Review: Under the Knife by Laurin Kelly

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.

If you're a fan of competitive cooking shows like I am this is a book for you. My all time favorite was the old school Iron Chef, the Japanese version with the bizarrely serene voice over commentary that was set up like a fucking cage match. Where did that show go? The American version was a solid follow up and then that disappeared too! So now we have Chopped. It's hard not love a show where the chefs get basket ingredients like duck mousse, half eaten birthday cake, rooibos tea and a box of tic tacs and are told they have 20 mins to make a restaurant quality dessert.

My face when they list the basket ingredients.

But the ones that are ongoing like choosing the next Iron Chef are the ones I invest in. I, like a lot of other people, always have a favorite. There may be a few that I like but I usually root for one and that one in this fictionalized show was Nate. I LOVED NATE! 

Nate is a burly Jewish guy from a single parent home who never met a stranger and everyone loves him. Because he's that guy. He's kind, always has something positive to say and has that gravitational pull thing. People want to be around him because he puts people at ease. He's a mediator and your best friend and your big brother. And he can cook like nobody's business.

Almost immediately he and Carmen are best buds and from the moment she met him and started calling him osito...I knew. I knew they would form an alliance and this wouldn't be all undercutting and backstabbing which I hate. There is a bad apple because there's always a bad apple, but by and large everyone gets along.

Nate is instantly attracted to Zachary physically, but Zachary is aloof. He's extremely focused, kind of taciturn, keeps people at arms length and on the icy side. Zachary's cooking style is classic French and he's been trained at the CIA whereas Nate went to community college and has done pretty much every job there is to do in a restaurant and he favors hearty foods. They squabble quite a bit but their mutual attraction is clear even though the story is told exclusively through Nate. The scene where Nate comes back from a run on the beach shirtless and sweaty it's imminently clear that Zachary wants to climb him like a tree. And when Zachary came to join Nate and Carmen in the hot tub in his teeny tiny swim trunks with the flames on them... something was on fire alright and it was not the BBQ grill.

The cameras being ever present made for great UST and a slow burn. Lots of touching, furtive hand holding and fondling with longing looks and a whole bunch of teasing by their fellow competitors. They are in so much denial about how obvious they are and it's adorable. Really, it was a joy to read. Once they do get a break it was well worth the wait and hilarious. Zachary has a dirty dirty mouth and is ready for Nate's cock in the worst way. Needless to say they are both...

They can't get their clothes off fast enough. And afterwards... big teddy bear went directly to sleep. He did not pass go nor did he collect $200. I'm not sure he even got the condom off before he conked out.

Teddy bear worked HARD! 

Zachary was a hard sell for me, but Kelly showed his transformation. By the end, I was rooting for them and that speech he gave had my face leaking. 

I'm not sure how true this is as far as competitive cooking shows go but I had no idea they had to sit around for hours on end waiting for the judges to deliberate or that they had to be sequestered once eliminated. But when they were cooking it was so fun. It gets my juices flowing trying to figure out challenges and what to do with ingredients and Kelly did a great job balancing the cooking with the relationship development. I also really loved that the hunger in America issue was included. 

Under the Knife captivated me and I barely put it down, but I do hope it got a final edit before it was released because there were a lot of errors. An entire line of dialogue was repeated, the recipe for simple syrup only contained water, sometimes the names and words were used incorrectly and sometimes it seemed like it switched to Zachary's perspective mid-paragraph. I had to reread several things more than once.

Recommend to foodies, cooking show enthusiasts, fans of the slow burn and feel good reads.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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