Thanks to the Food Network and Gordon Ramsay, we know that temperamental chefs are out there. But surely all of that yelling and screaming is just for show, right?
Jillian certainly wishes it was, but as she experiences with Chef Maxwell Dylan, sometimes what you see on television is what you get in real life.
While working in a kitchen that she knows cuts corners, Jill is directed by the head chef to prepare a salmon dish for Chef Dylan, who has come into the restaurant. She does the best she can with fresh frozen – not fresh – salmon and her signature spinach dish. But Chef Dylan knows the real thing when he tastes it, and he demands that Jill come into the dining room and account for her cooking. He berates her in front of the customers and her boss, and for that she cannot forgive him.
Several years and jobs later, she has been out of work for nine months when she is offered a job by Chef Dylan himself. She accepts, largely because she has no other choice, although the job is a rung lower than her previous positions. The two work closely together, and Max comes to see that Jill – whom he remembers vividly from their first encounter – does not need him to rescue her, just as Jill comes to realize that Max doesn’t intend to be cruel; he simply wishes for you to give the best you have.
Naturally a romance develops. Or should I say that attraction develops. Max, for several reasons, wants to keep Jill at a romantic distance. She, on the other hand, is ready to commit to him, not just professionally but personally as well.
Melanie Marchande writes an engaging, interesting story, and she does a solid job of crafting characters who are not one-note or flat. Max could be the stereotypical tortured soul, but he’s more than that. He’s a man who knows what he wants, knows how to get it, even knows what he could do to keep it, but doesn’t feel that he deserves it. Worse for him, he doesn’t understand how he feels. His struggles are completely against himself. Jill, on the other hand, is open to all of the challenges and rewards that life with Max presents. She has learned enough about life and herself to know that she will not compromise on what she thinks she deserves.
There is some headboard rockin’, but it is not terribly graphic. Nor is there enough of it. I’d like to know more about Max as a lover, but maybe that’s just me. The man intrigues me … what can I say.
Occasionally some of the drama feels artificial, such as Jillian’s ex-boyfriend’s arrival or the reasoned counsel that Max’s brother is on hand to provide. Max’s path to self-discovery also seems easily solved, even if it spans considerable time. He is aided by a none-too-subtle coincidence that almost made me laugh.
Still, though, Jill and Max are interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading their story.
A word about the cover: it does not connect to the novel at all. Believe me, Max does not walk around shirtless. Unfortunately.