Can't Stand The Heat (Recipe for Love) - Louisa Edwards I don't know if it's a new trend or if I'm just really bad at picking out new books, but this year of reading has been overflowing with awful heroines. Less than ten years ago, I remember thinking that all of the heroes were jerkasses, but now the designation of jerkass has switched. It's like current authors are trying so hard to prevent their heroines (both contemporary and historical) from ending up as doormats that they sacrifice the poor womens' souls at the Altar of Plot Device. That was my problem with Can't Stand the Heat - the heroine is a heartless shrew.

But how do I really feel? Read on ...

Miranda (or as I like to call her, Beelzebub) is a biting food critic with a point to prove. She basically does to chefs the same thing I'm doing to this book, only with 100% less soul. Anyways. Miranda ends up making a bet with up-and-coming chef Adam (who's totes hot) that she can "stand the heat" in the high-stress atmosphere of a NYC restaurant. But really, all she wants to do is gather all of the restaurant culture's secrets and regurgitate them into a trashy tell-all book so her brother can afford to go back to college. As one might expect, Miranda and Adam are hopelessly meant for each other. Too bad for Adam that he falls in love with the Antichrist.

I jest! I jest! (Mostly.)

Despite what I have to say about the heroine, I didn't hate this book. It had several redeeming qualities that went a long way toward stretching my rating to 3 stars.
1. I really enjoyed learning about restaurant culture. Since I'm a struggling middle class professional, I rarely have the opportunity to go to an expensive trendy restaurant. Edwards captured the frantic hustle-bustle of the kitchen, and I believed Adam's assertions that his kitchen staff was like his family.
2. Adam could have been more fully drawn, but I liked what I did see of his character. He possesses an unflinching zest for life and lives for his job. His energy bounces off of the page when he talks about cooking, which I found refreshing in contrast to all the brooding heroes out there. He's also the most understanding BF ever. Miranda doesn't deserve him.
3. The secondary romance practically stole the book. Miranda's brother Jess falls in love with Adam's sous chef and best friend Frankie, and they are adorable together. Granted, I'm not sure I believe that Frankie, who is characterized as wild and slutty, would settle down with naive little Jess so fast, but I appreciate that Edwards didn't shy away from a same-sex pairing.

So Miranda ... Miranda is ... complicated. She treats her brother like a child and refuses to listen to his wants and needs. The woman is a control freak in the worst way. I'm surprised she allowed the poor guy to pick his clothes out without her input. Her reasons for writing her stupid, tasteless book are kind of noble, I suppose, but that's all negated when she sleeps with Adam. Poor Adam really falls for the she-beast, and she does the literary equivalent of shanking him in the groin. (Fun visual, huh?)


Miranda starts to hedge on publishing her book, which is a collection of biased half-truths and bold lies fed to her by one of Adam's disgruntled ex-employees. Sadly, Miranda has the moral compass of a hell demon, so she randomly jumps to all sorts of awful conclusions about Adam to justify publishing it. First, she basically claims that Adam prostituted himself out to fund the restaurant because she couldn't be bothered to ASK why his ex-girlfriend is a part owner. Then she allows the ex-employee to convince her that Adam's kitchen is an all-around orgy that would make the Health Department flee in terror. But the worst is when Miranda discovers that her brother is A) gay and B) hooking up with Frankie. Her reaction is disturbingly homophobic, despite her constant assertions about being an open-minded liberal, and she acts like some poor victim because Jess didn't turn out the way she wanted. She repeats over and over that she wants Jess to get married and have kids and that this thing with Frankie is just a phase and she totally isn't homophobic, BUT ... Good golly, Miss Molly! The woman is unbearable! Naturally, Miranda finds a way to blame poor Adam for Jess's sexual preferences. He exposed Jess to Frankie, after all, and then he knew that Jess was gay and decided to be a decent person and allow Jess to come out on his own. Essentially, Miranda swears to destroy Adam because he refused to throw her brother out of the closet. So she publishes the book. Actually publishes the book. All because she thinks the money will put Jess in college and get him away from Frankie.

The mind. It boggles.

Somehow, Miranda does a very small amount of groveling and everyone, including Adam, Jess, and Frankie, welcome her back with open arms. The ending was very rushed and strange. Adam didn't even make her work for it. I don't know why. It isn't like she committed a one-time mistake. She acts like a terrible person for the entire book, but he believes she's actually good. I doubt the relationship lasted a year after the book.