For Butter or Worse

HQN: Harlequin. Jul. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781335506344. pap. $15.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
DEBUT Chef Nina Lyon has worked too hard to put up with restaurant owner Leo O’Donnell’s sexism and pettiness. The last straw comes as they’re taping the live finale of The Next Cooking Champ!, the reality cooking show they co-host. Nina keeps it together until the end and then quits—dramatically on live TV. The social media fallout is immediate and harsh, and both Nina and Leo see a downward trend in business at their restaurants. When Leo comes to Nina’s restaurant to talk, a paparazzi photo makes it look as if they’re kissing. The fans go nuts, in the best possible way, for the concept. Taking Nina’s publicist’s advice, they build on the good press by going on staged dates in places where they’ll be seen and photographed. But soon the deception, and sexual tension, become too real, and Nina and Leo begin to fall for each other. What began as a way to save their businesses and reputations, may just destroy them instead. This sexy, steamy contemporary romance, told from both Leo’s and Nina’s points of view, is well written and engaging. Descriptions of food and food metaphors are lightly laced throughout the novel, bringing humor to the story, and delightful secondary characters provide support and counterbalance to the protagonists. Issues of sexism and mental health are handled gently but realistically and add emotional depth to the well-developed characters.
VERDICT Fans of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, Sadie on a Plate, and Food Network shows will love this foodie-themed enemies-to-lovers/fake-relationship romance.
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