This series is actually kind of connected to Louisa Edwards first Recipe for Love trilogy, in that one of the characters from that trilogy is one of the judges in the contest that forms the central premise of this series. The link is tenuous enough that it needn't bother about reading out of order if you do decide to start with these books first.
The overarching premise is that there is a national competition held annually that looks to find the best chefs in America. The drama in the plot is multi layered, both within the various teams, between the teams, between the judges and oh so much more! Before I go too far, I have to mention that whilst each of the three books in the trilogy features it's own hero and heroine, there is also a secondary romance that winds its way in the background featuring Claire (uptight, French, foodie, magazine editor) and Kane (rock star, foodie, young and handsome). I have seen quite a few comments around the place that say that this background relationship as actually some people's favourite in the whole trilogy.
A warning first - these are relatively standard modern contemporary romances, in that the reader does go into the bedroom with the characters, so if you prefer for the bedroom door to be firmly shut you might want to bear this in mind.
Anyway, let's look at each of the individual books in the series:
Welcome to the Rising Star Chef competition, where today’s hottest chefs battle it out on national TV for a chance at fame, fortune and culinary supremacy. Every contestant hungers to win, but only one will take the prize...The team from Lunden's Tavern is all set to go to enter into the prestigious Rising Star Chef competition, or at least they were until the owner and head chef falls ill. They need another team member to join head of the team Jules, pastry chef Danny, fish chef Beck and sous chef Winslow. Enter Max Lunden. Max is the son of the owners of the tavern and Danny's brother but he has been gone for years. Max is the kind of chef who has travelled the world, studying obscure techniques and working in some of the most amazing locations going. When his mother asks him to come home, he agrees that he can spare one month before he is due to head off to Italy. One month only.
HE’S GOT THE SIZZLE
When it comes to competitive cooking, Max Lunden is no stranger to winning...though he’s never been great at working with a team. A master chef—and major hunk—he’s traveled the world, picking up new cooking techniques as well as beautiful women. But when the prodigal chef returns home to his family’s Greenwich Village restaurant, he discovers one too many cooks in the kitchen—and she’s every bit as passionate as he is...
SHE’S GOT THE FIRE
Juliet Cavanaugh used to have a crush on Max when she was just a teenager, hanging out at Lunden & Sons Tavern, hoping to catch a glimpse of the owner’s oldest, and hottest, son. Now a chef herself—competing in the biggest culinary contest in the country—Juliet will be cooking side by side with the one man she’s always admired...and desired. But despite their simmering attraction, Juliet is determined to keep her cool—no matter how hot it gets...
Max is also the brother that Jules had a crush on years before, but he never realised. Cue the drama, not only between the two of them, but also lots of unresolved issues between the two brothers, Max and Danny, mainly to do with the fact that Max not only left New York, but he also left Danny behind without so much as a backward glance.
Danny is a traditionalist at heart and so when Max keeps on wanting to try new things during the competition things are bound to get heated in the kitchen, and that's before we start talking about the smoking chemistry between Jules and Max.
The team from Lunden's needs to wow the judges enough to wind through to the next stage of the Rising Star Chef competition. First though, they might need to learn how to be a team, and quickly.
A sizzling blend of food, passion—and searing romance—the Rising Star Chef competition brings together the world’s hottest chefs for an all-star cook-off that’s sure to stir up excitement...and melt some hearts.I rated all three books in this trilogy as 4/4 reads, but as I think back, this was probably the most problematic of the books for me, and that is all down to one person, and one person only. Eva.
HE’S FEELING THE HEAT
Sexy, single, and even sweeter than the treats he bakes, New York pastry chef Danny Lunden is trying to stay focused on food—not females. With the Rising Star Chef competition approaching, he doesn’t have time to get all steamed up over the gorgeous woman he encounters on the plane to Chicago. Even if she is Eva Jansen—the billionaire heiress in charge of the contest...
SHE TAKES THE CAKE
Danny assumes that “Eva the Diva” is a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t share his passion for food. But when the two meet up again in an elevator—alone—they share more than just passion. They share a kiss hot enough to start a kitchen fire—and they’re hungry for more. To indulge their new secret craving, Eva and Danny have to break every rule in the cookbook. But—like chocolate and caramel—some ingredients are are so sinfully good together, one scrumptious bite is never enough...
Eva has recently taken over the series from her father and is trying to put her own stamp on the competition, to give it a higher profile, and what better way to do that than by getting it aired on The Cooking Channel. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem to want more drama, more of a reality TV show feel and that leads Eva to make some questionable decision. I got the reason that were given for this - the need to step out of daddy's shadow and the absolute need to make this work - but I did really struggle to like Eva at some points during this book.
When Danny Lunden's plane is held up and he finds out that it was because of Eva, he assumes that she is a spoilt little rich girl. Later they share a lift and a steamy kiss and he finds out that maybe, just maybe, she also makes him a little hot under the collar and so he is determined to get to know her a little better.
Danny is the team's pastry chef and so it is up to him to provide the finishing touches to the menus that are served up to the judges. At stake, a place in the national finals of the competition. With Jules and Max wrapped up in each other, Danny can't afford to lose his focus, but it is hard to keep it when every interaction that he has with Eva has him hungering for more.
Henry Beck thought he’d already faced the toughest kitchen challenge of his life. After all, what could top sweating it out as a Navy cook on a submarine? But when he learns his competition for the title of Rising Star Chef is the sweet hippie girl he married…and left…ten years ago, the heat is on.I just read this book last weekend, and so it is much fresher in my mind than the others.
Now Beck and Skye Gladwell are going head to head in the finals…and sparking up old flames every time they touch. But
Skye wants more than a win over the man who abandoned her when she needed him most—she wants a divorce! Then her sexy almost-ex makes a deliciously dangerous proposition. He’ll give in to her demands, but if his team wins the RSC, he has a demand of his own…one last taste of the only woman he ever loved.
Whilst all of the heroes in the series are delectable, Beck was the one that intrigued me most. He is the enigmatic one of the group. Before the big reveal in the last book, even his team mates didn't know much about Beck. He was good at his job, and was an important part of the team, but they didn't know where he came from, where he had been, and they had no idea that he is married....to one of their main rivals.
Admittedly Henry and Skye hadn't actually seen each other for ten years before the competition bought them together again. Henry and Skye were young when they married and still young when circumstance and then tragedy ripped them apart. Skye is determined that this is her chance to move on so she asks for a divorce. He agrees, but on one condition. They bet on the outcome of the competition. If she wins, she gets her divorce. If he wins, she gets her divorce but he gets one more night with her.
The final challenge to determine who is the winner of the competition is a doozy. The contestants have to tell their life story in five courses. For a man like Beck who never reveals his emotions or his past to anyone this is beyond a challenge - it is out and out confrontational. For Skye, it's a chance for him to see how the events of the past formed her and shaped her into the woman she is today. I cried most of the way through as Beck told his story, and again as Skye shared her life story.
I am looking forward to seeing what foodie flavoured romances Louisa Edwards has in store for us next!
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.