The Kitchen Mistress

The Kitchen Mistress

The Letter Series Book 3

Fiction - Historical - Personage
725 Pages
Reviewed on 08/22/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite

Oh, what an emotional ride The Kitchen Mistress: The Letter Series Book 3 by Kathleen Shoop has been! Katherine, the protagonist, loves her family more than anything in the world. She wants to help her mother, Jeanie Arthur, in every possible manner. Katherine has a twin brother, Tommy, and a younger sister, Yale. She had one more brother, James, but he died in a storm. However, Katherine sees James every now and then. In fact, James is not the only dead person whom she can see. She has a gift that allows her to see souls and angels. She tried to tell her mother about this gift, but Jeanie never encouraged her talent. She always pushes Katherine to focus on completing her education and getting a job. When Katherine was very young, her family had everything. But certain circumstances made them lose it all. This tragedy changed the Arthur family entirely. Katherine and Tommy had to move away from their whole family and each other for quite a few years. Fortunately, they found their way back to one another. Those years of separation were very tough on Katherine; therefore, she decided to do everything in her power to keep her family together forever.

Since Jeanie's husband had left her long ago, many residents are reluctant to allow her family to stay in their home as a tenant. Thankfully, a businesswoman, Violet Pendergrass, allows them to stay at the property behind her house as long as they take care of her kitchen, tend her garden, obey her commands, and keep the baby (Yale) out of her sight. Glad to have found a shelter, the Arthurs agree to all her terms. Katherine's culinary skills helped her win the title of "the kitchen mistress" from Violet. Things were looking up until Violet found out about Katherine's special talent.

The ladies of The Kitchen Mistress: The Letter Series Book 3 by Kathleen Shoop are wise, strong, self-sufficient, and compassionate. Jeanie's patience, kindness, confidence, and tenderness have been a real treat for me as a reader. She works hard to provide for her family. She does not look for a man to give it all to her for free; instead, she works tirelessly for it. She encourages her children to get an education and make a good life for themselves. Violet, to me, seemed a very mysterious character. Up until the last page, I could not form a solid opinion about her. The author has very cleverly written her character. My favorite character is definitely Katherine. She never stops believing in herself -- even when half the time she was unsure if the person in front of her eyes was alive or dead.

The author has done a praiseworthy job of narrating a fiction story that is filled with deep emotions, strong characters, engaging dialogues, and a wonderful plot. The pace of the story is just right. It is a long read but I, as a reader, found myself interested in gathering every pearl of wisdom and/or entertainment that the story had to offer me. Although it is not a horror story, the sudden appearances of the dead people gave me chills. I get scared easily so other readers might not feel the goosebumps. This is a story of loving your family, keeping your head held high, walking forward, and believing in yourself. After singing so many praises, it is just a formality to say that I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Teresa Syms

The Kitchen Mistress, The Letter Series Book Three by Kathleen Shoop is a compelling historical fiction story set in Des Moines in 1892. The main heroine of the story, Katherine Arthur, has experienced severe hardships in her young life as her parents lose their family fortune and status in society, and then divorce after the death of their eldest son. Mrs. Arthur is forced to send her two older children off as indentured workers, causing the separation of the family for four years. During these difficult years, Katherine is molested and abused by one family she works for. She is portrayed as “the devil” because she mentioned seeing angels. For weeks, she is imprisoned in a cellar, awaiting an exorcism. Katherine manages to escape her tormentors, and is reunited with her mother, brother and little sister. She begins working as the kitchen mistress for the independently wealthy entrepreneur, Violet Pendergrass. Katherine believes everything she does for Miss Pendergrass will edge her one step closer to helping her Mama buy a little cottage for her family, when what is truly happening behind the pink and green painted mansion is not as forthright as Miss Pendergrass would have Katherine and the citizens of Des Moines believe.

Kathleen Shoop’s book, The Kitchen Mistress, The Letter Series, is a long read but one filled with good story content and character development. The storyline is well developed and the reader may find this useful as the story builds and characters grow and develop. It was fascinating to have angel visitations described so lovingly and beautifully by the author. As each character is described and cultivated, the reader can visualize the height, build and facial features, along with personality and temperament. This was an intriguing book. I was transported back in time to Des Moines of 1892 as we follow the Arthur family, Violet Pendergrass and Aleksey Zurchenko. The intertwining of the characters, the societal classes at the time and the many caring and loving spirit guides and angels gave the story great depth and intrigue. I enjoyed the mystery behind the investment and the secretiveness of Miss Pendergrass and her business. She develops each girl’s talents to best suit her business, her clientele, and strategically lays plans for her future.

Romuald Dzemo

The Kitchen Mistress by Kathleen Shoop is the third book in The Letter Series, a riveting story that explores one woman’s dilemma; it is emotionally charged and packed with psychological insights. Katherine Arthur is employed as a kitchen mistress to her neighbor, a job she takes to pull her family out from difficulties. Her employer, Violet Pendergrass, is a successful lady who also has her plans for the future and her plans could include Katherine. She loves Katherine’s cooking skills. Everything is going well until Aleksey Zurchenko arrives. Katherine’s attraction for Aleksey grows stronger and the moment comes when she has to choose between providing for her family and her loyalty to Violet, and following her heart. Can she dare to choose love over everything she’s valued until now?

The Kitchen Mistress is a beautiful story beautifully told. Kathleen Shoop comes across as a master storyteller with a great gift for the first person narrative, a voice she harnesses so well to create a dramatic effect on readers. The prose is excellent and it features compelling and emotionally insightful passages. The descriptions are vivid, and they capture the setting as well as the characters in a brilliant way. One of the things I enjoyed about Shoop’s writing is her mastery of the conflict. It is introduced very early in the narrative and it escalates pretty fast. I read the story nonstop, waiting eagerly for the satisfying denouement. This is a novel for readers who are looking for a densely plotted story with great characters.

Arya Fomonyuy

The Kitchen Mistress by Kathleen Shoop is the third entry in The Letter Series, a compelling historical novel with great characters and a wonderful setting. Katherine Arthur and her family believe that what Mrs. Mellet left them in her will could help them survive an unpredictable future, but they couldn’t be more wrong. To help her family cope, Katherine accepts an offer to work as the kitchen mistress for the smart, shrewd and successful lady next door, Violet Pendergrass. But things change when Aleksey Zurchenko arrives and Katherine starts developing feelings for him. A time comes when she has to choose between protecting her family and pursuing her heart’s desire. This is a story of family and romance, and a woman’s deep desire for freedom.

Told in an absorbing first person narrative, The Kitchen Mistress is a beguiling story, with characters that feel so real the reader could almost believe they walk the same road with them. What immediately caught my attention when I started reading this book was Kathleen Shoop’s masterful use of the stream of consciousness, a style that allows readers to get into the psyche and the inner conflict of the characters. The author explores family drama in an impeccable way, unveiling the simple things that create the dynamics of many families. The protagonist has a complex world to navigate and it is interesting to see how she deals with her secrets, faces the challenges of her relationships and her work, and how she connects to herself. The Kitchen Mistress is delicately written, with a beautifully imagined plot, great prose, and memorable characters. I was seduced by the expert writing and could not stop reading until the last page.

Christian Sia

Kathleen Shoop’s The Kitchen Mistress is the third entry in The Letter Series, a historical novel featuring well-crafted characters that reflect historical personages. It is 1892 and Katherine Arthur and her family are relying on what is left for them in Mrs. Mellet’s will to survive, but then things do not turn out as anticipated. Now, Katherine makes a very difficult choice, sacrificing her personal dreams to secure the well being of her family. She accepts a job as a kitchen mistress to the shrewd, rich, and cunning Violet Pendergrass. Her boss values her services and her exceptional skills in the kitchen, but then Aleksey Zurchenko arrives and things change. Katherine begins to feel an irresistible attraction for the handsome man and it is not long before she is faced with the moment of truth. Will she continue to work to ensure security for her family and loyalty to Violet, or will she find freedom by following her heart’s desire?

The Kitchen Mistress is a book in which the heart of a woman is skillfully explored, laid bare for the reader to see its complexities, its grandeur, and its pains. The characters are well developed, and while Katherine exudes a wonderful finesse and inner beauty, Violet comes across as overly ambitious, domineering, and manipulative. The setting is vividly impressed upon the reader’s mind, thanks to Kathleen Shoop's wonderful prose. The plot starts slowly and moves faster as the conflict escalates. The story is woven with great emotional intensity and readers are on board for an exciting journey with a satisfying end.