by Caroline James
Published: October 4, 2013
“A fabulous story, it made me shriek with laughter and I loved every twist and turn! And so much of it could be only too true! One of my favourite current reads.”
Valentina Harris, Author, Chef & International Cookery School Host
“You’ll go NUTS! about this book! A Great read!”
Andrew Nutter, Celebrity Chef
A tough-cookie media agent who’s clawed her way to the top, and a con-man who wants to open a cookery school.
Add in a washed-up celebrity chef whose career needs re-building…
An aging rock star fresh from rehab, and a Sloane Ranger food writer who gets her own TV show…
Bring to the boil:
At a Gourmet Food Festival, in Ireland, where anything goes!
When media agent Hilary Hargreaves travels to Ireland to look at a campaign for a new cookery school, she meets a blast from her past – the romantic but feckless chef Mickey Lloyd, who is hell-bent on resurrecting his flagging career. Her tough demeanour is rocked as it becomes apparent Mickey’s intentions involve more than a stint behind a stove in his quest to pursue her. But as plans for the school gain momentum, she realises that she’s developing more than a passing interest in reformed alcoholic Long Tom Hendry, who owns the crumbling old mansion where the school will be homed. Hilary has many ingredients to juggle with her demanding client list – which looks set to boil over if she doesn’t keep control. From London’s bustling Soho, to Southern Ireland and the sunny shores of the Caribbean, has Hilary got too much on her plate and is she really prepared to risk it all for love?
Hilary pressed a security code onto a keypad. It buzzed and she pushed the front door to her office open and entered, then flicked it closed with her kitten heel pump and climbed the stairs. Her footing was cushioned by the soft red pile of an expensive carpet. Bob had assured her that red was a good feng shui colour – associated with romance, wealth and happiness. Hilary sighed and wondered why she put up with his nonsense.
The foyer of Hargreaves Promotions was deserted and Hilary cursed as she swept past Lottie’s cluttered desk. The girl was nowhere to be seen and the switchboard lights flickered like traffic lights as they remained unanswered. A curious sound emanated from Bob’s office, the drone was low-pitched and sounded painful. Hilary peered through the frosted glass on the panel door then thrust the door open.
“Good grief, Bob, have you been tangoed?” Hilary planted herself in the doorway and stared at her assistant in his vivid outfit. He was all beads, bangles and Buddha since he’d come back from Tibet and Hilary’s patience was wearing thin. “Where in God’s name did you get that suit?” she asked. “You look like a space hopper!”
Bob ignored his boss. He kept his eyes closed and fondled the prayer beads. “Go away, Hilary,” he said quietly. “It’s my lunch break.”
“No, it isn’t,” Hilary said. “It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and this place is like the Marie Celeste. Where’s Lottie?”
Bob tucked himself under the worn leather top of his mahogany desk and folded his arms. “She’s gone to get a panini,” he replied. “We’ve never stopped all day and I shall faint if I don’t get some carbs.”
Hilary stared at a book on Bob’s desk – My Spiritual Journey, Dalai Lama. Bob leaned forward and stroked the cover protectively.
“Goolanga,” Hilary muttered. “Aren’t you a little old for all this Hari Krishna nonsense?”
“Don’t knock something you know nothing about,” Bob said and gazed fondly at his hero’s image.
“I know that my office has ground to a complete standstill the moment I step out for a quick meeting.” Hilary tapped her elegant 1950s suede shoe’d foot. “Go and answer the phones please, then make us both an espresso. I want to hear all about the literary festival in the Cotswolds.” She turned to leave but called over her shoulder, “When you’re quite sure that that your chakras are where they should be and you’re ready to do some work…”
Bob screwed his eyes up and let out a hiss between clenched teeth as he watched Hilary retreat. He glanced at the clock on the wall – Hilary’s “quick meeting” had been the best part of four hours. He stroked his beads and breathed through his nose and filled his lungs with air, then exhaled slowly. He’d give Hilary five minutes then brace himself for her interrogation.
Bob closed his eyes again and thought about the weekend. It had been awash with literary luvvies who’d flocked to the annual festival. Hilary had insisted that Bob chaperone one of their clients, Prunella Gray, who was appearing at the festival to talk about her recently published autobiography. The festival was set in Chipping Hodbury, a quintessential English town in the heart of affluent middle England. Pretty limestone buildings, adorned with flowering window boxes, lined the high street which led to a double-arched bridge where the River Hod meandered beneath. Chipping Hodbury Theatre was surrounded by tall weeping willows and gracious lawns which swept down to the banks of the river where ducks and geese waddled about, searching for scraps of discarded sandwiches whilst the literary crowd sipped chilled white wine and picnicked in the glorious sunshine.
Bob thought about the dashing compere, Anthony Merryweather, who’d watched their arrival and rushed down the theatre steps to open the door of their courtesy car and greet them. He welcomed them to the festival then swept Prunella away to prepare for her audience. After several drinks backstage, Anthony and Bob exchanged numbers and the weekend suddenly brightened for Bob. Prunella had given a riveting talk and left the stage to a standing ovation. Enthralled fans hung onto her every word as she embroiled her life story and described the many perils she’d encountered in the kitchens of well-known establishments during her career progression. Prunella was an established household name in the world of food and drink and her warts-and-all autobiography looked set to be a best seller. She had Hilary to thank for her success but “thanks” was a swear word to Prunella Gray and she’d been ruthless in her climb to the top. Bob had strict instructions to stay with Prunella all weekend and Hilary’s warnings rung in his ears – Prunella was not to be left alone, especially with journalists!
It had been exhausting as Prunella had a rampant appetite for vodka. She was known as the Poison Dwarf in culinary circles and, in Bob’s opinion, was an absolute bitch. He’d seen chefs freeze like snared prey and jack-knife away to avoid her at restaurant openings and media events, where Prunella tracked her victims. Her sweet little face peered out from a heavy dark fringe and reminded Bob of the Bette Davis film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. Baby Jane was most definitely alive and well and lived in a town house in Queen’s Park, where he’d deposited a drunken Prunella in a heap on Sunday evening.
Bob smiled as he remembered that he was meeting Anthony the following evening at a restaurant called Dabbous. He couldn’t wait to drop this in to Hilary – there was a long waiting list for a table but Anthony knew the manager and had procured a table for eight o’clock.
A tapping sound startled Bob.
Lottie, the company receptionist, pushed open the door with her pert bottom. Her size three feet, daintily encased in pink pumps, danced into the room. She balanced a plate of prawn filled panini in one hand and a mug of peppermint tea in the other and teetered over to Bob’s desk.
“You’ve got two minutes to eat this. Hilary is on the war-path and wants you in her office pronto.” Lottie shook her tousled hair and adjusted a polka-dot bandana. “Prunella’s been on the phone,” Lottie continued. “She says you abandoned her all weekend and copped off with a compere as camp as Christmas, then left her to her own devices.”
Bob spat out several prawns. He gazed at Lottie with saucer-like eyes. “Shite!” he mumbled.
“That’s not very Dalai Lama – you’d better say a few chants before you go in.” Lottie wandered away to her desk in reception. She slipped a head-set on and began to take calls on the pulsating switchboard.
“Hargreaves Promotions. How may I help you today?”
There is more than meets the eye when you dive into this enticing read by Caroline James. She not only creates multiple characters, but multiple stories as well. So You Think You’re a Celebrity…Chef? is unlike any book I’ve read recently. It takes you on a journey through the lives of celebrity chefs and cooks up a fascinating and invigorating tale.
Hilary, the main character, while she comes across as tough on the outside, she is quite the funny girl once you get to know her. She has a fabulous sense of humor and a larger than life personality that just draws you in. You want nothing more than to continue reading to peel away all of her layers.
Throughout the book, you’re taken on a journey to some of the most vivid and descriptive places. You feel like you are on an extended vacation, traveling with all of the characters and experiencing life with them.
So many elements make up this story and leave the reader enjoying every minute of it. I thought it to be a well-written and engaging story. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud and silently cheering Hilary on as she goes on a romantic journey. Not many books surround the world of celebrity chefs and it is a world in which I’d love to be apart of more often.
About the Author:
Caroline James was born in Cheshire and wanted to be a writer from an early age. She trained, however, in the catering trade and worked and travelled both at home and abroad. Caroline has owned and run many related businesses and cookery is a passion alongside her writing, combining the two with her love of the hospitality industry and romantic fiction.
Caroline can generally be found with her nose in a book and her hand in a box of chocolates and when not doing either, she likes to write, climb mountains and contemplate life.
She writes fun, romantic fiction and is a member of the RNA and The Society of Authors. She has had numerous short stories published and writes a regular column for a lifestyle magazine.
Caroline’s debut novel, Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy & Me went straight to #3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her next book, So You Think You’re A Celebrity… Chef? was published on October 4th 2013 by Thornberry Publishing.