TITLE: Learning To Love
AUTHOR: Felice Stevens
COVER ARTIST: Reese Dante
LENGTH: 150 Pages
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2016
BLURB: After ten years away from home, bad boy caterer Gideon Marks has a lot to prove. Getting the holiday catering job at his childhood synagogue is the first step in demonstrating to everyone he didn’t turn out to be the failure they predicted. What he doesn’t count on is Rabbi Jonah Fine, his high school nemesis and secret crush, stirring up old feelings Gideon thought long gone and secrets he’s buried deep for years.
An unexpectedly passionate encounter shocks Gideon, but he pushes Jonah away, convinced he isn’t good enough to be in a relationship and would never be accepted by Jonah’s father. But Jonah hangs tough—he won’t allow Gideon to hide or run away from life again. And when it comes to love, Gideon learns the most important lessons aren’t always taught in school.
“You realize we always talk about me, but I know nothing about you and what you’ve done for the past ten years.” I stood at my kitchen counter and after debating a moment, grabbed the flour. Not that I wanted to show off, but having Jonah here to cook for was an unexpected treat, and I might as well make him some biscuits to go along with the omelet. “What happened when you went to law school? Why did you really leave?” I turned on the oven to preheat it for the biscuits.
I poured the flour into a bowl, mixed in baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then crumbled the shortening mixture with my fingers, all the while waiting to hear about Jonah’s life. He lay stretched out on my sofa, as supremely comfortable as a cat in a patch of sunlight, and with a pang I wished this could be any normal Saturday for us—me making breakfast in the kitchen while chatting with Jonah.
He turned over on his stomach as I finished the dough and floured the marble slab I’d splurged on. I’d done this for so many years it was all second nature now and I could concentrate on Jonah.
“Like I said before, I hated it. I’m not a competitive person by nature; I never needed to be the best or number one.” He laid his cheek on his hands and stared off into space. “But I’d been dating someone, and we started getting into silly arguments about summer jobs and where we’d like to apply.”
I’d never imagined myself the jealous type, and realistically I understood Jonah was no virgin, but if the painful twist in my stomach at the thought of anyone else touching or kissing Jonah was any indication, I was in deep shit.
“Oh?” My voice remained neutral, but I was busy kneading the life out of the poor dough. Since it had never done anything personally to me, I willed myself to calm the hell down and set about rolling it out for the biscuits. “Were you two that serious?”
“Ben and I? Not really. He thought so and wanted more, but I made it clear from the beginning I wasn’t going to fall in love with him. I cared for him deeply and felt badly I couldn’t give him what he wanted.”
“What was that?” I jammed the biscuit cutter into the dough with sharp angry jabs.
My hand stilled on the biscuit cutter, and I looked over at him. He met my gaze unflinchingly, and I could feel the heat rise in my face.
“Why not?” I had to ask.
Jonah stood and joined me in the kitchen, hemming me in against the counter. I admit to not putting up too much resistance, but it still took me by surprise.
“I was keeping it for when I met you again.” He cupped my cheek in his hand. “No matter what I would’ve ended up doing with my life, Gideon, finding you was always part of my plan.”
What could I say to that? Jonah’s words rolled around in my head like brilliantly colored marbles, setting off a kaleidoscope of emotions that scared the hell out of me.
I sidestepped out of his embrace, muttering, “I have to get these biscuits in the oven,” and grabbed the cookie sheet. My back was to Jonah, shielding my badly shaking hands gripping the pan. I placed the biscuit dough on the sheet and slid it into the oven. The familiarity of being in my kitchen and cooking balanced me, and I was grateful that Jonah, most likely having sensed my unease, had returned to the living room and his place on the sofa. Once he left the kitchen I found it easier to breathe.
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If you follow me on social media, it’s no secret that I like to cook and eat. My mother was a great cook and my grandmother (my father’s mother) as well. One of my fondest memories of visiting my grandmother on Sundays was entering her apartment to the delicious smells of homemade apple strudel, cinnamon babka and stuffed cabbage. Not to mention the home made challah bread.
Did I mention I love to eat?
From when I was a young child, my mother let me help in the kitchen and taught me her recipes for chicken matzoh ball soup, oven baked fried chicken and homemade applesauce. I would sit on the countertop and she would let me stir things and help serve. My brother would have to clean the table, even though he’d like to make jokes that it was “woman’s work.” He turned out to be a pretty good cook as well.
Even more than the food, I learned about my culture and the sense of tradition and family. Passing down recipes from generation to generation and hearing stories of how my maternal grandmother would cook things in “The Old Country,” made me not only wish I could’ve known her, and the rest of my mother’s family who died in the war, but I made a promise to myself that when I grew up and had a family of my own, I’d make sure my children would know where they came from and how important family is.
Gideon became a chef and came back home because he wanted that validation from the people he left behind. Not expecting Jonah to have come home from law school, Gideon nevertheless immediately felt the connection he tried so hard to deny while in high school. One of the major things Gideon remembered was the close relationship Jonah and his father had, a relationship he never had with his own father.
Gideon uses food a lot in the book, sometimes as a way to hide his feelings from Jonah but also as a way to connect with him. He recognizes that food and love is universal and that truly the way to someone’s heart is through the foods they love to eat, because of the memories those foods stir.
I give recipes for some of the dishes that Gideon makes in Learning to Love, that have been passed down from generations. I hope you try them and enjoy.
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending around the corner, My character have to work for it, however. Like life in NYC, nothing comes easy and that includes love.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.
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