Reviewed by Helyce
Favorite Quote: “You’re like the best parts of fall. Changing colors, the first brush of cool, crisp air. The stadium lights and cheering crowds, the scent of a well-worn ball Coach hands me after a win. All my favorite things wrapped up into one tiny, spirited package.”
From the beginning, this story had me feeling a bit off-kilter. We meet Gwen, the sous chef at Brindille, as she waits for a call from the inspectors at Michelin to see if this is the year the restaurant would be awarded the star that would put them on the map and mark her as a rising talent with the culinary elite. Gwen is nervous because the executive chef, Stephen Durand, who is also her boyfriend, has not arrived and she can’t believe he could have forgotten to be here for this call. Of course, Stephen waltzes in just before the call, he answers, hears the good news and after announcing to the staff that Brindille will now be listed in the Michelin Guide as a 3 Star restaurant, he turns to Gwen and starts screaming at her, like she had done something sneaky and underhanded. She’s so taken aback, as was I, and when Stephen fires her, I was like, “what the hell did I miss here?” I even went back to read the passages again and was still confused at his reaction.
“Whatever you think you’ve achieved here was built off my work, my reputation, my effort, you conniving bitch,” he said, his voice ringing out like a slap.”
With her reputation in ruin, she goes home to Denver and with her brother’s help, secures an executive chef position at a steakhouse owned by a family friend and her brothers teammate, Logan Stonestreet-quarterback for the Blizzards football team.
From there, we follow Gwen and Logan as they dance around their attraction. Told in alternating POVs, Gwen is unwilling to act on the attraction though it’s clear to the reader that there is interest. Gwen and Logan have known each other since childhood. The families are friends and Logan and her brother Chris have been close for years and now play professional football on the same Denver team. We also learn that Gwen and Logan had a little make out session during high school. Her attempt at resisting Logan seems to stem from Gwen not wanting to repeat her recent mistake of sleeping with the boss; but Logan continues to pursue her, using whatever means necessary.
Things heat up eventually when Gwen takes the advice of her dear friend Missy and decides to act on her feelings. She makes it clear to Logan, however, that they should keep it casual, no need for cuddling and sleepovers, no need to tell anyone. This goes against everything in Logan’s personal make-up, but he figures he’ll convince Gwen over time, because they are really so good together. It’s a typical back and forth from there, and the relationship seems doomed the longer they go on in this way with both of them refusing to be honest about their feelings.
My frustration continued as the story went on. Though I enjoyed the characters and their witty banter and verbal flirtation, I continually felt that something was missing. There seemed to be an emotional disconnect with our H/H which is so important in a relationship. Gwen was obviously hiding her true feelings; and Logan, completely unaware, just kind of moved along doing what Gwen wanted–yet seemed completely surprised by some of her actions. Neither confronts the other on their thoughts, feelings, worries and each has secrets that they don’t share because they feel their “relationship” is not at that point.
When Logan is injured in a game, Gwen has an epiphany and the reality of what is really important to her is a big light bulb that goes off in her head. But when she puts herself out there, something Logan had been hoping for, he completely back-pedals and there is no compromise or discussion. For me, Gwen getting to this point was a really big deal, but Logan not even willing to discuss anything drove me crazy! They simply give up at this point.
Sadly, it was the last 15% where I was just starting to feel connected to the characters enough to get some feel good vibes and then it comes to an end. But.. this is a romance and we all want an HEA, and this author provides it. For me, there was enough to keep me interested if not totally engaged.