Desert Isle Keeper Review

Hungry for More

Diana Holquist
September 2008, Contemporary Romance
Grand Central, $6.99, 306 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446197041
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Confession time: I’ve got the chef fantasy thing bad. For months and months now, I’ve been seeking out books featuring chef heroes searching in vain for one that would include the unique restaurant sensibility of Kitchen Confidential, the requisite food porn, and a hero who could evoke my wildest chef fantasies. The search, fellow readers, is over.

Here’s how Diana Holquist describes hero James LaChance through the eyes of heroine Amy Burns:

“She concentrated on the handsome chef. His ink-black, pin straight hair was pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck like a nineteenth century nobleman. His angled cheekbones directed her eyes toward his carefully drawn mouth. In fact, every dark, angled plane of his face pointed toward that tempting, burgundy mouth…”

Oh, yeah. Feed, me, baby.

If you read the author’s previous book Sexiest Man Alive, you met Amy as the sister of that entry’s heroine. Amy is a Gypsy with a spirit voice who tells her the name of the soul mate of anyone she touches, a gift that provided her with a nice living. Problem is her voice has left her for someone else and Amy is desperate to get it back.

Amy's search for her elusive spirit guide leads her to James’ Philadelphia restaurant, Les Fleurs. Believing that a Gypsy waitress who has suddenly disappeared from the restaurant is in possession of the voice, she resolves to stick around and get as close as she can to the waitress’ 15-year old son while waiting for her return. Since Amy is an experienced con artist, she is willing to lie, cheat, and steal in order to do it. Turns out James expects Gypsy Amy to pay an even higher price: He wants her to work as a member of the restaurant team.

To be really honest, the Gypsy spirit voice stuff and the machinations around it are…well, annoying. Despite the wacky (and, oh, how I loathe wacky) trappings that are so high on the wack scale that they even include fantasy Oprah cameos, the heart of this book is an intense, sexy, funny, wonderful redemption story. And Amy is not the only one who is redeemed.

So what precisely did I love? James and Amy, along with scenes set at Les Fleurs, make the show. James, is perfect “on paper” – handsome, rich, successful, and an artist who creates delicious food. He’s also got that “chef” thing going on at full power, the appeal of which I’ve been thinking about. (Look for more in an upcoming ATBF.) But James also has a secret just as Amy does - and the revelation of it is beyond touching.

Amy is a more obviously flawed character and, on the surface, the book centers around her redemption as she takes the painful path to becoming a better human being. But, as I said earlier, there is more going on here and the author handles it all skillfully.

And then there is the food porn. James, it seems, is inspired by women when creating dishes, so imagine his excitement when the mere sight of Amy inspires a brilliant lobster salad. Of course, it’s not long before he begins wondering just what they might accomplish with actual intimacy. In the pages of this book, James finds out.

Truth to tell, I loved enough about this book that it shoots into DIK territory despite the downside wackiness that I know I will skip on rereads. But, thankfully, the author limits most of the wackiness to the beginning and the end, leaving the bulk of the book to the good stuff. And, believe me, this is good stuff, indeed.

-- Sandy Coleman

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