Title: Playing with Fire
Author: Jambrea Jo Jones
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Length: 36 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Western
At a Glance: This is a great character driven short story. We get a solid beginning, middle, and ending all wrapped up in a short space of time. And, the characters are charming.
Reviewed By: Carrie
Blurb: Ranch cook against restaurateur—who does it better?
Hayden McGrath has the formal training and knowhow to run one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the city. This year he wants to prove his worth by entering the barbecue competition at the American Royal. It has nothing to do with a certain cowboy from the Flying P…
Amos Vasquez has been the ranch cook at the Flying P Retreat since it was an actual ranch. Now it’s a place tourists flock to so they can have a taste of his food. This year he is going to win the barbecue competition and nothing will stand in his way, not even a certain sexy redheaded restaurant owner who has caught his eye.
This will be the barbecue competition to beat all competitions at the American Royal.
Publisher’s Note: This book has previously been released as part of the Unconventional in Kansas City anthology with Pride Publishing.
Review: OK, so the blurb kinda gets it wrong. I was all set up for a great culinary showdown, but the actual barbeque part is, like, a paragraph long. Oh well, Playing with Fire is still an entertaining short story. The foodie in me wanted more food, but that’s picky. I enjoyed Hayden and Amos; they made me smile.
Hayden is a little(?) neurotic. He’s made a name for himself and his farm-to-table restaurant. He’s worked hard for all that he has accomplished, and is proud of his restaurant and, most importantly, his food. However, Hayden has trust issues, big time, and as far as trusting Amos goes, he’s really not sure he can. I liked Hayden, he’s the classic example of having to get out of your own way in order to be happy. Seeing a random text come across Amos’s phone after their one incredible night together, and trying to shut the man out of his life because of it, seems a little extreme, but hey, the author makes it work. Hayden had a cheating ex and, frankly, that encounter still has way too much hold over his everyday existence. Hayden is confident in every aspect of his life, except his personal one.
Amos loves to cook. He’s not “trained”, like Hayden, but the ranch hands on the spread where he works don’t complain. He’s entered his bar-b-que in the American Royal competition for several years now, and hasn’t done half bad—never won, but placed in the top few on several occasions. The one thing Amos obsesses over more than cooking, is Hayden. He’s had a crush on the man for years, and their one time coming together ended so badly and abruptly—and he doesn’t know why—that all he wants is to find out why so he can make it right. Amos knows deep down that Hayden cares for him, but why won’t the man tell him why he’s so angry with him?
This is a great character driven short story. We get a solid beginning, middle, and ending all wrapped up in a short space of time. And, the characters are charming. The main characters have chemistry that draw you into the story, and the story shares with you each man’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. Is it a foodie story? Not really. But it is a great short romance about two men who cook, who are kinda flawed, but lovable all the same, and have a solid foundation with each other for a HEA. I enjoyed this one and I think you will too. What’s better than a man and his cowboy walking away into the sunset after a hard day of barbequing? Not much.
You can buy Playing with Fire here: