Take one plucky orphaned heroine assuming the family business; add one bad boy who’s hiding his romantic heart; mix with food, food, food; and a large dollop of sex, sex, sex. We’ve seen it before, but somehow, while we hope these everyday ingredients will produce a culinary masterpiece, we more often get tepid leftovers.
In Deliciously Sinful by Lillie Feisty, Phoebe is spread too thin trying to run both her organic farming business and the family’s organic restaurant The Green Leaf Cafe. Since she can’t cook, in order to maintain the café’s sterling reputation she hires down-on his luck Nick Avalon. Nick plans on staying a year, then bolt back to L.A. to reclaim the fame and recognition his talents demand.
Leigh: As a fan of Pandora’s Box, whenever I can I try to convince another reviewer to join me. After reading Deliciously Sinful I immediately thought of you, Pat. Thanks for joining me. So what did you think?
Pat: Since I’ve read your reviews and often thought we have the same reading likes and dislikes, I was surprised you thought I might like this one. What was it about this book you thought would appeal to me?
Leigh: Oops. Sounds like you didn’t like it either. Recently you gave a DIK rating to Too Hot to Handle by Louisa Edwards. Now I haven’t read that book, but I’ve read some of her previous books. The detailed love scenes in Deliciously Sinful reminded me of Ms. Edwards’s style of writing – hot and steamy. Plus several of Ms. Edwards’s books feature bad boy – heroes something I am not fond of. What didn’t you like about it?
Pat: It’s a prime example of what I call book-by-the-numbers. The dithering heroine calls herself strong, but does nothing to prove it. But strong heroines are readers’ favorites. Taming bad boys is another favorite, so this book had to have one of those. Witty banter is big with readers, so that was added, although the bantering was more bickering in this case. Was it a book-by-the-numbers for you?
Leigh: Book-by-the numbers didn’t cross my mind because my focus zoomed in on the bad boy hero. I honestly don’t see the appeal of dissolute, dissipated heroes especially since they are almost always matched up with homespun, unsophisticated and unpretentious type heroines. Maybe if these types of heroes were paired with intimidatingly stunning women as skilled at exploiting their beauty as the men are at using their sex appeal, then I could accept the transformation. I spend most of the time thinking that Phoebe had lost her ever-loving mind. Reformation is appealing and I think we all want to believe that love makes us a better person, but it takes a lot for me to accept it. Did you believe in Nick’s? Is Phoebe confident enough to handle him?
Pat: Nick? Didn’t believe in him for a second. He’s manipulative and egotistical. He thrived in Hollywood because he was fake and self-serving. Quite frankly, I didn’t even believe he’s a decent chef, much less a very good one. Chefs like ingredients and seeing what they can create with them. Nick liked to impress people, and when the right people weren’t around to impress, he wasn’t interested in creating with the ingredients he had on hand. Phoebe? I didn’t buy that she was a “strong” woman. If she were in a haunted house in her nightgown and someone said, “Don’t go into the basement, she would have hotfooted it there. In the book she was egotistical, self-indulgent, and contradictory – not redeeming qualities to me.
Leigh: LOL, well she did go out in her nightgown to visit Nick, which is very similar to going down to the basement. I thought of her more as a placeholder. I didn’t get the vibe of her being egotistical or self-indulgent, just lacking in relationship intelligence. As a couple, they only connected sexually, and probably wouldn’t have done so if there had been other women around for Nick to hit on. Also her complete lack of sexual inhibitions was completely unbelievable to me.
Pat: Here’s where my suspension of disbelief was totally shattered. I heard the agent’s or editor’s voice screaming, “We need something different!” I didn’t believe someone as uptight and self-serving as Phoebe would succumb to Nick’s less than white bread sexual habits. Sexual experimentation takes trust in one’s partner before veering off unless someone’s a lot more sexually sophisticated than Phoebe. Pheromones don’t loosen sexual barriers as the author would have readers believe.
Leigh: With more emphasis on the sex, the relationship or real intimacy suffers. There’s a secondary romance between Nick’s Hollywood friend and Phoebe’s brother-in-law, but that was unfulfilling too. While I didn’t find anything offensive about these characters, I didn’t connect with them either.
Pat: I’m curious, Leigh, if you could change something about the book to make you like it more, what would it be? For me, I’d change Phoebe to make her more proactive and give Nick more scenes with his L. A. friend so readers would get a better peek into who Nick really is.
Leigh: First of all I had a difficult time with the premise that Phoebe could hire a chef of Nick’s stature and he would actually accept a job without visiting. He has been a chef in London, Chicago, and L.A. and this is the best that he can do? I get that Nick oozes pure sex appeal just by breathing with his British accent, gorgeous blue eyes, and inky black hair. But what else does he have? Taking ingredients and making something extraordinary appeals to me because it is so basic and nurturing. I craved more normal food scenes, rather than it just being used as a prelude to sex. Interesting question. I guess we are down to the bottom line. What grade would you give this book?
Pat: it’s a C for me. Ho-hum. And you?
– Leigh AAR and Pat Henshaw