Kitchen Heat: A Restaurantland Romance by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays IS LIVE!!! THE SINGLE MOM WAITRESS/SCREENWRITER (who’s nursing a heartbreak) & THE HOTTEST CHEF SHE’S EVER SEEN (who’s also nursing a heartbreak…) 😉
So what’s it about?
Welcome to the Rose and Thorn where steamy romance is always on the menu.
Kassi is ever the optimist. She uprooted her life and moved across the country with her young daughter to give her damaged marriage one last shot. Now she’s broke, stuck in Portland and feeling like an idiot. Worse, her degree in filmmaking won’t pay the bills.
When Kassi lands a waitress job at the infamous Rose and Thorn restaurant, she thinks her luck may finally be changing, especially after meeting Clay—head chef and the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. Their white-hot attraction is instant and undeniable. But after her marriage disaster, Kassi has sworn off relationships or even dating, maybe forever.
So, what’s a girl to do? Put him in a sexy screenplay, of course.
Kassi is writing a movie script for a contest. It’s a long shot, an impossible shot, but it could be her ticket to Hollywood. She comes up with a new plot about a hot chef and a waitress falling madly in love (and bed).
It doesn’t take long before Kassi’s imaginary relationship and reality collide in unpredictable ways but as things steam up in the restaurant kitchen, not everyone may be able to stand the heat, including hunky Clay. Turns out he’s dealing with a heartbreak of his own that he may never get over, not even for Kassi.
The first in the Restaurantland Romance series, Kitchen Heat is a slow burn friends-to-lovers story crackling with off-beat humor and featuring a flirtatious cast of waiters, customers and cooks, set in the pre-internet 1990s before cells, social media and streaming.
Take one single mom, add one devastatingly handsome but broken man, stir in an eclectic mix of misfits from the weirdest city in the U.S., jack up the temperature, and you have Kitchen Heat: A Restaurantland Romance. Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays of The Halo Trilogy and The Cowboy and Vampire fame have flexed their writing muscles again in a whole new direction, and it’s their steamiest yet.
Kassi desperately needs a job to support herself and her young daughter after a failed reconciliation with her abusive ex-husband. Her film history degree isn’t putting food on the table, but waitressing at the Rose and Thorn will — barely. A chance to show her chops in a scriptwriting contest brings a glimmer of hope, and what better place to garner ideas than a restaurant full of odd characters? That gorgeous chef would make a great leading man …
The first book in a planned series set in restaurants in the mid-1990s, Kitchen Heat is “very, very loosely based” on the writing duo’s own path to love. It captures Portland, Oregon, perfectly as it was in that time period: open and welcoming to everyone, no matter what their quirks.
Kitchen Heat is a love story at its core, but it’s also a study of relationships: the how and why and who of interactions, what drives us, the mistakes we inevitably make, and the concessions necessary to make it all work. It’s not just about sex (spoiler alert: you won’t be disappointed there) — it’s about how regular people with complicated lives and personal tragedies go about finding their place in a chaotic and mixed-up world.
Blurb by Renee Struthers, Go! Magazine
A note from the authors
Kitchen Heat is very, very loosely based on the authors’ own meet-cute and their slow burn friends-to-lovers romance. But just how closely does it match reality, especially the steamy parts? Here’s what Kathleen and Clark have to say about that…
Kitchen Heat is near and dear to our hearts. We met working in a restaurant a lot like the Rose and Thorn. It was called Old Wives Tales, a Portland institution in the 1990s and 2000s (sadly, gone now).
When we first crossed paths there, it was like in the movies. Just a thunderbolt of attraction and a kind of weird, unshakable certainty that we were meant to be together. At the time, we were both married — technically, legally — to different people. Nothing unseemly happened, not in the real world anyway. There was plenty of flirting, secret looks of longing and fantasizing.
Eventually, we each went our separate ways, but the connection never waned. Years later, when our paths crossed again and we were both single, all of that intensity and longing and desire flared up into the start of something magical. In fact, the fires burned so brightly, we combusted and broke apart, temporarily (that’s for a different book), but when we came back together for the third time, it’s lasted almost 20 years.
We owe our storybook relationship to that restaurant, which is why we chose to set Kitchen Heat there. At least in the 90s, when the book is set, restaurants were a hotbed of hookups. The work is so intense and so grounded in the senses and the sensual, the flavors and textures of cooking, the act of serving and connecting with strangers in this sort of forced intimacy, that, not surprisingly, staff tend to fall in and out of love, and bed, on a regular basis. And since there’s always so many new faces (and bodies), it’s like a micro-dating site.
We capture that in the book, drawing from the countless relationships we saw flare up and then sizzle out in our years spent working in restaurants. We also capture the weird, fun, chaotic environment that emerges in restaurants, and the many memorable characters. Everyone in Kitchen Heat is based on someone we remember from those days.
This is our eleventh book together. All our books have love and romance at their core, but none are quite this steamy. We’ve been asked, as a couple who has been together for two decades, how do we keep the sex scenes hot and fresh? That’s easy — lots of practice. And research! Working on those scenes is hard though, because the better they get, the more often we have to stop to, uh, do more research. The best sex scenes can take weeks and weeks of … let’s call it “editing.”
A recipe for Hungarian Mushroom soup from the Rose and Thorn (you’ll know why after you read the book!) credit to the Moosewood cookbook
To maintain the authentic vibe of the real restaurant that was the basis for the Rose and Thorn, we gave one of its popular, signature dishes a starring role: Hungarian Mushroom soup. Clark cooked probably 1,000 gallons of the creamy, rich soup and Kathleen delivered that much or more to customers.
Here’s our vegetarian take on the classic soup. Serves six.
- 2 cups yellow onions, diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoons dill weed, divided
- 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups vegetable stock or mushroom stock
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
In soup pot, sauté onions in 1 tbsp butter until lightly browned. Add garlic and continue cooking for a few minutes, then add mushrooms, 1 tsp dill, 1 cup stock and soy sauce. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
In the meantime, melt the butter in large saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, a few minutes. Add the milk and cook, stirring frequently, over low heat about 10 minutes — until thick.
Add this to the mushroom mixture along with the remaining stock. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes.
Add paprika, lemon juice, sour cream and remaining dill (1 tsp), whisk to blend and cook on low for 5 more minutes until the flavors blend. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika.
Teaser from Chapter 1:
Kassi is being interviewed about the screenplay she wrote about her time at the Rose and Thorn restaurant.
“Insiders report there’s a killer love story at the heart of the screenplay, very hot, maybe even skirting an NC-17 rating, along with several supporting characters, restaurant workers and customers, who fall in and out of love, and in and out of bed. Are restaurants really like that?”
She needed to handle this question perfectly. Sex was a pivotal element of the movie’s plot and of restaurants more generally. For better or worse, sex in restaurants was something Kassi knew plenty about. Still, she stayed in her Louise-Cher persona. It was easier to talk about sex if you pretended to be another person.
“Mark, restaurants are like that, honestly. Not just sex though, it’s love and romance too. It’s partly tied up with the long hours, the nutty pace, the drinking after shifts to bring down the adrenaline, not to mention the high turnover, which means there’s almost always someone new being added to the already-steamy mix.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned in.
“On top of that, there’s the sensual, intimate nature of cooking and serving food, of nurturing people. Even if you’re not into the gourmet side of things, these are very personal acts. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the way waitresses, and waiters too, need to sell themselves. You know, flirt with customers to increase their tips. Put all that together, repeat it day after day, and it’s a romantic pressure cooker. Wait, that was a terrible pun. Don’t write that.”
“A romantic pressure cooker. I love it,” he said, laughing. “You’re making my job easier. Does the plot of the movie match your, shall we say, romantic experiences at the Rose and Thorn?”
She paused. Too long. It was noticeable and awkward. The flush crept back up her neck.
“I made it all up, totally fictional,” she said.
Thinking back, Kassi now wondered if she had made it all up, if by writing about their love, by capturing it in a screenplay, she had somehow changed their reality, changed their outcome.
“Are you saying that the incredible ending, the one that has everyone talking, the big surprise, isn’t your story?”
She smiled but shook her head, wishing it were otherwise. “That’s why we love the movies, right?”
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY:
How to enter for a chance to win it?
Just leave a comment below (or better yet, if you have a favorite recipe, or a favorite restaurant, or a favorite dish, or a favorite foodie romance book, let us know 😉 ), and by 10pm EST, Sunday, November 12th, 2023, I will randomly select one lucky commenter as the winner).
The winner will be contacted and will have 48hrs to respond confirming their mailing address, so if you are picked, do not delay or you will lose your chance. The book will be sent to the winner by the authors.