Source: we received an e-ARC of the book from the author and publisher for review purposes.
This is the second book in the Rising Star Chef series and if you’re new to it you should know that the series follows our leads through a cooking competition where teams representing restaurants from all over the country battle it out in order to win. In the first book the protagonists were Juliet Cavanaugh and Max Lunden, both members of the same team, in this book the leads are Max’s younger brother, Danny, the team’s pastry chef, and Eva Jansen, the contest’s host and the person in charge of all the behind the scenes.
Eva is a socialite with a reputation of being a party girl, and Danny is the guy who takes care of everything and everyone, so at first he isn’t impressed by Eva’s antics and her apparent diva behavior. But when Danny starts to see the woman behind the socialite and realizes how hard she is working in order to have a successful competition, he realizes that there’s more than meet the eye and his attraction develops into something more. But when you decide to have an affair in the middle of a stressful competition, you could lose more than your heart.
The best part about this book is the characters, especially the main ones. I knew Danny was going to be special ever since reading the first book. He isn’t your typical alpha-male, possessive guy, that’s not the type of hero Ms. Edwards writes, there’s plenty of hotness there, but he also has a big heart and he isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. This is a guy who is used to be the voice of reason, the middle ground and the protector. Behind his laid back exterior lies a man who cares deeply for every person around him and is used to be the one everyone relies on. When his brother Max left town to be a wandering chef, he took charge of both his family and the family business, he made a lot of sacrifices in order to be what everyone else needed and lost himself a bit in the process. I liked him because it was obvious that he was somewhat resentful of his brother and of the whole situation, but he never indulged in self-pity, and made the best out of a crappy situation. And then he meets Eva, who happens to be just what the doctor ordered.
I was afraid that I wouldn’t like Eva. She is a bit of a wild child and very confident in her sexuality, I don’t particular like this type of characters, not because I want my heroines to be virgins, but because they don’t usually have much depth. That’s not the case with Eva. She isn’t afraid to get what she wants but she also has her issues. She has a very difficult relationship with her father and only wants to get his approval. But her daddy-issues were not the reason why she had such a long track record with men. Yes, she had commitment issues, but she also loved men, so what if she wants to have lots of sex and party all night? I was glad that Ms. Edwards didn’t go the easy route and magically turned her into a nice girl all of a sudden, by the end of the book she gets her happy ending with the man she loves, but she is still a party girl at heart.
There’s a recurring secondary romance that started in the previous book and continues here. It involves two of the competition’s judges and as usual there’s a twist because Ms. Edwards likes unconventional couples. In this case the romance is between forty-two-year-old Claire Durand, the sophisticated and very French editor of a prestigious magazine, and twenty-something Kane Slater, the sexy rock star and famous foodie. Their story doesn’t have a resolution yet but I like it very much, it’s an unlikely pairing, not so much because of the age difference but because of their lifestyles, but it works, there’s a lot of chemistry between them and as usual I’m trying to figure out how on earth are they going to make it work. I’ll have to wait and see.
If you are a fan of the series you will be happy to know that we find out more about Beck, the mysterious chef that’s an integral part of the team and the next book’s hero. Among other things we get just a tiny glimpse at his past, which is quite unexpected, and we meet his heroine, a very charming lady that couldn’t be more different from Beck even if she tried. I can’t wait to read their book and I have a feeling that it will be my favorite.
My main issue with this book was the obvious conflict of interest between Danny and Eva. There’s a lot of emphasis made on the fact that Eva isn’t a judge so she isn’t involved in the actual process of choosing the winner, but she is the host, she tastes the dishes and offers her opinion and she is the daughter of the competition’s owner, so how can someone see their relationship and not cry foul play? I was expecting this to be the main conflict of the book but it wasn’t, and I was very surprised by that. I appreciate the fact that the conflict came from within the characters and their issues and insecurities, but since the competition is such a huge part of the overall story I was not only surprised, but even a little disappointed by how this was downplayed. No one was concerned, not even the other teams. Granted, their relationship wasn’t really public, but enough people were aware of it as to raise some questions about the competition’s integrity. It definitely had me raising my eyebrow.
I think this book stands alone fairly well, but the overall story arch started in the first book and I think this series should be read in order to get the full extent. Also, Danny’s journey begins in Too Hot To Touch and you can actually see how he grows and matures so is best to read them in order.
Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I think you will too. If I had to define it using just one word I would say mouthwatering, there are plenty of food descriptions that are to die for, especially when it comes to the pastries, but there are some scorching hot sex scenes as well, so you will find yourself drooling more than once (and Danny was dreamy!).
Review by Brie
Sexy, single, and even sweeter than the treats he bakes, New York pastry chef Danny Lunden is trying to stay focused on food—not females. With the Rising Star Chef competition approaching, he doesn’t have time to get all steamed up over the gorgeous woman he encounters on the plane to Chicago. Even if she is Eva Jansen—the billionaire heiress in charge of the contest…
Danny assumes that “Eva the Diva” is a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t share his passion for food. But when the two meet up again in an elevator—alone—they share more than just passion. They share a kiss hot enough to start a kitchen fire—and they’re hungry for more. To indulge their new secret craving, Eva and Danny have to break every rule in the cookbook. But—like chocolate and caramel—some ingredients are are so sinfully good together, one scrumptious bite is never enough...
St. Martin’s Paperbacks; November 29, 2011.