Ruby by Jeffe Kennedy* is just one of those books that I wish I could dive into and paddle around in for a while. It seems oh-so-appropriate to set a BDSM-flavored erotic romance in the town that has everything to teach the rest of the United States about the meaning of true debauchery. This wickedly hot story is set in New Orleans in the lead-up to Mardi Gras and features an up-tight fashion editor and a kinky chef. This is not the mindless, tawdry gluttony of Las Vegas buffets and strip clubs, but the languid, sultry elegance of the Old South.
The heroine of Ruby, Danielle Sosna, is primed and ready for someone like Bobby. She is wound unbearably tight, skirting the edges of satisfaction in both her professional and personal lives. Her work as an assistant editor for a fashion magazine has brought her to New Orleans, the culinary capital of the United States, and while she’s curious about the food, she can’t get past the limitations she has imposed on herself with her diet. She orders sauce on the side, changes preparations, and completely guts the vision of the dish she orders. We’ve all known people like her. I felt sorry for her even as I wanted to shake her.
So does the hero. Bobby Prejean owns the restaurant where she has ordered this sad imitation of a meal. Upon hearing of her order, well, he kind of loses it. Though as the book progresses, it becomes clear that he’s got the heart of a marshmallow, he also has a Cajun temper. Romance heroes typically smell like pine trees, fresh grass, cigars, whiskey and MAN. Bobby smells of butter and garlic. If at first I wanted to shake Dani, I wanted to lick Bobby.
When they meet up again by chance later that day, Dani agrees to an evening of pleasure with Bobby, but only if she’s willing to play by his rules. The only hard limit she sets is maintaining her anonymity through the use of a pseudonym: Ruby Tuesday. This sets the stage for trip to a kink club, a testing of Dani’s sexual boundaries, the ruination of her diet and, eventually, a happy ending that brings both hero and heroine some much needed peace of mind.
There are a couple things I loved about Kennedy’s Facets of Passion series, which also includes the edgier Sapphire and the unusual Platinum. First, the characters are sexually kinky because they’re sexually kinky. They don’t have psychological wounds or mental illnesses that they’re trying to heal by beating or being beaten. Second, the Doms in the relationships are not only strict and demanding, they’re also nurturing and caring. They behave like real human beings rather than Dominant romance robots. Bobby in particular is heart-breakingly sweet and sensitive despite how controlling and adventurous he is in the bedroom.
I can’t recommend these books highly enough. Even if you’re normally not attracted to BDSM relationships in romance you might give these a try. They’re hot, they’re tender and Kennedy makes sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re romantic.
It was impossible to pick one spot where food became an important element of this story. Bobby’s desire for sexual control is possibly only subsumed by his desire to feed people, particularly the calorie-phobic Danielle. Which brings me to the very best part of Ruby. Sure, the sex is epic-level hot and the characters are adorable together, but what made this book the stand-out of the series was Kennedy’s sensual descriptions of Bobby’s food. Honestly, I sensed a kindred spirit because the man just cannot stop cooking. It’s almost compulsive. Blueberry muffins, truffle omelets and crepes for breakfast; cranberry and brie sandwiches for lunch; steak, scallops, souffles, oysters and who only knows what else for dinner. If you’re not hungry by the end of this book, there’s something wrong with your soul.
This dish comes from a scene in the middle of the book where Bobby brings Danielle to his restaurant and feeds her several small plates. My version of his scallop dish includes a cilantro-lime crema with a Greek yogurt base, a peppered mango curry with a coconut milk base and a spiced chocolate with a tomato base. If you’re cooking for more than four people, just buy more scallops. Unless you’re trying to feed 12, there will be plenty of sauce if you resist the temptation to heap sauce on the plate. And you should. My guests thought even half a tablespoon was borderline too much.
While it can be tough to reproduce the variety enabled by a walk-in fridge and a small army of sous chefs at home, these sea scallops are totally doable. For starters, this dish is not nearly as difficult as it looks. If you can operate a blender, you can make these sauces. Though if you’ve got a lover to impress, this fancy-looking dish should do it. And since the sauces should be made ahead and chilled for a few hours, and it only takes 4 minutes to sear the scallops, it won’t even distract you from your other evening’s activities for very long.
Plus if you’re looking to introduce a little spice to your sex life, mangoes, chiles and chocolate are said to be aphrodisiacs. Just sayin’.
Seared Sea Scallops Three Ways
Makes: 4 servings as an appetizer or small plate
Time: 1 hour
1) Plate sauces by adding 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of each sauce to a plate. If desired, add garnishes: a pinch of cilantro, curry and dark chocolate shavings for the appropriate sauce.
2) Thoroughly rinse and dry scallops. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3) Heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
4) Add scallops to the pan and cook two minutes on each side.
5) Remove to a plate and let cool one minute. Plate scallops over each sauce and serve immediately.
*Jeffe Kennedy did a lovely, lyrical post on her blog a couple of weeks ago while I was testing the recipes for this review. It was also very flattering of my efforts here at Cooking Up Romance. That said, I had already written the review part of this post and you know I only write about the books I liked, right? So consider this my disclosure.