What's New?

Four couples, four different stories -- and one spicy Recipe for Romance from author Ari McKay!

Welcome to Montgomery House, Charleston’s finest restaurant. When you walk in the front doors of the stately former mansion, you’ll be surrounded by true Southern charm. Owner Rhys Montgomery will personally welcome you, while the tantalizing scents of Executive Chef Stephen Pierce’s latest culinary masterpiece linger in the air. Enjoy a walk in the gardens or an elegant meal in the dining room, as you watch the love stories play out around you...

Bay Leaves and Bachelors -- Clay Turner’s heart was broken by a wealthy man who said he was boring. When rich, outgoing restaurateur Rhys Montgomery sets his sights on the quiet academic, drawn in by Clay’s intelligence and sex appeal, he finds he has an uphill battle to win Clay’s trust. Can Rhys burrow his way into Clay’s heart, or will Clay’s insecurity become a wall between them that not even true love can break down?

Fennel and Forgiveness -- Seven years ago, Max Boyd broke Darius Cooper’s heart. Darius wanted a commitment, and Max wanted to focus on his career in Georgia’s television industry. Their ten year difference in age and experience tore them apart, but fate throws them back together when Max arrives at the Montgomery House, where Darius now works. Will Southern Wedding Belles bring them a second chance for love or is Darius’s trust too shattered for Max to heal?

Ginger and Gentlemen -- Ian Pierce has lived in his older brother Stephen’s shadow his entire life, always feeling second best. His best friend, Matt Davis, is the only person he trusts to be on his side. Despite being in dire financial straits, Ian wants to refuse Stephen’s request to film an episode of Mouth of the South at Ian’s restaurant, but the bonus money offered in the contract is too much to resist. He accepts without knowing the hefty bonus comes from Matt, not the production company.  Will Ian feel betrayed by the one person he trusts above all others when he finds out, or will Matt’s desire to help Ian succeed even at his own financial risk take them from friends to lovers at last?

Cinnamon and Seduction -- Chef Stephen Pierce has talent and a determination to succeed that is matched only by his fierce temper and prickly personality. Yet his long-suffering personal assistant, Robert Logan, has carried a torch for Stephen since the day they met. Everyone around Montgomery House knows Robert is in love with Stephen -- everyone, that is, except Stephen himself. Can Rhys, Clay, Darius, Max, Ian, and Matt find a way to make Stephen see that Robert is the perfect man for him, or will even Robert’s legendary talent for matchmaking fail to win him the man he loves?

The Recipe for Romance collection will be available on Amazon in late June 2019!

Behind the Scenes
The Recipe for Romance books are some of our earliest works -- and it shows! We've grown as writers since then, so we've revisited the books and made some changes. Bay Leaves and Bachelors underwent the most significant revisions. We're much happier with the finished product, and we think it fits with the rest of the series better. 

Bay Leaves was originally intended as a stand-alone, written for a specific food-oriented call from one of the publishers we were working with at the time. Thus the original edition had hints of mysticism and the paranormal that didn't carry over to the other three books in the series, which are firmly grounded in contemporary reality. But then the plot bunnies came a-nibbling, and we ended up writing a four book series. 

Ari and I have different opinions on which of the Recipe for Romance books is our favorite. Ginger and Gentlemen is my favorite, because I had way too much fun writing Ian Pierce. I love writing characters who have no brain-to-mouth filter, probably because I'm the exact opposite in real life. Writing characters that have so few inhibitions allows me to step into shoes I rarely wear myself. 

Ari's favorite is Cinnamon and Seduction, because she says that after writing Chef Stephen Pierce for three books, it was great to give him both the spotlight -- and his comeuppance. 
Coming Up
In July, look for the third Herc's Mercs anthology! This collection will include No Pain, No Gain and Room for One More. It will be available on Amazon in paperback format only. All books in the Herc's Mercs series are available individually in ebook format as well.
Sneak Peek
This month's sneak peek is chapter 3 of Ginger and Gentlemen

Matt looked up from his laptop at the sound of a large truck pulling up outside the Filling Station. He felt a surge of excitement as he noted the Gourmet Network logo prominently displayed on the side, and he slid out of his booth and moved toward the counter.

"Ian! They're here!" he called back into the kitchen before turning to look out the window again. The other breakfast patrons were gawking as well, an excited buzz of speculation drowning out the country music playing quietly over the diner's speakers.

Two seconds later, Ian burst through the double-doors leading to the kitchen, muttering a litany of "Shitshitshit…." as he scrubbed his hands on a dishtowel and gave himself a once-over, probably checking for grease spots or flour. Tossing the towel onto the counter, he went to stand beside Matt, peering anxiously out the window.

"Is Stephen with them?" he asked, and only Matt's long-familiarity with Ian's moods and tones let Matt catch the faint hint of nervousness in Ian's voice.

"I don't think so." Matt put his hand on Ian's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. A van and a dark sedan had pulled up beside the truck, but the man who emerged from the back of the car was a short and slender stranger with softly waving brown hair, definitely not Stephen Pierce. "I can't imagine that Himself will make an appearance until Mr. deMille is ready for his close up."

Ian laughed, and Matt could feel some of the tension leaving his shoulders. "Thank God. I'm not sure I'm up to dealing with a television crew swarming over my restaurant and hearing Stephen pick it apart at the same time."

Matt nodded. Even as late as last night, Ian had been waffling over whether he should have agreed to do the show, so he could understand Ian's reluctance to have Stephen on site from the beginning. Personally, he was just as glad Stephen wasn't around, at least until Ian could get comfortable with having the television crew invading his personal space. There was even more riding on this show than Ian knew, and Matt didn't want Stephen ruining things on the very first day.

"Everything is going to be fine." He smiled at Ian reassuringly. "Just remember that a week or so of annoyance is going to save the diner and get rid of a lot of your worries."

"That's what I keep telling myself," Ian muttered, his expression grim. "I just hope the price isn't too high."

Before Matt could offer any further reassurances, however, the short man entered the diner and approached Ian with a friendly smile, his hand outstretched.

"Chef Pierce? Hi, I'm Max Boyd. I'll be your director. It's great to meet Stephen's brother at last!" he added cheerfully, and Matt bit back a groan at Ian's stony expression.

"Yeah. Great." Ian shook Max's hand perfunctorily, but Max seemed unperturbed by Ian's lack of enthusiasm, perhaps because he'd been working with Stephen for a while now and was used to it.

"Before we get started, I just need you to sign a new copy of the contract." Max pulled a manila envelope out of the well-worn messenger bag slung over his shoulder and held it out. "You can have someone look it over if you want, but I promise the only difference is that we changed the name of the show."

Ian raised one eyebrow as he took the envelope, regarding Max suspiciously. "Oh?"

"Yeah…." Max's smile turned sheepish, and he rubbed the back of his neck. "The producers came up with the new name after they saw the pilot. They thought it was more…apt."

"I thought the name Southern Comfort Food spelled it out pretty clearly." Ian shifted from suspicious to puzzled. "What's the new name?"

If anything, Max looked even more chagrined as he admitted, "Mouth of the South."

"Oh. My. God." A gleam of unholy glee appeared in Ian's pale eyes, and a smirk curved his lips. "Are you kidding me? Does Stephen know about this yet?"

"No, I'm not kidding, and yes, he knows." Max shook his head and released a sharp breath. "It went over about as well as you probably think it did."

"Damn, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation." Ian snickered evilly to himself.

Matt met Ian's eyes, and he knew he was probably grinning like an idiot, but he didn't care. Whoever had come up with the new name had pegged Stephen perfectly, and he suspected that Stephen's stiff-necked pride -- remarkably like Ian's, actually -- would keep him from backing out over the change. Although he could well imagine the volcanic explosion that followed Stephen finding out about it.

"You and me both," he drawled as he extended his hand to Max. "I'm Matt Davis, Ian's business manager. And you have my admiration for surviving a Stephen Pierce tantrum. So did you wear armor or shoot him with a tranquilizer dart? Inquiring minds, you know."

Max grinned as he shook Matt's hand. "Kevlar with a flame-resistant coating," he replied. "I kept the tranquilizer gun as a last resort if it looked like I wasn't going to make it out alive."

"Hopefully he'll have burned out the worst of it before he gets here." Matt smiled in return, but he was more than half serious. Having Stephen in a patented Pierce snit when he entered Ian's diner wasn't exactly a recipe for a pleasant reunion between the siblings.

"I'm sure he will. Robert and Rhys have been working to soothe his ruffled feathers." Max seemed confident that Stephen wouldn't arrive in the midst of a sulk, but Matt wasn't so sure, and Ian looked rather dubious as well. "Anyway, I wanted to introduce myself. Please call me Max, by the way! I thought we could get some footage in the diner and around Hickory Bend and maybe do some preliminary on-camera interviews today, if you're free."

"Sure." Ian shrugged insouciantly. "There's not much worth filming in Hickory Bend, though. It's a pretty small town, and right now, there's not much going on since it's the off-season. We do have a fishing pier, though. That's one of our main tourist draws, along with the unspoiled beach."

"Great! That'll be perfect." Max clapped his hands together, seeming quite pleased. "I'm sure we can get some scenic footage on the beach, and hey, it'll be some good publicity for the town too, right?"

Matt nodded. "Definitely. We could use it."

After that, a whirlwind of activity blew through the diner. Max sent off a cameraman and a couple of others to get the footage of the pier, while a half-dozen other people began to haul equipment into the diner. Fortunately, the patrons seemed as interested as Matt was, and Ian called in his back-up cook so that the kitchen could still operate while Max got things set up for Ian's interview.

Matt kept out of the way but watched everything closely. Part of it was interest in the whole production, but the biggest reason he stuck around was just in case Ian needed him. Not that he thought Ian wasn't capable of handling anything that came up, but he hoped Ian might appreciate the moral support.

A make-up artist came in to get Ian ready to be on camera, and Matt wasn't surprised when the woman gushed about Ian's looks, especially his eyes. He even caught Ian smirking when she remarked on how little Ian resembled his brother.

He'd heard other members of the crew talking about Ian in low tones as well, and he was caught between pride and a vague feeling of jealousy at their admiration. He had no right to feel possessive, since Ian was only his friend, but it wasn't a new sensation for him. Ian drew attention wherever he went, and Matt was used to people gushing about him. He'd learned to mask the feeling so that Ian never suspected. He'd even managed to keep himself aloof during their outing to the strip club a couple of weeks before, and Ian had received a complimentary lap dance from one of the g-string clad men. Just because hewanted to be the one wriggling all over Ian -- or having Ian wriggle all over him -- didn't give him the right to make any protest whatsoever.

"Okay, so I'm going to stand here with Dave," Max explained, gesturing to the young man holding the camera as he guided Ian to stand behind the counter, and Matt moved off to one side to watch. "You can look at me or him, whichever you're more comfortable with. I'll ask the questions, and you just respond however you want. If you need to stop for any reason, we will, and if you want something edited out, we'll do it. Okay?"

"Okay." Ian leaned on his elbows on the counter, and then he abruptly stood up straight again. "Should I not lean over?"

"Do whatever you want," Max assured him. "Just pretend the camera isn't even here. I'm a customer, and we're getting to know each other."

Ian raised one eyebrow, looking dubious at that, but he nodded and leaned forward again, assuming a more comfortable, natural position. "Okay, ready when you are."

Max nodded to Dave, then he faced Ian, his expression open and friendly. "Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself. When did you know you wanted to be a chef, for example? Did you go to culinary school?"

"I did go to culinary school," Ian replied, nodding. "I don't remember a time when I didn't want to be a chef. My parents were both classically-trained chefs, and Stephen and I learned to cook at a young age. Stephen followed in their footsteps and focused on haute cuisine, but my interests lay elsewhere."

"Oh?" Max looked at him expectantly, and Ian smirked.

"I like cooking food that people actually enjoyeating."

Matt put his hand over his mouth to smother a chuckle. He doubted that Stephen would allow thatlittle zinger to make it into the footage that actually aired, but it was typical Ian. No doubt Stephen would have a few pointed rejoinders of his own, and Matt glanced at Max to see what he thought of Ian's opinion of high and mighty Stephen Pierce.

Max looked like he was trying not to laugh as he continued the conversation. "Well, I'm sure people enjoy fine dining as well," he said diplomatically.

"People who come to my restaurant will leave full and not wondering what the hell they just ate." Ian grew more animated as he spoke, clearly warming up to his subject. "I prefer to focus on classic comfort food that's satisfying on multiple levels. It pleases the palate, warms the heart with nostalgia, and nourishes the soul. That's what good food is all about to me, not about turning food into foam or making it look like a work of art."

Ian's opinion about food was something Matt was quite familiar with, and he felt a surge of pride in Ian for not hesitating to explain how he really felt. In Matt's opinion, Ian had been born to cook, and even more importantly, doing so made Ian happy. His passion glowed in his gorgeous eyes and resonated in his voice, and Matt thought Max would be an idiot not to put some of this in the show. No doubt it would have every watching female -- and a few of the men -- swooning with desire.

"What are some of your favorite dishes to make?"

Ian stood up so he could tick off items on his fingers as he responded to Max's question. "Well, you can't go wrong with the basics. Collards, stewed potatoes, fried fish, cornbread. One of my personal favorites to make for myself is shrimp and grits."

"Grits… Is that like oatmeal?" Max asked, and Ian shot him a horrified look.

"NO." Ian shook his head vehemently. "Grits are nothing like oatmeal!"

But before he could work up a good head of steam, Max laughed and cut him off. "I'm kidding! I'm a Georgia boy, born and raised. I know all about grits, although I'm more partial to cheese grits than shrimp and grits myself."

Matt could practically see Ian's ruffled feathers smoothing at that. "Oh. Sorry, it's just--"

"Sore spot," Max finished for him, grinning unrepentantly. "I get it. I've heard similar rants on the subject from your brother, and I couldn't resist poking."


"You're taking your life in your hands, Georgia boy," Matt warned, realizing that Max might not know that drawing comparisons between the brothers was the equivalent of poking a tiger with a stick. "Don't be fooled by those angelic eyes. Ian is quite deadly, and he has me to help him hide the bodies."

"And Stephen has Robert. God help me!" Max threw up his hands in mock despair. "If I survive this shoot, it'll be a miracle. Just promise someone will let Darius know I died like a man."

"I'm not Robert!" Matt denied quickly, shooting Ian a swift glance. Ian had made his opinion of Robert's devotion to Stephen quite clear, and he didn't want Ian to start thinking of himin the same unflattering terms he often applied to his brother's personal assistant. Besides, it was obvious that Robert's devotion went far beyond professionalism, and Matt worried that if Ian realized how he felt, he'd lose his best friend.

"You sure as hell aren't!" Ian agreed, shooting a heated look at Max. "I don't know how my brother managed to brainwash that poor man, but it's absolutely sickening. All he does is follow Stephen around all day and cater to his every whim. As if Stephen didn't get enough of coddling and pampering from our father!"

Max stared at him, wide-eyed, and rushed to intervene before Ian's rant could go any further, as if he realized he'd accidentally overturned a hornet's nest worth of old, deep issues. "No, no, I didn't mean to imply anything by it. Sorry, it was just a bad joke, that's all."

Ian shut his mouth with a snap, as if he realized he'd just gone off on a virtual stranger -- and done so on camera, no less. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Sorry, I didn't mean to drop all that on you. Stephen and I haven't exactly been on good terms since… Well, ever."

Matt mustered a smile, although inwardly he cringed a bit. He'd be perfectly happy to follow Ian around and cater to his whims, although he knew Ian would never want that, at least not from him. Still, it was nice that Ian jumped to his "defense" so quickly. Although he realized he probably shouldn't have opened his mouth in the first place, since that had, indirectly at least, been what set Ian off.

There was a hint of worry in Max's eyes, as if he was starting to understand how deeply the rift between the Pierce brothers ran and what that might mean for the show. "It's okay. We just won't talk about Stephen right now. Why don't you tell me about how you started the Filling Station instead?"

Ian's animation returned as he latched on to the changed subject and began to talk about the diner, which was his own special baby. Matt relaxed now that the crisis seemed to have passed, although he mulled over what Ian had said and the fact that Max had seemed surprised. He knew Ian's resentment of his elder brother ran deep and wide. Based on how Stephen had always snarked in return, he'd thought Stephen's feelings toward Ian were just as grim, but whatever Stephen had told Max about Ian, it must not have been nearly as bitter as what Ian himself had revealed about his brother.

No matter what happened, though, Matt had to make sure that the episode was completed. He'd been worried about Stephen goading Ian into calling everything off, but now he was just as worried that Ian's bitterness might cause Stephen to pull the rug out from under them. He couldn't let either of those events happen, because if one of them did, Ian stood to lose his diner -- and Matt stood to lose the only man he'd ever loved.

Copyright © 2019 Ari McKay, All rights reserved.

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