Etta

Review: Simmer Down

Published October 13th 2020

Author: Sarah Smith

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?

The battle of the food trucks in the beautiful tropical setting is the backdrop of this adversary to lovers’ story about two individuals from two different backgrounds to fight for a prime spot.  The food in this novel is amazing as lumpia and chicken adobo are amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone.  With the Maui backdrop, there are multiple beaches that paint the picture of the tropical paradise. This was a fun, mostly light-hearted read, with sprinkles of heavier topic discussions of grief mixed in. Both of the main characters came to Maui for their family and it was nice to see two backgrounds and reasoning that lead them to the same place.

Nikki DiMarco works in her Filipino-food inspired food truck that she owns with her mother. She moved to Maui from Portland, Oregon. She left a job she loved and all of her friends to be with her family in a time of need. After losing her dad due to him not being communicative about his own health and essentially running himself into the ground by not going to see a doctor early on, Nikki has a huge fear of becoming close to others as she does not want to deal with the feeling of loss ever again. She dropped all communication with her past life and never attempted to make friends or have a life now that she is permanently living in Maui. I understood that she created a bubble for herself, but she constantly complained and was sad that she did not have a life. She never attempted to try to work through her feelings at any time until it is convenient to the story. It was a bothersome plot point as it was not character development and instead was more of a sudden change after it is suggested by Callum later on in the story.

Callum James meets Nikki when he and his brother’s British-food themed food truck moved into Nikki’s territory in Makenna, a prime location. When Nikki first notices the new truck, she goes over to tell them the unofficial rules of the food truck world.  Neither wants to give in about moving from this location, so a contest is born when it becomes apparent that both food trucks will be entered in the Maui Food Festival. The two of them continue their rivalry with smaller pranks, which was enjoyable and fun. Nikki gets told by her mother that she is due for a vacation, so Nikki gets sent to visit family in London. It becomes a huge coincidence that Callum also happens to be visiting London at the same time and has been assigned the seat right next to Nikki. The two of them call a truce and decide to get to know each other for the duration of the flight. Thus, their initial relationship is born.

Callum and Nikki have great chemistry together that is apparent when they have open discussions together. They have great banter when they are bickering as rivals and continue this banter when they ultimately become a couple.  They have great communication when they in certain situations, such as, when they are stuck sitting next to each other on a plane. However, their communication ability is such a roller coaster ride throughout the story that it is never consistent for either character or for their development. The moments where the two interacted is what kept the story going as the other parts of the story seemed repetitive as it was the daily rundowns of food truck life. While it was interesting to learn about the ins and outs of owning a food truck, I feel that it could have been reduced a little in favor of more time to develop Nikki’s growth. As the story is told through Nikki’s point of view, we hear her inner thoughts and analysis of different situations, but there does not seem to be gradual growth like I would expect in this type of story.

The concept of the story was really enjoyable as the two having a contest of who will win the coveted spot for their food truck with the Maui Food Festival as the stage for their fight. Callum seemed fairly clear about his feelings as it is hinted at many times very early on before Nikki actually acknowledges it. Their relationship is kept a secret as it could affect their entries in the Maui Food Festival as rival food trucks are not allowed to fraternize with each other. This was a very entertaining concept as they were friendly behind the scenes, but rivals in public. The writing for this part of the story was well-done as it was cute to see the characters have to change their interactions once they were in public.

Overall, the story was a fun read. Callum is an adorable character that was very lovable. He was shy with his feelings and sharing them out loud due to Nikki’s hesitation about being close to anyone.  Aside from this, there was not a lot of conflict on his end for the relationship and it seemed to all fall back on Nikki. It was an interesting take on relationship issues as it made it very relatable as the will-they-won’t-they is not always perfectly balanced between the two individuals before they can fully become a couple.  As I did the audiobook, I absolutely loved the narrator,  Donnabella Mortel. She was brilliant and conveyed all the emotions seamlessly. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did, if it was not for her narration as her tones and delivery helped move the story along. This story is an entertaining read, especially for fans of the enemies-to-lovers troupe. It had its issues, but it was still worth the read.

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