Harlequin/February 1, 2006 (mmp)
From Goodreads ~
Cal Buchanan needs a top-flight chef to take over his failing Seattle restaurant, The Waterfront. He can afford to hire the best in town -- the only problem is that the best happens to be his ex-wife, Penny Jordan.
Penny really needs this opportunity, but she doesn't need the distraction of working with her ex. She's sworn off romance -- she's even having a baby on her own. But before she knows it, the heat is on . . . and the attraction between her and Cal moves from a low simmer to a full boil!
The rest should be easy as pie, but a secret from Cal's past could spoil everything. Maybe it's true that too many cooks spoil the broth -- or maybe two is enough to make it irresistible.
I generally don't review audiobooks simply because I usually don't have a print copy to refer to while writing the review. And since my memory isn't always great and I'm often reading more than one book at a time, the need to check details happens. This time I'm going strictly from memory so consider yourself warned. :)
This is one of those second chance at love romances although through much of the story I wasn't sure the heroine should give the hero a second chance. Penny and Cal fell in love, married and had a good life or so Penny thought. Then things started to unravel and Penny walked out, thinking that would jar Cal out of his apathy. But Cal let her go. Penny still doesn't know what caused Cal to shutdown and give up but she's moved on with her life, building a good career as a chef. Now she's back in Cal's life and she's determined to make their working relationship work.
Cal Buchanan is in desperate need of a chef and the only one that will do is his ex. Lucky for him she doesn't hold a grudge and is will to work for him, on her terms. I liked Penny from the start. She knows what she wants and stands her ground with Cal, not accepting anything less than what she wants in the negotiations of her contract. Cal, well... the more I got to know him, the less I liked him. This dude had secrets up the wazoo!
The romance between Penny and Cal is slow to pick in because neither wants to pick it up. They both want a strictly working relationship and a short one at that. Cal has only agreed to the job of manager for four months, then it's back to his own business, a chain of coffee shops called 'The Daily Grind'. Penny's fine with that, figuring she can handle being around Cal for a few months. It was interesting because really, in the beginning, they both meant what they said. They didn't want to get involved again. But as they spend more time together and find that they still care about each other. The physical attraction is still there and they eventually act on it. It came as no surprise that they got together, what I did like is that Penny didn't get all crazy stupid in love. She still had her own agenda and her baby was priority number 1. Cal was busy still keeping secrets and thinking he knew what was best for everyone. Ugh!
The three remaining Buchanan siblings throw more complications into the mix in the form of marital problems, a ladies man and a war veteran. I liked the three siblings more than I liked Cal, which bodes well for the rest of the books in the series. I also liked that they still had decent relationships with Penny and didn't hold it against her for walking out on Cal.
So the question is - does our hero redeem himself by the end? Is he worthy of a second chance with Penny? This is a romance, so in the end Penny thought "Yes", Cal was worthy. Me, I'm not so sure. There was groveling and an argument could be made with the 'old habits are hard to break' theory. But Cal kept disappointing me with his constant need to protect everyone he loves by keeping secrets. Sure, he comes clean in the end but that was due more to circumstances and others finding out than to him simply revealing what he had kept hidden.
This would have worked better for me had the hero not got on my nerves so much. There were times when I found myself actually hoping they didn't get back together which is just silly since it is a romance. In the end, I still felt that Penny deserved better. I did like the setting of the restaurant - all the foodie lingo and the chaotic atmosphere of a busy restaurant. I also liked what I read about the siblings enough to continue with the series. I'm just hoping Cal's brothers Walker and Reid, are far less annoying.
Books in this series ~