Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Scrumptious by Amanda Usen

Scrumptious by Amanda Usen
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance Scrumptious Cover
Release date: January 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-1402259821
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N

Chef Joe Rafferty made one promise to his dying mother – there will be “no more sluts.” He’s determined to keep that promise and settle down with a nice woman. But when he comes to the aid of his culinary school friend Olivia, Joe meets Olivia’s best friend Marlene. Marly is the exact opposite of the kind of girl Joe knows he should fall for, but what harm is there in taking a slight detour before he gets back on the path to finding Ms. Right?

Mr. Right Now is all Marly ever looks for; she’s seen enough damage caused by love and marriage, thank you very much. Joe would be the perfect candidate for a fling…if it weren’t for the fact that he’s trying to take over the restaurant she’s put her life’s blood into. If Marly wants to run Olivia’s restaurant, she needs to get rid of Joe. The only problem is, the more she’s around the too-sexy-for-her-peace-of-mind Joe, the more Marly wants him to stay.

Forget the frying pan – Scrumptious is all about fire. The fire between Marlene and Joe, that is. Amanda Usen’s debut novel sizzles with passion, but where it really shines isn’t in the romance or the love scenes, but in the food. Ms. Usen’s culinary background shows; the restaurant scenes in Scrumptious are to die for. Ms. Usen’s prose is effortless, light, and utterly charming when her chefs are in the kitchen.

Where Scrumptious falls short is in the characters. Marly has worked so hard to prove herself to Olivia that she’s understandably crushed by the fact that Olivia brings Joe to run the kitchen. And why does Olivia do so when Marly’s perfectly capable? Because Olivia and Marly – two life-long best friends – don’t have a simple thirty second conversation that could have cleared up their big misunderstanding. Joe, for his part, is the typical sexy hero, but it grated on my nerves that he thinks of Marly as a “slut” for most of the book. Yes, she revels in her sexuality…just as Joe does. When combined with a few other things he does in the book, the fact that Joe doesn’t see himself (or any other man) as a slut just shows him to be sexist, a trait I don’t find at all attractive. Both Marly and Joe just didn’t appeal to me as protagonists which made it easy for me to put Scrumptious down. As for the third major player, Olivia, she’s so blind on a number of issues that I wanted to shake her – hard – frequently.

The plot of Scrumptious mostly revolves around misunderstandings and the characters growing up. However, in the last quarter of the book the plot takes a turn into something strange, unnecessary, and way too over the top. I won’t spoil it by saying what happens, but I feel like Ms. Usen jumped the shark a bit in the end. Still, Ms. Usen’s skill at bringing the culinary world to life should not be overlooked. While Scrumptious didn’t hit the spot for me, I would give another one of Ms. Usen’s foodie romances a try in the future.