I got this book from NetGalley for a review. I haven’t read other works by this author. Historical fiction is a fascinating genre for me, so I was excited to read this novel. A New York Secret by Ella Carey is a story set during the turbulent times of World War II in New York. The story focuses on Lily Rose, a young and passionate woman who is close to getting her dream job as a head chef and falling in love with one of her colleagues Tom Morelli. As the war speeds up in Europe, it becomes more and more difficult to remain unaffected by the circumstances.
The story begins in the early days of World War II. Lily Rose is a passionate cook who is working in a fancy restaurant in New York City called Valentino’s. Lily belongs to a wealthy family, and her aspirations do not match with that of her mother’s. Lily’s mother wants Lily to marry a wealthy man, and she considers this as Lily fulfilling her responsibilities towards her family. Tom, a fellow chef, has always fascinated Lily, but they have kept their rapport cordial and platonic. Slowly, things begin to change, professionally as well as personally, mostly, for the better.
Lily has an opportunity to compete for the spot of Head Chef, and she is willing to work towards it with everything in her. It is around the same time Tom and Lily come closer, giving in to the feelings they have kept hidden for a while. As the war goes on, American men are being drafted into the Army, and Tom fears his name will come up sooner or later. Lily and Tom finally confess their feelings for each other, kind of, not exactly saying the three words, but they don’t need to say them; they just know how they feel about each other.
When Tom has to leave after being drafted, Lily is heartbroken and worried for his safety. Lily and Tom write to each other as often as possible. Tom even proposes to Lily for marriage in a letter, and she writes back to him saying yes. Lily keeps regularly in touch with Tom’s family and his mom Gia and Lily come closer, supporting each other. Meanwhile, her mom keeps pushing her to say yes to Nathaniel Carter, a wealthy family friend, to secure their futures. The sexist behavior makes you roll your eyes, but it was a common occurrence then, still you can completely sympathize with Lily’s frustration at such comments and behavior.
I liked the way Lily’s character has been written. She is smart, passionate, and empathetic but is also firm when she needs to be. The way she gets excited about cooking, and her hunger to succeed despite limited support from her family is truly remarkable. Lily’s mother is so class-conscious, it is frustrating. She looks down at people she thinks aren’t up to her standard. She is never proud of Lily’s professional accomplishments; in fact, she doesn’t even like listening to her talk about her work. Lily’s grandmother Josie, on the other hand, is completely supportive and incredibly proud of Lily for pursuing her passion.
The circle Lily’s mom associates with seems so dysfunctional. Their children are being drafted into the Army, but they still want to pretend that things aren’t bad. Indulging and fussing over food rationing and fabrics. No one wants to talk about the horrible things happening around them; they take the saying, ignorance is bliss a little too seriously. The homefront is practically left to be run by women, and Lily meets amazing women as new kitchen staff is hired. They form a kinship with each other, getting through difficult circumstances together. The story sends a strong message of being perseverant, and it is explicit throughout the novel.
At first glance, I thought that this novel will focus more on the love story of Lily and Tom, but that isn’t the case. In the end, it didn’t get enough time. It doesn’t matter though because this novel is Lily’s story. I wish the dynamic between Lily, and Tom would have been explored more. The ending feels a little rushed although, it brings the story to a complete circle.
A New York Secret by Ella Carey is a beautiful and emotional story. It talks about relationships, be it familial, professional, and personal in a realistic way. The World War II setting adds emotional weight to the story as the characters struggle to adjust and make sense of the world around them. The novel is engaging from start to finish. I never got bored while reading the book, I was curious to know what happens ahead. It is a wonderful read.
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