Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Beau Walker, owner of the Barbecue Shack, needs the help of Jake Parnell, his one-time rival and secret crush, in a televised barbecue competition. Beau is a proud man, but the stakes are high, and smart, sexy Jake is his only hope, even if being around Jake reawakens the attraction he’s fought for years.
Jake left his hometown, determined to build a life somewhere his sexuality wouldn’t hurt his family’s restaurant business—and far away from hunky, obstinate Beau Walker. Then his twin, Josh, is killed, and Jake returns to support his brother’s wife and children. Despite his reservations, he agrees to go head-to-head against Beau on national television. Between stress and grief, as well as pride and determination, only one thing is certain—the heat between Beau and Jake extends well beyond the kitchen.
Striking Sparks was a fun romance for me on severa levels. A lover of bbq and cooking shows, I enjoyed the storyline of a bbq competition between two family owned restaurants known for their brisket and all things smoked, two men who’ve been rivals in some way from their high school years brought back together by tragedy and bbq. And I have to say, Ari McKay pulled it off.
The authors known as Ari McKay did an excellent job with the location, making both the small town and the townspeople believable. And that cooking and receipes? Mouthwatering. Between the different ingredients each added to make their briskets or bbq a standout, I wanted to dash into the kitchen and try them out myself. I got the feeling that McKay knows the differences between a KC sauce and a Carolina one, and that love of their subject matter shines through here.
Then there’s the tragedy that brings Jake home, the death of his twin brother. This aspect of the story is poignant and real. Jake’s pain over his deep loss of both his brother, the life he’s worked so hard to establish in the city? That translates into real emotion on the pages here. You are able to easily connect with Jake as he shoulder’s his responsiblities to his brother’s widow and children, regardless of his feelings and grief.
Beau Walker took a little more work. Not because he wasn’t likable as a character. He is but because some of his ‘flaws” became tired after a point. As did his language. In other hands, his collogualisms might have sounded natural. Here they didn’t always come off as such. I liked the “local boy” pride they built into his character but for all his belief in his restaurant and cooking, that seemed to disappear when faced with Jake and his college degree even though Jake didn’t have the cooking experience.
Finally, I guess that other thing that I had some issues with is their relationship. Jake had to have been strong to have done all he did in high school, break away, make a new life for himself elsewhere. Then come back and take over his brother’s restaurant. Yet all that melts away for Beau. It comes back for the competition and then he seems to become , I don’t know, someone less. Maybe its me, but out of all of this book, it was the romance that didn’t really do it for me. I loved everything else.
I thought the writing was excellent, the plot was great, even the characters, alone, worked. I’m just not sure I thought they worked together as well as I had hoped.
Maybe you will find you don’t see that at all. Striking Sparks has plenty of bbq, great plot and sweet romance to sway you. Its another lovely story in the Dreamspun Desires series from Dreamspinner Press.
Cover art by Paul Richmond works perfectly for the story and plot. Love it!
ebook, 214 pages
Expected publication: December 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press