How To Knit a Wild Bikini

Christie Ridgeway
2008, Contemporary Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425221938

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

I admit it took me a long time to write this review. After I read the book, I was postponed by finals, moving, and a job search. And then, when I finally sat down to write the review, I realized I couldn't remember much about the story and I didn't have much interest in rereading it either. And that pretty much sums up How To Knit a Wild Bikini: It's not a bad book when you're reading it, but neither is it one to remember.

Nikki Carmichael is a chef who, because of a long-ago injury, is forced to resign from her job at a restaurant to take up a less strenuous career as a personal chef. Her first position is with Jay Buchanan, a journalist who runs a magazine that is a cross between Playboy and GQ. He's a quintessential playboy who wants no commitments and no strings. He initially doesn't want to hire Nikki, because she's a woman and he doesn't make those sort of attachments, but when he thinks she's a lesbian, he takes her on. But Jay also uses her to pretend to be his girlfriend in order to keep other women at bay, including his neighbor, a lonely former socialite with whom he once had a one-night stand. His no-strings-attached attitude begins to deteriorate, however, as he gets to know Nikki and begins to grow more protective of her.

In addition to her pretenses with Jay and the women around him, Nikki still struggles from the aftermath of a traumatic even from her teenage years, one she sees mirrored in Jay's teenage cousin. In order to cope, she visits Malibu & Ewe, a trendy shop where she learns to knit and meets Cassandra, the owner with whom she shares a deeper relationship than she initially believes.

The side romance of Shanna, Jay's somewhat clingy socialite neighbor, and his gardener Jorge is much stronger and far more compelling, than that of Nikki and Jay. I connected more with her, and empathized more with that relationship. There was so much more to be explored between those two, while Nikki and Jay were a bit empty.

The primary couple just weren't that memorable. Jay's nickname for her (Cookie? For a cook?) was more irritating than endearing, and the whole beginning of their relationship felt awkward to me, considering it went back and forth between Jay thinking that she's a lesbian and her pretending to be his girlfriend.

The story deals with a lot of serious issues in a good way. This book is heavier than the cover and title would suggest, with issues of neglect, attempted suicide, rape, and abuse. Readers expecting a light, knitting-themed romance will be disappointed on both accounts (knitting, despite the title, is a pretty minor part of the story). However, if you're okay with something a little bit more intense than your average beach read, you will probably be pleased with the way Ridgway presents these themes.

Unlike many readers, I usually re-read books that are graded B, or even B-. When I discussed my problems with reviewing How To Knit a Wild Bikini (as I mentioned in the first paragraph), a friend of mine simply said, "Not good enough for a reread? There's your review right there." And he was right; while there were good things about this book, it was overall a bland story that failed to leave any lasting interest in the characters or plot.

-- Jane Granville

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