Heat Factor: It’s a nice amount of heat…think spice in chocolate.
Character Chemistry: Dead serious, this is the BEST enemies to lovers set up I’ve read in a long time. Meticulously done.
Plot: Nina and Leo are co stars on a culinary reality show–when Nina reaches her breaking point in dealing with Leos’ crap and quits. In order to save their respective restaurants after the messy episode airs, Nina and Leo decide to embark on a fake relationship to stir up good press. Only, it gets REAL. Real juicy.
Overall: The second I saw the tiniest hint that these enemies were actually going to fall for each other, my jaw dropped. It was just deliciously done–and honestly, extra points for the bold and punny title.
This book opens with Nina and Leo getting ready for a live episode of their show, and with the way it starts off I honestly thought Leo was going to be the counterpoint for a really stand up guy. Seriously. His intro seems a bit fake and smarmy, and he does Nina really dirty. But you know how sometimes the set up is so neatly done, and the hints are so subtle and stirring, that you just KNOW however it happens is going to blow your socks right off? That’s this book.
Nina gets the nickname of “Nasty Nina” from comments Leo makes on the show they’re on–and because of his behavior, fans of the show are relentless in picking on Nina, even though she’s an acclaimed chef. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, the way Nina’s experience unfolds illustrates how subtle and unbearable the thousand little cuts can be before the only option is to leave. And that’s what Nina ends up having to do.
Only both her and Leo’s restaurants begin to fail. Leo is, at first, only focused on what Nina’s exit has done to HIM. He’s sensitive about inheriting his father’s simple Italian eats franchise (because he isn’t a chef, and it’s not his restaurant–so he feels like an interloper), and he craves the legitimacy Nina has. Nina, on the other hand, has just exited a relationship with a real tool bag and because of the harsh and unfair criticism of her on the show, she’s had to close two of three locations of her fine dining restaurant. She’s barely holding on to the original location. But some photos leaked by happenstance suggest there’s a romance brewing and when business spikes for both of them, they decide to go for the fake relationship. Naturally.
What I loved about this book is that it’s complicated and messy, but it makes complete sense. Leo struggles with panic attacks and has been hiding it since the death of his father, and is palpably lost and searching for meaning. Nina presents initially as kind of stiff and rude, but it becomes clear that she’s been holding her own in a pretty misogynistic field and is “closed off” because it helps her stay focused. Leo is also kind of sensitive and neurotic, which isn’t something I think we usually see in a hero, and zero apologies are made for it. (Good–dudes struggle with this stuff, too.) And Nina never really softens, she just opens up. (Also good–women don’t need to be softer to be worthy of love.)
Plus, let’s be real–the banter between Leo and Nina starts a smolder that, thank heaven, results in the best kind of heat. They’re vicious. They go for the jugular. It’s often punny. It’s FANTASTIC.
For Butter or Worse is decadent, delicious, and leaves you wanting more.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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