Dear Ms. Hardy,
I may not be a foodie but I love food as unfortunately my butt shows. I don’t have the greenest thumb yet I can manage to keep plants alive. Usually. Well, at least for a while. So anyway, watching chef Damon Hurst and landscaper Cady McBain clash and spark was as much fun as reading about their chosen careers.
As I’ve said before, if an author is going to pick a neat profession for a character, then use it. Let us see the character doing his/her job. Show us how it influences that person, why they chose it, how it affects daily life. You’ve done it with both Damon and Cady. Cheers and a dark chocolate Dove bar for you! And then you go and use Damon’s cooking career as a viable source of conflict for them. Double yeah rah!
I loved watching Damon come to life in front of a stove as he creates and perfects some fantastic sounding food. And we see all the mundane stuff that’s behind the mouth watering things that get dished up and served to us when we go out to eat. We see Damon testing new ideas, hunting though the farmer’s market, coming up against the short growing season in Maine as he works to bring local, regional and national interest to the small country inn where he’s found refuge after crashing and burning his famous career.
Cady counts on plants to behave predictably and offer her a way out of dealing with the guests (and I totally agree. What is with the weird way people act when they’re on vacation?) who come to stay at her family’s generations owned harbor inn. She thinks she’s got Damon’s number but is honest enough to admit that her accusations that he’d throw temper tantrums was off base. I love how Damon uses her green thumb to finagle time together with her to explore the attraction he knows they both feel and how he slowly corrects the misapprehensions she waves righteously at him.
I also like that even though Cady thinks Damon is way out of her reach, when he keeps after her, she decides to go for it. Kudos that when the believable conflict does rear its ugly head, it’s about careers and not about whether or not each was ever attracted to the other.
"I didn’t realize you were paying such close attention," she returned tartly, reaching for more petunias to transplant.
"I always pay attention." He nudged the next basket in line to sway with the rest. "Especially to people who interest me."
"Or to people who can do things for you."
"Or in your case, both." He came up short in front of her. "I find myself thinking about you, Cady McBain, a lot. Why is that?"
"You’re bored." She would have backed up but the wood of the workbench was behind her. "You’re stuck in a small town."
"It’s not boredom."
"And it’s not about me." She tried for dismissive but her voice came out oddly breathless.
"Oh, I think it’s very definitely about you. I keep finding myself wondering what it would be like to kiss you. I’m cutting up fruit and I’m wondering about the way you taste, about the way you always smell like apples and cinnamon." He rested his hands against the bench on either side of her, trapping her. "When you’ve got a job that involves sharp knives, spending a lot of time wondering isn’t very healthy."
And then there’s the fact that he’s willing to make her favorite kind of food.
Damon turned to the oven behind him and pulled out a ramekin. He pushed it over to Cady. "Here."
She poked at it suspiciously with a fork. "What is it?"
"Something I made special when I heard you were coming. Fresh-made penne with a truffled asiago and fontina béchamel." His lips twitched at her blank stare. "Macaroni and cheese."
Tentatively, Cady took a forkful, and put it into her mouth. And pure bliss flooded through her. Tangy cheese, silky cream, an addictive hint of earthiness. "Oh my God," she mumbled, reaching out for more. "This is incredible." In the midst of taking another bite, she glanced over at Damon.
And felt a flare of heat that had nothing to do with the food.
He was watching her again with that naked hunger in his eyes. She held the fork but he was the one who looked starved-’and she was the main course. He stepped closer to her, his gaze never wavering.
"You think I can make your mouth happy now," he murmured into her ear, "just wait."
She swallowed. "Dream on."
"Remind me to tell you what’s been happening in my dreams lately," he said softly. "I think you’ll find it very interesting."
And that he agrees to stay away from things that are too out there for her. Like squid brains. And that he doesn’t expect her to use feather dusters, hair scrunchies or spearmint toothpaste! I like that sex becomes making love. And that Cady’s family and friends watch out for her. She’s honestly not as strong as her prickly exterior makes people think.
This is a fun book that sticks to the main characters and doesn’t waste time and page space dragging in unnecessary subplots. Are you planning on doing anything with Cady’s unhappy older brother, Walker? B for “Chef’s Choice.”