Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate by Jess Wells

Jess Wells
Cortero Publishing (2020)
ISBN 9781611793949
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (04/2020)

I have to admit, when I saw love and chocolate in the title I knew, “Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate” by Jess Wells was going to be my next read. It’s an alluring combination of romance and history, with a bit of delicious enchantment included.

“Straight Uphill” starts with the story of Gretchen, who seeks refuge in the small Italian village after a tragic loss. Gretchen meets Bettina, an elderly woman who owns a bakery and dares to reunite with her legacy as a chocolatier by transforming the bakery into a chocolaterie. From there the story dives into the past, regaling readers with the historical ties  of a line of women bound by the quaint village and chocolate. From scandal to hardship, love, loss and everything in between, it’s a story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you sentimental about your own days gone by. 

This is a wonderful story that is a delight to read. The author has a gift for transporting the reader into her scenes both past and present with seamless transition. It’s truly a book that is hard to put down as it charms the reader from the first page. The smells, the tastes, the scenery – all come together for a magical read. Gretchen sitting down to a meal in the trattoria next to the bakery is a sensual experience.  From page 30:

“After the first bite, she put her hands down and looked at her plate. Surely it was something simple like any other kind of food–a thin slice of meat in a wine sauce–and yet when she put another bite in her mouth, she felt as if a shawl was being put over her shoulders. The food was kindness.  It was solace.”

Phew – is it hot in here? A couple of things are obvious: careful consideration went into each word of the novel, and it was meticulously researched. Historical details weave effortlessly through the different narratives and there are also some surprises you won’t see coming.

Romance, history, chocolate, Italy, good food, amazing characters – what more do you need? “Straight Uphill: A Tale of Love and Chocolate” by Jess Wells has something for everyone.  I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this novel.

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