Title: The Competitive Edge
Author: Talya Andor
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Characters: Alex Koch, Nik Schulze
It’s been six months since Alex became Sous Chef at Schulze’s, and in that time Alex has been working strenuously to improve and expand his skills, working toward the goal of becoming Nik’s equal. He is kept motivated by the occasional breakfast shared with Nik, flirting and talking and offering tender bites of his culinary creations.
But just as his hard work seems to be paying off, a new challenge is thrust upon him. Selected to be one of five challengers on a new cooking competition, Alex is quick to accept the offer, certain that winning will prove his abilities to Nik and everyone else.
Except that to win, he will have to beat not only a handful of strangers, but also Nik, thrusting them right back to the ruthless competition of their school days—and quite possibly ruining any hope of a future as lovers.
I recommend reading this book while eating. There are so many delectable dishes and drinks all the time that you will drool all over your e-book, tablet, or paperback. Then again, I had to read while using an online dictionary because some of the culinary vocabulary went right over my head.
Those who are familiar with TV cooking shows will recognize the many intricacies here in making such a show. Five chefs, one winner, dozens of twists and curveballs. This reads very realistically about how the show is done, from mikes to interviews, from challenges to difficult opponents, and how the show takes over the lives of Alex and Nik, who are already skating on thin ice. With that I mean they are slowly getting to know each other, having met in the first book. According to Alex, they’re dating; Nik thinks differently.
Now, this is written in third person. However, we only get Alex’s point of view. This poses a huge problem. The story would have been better served giving Nik’s POV too. As is, Nik comes off as one those annoying people who have had a bad relationship experience in the past, a betrayal of trust, and now use that as an excuse to be snotty, distant, prissy princesses. This reads like Nik is playing mind games with Alex, who is in love with Nik. Because I couldn’t get into Nik’s head, he doesn’t come off as likeable. Alex, on the other hand, is strong, smart, and capable—Nik is his one fatal weakness. And when the darn cooking show pits them against each other as rivals, things go from bad to worse.
A quite a long read, this series is promising. The writing is captivating, and I was fully immersed into the story. Even the lack of sex in its entirety didn’t make this an unpleasant reading experience. Sure, I would have liked to have seen some kind of sexual culmination of Alex and Nik’s relationship, but since there’s a third book… The plot revolves around the cooking show and the main theme seems to be trust. As in, Nik shows none towards Alex, who offers all of his to Nik. Their relationship, tentative as it is, doesn’t feel very balanced. I hope Ms. Andor gives us more than limited third person stories in the future, as she is a good author, and I like her style. All the side characters, for example, are fully fleshed out individuals. Alex and Nik’s competitors are all distinct people: Roy, the arrogant dick; Catriona, the enthusiastic newbie; and Maoying, the talented but withdrawn third rival. In the end, however, the competition comes down to Alex and Nik, and their issue of trust.
I came into this series smack in the middle, reading this, book 2 of the Appetite series. As such, there were references to past events and the ending is HFN, so it’s recommended that readers start from the beginning and then continue with the last book in the trilogy. So, though this can be read as a standalone, that probably won’t offer you the best reading experience. I’ll follow my own advice because I was left intrigued by the hopeful outcome of this tale, and I wish only the best for our brand new couple.
The Appetite Trilogy in order:
A Cut Above the Rest
The Competitive Edge
Surfeit for the Senses
Reviewed By: Susan