Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

COINCIDENCE COCONUT CAKE BANNER

Reading this book was an absolute delight! It was deliciously fun, engaging, fresh and witty. Definitely one of my favorite reads this year!!! If you loved the movie You’ve Got Mail, you’ll love this foodie twist on the story of struggling restaurateur and ruthless food critic. Rife with romance, humor, food, food and more food… it’s wonderfully addictive and enjoyable. I’m thrilled to share a never-before-seen excerpt from Amy Reichert’s debut novel, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (out July 21st).

Pre-order: Amazon | Amazon paperbackiBooks | Barnes & Noble ✦

Synopsis

You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.

In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?

Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.

Excerpt

Al paused outside Luella’s, remembering Miss Coconut Cake. He couldn’t stop thinking about her infectious smile, freckled nose, and sad frosting trail. He shivered as a brisk wind blew from behind, nudging him toward the door. He entered two hours after Luella’s opened and was greeted by a quietly crowded bar and dining room with a distracted hostess. Unprofessional, he thought.

Crisp white linens topped small tables, looking like chess pieces on the black-and-white-checkered floor. Black and white photos of famous French landmarks broke up the plain white walls. The cliché thickened with each detail—baguettes stacked behind the bar, fake grapes spilling out of baskets, and taper candles melted over empty bottles of wine. He could have found a French restaurant like this one in any city in the world.

“Reservation?” Al looked up as the hostess finally acknowledged him.

“Yes, one for Waters.”

He dined alone tonight, as he did most nights. He hadn’t established a dependable and discrete group of people he could take out for meals, though John asked about once a week—probably looking for a meal on the paper.

“Follow me,” the hostess said, casting a glance over her shoulder.

The hostess sat him at a table with a view of the kitchen doors. He set out his iPad and typed, “Rude hostess,” then looked around the room. He couldn’t see into the kitchen, just glimpses when a waiter walked through. It looked clean and bright, but a clean kitchen should be the bare minimum standard.

The hostess rushed off to a group of waiters near the coffee machine. While the restaurant had empty tables, it wasn’t dead, so it seemed odd for the waitstaff to congregate.

He looked around and saw other customers noticing the group.

A few tables had empty plates ready to clear, others needed refills on drinks, but the staff kept gossiping. He typed, “Distracted waitstaff.”

After more time than was strictly acceptable, a waiter appeared, took his order, and disappeared. He’d ordered the first item under each menu category: seared foie gras with a Bordeaux reduction, toasted-goat-cheese salad, sole meunière, and lemon soufflé. Al lifted his shirtsleeve to start the timer on his watch.

• • • •

Focus on the orders, focus on the orders, thought Lou in a chant.

She took a steadying breath, squinted at the tickets, called out the orders (two soles, three drunk chickens, and a special), and struggled to find her groove. The routine of the nightly rush started to kick in. If she kept moving forward, she wouldn’t have time to look back. She bent down to open the cooler near the grill station, which she was working tonight. Sue hadn’t let her near the sauté station, saying that too much could go wrong. She pulled out the chickens and a hanger steak for the special and tossed them on the grill, sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Lou noticed some plates waiting to go out, baking under the heat lamps—a pet peeve even on a good day.

“Why is table three’s food still sitting here?” Lou said, much louder than normal.

“It’s waiting on the grilled scallops.” Sue raised an eyebrow at Lou.

“It can start going out while the scallops finish.” Why can’t the waiters do anything without being told? They know better than to leave food sitting there. Lou buzzed Tyler, whose first day on the job was tonight.

Tyler’s head appeared in the window, and Lou pointed at the order with her silver tongs. “Get this food out.”

“But—”

“Get. It. Out. Come back for the rest.” Tyler grabbed the dishes and ran, looking over at Sue for reassurance.

“Little rough, don’t ya think?” said Sue.

“Not when I have customers waiting for food.”

Lou tossed up the finished scallop plate just as Tyler returned for the rest of the order. She stared at him until he took the food and delivered it, then she returned to the grill to pull the meat off. Instead of perfectly cooked chicken and steaks ready for plating, smoking remains poked at Lou’s already wounded pride.

“Damn it!” She grabbed the food with her bare hand and tossed it into the garbage, wincing at what she knew would be another burn mark in the morning.

After Lou’s outburst, everyone in the kitchen worked silently—college-library-during-finals silent. Sue and Harley flashed each other concerned looks. The dishwasher actually flinched when she tossed a pan in the sink. Her emotions roiled; anger, betrayal, and sadness all made her unstable, like two fronts crashing together on a stormy summer evening. She lit the air with profanities for every imperfection. Her glares sizzled and had the waitstaff avoiding the kitchen and gossiping by the coffee machine.

With each outburst, Lou hated herself a little more. What was wrong with her? This was her family and she was treating them abysmally. She wasn’t mad at them; she was mad at herself for trusting Devlin, relying on him to be part of her life, part of her family. Assuming he cared about her best interests. But he had never loved the restaurant. Looking back, she realized he had only tolerated it. He had even tried to talk her out of it right when she’d finally saved enough money to open Luella’s.

Lou remembered the night she told Devlin she had found her location. It was a year and a half ago, and they were dining out on one of the few nights she didn’t work.

“I found it.” Lou had chewed her cheek, head down a little so she had to look at him under her eyelashes, wrinkles forming on her forehead.

“My iPod? Great, I hoped you would.” Devlin watched the businessmen at the next table, trying to hear their discussion.

His head hadn’t turned when she’d started speaking.

“No, my restaurant.” Lou’s voice barely carried over the restaurant din. Devlin turned now, his expression suggesting she’d just revealed she could fly using fairy wings she kept hidden using duct tape and gauze.

“I thought you’d given up on that. Besides, you don’t have the money.” His attention returned to the men.

“Dev, you know I—” Lou started to say.

Devlin held up a finger for silence, then a smile spread across his face. He turned to Lou. “Looks like I’ll be making some calls tomorrow. A merger is in the works. Now, what were you saying?”

Lou took a deep breath. “I want to try owning my own restaurant.

Sue and Harley think I’d be great at it. I saved enough. I found the perfect place.”

“Why do you want to keep working in restaurants? I told you, I’ll take care of you. With your support, I’ll be one of the top attorneys in Wisconsin. That’s where our efforts should be focused.”

“Devlin, I need to try this. I’m sorry if you don’t understand.”

He looked back at her, studying her face, her posture, as if she were a new car he might like to buy or a witness he wanted to break.

“Okay, Elizabeth, but I don’t want it to distract from our plans.”

End of conversation. For once, Devlin must have sensed her determination. But he’d ignored all her planning and had only eaten at Luella’s three times since she’d opened.

“Lou, you okay if I take a quick break?” Lou looked over at Sue to see blood dripping off her wrist.

“What the . . . ?”

“It’s just a minor cut, but I need to stop the bleeding,” Sue said.

“Go.” Lou waved her tongs at her, hearing Harley ask whether she needed help. Lou’s attention turned to another ticket for sole meunière. Lou started the fish at the sauté station, then returned to the grill.

“Chef?” a quiet voice asked from the window.

“Yes, Tyler.”

“Can you put a rush on the sole for table twelve? He’s been here a while.”

Lou saw red. She glared at Tyler.

“Fine.”

Four more orders arrived. Lou flipped the damn fish, started two more orders of sole, then rushed to the grill to turn all the items before she burned more food.

“Where the hell is Sue?” Lou shouted. She slammed a pan down on a burner and lit it to start the sauce for the fish. She tossed in the ingredients, but as she reached for the salt, her sleeve caught the cooking brandy, spilling it across the lit burners and sending flames whooshing to the industrial vents above the cooking area. Lou jumped back, but not before singed hair crinkled around her face and her sleeve caught fire.

Food first. She pulled the flaming fish and sauce off the stove and covered it with a lid to extinguish the flames. By the time she used a damp rag to douse her sleeve, the ignited brandy had burnt low, then flickered out. Before she could finish assessing  the damage, Tyler’s face appeared in the window.

“Chef?”

She slid the rescued fish out of the pan onto a plate and dumped the butter sauce over the top.

Lou slammed the plate under the heat lamp and shouted, “Order.”

“And that’s enough,” said Sue from behind her, her wrist neatly wrapped in duct tape. She grabbed Lou’s hand and looked her straight in the eyes. “I say this as your best friend.

You’re a raging bitch right now. While I’d like a little more sass from you, that’s not your thing. Go wash dishes until you can get your attitude under control. And what did you do to the food?”

Lou’s eyes widened as she stared at the sauté station. She saw one overdone and one half-cooked fillet, both charred.

“I grabbed the wrong one. Get that order back.” Lou peered out the pickup window, hoping to see Tyler holding it on the other side.

But it had already been served. Sue firmly pushed Lou toward the dishwashing area.

“I can handle it. The worst of the rush is over.” Sue turned back to the line of tickets and started a new sole to remedy the complaint.

• • • •

And stop. Al pushed a button on his wristwatch. Thirty-three minutes since his salad. He looked at the plate. The fish looked wan, drowning in its sauce. The capers were scattered haphazardly.

A pathetic wedge of lemon clung to the edge of the white plate as if for its life. He nudged the empty salad plate away from the silverware so he could pick up a fork. On his iPad under “Decent salad,” he typed, “Limp fish, poor presentation, slow service, no bread.” Al cut into the middle of the fish to take a bite.

The inside looked underdone. Perhaps the edge would be safer.

He took a bite and gagged. Somehow the fish was over- and underdone, with a heavy alcohol flavor. He wasn’t staying for soufflé.

“Check, please.”

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