Fool for Love
SHE'S CRAVING A SWEET NEW LIFE…
Call her a fool, but chef-in-training Chloe Madison wants to have her cake and eat it too. So when her boyfriend dumps her for some French tart, she decides to start over from scratch—with a new life and job in Sugar Creek, Vermont. What could be sweeter than cooking for an eccentric lady who's crazy for desserts? What could be more tempting than joining a club called the Cupcake Lovers? Just one thing: local business-hunk Devlin Monroe…
AND HE'S THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE
Although he's the grandson of Chloe's fun-loving boss, Devlin Monroe is all work and no play. Micro-managing the family business, he doesn't have time to indulge in life's sweetest pleasures—until he meets Chloe. How can he resist such a vibrant, beautiful woman who brings so much passion to the table? But when old grudges and secrets threaten to destroy the Cupcake Lovers, Devlin must decide if his feelings for Chloe are a recipe for disaster—or a sinfully delicious ever-after…
About the Author
Beth Ciotta is an award-winning author who specializes in romantic comedy with a twist. Her work includes contemporary, historical, and paranormal romantic fiction. "I can't think of anything more fulfilling than writing stories where everyone (except the villain, of course) gets a happy ending!"
Beth lives in New Jersey with her husband, two zany dogs, and a crazy cat. A retired professional performer, Beth now pours her artistic passion into her writing.
Storytelling comes naturally to award-winning author Beth Ciotta. Dubbed "fun and sexy" by Publishers 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
Fool for Love
By Beth Ciotta
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Beth Ciotta
All rights reserved.
Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.
— Ernestine Ulmer
Manhattan, New York
Upper East Side
"How many years do you think I'd get for death by Cuisinart?"
"I'm serious, Monica. I want to kill him."
"With a hand mixer?"
"I don't want it to be quick."
"Or easy. How exactly would that work?"
Chloe didn't know — exactly. She wasn't thinking rationally. Her brain was choked with visions of Ryan licking vanilla-bean buttercream frosting from her beaters — frosting she'd prepared for a celebratory cake — right before announcing he was leaving her for a Parisian "tart." (Chloe's description of the other woman, not his.)
Heart full of equal parts grief and fury, Chloe squeezed back tears as she continued her long-distance tirade with her closest and oldest friend. "Maybe you're right," she said into her smartphone. "Maybe I should skewer his traitorous heart with my meat fork. Or pulverize him with my tenderizer."
"That's just grisly. And totally out of character. You're a pacifist, hon. Zero tolerance for gore. You threw up when we accidently ran over that squirrel on Route Twenty-two. Remember?"
Senior year of high school. Driving home from a rehearsal for West Side Story. Monica had swerved, but not enough. Chloe had screamed when she'd felt the thud, then, looking out the rearview window and seeing the furry roadkill, had puked all over the backseat of Monica's 1992 Camaro.
"Sort of," she mumbled, letting out an aggrieved sigh. Monica was right. Violence and gore wouldn't do. Just thinking about that squashed squirrel turned her stomach and soured her killer instincts. Once she was depleted of rage, Chloe's knees buckled. She slumped onto the love seat she and Ryan used to cuddle on, misery pouring over her soul, slow and thick like the homemade maple syrup Monica had shipped from Vermont.
Two years. Chloe had invested two years of her life in this relationship — her longest serious liaison ever. She'd had a severe falling-out with her dad when she'd moved in with Ryan, and she'd lost touch with a contingent of her NYC friends when she'd given up partying for domestic bliss. She hadn't expected a conventional union, what with Ryan frequently traveling oversees for his job, but she hadn't expected this. She hadn't suspected an affair, hadn't felt Ryan's affections straying. She'd thought they were a solid couple, destined for marriage. She felt like the biggest freaking idiot on the planet.
"Listen, Chloe. I know you're crushed. The bastard cheated on you. That sucks. And he's leaving you for her. Sucks worse. But ..."
Monica blew out a breath. "Okay. Here comes some tough love, sweetie. You had a comfortable relationship, lived a comfortable life, but did you seriously want to spend the rest of your nights with a guy who couldn't find your G-spot?"
Chloe flushed. "I had orgasms."
"With the shower massager. Doesn't count."
"I shouldn't have shared that with you."
"Why not? I told you about the time I got off sitting on top of the crazed washing machine."
"Are you trying to make me feel better? Because, news flash, you're not."
"I'm trying to tell you Ryan Levine isn't worth twenty-five to life in the state penitentiary."
"Don't worry. The murderous urge passed."
"Now I just want to curl up and die."
"Oh, hon —"
Chloe burst into tears and poured out her heart. Maybe Ryan wasn't worth a stretch in the clink, but he was sure worthy of a good cry. "He ruined the happiest day of my life, Monica. After all these years, all the botched courses and careers, I finally followed through, finally excelled at one of my passions. After four hundred and forty hours of in-class training and a two-hundred-and-ten-hour externship, I not only earned a diploma from the Culinary Arts Institute; I graduated with honors."
"What? You're kidding! I mean, that's fantastic! Why didn't you tell me?"
"I just found out today. About the honors part, anyway. The happiest day of my life — ruined! The affair's been going on for months. He could've waited a day or two to dump me. Any day other than my proudest."
"Or," Monica growled, sounding like a provoked mother bear, "he could've broken off with you weeks ago, when the fling started."
"He said he didn't want to distract me from my studies."
"Big of him."
"Said he'd feel better leaving, knowing I was finally focused on a sensible career."
"He's coming back at the end of the month to pack up his things. He's actually transferring to the company's resort in France so he can live with her. Said our apartment's paid up for the next three months. That gives me three months to find a roommate or to find a place I can afford on my own. Both prospects are daunting. Not to mention I'll be job hunting at the same time."
"Maybe you could ask your dad —"
"Right. Dumb suggestion. Okay, then. Come stay with me."
Chloe blinked. "You live in Vermont."
"So what? Put your things in storage and fly up for an extended visit. It doesn't have to be forever. Just time enough to heal. To catch your breath and plan for your future. Who knows? Maybe you'll fall in love with Sugar Creek like I did and want to stay."
Chloe glanced around the living room and into the kitchen, her gaze drifting toward the bedroom. Every square inch of this apartment reminded her of Ryan and the life they'd shared. She couldn't imagine staying here for the next three months. What's more, she didn't want to.
"I don't feel right about imposing on you and Leo. You're trying to have a baby. I ... I wouldn't feel comfortable." According to her friend, she and her husband of three years were doing it like bunnies every chance they got. Last week when he'd come home for lunch, she'd greeted him at the door naked.
"Potential for awkward moments," Monica said with a smile in her voice. "True."
"Plus, what would I do with my time? Sugar Creek is even smaller than the town we grew up in. I've been a city girl for fourteen years. I need culture. Activities and distractions." Especially now. The last thing she needed was empty hours enabling her to wallow in the breakup.
"We have activities and distractions in Sugar Creek," Monica said. "Just different than what you're used to. Hey, I know. Daisy Monroe is looking for a cook and companion."
"Who's Daisy Monroe?"
"You'll love her. She's just like you — charmingly off beat — only older. The town just celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday."
"The whole town? What is she, famous or something?"
"You could say that. She lives alone in a beautiful old colonial home. I bet if I asked, I could get her to include free board."
"It's perfect! Time away. Time with me. Plus you get to cook. Let's put that diploma to use, honey!"
"I don't know."
"I do. Say yes."
She hugged Ryan's favorite toss pillow to her chest, breathed in his scent. Her aching heart pounded with renewed fury. What the hell. "Yes."
"Fantastic! I'll line everything up. You pack. Oh! Speaking of activities, you can join Cupcake Lovers. Hit us with some of those fancy recipes you learned in culinary school."
"No, thank you."
Monica had mentioned the local club in her e-mails. A small group that met once a week to swap recipes and ideas on how to make a difference in the world via cupcakes — chocolate, red velvet, banana walnut ...
Chloe envisioned the devil's food cake she'd chucked in the garbage less than an hour ago. Thought about the way Ryan had sampled the frosting, the groan of delight just before the weary sigh. Remembered the way he'd raved about her cooking over the last few months, especially the dishes she'd created during her Contemporary Desserts course.
Equating confectionary with heartache, she wondered if she'd ever be able to mix up another dessert without feeling depressed or homicidal. "I'm swearing off sweets," Chloe said with a sniff. "Forever."
Monica snorted. "Now that's just crazy talk."CHAPTER 2
Two days later ...
Sugar Creek, Vermont
Devlin Monroe massaged his throbbing temple as his brother relayed troubling news. He shifted the phone to his left ear and scribbled a name on a notepad. "Thanks for the heads-up, Luke."
"If you would've accepted her invitation for breakfast you would've heard it from Gram herself."
"Backed up with work."
"You're always backed up with work. You need to get a life, Dev."
"So you keep telling me." He signed off with his brother and glanced at his watch. Nine fifteen a.m.
The store had been open to the public for fifteen minutes. Most of the employees had arrived fifteen minutes before that. Devlin, Chief Operating Officer of J. T. Monroe's Department Store — family owned and operated for six generations — had been on the property since 7:00 a.m. He'd already crammed three hours of work into two, focusing on a short, medium, and long-range report regarding the nineteenth-century retail store's ability to compete with the Walmart Supercenter opening two towns over, a short thirty-minute drive for anyone in or around Sugar Creek. A concern that had robbed him of a month's worth of decent sleep. Determined to bring J.T.'s into this century, he'd e-mailed the report to the CEO, his dad, who was in Florida enjoying the first year of his semi-retirement. Even though the old man had handed over the reins, he couldn't, or wouldn't, get out of the damned driver's seat.
Just after Devlin had texted his dad about the incoming high-priority document, Luke had called. Now Devlin stared at his phone contemplating who to wage war with first. His dad or his grandma.
Before he could decide, his sister, Rocky, blew into his office — unannounced — and dropped into the seat across from his desk. As always, she was dressed in jeans and layered T-shirts, her thick blond hair woven into two braids. Twenty-nine and still a tomboy. A tomboy with womanly curves and the face of a Hollywood starlet. Thankfully, she scared off a lot of men with her blunt talk and tough attitude; otherwise, given his overprotective nature, his big-brother role would be daunting. "Have you heard the news?" she asked.
"Most people knock."
"I'm not most people. I'm your sister. Besides, the door wasn't closed all the way."
"Ah." As if that made all the difference.
"Gram hired a companion."
"You don't look thrilled."
"Why? You're the one who convinced Gram she needs help."
"I was hoping she'd rely more on us. Or hire someone local. Someone we know."
"We're lucky she hired anyone at all. You know how stubborn she is. Now we don't have to worry about her starting another kitchen fire or running over another fire hydrant. This woman can cook Gram's meals — I heard she's a gourmet chef, by the way — and drive her wherever she needs to go." Rocky crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "You're just pissed because Gram excluded you from the interview process."
"I'm concerned," Devlin said, leaning forward, "because we don't know this woman."
"Her name is Chloe Madison."
"Luke told me."
"Did he tell you that she's an old friend of Monica Smith's?"
Devlin nodded. "Doesn't mean she's trustworthy."
"I don't think Monica would hook Gram up with an ax killer." She frowned. "You need to loosen up, Dev. Seriously. This is good news. For all of us."
"You drive all the way here just to bust my balls?"
"No. That's a bonus. Actually, I came to ask a favor."
"You could've called."
"Too easy for you to say no over the phone. This way I can charm you by smiling and batting my baby blues." She proceeded to do just that.
In spite of his tense mood, Devlin smiled. "What do you want?"
"For one night. Tomorrow night. It's my turn to host the meeting for Cupcake Lovers and my oven's busted."
"Since this morning."
"I'll buy you a new one."
"I like my old one. I called a repairman, but it won't be ready in time. By the way, if I wanted a new cooking range, I'd buy it myself. That's the trouble with you, Dev. Always taking control. Sometimes people like to make their own decisions, take care of their own problems."
"Not helping your case here."
"So can I take over your kitchen and living room for about four hours? I'll make an extra batch of cupcakes just for you."
"Toss in a pot of your vegetable beef stew and you've got a deal."
Her mouth quirked. "You know, if you had a wife or even a steady girlfriend, you wouldn't have to bribe me for the occasional home-cooked meal. Of course that would mean actually getting out and socializing so you could meet someone."
"I've met a lot of someones."
"Just not the right one. I swear you set yourself up for failure. Take Tasha for instance."
"Do you want my house for the night or not?"
"Cupcakes and stew it is." She stood and moved to the door, pausing on the threshold. "We missed you at breakfast."
Meaning "we miss you, period."
His family had always been close, and even though he and his sibs and cousins were adults with full lives and careers, they still got together regularly. Except for Devlin. With his multiple business interests and investments he spent more and more time at the computer. Seeing the genuine hurt in his sister's eyes, he offered a smile and a promise: "I'll see you at Sunday dinner." A running tradition at Gram's house.
Rocky rushed over and offered her pinky.
He crooked his own pinky around hers and squeezed. "Swear."
Smiling, she kissed him on the cheek, then rushed out, leaving the door open in her wake.
Shaking his head, Dev snagged his cell and, while moving to shut the door, dialed his best friend, a private investigator who'd relocated to Brooklyn, New York.
Jayce answered on the first ring. "Calling to shoot the shit or to raz me about the Jets?"
"Professional call. Need you to dig into someone's life."
"Must be serious."
"On it," Jayce said. "What's the name?"
He glanced at his notepad. "Chloe Madison."
* * *
In two days' time, Chloe had secured a job and lodgings in Sugar Creek, put most of her belongings into storage, and purchased a one-way ticket to Burlington, Vermont. She'd worked fast, refusing to second-guess her decision. The apartment was in Ryan's name and he'd purchased the majority of the furnishings. She suddenly felt like a kept woman, especially since he'd repeatedly pointed out her spastic work résumé. She needed to get her act together and, as Monica had suggested, take time to heal. Ryan had dinged her sense of security and blown a hole in her self-esteem. Was she really that much of a flake?
When her plane touched down in Burlington, Chloe vowed not to fall apart when she saw her best friend. Besides, Chloe was fairly sure she was all cried out. She'd gone through four boxes of tissues and two rolls of toilet paper in her two-day packing spree. Nope, she wasn't going to shed one more tear for Ryan-the-Cheating-Bastard Levine. She wanted to make the most of her time with Monica. Unbelievably, even though they frequently e-mailed and talked on the phone, they were lucky if they saw each other in person once every three years. In fact, the last time she'd seen Monica was when Chloe had flown back to their hometown in Indiana for Monica and Leo's wedding. That was also the last time Chloe had seen her dad.
"Oh, my God," Monica squealed as Chloe rushed toward her in Baggage Claim. "You're a brunette!"
"I didn't have time to keep up with the blond highlights when I was in school, so I went back to my roots, so to speak." Chloe hugged Monica and held tight. But she didn't cry.
The taller woman pushed her to arm's length and eyed her with a sympathetic smile. "You look good. A little thin, but beautiful as always. How the hell did you lose weight in culinary school? Don't you eat what you cook?"
"You end up tasting and sampling on the run rather than sitting down and lingering over a meal. Plus, between the heat of the kitchen and the anxiety and excitement ..." She shrugged. "Watch. I'll put on twenty pounds in the next month."
"In these parts that would qualify you for curvy. As someone who could stand to lose an entire dress size, I, for one, appreciate the region's more generous views on the female form."
"I think you look wonderful," Chloe said honestly. Monica had always been on the "curvy" side, but she was tall and big boned and between her pretty face, signature pixie cut, and funky eyeglasses she made a bold, sexy statement while retaining a classy aura.
Wearing a mothering expression that Chloe knew well, her friend reached out and gently tucked Chloe's loose long hair behind her ears. "How do you feel?"
"Okay." She forced a smile. "But life will get better."
Excerpted from Fool for Love by Beth Ciotta. Copyright © 2012 Beth Ciotta. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
AMAZING STORIES WITHIN THE MAIN STORY! I WANT TO MOVE TO SUGAR CREEK, VERMONT!
This was the first book that I have read from this author, and I enjoyed it enough that I bought the 2nd in the series and have pre-ordered the 3rd! It's a fun, lighthearted, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny story filled with characters that you want to keep reading about. Daisy is a hoot!
I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN.I ENJOYED THIS BOOK. TRUE LOVE STORIE. I LOVE GRAM SHE'S FULL OF LIFE
If you enjoy romance books this one is worth reading. Cupcakes and a small town, definitely equal a comfort book.
I bought and read Fool For Love the day it came out. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down! It was a compulsive read - I couldn't wait to see what stupid thing Devlin would say next, how Chloe would respond to it, or how they would both react to Daisy's next crazy idea. I very much enjoyed Chloe as a main character - her free spirit, her loyalty to the people in her life, and her unwillingness to allow anyone to get away with bullying or other BS is refreshing and fun to read. I'll admit that I mostly didn't care for Devlin but Chloe brings out his best once he lets her :) The supporting characters are all well-written and made me want to revisit Sugar Creek to see how they are doing. Luckily, Fool for Love is the first in a trilogy so I'll be able to wander back to Sugar Creek in the next book!
Beth Ciotta has stepped up her game with this wonderful first book in her new "Cupcake Lovers" trilogy. While Ciotta has always written strong female characters, personal chef Chloe Madison has a depth and backstory that is particularly engaging. Add to that some great romantic twists and turns, the always-anticipated and tantalizing "spice" of a good romance novel, and the very fully-realized community of Sugar Creek (I want to live there!) -- and you have a delicious beginning to an extremely promising three-course feast.
New author and I loved this book. Daisy was a great character and her need to be like Errol Flynn. Chloe was a great side kick and the tubing ride is a great scene. Dev is the perfect match for Chloe. I loved this book and all of the family and friends of Sugar Creek. The cupcake recipes in the back sound realy good and can't wait to try. Looking forward to the next book.
Loved it so much, I finished it way to fast, and then I bought the rest of the series.
Reviewed by Valerie Book provided by the publisher for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book Beth Ciotta has hit a homerun with this book! I was hooked from the first chapter and retreated into the world of laughter and romance until I turned the last page! I absolutely love books that have small town characters and while this one does, it has so much more… Chloe gets dumped by her fiancee right at the get-go. She is totally crushed and decides to accept her best friend’s suggestion to move to Sugar Creek, Vermont – as a personal companion, no less. What’s haunting her, besides being dumped, is that she seems to start projects and never finishes them. The ONLY thing she’s ever finished is culinary school. In the beginning, going to Vermont is a way to run away from the pain she’s feeling. Besides her love life being in the toilet, her relationship with her dad is estranged because of that very fiancee. In a nutshell, she’s in a bad place in her life and needs some cheering up. Enter my favorite character of this story, hands down – Daisy Monroe. An elderly ball-of-fire determined to live life her way, not the way her family wants her to. She drives a caddy that is the size of a tank, wants to go tubing down the river in her skivvies, and lives life to the fullest. She can’t believe how prude and reluctant Chloe is. She reminds her that she’s young yet a totally boring dud and invites her to join their town’s Cupcake Lover’s Club. Chloe does have a culinary degree, after all, so she can contribute to the club Daisy reminds her. And as the story unfolds, the fireworks start to fly. From the first time Devlin sees Chloe, he’s starstruck with her looks. THEN, he finds out she’s been hired to take care of his most beloved docile grandmother (snort). AND, then he finds out that Chloe’s a flaky person with a checkered past. He has enough to do trying to save his family’s department store which is about to be stomped on by a local Wal-Mart. Be prepared for laugh out loud moments as Daisy gets Chloe into trouble over and over, both with the law and with Devlin. Enter all the other characters of Sugar Creek and you have a fun read that you will want to read again just to enjoy the laughs over and over! The back of the book has reader-submitted cupcakes too!
This was a great story to lose my day in. The characters are compelling, quite colorful, and refreshing. I really liked the flow of the storyline and never once got bored. I look forward to reading the second now. If you enjoy a lighthearted, romantic read, then give this book a shot.
I love that you get a taste for the next book with the alternating pov. Each character introduced has been lovable and you want to route for each couple.
Got u dont have it but want it caus i hered its a good book