In her kitchen at the Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.
Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He’s also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he’s falling in love with the island’s red shores and Caden’s sweets.
When Caden discovers Adam isn’t who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he’s writing could do more than ruin the inn’s chances for survival–it might also break her heart.
Readers will discover hope for the hurting, joy for the broken, and romance for the lonely at the enchanting Red Door Inn.
Adam made an expression that reminded her of a knight going off to battle, picked up the fork like a weapon, and scooped up one of the chunks. With a glance to heaven – and probably a prayer that it wouldn’t kill him – he popped it in his mouth.
He chewed with thoughtful motions, like he had to tell his body exactly what to do to eat the lobster cake. His jaw worked one way and then the other.
Not a good sign for a recipe that promised melt-in-your-mouth results.
After what felt like a full minute, he swallowed. Then he grimaced.
She squeezed her eyes closed, fighting the burning sensation behind her eyelids. This wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t even the end of the competition. This was why she told her students to do practice runs. Recipes that promised big results sometimes required tweaking.
But all those rational thoughts just made the weight on her chest heavier, and she held her breath against a sudden hiccup that threatened to break free.
Her eyes were still closed, but she instantly knew something around her had changed. The air was charged with an emotion – a pressure – she couldn’t name, had never known before. A plate clattered against the tile counter at her side, and she clasped her tingling fingers in front of her. Squinting into the unknown, she prayed for courage.
Adam stood right before her, close enough to touch, close enough to touch her.
And the compassion in his eyes told her she didn’t need to be brave with him. He wouldn’t demand anything of her.
Instead, he rubbed his thumbs across the apples of her cheeks, cupping her face and angling her head so she had to look right into his face. It was everything serious and grave. But when he opened his mouth his words were soft, lilting, funny. “Maybe it’s better with the aioli.”
Caden sniffled and laughed at the same time, which released a single tear. He quickly swiped it away, the pad of this thumb setting her skin on fire, and his eyes followed the motion. Which promptly set the rest of her on fire.
The air between them vanished, but she couldn’t care. Air was overrated and completely unnecessary when he was three – no, two – feet away. She could only stare at his mouth, his lips, the two-day-old stubble that somehow seemed ever-present.
“You should try it.”
It took a long second to shake the fog from her brain.
The lobster cakes. He was talking about the disaster on her kitchen counter.
She didn’t risk looking toward the ruins, every one falling to pieces on the paper towel. No need to be reminded of her unmitigated failure. Instead, she confessed the truth she’d never told another soul. “I don’t like lobster.”
His head twitched to attention, and the corner of his mouth eased its way up. “Excuse me?”
“I don’t care for it.” Her voice came out quiet, but about half an octave too high, and she forced it back into a normal range. “It’s . . . sweet and . . . chewy.”
“And you’re entering a lobster cook-off. And you grew up on this island, where lobster fishing is a huge industry. And you have it on your menu.” He looked just about ready to release a full belly laugh. “But you don’t actually like it?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Not even a little bit.”
He chuckled, rich and pure, his whole face breaking with joy.
Let’s get one thing straight from the beginning: This book has one of the sweetest, most heart-melting first kiss scenes I’ve ever read; same goes for the almost-kiss scene. I know – you’re sold already, right? But wait, there’s more! This is also a wonderfully sweet (but not saccharine), heartfelt romance set in beautiful ‘Anne of Green Gables’ country, replete with the aromas of cinnamon, coffee, the Island air, and . . . lobster. Wait. What? Lobster? For sure! (as Caden would say). But don’t worry if lobster isn’t your thing. Caden doesn’t like it much either!
As with the first novel in the series, the Red Door Inn is at the heart of the story. The Inn is struggling financially, so when Marie receives word that a travel writer with the prestigious Rest & Retreats magazine will be coming for a mystery visit, a favourable article seems like their best hope of getting the bookings they need to get them through the season. When journalist Adam Jacobs arrives on the Inn’s doorstep (albeit a day early) Marie puts two and two together, and gets . . . five; and gives Caden the job of showing him the Island and making a good impression.
Caden Holt is sweet and generous, most at home in the kitchen, but also conscious of her generous curves and the extra inches on her hips and thighs. I love that Liz Johnson didn’t allow Caden to dwell on her self-consciousness in her thoughts, instead displaying it authentically in the times where she is hesitant, slightly flustered, or feeling invisible, and also in Adam’s observations of her demeanour. It’s not easy to write a character like Caden and have her come across naturally, but Liz Johnson did it well – endearingly so.
Not only does Caden know what it feels like to be overlooked personally, she’s also steadily placed second in the North Shore Lobster Cook-Off since she was in the tenth grade; and with the return of the beautiful, flirtatious, Culinary-Institute-of-Canada-trained Bethany Burke – just in time for this year’s cook-off, no less – it looks like that won’t be changing any time soon. Except this time, winning wouldn’t just be personal. It could also be a boon for the Red Door Inn at a time when it needs it most. No pressure!
Adam Jacobs needs a story to fulfil his freelance contract with America Today, but he just can’t find the words anymore – or the story, for that matter. A good man lost his life as a result of an article he wrote, and the memories and guilt still haunt him; even tempt him to revert to his old habit of using alcohol to help him feel good again. When he does begin to uncover the story he’s after, he finds a surprising connection between it and the Red Door Inn – but it may mean choosing between his job, the memory of a good man, and the woman he’s grown to love.
The novels in this series have such a lovely warmth to them, in spite of the issues the characters need to work through. There was a steady, but gentle growth curve to Adam and Caden’s friendship that begins with Caden’s cooking and Adam’s need for coffee! I love that Adam never once makes reference to Caden’s body size or shape – not even in a positive, ‘she’s-beautiful-anyway’ kind of way. It simply doesn’t enter his sphere of reference. And as I have already said, there are some lovely heartfelt moments – not just between Adam and Caden, as their friendship grows, but also between Adam and the elderly Jewish couple, Levi and Esther, who are staying at the Red Door Inn as guests.
If you’re after a satisfying romance with warmth, sincerity, and cinnamon rolls, this is definitely the book for you.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 18 October 2016
Author’s website: http://www.lizjohnsonbooks.com/
Read my review for The Red Door Inn.