Danielle (Love at First Page)'s Reviews > Taste the Heat

Taste the Heat by Rachel  Harris
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This review includes the first two books in Rachel Harris' Love and Games series.

One of the best experiences of reading is finding new authors who you can count on to deliver again and again and whose work you immediately connect with. After just two books, I can safely put Rachel Harris in that category. Taste the Heat and Seven Day Fiancé are everything you want in a contemporary romance: smart, loveable heroines, off-the-charts chemistry, believable romance that makes your guts clench, engaging plot lines, and of course swoon-worthy heroes who melt your heart. I was swept away by these two stories, unable to do anything but feverishly read on until I got my happy ending. Harris perfectly balances sugar and spice, tension and release, and the reward couldn't have been sweeter.

In Taste the Heat, we meet Colby Robicheaux, a successful chef who returns home after the death of her father to help run the family restaurant. She isn't happy being back in her small hometown of Magnolia Springs, where there are few secrets kept hidden, and she plans to leave once the summer is over. Colby has a secret of her own, one that has shaped her from a starry-eyed girl of eighteen to the jaded, guarded woman she is today. She doesn't believe in love and faithfulness due to seeing infidelity repeat itself over and over again in her life. Things change, however, when she runs into her childhood crush. Jason Landry is the town's fire captain who is still putting the pieces of his life together after losing his high school sweetheart and wife four years ago. He's a single dad raising a pre-teen daughter, trying to do his best by her. He wants companionship and a female presence in his daughter's life, but isn't looking for love or to have his heart broken again.

To be honest, I've grown wary of no-strings-attached romances. Partly because it's formulaic and overdone, and partly because I could never see myself entering that kind of relationship. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I know emotions would always get the better of me. Thankfully, Rachel Harris keeps the drama usually accompanied with these stories to a minimum. Although Jason and Colby start what's supposed to be only a summer fling, the love and bond these two share can't be denied for long. Colby has loved Jason for most of her life, so it was only a matter of time until she realizes she was in too deep from the beginning, and Jason's walls completely crumble as he sees how perfectly Colby fits his family.

The heart of the story ends up being less about Jason and Colby falling in love than Jason slowly winning Colby's trust. She doesn't think she can ever be in a committed relationship and is truly fearful of being cheated on (again). But here's the thing: Jason is one of the good good ones. He is dependable, and loving, and kind, and so worthy of anyone's trust. The steps he takes to get past Colby's walls are ADORABLE. You'll have to see for yourself. :) (I did worry that Jason's love for his first wife would play too strong of a part in this story (I'm a sucker for the hero and heroine being each other's first love). That's a personal thing, though. His healthy marriage does show Colby how honorable of a guy he truly is.)

Magnolia Springs boasts a colorful cast of characters, from Jason's loquacious daughter who likes playing matchmaker, to Colby's siblings Cane and Sherry, to Awkward Angie, the new girl in town. One of the best and most original aspects of this series is the setting within the Cajun culture of New Orleans. I loved reading about their unique customs and habits and dialogues. It's a nice spin to the small town romance trope.

It's obvious from Taste the Heat that Cane and Angelle would be our hero and heroine for Seven Day Fiancé. Their story is still fresh on my mind and is even better than the first. Let me say that this book instantly became one of my all time favorite romances. THAT ENDING. *Swoon.* But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Cane is the town's requisite bad boy... or is he? He has the sexy tattoos, the sinfully perfect body, the motorcycle, and the dimples. But he's also a closet math nerd, likes to spout random factoids, and watches the Discovery Channel religiously. Oh, and he plays the guitar and sings in a band. Sold! Being inside his head is the icing on the cake. He's funny and confident without being cocky, protective of his sisters, a caring friend to Jason and his daughter, and he likes to say "darlin'" (that's important, okay?). The problem? He's also a bit of a playboy. Cane, like Colby, doesn't believe in fidelity, but he guards his heart by engaging in meaningless, short-lived relationships. Only, ever since Angelle arrived in town, Cane's boat is now being rocked.

I always worry whenever I fall head over heels in love with the hero that the heroine won't deserve him. I am happy to say that is so not the case here. I simply adored Angelle. She is awkward and shy and clumsy, especially around Cane. He makes her nervous. He makes her heart stutter. But she's determined to not be that girl anymore. After rejecting her longtime boyfriend's proposal, a boyfriend she never really felt passionate about, she leaves her hometown in an effort to rebuild herself. She no longer wants to be seen as someone who needs to be taken care of and sheltered. Rachel Harris does a beautiful job with her character arc. Angelle remains the girl who blushes and sometimes adorably stammers, but she also becomes a strong woman in her own right.

We've all seen the "fake boyfriend/fiancé/husband" story line before, but Rachel Harris somehow manages to make this story wholly fresh and inviting. Angelle wants to prove to her family that she can make her own choices and find her own path in life, and so tells the little white lie of Cane being her fiancé. When she propositions Cane to go home with her for the Thanksgiving weekend, he agrees, partly because he feels the need to help her but also because he's ready to act on the chemistry that has been sizzling between them. That's not an exaggeration in the least. The tension they share is like a third character, forever present. Watching them succumb to their attraction was entirely too much fun. Beyond the sexual chemistry, though, Cane and Angelle bonded through friendship as well. They open up to one another, more than they have with anyone else, and slowly fall in love. It takes Cane a while longer to admit his feelings, for fear that he'll eventually hurt Angelle, but when he does he really, really brings the swoon. He'll do whatever it takes to show her that he loves her "for real". Again, THAT ENDING. One of my favorite proposal scenes ever. I could read this couple's story again and again, it's that good. I believe in their connection, in their romance, and most importantly in their happy ending. Individually, they are so loveable, and together they make one of the cutest couples ever.

The next book in the Love and Games series should hopefully be wild Sherry's, and I'm begging Rachel Harris right now that it won't be the last.

This review can also be found at Love at First Page.
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Reading Progress

October 15, 2013 – Started Reading
October 15, 2013 – Shelved
October 24, 2013 –
October 24, 2013 –
100.0% "Really adorable!"
October 24, 2013 – Shelved as: genre-contemp-rom-adult
October 24, 2013 – Shelved as: crush-worthy-boys
October 24, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites-adult-romance
October 24, 2013 – Shelved as: read-in-2013
October 24, 2013 – Finished Reading
January 17, 2014 – Shelved as: extra-swoony
October 11, 2014 – Shelved as: own-kindle-book

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Danielle (Love at First Page) I adore this series! They're light and easy reads, and the characters are all wonderfully down to earth. Plus... *Cane*. You must meet him. :)

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