Monday, April 28, 2014

FIRST WildCard Tour: Table for Two by Brandy Bruce

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Heartsong Presents (2014)

***Special thanks to the author,Brandy Bruce, for sending me a review copy.***

Brandy Bruce has worked in book publishing for more than nine years--editing, writing, reading, and making good use of online dictionaries. She's a graduate of Liberty University and works as a part-time book editor for a publishing house. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Colorado with their two children, Ashtyn and Lincoln. When Brandy isn't editing manuscripts or writing novels, she loves spending time with her family, baking any kind of cheesecake, watching movies based on Jane Austen novels, or curling up with a favorite book.

Visit the author's website.


Mandy Seymour always books a table for one. So the pretty food critic is stunned when she captures the eye of dashing chef Leonardo Romano. Leo's good looks and fabulous cooking are swoon-worthy, but it's his tender care of his ailing father and affection for his warm Italian family that really touch her heart. A broken engagement has made Leo cautious. And as he grapples with his dad's illness, he's skeptical about starting a new relationship, even with a woman as compelling as Mandy. But as he spends more time with Mandy, Leo starts to realize that the last thing he should give up is love.

Product Details:
List Price: $4.99 US and $5.99 CAN.
Paperback: Trade
Publisher:Harlequin Love Inspired/ Heartsong Presents
Language: English


Chapter 1 Mandy Seymour held up one hand to hold off traffic as she dashed across the crowded street, wincing as the “Walk” sign changed to “Stop” before she could reach the other side. “Sorry, sorry,” she muttered as the sound of horns honking followed her. She pushed through the revolving door of the Hyatt Regency hotel and rushed past the front desk. Taking a quick moment to look down at the brochure in her hand, Mandy took the next left and sighed with relief when she saw that the double doors to the conference room directly ahead of her were still open. She slid into the last row of seats and turned her attention to the speaker at the front of the room. Gabriel Romano. The Gabriel Romano—the well-known entrepreneur, chef, and owner of two four-star restaurants, one in Denver, the other in Los Angeles. Mandy’s mouth watered at the very thought of his infamous tiramisu. She caught the end of Mr. Romano’s introduction as she shuffled through her purse, looking for a pen and a notepad. How can I not have a pen? I always have pens—but of course, when I need one, there are none to be found. Mandy ignored the disapproving voice in the back of her mind that always sounded just like her mother. Mandy, why are you so disorganized? Mandy, when are you going to be more responsible? Mandy, isn’t it time you got yourself together? “Here, take this.” Mandy looked up in surprise at the voice whispering next to her. A man in a blue tailored suit with a silver tie handed her a pen. “Thanks,” Mandy whispered back, accepting the pen, her gaze lingering just a little too long on the man. His dark wavy hair, jet-black eyes, and olive skin were a nice combination. Don’t even think about it, Mandy. He’s probably married. Was that her voice or her mother’s in her head? Mandy shook away the question and settled in her seat, eager to be swept into Gabriel Romano’s rise-to-success story, beginning with learning to cook from his grandmother during summers spent in the Italian countryside. “So, why are you here?” the guy leaned over and whispered again. Mandy barely glanced at him. Okay, I know you’re cute, but I’m here to hear Gabriel Romano so stop talking! Mandy shrugged. “The same reason everyone else is—Gabriel Romano,” she whispered, hoping her annoyance would register with the guy. “So you’re another admirer,” he said. It obviously didn’t register with him. “I’m a food critic,” Mandy whispered in a rush. “I’m going to the new Romano’s on 15th Street tonight and doing a review, so I thought I’d come hear his story.” A woman in front of them looked back, holding her finger to her lips. “Shh!” Mandy’s face burned with embarrassment. The guy next to her seemed unaffected. “What time will you be there?” “What?” Mandy asked, forgetting to whisper. The woman in front turned around again, glaring this time. The guy leaned closer. “What time will you be at Romano’s tonight?” Mandy blinked, caught for a moment by those dark eyes of his. Why did he want to know? She looked back down at the notepad on her lap without answering. “I’m Leo, by the way,” the guy whispered. Mandy sneaked another look over at him. He had a nice smile. But that didn’t mean anything. There could be a lunatic lurking behind that nice smile. “I’m Mandy Seymour.” What happened to the lunatic theory? I’m now having a conversation with a complete stranger—missing out on the speech that I came to hear! Leo nodded. “Nice to meet you. What time will you be at Romano’s tonight, Mandy?” Mandy licked her lips and gripped the borrowed pen in her hand. “8:00.” Leo winked at her. “Maybe I’ll see you there,” he whispered with a smile before leaving the conference room. Mandy watched him go, wondering where he went and wishing she had asked him why he was there. Leo Romano typed the name Mandy Seymour into his phone and waited for the search engine to give him what he needed. Within seconds, the first page of hits came on the screen and Leo scrolled through, clicking on the third link. Mandy Seymour, respected food critic for Denver Lifestyle magazine, recommends the Coffee and Crepes delicatessen off 23rd and Mountain View. Mandy was quoted as saying, “The service was impeccable and the breakfast quiche exceeded my expectations . . .” Leo clicked off his phone and shoved his hands in his pockets. Even from the hallway, he heard his father’s voice booming through the conference room. He could quote verbatim his father’s speech, and while it was usually inspirational for the audience, Leo could only stand to hear it so many times. He stepped closer to the open door, scanning the back row where Mandy Seymour sat, scribbling on her notepad. She’d rushed into the conference room, late, juggling a purse and shoulder bag; then she’d furiously rummaged through her purse until Leo had given her his pen. He’d been amused by her effort to ignore him and her frustration at his attempt at conversation. Wisps of brown hair had escaped the knot tied at the nape of her neck. Leo doubted that Mandy knew her scarf was haphazardly dragging on the floor when she’d rushed in. Everything about the woman shouted scatterbrained. Still, scatterbrained or not, when Mandy dropped her pen and then scrambled to find it under her chair, Leo smiled without warning from where he stood watching. She’s charming. In a clumsy, disheveled sort of way. Leo watched her sit back up and blow a stray hair from her face while she continued taking notes. Not like Carol Ann. Those are two words that could never describe her. Leo’s neck stiffened at even the thought of Carol Ann Hunt. It had been more than six months since she’d broken off their engagement and moved back to her parents’ home in Chicago. Leo leaned against the wall near the doorway and closed his eyes, sending up a quick prayer for just a little more endurance. Please help me get the new restaurant off the ground, Father. It’s so important to my dad. He can’t do this without me. And I can’t do this without You. The sound of laughter coming from the conference room broke the moment of reverie and Leo looked up, glancing at his watch and knowing that the speech would be over soon. His father’s voice echoed through the corridor and Leo couldn’t avoid hearing the highlights of his father’s life story. He listened as Gabriel Romano talked about discovering his passion—and talent—for cooking, marrying the love of his life and raising a family in Los Angeles, struggling financially to get his first restaurant off the ground. But through hard work, determination, and a stellar reputation for good food, that first Romano’s eventually thrived. Gabriel told the audience that he hired his brother to be the manager and overseer of the restaurant while he concentrated on cooking, and a few years later he decided to move his family to Colorado. With the success of the Los Angeles Romano’s, the opening of a second restaurant proved to be much easier. The restaurant on Franklin Street in Denver turned into an overnight success. As the speech came to a close, Leo noted that his father hadn’t mentioned that Leo would be the head chef, running the kitchen at the 15th Street location. He knew his father wanted to create more buzz by keeping the new chef’s identity a mystery until the restaurant opened. That suited Leo just fine; he had enough on his plate without enduring the press and questions about his new role as head chef, along with the inevitable comparisons that would be made to his father. As the crowd filed through the double doors, Leo moved back. From a distance, Leo could see Mandy Seymour make her way back down toward the lobby. Knowing she would be at the grand opening tonight, Leo would make sure everything from the food to the service to the lighting would be perfect. Mandy took her time walking down the street back toward Union Station. She planned to head back to her condo to work on her review from the mom-and-pop pizzeria she’d tried the week before. It was one of the things she loved most about her job—finding that diamond in the rough, so to speak. That little out-of-the-way place right outside of Denver that served amazing meat loaf or that tiny diner off Mosely Street that had the best cherry pie and homemade ice cream. Not that Romano’s could ever be described as a little hole-in-the-wall type place; with its marble flooring, an outdoor fountain, stone fireplaces, textured walls, and magnificent murals—it was more than impressive. Mandy had been to the restaurant on Franklin Street a number of times. The Italian restaurant stood as practically a landmark in the area. But this latest Romano’s promised new items on the menu, created by a new chef—someone with Gabriel Romano’s obvious stamp of approval. Mandy tightened her pea coat around her and picked up her pace as the wind brushed across her face. She wished she’d thought to wear a more substantial coat. It had been a mild January for Denver, but as a lifelong Coloradan, Mandy knew how unpredictable the weather could be. The sounds of downtown Denver competed with the brisk wind as Mandy reached Union Station. She loved the energy of being in the mile-high city. She thrived on the lights, the noise, the crowds; living in a place bustling with people helped with the loneliness of living on her own. Within seconds of finding a seat on the train, Mandy’s cell phone rang. Just the sound of the Shirelle’s singing Mama Said told Mandy all she needed to know. Claire Seymour was nothing if not predictable. Mandy held the phone to her ear. “Hi, Mom.” “Mandy, are you still downtown?” “No, Mom. I’m already on my way back home. Why?” “I thought you said you’d call me on your way back to the Tech Center.” “I’ve only been on the train for about two minutes. I was going to call you once I’d been on the train for three minutes.” “There’s no need to be snippy, Mandy.” Mandy watched the city fly by as the train moved. “Sorry.” “Good. Now, I’m cooking pot roast tonight, and I want you to come over for dinner. Your brother and his wife are coming, too. Six o’clock.” “Mom, I already told you that I have plans tonight. I have to visit that new restaurant and then start my review. So I can’t make it. But please tell Brian and Samantha that I said hello.” “I’m making pot roast!” “Next time, okay?” “Sunday dinner. I won’t take no for an answer. I expect you in Evergreen by 4:00.” “Fine. Sunday. 4:00. I’ll be there.” “And I certainly hope you’re wearing your good coat! It’s freezing outside!” “I know it is. See you Sunday.” Mandy clicked her phone off and leaned her head back against the cold window, ignoring the familiar wave of defeat that came over her whenever she talked to her mother. As the train rattled to a stop, Mandy jumped up, swung her bag over her shoulder and braced herself for the cold wind. She allowed herself a little time to think about the mysterious Leo. He’s Italian, obviously. Aren’t Italian men famous for flirting? Or maybe that’s Greek men . . . Anyway, he probably didn’t mean anything by it. And I’m sure he won’t be at Romano’s tonight. He’s too good-looking to be interested in me. Without a doubt, that last thought had her mother’s tone. Don’t think about Mom. I’ve proved her wrong, so far, haven’t I? Here I am, living in the city with a job I love . . . I haven’t turned out to be the failure she feared I would be. Okay, so I’m not married to a dashing, successful man and I’m not the size-six, fashion-conscious, top-executive she’d wanted me to be—there are worse things in life. Mandy’s shoulder bag fell to the ground, its contents scattering. Mandy sighed. Like being a walking disaster.

Dynamic Uno here:  Mandy Seymour is a food critic and is running late to a press conference given by the well-respected and known Chef Gabriel Romano, regarding the opening of his new restaurant in Denver, Colorado.  As Mandy rushes in, she manages to grab a seat near the back of the room and starts digging in her purse to find a writing utensil so she could capture every word from her favorite chef.  Unfortunately, she is not able to find one until the handsome man sitting next to her hands her one from his pocket.  

Mandy tries to ignore the man, despite his best efforts to start a conversation with her, and finally gives in because she thinks it will make him stop talking.  What she doesn't know, is that she's sitting next to Leo Romano, Gabriel's son, and the head chef at the new restaurant--the very same one Mandy is going to tonight to critique.  After a brief conversation, Leo leaves and begins to research the intriguing young lady he just met and intends to surprise tonight at the restaurant.

Mandy begins to think about the dashing gentleman she met and wonders if he'll meet her at the restaurant for a (gasp!) date.  Hashing it over with her friend, she eventually decides to let fate take its course, although truthfully, she was really hoping he would show up.  (Leo does show up, but you'll have to read the book to find out if fireworks appear, or if it's actually World War III.)

I really enjoyed reading this book because it was a heartwarming romance and I could relate whole-heartedly to one of the main characters--Mandy. Like Mandy, I tend to run late all the time, appear completely disheveled no matter how hard I plan, and I even hear my mother's voice in my head when I encounter guys who could be potential "dates."  Although I'm not a food critic, I do love to eat, and I enjoy trying out new restaurants in the Tampa Bay area, and I almost always order a table for one.  

Table for Two involved many topics that everyone struggles with--{unfulfilled dreams and shattered promises, daily busyness in life, feelings of never measuring up, a personal relationship with God, aging parents, and of course, love}--without seeming unbearable and preachy.

I was tickled reading the thoughts Mandy and Leo were having that the other one was unaware of because it reminds me of every new relationship I've encountered in my life, and the feelings and thoughts I had while in it.  Does he really like me?   I wonder if he feels the same way?   Is he going to kiss me? Should I kiss him? How can he treat me like this?  If it's meant to be, something will happen. Do I look okay?  Can I really trust him? And so on and so on...

While I'm sure this is a stand-alone book, I would like to read more about Mandy and Leo, possibly through Angelina, or even Mandy's friend Ashley, with romances of their own.  (Hint...Hint...)

Overall, this was a great read and I think you will like it too!

Let me know what you think and Happy Reading!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Win a NEW Spring Wardrobe from @TheQuiltsofLove | “Maybelle in Stitches” Giveaway!

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Maybelle in Stitches, by Joyce Magnin. Maybelle can’t sew. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house, she gets the crazy idea to complete it.
Joyce is celebrating the release with a $200 Modcloth giveaway. Enter today for a chance to spruce up your spring wardrobe!

  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 gift card
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced on April 21st on the Quilts of Love blog!

Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Maybelle in Stitches (Quilts of Love series) by Joyce Magnin

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the book for free from the publisher through the Litfuse Publicity Group book  blogger campaign and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.”

 About the Book: (Information taken directly from LitFuse Publicity's Promotions page.)

Maybelle In Stitches | A Quilts of Love book.
Maybelle Kazinzki can’t sew. She was after all, the only girl in the seventh grade Home Economics class to sew the zipper in the neck hole of the A-Line dress they were supposed to make. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house she gets the crazy idea to finish it—somehow, come heck or high water. She thinks it will help fill the lonely nights while her husband, Holden, is serving overseas during World War II.
Her recently departed mother’s quilt is made from scraps of material Maybelle traces back to her mother’s childhood, her grandmother’s childhood and her own childhood. She tries to add one of Holden’s stripes to it but the sewing is not going well and neither is her life. After receiving some harsh news, Maybelle’s faith falters and she puts the quilt away and stops trusting God. But God is faithful- no matter what. And it’ll take a group of neighborhood women armed with quilting needles to help Maybelle believe that.

Learn more about this book and the series at the Quilts of Love website.

Joyce Magnin is the author of the Bright’s Pond novels, including the award-winning The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. A member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, Joyce is a frequent workshop leader and the organizer of the StoryCrafters fiction group. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Find out more about Joyce at:

About Quilts of Love: Quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family histories. A new book releases each month and features contemporary and historical romances as well as women's fiction and the occasional light mystery. You will be drawn into the endearing characters of this series and be touched by their stories.

Format: trade paperback
Genre: Christian, Historical, Fiction

Source: Litfuse Publicity Group book blogger campaign 

Published: Abingdon Press / $13.99 / 2014 / ISBN:978-1-4267-5280-3

Stalk the Author: Website / Facebook Twitter

Buy the Book:  Abingdon Press / Christianbook / Quilts Of Love site

Why I Read this Book:  I've read two other books in the Quilts of Love series (Scraps of Evidence and A Sky Without Stars) and really enjoyed their heart-warming and endearing stories.  I figured it would be safe to assume that Maybelle in Stitches would follow suit-and I was right!

What I Liked:  I enjoyed that the setting of the book was during World War II, when the men were off fighting for our country, patriotism was still alive and well, and the women were "doing their part to help the war effort"  by welding and working in the ship yards.

I also enjoyed the characters and their distinctive personalities: Doris-with her "can-do" attitude and Maybelle who is still struggling to find her way in the world.  Roger was a doll having to put up with all of the women around him,  and the other women in the book helped to add comic relief and a touch of camaraderie when things were tough.

I enjoyed the friendship of the quilting group and the stories that they shared with one another about their lives, hopes, fears, and dreams.  

What I Didn't Like:  I hated the sad parts of the story.  Although I know they were a sad reality of the time period, I wasn't expecting some of them and I was blubbering on the couch like an idiot.  (You'll just have to read the book to find out what I'm referring to in the story.)  

Overall Impression:  If you're wanting something to make you feel nostalgic for a time period in which communities banded together to help one another in times of need, then Maybelle and her quilting partners will share their stories with you--as long as you grab a needle and thread.  I really loved this book and would like to read more by Joyce Magnin.

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Let me know what you think!  Happy Reading! 

Quilts of Love Joyce Magnin Maybelle in Stitches

Thursday, April 3, 2014

You Tube Thursday

In honor of yesterday being National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, I thought we'd celebrate with 

Have a great Thursday!