"It's Not Love, It's Just Paris" by Patricia Engel & Simply Delicious Granola
Sometimes recommendations lead you to unexpected places. That holds true for the heroine in It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, and it happened to yours truly, the heroine of this review. I had to overcome some serious skepticism to dive into Patricia Engel’s new work — mostly because of the painfully saccharin teaser of “love” and “Paris.” I was craving something subtle and complicated, and it was hard for me not to judge a book by its title. But, giving credit to a source that promised a “fascinating, nuanced” novel, I (temporarily) put aside my cynicism.
Well, as Engel might say, sometimes you have to listen to your heart. It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is a sugary, gooey cluster of cliches and daydreams. We follow Lita del Cielo, a shy American girl, as she embarks on her first big adventure. That might as well be capitalized. Her First Big Adventure!
Lita’s parents are over-the-top poster children of the American dream. Her mother, abandoned and raised by sweet, understanding nuns in Colombia, fell instantly, intuitively in love with a young boy who was working as a laborer after his family abandoned him, too. It was love at first sight, of course. Destiny had struck. They eventually, rather easily, made it to America (Lita’s father was so trusted and beloved that he was given a totally weird dog-escorting task that meant he could stay forever in the land of promise). There they built a wildly successful food business, and established a beautiful home in which all Colombian immigrants could find refuge and love when they needed it most.
Lita’s family is astonished that she would want to jet off to Paris for a few months to “further her education,” when they have built such a wonderful life in America. But they overcome their feelings and support her in her journey (like the saints they are). So off she goes, to stay in a regal but rundown old place called the House of Stars. It’s managed by the vain Countess Séraphine, bedridden, jewel-bedecked, and full of yarns from the Good Old Days.
This kind of nonsense continues throughout the story. There’s a shortage of tension, but not drama. At first it appears that Lita may experience some insecurity or unpopularity in a house populated with posh, worldly girls. She is, after all, a plain Jane who doesn’t wear makeup or own any nice clothes (despite her wealth). But no. From the stunning, promiscuous daughter of artists (whose father famously murdered her mother) to the elegant daughter of an ousted African dictator, Lita’s roommates give her advice, relative kindness, and even offer up their old lovers.
Of course, Lita’s new gal pals have plenty to advise about after she meets someone. “It was as if my blood had been moving slowly through me for years, and with Cato my pulse had been altered, changed course… I’d found a new piece of my life!” You guys, she can feel it!!! But the quiet, unassuming Cato turns out to be son of a notorious politician, and also has strange feelings about being in cities, inconvenient when you meet in Paris. Complications ensue.
Uh, Katie, why on earth are you recommending this book?
Good question, friend. Once you abandon all hope that Engel’s tale will challenge you or make you think, you can indulge as you would in a good rom com. Her language is well-spun, and the sweet, expected story is a pleasant indulgence. I can recommend this book for long flights, sitting on the beach, and curling up on Valentines’ Day (or perhaps Galentine's Day?).
With that, here’s my favorite granola recipe — simple, comforting, delicious, and satisfying. It’s perfect when you want something a little sweet, a little salty, and without too many surprises.
SIMPLY DELICIOUS GRANOLA
- 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Golden raisins, dried cranberrie or currants (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Mix all ingredients except your dried fruit in a bowl, then spread evenly on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir. Bake for 20 more minutes or until a medium golden brown. Stir in fruit, then let cool.
Isn’t it crazy that’s all there is to it? Enjoy with milk, yogurt, ice cream, or by the handful.