Published by Berkley on October 13, 2020
Genres: Adult Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.
But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next to her coveted beach parking spot. He’s stealing her customers and fanning the flames of a public feud that makes her see sparks.
The solution? Let the upcoming Maui Food Festival decide their fate. Winner keeps the spot. Loser pounds sand. But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts to see a different side of Callum…a sweet, protective side. Is she brave enough to call a truce? Or will trusting Callum with her heart mean jumping from the frying pan into the fire?
I adore books about food, so when I saw the premise for a food truck centered romance set in one of my favorite places in the world (Hawaii), I knew I HAD to read it! It was like a dream premise and my Food Network loving heart was ready to be wowed by the Maui food truck scene.
The novel centers on protagonist Nikki, who owns and operates a Filipino cuisine food truck with her mother on the Hawaiian island of Maui after moving there to deal with a family emergency. As per the synopsis, a rivalry forms between her and fellow food truck owner Callum James, who’s heading up a British inspired food truck and encroaching on her territory. Their rivalry soon attracts local social media attention from good bloggers and vloggers and ends up being great for both of their businesses, but not so great for their personal lives when they begin to develop feelings for each other. I don’t want to spoil the rest, but a story full of romance and recipes ensues.
In terms of the romance element of this novel, it was fine. I liked Callum (although he honestly was too good to be true most of the time and his perfection bordered on irritating at times) and Nikki was well intentioned, although her misinterpreting of situations and lack of communication to move the plot along was SO frustrating at times. I know the miscommunication trope is big in romance novels but it happened so many times in this one that it was astounding to believe someone could be so oblivious at times. The romance did feel like it morphed from animosity to romance a little too rapidly for my taste, but I like how it showcased two adults close in age on very different paths and points in their lives (Callum is a successful finance professional and Nikki is a struggling chef). I appreciated the honesty in the differences in their lifestyles and how that factored into their decisions, how they related to each other, and how they had to navigate their personal situations to make their relationship work.
For me, the novel really shined in its depiction of the food industry. I am by no means an expert and I have never worked in the food industry (heck, I barely cook in my own home) but I’ve avidly watched cooking shows for close to a decade and researched my favorite celebrity chefs and Nikki and Callum’s career journeys in the book felt very realistic, from how they ran their food trucks to supplementing their income with restaurant work to how they marketed themselves. I also loved that Nikki’s food truck focused on Filipino food, which I don’t think gets mentioned or showcased enough. I also think the book did a good job showcasing how chefs now have to contend with the impact of social media in their industry too, and how word of mouth can make or break their reputations. The story did a good job of showcasing both the positive social media influencers (such as Penelope, who helped lend her expertise to Nikki for her business and became a true friend) and the negative (such as those more concerned about the drama between Callum and Nikki rather than writing about the food).
Other Elements I Enjoyed:
- Shared custody between the protagonists of an adorable cat and her kittens
- An unexpected abroad trip that took the setting out of the US for a while
- Exploration of the adult protagonist’s relationship with her mother (and how it’s different from when she was younger and will continue to grow and change)
- The Maui setting.
Overall: I came for the romance, but stayed for the food. I thought the food truck premise was really creative, but there last third or so of the book is overwhelmed by the miscommunication trope.