Review: Deep Autumn Heat by Elizabeth Barrett

 

Title: Deep Autumn Heat

Author: Elizabeth Barrett

Publisher: Random House-Loveswept Romance

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.

Review:

I don’t think I have read many romances featuring chefs.  Either they didn’t make an impression on me at all, or my innate dislike of cooking has steered me away from books with chefs.  I just don’t find them very sexy.  Sure, it would be divine to have a culinary artist at my beck and call, preparing mouth-watering dishes to please my taste buds and tame my wild heart, but then I remember what a glutton I am, and I realize that if I did find a sexy chef of my own, I would soon weigh as much as my horses.  Like, both of them put together.

In Deep Autumn Heat, both protagonists make a living by cooking.  Lexie runs a small restaurant in Star Harbor, a tourist town on the East coast, and Seb is a glamorous and wealthy chef. His New York restaurant is popular, expensive and five-stars in every way, and his skill in the kitchen has made him rich.  His good looks has landed him a TV show, and, well, this guy has an ego the size of a houseboat.  His first opinion of Lexie’s place is that it’s quaint and a step or three beneath him.  He makes a terrible impression on Lexie; first, he treats her like she’s “just” a waitress, and then he acts as though being in her place should be an honor for her.  He’s THE Sebastian Grayson, after all, and he is eating in HER restaurant.  Then he tries a slice of her coconut cake and it’s all over for him.  He loves her cake and wants to know what’s in it.  After sizing her up again, he decides that he wouldn’t mind getting to know what’s in her pants, either.

Lexie, for her part, is too busy and too focused on making her business successful to give Seb much more than a second glance.  OK, so she gives him a third and a fourth glance, because he is drop dead gorgeous.  Of course he is!  He’s rich, dresses in black, and rides a motorcycle, too, which makes him like a bad boy chef.  A bad boy chef who knows how to clean pots, pans, and various cooking implements, and has a smile that makes every woman’s brain go numb when he flashes a great big smile her way.  Kind of like gulping down a gigantic Slurpee and getting a case of brain freeze.  That is Seb’s effect on all women, including Lexie, though she does try her best to take little sips to minimize the brain freeze effect.

Even though Seb spent most of the book being a pompous ass, I still liked him.  I want a big, sexy hunk of man to cook me breakfast and then clean up the mess.  I want to go on rides on the back of a motorcycle, too.  Le sigh.  This is not in the cards for me.  While I do remember with fondness Dean whipping up Mac & Cheese dinners when I was in college and working full-time, he didn’t do such a good job cleaning up, and he has never owned a motorcycle.  Boo!

I enjoyed the banter and the sparks that flew between Lexie and Seb, and I loved how she calmly put him in his place.  Like, all the time.  She had a gift for thinking well under pressure, she was a natural leader in the kitchen, and better yet, she could cook every bit as well as Seb.  I thought their cook-off was a very fun scene, and enjoyed the interaction between all the characters during that sequence.  I can’t believe that such a diverse cast of people could be crammed in one kitchen and not come to blows.  While Lexie and Seb’s relationship was very competitive at first, they quickly become a team – both in and out of the kitchen.

Which brings me to the part of the review where I share what didn’t work for me in this story.  Lexie has fled from a previous, abusive relationship, and when it appears that her ex is stalking her, she refuses to accept that she might be in mortal danger, or that he might have tracked her down.  Instead, she is convinced that all of the threatening notes and little mishaps that have been plaguing her are the work of a rival who wants her coconut cake recipe.  While it turns out that lots of folk are after the secret behind her yummy cake, Lexie is a really smart woman and her firm denial was annoying.  She was already threatened by the slime ball she used to live with, and she was more than familiar with how awful he could be, so some of her behavior didn’t ring true.  When everyone is telling you that you are in danger, most rational people pay attention, especially if they are scared to death of the person and have experienced the violence they are capable of first hand.  

I thought the pacing was a little slow for the last 20% of the story, and even though I enjoyed Buster’s kick butt moves, I thought that the plot thread introduced during Lexie and Buster’s supply run didn’t fit well in this book.   It’s set up for another book in the series, but to me it just felt like an under developed plot point, and I wouldn’t have missed it if it hadn’t been included.

Deep Autumn Heat is a quick read, with scorching sex scenes.  The electricity between Lexie and Seb quickly flared out of control, and I loved the book until Seb had to go back to his business in New York.  Then, without the blazing encounters between the protagonists, the story lost some steam.  Lexie’s emotional baggage was also resolved too quickly, but overall, this is a fun summer read, so load it on your reader before heading to the beach!

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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