Scottish celebrity chef Finn McDuff is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third star and losing his third wife. He decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears.
With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef. Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff. Who will find him first and whose side will you be on…?
I was sent this book for my January read for Loveahappyending magazine and I’m familiar with Janice’s work and writing style from her three novellas in the How Do You Voodoo? trilogy and was excited to see her full potential in the first full-length novel of hers I’ve read. Reaching for the Stars is about celebrity chef, Finn McDuff, who has worked his whole life to achieve his three golden stars, build a reputation for himself and in the process, ruin his 3 marriages. He realises one day that life isn’t just about being at the top, so he gives his three stars back and disappears. Raine Sanderson and Ross Campbell are journalists working head to head to get the latest and most exciting scoop on Finn McDuff, why he gave his stars back and where he disappeared too but only one of them can get it. Who will it be? The chase is on and Raine and Ross are doing everything in their power to come out on top. Who will find him first and who’s side will you be on?
I was a bit on the fence with this book at first because it focuses on celebrity chef, Finn McDuff and the culinary world, which I know absolutely nothing about so I will admit that a lot of the terminology that was used at the beginning did go over the top of my head a bit but obviously that’s not the authors fault, entirely my own. I’m all for learning about new things and this book definitely taught me a thing or two about the culinary environment and the Golden Stars. I very much enjoyed the insight into this elegant and sophisticated world but it was very mature and I can’t see myself wanting to get involved with it in the future! Despite all of that however, I did very much enjoy this book and found myself getting reeled in to this world of lies, competition and rivalry.
Janice’s words and sentences flow nicely, they did in the voodoo series and they do in this book and that’s what makes her stories so easy to read and get stuck in to. During the first 50 pages or so, I wasn’t entirely clear on who were the main characters we were supposed to be following but that may be because there was quite a few of them all being introduced. One of the characters that was introduced, Anna, seemed to have absolutely no place or relevance to the story but eventually over time you learn more about her past and realize how she fits in – which I liked. Our main character, Finn, I assumed from the first few pages was going to be very unlikeable, rude and arrogant but I was completely wrong and ended up sympathizing massively with him. He turns out to be a great main character, rough around the edges but extremely vulnerable on the inside. Her main characters were all very lifelike and believable which is obviously one of the most important parts of any story. The aspect of the story that focuses on two journalists, Raine and Ross, fighting for the top stories on the missing chef I really enjoyed. You get a sense of how infuriating it must be for them, battling against each other for the latest scoop with their jobs and integrity at stake. I like the structure of the chapters as they alternate between Finn and the journalists. I like that you get to see both sides of what’d going on and although everyone is going mad looking for Finn, it’s somewhat amusing because we, as readers, know he’s alright and I really enjoy reading books where certain characters are left in the dark. I’m not sure whether it was intended, but at one point in the story, Finn starts suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD) due to all the speculation about him and Janice managed to write that part in very sensitively but informingly and with a subject as taboo as mental illness, it was reassuring to know that just because you’re a celebrity, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to the effects of pressure, stress and anxiety.
There were 2 small things I picked up on, firstly some of the characters e.g. Finn’s agent, Sam, weren’t very well developed. It’s understandable because Sam, for example, doesn’t appear very often in the story but when he did it was a little flat as you don’t really know anything about him other that his name and the fact he’s Finn’s agent. The main characters were all extremely well described and developed so I think it would have been slightly better if the secondary characters were too – to match up to the standards of the others. Secondly, I felt there was a little bit of an overuse of exclamation marks and during some dialogue, there were exclamation marks where a full-stop would have sufficed. The exclamation marks made it sound like a character was a bit too over-enthusiastic about what they were saying when they didn’t really need to be.
Personally, I preferred reading Janice’s Voodoo trilogy only because I think it was much more suited for my age, personality and tastes but that’s not to say that Reaching For The Stars wasn’t a well established, informative and exciting read – because it most definitely was, but I would definitely recommend it to mature adults and especially those interested in good food and cooking (as for me, I can just about make a pot noodle without burning it). Janice is a fluent writer with many talents up her sleeve and I think she has the ability to write to appeal to a very wide audience. Her stories always have an underlying message somewhere and this one teaches you that fame and fortune aren’t necessarily the main ingredients you need to be happy and in Finn’s case, they definitely weren’t.
1. Hi Janice! First of all, can you tell all of those who don’t know what Reaching for the Stars is about?
Reaching for the Stars is the story of Scottish celebrity chef Finn McDuff, who is media stalked and disillusioned after winning his third ‘Golden’ star and at the same time losing his third wife. He decides he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and, after giving up all his accolades and closing down his restaurant, he disappears. With the enfant terrible of the kitchen missing, two rival newspapers, having lost their media meal ticket, compete against each other to whip up further public curiosity in the missing chef. Love him or hate him, it seems everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff!
2. Where did the inspiration for this novel come from?
I was looking for a popular contemporary theme for a new novel after finishing Bagpipes and Bullshot and decided that a sexy chef in a steamy kitchen would be perfect for my next full length romance novel!
3. Did you find writing a full length novel easier or harder than writing a novella? Personally, what do you prefer writing?
As a writer, I find both challenging to be honest. With a novel you are in it for the long haul and that can be exhausting and terribly frustrating but ultimately incredibly satisfying. I really enjoyed writing my faster paced voodoo romance novellas – and I do believe there is a good market right now for shorter single viewpoint fiction – but as I wrote these novellas one after the other, put together, they are actually the same length as a novel!
I love to delve in and explore the world of my fictional characters, especially as this can often lead to discovering some very interesting character ‘traits’ with which to enrich my story. With Reaching for the Stars, I knew next to nothing about professional kitchens (although I had watched all the TV cookery shows and developed a bit of a crush on one or two of the better looking celebrity chefs) so I took a hands on approach and contacted a few professional Michelin starred Scottish chefs to help me. This research method actually caught the attention of a local ITV producer, who in turn contacted me and asked if she could make a news feature about my research. You can view this film on my blog or with this UTube link.
(Also – see attached photo of me with chef Colin Masson)
5. What is the best restaurant you’ve ever been too? And what did you order?
I loved the famous Chef Harry’s ‘The Green Parrot’ French inspired Caribbean restaurant in St Lucia. It’s in a fabulous elevated setting overlooking Castries. I had the lobster thermidor and my mouth still waters just thinking about it!
6. If Reaching For The Stars was made into a movie, who would be your dream cast?
Ooh what a lovely question! I’d want to cast someone rugged and handsome like Daniel Craig as Chef Finn McDuff. He has a tough sensitivity about him, although he’d have to grow his hair a bit for the role. I see gorgeous blonde actress Katherine Heigl as perfect for the character of Raine Sanderson and, for her adversary, Ross Campbell, it would have to be the one and only Gerard Butler…(swoon).
7. Who is your favourite celebrity chef and have you tried any of their food?
I do have a ‘thing’ for Marco Pierre White. There is something very sexy about the way he cooks. I have all his cook books and have tried lots of his recipes – so does that count…?
8. Was this book self or traditionally published? What made you take that route?
All my books, except for my first, which was traditionally published but is now out of print, have been published by Thornhill Print, which is my own self-publishing imprint.
9. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Lobster Thermidor cooked by Chef Harry!
10. You had a good year last year, with Voodoo Child being released and Loveahappyending winning an award at The Festival of Romance. Do you have anything exciting planned for this year and what are you going to do to make it as successful as the last?
Yes, I agree, 2013 was fabulous. In the past twelve months I have published four titles, my voodoo romance series of novellas – How Do You Voodoo?, Voodoo Wedding, Voodoo Child, and a non-fiction title: How To Party Online. It was amazing to be at The Festival of Romance and to see Loveahappyending Lifestyle magazine win the prestigious award for ‘Innovation in Romantic Fiction’. This year I have two ambitious writing goals, the first one is to write another full length novel – which will be my eighth title to date – and I’d love to finish the year with a Christmas 2014 novella. Do wish me luck!
Janice Horton writes fiction with humour and heart. Look out for her Amazon Kindle bestselling eBooks ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’ and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ and her magically romantic Voodoo Romance novellas ‘How Do You Voodoo? and ‘Voodoo Wedding’. Her latest title is a nonfiction guide ‘How To Party Online’. Janice is a regular blogger and you’ll also find her partying on Facebook and Twitter. She is a Featured Author and Associate Editor at Loveahappyending.com.
You can find Janice and her books on the following links: