Title: Christmas Reads: A Saucy Christmas
Author: DeeAnna Galbraith
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Talented chefs Elise Fayette and Rob Culver team up for a Christmas scavenger hunt. Another competition for their talents intercedes and only one can win. Does it matter who when they find love at the end of the hunt?
It was a cliché, but Elise Fayette would rather be any place but here. Her parents had started with a request, and when she’d balked, skipped past wheedling and demanding, straight to begging.
“It’s only a couple of hours,” her father said, giving her a side hug. “Your taco truck is a big success and the menu offerings for your upcoming catering service are gold. Get out once in a while and make social connections. Can’t stay in all the time. You need to be a solid member of the business community.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “And there are actual single men out there too.”
Elise had heard this song before, but finally caved. Not because she was man hunting, but because she had a shot at the grand prize. Having her name connected with the hottest winery around and their annual gala really was a good idea. If she had the right partner.
All of which lead to her current situation. Standing in the reception area/tasting bar of Copper Circle Winery the second Monday after Thanksgiving, waiting to participate in a scavenger hunt. The winning team would combine their skills to cater the Copper Circle Christmas Gala, the most prestigious winery event of the season, for its wine club members. The invitations were already out. She shrugged. A mini tasting presentation of her best dishes would have been so much easier.
The scavenger hunt was her second cousin Joslyn Daughter’s idea. Jos’s family-owned Copper Circle Winery and she planned the events and marketing promotions. She also considered herself a gourmet cook, although Elise had never tasted any of her plates. Elise’s parents said that was because Joslyn’s idea of gourmet came out of a frozen food section at the grocery store. Elise sighed. Top chef material or not, Joslyn would surely be participating on one of the teams in the hunt.
The guy standing across from Elise, Rob Culver, looked to be enjoying the event prospect as much as her.
Rob’s chef genius went back a half dozen Culver generations to a small four-star restaurant cozied into a two-hundred-year-old hotel on the Seine in Paris. He’d returned about six months ago from there after having spent five years learning French culinary processes. With that kind of pedigree, he could’ve been a real snob, but Elise didn’t think so. He had a quiet, stand-offish personality. She figured his mind, like hers, strayed to his latest project in the kitchen. Rob had developed some wine-sauce blends anyone patient enough to get a reservation at his restaurant, bragged about having tasted for weeks afterward. She’d also seen pictures of his upgraded kitchen in an online post and had a bad case of workspace-envy.
Joslyn said something, so Elise re-focused.
“We’ve already paired everyone. My team will be Rob Culver and myself. Then Franny Bostick and Gareth Pines. Lastly, Elise Fayette and my brother, Will.
“Each team gets the same clues and items to look for, but in a different order. That way we all aren’t arriving at the same time and same place. The clues are associated with old Christmas songs, all put together by my mother. When you find the right the item, somebody will be available to write the date and time on a verification slip. We don’t bring the item back because the other teams would then know exactly what to look for. Slips have to be delivered to the tasting bar before closing each night and we’ll all meet here at ten o’clock each morning to see who had the best times. Then the teams will receive the next clue and item on their list. There will be points for first, second and third places. And no points if the item isn’t found that day. At the end of five days, the team with the best score will win the catering service contract for the Copper Circle Winery Christmas Gala. Any questions?”
Boredom snuck up on Elise, followed by a suppressed yawn. Rob Culver held his hand over his mouth. Her yawn had started a chain reaction.
“Excuse me, honey, but I would like to change the team member assignments. Just a tad.”
Jos’s penciled-in eyebrows winged at this. The interruption came from Franny Bostick. Franny’s family had arrived in the past year from Northern California by way of Texas, and purchased Sage Hill Bistro where she held the position of executive chef. Franny had taken the measure of her partner-to-be and balked. Her gaze strafed Rob and my partner, Will, and landed on Rob.
“I would like to be partnered with Mr. Rob Culver.” She said his name as if she and Scarlett O’Hara had been raised side-by-side. Joslyn’s words were rarely questioned, so this did not go down well.
Maybe this wouldn’t be boring after all, Elise thought.
“I think the teams are fine the way they are,” Joslyn said carefully. Sage Hill was a big deal and she couldn’t afford to dis the owners, who purchased a lot of their wine from Copper Circle. Elise suspected that was why Franny got invited to be a team member. She also figured she was here because her aunt and uncle owned the winery, not because she normally hung out with Joslyn and her inner circle.
What I love most about the holiday season:
I love the songs. Everything from Pavarotti to Brenda Lee
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
I live in wine country and being semi-rural, the wineries go all out to put on food and vendor events. This Christmas scavenger hunt is a little out of the ordinary, but so fun.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs July 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on August 2.
DeeAnna is a freelance editor and author of romantic suspense, women’s fiction, children's picture books, and mysteries. She writes and teaches for the love of it, has never met a dog she did not want to pet or a pie she did not want to taste. She tries to live life without props.
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