Gone with a Handsomer Manby Michael Lee West
"Gone with a Handsomer Man is fun, funny, and fabulous!"---Janet Evanovich
Take one out-of-work pastry chef . . .
Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She's getting married, she's baking her own wedding cake, and she's leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple/i>
"Gone with a Handsomer Man is fun, funny, and fabulous!"---Janet Evanovich
Take one out-of-work pastry chef . . .
Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She's getting married, she's baking her own wedding cake, and she's leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks.
Add a whole lot of trouble . . .
Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiancé slaps a restraining order on her. When he's found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny.
And stir like crazy!
Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn't know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.
Michael Lee West has written a delicious new mystery with an unforgettable heroine.
Gone With A Handsomer Man is fun, funny, and fabulous.
A fresh, funny and delightfully flawed heroine that you'll fall in love with from the get go. Teeny is a trouble magnet, and it is wholly diverting to follow her tumbling joyride through bad men and good recipes. By turns sweet and surprising, it's a wonderful, quirky escape.
Great cook --- though reluctant detective --- Teeny Templeton keeps the pot bubbling as she dishes out pathos, humor, and intrigue in equal measure... A delicious début to this new series.
A story as delicious as the food she describes... sprinkled with startling insights... soaked with humor, mystery and redemption.
Read an Excerpt
Gone with a Handsomer Man
By Michael Lee West
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Michael Lee West
All rights reserved.
All I ever wanted in life was true love, a set of copper cookware, and the perfect recipe for red velvet cake. The last thing I wanted was to end up on Charleston's six o'clock news, accused of murder and a slew of other crimes.
It started Monday, the first week in June, when I thought I'd gotten the dates wrong for my cake baking class. Numbers don't usually stick in my mind. This one did because it was my twenty-ninth birthday, and my fiancé, Bing Jackson, surprised me with the darlingest gifts — pastry bags, a fifty-three-piece Wilton Supreme Cake Decorating Set, and eight prepaid classes at the Vivienne Beaumont School of Cake Design.
Before we left Bing's house in Mount Pleasant, he opened a bottle of Moët and we toasted our upcoming wedding. Then we drove across the river into downtown Charleston and turned down East Bay Street. He pointed to a redbrick building with a giant neon cupcake sitting on the roof.
"Teeny, this is where you'll be every Thursday from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.," he said. "Classes start June fourth — that's only three days from now."
A lot of women might have gotten suspicious over the exact details, but not me. Bing was all about timing. Thanks to the giant clock inside his head, he'd never been late to a real estate closing or open house. His Rolex was just for show.
"Teenykins, I signed you up for this class because I want you to make our wedding cake," he said. "But I don't want something traditional. How about an eighteen-hole golf course? You can do sand traps and little spun-sugar balls."
"You bet." I threw my arms around his neck. We were getting married in August — only ten weeks to go — and my thoughts were already skipping ahead to the wedding. Maybe I could make the groom's cake, too, something unusual like a giant tee or a Big Bertha driver.
On Thursday night, I put down the top on my beat-up turquoise Oldsmobile and drove from Bing's house across the Cooper River. The school's parking lot was empty and I began to fret. Was I Miss Vivienne's only student, or had I arrived a tad early?
I leaned toward the rearview mirror and combed my windblown hair — it's long and blond, prone to tangles. Normally I didn't drive with the convertible top down, but my air conditioner was broken. I grabbed my cake decorating kit, along with the enrollment packet, and walked to the door. It was locked, and a memo was taped to the glass. Due to circumstances beyond Miss Vivienne's control, classes had been rescheduled and would commence next Thursday.
I walked back to my Olds and drove back to Mount Pleasant. When I passed a grocery on Ben Sawyer Boulevard, I did a U-turn and angled into the parking lot. I came out with an apple walnut salad with raspberry vinaigrette, a wedge of brie, and a cheesecake sampler. Nothing beats fresh, simple food on a sticky hot summer night in Charleston.
It was almost eight o'clock when I turned down Rifle Range Road. The sky curved above me like an oyster shell, ribbed and grainy. Even though it was still daylight, the moon was on the rise, moving through the clouds like a dropped pearl. Long before Mama left for good, she used to say a full moon cleared troublesome matters of the heart, wiped the slate clean, and resolved unfinished business.
My heart wasn't burdened in the least as I sped down the highway. I turned into Jackson Estates, a new subdivision the economy had flattened. Bing owned all thirteen acres, and his green stucco house sat in the rear, surrounded by peach trees and empty lots. A real peaceful setting. But the minute I pulled into the driveway, I knew something was wrong. First, my bulldog, Sir, didn't shoot out of the doggie door to greet me. Second, a white BMW convertible was parked under the mimosa. The license plate read SOSEX-E. Not a good sign. Not at all.
From the backyard I heard laughter, the high, twittery girlish kind. I stayed in my car, trying to get a deep breath, but the air was thick and moist. The last thing I needed was an asthma attack. I grabbed my inhaler and took a puff; then I got out of the car.
Weeds brushed against my legs as I walked around the house. Our badminton net stood in the middle of the backyard. A boom box sat on the patio table, and Muse was singing "Ruled by Secrecy," which isn't about cheating but ought to be. I started to holler for Bing when a naked brunette ran across the grass and swung her badminton racket at the birdie. I ducked behind a peach tree and saw Bing and a tall redhead race toward the net. They were naked, too.
I sucked in air, and it whistled through the thin gap between my front teeth. For weeks now, Bing had been pressuring me to do something kinky, but I had no idea he'd wanted a trifecta. Tears stung my eyes as I looked at the women. They had perky chi-chis, no tan lines, and no cellulite.
Me, I'm a little too short and curvy, with brown eyes and the aforementioned blond hair. When I was a little girl, Mama would get drunk and call me Possum Head. Sometimes she'd get on a roll and point out my major failings: my elbows were too far down, my teeth resembled a picket fence, I was too sweet and gullible, and my hair looked like something that grew in the Okefenokee Swamp. After she'd sober up, she'd hug me and say, "Teeny, nobody's perfect. Besides, you've got a good heart." Now that heart dropped to my navel and tapped a code: run, Teeny. Run.
The redhead grabbed the birdie. She was all legs and hair. Instead of hitting the birdie with her racquet, she giggled and threw it over the net. It was a prissy throw, but the brunette sacked the hell out of it. Bing took off running, his dangly parts swinging.
I'd stood in line at Target to buy that badminton set. Bing had fussed when I'd called the white thing a birdie. He'd told me to call it by its proper name, a shuttlecock. Speaking of which, his privates jiggled violently as his racquet smashed into the birdie. It shot over the brunette's head and thumped into my herb garden.
"You get it," the brunette told the redhead, then she struck a pose — hand on her hip bone, one leg bent at the knee, like she was a contestant in the Miss Tall Gal Pageant. The redhead squatted beside the rosemary bush and glanced around for the birdie. She wasn't a knockout like her friend, but she was graceful.
Bing slipped under the net, his straight blond hair falling into his eyes, and placed the edge of the racquet under Miss Tall's chin. Her head tilted back, and Bing kissed her pouty, bee-stung lips like he'd never kissed me.
I flattened my palms against the warm grass. A tear hit the back of my hand. St. Andrews Episcopal was reserved for our August fifteenth wedding. It wasn't too late to cancel, right? I'd found true love once. I didn't expect to find it again. But I didn't have to settle for this. I could still opt for those copper pans and a good cake.
My bulldog sniffed Miss Tall's leg. She kicked him and Sir yelped. That did it. I wouldn't let this skank abuse an innocent dog. I swallowed back tears. Things weren't perfect between me and Bing, but I had no idea he was a man-whore. There's no canary in the coal mine for cheating men.
The redhead held up the birdie and looked past Bing, straight into my eyes. "Hey, there's a girl watching us," she yelled.
I ducked low as Bing and Miss Tall broke apart. I'm mostly a calm person, but I wanted justice. I could break off a switch and beat their bony asses. But girls like that worked in a team. I'd end up in a body cast.
"This is private property," Bing cried. "Leave now, and I won't call the police."
"You can call Jesus, for all I care," I said.
Sir's head twisted when he heard my voice. I gazed up into the dark branches, each one loaded with unripe fruit. I grabbed a low branch and shimmied up the trunk — not so easy in shorts. My legs would be a scratchy mess.
"Who is she?" asked the redhead. She walked toward the net.
"My fiancée," Bing said.
"I thought it was a dwarf," said Miss Tall.
I couldn't argue with her. I'm barely five foot two. When I was a kid, I was short in a noticeable way. It's how I got my name.
Bing tipped back his head. "Teeny, why are you in a tree?" he hollered up.
"Why are you naked?" I called down.
Sir ran to the tree and barked. I pulled off my engagement ring and threw it at Bing. He jumped back, like I'd hurled a watermelon. That gave me an idea. I grabbed a peach. In a month it would be ripe, but now it was hard and heavy. I reared back and tossed it at Miss Tall. She ducked and it hit Bing's shoulder. "Hey!" he cried. "Cut that out."
"Screw you," I yelled and lobbed another fruit. It smacked against Miss Tall's hip. She screamed and threw her racquet at the tree. I grabbed another peach and aimed it at her mouth, but she ducked again. The fruit hit the boom box; it fell over and the music stopped.
I tossed another and another. One peach smashed the redhead's nose. Her chin snapped back, and blood trickled out of her nostrils, streaming over her lip. Bing stepped in front of her and spread his arms, shielding her.
I fired down two more peaches. One whizzed over Bing's head, but the other slammed into his nether region. He screeched and doubled over. The redhead hung back, crying over her busted nose, but Miss Tall looked ready to fight. I threw peaches as fast as I could. It was like the old days when the pickers' kids and I had fruit fights.
"Dammit, Teeny. Get the hell out of that tree," Bing cried. Though he was still bent into a C, he herded the women to the patio, into the house. Even the dog went. I stayed in the tree until Bing came back. He dared me to move as he put on his clothes.
The police arrived a few minutes later. I started to climb down, but my hair caught on a branch. Bing's entourage came out of the house. The women had gotten dressed. The redhead pressed a bag of frozen brussels sprouts to her nose.
"You're going to jail," she yelled.
"I'm not the criminal," I said.
"This is prespousal abuse," Bing cried. "Nobody hits me."
I didn't get scared until two policemen advanced toward my tree. One was tall with pointy ears and the other had a caterpillar crawling on his lip. Then I saw it was a moustache. The pointy-eared cop ordered me to climb down. While I tried to explain about the naked women and my snagged hair, Bing yelled, "I'll get my chain saw."
He walked toward the garage. "Bing, no," I cried. In my mind, peach trees meant love, shelter, and comfort. I'd grown up on a peach farm in Bonaventure, Georgia. Bing knew how I felt. The engagement was broken, but the tree should stay in one piece.
The mustached cop looked up at me. "Lady, it's against the law to hit people with peaches."
"Too bad I didn't yank them baldheaded," I said.
"This ain't funny," the caterpillared cop yelled.
Bing returned with the chain saw. I was in trouble now. Even though this was Mount Pleasant, I totally expected to get slapped with the death penalty. A mighty buzz filled the air as Bing leaned toward the tree. Bark churned in the air as the blade cut a wide kerf. The trunk cracked and leaned sideways. The cops lowered it to the ground and handcuffed me.
Needless to say, the wedding was off.CHAPTER 2
I'd crossed the Ravenel Bridge a hundred times but never in a police car. The officer booked me at the Charleston County Detention Center. After I was photographed and fingerprinted, I called the only person I knew in this town —Bing's stepmother, Miss Dora.
It was a natural choice. Back in April, she'd hosted our lavish engagement party, but Bing hadn't even thanked her. Despite his antagonism, Miss Dora and I had become friends.
I was bussed to night court with two other women. One had hired a hit man to knock off her boyfriend's wife, and the other had shot ten people with a paint gun at Terri Sue's Klip 'n Kurl after an altercation over hair braiding. My crimes were small in comparison. Surely my case would be dismissed.
The bus turned into the courthouse parking lot. I took a deep breath and gave thanks that I hadn't let Bing talk me into selling the farm. Bonaventure, Georgia, was a three-hour drive from Charleston. In just a little while, I'd be home.
Miss Dora hired Mr. Alvin Bell to represent me. He looked a hundred years old and smelled like gin rickeys. The air between us filled with alcoholic vapors as he explained that I was being charged with assault and vandalism.
"But I didn't vandalize anything," I said.
"You broke a boom box," Mr. Bell said.
"I didn't personally smash it," I said. "I threw something at it."
"Just the same, you destroyed Mr. Jackson's property." Mr. Bell leaned closer. "Are you telling me everything?"
"I might be an accidental vandal, Mr. Bell, but I'm not a liar." This wasn't completely true. In my whole life, I'd managed to keep every commandment except number nine — unless cohabitation with Bing counted as a sin. I'd always been mindful of my lies and kept track of them on a yearly basis, starting with January first. So far, I'd only told a dozen. One more violation and I'd be up to the unluckiest number of all: thirteen.
"How can I be in this much trouble?" I asked Mr. Bell.
"You can throw peaches at a fence, but if you aim them at people or animals, it's criminal assault. I know a case where a girl got jail time for throwing a cat at her boyfriend."
"I had no idea it was this easy to break the law, Mr. Bell," I said.
"That's what keeps me solvent, my dear." He patted my hand. "You can't call people liars. That's defamation. But it's perfectly legal to call them assholes."
"What's going to happen to me?" I whispered.
"Remember, you're innocent until proven guilty. If the complainant doesn't show up, the judge will dismiss the charges."
"Teeny!" cried a voice behind me.
I glanced over my shoulder and waved at Miss Dora. She sat on a bench all by herself in a raspberry linen suit. Her swimmy blue eyes glanced around the courtroom, then she fingered her short, poofy white-blond hair. No one, not even Bing, knew how old she was. She looked to be anywhere from fifty to seventy.
I smiled, then turned around and glanced up at the bench. The judge's black robe had long, crinkled fold lines down the front and a mustard stain on the bib. As the night wore on, his edicts got harsher and harsher. The woman who'd paint-balled the beauticians was slapped with six months unsupervised probation and was ordered to stay away from the shop. The woman who'd tried to kill her boyfriend's wife was carted off to the state hospital for psychiatric evaluation — thirty days involuntary commitment.
Bing and the girls showed up with an attorney, not his own personal lawyer but one who worked for the city. When my case was called, the judge listened to the arresting cops. Then he listened to Bing and the women, who all but said I was a rabid polecat. Finally, Mr. Bell asked me to take the stand so I could tell my side of the story.
My legs shook as I walked to the witness stand, but my voice was strong as I swore to tell the truth. I explained about the canceled cake class, the naked badminton game, and my ninja attack. Then I went back to my seat.
The attorneys argued back and forth, but even to my own ears, I sounded guilty. Apparently Bing had gotten an emergency restraining order. The other attorney claimed I was a flight risk because I'd lived in Charleston County for only a few months.
Mr. Bell called Miss Dora to the stand. She took up for me, but the judge didn't seem impressed. He got a weary look in his eyes and sentenced me to forty-eight hours of community service and six months unsupervised probation. I had to pay a fine and couldn't leave South Carolina until probation ended — exactly six months from today.
"And Miss Templeton," the judge said, "stay away from Mr. Jackson."
The judge called for a recess. The bailiff said, "All rise."
Everyone stood except Miss Dora. She started talking real loud about kangaroo courts and plea bargaining. Her brassy voice always made me think of Ethel Merman songs, motorcycle gangs, pure grain alcohol, and home hair coloring gone wrong. She was an interior designer here in Charleston, but her personality put off a lot of people. Apparently she'd been named after a hurricane that hit the Georgia coast in 1964, and she'd been stirring up trouble ever since.
The judge flashed her a hard stare. Mr. Bell's face turned red. "Dora, you better rise or he'll hold you in contempt."
Excerpted from Gone with a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West. Copyright © 2011 Michael Lee West. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Michael Lee West is the author of six novels, including Crazy Ladies, Mad Girls in Love, American Pie, and She Flew the Coop, as well as a food memoir, Consuming Passions. She lives with her husband on a farm in Lebanon, Tennessee, with three bratty Yorkshire terriers, a Chinese crested, assorted donkeys, chickens, sheep, and African Pygmy goats. Her faithful dog Zap was the inspiration of a character in Mermaids in the Basement.
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Teeny Templeton is a woman who grew up being moved from place to place by a mother who had no idea how to raise her daughter. Teeny is left with her aunt, who was a culinary genius living on a peach farm. Not only did Teeny love her aunt, but she learned so much about the world and passion surrounding food, that cooking became her first love. Teeny knew love once upon a time when she was younger with a man by the name of Cooper, who broke her heart when he went back to his ex-girlfriend. Teeny has moved on from that time in her life, and is now engaged to a man named Bing Jackson. Bing, as a twenty-ninth birthday gift, gives Teeny some pastry bags and paid classes at the Cake Design School in Charleston. Unfortunately, when she arrives at the first class there is a note on the door that says the teacher had to reschedule. Heading back to the house, Teeny gets the surprise of her life when she finds Bing playing badminton on the back lawn.naked.WITH two women who are also naked, and having a great time hitting their shuttlecock back and forth. Teeny can't believe what she's seeing and ends up in a tree hurling hardened non-ripe peaches at the players. Poor Teeny is soon arrested and put on probation for attacking the threesome, and turns to Bing's Aunt Dora - who is a sincere fan of Teeny's and absolutely hysterical. Bing's Aunt Dora (who was named after a hurricane) allows Teeny to live at the Spencer-Jackson House. This old historical relic is quite uncomfortable for Teeny to stay in because Bing is actually the owner of it. Soon, one of the naked badminton players is putting up a 'For Sale' sign on the front lawn, and Teeny has to figure out what to do. She's on probation, so returning to the peach farm of her youth is out of the question. And when she receives a text message from Bing asking her to meet him at the house to "make-up," Teeny is shocked once more when she discovers Bing's dead body on the floor. Teeny is the main suspect and Cooper - remember him? - is now back in her life. Cooper is now a lawyer and, with his help, and his old, crotchety private eye - Red Butler Hill - they must find a way to prove Teeny's innocence and catch the real criminal. There is nothing that can be said about this book except.absolutely hysterical! This debut novelist has done a fantastic job from her plot to her unforgettable characters, and dialogue that will have readers laughing until it hurts. Quill Says: Fantastic Story! Hopefully this is one author who's working on a sequel as we speak!
I read cozies and thrillers and had never heard of a southern author named Michael Lee West. So glad I bought this joyride novel about a Charleston baker who's cake baking class leads to murder. West's dark comedy and dimensional characters kept me captivated and glued to the page. The fresh writing is outstanding in itself and makes this book stand out. The characters are equally outstanding. The book is fast paced, filled with twists and turns, and is never once over the top. The plot kept me guessing to the last page. Like all great mysteries, it has a hook ending that has me panting for another book.
In Charleston, South Carolina, wannabe pastry chef Teeny Templeton is excited about marrying Bing Jackson and making the perfect red velvet cake. However, her euphoria ends abruptly when she sees an excited Bing playing badminton with two pretty ladies without one stich of clothing on any of them. Irate, Teeny plays dodge ball with the naked threesome by throwing unripe peaches at their butts. She is charged with assault and receives probation. Additionally a restraining order is processed to keep her away from Bing and his women. A few days after being legally warned to stay away from her ex fiancé, Teeny finds Bing dead. Obviously, the prime (and only) suspect as pointed out by the local news, Teeny distrusts the police (and the media) to search elsewhere for the killer so she applies the Templeton Tradition of creating recipes to solving the murder. This entertaining regional culinary amateur sleuth mystery with a pinch of romance is a delightful tale due to the strong cast starting with Teeny. The secondary characters are fully developed as Michael Lee West provides a super Southern whodunit enhanced by the refreshing Templeton Tradition. Harriet Klausner
Initially, I liked the book, but after a while it just bogged down and started to bore me. I felt impatient with the characters and lost interest. I also wondered how someone could bake 24 cakes in a night and turn around and bake another 12 the next night. That's about as exciting as it got.
I couldn't put this book down and found myself laughing out loud a number of times. However, I was a little dissapointed with how the book ends. What happened to Bing's sister and is there going to be a second book?
I love Micahel Lee West's books but not this one. It was incredibly boring. And the last line was just a set up for a sequel. It had nothing to do with the storyline. Hot for me.
Fun read, but the last line of the book leaves me dissapointed in the author. There are bettter ways to end with the reader looking forward a sequal than this! Before thr last line, the book is a 5 star!
At first this book was hard to get into, but a few chapters in it started getting good. I liked that the ending wasn't predictable and the main character wasn't a pushover.
I loved this book! Michael Lee West writes a southern cozy mystery with a poetic cadence that is mesmerizing, putting the reader smack dab into her southern world with an authenticity and lyrical beauty that, to me, is pure genius. The dialogue, setting, narration, and characters are all wonderfully, genuinely southern, but it's her way of describing things in a poetic fashion that makes me in awe of Michael Lee West's writing ability. I loved the humor, the drama, the mystery, the southernness, and the romance in this book. I am now addicted to Ms. West's work and would appreciate it if she could write faster! I highly recommend this series.
A page turner! Interesting plot line with twists and turns. Very entertaining! I couldn't put it down.
Fun read, lovable characters, funny, twists and turns, Recommended if you want to read something that makes you smile.
I want to read all of these books!
Can't wait to read the next one!
Characters don't behave like most normal people would. Plot fairly predictable. Obviously a set-up for subsequent books.
I loved the way the characters drew you into their lives. I found I wanted to know as much about their everyday lives as what they were thinking of their fellow towns people. I also like how the history of their ancestors played an important part in the decisions they had to make today. I would definitely read another book by this author. I don't think the title fit the story line very well, though.
I stopped reading this because the writing was poor and the story not interesting.