Starred review,
      PW Pick of the Week

     Fresh Fiction Fresh Pick!
SUGAR RUSH
January 2012
Kensington Brava
ISBN 9780758266347
Kensington MM Reissue
ISBN 9780758266354

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“It’s like blending the Food Network together with CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC…”
~ (4 Hearts!) Megan, Book Brat Reviews

Kindle Excerpt – Read 1st Chapter of SUGAR RUSH free!

Devil’s Food…Angel Cake…Red Velvet…Praline Crunch…Lemon Chiffon…
How’s a woman to choose?
Luckily, the members of the Cupcake Club are about to taste it all…

When baker extraordinaire Leilani Trusdale left the bustle of New York City for Georgia’s sleepy Sugarberry Island, she didn’t expect her past to follow. Yet suddenly, her former boss, Baxter Dunne, aka Chef Hot Cakes, the man who taught her everything pastry, wants to film his hit cooking show in her tiny cupcakery. The same Chef Hot Cakes whose molten chocolate brown eyes made Lani’s mouth water and her cheeks blush the color of raspberry filling–stirring all kinds of kitchen gossip, much of which Lani wished was true…

Lani’s friends are convinced that this time around, Baxter is the missing ingredient in her recipe for happiness. But convincing Lani will be a job for Baxter himself. And he’ll need more than black velvet frosting to sweeten the deal…

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STARRED REVIEW! Publishers Weekly PICK OF THE WEEK!
“Leilani Trusdale spends 10 years training with charming but tough chef Baxter “Hot Cakes” Dunne, taking over his New York City pastry shop when he leaves to host a cooking show. When she finally escapes the city to open a cupcake shop in her father’s tiny hometown of Sugarberry Island, Ga., Baxter turns up, natch, to start his show’s traveling season, with a secondary agenda of romancing Leilani. The tension leads Leilani to revive her old bake therapy sessions with her best friend, Charlotte, adding Leilani’s quiet new assistant and a lovable town gossip to lend support, share opinions, and add sugar as members of the Cupcake Club. The ladies of Sugarberry will be delightful companions to look forward to in future stories, and readers can bake along with the included cupcake recipes.”
~ Publishers Weekly

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“The cover of Donna Kauffman’s Sugar Rush is cotton candy pink, and the bottom half is decorated with rows of cupcakes crowned with swirling mounds of tinted frosting sprinkled with glitter and crystals and the occasional candied heart — all bringing to mind the English term “fairy cake.”

But don’t let all that gossamer goodness fool you. This book is hearty fare.

Lani Trusdale had two very good reasons for walking away from a successful career as a New York pastry chef. One, her father suffered a heart attack, and he’s the only parent she has left. And two, it was way past time to distance herself from the mentor she made the mistake of falling in love with. He never knew, of course — Lani was too professional to betray her feelings. Just as well, since she ended up hiding not only her affection, but her bitter disappointment in his failure to defend her against the vicious gossip that started the moment he hired her — gossip about the two of them she could only wish were true.

Now Lani is settled on the remote Georgia island of Sugarberry, content to be near her father, grateful for the town’s gentle pace and proud of her fledging business. But six months after the grand opening of her cupcake shop, who should walk through the door but her former boss? Unfortunately for Lani, the native London celebrity chef is as charming — and as clueless — as ever.

Baxter Dunne (aka Chef Hot Cakes) is television’s hottest chef, in more ways than one. But despite the marathon production schedule and killer publicity tours that come with the territory for the host of a popular television reality show, he hasn’t managed to fill the gap Lani created when she walked out of his restaurant — and his life. In miserable desperation, he cooks up an elaborate scheme to woo her back.

But Lani is infuriated by Baxter’s assumption that she’ll jump at the chance to let him tape a week’s worth of episodes in her shop. Unfortunately, she has no choice but to agree, since the star-struck Sugarberry residents are counting on it, and the island’s economy could use the boost. Then, as old hurts and misconceptions are addressed, and the rising heat in the kitchen has little to do with the oven, Baxter and Lani find themselves wishing their reunion could be more than temporary. But how likely is that when Baxter is a city boy, through and through, and Lani’s newfound passion is in Sugarberry?

Just as the title suggests, Sugar Rush is a playful, sensual, laugh-inducing read. But there’s so much more to the story. Kauffman’s book chronicles profound character growth and offers layer upon layer of authentic, life-changing conflict. There is so much for these characters to overcome. As I “listened in” on their troubled conversations, I often found myself feeling anxious.

In Sugarberry, Lani feels more like her genuine self than she ever did in New York, and she struggles to make Baxter understand that bringing his celebrity chef circus to town isn’t doing her any favors. When he finally gets it, Lani realizes the contrite and understanding version of Baxter is so much more dangerous than the charming and cavalier one. Especially when she finds out that she in turn made unfair assumptions about him. In the beginning, Baxter is nonplussed by the outspoken, quick-to-anger Lani he’d never once caught a glimpse of in New York. As his employee she’d been serenely efficient. He simply can’t comprehend why she’s not pleased to see him.

The good news is, the two are honest with each other and bring all of their issues and vulnerabilities out into the open. Which takes awhile, because Lani and Baxter have more emotional and geographical challenges than a gingerbread cupcake with cinnamon mascarpone frosting has calories.*

Which reminds me — the dessert references got to be a little much, especially during the seduction scenes. But that one little niggle is easily eclipsed by the joy I felt reading passages like this one. After an exhausting day of taping, Baxter finds Lani hiding out in one of the production team’s trailers:

Her attention was focused exclusively on the cupcake, which she went back to freeing from its paper cup. Once that was discarded, she slowly licked the frosting off the top, closing her eyes as she did so, and keeping them closed as she devoured the cake in three deeply appreciative bites, if her groan of satisfaction was anything to go by. There was nothing sensual about her actions. It had been more like an act of desperation, by a person seeking some kind of … salvation.

Yes! How many of you, reading that, expected Lani’s eating her treat to be a turn-on for Baxter? I so appreciated that instead of giving us that cliché, Kauffman used the cupcake — a true symbol of Lani’s salvation in Sugarberry — to demonstrate the chaotic state of her emotions.

The book’s ending is just as clever and well-crafted. There’s one snippet of conversation in particular that I reread several times. It has a powerful “aww” factor — but I can’t share it because it contains a spoiler. I know, I know, sorry about that!

Anyway, it’s a good thing Sugar Rush is only the first in a series, because the residents of Sugarberry — especially the delightfully oddball members of the Cupcake Club — will lure you back to their island again and again. Be sure to join them in Kauffman’s Sweet Stuff, to be released at the end of this month.

* I highly recommend this recipe — not only are the results delectable, but your kitchen will smell divine! Kauffman provides this recipe as well as one for red velvet cupcakes at the back of her book. Of course, I didn’t really pay any attention to the number of calories — made easier by Kauffman’s kind exclusion of nutrition information. :-)”
~ Kathy Altman, USA Today/Happily Ever After

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Four Stars!
“Fans of cupcakes and TV chefs will like this first installment of the Cupcake Club back-to-back romance series that comes with recipes. For those looking for more, not to worry — this isn’t a light, spun-sugar tale. It has more substance, like a rich chocolate ganaches. The suprorting characters are delightful and one hopes they will appear in future books.

SUMMARY: Lani relocated to the island community of Sugarberry to be closer to her father and to open her own business, a cupcake bakery. She left behind a high-profile, successful career as a pastry chef in New York — along with Baxter Dunne, the charming TV chef who was both her boss and the star of her daydreams.
Now, Chef Hot Cakes has shown up and announced that his production company is here to film onsite at her little shop, disrupting the small Southern community she calls home. The kitchen really heats up with these two baking togather, but is there any future for a small-time cupcake baker and a big-time celebrity chef?”
~ Joyce Morgan, RT Book reviews

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“Ahh…New York City. If you’ve ever been there, you know the energy the city has. Leilani also knows the energy the city has, after all, she worked there for years, but she felt the city drained her. After having a crush on her boss for most of those years, she loses her mom, almost loses her dad, and hightails it out of there and finds herself opening up her own cupcake shop on the little island of Sugarberry. Then one day, plop, out of the blue, her ex-boss shows up and turns her world upside down.

Baxter, aka Chef Hot Cakes, misses his steadfast assistant. His life isn’t the same. So, without thinking, he does what he thinks will be best and moves his famous cooking show to the small island of Sugarberry. His reception isn’t met warmly by his previous assistant who becomes very flustered, voices her opinion… loudly, and now drives a red SUV. Who is this woman wearing eclectic aprons decorating boring cupcakes in the middle of nowhere? Where’s the woman he missed?

As these two characters try to figure out exactly what they have going on between them, there is a heart-warming supportive cast of characters from Alva, Sugarberry’s own Betty White who has a rap sheet, Charlotte, Leilani’s best friend who drops everything to help her, Leilani’s dad, who is the town sheriff, Rosemary, Baxter’s assistant, and Dre, the Art Design student. These people manage to work their way into Leilani’s heart and before she knows it, her life is upside down and the little “B**** and Bake” time that she and her best friend enjoyed so much has turned into a therapeutic baking club.

A fun romantic read for the serious baker, the not-so-serious baker, and the buy-your-cupcakes type of reader (like me)!

For several months now, I have been following the author’s blog chronicling her attempts at mastering the world of cupcakery, http://www.cakesbythecupblog.com/, while doing research for this book. At times I laughed so hard I cried because her blogs were so descriptive and real… who else would admit to having a pink kitchen after trying to make red velvet cupcakes? But, throughout it all, I admired her persistence to understand the world of baking and get it right. Kudos to the first Cupcake Club Romance with recipes included at the end!”
~ Valerie Burleigh, Romancing the Book Reviews

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“Leilani Trusdale has always had a love for baking. Lani decides to leave New York City and head to Sugarberry Island to escape her past. She knows she is making the right decision well, that is until her former boss, Baxter Dunne makes an appearance in her shop. Chef Hot Cakes wants to film a season of his show there, but it’s that all he is there for?

Every one of Lani’s friends is convinced this time around Baxter is what she needs in her life to make it complete. Although, Lani doesn’t believe so, Baxter will have his work cut out for him for sure. Can Lani get past the betrayal that she thinks Baxter caused in the past and him the chance he has been waiting for?

I really did enjoy this book from the beginning to the very end. The story wasn’t just filled with baking yummy treats, but romance, friendship and a second chance. Lani is a strong heroine who has made some major changes and takes even more chances with her heart.

Baxter was a bit complex. There was so much that happened to him that made him the man he is today. He has had a thing for Lani since the day he took her under his wing to teach her everything she needed to know. Now it is time to get to know the new her, the real her. He doesn’t just have the sexiest British accent but the dreamy looks to go along with it. I want my own Baxter.

Everything about this story was fun and lovable. Kauffman brings in some very funny and creative scenes with frosting and dancing. I found myself smiling and laughing throughout the entire book. I also enjoyed all the emotions that were brought out in each character. Each one has a special quality about them that just adds to the story. The friendships are made of the richest fillings that will keep you craving more. It all made me want to move to Sugarberry Island.

I am truly excited to read the next book in the series, Sweet Stuff, which is due out February 2012. I can’t get enough of this new town, characters and the romances that have bloomed and will continue to bloom in this new series.

Happy Reading!!!!”
~ Lush Book Reviews

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“USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman brings a sweet story of cupcakes and romance in “Sugar Rush.”

Lani left behind her New York City job for small town life in Sugarberry Island and the dream of owning her own shop. But her past up and walks in one morning in the form of her former boss and crush Baxter. A famed cupcake baker, Baxter entrusted much of his business to Lani before she left, and even has his own television show now and plans on doing a spot in Sugarberry. Lani doesn’t know how she feels about that, since her unrequited love of Baxter soon took on a life of its own amid whispers of how she “achieved” her success by bitter coworkers. But while Baxter had been seemingly oblivious to her crush back in New York, he has come to Sugarberry with the realization that he misses Lani a lot – and not just on a professional level. But can Lani entrust her heart to Baxter? And does she want to give up her life to move back to the big city?

This is a delicious story about true love and cupcakes that is just as sweet as any treat but won’t ruin your New Year’s resolutions! The characters are great and there’s even a few recipes of delicious cupcakes to try (those might ruin a few resolutions, though.)” ~ Amy Phelps, Parkersburg News and Sentinel

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“Baking always made sense for Leilani “Lani” Trusdale. “Flour, butter, and sugar were as integral a part of her as breathing,” as Donna Kauffman describes the heroine of Sugar Rush, the first installment in her Cupcake Club series of romance novels. But when Lani walks away from her demanding job as an upscale New York City pastry chef to launch a cupcake shop in Sugarberry, a remote Georgia island where her widowed father now resides, her dreams of settling in to quiet baker’s bliss are suddenly upended. Lani’s former boss and unrequited love, Baxter Dunne (aka “Chef Hot Cakes”) follows her to the island, hoping to woo his protégé under the pretext of filming a segment of his top-rated TV cooking show in Lani’s new cupcakery.

Kauffman writes crisp, emotionally charged dialogue as Lani, liberated from Baxter’s high-profile shadow and at the helm her own pastry kitchen, learns to stand up to her former boss. Will Baxter come to respect Lani’s career move? Will Lani’s pride allow her to succumb to Baxter’s quest to make amends and win her affections? Adding to the tension of the couples’ love-hate attraction, Lani’s chef friends have their own opinions about what’s best for her; throw in the whispers and meddling of Sugarberry gossips who fawn over the rock-star TV chef, with his delightful British accent, and folks in the tiny coastal town begin to indulge in more than just gourmet cupcakes. Sugar Rush is a sweet, delicious romance fortified with mouth-watering cupcake recipes.”
~ Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines, Shelf-Awareness.com

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“Sugarberry Island, Georgia – Present Day

A word of warning: Reading SUGAR RUSH is harmful to any diet plans as you drool over the cupcakes mentioned in this tale.

Pastry Chef Leilani Trusdale had left New York City and the restaurant Gateau behind after her attraction to food television star chef (and Gateau’s owner) Baxter Dunne went nowhere. Her heart safe on the little island where her father resides, Leilani runs a specialty cupcake bakery, and she’s happy. Then Leilani learns that Baxter is going to be filming an episode of his show on the island. In her shop. Working alongside her. Leilani’s safe world is about to come crashing down. Can she resist Baxter’s charms?

Baxter rocketed to the top as one of television’s hottest chefs, and his show is now going on the road. His first planned stop is Sugarberry, where he hopes to reconnect with Leilani and learn why she hightailed it out of town months ago. Why would someone who created cupcake masterpieces want to open a shop in a dinky town off the beaten path? But Leilani wants nothing to do with him and keeps him at an arm’s length. Is there any way he can get closer to the woman he has never forgotten? Or will he admit that he feels more for her than that of a fellow chef?

Donna Kauffman has created a tasty treat for readers in SUGAR RUSH. Leilani literally ran away to escape the effect her unrequited feelings for Baxter was causing. While life is certainly a change in a small town catering to folks who wouldn’t know the differences between haute cuisine and a chain restaurant in Atlanta, she’s happy cooking up several dozen decorated cupcakes a day. She can’t deny the good that exposure on Baxter’s show will bring to her business, but can she hide her attraction to him?

Baxter is determined that Leilani will be a part of the show because she is a very capable cook who deserves more than working in a small town. But the more he stays in Sugarberry, the more it becomes clear to him that she has created a home for herself here, even if the townsfolk, like elderly Alva, are a bit off the wall. Leilani’s New York City friend Charlotte provides a sounding board as she frets over her feelings for Baxter. Then there is Leilani. She is like a part of his soul that has been empty during the months after she left. She makes him laugh and makes him enjoy living life. Yet she pushes him away. Can he break down the walls she has erected? Even as he begins to admit his feelings for her, he also realizes that Leilani belongs in Sugarberry. Will his career prove to be a stumbling block to their happiness?

SUGAR RUSH is a quirky, fun tale with Leilani and Baxter learning to really get to know each other while surrounded with several eclectic characters that provide for some humorous interaction. The chemistry between Leilani and Baxter is slow to grow at first, but once they kiss, their attraction for each other begins to smolder out of control. Will they make it work? Find out for yourself in the delightful SUGAR RUSH.”
~ Patti Fischer, Romance Reviews Today

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“Leilani Trusdale had everything she had always wanted. She had started out as an apprentice, then personal assistant, under the top chef in New York, the ridiculously charismatic Baxter Dunne, and was basically attached to his side for over three years. When Baxter was offered a TV deal and he turned his ‘baby,” the five?star restaurant, Gateau, over to Lani, the backstabbing of the other highly competitive chefs was vicious. Lani dealt with it as long as she could, but when her father, a D.C. cop, had a heart attack and moved back to his hometown of Sugarberry, Georgia, Lani moved back with him to nurse him back to health. After the hectic lifestyle of New York (and Lani’s secret, unrequited love for Baxter), she discovered the relaxed, quiet, rural pace of Sugarberry suited her needs, moved there permanently and opened her own store, Cakes by the Cup. And she absolutely loved every minute of it. She was in HER kitchen, creating HER special cupcake recipes and, if no one ever tasted them except the quaint citizens of Sugarberry, she loved that, too. Then Baxter walked into her safe haven and all hell broke lose in Sugarberry.

Baxter Dunne was gorgeous, British, a superb cook, and a total jackass. He had been so focused on developing his career and getting his restaurant started that he had totally taken his personal assistant for granted. When he realized that Lani had no intention on returning to Gateau (and him), he finally admitted his true feelings for her, but only to himself. Now his problem was how to let her know how he felt? When his staff had turned on her, he had let her deal with them on her own thinking his intervention would only make things worse. Then he had a brilliant, he thought, idea. He would take his show on the road and visit small, rural outstanding restaurants and bakeries and bring the big city fancy recipes to them, starting with Sugarberry, Georgia. When he showed up unannounced in Lani’s kitchen, with all his camera and production crew ready to bring New York to Sugarberry, why did she look so pissed?

Donna Kauffman has brought a sugary sweet romance in her latest, Sugar Rush. Set on a small, rural Georgia island with lovable quirky townsfolk, this novel delves into the age-old question, “What the heck are men thinking?” It’s a fun read with lots of yummy goodness thrown in and a sexy romance to drool over while eating that forbidden cupcake.”
~ Lani Roberts, Affaire de Couer magazine – 4 1/2 stars

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“Leilani Trusdale left the hustle and bustle of the NYC culinary world, and returned home to Sugarberry Island off the coast of Georgia. Leilani opens a cupcake shop and relishes in the quiet of her successful endeavor. But when her former boss, handsome and successful Baxter Dunne shows up unexpectedly, he turns her life completely upside down. Now Leilani has a choice: deal with her feelings towards Baxter and the rumors that followed her when she worked for him, or send him packing.

This book intrigued me by the acknowledgements and who Donna thanked (hint-some major Food Network stars, WOW!), and the premise of a woman owning a cupcake store and the fantastic flavors she created. However, the book wrapped around my brain with all the wonderful characters in both settings, as well as starring in a show about the culinary world. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Fantastic read wrapped up the end of the summer.”
~ Heidi, Publisher’s Weekly “Beyond Her Book”

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“Kauffman (Let Me In, 2009) begins the first Cupcake Club contemporary romance by introducing James Beard nominee Leilani Trusdale, who quits her hectic life as the top chef in a prestigious New York restaurant to open her own cupcake bakery on small Sugarberry Island, Georgia. Mostly, she’s running away from nasty gossip generated about her when her former boss Baxter Dunne turned over his restaurant to her to begin a successful television show. Baxter, however, just won’t disappear, bringing his show to Sugarberry and asking to use her kitchen for an episode on cupcakes. He wants to cook side-by-side, just like they did before she fell in love with him. When he shows up declaring his love for her, she doesn’t believe him, since he left her high-and-dry to weather the nasty rumors about how she slept her way into her job. Kauffman’s delightful characters, from the insecure Lani and over-confident Baxter to Lani’s Indian best friend and others, infuse this charming novel with enough sweetness to entice even readers on a diet.”
~ Pat Henshaw, Booklist

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