Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Under The Knife
AUTHOR: Laurin Kelly
PUBLISHER: Less Than Three Press
LENGTH: 335 pages
RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2016
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.
A quarter of a million dollars and a chance to make his dreams a reality. And all Nate has to do is outlast and out-cook 11 other contestants on the popular cooking show, Under the Knife. But you don’t make the final cut without at least being a really good cook, so Nate is gonna have to be the very best at all times. Unfortunately he is up against some of the very best, at their very best, and it will be no easy challenge. Especially when his competition is a woman who is rapidly becoming one of his best friends and a man who is at times both his dream and his nightmare. When winning the game suddenly means he might end up losing his heart, the show takes on a whole different dimension. But you never know what is up for grabs in this show, and all it might take is a bit of luck and some very careful handling to take home both the prize and his man.
Well, if you weren’t hungry before, you sure will be now!
I don’t know how it does it, but this book actually managed to be just as good–and just as bad–as some of my favorite cooking competitions. Despite the fact that you can’t see, smell, taste, feel, or hear any of these foods, you are still left desperately staring into your pantry with regret. Because nothing will taste quite as good as what you are reading about on the page.
Despite the fact that I tend to stay as far away as possible from reality tv, I have a weak spot for cooking competitions (though I will admit that the Big Brother, let’s create all this annoying fake tension because how dare we produce a show doesn’t reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator in hopes of checking off a box ones are my least favorite). I really enjoyed how well this book brought that part of the story to life. From the ridiculous canned dialogue that the judges/presenters seem to use, to the tension that is wracked up as the show goes along, this book seems to capture it all. But it also brought a lot of the human element to life as well, and that is where it really shines. I loved these characters, and Zachary and Nate just hit all the right notes in this book. The rivalry that goes from heated to friendly, the way the characters grow as the show goes along, it all made me not want to look away.
The only thing I really have to complain about is that I felt the whole thing with Mara went nowhere even after it felt like it was trying to build up to some Big Moment. She basically gets dealt with in flashback and that seemed a bit of a cop-out. I get that if you didn’t want the book to be a thousand pages long, you’d have to cut out some part of the competition, but the way the whole Mara thing was set-up, and then just discarded, didn’t feel right to me.
To be honest this book was just a lot of fun to read. And even if it gave me the munchies like nobody’s business, I loved that part of it as well. It was everything I loved about cooking shows, only better because of the great romance and the lack of artifice that I expected there to be in a book all about scripted reality.
The ending of the competition was also pretty great. (No spoilers!!)