Title: THE CAKE EFFECT
Genre: Women's Fiction
Word Count: 72,000
Lou is a talented but insecure chef in Milwaukee, struggling to keep her small French restaurant afloat while floundering in her fiancé's world of cocktail-infused schmooze fests and limp-bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.
During one disastrous day, she loses her fiancé, almost poisons a customer, and destroys a perfectly good coconut cake. Refocusing on what is important, Lou concentrates on her restaurant until she receives a lethal review from a local food critic.
Local food critic, Al Waters (byline AW Wodyski), hates Milwaukee. His goals are to get a column in a real city, survive food poisoning from the French restaurant he just reviewed, and escape Milwaukee's erratic weather. To celebrate his recent brilliant critique, Al visits a local pub where he meets the charming and very drunk Lou, the chef he unknowingly just skewered.
Not knowing Al's secret identity and needing an escape from her crumbling life, Lou accepts Al's challenge to show him what makes Milwaukee so great, with the agreement they NEVER discuss work.
During their non-dates exploring the city's treasures, their friendship and attraction grows. When Al discovers his review damaged Lou's restaurant, he scrambles to hide his identity knowing Lou would never forgive him and he'd lose her forever.
Lou hoisted up her gown and winced as she tottered across the parking lot. The sparkly four-inch heels looked so pretty in the box, but felt like a mortar and pestle grinding each bone in her foot. She missed her green Crocs.
Lou plucked at the tight elastic squeezing her into the sleek, black dress, the one her fiance Dev had given her, then scurried to catch up with him.
"Overstuffed truffle and foie gras sausage," she said.
"What?" Dev looked at her, his face crinkled in confusion.
"It's a new dish, inspired by how I feel in these clothes. Maybe served over brown butter dumplings..." Lou tilted her head, visualizing the newly formed meal.
"Do you always need to think about work?"
Lou wilted and said, "I’m sorry. It helps distract me."
His features softened as he looked at her. "You’ll be fine. You look stunning."
Lou gave a feeble smile, stepping into the soft, yellow light of the Milwaukee Country Club's foyer, the cushy patterned carpet springing back with each step. Aged pictures adorned the buttery walls, telling the club's regal history. Many showed eager young men in white standing behind wealthy gentlemen in funny pants. Hunger for something more burned in their eyes. Lou understood.
To the left waited the dining room, full of white-coated tables twinkling with polished silver and crystal water goblets which clinked as the waiters filled them. Lou glimpsed the swinging doors to the kitchen, beckoning her like an old friend.