A Delicious Dilemma
Romeo and Juliet meets really good-sounding food in Sera Taíno’s A Delicious Dilemma, the charming story of a chef and a land developer who manage to tumble into bed and then have to deal with some uncomfortable truths when the morning after arrives.
Val Navarro has a bustling family life, a booming family restaurant to run, and a relationship she just got out of, which means she’s free and single and ready to mingle. Her relationship with the cheating, dramatic Luke was a mess, and her intent is to go on with the rest of her life drama-free. Her intent was to go out dancing with her friends, but on the floor she meets the serious, sensitive Philip Wagner, and suddenly her life changes dramatically.
Philip was supposed to be a single night fling, yet Val definitely wants more. But before one night can lead into more, the twosome soon learn a horrifying fact about their connection – his father’s a developer who wants to shut down her family’s restaurant and gentrify their neighborhood into oblivion. Things only get worse when Phillip steps in to take over negotiations for the Navarro’s land. Phillip and Val have a strong connection, but can his upscale world and her downtown life ever combine? And will the Navarros keep their restaurant?
Taíno hits all of the classic beats with this one, from the society charity dinner our heroine has to dress up to the intense family conflict that makes everything harder for everyone involved to ultimately get along, even providing the fourth-act break up and grovel. The characters are what make the simple and somewhat familiar plot sparkle, particularly the engaging Val. I also liked Nati and Rafi, Val’s siblings. Phillip is handsome and dashing, and he’s obviously got daddy issues; emotional and sensitive, he is somewhat repressed due to his father’s toxic masculinity. This makes him particularly sympathetic and easy to like. Taíno does a good job comparing and contrasting the worlds inhabited by the two families.
There’s a nice spark between Val and Philip, and I really liked the way they share simple interests like cooking and dancing even before they end up in bed together. There’s a sense that they would have ended up here and together even if they hadn’t found themselves wrapped up in each other’s arms.
But the book doesn’t reach a higher grade, mostly due to the simplistic beats. There’s a spark but no fire, not enough uniqueness to make it really stand out from the field, a good book but not a perfect one, and that leaves it right at a B level. A Delicious Dilemma has some great touches, but it’s ultimately not memorable enough to get anything higher from me.