Just a Taste
Deirdre Martin has consistently received good grades here, so I was pleased to get the chance to read her latest, Just a Taste. Sadly, the taste I got of this author was below average. I didn’t believe in the romance and the characters at times grated on my nerves with their lack of maturity.
While I haven’t read any of her other books, I understand that they are focused around the Dante family, which specializes in hockey and cooking. Previous characters Michael and Theresa make several appearances, as does Gemma. In fact, Michael comes around a lot and his parenting difficulties are one of the big issues that the characters deal with. This struck me as odd, though, because he came across as an insensitive father who is also a sorry mess after retiring from hockey. Of course, his issues are resolved, but crucial time that should have been spent fleshing out Anthony and Vivi’s relationship was instead given to these once-main characters.
As I’m sure you can guess, this installment deals with food, rather than hockey. Anthony is the head chef and half-owner of Dante’s restaurant, which thrives in the largely Italian neighborhood. His wife, Angie, has been dead for a year and he is still dealing with his grief. Vivi (boy, did I not like this name) and her sister Natalie move from France to start their own restaurant, buying the vacant space across the street from Dante’s. The two are half-sisters, Natalie being the legitimate offspring of her father and Vivi the illegitimate. Thus, Natalie received the lion’s share of the inheritance when their father passed and, when circumstances in France become difficult, she ventures out with chef Vivi. Vivi isn’t thrilled with the idea of her sister holding the purse strings, but her dream of running her own place is about to come true, so who is she to complain.
Naturally, the two chefs meet and sparks start flying immediately. They bicker and argue over the correct amount of spices in dishes and over who is the better chef. This leads to several competitions in which they both present their work and it is judged. The banter part of their relationship was well done. It was cute, spicy, and believable, since chefs seem to complain and argue as they do. The problem came with the romance. The sparks never seemed to extend to actual sexual tension. There was no relationship build-up – everything that happened between them made me wonder if I had skipped some pages and missed something. Suddenly they would kiss and the two would be thinking, “Wow,” but the wow moment and emotions were missing. Then they would get together and start using words like “love,” but the falling in love was missing. I didn’t see a relationship happening, but was merely told one was occurring.
There was also a great deal of juvenile behavior involved with the “relationship.” The cute bickering would, at times, sink to a level of cringe-worthy immaturity. Vivi would take great offense when Anthony suggested something for her dishes, thinking that he was the height of arrogance and rudeness, but then moments later would shove her advice down his throat, thinking that her way was always perfection. And while they were not teenagers, they certainly acted like them. When they broke up for a brief stint, Vivi actually used the phrase, “I think we should just be friends.” That is one of the most clichéd, joked-about phrases in relationship history and that it was used seriously in a romance novel floored me. And speaking of clichés, Vivi swooned a lot in this book (although she never had to be picked up off the floor). I don’t think I’ve ever read of a historical heroine swooning, let alone a contemporary one.
I didn’t find much in Just a Taste to recommend it, aside from the cutesy bickering and two recipes at the end (one of which I will certainly be trying). The relationship felt pretty clichéd and stereotypical in description, but the evidence and emotions of the relationship, in other words the “showing,” wasn’t there. With so many good reviews to her name, I won’t be writing off the author yet, but the next book I read will be checked out from the library.