#NovelSpotlight: Pasta Wars by Elisa Lorello

pasta warsAbout the Book

Slim, successful, and soon to marry the man of her dreams, Katie Cravens is leading the life she always wanted. As the face and CEO of Pasta Pronto, a “Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious” line of frozen food, Katie chooses to live life like one of her Slimline Spaghetti dinners―no mess, no surprises, and everything tied up in a neat little package. But when Katie’s fiancé runs off with another woman and a quality control fiasco sends her customers running for the hills, it’s time for Katie to make a change.

Read An Excerpt

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love coconut and those who hate coconut. I am not one of the coconut people. In fact, I happen to think coconut is the work of the devil. Think about it—would a benevolent deity invent something that could cause brain damage if it happened to fall on your head from a tree? Would it grow on trees in the first place? Would its innards be shaved and shredded into a confetti-like substance that could double as packing filler? Would it get stuck in your teeth for days? Weeks? Months? Like, you go to the dentist, and she crinkles her nose and furrows her brow and digs that torture hook between your incisors, muttering to herself, “What IS that?” Oh, it’s just coconut from a cupcake you ate in 1992.

I mean, it tastes good and all, but so not worth the effort. Give me Nutella on a graham cracker. Give me chicken marsala. Give me red velvet anything.

Don’t even get me started on coconut water.

In a span of three days, coconut managed to ruin my life.

I’d just returned home to Long Island from the Food &  Wine Festival in Miami, entered the house calling out for Max, abandoned my coat, overnight suitcase, and briefcase by the door, and headed straight for the barren kitchen. It’s a habit—open the refrigerator door after a long flight or stressful day at work, stare at its inhabitants in wistful longing, and close the door—I don’t even do it consciously anymore. There’s not much in there, usually, save for plastic baggies of carrot and celery sticks, salad, a pitcher of cucumber-infused water, and at least one half-empty bottle of chablis. The freezer, on the other hand, is jammed with an assortment of Pasta Pronto meals. Since founding the company nine years ago, I’d made it a leading contender with Lean Cuisine and every other weight-loss line in the frozen food section. “Carbs for the Calorie-Conscious” is our slogan, coupled with our mission statement of “Lite Indulgences for Women on the Go.” Last year we rolled out the new Slimline Spaghetti series, and we exceeded sales projections months ahead of schedule.

My eyes honed in on the Styrofoam container sitting on the top shelf, and I peeked inside.

Breaded coconut shrimp. Odd. Max is allergic to shellfish.

“Honey?” I called from the kitchen. No answer. I went to the garage entrance to see if Max’s car was still there. It was. He moved into my house when we got engaged six months ago, and the sight of his car in my garage—our garage—still made my heart flutter with sprinkles. Like finding the perfect frame to a photograph. Proof that you really can have it all, if you want it badly enough.

I returned to the showroom-style living room—designer sofa and loveseat; apothecary table; lamps from a specialty store; custom plush carpeting—and leaned on the staircase banister. “Maaaaaaaaxxxxxx?” I called again, with a more seductive tone this time, my voice echoing. “Come out, come out, wherever you are . . .”

Seconds later, I heard the bedroom door open. Max jolted down the stairs. “Katie! Hey, honey-muffin,” he said. He leaned in to kiss me on the cheek and pulled away before I had a chance to nuzzle against his sandpapery beard or clasp my hands around his neck. What gives?

“Where’s the fire?” I asked.

He headed for the kitchen, looking over his shoulder at me as he spoke. “How was your trip? I wasn’t expecting you home until tomorrow.”

I scoffed as I followed him. “These events are getting so snooty. Pasta Pronto sells, like, five times more product than these vendors, and they’re all like, ‘oooh, oooh, frozen dinners aren’t food’!”

“Jealous, babe,” said Max. “No one makes a better fettuccine alfredo than you.”

“Especially at three hundred calories!”

“And in three minutes.”

“EXACTLY.”

He looked as if he’d just come from the gym. Chestnut hair tousled. Pupils dilated. Sweaty.

“You okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” he said, averting his gray eyes at the last nanosecond. “Why?”

“You buttoned your shirt wrong.”

He jerked as if someone had snuck up on him from behind and given him the Vulcan nerve pinch. “Shit!” he exclaimed as he frantically realigned the buttons. “I . . . I didn’t even notice. To think I’ve been walking around like that all day.”

“Bad day at work?”

“Meh. The usual. Cuppiecake, why don’t we skip nuking the noodles tonight and go out to dinner instead? Say, Francine’s? We haven’t been there in ages.”

I shook my head and went back to the fridge, with Max seemingly vigilant of my every move. “Can’t,” I said. “I was totally Code Orange this week. My avatar went up three dress sizes!”

In addition to the meals, Pasta Pronto had its own weight management system, complete with a food journal app in which you created your own avatar, and color-coded food rankings: Green was “safe,”  Yellow was “good in moderation,” Orange was “danger zone,” and Red was “nuclear meltdown.” When you entered your food intake in the journal (you’re allotted as many Greens as you want per day, three Yellows per day, one Orange per day, and only one Red per week), the size of your avatar adjusted according to your portion and food selection. If you wanted something simpler than color-coding, you could also scan a food nutrition label in the supermarket and an angel or devil icon would appear. The app was a huge hit with our customers.

I retrieved a baggie of celery sticks (Code Green) from the fridge and plopped them on the food scale. Then I pulled half of them out and returned the baggie to its place. “This will have to do. By the way, cinnabun, whose coconut shrimp is that?” I asked, pointing to the container.

Max stared at it as if he’d never seen it before. As if he’d never seen the inside of a refrigerator, ever.

“It’s mine,” he said, sounding uncertain.

“Yours? Are these magic shrimp? Hive-free?”

He backpedaled. “The restaurant must’ve given me the wrong doggie bag.” Now he seemed even more doubtful.

“Which restaurant?”

“A bunch of us from the office went out to lunch today.”

“And you want to go out again for dinner?”

I heard a door close lightly, as if trying to go undetected, and my ears perked up like a Jack Russell terrier’s as I whisked around.

“What was that?” I asked.

“What was what?”

“A door closed. In this house. The front door, to be precise.”

“You’re imagining things, Katie.”

“You know very well I am not imagining things.” Max told people that I would be able to hear footsteps on the moon.

And then it all conglomerated into one gooey, globby mess: the coconut shrimp. The disheveled shirt. The evasive kiss on the cheek. The befuddled tone since I walked in the door. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow . . .

No.

No, no.

No-no-no-no-no.

I broke into a dash for the staircase, tripping on the third riser as I tried to pull off my pumps along the way, and could smell the foreign fragrance with every step. Was practically assaulted with it, like when soda gets caught as you swallow and goes up your nose instead.

“Sweetness, wait!” Max called right behind me, scaling the stairs two risers at a time. I froze in the bedroom doorway and took in the scene:

The Hotel Collection sheets and duvet: tangled.

The Sterns and Foster pillows: head imprints. One on each pillow.

The corner bedpost: shackled in handcuffs.

And OH MY GOD, WAS THAT A PILE OF BUTTERFINGER WRAPPERS ON THE FLOOR BY THE FOOT OF THE BED???

Max’s and my engagement portrait lay facedown on the night table—I wondered: was it knocked over during the sex, or did they think they were doing me a favor by hiding two-dimensional-me from the scene?

The sex? Holy frappe, the sex????

“I-I-I’m sorry, Katie. I’m so sorry.”

His hand on the back of my shoulder felt like a slab of ice.

“You . . . ? Here . . . ? Wha . . . ?”

I turned to face him. He looked like a kid who’d just been caught with his dad’s Playboy.

“Who?” I asked.

“Who, what?” he responded.

I could push him down the stairs, right now. One little shove and this would all be over.

Who?” I snarled.

He gave in. “Cheetah,” he said as he stared at his socks.

Cheetah? Cheetah, the Hostess with the Most-ess from the Cheesecake Factory—that Cheetah? My high school nemesis? Also the work of the devil?

That was her actual name, by the way. She beat me out of the Entrepreneurs Club contest with a caramel apple moon pie recipe that she stole from a Woman’s Day magazine. She drew mustaches all over my student body president campaign posters. She stole the box of brownies I’d made for Kyle Carney on Valentine’s Day and presented them to him herself.

“She’s never had an original idea in her life! She says things like ‘O-M-G.’ She . . . she makes hourly!”

“She also eats, Katie.”

“I eat plenty,” I insisted.

Shit. That totally didn’t come out right.

“I mean, she eats real food. It’s not her enemy, like it is for you. Lately I’ve been finding that very . . . well, appetizing.”

Real food. I could’ve maimed him with a coconut at that moment. After I set fire to my bedroom.

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pasta-wars-elisa-lorello/1122755306?ean=9781945293054

#NovelSpotlight: Dazed and Divorced by Carol Maloney Scott

About the Book
 
It’s been almost twenty
years since Claire met her ex in high school, and now she finds herself thrust
into the dating world for the first time as an adult, armed with little more
than confusion and lack of experience. Not only is Ron the only man she’s ever
been with, she’s also coping with the loss of her fertility, and if she goes on
one more hideous blind date – possibly her mind. Determined to avoid both
online dating and meetup groups, she endures fix-ups with all sorts of
memorable characters, such as weepy Pete, the drunk skunk, the cheap hot-dog
eater, and let’s not forget – the unholy speed dater.
As Claire becomes more depressed over her plight,
her best friend Jane prompts her to redirect her maternal longings by adopting
an adorable wiener dog puppy. Dixie is not a human baby, but hopefully she will
provide her new Mommy with a diversion from the parade of loony men marching
through her lonely nights – that’s if Mommy’s house and sanity survive the
destructive cyclone that is an untrained three-pound ball of craziness!

Unfortunately, while Claire is trying to move on,
Ron is trying to pull her back into the past, and his life. Determined to win
back his wife’s affections, he offers to help Claire with home repairs as he
tries to implement ‘Operation Friends’ in an effort to persuade his wife into
giving him another chance. However, Ron is struggling with his own adjustment
to single life, and isn’t finding it easy to ditch the Amazon woman, or his new
‘mail order bride’ dating site hobby, no matter how much he has convinced
himself that he and Claire belong together.

DAZED & DIVORCED is Book 1 in the Rom-Com on
the Edge series. All books are standalone novels, but read in order for
maximum fun!

 
Tour Schedule
 
November 14 – Kristen’s Novel Café
November 15 – Chick Lit Goddess
November 15 – Books Dream Life
November 16 – Rae Reads
November 16 – Chick Lit Plus
November 18 – Adventures in Writing
November 21 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews
November 21 – Book Lover in Florida

November 21 – Granny Loves to Read

Author Bio

Carol Maloney Scott, author of the Rom-Com on the Edge
series, is a frazzled new bride and wiener dog fanatic. She is a lover of
donuts, and a hater of mornings. Recently unearthing a childhood passion for
writing, she can once again be seen carrying around a notebook and staring into
space. Her stories are witty, fresh and real, just like life.Join her on “The Edge” for giveaways, cover reveals, excerpts,
contests and members-only content at carolmaloneyscott.com/

 Read an excerpt!

Things are really going my way. I finished my route early today, and I’m looking forward to relaxing by the pool in my apartment complex.

I’m sure Claire has spent most of the day thinking about my offer, and what a nice guy I’ve become. I just need to make sure I hold back and let her come to me now. Being pushy and controlling are a couple of her complaints about me. She doesn’t understand that I know her so well that I know what’s best for her. The events of the past year make it painfully obvious that she doesn’t make good choices on her own.

I throw my keys on my kitchen counter and scroll through the messages on my phone. Nothing from Claire yet, but it’s early. She won’t be off work for a couple of hours.

I should go check my mail before I change into my swim trunks. Whew, I should also take a shower, even though I’ll need another one after using the community pool. At least we don’t have too many little kids in this apartment complex, but there is always the pee factor to consider in a public pool.

I purposely rented in one of the fancier communities after I moved out of our house, even though I hate to waste money. If I have to live in an apartment, it needs to be a nice one.

It’s a newer complex behind the Walmart shopping center. I know right away that makes the fancy factor plummet in a lot of people’s minds, but it’s convenient to be near some shopping, and it’s still close to work.

I grab my mailbox key off the counter and my phone starts ringing. Claire. Yes! I pick up the call and head out to the group mailboxes right across the hall from my unit. I frequently forget to pick up my mail, and then find out my driver’s license has expired or I missed out on pizza coupons.

“Hey, Babe what’s up?”

Okay, I need to dial it back a notch. ‘Babe’ is not a ‘friendly’ name. I wouldn’t ever call Mike or Mario ‘Babe.’

My assessment is confirmed as it takes a moment for Claire to speak.

“Um, hi. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking about your offer, and I have decided to hire a painter. Not that I don’t appreciate it…”

I put the key in my mailbox a little more forcefully than necessary as Claire continues to babble nervously about how if she needs something small fixed, she might call me, but I helped her realize that the painting was the most urgent thing that needs to be addressed.

Yeah, I bet. It’s just because she knows how much I didn’t want the inside of our house to resemble the rainbow flag or a daycare center.

As I get ready to respond, I am startled by a hand on my…what the fuck?

I cover the phone as if it’s the one that was attached to the wall around the time I was born, and whisper, “Knock it off, I’m on the phone.”

Claire says, “Ron? Are you there? Who are you talking to?”

“No one, it’s just Mario.” That was smooth. Mario is clearly someone. “He came by to drop off my tennis racket. I left it at the…” I grab Stacy’s hand and guide it away from my…

“Oh, well, I’ll let you go then. But you understand about the house, right? I do appreciate you wanting to help, but I think it would be best for our…friendship…to leave it to a—”

“Yep, I totally get it.” I dance out of Stacy’s grasp and now she’s wagging a package in front of me and licking her lips. Did she just pull that out of her mailbox?

Claire pauses again and says goodbye.

Shit, I really wanted to try to talk her out of it, but…

“Stacy, what are you doing? Get inside before the kids get off the school bus, and someone calls the cops.”

She follows me into my apartment and pushes me up against the closed door, covering me with her mouth and hands.

I know that doesn’t sound bad, but I haven’t gotten a chance to address the ‘Stacy’ situation, now that I’ve decided that I want Claire back.

Just as roughly as she started molesting me, now she grabs my ear and her touch turns painful. This woman is about as opposite from Claire as I could have veered, which makes sense for a casual, rebound buddy.

I refuse to use the common term for what we’re doing because I said I would never stoop that low.

She reaches under my shirt and pulls an underarm hair.

“Ow, you’re crazy. Stop it.” I hold her arms and try to calm her down.

She says, ‘So, who were you talking to you? And why am I suddenly Mario returning a tennis racket?”

I release my grip and use this as an opportunity to get away from her, making it to the relative safety of the middle of my living room.

I’m a big guy, but Stacy is almost six-feet tall. She has chestnut brown hair (I think that’s what you’d call it), which curls into an unruly, sexy mess. Her eyes are green and her body is to die for. She’s like one of those warrior princess women on violent cable TV shows. In deep contrast to this persona, she’s a librarian.

Yep, I went with the fantasy woman.

“Stacy, you need to calm down. I was talking to Claire, if you must know, and I didn’t feel like explaining anything to her.”

“Claire? You lied about me to Claire? Since when are you all chummy with her? Is she just trying to get you to sign the divorce papers?”

Sometimes I kick myself for telling Stacy too much.

And then other times, like now, I lie.

 

#NovelSpotlight & Excerpt: Maggie’s Montana by Linda Bradley

maggies-montanaAbout the Book

Maggie Abernathy, best friend Judy, and Judy’s two young sons travel cross country to visit John McIntyre and daughter Chloe at their Montana ranch. Maggie’s convinced herself that she’s only making the trip to fulfill her promise to visit Chloe, but once there she can’t help but fall in love with the horses, the land, the ranch, and the Montana ways of life. With Chloe’s loving antics, Winston’s gift, and a handful of wranglers showing her the ropes, will Maggie have the heart to say goodbye?

Tour Schedule

November 7 – Chick Lit Plus – Excerpt

November 8 – Love Chick Lit – Q&A & Excerpt

November 9 – Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Excerpt

November 9 – Joanne Guidoccio – Excerpt

November 11 – Writer’s Treasure Chest – Excerpt

November 17 – Authors and Readers Book Corner – Excerpt

November 17 – Book Lover in Florida – Review & Excerpt

November 17 – Coffeeholic Bookworm – Excerpt

November 18 – Granny Loves to Read – Review

November 21 – Ryan Jo Summers – Q&A

linda-bradleyAuthor Bio

Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments, thus creating avenues for readers to connect with her characters.

Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.

Linda has two grown sons, lives with her husband, and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Links:

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/LBradleyAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LBradleyAuthor

Website: www.LindaBradleyAuthor.com

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bakz7T

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2dA3ZlW

Maggie’s Way at Schuler Books: http://bit.ly/2etN7iC

Maggie’s Fork in the Road at Schuler Books: http://bit.ly/2esL2Sq

Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from Chapter 20

I squeezed my eyes tight as chills ran down my spine. A gentle hand rested on the nape of my neck. The touch grounded me and for a split second, I thought maybe it was my father. Tears welled and I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes, trying to stop the longing I felt for my dad who’d left me years ago. I saw Chloe perched on John’s hip with her arms around his neck in my mind. It seemed like eons since I was that little girl in my own father’s arms.

Through the tears, I stared at my dusty boots. John ran his fingers up my neck and into my hair. I squeezed my eyes tighter, hoping this wasn’t a dream.

John knelt beside me, his hand on my knee, and his finger under my chin. “Saw you leave. Wondered if you were all right?”

I shrugged. Cocoa ran past, and then nestled in the straw at my feet and stretched out, letting her kittens suckle. “No, guess not,” I said.

“Anything I can do to help?”

I scooted over on the bench and John sat beside me. “I don’t think so.” I tucked my hair behind my ears.

“Well I think there is, but I’m going to let you solve your own dilemma.”

I wiped the corners of my eyes and watched the kittens nuzzle up to their momma’s belly, safe from the world around them until she went out to hunt. “Probably best.” Locking my elbows, I rested my hands on my knees. I liked the feel of worn blue jeans, inside, and out.

“Dinner is almost ready,” John said.

Our gazes met. My stomach wasn’t the only thing growling. “I don’t know if I want dinner. I kind of like it out here.” The barn truly was a sanctuary.

“Well, you’ve got to eat, darlin’.” John wrapped his arm around my shoulder and drew me close, his green eyes trying to hide his own disappointments.

I couldn’t help but think I was one of them.

“A girl your age can’t live on s’mores and beer, ’cause that’s what we’re having later.”

“I beg to differ.”

John’s breath brushed up against my neck. His lips followed. Tension oozed from my shoulders like dripping wax, my guard giving way to the heat. He whispered in my ear, “Let me love you.”

I swallowed the temptation, but it stuck in my throat and lingered at the back of my tongue like bitter sweetness. “I don’t know how.”

Afraid, I prayed again. From under my lashes, I saw a man earnest and true, his eyes fixed on me yet not demanding, something I wasn’t used to. Flecks of passion danced in his irises.

“How the hell do you know what you want?” I asked.

“Because I know,” he said.
His strong hands held my face. His thumbs stroked my cheeks like he was settling a skittish filly. “Let me ask you this, neighbor lady . . .”

“Why do you keep calling that?”

“Does there have to be a reason?” he asked.

“Isn’t there a reason for everything?”

“No. Sometimes things just feel right.” John kissed me as I took in his words, his breath in sync with mine. My stomach rolled over and I let myself kiss him back as if it were the very first time.

 

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