Thanks so much, Tami, for hosting me. My contemporary romance series is set in the fictional west-central Florida beach town of Gulf Shore, where you’ll feel sugary white sand between your toes, the warm sun on your shoulders, and a sea breeze ruffling your hair.
You’ll meet swoon-worthy alpha males who aren’t embarrassed to cuddle a rescued baby dolphin in their muscular arms, and accomplished women looking for an equal partner who thinks that smart is sexy.
You’ll get up close and personal with sea life, join the “snipe and gripe” club for girls’ nights out, dine on local seafood specialties, and fall in love with a talking parrot who acts like a little boy in a bird suit.
You’ll go behind-the-scenes at the local aquarium and out to the beach to rescue marine animals in distress. And once you visit Gulf Shore, you just may find yourself wishing you could stay.
Like many of us, Danielle “Dani” Davidson, leading lady of The Shore Thing, Gulf Shore Book 1, is tired at the end of her workday at Gulf Shore Aquarium. As an education specialist, she’s on her feet all day, giving tours, interacting with guests, and in general teaching people about marine life. The last thing Dani wants to do when she gets home is cook a big meal. So she relies a lot on her trusty slow-cooker.
One of her favorite sources of easy dinner ideas is the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with Your Slow Cooker by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good. Dani particularly is partial to this pizza rice recipe contributed by Sue Hamilton of Minooka, IL.
Makes six servings
2 cups rice, uncooked
3 cups chunky pizza (or pasta) sauce
2 ½ cups water
7-oz. can mushrooms, undrained
4 oz. pepperoni, sliced
1 cup grated cheese
- Combine rice, sauce, water, mushrooms, and pepperoni. Stir.
- Cover. Cook on low ten hours or on high six hours. Sprinkle with cheese before serving.
Dani likes her pizza rice with extra tomato flavor, so she adds a 14.5-ounce can or two of crushed or diced tomatoes. And for a little more oomph, she often supplements the recipe with black or green olives. Pizza rice can be a tasty side dish or a main course. And it’s a great contribution to a potluck meal or a party.
Dani is all for sharing her pizza rice with someone special in her life. But she vows to just say no to workplace romances after her first post-college job is soured by a messy breakup with a manipulative coworker at a fish hatchery. That’s just one reason she doesn’t trust any man with her heart, let alone one who swims with sharks for a living. So why can’t she get cameraman Evan Sanders out of her mind?
Evan is twice shy, too, after an alluring but self-absorbed colleague at the aquarium takes a bite out of his heart. Thought he’s dead set against dating anyone else he works with, he’s intrigued by Dani’s shyness and tempted by her intelligence and low-key sexiness.
Their attraction smolders until an unfortunate encounter with a stingray sends Dani to the emergency room and Evan steps up to help her through her recovery. The two also bond over the rescue of an orphaned baby dolphin. But will Evan’s vindictive ex-lover, his career ambitions, and Dani’s inhibitions tear the young lovers apart?
Marine biologist Monica Sims, the woman who trampled Evan’s heart, decides to mend her mean girl ways after her bad behavior makes her a pariah among her coworkers. She spends months reinventing herself as she seeks redemption.
A history of failed relationships leaves Monica leery of romantic involvement until she meets Cosby Williams, the new co-owner of Nauti-Toys Watercraft Rentals. Their story unfolds in Shore Feels Right, Gulf Shore Book 2.
When Monica finds out that Cosby is living on a steady diet of burgers, foot-long subs and pizza, she takes him to task for his unhealthy bachelor cuisine.
“That’s no way to eat,” she scolds.
“Good thing you came along or I might starve,” he teases.
“I’m serious. You need to treat yourself better than that,” she insists. “It doesn’t take much effort to stick a pork loin roast or a couple of chicken breasts into a slow cooker before you leave for work. Or just throw together a salad when you get home.”
“Salad? That’s chick food.” At her indignant look, Cosby grins and winks.
“So buy precooked chicken or beef strips to throw in with the greens if your inner carnivore can’t conceive of an evening meal without meat,” Monica suggests.
She invites Cosby over for dinner and prepares Asian-marinated baked chicken, which she describes as “nothing fancy, but very tasty.”
“You soak the meat overnight in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a little brown sugar,” she explains. “Then you bake it for forty minutes. So simple, even a marine biologist can do it.”
As a side dish, Monica serves her favorite veggie, green beans, which just happens to be Cosby’s preference on the rare occasions he eats something green. To spice them up, they drizzle some of the marinade over the beans.
Like most couples, Monica and Cosby get to know each other over a few good meals. They first dine together at the aquarium’s Gulf Breeze Café, where they order Asian chicken salads for lunch. Their first dinner is at a seafood restaurant called Captain Clem’s.
Cosby can’t believe Monica favors the place. The ramshackle exterior resembles an old bait and tackle shop, and the view doesn’t improve when they stroll through the front door. Crab traps, fishing nets, floats, rubber boots, and other work-worn gear cover the walls and hang from the ceiling, and most of the seating is crude picnic-style tables.
It’s not exactly a quiet, romantic interlude, but the food at least makes up for it. Cosby gobbles down a succulent pile of fried shrimp and clams, while Monica opts for broiled grouper.
As things heat up between the pair, Gulf Shore Aquarium responds to the stranding of a group of pilot whales. When a billionaire bachelor lends his private plane to the rescue effort, Monica catches his eye—and an obsession is born.
How will she cope with the unwanted attention? And will her past sins come back to doom her newfound happiness with Cosby?
Well, what do you think? You had to know food would be involved in books based on the Gulf, right? I bet that pizza rice recipe would be delicious with shrimp as one of the toppings! Oh, and heads up: get to reading these two books, because I hear rumor number three is releasing this summer! Click HERE to check out Annette’s books on Amazon. And if you want to stalk her, the means are below. Enjoy your reading – and eating!
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I hope you’ve enjoyed these Appetizing April posts. The next one will be April 27 – and will feature my latest release, Light Beyond the Darkness, Lightbearer #3. The hero and heroine meet in a restaurant, of all places. I’ll post an excerpt, for your reading pleasure. Until then, happy reading!