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(Unwritten) Rule No. 1 of the Gibbons Family Handbook:
A woman must embody grace, sex, and glamour at all times. She is the image of perfection in the eyes of all men around her.
Not feeling very graceful, sexy, or glamorous at this early hour of the morning, Lauren was in no mood to follow the family rules today. Respectfully, the old family handbook could just go to hell right now.
Damn, it's hot, she thought after she slammed her car door shut with her hip and made a mad dash across the nearly empty parking lot. Rivulets of sweat streamed between her breasts and down her back in the scorching Virginia sun, causing her T-shirt to cling to her like a second skin, making her silently curse her car's busted AC. Her curvy bottom shimmied as she ran in her khaki shorts.
As sous chef of Le Bayou Bleu, Lauren tried to be one of the first to arrive at the kitchen for prep work for the lunch and dinner service, but she was running a little late today.
"Hey, Lauren!" Malik called out with a smile.
The willowy line cook leaned against the soot-covered brick wall near the doorway. His white short-sleeved shirt was unbuttoned, revealing a white tank top and a pack of cigarettes tucked inside the waistband of his jeans. He tapped his lit cigarette, spilling ashes onto the concrete.
"What's up, beautiful? You just gettin' in?" he asked.
"Don't remind me!" she shouted back with a laugh.
"¡Oye, mi amiga!" shouted Miguel, a plump fry chef who sat kitty-corner to Malik. He was hunched on a wooden crate with his squat legs spread wide. A cigarette hung limply from the side of his mouth.
"Hey, Miguel!" Lauren yelled back.
She didn't break stride as she spoke, making her way toward the heavy steel door leading to the restaurant's kitchen. She tugged the door open and stepped inside, letting it slam shut behind her. She was instantly met with the sound of clashing steel, stacking glasses, the steady churn of mixers, oven doors opening and closing, and shouting voices. To her ears, it was more melodious than a Beethoven symphony.
Lauren bypassed the kitchen and went straight to the women's locker room. She usually shared it with the waitresses and the only other female chef at the restaurant, Paula Wakeman, who was a wizard when it came to pastries. But the room was vacant today. It was dimly lit and smelled of old grease and dirty socks.
She opened her locker door and quickly retrieved a pair of jeans, her apron, and a petite-sized chef's coat. She took off her strappy sandals and traded them for a pair of sports socks and scuffed tennis shoes from the bottom of her locker. She put on her jeans and pulled back her shoulder-length hair into a ponytail, securing it with a scrunchie she had worn on her wrist. After tying a red bandanna on her head and buttoning her coat, she was ready to go. She climbed over the locker room's wooden benches with apron in hand and headed to the door. As she neared the exit, she glanced at herself in the room's only full-length mirror and paused, momentarily transfixed. She stared at her reflection.
Seven months ago, she wouldn't have been caught dead in her current ensemble. Instead, she would be wearing a tight-fitting, low-cut dress, towering high heels, and jewelry that cost more than what she could now afford with her current monthly paycheck. She wouldn't be slaving away in the kitchen of Le Bayou Bleu either, but would be one of the restaurant patrons, dining at one of the best tables in the house on her rich boyfriend, James's, tab.
What a difference seven months can make, Lauren thought.
Back then, she had been the happily "kept" woman she had always been taught to be—going to spas and shopping during the day, pleasing her man at night. That life seemed so long ago and so far away. She had been so scared back then, so worn down by James's constant browbeating that it had taken her too long to realize that ...
Lauren shook her head, cutting off those dark thoughts.
"You can take your trip down memory lane another day," she mumbled to her reflection. She hated to wallow in the past, in self-pity. It was time to move forward. "Time to get to work."
"Mornin', guys!" she said as she rushed into the kitchen seconds later, tying her apron around her waist.
"Morning! Mornin'. ¡Buenos días!" a few voices answered in return.
Lauren looked around the room. "Where's Phillip?" she asked no one in particular. "Anybody seen him around?"
Phillip Rochon was the executive chef of Le Bayou Bleu. The dark-skinned, jolly, loud-mouthed man was from a small town not far from New Orleans, where he had learned to cook gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffé at his grandmother's elbow more than forty years ago. He had opened restaurants in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC, specializing in a high-end interpretation of down-home Creole cuisine. He had decided last year to open Le Bayou Bleu in Chesterton, Virginia—Lauren's hometown.
"Has anybody seen Phillip?" Lauren repeated, louder this time, stepping farther into the kitchen.
"I think he's in the front of the house," one of the cooks murmured as he laid a series of thinly sliced potatoes onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
That was an odd place for Phillip to be. Usually he was elbow to elbow with the other chefs, preparing vegetables, dressings, and pasta dough that would be used later that day. He was a James Beard award winner and had led restaurants with Michelin stars, but Phillip was far from a diva. He believed true head chefs still worked the line and shared celebratory drinks with their staff after a hard day of work.
To leave these guys alone to do prep work, something has to be up, Lauren thought. She walked through the kitchen to the swinging door that led to the front of the house.
Lauren rarely got to see this half of Le Bayou Bleu. Every time she entered it, she would marvel at how beautiful the space was. The tone of the restaurant matched the food that was served there: sophisticated but earthy, cool but classic. The two were a perfect match.
The walls were set with a rich mahogany wood paneling, and over the onyx bar was a huge chandelier dripping with crystal. Along each side wall were booths with cream-colored fabric embellished with a navy blue damask pattern. The back wall of the restaurant was lined with state-of-the-art refrigerators filled with wine bottles that had vintages dating as far back as the early 1900s. At any given time, jazz or soul music would play over the hidden speakers, giving a mellow vibe to the space despite the grandeur of the surroundings.
Unfortunately, Lauren wasn't enjoying those grand surroundings this morning. She was too concerned about Phillip. She found him sitting alone at one of the dining room tables, with a glass of red wine and a half-eaten beignet on a dinner napkin in front of him. Chairs were still stacked on the table around him.
"It's a little early for wine, isn't it?" Lauren asked with a wry smile as she walked toward him. "Is it starting off to be that kind of day?"
He didn't respond.
"Phillip," she said as she drew closer. "Phillip!" She patted him gently on his plump shoulder, making him jump in surprise. He quickly looked over his shoulder at her.
"Aww, chérie, what you doin' sneaking up on me like that? You damn near gave me a heart attack, gal!"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." She took one of the chairs off the table, setting it beside his. She sat down. "I called yo
Excerpted from Can't Stand the Heat by SHELLY ELLIS. Copyright © 2013 by Shelly Ellis. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Posted May 15, 2013
Review of Can’t Stand The Heat by Shelly Ellis
CAN’T STAND THE HEAT by Shelly Ellis is a story about the Gibbons women. The Gibbons women over three generations have built their reputation as gold diggers seducing men for their money. The family also has a set of rules that they follow.
After three generations of the women in her family seducing men, Lauren Gibbons decides to change it. Lauren suffers abuse from her sugar daddy and is hoping to break from the past for good. Her sugar daddy had beaten her one too many times. She meets an NFL player named Cris and looks for a future with him. With her conniving relatives, vengeful ex, and debt, she may not be able to escape from her past. To her family, Lauren is committing the ultimate betrayal and abandoning the family tradition.
The characters were so realistic and well-developed. They grab you from the pages and stay with you. The story-line catches you from the beginning and draws you in. The dialogue was well developed and written, and you will love the hot, delicious romance. The chemistry between Lauren and Cris was great, and once I started the book I didn't want to put it down. I had to know what was going to happen next.
Can’t Stand the Heat is the first book by Author Shelly Ellis. As a debut novel for a series, this author has done a wonderful job. I love the author’s writing style. The story-line will remind you of a lifetime movie. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series, and I highly recommend this book to all readers. This book would make an excellent book club discussion.
Thank you Author Shelly Ellis for a wonderful story.
-Reviewed by: Barbara
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 31, 2014
Lauren and the rest of her family are known as gold diggers in her town of Chesterton, Virginia. This is something that Lauren is not happy about and hoping to change. The rest of her family is not ready to change but Lauren is ready to turn over a new leaf after she gets attacked by her ex-boyfriend. After this incident, she has decided to work on herself and never resort back to her old ways. But she meets Cris and she sees this as a way to start anew. Then things occur in her life which makes it hard for her to stick to her guns. This was a fast paced book and it was hard for me to put it down. I liked the author’s writing style and I definitely plan to read the rest of the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2014
Posted September 26, 2013
LEAVING THE PAST BEHIND
KUDOS FOR AN ENJOYABLE STORY!!!!! THIS IS MY FIRST NOVEL BY SHELLY ELLIS AND IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAY IT WILL NOT BE MY LAST. THE MESSAGE WAS POSITIVE IN THAT, YOUR PAST DOES NOT HAVE TO DICTATE YOUR FUTURE. THE MAIN CHARACTER LAUREN COMES FROM A FAMILY THAT PREYS ON RICH MEN. AND IT DOES NOT MATTER IF THEY ARE MARRIED OR ENGAGE. AFTER BEING IN A ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, LAUREN DECIDES TO STOP DATING MEN FOR MONEY AND CONSENTRATE ON HER CAREER. BUT LOVE HAS A WAY OF FINDING YOU EVEN WHEN YOU ARE HIDING. IN WALKS CHRIS WEAVER AN EX NFL PLAYER LOOKING TO SETTLE DOWN AND ENJOY RETIREMENT. WHEN THE TWO MEET THE SPARKS FLY AND THE CHASE IS ON.
I MUST SAY THAT I LOVED READING THIS STORY, AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE. ENJOY......
Posted August 23, 2013
Posted July 22, 2013
Somehow i did not get this was a romance novel before putchasing. I dislike them on principle and only read by mistake. But the writing is good tho the story was predictable as romances always are.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.