Can't Stand The Heat by Louisa Edwards
Series: Recipe for Love #1
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: September 1st 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For sharp-tongued food critic Miranda Wake, the chance to spend a month in Adam Temple's kitchen to write an exposé is a journalistic dream come true. Surely Miranda can find a way to cut the hotshot chef down to size once she learns what really goes on at his trendy Manhattan restaurant. But she never expected Adam to find out her most embarrassing secret: she has no idea how to cook.
Adam's not about to have his reputation burned by a critic who doesn't even know the difference between poaching and paring. He'll just have to give the tempting redhead a few private lessons of his own—teaching her what it means to cook with passion...and doing more with his hands than simply preparing sumptuous food.
WARNING: This review contains a major rant about the heroine. It will contain strong language and spoilers for the story. Read on at your own risk.
I’ve mentioned before that I generally have a dislike for heroines who are journalists. I’ve made some exceptions, but generally I try to stay away from novels featuring them, because I know I have a personal bias and I don’t want that to color my reading experience. I chose to pick this one up anyway because Miranda Wake is a food critic, rather than an investigative journalist (the type I generally have the biggest issues with). Also? It’s a foodie book and I’m a huge foodie.
I went into this expecting one thing, and got something else entirely.
Miranda Wake is a bitter food critic who desperately wants a book deal. On the pre-opening night of a new restaurant, Market, she gets blitzed and has it out with the Exec Chef and Owner, Adam Temple. She hasn’t even had his food yet, but she’s already spouting off about how he’s pretentious and his food sucks. So he challenges her to spend just one night in his kitchen, thinking to shut her up. Only she accepts.
Then his investor gets together with her editor and they decide she’ll stay for a month. Which is when she gets a book deal; she’s to write a book “dishing” about Adam Temple and what really goes on in his kitchen. While Miranda is busy digging up dirt on Adam and the entire staff, she finds herself falling in love with him. Which I completely understood, because I adored Adam.
He was sweet and adorable, with a strong sense of right and wrong. He was probably the best part about this book. I loved that even though he had preconceived notions about Miranda he set them aside and judged her on his own observations. I loved that he was tough but fair in the kitchen. I loved that he hired chefs based on their merits as cooks, rather than their diplomas or schooling. He had a somewhat gruff exterior, but inside he was kind and loving.
I absolutely adored the secondary characters. The entire kitchen staff came alive for me. I really felt like I was right there with them, laughing and joking and cooking fabulous food. They were a rag-tag bunch, but they really brought flavor and spice to the story.
As a side story, Miranda’s younger brother, Jesse, turns up from college (somewhere in the Midwest) saying he’s not going back. He gets a job at Market working as a server. As it turns out, he’s gay and falls in love with one of the sou chefs, Frankie, which Miranda hates. She thinks Frankie corrupted and tempted her poor straight brother into being gay.
I thought the story with the brother was cute, though I did struggle with his age quite a bit. He’s only 19. The problem is I wasn’t as bothered by that as I felt I should have been. Especially since Frankie is quite a bit older than him. Why is it that I’m willing to forgive a 19yo hero when he’s gay, but wouldn’t forgive a 19yo heroine (in a contemp) regardless? Once I got past that, though, I really enjoyed his part of the story.
So at this point in the book Miranda comes off as bitter, cynical and jaded. She’s also a complete control freak. Which is fine. I could have dealt with that if it had been one of the centerpieces of the story – how Miranda grew up. Unfortunately I didn’t find that to be the case.
Because at the end? She SAYS SHE LOVES HIM AND STILL SUBMITS THE FUCKING BOOK.
WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!
Her reason for doing so? She needs the money so she can pay for her brother to go to NYU. The problem? She only wants to pay for it to get him away from Frankie so he’ll go back to being “normal” instead of “gay”. Not only that, but he specifically told her he didn’t want her paying for his tuition. He said he wanted to be a responsible adult and contribute something himself. I understand that she wanted to help him as much as she could, but she SOLD OUT THE MAN SHE LOVED AND ALL HIS FRIENDS/EMPLOYEES to do it.
WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?!
And the best part? The only person she has to rely on and go to for support during this whole thing with her brother is Adam. She leans on him and lets him support her and SAYS SHE LOVES HIM AND THEN SELLS HIM OUT IN A CHEAP FUCKING BOOK!
WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?!
The thing is, I loved everything else about the book. The kitchen setting, the secondary characters, the hero. I even loved that the author included some of the recipes she used in the book (I’m sooo going to try them). I’m trying to decide if the heroine ruined the book for me, or if I can move past what she did. Right now I’d probably grade it:
3 out of 5 for the overall story, setting and characters
1 out of 5 for the heroine (maybe even a -1)
I did enjoy parts of it enough to want to read the next book in the series, On the Steamy Side, which will be available March, 2010.
This book is available from St. Martin’s. You can buy it here or here (I’m not including a link to buy in e-format b/c I think St. Martin’s has terrible e-pricing. The paperback is $6.99 but the e-book is $14. WTF St. Martin’s? W.T.F?).