by Shawn Reilly Simmons


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635110333
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

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"We have to move if we're going to make time," Penelope yelled over her shoulder to her crew as she swiped her forehead with the sleeve of her chef coat. She shifted her weight back and forth, bouncing slightly on the thick rubber floor mat of the kitchen as she worked, her blond ponytail damp and sticking to the back of her neck.

"What's going up first, Boss?" Francis called to her from behind, his back turned as he worked over the flames leaping up through the grill grate.

Penelope glanced at the ancient clock hung on the dingy white tiles of the old hotel's basement kitchen. "Let's take it all up at once. We can use their pan racks." She eyed the tall carts against the wall, their multi-level slots full of empty sheet pans, and hoped they were relatively clean.

"Sure, Boss, no problem." Francis flipped the steaks in front of him, turning them quickly to ensure they cooked evenly. The New York strips sizzled loudly on the grates.

Penelope bent back over her cauliflower au gratin on the large stainless steel prep table. She faced the service window where the wait staff would normally come to pick up finished plates and take them to the hotel's guests in the small restaurant upstairs. But today The Crawford was closed to the public, about to undergo a major renovation, and rented out beforehand to their film crew. It was Red Carpet Catering's first day on set and principal filming had just begun at the historic hotel near the High Line in Manhattan.

"Remember to keep those steaks under," Penelope warned Francis. "They'll come the rest of the way up to temp while they're resting."

Francis nodded, keeping his eyes on the grill. The bandana tied around his head had turned dark red in the hot basement. He began pulling the finished steaks from the flames.

"Open the oven for me, would you?" Penelope said, picking up the large sheet pan her individual ramekins of au gratin were resting on. She turned around carefully in the tight space between them, her forearms straining from the weight of the pan. She slid them into the oven, careful not to spill any over the sides.

Penelope closed the oven door and poked the steaks with her finger, checking for doneness. "These are perfect." She glanced down the kitchen to the cold station where the rest of her team was working. They were putting the finishing touches on the salads, assembling a dessert display, and garnishing a carving station that held three roasted whole chickens with sprigs of fresh parsley.

Penelope shouted over the din of the industrial exhaust fans on the back wall, "Get those cakes in cold storage as soon as you can. It's way too hot in here to keep them out."

"What?" her assistant chef yelled, cupping his hand to his ear.

Penelope sighed and walked closer to him, still raising her voice so he could hear her. "I said, it's hot in here. Get a move on and put those desserts away before they melt. We'll come back down for them when they're halfway through lunch."

Penelope watched him plate the last few slices of cake and wished again there was a window in the stuffy room. She hoped whoever was renovating the hotel would remember to include a proper ventilation system for the chefs who normally worked in this kitchen. She gathered up the empty cake boxes and tossed them into the trash while her assistant placed their desserts in the walk-in refrigerator.

Penelope went back to the oven to check on her cauliflower dish. A wave of heat hit her in the face when she opened the door and saw the crocks of cheesy cauliflower were bubbling, but none of them were brown on top.

"This broiler is out," she yelled to Francis, who was pulling the last two well-done steaks from the grill.

Francis cursed in response. They looked up at the clock on the wall at the same time and saw they only had five minutes until they were scheduled to serve lunch to the cast and crew.

"Okay, watch out," Penelope said, grabbing two dish towels and pulling the hot sheet pan out of the oven. She placed it on top of the stove and eased the door shut with her steel-toed boot. There were several drawers tucked up underneath the service counter and she pulled one out, quickly ransacking through the kitchen tools.

"Help me find a torch, would you?"

Francis turned and pulled open the farthest drawer, which screeched loudly on its rollers. He picked through a few of the tools, then closed it and pulled open the next one. "Here you go, Boss." He held up a butane kitchen torch.

Penelope took it from him. "Is the igniter in there?"

"Yep," Francis said, handing her a round silver sparker.

"I hope it has fuel," Penelope muttered. She twisted the valve on the side of the torch and clicked the igniter a few times. Finally a thin blue flame shot out of the spout. "Don't you love working in someone else's kitchen?" She turned back to her dish. She waved the torch in even strokes over the first crock, watching the cheese and breadcrumbs toast under the flame. "Only forty-nine to go," she said under her breath as she moved to the next one.

The walkie-talkie inside the pocket of her chef coat crackled and she paused a moment to pull it out. A staticky voice buzzed, "Five ... catering ... go ... lunch."

Penelope looked at the radio for a second and then pushed the button on the side. "Say again, I didn't hear that."

"Five ... not ... Stephens ... lunch," the voice said.

Penelope sighed. "I can barely make out what you're saying. You're breaking up and it's loud down here. Stephens wants lunch in five? Is that right?" Penelope said. She cut her eyes at Francis who stood next to her admiring his steak platter. He shook his head at her in response.

"Stephens ... another ... upstairs," the voice said, fading out at the end.

"This radio is a piece of crap," Penelope said, tossing it onto the counter and getting back to work with the torch.

"Why don't you call him?" Francis asked. "Who is it, the AD? What's his name?"

"I don't remember, actually," Penelope said, glancing again at the radio. "I don't like to call the crew in case they're rolling and they haven't turned off their phones. Wouldn't want to ruin a shot and get someone in trouble. Plus I only get one bar down here." She looked up at the clock again. "This is when we're supposed to roll setup upstairs and everything is almost ready. Let's stick to the schedule."

"Okay, Boss. Hey, you guys," Francis bellowed over the fans. "We're rolling in one minute." He pulled the tall carts around to the front of the service station and they filled them up, careful not to jostle the food too much as they loaded everything.

Penelope watched them out of the corner of her eye while she worked. When she'd toasted her last gratin, she brought her sheet pan around and slid it onto one of the lower shelves. "That's still a little hot. Be careful when you wrap them."

Francis began looping clear plastic wrap around one of the carts, passing the roll to another chef and back again until both racks were completely covered, the food protected inside.

Penelope retrieved the radio from the countertop. "This is catering. We're heading up."

A click and static was the only response. She sighed and punched the button to call the service elevator to the basement. The rest of the crew was upstairs, with principal filming taking place in the penthouse suite.

This movie was a small independent production, and they'd be feeding about fifty crew members on any given day. Or at least that's what Penelope had been told when she'd signed on to the project. Experience had taught her that production schedules, crews, and even actors could change at any time during a movie, so she had learned to be flexible, even if doing so took her out of her comfort zone.

The elevator doors slowly rolled open, the musty moving blankets lining the walls swaying lazily as it came to a stop. Penelope reminded herself not to lean up against them.

"There's nothing creepier than an abandoned hotel," Francis said under his breath.

"It's not abandoned, just empty. But you're right about it being creepy," Penelope agreed.

After Penelope and her crew had all squeezed inside, the doors rumbled slowly closed and the elevator slowly groaned upward.


The next morning, Penelope set a plate down in front of Arlena, who sat with her arms folded across her chest at their kitchen island. Arlena stared down into a pair of matching egg yolks.

"Go ahead and eat it. You know you want to." Sam nudged Arlena's bicep with his elbow.

"But I don't want to, that's the point," Arlena said. She gazed at the sunny side up eggs a few beats more, then picked up her fork and pierced them, releasing their gooey goodness onto the buttery home fries and toast beneath.

"I'll eat it if you don't want it," Sam said, taking an enthusiastic bite from his identical plate.

"No," Penelope scolded. "I promised I'd help her get ready, but she's got to eat the food herself."

Arlena dropped her fork and perched her thin elbows on the countertop. Dropping her head into her hands, she said, "Remind me why I'm doing this again?"

Penelope glanced at Sam and said, "You want the part, so you have to look the part. That's what you said, and that means putting on the weight. Cold eggs taste terrible. Dig in."

Penelope normally made things like green smoothies or egg white frittatas for breakfast. She was Arlena's live-in chef and best friend, and she always cooked for Arlena and Sam on the mornings they were home. They were both busy actors, and a lot of the time they were on film sets, so Penelope looked forward to the mornings they were home together.

Penelope opened the cover of a three-ring binder on the counter and flipped through the first few pages. "The nutritionist says you have to hit at least four thousand calories a day for the next six weeks to bulk up. She's got it all planned out here."

Arlena groaned. "I know, I know ... fine. I'll do it." She scooped some egg and toast into her mouth.

"After breakfast you'll only have a little over three thousand calories to go," Penelope said, scanning a few of the suggested meal plans.

"I have no idea how I'm going to manage that," Arlena said between bites.

"You can do it, babe," Sam said, a bit of egg yolk staining the corner of his mouth. "It'll be easy once you get in the habit of eating more."

Arlena rolled her eyes and took another bite. "I swear I don't starve myself to stay thin. You both know how much I love good food. I only try to be as healthy as I can."

Penelope looked up from the binder. "The nutritionist doesn't want to create any lingering health problems, so she's kept your diet plan on the clean side. We just have to up your calories in the healthiest way possible. Lots of shakes, extra carbs."

Sam took a triangle of toast and mopped up the remaining egg yolk from his plate. "How much weight are you trying to put on?"

"At least twenty-five pounds," Arlena said quietly, not looking up from her plate.

"Twenty-five pounds?" Sam asked. "You're going to look great."

"We'll see," Arlena said skeptically.

"What's the part again?" Sam asked.

"Well, if I even get the part, I'll be playing a music teacher from Indiana who ends up getting a group of her students to Carnegie Hall for a competition."

"And you have to put on weight for that?" Sam asked, leaning his back against his stool and stretching his arm behind Arlena's chair.

"It's based on a true story. The woman looks like me, kind of, but more full-figured. My agent thinks I'll have a better shot if I can show I'm able to change physically."

"You're doing a Raging Bull," Penelope said, still leafing through the binder, reminding herself to pick up some of the suggested groceries on the list.

"I'm going for Monster," Arlena said, eating another bite of toast. She'd almost cleaned her plate.

"No, you're more like Bridget Jones," Sam said.

"You're not mean enough for Monster."

"Oh yeah? Force me to eat greasy breakfasts every day for a month and you'll see how much of a monster I can be." Arlena pushed her plate away, just a few scraps of toast lying in a puddle of egg yolk remaining.

Sam pulled Arlena off of her stool and into his lap, hugging her tightly. "It doesn't matter what size you are. To me, you are perfect." He kissed her sweetly on the cheek. Arlena hugged him back, her mood lightening.

"Are you coming with us tonight?" Arlena asked a couple hours later as Penelope came through the back door into the kitchen. She had just gotten back from a run, her cheeks red and her shirt damp with sweat under her light jacket.

"What's tonight again?" she asked as she pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

Arlena flipped through a few envelopes. The vanilla protein shake Penelope had mixed for her before she left sweated on the countertop, a blue straw pointed towards her face.

"Max's thing. The fashion show in Chelsea. You're not working, are you?"

"No, we're off this weekend, not due back until Monday. This new job is making me so tired, I forgot about tonight. For some reason I thought the show was next weekend."

Arlena pulled a shiny black card with an ornate letter S embossed in the center from their stack of mail and held it up. "No, it's tonight." She waved the card at Penelope. "It's Sienna's New York debut."

"Right, I remembered that part." They'd met Sienna the previous summer in Florida while they worked on a movie with her then-fiancé, Gavin McKenna. "Shoot, I have to call Joey. I know I told him the wrong day," Penelope said, looking around the kitchen for her phone. It was gleaming silver on the far granite countertop. She picked it up and saw that she had a missed call from him and a text that read: We still on for tonight? NYC?

"It looks like he remembered. Now I feel like a crazy person," Penelope said, calling him back. "Great, voicemail. Hey, Joey, it's Penny. Call me when you can about tonight."

"Good," Arlena said. "Max is excited that we're all coming, especially Daddy."

Arlena and Max's father, the legendary actor Randall Madison, was in town visiting between film projects.

Penelope nodded and finished her bottle of water. "I didn't know Max was that into fashion, or modeling." She pulled out the refuse compartment next to the sink and slipped the bottle into the recycling bin.

Arlena shrugged, distracted by another piece of mail. "Max is into a lot of things. He and Sienna have become good friends since we were in Florida. Gavin too. I know he wants to help her out. He's got name recognition, and he does wear clothes well, so that should be helpful to her."

"What am I going to wear?" Penelope looked down at her running shorts and dirty sneakers. Her legs were salty with sweat and she hadn't shaved in a couple of days. Fine blond stubble shimmered on her kneecaps.

"Well, not that." Arlena eyed Penelope up and down. "Come over to my side of the house later and we'll find something."

"Thanks," Penelope said.

Her phone rang and she glanced down to see Joey's name flash on the screen over a picture of the two of them together on the roof of Rockefeller Center, the Manhattan skyline fogged in behind them, skyscrapers poking through the gray clouds. She smiled and pulled the phone up to her ear, answering on the way upstairs to her room.


Penelope's fingers were entwined with Joey's much thicker ones as he led her through the crowd of flashing bulbs towards the heavy wooden door of the nightclub. Dozens of photographers were lined up on either side of red velvet ropes, clicking their shutters rapidly as they passed. A few of them pulled the cameras away from their faces for a better look at her and Joey, then looked past them expectantly down the red carpet for someone they recognized.

A thin young man in a butler's uniform and white gloves pulled open the door of the old church as they approached. Penelope could see a large crowd of people milling around inside the nightclub, glasses of wine and cocktails in their hands. Just then she heard a frenzy of shouting and saw the night sky light up with flashes as Arlena, Sam, and Randall walked down the carpet. They paused to pose for the photographers, Arlena flanked by the two men she loved the most. Arlena wore a pale silk dress and bright red high-heeled sandals, her long black hair spilling over her shoulders in shiny waves.

Joey placed his hand at the small of Penelope's back as they entered the club. "I know I said it earlier, but you look beautiful, Penny Blue."


Excerpted from "Murder On A Designer Diet"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Shawn Reilly Simmons.
Excerpted by permission of Henery 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.

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Murder on a Designer Diet 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[ I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. 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] “Okay. But how well do we know anyone? Don’t you think there are countless people who’ve said the same thing about someone who actually did commit murder? I’m sure no one thinks a close friend of theirs could do the worst thing imaginable.” “I suppose you’re right,” Penelope said, deflating. “But I feel certain about this.” Penelope Sutherland and her Red Carpet Catering Company are working a movie being shot in New York City. They are feeding a cast and crew of about 50, so it's not a big job. Problem is, the director and crew have set such a focused film schedule, and then they expect Red Carpet to be available at the drop of a hat. The erratic schedule gives Penelope blocks of time to explore the City, hopefully with her boyfriend, NJ Detective Joseph Baglioni. This story puts Penelope's work on the back burner while she investigates the situation. Pen gets involved in a murder that makes no sense on the outside. Getting "too close" causes her to be injured. Finding out her employer/friend Arlena's brother Max is suspected makes it more important. It might be a recipe for disaster for her and Joey, who feels she's too close to Max. However, as we know from other books in the series that getting to the truth is Penelope's forte, and her loyalty is her strength... no matter whar,t the cost. I really savor these books. The characters feel like people I grew up with and I care about them. So I was overjoyed to get another helping of the Red Carpet Catering Service and hope for another helping soon
Anonymous 8 months ago
I found the characters delightful and the plot line really good. I love cozy mysteries. I will be looking forward to reading about the continued adventures.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
Penelope Serves Up Another Winning Mystery. This is the third book in the A Red Carpet Catering Mystery series written by Shawn Reilly Simmons. This book can be read as a standalone, as well as any of the others. Penelope is a great cook and since she started her Red Carpet Catering she works hard at making her business a success. Unfortunately, that means sometimes taking jobs that do not turn out as expected. In this book, most of the action occurs off the set as there is no one in the movie involved in the murder/crime in this book. After a night on the town in New York with Joey, her boysfriend, Penelope receives a panicked late-night phone call from Max, her best friend’s brother. While trying to talk to him, she hears gunshots and then the call is cut off. Joey and Penelope figure out where Max was when he called and rush to the modelling agency. When the police arrive at the business, and find a handsome, model/club promoter dead, they handcuff both Joey and Penelope until they sort things out. , ends abruptly with shots fired on his end. As the investigation takes place, the police serve up Max as their main suspect, Penelope risks it all to prove his innocence, including her relationship to Joey who has gone back to New Jersey in a huff. With Penelope investigating the murder, she ends up getting herself in some tricky situations and almost loses the catering job she is working on. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. I like the relationship between Penelope and Joey, it is very realistic. The interactions between the main characters in these books shows what a great relationship friends and "chosen family" can have. The investigating that Penelope does sometimes goes a little too far and the police can be a little too accommodating, but overall, the books are quite realistic. This book takes a twist that was totally unexpected but added another dimension to the story that was quite intriguing. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a cozy mystery. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
TessT More than 1 year ago
Another enjoyable book in the Country Store Mysteries. .I find the setting of South Lick, IN. to be very kind and slow going, a place where i would love to hang my hat or kick off my shoes. Peace, quiet , a murder now and then..... No problem!! FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Qnofdnile More than 1 year ago
This book started off very slowly but about half way through it started to pick up and peak my interest. The title is a little misleading. I thought there would be more cooking/catering going on along with movie stars since it's a red carpet catering mystery. Penelope the caterer is with her boyfriend in the city for a romantic weekend and she gets a call from a good friend in the middle of the night and it sounds like he is in trouble. She runs off to help, the boyfriend comes too (he is a cop in NJ) and they both end up in the middle of a murder investigation. Now it gets interesting. More interaction with the NYPD. She even gets on a first name basis with the detective in charge. The little old lady that lives next door to the crime scene is a great character. There is a lot more going on in this building than just a murder investigation. It's hard to believe or maybe not the things some people do to one another. Read it to find out how it ends. I enjoyed it.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Murder on a Designer Diet - Red Carpeting Catering Mystery 3 Author: Shawn Reilly Simmons Published: 6-7-2016 Publisher: Henery Press Pages: 230 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: General Fiction - Adult ISBN: 9781635110333 ASIN: B01CRHOVH6 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 5 Stars . Lets start with this can be read as a stand-alone with no problems, but if you like myself like to see the characters develop and the their personal relationships than you may want to start with book one, Murder on a Silver Platter and work your way up to book 3, Murder on a Designer Diet. Don't worry about how much there is to read. This series is so well done that you will feel as though you have just gone to a friends to visit for a few hours. The exception being that this friend, Penelope Southerland runs a catering service that does Film Galas and Movie sets, Her best friends Arlena Madison is a movie star and her boyfriend is Joey Baglioni ( sounds more like a gangster than a law enforcement official) Once you started reading you would not want to stop until the last page of book three. Well worth the loss of sleep. Shawn Reilly Simmons has a talent for the written word which infuses humor, suspense and mystery to keep you glued to a book unable to put it down for fear of missing some minute detail. Her characters are well developed and believable. She plants enough clues to keep you guessing and some twist and turns to keep the story fresh. While catering a movie set in New York, Penelope and Joey attend Sienna Wentworth's Fashion debut. Rather than head all the way back to Jersey they spend the night in the City. Arlena's brother Max calls Penelope in the middle of the night frantic. Suddenly Penelope hears gunshots and the phone goes dead. Max asks for help. As Penelope and Joey search for Max they discover the body of one of the models and club promoter from the fashion show from the night before. Max is the police number one suspect. Believing Max innocent Penelope sets out to prove it to the police. Will Penelope find Max before the police. Will Joey be able to keep her safe when a killer turns his eye towards Penelope with plans to have her permanently retire from life? Mu rating is 5 out of 5 stars.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite series! While there wasn't a lot of the book set on the glamorous movie sets in this one, it was still enjoyable. And just as mysterious and pulse racing as the rest of the series. As usual, there are a whole slew of suspects of which I was wrong in all of my finger pointing. Ugh! No problem though, who really wants to be able to guess who did it at the beginning of the book? The story was entertaining, held my interest, and definitely not one to be read during a very loud thunderstorm that was raining buckets here in Cypress, Texas, AGAIN! But, it did keep my mind off the rising water in the canal that runs behind my house - extra bonus! I would definitely recommend this book, as well as all the catering series books. They are definitely enjoyable and certainly a pleasure to read. Thanks to Henery Press for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review!
weluvdopey More than 1 year ago
This is a great book; this is the third book in the A Red Carpet Catering Mystery series written by Shawn Reilly Simmons. This book can be read as a standalone, but once you read this one you will want to go back and read the other books in this series. Penelope’s life revolves around cooking and keeping her Red Carpet Catering business afloat, and she’s just landed a hearty new job for her and her staff. Just when Penelope thinks life couldn’t be sweeter, a panicked late-night phone call from Max, her best friend’s brother, ends abruptly with shots fired on his end. The next morning, a handsome model and club promoter turns up dead, and when the police serve up Max as their main suspect, Penelope risks it all to prove his innocence. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading long into the night. If you are looking for a great book, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
CozyMysteryLover1 More than 1 year ago
This is the third book in The Red Carpet Catering series. I'm a definite fan of this great series. Penelope is a caterer who loves to cook and has a talent for solving mysteries as well. Penelope is working in New York City and is looking forward to some quality time with her boyfriend Joey. After a night of partying at an exclusive fashion show, Penelope receives a late night phone call from Max. Penelope isn't sure if Max called her on purpose or if the call was a result of a drunken "butt dial." Consumed with worry, Penelope calls him back, only to hear him asking for help. Penelope and Joey rush to find Max, but they are too late. Max is gone. What they discover is unimaginable and Penelope puts her life on the line to search for Max and the truth. You won't want to miss this exciting story! This author is amazingly talented and sure can spin a wonderful tale. I love all the characters in this book and I am excited to see what Penny Blue will be up to next. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.