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You torch one kitchen and they never let you forget.
It was the Thanksgiving I made the yam casserole. The mini-marshmallow topping turned out blobby and pale, bearing no resemblance to the photo in the cookbook. A couple of minutes under the broiler ought to brown it up, I decided, popping the casserole back in and wandering off in search of chardonnay. You already know what’s going to happen, right?
The marshmallows caught on fire! Black smoke roiled out of the oven, the smoke alarm shrieked like a banshee with PMS, and the dogs went berserk. Snatching the flaming dish out of the oven, I rushed it to the sink, managing to set the curtains on fire. A flung tub of dishwater doused the flames, but the curtains were left in sodden tatters, the yams resembled charcoal briquettes, and a S'mores-smelling fog hung over our Thanksgiving dinner.
My family loves retelling this story, which gets more exaggerated each year. Nobody recalls the holidays when the turkey was perfect and the stuffing was ready for its close-up on the Food Network; we remember the year of the incinerated turducken or the champagne cork that took out the chandelier.
Maybe that's why I love Janet Evanovich's writing. Her Stephanie Plum is the fictional counterpart of flaming yam casserole. Stephanie pigs out on doughnuts, tackles naked bail jumpers, and can't decide whether she’s in love or lust with the hunks in her life. She's so imperfect she's perfect, and I can never wait to crack open a new book to discover what kind of havoc Stephanie and her sidekick Lulu will wreak on Trenton.
When I started writing my own book—The Escape Diaries, a Loveswept December release—I knew my heroine, Mazie Maguire, was going to be a woman whose eye mascara is always smeared, who hems her pants with duct tape, and who refuses to follow life's instruction manual.
Convicted of murdering her cheating husband and sentenced to life in prison, Mazie escapes and sets out to find who framed her. No money, no car, no food, and every gun-toting lunatic in the state is out to nab her. It turns out that Mazie's flaws—her knack for flirting, finagling, and telling pants-on-fire whoppers—are the very traits that help her stay one step ahead of her pursuers.
Since I believe in gender equity, I gave my hero, Ben Labeck, his own share of faults. An ex-hockey player with the flattened nose to prove it, Labeck has a flair for breaking rules, a habit of disregarding authority, and a streak of overprotectiveness that borders on chauvinism. Do Mazie and Labeck hate each other on first sight? Need you ask? This is a romance, after all. Do they encounter danger and disaster and revenge-obsessed mothers-in-law as they reluctantly team up? You bet your lucky charm bracelet!
The path to true love never did run smooth, but boy, does it run hot! Fighting their mutual attraction all the way, Mazie and Labeck discover that they're the baking soda and vinegar of sexual chemistry.
- Juliet Rosetti
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