Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. –Harriet van Horne
Pastry chef, Danny Lunden is embarking on his first trip outside of his comfortable Manhattan life and heading to the windy city of Chicago to represent the East Coast in the second round of the Rising Star Chef Competition. A delay in takeoff causes the group to become antsy and Danny probes the stewardess about the hold up. He gets his answer when Eva Jansen, better known as “Eva the Diva,” steps onto the plane in five-inch Louboutins. After setting her eyes on Danny, she is all attitude and desire. This is not their first meeting, (she was the panel moderator in the competition’s first round) but this time, she is determined to add the sexy spice of Danny Lunden to her life while they are both involved in the competition.
Eva’s exterior is strong, straightforward, a little bitchy and a lot of steam. Inside, Eva is a very insecure, immature girl who has not quite grown up or given up the desire and drive to please her dad in the business world and prove to him that she can take over the competition when he retires. This drive proves to be a catalyst not only in her profession but also her personal life. Eva has no time for a relationship, let alone love. Danny questions if he has bit off more than he can chew by pursuing Eva and, in turn starts to doubt if his team will pull through to the finals. He further wonders if Eva’s sexual attraction and desire for him will fizzle out like a fallen soufflé once he returns home and she takes over as director of the competition.
Upon finishing the first book, Too Hot To Touch, my heart pulled for Danny. His character left a lasting impression in my mind and I could not wait for his book and well deserved HEA. Danny is the fixer, the protector, the encourager, and puts himself last among family and friends with regard to gratification and happiness. For me, it was unrealistic that Danny could be attracted to a woman like Eva. Eva. Whew! I expected her bold personality and drive for success after being introduced to her in the first book. What I did not expect was how flippant she was to using men and pursuing “no strings” sex. Eva’s first impression left me with an irritation that was hard to shake. There were too many incidents and miscommunications between Eva and Danny that when they did admit their feelings and became a couple, it felt forced and I didn’t know if I even wanted it. I had really hoped for an emotionally stronger woman for Danny and Eva just did not measure up.
Now on to what I enjoyed. My mixed feelings about the pairing were offset by Ms. Edward’s gift for penning multi-dimensional characters that the reader invests in from book one. Once again, we not only get the story of Eva and Danny, but we witness the continued fear and uncertainty of Claire’s feelings for her younger lover, Kane. We re-visit Max and Jules in the throws of bliss now that they have a solid relationship. (I was glad to confirm that Danny never viewed Jules as anything other than a sister figure after being best friends for so long.) Also, we get a better understanding of Beck’s personality and an introduction to who his love interest will be in his upcoming book.
Once again, Ms. Edward’s seasoned her love scenes with intensity and intricate detail, crafting memorable and steamy scenes that are so hot, you’ll need a fire extinguisher nearby. And while providing a savory pursuit of love, Ms. Edward’s subtlety shows the power of forgiveness between real, flawed characters. Finally, we witness more scrumptious dishes prepared with love and care as the East Coast team pulls out all the stops to qualify for the finals of the Rising Star Chef Competition. Although Eva was not initially my choice for Danny, in the end she took a great professional risk to prove how much she cared for Danny. This gesture of sincerity and honesty was believable and conveyed the start to a maturity I longed for in a mate for Danny.
“Licking her lips, Eva prepared to ignore Danny’s demand and dive back in for more of the addictive, smoke-salt flavor of him, which she could still taste on her tongue. But he shook his head, stopping her, and stroked the backs of his bandaged hands down the sides of her face. It was a strange sensation, the soft cotton gauze not as warm or as rough as his callused fingers, but it was the expression on his face that melted her insides. Danny looked as if he thought she was the edible one-and he was starving.”