Can't Stand the Heat

On the Steamy Side

Just One Taste
by Louisa Edwards
(St. Martin’s, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0312-35647-7
This book is part of a series entitled “Recipe for Love.” Obviously it centers on the food world and in this case, on a guy who is working his way out of the world of con artists and into legitimacy. The heroine is a nerdy scientist who was raised as a prodigy and is a disappointment to her highly-regarded professional parents. Some of the characters from previous stories play roles. Just One Taste stands on its own, even though it is evident that previous stories covered some of the details. Unfortunately the story was slow and plodding at times, the characters were often apart, and the secondary romance almost took center stage.

Wes Murphy grew up with his father, who was a two-bit con artist. He got cornered during one con that resulted in arrest. Since Wes was a juvenile, he got sent to a halfway house where a wonderful woman took him under her wing and introduced him to the joys of cooking. Wes is enrolled at a Culinary Institute and is attempting to finish so he can get a job in a great restaurant and start his career. His new professor of Food Chemistry is none other than lofty scientist Rosemary Wilkins, a child prodigy made famous by her mother in a book that told Rosemary’s story. Rosemary is extremely intelligent, can spout scientific facts like an encyclopedia and is beautiful to look at. What she is not is street smart or relationship savvy.

At first, Wes decides to use his attraction as a way to get a good grade, but very quickly realizes that his attraction is more than that. He approaches Rosemary with the idea for a final paper that involves researching aphrodisiacs and their real effects. Rosemary is snookered in and they eventually make love. When the Director of the institute, who never has liked Wes, discovers their relationship, he threatens to destroy Rosemary’s career if Wes doesn’t leave.

So without further ado, Wes joins the Market Restaurant crew on an “externship” assignment. He is distraught that he had to break both his own and Rosemary’s heart, but is thrilled to be able to work alongside Chef Adam Temple and his sous chef Frankie Boyd. Ultimately, Rosemary tracks him down and they try to figure out a way to have a relationship. But Wes’ past comes back to haunt him when his father finds him and smells a con with Rosemary and her money.

Rosemary is the predictable nerd one would expect – a woman who is successful in her field but totally without self-esteem in her relationships. In fact, it appears she has no friends nor has she ever had a male friend. Wes is a bit of a modern day rake, convinced that no one could ever love him due to his past and the fact that he is just one shady deal away from being just like his father. I found their interplay fun and engaging, but there wasn’t much of it. The sex was hot but they were apart as much as they were together. And when they were apart, they tormented their own psyches with all their negative thinking. This made it difficult to stay engaged in their romance.

The two that almost stole the show was the romance between Frankie and his gay lover, Jess, who happened to be a waiter at the Market. Jess and Wes become good friends and Wes plays an integral part in getting these two back together. It is clear there is history dating back to the other stories in the series, but it is easy to see how these two got where they are. The resolution of their love story was energetic and fun to watch develop.

I wanted to enjoy Just One Taste but I found myself plowing through parts and forcing myself to pick up the book at times. It was easy to be frustrated with two people who had gotten beyond their childhoods in every way except in their heads. And their journey tofigure it out did not have the right flavor to keep me turning the pages with anticipation. Fans of the series may find it different, but for me, I could have used some different spices in this tale.

--Shirley Lyons

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