Small-town biz wiz Jill Hale has been in love with her childhood best friend Brian McConnell for as long as she can remember. A falling out led to years of estrangement, but when Brian returns to Dare Valley after trying to make it big as a chef in New York City, Jill’s determined to make amends. She’s convinced that starting a restaurant together will be the perfect win-win situation, allowing her and Brian to work together and play together.
After a series of missteps sliced and diced Brian’s career in the Big Apple, he came home to regroup and find himself. He’s convinced that reestablishing his connection with Jill, the girl who got away, will put his life back on track. And when she approaches him with her plan for going into business together, he’s certain it’s the one way he can have it all—his dream job and his dream girl.
Jill and Brian are falling for each other all over again when Brian’s ex sashays into town, intent on sabotaging their reunion. Add in a mysterious investor who’s determined to get Jill on board with his project, and the bond between the couple is tested to the limit. Will their second chance at love implode, or will they find their own recipe for a happy ending?
Here's a peek at some foodie foreplay:
Tonight had to lay the foundation for the whole can they make it thing? He couldn’t remember ever feeling this much pressure over sex. Well, maybe a little. To please. To perform. But never before had his whole future been on the line.
He ladled the soup into the bowls and carried them to the table. The sausages looked good when he opened the oven, juices bubbling out the meat when he speared them with a fork.
When she came back in, he didn’t have the heart to tell her she had red splotches on her neck. He turned back to the sausages and decided they were like a bad joke. Why hadn’t he picked something that didn’t resemble a dick? Like pork tenderloin. Hell, even that had “loin” in it. Why hadn’t he realized how sexual meat was? Legs. Breasts. Loin. Throw in shank, and you had Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
She came up next to him. “Can I help?” Her gaze fastened on the sausages. The red spots intensified. “Do you want me to take…these…over to the table?”
Yeah, she was thinking the same thing. Hot juicy sausages. Freud said there were no accidents. His subconscious must have had a field day—he’d made enough for leftovers.
“Sure,” he managed, fighting the urge to clear his throat as he slid them onto a platter. “I served up the soup.”
Her hands gave a lurch, and the sausages slid a little. He reached for the platter to avert disaster. She gave a semi-hysterical laugh. “That would have been awful. Bunch of sausages rolling around on the floor.”
She set the platter down with unusual precision. He grabbed the bread board and knife and sat down across from her. As he poured the beer, Jill couldn’t seem to take her gaze off the sausages.
“Jill. Your beer,” he said when she didn’t take it.
“Right,” she murmured, eyes darting away like she’d gotten caught looking at something dirty. The red spots now resembled sunbursts.
“To us,” he toasted, lifting his glass.
She almost spilled her beer when she clinked his glass too hard. “The beer’s good,” she commented and then focused on the soup with an intensity that made him sure she was trying to avoid the hot, steaming sausages between them. The candles flickered in the awkward silence. He nudged the platter toward her, but refused to say, you want one? He had clearly won Most Idiotic Entrée Choice of the Year. It could be a new James Beard category.
She still avoided the sausages, grabbing a slice of bread like a Titanic passenger pouncing on a life preserver. Spent way more time than needed buttering it before taking a nibble. “Everything is so good.”
Everything was shit. He might as well put it out there. “So, the sausages were a bad choice.”
Her leaf green eyes flew to his. “Were you trying to give me some secret message?”
“Jesus,” he said, taking the platter off the table. “Not consciously.”
Her breath heaved out. “Good. I thought it was some sort of strange foodie foreplay.”
The idiocy of the whole situation had his laughter bubbling up and over. “Foodie foreplay? Oh God, that’s a good one.”
Jill gave a sputter. “Yeah, I mean, I’ve heard about dessert, oysters, all that, but then I saw those sausages. Couldn’t be any clearer. Although they did start to shrivel in their casing as they cooled. Did you notice?”
Brian kept laughing. “Jesus Christ. This is ridiculous. I couldn’t even ask if you wanted one. I was too embarrassed.”
When she joined him in the hysterics, he made his way back to the table.
“I felt like I was in seventh grade. Remember how we used to giggle every time Mrs. Kelly used to say ‘penis’ in biology?”
His shoulders shook. “It wasn’t the word so much as her lisp. Pee-nith. We almost wet ourselves. Pete used to ask the dumbest questions just to make her say it. Oh, God.”
“My stomach hurts from laughing this much,” Jill said, wiping her eyes. “At least the bread and soup don’t have any hidden messages.”
Brian put his finger to his mouth. “No, I’ve got nothing.”
“Me either. I could barely eat as it was.”
Now, Ava reaches out to readers once more, bringing them her new novel, FRENCH ROAST, and taking them back to the small, Colorado town of Dare Valley and the residents who make it memorable, including the Hale family who, like Ava and NORA ROBERTS LAND heroine Meredith Hale, are descended from a long line of journalists.
Ava's great-great-grandfather won his first newspaper in a poker game in 1892 and her family has had something to do with telling stories, whether to share news or, in her case, fiction, ever since. In fact her clan is still reporting on local events more than one hundred years later at their family newspaper.
Since childhood, Ava has been scribbling down ideas and writing. Despite having hundreds of pages under her belt, she says it wasn't until her characters "wouldn't stop talking" that she knew she had the perfect characters and a story arc she simply had to share, and thus, went on to complete the first of several novels she had begun. Having done so, she went on to write more Dare Valley novels and is currently at work on a novella and plotting her next series.
Having worked as an apprentice chef in a restaurant popular with celebrities, politicos, and other journalistic luminaries, and as a private chef while in graduate school, Ava had no lack of inspiration as she dealt with the foodie aspects tied to FRENCH ROAST and the restaurant central to her plot.
Born and raised in the Midwest, where her family's newspaper is located, Ava went on to earn an undergraduate degree in writing and advanced degrees in political science and conflict management. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Washington Romance Writers. She is also part of an unofficial group that regularly convenes a writing retreat at Nora Roberts' restored Inn Boonsboro in western Maryland. Having left behind the "day job," which took her, literally, all over the world, she now writes full-time in the peace and quiet of her northern Virginia porch-swinging-friendly community.
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