Publisher: Macmillan

Retro Review/Rant: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards

Posted April 12, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review/Rant: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa EdwardsReviewer: Holly
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
Pages: 368
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one-star

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.

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

This review/rant was originally posted on October 29, 2009.

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
Bold
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.

Book CoverBook Cover

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?).

one-star


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Guest Review: Ice Wolf by Jane Godman

Posted March 9, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Ice Wolf by Jane GodmanReviewer: Tracy
Ice Wolf by Jane Godman
Series: Arctic Brotherhood #1
Published by Macmillan, Swerve
Publication Date: March 7th 2017
Genres: Norse Mythology
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three-stars

They are the Arctic Brotherhood.

They are deadly fighters, fierce protectors and loyal mates.

Elliott Wilder is a mild mannered Alaskan college professor. Wilder craves the things most people find boring. Seclusion. Monotony. Anonymity. But what Wilder craves most of all is the thing he can’t have… memory loss. Four hundred years ago, Wilder and the other members of the Arctic Brotherhood were captured and tortured by the leader of the Siberian werewolves. Wilder is still haunted by memories of that night, when he wasn’t able to protect his leader.

Now the Siberian wolf is on the loose and seeking revenge. Not only must Wilder lead the brotherhood, he must fight the attraction he feels toward its newest recruit, Jenny Piper. Jenny offers Wilder a glimpse of the life he can’t have. As the brotherhood races against time to save humanity from the horror their enemies unleashed on the world, Wilder must reach inside himself to find the leader the brotherhood needs and the mate Jenny craves.

Elliott is an Arctic werewolf.  He was part of the Brotherhood of the Midnight Sun 400 years ago but since that time he’s been by himself.  He is currently working at a university and is shocked when he meets a woman, Jenny Piper, who is an Arctic werewolf as well.  He’s attracted to her but he wants nothing to do with any werewolves or pack so tries to separate himself.  That lasts less than 24 hours as the leader of the Brotherhood, Gunnar, shows up to let him know that the evil Siberian wolf they had put in jail 400 years earlier has escaped and wants revenge.  Elliott wants to ignore it all but he can’t when the previously imprisoned wolf attacks not only him but also Jenny.

Soon Jenny, Elliott and Gunnar are off to fight the battle between good and evil but the evil runs much deeper than any of them believed and it might take a miracle for the Brotherhood to win this battle.

Ice Wolf is the first book in the Arctic Brotherhood series.  The story was fast-paced and pretty action packed from the start of the book.

I liked Elliott despite the fact that he was pretty grumpy at the beginning of the book.  He soon took his place as leader of the Brotherhood and it was just what he needed in order to deal with his PTSD resulting from being tortured 400 years before.  He was a good leader and I felt he did a good job.

Jenny was a fighter and I really liked her.  She had a sunny disposition despite her childhood horrors and I liked her positivity and strength.  She got herself into a bit of a bind during the course of the book but didn’t end up needing the hero to rescue her – she did that herself.  Go Jenny!

The story was a good one, no doubt.  I wish that we could have gotten to know the other members of the Brotherhood a little better.  I think I would be more interested in reading their stories if I had a bit more knowledge of who they are.  Yes the Brotherhood worked together in this book but it was really focused on Elliott and Jenny.  If you like Norse mythology this would be a good one to pick up.  These definitely aren’t your average werewolves, that’s for sure.

Rating: 3 out of 5 

three-stars


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Guest Review: Body Rocks by A.M. Arthur

Posted July 22, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review:  Body Rocks by A.M. ArthurReviewer: Tracy
Body Rocks by A. M. Arthur
Series: Off Beat series #1
Also in this series: Steady Stroke
Published by Macmillan, Swerve
Publication Date: June 28th 2016
Genres: Romance, LGBT, Gay, m/m
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three-half-stars

Everything is finally falling into place for Trey Cooper: his band has been accepted into one of the biggest music competitions in the country...too bad their drummer just quit to play with XYZ, their biggest rival. When Trey has a mind-blowingly hot hookup with a mysterious violinist, Trey definitely plans to see him again – just not on stage as a member of XYZ.

Dominic Bounds’ time to make his musical dreams come true is running out. If something doesn’t happen fast, he has to head home to find a real job. This competition is his last chance, and Dom needs to come out on top – but he never expected to fall for his rival. As Dom and Trey risk everything to begin a secret affair, there’s no denying their chemistry is off the charts – but could their band rivalry turn their romance into a one-hit wonder?

Trey and Dominic meet under unusual circumstances.  Dominic is at an open mic night in Trey’s hometown and he blows Trey away with his violin playing rock songs.  The crowd loves it too and asks for more but Dominic’s not prepared.  Trey, who is a band called Fading Daze is called up to play keyboards with him and the two make magical music together.  It helps that they’re incredibly attracted to each other as well and end up together in a car in the boondocks where it proves to be Trey’s first time. The two – who each normally only do hookups – decide that they really like the other and exchange phone numbers.

The next night Trey hears from his roommates and band members that the band XYZ is in town.  They were the band that stole Fading Daze’s drummer away and left them in a lurch for a huge music competition that they were part of.  The trio decides to check out XYZ and Trey’s shocked when he sees Dominic in the band on keyboard!  Luckily Trey and Dominic like each other enough to work it out between them but they keep the secret from all of their band mates except for Trey’s friend Danielle who just happens to find out about them.

Life isn’t easy trying to keep their relationship on the down low when their bands are rivals but they manage.  Dominic is out and proud but Trey, while he doesn’t exactly hide the fact he’s gay he doesn’t shout it from the mountain tops either.  He has a great rapport with Danielle on stage and while they’ve never said that they were a couple they never dissuaded anyone from believing that.  Trey’s not sure he’s ready to come out and lose fans right before the big competition, Unbound.  When XYZ gets a spot at Unbound as well Trey and Dom are happy that they’ll get to be together but they’re torn about winning.  They each want to win for their own reasons but they want the other to win as well.

When someone at the competition decides that Trey and Dom’s sex life would look good on camera and Trey denies any involvement with Dom things get rocky.  When a secret from Dom’s past comes out and Dom gets emotionally distraught, things get rocky, when a tragic accident stops one of the bands from performing in the national Unbound competition, things get rocky.  Fortunately for these two men their love is strong enough to see things through.

This was a sweet story that was pretty angst-filled. Dom had some serious issues because of something in his past, Trey had a horrible family he didn’t talk to, Dom’s friend Lincoln had been kicked out of his house for being gay, the drummer from Fading Daze was stolen away, there was an accident.  I mean, really, while it was a good m/m story, it was pretty dark as well.  I liked how the two men worked things out eventually but I wish they could have not been so quick with the anger and worked it out easier.  I guess that showed their age as they were just around 21 years old.

I have to say that I really loved the family love when it came to Dominic’s family.  They were the best.  They were kind, loving, understanding, supportive – just all around good people.  I loved that the boys had a safe place where they could be themselves and not worry about the outside world.

The issue I had with the relationship was that since it all happened so quickly there just wasn’t a lot of tension between the two and not a lot of buildup.  I liked them together but quite frankly the sexual tension wasn’t there for me.

Overall I thought it was a decent start to the series.  I am curious to see what happens next in the lives of these band members so I’ll be reading the next book when it comes out.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall

Posted June 21, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia CornwallReviewer: Tracy
Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall
Series: A Highland Fairy Tale #1
Also in this series: When a Laird Finds a Lass, The Lady and the Highlander
Published by Macmillan, Swerve
Publication Date: June 21st 2016
Genres: Romance, Scottish
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three-half-stars

Powerful and dangerous highlander Dair Sinclair was once the favored son of his clan, The Sinclairs of Carraig Brigh. With Dair at the helm, Sinclair ships circled the globe bringing home incredible fortune. Until one deadly mission when Daire is captured, tortured and is unable to save his young cousin. He returns home breaking under the weight of his guilt and becomes known as the Madman of Carraig Brigh.

When a pagan healer predicts that only a virgin bride can heal his son’s body and mind, Daire’s father sets off to find the perfect wife for his son. At the castle of the fearsome McLeods, he meets lovely and kind Fia MacLeod.

Although Daire does his best to frighten Fia, she sees the man underneath the damage and uses her charm and special gifts to heal his mind and heart. Will Daire let Fia love him or is he cursed with madness forever?

Dair Sinclair was once a man who would took risks like no man his clan had ever seen.  That brought his clan great wealth and they all loved him to pieces.  Until of course he came home after being captured and tortured and sent home a broken man.  Nothing his father does will break Dair out of his ravings and his wounds don’t heal properly.  The Laird (Dair’s father) sends for the local healer who doesn’t have a clue what to do.  She states, in a moment of fear, that only a virgin bride will heal Dair, the Laird sets off to find one.

The Laird ends up at the MacLeod holding after he hears that MacLeod has a load of daughters he needs to marry off.  He meets Fiona who goes by Fia while there and asks that she come try her healing on his son.  Fia agrees and heads off to Carraig Brigh with Dair’s father and her sister Meggie.  When she arrives Dair is up and about with his physical wounds healing but his emotional ones are still bad.  He had to watch his cousin get raped, tortured and hanged and he relives it every night.  He scoffs at Fia being able to help him but he finds that she does.  Of course someone who doesn’t want Dair to get well spreads rumors that Fia must be a witch because that’s the only way that Fia could have helped Dair.

While Fia was only brought to help Dair and Meggie supposedly to marry him, Fia finds herself falling in love with the man.  Of course Dair doesn’t believe he can have happiness and that puts a damper on things but it can’t stop him from falling for Fia as well.  The each have physical and emotional scars to deal with but together they can conquer anything.

This was a sweet story.  Yes, it’s a fairy tale but it was done well.  Though it was the Beauty and the Beast story I liked how she made Fia have scars as well.  They didn’t take away from her beauty and that beauty was from within as well.  I loved Dair and Fia together and how they worked through their differences time and again.

The villain in the story was quite obvious from the get go.  I didn’t like the person from the first time they were introduced onto the page and that continued.  There weren’t any surprises in the story but it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next in Lecia Cornwall’s fairy tale series.

Rating: 3.5/3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood

Posted June 2, 2016 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily BlackwoodReviewer: Tracy
The Beast of Clan Kincaid by Lily Blackwood
Series: Highland Warrior #1
Also in this series: The Rebel of Clan Kincaid
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: May 31st 2016
Genres: Romance, Scottish
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four-stars

A Highland warrior battles to reclaim his birthright in the first of a new series filled with seduction, revenge, and soul-stirring passion...

They call him the Beast—a hardened mercenary whose heart seems as cold as his icy blue gaze. They do not know his true name: Niall Braewick, son of the Laird of Kincaid. It has been years since he escaped into the forest the night his father was murdered. Now he has returned, ablaze with a vengeful hunger. He will gain the MacClaren chief’s trust, gather his clan, and take back his lands. And take the MacClaren’s daughter as well...

Though he pulled her from the river, saving her life, Elspeth has been warned to keep her distance from her father’s hired warrior. He is a barbarian—a shame, as he is far more compelling than the lechers and fools competing for her dowry. Little does she know that, like the castle itself, she is a prize Niall intends to claim...but will he extract blood for blood and possess what is his, or will his enemy’s beautiful, innocent daughter tempt him to forsake his dream of conquest?

When Niall was just 12 years old his fathers keep was attacked by clan chiefs he thought were his friends.  In order to save his people the Kincaid had to surrender.  His three sons were sent to hide until things calmed down. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the boys were taken off in three different directions when they heard that their mother and father were killed.

It’s been 17 years and Niall is ready to claim back his birthright – his land and title.  He has been working as a mercenary for many years and has hundreds of men who are loyal to him.  He returns to the Kincaid keep that is now in the hands of the MacClaren clan.  Niall’s plan is to infiltrate it as a friend, and eventually take over from within.  He does manage to get into the good graces of the MacClaren but he also finds himself smitten with the MacClaren’s daughter, Elspeth.  Elspeth, who is also smitten with Niall, is not free to marry him however, as she’s to be married in a political match to firm alliances with another clan.

When it comes down to taking what’s rightfully his, Niall has an issue with it that he didn’t think he would.  He’s fallen in love with Elspeth but can he kill her father knowing how much it will hurt her?

This was an unexpectedly good story.  I’m not a huge fan of revenge books but I love a good Scottish romance so picked this one up.  I’m so glad I did.

Niall was a great hero and really made the book for me. Yes, he was initially bent on revenge and planned to kill the MacClaren but when he fell in love with Elspeth he realized that killing her father would kill any love she had for him.  I loved the alpha man with the compassionate side to him – it made him much more likeable and that’s always a good thing.

Elspeth was a strong female character as well and a good match for Niall.  I appreciated how she stood up to her father to a point.  Obviously in medieval Scotland women normally did whatever their fathers wanted them to do.  She was prepared to make a political match and do her duty until she met Niall.  I was happy she made the right decision and made her father’s council agree to the reasoning behind it all.

Now I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of how quickly Niall and Elspeth fell in love.  Yes, they had spent some time together but I would have liked to have seen that romance blossom more before they declared their love for each other.  Niall did save Elspeth’s life several times so that obviously brought on some hero worship but I just would have liked a bit more.

Overall the story was good, the writing was engaging and I really liked it.  I’m very much looking forward to book two to see what’s up with the other brothers that were “lost” as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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