|My dinner today...*Shame*|
I have to admit, I was kind of predisposed to like Too Hot to Touch. I love food. I can cook passably, and I bake very well. Unfortunately, I live in a college apartment with a tiny kitchen that I share with three other people. Gourmet meals are not within my reach. So reading about people who can and do cook very well is a treat for me.
Plot Summery! Lunden's Tavern was once a very popular upscale restaurant in New York City, but in recent years it has experienced a decline in business. In an effort to save their business, the chefs decide to enter the Rising Star Chefs competition, with the idea that winning would propel them back to popularity and profit. Jules has been working in the restaurant since the Lunden family took her in when she was a teenager. She's always had a crush on Max, the eldest Lunden son. For the past six years, Max has been roaming the world in search of culinary secrets, and barely keeps in contact with his family. There's some bad blood between him, his father Gus, and brother Danny. But when Max is asked to return home to help with the first round of the competition, he can't refuse.
I really enjoyed the premise of this book--the chef competition involving team work and a lot of skill. Even though I found the plot kind of predictable, I didn't find it boring. The dynamics between the team members were fantastic. In addition to Jules and Max, you have Danny the pastry chef, Beck the mysterious new guy, and Winslow the the very energetic spirited guy. I thought the book was at it's strongest when it showed everyone working together, practicing their own specialties but still helping one another. These secondary characters might easily have come off as pointless sequel bait, but instead they were likeable characters who served a purpose.
I found Max fascinating, and I though his personal conflicts were true to real life. He really wants to be creative and discover new things, rather then help run his parent's very traditional restaurant. The process of reconciling family loyalty (and his relationship with Jules) with his impulse to wander and be free was interesting to me.
I liked Jules quite a bit as well. I found her to be just a tad too angsty at times, letting her less then perfect childhood serve as an excuse for all of her current emotional turmoil. Not to minimize her dark(ish) past, but I was kind of expecting her to have some much darker secret then what is ultimately revealed. I was left feeling like she was a pretty lucky woman, and she should behave accordingly.
The romance was pretty hot. Max and Jules had instant chemistry as well as the beginnings of a deeper emotional connection.
My complaints about this book are pretty minor. The plot is predictable, and at times cliched--but in contemporary romance you can't expect plot twists. Some of the dialogue was slightly awkward and forced, like the author was trying a bit too hard. And yes, some of Jules' character development strays into the melodramatic.
In the end, I liked this book a lot. It's a pretty light read, and it's a lot of fun. I'd recommend it if you like contemporary romance, and especially if you like cooking. 4 stars.