Review, Excerpt, and Sweepstakes: Don’t Call Me Cupcake (Book #1: The Holloway Girls Series) by Tara Sheets

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CUPCAKE book coverThere’s a very special kind of sweetness to life on Pine Cove Island …

Most families have a favorite recipe or two, handed down through generations. The Holloway women are a little different. Emma Holloway, like her grandmother before her, bakes charms into her delicious cupcakes, granting the recipient comfort, sweet dreams, or any number of good things. It’s a strange gift, but it brings only happiness. Until gorgeous, smooth-talking newcomer Hunter Kane strolls into her shop, Fairy Cakes—and Emma makes the mistake of selling him not one, but three Sweet Success cupcakes.

Hunter, it turns out, is opening a fancy new restaurant and bakery right on the waterfront—Emma’s competition. To make matters worse, the town committee has decided to split the upcoming summer festival contract between the two, forcing Emma to work with her nemesis. But she can’t afford to split her profits. The solution: create a recipe that will make Hunter leave town permanently.

The Holloway charms are powerful. But there are other kinds of magic in the world—like red-hot first kisses, secret glances, and the feeling that comes with falling truly, madly, inconveniently in love . . .

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley and purchase          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Emma Holloway’s life has taken a downward turn in the last few years.  Since the death of her beloved grandmother, nothing seems to be going Emma’s way.  Her jerk of a fiancé left her, her grandmother died, her business isn’t doing well, and her home is falling apart.  Yes, things could definitely be better for Emma Holloway.  What couldn’t be better is Emma’s attitude.  Despite all the difficulties, Emma always has a smile, a cheerful disposition, and the will to see herself through the difficulties to better times. 

The residents of Pine Cove Island know all about the Holloway’s and their gifts.  Many believe in the magic the Holloway’s possess and others just think they’re a crazy family with even crazier stories.  For those who believe, Emma’s shop, Fairy Cakes is a place of refuge, a place to find wonderful baked goods with a bit of extra baked into every bite.  Need a bit of energy or motivation?  Emma has a cupcake for that!  Need a boost in the love department?  Emma has a cupcake for that!  Need a touch of good luck?  Yes!  Emma has a cupcake for that.  If you need it, Emma has it and that has endeared her to most of Pine Cove’s residents.

Hunter Kane is new to Pine Cove Island and he has BIG plans for the lazy tourist town.  First up on the agenda is checking out the competition, Fairy Cakes.  With pointed questions and a willingness to try the goods, Hunter sees his new bakery shutting down the competition in no time flat.  Once the competition is out of the way, Hunter can proceed with the rest of his plans which include buying out the entire street, revitalizing the area, and bringing in more tourists and loads of money.  Once he’s done with Pine Cove Island, Hunter will move on to the neighboring islands and repeat his success.  To Hunter’s mind, he’s doing everyone involved a favor and they should be grateful for his time and attention. 

When Emma sorts out Hunter’s game, she is beyond furious and comes up with a plan to get him and his plans out of town, permanently.  With the help of her also gifted cousin, the women concoct a potion that, once consumed will cause to Hunter to leave town and never have the desire to return.  In order to get Hunter to eat the cupcake with the potion, Emma will have to cozy up to the enemy and gain his trust.  Hunter isn’t at all hard on the eyes but being nice to him is a tall order Emma isn’t at all sure she can handle.  Until she actually spends time with him and gets to know that man behind the evil plans.

Hunter isn’t at all sure he believes the stories about Emma and her family, but he sure likes her and wants to get to know her a bit better.  Emma makes Hunter think of things like love and romance, emotions he was quite certain he had locked away for good after his last disastrous relationship.  Emma is committed to her business despite the hardships, she loves her crumbling home, she is devoted to her fellow residents and their shared traditions and has no intention of letting any of it go.  Emma opens Hunter’s eyes to what life can be like in a small town, where everyone knows your name and your business, and still welcomes you with open arms.  Trouble is, Hunter has no idea Emma is plotting against him . . . .

The Bottom Line:  Confession time: I totally judged this book by its cover and title!!  While I may have started off on a very superficial foot with the book, I quickly discovered a gem in between the adorable covers.  Sheets has created a quirky little world on Pine Cove Island that, for better or worse, seems to revolve around Emma Holloway and her family.  Hunter is the typical “fix all your problems” rich guy who has some valuable lessons to learn while on Pine Cove Island.  He doesn’t expect Emma (or a crusty old property owner!) to be his guide to what life could be like, but he and the reader are in for a load of surprises.  Emma isn’t willing to just give in to Hunter and with the help of her cousin, her friends, many locals, and her cantankerous old house, Emma fights for what she loves and holds dear.  I am such a huge fan of quirky characters and stories, and Don’t Call Me Cupcake has quirky in spades.  It also has all the feels, just the right amount of drama (Emma’s ex!), some really funny bits (the house kills me!), and an HEA that is so well-deserved on every level.  This is a sweet read with an appropriate heat level I found utterly charming and difficult to put down.  I can’t wait for round two, Don’t Touch My Petunia and sincerely wish the Holloway family were far larger than they are 😊

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Excerpt from Don’t Call Me Cupcake (Book #1: The Holloway Girls Series):

That half smile ghosted across his face again and he crossed his arms. It was a simple gesture of relaxed ease, but Emma didn’t buy it. There was a hunger in his dark green gaze that she remembered all too well. The lion was on high alert.

“What did you want to talk about?” he asked.

“It was wrong,” she blurted.

Hunter’s posture shifted slightly. “You think last night was a mistake.”

“Totally. I mean, I never do that kind of thing. Ever. I don’t know what I was thinking, you know?” Here came the babble. She always babbled when she was nervous. “But I know it’s not a good idea to mix my personal life with business. And you and I are just business, so I hope you understand it’s not going to happen again because, you know, I can’t really believe it even happened in the first place.”

His gaze was intense, like he was imagining the things they could do. The things they had done. A delicious shiver skittered up her spine. She forged ahead. “I mean, I just don’t think it should have happened at all. It was kind of crazy and well, contrary to what you may have heard, I’m not actually crazy. Weird, sure. But not reckless like that. At least I never have been in the past. So anyway, I would like to forget about it and, you know, just go on like before,” said the queen of Babble-on. “Normal and stuff.”

Hunter nodded once and glanced down at the floor. He seemed deep in thought, as if he was trying to make a decision.

Emma tried not to notice his muscular arms, crossed against his chest. Nothing sexy about those. Nope. La la la. She could hear the second hands ticking on the wall clock. Tick. Tick.

He pressed his lips together and she suddenly remembered the feel of them, warm and hot against the sensitive spot on her neck. Focus!

When he finally lifted his head, her knees almost buckled. The lion stared back, all wild and hungry and seductive, like he was about to lick zebra chops. He leaned closer.

She should probably back away.

He watched her beneath thick, dark lashes and lowered his gaze to her mouth.

Yup. Definitely backing away soon. She could almost feel the heat of his body on hers and her traitorous limbs ached with the desire to step closer.

His face hovered inches from hers, as if he was waiting for some sign.

Any second now, she would back away. Any second. Emma’s mouth opened on a tiny indrawn breath.

It seemed to be exactly what he was waiting for. The moment his lips touched hers, her limbs flooded with heat. Her body remembered him and was instantly ready.

 He gripped her hips and lifted, pulling her flush against him. She wrapped her legs around his waist, completely lost in the kiss that spread like wildfire through her blood. He carried her to the back room, knocking over a bag of sugar on the way as he braced her up against the pantry wall. She gripped the edge of the shelf, sending stainless steel mixing bowls toppling to the floor. The two of them were like a hurricane, demolishing anything that got in the way, and she was helpless to do anything but hang on.

Emma suddenly wanted to feel his skin against hers. She grabbed the hem of his shirt and yanked it up, breaking away from their kiss just long enough to tear it over his head.

A low growl escaped him as he ran his hands up under her apron, sending a jolt of pure desire rocketing through her.

Screwed. She was so screwed. But in this moment, who cared?

She smiled against his mouth and licked his lips. If he was the hungry lion, then she was happy, slow-roasting zebra chops.

Copyright© 2018 Don’t Call Me Cupcake Tara Sheets

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About the author and where to find her:

Tara SheetsTARA SHEETS is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her work has earned first place recognition in literary contests nationwide and her debut novel, Don’t Call Me Cupcake, won the 2016 Golden Heart® award sponsored by Romance Writers of America®. Tara began her career as an author in the Pacific Northwest, inspired by the rain and the misty mountains and the rivers of Starbucks coffee.  She now lives in the warm, wonderful South where she can stand outside with no coat on, and she finds that pretty inspiring too.  When not writing, Tara enjoys life with her book-loving family and a book-eating dog named Merlin. She is represented by Sarah Phair at Trident Media Group.

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