Deep Dish
by Mary Kay Andrews
(HarperCollins, $24.95, PG) ISBN  978-0-06-0837365
****
Paula Deen, watch out.  Regina Foxton and Tate Moody have found themselves competition for the best new Southern cookshow, and the stakes are pretty high.  At least, the stakes are high for Gina, who is abruptly out not only her job but also her boyfriend (who, as fate would have it, is also the reason she is unemployed).

Gina is the host of a cooking show called Fresh Starts, which emphasizes the use of fresh ingredients in Southern cooking.  Ironically, now that she has no sponsor and her life's falling apart, Gina is given the opportunity to go national instead of just regional.  The catch is that Tate Moody's outdoorsy show, Vittles, is also in the running for that Southern cooking slot on The Cooking Channel.  When the two butt heads in front of the yuppy producer, he decides a reality-show-type production putting the two headstrong cooks in direct competition is a ratings-maker.

Gina and Tate don't have much in common besides that they both like to cook.  Both are equally certain that their own show is the best, although Tate isn't as pressed to win as Gina, except by his own pride.  The show takes them to a little island off the coast of Georgia and turns the two loose to "make do" with what the island itself has to offer for food and have their meals judged by a panel of three important chefs as to who is the more worthy of the new show.  The only thing is, the longer Gina and Tate work on Foodfight, the less and less they are fighting with each other.  In fact, their rivalry is blossoming into a somewhat combative relationship ...

Liberally splashed with Southern color, Deep Dish is a lot of fun.  It lacks the bit of mystery that you often find peppered in Andrews' Southern novels (Savannah Blues, for instance), but the reader won't suffer for the lack. Although it isn't a face-paced plot, Deep Dish will surprise you with its liveliness and sense of adventure.  Andrews works in the deserted island with finesse, and it leads to hilarity.  The best part of this book is the characters, as is usually the case in Mary Kay Andrews' books.  Gina is habitual good girl trying to embrace her bad side, while her sister Lisa is the bad girl hooking up with a good guy.

Tate reveals himself in bits as the book unfolds, but his manager, Val, is a unique piece of work from the get-go. Less major characters are not treated as such, and shine just as brightly.

As always, Andrews has delivered a mouth-watering novel that, while it doesn't move the way her previous novels have, is sure to satisfy.

--Sarrah Knight


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