Desert Isle Keeper
Intercepting the Chef
Logan Stonestreet knows his career is winding down. If his agent wasn’t hinting, then his body sure is, as years of playing professional football are starting to take their toll. Tapping into memories of his mother’s cooking, he decides to create a restaurant to segue into phase two of adulthood. The problem is that he can’t cook for crap. Lucky for him, his best friend’s twin sister is a renowned chef in need of a kitchen and agrees to take the job. Needless to say, the kitchen is not the only place that heats up in this new series kickoff from Rachel Goodman.
When we meet Gwen Lalonde, things are going a little pear shaped. The restaurant she was running in San Francisco just received its third Michelin star and she was in a long-term relationship with its celebrity chef. However, said chef has the ego of a toddler and decides that Gwen’s star is rising just a little too fast, so he kicks her out of his kitchen and his bed. He slanders her throughout the cooking world and she feels she has no choice but to turn tail and run back home to Denver, where her twin brother is currently playing for the NFL team, the Denver Blizzards.
This is not particularly ideal, however, because the steakhouse kitchen she’s taking over comes with an ill-informed but slightly overbearing owner. Logan’s vision for the menu is a lot of homestyle cooking, Americana comfort food, if you will. Gwen can cook it all, but she finds it pedestrian and simply starts changing things. Logan’s furious – it’s his restaurant, and his vision to honor his late mother – but he’s also completely intrigued. He’s known Gwen for ages and his simmering attraction to her is taking a turn towards the uncontrollable. They strike a deal, and Gwen soon gets to create a specials menu each evening, as long as she leaves the main menu alone.
Around the time they reach this agreement, several things happen at once that lead them both into bed together and also having to make independent decisions about their careers. The struggle in this portion of the story feels so real – at what point in the relationship does the other person become a factor in these choices? If I assume they are (a factor) and they don’t think they are, then will I scare them off? And am I sure enough about this person to modify my dreams so that our lives can build together? And ohmygosh this is getting real. (I’m not speaking from personal experience at all, clearly.)
Gwen and Logan make some missteps in this process, and there is pain on both sides. However – and here’s what hooked me to this author and this series – they handle them rationally. There are no temper tantrums here, just two adults realizing that this is an odd and awkward situation and that part of building a future together is giving each other grace. I swooned.
Besides those elements, the construction is solid. The story moves along at a good pace, the conflicts are expected but well executed, and the setting is detailed enough to ground the story. That all creates a solid enough foundation that enabled me to believe in these people and start to root for their lives, their happiness, and their fulfillment. When those things are in place, I can truly invest – and I certainly could here.
For me and my book nip elements, Intercepting the Chef is an absolute joy. Process-y about professions that fascinate me? Check. Athletes with lives off the field/pitch/court/ice? Check. Sassafrass heroine who has no time for charm but gives in anyway? Check. Hero who respects boundaries, believes in consent, and is as turned on by her brain as her body? Check.
I think that anyone who enjoys contemporaries will find a lot to love here, especially fans of books with complex adult relationships sans angst. I am eager to read the stories of two other characters in particular and really hope they’re on the cards for solo books later in the series. As folks are picking out vacation reads, this is a great book to throw on your Kindle and read while relaxing.