Is there anything sexier than a man who can cook? The answer is yes, a man who cooks AND cleans up after himself, but we are talking about chefs here, so let’s stick to cooking. Hot Under Pressure is the last book in the Rising Star Chef series, if you haven’t read the previous books you’ll probably be able to enjoy this one but it won’t be the same so my suggestion is to read them in order.
Henry Beck is the newest member of the restaurant, but despite his taciturn personality he’s an integral part of the team and everyone considers him a member of the Lunden family. His specialty is fish and his secret past has inspired some interesting theories about him, the most popular being that he used to be in jail. Obviously that’s not the case and everyone is about to find out about it when his past comes back to haunt him and compete against him in the form of Skye Gladwell, captain of the rival team and Beck’s estranged wife.
Skye hasn’t seen or heard of Beck in ten years so it came as a surprise when he turned out to be part of one of the teams competing for the title of Rising Star Chef. They met when they were very young and fell in love almost instantly. They got married but life and a tragedy got in the way of their happily ever after. Now they have the opportunity to settle the past, at first she is resentful and interested in the competition and finalizing their divorce so she can marry her boyfriend -who doesn’t know about her marital status- but the more they talk the more they realize that their relationship isn’t as over as they thought.
This is by far the most emotional book in the series. Beck and Skye’s love story was like a fairy tale gone wrong. They loved each other very much but they were struggling to make ends meet and life had other plans for them. So decisions were made and in the end their relationship suffered from everything but lack of love, no one was to blame but that didn’t make things easier. At first they were angry and resentful, but also filled with guilt and a deep sense of loss. The reasons behind their breakup are spoilerish so I won’t mention them here, but no one lied and no one cheated, there was none of that, so instead of two people blaming each other we had two people accepting responsibility and trying to come to terms with life getting in the way of love.
Skye was a great heroine. Her parents were famous artist, as talented as they were irresponsible, so Skye was trying to get some order in her life but also maintaining her free spirit and creativity, she achieved it by being a chef and restaurant owner, the perfect mix of responsibility and art. Another great thing about her was that we finally get a female chef who looked normal, I was pleasantly surprised when she turned out to have curves.
I was dying to read Beck’s book to find out his secrets and I wasn’t disappointed. Not what I expected at all but I’ll take it. Quiet and reserved but with a heart of gold, he was a great friend and a great hero. I love men who show vulnerability and he was one of them, he needed to belong and his happily ever after is all about finding his place and a family, and he gets it with the restaurant and with Skye.
If you have read the books you will know that there’s a secondary romance developing throughout the books and in this book we finally get a resolution. It involves two of the judges, Claire Durand and Kane Slater. Claire is more than 15 years older than Kane so their conflict comes from the age difference as well as her trust issues. This story started strong in the first book but it lost some steam in the middle and I wasn’t as invested in them as I was at first, however, I was glad to see them happy.
The book has some weak parts. First, Skye and Beck go from being angry to being in lust very fast, and Skye has a boyfriend, they had an open relationship but for a woman like her, cheating is cheating open relationship or not, and yet she sleeps with Beck. She feels guilty about it and the boyfriend doesn’t really mind, but I didn’t particularly like it. Second, the ending was a bit cheesy, I’m not a fan of the big gesture and the gesture in this book is huge, maybe you will love it but I always feel embarrassed when I read scenes like that. And finally, the competition ends in a predictable way. But overall this was a great book and I loved it just as much as the first book, maybe a little bit more. If you like contemporary romance, men who cook and emotional stories, I’m sure you will love Hot Under Pressure.
Review by Brie
Loaded with the hottest dishes and sexiest chefs, the Rising Star Chef competition is about to boil over for one pair of all-star cooks who can’t stand the heat—of working so close together…
SHE’S THE ONE HE LEFT BEHIND
Henry Beck thought he’d already faced the toughest kitchen challenge of his life. After all, what could top sweating it out as a Navy cook on a submarine? But when he learns his competition for the title of Rising Star Chef is the sweet hippie girl he married…and left…ten years ago, the heat is on.
HE’S THE ONE SHE CAN’T FORGET
Now Beck and Skye Gladwell are going head to head in the finals…and sparking up old flames every time they touch. But Skye wants more than a win over the man who abandoned her when she needed him most—she wants a divorce! Then her sexy almost-ex makes a deliciously dangerous proposition. He’ll give in to her demands, but if his team wins the RSC, he has a demand of his own…one last taste of the only woman he ever loved.
St. Martin’s Paperbacks. March 27, 2012