All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes

by Betsy St. Amant

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Overview

Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more.

Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single.

But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York.

As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away.

The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310338451
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her young daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing. Visit her website at www.betsystamant.com Facebook: BetsySt.Amant Twitter: @betsystamant.

Read an Excerpt

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes


By Betsy St. Amant

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2014 Betsy St. Amant
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33845-1


CHAPTER 1

There was more to life than vanilla buttercream. Or at least, Kat Varland used to believe so.

Once upon a time, she created magic with flour and sugar and eggs. With cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla. Every measured cup was instinct, every whisked ingredient inspiration. Baking held promise, potential. Power.

Now she could make the simple cupcakes filling the Sweetie Pies shop display in her sleep—in fact, one morning after she'd been up late experimenting with new recipes, she very nearly had. But Sweetie Pies had a reputation, and the owner, her aunt Maggie Mayfield, kept that even more sparkling than the tiny sugar crystals adorning the otherwise plain desserts. Fancy didn't have a home at Sweetie Pies, and neither did gourmet. Or, as Aunt Maggie usually put it, weird.

The display lights caught the clear sprinkles and the miniature cakes seemed to wink, as if knowing Kat could do so much more. Or maybe they were just begging her to try. Who was satisfied with a vanilla identity, anyway?

She wasn't.

The door to the shop swung open, letting in a burst of crisp autumn air. Kat straightened on instinct, like a child caught daydreaming in school. The bell on the knob tinkled as a smattering of crimson leaves followed Aunt Maggie inside, skittering across the black-and-white checkerboard floor. Little did they know they'd be swept out within the hour—or else.

"I'm back, finally." Her aunt attempted a smile as she bustled behind the counter to join Kat, but the lines around her eyes appeared to be etched deeper than usual, sabotaging her effort. "Tuesday afternoon already. Did I miss anything Saturday? My, but I hate being sick." She tied her trademark white ruffled apron around her round waist, but it didn't fit nearly as snugly as it used to. She glanced around the spotless work area. "Where's Amy?" Then she must have caught sight of the leaves in her peripheral vision, because she frowned and marched toward the storage room door before Kat could catch up—figuratively or literally.

"Amy left early to study for her test since business was a little slow." Not that it was ever technically busy, but at least having Amy's part-time, high school help allowed Kat some days off and picked up the slack when Maggie was sick. Which was more and more frequent these days.

Kat sidestepped to make it to the storage room first, unwilling to let her aunt, who clearly didn't feel much better than she had last weekend, do more labor than necessary. Maggie was her mom's much older sister in the first place, and now that she'd been sick so often, Kat wanted to protect her strength even more than usual.

"I'll handle the leaves, Aunt Maggie."

Her aunt didn't argue, which proved how poorly she must still be feeling. Once again, Kat fought a burst of guilt from her internal, ongoing frustration over her aunt's baking restrictions. Maggie owned the shop—not Kat. It was her choice what products they sold, and if Maggie liked vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate, then vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate it was.

Even if Kat had just perfected a raspberry lemonade torte recipe that could very likely bring world peace.

She grabbed the broom and began to sweep the leaves back to their rightful place outside as Maggie opened the register and riffled through receipts. "Don't worry, you didn't miss much Saturday. We had the usual stream of customers, is all."

Kat could predict them like clockwork. Right on schedule, Heidi Mann had shown up for the single chocolate cupcake she routinely bought each Saturday as a reward for making it through another week of teaching preschoolers. And then there was the group of stay-at-home moms, including Kat's friend, Rachel Cole. As usual, they wanted to distract their husbands with chocolate cupcakes so they wouldn't notice the piles of laundry they hadn't been able to get to all week. There was Mrs. Lucille, Kat's father's secretary at the Bayou Bend Church of Grace where he pastored, who needed her weekend indulgence. And of course, Kat's best friend, Coach Lucas Brannen, with his standing order of two dozen strawberry cupcakes for his high school football team's weekend practice. If Kat had been given free cupcakes every weekend in high school, she might have gone out for a team too.

Most of the other Bayou Bend regulars seemed to suddenly realize the shop would be closed for two days and had to rush in for their favorites before they missed their chance.

But Kat knew the business could be so much more than what appealed to the regulars. She had so many ideas for marketing that got lost in the oppressing aura of routine at Sweetie Pies. Ideas that could expand Maggie's business, allow Kat to bake the recipes of her heart, draw in customers from surrounding counties—the works.

But not with strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla.

Kat lowered her voice, nearly muttering to herself. "Nope. Didn't miss much at all." She swept harder, as if attempting to scrub the black off the black tiles. As if effort and hard work made a difference. As if one could create color from darkness.

"That's nice, hon." Maggie didn't seem to be listening anymore, immersed in the contents of the register from that day's sales. But Kat knew she didn't really care about profits. As long as she kept her shop in beloved Bayou Bend, Louisiana, and made enough to cover her bills, Maggie was content. No, she probably just didn't want to think about the doctor's appointment she'd had that morning, and if she wasn't telling, Kat wasn't asking.

She'd learned two things since coming to bake for her aunt almost five years ago. One—less is more, unless sugar is involved, and then you should be exact. And two—privacy equals respect. If you don't allow someone their privacy, you don't respect them.

That perhaps explained why Kat was twenty-six years old and still in the exact same spot in life since graduating college with her bachelor's degree in Business. No one asked her what she wanted.

Her ex-boyfriend, Chase, surely hadn't asked when he suddenly decided he preferred blondes.

But that was a lifetime ago.

She worked a rhythm with the broom, watching the leaves swirl back into the late afternoon sun, wishing she could capture their exact color in her piping bag. She could make an autumn harvest cupcake, maybe apple and cinnamon with an apricot icing and a sugared date on top, or a caramel apple cupcake with generous dustings of brown sugar and—

"Hey, watch out!"

The warning came a split second before she swept straight into a jean-clad leg. The stick of the broom bounced off the victim's shin, and bristles coated the unsuspecting navy-and-gray athletic shoes with clods of dirt and dust. Very familiar athletic shoes. She couldn't hide her smile as she lifted her gaze to meet Lucas's. "Hey, your shoes are dirty."

"I guess that's what I get for keeping the boys late at practice." His eyes, the color of the cocoa she mixed into the chocolate cake batter every morning, warmed, and she knew he didn't really care. Lucas wore those shoes to every team practice, and they'd long since seen better days. His gaze darted over her head toward her aunt, and he leaned in and lowered his voice. "Do you have any of the good stuff in the shop today?"

A red flush heated Kat's neck, and she pretended to smack him with the broom. "Hush. My aunt will hear you."

"Good. Then maybe she'll realize there are some people in Bayou Bend who enjoy weird cupcakes." He winked, his broad shoulders filling the door frame of the shop.

"Not weird. Gourmet." The retort flew off her lips before she could process that he was teasing. How many times had she held that reply in around her aunt, wishing she could just speak her heart?

She glanced over her shoulder, but Aunt Maggie must have gone into the kitchen. Come to think of it, Kat probably did have some rejected recipes in her file at home that could only be defined as weird. But how did you know unless you tried? That was the best part of baking—getting to experiment and figure it out as you went. If it didn't work, you just poured out the batter and started over.

There was always a second chance.

Lucas must have taken her sudden silence for insult. "I'm teasing, Kat. I would never speak ill of Maggie. The town loves her."

Rightly so. She was a wonderful woman—just not a visionary. "I know. She's ... vanilla. A staple. Classic." Sort of like everyone else in her family in Bayou Bend. Between her father's pastoring, her mother's committee heading, her aunt's cupcake shop, and her younger sister's pageant wins, Kat was the only expendable one in the family.

Figured her family, who had options, didn't even want out of Bayou Bend, while she remained stuck. Permanently.

"Nice observation." Lucas crossed his arms over his chest, the sleeves of his dark gray T-shirt pulling across his biceps as he studied her. He leaned against the door frame. "So what flavor are you?"

Her breath hitched in her throat as she met his steady gaze. She knew right away what Lucas's flavor would be—dark chocolate with cherry ganache filling. A deep, bittersweet taste that lingered long after it was gone.

But no—she didn't know her own.

She drew a tight breath, eager to break the unintentionally heavy turn of the conversation. "Hey, I'm so busy baking for you on the side ... I don't have time for taste tests."

Lucas might be her best friend, but he didn't need her dumping her self-analyzing psychobabble on him. After all, he came for cupcakes. She should save the rest of her drama for Rachel. Somehow, even while knee-deep in PTA forms and stacks of baby onesies to monogram, her friend always found the right thing to say when Lucas couldn't.

Or when the topic was about Lucas, which had been happening way more than it should lately.

Kat gestured with the broom inside the shop, ignoring how sweaty her palms suddenly felt against the handle. "You coming in, or are you just going to stand here and let more leaves inside?"

Lucas stepped fully inside the shop and the door swung shut. "Actually, the guys were especially hungry Saturday, so I didn't get my strawberry cupcake then. Going to need a replacement."

"You should have told me. I'd have snuck you one at church on Sunday." It wouldn't be the first time she'd passed him a bag of homemade treats after the morning welcome or in the parking lot. Lucas was a great sport about tasting her experiments. Only once in the two years she'd started daring to bake her own recipes had he spit one back into his hand.

Apparently licorice and Greek olives didn't go together after all.

"I should have. I think I was still in denial that I'm this addicted." Lucas rubbed his jaw, his five o'clock shadow scratching under his fingers. His eyes roved over the display behind her, though Kat wasn't sure what he was expecting to see. It hadn't changed in the decades since her aunt had opened Sweetie Pies. "Too bad you don't have any of those raspberry things you made me try last week. That one had medicinal qualities—should be a prescription for a bad day."

"You're corny." She swatted at him, but the compliment attempted to fill the nooks and crannies inside—the hollow spots that still whispered fear into her heart. At least if nothing else, she knew Lucas loved her creations—all of them, exactly for what they were. Not only the simple cupcakes filling the racks inside Sweetie Pies, but the ones she baked from her heart. Of Lucas, she was certain.

It was the rest of the town that had her guessing.

"Not corny. Cheesy." Lucas grinned, then his expression sobered. "Seriously, Kat, my mission is to make you less humble. You're good."

She clutched the broom like a life preserver, simultaneously wishing his words didn't carry so much weight and wishing he would keep speaking them forever. "Good, huh?" She swallowed, her throat dry. She wanted to think so. But she wanted so much more than good. She wanted great.

She wanted to be seen.

"Very good. You just need to believe it already."

He reached out and ruffled her hair, and the feeling of fullness leaked away at the brotherly gesture. The best friend line blurred more often than she cared to admit, but Lucas was good about yanking her back from the edge of that particular precipice when she veered too close. Even if it stung—and even if he was unaware how often she teetered.

Hopefully, he'd stay that way.

She moved to put the counter between them, pausing to lean the broom against the far corner of the wall. Under the framed photo of her sister, Stella, from last year's win, tiara perched snugly atop a mass of perfect curls. Blonde curls.

But Chase wasn't Stella's fault.

No, putting all her hopes and dreams into a very flawed man was completely her own fault—though maybe she wouldn't have done so if she'd imagined she'd ever have a chance of more than a friendship with Lucas.

With a resigned breath, she took her place behind the cupcake counter. "So what'll it be?" She tugged on a clear glove and let her hand hover above the trays of desserts. "Oh, strawberry, right?"

She knew what she'd choose.

But dark chocolate cupcakes with cherry ganache filling were definitely not on the menu.


* * *

For someone used to calling plays for a living, he sure was seeing a lot of penalty flags.

He'd actually ruffled her hair. Good grief, it was a shock he hadn't gone ahead and slapped her on the shoulder or called her "buddy." Lucas wrinkled the white pastry bag in his hand and tried to keep his expression neutral as he waited for Kat to close out the register so he could walk her home. He'd apparently spent way too much time on the field with his football players and not enough time dating.

Though he certainly spent more time than he should imagining what it'd be like dating Kat.

Talented, beautiful, completely oblivious Kat.

Lucas pulled his cupcake from the bag and took a bite, less from impatience and more from needing to mask the flood of embarrassment over his fumble. He'd just placed a bid on Roger Johnson's old farmhouse on Highway 169 and the accompanying ten acres of land—land he pictured strolling with Kat. Curling up under the live oak that spread its massive limbs halfway to heaven and back. Tossing a football to their children over the wheat-colored fields every autumn. Maybe planting their own pumpkin patch.

He wasn't going to see his dream come true by ruffling a woman's hair. Kat Varland needed a hero, and heroes didn't act like immature high school boys every time they came around. What was wrong with him?

He couldn't help watching her work behind the counter. Hmm. Maybe he was addicted to more than the cupcakes.

"All done." She shut the register drawer with a solid click, reminding Lucas it was time to stop staring at those shiny brown strands of hair still tousled from his idiocy. "Let me just check on Aunt Maggie and see if she wants me to take the deposit tonight or if it's okay to wait until tomorrow." She disappeared into the back, where Maggie's office was tucked off the corner of the small but efficient industrial kitchen.

As the swinging door shut behind her, Lucas dropped the uneaten half of his cupcake back into its sack and folded the bag closed. The strawberry cakes were great, but man, Kat could do better. Did better, in fact, every time she went home, put her hair up, and baked to a background of Sinatra. How many times had he watched her do just that over the years, while he sat on the walnut bar stool and offered suggestions, prompting her to take it to another level?

Somewhere along the way, one batch of cupcakes along the way, he'd tripped right over the label of Best Friends they'd worn the majority of their teen years and landed upside down on the field of Love.

And suddenly, he had zero plays to call.

"Ready?" She pushed back into the front of the shop, shouldering the strap of her oversize turquoise bag. He'd teased her last year about the size of her previous purple one until she bought the bigger turquoise just on principle. He wisely kept his mouth shut after that, in case he pushed her into toting around an actual suitcase for a purse. He knew when to prod and when to shut up, when to encourage her to take it one step further and when to dial it back. No one knew Kat better than him.

Some days he wondered if he knew her better than she did.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant. Copyright © 2014 Betsy St. Amant. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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.

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All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A mix of small town business and life with Hollywood and it was so great!  Kat works at her aunt's small bakery in Louisiana and has been living under her thumb with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry as her only options.  Her long time best friend Lucas is still in their small town and she may have started seeing him in a new light a more than best friend light. I loved seeing a small town girl thrust into the Hollywood life and still trying to keep her values through it all.  I also adored the budding relationship between Lucas and Kat and seeing the ups and downs from both sides as they both told their view of the story.  (Although there was a little too much miscommunication for my liking!)  As always, I love the behind the scenes of Hollywood and this one was even better with a Food Network competition show!
Abby1219 More than 1 year ago
Love love and love!! Sometimes the dreams that we thought we always wanted come in a different form and a different direction that we never saw coming, but sometimes that 's what makes them even sweeter. God is full of surprises and loves to take our breath away, because once all the puzzle pieces come together it is so obvious that He knew what was best for us all along!
Sherri_Hunter More than 1 year ago
Kat Varland and Lucas Brannen are best friends and have secretly been in love with each other for a long time. Kat works in her Aunt’s bakery, but longs to branch out on her own. Lucas is the high-school football coach who wants to plant roots in Bayou Bend with Kat at his side. Lucas signs Kat up for a televised cupcake competition as a gesture of his feelings for her, not realizing that an opportunity for Kat to realize her dream may mean the destruction of his. Unlike most romance novels where the protagonists meet, get to know one another and then fall in love, Kat and Lucas have known each other for most of their lives and are already in love with each other, but have not shared their feelings with the other. On many levels, I found this to be very frustrating because the lack of communication creates the “big misunderstanding” plot that I completely loathe. Fortunately, the author uses this plot device to build on the frustration Kat and Lucas are feeling, drawing their uncertainties and insecurities into the light, which really worked for me. I enjoy meeting characters that I can bond with and feel a deep connection to. Kat and Lucas come across as regular people trying to live good Christian lives while pursuing their dreams. They are both stubborn, trying to control the direction of their lives instead of putting it in God’s hands from the beginning. I thought Lucas signing Kat up for the cupcake competition was a little controlling at first, but enjoyed seeing his frustration when his plan didn’t play out the way he anticipated. It was a sweet gesture and he is full of sweet gestures throughout the entire story, but struggles with his feelings and his reluctance to tell Kat how he feels. Kat is very insecure about her ability to make her dream of running a cupcake business a reality. She feels trapped in her tiny hometown and without any support from her family feels isolated. Lucas is her best friend and the only person who believes in her. She is reluctant to tell Lucas how she really feels about him because she is afraid he will reject her and she will lose her best friend. Though she is initially angry and terrified of competing on the reality TV show, I enjoyed seeing Kat transform into someone who begins to believe in herself and her abilities. My Final Verdict: An enjoyable story of two people struggling to maintain control of their lives and their struggle to make their dreams a reality. I recommend All’s Fair In Love And Cupcakes for fans of the chick-lit, contemporary romance and inspirational romance genres as well as anyone who enjoys a sweet story that will make you smile and cheer on these characters to their happy ending.
Shanrock19 More than 1 year ago
This was sweet and heart warming, and I liked both of the main characters. It did tend to move slowly though, and it's very tame; which I didn't mind too much because it's nice to read a book every once in a while that is wholesome. I enjoyed the whole baking aspect, and the chemistry between Kat and Lucas was cute, but I definitely agree with Kat that Lucas needed to man up; it was becoming a bit ridiculous that these 2 characters wouldn't just talk to each other. I also wanted more from the ending; it was very abrupt, and didn't quite satisfy me. I felt like it needed a lot more; I almost gave it a 3 stars because of this, but in the end I chose 4 stars because the book was a good read, and I enjoyed the characters. All in All this was a quick read with characters who show good moral character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SarahWeaver More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I've read by this author and I sincerely enjoyed it.  I even laughed out loud in several places while reading and I love when a story causes me to do that.  Both Kat and Lucas were very likable characters and had you cheering them on from the very beginning.  I would have given the book 5 stars but I found the inner dialogue both Kat and Lucas had became very tiresome as they seemed to doubt everything all the time for most of the book.  It would have been nice to see both of them lighten up (especially regarding themselves) a few pages sooner than they did.  Overall and good and fun read with a "feel good" vibe.
JCMorrows More than 1 year ago
I can hardly wait to see what Betsy writes next... I really wanted to read and review this book much earlier but it didn’t work out as I had hoped so it was doubly a blessing to be given a second chance to read and review the book! THANK YOU BookLook Bloggers! What a great story idea! I LOVE reading about bakeries and there have been so many wonderful books and stories written about the sweet romances that happen in or because of yummy treats lately! Betsy St. Amant has joined the ranks of these writers… and with a fun twist to boot! They say there are no new stories but this one is definitely not one that sounds like a lot of others I’ve read. What a great idea! What a great concept! What a great story! And what better way for a man to see how much his best friend means to him – than to realize he is about to lose her… I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Need i say more? should have warning from dentists about over sugaring
Fitzysmom More than 1 year ago
Kat Varland is a small town girl with big city dreams. She loves her Aunt Maggie and doesn't mind working for her at Sweetie Pies, but her desire to branch out is strong. Her family doesn't seem to understand this and tends to stifle her at every turn. The one person in her life that encourages her love of all things cupcake is Lucas Brannen. Kat and Lucas have been good friends forever. But recently they both are beginning to want just a little bit more. How in the world are they going to communicate that without risking what they currently have? Without Kat's knowledge Lucas enters her in a reality TV show called Cupcake Wars. Surely that will communicate to Kat how much Lucas loves her. But making it to the final episode is anything but sweet. All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is an endearing tale of friendship turning to love. Both Kat and Lucas want a deeper relationship but are too scared to risk letting the other know. It is a story of sacrificially giving of yourself in order to better the lives of those you love. The story is at times funny and also heartbreaking.  I enjoyed an afternoon of reading this lighthearted story of love and friendship. It includes a delicious recipe for Kat's specialty cupcake and a Reading Group Guide. If you are involved in a book club and looking for something on the lighter side this would be perfect. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's too bad the last reviewer only knew how to copy the plot and ruin the book for those who haven't read it.
gromine49 More than 1 year ago
When I read the word "cupcakes" in the title that was enough for me. I LOVED this book! I hope there is more from this author, because this story described so beautifully the desire of Kat who wants to do more with her life besides stay in her hometown and bake plain cupcakes for her Aunt Maggie's bakery. After work, she goes home where her best friend, Lucas, meets her and she asks for different ideas for fanciful cupcakes.  It was so lovely to see the push and pull of the two characters where they wanted to tell the other person how they felt and what they wanted in the future. Wonderfully written.
CaraPutman More than 1 year ago
Isn't the cover perfect? How could I not read the book -- though if the cupcake had come with it, it would have been even better! This is a story of finding your way and coming into your own. Of growing out of the shadows of those around you and learning what you truly want. It's of stretching wings and coming home. Of letting go and discovering who you truly are.  All of this in a story filled with cupcakes, reality TV, and a high school football game. Small town America and big city lights. It's a story that will keep you coming back to participate in two people discovering how their dreams cam merge as they both become willing to give them up for the other.  Occasionally you might want to yell to Kat and Lucas to just sit down and talk. But at the same time, it's easy to understand why they can't, don't and won't.  I really enjoyed this story and hope the characters reappear in a future book. Highly recommend it for those who love a sweet story with surprising depth. 
Wanda_Barefoot More than 1 year ago
"Somewhere along the way, one batch of cupcakes along the way, he'd tripped right over the label of Best Friends they'd worn the majority of their teen years and landed upside down on the field of Love." I loved so much about this book. I could really relate to Kat Varland. She loved baking outside of the box, making new cupcake creations of the gourmet variety. Her Aunt's bakery, "Sweet Pies", is Kat's only public outlet for her creativity. Unfortunately, her Aunt Maggie only believes in strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Kat has a talent that's far-reaching but she has a problem believing she has what it takes. She is her own worst critic and, in that, I can relate. I loved Kat. Her sweet personality and the constant war she waged within herself made her a very lovable character. I have to say that Lucas Brannen is one of those perfect heroes in a story that you fall in love with just a little. You don't mean to but you just can't help it. He was a good guy. He had loved Kat for years, unknowingly to her, and he was her biggest cheerleader. He pushed her to do things she would never have done otherwise and helped her celebrate her successes. Lucas is my kind of leading man. I really love this book all the way around. The storyline is engaging and the characters are the kind you want to revisit. It has enough character to stretch for miles--the small town feel of Bayou Bend, Aunt Maggie's little bakery and the string of loyal, regular customers that are dedicated to her "plain" cupcakes, Kat's father being a pastor and her sister competing in beauty pageants, Lucas the football coach at the local high school. Every body knows everybody in Bayou Bend. I fell in love with the town and it's amazing characters because that's my kind of place. I love the easy romance between Kat and Lucas. They have been best friends since their school days so they are relaxed around each other even though both are feelings things the other knows nothing about. You could feel the chemistry and it made for an explosive combination. It's also the perfect blend of light-hearted and serious. It has a fun and flirty edge but Kat deals with some deep rooted personal issues as well. The icing on the cake (no pun intended) is the Christianity lightly woven into the mix. It's in no way over done but a very light sprinkling all throughout the pages (like the sprinkles on a cupcake!) so that you know it's there but you don't feel overwhelmed by it. And, I think, that makes a perfect story! I have never read a book by Betsy St. Amant and, after reading All is a Fair in LOVE and Cupcakes, I feel I have been missing out. Her talent for writing pours out each time you turn a page because she weaves the perfect story like only a handful of other authors I am crazy about. She is definitely on my list of "Must Read" authors and I am looking forward to her next book! If you love contemporary romance with a little "zing", you'll love All is Fair in LOVE and Cupcakes! It's a five star PLUS read for me and I recommend it very highly! Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my honest opinion and no monetary compensation was received.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Betsy St. Amant in her new book, “All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes” published by Zondervan brings us into the life of Kat Varland. From the back cover:  Kat inspected rows of the same old cupcakes. They seemed to blink back at her, as if they knew she was capable of so much more. Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. At twenty-six years old, Kat is still living in the shadows of her family in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single. But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York. As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away. The bright lights of reality cooking wars and the chance at a successful career dazzle Kat’s senses and Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana. Cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes with that kind of content you know this book is going to be good. What do you do when you have lots of talent, a business degree and live in a small town? You dream of escaping, naturally. Kat is given a chance by her best friend, Lucas, who secretly loves her and wants to tell her, to go on TV in a cupcake competition. However if she wins he may lose her forever. Ms. St. Amant has given us two characters Kat and Lucas who fill up the pages against a swirl of activities. The book is all about them and their relationship and how Lucas wants to change and improve it. It is all about the romance or lack of it that fills this book. Ms. St. Amant has a way of making the characters lives very real so that we feel that we are living the moments with them. We feel that we know these people. We enjoy spending our time with them. We root for them to win. And when the book is over and we cannot spend time with them anymore we mourn. The good news is that at the back of the book is a recipe for Kat’s Raspberry Lemonade Torte Cupcakes. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
itsraymarie More than 1 year ago
Anything with cupcakes, I'm in. I was originally drawn in by the super-cute cover, but the premise and promise of cupcakes sealed the deal. This was the cutest, fluffy little chick-lit, perfect for making you smile and laugh. Kat is working in her aunt's bakery, where only three flavors are ever allowed--chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Kat has a gift for baking cupcakes and coming up with new gourmet recipes, but with no one in her family who actually believes in her abilities, it looks like she'll be stuck in her small-town forever. That is, until her life-long best friend, Lucas, signs her up to appear on a popular cupcake bake-off TV show…and she gets chosen. Lucas and Kat head off to LA, but at the same time, both are fighting feelings for each other.  There was a lot of romantic angst in this one. While I normally am not a fan, it definitely made for an interesting read. There were so many times when I just wanted to yell at Kat and Lucas to just TALK to each other. My goodness. But except for a few frustrating parts, I liked how their relationship evolved...at least until the end. At first, it wasn't too rushed or insta-lovey, but then, out of nowhere at the end, there's a ring and what? I realize that when you've known each other as long as they have, it might be different, but still. That part seemed forced and rushed and I wasn't too sure about it. I also enjoyed the cooking show aspect of this. I feel like it was portrayed realistically and allowed us to see a glimpse inside what goes on during one of these. I would have liked a bit more for the other contestants, as only Piper had a real big part. Tonya and Tameka (??) were great in the few lines they had, and it made me want to see more from them.  As for the plot line, I really enjoyed the way this played out. I think there was enough conflict and resolution, and I was happy with the way everything was resolved.  All in all, this was a really cute, fun story. I loved it and the characters and, of course, the cupcakes. It's definitely a light, fluffy story, but something that will make you laugh and smile.
Theophilusfamily More than 1 year ago
  When I saw that this was a story about a baker and a cooking contest, I knew my sister would want to read it. (She loves cooking, and I love eating her creations. Her latest was a dark chocolate cake with a raspberry compote on top of it, and it was the perfect marrying of flavors.) So consider this a two-perspective review from both of us. Kat is a baker, and she loves the craft with a passion. It  is her one and only interest, and at times she wonders if that makes her weird. Can you build your whole life around baking? Kat wants to believe she can. Especially because she works hard to be extraordinary. She balances "order and creativity," and the results make you glad to have tastebuds. But personally, Kat feels stuck. She needs something more... she needs a specific platform for her work, beyond her Aunt's bakeshop. She needs new people and new challenges and a horizon to aim for. And what's a best friend for except to launch you toward your dreams? Enter Lucas, Kat's best friend. And his plan to help Kat involves Cupcake Combat. Picture one baker with big dreams leaving her smallish town and heading for an LA Tv studio. See her coming out of her shell and surprising her whole family. "Kat, Miss Predictable, about to participate in a Food Network show?!" And as her assistant, picture Lucas. A man who takes himself far too serious. A man who has a good heart.... but no kitchen intuition. Combat indeed. Did somebody mention Love and War? This book is one comedy/fiasco after another, all with a layer of bantering-friendship-turning-into-something-more on top. Lucas and Kat may be dear friends, but that doesn't mean they know how to navigate romance! This is a Rom-Com with all the tension of friends falling in love, cooking triumphs and disasters, and a woman trying to chase her dreams. Sometimes it's dramatic, sometimes it's tender... but it's always a delight to read.  Thank you Litfuse for our copy of All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes!
iblog4books More than 1 year ago
What a fun book! I mean, what's not to love about reality TV, cupcakes, and romance?! All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is a light-hearted read with plenty of funny moments. At times, I was ready for the characters to just talk already! But that tension helped keep me interested in what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between the other contestants as well. It really helped give another dimension to the story. I was a smidge sad at how quickly the book wrapped up, but I'm looking forward to reading more about Lucas and Kat in Betsy's next book, which features Kat's sister. Readers who enjoy fun romantic stories should definitely check out this book! [4 stars] I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.
ahlewis32 More than 1 year ago
Betsy St. Amant gives us a sweet romance between two small town friends that takes them their Louisiana hometown to Hollywood and back home again. Kat and Lucas are typical of young lovers, unsure where to start or how far to go; their friendship has meant everything to them up until now. But like many relationships, the heat that underlies the friendship takes root and both parties must decide whether to act on their feelings or let them slide. The characters of Lucas and Kat are well-developed and established within the plot and the secondary characters add much to the story. I especially enjoyed Lucas’ best friend Darren’s use of Bible scriptures as a means to push his friend to act on his attraction to Kat. It was a technique I’d not seen in a mainstream romance novel before. The book’s tie in with religion and Christianity is refreshing to read, constituting a complete change of pace from the books I’ve read recently and those I write myself. The references to prayer and the Bible are subtle and work well with the storyline. Readers who do not normally read books with a religious influence will not find the references overpowering, they simply fit into the characters lifestyle. The whole concept works and works well. There’s no sex in ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND CUPCAKES but not for lack of trying on the characters parts. Their lives in the story are simply too busy and hectic and their respect for each other too deep since they start the book as friends and end as lovers; another refreshing change. If you are looking for a sweet book with more story than heat, ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE AND CUPCAKES is for you. It’s a great change of pace that will lift the spirits and imbue hope.
lmbartelt More than 1 year ago
Once a faithful fan of Food Network shows, I'm in a bit of a drought. I got a little burnt out on the drama. Or maybe I just needed a break. Lucky for me, though, there are novels that take the idea of cooking competitions and give you a backstage look at the people participating. All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is one such book. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for my review.) The book's author, Betsy St. Amant, is a woman I've heard a lot about from other authors of her genre, and her writing is just as fun and witty and romantic as the hype. All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is a sweet (ha ha!) story of two friends, Kat Varland and Lucas Brennan, who have so much more between them than friendship but who are afraid to risk losing what they have for finding something more. Kat dreams of opening her own bakery. Meanwhile, she's stuck working at her aunt's bakery making the same cupcakes day after day: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. Kat likes to experiment with flavors, and it seems her baking is riskier than her life. Her best friend Lucas is the high school football coach and a willing participant in Kat's baking escapades. Because he believes in her abilities, Lucas signs Kat up for a spot on a cupcake competition reality show. When she wins a spot on the show, Kat convinces Lucas to come with her to Los Angeles. And the baking isn't the only thing that heats up. As their feelings for each other deepen and blossom, each of them must decide what it is they really want from life, and they're each faced with a decision about their dreams. I loved this story. Maybe because I like to cook and bake with my husband. Maybe because we were friends before we were more. Maybe because it was just a good story about love and sacrifice and dreams. I'm adding Betsy St. Amant to my list of must-read authors. And I've got another foodie favorite novel to add to my growing list.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
She had to win this competition. Kat really had to lose this competition! When you are looking for an exceptional contemporary romance between two best friends, who believe they have what it takes to make the perfect romance aside from actually telling the other how they really feel, you have the recipe for an incredibly delicious summer romance in All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes from Betsy St. Amant. Kat Varland has always dreamed of something more, something beyond the reach of simply baking strawberry, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes for her Aunt Maggie at Sweetie Pies, the local cupcake shoppe in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. But Aunt Maggie isn't ready for what she considers Kat's "weird" creations and insist she knows what's best. So Kat is sidelined until she can whip up a way to leave this small town life behind. But she is her own worst enemy. Perhaps that is due in part, to her parents who simply believe she is wasting her talents baking cupcakes for a living. Or the love she lost when her boyfriend Chase decided her sister might be the sweeter of the two sisters to possibly settle down with, leaving Kat in more doubt than ever before. Good thing, she has a real life coach in her best friend Lucas Brannen, who coaches high school football and dreams of the day when he can finally let his true feelings for Kat come to the surface and actually act on them. But what she needs now more than love, is a true confidence boost and lucky for her, he has just the thing in mind. He has secretly signed her up for Cupcake Combat, a reality cupcake bake off show from Food Network. He hopes that once they contact Kat, she'll finally realize that those delightful creations she has been making in her own kitchen are worthy of so much more. "You did what?" Perhaps that wasn't the answer he was expecting from Kat when her email announced that she had made it to the show which begins in just two weeks in Los Angeles. But he does manage to convince her that his intentions were more than honorable. A way to show her that he truly believes that she has the talent to follow her dreams anywhere. He just is half hoping that she won't win. Kat has told him that the grand prize for the winner is a year's internship at Bloom, one of the largest bakeries in New York, just what she needs to finally get out of this small town. And she has just the right person in mind for the assistant she is allowed to bring. Won't Lucas look amazing in an apron on national T.V.? I received All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant compliments of Litfuse Publicity and Zondervan Publishing for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own unless otherwise notated. I couldn't wait for this novel when I got the invitation to review it. Being an avid cupcake baker myself and a die hard romantic, this was the perfect creation for me. I love the premise and how well the writer establishes the chemistry brewing between Lucas and Kat! Funny thing is that is my name as well and I simply LOVED this one from cover to cover, inhaling it like peanut butter chocolate cupcakes!!! Hands down well worth every 5 out of 5 stars. There is even a recipe for Raspberry Lemonade Torte Cupcakes and a Reader's Group Guide at the conclusion of this novel. One I simply can't wait to try.
RandomAmb More than 1 year ago
All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is so cute! I fell in love with the cover the first time I saw it. It took me awhile to get into the book, but I'm thinking that has more to do with the fact that I've been reading fast moving suspense novels than it has to do with this book. Once I got to chapter 6 or so, the story really seemed to pick up. It's a classic "best friends love each other but are scared to admit it" situation. The story felt real, and that probably has to do with the slower pace as well. I thought the book was predictable, but then St. Amant threw a few surprises our way! I really liked the behind the scenes view of Cupcake Combat because I can easily see Cupcake Wars being handled that way. I definitely pictured Justin Willman as Sam! Overall, I enjoyed this story and was satisfied with the ending. Betsy St. Amant did a great job of not forcing the story but letting the plot develop naturally. I especially liked that she gave us both main characters' point of view. Often in stories like this one we don't get the male's perspective, so that set this book apart. All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes is for fans of Cupcake Wars and Contemporary Christian Romance. Read it with a cupcake in hand on a relaxed day! *I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Heidi_Reads More than 1 year ago
I love stories where best friends fall in love! It's fascinating to see how a relationship makes the shift from friends to more-than-friends. There is plenty of angst from both of the main characters as neither realize that the other feels ready to move forward... which sometimes became repetitive when they would continue to hold each other at arms length and fail to communicate. I don't enjoy watching reality shows, but that aspect of the plot was well-written and kept things exciting. The personalities of Kat and Lucas were both likeable so it was fun to follow their drama and see how things would end up. (Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Zondervan Publishing for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)
Susan21 More than 1 year ago
I love shows on HGTV and Food Network, so when I saw this book (after just reading Betsy's Bride novella) I was eager to snap it up! As before, I really enjoy Betsy's voice as an author. She writes engaging characters who are easy to like with just enough quirks to make them real. Her dialogue moves smoothly and often makes me laugh. And, having married my best friend, the relationship between Lucas and Kate was one I could relate to! At times I did wish they'd open up more with one another. There were moments where their internal fears or worries could easily have been solved with a good conversation. Because of that I'd have liked to see a bit more of the external conflict the show produced. If that angle had been more prominent I think I would have liked the book even more. That said, this was a fun read and I'll definitely pick up Betsy's books again. Her wit and romance are a wonderful match and as mentioned above, her characters are people I enjoy seeing on the page.
BeachRead245 More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Zondervan Thomas Nelson and Litfuse for a copy of this fabulous novel. I received this novel in exchange for an honest review. This is Betsy St. Amant’s debut with All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes. What could possibly be better than a little romance and some baking? Synopsis: Kat Varland and Lucas Brennan have been good friends for a long time. She is a baker at her aunt’s cupcake shop. You would think she would be ecstatic to be doing something she loves. The only problem is the shop requires a chocolate, strawberry or vanilla menu and no deviations. So Kat likes to experiment at home with Lucas. She also does not get a lot of respect from her family. Can Lucas change all of this by signing Kat up for Cupcake Combat a reality television show? Will he get the desired results from actually being on the show? What will Kat learn about herself through this experience? My Thoughts: I had to stay up late to see how this novel ended. Was it worth the wait yes! I stayed up to see how Kat would fare in each round. I would not have had a satisfying rest otherwise. What initially appealed to me about this novel is a little romance with a little baking, and a great competition. The author has a great plot twist she uses a reality television competition to extract the true feelings of her characters Kat and Lucas. Many of the questions that Kat asks herself in this novel I have asked myself on occasion. The only part that wasn’t my favorite but added to the story was the constant hesitancy between Lucas and Kat. I could very much identify with her character because I have a similar background. This read is fun, fun, fun! Did I say it was fun and enjoyable! I think I am ready to bake some cupcakes who would like to join me? by Jencey Gortney/Writer'sCorner