A Hearts On Fire Review
3.75 Hearts--Where to begin with King of the Kitchen?
I've been keeping an eye on Bru Baker's work. When I read the premise of rivaling culinary families with a sort of Hatfield/McCoy-esque enemies to lovers feel mixed with gourmet cooking n a television cooking show, I couldn't wait to read it. Interesting premise is interesting. I'm not a foodie by no means - I can cook but it's not like I'm running to by the latest knives or food processor out there. (When I follow a recipe and it comes out the way the picture looks I feel super accomplished)
But I am fascinated by chef romances. To me, the art of cooking is a science. So my inner geek was ecstatic that one of the main characters was a molecular gastronomist. And this novel truly treated cooking with the passion and art it's all about. There were hiccups (which I'll get to) but the romance was light and bubbly underneath the cooking.
Told in alternating POV and set in Chicago, thirty-something(?) chefs Duncan Walters and Beck Douglas meet each other at a chance meeting & a little hidden identity on one of their parts. That sets the tone of some of their animosity...and attraction for nearly a decade when they finally meet again.
Each man is a celebrity chef in their own right, Beck is under his controlling uncle's thumb working more than there are hours in the day on a daily basis including hosting a national cooking show, never getting a chance to be his own man. And Duncan, a food whiz, is a chef nomad and has degrees in molecular gastronomy and hates his bigoted zealot of a father. Though he and his father can cook like a dream, his father has hurt him in more ways than one over the years and Duncan's sexuality is the main point of contention.
The author takes time to set the stage while making interesting dishes. Now I expected a romance. What I didn't expect was the lightness to the men's characters. They were snarky, sweet and had depth. These things I liked muchly. Beck was the uptight stick in the mud who really wants to have fun with the right person vs Duncan's rolling stone who needed someone to give him a reason to believe you can have someone to have to your back. You know good old opposites attract, a fave of mine.
And the book really knew what it was doing in the kitchen with well researched techniques. And it worked with the chef's interactions with each other. They're cooking, they're living life. It flowed in that aspect.
But...there were a lot of words.
I think too much words. And even if the romance was sweet and effervescent, I have to discuss the story's biggest flaw - repetition. I'd read thoughts that were made over and over. I'm not a reader who needs to be spoon fed all the information and then reminded in case I forgot. I got it. I'm ready to move on. Why must I rehash the same point made in the first chapter again? Sometimes it read like it was trying to stretch the word count. And I have to take away a heart from my rating for that despite the easiness to the romance.
And while I was going to go for 4 Hearts as my rating, going over my notes, I can't. The pace got a little clunky for me. (Example: we get an altercation between the feuding families and then it gets pushed to the wayside or a chance to read a first time relationship's experience.) The ending was a little abrupt. The family dynamics was left unfinished. It was reflected on briefly but I think this story would have done even better with an epilogue. Duncan and Beck totally deserved it.
But the good certainly outweighs the missteps.
And there were surprises...like fake to real relationship surprises. There was sex and a few fun places *coughs*desk*coughs* and this is spoilerish:
A plus in my book.
Is this book for everyone? Probably not.
I think readers who are foodies, like light, funny stories, don't mind extra explanation could probably enjoy this best.