For Reagan Deveraux, Sugar Creek, Vermont, and the Cupcake Lovers are a dream come true: A cozy little town where family and friends come before everything else. She's never experienced anything like itespecially not growing up with her mother, a fickle, fame-hungry heiress. But Rae's plan to hide out in anonymity for a year until she can claim her inheritanceand her independencechanges with one kiss from gorgeous pub owner Luke Monroe.
Luke's charm is legendary, but he's never been a one-woman man. Until Rae captures his attention, that is, and then disappears. With a little help from a friend, Luke tracks her downand unearths secrets almost too wild to be true, as well as the fact that Rae lied to him, and to all of Sugar Creek. Luke's not sure if he can forgive her, but he definitely can't forget her, and when she returns to save the Cupcake Lovers from disaster, he knows it's his chance to get the truthand get the girl, this time for good…
Anything But Love is the third Cupcake Lovers novel from Beth Ciotta.
About the Author
Storytelling comes naturally to award-winning author Beth Ciotta. Dubbed "fun and sexy" by Publisher's Weekly, Beth specializes in writing romantic fiction within various sub-genres. Her critically acclaimed small town contemporary series-The Cupcake Lovers-includes novels Fool For Love, The Trouble With Love, Anything But Love, and the holiday novella, Some Kind of Wonderful . . . with more cupcake love to come!
Beth lives in NJ with her husband, two zany dogs, and a crazy cat. A retired professional performer, Beth now pours her artistic passion into her writing.
Read an Excerpt
Forget love—I’d rather fall in chocolate!
—Sandra J. Dykes
Sugar Creek, Vermont
Luke Monroe was no Scrooge. He was all about family and giving and good times with friends. He co-owned and ran the Sugar Shack, a local pub and restaurant devoted to camaraderie via top-notch food and drinks, and a cozy atmosphere. Like every other year, this year he’d decked the Shack’s halls with boughs of holly on December 1st—fa-la-la-la-la. He’d helped decorate two other family businesses, too. J. T. Monroe’s Department Store—owned and operated by his dad and Luke’s older brother, Devlin. And Moose-a-lotta—a kitschy café owned and operated by his grandma, Daisy Monroe, and Dev’s lady love, Chloe Madison. Lots of red and green and a good dose of silvery white due to the latest snowstorm. Overall the entire town of Sugar Creek looked like Santa’s Vermont Village. Normally, Luke felt like a giddy kid for most of the month of December. This holiday season, for reasons that alluded him, Luke was bluer than blue. Fa-la-freaking-la.
Considering Luke and his entire family had a lot to celebrate, first and foremost, his dad’s ongoing recovery from a scary bout of cancer, this seasonal funk really pissed Luke off. No way was he going to rain on anyone’s holiday parade, so he’d been putting up a cheery front for weeks, waiting for the funk to fade and the joy to commence. No moping. Life as always. Hence why he was with family just now instead of home alone, swigging beer and watching sports.
Sunday dinner at Daisy Monroe’s was a Monroe family tradition. Only last month Gram had moved out of her longtime spacious home and Luke’s sister, Rocky, and her fiancé, Jayce, had moved in. Just before that, Gram, who’d grown eccentric and reckless, had officially agreed to let Chloe (a kick-ass gourmet chef) take over the planning, prepping, and cooking. So now Sunday dinner was at Rocky’s house and Chloe oversaw the meal.
In essence, nothing had changed. (With the exception of Luke’s brother and sister and even his grandma now being in committed relationships.) As always, not every member of the Monroe family and their extended clan attended the traditional dinner every Sunday. As always, you never knew who you’d end up seated by at the table. Since it was the night before Christmas Eve and a really big family shindig, only a core few Monroes were in attendance. There’d been more food than people, but Luke had doubled up on portions and he’d offered to take home leftovers since Rocky’s fridge was crammed with the next day’s feast. Amazing that he had room for dessert, but he did. Lately Luke had had a real weakness for sweets and, in addition to other holiday goodies, there were a boatload of cupcakes leftover from the holiday party Rocky had attended earlier in the day. The annual bash for the town’s number-one social and charity club—the Cupcake Lovers.
While Rocky, Dev, Chloe, and Gram laughed and fussed over last-minute decorating in the living room, Luke battled the blues and lingered over the nearby dessert buffet. He’d been lingering for a while.
“Seriously? That’s your fourth cupcake, Luke.”
Grinning, Luke glanced at his sister while licking sweet, tangy icing from his fingers. “Yes, but it’s my first—” He glanced at the card tented near this particular batch, focused on the three words and waited until the letters stopped swirling in his brain. “—Chocolate Peppermint Surprise.”
“Leave him alone, Rocky. Obviously our poor boy is eating to fill some emotional void.”
That observation was a little too keen for Luke’s comfort. He shifted his gaze to Gram—hell on wheels at the spry age of seventy-five. “Did you read that psychobabble in Cosmo? And don’t deny you’re reading that glam mag, Gram. I saw it sticking out of your Make Love, Not War tote bag along with a copy of Simple & Delicious.”
“I’m trying to spice up my life,” Gram said while repositioning one of three nativity scenes on the fireplace mantle.
Luke opened his mouth as did Rocky, but Dev beat them to the punch. “You recently moved out of this grand old Colonial and into a rustic log cabin with your boyfriend,” Dev said while climbing a step stool to straighten the crooked tree topper. “Your life is spicy enough.”
Luke was surprised that his brother left it at that. Dev had always been anal and overprotective. Although he wasn’t half as bad as he used to be since hooking up with Chloe, a bit of a free spirit who went with the flow.
“It’s not a log cabin,” Chloe said, sticking up for Gram, who also happened to be her business partner. “It’s a saltbox farmhouse.”
“And Vincent is my roommate and companion,” Gram said, moving in alongside Chloe to rearrange a few ornaments. “Boyfriend sounds silly considering his mature status.”
“Silly, huh?” Luke smiled and talked around a mouthful of chocolaty goodness. “Gram, you’re wearing glitzy reindeer antlers and pointy elf slippers.” She’d also dyed her springy curls flaming red, and had swapped her cat-eye specs for a pair of blingy green-tinted bifocals. Oh, and she had blinking snowmen dangling from her wrinkled lobes.
“It’s called being festive,” Gram said as she rearranged the presents under the massive Christmas tree she and Rocky had decorated to death. “It’s almost Christmas after all.”
Like Luke needed a reminder. Christmas was Rocky’s favorite holiday. Before her home and business had burned down, she used to decorate the hell out of her Victorian bed-and-breakfast. Obviously she’d invested some of her insurance money into replenishing her Christmas holiday décor and then some. There wasn’t a square foot of Gram’s, strike that, Rocky’s house that hadn’t been touched by an angel, snowman, snowflake, holly, garland, ice cycle, St. Nick, reindeer, candy cane, nutcracker, toy soldier, or wreath. Usually Luke was all for holiday cheer, but.…
Cripes. He’d almost thought: Bah, humbug.
Noting that nagging emptiness in the pit of his stomach, Luke eyed the desserts. Maybe one of these Oggneg … He did a double take at the printed tent card and slowed his mind. Aw, hell. Eggnog. Maybe an Eggnog Cupcake would inspire some Christmas joy. Just as Luke bit into the moist rich confection, a furry, big-eyed mutt bounded into the room. “Hey, Brewster.”
“Don’t feed him any people food,” Rocky said. “No matter how much he begs. It’s not good for him.”
“Gotcha,” Luke said while allowing the dog to lick crumbs from his fingers.
“Got the wood.” Jayce Bello, Dev’s oldest and closest friend, and Rocky’s fiancé, crossed to the fireplace with a canvas tote of chopped logs. “Sorry it took so long. Brewster was wound up and I figured it was better to tire him out with a few minutes of fetch, rather than risk him going on a tear in here.” He motioned to Dev. “Can you get a fire going? I need Luke’s help whipping up Daisy’s after-dinner cocktail.”
Luke frowned. “What are we in for this time?”
“Candy Cane Cocktails,” Gram said with a fist pump. “Yes!”
“Disgusting ingredient?” Rocky asked.
“Strawberry vodka,” Jayce said while brushing a kiss over Rocky’s cheek.
Luke’s heart squeezed when his sister smiled and blushed. Must be nice to be so freaking in love and for that person to freaking love you back.
“Remember to make Chloe’s a virgin,” Dev said.
“Got it.” Luke caught a sweet look between his brother and Chloe, who palmed her barely swelling stomach, and his heart squeezed again. Well, damn. His brother had lucked out in the love department, too, and the woman he loved was pregnant with his baby. It’s not that Luke hadn’t been in love. He’d been in love thousands of times. He had a way with women. In fact, seducing women was his one and true talent. But he’d never experienced the bone-deep forever love Rocky felt for Jayce or Dev felt for Chloe. Although he’d felt a glimmer of something different, something special a couple of months back with Rachel Lacey. He thought about their one ill-fated kiss, the sizzle that had damned near singed his senses, then immediately shoved that mystifying woman from his mind. Rachel had been a mistake and she wasn’t even a possibility. The woman had skipped town and had moved on to wherever. Rachel was history. Jayce rapped Luke on the shoulder as he strode toward the kitchen.
“Right. Candy Cane Cocktails for six—one virgin. Let’s do this. I assume I’ll need candy canes,” he said to Jayce as they sailed through the dining room. “What else?”
“Crème de menthe. Cranberry juice. Here’s the recipe Daisy gave me.” Jayce slapped a folded page from a magazine into Luke’s hand as they breached the state-of-the-art kitchen. “I located Rachel Lacey.”
Luke stopped cold. His brain zapped. His heart jerked. “I thought you gave up.”
“I only told you that so you’d stop hounding me for an update twice a day.”
Jayce had years of experience in law enforcement, first as a cop with the NYPD, then as a successful private investigator. Now he ran a cyber detective agency and Luke had hired him to find Rachel Lacey. Two freaking months ago.
“The reason she was so hard to track,” Jayce said, “is because when it comes to hiring someone to create a false identity, Rachel can afford the best.”
“What are you talking about? Rachel lived on a shoestring.” She’d dressed in frumpy clothes and she’d driven a beat-up car. When she’d lost her job at the day care center, Luke had hired her as a waitress. She was desperate for the work, desperate for money. Shed said so. “I need the money, Luke.” Her shy, anxious gaze haunted him … sort of like that sizzling kiss.
“Maybe you should sit down.”
Heart thudding, Luke dragged a hand through his shaggy hair. “Is she dead?”
“She’s alive and well in Bel Air, California. Her name is Reagan Deveraux. She’s a trust fund baby. An heiress. As of tomorrow, her twenty-fifth birthday, she’ll be a millionaire.”
Luke blinked then snorted. “You’re kidding me, right?”
Jayce shook his head.
Luke gawked. “That’s screwy. That’s … impossible. You’ve got the wrong girl, Jayce.”
The PI plucked his iPhone from the pocket of his leather jacket, thumbed through bells and whistles, and then showed Luke an image of Reagan Deveraux.
Holy … It was Rachel, but it wasn’t.
Luke leaned back against the kitchen counter, willing starch into his legs and air into his lungs. “What the hell? Why the ruse?”
“I don’t know.”
“She lived in Sugar Creek for almost a year,” Luke said. “She was a member of the Cupcake Lovers. A beloved teaching assistant at Sugar Tots. She was shy and awkward and freaking mousy. That chick in the picture, that’s not mousy, that’s … that’s…”
“Hot. I know.” Jayce raised a brow then thumbed something else on the screen. “I can’t tell you why Deveraux pretended to be someone she wasn’t, but I can fill you in on her background. I downloaded the report. Here. You can read—”
“No, you read it.” Luke pushed off the counter, nabbed a cocktail shaker from the cabinet. “I’ll make Gram’s cocktails.” Trying to read all that information … the letters would dance and swim in front of Luke’s eyes and he’d end up staring at the screen looking like an idiot while he tried to get the words right in his head. Jayce didn’t know Luke was dyslexic. No one knew. His family thought he’d beaten his reading disability when he was a kid. He’d just learned to hide it, to fake it, really, really well. Only one person—Rachel—had seen through his polished ploy and he had no idea how. It’s not something they’d ever discussed. But in his gut he knew she knew.
“I’ll hit the highlights,” Jayce said, scrolling through his screen.
Luke nabbed ice cubes, cranberry juice, and the liquor. Bracing for the details on Reagan Deveraux, he mixed up the holiday cocktail without one glance at the recipe. He’d been a crack bartender for years. He could wing it.
“Her father, now deceased, was a tycoon. Her mother, a B-list Hollywood actress, has remarried three times since. Seems to have a type.”
“You got it. An only child, Reagan was raised in a privileged environment,” Jayce went on. “Private schools, lavish vacations. Rich and smart. College educated, with a master’s in education.”
The more Jayce revealed about the trust fund baby, the more Luke felt like a fool. When he thought about the strife Rachel had caused between him and his cousin, Sam.… When he thought about the way she’d abandoned the Cupcake Lovers in the midst of their big recipe book publishing deal … the way his sister and the other Cupcake Lovers had fretted over her disappearance … the nights Luke had wrestled with guilt and worry …
“Dammit!” Luke exploded just as Rocky poked her head into the kitchen.
“Everything all right in here?” she asked.
“Just mixing up some Christmas cheer,” Jayce said.
“Fa-la-freaking-la,” Luke said then passed the chilled shaker to his sister. “Fill martini glasses with this and garnish the rims with candy canes.”
“Where are you going?” Rocky asked as he stalked toward the back door.
“To solve a mystery.”
Copyright © 2013 by Beth Ciotta
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anything But Love by Beth Ciotta A bud into a blooming beautiful flower. Magic. Tears. A wonderfully romantic story. 5 stars. Rachel Lacey fled Sugar Creek thinking it best to get on with her life. She was hiding there posing as a shy, without opinion, wallflower. She's been that way all her life afraid that her feelings and opinions would get trampled and used as fodder for the tabloids. Her real name is Reagan Deveraux, daughter of an infamous actress, and she is now a millionaire thanks to an inheritance on her 25th birthday. Luke Monroe has always been the playboy of Sugar Creek openly dating multiple women at the same time. Then one night he and Rachel shared a kiss that sparked something deep inside him. So when she disappeared from Sugar Creek, he had his P.I. Friend track her down. I'm enamored with Sugar Creek and the Monroe family. Friends, family and community with strong values. This is the third in the Cupcake series and I'm happy to say that I eagerly await the next chapter. These characters are real in their struggles with everyday obstacles but it's fiction, so of course there are a few "only in Hollywood" moments that just made it more fun and touching. Fans of Robyn Carr and Emily March will love this series. I know I do. I received a copy of this book from the author via a contest.
NUMBER OF STARS: 4 REVIEW: Luke is the towns local playboy. Always juggling multiple women at a time. But when he hires the shy, quiet Rachel something changed for him. He really liked Rachel and after a mind blowing kiss everything changed. Luke can’t get Rachel out of his mind even if it means hurting his cousin. But when Rachel disappears from Sugar Creek everyone finds out she has been lying to them for over a year. Even knowing that Reagan (aka Rachel) lied to him Luke still can’t shake these feeling he has for her. What is a man to do? Reagan is not happy to be home. She would rather be anywhere but home, she would really like to be back in Sugar Creek. The year she spent there was the best year of her life. But she had to come home, face reality and collect her inheritance so she can move on. The last person Reagan ever expected to see on her doorstep on Christmas eve was Luke. Luke & Reagan both have a lot of secrets that they don’t want others to know. But if they would learn to share with each other they maybe able to face them together. But there is one secrets they are trying to keep from their family and friends. And like any secret the harder to try to keep it the greater the chance it get out. Every trip to Sugar Creek, Vermont keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. I will say that I was super excited about “Anything But Love”, because Luke is my favorite character so far. I can’t wait to see what is next for the Cupcake Lovers group... Bring on Sam!!! Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.
Wonderful story about Luke the dyslexic bar owner and Rachel/Rae the frumpy Cupcake Lover/mystery heiress. Luke is at a loss after Rachel disappears and puts Jayce on her tail to find her, only to discover Rachel is actually Rae and an heiress. Days before Christmas Luke hops a plane to find out what Rachel's story is. You'll have to read the book to find out yourself.
They just keep getting better. Loved seeing Luke a little out sorts he has been so calm and laid back you had to wonder if anything riled him. Welcome Reagan Deveraux she turned him upside down and he left her frazzled. Great story and with all the other books she has a great cast of characters that we get with each book because family is always around.
Reviewed by JoAnne Book provided by NetGalley for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book What a wonderful continuation of the Cupcake Lovers series. Having read book two, The Trouble With Love, and the first two chapters of this book which was at the back I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The book did not disappoint. I picked up right where I left off and there was new depth to both Luke and Reagan/Rae/Rachel and their story. Once Rae’s upbringing was revealed it was amazing to see how well she turned out and how nurturing and caring she is. There were so many side stories involving the other characters from Sugar Creek but especially the Cupcake Lovers and there were so many twists and turns to the story I didn’t want to put my e-reader down. It was fun to watch Harper give Sam a run for his money – he never knew which way was up with her and their chemistry was oh so steamy. There was a feel good feeling throughout even when some not so good things were happening. I could tell how much the characters meant to each other whether they were family, especially part of the Monroe clan, or friends. There was laughter, tears, happiness, sorrow, support, romance and love along with heartache, lots of wedding plans and babies to be. There were several happily ever afters and nice closure but I know I’ll be back in Vermont to catch up with the Cupcake Lovers especially since the cookbook hasn’t been published yet. The back of the book had a couple of recipes that I will definitely give a try. Ciotta is an author I first found with The Trouble With Love, which I received to review. I still have to go back and read book one in the series, Fool for Love, but also can’t wait to go back and read some of the author’s other books. Favorite Quote: Their eyes met and Luke’s heart jerked. They moved in at the same time and he lost himself in a kiss like no other he’d experienced. It was troubling. Thrilling. He’d never been into clingy, but there was something heady about the intensity of Rae’s embrace. Just like that first time they’d kissed. Something that made him want to cling too.
Reagan Deveraux spent a year in hiding in Sugar Creek, Vermont--a cozy little town where family and friends come before everything--and the home of the Cupcake Lovers. She's never experienced anything like it, especially growing up with a fame-hungry, B list actress like her mother. So when she leaves Sugar Creek after receiving her inheritance, she feels lost. Now she's in a position to help the town restore the daycare center and aid the Cupcake Lovers in securing their book deal. But pub owner Luke Monroe--bachelor and seriously irresistible--has put a wrench in those plans. He's having a hard time getting past his attraction to Reagan and the fact that she lied to him, to everyone, for a whole year. More than the two of them are involved now. Can they forgive and forget for the sake of all involved? I didn't have the pleasure of reading the other books in this series, but I'll be picking them up. As it appears, this is Book Four in the Cupcake Lovers series. There are a lot of characters in this book--a lot. At times it was hard to keep track, but Ciotta did a pretty great job of using subtle reminders. Ciotta also does a great job of hinting at the next book by being in those characters POV to tease at their beginning while working this story. I didn't feel like I needed to read the other books to understand this one, making it a stand alone. The setting was just lovely, as were the secondary characters. I love these small town romances because the setting and people make me wish they were real. The heat between Reagan and Luke was realistic, as was the way they handled…everything. Most impressive was the fact that I didn't question motives or actions or the ending. Recommended!
Anything But Love is the first novel I've read by author Beth Ciotta, annd I have to say she has a new fan. Reagan Devereaux had a witch for a mother, and that's a nice way of saying it. Not to mention an egotistical jerk for one of her many step-fathers. After hiding from them for a year she returned to claim her inheritance and just long enough for Luke to discover her location and have one night of passion. Although this could be read as a stand alone novel, I wished I had read the previous novels in this series, mainly because all of the characters are so strongly written that I wished I had the full background on the other couples mentioned in Anything But Love. This was a really great book and I strongly recommend it.
Wished the story would go on...... Lots of romance and adventure
Although this book is part of the Cupcake Lovers’ series it can certainly be read alone, as I have never read any of the other Cupcake books and was able to fall right into the story. You may have more insight if you read the other books, but the writer does a good job of getting you to speed quick fast and in a hurry. I think the overall story line was neat and a little different. The characters were realistic and fun. Luke is a hoot! He is a classic fun loving party boy and his evolution into his mature self is fun and interesting. Throughout the book there is just a strong sense of love, family and belonging within the community. The whole concept was just heart-warming. I also liked the added bonus romance of Sam and his quirky lady. Which was just as captivating as the love story of Luke and Rae. The book is just fun, heart-warming, and charming. The only thing I really did not like was the ending. It just ended. I wish there had been just one more chapter, but then like cupcakes one more just may not be enough, ha. Rating: 4 Heat Rating: Hot Reviewed by: A. Lyn Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More