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Book 5: The Heartwood Chef (Carter's Cove Beach Romance)

Book 5: The Heartwood Chef (Carter's Cove Beach Romance)

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Fall in love with The Heartwood Inn in Carter’s Cove…with 5 sweet romances, each featuring a Heartwood sister. You’ll get this complete series of heartwarming stories of sisterhood, friendship, and love that will leave you wanting to revisit Carter’s Cove over and over again. 

Each romance features a Heartwood sister navigating the potholes of romance with someone they DEFINITELY don't get along with...

About THE HEARTWOOD CHEF: They've been out before, and now they work in the same kitchen at The Heartwood Inn. Gwen isn't interested in getting anything filleted but fish, because Teagan's broken her heart before... Can Teagan and Gwen manage their professional relationship without letting feelings get in the way?

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Sample Chapter 1 Now!

Gwen Heartwood paused just inside the doorway, the temperature in the kitchen almost hotter than outside. But that wasn’t why she’d stopped out of sight. No, that was so she could take a long, deep breath of the scented air.

It always smelled a little bit like Teagan’s cologne in the morning, before everyone else arrived and before the true cooking began. He beat her to work almost everyday, and she’d given up trying to be the first one in the kitchens at The Heartwood Inn. As far as anyone else knew, she was first and he second, as they all arrived after the two of them anyway.

Gwen tried to push the maddening man out of her mind as she rounded the corner and went into her office. He didn’t have one of those, and until a few months ago, they’d actually shared.

Shared a lot of things, actually.

A pang of sadness hit her, but she straightened her shoulders and pushed it away. Not today, she told herself. September had arrived, and it was time to get over Teagan Hatch. The end. Nothing more to it.

And for the first time in many weeks, Gwen actually thought she could do it. Her phone brightened with a text, but she ignored it. She knew who it would be from, and she wasn’t in the mood to converse with her sister quite yet.

She sighed as she scooped her hair up into a ponytail. She had a lot of pale blonde hair, but it was very fine, and her heart swooped as she realized how tiny of a ponytail she made. Celeste had gorgeous hair, but she hated how she had to baby it so much. Gwen had learned over the years that everyone hated their hair. Women with curly hair wanted it straight, and those with straight hair wanted it to curl.

So she wished she had more hair than she did, while one of her best friends hated how thick her hair was—especially in the summer.

Gwen looped the ponytail up again and secured it a second time to keep her hair out of the way for the day. She donned her white chef’s jacket, though she really just wanted to wear her T-shirt with a cartoon crab on the front.

But Teagan would be in his jacket, and by the way the air was now scented with onions and bacon, he’d already started the frittatas for their brunch buffet that morning. The hotel hosted dozens of conferences each year, and this breakfast buffet was for a small group of technology influencers staying at the hotel until Sunday.

She loved coming to work in the restaurant, but she sat down at her desk and pulled the schedule in front of her, so she’d look busy if someone came in. No one would. Everyone in the main kitchen knew exactly what time to arrive and exactly what to do once they did.

The outside door opened with its loud squeal, signaling the arrival of someone else. Gwen didn’t need to guess who it was. Gage Sanders had taken over as the head pastry chef about six weeks ago, and he almost beat Gwen to work some days.

He claimed it was because he didn’t sleep well, and Gwen was an early-riser too. Her sister, Sheryl, who was Gage’s girlfriend, was not. Neither was Celeste, and Gwen wished she could stay home until ten o’clock in the morning.

Out of all the sisters, only Olympia worked more than Gwen did, and honestly, she was tired.

Only thirty years old, and tired already. Alone, and tired.

The adjectives were only getting more negative, and Gwen derailed her train of thought before she started spiraling again.

Besides, she had a new prospect for a boyfriend. Celeste had hosted a Love to Forty tennis event for singles at the inn a few weeks ago, and Gwen had gone. She’d met a few men there, and she’d been going out with anyone who asked. One man had asked a few times, and Gwen didn’t entirely hate hanging out with Daniel Jenkins.

“He’s certainly not Teagan,” she muttered, immediately hating the words and wishing with everything in her that they weren’t true.

Unable to distract herself with mindless administrative tasks, she got up and went into the kitchen. Gage worked at his station, his hands sure and his movements precise though he had no formal culinary training.

Gwen had gone to culinary school, but she could appreciate raw talent when she saw it. And Gage had it, as even the guests had started to notice the different bakery items his mind had come up with.

Gwen had worried about her sister’s departure from the inn, but she now envied Alissa. Gwen didn’t want to leave the family business. Not really. But she certainly needed a break. A vacation from her own life.

But she couldn’t have one today. No, today, she was on the room service orders, and she stepped over to the stainless steel counter where she’d put together the items the delivery waitresses needed.

Scrambling eggs and pouring juice was easy work, and she loved the tiny little salt and pepper shakers, miniature bottles of ketchup, and the smell of bacon and sausage that came from her station.

Once she completed those orders, she’d attend a meeting with Teagan, as it was Friday, and he had a house special for Redfin every weekend. As the executive chef, it was his job to make sure everyone knew about the items from his sous chefs to the waitresses.

“Eggs benedict,” he called, and no one responded.

Gwen glanced around the kitchen, which had moved into its hot breakfast service for the bakery. Redfin, their on-site flagship restaurant, was only open for lunch and dinner, and Gage stocked all the baked goods in the bakery. But they also offered a short selection of hot items that Teagan made in between his other work, whether that be the catering or the meal prep for lunch and dinner.

Gwen stepped around her prep station and watched as Lilly, the petite brunette who’d put in the eggs benedict order stood by the window, obviously trying to catch Teagan’s eye. She was Gwen’s opposite in every way, from the color of her hair to the curves she sported to how easily she could flirt with a man and walk away with a date.

Except for Teagan, obviously, as the man barely glanced at her. “We’ll get it done, Lilly,” he said.

She giggled, and Gwen rolled her eyes. “Do you need help?” she asked, trying not to focus on Teagan’s gorgeous hair. The color of wet sand, his hair hung around his face, and he sometimes smoothed it back into a man bun that left every female who saw him swooning.

Gwen included, unfortunately.

“I’m not sure where Gordon went,” Teagan said without looking at her. His voice took on a dead quality, almost a monotone. The same I’m-bored voice he’d been using with her in the kitchen since they’d broken up.

Gwen’s pulse skipped over itself. “He went out on the floor,” she said, nodding out the service window.

“Why would he do that?” Teagan’s hands flew as he garnished a plate of pancakes with powdered sugar and set them in the window. Lilly didn’t move to take the order out, instead still smiling at Teagan. “He’s on the egg station this morning.”

“I can do it,” Gwen said. “And Lilly, you might as well give up. Teagan doesn’t date.”

Lilly’s mouth rounded, she grabbed the plate of pancakes, and walked off. Satisfied, Gwen turned to the egg station. No, she hadn’t made a poached egg for a while, but she certainly knew how. Her expensive New York City culinary education had taught her that much.

“I date,” Teagan barked.

“You do?” Gwen laughed. “Since when?”

“You don’t know what I do after I leave here,” he said.

“Yes, I do,” Gwen said. “Same as me. You drag yourself home after cooking for six straight hours and you collapse onto a couch somewhere, eating whatever you can find easily.” She met his sea green eyes, almost daring him to contradict her. Or maybe she just wanted to swim around in those pretty eyes. She wasn’t sure which.

“Then you come back and do it all again, only this time for eight hours.” She cocked her hip and dared him to contradict her.

He didn’t, which meant she’d spoken true.

“You’ve been going out a lot lately,” he said coolly.

Gwen blinked, because she wasn’t sure what to do with what he’d said. He’d noticed? “Who have you been out with lately?” she asked, treading on very dangerous ground now. The last woman Teagan had been out with had earned herself a new stalker—at least for a few hours while Gwen searched and read everything the woman had ever posted on social media.

That hadn’t ended well. In fact, Gwen distinctly remembered the stomachache she’d had after eating an entire carton of double chocolate fudge ice cream during the search.

She didn’t mean her question to be a challenge, but Teagan’s chin lifted, his way of saying, Challenge accepted.

Everything between the two of them was a challenge, and Gwen was tired of that too.

He didn’t answer the question, instead saying, “Eggs benedict,” again.

“Yes, chef,” she recited back to him, tearing her gaze from his. She hadn’t asked him who he’d dated since her, but she already knew that answer: No one. In fact, in the five years Gwen had known the dark, mysterious, handsome Teagan Hatch, he’d only been out with the woman Gwen had looked up. Just her.

And then Gwen.

No one else.

As she poached the eggs, she couldn’t help remembering those few months. They’d been amazing, filled with wonder and excitement as she learned more about the man who could put out a plate of delicious food better than anyone she’d ever met. She’d seen his soft side, and his funny side, and his adventurous side, and she’d liked them all.

Too bad he’d broken up with her out of the blue, with absolutely no explanation at all. And the man was a vault when he wanted to be. He could shut down faster than a convenience store at closing time, and Gwen hadn’t been able to crack his stoic exterior since.

Her only comfort was that no one else had either—not even the giggly, voluptuous Lilly. In her chef’s jacket, Gwen looked more like a man than a woman, which had become a reason to keep her hair as long as possible. Oh, and she wore oversized earrings everyday too. That helped her feel and look more feminine.

“Eggs benedict,” she said, placing the dish in the window, her body getting dangerously close to Teagan’s.

He cut a look at her out of the corner of his eye, and Gwen pulled in a breath and held it. Time slowed, and when it came roaring back to full speed, she stumbled.

“Whoa,” she said, her head spinning. She grabbed onto Teagan’s arm, and unfortunately, he’d reached for her plate of eggs in the window.

The next thing she knew, they were both on the floor, covered in hollandaise sauce and runny egg yolks.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I love this series. They'd make a great Netflix movie series. Each book. Keep writing such spectacular books. Cannot put them down.” ~Betty M.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I really enjoyed this author! I've read all 5 books in this series and the characters and storylines were amazing. I'm sorry there aren't any more. Such a great read in each book. I hope to see more from this author!” ~Kathleen B.

View full details

Fall in love with The Heartwood Inn in Carter’s Cove…with 5 sweet romances, each featuring a Heartwood sister. You’ll get this complete series of heartwarming stories of sisterhood, friendship, and love that will leave you wanting to revisit Carter’s Cove over and over again.

Visit the South Carolina coast and The Heartwood Inn in these clean and wholesome beach romances. Each romance features a Heartwood sister navigating the potholes of romance with someone they DEFINITELY don’t get along with…

  • Book 1: The Heartwood Sea

    She owns The Heartwood Inn. He needs the land the inn sits on to impress his boss. Neither one of them will give an inch. But will they give each other their hearts?

  • Book 2: The Heartwood Inn

    She’s excited to have a neighbor across the hall. He’s got secrets he can never tell her. Will Olympia find a way to leave her past where it belongs so she can have a future with Chet?

  • Book 3: The Heartwood Beach

    She’s got a stalker. He’s ex-military with a loud bark. Can Sheryl tame her bodyguard Gage into a boyfriend?

  • Book 4: The Heartwood Wedding

    He needs a reason not to go out with a journalist. She’d like a guaranteed date for the summer. They don’t get along, so keeping Brad in the not-her-real-fiancé category should be easy for Celeste. Totally easy.

  • Book 5: The Heartwood Chef

    They’ve been out before, and now they work in the same kitchen at The Heartwood Inn. Gwen isn’t interested in getting anything filleted but fish, because Teagan’s broken her heart before… Can Teagan and Gwen manage their professional relationship without letting feelings get in the way?

This series spins off to Hilton Head Island!

Escape to the beaches of South Carolina with this Supper Club of ladies, each of whom is starting over in some way in their 40s. New loves, new lives, new businesses - and they're waiting for YOU, their new best friend!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Later in life romance

✔ Pristine beach setting

✔ Island life

✔ He falls for her first!

✔ Walks on the beach

✔ Beach bonfire kisses

✔ Enemies to lovers

✔ Friends to lovers

✔ Single parent romance

✔ Women's friendship fiction

✔ Supper Clubs!

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