Louisa Edwards’ Just One Taste starts out as another delicious installment in her “Recipe for Love” series. This “budding chef meets lonely scientist” love story features a pair of opposites who sizzle in the chemistry department. During his Dickensian childhood, male protagonist Wes Murphy is raised by his con artist dad who teaches him the art of exploiting others by looking for their weaknesses. Though Wes learns strong people skills, he never develops his academic ones. Female protagonist Rosemary Wilkins, Ph.D, on the other hand, displays an Einstein IQ when it comes to science but fails when it comes to reading people.
These sweet and sour lovers meet on the job — he, a student at the Academy of Culinary Arts; she, an instructor and researcher at the Academy— with a little bit of help from a canine friend. Chef Wes uses his stud looks, charm, and cooking skills to whip up a menu that Rosemary just can’t resist. Inexplicably, like a recipe that’s missing an ingredient, Wes goes missing in action as far as Rosemary’s concerned, drops out of cooking school, and ends up working as a chef at the Market restaurant in Manhattan. The two later reunite until Wes’ con artist past comes back to fry him.
Just One Taste starts out with a rolling boil but quickly dies down to a dull simmer because the author tends to “tell” not “show.” Hence, the book is a bit short on action but long-winded when it comes to character definition and storyline. The primary characters fail to convince because their motives and actions just don’t add up, especially when Wes repeatedly breaks up with Rosemary for relatively trivial reasons. The Wes and Rosemarie plot is like a soufflé that falls flat and the romance between sous chef Frankie and waiter Jess is like an undercooked Indian curry dish that needs more preparation time (and story development). In this unlikely concoction of con artist meets knave, it’s not clear as to who is getting conned more, Wes, Rosemary, or the reader.