Hungry Heart by Meg Benjamin


Hungry Heart by Meg Benjamin
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Sous chef Darcy Cunningham is less than entranced with small-town Konigsburg’s obsession with barbecue. But her future career as a chef de cuisine requires expanding her culinary horizons, so she talks the Barbecue King, a.k.a. Harris Temple, into taking her on as his apprentice.

However, learning Harris’s professional secrets wasn’t supposed to include falling for his spicy blend of smoky sexiness and laid-back charm.

Chico Burnside specializes in flying under Konigsburg’s small-town radar, but lately life has been going a little too smoothly, even for him. Hoping to shake things up a bit, he talks Harris into teaming up for Konigsburg’s first barbecue cook-off. But once shy scientist Andy Wells catches his eye, Chico’s got more on his mind than brisket. Like enticing her out of her shell to show her just how tenderly a big guy can love.

As the competition ignites, so does the romance. Until a natural disaster threatens to derail Konigsburg’s dream team before the grills even get good and warmed up.

Hungry Heart proves that hot romance goes nicely with hot sauce.

Darcy, the sous chef at the Rose, and the King with his barbecue business practically leapt off the page from the first scene on. The tension between them was palpable, not just because of their personalities, but also because of their professional competitiveness.

While I was instantly drawn in by the chemistry between Harris and Darcy, it took me a while to really feel anything for Andy and Chico. They were perhaps both a bit too passive and I didn’t feel any passion between them until late into the novel. Especially compared to the internal conflict that Darcy faces throughout the story, the other characters seem almost bland. But eventually, even Chico and Andy grew on me.

The descriptions of the Texas barbecue culture felt very authentic and they gave a special charm to the story since they were a convincing background to the romance. The rivalry and professional envy only raised the stakes for the protagonists and added to the conflicts and tension in the novel.

Although the pacing of the story was good, I was a little bothered by the fact that the two love stories developed almost identically. Given the very different personalities of the heroes and heroines, I’d have expected very different dynamics between them. Instead, they develop similarly, with the same pace. I believe a different pacing for the two couples would have enriched the plot, particularly in terms of a more diverse rhythm.

I thought the resolution was done nicely, giving Darcy a happy ending that doesn’t jeopardize her career plans.

Introduction to the barbecue culture is not all that Hungry Heart offers. It serves the reader with a nice portion of romance and love, which makes it a perfect summer read.

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