Book Review: ‘The Congressman’s Wife’ by Aristodemos Pavlou

Long Island author Aristodemos Pavlou is better known as “Chef Arie” to many. Few would guess that this accomplished culinarian had a trilogy of romance novels up his sleeve. But while reading The Congressman’s Wife (Red Sky Presents New York, 2016), much is revealed about this complex man.

Perhaps Pavlou is a “romantic” in the classical sense that he rejects established norms and conventions. Just this month he opened his own restaurant, Bistro Été, in the former Robert’s space in Water Mill! But, actually, his finely tuned cooking skills hew to the traditional French and Mediterranean cuisines. The mastery he brings to his work is often what sets it apart.

Why was Pavlou moved to write these books? He says, “I have so many great stories!” Quite a few strands of a rich life are tied up in this first book in the series. And the Veuve Clicquot flows like water…One might wonder if a passage like “He knew the first time he’d looked into her eyes that she was for him, that somehow she would complete him, like he’d get back a part of him he hadn’t even known was missing,” could have been inspired by his relationship with his wife Liz, whom he married in February.

This novel is the best kind of summer mind-candy. Take it to the beach, leave it on the bedside table in a guestroom, read it in stalled traffic—it’s a gift that keeps on delivering delicious, naughty fun. It is a romance novel, but its author refers to it as a “love-action book.” He’s not that familiar with the romance novel genre. He’s working from primal instincts. It’s unusual for the central character of a romance novel to be a man.

More unusual still for a manly-man to write a romance novel. It’s an interesting take.

If you’re a woman reading this book, you will have questions. How has the love interest, an intelligent woman in the 21st century, put up with her no-good husband for so long? How did she get herself so stuck in such a loveless marriage? Frankly, does what the lovers did in that plane’s bathroom really qualify them to be card-carrying members of the Mile High Club? And what’s with the confusion over how to Google something? Can any woman, even a tall blonde named Eden Bancroft, be so very flawless?

You may not find answers to these questions in the book, but you will find many fun East End references and characters. Fishing at Plum Gut, docking in Sag Harbor, appearing on News 12. Though sometimes bordering on stereotypes, the characters are a lot like people you know out here. The power-hungry, cheating politician, his overbearing old-money mother, the wealthy but damaged kids. It’s a heady mix of Hamptons highs and lows.

Does a romance novel strike you as a frivolous read? Absolutely! But if you need a little motivation for attending yet another white-tent party, try page 61: “So Eden put on yet another designer gown they couldn’t afford and went to Joe Endicott’s dinner party. And because she went, her life changed irrevocably and forever…It had to be destiny.”

Too refined to read a romance novel, even on vacation? Get your copy online today because as Pavlou writes, “You need to stop fighting this. It’s bigger than both of us.”

One central mystery remains: where did Pavlou find the inspiration for the main character, Kaleb Stavros? Who is this young, sexy Greek-American, motorcycle-riding chef whose “every movement in the kitchen is fluid and graceful?”

To be continued.

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