Can't Stand The Heat, by Louisa Edwards

>> Wednesday, June 06, 2012

TITLE: Can't Stand The Heat
AUTHOR: Louisa Edwards

PAGES: 368
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's

SETTING: Contemporary New York City
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 1st in the Recipe for Love series


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.
Miranda Wake is a feared food critic. When she attends the opening of a new restaurant which is big on its principles (knowing exactly where its produce comes from, etc.) she's not too excited. Too often, places like that are big on the talk, boring on the food. And for a while after she gets there doesn't seem to be any food around, though the really nice cocktails are flowing freely.

By the time owner and head chef Adam Temple gets over his nervousness at having to make a speech, his guests, including Miranda, are all plastered. Which leads him and Miranda into a bit of a confrontation. Feeling goaded, Adam dares Miranda to work in his kitchen for a month. And rather than feeling intimidated, as Adam had hoped, Miranda jumps on the opportunity. She's been dreaming of writing a book for a while, but hasn't had any luck getting publishers interested. Surely spending some time in the trenches will help?

Unfortunately, the publishers aren't interested in the serious book she wants to write. All they're willing to publish is shit-stirring gossip, and convinced that Adam is a pretentious fake, anyway, Miranda agrees. But as she starts spending more and more time with Adam, both in the restaurant and outside, she begins to regret her decision.

C reviews can be because the book is mediocre or because the bad balances out the good. This C review is of the latter type. There was a lot to like here. The restaurant setting was fun and really exciting, and the food itself sounded divine. Edwards clearly knows what she's writing about, and I really appreciated the glimpse behind the scenes.

Another great thing about it was that Adam was a wonderful hero. He doesn't particularly like Miranda when he meets her (and Edwards gets a couple of cheap digs at critics/reviewers there), but once he has her in his kitchen, he's more than fair to her. He's perfectly happy to get to know her better, and once he does, to like her. In fact, he falls for her like a ton of bricks, and I liked the combination of protectiveness and respect he has for her.

I also liked the secondary romance, which features Miranda's younger brother, Jesse, who gets a job as a waiter in Adam's restaurant. Jesse's gay, which he hasn't told Miranda, and he falls for one of the chefs in the restaurant, a guy with a reputation for being more than a little bit wild and sleeping with everything that moves. Their romance is really sweet, and I enjoyed it.

What I didn't like at all was Miranda's behaviour. I didn't like her decisions, I didn't buy her motivation, and what she was doing didn't even seem realistic. It's all about that stupid tell-all book she's determined to write. First of all, she's supposed not to like the idea of such a book at all, but does it because she needs the money. But Edwards never made me believe she really did. She wants it to pay for Jesse's uni, when he's expressly told her he is perfectly happy to take his time and work his way through uni, just as she did. I know she's supposed to be determined to give Jesse the life her parents would have wanted for him (their parents died when he was very young and she finished raising him), but we're talking about something that is supposed to be morally problematic for her, so I needed something stronger to believe she would put her morals aside.

Or maybe not, because those morals didn't seem to be particularly strong, which is yet another problem. There's a point where she makes a really, really ugly decision, which I don't believe anyone with the morals she's supposed to have would make. Yes, she's angry about something Adam's done when she does it, but to me it was such a betrayal of him and of people who'd done absolutely nothing to her (in fact, had always treated her with respect), that there was no excuse for what she did. It's not even about Adam having been guilty of what she though he'd done, even if he had, there was no excuse. He forgives her, but I didn't. I wanted Adam to find someone better, not this horrible person.

I also mentioned earlier that the whole gossipy book didn't seem realistic, anyway, which was yet another WTF. The supposedly scandalous gossip sounded like much ado about nothing. I just didn't quite get why Miranda thought what her horrid source was telling her about Adam's staff and their pasts (one's had an ugly divorce! One is an ex con! Adam financial backer is his ex!) was so scandalous. Really, you think that in Manhattan people are going to care that one of the cooks in a restaurant kitchen has a bit of a past? Would this really sell a gossipy tell-all book? That was a load of shit, if you ask me. Plus, Miranda, supposedly a journalist, does not fact-check anything. So in addition to being a horrible, dishonourable person, she's a rubbish journalist, and irresponsible to boot.

So, definitely not a successful read, but for all that I despised Miranda, I think there was enough there that I liked that I would be willing to try Edwards again.



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