The party is over for bikini model Izzy Alvarez. For six years she’s made a good living by flaunting her God-given assets on runways and in front of cameras, but now as she approaches the big 3-0, the bodacious Latina is shocked to learn she’s aged out of the profession that’s kept her in mojitos, mani/pedis, and designer thongs. What’s a girl with a taste for the finer things in life and no marketable skills to do?

Getting a regular job is too boring to even consider, so Izzy decides to follow in the footsteps of her newly-engaged frenemy and become a trophy wife. Although she’s desperate and too broke to get a chipped nail fixed, Izzy still has standards for her future husband, which means no uggos, no vertically-challenged guys, and no geezers who need to pop a blue pill to perform in the bedroom. Enlisting the aid of her computer whiz nephew and her closest pals, Izzy goes on the prowl for a rich, marriage-minded man, encountering likely candidates in a lot of unlikely places.

The high life she’s dreamed of may be within reach when Izzy meets a charming, successful man who’s not only hotter than a steamy summer night in Miami, but ready to settle down. Now all Izzy has to do is make sure her loud, crazy Cuban family doesn’t scare off el hombre perfectooh, yeah, and squelch those pesky, romantic feelings she keeps having for the sweet, cash-strapped guy she's known forever.

Will Izzy’s hunger for money win out, or will her fiery heart demand to be heard?

“Yuck.” I make a face at the anatomical plastic heart that’s sitting on the counter next to the sink in the doctor’s exam room. “You don’t think this is the actual size of what’s in our chests, do you?” I pick up the heart and hold it up above my left breast. “And what are these big purple and red things?” I point to the fat, cylinder-shaped protrusions at the top of the heart.
“Probably valves of some kind,” my mother murmurs distractedly as she picks up another pamphlet from the pile of medical literature she collected while we were out in the waiting room. This one is entitled The Heart Truth for Latinas. “Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of Latinas in this country?” is the first factoid she gleans from the pamphlet.
I shrug. “That’s not what I’d call shocking news. The Cuban diet isn’t exactly low-fat.” Returning the heart to its stand, I wander over to a heart healthy foods poster on the wall, which I study for a few minutes. “Case in point, I only eat eight of the thirty foods on this list. Pretty cool that popcorn’s considered to be good for your heart. Of course, if you top it with as much butter and salt as I do, that probably negates its benefits.”
“I eat Honey Sriracha Cheddar popcorn by the gallon-sized tin, so I’m in no position to judge,” says an amiable, male voice (in the baritone range¡Gracias a Dios!) coming from the doorway of the exam room and I turn to see a white lab coat-wearing man, with a stethoscope draped around his neck.
He’s not my usual beefed up alpha male type, but he’s cute! In a charmingly rumpled way. His black hair is tousled as though he’s been running his fingers through it and his green button-down is wrinkled, with a bit of his white undershirt peeking out at the top where he’s got two
buttons undone. He has kind eyes, and I like his smile, which he’s now directing at Mamá.
“Mrs. Alvarez.” Extending his hand, he takes several steps toward the exam table, where she’s perched. “I’m Dr. Bakshi.”
She shakes his hand. “Nice to meet you. That,” she waves at me, “is my daughter, Isidora.”
“Izzy,” I give him my nickname, which my mother knows I prefer.
“Izzy.” He nods at me. “It’s always nice to see a patient’s family taking an interest in their healthcare. Why don’t you have a seat while I examine your mother?” He gestures at the chair against the wall, a few feet away.
I would be very happy to take a seat, because that means I’ll be giving the good doctor an enticing eyeful of my bare back. This multi-colored, deco diamond-print maxi dress I decided to wear today is relatively demure in the front, but it dips way down low in the back where it’s laced up like a corset. Every guy who’s ever seen me in this dress has declared it “hot,” and I’m hoping it will elicit the same response from Dr. Bakshi.
When I turn back toward him so that I can lower my body to the chair, I see that he’s staring at me, his eyes glazed and his mouth hanging open. So, I’m pretty sure I’ve got him right where I want him. Good thing I had that big cross tattoo on my shoulder blade lasered off a while back because that would have probably repelled a Hindu like Dr. Bakshi, or is it Buddhism that people of Indian descent practice? Whatever. He’s definitely not Catholic like my family, which suits me just fine since I’ve never been religious. My mother would pull out her rosary and start praying if she knew I’d just thought that! And if I marry a man outside our religion, she’ll probably call in a priest to exorcise the demon that she’ll be convinced has possessed me.
I cross my legs and smile at Dr. Bakshi, and he gives his head a little jiggle as if he’s trying to shake off the effects of a spell—the desire-stoking naked flesh spell, a specialty of mine!
“So, doctor, do you think these palpitations my mother’s been experiencing are anything serious? We’re all very concerned about her.”
“Uh, yes, well . . .” He looks down at her chart and flips through a few pages. “The labs her
GP ran all came back normal, her cholesterol and blood pressure are right where they need to be, her weight is good—”
“My weight is five pounds less than the average for a woman of my age and height,” Mamá interrupts him to toot her own horn.
“Which is commendable. I’m sure you work very hard to maintain your trim figure, Mrs. Alvarez, and you look terrific for a woman of—”
“Ay!” She holds up a hand to stop him from revealing her age. “There’s no need to say that number out loud.”
“She might spontaneously combust if you do,” I snark under my breath.
When a frowning Dr. Bakshi looks back over his shoulder at me, I say in a syrupy sweet voice, “I’m blessed to have come from such a great gene pool. Hopefully, I’ll age as gracefully as my mother.” I hold my hand up in the air and cross my fingers.

P.S. Mamá’s “trim figure” has nothing to do with diet or exercise; she’s addicted to CoolSculpting, which freezes off any fat that dares to appear on her body.

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Manhattan upper-cruster Cecily Sinclair now uses that pricey utensil to dish up fancy French fare on her cooking show, Serving Romance. When there’s an executive shake-up at the network, she’s not worried. Not much anyway. Her show’s a hit after all. Why would the new CEO want to mess with success?
The driving force behind several buzzed-about networks, Devlin Hayes is considered to be a wunderkind in the television industry. Although his plans to rebrand Cuisine TV and make Serving Romance more Millennial-friendly don’t thrill Cecily, her charming, blue-eyed boss is a hard man to say “no” to and she really wants to keep her job—even if that means sharing screen time with a loathsome blast from her past.
Mercurial Italian chef Dante Marchetti a.k.a. “Il Duce” was once Cecily’s boss, and she has the PTSD to prove it. Now the owner of one of the hottest restaurants in town, Dante’s egomania knows no bounds and his constant attempts to provoke and upstage Cecily make her want to conk him on the head with a sautééé pan. She thinks they’re toxic together, but viewers love their chemistry and clamor for more.
As Cecily battles to maintain the integrity of her show, she finds herself scheming and manipulating right along with Dante and Devlin. Is she fighting a lost cause? Does she really belong on TV, or would her culinary talent be better served elsewhere? And could one of the men who makes Cecily’s blood boil ignite a passion in her for something other than food?

“Oh, Dante, you are so bad. How’s a girl supposed to stick to her gluten-free diet when you wax rhapsodic about lobster gnocchi in that divine accent of yours?”
Son of a biscuit, he’s here!
And he’s walking toward the kitchen, with my new senior talent producer attached to his bulging bicep. I swear, he buys his shirts two sizes too small just so his muscle-y arms and pecs will strain against the seams and look even more impressive. How he gets those muscles has always been a mystery to me. He works seventeen hour days, which doesn’t leave any time for the gym, and eats pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which should give him the physique of Mario Batali, not a Men’s Fitness cover model. Either he inherited some really good genes from that long line of Neapolitan farmers he comes from, or he does arm curls with beef shanks every time he goes in the freezer at his restaurant.
Stopping in front of my kitchen island, Marchetti bestows what would appear to be a very warm, sincere, and appreciative smile on Jessica, but I know that smile is every bit as counterfeit as one of those Chinese truffles. It’s always the first thing he pulls from his smarmy bag of tricks when he’s trying to ingratiate himself to a woman. An Italian term of endearment would be the second, followed by a reverent hand kiss that lasts a little longer than it should.
“Ah, bella, a lady like-a you who’s een her prime, should be eating as much of the gluten as she wants.”
Yep, there you go. He called her “beautiful” in Italian, and along with the smooth talk, he’s giving her a smoldering stare with those espresso-colored eyes of his. I’d forgotten about the stare, not that I’ve ever been on the receiving end of it. Marchetti wouldn’t waste a good smolder on a subordinate.
“Life ees too short to restrict yourself. Food, wine, love – theese are the theengs that make-a life worth liveeng.”
So, he’s got the charm-o-meter dialed up to an eleven this morning, and Jessica isn’t the only one hanging on his every word. Now that Marchetti’s closer, I can see Marin and Jo hovering on his right, staring up at his swarthy face with rapt expressions. Really? I expect this kind of behavior from Marin, who’s a self-admitted cougar (and she has a poster of One Direction on the wall of her office to prove it), but snarky, tough-as-nails Jo shouldn’t be falling for this over-processed baloney.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Marin chimes in. “You should consider writing a book, Dante, so you can share your philosophies about life and how they inform your cooking with the world. I’m sure it would make for a fascinating read.”
“I’d buy a copy!” Jo asserts, which earns her an eye roll from me since I know she hates to read anything more than a few pages of a script.
“I know an editor over at Random House. I could totally hook you up,” Jessica purrs suggestively, leaving very little doubt as to what she’d expect in return for this favor.
“Well, I have a friend in the acquisitions department at Simon and Schuster,” Marin lets it be known she also has connections that might help further the chef’s career.
This is getting ridiculous. These women should just challenge each other to a wrestling match in a pit of tiramisu already. I’m sure Marchetti would be happy to referee and let the winner take him home. I, on the other hand, am weary of watching these ladies fawn all over the man who almost gave me an ulcer, so I decide it’s time to step in and save the dignity of my gender. Moving toward Marchetti and his harem, I say, in what I hope is a pleasant tone, “Why don’t we table this discussion about book deals until after we’re done shooting Chef Marchetti’s episode of our show?”
Jessica scowls with annoyance at my interruption while an embarrassed Marin’s cheeks turn the color of the San Marzano tomatoes Marchetti likes to use in his sauce.
“I suppose we should focus on the task at hand so that we can get you back to your restaurant in time for the lunch rush,” Jessica says grudgingly. “Dante, you know Cecily Sinclair, the host of Serving Romance.” She gestures toward me, looking bored.
“Of course.” He takes my hand in his. “I recognize you from-a your show, Meez Sinclair. Eeet’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
He’s pleased to make my acquaintance? Like this is the first time we’re meeting. Like we didn’t work together in the same kitchen for seventeen months where he cursed me out in Italian on a daily basis for a variety of culinary infractions I only committed in his head. (I worked too slow and kept the customers waiting! I worked too fast and sacrificed the quality of the food! I under seasoned. I over seasoned. My plating was too meticulous. My plating was too haphazard. Argh!!!!!!!) 

Author Newsletter – The Banister Buzz

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