Reaching For the Stars On a Sweet Occasion / @LinnBHalton / @JaniceHorton

photo credit: Ms L via photopin cc
photo credit: Ms L via photopin cc

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Before you head off to spend some time with your sweetie, how about some delectable reads from the café? Today’s post features reads from Linn B. Halton and Janice Horton.

Get ready for cupcakes and hot master chefs!


Nothing Found


Excerpt From Sweet Occasions

That night, lying in bed next to Steve, my mind is whirling. I tell myself it’s only natural that my head is all over the place, as the business is demanding every moment of my time. Truthfully though, there is something deeper gnawing away at me. Every now and then Adam’s face stares back at me from inside my head.

I keep recalling little gestures. The way his face crinkles when he smiles. His expression when he looks at Lily is one of pure, unconditional love. Is it wrong to lie in bed next to your partner and think about another man? Of course it is: what am I thinking? I’m not free, I’ve made a commitment. Besides, Steve needs me.

Then I remember the moment I nearly embarrassed myself. I thought Adam said that he loved me! What he actually said, was that he loved the cake, and that I’d done a great job. Talk about wishful thinking. The shock registered on my face immediately. I had to pretend I’d had one of those déjà vu experiences in order to explain away my reaction.

None of this is helping to empty my head of thoughts and the moment I relax Adam is back. His eyes are so intense sometimes, as if the words you are speaking aren’t enough. He wants to see beyond mere words. For a man, he’s very in touch with his emotions, despite the fact I’m pretty sure he’d deny it. I’m inviting trouble by thinking about him, because it’s a pointless exercise. It’s making me feel disloyal and it’s unsettling. I’m not a dreamer, and yet Adam has turned me into one. Day dreams are empty wishes, and he has a girlfriend who seemed pretty intent on making that very plain. Adam was embarrassed, that was obvious, but it’s a fact. Even if we do get on well, that in itself doesn’t mean a thing.

He’s an attractive man, and Charlotte is a sophisticated woman. There’s a sense of glamour, and worldliness about her, which makes me feel very dull in comparison. Why would Adam even consider looking at me, when he has such a captivating girlfriend?



Reaching For the Stars

Reaching For the Stars

Genre: Romance
Love him or hate him, everyone is out looking for Chef McDuff. Who will find him first and whose side will you be on...? More info →
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Excerpt from Reaching For the Stars

Wearing the same champagne-soaked Armani suit he had been in for the past fourteen hours, Finlay McDuff was slumped in an armchair inside the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, on a bright January morning. He was reading about himself in the newspapers and reflecting on why, after finally achieving his life’s ambition, he should be feeling so utterly miserable.

‘Bad-boy chef wins three Golden Stars,’ declared The City News.

‘Infamous chef wins third star in Edinburgh,’ reported The Scotsman.

‘McGolden!’ boasted The Thistle.

Finn lit a cigarette and groaned. His blood-red eyes, set in dark hollows beneath heavy lids, looked as though they hadn’t ever closed during the years he had been chasing those coveted rosettes. The macaroons, as the French liked to call them, the ultimate symbols of gastronomic success. Only what use were they now?

He had put ambition over love: pride over marriage: his ego over his emotions.

Three sins for three stars, he told himself.

He longed to sleep. Not that he could sleep. Not since Gina had left. Not since she had got on that plane back to Italy and disappeared from his life. It had been three weeks and three days and he’d heard nothing from her. No phone calls, no letters, no emails, no requests for money, and no demands from her lawyer. It wasn’t like her. Gina made a point of demanding and now she’d stopped, it was driving him crazier than her constant whining ever had.

A nervous young waiter approached him from across the foyer.


‘Sir, you cannot smoke in here, it’s the law.’

Finn searched for an ashtray while his deposits threatened the Balmoral’s marble floor.

‘I’m a-afraid we don’t have any ashtrays,’ stuttered the waiter.

Finn took off a shoe and used it instead; further jeopardising the hotel’s clean air policy.

‘A d-drink, sir?’

Finn yawned and tried to check his watch but his eyes were unfocussed and rolling in his head from the as yet unprocessed alcohol still making its way round his body. ‘Nah, I’ll have a cup of tea and two paracetamol. I’ve to do an interview with some journo tosser and I need some pain relief quickly.’

He cast his mind back to the last time he had seen his wife. It had been ten o’clock on Christmas Eve, when she had stormed into his restaurant and had screamed at him over the passé in a mix of Italian, Scottish, and English, while tears poured down her face.

He remembered the restaurant being excruciatingly quiet as she had served her ultimatum. He had been tearing herbs onto a plate of foie-gras and had looked up to see if she was serious.

In full view of his diners, she had strutted back and forth with her nose and chin raised provocatively, her dark eyes fixed firmly upon him, her perfectly manicured fingernails strumming her thrusting hips, while one Italian leather shoe tapped the terrazzo-tiled floor.

Everyone in the restaurant had waited open-mouthed for his response.

But he did what he was trained to do under pressure; he cooked.

Gina, having interpreted his reticence as indifference, had pulled at her finger and thrown something down onto the passé in front of him. It was her wedding ring.

To his disbelief, it had landed straight in the foie-gras.


Recipe of the Day

Author Linn B. Halton says she loves coffee with Tia Maria Liquor. That sounded yummy! I did a little digging and found this gem of a recipe courtesy of Tia Maria themselves. Check out this recipe for Tia Espresso:

  • 30 ml TIA MARIA
  • 30 ml ESPRESSO
  • 30 ml VODKA
  • 15 ml LIQUID SUGAR
  • Combine all ingredients together with cubed ice in a boston and shake. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with coffee beans.


Music of the Day

When I asked our authors about their playlists for these books, Janice Horton had this to say:

In my ‘celebrity chef’ novel, Reaching for the Stars, the stars mentioned both in the title and in the story are based on the famous Michelin star system, the highest accolades awarded to a chef. My title is also a double entendre, of course, meaning that to achieve at the top you have to aim high. I did lots of research for this novel in Michelin-starred kitchens and I spoke to lots of top chefs but didn’t have a music playlist as such during the writing stage. However, I found it very interesting to note that while I was launching my own ‘Reaching for the Stars’ the rapper was making history with his song ‘Reach for the Stars’ when it was played from the surface of Mars and beamed back to Earth on the Mars rover Curiosity – becoming the first song ever to debut from another planet. It certainly got his song noticed and made me wonder how hard it would be to have a book launch in space?!”



Linn B. Halton had another addiction. Sam Smith’s Stay With Me was played on constant loop while she wrote Sweet Occasions. Have a listen!



Thanks ladies! So nice of you to stop by the café for our lovely Valentine’s Day feature. Have a wonderful day!