, and mourning head-on but with insight and sensitivity, and overall, we are left feeling uplifted. There's a lot of warmth, hope, and healing, and I highly recommend it.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this book. Incredibly well written and the characters were all lovely. Left me with a smile on my face. Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

I loved this book ! It has everything I look for in a book - a cast of lovely characters, interesting story, funny, uplifting and delicious food ! I felt for Kate in fact I felt for all of the people in the story! Mary and Charles reminded me of my grandparents . Mary especially as my grandmother used to have a special baking notebook that has been passed down to me. Lovely uplifting story.

Was this review helpful?

This book is about loss in so many different ways but it’s also about hope. But in the main it’s about food, possibly my most favourite thing after books! Food that brings people together!

My heart broke for Kate. Everything that reminded her tightened that feeling around my heart and the lump in my throat grew a little. She needs mending and those around her are the prime candidates to do it even if they don’t realise it!

I loved Charles and Mary’s relationship. Their love for each other is inspiring. I want to get to their age and still love like they do. To care for another with such tenderness. It’s just so heartwarming and beautiful.

I loved the recipes scattered throughout the book. I definitely have to try the Gretna Truffles, they sound lush! Having the recipes dotted throughout the book gave my imagination a taste (see what I did there) of the food the characters were rustling up. I was salivating

This is a tense emotional read. I bawled my eyes out more than once!! My heart broke but what came after that emotion healed and dried my tears. This is a beautiful modern day story of friendship, love and companionship. Heath has poured so much emotion into this story, it would melt even the coldest of hearts. Just wonderful and emotional.

Was this review helpful?