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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

ARC Review: You're The One by Robin Kaye

I’m a sucker for a bad boy gone good—it’s a trope that works in any genre and never fails to give me the warm fuzzies. Robin Kaye’s new ‘Bad Boys of Red Hook’ contemporary series sounded like just the thing: a trio of formerly-delinquent foster kids turned to the straight and narrow by a hard-nosed ex-cop combined with Ms. Kaye’s trademark balanced mix of angst, humour, and sexy times, and excellent descriptions that bring Brooklyn to life. YOU’RE THE ONE is technically book #2 in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. Overall, it was an enjoyable read—which I liked more than book #1, BACK TO YOU, where the characters blew a bit too hot and cold about each other for my liking—that is very much a Robin Kaye book but is not my favourite of hers. I really enjoyed the characters and the small-town-within-a-big-city community feel but found the way the protagonists (particularly the hero) overcame their issues too rapid and pat to be truly believable, which kept this from being a great read for me.

For me, contemporary romance is primarily about the characters. I took to Logan Blaise—chemist extraordinaire and former street gang member turned Stanford graduate and renowned vintner—immediately. He has abandonment issues stemming from childhood, is convinced he is incapable of strong emotions, and has spent his adult life trying to overcome his humble beginnings. He’s trapped in a relationship that’s little more than a business transaction and is doing little more than going through the motions of living when he’s called back from the sun-gilded vineyards of Napa Valley to gritty Red Hook to help care for his ailing foster father (Pete) and the new foster kid Pete has taken in. It takes being back in his old neighbourhood, surrounded by friends and family (old and new) for him to realise just how shallow and empty his life has become, and just how much of a farce his Napa country club persona is. Meeting Nicki—the ten-year-old kid dumped by her mother on Pete’s doorstep in whom he sees so much of his younger self—and sexy chef Skye Maxwell shows him just how strongly and deeply he can actually feel, as he falls head-over-heels for both immediately. This is where the major problem was for me: ex-fianceĆ© Payton is an overdone caricature of the spoilt daddy’s little rich girl and the way he cuts off that relationship when he meets Skye borders on asshole-ish. Logan’s transition from ‘unfeeling automaton’ to ‘forever after’ is almost instantaneous and doesn’t feel realistic given the emotional baggage and hang-ups that are such an integral part of his character.

Skye Maxwell is the youngest (and only girl) in a family of wealthy, overbearing restaurateurs who’s spent her entire life being bossed around by her older brothers. She wants nothing more than to run her own kitchen but is constantly relegated to dealing with the business end of her brothers’ restaurants and only occasionally allowed to play in their kitchens. When she finally makes a stand and decides to make her own way in the foodie world, she quits the family enterprise, leaves her trappings of wealth behind in San Francisco, and finds herself the new head chef of Pete’s restaurant in gritty Red Hook, Brooklyn with a ready-made apartment, dog, and nosy group of friends. The attraction between Logan and Skye is instantaneous and scorching, but she’s hell-bent on not getting involved with a man who is not only her boss, but also temporary and formerly engaged to a perfect plastic socialite. I really liked how Skye is a ‘real’ woman: she’s a chef, she enjoys food, and she makes no apologies for it. She’s also a very cheap drunk and adorably embarrassed that everyone in Red Hook knows about (and butts into) her love life, which makes her very relatable. While Logan falls a bit too fast, hard, and deep, and is sure he wants to spend the rest of his life with her from the get-go, Skye has a major case of not-good-enough syndrome and runs the second the going gets tough, which makes for a great relationship dynamic between the two. I enjoyed watching Logan (and Nicki) coax her from behind her walls to overcome her insecurities, and found her development as a character more believable than Logan’s—even if her ‘not-good-enough’ hang-ups did grate on me a bit.

There’s also an enjoyable cast of secondary characters that add a touch of humour and multidimensionality to both the hero and heroine and the community of Red Hook: the ridiculously loveable dogs, D.O.G. and Pepperoni; Pete, the patriarch of the ragtag family who galvanizes his sons into action when they’re being idiots; Nicki, the loveable foster child of undetermined parentage; Rocki and Patrice, the dynamic duo who know about (and stick their noses into) everything in Red Hook—especially others’ love lives; and Slater, the mysterious third brother (and hero of book #3) who’s a complete wanker to Skye from the second he steps on the page.

YOU’RE THE ONE was a pleasant read, a fun combination of light foodie and small-town family romance, though not my favourite Robin Kaye book. I enjoyed the cast of characters and the setting but had some issues with pacing and believability.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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