Sunday, August 28, 2016

Under the Knife by Laurin Kelly

Title: Under the Knife
Author: Laurin Kelly
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Purchase at Less Than Three Press
Cover Artist: Kirby Crow
Genre: contemporary
Length: 95,000 words
Formats Mobi, Epub, PDF

Season three of TV's hottest cooking competition, Under the Knife, is gearing up, and Nate is equal parts excited and terrified that he's one of the twelve competitors. But the prize is a quarter of a million dollars, and that's worth a few weeks of being stressed and afraid.

It may not, however, be worth weeks of putting up with Zachary, the cold, snotty competitor who definitely thinks he's better than everyone else. The man can cook, and he's the hottest man Nate has ever seen, but every time he opens his mouth Nate hates him all over again.

He came here to be driven crazy trying to prove he's the best chef in the world, but if Nate can't learn to block Zachary out it won't be the competition that pushes him to the breaking point.

Food and sex, they’re so entwined with sensuality. Aren’t the gourmets always saying they can tell when a dish has been prepared with love?

This story is very heavy on the food aspect, which would be sort of hard to get away from given the cooking reality show setting. The cooking is almost as much of a character as Nate and Zachary, and gets probably as much page time. You’ll be looking at your cold cereal dinner with a new level of disgust after reading about their delicious preparations.

We see the story only from Nate’s eyes: how Zachary fascinates him and still pushes him away, and how the other contestants affect what’s going on. There’s several sharp personalities here, and since the stakes are high, the competition influences every interaction.  The author has the reality show dynamics to a T.  Even where Nate and others start becoming friends, there’s always the knowledge that there is no second prize.

We get to know Zachary bit by bit, almost bite by bite. He’s driven by his need to win, and every though he’s intrigued by Nate, he’s always aware of what else is at stake. He’s hard to like at first, but easy to be fascinated by. Because Nate is telling this story, he’s easier to get to know. He’s imperfect but still a good man, and he’s definitely a top chef.

I enjoyed this book, but in places I was just a bit overwhelmed by all the details and every single step of the competition, and was anxious to just get on with it. Even so, I enjoyed the style and the unrolling of the romance, and I enjoyed the ending very much. The author found a way for the competition to complicate but not break the romance.

And I would appreciate it if Zachary, Nate, or Carmen would turn up in my kitchen to make dinner. 4.5 marbles

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