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Table for Two by Brandy Bruce

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, nonfiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

Brandy Bruce

 

and the book:

 

Table for Two
Heartsong Presents (April 28, 2014)
***Special thanks to Brandy Bruce for sending me a review copy.***

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
BrandyBruce

Brandy Bruce has worked in book publishing for more than nine years–editing, writing, reading, and making good use of online dictionaries. She’s a graduate of Liberty University and works as a part-time book editor for a publishing house. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Colorado with their two children, Ashtyn and Lincoln. When Brandy isn’t editing manuscripts or writing novels, she loves spending time with her family, baking any kind of cheesecake, watching movies based on Jane Austen novels, or curling up with a favorite book. You can contact her through her blog at http://brandybruce.blogspot.com.

Visit the author’s website: http://brandybruce.blogspot.com

She’s doing a Q&A today on Goodreads! Check it out! https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1797930-april-28-30-q-a-with-brandy-bruce#comment_form

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
cover

Mandy Seymour always books a table for one. So the pretty food critic is stunned when she captures the eye of dashing chef Leo Romano. Leo’s good looks and fabulous cooking are swoon-worthy, but it’s his tender care of his ailing father and affection for his warm Italian family that really touch her heart. A broken engagement has made Leo cautious. And as he grapples with his dad’s illness he’s skeptical about starting a new relationship, even with a woman as compelling as Mandy. But as he spends more time with Mandy, Leo starts to realize maybe the last thing he should give up is love.

 

Product Details:
List Price: $4.99Publisher: Harlequin/Love Inspired

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-0-373-48703-5

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mandy Seymour held up one hand to hold off traffic as she dashed across the crowded
street, wincing as the “Walk” sign changed to “Stop” before she could reach the
other side.

Sorry,she muttered as the sound of horns honking followed her. She pushed
through the revolving door of the Hyatt Regency hotel and rushed past the front
desk. Taking a quick moment to look down at the brochure in her hand, Mandy
took the next left and sighed with relief when she saw that the double doors to
the conference room directly ahead of her were still open. She slid into the
last row of seats and turned her attention to the speaker at the front of the
room. Gabriel Romano. The Gabrielstar restaurants,
one in Denver, the other in Los Angeles.
Mandy’s mouth watered at the very thought of his infamous tiramisu.

She caught the end of Mr. Romano’s introduction as she shuffled through her purse,
looking for a pen and a notepad.

How can I not have a pen? I always have
pens—but of course, when I need one, there are none to be found.

Mandy  ignored the disapproving voice in the back of her mind that always sounded just
like her mother. Mandy, why are you so disorganized? Mandy, when are you going to be more responsible? Mandy, isn’t it
time you got yourself together?

“Here, take this.”

Mandy looked up in surprise at the voice whispering next to her. A man in a blue
tailored suit with a silver tie handed her a pen.

“Thanks,” Mandy whispered back, accepting the pen, her gaze lingering just a little too
long on the man. His dark wavy hair, jet-black eyes, and olive skin were a nice
combination.

Don’t even think about it, Mandy. He’s probably married.

Was that her voice or her mother’s in her head? Mandy shook away the question and settled in her seat, eager to be swept into Gabriel Romano’s rise-to-success story, beginning with learning to cook from his grandmother during summers spent in the Italian countryside.

“So, why are you here?” the guy leaned over and whispered again.

Mandy barely glanced at him. Okay, I know you’re cute, but I’m here to hear Gabriel Romano so stop talking!

Mandy shrugged. “The same reason everyone else is—Gabriel Romano,” she whispered, hoping her annoyance would register with the guy.

“So you’re another admirer,” he said.

It obviously didn’t register with him.

“I’m a food critic,” Mandy whispered in a rush. “I’m going to the new Romano’s on 15th Street tonight and doing a review, so I thought I’d come hear his story.”

A woman in front of them looked back, holding her finger to her lips. “Shh!”

Mandy’s face burned with embarrassment. The guy next to her seemed unaffected.

“What time will you be there?”

“What?” Mandy asked, forgetting to whisper. The woman in front turned around again, glaring this time.

The guy leaned closer. “What time will you be at Romano’s tonight?”

Mandy blinked, caught for a moment by those dark eyes of his. Why did he want to know? She looked back down at the notepad on her lap without answering.

“I’m Leo, by the way,” the guy whispered.

Mandy sneaked another look over at him. He had a nice smile. But that didn’t mean anything. There could be a lunatic lurking behind that nice smile.

“I’m Mandy Seymour.”

What happened to the lunatic theory? I’m now having a conversation with a complete stranger—missing out on the speech that I
came to hear!

Leo nodded. “Nice to meet you. What time will you be at Romano’s tonight, Mandy?”

Mandy licked her lips and gripped the borrowed pen in her hand.

“8:00.”

Leo winked at her. “Maybe I’ll see you there,” he whispered with a smile before leaving the conference room. Mandy watched him go, wondering where he went and wishing she had asked him why he was there.

 

Leo Romano typed the name Mandy Seymour into his phone and waited for the search engine to give him what he needed. Within seconds, the first page of hits came on the screen and Leo scrolled through, clicking on the third link.

 

Mandy Seymour, respected food critic for Denver Lifestyle magazine, recommends the Coffee
and Crepes
delicatessen off 23rd and Mountain View. Mandy was quoted as saying, “The service was impeccable and the breakfast quiche exceeded my expectations . . .”

Leo clicked off his phone and shoved his hands in his pockets. Even from the hallway, he heard his father’s voice booming through the conference room. He could quote verbatim his father’s speech, and while it was usually inspirational for the audience, Leo could only stand to hear it so many times.

He stepped closer to the open door, scanning the back row where Mandy Seymour sat, scribbling on her notepad. She’d rushed into the conference room, late, juggling a purse and shoulder bag; then she’d furiously rummaged through her purse until Leo had given her his pen. He’d been amused by her effort to ignore him and her frustration at his attempt at conversation. Wisps of brown hair had escaped the knot tied at the nape of her neck. Leo doubted that Mandy knew her scarf was haphazardly dragging on the floor when she’d rushed in. Everything
about the woman shouted scatterbrained.

Still, scatterbrained or not, when Mandy dropped her pen and then scrambled to find it under her chair, Leo smiled without warning from where he stood watching.

She’s charming. In a clumsy, disheveled sort of way. Leo watched her sit back up and blow a stray hair from her face while she continued taking notes. Not like Carol Ann. Those are two words that could never describe her.

Leo’s neck stiffened at even the thought of Carol Ann Hunt. It had been more than six months since she’d broken off their engagement and moved back to her parents’ home in Chicago.

Leo leaned against the wall near the doorway and closed his eyes, sending up a quick prayer for just a little more endurance.

Please help me get the new restaurant off the ground, Father. It’s so important to my dad. He can’t do this without me.
And I can’t do this without You.

The sound of laughter coming from the conference room broke the moment of reverie and Leo looked up, glancing at his watch and knowing that the speech would be over soon. His father’s voice echoed through the corridor and Leo couldn’t avoid hearing the highlights of his father’s life story. He listened as Gabriel Romano talked about discovering his passion—and talent—for cooking, marrying the love of his life and raising a family in Los Angeles, struggling financially to get his first restaurant off the ground. But through hard work, determination, and a stellar reputation for good food, that first Romano’s eventually thrived.

Gabriel told the audience that he hired his brother to be the manager and overseer of the restaurant while he concentrated on cooking, and a few years later he decided to move his family to Colorado. With the success of the Los Angeles Romano’s, the opening of a second restaurant proved to be much easier. The restaurant on Franklin Street in Denver turned into an overnight success.

As the speech came to a close, Leo noted that his father hadn’t mentioned that Leo would be the head chef, running the kitchen at the 15th Street location. He knew his father wanted to create more buzz by keeping the new chef’s identity a mystery until the restaurant opened. That suited Leo just fine; he had enough on his plate without enduring the press and questions about his new role as head chef, along with the inevitable comparisons that would be made to his father.

As the crowd filed through the double doors, Leo moved back. From a distance, Leo could see Mandy Seymour make her way back down toward the lobby. Knowing she would be at the grand opening tonight, Leo would make sure everything from the food to the service to the lighting would be perfect.

 

Mandy took her time walking down the street back toward Union Station. She planned to headd tried the week before. It was one of the things she loved most about herway place right outside of Denver  that served amazing meat loaf or that tiny diner off Mosely Street that had the best cherry pie and homemade ice cream.
Not that Romano’s could ever be described as a little hole-in-the-wall type place; with its marble flooring, an outdoor fountain, stone fireplaces, textured walls, and magnificent murals—it was more than impressive. Mandy had been to the restaurant on Franklin Street a number of times. The Italian restaurant stood as practically a landmark in the area. But this latest Romano’s promised new items on the menu, created by a new chef—someone with Gabriel Romano’s obvious stamp of approval.

Mandy tightened her pea coat around her and picked up her pace as the wind brushed across her face. She wished she’d thought to wear a more substantial coat. It had been a mild January for Denver, but as a lifelong Coloradan, Mandy knew how unpredictable the weather could be. The sounds of downtown Denver competed with the brisk wind as Mandy reached Union Station. She loved the energy of being in
the mile-high city. She thrived on the lights, the noise, the crowds; living in a place bustling with people helped with the loneliness of living on her own.

Within seconds of finding a seat on the train, Mandy’s cell phone rang. Just the sound of the Shirelle’s singing Mama Said told Mandy all she needed to know. Claire Seymour was nothing if not predictable. Mandy held the phone to her ear.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Mandy, are you still downtown?”

“No, Mom. I’m already on my way back home. Why?”

“I thought you said you’d call me on your way back to the Tech Center.”

“I’ve only been on the train for about two minutes. I was going to call you once I’d been on the train for three minutes.”

“There’s no need to be snippy, Mandy.”

Mandy watched the city fly by as the train moved. “Sorry.”

“Good. Now, I’m cooking pot roast tonight, and I want you to come over for dinner. Your brother and his wife are coming, too. Six o’clock.”

“Mom, I already told you that I have plans tonight. I have to visit that new restaurant and then start my review. So I can’t make it. But please tell Brian and Samantha that I said hello.”

“I’m making pot roast!”

“Next time, okay?”

“Sunday dinner. I won’t take no for an answer. I expect you in Evergreen by 4:00.”

“Fine. Sunday. 4:00. I’ll be there.”

“And I certainly hope you’re wearing your good coat! It’s freezing outside!”

“I know it is. See you Sunday.”

Mandy clicked her phone off and leaned her head back against the cold window, ignoring the familiar wave of defeat that came over her whenever she talked to her mother.

As the train rattled to a stop, Mandy jumped up, swung her bag over her shoulder and braced herself for the cold wind. She allowed herself a little time to think about the mysterious Leo.

He’s Italian, obviously. Aren’t Italian men famous for flirting? Or maybe that’s Greek men . . . Anyway, he probably didn’t
mean anything by it. And I’m sure he won’t be at Romano’s tonight. He’s too good-looking to be interested in me.

Without a doubt, that last thought had her mother’s tone.

Don’t think about Mom. I’ve proved her wrong, so far, haven’t I? Here I am, living in the city with a job I love . . .
I haven’t turned out to be the failure she feared I would be. Okay, so I’m not married to a dashing, successful man and I’m not the size-six,
fashion-conscious, top-executive she’d wanted me to be—there are worse things in life.

Mandy’s shoulder bag fell to the ground, its contents scattering. Mandy sighed.

Like being a walking disaster.

Dating, Dining, and Desperation by Melody Carlson

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Dating, Dining, and Desperation 

B&H Books (March 1, 2014) 

by 

Melody CarlsonABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults–with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
ABOUT THE BOOK

Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column.

But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child — whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dating, Dining, and Desperation, go HERE.

Once Upon a Winter’s Heart by Melody Carlson

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Once Upon a Winter’s Heart 

Center Street (January 7, 2014) 

by 

Melody CarlsonABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults–with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
ABOUT THE BOOK

Emma Burcelli has suffered over a decade of dating disasters. But she concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi suddenly passes, leaving her grandmother Nona devastated. To help out, Emma works in the family bookstore, which Nona insists must be decked out in sweetheart décor as Poppi would have done for Valentine’s Day. Although she feels like a V-Day Scrooge, Emma quickly learns to enjoy the task with the help of a handsome family friend, Lane Forester, who shows her that hanging hearts is much more fun when done to the tune of Dean Martin. As Emma and Lane share time and memories of Poppi, she reconsiders the notion that romance is alive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Once Upon a Winter’s Heart, go HERE.

Campus Rentals

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So my sister just recently had to buy all her books for this semester and the price was outrageous. Crazy high for books. So when Campus Rentals asked if I’d be interested in giving them a shout-out, I said, “Sure!” I know college is expensive. Here are some of the perks of using Campus Rentals:

-save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
-free shipping both ways
-can highlight in the textbooks
-flexible renting periods
-they donate to Operation Smile with each textbook rented

That last part about Operation Smile is my favorite part. I love what they do for people all over the world. So one other thing, Campus Rentals has a new program, Rentback. RentBack allows students to rent the textbooks they own – to other students… which is awesome because it makes them 2-4x more money compared to what they’d make through buyback options! (selling their books back at the end of the semester) Sounds good to me.

So hop over and check out campus rentals if you’re a college student! http://www.campusbookrentals.com/

 

 

The Mischief of the Mistletoe

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So, I’m one of those people who loves Christmas-themed novels. This is one I checked out from the library this year. I’m going to be honest and say I haven’t been able to finish it yet. My Christmas season has been a bit full. But it’s really fun to see Jane Austen as a character in this book. So if you’re a Janeite, this one might be for you.

Reading fun Christmas novels makes me want to write one of my own! I have a book I’m about to start writing and with every carol I hear and every wreath I see, I start to wonder how I might incorporate some holiday-ish themes in the novel. Not that I’m borrowing from anyone! Christmas stirs all kinds of inspiration for me when it comes to writing. I just want to tuck away with a cup of hot cocoa and marshmallows and some popcorn and  type away. Have I mentioned Grammarly to you guys, before? Well, I use Grammarly’s plagiarism check because I don’t want to be a Grinch and steal anyone’s idea! Ha! It’s a good tool for writers or editors or college students, so you might want to check it out if you fall into one of those categories.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas and that you receive some wrapped books for Christmas (or ebooks of course!).

Merry Christmas!

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Hi everyone! So it’s no secret that I adore Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. And now that we’ve crossed the threshold into December, we’re in full Christmas swing! So I’m doing a giveaway on my other blog and I hope you’ll hop over and enter to win! (Being as how this is my giveaway, it’s highly likely a book will be involved! :)

So click on over to http://www.brandybruce.blogspot.com and leave a comment to throw your name in the Christmas hat!

Speaking of Christmas and books, don’t you just love all the holiday novellas out there right now? Every time I’m at the library, I just want to check out all the books on the Christmas display. Then I remember I barely have time to read A Berenstain Bear’s Old-Fashioned Christmas! :) Seriously, I always make time to read a Christmas novella every year. I love stories about the magic of Christmas. What about you?

A Merry Humbug Christmas by Sandra D. Bricker

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Merry Humbug Christmas 

B&H Books (October 15, 2013) 

by 

Sandra D. BrickerABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television’s hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The author says that it was her 8th novel that opened the door to finding her way as a writer. “I’m a Christian woman, first and foremost,” she says. “So it was a bit of a dream-come-true when Summerside Press chose me as one of two authors to launch the Love Finds You line.”

Sandie’s real-life role as cancer survivor has parlayed into her steadfast commitment to raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. Spearheading a series of devotionals for Summerside Press (such as the popular His Grace is Sufficient…Decaf is Not), the author has stipulated that a portion of each contributor’s proceeds will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
“Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with raising funds for my pet projects … and still pursue my writing dream,” says Bricker, “well, that’s the best of all worlds, as far as I’m concerned!”

And one of the author’s pet projects is animal rescue, evidenced by the special bond she has created with one particular formerly-abandoned puppy — a red-haired collie with “killer brown eyes and the heart of the class clown.”

ABOUT THE BOOK

A Merry Humbug Christmas features two holiday romance novellas from hilarious and heartwarming author Sandra D. Bricker. — the perfect gift to yourself or someone else at this most wonderfully stressful time of year.

In “Once Upon a Jingle Bell,” A Bah! Humbug cruise to the Mexican Riviera is Joss Snow’s answer to this year’s quest to avoid the holidays completely; at least until she’s rebooked on a different kind of cruise altogether. Candy canes, holly wreaths, reindeer and ornaments seem to be stalking her on the 12 Days of Christmas holiday cruise extravaganza. An escape back to land is her only goal . . . until she meets a kindred spirit in rugged Irishman Patrick Brenneman, and then the game is on! Avoid Christmas festivities at all costs . . . except maybe for that one stop under the mistletoe.

In “It Came Upon a Midnight Deer,” Reese’s guilt over abandoning best friend Joss on their holiday tradition of avoiding all things Christmas is trumped by the joy of her recent engagement. Meeting Damian’s family for the first time on idyllic Sugarloaf Mountain is about as far from that Bah! Humbug cruise as she can get, and Reese can hardly wait to get there. But from the moment they hit that deer in the road just two miles from the cabin, everything seems to go wrong. There are no drummers drumming or pipers piping this particular year! And once she sets her future in-laws’ family cabin ablaze, she’s pretty sure there won’t be even ONE golden ring in her future.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Merry Humbug Christmas, go HERE.

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