Archive for January 3rd, 2012

Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he’s going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he’s denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky-as-all-get-out superstar chef. But there’s no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?


It’s hot in the kitchen…

One of the things I remember fondly from my nights working on the line was all the flirting with the waiters and the other chefs. There isn’t much room to maneuver on a hot line, and there are lots of hands reaching and bodies brushing by in tight spaces. Cooks have dirty minds and the saying might as well be “curse like a cook” instead of “curse like a sailor.” On a busy night with a lot of walk-in customers, tempers flare, barriers are broken down and people get to know each other really well…

There’s plenty of heat in the kitchen with Joe and Marlene on the line. He’s used to being in charge, but she’s got the home kitchen advantage. One of my favorite scenes happens just after an unexpected grease fire. Marlene’s shift is finished but she stays to help Joe refire the orders.

“Thank God it was hot up here. Her flushed cheeks could be attributed to the heat instead of lust.

For now, she would concentrate on food, narrow her world to the two perfectly crosshatched rib eyes for table two. Finish them with a velvety soufflé of garlic mashed potatoes, a zinfandel demi-glace, and confetti vegetables. Garnish. Place them in the window at the exact moment Joe wiped the rim of his pasta dishes.

Damn. He was fast.

Marly dropped the oven door and gave her fillets a firm poke, pulled the medium and left the well done in there to char a minute longer. Who the hell would order a steak well done, anyway? A waste of good meat. She liked hers red, raw, and dripping. Steak made her think of wine, and wine made her think of sex, and sex made her think of…


The attraction between them flares and sizzles as they are forced to work in close proximity to each other. Joe is trying to be good, but Marlene is hell bent on seducing him. When he says no (and, yes, it took me a loooong time to come up with a good reason for a guy to say no *giggle*), she still has to show up for work the next day. A hardcore crash and burn followed up with a crippling hangover is bad but enough, but discovering she’s still attracted to Joe almost does her in…almost. After all, you have to be tough to work in a kitchen, and Marlene isn’t afraid of a little heat.

When I was pondering reasons a guy would say no, I enlisted the help of the Western New York Romance Writers, my local chapter of RWA. We brainstormed twenty reasons a man might say no. I still have the list. The funniest one is number twelve: Grandma’s perfume turns him off. The reason closest to Joe’s is number seven: tired of one-night-stands. However, the spoken reason for rejection is often different from what is really motivating the character. Joe might be tired of one-night-stands but that’s probably not enough to get him to turn down a night of no-strings sex with a woman as beautiful as Marlene. His reason had to go a little deeper. Before Joe’s mother died, she asked him to settle down with a “nice girl,” and his life has begun to feel so empty, he’s actually decided to give it a try. But that’s not what he says out loud to Marlene. His spoken reason is number three: too much to drink.

However, like many things in Scrumptious, I drew from my past experiences, too. One dark and stormy night, a man told me…*drum roll*…tomorrow is another day. I’m still shaking my head over that one, and so does Marlene when Joe says, “Let’s pick this up tomorrow and see where we are.” And then the sparks begin to fly! Ah, experience. What about you guys? Anybody out there have another good reason a man might say no? If you’ve come across it in a book, I’d love to see how another writer handled it. If you heard it in real life, I’ll offer you virtual chocolate or an online version of what Marlene was drinking that fateful night! Comment below for the chance to win a signed copy of Scrumptious!

Author Bio

Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America, so she married him after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans. They spent a few years enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy before they returned to Western New York to raise a family. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own scrumptious husband.

If you want to chat about romance, writing or recipes, please visit her at http://www.amandausen.com or follow her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/amandausen or Twitter http://twitter.com/AmandaUsen

*Giveaway sponsored by the author

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She came to him when he needed her the most

She came to him at his lowest point. The voice of an angel, a whisper in the dark. She’s the only thing that gets Nathan Kelly through his captivity, the endless days of torture and the fear that he’ll never return to his family. With her help, he’s able to escape. But he isn’t truly free, because now she’s disappeared and he’s left with an all-consuming emptiness as he struggles to pick up the pieces of his life. Did he imagine his angel? Or is she out there, needing his help as he’d once needed hers?

Now he rushes to save her before it’s too late

Shea has been on the run from people who will stop at nothing to exploit her unique abilities. She never wanted to drag Nathan, who’d already suffered so much, into danger, but she doesn’t have a choice so she reaches out to him for help. Finally face-to-face after having already formed a soul-deep bond in hell, their emotional connection is even more powerful than their telepathic one. Nathan refuses to consider ever letting her go again, but she worries they can never have a life free of the dangers that dog her every step. He’ll protect her with his every breath, but can he convince her that they are meant to face these threats together?





We are giving away two copies of Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks, one print copy and one digital copy (kindle or nook, reader’s choice). Just leave a comment saying which you would prefer and stop back by Sunday to see if you’ve won. Good luck!


*Giveaway sponsored by Novel Thoughts

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As a teenager, Taige Branch was able to do things with her psychic gift that others couldn’t understand—except for Cullen Morgan, the boy her stole her heart. He did his best to accept her abilities, until his mother was brutally murdered—and he couldn’t forgive Taige for not preventing her death.


Now a widowed father, Cullen Morgan has never forgotten Taige. But what brings her back into his life is another tragic event. His beloved little girl has been kidnapped, and Taige is his only hope of finding her.

Working together against the clock, Cullen and Taige can’t help but wonder whether—if they find his daughter in time—it isn’t too late for the overpowering love that still burns between them…


FBI Special Agent Taylor Jones has made it his mission to save those in harm’s way by any means necessary—including employing psychic agents like Desiree “Dez” Lincoln, who can communicate with the disembodied spirits of the dead. Taylor is haunted by his own ghost, his kid sister, gone missing at age six. For a quarter of a century he has been tortured by her loss and the mystery of her disappearance.


When Dez is seriously wounded, Taylor can no longer hide his feelings for her. Getting involved could spell disaster for both of them—not to mention those who rely on them for help—but once Dez lays her hands on him, he can’t resist the fierce attraction. But after giving in to his desires, Taylor pulls back, and Dez strikes out on her own.


Responding to the call of another anguished spirit, Dez is led to Taylor’s old hometown. As the two are forced to come together to save a girl in peril, Dez may be able to help Taylor finally find the answers he’s been looking for…




We are giving away a copy of both The Missing and The Departed (available today!) by Shiloh Walker to one reader. These are tradesize print books. To be entered, just leave a comment and stop back by on Sunday to see if you won. Good luck! 😀

*Giveaway sponsored by Novel Thoughts

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