Pros: Fun characters; good chemistry; wacky and fun storylines; laugh-out-loud funny dialogue
Cons: Tried to fit too much into one book; perhaps a few too many coincidences
Rating: 4 out of 5
Nikki is a chef whose days in the restaurant business are numbered—her bum knee makes it impossible for her to endure the grueling hours on her feet any longer. Her only hope to continue in the business she loves is to get a job as a personal chef, and quick, before she runs out of rent money.
Thanks to an old friend she lands an opportunity with Jay Buchanan, wealthy playboy and journalist for a men’s magazine. The only problem is, he’s sworn off women for a year and wants a lesbian chef to make sure he won’t be tempted to stray from that resolution. Nikki is about to lose her one and only job nibble when, in order to make the neighbor think that he has a new girlfriend, Jay kisses her. She’s furious with him, but uses the opportunity to introduce herself as his chef and, once the neighbor’s gone, to pretend to be the lesbian he was hoping to hire.
That just leaves them both with one problem: they’re stuck together for the next couple of months, both in lust with each other, both having sworn off the opposite sex, and stuck playing at being a couple in public and uninterested in each other in private.
To complicate things, Jay’s young cousin Fern is having boyfriend troubles of the pushy and potentially dangerous variety; Jay and Nikki’s friend Cassandra is having man troubles of her own (and harboring a couple of secrets) while simultaneously trying to fix everyone else’s love lives from the haven of her yarn shop; and the neighbor and the owner of the landscaping service seem to keep missing out on their own love connection.
*Phew!* If that seemed like a lot to pile in, it’s because it is. I gather there will be follow-on books in the ‘Malibu & Ewe’ series (that’s the name of Cassandra’s yarn shop, where she holds knitting classes), and some of the relationships in this book seemed to be used as set-up for later books rather than pay-off in this one. Unfortunately this resulted in some relationships feeling hurried and shallow in their depiction; there was simply too much to fit into this one volume.
That said, it was great fun to read. Christie Ridgway has a knack for uproarious (often scandalous) dialogue and pours plenty of it into How to Knit a Wild Bikini. As Nikki pretends to be a lesbian and Jay pretends to believe her, they have some of the best and most fun lines in the book.
Fern is an interesting side character, albeit underdeveloped (although some brief parts were told from her point of view, it always felt like we were just scratching the surface). Her story had some eerie parallels to Nikki’s past that made Nikki’s stay with Jay both easier and harder on her, and certainly added tension to a few parts of the book.
While the side plots did a good job of working certain parallels and complicating the main plot, there were too many side plots and a few too many convenient coincidences. It gave things a somewhat rushed and orchestrated feel. Ordinarily that would have bothered me more, but the hilarious dialogue, fun chemistry between the main characters, and so on made up for it. I heartily enjoyed the story, and couldn’t put it down once I started!
[Standard erotic romance notes: Explicit sex and semi-kinky innuendo, but nothing outrageous.]