I discovered Louisa’s books about a year ago when I bought a book called On the Steamy Side that seemed like an interesting read even though I wasn’t familiar with the author, it was one of those impulsive buys that turned out to be exactly what you needed. After finishing that book I devoured the second one and then spent a couple of months anxiously waiting for the release of the third one. I was super excited to hear that she was writing a new trilogy.
Edwards' specialty is gastronomy, her books always revolve around something food-related and her heroes are always chefs. This new book shows us yet another aspect of that fascinating world by taking place during a cooking competition.
Max Lunden is a bit of a traveling chef, for the past six years he’s been around the world learning new techniques and recipes. When his mother asks him to come home to help the family restaurant to participate in the famous and prestigious Raising Star Chef competition he is a bit reluctant at first (mostly because he has been estranged from his family all these years) but ends up agreeing to come back just for a month. Juliet Cavanaugh is like a daughter for the Lunden family and she’s been working in their restaurant ever since she was a teenager. She isn’t happy about Max coming back because she feels that they don’t need him to win and also because she used to have a huge crush on him. Obviously sparks fly after they see each other again.
At first I was a bit apprehensive about Max because he seemed like he was a cocky, know-it-all, self-centered guy but I was wrong. He had a carefree attitude that made him refreshing, but underneath that happy-go-lucky take on life he was a caring and loving person trying to find himself. In these prodigal-son-returns type of stories, the one to blame is usually the prodigal son, but in this case he had a pretty good reason to leave and his family had a pretty good reason to hold a grudge. I particularly liked how Louisa addressed this part because it was realistic and drama-free, both parts were hurt by the choices they made but those choices were justified and no one was the bad guy.
Juliet was also a great heroine. I liked her because she was a bit of a lost soul trying to find a place to belong, and not quite believing that she had found it with the Lundens. But this was also what bothered me about her, at times she seemed too insecure just waiting for everything to be taken from her and I couldn’t understand how she still felt that way after all those years. I was also a bit disappointed that she didn’t demand more things for herself but I was happy that she got her happy ending because she deserved it. Having said that, she was a very likeable character and a perfect match for Max, they were a fantastic couple and their love story was sweet and scorching hot.
This book also has a strong cast of secondary characters, there’s a secondary story that just barely starts in this book and I guess it will continue in the next one (just like Frankie/Jess in the first trilogy) involving a forty two year old woman and a twenty-something rock star. It is an interesting pairing and even though I’m not a fan of couples with that much age difference I really liked both characters and it will be interesting to see where it goes. There’s also a lot of bromance between all the male members of the team and that’s always fun to read. The next book’s hero is Max’s brother Danny and I really hope Beck also gets his chance at love because I adored him, he is mysterious, taciturn and a math whiz, what else could you ask for?
I loved this book. It was funny, sexy, the love story was touching, the characters were likeable, and it had lots of details about cooking. As a fan of contemporary romance this is exactly what I’m looking for when I buy a book. I can’t wait to read the next book. This one is a keeper so don’t waste more time and go get it!
Review by Brie
When it comes to competitive cooking, Max Lunden is no stranger to winning…though he’s never been great at working with a team. A master chef—and major hunk—he’s traveled the world, picking up new cooking techniques as well as beautiful women. But when the prodigal chef returns home to his family’s Greenwich Village restaurant, he discovers one too many cooks in the kitchen—and she’s every bit as passionate as he is…
Juliet Cavanaugh used to have a crush on Max when she was just a teenager, hanging out at Lunden & Sons Tavern, hoping to catch a glimpse of the owner’s oldest, and hottest, son. Now a chef herself—competing in the biggest culinary contest in the country—Juliet will be cooking side by side with the one man she’s always admired…and desired. But despite their simmering attraction, Juliet is determined to keep her cool—no matter how hot it gets…
St. Martin’s Paperbacks; August 2, 2011.