Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Casey Friel is the only son of recently deceased, famous, Michelin-starred chef, Donald Friel. They had a really contentious relationship, and Casey’s lasting trauma from his father’s continual emotional abuse includes an eating disorder and a complete lack of cooking skill. His Uncle Walt, Donald’s twin brother, is grief stricken and develops a wild idea to reopen Donald’s flagship restaurant with Casey as the head chef as an homage to his “beloved” father.

Casey is a semester from completing his MBA, but he’s a pleaser and adores his Uncle Walt, who was the father Casey needed when Donald never attempted to be. Despite failing out of two culinary schools, Casey agrees to attend Summer Kitchen, a small school taught by one of Donald’s former sous chefs. Casey’s mostly just grateful to leave Manhattan behind, and he’s absolutely charmed by Summer Kitchen’s location in rural Home, Vermont. He’s the only student and is staying in Harrison House, the ancestral manor of the Harrison family, founders of Home as an idyllic oasis of acceptance in New England.

Dev Harrison is the last remaining in the line of “succession” to Home’s governance. He was the younger son, and his elder brother was groomed by their grandfather to be the town manager, a role held by a Harrison for generations. Dev is a musician and had been writing and recording music for a band on the precipice of discovery. Unfortunately, a year and half ago, both Dev’s brother and grandfather were killed in a car wreck. Dev abandoned his rock band dreams and apartment in LA to manage their affairs, as well as those of the town. Over that time, Dev has watched the people and funds of Home dwindle to the point that the town is steadily going bankrupt.

Meeting Casey breathes life into Dev, who’d felt as if he were drowning. The stress of managing budgets is super taxing, but Casey is beautiful and smart. He can’t cook at all–like, worse than Worst Cooks in America–but Dev’s able to trade some cooking tips for business tips. They’re just starting to fall for one another when Uncle Walt’s pushy business partner turns up, insisting that he’s Casey’s fiancé. Casey detests the financial titan who believes his money entitles him to whatever, and whomever, he wants. Learning that the man plans to destroy Home in a misguided attempt to force Casey to dance to his tune sparks all of Casey’s ire. Casey’s determination to fight for both Dev, and Home, and his counter-plan to restore Home’s fortunes really wins him Dev’s heart.

This is a sweet, and a little spicy, opposites-attract, small-town romance. It’s the beginning of a new series, and there are a lot of characters and situations that collide to create a fun melding of both Casey and Dev’s lives and futures. It was easy to see that there will be a LOT going on in coming stories, and yet, those secondary characters and foreshadowing bits didn’t overpower the love story developing for Casey and Dev. I liked both characters, and appreciated how they brought different experiences and talents to the story. Casey’s a master planner, and a lot uptight in the kitchen, but Dev’s a go-with-the-flow person who values intention over perfection. Dev helps Casey relax and make good memories in the kitchen, which gives Casey the strength to branch out in new ways. Meanwhile, Casey’s business acumen is paramount in getting control of Home’s financials, and keeping Dev from letting everyone down.

I’ve enjoyed paranormal and supernatural romance stories from this author, so I was intrigued to read a realistic, contemporary romance. I’m glad I did. Summer Kitchen is fun and tender, with deep characters that have deep needs to be strong partners to the right man. I would happily return to Home, either to watch other couples fall in love, or see Dev and Casey continue to burn up the pages. Besides, I have to find out what happens now that Dev isn’t paying his monthly “Maintenance” bill–and who is the celebrated painter?