13 November 2014

In The Kitchen Spotlight!

If you can't take the heat…

James Lassiter has had a crush on fellow culinary student Ethan Martin for three years, but has never had the guts to make a move. Putting himself out there is hard, especially when under the thumb–and wallet–of his overbearing parents. Now that bad boy chef Ethan–who is always vying with Jamie for best in class–is struggling with the pastry course, Jamie suddenly has a reason to reach out.

Ethan doesn't mean to be an ass–okay, so mostly he does–but even though he's secretly hot for Jamie, he sure as hell doesn't want help with pastry. Ever since his dad walked out, Ethan has been the one to hold things together and he's done fine on his own. Except that he can't get his cake to rise.

Jamie could be the answer to what Ethan's been missing his whole life–someone to depend on. But with the two competing for the same scholarship, things suddenly get too hot to handle. And if Jamie finds the strength to go for what he wants, he isn't about to settle for what he needs.
That was HOT!!! No pun intended. I will admit right off the bat that I was expecting a tense yet fun and sexy read – which the authors definitely delivered on. But I also got a book that was much more of an emotional read than I really expected and it blew me away. I found it quite entertaining that neither James nor Ethan had any clue that the other was gay AND attracted to the other – especially when we learn that Ethan’s sister Claire was well aware of it as were others around them. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an m/m romance where both main character’s gaydar was broken.

But seriously the relationship storylines within In the Raw are numerous and emotional – both good and bad – and they’re the driving force in the book. It’s clear right from the beginning that the sibling relationship between Ethan and Claire is not only strong, but also Ethan’s center – which is what makes Claire’s anger and silent treatment of Ethan at one point so significant. The friendship between Claire and James is clearly important to both of them, particularly to Claire as she is so busy with school and work that she doesn’t have much time to make friends, especially those who are truly interested in actually being friends. Although by no means a positive relationship, the one between James and his parents has a major impact on him, his behaviors, and his relationship with Ethan. I was outraged and devastated for James when his parents drew the line and refused to listen to him at all.

Ultimately it is the relationship between James and Ethan and how it develops that is central to this novel. It was quite amusing to learn that neither man wanted to be attracted to the other. Ethan resented James’s wealth and the opportunities his last name afforded him; whereas James wasn’t “out” and didn’t know how to deal with Ethan’s mercurial moods – in short, Ethan was an arse. Yet as the two are forced to spend time together due to a school project and get to know one another in the process they learn that their impressions of the other aren’t accurate. Their attraction grows despite their best intentions and the result is intense. The authors not only give us some highly erotic sex scenes, but also some beautiful moments of emotional intimacy.

In the Raw definitely has the In the Kitchen series off to an excellent start. Ms. Michaels and Ms. Griffin have done a great job in crafting James and Ethan’s story. I am so relieved that I have book two already so I can go straight into it as the Epilogue had me near tears more than once and I cannot wait to find out what happens next for these two. In the Fire here I come. 
Because the way to a man's heart…

Eight years ago, the world was their oyster. Until, that is, competing chefs Ethan Martin and James Lassiter's hot and heavy relationship fizzled after Jamie left for an internship in Paris. Even though Jamie's career has taken off since his return to the States, with his own television show and a lot of fame, his feelings for Ethan have never quite gone away.

Ethan's culinary career has developed more slowly, but he's almost saved enough to buy the restaurant where he works and re-open it as his dream spot, Bistro 30. If only he could get the sexy chef who loved him and left him out of his mind.

But when someone starts sabotaging the restaurant and a fire threatens to take away everything Ethan holds dear, his only option is to rely on Jamie for help. Back in close quarters, the two men will have to find a way to work through their past if they hope to save the restaurant and their future.

See how Ethan and Jamie's romance began in In the Raw
Within a few pages of starting In the Fire, I was absolutely heartbroken. I signed up to review it over a month ago and didn’t reread the blurb before starting it. So when I picked it up to read immediately after finishing In the Raw I was expecting a continuation of Ethan and Jamie’s relationship – either as they struggled with the long-distance relationship or picking up at Jamie’s return from Paris. Suffice it to say I was devastated to learn that Jamie didn’t return to Seattle when he finished his training in Paris, but went to New York for an internship there instead and that his and Ethan’s relationship had fallen apart over the distance and time. I wanted to freaking cry. As much as I hated the way in which the book began, I knew I had to stick with it because I could not bring myself to believe that Ms. Michaels and Ms. Griffin would not give these two the happily ever after they deserved.

In this installment, we find Ethan and Jamie living on separate coasts eight years later. I was shocked to learn that Jamie had become a celebrity chef. Not because he lacked the talent, but because it meant more time being a business and less time being a chef – which was one of the major reasons he avoided joining the family business. On the other hand, Ethan’s career progression did not surprise me in the least. And I was pleased to see that Claire was working with him in Cal’s restaurant and that she was still just as feisty with her brother as she’d always been. When an awards dinner forces them to face one another after eight years, well I’ll just remind you that Ethan was an arse and is still an arse, but this time around he is a wounded arse and that makes for one heck of a confrontation and one sexy bathroom scene when Jamie takes a REALLY drunk Ethan back to his hotel room to insure he’s safe for the night.

Although In the Fire is filled with a LOT of emotional angst as both men felt the other let him down eight years ago, it’s just the right amount of angst and the emotional struggles the two deal with give the story a feeling of realism. With both men still raw about the dissolution of their relationship, immediate or quick trust on either side would not be believable. I liked that there was no quick resolution and that both parties avoided talking about the situation as it was in line with the characters we knew. It’s also what made their individual moments of self-realization that they were still in love with one another that much sweeter – and the sex that much hotter. Additionally, the authors did a really nice job of keeping life moving forward as Ethan and Jamie were figuring out what they wanted. Jamie has a couple of intense confrontations with people who weren’t Ethan and it was quite enjoyable to see that change in his personality. In the same vein, Ethan had to deal with a seemingly endless number of incidents at Cal’s restaurant that were endangering its continued success. There was no magical stop to life as they attempted to reconcile and it just made the book that much more believable. I loved the ending of In the Fire and hope that the authors plan to add to the series as Claire deserves her story told. Either way, In the Raw and In the Fire are definitely on my reread list.

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