Jen Reid’s life after walking off a reality show has been great—she’s gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance boyfriend might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone’s favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.
That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she’s going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient—like the recipe that won the Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it—if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, “surprises” from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .
Praise for America’s Next Reality Star
“Smart, witty, and really freaking good, America’s Next Reality Star is a fun read that has you cheering from the first paragraph through the last page.”
—Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author
“Reality TV fans, this is your book! Laura Heffernan captures all the drama and over-the-top craziness in this fun and flirty romance.” —Amy E. Reichert, author of Love, Luck, and Lemon Pie
“America’s Next Reality Star is one sweet, sexy brain-candy read! You won’t be sorry you indulged.” —Leah Marie Brown
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
SHOCKING ENTERTAINMENT NEWS ONLINE
Runaway Fishbowl Couple Returning to TV?
Jen and Justin to appear on upcoming new series
by Talky Ted, Nov. 1
During the first season of The Fishbowl, Seattle's Jen Reid shocked viewers across the nation by accepting a $50,000 payout to leave the show and allow previously eliminated contestant J-Dawg to take her place.
The brown-haired, blue-eyed former marketing assistant admitted earlier in the show to mounting money problems, including homelessness. Many viewers thought she'd stick around to seek the grand prize. However, after viewers repeatedly nominated her for elimination, Jen wisely decided to take the money and run.
But that wasn't the end. Seconds after Jen announced her decision, her on-again, off-again love interest announced that he, too would leave the show. Despite being what many considered a serious contender for the grand prize, Justin Taylor of the startlingly green eyes and fabulous dimples followed Jen's limo down the driveway. The two shared a thrilling kiss before driving off.
Jen and Justin returned to their respective homes in Seattle and Florida. After the holidays, Jen moved to the Sunshine State where she invested her winnings in a bakery co-owned with Justin's twin sister, Sarah. In May, Justin graduated U. of Miami Law third in his class.
Sixteen months after their famous departure, America's most well-known reality couple may be returning to primetime. The Network recently announced a new show, Reality Ocean: Caribbean, which takes a boatload of former reality stars and their guests to the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Mexico. The show begins filming next week.
Jen, Justin, and a spokesperson for the Network refused to comment, leaving this reporter hopeful the hunky blond former law student will be reappearing soon on a television near you.
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I craned my neck, seeking any speck of light, but the makers of this blindfold should be proud of their craftsmanship. My roommate Sarah helped me out of her car and led me away, but I hadn't the faintest clue where we were going. Honking cars and street noise suggested we'd driven to somewhere in the city. The cool breeze and taste of salt in the air suggested we'd stopped near the beach, but in Miami, those clues told me little about our actual location.
"Jen, stop. You're peeking." At Sarah's order, I halted.
"I am not peeking. I can't see a thing." I could smell though, so I sniffed the air again, seeking other clues. Beneath the salt, the city odors, and the fabric of the blindfold lingered something else. Something not quite identifiable, but enticing.
"Then why do you keep tilting your head back?" Even with the blindfold, I could perfectly imagine Sarah's hands finding their way to her hips as she glared at me.
"Because I'm trying to peek," I admitted. "But I can't see a thing. Also, something smells amazing." The further we walked, the stronger the scent became. Wherever we were, something edible lurked nearby. Something delicious and edible.
"I'm glad you mentioned that. Stop here."
A lock clacked open, and a wave of cold air hit my face — air conditioning escaping from whatever building we stood in front of. It seemed strange when people used the AC in the fall, but October was oddly stifling in Florida this year. Odd to me, anyway, since this would be my first winter living in the South. Fall in my hometown of Seattle usually brought some clouds, some rain, some temperatures below a hundred degrees. Not in Miami, though.
That's what I got for falling in love with a soon-to-be lawyer. Thanks to state licensing laws, my boyfriend Justin couldn't exactly pick up and move to Seattle as easily as my unemployed, couch-surfing self moved to Florida and found a two-bedroom apartment with his sister.
His sister, who currently was leading me into a place full of enticing aromas. Cinnamon, chocolate, butter, vanilla ... I couldn't even identify all the components of the amazing smell. While I waited for her to tell me what was going on, I lowered my head and wiped my chin in case I'd started drooling.
It wasn't my birthday, so a surprise party didn't make any sense, but I smelled cake. Justin and I were leaving for a cruise in a few days, but a surprise Tuesday morning bon voyage party seemed out of place. Maybe the cloak-and-dagger routine meant she'd come up with a surprise for our upcoming business venture, opening next year.
When I left The Fishbowl, I didn't have any more idea what to do with my life than before I started, but I did have more money. The producers paid a per diem: a cash stipend for every day on the show. After eight weeks on the set, I walked away with almost seventeen hundred dollars. Plus my fifty-thousand-dollar cash prize. Even after taxes, not bad for less than two months' work.
With no job, a boyfriend in Florida, and no place to sleep other than on my friend Brandon's couch, it didn't take long to find the perfect solution: become co-owner and manager of the bakery Sarah planned to open in Miami. My marketing background would help us promote the shop, and I loved talking to people, so the customer service aspect would be a breeze. Plus, being my own boss at least ensured I wouldn't get another crappy mass email if I ever laid myself off.
Starting a business is easier said than done, but while I gained experience working nine-to-five behind the counter of the grocery store's bakery, Sarah came up with the perfect idea: Sweet Reality, a bakery offering a variety of desserts inspired by reality shows and contestants. I'd act as the face of the company, hopefully bringing in fans of The Fishbowl and similar shows. Sarah had already designed fishbowl-shaped cookies and cupcake flavors inspired by the personalities of several first season contestants.
"Are we doing a secret taste test of a bakery to scope out the competition?" I asked.
"Not exactly. Hold on a sec."
Somewhere, a switch flicked, and light appeared beyond the blindfold. I still couldn't make out any shapes, but we no longer stood in darkness.
Finally, Sarah said, "Okay, take it off."
A sign reading SWEET REALITY hung across the far wall, with little television sets on either side and clapper boards in place of the E's. The sign jumped out from a wall covered with glittering stars, both of the astrological variety and from television.
"OMG, it's our bakery! I love it!"
"Isn't it amazing?" Sarah asked.
"It really is." A framed poster of me and Justin sharing our first kiss, which happened to take place on national television, hung near the front door where passersby could spot it. "Wow, that's a huge picture of us."
We'd had no idea the limousine driver taking me away from the Fishbowl carried a handheld camera, even though it made perfect sense in retrospect. Nothing we'd done during those eight weeks was private, why would our final good-byes be? They wanted to catch the good stuff, and Justin chasing me down the driveway after I took a cash incentive to leave the show certainly qualified as "good stuff."
The poster brought a smile to my face. That kiss had been pretty good stuff, too.
"You're the draw," Sarah said, breaking into my memories. "We need to bring people into the store, and they want to see you and Justin kissing."
"And you're okay staring at a picture of me and your brother making out all day?"
"I'll be in the back, baking." She winked at me. "Besides, I like to think I played a hand in you two getting together, so why not profit from it?"
I laughed. Sarah and I first met in the bathroom at The Fishbowl audition, where we'd bonded instantly. When Justin said she was his twin sister, I'd been ecstatic at the thought of seeing her again after the show. Then, during a surprise family guest appearance on the show, Sarah had helped me and Justin realize we were both being idiots, letting a miscommunication and our fear of getting hurt overwhelm our feelings. We grew closer every day, and she'd become the sister I'd always wanted. No offense to my brother Adam who was lovely, but not quite the same. Sarah never once gave me an atomic wedgie.
"Thanks," I said, "but I think the show also helped a little bit. Not to mention, the two of us."
"Maybe. Anyway, I'm preparing recipes for Opening Day. Come see what I've made."
A row of cupcakes, cookies, brownies, lemon bars, and more filled the counter behind the display cases. My mouth watered in anticipation. "When did you do this? And how? I thought the contractors wouldn't be finished until the fifteenth?"
"They called yesterday to say they got done early. You were at Justin's, and I wanted to whip up a few recipes before bringing you in to see it. Surprise!" Her eyes danced. "We can open as soon as you get back!"
"That's amazing! I can't believe you made all this stuff for me. It looks fantastic. Although I hope you don't expect me to eat everything before I leave."
"No, Justin will help. I'll take a few things over to Mom's later. But also, we can freeze most of this so it's ready for the grand opening. I'm baking and freezing all this week and next."
"Our grand opening!" After months of working for this moment, I could almost taste it.
Unable to wait another second, I reached around Sarah and snagged a chocolate cupcake with chocolate-hazelnut frosting. I bit into it, moaning as rich, nutty sweetness exploded across my tongue. "This is fantastic, Sarah. We're going to sell a mill —"
All the color drained from Sarah's face. She started to say something, but choked on her words, sending a chill down my spine.
Soundlessly, she pointed over my shoulder. I spun around, expecting to see the drugstore taking up most of the block across from us, and the silver slats and padlock barring the recently vacant store beside it. A store that no longer sat vacant or empty. Someone had raised the metal slats, the front door stood open, lights filled the front window, and the sidewalk bustled with people going in and out. All within the few minutes since Sarah led me in here.
A sign hung off the storefront, barely visible out of the front corner of our shop. GRAND OPENING! 10% OFF CUPCAKES TODAY ONLY.
No wonder Sarah's face had taken on the color of flour. Patty's Cakes, one of the most popular bakeries in Miami, had set up shop across the street from us. I could almost see our profits racing from our shop to theirs. How could we possibly compete with Patty's? How could we even stay open?
"What the hell is going on?"
Sarah's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Oh, this was bad. So, so bad. The location, the timing, everything.
Patty's Cakes was a legendary shop, as much a fixture of this city as Disney World in Orlando. Well, okay, maybe not quite that much. But they were huge, and amazing cakes filled their windows already. And they'd opened before us.
A line of people already wound down the block and out of sight.
My mouth dropped and my hand opened involuntarily, sending chocolate and hazelnut crumbs to the no-longer-pristine white-and-silver tiles.
The store across the street sat on a corner, where it would get the pedestrian traffic we needed to bring in. It also sat directly in front of a bus stop. The same bus stop we hoped would bring customers to Sweet Reality, not to our competitor.
Patty's Cakes looked quaint and inviting, with its flowery pink and purple decorations. Worse, it was open now, whereas we wouldn't have anything to sell for at least two weeks. Even with the shop all set up, Sarah couldn't exactly throw out the OPEN sign and start selling goods at a moment's notice. The cash register wasn't even online yet, and we'd been counting on the free press from Real Ocean: Caribbean to start some buzz once it debuted after Thanksgiving. We couldn't throw away all our plans for a grand opening now.
"How did this happen? Why didn't we know about it?" I asked.
Sarah narrowed her green eyes, and her nostrils flared. "I don't know. They weren't there when I leased this space in June. The storefront wasn't even for rent — it was a cell phone store or something."
"What about when you were setting up, checking on the construction?"
"No! Don't you think I would have mentioned if I'd seen the sign? It's not like I forgot to say, 'Hey, Jen, we're going out of business before we even open!'" Her voice rose with each word, quickly trending toward a frequency only dogs could hear. This wasn't helping anything.
"It's okay. Calm down. I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. Just ... you didn't see anything?"
"There's been activity over there," she said. "But with shutters over the windows and no sign, I didn't think anything was opening for months. I never thought it might be another bakery. Are they allowed to put a competing store across the street?"
I tapped furiously on my phone. "I don't know, but I'm texting Justin. There are perks to dating a lawyer."
My phone buzzed less than a minute after I hit Send.
It's legal unless you have a non-compete in your lease. I'm on my way. Will be there soon.
Sarah fell into a chair behind the glass cases, burying her face in her arms on the counter. Her shoulders heaved. Not knowing what to do, I patted her shoulder, trying to seem calmer than I felt.
Renovating and redecorating this shop used up most of the last of my Fishbowl money. Most of the severance money from my old job was gone by the time I landed in Miami. If we didn't succeed, I'd be left with nothing. Sarah's baking skills grew more impressive every day; she'd get another job as a pastry chef or in a bakery in a heartbeat. Her former boss would probably pee herself in excitement if Sarah called asking for her job back.
But I'd been laid off a month before going on the show, and I didn't know anyone looking to hire a washed-up reality TV star who once worked in marketing. Justin's temporary job would become permanent as soon as his bar exam results came in next week, but he wasn't going to support me. Not that I would ask him to. I needed to make this bakery work so I could support myself long-term.
"It's going to be okay," I said. Even to my own ear, it sounded unconvincing. "We've got a unique hook, right? It's not just a bakery, it's Sweet Reality. People who eat here get baked goods to remind them of their favorite TV personalities. Delicious baked goods."
"What if it's not enough? They've got name recognition. We can't compete with that."
"Of course we can! They only make cakes and cupcakes. We make everything. Besides, you've got great recipes."
She didn't answer, absorbed by the scene outside. There wasn't much we could do until Justin showed up with more information, so I went into the kitchen for a broom to sweep up the mess of crumbs I'd made. If possible, it smelled even better in here than in the main room. Following my nose, I quickly found the source: four giant cupcakes.
Strawberries peeked over the top of each white dome, and the bowl in the sink held the remnants of what turned out to be whipped cream, not vanilla icing. She'd made strawberry shortcake cupcakes! Judging from the little white cake bits on the counter beside the plate, the strawberries weren't only on top: Sarah stuffed these babies. It was just like her to hide the best treats for last, to completely floor me after I finished raving about everything else she'd made.
If I wasn't careful, I'd gain three hundred pounds working here. Unless Sweet Reality turned enough profit to buy me a whole new wardrobe in the next few months, I should talk to Justin about signing up for a joint gym membership before Sarah and I opened. Or maybe I should walk to and from work every day instead of taking the bus.
I promptly abandoned my plan to find a broom. We could clean up later. Instead, I ripped the wrapper off one of these amazing cakes, grabbed another with my free hand, and backed into the swinging door leading to the main room.
"Look what I found." I called.
Sarah stood at the front of the shop, peering out the window and nibbling her thumbnail. "You got a broom?"
"Better! Why didn't you tell me you'd hidden strawberry shortcakes back there? They look amazing!"
Excerpted from "Sweet Reality"
Copyright © 2017 Laura Heffernan.
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
A romantic cruise, some cupcakes and friends, what a delicious thought. Sweet Reality by Laura Heffernan is the second addition of the Reality Star Series and it is great. Jen and Justin are dealing with family problems, a bar exam, a new bakery business, money, and trying to make time for their own relationship. Sounds normal, right? Now add in a offer of a free ocean cruise. This is just what they needed, time to themselves, beautiful scenarios, free publicity for the bakery and no cost to them. There has to be a catch, right? They will be part of a new reality show called Real Ocean: Caribbean.Jen and Justin have a great relationship and being on a ship with all this negative feedback and people with different agendas really plays with their personal insecurities. On the ship we meet lots of reality stars from the other shows, this doesn’t promote warm fuzzy feeling between Jen and Justin. It was nice to see some faces from the Fishbowl, like Rachel and Ed. It was nice for Jen to have that little backup that she needed. Justin was a little surprising, he did some things that seemed out of character. Oh, let’s not forget the return of Ariana, she was back in all her glory or was she? Then we meet some other reality stars, I will let you learn about them yourself. I wanted to mention that I don’t actually watch reality tv, that being said I love this series. I think it appeals to me because even though they are on a reality show, we as readers get to see how the Network manipulates the stars and the viewers. Not to mention, it is easy root for Jen. Oh, you will never in a million years figure out the secret ingredient in Tammy Rae’s cupcakes. Crazy! My rating is 5 stars. I loved this book this book as much as the first one, America’s Next Reality Star. Thank you Ms. Heffernan for such an awesome story, I read this book in a day. Yes, it is that fabulous! Please keep writing Ms. Heffernan. This is a Guest Review for Baroness' Book Trove. Thank you for the opportunity to review this book for your site. ~Jen If you would like to see other reviews like this one, check out BaronessBookTrove.com. This book was given to the Baroness Book Trove for an honest review.
At the end of America's Next Reality Star, the reader watched Jen and Justin ride off into the sunset. At the start of Sweet Reality, we meet up with the couple sixteen months into their established relationship. Jen and Justin are a typical couple with typical challenges. Justin is struggling to pass the bar and help his parents. Jen is starting a bakery with Sarah, Justin's twin sister. When offered a free cruise, the couple understandably jumps at the chance for some relaxation and romance. Of course, the cruise is part of a reality show which brings together stars from various reality genres. Jen and Justin have their relationship tested as they face the twists and turns of being stuck on a cruise ship with scheming producers and people from their past, as well as some new characters that add drama to the mix. Heffernan does a good job of weaving together a cohesive story with this cast of characters. She is also able to inject humor into many of the exchanges, and she pulls out a number of laugh out loud surprises. Heffernan manages to make Jen and Justin more than just a romantic couple. She infuses them with a maturity and intelligence that is a throw-back to a Hepburn/Tracy kind of screwball comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Reality, even more than the first book. This group of friends and frenemies and their adventures make for a fun and easy read. I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.
Sweet Reality by Laura Hefferan is the 2nd book in her Reality Star series. Sweet Reality continues the nice cute romance between our couple from the first book, Jen and Justin. If you enjoy Reality shows, then you will get a kick out of this series. Jen is starting her own bakery with Justin’s sister showcasing many of the desserts from the show they were on. When a popular bakery chain opens across the street, Jen is concerned that they will fail. Both Jen and Justin became popular when they became and couple and walked off the show. Now they are invited back to a new reality show cruise, and since Jen needs the money for her bakery, and wants new dessert recipes, they decide to do the show. Many of the people from the first show will also be on the cruise, including Jen’s mortal enemy, Ariana, her ex-boyfriend, Dominic, and the friends she made. It was mostly a fun group, with the few reminders of the nasty competitors, who will do anything to break up Jen and Justin. What follows is an adventure where things go wrong, and their relationship is put on the brink. But true love will always prevail. This is a difficult review to write, as to tell too much more would ruin the story. There is lots of humor, and even a sad element added near the end. Sweet Reality was a lighthearted cute romance, giving us a look at what really goes behind a reality show, as well as a very likeable couple.