My review of “In the Raw” first in the In the Kitchen Series, by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin.
You know the old saying…if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. This is true of this story. The heat is definitely in THIS kitchen.
This story is about Ethan Martin aka “bad boy” who works hard for everything he has, which isn’t much, his sister Claire and James “Jamie” Lassiter, the Golden Boy who has it all, at least for now. Ethan and Claire work extra shifts, intern at restaurants and save every penny they can earn just to survive but are okay with their situation knowing they have each other. Their relationship is a true family and they rely on and care for each other. Jamie has a much larger battle in his own life. Born into a wealthy family who has his future mapped out for him, even before asking him. What happens when Jamie decides what HE wants to do with his life? How supportive are his parents when they learn what HE wants to do in life?
All three characters are in culinary school learning to become chefs and competing for a prestigious scholarship to study in Paris. During their classes they learn the hard way, so to speak, how to work together. This means losing the attitude, getting past the stereotypes and truly getting to know each other. AND asking for help. Something that is very difficult for Ethan, the bad boy, “I can do it on my own, don’t need your help” guy. Partners Jamie and Claire team up to help her brother so they can ALL succeed and learn, refreshing to read. But does Claire have an ulterior motive? Does she know something the boys don’t know? And what students in their class want to sabotage the future chef’s because they are naturally good.
During the story the characters grow within themselves and learn what it is they want in life and individually work to get it while being respectful and moral, unlike some of their classmates. Ethan’s attitude sparks at times to match his character but he becomes more human, don’t want to say softens up, but as he opens himself up he becomes nicer, easier to get along with. Ethan will even do something that will blow your mind, yet make you smile when you understand what it is and why. Bad guy turned good if you ask me. Jamie on the other hand, struggles with some deep personal issues and ends up having to make a very difficult decision, a life altering decision, and then has to follow-through with it. Scary stuff. This changes the entire path of his life. With the support of his friends, he tries to see if he can continue doing what he hopes he can do. Claire, even though she is in the background, is supportive of her brother Ethan and culinary partner Jamie. She is the reason they learned to work together and the reason they both succeed in school. I loved her smart wit and sense of humor.
The reference to culinary background was a refreshing change to read. Obviously well researched and the authors have knowledge of cooking and baking. Some of the food references made me very hungry. How many times did we have to mention souffles? One of my favorites. And the reference to Nutella, brilliant. The added french from the head chef, Chef Boulanger, who even himself comes to respect the characters a little bit more throughout the story was a nice touch.
The emotions in the story run like a roller coaster. You almost want to get in Ethan’s head and yell at him or push him, smack him or even punch him for being so obstinate at times. But that’s what makes him so believable. Jamie, I just wanted to hug and tell him everything would be alright. It brought tears to my eyes in some scenes when he felt helpless and down. While reading some of the scenes I found myself with the same lump in my throat as the characters. But Claire brought the smile back or the chuckle when I read her lines.
The sex scenes were amazing and to be honest, just as I expected. Eileen and Nikka have always written M/M scenes very well, emotional, breath-taking and sensuous. I didn’t expect anything less. Passionate and caring between characters yet hot and sexy as well. Details left little to the imagination. Beautiful!
I won’t lie, I have always loved the writing of these two authors but love it most when they write together. Their styles compliment each other and their work turns into a beautiful story. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next story in the series called “In the Fire.” What happens to Jamie, Ethan and Claire after 6 months of being apart?
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And a very touching piece added at the end, since it is touched on in the story, is the need to help others less fortunate than ourselves. The authors ask you to help find a Feeding America program and do something to help feed the hungry in your community. Too many children are starving and hungry every day. Please do something to make a difference. Click below for more information.
Here is a little teaser for the book: