Dishing It Out
Dishing It Out is part of the doomed Flipside line. I’m not a big reader of series romance, but if more Flipsides were like this one, I doubt Harlequin would be pulling its plug. The cover is silly, but this is a nice little story.
Marie Simmons is finally turning a financial and professional corner. Her little bistro is gathering a following, thanks to her twice-monthly appearances doing a cooking segment on AMSF, a San Francisco morning show. When the producer calls her into his office to say her ratings are fantastic and the station wants her to appear weekly, Marie is over the moon – until the producer reveals that her new co-host will be Giovanni MacAllister, the stuffy gourmet chef who not only outbid Marie for the restaurant property she wanted, but then had the nerve to call her bistro a “cute little coffee shop” in the newspapers. Marie hates him. She refuses to be on the show with him. She hopes he has a very tiny penis.
Van MacAllister isn’t nearly as antagonistic toward Marie as she is toward him. His quote about her bistro was taken out of context, and he actually admires her taste, not to mention her skin and her hair and her – well, you get the idea. Van is great with wine and a maestro with food, and while he thinks Marie is more the Betty Crocker type, he’s willing to add his talent to her style to promote his new restaurant and hopefully start paying off the mountains of debt he’s accumulated with his new venture. He agrees to all Marie’s demands, not quite sure why she seems to want his head mounted above her rubbish bins, and their new show is launched with great media fanfare, and no small amount of sexual tension between them.
Marie’s a restless soul. The bistro is the first thing that’s held her in one place for long, and she has to fight the urge to ditch it all and run away from the decrepit dishwasher and the baker’s hours and go live on a mountain in Peru. She’s wildly attracted to Van, which she takes as a very bad sign. Her taste in men has never worked out before, so why should it now, when he’s her arch rival? But Van grows on her, with his hundred dollar bottles of wine as peace offering and his endearing stage fright on the TV set. It’s not too long before Marie is regretting her hasty wish about Van’s size.
And Van is just a sweetheart. I love a man who can cook, and while Van has an ego and is a perfectionist in the kitchen, he has flaws. He’s colorblind, and just wears all black to avoid any difficult questions of coordination. Marie talks him into going crabbing for one show, but he can’t swim, and has to wear a hideous life jacket on TV. He respects Marie, and doesn’t have an alpha male’s confidence that she’ll let him under her apron the first time he makes a move on her. And when their show leads to some unexpected possibilities late in the story, Van handles it with grace and even gallantry.
The book is really short, and there’s a lot of information that has to be unloaded for the story to make sense. I got the feeling that had I read Pencil Him In, which features Marie’s sister Anna and precedes this story, more of Marie’s family history and why she has such a strong case of wanderlust would have been explained. Van’s past is almost entirely blank, aside from his relationship with a famous chef who was his mentor.
There’s also a Big Misunderstanding that surfaced near the end, but luckily it was so close to the end it couldn’t drag on for long. Dishing It Out wasn’t really a funny story (which I had thought was the point of Flipside) but it was lively and endearing. For a light, zippy read, O’Keefe serves up a pretty tasty morsel.