Bastien is a chef in a French restaurant in Manhattan. He works hard to keep his reputation and food at the highest level, and he’s frustrated that a respected critic has given him an average rating. Bastien pours his emotions into food and goes all out creating beautiful pastries for his niece’s school bake sale. While purveying the treats, Bastien meets James.
James is a classy man, and he likes classy food. Makes sense, as he’s a food critic. He never expected to encounter the delicious des religieuses, or the delectable chef selling them, at his nephew’s bake sale. He finds the freckled, ginger Frenchman mouthwatering, flirty, and available. James only recognizes that Bastien is the head chef of a restaurant he recently reviewed when he invites James to be his guest there. And that’s a bucket of ice water to the groin, because James didn’t quite like his food. Still, he’s so intrigued, and the pastries he’s bought show James that Bastien is a gifted chef. Was he wrong in his review? Should he start anything, knowing that Bastien would never have been so cordial—or flirty—if he knew James was a food critic?
James allows one of his many brothers to convince him to give Bastien and his restaurant another try—without revealing his professional identity, and James is mortified that he loves the food, and can’t wait for “dessert” with his chef. Man, the sex is dynamite, too!
So, James is in an awkward position. The more they see each other, the more he’s falling for Bastien. And James fully acknowledges that the many dishes he’s now had from his restaurant are clearly better than his three-star review would indicate. Not only does he make up his mind to come clean to Bastien, he writes a revised review, for the first time ever.
And, well, things don’t quite work out like James hopes.
This is such a sweet read. The sexy sex was scrumptious. And I’m a goner for chef romances that have lots of cooking/eating because I’m a total foodie. James’s other brothers convince him to woo Bastien back. Thinking through their time together, James trusts the old adage, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and decides to cook for Bastien. James isn’t a trained chef, but he’s learned to cook and appreciates well-made fare. French cuisine isn’t his forte, but he selects dishes that he can competently replicate. While Bastien works, James cooks—leaving his carefully prepared dishes outside Bastien’s door so he’ll find them when he comes in late after closing the restaurant. Bastien is angry, but slowly charmed, by James’ culinary apologies as this back-and-forth continues. He finds himself looking forward to what James will leave him each night, and even playfully critiques each dish—something that James admires.
While Bastien enjoys his dinners for one, he comes to accept that some secrets aren’t horrible, and James is as competent in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom. What chef can’t appreciate a man who cooks from his heart? The writing was smooth, and the story enchanting. I had a few outlying questions about James’ absolutely free workday schedule, and his demonstrable wealth. His large family was fun and loving, and I’m intrigued to learn there’s another romance featuring one of his brothers that sounds interesting. If you crave chef romances, and guys who dig a taste of kink (think dominance games and a bit of bondage), I think you’ll really eat this one up. (Yes, all my puns are intended.)
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.