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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan
Published by Lake Union Publishing ISBN 978-1477817766
Hardcover, $24.95, 306 pages

Writers are told to write what they know, and Elizabeth LaBan has taken that to heart in her novel The Restaurant Critic's Wife.  Like her protagonist Lila, LaBan is married to the food critic for a large Philadelphia newspaper. (Luckily, LaBan says that the character of the critic is much crazier than her actual husband.)

Lila is a high-powered executive for a large hotel chain. She specializes in crisis management and public relations, traveling the globe and solving problems with aplomb. After she breaks up with her long-time boyfriend, she finds herself in New Orleans for work when she meets Sam.

Sam and Lila fall deeply in love. Lila becomes pregnant and they decide to marry. They are very happy together, and then Sam gets the opportunity he has been waiting for- a job as a restaurant critic at a Philadelphia newspaper.

By now, Lila and Sam have two young children- Hazel, a toddler, and baby Henry. Sam is totally engrossed in his job, taking it very seriously. He is overly protective of his anonymity, believing that if anyone knew who he was, he could not do his job properly.

This unfortunately extends to Lila and the children. He doesn't want Lila to befriend any neighbors in case they own a restaurant. Lila's high school friend Maureen lives in town and also has two young children, but her husband owns a restaurant, so they cannot be friends.

He also doesn't want Lila to go back to work for the hotel, which Lila desperately wants to do. She felt in charge there, and being stuck at home and not allowed to have friends begins to frustrate her.

The one friend she makes is a waiter from a fancy restaurant, Sebastian. He is kind to Lila, and helpful with the children. But Sam flips out when he discovers their friendship because he feels Sebastian may be using Lila to get information.

It seems to me that Sam is too controlling and not very understanding of what he is asking of his wife. He acts like he works for the CIA, and that his identity must be protected for national security reasons.

The story was really captivating, especially for anyone who is a foodie; the descriptions of restaurants and the food are mouth-watering, and I liked the snippets of Sam's reviews that open the chapters. The characters are interesting and well- developed and I really adored Lila and rooted for her. Even the kids were engaging characters, which is sometimes difficult to do.

LeBan also does a wonderful job writing about marriage and parenthood, and the many compromises that must be made to make it all work. Her description of Lila's C-section and its aftermath were dead-on as well.

The one thing that felt a bit odd was that Lila was in a few gossip columns, outed as the restaurant critic's wife. How boring are things in Philadelphia that the restaurant critic's wife is constant fodder for gossip columns?

I recommend The Restaurant Critic's Wife to anyone who likes a good story about the compromises of marriage, as well as anyone who would like a peek into the world of restaurants.

Elizabeth LeBan's website is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Elizabeth LeBan's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Elizabeth LaBan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, January 4th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Tuesday, January 5th: Why Girls are Weird
Wednesday, January 6th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, January 7th: Bibliotica
Monday, January 11th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, January 12th: Chick Lit Central – author guest post
Wednesday, January 13th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Thursday, January 14th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, January 15th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, January 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, January 19th: Bookchickdi
Wednesday, January 20th: I’m Shelf-ish
Thursday, January 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, January 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Monday, January 25th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Tuesday, January 26th: Read Love Blog
Wednesday, January 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, January 28th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, February 1st: Just Commonly
Wednesday, February 3rd: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord
Friday, February 5th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


  1. Sam does seem a bit over the top but I guess his character is what makes the book interesting.

  2. Yeah, Sam does seem too crazy with staying anonymous. But I like the Philly setting and, of course, the food aspects.

  3. Ooh the compromises of marriage ... that is a huge topic indeed!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.