Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Review: Can't Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards

For the month of February, I wanted to read through many of the romances I had sitting around, and for a food loving reader like me, what could be more appealing than a romance with a chef and a food critic as the main characters? Louisa Edwards' Can't Stand the Heat fit the bill on the surface but unfortunately it had so many issues that it ended up just making me cranky.

Miranda Wake is the food critic for Delicieux magazine and when she gets drunk at a party introducing the food world to Chef Adam Temple's new restaurant, Market, she gets into a confrontation with the good looking chef which ends with him challenging her to spend a day in his kitchen and her agreeing. Negotiations with his primary financial backer extend the time to a month, which horrifies Adam and delights Miranda. She has been trying to pitch a book proposal about the food world but she keeps getting turned down because she has no actual restaurant experience and this gift of a month should solve that problem. Her other issue is that her 19 year old brother has moved home and doesn't want to go back to college. Adam, in the midst of opening a much anticipated restaurant, is suddenly saddled with a hostile restaurant critic in his kitchen, a place where almost everyone has worked together and with him before and is a tight and familiar team. Of course, these two antagonists are attracted to each other and find themselves unable to keep their hands off of each other. Miranda's younger brother Jess, who is hired on as a waiter, and sous chef Frankie are also falling for each other.

Miranda's character was awful. It wasn't a pleasure to spend time with her. The way she treated her brother, which the text excuses because she raised him after their parents' death 9 years prior to the story, was ridiculous. I have a 19 year old son I've raised for his entire life and I wouldn't treat him the ways she does her brother. Her infantilizing him is only part of the problem though because her reaction to him being honest about who he is and what he wants is hateful rather than loving and accepting. Adam saving her from her worst impulses was lovely but not earned on her part. But this is not the only time she lashed out like a selfish brat and that made it hard to want her to have a happy ending with Adam. The major catalyst for the girl loses boy part of the story was completely outlandish and the resolution to correct it was easy and too quick.

The timeline in the book is nonsense in all ways. It is hard to believe that Adam and Miranda could overcome their extreme antagonism in only about a day. It is beyond belief that Miranda could pitch a salacious and dirty tell-all book, have it accepted by a publisher (and given an advance large enough to pay for her brother's college), write all 150 pages of it (this, btw, is not generally considered book length, especially for a new author), and have portions of it leaked on some editorial assistant's blog online the day after she hit the send button on the manuscript all in about two weeks' time. It was all I could do not to throw the book across the room at this point. If I wasn't incapable of abandoning a book unfinished, I probably would have. Before the major plot issues, I already didn't like Miranda's character, there were too many forced food and cooking similies, and I wished the book centered on Jess and Frankie rather than Miranda and Adam (although Adam was fine if too forgiving). This was definitely not the book I'd been hoping it was.

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