Rike’s review of His for the Taking a couple of months ago intrigued me, so when it came time to Kindle some books for a recent trip to California, I ordered that one and an earlier Julie Cohen release. While I recommend both, I am most excited about MacAllister’s Baby, which, in contrast to another HP I just reviewed, provides real detail about the work life of one of its leads, a celebrity chef. If the strongest recommendation I can give about an HP is that it doesn’t read like an HP, so be it.
Teacher Elisabeth Read’s first, and surprise, meeting with hunky celebrity chef Angus MacAllister doesn’t bode well. Although his flirting could be read as personal interest, she decides he flirts with everybody because he can, and because he can only deal with people on a superficial level. In a way, she’s right; he is used to skating by in his personal relationships, but not because he’s a vain, shallow guy. He’s actually a born nurturer, but has spent so much time building his name as a fabulous chef that he hasn’t taken the time to care for his personal life. When he becomes involved in a project to prepare two talented students for a large cooking competition, Angus requests that Elisabeth act as the school’s faculty representative.
It doesn’t take long for Angus to realize that Elisabeth’s buttoned-up lifestyle extends beyond the school. She refuses a cup of the best cappuccino in town and orders a cup of filtered coffee with skim milk instead. She also turns down every date he asks her on, partly because she fears that he’s only involved in helping her students for the publicity. When she sees how much he actually cares about them, she begins to soften towards him. But it’s not until he takes them all out to one of London’s top restaurants for a tasting meal that she decides to go for it: She wears a sexy little black dress, makes out with him in the walk-in refrigerator, and agrees to go home with him after the kids leave the restaurant.
The sex between the two is amazing, and Angus is hopeful that Elisabeth has let go of her pre-conceived notions about him to settle into a long-term relationship. But her baggage is too heavy, and she jumps to the wrong conclusion when she reads a tabloid story about herself and her students. Something even bigger than the story comes up, and Elisabeth just cannot set aside her distrust of the man she thinks Angus to be, even though she has plenty of proof of the man he actually is. This is my one real problem with the book.
It’s always a delight to read a hero in pursuit, but what truly sets this story apart is the cooking angle. In real life, many great male chefs are apparently macho alpha jerks, but not Angus. He may not be realistic in those terms, but he reads authentically, from the knife scars and burns that cover his hands and forearms to the different methods he uses to teach the two young students, and Elisabeth too, whom he insists take lessons alongside them. The terminology is there as well, along with the description of the incredibly long hours chefs put in as they work their way up the food chain and, with TV shows and books instead, don’t have to work until the wee hours of the morning.
Julie Cohen also writes Chick Lit for Little Black Dress, an imprint of a European publisher (One Night Stand was published in the U.S. in January), but I’m less interested in that than another of her previous HP releases: Mistress in Private, which I Kindled as soon as I finished MacAllister’s Baby. After several years of reading HP romances and enjoying them as over-the-top guilty pleasures, it’s great to discover a different type of HP. If you’ve steered clear of them because of their horrendous titles, you might want to give this one a try. Amazon still has print covers in stock, or, like me, you could always Kindle.