Title: Under the Knife
Author: Laurin Kelly
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 270 Pages (Kindle)
At a Glance: This is a debut novel for this author and I have to say, well done! I definitely recommend this story.
Reviewed By: Carrie
Blurb: Season three of TV’s hottest cooking competition, Under the Knife, is gearing up, and Nate is equal parts excited and terrified that he’s one of the twelve competitors. But the prize is a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s worth a few weeks of being stressed and afraid.
It may not, however, be worth weeks of putting up with Zachary, the cold, snotty competitor who definitely thinks he’s better than everyone else. The man can cook, and he’s the hottest man Nate has ever seen, but every time he opens his mouth Nate hates him all over again.
He came here to be driven crazy trying to prove he’s the best chef in the world, but if Nate can’t learn to block Zachary out it won’t be the competition that pushes him to the breaking point.
Review: Do you like food shows on television, specifically Top Chef? Are you a foodie person who also has a more salacious side and wonders what goes on when all those contestants are sequestered away from the world together during the competitions? Do you find yourself watching shows like The People’s Couch because you know they tell it like it “really is”?! Then you will love this book. This book is about two men who meet and fall in love while competing on the television show Under the Knife. I am warning you, though, there are way more explicit descriptions about the food than there are sex scenes, especially since these two guys don’t get together until roughly the 70% mark, but if you cook, you know it’s the mixing, the stirring, the dance in the kitchen that is the most fun, not necessarily the finished product. This book is so full of food porn that you will spend a large amount of time staring at your own pantry like it has let you down.
Laurin Kelly does a great job using the show as a backdrop for the romance between Nate and Zach. Using a medium that most of us are very familiar with to move the plot forward from challenge to challenge, and how these men react to their performances and feed off each other, was very clever. Haven’t you ever watched Chopped just to see which one wins??? You don’t really care about the food, you just want to make sure that the person who all of a sudden you have become so invested in, in such a short amount of time, wins. Laurin Kelly hooks you into reading just a bit more to see who wins the next challenge, and what will happen next between these two men, to the point that it’s hard to put the book down.
Nate is somewhat of a vagabond, finagling himself into a neighborhood kitchen when he was underage to help his mom with bills when his father died. He has gone from kitchen to kitchen learning new food techniques and making a name for himself in the culinary world. All this experience has made him a well-rounded chef and person. He doesn’t let much faze him, and that includes the food he is cooking and the people he is cooking with. He’s an affable guy, usually well-liked by everyone, so why does he let fellow contestant Zach get under his skin so bad? The book is written through Nate’s POV and as such, it stays just as light and humorous as the man himself.
Zach is focused. He wants to win; that prize money will help him to open his second restaurant in New York, and it’s important to him. Coming from a complicated background, he is somewhat of a social albatross. Social interactions are not his strong suit, and after all, why should he try to make friends with chefs he is just trying to beat? Oh, but he has never met someone like Nate before, and the push/pull of reality TV vs real life is more than Zach can navigate. I will say that the author does a great job of thawing this character. The way Zach melts and becomes human means you will go from hating him to sympathizing with him to loving him. I am not sure that the story could have been written from a dual POV, I think Zach’s insight would have been too heavy for the storyline, but I do wish we had been given more of a background to understand what made him the man we see in the beginning.
The secondary characters in this book really help to move the story along. As with any ensemble cast you get a plethora of personalities and motivations for being on the show, and Laurin Kelly uses these people like seasoning. I especially loved Carmen. Were some of her plot points trite or expected? Yes, but I enjoyed her character anyway. This is a full-length novel, not a short story, so be aware it won’t be read in a night even though you will want to. It will sit on your side table, taunting you to continue the story to find out who gets chopped. When and how will that final challenge go? This is a debut novel for this author and I have to say, well done! I definitely recommend this story if you are a fan of cooking shows, m/m romance, steamy scenes and happily ever afters.
You can buy Under the Knife here: