St. Martin's, Feb 2002, 24.95, 336 pp.
When she married her spouse Roger six years ago, Elizabeth Baskin thought he was an eleven in a male ranking system that tops out at ten. As an undercover field agent for luxurious properties, she seeks perfection in the hotels she clandestinely canvases. Elizabeth expects the same in her personal life. Thus, she decides she must renovate her heavier and lazier real estate attorney spouse so that instead of he sleeping away the night, they make love.
Elizabeth knows she needs professional help to accomplish her agenda. She visits Dr. Gordon Farkus, a Beverly Hills “life enhancement” guru. Gordon persuades Elizabeth to buy an herb that magically changes an aging over the hill dud into a lovemaking stud. However, Elizabeth puts too much of the elixir in Roger's orange juice. Instead of lovingly turning to her, he becomes a narcissistic babe magnet. Desperate to regain her husband the sloth, Elizabeth seeks a cure for the cure.
THE SECRET INGREDIENT is a humorous contemporary tale with messages on perfection and satisfaction that curiously the cat would understand, but ironically fails to have the bite of the author's more powerful satires. Instead the audience receives an amusing Southern California romp reminiscent of the movie Love Potion Number Nine filled with funny fluff but lacking the intelligent sting of FEMALE INTELLIGENCE. Still Jane Heller shows she continues as one of the top satirical humorists with this enjoyable frolic.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner