Kate Meader’s Top 5 Favorite Desserts!

Kate Meader stopped by the virtual offices to share her Top 5 Desserts.  Check it out!

Kate Meader’s Top 5 Favorite Desserts

1. Cream cheese pound cake – the denseness of pound cake with the tang of cream cheese.

2. Pain Perdu at Bistro Compagne in Chicago – fig and brown butter bread pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream

3. Chocolate pixies – best cookie evah!

4. Banana and nutella crepes

5. Anything chocolate – cake, tart, cookie, on fruit, on a man…you get the idea

About the book:

ALL FIRED UP by Kate Meader (Forever E-Book; 9781455599622; November 5, 2013)

Her sweetest mistake . . .

Cool as a Chicago winter, private events planner Cara DeLuca is a model of self-control . . . until she meets the one temptation she can’t resist: Shane Doyle. The sexy, Irish pastry chef is too hot, too sure, too young, and after a crazy night in Vegas—her new husband. While at first Cara wants nothing more than a way out of her sham marriage to Shane, she soon finds that beneath his farm boy demeanor lies a man who can match her drive, both in and out of the bedroom. How can the wrong guy feel so deliciously right?

. . . Tastes so, so good

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Interview with Kelly Fiore, Author of Taste Test

[Manga Maniac Café] Please welcome Kelly Fiore to the virtual offices this morning!

[Kelly Fiore] Thanks so much for having me!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kelly Fiore] I’m an author, mother & former high school teacher. I love Hair Metal (think Def Leppard) & baking. I’m obsessed w/my Fiat 500 & I’m a sucker for movies with James McAvoy.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Taste Test?

[Kelly Fiore] Sure – TASTE TEST is about a high school senior named Nora who applies to be a contestant on Taste Test, which is a show like Top Chef but for teenagers. Nora gets on the show, but has to leave her best-friend-and-maybe-more, Billy, behind, along with her dad and the barbecue business she loves. When she gets to the set of the show, Nora’s faced with a snotty roommate named Joy and an infuriating fellow contestant named Christian. Christian is super-competitive and, of course, super-hot – and that only makes Nora dislike him even more. As Nora gets further into the competition, secrets and mysteries begin to surface – there is a huge scandal bubbling just below the surface, a scandal that could bring down another contestant and maybe even a judge. Nora is determined to reveal this dramatic twist to the producers of the show, but when accidents start happening in the kitchen, she realizes she’s got bigger problems after all. Nora needs to dig a little deeper to find out the truth about what’s happening on the Taste Test set – before she becomes a victim, too.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Kelly Fiore] There are certain shows that have characters with great chemistry and sexual tension – the Pacey/Joey factor is what I like to call it (for those of you who don’t know, Pacey and Joey were two of the characters on the 1990’s show Dawson’s Creek.) Blair and Chuck from Gossip Girl are another great example. I really tried to emulate that frustrating but satisfying relationship between Nora and Christian.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Nora?

[Kelly Fiore] Competitive, Sassy, and Loyal

[Manga Maniac Café] If Christian had a theme song, what would it be?

[Kelly Fiore] That is a GREAT question! That might be the best one I’ve been asked!

I think Christian is the type of guy who would have a playlist, like in the locker room – how athletes play certain songs to psych themselves up. I feel like AC/DC “Back in Black” would be a good bet, but also something like “Can’t Deny It” by Fabolous. Something with a lot of “smack talk” to it.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing Nora is never without.

[Kelly Fiore] She has two pictures that she brings with her from home – one of her and her dad and one of her with her best friend, Billy. In some ways, she’s never without those two people, even though they’re far away from her. She learns to respect her roots and the culture she grew up in – I know that’s not really a tangible thing, but it’s definitely something she carries with her.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things will you never find in Nora’s kitchen?

[Kelly Fiore] Another fantastic question! In Nora’s kitchen, you’ll never find something fancy taking the place of something simple. No lobster, no caviar, no fois gras – she’d much rather cook ribs, potatoes, and corn on the cob!

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Kelly Fiore] In terms of YA, my greatest writing influences are YA authors I admire – there are so many great writers out there. Some of the books that I find most inspiring are Liar by Justine Larbeleister, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King, and Teach Me by RA Nelson. As a writer in general, poetry is what helped me establish my writing style and my voice. I have an MFA in poetry and it was my first love – I feel like poetry taught me how to tighten my prose and be more expressive in an abbreviated space.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Kelly Fiore] Coffee, noise in the background (usually the TV), and natural light. I work best around lots of windows!

[Manga Maniac Café] What was your biggest distraction while working on Taste Test?

[Kelly Fiore] The internet. Ugh – social networking is SO my downfall. It’s far too easy to get sucked into the lives of other people instead of creating the lives on the page.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Kelly Fiore] The Fault of our Stars by John Green is absolutely as good as everyone says it is, and it was probably the last book I read that really blew me away.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kelly Fiore] The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It was such a clever, magical world and I was totally enamored with the way Juster described his characters and settings. It’s such a great story – so creative.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Kelly Fiore] I spend most of my time with my husband and son – we love going on road trips and going hiking. I love to cook and try to do it as much as possible, although it’s admittedly less often when I’m working on a book!

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Kelly Fiore] Follow me on Twitter! I’m @kellyannfiore – I would love to talk to readers! You can also find me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/KellyFioreYAAuthor or at my website, www.kellyfiorewrites.com.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

About the book:

If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good.


With romance and intrigue as delectable as the winning recipes included in the story, this debut novel will be devoured by all.

Review: Lead Me Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson

 

Title: Lead Me Home

Author:  Vicki Lewis Thompson

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thanks to his skills with difficult horses, trainer Matthew Tredway has traveled all over the world. And his new gig? The Last Chance Ranch. But after a chance glance at the ranch’s hot little blond cook, Matthew’s libido is immediately set to sizzle!

Chef Aurelia Smith has been trying to tempt the ranch hands with mouth-watering concoctions, with less-than-stellar results. But when Matthew is sent in to intervene, his attraction to Aurelia boils over.

Before long, they’re cooking up a storm, in and out of the bedroom. But Aurelia knows that while she might have led her horseman to bed, she can’t make him stay….

Review:

Whenever I get into a reading slump, I find myself reaching for a Harlequin category romance.  I don’t know why, but these things always seem to get me back on a reading track.  Maybe because of the formula, and because I know that despite all adversity, the protagonists will find a way to get together.  I’m not suggesting that they are all 5 star reads, but I find a great deal of comfort in the formula.  I have only read a few titles under the Blaze imprint, and so far, they have been quick, satisfying reads, so I  gravitated to one of these.

I picked Lead Me Home to load on my Kindle because of one thing:  the hero is a horse trainer.  I am always a sucker for a book with horses.  I am also extremely critical of stories featuring horses, because there are certain ways we do things at the barn, and then there’s the way everyone else does things.  Usually, it is in sync with how I expect horse care and horse training to be described.  Sometimes it is not.  With the exception of young Lester’s “natural” riding abilities, and the abbreviated time spent training Houdini, the unruly stallion, I didn’t have much to complain about with the horse scenes.  I would like Lester to come and show me how to canter on a runaway horse, because I am having a heck of time cantering on one of my mares.  Of course, Lester was helped out by a jerk throwing a rock, so maybe under different circumstances, he would have a problem, too.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book, Matthew is a huge guy, 6’5” and solidly built.  He is a muscle machine.  I am assuming that he’s training quarter horses, and my only other nitpick is that he is a big guy.  Quarter horses aren’t huge horses(well, except for their rear ends).  I am thinking that he looked pretty silly on Houdini, unless the stud was built like a brick sh!thouse, too.  I know how ridiculous my trainer looks on one of my mares, and she isn’t a small horse.  Oh! I am wandering off track again! Sorry!  Let’s try again!

Matthew is a famous horse trainer, probably along the lines of Clinton Anderson.  He is a published author, and everyone recognizes that he is a horse training expert.  He jets all about the world, working his equine mojo.  He also feels detached from people, and has no real committed relationships.  Both of his parents have passed away; his mother when he was a young child, and his father just a few years ago.  His father was so devastated by his mother’s death that he was an emotionally distant care-giver.  Matthew found completion training horses, and his training gifts have made him wealthy.

Aurelia, on the other hand, works at a bank.  She is very satisfied with her job, but she has taken an extended vacation to fill in for her aunt, who is off on her honeymoon.  Aurelia is working at Last Chance Ranch as the cook, and she is having a blast tormenting the ranch-hands with her gourmet cooking.  While she is a wonderful cook, the cowboys don’t like the weird things she is trying to feed them.  I loved this – Aurelia is trying to expose them to new food, and they just want to run for cover.  They are afraid of her food!  They think it is gross and inedible.  They sneak it out of the kitchen and feed it to the dogs.  They can’t even pronounce the names of these new dishes; how can they possibly eat this stuff??

Poor Matthew is immediately asked by the cowboys to set Aurelia straight and to save them from her goofy food.  She is just too nice for them to tell her how they really feel, so they are going to throw Matthew under the bus and make him to do.  He wants to taste her food for himself, because during his travels, he has learned to love food.  He isn’t afraid of new things!  I felt an instant bond with Matthew – any guy who has an open mind about food is all right with me.  Thankfully, I found a guy who enjoys food, too.  He even eats the gross stuff that Aurelia’s cowboys balked at – livers and yucky stuff like that.  Give me  tender goat that has been simmered in a curry sauce and I’ll be your friend forever.  The organ meats, though, that is another matter altogether.

Matthew and Aurelia hit it off right away.  It’s lust at first sight, and Matthew has the added bonus of yummy home cooking.  Their steamy affair is moving along full steam ahead, both of them acknowledging that this is just a short time, no strings attached romp.  Until they both get in over their heads.  Then Matthew makes a wonderful suggestion to Aurelia, as way to keep them together, but she rejects the idea, without even thinking about it.  And that is what irritated me about Aurelia.  She is so adventurous about about everything else,  but when the guy who seems to be the love of her life suggests as plausible way for them to be together, she shuts down and shoots him down.  Maybe he didn’t go about bringing up the topic in the right way, but, heck, he’s a horse trainer! What does he know about women!  Just kidding.

Lead Me Home is a quick, entertaining read.  It’s obvious that it’s part of a series, and I liked the characters enough that I will scrounge up more books in it.  This isn’t a perfect read, but it was engaging, the protagonists weren’t jerks, and it got me out of my reading slump.

Grade: B/B-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

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Review: Deep Autumn Heat by Elizabeth Barrett

 

Title: Deep Autumn Heat

Author: Elizabeth Barrett

Publisher: Random House-Loveswept Romance

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this sexy new Star Harbor romance series, featuring the too-tempting Grayson brothers, a celebrity chef turns up the heat for a local café owner—and things start to sizzle.

Lexie Meyers decides there’s nothing sweeter than watching Sebastian Grayson’s perfect, wicked mouth devour her coconut cake. He’s hot, he’s hungry, and he’s sizing her up like she’s the best thing on the menu. But she’s been burned in the past and flings just aren’t her thing. Too bad Sebastian can’t resist a challenge.

Worldly, famous, and notorious with the ladies, Seb had planned a weekend of fishing and relaxation with his brothers. Until Lexie, with her kissable lips and frosty “get lost” attitude, makes him want to forget his culinary empire and create some magic with her. After he fires up his charm—including challenging her to a televised cook-off to break through her resistance—it’s now hotter in the bedroom than it is in the kitchen and Lexie isn’t sure whether she’s lost her mind . . . or just her heart.

Review:

I don’t think I have read many romances featuring chefs.  Either they didn’t make an impression on me at all, or my innate dislike of cooking has steered me away from books with chefs.  I just don’t find them very sexy.  Sure, it would be divine to have a culinary artist at my beck and call, preparing mouth-watering dishes to please my taste buds and tame my wild heart, but then I remember what a glutton I am, and I realize that if I did find a sexy chef of my own, I would soon weigh as much as my horses.  Like, both of them put together.

In Deep Autumn Heat, both protagonists make a living by cooking.  Lexie runs a small restaurant in Star Harbor, a tourist town on the East coast, and Seb is a glamorous and wealthy chef. His New York restaurant is popular, expensive and five-stars in every way, and his skill in the kitchen has made him rich.  His good looks has landed him a TV show, and, well, this guy has an ego the size of a houseboat.  His first opinion of Lexie’s place is that it’s quaint and a step or three beneath him.  He makes a terrible impression on Lexie; first, he treats her like she’s “just” a waitress, and then he acts as though being in her place should be an honor for her.  He’s THE Sebastian Grayson, after all, and he is eating in HER restaurant.  Then he tries a slice of her coconut cake and it’s all over for him.  He loves her cake and wants to know what’s in it.  After sizing her up again, he decides that he wouldn’t mind getting to know what’s in her pants, either.

Lexie, for her part, is too busy and too focused on making her business successful to give Seb much more than a second glance.  OK, so she gives him a third and a fourth glance, because he is drop dead gorgeous.  Of course he is!  He’s rich, dresses in black, and rides a motorcycle, too, which makes him like a bad boy chef.  A bad boy chef who knows how to clean pots, pans, and various cooking implements, and has a smile that makes every woman’s brain go numb when he flashes a great big smile her way.  Kind of like gulping down a gigantic Slurpee and getting a case of brain freeze.  That is Seb’s effect on all women, including Lexie, though she does try her best to take little sips to minimize the brain freeze effect.

Even though Seb spent most of the book being a pompous ass, I still liked him.  I want a big, sexy hunk of man to cook me breakfast and then clean up the mess.  I want to go on rides on the back of a motorcycle, too.  Le sigh.  This is not in the cards for me.  While I do remember with fondness Dean whipping up Mac & Cheese dinners when I was in college and working full-time, he didn’t do such a good job cleaning up, and he has never owned a motorcycle.  Boo!

I enjoyed the banter and the sparks that flew between Lexie and Seb, and I loved how she calmly put him in his place.  Like, all the time.  She had a gift for thinking well under pressure, she was a natural leader in the kitchen, and better yet, she could cook every bit as well as Seb.  I thought their cook-off was a very fun scene, and enjoyed the interaction between all the characters during that sequence.  I can’t believe that such a diverse cast of people could be crammed in one kitchen and not come to blows.  While Lexie and Seb’s relationship was very competitive at first, they quickly become a team – both in and out of the kitchen.

Which brings me to the part of the review where I share what didn’t work for me in this story.  Lexie has fled from a previous, abusive relationship, and when it appears that her ex is stalking her, she refuses to accept that she might be in mortal danger, or that he might have tracked her down.  Instead, she is convinced that all of the threatening notes and little mishaps that have been plaguing her are the work of a rival who wants her coconut cake recipe.  While it turns out that lots of folk are after the secret behind her yummy cake, Lexie is a really smart woman and her firm denial was annoying.  She was already threatened by the slime ball she used to live with, and she was more than familiar with how awful he could be, so some of her behavior didn’t ring true.  When everyone is telling you that you are in danger, most rational people pay attention, especially if they are scared to death of the person and have experienced the violence they are capable of first hand.  

I thought the pacing was a little slow for the last 20% of the story, and even though I enjoyed Buster’s kick butt moves, I thought that the plot thread introduced during Lexie and Buster’s supply run didn’t fit well in this book.   It’s set up for another book in the series, but to me it just felt like an under developed plot point, and I wouldn’t have missed it if it hadn’t been included.

Deep Autumn Heat is a quick read, with scorching sex scenes.  The electricity between Lexie and Seb quickly flared out of control, and I loved the book until Seb had to go back to his business in New York.  Then, without the blazing encounters between the protagonists, the story lost some steam.  Lexie’s emotional baggage was also resolved too quickly, but overall, this is a fun summer read, so load it on your reader before heading to the beach!

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

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