ARC Review of Deep Autumn Heat: (Star Harbor #1)

Book Cover

Purchase on Amazon: Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance

Deep Autumn Heat: A Loveswept Contemporary Romance (Star Harbor #1) by Elisabeth Barrett

Book Description

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Here Comes the Bride, The Wedding Chase, and About Last Night

Book Review

Take two talented chefs, combine them lots of lust and passion, mix in a bit of mystery and suspense, add a dash of scrumptious food descriptions,  and then top off with the hope for love and you have a delicious, mouth-watering read.

woman chef saying ok

Deep Autumn Heat is the first in a series about the four Grayson brothers “former resident bad boys” who return to Star Harbor, a small resort town outside of Boston.  The opening scene sets the foundation for this series by describing four brothers who will each be featured in a separate book.  Although the opening wasn’t exciting and didn’t grab my attention, it does work to provide relevant background information about these four brothers, especially Seb Grayson who is featured first. I tend to prefer openings that establish immediate conflict, whereas this first scene is all about character development.

This is a story about following your dreams, finding passion in your life, and taking emotional risks, in the ultimate quest for a happily ever after. The book’s central focus is on the tension laden relationship between Seb Grayson and Lexie Meyers.  If you like an ample amount of seduction and romance in your romantic suspense reads, then this book should meet your expectations.  Rising complications throughout the story revolving around a legendary coconut cake and an abusive ex-boyfriend provide suspenseful moments and keep the plot moving along at an effective pace.  The story takes place during fall and is sprinkled with images of autumn, hence the connection to the book’s title.  I think this season is appropriate to the plot, since the changing color of the leaves symbolizes the growth both Seb and Lexie must undergo to find the fulfillment missing from their lives.

leaf

Seb is a renowned chef living in New York, who has returned to Star Harbor, his hometown, for an annual get together weekend with his brothers.  He extends his stay after he meets feisty Lexie Meyers, owner of a local diner/bakery, who acts immune to his fame and charm. I really enjoyed their first scene together when she smoothly and efficiently puts the cocky and arrogant Seb in his place.  Although Seb can be considered the book’s hero, I really felt that Lexi was the protagonist. She is featured in more scenes, and her POV provides greater depth to her character. Her emotional growth over the course of the book is also more predominant than Seb’s.

Lexie has the characteristics to make her a likeable character. She is a dedicated chef running her own successful restaurant/catering business.  Unlike Seb, whose growing empire has forced him out of the kitchen and into an administrative role, Lexie is a hands-on employer who doesn’t hesitate to step in and do whatever job is needed at the time.  She is industrious, passionate about food, and has a kind and compassionate side that is illustrated when she learns someone in the community has been deceiving and threatening her. She is personable and well-liked in her community. Even Seb finds he can take a few lessons from her kitchen.

Yet, no one is perfect, and, although Lexie appears strong and confident in her work environment, inside she has deep-seated fears about love and relationships. Her one and only past relationship was disastrous and terrifying. Understandably, she doesn’t want to experience that pain again. Barrett does a great job of honing in on just how much she has been hurt. Her reluctance to get involved with someone else is realistic and justifiable.

Lexie thought she was happy being single and focused on her growing business until the handsome, black-haired, green-eyed Seb Grayson enters her restaurant and shakes up her contented world.

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Being around Seb leaves her breathless and flustered as she tries to deny the intense attraction sparking between them. She begins to get worried even after their first encounter together:

“I’ll see you later, Lexie Meyers,” he said letting her name play on his lips. He removed his hand from her shoulder, letting his fingers trail down her arm. When she shivered involuntarily, he smiled. A slow, masculine smile that spoke of dark promises. As if he knew she couldn’t take her eyes off of him, he turned and sauntered lazily toward the door.”

*****

“For her own sake, she hoped he didn’t come back.” 

Although Seb is confident about his looks and success, Lexie’s rebuff has both surprised and intrigued him, and she now becomes a challenge.  There is much more to Seth than his first impression.  For example, at first, I thought Seb may be a pompous jerk because of his behavior the first time at the diner, but later he proves that he can be sensitive, caring, and sincere. I think he just became so used to women falling for him that he hasn’t had to put any real effort into getting a woman’s attention.

Seb isn’t one to be in a committed relationship, and even though he knows Lexie’s not the type to go for a casual fling, he still pursues her. I also initially thought Lexie was just a sexual conquest for him. However, his POV gradually reveals the warring emotions of lust and protectiveness he has toward her. His conflicting feelings cause him to send Lexie mixed signals, and for much of the first part of the book, they simply dance around –trying to find a way to get close, only to end up backing away from each another.
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I like the creative means Seb uses to get close to Lexie, all of them revolving around food, of course. One of the best scenes in the book is the culinary cook-off where Seb and Lexie compete against each other to see who can prepare the best crab cakes.

 

cook off

Bassett is very descriptive in describing Lexie’s thoughts and actions as she works under pressure to create a winning dish. And by the end of the scene, I was craving crab cakes! I’m still looking too.

Although their minds try to resist the other, their bodies ultimately betray them and eventually they give in to their insatiable desire for one another.  These scenes are intense, steamy, and explicit.  They seem to need that physical intimacy each time before they can share their vulnerabilities with each other:

“I’ve wanted you since the first morning I saw you. I think I made that fairly obvious, despite out hiccups.”

“I’ve wanted you too, “ she whispered. “Even though I was trying to fight it. But I don’t know that I’m ready for this.”

“Well I have news for you, Lexie. This,” he said, gesturing between them with a large hand, “this does change everything. You’re mine now.”

“I’m no one’s,” Lexie said, her chin jerking up in defiance.

“You’re mine,” he repeated, one hand encircling her forearm. “And I take care of what’s mind.”

This conversation between Lexie and Seb encapsulates their passion, intensity, and fears about loving each other.

The book has a unified plot that wraps up nicely in the end even though the outcome of the two major mysteries is fairly predictable. However, I can overlook that since the evolving relationship between Lexie and Seb dominates the book.

The main aspect of the book that I found problematic is in the attempt to tie in a fabled story with this plot. As a prelude to the beginning, Bassett features a poem about pirates and their treasure called “The Legend of Lorelei.” I am a pirate junkie, so I was excited to see how the author would integrate this legend into the plot. Toward the end of the book a connection is revealed, but it was not as strong or as developed as I expected.

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It could have easily been omitted and not affected the storyline.

This is a great summer read, with a plot that is not overly complicated and lots of sexual tension and romance to keep you engaged.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Disclaimer: All quotes used in this review have been taken from the book’s pre-published version and may be changed or omitted from the final, published copy.

 Rating

Good-Read-icon

About the Author

author

Elisabeth Barrett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her days teaching, editing, writing sexy contemporary romance, and enjoying time with her sometimes-bearded husband and three spirited children. She is constantly perfecting her home-work-writing juggling act, but in her free time she loves to hike open space preserves, grow orchids, bake sweet things her husband won’t eat, and sing in grand choruses. (From Goodreads)

Author Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

recipe box 50

Once I finished this book, I really wanted to have a piece of the famous coconut cake described in the book.

coconutcake2

After searching online, I found a promising recipe on how to make a homemade coconut cake. It does not look complicated (the simpler the better for me), so I’m going to give it a try:

Incredible Coconut Cake Recipe 

If you have a Coconut Cake recipe that you would like to share, please leave me a comment!

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