5 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Talk Turkey by Bru Baker

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Talk Turkey (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 58 Pages

At a Glance: This is an incredibly delightful tale of turkey woe.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Carson is a California transplant settling into life in the Windy City. On his first Christmas away from home, he assures his worried family he’ll be having a real Christmas dinner.

Recent culinary school graduate Tom Stockton earns some extra money giving out cooking advice at the Talk Turkey hotline. Tom’s honeyed voice and sharp sense of humor are attractive to the lonely Carson, and Carson finds reasons to call the hotline again and again. But on Christmas Eve, Carson’s call is less playful and more panicked with the big meal looming. Carson is just looking for advice, but Tom has a surprise in store that might lead to much more.

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Review: Carson has been in Chicago for less than a month, and the loneliness of his existence is starting to overwhelm him. Too new in his job, he doesn’t have the option of vacation time to go home to California for the holiday.

“It said a lot about Carson’s current state of mind that he’d named the turkey currently taking up a good three-quarter of the real estate in his refrigerator. Sure, he’d be eating it. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t name it. Especially since it was doing such a great service for him, being his sole companion for Christmas dinner. At the rate it was defrosting – which was interminably slow – it would be coming as a guest and not the meal, which was all the more reason to name it.”

Carson is in such a state because of his turkey that he calls the turkey hotline number he found in the grocery store, and meets Tom – a recent culinary school graduate who is working the hotline for extra cash during the holidays. What follows are delightfully well written and witty vignettes of Carson’s turkey troubles, and Tom’s sage advice peppered with a sharp sense of humor. Bru Baker writes a moving story of a young man navigating his first holiday on his own with uplifting humor and amusing secondary characters. The fact that Carson’s mom set up a Pinterest page for him with turkey boards is refreshingly current and relatable. How the author puts the two men together was ingeniously clever and had me laughing out loud.

I am becoming a huge fan of Bru Baker, she is an excellent writer whether the story is long or short, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

TNA_Signature_Carrie

 

 

 

 

You can buy Talk Turkey here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Bru Baker

Guest Post: The King of the Kitchen Blog Tour with Bru Baker

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We’re pleased to welcome author Bru Baker to The Novel Approach today, talking cooking and sharing recipes on her King of the Kitchen blog tour. Enjoy!

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I’m so glad to be here at The Novel Approach wrapping up my blog tour for King of the Kitchen, which was released on Nov. 6. I’ve had almost as much fun talking about cooking during the blog tour as I did writing about it in the book!

I’ve frequently written my characters in the kitchen or sharing a meal, but I realized that I hadn’t actually framed an entire book around one of the things I love the most—cooking. King of the Kitchen was born out of a desire to write about food and the high-stress, high-stakes world of restaurant kitchens.

My father was a chef, which meant I was learning knife skills at a time when most other kids were learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. Cooking together was one of my favorite things to do, and he was always eager to teach me whatever I wanted to know. I learned a fair amount just watching him work, too. But the double-edged sword (or should I say double-edged chef’s knife?) was the fact that as a chef, he wasn’t around much. He’d still be asleep when I left for school, and his shifts ended long after I was in bed for the night. Managing a commercial kitchen meant even if he wasn’t scheduled to work a weekend, he was frequently called in anyway because a line cook called in sick. I spent a good number of Saturdays during my formative years sitting at a table in a restaurant dining room doing homework or coloring while sous chefs brought out desserts and other treats to keep my sister and I entertained.

Thanks to the proliferation of celebrity cooking shows these days, we think of chefs like rock stars. We see the fame and accomplishments, but frequently miss the long hours and years of hard work that goes into getting them there. I wanted to give a more realistic view of what a celebrity chef’s workload might be like, so we see Beck working himself to the bone hustling between his cooking show and the restaurants he manages. Even Duncan, who is a brilliant chef but can’t commit to a restaurant full time, works long hours and has basically no social life outside the kitchens and his chef friends.

That’s part of the reason King of the Kitchen is such a slow burn romance. Their lives are so busy that getting to know each other takes time. But there’s a lot of delicious flirting (and even more delicious food!) throughout, and we get to know Beck and Duncan as they get to know each other.

Today I’m sharing my dad’s recipe for egg rolls. It’s been a fairly closely held family secret for decades, mostly because my father never wrote anything down. To him, a recipe was a guideline, not an absolute. To this day, I have trouble following recipes because I’m always tweaking things for a better flavor profile or to include a vegetable that’s more in season. In fact, one of the hardest parts of writing King of the Kitchen was putting together the recipes that appear in the back of the book. I hardly ever measure things, and I’m prone to just throwing in what I have on hand instead of dutifully following a recipe.

My father died when I was 18, and his egg roll recipe died with him. I spent the next ten years making batch after batch, trying to get it right. I finally succeeded a few years ago, and I can’t even tell you how happy that made me. To me, these egg rolls taste like childhood and love. They bring back memories of spending hours in the kitchen with my dad on his rare days off, rolling up dozens of them to be frozen so my sister and I could pop one in the fryer when we got home from school.

If you haven’t been following along with my blog tour, it’s worth going back through the posts for the recipes! Last week I shared Duncan’s refrigerator Velcro frittata recipe on Joyfully Jay and my go-to comfort food, garlic and shallot pasta, on Gay List Book Reviews. I was over on Prism Book Alliance yesterday with Beck’s roasted brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze, too.

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Bru’s family secret egg rolls

1 Tbs. Vegetable oil
1 lb. Ground pork
2 carrots
1 cup green beans
8 oz. canned water chestnuts
8 oz. canned bamboo
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
¼ cup soy sauce
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper
Package of egg roll wrappers
1 egg
Oil for frying

All of the vegetables need to be finely julienned. Combine the vegetables, soy sauce and chicken stock in a large-bottomed pan and put over medium heat. While that is coming to a boil, brown the ground pork in the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook until no longer pink. Drain the grease and add it in to the vegetable mixture and cook until the carrots and cabbage are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Take the mixture off the heat and let it come to room temperature. (Trust me, you don’t want to roll hot egg rolls!) When the mixture is cool, set up your wrapping station. Open the package of egg roll wrappers and keep them under a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out. Beat the egg in a small bowl. You can drain off the liquid if you like—we always just used a slotted spoon to dish out the filling. Whatever you decide do, you want to make sure you’ve drained it as much as possible, because wet egg rolls will fall apart in the oil.

Lay your wrapper out in front of you like a diamond. Depending on how much filling you like, spoon out ¼ to ½ of a cup of the filling just below the middle point of the diamond. Fold the bottom edge up and tuck it under the filling, pulling it tight as you roll (not too tight or you’ll break the wrapper). Use your egg wash to draw a line down each of the sides, then fold the right and left side toward the middle. It should look like an envelope. Continue rolling the pouch with the filling until you get to the end, then seal with more egg wash.

Heat the oil to 350F in a heavy-bottomed pan (like a dutch oven) or your electric fryer. Don’t overcrowd the pan while frying—you’ll have to do these in batches, probably two or three at a time. Cook for two to three minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on a wire rack or paper towel.

If you haven’t wrapped them tightly enough they’ll fall apart, but that’s okay. Let the pieces cook and then fish them out with a spider or other utensil. My sister and I used to fight over these pieces because they’ll be crispy and delicious!

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KingoftheKitchenKing of the Kitchen Blurb: Rising kitchen talents Beck Douglas and Duncan Walters have been on the foodie paparazzi radar for years, since their status as heirs to two of the biggest celebrity chef empires around makes them culinary royalty. Beck is known for his charm and traditional food as cohost of his uncle’s popular TV cooking show, while Duncan earned himself a reputation as a culinary bad boy, both for his refusal to work in his father’s restaurants and his avant garde approach to cooking.

They’re also heirs to a food rivalry that could put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame, and when they’re photographed in the middle of a heated argument, the press goes wild with speculation. Damage control ensues, with a fake friendship engineered by PR cronies that leaves both of them secretly pining for more.

Beck chafes under his uncle’s micromanagement, and Duncan’s relationship with his homophobic father becomes even more tenuous when Beck and Duncan start getting closer. It’s hard to hide their chemistry on national television when Duncan joins Beck’s cooking show, but they won’t be able to take their relationship—or their careers—to the next level without breaking a few eggs.

Buy links: Amazon, Dreamspinner Press, Barnes and Noble, ARe

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cropped headshot Bru BakerBio: Bru Baker has been writing for Dreamspinner Press since December 2012. She believes in Happily Ever Afters, but she almost always makes her characters work to get there. She and her husband live in the Midwest with their two young children, whose antics make finding time to write difficult but never let life get boring.

Social Links: Website || Facebook || Twitter

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4.5 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: King of the Kitchen by Bru Baker

Amazon

Amazon

Title: King of the Kitchen

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy a real romance and slow buildup kind of story.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Rising kitchen talents Beck Douglas and Duncan Walters have been on the foodie paparazzi radar for years, since their status as heirs to two of the biggest celebrity chef empires around makes them culinary royalty. Beck is known for his charm and traditional food as cohost of his uncle’s popular TV cooking show, while Duncan earned himself a reputation as a culinary bad boy, both for his refusal to work in his father’s restaurants and his avant-garde approach to cooking.

They’re also heirs to a food rivalry that could put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame, and when they’re photographed in the middle of a heated argument, the press goes wild with speculation. Damage control ensues, with a fake friendship engineered by PR cronies that leaves both of them secretly pining for more.

Beck chafes under his uncle’s micromanagement, and Duncan’s relationship with his homophobic father becomes even more tenuous when Beck and Duncan start getting closer. It’s hard to hide their chemistry on national television when Duncan joins Beck’s cooking show, but they won’t be able to take their relationship—or their careers—to the next level without breaking a few eggs.

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Review: Duncan Walters is the culinary bad boy.  Young, brilliant in the kitchen, he works at various restaurants around Chicago, including a diner, refusing to settle down. His espouses the cooking regimen of molecular gastronomy, having graduated from college with a molecular biology degree, even though he is happiest slinging fried eggs at the diner. Duncan’s father is a 4 star Michelin chef, and Duncan started working in his dad’s kitchens when he was twelve. But, his relationship with his homophobic father is tenuous and, frankly, has soured Duncan on relationships, period. Duncan keeps it light, no strings, no long term commitments in love and his professional life – it’s just easier that way.

Beck Douglas is heir apparent to the culinary King empire. Managing several restaurants by night, by day he is the face of the King of the Kitchen TV show. Nephew to Christian King, the culinary powerhouse, Beck has no time for anything personal; there just are not enough hours in the day. To keep himself sane, he runs on a tight schedule, his every move scripted; it is the only way he can even try to live up to all that is expected of him. Being attracted to a man who wears t-shirts with stupid food slogans on them, or Chucks with his tuxedo, is just not an option.

I loved these guys.  This story takes a long time to develop, these men have a lot to overcome both personally and professionally, and they do it all in the public eye since they are celebrities of a sort. As such, they don’t have a real “moment” until the book is 75% done. Don’t get me wrong, we have witty dialog and awesome secondary characters that keep this book moving, and the way it all plays out is totally believable. These two men are like balls that keep pinging off each other, each new collision knocking off all the extraneous bonds of their lives until just the two of them remain, and they can’t resist each other. You will love all the food references, and the TV show could absolutely be on a channel today.

In the end, this book is about two men, though and the restaurant and food references are just aspects of these two men, adding depth and reality to the characters. I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy a real romance and slow buildup kind of story. This was my first Bru Baker story, but it definitely will not be my last!

TNA_Signature_Carrie

 

 

 

You can buy King of the Kitchen here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

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3 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules

Review: Late Bloomer by Bru Baker

Title: Late Bloomer

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 64 Pages

At a Glance: This story was a late bloomer for me

Blurb: If not for his family and his Christmas tree farm, David Rochester would be a recluse. And Erik Shriver wouldn’t know a quiet moment if it smacked him in the face. But now David’s farm has brought them together. When Erik’s flurry of bad jokes and frenetic energy sets David off kilter, his family notices and begins conspiring. They push David and a very willing Erik together again and again until David stops denying his attraction. But an almost-hermit and a soon-to-be-former club boy each bring baggage into a relationship. They’ll have to take things slowly to find the middle ground between David’s taciturn silence and Eric’s boundless chatter.

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Review:

“So you guys have a Santa out here? Is it one of you? Tell me it’s you. Make my day, David, and tell me that you dress up in a big stuffed belly and a white beard and coo over babies.” – Bru Baker

Erik Shriver left Rives Junction for college many years ago, but has since moved back to care for his mother. He teaches biology at the high school, and does part-time seasonal work at Rochester Farms, a local, family-owned nursery. Erik is adorable. Sweet, smart, handsome, tenacious, and for some reason he has his sights set on David Rochester.

David wants nothing to do with Erik’s advances. He is a curmudgeon, and is perfectly happy with it, thank you very much. He was burned by his last relationship and has no intention of going through that again, so he has built up a pretty substantial wall. It also doesn’t help that he remembers Erik as a player, and has therefore decided that Erik isn’t good for him. The reality, of course, is that Erik wants nothing more than to build a long-lasting relationship with David. He wants a steady partnership, and all of the comfort that comes with it. The problem is getting that through David’s thick skull.

Forgive the pun, but this story was a late bloomer for me. It wasn’t until the second half that it got up to full steam, and really took off. Once that happened, it was great. Once David decided to let go of the past, and let Erik in, he became much more likable, and the story did as well. In the third chapter we get some solid backstory, which was great, and, there was a picnic-date scene in the final chapter that I absolutely loved. The guys had wonderful chemistry; it was a really fun, sweet scene. In fact, the whole last chapter is completely charming.

Late Bloomer was a cute Christmas novella. It may not have been my favorite, but the strength of the second half of the story definitely made it an enjoyable read!








You can buy Late Bloomer here:

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3 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules

Review: The Magic of Weihnachten by Bru Baker

Title: The Magic of Weihnachten

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 51 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: American Walsh Brandt is happy when a promotion lands him his dream job and a quiet new life in Germany. Until December rolls around, when he realizes it’s almost impossible to hide from the holiday season in Germany. Continue reading

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