Spring is just around the corner when the residents of Eureka get the news that the Last Dollar Café will be featured on the popular TV show What’s Cookin’, USA? Soon everyone throws themselves into preparing their beloved town for the limelight—and no one more so than the show’s host, Faye Anne Reynolds. With ratings dwindling and her personal life a tangled mess of debt and regret, she needs this episode to be more than perfect, and she’s willing to do anything to make it so.
Librarian Cassie Wynock is right behind her, scripting her debut as Eureka’s star representative. Meanwhile, local Maggie Stevens is dragging her feet setting a wedding date to Jameso, and her friend, Barb, is tearing her hair out searching for the right building for her B&B. Nothing is going to according to plan, and when a freak snowstorm blankets Eureka, everyone will have to realize that micro-managing life isn’t possible—and letting good things happen takes a little faith, a lot of patience, and loyal friends.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Rocky Mountain Getaway
By CINDY MYERS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Myers
All rights reserved.
Julia Child probably never had to deal with things like this. Faye Anne Reynolds, celebrity hostess of What's Cookin'? USA. put on her best "America's Kitchen Sweetheart" smile and fought to keep a whine out of her voice. "I'm sure we can come to some kind of understanding. Once I'm back in my office I'll straighten everything out."
"The bank refused your credit cards—both of them. And they say your check's no good, either." The mechanic folded burly arms across his chest. "The car stays here until you come up with twenty-five hundred dollars. In cash. Or you can keep the car and I'll take back my new transmission."
Who had twenty-five hundred dollars in cash lying around? Not Faye Anne. But she had plenty of people with their hands out wanting the money, including Uncle Sam, who was threatening to seize her assets in lieu of tax payments she owed. One more reason to get out of Dodge for a while. The back of beyond in the Rocky Mountains seemed like a good place to hide from the IRS. And if she could get a great show out of the trip, maybe she'd pull her butt out of the fire yet.
She struggled to keep her smile in place. "I really need the car to do my job to get the money to pay you," she said. "Every episode of What's Cookin'? USA begins with me driving into town and parking in front of the restaurant featured in that week's show." The yellow Mustang convertible was one of her trademarks, along with her red dresses, blond wigs, and June Cleaver pearls. She was young and hip, but also devoted to home-style cooking, small-town hospitality, and all the things that made this country great. People loved the yellow Mustang convertible. They loved her show. And they loved Faye Anne.
Or they had, until other, more gimmicky chefs had come along. There was a guy on A&E who was shooting up in the ratings with a show devoted to state fair food. If you could put it on a stick and fry it, he'd feature it on his show. Never mind that deep-fried butter would kill you—people tuned in every week to see what outrageous concoction he'd feature next. Meanwhile, Faye Anne's producers were shaking their heads and making noises about not renewing her. If she didn't find a way to regain her title as the Cooking Show Queen, her car wasn't going to be the only thing repossessed.
"I'm filming my next show in Colorado," she told the mechanic. "In this gorgeous little mountain town called Eureka. A friend of mine went there on vacation and she sent me photographs of the scenery—fabulous. We've already planned the opening for the episode—me driving the Mustang down a series of mountain switchbacks, then pulling up in front of the Last Dollar Cafe. Don't you just love the name?"
"You'd better find another Mustang—or twenty-five hundred dollars."
"You can't hold my car hostage." All right—the smile was slipping. But obviously, charm wasn't going to work on this man.
"I'm not holding your car hostage," he said. "I'm hanging on to my transmission until it's paid for."
She couldn't very well drive the car without a transmission. Deep breath. She could handle this. She always did. She hadn't let dirt-poor parents, bad teeth, her lack of a degree, a cheating ex, or the threat of bankruptcy defeat her. Over the last ten years, she'd charmed and cajoled and worked to get to where she was today, complete with new teeth, an honorary doctorate, a divorce, and a mini-mansion outside of Dallas. Never mind that the house was in foreclosure and the degree was from the University of Lehigh Heights. What mattered was that she always found a solution to her problems. She made things work.
"Take your transmission," she told the startled mechanic. "Just give me back the Mustang."
"What do you think?" Danielle cupped her palm beneath the bowl of the spoon and held it up to Janelle's lips.
Janelle sipped and looked thoughtful. "A little more salt," she said. "And just a hint more spice. A sprinkle of nutmeg, maybe?"
"Exactly what I was thinking." The tension in Danielle's shoulders eased. She tossed the spoon in a basin of soapy water and reached for the nutmeg. "I know it's right if we're both on the same page." Partners in life and in the Last Dollar Café, Danielle and Janelle were a perfect pair, both with a taste for good food and a love for the small town where they'd made their home.
"Pumpkin soup for the first course, then?" Janelle walked to the whiteboard to the left of the back door of the restaurant kitchen and picked out a red marker.
"Yes. And for the appetizers I was thinking the stuffed mushrooms everyone loves so much." Danielle tasted the soup again and nodded. "It's perfect now." She scribbled a note about the seasonings in the margin of the notebook propped on the counter beside her.
"Only salad, main course, sides, and dessert to go." Janelle tucked a stray wisp of her short platinum hair beneath the pink and black paisley bandana tied around her head. "Are we going to be ready by the time she gets here?"
"No, but we'll fake it." Danielle arched her back, trying to ease the ache from standing over the stove all day. She'd worked the breakfast and lunch rushes while Janelle backed her up at lunch and handled the dinner orders. They'd shut the doors early, promptly at seven, and convened in the kitchen for more menu planning and recipe testing.
"It's going to be great," Janelle said, her German accent rolling the R in great and sending a shiver up Danielle's spine. Such a sexy voice. Who wasn't a sucker for an accent? Add in the tall, blond, blue-eyed goddess attached to it and ...
"Why are you smiling at me that way?" Janelle asked. "Did you hear what I just said?"
"Sorry. I was daydreaming."
"Then daydream us a menu that will impress Faye Anne Reynolds and the What's Cookin'? viewers."
Right. Save the fantasies for later. Danielle furrowed her brow, concentrating. "We want local food, right? So for salad, that means arugula and maybe radishes from our cold frames. That's the only produce in our garden right now."
"Maybe arugula with pine nuts and goat cheese? And a dressing made with frozen raspberries left over from the ones we picked last summer."
Danielle could almost taste it. "That's perfect," she said. "And for the main course, what do you think of lamb?"
"Of course." Janelle scribbled this addition to the list on the white board. "Those rosemary roasted chops you made last spring—so yummy."
"Can you believe this is really happening?" Danielle hugged herself, as if she could somehow hold in her excitement. "The Last Dollar on the most popular cooking show on TV? Somebody pinch me."
Janelle leaned over and obligingly pinched Danielle's upper arm—but not hard. "We're going to have our fifteen minutes of fame," she said. "But we won't let it change us, right?"
"I don't know." Danielle patted her dark braids. "I might start wearing a tiara to work."
"People around here wouldn't even blink," Janelle said.
It was true that Eureka, Colorado, tucked high in the Rocky Mountains, tended to attract people who marched to a different drummer. Maybe that was why she and Janelle had been so welcome here—though, more likely, people simply appreciated having a place in town to eat really good food.
A rattling noise startled Danielle from her musings. "What was that?"
"I think someone's at the door." Janelle pulled back the curtain and peered out into the darkness. Then she flipped on the outside light and pulled open the door. "Maggie! What are you doing out there?"
Maggie Stevens, a petite redhead who'd moved to town a little less than a year before, slipped into the warm kitchen, bringing a gust of chilly night air with her. "I saw the light and thought I'd see if I could catch you." She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "It smells divine in here."
"Pumpkin soup. Want some?" Danielle asked, already reaching for a cup.
"I didn't come here so you'd feed me, but if you're going to twist my arm ..." Maggie settled onto a stool at the farmhouse table that served as the room's chief work surface and unbuttoned her coat. "I'm starving all the time these days."
"Of course you are. That baby's using up all your energy." Danielle handed Maggie the bowl of soup and glanced at the prominent baby bump beneath her friend's sweater.
"I guess so." Maggie sipped the soup, then closed her eyes and let out a hum of satisfaction. "Oh, this is wonderful."
"How are you feeling?" Danielle asked. "You look great."
"I think the worst of the morning sickness is over, which is good," Maggie said. "I feel good."
"Have you set a date for the wedding?" Janelle asked.
Maggie flushed, and glanced at the ring on the third finger of her left hand—a combination of diamonds, turquoise, and Colorado gold that her fiancé, Jameso Clark, had had made by a jeweler in Montana. "Not yet. Jameso and I are still trying to decide."
"As long as you let us do the food for your reception," Danielle said. "As our gift to you and Jameso."
"That's so generous. Of course I wouldn't have anyone else."
"What can we do for you?" Janelle asked, coming to stand between the other two women.
"Oh, right." Maggie set aside the cup of soup and pulled a mini recorder from her purse. "I wanted to get some quotable quotes for the article we're running about the Last Dollar's big debut on What's Cookin'? USA" Maggie was the chief—well, the only—reporter for the Eureka Miner.
"How did you hear about that?" Danielle exchanged a look with Janelle. When the production assistant from What's Cookin'? had called, she'd stressed that they needed to keep the news under wraps.
"We received a press release from Faye Anne Reynolds." Maggie sipped more soup. "Well, it was probably from her secretary or something, but Faye Anne signed it. You two are going to be famous."
"I don't know about famous," Danielle said. "But it might bring a few more people who watch the show to town. That would be a good thing." Eureka depended on tourists for a big portion of its income; some bad investments last year had made that even more important.
"How did What's Cookin'? hear about the café?" Maggie asked.
"We have no idea," Danielle said. She looked to Janelle, who nodded.
"I think big shows like this must have scouts," Janelle said. "One of them must have eaten here and we didn't even know it."
"I'm not surprised they wanted to feature you, then," Maggie said. "You two are geniuses in the kitchen. I've never eaten anything here that wasn't wonderful."
"Thank you," Janelle said. "We hope we can put together a meal that will impress Faye Anne. She's eaten at places all over the country. I don't think she's easily wowed."
"How does filming work?" Maggie asked. "Have they given you any details?"
"Apparently, Faye Anne likes to spend a few days in the town, getting to know the setting and the people. She'll film us in the kitchen, talking about food preparation and the restaurant and town, and interacting with customers in the dining room, then the finale is a big dinner, with some of the local folks."
"And we agreed to provide at least three recipes for viewers, which will be featured on the What's Cookin'? website and Facebook page," Danielle added.
"Definitely feature the pumpkin soup," Maggie said. "It's to die for."
"Would you like some more?"
Maggie sighed. "I thought you'd never ask."
"This is crazy. And dangerous."
"It will be fine, Jack." Faye Anne made one last check in the mirror. She adjusted the knot on the red and white polka-dot scarf tied in the platinum updo that was this week's wig, smoothed the front of the red shirtwaist, and straightened her pearls. Perfect. Then she turned to look at her longtime cameraman, Jack Than Ngu. Ten a.m. on a gorgeous, even chilly, April day and he was already sweating through his gray bowling shirt. "All you have to do is kneel in the back of the truck and film as we head down the mountain. I've got the hard part. I'll be in the car."
"A car without a transmission. Are you out of your mind?"
"The car doesn't need a transmission to be towed," she said. "I'll just be pretending to drive, while you shoot the opening. After all, the wrecker company towed it all this way with no problem."
"They towed it from Dallas. Where everything is flat." Jack swiveled his head to take in the view of towering mountains surrounding them. "If you'd told them you were planning this stunt here, they'd have ordered you locked up as nuts."
"I'll be fine." She pushed down the knot of fear that rose in her throat. Fear was useful sometimes. It could be a powerful motivator. Right now, her fear of losing her show, of having everything she owned seized by IRS agents, of losing control of her life, beat out fear of an automobile accident. All she had to do was strap herself in, steer, and smile for the cameras. Then she'd film an episode of What's Cookin'? USA that would wow her producers and win back the viewers to put her once more at the top of the ratings.
"I won't do it." Jack glared at her. "I quit."
"You have a contract. You can't quit."
"I'll break my contract. I'll sue you for discrimination."
"No one will believe you." Jack threatened either to quit or to sue her every other week. She'd stopped believing his bluffs long ago.
He looked around again, as if searching for some avenue of escape. But parked at a scenic overlook on the top of something called Black Mountain, the only thing around them was gray rock, pine trees, and patches of snow. "Whose idea was it to come here in April?" he asked. "It's freezing."
"It's spring in the mountains." She forced cheer into her voice. "The perfect time to be here." She had to film a new episode in the next two weeks if she was going to persuade her producer to renew her contract. With a new contract in hand, she could cut a deal with the Internal Revenue Service. She had one chance to turn her life around and the Last Dollar Café in Eureka, Colorado, was it.
"There's snow." Jack pointed to a mound of dirty white to their left. "People do not see snow and think spring."
Okay, she hadn't counted on snow. In April? Back in Dallas, she was already running the air conditioner. "The postproduction people can Photoshop that out." She waved her hand. If they could make fruit glisten and chicken that had been sitting in the oven through six takes look succulent, they could get rid of a little snow.
"You're going to freeze in that dress." Jack pulled his leather jacket more tightly around his burly torso.
"I don't even feel the cold." A lie. Her fingers were already turning blue, but everyone knew an artist had to suffer for her art. Actors starved themselves for roles. They shaved off their hair or wore uncomfortable makeup and costumes for hours. What was a few minutes of cold compared to that? And it would all be worth it when the viewers saw the previews of Faye Anne, in her yellow convertible, zipping down the mountains on the way to her most spectacular show yet. A little cold—and a cranky cameraman—weren't going to stop her.
"Get in the truck, Jack," she said. "We're headed to Eureka."
SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP
1 small pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup milk
½ to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
Split the pumpkin or squash and remove seeds. Cut each half into three or four large pieces and arrange on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees until tender—30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. When cool, scoop pumpkin flesh from rind and place in a bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add chopped onion and stir until onion is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in flour to make a roux. Add curry powder, cumin and nutmeg. Put garlic through a press and add to mixture in the Dutch oven. Slowly pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly. Add pumpkin.
Cover and simmer ten minutes.
Remove pot from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the pumpkin. Return to low heat and stir in milk. Cook over low heat until heated through. Garnish with more nutmeg and a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, if desired.CHAPTER 2
"What is all that commotion in front of the Last Dollar?" Librarian Cassie Wynock craned her neck to see over the crush of people and cars in front of the café.
"It's probably because of that TV show." Cassie's assistant, Gloria Sofelli, stood beside and a little behind Cassie, on the sidewalk in front of the Eureka County public library. The two had arrived together to open the library for the day, but all the traffic had distracted Cassie.
"What TV show?" Cassie barked the question like a homicide detective questioning the chief suspect in a murder case—or at least, that's the way it seemed to Gloria, who had a fondness for crime dramas, but no affection for Cassie's accusing tone. Not to mention that short, squat Cassie, with her square frame and head of tight gray curls, looked more like Miss Marple than any homicide detective ever portrayed on stage or screen.
"It ... it's a cooking show." Gloria despised the tremble that showed up in her voice. Cassie was a tyrant who bossed everyone around—especially Gloria. If only Gloria could find the courage to stand up to the librarian, Cassie might back down a little. Every day, she vowed that today, she'd demand the respect she deserved.
Excerpted from Rocky Mountain Getaway by CINDY MYERS. Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Myers. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
I pre-ordered this 6 months ago to read on a trip. My favorite area in the U.S. is the Umcompahgre area and all those wonderful towns and the backcountry and love this author . I was hoping this was as great as her other books with great characters and painting the picture of the town and areas around it. This was silly and not worth the wait. I didn't care about it at all and read first two chapters, dumped it. It is a filler in between novels a nd not really worth it