Devil's Food. . .Angel Cake. . .Red Velvet. . .Praline Crunch. . .Lemon Chiffon. . . How's a woman to choose?
Luckily, the members of the Cupcake Club are about to taste it all. . .
When baker extraordinaire Leilani Trusdale left the bustle of New York City for Georgia's sleepy Sugarberry Island, she didn't expect her past to follow. Yet suddenly, her former boss, Baxter Dunne, aka Chef Hot Cakes, the man who taught her everything pastry, wants to film his hit cooking show in her tiny cupcakery. The same Chef Hot Cakes whose molten chocolate brown eyes and sexy British accent made Lani's mouth water and her cheeks blush the color of raspberry filling--stirring all kinds of kitchen gossip, much of which Lani wished was true. . .
Lani's friends are convinced that this time around, Baxter is the missing ingredient in her recipe for happiness. But convincing Lani will be a job for Baxter himself. And he'll need more than black velvet frosting to sweeten the deal. . .
"Donna Kauffman writes smart and sexy, with sizzle to spare!" --Janet Evanovich
"Deliciously sexy!" –Carly Phillips
STARRED REVIEW! Publishers Weekly PICK OF THE WEEK!
"Leilani Trusdale spends 10 years training with charming but tough chef Baxter "Hot Cakes” Dunne, taking over his New York City pastry shop when he leaves to host a cooking show. When she finally escapes the city to open a cupcake shop in her father’s tiny hometown of Sugarberry Island, Ga., Baxter turns up, natch, to start his show’s traveling season, with a secondary agenda of romancing Leilani. The tension leads Leilani to revive her old bake therapy sessions with her best friend, Charlotte, adding Leilani’s quiet new assistant and a lovable town gossip to lend support, share opinions, and add sugar as members of the Cupcake Club. The ladies of Sugarberry will be delightful companions to look forward to in future stories, and readers can bake along with the included cupcake recipes.” --Publishers Weekly
"The opening novel of Kauffman's Cupcake Club series is as sweet and adorable as its namesake treat." -- (Starred Review, Pick of the Week) Publisher's Weekly
"Sugar Rush is a playful, sensual, laugh-inducing read. But there's so much more to the story. Kauffman's book chronicles profound character growth and offers layer upon layer of authentic, life-changing conflict. . . . it's a good thing Sugar Rush is only the first in a series, because the residents of Sugarberry -- especially the delightfully oddball members of the Cupcake Club -- will lure you back to their island again and again." - -- Kathy Altman, USA Today/Happily Ever After
"Fans of cupcakes and TV chefs will like this first installment of the Cupcake Club back-to-back romance series that comes with recipes. For those looking for more, not to worry -- this isn't a light, spun-sugar tale. It has more substance, like a rich chocolate ganaches. The suprorting characters are delightful and one hopes they will appear in future books." -- 4 Stars, Joyce Morgan, RT Book Reviews
"I can't get enough of this new town, characters and the romances that have bloomed and will continue to bloom in this new series." -- Lush Book Reviews
"It's like blending the Food Network together with CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC. . ."-- (4 Hearts!) Megan, Book Brat Reviews
"A fun romantic read for the serious baker, the not-so-serious baker, and the buy-your-cupcakes type of reader (like me)!. Kudos to the first Cupcake Club Romance with recipes included at the end!" --Valerie Burleigh, Romancing the Book Reviews
"This is a delicious story about true love and cupcakes that is just as sweet as any treat but won't ruin your New Year's resolutions! The characters are great and there's even a few recipes of delicious cupcakes to try (those might ruin a few resolutions, though.)" --Amy Phelps, Parkersburg News and Sentinel
"Kauffman writes crisp, emotionally charged dialogue... Sugar Rush is a sweet, delicious romance fortified with mouth-watering cupcake recipes." --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines, Shelf-Awareness.com
"SUGAR RUSH is a quirky, fun tale with Leilani and Baxter learning to really get to know each other while surrounded with several eclectic characters that provide for some humorous interaction. The chemistry between Leilani and Baxter is slow to grow at first, but once they kiss, their attraction for each other begins to smolder out of control. Will they make it work? Find out for yourself in the delightful SUGAR RUSH." --Patti Fischer, Romance Reviews Today
"Donna Kauffman has brought a sugary sweet romance in her latest, Sugar Rush. Set on a small, rural Georgia island with lovable quirky townsfolk, this novel delves into the age-old question, "What the heck are men thinking?" It's a fun read with lots of yummy goodness thrown in and a sexy romance to drool over while eating that forbidden cupcake." --Lani Roberts, Affaire de Couer magazine
It was the cupcakes that saved her.
Leilani Trusdale thought about that as she carefully extracted
the center from the final black forest cupcake, then set
the corer aside and picked up the pastry bag of raspberry truffle
filling. She breathed in the mingled scents of dark chocolate
and sweet berries. It was inspiring, really, how much power a
single, sweet cup of baked deliciousness could wield. Cupcake
Lani shifted the tip into position. “So, it’s all on you, my
tasty little friends. Work your magic. Heal me now.” She focused
intently—fiercely, even—on her way to piping the precise
amount of filling into each and every one of the one hundred
and fifty-six cupcakes that lined the racks on the stainless steel
worktable in front of her—which was totally unnecessary. The
fierce focusing, not the filling. She could fill a table of cupcakes
blindfolded. In her sleep. With one hand tied behind her back.
Possibly on one foot. She’d never done it, but she’d take the
Of course, there were other things she’d never done before—
big things, important things—that she’d also taken the bet on.
And those bets had all paid off. Every last one. So, she should
feel confident, right? About this most recent bet. This huge,
ridiculous gamble that kept her awake every night, wondering
what in the hell she’d been thinking.
Had she been completely insane, walking away from the career
she’d slaved actual blood, sweat, and many, many tears to
construct in New York City, to start over on little Sugarberry
Island and open her own shop?
Who did that?
“I did,” she said out loud, rather defiantly, hoping the statement
alone would inspire confidence. It wasn’t like she couldn’t
go back to New York if all else failed. She hadn’t hated her life
there. Exactly. So, she had a backup plan . . . if absolutely necessary.
Her cell phone buzzed in her chef’s jacket pocket. Frowning,
she set the pastry bag down and wiped her hands before digging
it out. Only one person would be calling her at the crack
of dawn. She hit the mute button on the stereo remote, silencing
the cantina band from the Star Wars soundtrack—everyone
had their own mix tape, hers just happened to be made up of
her favorite movie theme song hits—then touched SPEAKERPHONE
before propping it on the worktable. “Hey, Charlotte,”
Lani said in greeting. “What’s up, besides us pastry chefs?” She
picked up the bag again and went back to work, too antsy to
stand still and chat.
Antsy, and angry.
“You sound awake,” Charlotte said, “which means you’re
in the kitchen.”
“Where else would I be?”
“You live in Georgia now—where even pastry chefs probably
sleep past five AM.”
“Not if they want to get their product baked and frosted before
opening, they don’t.”
“You’re not in Atlanta. How many cupcakes could the entire
island of Sugarberry consume in a day?”
“Answer me this. How many racks of cupcakes are in front
of you right now?”
Lani didn’t answer. On the grounds that the truth would totally
incriminate her. Friends could, occasionally, be a pain in
the butt. Especially best friends. They knew too much.
“Chocolate?” Charlotte prodded.
Lani sighed. “One hundred fifty-six. Black forest.” At Charlotte’s
continued silence, she sighed again. “Okay, okay. With
raspberry truffle filling. And Dutched chocolate ganache frosting.”
“Oh no, I’m too late! You already heard.”
“I have to make these.” Lani tried not to sound defensive,
knowing she failed even as she said the words. “They’re for the
“What on earth is a Kiwanis?” Charlotte asked. “Never
mind. I don’t think I want to know. Much less why they’re congregating
“It’s all part of the annual fall festival here,” Lani explained.
“It starts with a huge community dinner tonight. The Kiwanis
raises money for local civic improvements, so I’m contributing
cupcakes to help the cause.”
“Good heavens, Lan, you’re working . . . what, bake sales
now? Is it going so badly as all that?” The lilt of Charlotte’s Indian
accent came through a little stronger than usual. It always
did whenever she was upset.
“Your confidence is inspiring. It’s not like I’m helping the
high school glee club earn money at a table in front of the local
grocery store. I’m doing signature cupcakes in boxed sets as
part of a huge auction they’ll hold as a kickoff event after the
dinner. The people here support me. I’m happy to do it. Plus,
it’s good marketing. And the Kiwanis Club I’m sponsoring is
going to donate all the money they earn from their auction entries
to expand and improve the youth and senior centers.”
“See, the fact that you need to keep your youths and seniors
in centers is a big part of what concerns me about this sudden
life shift,” Charlotte replied. “But we’ve had that little talk. As
long as you think you need to be on your little island in the
middle of nowhere, you know I am your biggest cupcake cheerleader.”
Lani did know that. Charlotte might not understand, but she
did her best to support. “You really need to come down here,
Char. You’ll see. This town is like living inside a sustained, continual
group hug. You can’t believe what it’s like to have such
loyal support. I mean, I know it’s mostly because I’m a Harper,
and my great-grandmother was revered here, but they’re very
sincere about it. And it just feels . . . well, great, actually. Come
down. Feel the Sugarberry love. You’ll understand then, I know
you will. You never know, you might even stay.” Lani smiled. If
you could hear a person shudder, she was pretty sure she’d
heard Charlotte do just that. “I miss you.”
“I miss you, too. At the moment, however, we have more important
things to discuss. I didn’t think you’d already know.
That’s why I called so early. I wanted to get to you first. Are
Lani squeezed a bit harder on the pastry bag than necessary,
but managed to keep from making a raspberry truffle volcano
out of the next cupcake. She didn’t pretend to not know what
Char was talking about. “I’m fine.” Total lie, and one Charlotte
wouldn’t buy for a second. Especially given the black forest
and Dutched ganache. Dead giveaway, really. “How in the
world do you know? I just read about it in our little local daily
less than an hour ago.” Which was why, less than an hour later,
she was filling cupcakes as if her life depended on it.
“I’m still in New York, remember? We know everything
first. Franco told me this morning when he came in. He’s here
helping me with setups. We’re catering a champagne gala at the
Lincoln tonight. It’s crazed.”
“Bon matin, ma chиre!” came Franco’s shout from somewhere
in the distance, via the speakerphone.
The accent affectation never ceased to amuse Lani. Franco
was definitely tall, dark, and swarthy. He was the youngest
from a family of seven with six older sisters, and just about the best gay boyfriend a girl could hope to have. But he’d been
born Franklin Ricci and raised in the Bronx. He was about as
French as baseball and Mom’s apple pie. Still, he somehow
made it work.
“Bonjour, mon ami,” Lani said, warmed by his always
cheerful voice, feeling anything but, herself.
“Before you ask,” Char said, “Franco got the news last night
from a production assistant on Baxter’s show he’s been hot
after for a month now. I had to tell you the second I heard. It’s
not out for public consumption—yet—so it’s not national
“It will be international news when we finally get together,
ma chиre,” Franco crooned. “And we will. Like the finest Belgian
chocolate with French vanilla filling. Mmm mmm. For private
consumption only.” His rich laughter echoed into Lani’s
“Seriously, Franco,” Char scolded him. “No one cares about
your latest conquest. We’re in a state of emergency here.”
“Almost conquest. And it’s true love, this time, chйrie,”
Franco said with a wistful, dramatic sigh. “Or could be.”
“What else do you know about this?” Lani asked, feeling a
bit sick, along with antsy and angry. “What exactly did you
find out, Franco?”
“Not much,” he said, dropping the accent momentarily.
“Just that production is gearing up to start filming the next season
on location in Sugarberry. I made the connection immediately,
of course, but no one else is saying anything about it. Or
you. At least not that I’ve heard. At the moment, Baxter’s website and the show website are touting the third season, which
launches this week. Baxter is going around doing all the standard
promo for the season premiere, but it’s only a matter of
time before he mentions the next season, since it’s going into
production this week, too. His ratings are so high there’s a lot
of buzz about the major networks trying to steal him away for
his own daytime show. Apparently, his network execs are pushing like mad to get him going, filming this next season. They
want to get all the sponsors inked early on, before the rumors
get out of hand.” Franco came closer to Charlotte’s phone.
“Brenton told me they’re going to make a big splash about the
season premiere on the morning talks all this week. Someone
will get him to spill.”
“Brenton?” Lani asked. “Really, Franco?”
“It’s adorable on him, trust me,” he said, all Bronx now.
“Listen, Baxter is supposedly doing a surprise spot on Today
tomorrow. And honey, you know Hoda and Kathy Lee will be
all over him, because—straight or gay—who wouldn’t be?
They’ll bring up the network rumors, and I wouldn’t be surprised
if he mentions that he’s already begun the next season of
filming, just to squash the buzz. Word is going to get out, ma
chиre. Of course they’ll make the connection as it’s the only one
to make. It’s only a matter of time.”
Charlotte came back on the line. “We just wanted to give
you a heads-up, Lan. I didn’t want you hearing about it from
anyone else. How did it make your little local paper before
making the entertainment news here?”
“Ask Baxter.” Lani was certain he was behind the personal
little news bulletin. He was nothing if not a master at controlling
the whims of his own fate. The question she still had no
answer for was why? Why was he doing this? Any of it? She
said as much out loud.
“I don’t know,” Charlotte responded. “But, like Franco said,
your name hasn’t come up in conversation amongst the crew or
production, so I don’t think anyone else has made the connection
“Well, I’m not news, entertainment or otherwise, so why
would anyone on the set care? The only one who will be bothered
by this whole thing is me. I just don’t understand what
possible explanation he used for wanting to set his show here
on Sugarberry, of all places.”
“Lani,” Franco said, butting back in, “you know it’s not coincidence.
I don’t know what he told his bosses, but they obviously went for it. There has to be a hook, don’t you think? And
the hook has to be you.”
“But, why? Just because I worked for him?”
“You know better than that. The world might not care now,
but you know it’s only a matter of time before it’s all out there.
Any news that includes Chef Hot Cakes being interested in a
woman—particularly one he worked with, mentored, and
handed over the running of his beloved shop to . . . and about
whom there was some pretty juicy gossip back in the day—is
not just going to be any news. It’s going to be the news.”
The very suggestion made Lani’s stomach sink further. Just
like it had, regularly, “back in the day.” Those days had mercifully
ended ten months ago. She wanted to keep it that way.
“There’s nothing to get out. Come on, you and Char know that
better than anyone. There was never any substance to those rumors.
Most definitely not from Baxter’s perspective. You two
are the only ones who ever knew how I felt, and you both
know I’d kill you in your sleep if you ever breathed a word.”
Charlotte gasped. “You don’t think we—”
“No, of course I don’t.” Charlotte and Franco were the two
people Lani trusted most in the world. They were “her people,”
and she was theirs. “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway,
even if you had,” She went on. “I mean, the world won’t care
what I might have felt for him, because Baxter doesn’t care. It’s
certainly not newsworthy now. Yes, he made my professional
life utter hell for the better part of three years—which I signed
on for—and yes, he never once stepped up to defend me when
the personal gossip started. Not once. But, though I hated it,
and it hurt, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that he didn’t. Baxter is
notoriously, completely oblivious to anything not in his own
personal line of interest. So, I’m equally sure he had no idea
what kind of hell my life was then, and I’d certainly like to believe
he doesn’t have a single clue about the hornet’s nest he’s
stirring up coming down here now. I can’t imagine he’d intentionally
do something so—”
“Heartless?” Franco said.