After years of mistakes and regret, Colin Renwycke finally has a plan: Hone his baking talent at the Denver Culinary Institute and embark on a new career as a pastry chef. If he’s lucky, he might even manage to earn back his family’s respect. But despite his skills in the kitchen, Colin’s a mess in the classroom and his ongoing disasters are proving too much for his prickly instructor. If he loses his spot at the school, he’s out of backup plans.
Culinary school instructor Rylan Jefferson has the chance to reclaim her dream of running her own bakery. But she only has until Christmas Eve to come up with the perfect recipe to impress an eccentric investor. She has no time for holiday parties or family plans . . . and especially not for the unruly student baker who couldn’t follow a recipe if his life depended on it.
But Colin has the one ingredient Rylan needs most—talent. Lots of it. And when he makes a proposal that just might solve both their problems, Rylan can’t say no—even if it does mean traveling all the way to Iowa. It just might be that the snow-covered plains and a charming small town full of postcard Christmas cheer are exactly what her hungry heart needs . . . along with a man who is much more than he seems.
He dropped both trays to the ground and lowered onto one of them, folding his knees up to his chest and gripping its sides. Rylan hesitated for a moment before following suit.
“That’s a good girl,” he said as she shadowed his movement.
“If I die, Colin Renwycke-”
“Then I promise to give a great eulogy at your funeral.” And with that, he reached one arm behind her and gave her a solid push.
Her squeal peeled through the air as she went soaring down the hill. Grinning, he pushed himself off with his foot and careened after her. Snow smacked into his face, stinging his cheeks, air barreling past his ears. His eyes closed instinctively, but he forced them open in time to see Rylan’s tray swerve and then spin, sending her lurching off it. A second later, he hit the same bump she had and felt himself roll off his own tray.
His body hit the ground with a thump and a roll, snow seeping down his coat collar and through his jeans.
And Rylan’s laughter coming from . . . underneath him?
“Get off of me,” she said through giggles muffled by his coat. “Posthaste.”
He rolled to his side, his laughter mingling with hers. “I told you it would be fun, didn’t I?”
She was splayed on her back, her hat lost in the snow, wet strands of hair clinging to her cheeks. “I think I broke all my ribs,” she sputtered. “And I’m pretty sure I have a collapsed lung or two. And I swallowed a gallon of snow.”
He rose up on one elbow, tipping the snow out of one ear. “Yes, but all your limbs are intact, so I’d say this was a success.”
“I can’t feel my face. I’m completely numb.”
He grinned as he leaned over her. He tapped her forehead with his glove. Her nose. Her chin. “It’s all there, I promise.”
She was still trying to catch her breath, from the ride, from the laughter, her chest heaving underneath her coat. She’d lost a mitten and one boot was untied. Her cheeks were red; her lips, nearly blue from cold.
In that moment, sprawled in the snow, moonlight and mirth waltzing in her eyes, she was, quite simply and undeniably the prettiest woman he’d ever seen.
You can’t go there, Colin. Not with her.
How many times would his conscience have to remind him? She wasn’t like the other girls. The ones he’d casually dated and just as casually forgotten. And he wasn’t that person anymore.
But that’s just it. He wasn’t that person anymore. Wasn’t it possible this time, with this woman, could be different?
Melissa Tagg writes some of the most engaging and satisfying contemporary romances I have read – and that goes for both full length and novella formats. Somehow she manages to combine warmth, humour, tension, soul searching, romance, family dynamics, character depth and growth – and anything else a novel could possibly need – into an organic whole that hits the spot. Every. Single. Time.
Colin and Rylan might (erm, make that definitely!) have different approaches in the kitchen, but they have more in common than they realise: Both are driven by a need to prove themselves – if not to the world at large, then at least to their families.
Colin is determined – for once in his life – to finish something he’s started. He’s given up his reckless and irresponsible ways, he’s finally on his way to some kind of productive career, and now he wants to go home and make a good impression on his family; except, he’s kind of made a bad impression on the one person besides himself who has the power to prevent him from completing his culinary course.
Rylan is determined to resurrect her dream of owning her own bakery. Her sisters and her parents have been successful in their careers and relationships, whereas she lost both three years ago in one fell swoop. It hurts to be the odd one out in a family of perfect people. She doesn’t particularly like the brusque, critical person she’s become, but teaching was never her dream; in fact, with Colin Renwycke in her class, it’s more like her nightmare. She really can’t stand Colin Renwycke!
And yet… well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself!
Melissa Tagg excels at writing characters who are loveable in spite of their faults, and I love that we get to watch the characters discover this about each other, even in the more limited time frame of a novella. Colin’s cheeky wit was the perfect foil for Rylan’s initial tetchiness, and the balance of light-hearted, romantic, and more poignant, heartfelt scenes throughout the novella was just right.
If it’s contemporary romance you’re after, you’re missing out big time if you pass over Melissa Tagg.
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Buy from US: Amazon
Buy from AU: Amazon
Release date: 22 November 2016
Publisher: Larkspur Press
Author’s website: www.melissatagg.com