Thank you to the lovely folks at Berkley for the review copy!
With current events, I’ve been turning to rom-com books for escapism and a sense of levity. Thankfully, I’ve been on a real hot streak lately – naturally, I was very excited when I got the chance to read and review Simmer Down by Sarah Smith. Just from the blurb I could tell I was in for a treat – a rom-com between two rival food truck owners? Sign me up.
In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.
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 writing in Simmer Down was incredibly lush – Sarah Smith described the Hawaiian setting with such precision that I could almost feel the warm breeze and taste the salt in the air. She kicked off the story right from the first pages, and the plot never slowed down. It hooked me so well that I read this book in just two sittings – I only put it down because it was 3am.
Simmer Down made me super hungry – after reading about Tiva’s (Nikki’s mother) lumpia, I actually ended up ordering some for dinner. Trust me, this book will make you hungry – I’d highly recommend having snacks on hand. Also, if you haven’t had Filipino food before, run (don’t walk) to your nearest socially distanced Filipino eatery and experience some of the best food of your life – it makes for a perfect eat-along for this book.
My one complaint about Simmer Down is that the side characters didn’t really reach their full potential in terms of character development. The two characters that come to mind are Finn and Penelope – both were integral to the story, but outside of them pushing the two main characters together, they really didn’t have a lot to do during the story. This book would have been darn near perfect if the side characters had experienced more character growth or if they existed for more than helping the two main characters end up together.
Nikki was a flawed character, but a very likable one. When the book starts, she’s still reeling from the death of her father, and overwhelmed with the business he left behind. Her only support system is her mother, who Nikki is afraid to upset or stress out. Her biggest learning curve / character growth through this book was learning to accept help from others and that she couldn’t do everything by herself. It was really exciting to get to see her learn and flourish by the end of the book.
Enemies to lovers is my absolute favorite trope – and Simmer Down was one of the best implementations of it that I’ve read. Nikki and Callum had a great balance of playfulness and legitimate rivalry – they definitely started off hating each other, but slowly became begrudgingly more friendly. What really made this book shine was how much chemistry Callum and Nikki had even when they were engaged in yelling matches with each other (and during that awkward first meeting). Right off the bat, I was rooting for them to end up together, and throughout the story their chemistry only grew and grew. The number of butterflies this book gave me was crazy high – which really speaks to the authors ability to make even the quietest moments romantic.
Simmer Down is a great sophomore novel from Sarah Smith – it’ll give you butterflies and make you wish that you could drop everything and fall in love with a hot British dude in Hawaii. This book will appeal to fans of the rom-com genre and fans of the Food Network. If you’re looking for further rom-com adorableness, be sure to check out The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and The Roommate by Rosie Danan. 4/5