Review by Veronica

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Something about this guy reminds me of Keanu Reeves, with his razor-sharp cheek-bones, mildly unkempt black hair that nearly touches his shoulders, two-day scruff, penetrating hazel eyes, and, from what I can tell—dressed in a casual but elegant fitted black suit—a buff body. I may have developed a slight Keanu obsession after I say him in Always Be My Maybe, the story of him being the temporary love interest of an ambitious chef. Even though he played a douche bag version of himself, he was funny and hot as hell.

The Spice Masters at Bistro Exotique is a delicious rom-com that you will devour in one sitting.

Kate Jenkins doesn’t believe in fate. She believes in a clear vision, meticulous planning, and hard work in order to achieve her culinary dreams. On the cusp of opening her own Parisian restaurant, Bistro Exotique, she isn’t even concerned when her standoffish–and annoyingly sexy–neighbor dismisses her as a crazy American tourist or when she meets the wildly eccentric Garrance, the self-proclaimed Spice Master of Paris, who ominously warns her of the previous owner’s failures.

Confident and optimistic, Kate keeps calm and cooks on. Until a series of unfortunate events derail her plans and her entire staff quits.

Kate is about to throw in the kitchen towel on her lifelong dream when Garrance offers to use her mastery of scents and spices to help her, but it comes at a price: Kate must work with Garrance’s son, Charles, a world-class chef and total jerk. After Kate hesitantly concedes to the deal, she slowly learns to open her heart and mind to new concepts, not quite sure if the magic she’s experiencing comes from Garrance’s spices, from within herself, or from the growing chemistry with Charles. One thing is certain, though: her kitchen is getting increasingly hot.

Oh la la this book is c’est magnifique! This book is a foodie lovers’ paradise—the food talk is out of this world. I felt like I could taste and smell the delicious dishes Kate and Charles were making. You are going to get major hunger cravings while reading this book. Kate and Charles’ passion for cooking just leaps from the pages, and their characters come to life in the kitchen. Their passion is addictive, and I wanted to get into my kitchen and cook up a storm. The foodie components in this book really do elevate your whole reading experience.

Besides all the delicious food talk, there are so many other things that make this book an addictive and enjoyable read. Let’s start with the setting. This story takes place in Paris, the City of Lights. Samantha does a wonderful job at bringing the city to life and showing us the side of Paris that isn’t touristy. I loved exploring Paris with Kate and Charles. Samantha’s descriptions of Paris and the people living there are lush and vivid and had me wish I was there.

The story itself is so much fun! I always love reading a book about a fabulous woman starting a business. Of course, things for Kate don’t go smoothly, and many hilarious and out-of-this-world events make the opening week of Kate’s restaurant a bit of a disaster. All the events in the first week were highly entertaining, and I needed to keep reading to see what would happen next. On top of the disastrous opening, Kate has a full-on neighbour war with anti-Keanu Reeves, aka Charles. The antics these two do to get back at each other were hilarious! I loved their hate-filled relationship with each other at the beginning of this book. It is full of witty and snarky dialogue, and I just soaked up every bit of it.

The characters in this book are delightfully quirky. Cri-Cri, who is Kate’s mom, is a hoot. She reminds me of Barbra Streisand’s character from Meet the Fockers. She is a sex therapist, and her outlook on life is, shall I say, very different. She is that embarrassing but kind of cool mom that really loves Kate and wants her to be happy. The things that came out of Cri-Cri’s mouth had me laughing! Garrance, who is Charles’s mom was a wonderful character. She was this beautiful blend of French chic, mysterious scent, and spice master. Both Cri-Cri and Garrance were wonderful secondary characters that almost stole the show at times, and to be honest; I would love to read a book about these two ladies.

Let’s talk about Kate and Charles, our main love interests in this story. Their relationship starts off VERY rocky. There is no love lost between these two, and as I said, the neighbour war that went on between them gets heated. However, they have to put aside their differences when Garrance coerces them to work together. That’s when things really start to heat up. The attraction between Kate and Charles is evident, but both characters have walls and barriers that stop them from acting on their feelings. Samantha masterfully weaves in this slow-burn attraction between Kate and Charles. I don’t think I have ever read a book that feels so spicey and heated but actually has no sex scenes in it. It really was mind-blowing and also really enjoyable. Their attraction would build up so much that you feel like you might explode, but then Samantha would pull things back with ill-timed interruptions or a misunderstanding that would cool things off, and then she would start to build that heat back up again. It was a wonderful dance. Besides all the spice and physical attraction, Kate and Charles are likable both as a couple and individually. They are incredibly interesting characters with a lot of depth. You really can’t help but root for them.

The Spice Masters at Bistro Exotique is a swoony and fabulous rom-com.

Thank you, Berkley Publishing Group, for the ARC in exchange for a honest review.