Saving Irene is set in Chicago, present day but pre-Covid-19. It’s a delectable, fun read. Protagonist Henny James tells the story. Her voice is light, witty and brutally honest. Henny’s in her late 20s, ambitious, and recovering from a broken relationship back home in Texas. She is resourceful, patient, and smart. Like most of us, at times she’s her own worst enemy. Her dream job is to be a food producer for the on-air “Today Show Chef.” Henny’s stepping-stone position is assistant to Chicago TV Chef Irene Foxglove, an eccentric, demanding boss with an equally eccentric husband, Howard, who controls the budget for the unprofitable cable cooking show.
My favorite character after Henny is Patrick, her next-door neighbor. They met the day she moved into her apartment. He’s a college professor and so perfect that, relying on the old too-good-to-be-true theory, she’s sure he must be gay. They become best friends, share dinners most evenings, and have few secrets from each other.
Henny’s Foxglove employers are strange, snooty, and mysterious. “Irene could be arrogant and demanding one minute and charming the next.” Gabrielle is their devious, challenging and spoiled nineteen-year-old daughter who does not even know how to make a sandwich. Henny can’t help wondering why a chef does not teach her only child anything about cooking.
When tragedy strikes, Henny finds herself in hot water. Irene Foxglove demands far more from Henny than her job description includes. Patrick begins to accompany Henny to the television cooking set as the plot thickens, out of concern for her safety.
The seamless pacing, as well as the surprise ending, is refreshing. Henny’s single-minded determination to find success in the competitive world of television production and assisting eccentric TV chefs threads throughout the novel. It’s like Henny is wearing blinders as she misses obvious possibilities. But the reader doesn’t miss them, and you can’t help cheering for Henny as she maneuvers through the many plot twists.
This is a wonderful cozy mystery to get comfy with under a soft warm blanket. You’ll love the new friends you make as Saving Irene unfolds. And, there’s a bonus of Some of Irene’s Favorite Forty Recipes at the end of the book.