Elisa Cardoso longs for passion in her life. Though she'd much rather spend her days photographing the stunning Wyoming landscape, food photography is a lucrative, if uninspiring, way to pay her bills. But when her next assignment brings her face to face with sexy restaurant owner Brody McDermott, Elisa can't deny the delicious effect he has on her.
From the minute Brody sees Elisa, he's dying to unleash her inner bad girl. He knows there's more to the sophisticated photographer than meets the eye. Now getting the sexy shutterbug into his bed is on his menu, but when she starts making her way into his heart-big problem. Love has been tricky for Brody, and he's not too eager to try his luck again. But when a golden opportunity means Elisa may be leaving Trouble for good, can Brody find the courage to grab on to love . . . before it slips away?
About the Author
Erin Kern lives in north Texas with her husband, two kids and their dog. She loves BBQ, Texas sunsets, antiquing and high school football games. The first book in the Champion Valley series, Winner Takes All, was published in August, 2016 and was inspired by Erin's love of Texas football, small towns and happy endings.
When she's not at the computer working on her next tale, she can be found spending time with her kids or curled up with a good book.
Read an Excerpt
Along Came Trouble
By Erin Kern
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Erin Kern
All rights reserved.
Despite the restaurant's chaotic sport-themed decor, the waitstaff was efficient, friendly, and brought the entree in a very timely manner. However, I can only assume the reason the food was mediocre is due to the fact that it arrived in less than ten minutes. I'd like to be able to say the appearance made up for the bland, overcooked hamburger and French fries with enough seasoning to set my mouth on fire ...'"
Brody leaned back against his desk as his assistant manager, Charlene, lifted her eyes up to his. "And?" he prompted.
Her tongue darted out along her bare lower lip before she continued reading. " 'But unfortunately the dish looked just as unsatisfying as it tasted. The hamburger, large enough to feed a small horse, sat on a bun much more suited to a silver dollar. Only about a dozen French fries accompanied the burger, and while most fries tend to please my palate, these weren't worth eating more than one.'" Charlene dropped the magazine down to her lap and sent him a desperate look. He knew the feeling. "Do I have to keep reading this?"
He pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to ward off a bitch of a headache. "Yes."
The magazine trembled when her fingers grasped the pages once again. "'I forced myself to eat as much as I could, hoping to find some redemption, only to get my fifteen ninety-nine worth out of the meal. The only pleasant part was my waitress, who seemed to sense my disdain as she shot me a look of sympathy before carting away my half-eaten meal. The Golden Glove has been a staple of the small town of Trouble, Wyoming, for more than ten years now, but it's hardly worth the price. On the upside, I was able to catch the game from one of the dozen televisions mounted on the walls. Maybe the owner should have taken the money he spent on forty-six-inch LCD televisions and hired a better chef instead.'"
Charlene placed the magazine down with great care on his immaculate desk so as not to add yet another blow to poor Brody's day. "This is the second bad review we've had in six months, Brody."
His assistant manager was four years younger than he and a force to be reckoned with. She also had a tender streak that ran deep, which wasn't something she allowed a lot of people to see. Shortly after his divorce, she'd allowed him to see that side of her when she showed up at his house with a bottle of wine and told him he needed to shave. For one weak moment he indulged himself and broke one of his own cardinal rules by sleeping with her. Almost immediately thereafter, they realized they'd made a huge mistake. Granted, the release had been much needed, but they were far better as friends than lovers. Neither one had mentioned that night since. Both were happy to pretend it had never happened. In addition, they'd mutually agreed that they were better off as friends. Working together, and all that.
"Yeah, no shit." He pushed away from the desk and tried to walk the agitation out of his bones. One bad review was enough to send a restaurant into restaurant hell, but two? He kept reminding himself that these kinds of restaurant reviewers were just freelance writers who couldn't make it as chefs so they spent their time dogging every restaurant they could. But what were the chances of two different reviewers giving his restaurant such a similarly poor report? And, perhaps more important, his two previous chefs possessed more power to bring the restaurant down than a couple of magazine reviews.
When the Golden Glove had opened eleven years ago, the place had had a line wrapped around the building just to get a seat at the bar. Even though he'd known next to nothing about restaurants, his father had placed him in charge. Brody had stepped in and done the best he could, which had been damn good, if he did say so himself. The Golden Glove had thrived under his leadership for several years. Unfortunately, a series of simultaneous events, including losing their chef and RJ, had caused their numbers to dwindle. Despite his efforts, the Golden Glove was on a downward slide in terms of diners and profits.
In fact, the situation was so dire, if they kept up like this, they'd have to close their doors in six months. The thought created a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, something he'd been dealing with a lot lately. If the Golden Glove went under, not only would all his employees be without jobs, but Brody would lose his meal ticket and his means of taking care of Tyler.
No matter what it took, Brody had to save the restaurant.
"Well, the only good thing is this was written when we had Gary. Now we have Travis."
"That doesn't make me feel better." Brody eased into his chair and leaned his head back. Travis was their third executive chef this year. The man had come highly recommended by a manager of another restaurant in town. The fact that said restaurant had recently closed its doors sent tremors of uncertainty through Brody. Michael, the man who'd been the Golden Glove's original chef and a freakin' miracle worker, had left them for the greener pastures of being the executive chef of a major five-star hotel in Los Angeles. Now, Brody wasn't going to lie to himself; Michael's departure had rubbed him the wrong way, mostly because the man had been there longer than anyone, and Brody had expected more loyalty. After the sting had worn off, Brody admitted that Michael needed to do what was best for him and his three kids. Then Gary had come strolling in, promising to outshine Michael and put the Golden Glove on the map of great restaurants. After three short months, Brody had shown his incompetent ass the door.
Charlene stood from the chair, grabbed the magazine, and tossed it in the trash can. "That guy doesn't know what he's talking about. He's probably some loser who has nothing better to do with his time."
"He's right though. Gary was a terrible chef. That's why I fired him."
She placed her hands on her narrow hips. "I'm trying to make you feel better here. Tell me it's helping a little."
Brody stared back at her out of stormy gray eyes. "It's not helping."
She plowed fingers through her chin-length black hair. "Okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to ignore this stupid review, go forward with the photo shoot today, and pray this relaunch will put this place back on its feet. Then we'll show people like that idiot reviewer we're worth coming back to." Her legs ate up the expanse of his office.
"You're awfully confident," Brody muttered.
"Why wouldn't I be? We've completely redecorated, and the place looks way better than it did when it first opened, plus we have a new chef." Then she added, "With a new menu."
"Are you saying you think Travis can turn this place around?" Brody shifted his thick shoulders around to ease some of the tension that had his muscles coiled.
"Don't you think he can?" Charlene's thin brows shot up her forehead.
Brody swiveled back and forth in his chair and ran a hand along the edge of his desk. "I'm not sure yet. To be honest, I'm not all that impressed with him." But if Travis wasn't the savior this place needed, then who was? Although Brody liked the guy, his future in his own restaurant hinged on the young chef's abilities. The thought sent a tremor of alarm through his already weary body.
"He's a hell of a lot better than Gary was."
A snort popped out of him. "My eleven-year-old son can cook better than Gary."
The corners of Charlene's lips turned up in a smile. She inhaled a deep breath and sat back down in the chair. "Look, I know you're still kind of pissed about Michael leaving and you think you won't find anyone as good as him. But you will."
"I hope you're right." He ran a hand through his midnight dark hair. Man, he needed a haircut. "If not, there's a good chance I'll have to sell my house and find another job." Another thought that had the contents of his breakfast churning like acid in his stomach.
She leaned forward in her chair and propped an elbow on the edge of his desk. "There's no way Martin will fire you." Then she jumped ahead when he opened his mouth to argue. "I think we're taking a step in the right direction today. We've got that photographer coming in to take pictures. And I know Travis is young, but I think he shows a lot of promise."
One of Charlene's best assets was her positive attitude. At times when Brody found himself moping like a moody teenager, Charlene would come in with her Mary Poppins–like persona and pep talk him into straightening his act up. Brody would be the first one to tell anyone he'd been an unbearable hard-ass since his divorce four years ago. Something about separating from Kelly had opened up a side of him even he hadn't known existed. Charlene had never let a moment escape without telling him to get his shit together. Being spoken to like that wasn't something he appreciated, but from Charlene he tolerated it. She didn't put up with his crap anyway, so telling her to stuff it would only be speaking to air.
"Tell me again why we're publishing pictures in the same magazine that just gave us a bad review?" he asked Charlene.
She lifted a finger. "First of all, that reviewer isn't employed by this magazine. Second of all, they're the only ones who agreed to do this spread. We need the good publicity."
At this point Brody wasn't sure the restaurant was capable of generating good publicity. "Are you sure this photographer is any good?"
An exasperated sigh came from Charlene. "What happened to the Brody who never let anything bother him? I miss that guy."
"So do I," he muttered to the ceiling. Brody found himself smiling for the first time during their conversation. Yes, Charlene knew when to call his bullshit. His office door creaked open and Travis poked his head in. "The photographer's here."
A spread in a magazine that had already trashed them? Would those same readers even give a damn about the Golden Glove's new, toned-down decor? Or that the new chef had introduced inventive, unique items to the menu? In Brody's experience, once diners had a bad meal at a restaurant, they weren't likely to return. Not only that, they'd probably tell everyone within earshot to stay the hell away from the place. His father had already pitched a fit about the first bad review. Even though Brody ran the place, Martin was a perfectionist who took insults to his restaurant personally, although normally he didn't take reviews too seriously. In the light of the place's recent dwindling numbers, his old man was paying extra attention to any sort of negativity. Brody's working relationship with his father had already been on thin ice because of the downturn in business. Once Martin read the latest review, Brody was likely to be exiled. His earlier fear of his and Tyler's futures returned with a wicked vengeance. How would he pay for his son's college if he was unemployed?
"Brody?" Charlene asked after he'd failed to move from his chair. "You're on board with this, right?"
He blinked at her. "On board, right. Yeah." He pushed himself out of the chair and followed Charlene and Travis downstairs.
Okay, he'd be on board with this.
The dining room, recently redone to be more appealing to families and less to rowdy college students home from school, had been mostly cleared for today's shoot. The tables and chairs had been pushed aside to make room for the "shooting area," as Charlene had described it. "It'll be short and simple," she said.
Except it wasn't. The area that used to be the dining room now looked like a professional photographer's studio. In the middle of the room, surrounded by several tall lights and mirrors, were tables draped in dark brown tablecloths. Travis walked ahead of them and disappeared into the kitchen. Several seconds later he reappeared with plates on each hand. He lowered them carefully to the tables, added garnishes, wiped the rims, and spun them around until satisfied they looked presentable.
After his inspection, he went back into the kitchen.
"Is all this really necessary?" Brody asked Charlene.
Charlene shot him a narrow-eyed look. "You can't just come in and take a few pictures of the food the way we would normally serve it. You have to doll it up and make it look attractive."
He lifted a hand toward the shoot area. "But we don't serve our dishes on brown tablecloths with wineglasses. Isn't that a bit misleading?"
They stopped next to one of the tall light things. "Brody, do you trust me?" Charlene asked.
His eyebrows pulled together at her question. "I'm not sure."
She patted him on the arm like one would a small child. "Well, you're going to have to this time. Besides, this is the way food is photographed. And Elisa knows what she's doing."
He shot her a glance. "Elisa?"
Bright morning sunshine shone in when the doors to the restaurant opened. A tall woman, with hair the color of a moonless night hanging halfway down her back, floated across the parquet wood floor. Her attention was on a spiral notebook, which was cradled in long, thin arms. A loose-fitting, flower-printed blouse covered petite shoulders and disappeared beneath the waistband of wide-legged, light gray slacks. She was as professionally dressed as any person in a corporate office, yet the gentle sway of her hips exuded a magnetic sexuality that had blood rushing to Brody's groin.
His eyes followed her every move. "Did we hire a model for this shoot?"
Charlene had started to walk toward the woman. She glanced back at him. "What?"
He jerked his head in the Amazon's direction.
One corner of Charlene's mouth curled up. "She's the photographer."
"Are you sure?" he asked. The woman who looked like she should be posing in front of the camera was behind it instead?
"Quite sure." Always-present amusement lit up Charlene's eyes.
Brody sauntered over to focus on the tables with the food only because he didn't want to stand around looking like he had his thumb up his ass.
Travis had prepared a wide variety of dishes and ones that were more popular with their diners. Chinese chicken salad, minestrone soup, a barbecue bacon cheddar burger, and grilled chicken penne pasta with a garlic breadstick sat on pristine white plates. Charlene may have organized the photo shoot, but Brody had hand-picked the dishes. Two of them were Travis's signature meals.
"You're in my light."
The husky, let-me-seduce-you voice came from directly behind him and danced over his skin. Brody glanced over his shoulder and locked gazes with the willowy Amazon who already had certain parts below his belt stirring. The woman either found time to visit a tanning salon on a regular basis or had a natural olive complexion. Almond-shaped eyes accented by thick, black lashes gazed back at him. The corners of her full, pillowy mouth were turned up ever so slightly.
"Sorry," he managed. For hell's sake, he ran a successful business, dealt with servers, chefs, and customers, on a daily basis, and now he could barely manage a two-syllable word. He'd really been out of the dating game too long.
When he stepped aside, she continued adjusting the mirror her ring-adorned fingers were wrapped around. The smooth skin of her forehead furrowed as she concentrated on her task.
"Is this going to be enough light?" he asked her.
Her attention remained on the food as she tried to achieve the right angle with the mirror. "Windows are best, but I can make do with the skylights." She extended her hand to his. "I'm Elisa, by the way. Cardoso," she added.
Brody allowed his eyes to drop down to her mouth one more time before wrapping his hand around hers. Her fingers were long and thin, and the silver rings she wore were cool against his palm. His hand lingered in hers, probably longer than necessary, but what the hell. Her hand felt good in his, a perfect fit. And he liked the way her hand felt wrapped up in his, small and feminine. A sudden image of them on his skin, exploring intimate parts of his body, slammed into him and assaulted his senses.
"Brody." Another two-syllable word he had trouble forcing out of his mouth. What was wrong with him today? He'd always been able to hold a semi-intelligent conversation with an attractive woman before. Then in comes this exotic beauty and his brain ceases to function. "McDermott," he threw in.
"Nice to meet you," she replied with a playful gleam in her dark brown eyes. Before he was ready to let go, she slipped her hand from his and continued adjusting all her lights, mirrors, and other props.
Excerpted from Along Came Trouble by Erin Kern. Copyright © 2013 Erin Kern. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a REALLY good book! I absolutely loved the length and depth of this story. I felt the characters were well-developed and very likable. The tension and chemistry between Elisa and Brody was very well done. I also loved getting to know the other characters in the series. Although I haven't read their respective stories (yet!), I really want to read a whole lot more about what happened in Trouble, Wyoming! Erin is definitely VERY talented and this is the second book of hers I've read, and I would read anything she writes. That being said, in this particular story, I felt a certain element that was introduced later on in the book, and removed shortly thereafter, was unnecessary and didn't really add much to the story. Having experienced the general scenario several times, I felt Elisa's actions were not at all realistic and made me incredibly frustrated with her and the story, flipping through the parts that included this aforementioned element. I also had a feeling of "loose ends" leftover at the end, but maybe they would be resolved in subsequent books. But the town and characters of Trouble are absolutely lovely, and I wouldn't hesitate to spend more time there! (I received a copy of this book in consideration of my honest thoughts)
Here is the story of messed up people. It seems that almost everyone in this book has major problems. Brody has family problems and is about to lose his job. Elisa takes photos of food for restaurants but wants to work for National Geographic and travel the world. Brody is guilty over his past. Elisa is trying to get over a former lover. Talk about angst! They get together. They break up. They get together again. They break up. What a crazy love circle. I laughed. I cried. A lot! This is a series and I really want to read all of Erin' s books. Please give this book a chance.
3.5/5 stars I don't read many Adult romances these days, but the few that I do I have been fortunate enough to enjoy. Recently, I have read books by Candis Terry and Rachel Gibson and I really enjoyed them! When I read the blurb on NetGalley for Along Came Trouble, I knew I needed to check this out. I'm really glad I did. Along Came Trouble was a fun, cute romance. While it is the third in the Trouble series, I didn't have too much trouble getting acquainted with characters from Kern's other two novels. This book focuses on Brody McDermott, a restaurant owner who is having some trouble with the quality of his restaurant. After receiving a few negative reviews, Brody knows he needs to do something drastic or not only is the fate of his restaurant at stake, but he could find himself without a job if he doesn't turn things around. Brody meets Elisa Cardoso, the stunning woman in charge of taking photos for a photo spread of his restaurant, and the two immediately find themselves attracted to one another. Elisa and Brody's relationship has its ups and downs throughout the novel. Both find there is definitely more to them than just attraction, yet they both have a difficult time expressing their feelings to each other. Elisa has learned to guard her heart after an ex-boyfriend hurt her deeply, and Brody is haunted by the demons of his past, not believing he is capable of giving or receiving love. Both find themselves falling for each other very quickly, yet Elisa doesn't want this thing with Brody to be a casual thing. Brody understands this and doesn't want that either, but can't define what they are doing. I liked Brody for the most part- but the way he would close himself off from Elisa over and over began to be a bit much. One minute he would be distant, trying to hold himself back, and the next he would be eyeing her like he wanted to ravish her right there and then. This was what made their relationship a bit harder to buy into. Brody's life didn't quite turn out as he had pictured it. He began dating his ex-wife Kelly in college, and after she became pregnant, life sort of took its usual course- get married, have the baby, get a job, etc. While Brody cared for Kelly, he wasn't in love with her like she was with him and this of course caused problems. While Brody loves his son Tyler and doesn't regret him for one second, he threw himself into work and Kelly found herself married to someone who just wasn't around. Soon, their problems became heavier and they decided upon divorce. Brody has never forgiven himself for how he treated Kelly and you can tell that still weighs heavily on him, even though she is now re-married. He is afraid of putting himself out there for Elisa- she has a job opportunity of a lifetime, and he knows that whatever they are together is temporary. Again, Brody frustrated me with his back and forth with her. His inner monologue states that he is in love with Elisa, but can't bring himself to tell her. She knows he's in love with her, and it hurts her deeply that he can't find the words to tell her. I enjoyed reading about Brody's interactions with his family, but it is the moments with his son Tyler that I enjoyed the most. Tyler feels betrayed by his dad for moving out and leaving. He's only 11 and doesn't really understand what went wrong. He remembers his dad making breakfast for his mom, or taking him out to play catch and now he doesn't get that anymore. Brody mistakes Tyler's nonchalance towards him to mean he doesn't care to spend time with him, but it is the opposite. Tyler craves for time with his dad, but doesn't want to get his hopes up either, because he's used to his dad working late and not doing those things with him. Elisa is also good for Tyler. While his mother is away helping take care of her own mother, Tyler goes to Elisa's house after school (as she lives down the street from Kelly) and stays with her until Brody comes to pick him up. Elisa serves as a mother figure for Tyler while his own is gone and I liked how close those two became also. Elisa is in a difficult position. She has fallen for Brody, yet taking pictures of food is not her passion. She wants to be a landscape photographer and after a former professor calls her to go out on a shoot in Mongolia, Elisa doesn't want to let this opportunity pass her by. She is conflicted by her feelings for Brody and pursuing her dreams. I felt for Elisa. She doesn't want to choose between Brody and Mongolia, but, she doesn't know where she stands with him most of the time. She can't let an opportunity like Mongolia go by, especially if he won't commit to her. Watching Brody and Elisa both fight their feelings, as well as their intense sexual attraction for one another made this a steamy, yet sweet read. While I found the plot to be a predictable one and felt Brody and Elisa's relationship to be a bit forced, I still would consider this a good read.
Brody is carrying the whole on his shoulders and nothing seems to go right. After a failed marriage and a son who he doesn't see much because all he does is work, even that is failing. They have a photographer to come in and take pictures of there dishes for and article in hopes to boost there customers. Brody sees the photographer and can't take his eyes of her, she the most beautiful woman he's ever seen and even his ex wife didn't get this effect from him. Elisa walks into the restaurant and she sees Brody and just one looks has her tied in knots. After taking the pictures he asked her if she want to eat and even though she really wasn't hungry, she didn't want to leave just yet. After Elisa came home her friend Kelly ask if she could watch her son Tyler after school for a few weeks while she was gone to take care of her mother and Tyler's father would pick him up after he got of work. Elisa was fine with watching Tyler. While waiting for his father to show up, she was teaching Tyler how to develop film. When she answered the door it was Brody and wonder what he was doing there until Tyler said Hi Dad. Brody said so your the babysitter, Kelly didn't give me a name, only the address. As things went on there growing connection for one another was growing fast. Elisa knew Brody was carrying to many demons but she didn't care she wanted him. Brody kept pushing Elisa away because he couldn't do a relationship right now with everything going on but he couldn't stay away from her. Elisa was going to have to get away because she is in love with Brody and he couldn't give her himself. Brody couldn't tell Elisa how he felt because he wasn't good with feelings until he found out the Elisa left the country to photograph in Africa. Brody had to get her back so he and Tyler went to South Africa to get Elisa back forever.