FIRSTWildCard//Review: Recipe for Love
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She’s worked as a book editor for ten eight years. Brandy makes her home in Colorado with her husband and two children. When she’s not editing manuscripts or writing, she’s usually reading–anything from books about vampires to quiet Amish life. She also loves watching movies, talking on the phone with her sisters, blogging, or baking any kind of cheesecake.
Visit the author’s website.
Overworked chef Jeremy has ordered up the perfect vacation: a fly-fishing getaway and some much-needed alone time. But when he arrives in the Colorado mountain town, he’s immediately captivated by the lovely proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast, not to mention her young son.
Alison Taylor still mourns her first husband even as she fights to keep their shared dream of a B and B alive. But there’s no denying that she and her big-city guest have all the right ingredients for something special. Will this star-crossed pair realize that second chances can happen…if only they’ll let them?
List Price: $4.99
Series: Heartsong Presents (Book #1120)
Publisher: Love Inspired (November 1, 2014)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Jeremy Mitchell gritted his teeth as his cell phone lost service again, along with his GPS navigator. He slowed his pace to see the name of the next road.
It would have been nice to know that there isn’t reliable cell service this far up into the mountains.
The road narrowed, and despite his frustration that his GPS wasn’t working, Jeremy drank in the scenery. He’d left Denver hours ago for Estes Park, Colorado, for this very reason—beauty and peace. He wanted to experience the sunshine of the days and sharp chill of the nights as the mountains transitioned into autumn. The aspen trees, many of which had already changed to yellow hues, the magnificent colors of the flowers, the clear mountain air, the cold rushing water of the rivers and waterfalls—he wanted all of it. With it being late September, quality fishing opportunities would be winding down before winter.
Jeremy breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the turn for Rockridge Lane. After driving about a mile down the gravel road, he saw a large, worn sign that read Mountain View Bed & Breakfast. Jeremy pulled into the circle drive and came to a stop, taking a moment to look over the two-story house in front of him. It needed a fresh coat of paint; that was for sure. But the B&B sat right by a river, and for Jeremy, that was all he needed. Well, that and a fly fishing rod. He hopped out of his truck and grabbed his luggage and gear and headed up the front porch steps.
He knocked three times and waited. The door opened and a boy who could be no older than seven or eight years old stood in front of him. They just stared at each other.
“Is your mom home?” Jeremy asked.
“Nicholas!” A slim, blond-haired woman came rushing up behind the boy. “You know you’re not supposed to open the door without me! Oh! Hi there. I’m Alison Taylor. You must be Jeremy Mitchell. Please come in. This is my son, Nicholas.”
Nicholas held out his hand. “I just turned eight.”
Jeremy bit back a chuckle and gave the boy’s hand a good shake. “Nice to meet you, Nicholas.”
He stepped inside the foyer and took a look around. The B&B had a similar look to most B&Bs Jeremy had stayed at in the past—a little quaint, a little rustic and old-fashioned, but neat, clean, and welcoming. He set down his bags and pulled out the online registration form he’d printed off. Alison took it from him.
“Thanks so much. Well, let me show you to your room.”
Nicholas reached for one of the smaller bags. “I’ll help you, Mister.”
“Thanks. You can call me Jeremy, if that’s okay with your mom.”
“It’s fine,” Alison said amiably. She headed up the staircase, and Jeremy and Nicholas followed her. “You’re our only guest this week, Jeremy, so please make yourself at home. Breakfast is at 8:00, unless you’d prefer to have it earlier. I know you mentioned in your email that you plan on doing a lot of fishing. I can work with your schedule.” Alison took a right at the top of the stairs and stopped.
“There are three rooms up here—the Dove, the Ark, and the Haven. I prepared the Dove for you because it has the best view, but the Ark is bigger and you can certainly have that room if you’d like the extra space. The Haven is the smallest room of the three. All three rooms have telephones that ring downstairs to our living quarters, so you can call anytime you need to. And each bedroom has its own private bath.”
“The Dove sounds fine, Mrs. Taylor. Thank you,” Jeremy said. She nodded and opened the door to her right. Nicholas walked in first and set down the bag he was carrying.
“Please call me Alison. And,” Alison hesitated for a moment, her eyes on Nicholas. “You might as well know that I’m a widow.”
Jeremy’s mouth went dry. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you.” She held out a single key. “Here’s a key to the front door. I keep the door locked most of the time, so please keep the key on you at all times. There are snacks on the kitchen counter that you are welcome to. Please feel free to make yourself at home. Our primary living space is in the basement, so the first floor living room and dining areas are available for your use. The river is very close; you can see it from our breakfast area. You can go right out the back door, off the deck, and make your way to the water. I assume you have a fishing license?”
“Of course,” Jeremy responded as he set his rod in the corner of the room. Nicholas stood next to his mother and she ruffled his hair affectionately.
“All right then, Jeremy. Welcome to the Mountain View B&B,” Alison said with a smile.
“We hope your stay is a nice one,” Nicholas chimed in. Alison beamed at him, and then the two of them descended the stairs, leaving Jeremy to get settled.
“I don’t want to have to tell you again, Nic. You have to wait for me before you open the front door to strangers. Got it?” Alison stood at the bottom of the stairs with her hands on her hips. Her son hung his head and looked appropriately reprimanded.
“Sorry, Mom. I’ve got it.”
Alison leaned down so that the two of them were eye level. “It’s my job to protect you. It’s just you and me here, and I need you to listen to me. The people who stay with us are our guests, but we don’t really know them. We need to be cautious. That means you follow the rules I set.”
“Okay. Jeremy seems nice though, doesn’t he?”
Alison straightened and gave her son a smile. “Sure he does. I hope he has a good time here.” At the sound of a car turning into the driveway, Alison peered through the front window. “Grandpa’s here. Go grab your hoodie. Remember, he’s taking you to Griffin’s birthday party and then bringing you home. I’d like you to be home in time for dinner.”
Nicholas was already running toward the basement stairs to grab his hoodie. Alison opened the front door and stood on the porch while her dad jumped out of his Yukon.
“Hi, Dad,” she called out, preparing herself for the questions that he would undoubtedly ask about the truck parked in front of the house.
“Do you have a guest?” he asked. She glued a smile to her face.
“We sure do. Isn’t that great?”
He frowned. “Did a couple come up to the mountains for the weekend or was it a family with kids?”
She shook her head. “No, actually, it’s just a fisherman. He’ll be staying with us for the week.”
Her dad’s frown deepened. She didn’t blame him really. In all honesty, having a stranger stay with her and Nicholas for the week wasn’t the ideal choice and she knew it. But with their current financial state, Alison couldn’t be choosy about guests. She kept the door to the basement locked, Connor’s old handgun in her closet, and she tried to vet her guests as much as possible before agreeing to have them stay. She never allowed Nicholas to be alone with the guests, unless they were children his age or younger.
She ran a B&B, after all. She had to entertain guests or she might as well close up and sell now. Her parents had recommended she do just that after Connor died, but Alison hadn’t been able to bring herself to sell the business that she and Connor had started together.
She’d lost Connor, her best friend and the love of her life. She couldn’t bear to lose the dream they’d shared of owning their own business. Not to mention the fact that they’d invested every penny they owned in the Mountain View B&B. Alison avoided eye contact with her dad, hoping to steer clear of any disapproval he might show for her decisions.
“Thanks for taking Nicholas to the birthday party, Dad. I appreciate it. Here are the directions to get to Griffin’s house.” She walked down the porch steps and handed him a printed off map.
“I don’t mind at all,” her father said and Alison believed him. Her parents lived in a small house right outside of town and they spent as much time with Nicholas as possible. Alison’s dad especially tried to make time for him since Connor had passed away, and that meant the world to Alison.
Nicholas came running out the door and down the steps. “Hi, Grandpa!”
Her father’s eyes lit up. “Hey, champ!”
“Did you get the gift for Griffin?” Alison asked, and Nicholas held up the gift bag carrying the baseball cap Nicholas had chosen.
“All right then. Have fun! I’ll see you at dinnertime.”
Alison waved from the porch and then just stood for a moment, enjoying the sound of the wind whistling through the trees. The door behind her opened and she jumped.
“Did I scare you?” Jeremy asked. Alison tried to catch her breath.
“No. Well, maybe a little. I’m not that used to having people around.” Alison wanted to bite her tongue after saying that.
I run a bed and breakfast for crying out loud! She scolded herself.
Jeremy’s face didn’t show any emotion. “Things have been slow?” he asked.
You could say that, Alison thought dryly. You’re my first guest in more than a month.
“Yes, but I’m hoping things will pick up. A lot of people like to visit the mountains when the colors change.”
He nodded. “I had hoped you could give me a few recommendations for restaurants in the area.”
They stood rather awkwardly on the porch with Jeremy framed in the doorway and Alison right by the steps. She didn’t like it.
“Absolutely, if you want to go back inside, I have some Estes Park brochures that list out restaurants, local attractions—basically anything and everything about the surrounding area.”
Jeremy stepped aside, letting her go through the front door first. Alison tried to ignore the unease she felt. It had been a long time since she’d been alone with a man, other than her dad, of course.
“Here they are,” she said once they reached the kitchen. She showed him the basket where she kept brochures for the guests.
“And what do you recommend?” Jeremy asked pointedly. Alison thought for a moment. She and Nicholas rarely went out to eat. But she’d lived in Estes Park since high school, so she knew the area well.
“For such a small town, there are lots of restaurants for tourists to choose from. Do you like Italian food?”
Alison caught the amused look on Jeremy’s face when she said that, but he didn’t elaborate so she didn’t ask.
“I do,” he answered.
“Mama Rose’s is good. Dave’s BBQ is another local favorite.”
“Is it okay for me to use the kitchen on evenings I’m here?” Jeremy asked.
“Of course. Nicholas and I usually have our meals downstairs when guests are here. I have a kitchenette in the basement. But even if I do cook upstairs, Nic and I will eat downstairs. For the most part, the kitchen is available to you. I’m afraid none of the local places deliver way out here. We’re just a little far for that.”
They stood in silence for a moment, then Jeremy pulled out one of the bar stools and sat down at the peninsula counter, flipping through the pamphlets.
“I was about to make some coffee. Would you like some?” Alison offered. He looked up.
“That sounds great. I was thinking I’d take a walk down to the river in a bit. Sort of scout out my trail for tomorrow.”
Good coffee was the one treat Alison often splurged on. The B&B had had a few busy weeks mid-summer, but spring had been too slow. Too many weeks without any income. Connor’s death had left her a small amount of life insurance money, which had kept her afloat so far, but she’d set aside an amount for Nicholas’s college fund and refused to touch that money. The money she had reserved to supplement her income was dwindling quickly. There just wasn’t money for extras.
But on the bad days, on the days when she missed Connor the most, a good cup of coffee comforted her.
Within minutes, the smell of fresh coffee brewing filled the kitchen. The breakfast area and the connecting living room were surrounded by large windows. The windows were just one of the reasons Alison and Connor had fallen in love with the B&B the first time they’d walked through it. The windows let in the life of the mountains. Through the trees, one could see the river rushing. Deer and even elk would often meander within arm’s length of the house.
“Good coffee,” Jeremy murmured once Alison had poured him a mug. He breathed in the scent approvingly. “You have a lovely home,” he said as he walked with his cup of coffee over by the windows and looked out.
“Thank you. I have ideas for improvements . . . but well, like I mentioned before, things have been slow.” Alison knew the house badly needed to be repainted. And some of the interior was dated and needed redecorating. But she was too strapped financially to spend much money on the house.
“Everything looks nice. And the location is really the best feature. I’d love to buy a place like this someday—tucked away in the mountains, next to a river,” Jeremy stated.
“I love it here,” Alison said. “My family moved to Estes Park from Denver when I was sixteen. I thought I’d hate it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I fell in love with the area. I can’t imagine ever leaving.” Alison wanted to clamp her mouth shut.
Why do you keep rambling? Are you so desperate for conversation? Why not just wear a sign that reads, “I’m lonely!” Stop telling him such personal things.
But Jeremy didn’t seem annoyed. “I moved to Denver from Santa Fe to go to college, and I ended up staying,” he told her. “I enjoy the city, but I come up to the mountains whenever I can. It’s peaceful. There’s something about being on the river that makes me feel closer to God.”
Alison understood the feeling. “I found my soul when my family settled here. I’d go hiking with my dad and come across a waterfall or a river flowing, and it’s like I could feel God speaking peace over me. I’d never felt so close to God before. Am I right in assuming you’re a believer, too, then?” Alison wondered, hoping she wasn’t overstepping by asking.
“Yes. I’ve been a believer since grade school. But life can get so hectic—sometimes I have to take myself out of my schedule in order to reconnect with God.”
“So . . . your soul was thirsting for a river?” she said knowingly, and Jeremy smiled.
“I couldn’t have said it more perfectly.”
Jeremy looked back toward the view, and Alison took that moment to really look over Jeremy Mitchell. He couldn’t have been much older than she—he looked to be in his early to mid thirties. His light blond hair was cropped short and his hazel eyes were friendly, though a little serious. He stood with perfect posture; Alison wondered if he came from a military household. He was dressed for the mountains with brown boots, a red flannel shirt, and dark jeans.
He seemed to be about Connor’s height and build, maybe 6’ or 6’1” and fit. He looked like someone who lifted weights on a regular basis. But that’s where the similarities with Connor ended. Connor’s Hispanic heritage had resulted in olive skin, dark hair, and even darker eyes. And Connor’s eyes were almost always playful. He was a jokester, rarely serious.
But in that moment, watching Jeremy Mitchell, Alison didn’t mind the seriousness that seemed to accompany him. He was handsome in an earthy way that Alison liked. He turned back toward her.
“Thank you for the coffee, Alison.”
She froze at the sound of her name on his lips.
Jeremy left the mug in the sink and then took off out the back door to explore. Alison stood unmoving in the kitchen, rationalizing away her attraction to this hazel-eyed stranger.
It’s been two years since Connor died—obviously I’m lonely. I’ve been so preoccupied with taking care of Nicholas and running the business that I haven’t had much of a social life. I’m stressed about money and I miss the life I had with Connor. So, I’m reacting to even the smallest attention from an attractive man. It’s nothing.
From where she stood, she could see Jeremy navigate the rocky riverbank as he followed the river west.
Oh Lord, help me to get a grip.
I have just found my new favorite book and author. After having read the first book in this series, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one when I found out there was going to be another book.
Normally quick romances and relationships aren’t my thing, but with Brandy Bruce’s books, it’s a totally different story, literally. They are God-based and the characters are Christians who rely on God to guide their lives.
This book was really well thought out and written for the amount of time that the story took place in. It wasn’t quick and bland, but, quick and deep. I can’t for Brandy to write more books as hers’ have become some of my favorite books.
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