Cooking with SEALs, Book 1
Heat Factor: Bonetown
Character Chemistry: She has a great butt! True love!
Plot: Makes no sense
Overall: The pacing is completely wack
So here’s the deal. Derek was a Navy SEAL until his leg got messed up while he was deployed, so now he’s not a SEAL any more and is looking for something else to do. Clearly, the best thing to do in this situation is to: stalk his ex-girlfriend to a new town and conveniently apply to go to the same culinary school that she’s attending.
What a promising opening for a romance novel! Stalking is always a good way to find true love.
By the way, her name is Remington Bolt. Let me repeat that: Remington. Bolt.
Anyways, luckily for Derek, Remy has been thinking about him all the time, and only left him so that he could manage his recovery after his injury, because she was getting in the way. The background of their relationship is unclear, because all of it happened before the book opens – we start two months after she left him. Anyways, they see each other and have two interactions where she’s like, I didn’t sleep with your friend and I left you for your own good and then they get back together and it’s true love and magic sex and also they are engaged. So their relationship is fixed and there are 150 pages to go.
The rest of the story involves a lot of plot. There’s a reality TV cooking show, which stars Derek because he was a Navy SEAL and that makes him an insta-celebrity (???), and even though the show is announced on literally his first day of culinary classes, he knows how to do ALL the cooking. There’s a big game park and some glamping. There is the worst-behaved Girl Scout Troop I have ever witnessed (these leaders were clearly never trained in the Way of the Girl Scout by my mother) (seriously, Mom, you would have been livid if we had ever acted that way, because Rule #1 of S’mores is you have to CLEAN UP THE EVIDENCE when you’re done, because otherwise you’ll have to share). There is a hot mess wedding where the bride gets drunk and comes on to Derek. There is a wildfire that tears through their Northern California community.
Throughout all this plot, the main conflict seems to be that people pay attention to Derek, but not to Remy. Derek is a chick magnet, and a former SEAL, and a reality TV star. Now, I’m all about advocating for equality within a relationship, and for Derek to figure out how to balance his new career with his relationship, but Remy, I gotta tell you: not everyone deserves fame and attention. Sorry, not sorry.
What I am getting at here is that the conflict seems weird and manufactured and unfocused. The real conflict in their relationship – how to manage his difficult transition out of the military due to injury, which led to their initial break-up – would be interesting to read about. If it had been included, it would also give us a lot more context for the way Remy and Derek eventually learn to strike a balance in their relationship as they continue to navigate Derek’s transition to civilian life. Missed opportunity.
The saving grace of this book is the character of Derek himself. After he was introduced, I was set to HATE him:
- In his very first scene, he reflects on Remy’s “melons.” Yes, he uses the word melons to describe her breasts. (Which are, of course, glorious and enormous, even though the rest of her is petite.)
- He drives a Hummer.
- He travels with all of his guns. When going from San Diego to Napa.
- He bitches about not having any money – the military doesn’t pay well. And I’m like, DUDE, if you are that broke, you should not have purchased a Hummer.
- He engages in extremely sexualized PDA and swears loudly in public and basically acts in ways that would cause me to side-eye him if I saw him in the grocery store. (And random bystanders do, in fact, side-eye him and Remy as they act out, but it’s meant to be charming?)
Despite all of this, Derek grew on me, and I was definitely rooting for him to figure his shit out. He’s sort of an oblivious doofus – there is a very weird scene where he “inadvertently” flirts with one of his culinary instructors (seriously, that scene is written as if this lady were the REAL love interest and he was meeting her for the first time and I was very confused as to what was happening) – but he does genuinely want to make his relationship with Remy right. He’s generous, and a generous lover. He talks in a thoughtful and nuanced way about heroism and his experiences in the military. And even though he’s a chick magnet (please tell me, fellow straight ladies, if you have ever gotten all freaky just because a guy was in the military, because I don’t get it), he doesn’t have a huge ego.
Is it true love? Meh, who knows. Was it a good read? I didn’t love it, but Derek did warm my heart.
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