Cooking Up a Storm by Ashley Ladd
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
This was just … bad. There are bad books where you wonder how anyone could have liked them (Outlander!) but usually those are about taste. Then there are books where you wonder how anyone could have published them. It’s not that this particular book was eye-searingly bad and will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’ve read those and while bad, this doesn’t quite reach that category. It’s more so that I’m confused how no one pointed out the numerous problems with the writing and plot. There are certain details- such as continuity, flow, changed character names- that I’d think someone, somewhere would have pointed out as problematic. Apparently not though and so the finished product, such as it was, leaves a lot to be desired unfortunately.
The plot has five chefs brought to some billionaire’s private island to compete for the position of head chef. Two of those competing, Brooks and Rique, are hot for each other and decide to have some fun in between the cooking competitions. The billionaire in question, Jonah, wants to get in on the action and enjoy some ménage fun. The problem is that Rique is on the run from the mob and afraid of being found and killed.
For starters the plot is simplistic to the point of non-existent. I love cooking competition shows and have watched more than I can count. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to read this particular book. Unfortunately the excitement and interest of those competitions just didn’t translate to the story. The actual competitions felt secondary, unimportant and almost distracting. The other three chefs were caricatures instead of fully realized characters, especially the women, and most of these were narrated through Brooks’ POV, which left something to be desired. The basic premise of the competition and the various challenges were exactly what I expected – i.e., cook a random cuisine, butcher an exotic animal, cook without utensils – but I didn’t really understand why these chefs were forced to do such challenges. It wasn’t to win money or show their versatility, it was mostly an excuse. Whether a chef won or lost didn’t seem to matter and I couldn’t get a sense of why these challenges existed and what their purpose was. It never made much sense, so I never really connected to that aspect of the story. Part of the problem is that the descriptive quality of the writing is very low. I never could make a good mental image of what the story was trying to portray.
Likewise I kept wondering if I was missing part of the book. The scenes would jump around without any kind of continuity or flow. In one scene Brooks and Rique get drunk and have sex. The next day Brooks sneaks away and Rique avoids Brooks. The narration jumps from their POV and shows how both men want to focus on the competition. Brooks then wins a competition and gets to take a trip, however Rique declines to join Brooks. The trip Brooks won is never mentioned and a scene or two later Rique is going to his “lover’s” room to comfort Brooks. It was such an abrupt jump that I honestly questioned if I was accidentally missing pages. There is no mention how the men get from wanting to stay away to focus on the competition to calling each other lover, sleeping together again and being in love. This went beyond instant love to whiplash love. It simply happened without any context to follow. One scene they individually want to stay away then the next they’re having sex and in love with no connecting scenes.
This same confusing phenomenon happens several times. The scenes simply jump from one to the next without any kind of flow or plot continuity. Rique leaves an ménage with Jonah and Brooks and acts like it’s the end of any chance he has with either of them, yet the story casually mentions that they all meet up for sex occasionally. So clearly the issue was cleared up off page but that’s very frustrating as a reader. There are several issues like this that happen again and again so it feels as if part of the story is missing. I honestly wondered if these were just random scenes written separately then put together without thought to making the plot flow.
Similarly the ending is simply mind boggling silly. For example, escaping well trained security guards at point blank range: “Brooks yelped, pivoted on his heels then sprinted down the hall, swerving away from the bullets raining behind him. Unscathed, he rounded a corner.” There are more improbable heroics that defy logic (such as taking down a moving wolf with a single shot when the character has no weapons training nor ever shot anything to name but one of many ridiculous scenarios) and gravity but the explanation also makes no sense. All of a sudden there’s a third person in the relationship and the story hadn’t offered any buildup and onscreen chemistry to show where the three men suddenly were in love. I could barely see a relationship between the main protagonists, let alone the third person who only has one, aborted, on-page sex scene.
The above are some of the numerous problems I had with the story and it doesn’t even get into the poor editing – names changed (Fiona to Felicia) and wrong names used (Brooks when it should be Rique and vice versa), words missing from sentences – and just the overall poor descriptive quality of the writing. I honestly just didn’t like anything about the book. Well actually that’s not true, I liked the concept of the cooking challenges but it didn’t come across nor did the romance. In my opinion the book simply failed to execute any of the ideas and the entire flow of the story suffered. I honestly don’t think this is a matter of preference but more so simply poorly written story. I’d not recommend it.
One thought on “Review: Cooking Up a Storm”
Nothing toasts my bread (beats my eggs? roasts my lamb?) like getting the names wrong. Come on. Find and replace. It’s not that hard. I too enjoy the cooking competition shows, I just wonder if you could fit a romance in without one or the other suffering. Although, I’ve read a few where the romance was kind of low-key with the action the main part. That could work. Would love to read one.