Author: Erin La Rosa
Narrator: Mela Lee
Audiobook Length: 10 hours 20 minutes
They go together like water and oil…
All chef Nina Lyon wants is to make a name for herself in the culinary world and inspire young women everywhere to do the same. For too long, she’s been held back and underestimated by the male-dominated sphere of professional kitchens, and she’s had enough. Now, as co-host of the competitive reality TV series The Next Cooking Champ!, she finally has a real shot at being top tier in the foodie scene.
Too bad her co-host happens to be Hollywood’s smarmiest jerk.
Restaurateur Leo O’Donnell never means to get under Nina’s skin. It just seems to happen, especially when the cameras are rolling. It’s part of the anxiety and stress he has come to know all too well in this line of work. So nothing prepares him for the fallout after he takes one joke a smidge too far and Nina up and quits—on live TV.
To make matters worse, the two are caught in what looks like a compromising situation by the paparazzi…and fans of the show go absolutely nuts. Turns out, a “secret romance” between Nina and Leo may just be what their careers need most.
Now all they have to do is play along, without killing each other…and without catching feelings. Easy as artisanal shepherd’s pie. Right?
For Butter or Worse caught my attention initially for the very catchy title. Romances set in the culinary world are typically amazing as they not only contain a sweet story, but also amazing food. This novel delivered for both and there are recipes that readers can make in the real world. The story follows chain restaurant owner, Leo O’Donnell and Chef Nina Lyon. The two of them host The Next Cooking Champ! and while they seem to get along on-screen, they are not fans of each other off. After Nina has enough, she ends up quitting on air during the season finale, which sets off a PR disaster.
The story alternates between Nina and Leo’s POVs so the reader can follow each side of the story. As Nina appears as the grump to Leo’s sunshine, especially on-air, this was a fun take as it is usually the opposite in many other novels. Both have their own reasons for their outer personas that do not reflect their true selves and it was nice to see their guards slowly come down. To save their businesses, the two of them begin to fake date, which means they get to spend more time and get to know the other. One thing that makes their fake-dating stand out is that a publicist is involved in the planning of dates and public portrayal which was a nice addition to the two characters handling everything on their own.
Leo was not a very likable character for most of the novel as he feels inferior to Nina and makes her feel bad about it. She reacts to him saying and treating her poorly, which then sets off their enemies part. As this is a romance novel, Leo does get better the more Nina opens up about how he hurt her. While this is expected in novels, most of the time I enjoy the writing more if it seems the character is influenced by the other, but they are not the only reason for the change. If they were not trying for a relationship with them, then they would still grow. For Leo, I just did not feel that as I felt he would either revert or just would not grow as much if it weren’t for Nina, which is not quite my type of character development.
Nina has her selfish and irrational moments as well, including not letting Leo explain something yet will let others. Their relationship does develop at a nice pace, so I did enjoy this build up. While I ended up not a complete fan of Nina nor Leo by the end, their story was an interesting read. There is a nice theme of the importance of having a support system around you weaved throughout their journeys. Overall, this was a sweet debut fiction story, and I can see a lot of potential for the author’s future writing. I cannot wait to try her next work, Exes and Prose when it is available in 2023!