Under the Knife (PrinCkhera’s Review)

Title: Under the Knife
Author: Laurin Kelly
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Release Date: July 20th, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary
Page Count: 335
Reviewed by: PrinCkhera
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Season three of TV’s hottest cooking competition, Under the Knife, is gearing up, and Nate is equal parts excited and terrified that he’s one of the twelve competitors. But the prize is a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s worth a few weeks of being stressed and afraid.

It may not, however, be worth weeks of putting up with Zachary, the cold, snotty competitor who definitely thinks he’s better than everyone else. The man can cook, and he’s the hottest man Nate has ever seen, but every time he opens his mouth Nate hates him all over again.

He came here to be driven crazy trying to prove he’s the best chef in the world, but if Nate can’t learn to block Zachary out it won’t be the competition that pushes him to the breaking point.


This review will contain food porn, because I just discovered the term and can’t. look. away. Or get enough.

So, I’m sure everyone’s been sucked in by reality tv before. Before you know it, you’re invested. The drama, the shipping and the backstabbing. All integral to a reality tv show, which Ms. Kelly was sure to incorporate  into her story – though the behind-the-scenes action, somehow didn’t overshadow the actual competition (much). At least the backstabbing was minimal, which one the one hand I appreciated, on the other I kind of missed.

There are many varieties of reality tv shows, of course. You can’t clump them all together.


There are the Jersey Shore and Geordie shore variety where everyone ends up screwing with each other in more ways than one.


There are those of the finding your soulmate variety like Love Island, The One and Bachelorette (or something like that) where you basically screw with everyone or try to win someone over. It’s a competition  where if you don’t get chosen – you’re out. So, we’re moving into more competitive variety already.


Then there’s the one where there’s only one winner. It’s a competition. You’re stuck with a bunch of strangers for however long you’re still in the race for that coveted first price. Of course, you go in thinking that the usual drama bullshit will leave you out of it. You’re cool as a cucumber. Totally real. Then you start to form bonds, whether they’re those of friendship and/or love but you have to keep the goal in mind.


Let me start off by saying I’ve been meaning to read this book for over a year. First it was fan fiction of some cooking competition show I don’t bother with, so I was like later. But, the whole reality tv show aspect intrigued me because I hadn’t read anything like it before. ETA: Made a mistake there, this wasn’t fan fiction originally. Totally original, just freely available online – not used to reading original free fiction, hence the misunderstanding. My apologies.

Sure, I’ve been sucked in by reality tv shows before. Watched an odd excerpt here and there of food competition shows (i.e. Hell’s Kitchen, Masterchef etc), but I was like whateves.

Now I’m wondering why I never gave them more of a chance.

Because. Food Porn.


The descriptions had me open a google tab solely so that I could get pictures out on what they were making. Because there’s no way in hell I’d ever be able to afford it or make it, so it was kind of like window shopping. You can look, but you can’t touch. You can look and salivate all you want and wish you were able to cook (because I have like no skills in the kitchen).

It’s making me want to look up recipes. Watch cooking shows. Finally take my friend up on her offer to teach me how to cook.

Food Porn. Coupled with the sweetness of a blossoming relationship.


Not only did this book make my basically non-existent cooking drive come to life. It also had my heart running, wondering who was going to fall Under The Knife.


Carmen was an amazing side-character. I didn’t know who to root for, because having that many likeable characters was difficult to process.

“I don’t like bullies,” she responded, “and I don’t like people who put the blame on other people for their own weaknesses. I don’t care if I’ve made an enemy of her. I didn’t get where I am by backing down from that kind of posturing crap, and I’m not going to start now.”

Nate was a consistent nice guy, which I appreciated. He was the kind of guy you could root for with your heart because they’re easy to read and you know that what you see (or read) is what you get.

Zachary’s the one who developed as a character because of his interpersonal relationships after coming on the show which was amazing to watch. He transformed from this uptight stick wad into someone who was willing to allow himself to be open and vulnerable.

And the sex was hot.

“You’re mine, Zachary”
“Show me.”

It also gave me a ship that wasn’t just wishful thinking. See, I read fan fiction. A lot actually. It started last year, and I just kept adding shows upon shows to the mix. I’m at a point where two guys just need to look at each other for a second too long and trust me – I will likely start fangirling, and starting to ship both.


It doesn’t even have to be limited to one ship, I could be shipping one guy with every other character I like. It happens. I’ve hit rock bottom, and made my home there. I’m comfortable.

Anyways, back to the point. Those ships (especially if they’re mm-related – which 95% of them are) are wishful thinking. I know they’re not going to happen, which is why fan fiction is such a blessing. Why a show having fans is so amazing.

#Nachary is a ship. Though as a reader I knew that it wasn’t just wishful thinking on my part. The “subtle” glances and touches, the desire that was so obvious… I wasn’t the only one seeing it. Every other contestant was, and obviously the rest of America – when the episodes were released – was as well.

And the restraint both (tried to at least) showed while in the House surrounded by cameras, where your every move is documented was admirable. To try to keep the Big head in the game and the Little head in their pants. Not everyone succeeds, of course. But, unlike most reality tv where people go all the way regardless… What can I say? I completely dug it.


All my love being said for this book I have to mention that the editing was downright shoddy. Of course, I understand that the copy I received of this story was merely the ARC and it is very likely that this has been corrected by the time the book was released (I really hope so). However, it still had an effect on my reading experience, and therefore I cannot ignore.


I get the occasional typos sure, nobody’s perfect. I’m an avid fan fiction reader, trust me that among the gems there’s a lot of mediocrity (which is usually because of far from ideal execution) but also some terrible terrible writing.

Ms. Kelly, I’m not saying you aren’t a good writer, because you are. I have mentioned time and again that your book ended up pressing buttons I didn’t even know I had – at least when it came to books.

But the editing on the copy I received kind of put this constant damper on the other lovely aspects. If you notice typos in the first two pages you read, that kind of sets the tone for the rest of the book. While I was most definitely enjoying all the cuisine (did I mention food porn already?), the competitive aspects and the blossoming romance, bromance (#Namen) and friendships – they were usually undercut when I noticed the typos. The typos in the beginning had jumpstarted the editor within me, the perfectionist, and no matter how much I liked the story it dampened any emotions I was feeling.


That being said, I absolutely recommend reading this book because not only was it addictive like any reality tv show out there, it also had likeable characters you rooted for with your heart.

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NetGalley copy of Under the Knife provided by Less Than Three Press in exchange of an honest review.


  • Pingback: 4 Star Review for Under The Knife | Laurin Kelly

  • Thank you so much for the wonderful review!

    Just one correction though – although UTK is based on the format of reality shows like Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen, it was never a fanfic originally. I used to write fanfiction, but UTK was my first original work.

    • Thanks and no problem 🙂
      Whoops, I guess because it was free online first I just assumed it was fan fiction, sorry about that. I’ve added the correction next to where I made the mistake, so hopefully that helps. I look forward to reading more of your work 😀


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