Cooking Up a Storm by Ashley Ladd


 Brooks and Rique desperately want to win a coveted chef’s job offered by an eccentric millionaire in paradise. Even more, Rique desperately wants to stay alive.

Brooks and Rique desperately want to win the head chef’s position offered by an eccentric millionaire Jonah Verleun on his beautiful, private but peculiar island that includes a zoo full of exotic animals, an amusement park and a monster shark tank beneath Jonah’s bedroom floor. While Brooks wants the job to escape his heartache and the lover who thwarted him, Rique is hiding from the mob, hoping to live long enough to pay them off with the prize winnings.
Fierce competitors, they cook up a storm in a series of cooking challenges while trying to turn down the heat on their intense attraction. When a hurricane strikes the island, the storm Rique has been cooking up explodes, and no heart—or body—is safe.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of multiple male ménage.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22393724-cooking-up-a-storm
Cooking Up a Storm turned out to be just an okay read for me. Due to their length, I tend to give novellas more leeway regarding the speed with which relationships develop. Some authors address this issue by stating that the potential couple have known each other for years, a decade, or since childhood, thus allowing the reader to assume their shared history. Others address it with an overwhelming draw between the characters – that “love at first sight” phenomena. However, in the case of Brooks and Rique, neither was the case. Rather too much alcohol on their first night on the island was the impetus for them falling into bed together. Granted, I don’t take issue with that either because one-night-stands happen daily. Where it went wrong for me was that within just a few weeks, they
were “in love” after having spent a few nights together and competing against one another (as well as three others) for the job of head chef – game show style. Other than some REALLY hot sex scenes, there was almost no relationship development to be witnessed by the reader. That Brooks is supposedly still raw over being dumped by his long-time partner for a woman, makes the speed with which they fall in love harder to swallow. Added to that is the fact that we are supposed to accept that after a mere two months’ time, both men are also in love with a third man.
Probably the thing that irked me the most about the book is the hurricane, more specifically David’s comment at the end: “I also want to report that the eye of the storm has passed and the winds are dying down.” As someone who has lived in Florida for all but the first six months of her life and has ridden out some really severe hurricanes, that was a big “WTH?” moment for me. The eye of the hurricane is usually the calmest part of the storm. It can be eerily calm. And in all actuality, once the eye passes, the tail can be the most destructive part of a hurricane. While I realize this weather inconsistency won’t matter to most readers, the hurricane plays a big role in the story and it really bothered me, especially once I read that Ms. Ladd lives in South Florida.
One of the things I did like about the book was David’s character, but that didn’t occur until the end. Once David was allowed to function in a situation that played to his strengths, his character was much more enjoyable to read about. Admittedly, it was one heck of a contrived situation, but it didn’t make David’s actions any less impressive. While I found the idea of a two-month long game show-style job  interview to be a novel one, Cooking Up a Storm fell short of the mark for me and is thus just an okay read. Sadly, the hot m/m and m/m/m sex weren’t enough.  

Ashley Ladd is a disabled Air Force vet that is hard of hearing but still loves language, especially the written word. She loves a sexy man, especially one with a military background and they’ll often pop up in her stories. She also loves cats and has been known to empower a cat with the gift of speech. Unfortunately he wouldn’t shut up. J She loves to plug into Pandora and sip Diet Coke while writing, usually with a cat or kid at her side.