Hot Under Pressure (Rising Star Chef, #3)

Hot Under Pressure (Rising Star Chef, #3) - Louisa Edwards Two stars because Goodreads thinks people are idiots who won't understand half-star ratings.

This was my least favorite in the series, due to Skye Gladwell annoying me and the whole "Babies ever after" trope I hate.

As usual, I love the food descriptions, the recipe index in the back of the book, and the knowledge Edwards clearly has of a professional kitchen.

Down to the meat of the book, I'm glad to finally get to know the mystery of Henry Beck. As we found out in the previous book, he is still married to Skye Gladwell, though they haven't seen each other in ten years. The two married very young and, as is par for the course in this genre, Skye got knocked up almost immediately. Given that neither of them had any sort of income coming in that would even support just the two of them, let alone a baby (that, had it survived, would have had special needs to boot), Beck does the logical thing and join the Navy. Logical in the sense that the military provides not only a steady income, but pretty sweet spousal and dependent benefits. Like, you know, MEDICAL INSURANCE, for all pre-, post-, and antenatal needs. Somehow, Skye interprets this as abandonment instead as a necessary evil to properly provide for a baby. After Skye miscarries while Beck is deployed, she tells him that she never wants to see him again. Now ladies, when you say something like that, don't be surprised when the recipient of the sentiment actually takes it literally.

After that point, it was hard for me to finish reading the book. If I can't sympathize with half of the main pairing, then there's not much hope for the book. Of course, it's presented that the onus of repairing the relationship falls onto Beck. What was his major crime? Being close-lipped about himself. That's it. He just doesn't like talking about himself and reopening old wounds that he's spent years trying to heal. How many people are willing to tell everybody and their mother about how you lost your parents in a very traumatic way (bridge collapse during an earthquake) when your age was still a single digit and that you spent the next ten years in the foster care system without any sort of stability or love? And really, if you were willing to jump into a marriage with a guy you barely knew, it's a little unfair to fault him with not offering up much information afterward. Probably something that would have been worth discussing before saying, "Hey, let's go to City Hall!"

Of course, Skye is not without her parental issues. She deals with the perennial disappointment from her parents that she isn't who they want her to be, which I can sympathize to an extent. If you want to have kids, you don't get to be disappointed about them becoming human beings with their own opinions, goals, and personalities. Kids are not to be virtual clones of yourself.

The Jeremiah angle seemed superfluous to me. Obviously there had to be a reason for Skye to request an official divorce, but if it's going to be because she met another man that she's so sure is ready to pop *the* question, then he should have more of a presence, humanitarian or not. Not just some mentions here and there, oh he finally comes back to the USA and walks in on Beck and Skye post-coitus (Jeremiah and Skye had an open relationship agreement), and then his next and final scene being that he told Skye (offscreen or off=page, if you will) that he's met somebody else and that's okay because Skye has realized that she's still in love with her husband.

Beck's grand romantic gesture is taking the final challenge of the RSC (conveniently, "Tell your life story through five courses") is essentially stripping himself emotionally in front of not only Skye and Nina Lunden (who was the guest taster for Beck), but four virtual strangers. Skye does the same, but refuses to present a fifth course, essentially forfeiting the RSC title to Beck. That annoyed me quite a bit. Of course I wanted Beck to win. You don't spend three books with a set of characters to not want to see them win it all, but I wanted to see them win fairly, not from forfeiture.

Beck and Skye officially reunite and the book skips to a year later where Skye has managed to knocked up quickly again (given the time frame, a mere three months after they've reunited after a decade-long separation. You would think they'd wait and rebuild a solid marriage foundation before popping out kids, but people don't even do that in reality, let alone Romance Fantasyland). At that point, I mentally checked out and just rushed through the last few pages.

Once again, I found myself wishing for a book featuring Claire and Kane. I really liked their relationship and wanted far more. I generally hate B-plot romances in romance novels because there's no way to make it fulfilling without deviating quite a bit from the main pairing and book plot and other little arcs. To give a beta pairing enough time would cause a book to increase its length substantially. This series already had a lot going on in each book that Claire/Kane really needed their own book. We barely know their characters other than the superficial. And because of that, I leave this series a little unfulfilled.