Jul 1 2014 8:30am

First Look: Beth Ciotta’s In the Mood for Love (July 1, 2014)

In the Mood for Love by Beth CiottaBeth Ciotta
In the Mood for Love (Cupcake Lovers)
St. Martin's Press / July 1, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

Sugar Creek, Vermont, is a world away from Los Angeles for high-powered, media-obsessed Harper Day. When she took the job doing publicity for the Cupcake Lovers, she never expected to be won over by the town’s old-fashioned charms. But that was before she moved into the Victorian vacation home of her dreams and fell in with a man whose good looks and irresistible ways are anything but small-town…

Sam McCloud is a widowed father of two. He and bossy, big-city Harper appear to have nothing in common… though the attraction they feel toward one another cannot be denied. But will their romance last longer than the day’s headlines? There’s more to Harper than meets the eye, and as it turns out, she needs to get married—fast. Little does Harper know that family-man Sam will do whatever it takes to keep her in Sugar Creek—even if that means taking matters into his own hands. And never letting her go…

In the Mood for Love by Beth Ciotta has all the characteristics that readers love in small town romance—interfering, wacky elderly seniors, lots of loveable, original secondary characters, and more than one heartwarming romance built around a unique theme (like yummy cupcakes). But wait, there is more!

What could be more yummy than cupcakes? How about a cupcake baking former soldier who knows when to let a woman have her way with him, and when to take control?

Widower Sam McCloud is doing all he can to move forward with his life. He is ready to get married again and find a mother for his two kids. He spent a year mooning over Rae Deveraux, until he realized that he was in love more with the idea of Rae, especially since her sweet disposition reminded him of his deceased wife Paula, than actually in love with her.

Recently, he has thrown himself into frenzy of dating again with disastrous results, resulting in a new town betting pool—the common census is that he has issues because of an old war wound. It is only when Rae makes an offhand comment that he realizes he is still comparing his dates to his deceased wife, with the exception of one woman—Harper Day.

Maybe it’s because he was Harper Day’s boy toy during their sporadic kinky affair. She broke it off, but Sam is the one to whom she turns swhen trouble hits. Of course she could just be looking for a distraction:

He gripped her arms and pulled her to her feet, chest tight when he noticed her shimmering eyes. What the hell had reduced hard-ass, badass Harper Day to tears?

Instead of breaking into sobs, she blindsided him with a kiss. A punishing kiss. A frenzied clashing of lips and tongue. One hand tangled in his hair while the other wrestled with the buttons of his fly. She palmed the bulge in his boxers.

It was always like this. Down and dirty. Fast and furious. Sex, just sex. Usually Sam was game, but this time emotions factored in. Harper was a knotted mess and Sam was barely coherent. Her kisses alone fried his logic.

Sam finally gets to the bottom of the issue. Harper has been fired from her job as a publicist, and her L visa expires in two weeks. Without a job, Harper will be deported and she just can’t go back home to Canada. Sam’s not normally an impulsive man—with two kids, how could he be?—-but there is something about Harper that just puts him in a tizzy:

She looked at him as if he was crazy, and maybe he was. Hard to grab hold of a sane thought when your head’s spinning. Finding Harper in a panic mode, experiencing her vulnerable side—Christ, he hadn’t been aware she had a vulnerable side—had messed with Sam in a major way. That kiss confirmed their intense sexual connection and hinted of something deeper. This moment, he knew four things:

He was sick of waking alone every morning.

Weary of being a single parent.

Done with searching for Paula’s clone.

Most importantly, Ben and Mina liked Harper.

She wasn’t his ideal choice in a wife or mother, but she damn well stirred his blood. She wasn’t perfect, but neither was he and how many couples had perfect? Sensing she needed to be save from someone or something provided a second incentive. Sam was hardwired to rescue and protect—and adrenaline high chased with a shot of contentment.

“By the way,” he added, knowing how her mind worked. “That wasn’t a declaration of love.”

“Thank God,” She was gawking at him, but she’d tempered her breathing. Her mind was racing. He could see that. No secret, they mixed like oil and water. She narrowed her eyes. “What do you get out of it?”

Aside from hot sex on a regular basis?” Aside from a companion to fill the void in my life? “A mother for Ben for Ben and Mina.”

“I don’t want to be a mom.”

“Then go back to Canada or purchase a husband on Craigslist.”

“Don’t overthink it, Harper. Bottom line, we’ll both benefit. Think of it as a business deal. We can work out details and guidelines later."

The Devil you know is better than you one you don’t, so Harper agrees. But from then on Sam is a force to be reckoned with, as Harper soon discovers:

Although she’d spent last night and this morning readjusting her mind-set and rethinking her career plan, Sam was in full action mode. Researching legalities, prebooking a Vegas marriage license, breaking the news to his kids, deciding where they would live. Alleviating stress and handling complications with speed and apparent ease. Harper felt grateful and resentful at the same time. Taking control and solving problems was her drug of choice.

Sam is a man on a mission. He believes there is more between Harper and him than just lust and sex. Now he just has to discover why Harper is not open to looking at the wondrous possibilities, right there in front of them.

You’ll love watching how Sam, this laconic man of a few words turns Harper Day, a woman who always knows how to spin it, speechless. Readers of the series have been intrigued by Sam from the moment he joined the Cupcake Lovers. And if this this is your first Cupcake Lovers book, Sam and Harper’s story can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Learn more about or order a copy of In the Mood for Love by Beth Ciotta, available July 1, 2014:

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Leigh Davis, blogger

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