Recipe for Disaster
By Tracy Solheim
Men of the Secret Service - Book One
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Release Date: May 7, 2018
Reviewed by PJ
An elusive group of international counterfeiters has escaped Secret Service agent Griffin Keller's net long enough. He's determined to bring them to justice, especially the one known as The Artist, and, finally, he's found a clue that might help him do that. The clue leads him to the White House and executive pastry chef, Marin Chevalier whose family owns hotels around the world that have been used as drop sites for the counterfeit bills. Add to that the strange events and growing body count around Marin, and Griffin is sure he's found a link to the counterfeiters...even as his growing desire for the chef has him hoping he's wrong. Using his legendary good looks - dimples rule - and charm, he sticks close to her until he can determine for certain if she's on the right, or wrong, side of the law but as desire ramps up and unexpected feelings deepen, will they cloud his judgment and hamper his ability to solve the case before it's too late?
White House executive pastry chef, Marin Chevalier is dealing with stress on all sides. With Easter weekend almost upon them, the oven in the pastry kitchen burns up, her sous chef seems distracted, her condescending cousin - for whom Marin is maid of honor - has turned into a bridezilla, insisting Marin bring a date to the upcoming wedding, and there's no likely candidate in sight. And that's before things begin to spiral out of control. Suddenly, a handsome Secret Service agent is romancing her and Marin, who has always been all work and no play, begins to believe she may have finally found "the one." But people around her start dying, the man to whom she could easily give her heart hasn't been completely truthful, and the lurking danger now has Marin in its sights.
I thoroughly enjoyed this first book in Tracy Solheim's new romantic suspense series centered around the Secret Service. There's great characterization, plenty of action, danger, and twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout while also being well balanced by romance, emotion, humor, and sizzle. I especially enjoyed Solheim's attention to detail in setting scenes and describing the interior of her White House. It enabled me to not just read about what was happening but become immersed in the journey of these characters as if I were there with them each step of the way.
Being the first book in a series, there are a number of characters introduced but I never felt confused or overwhelmed by them. I especially enjoyed Otto, a working K-9 who is critical to the plot and won my heart as surely as he did Marin's. Griffin and Marin have terrific chemistry, the obstacles they must overcome are relevant and believable, and their HEA is hard-won and satisfying. I'm hopeful that we'll see more of them in the next two books which will feature Griffin's two pals and fellow Secret Service agents, Ben and Adam.
Q&A with Tracy Solheim
Welcome, Tracy! Thanks so much for visiting with us today.
Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by the Dish. It’s always fun to catch up with my friends here.
Recipe for Disaster launches your new Men of the Secret Service series. What should readers expect from this book?
This is the first book in a trilogy about three Secret Service agents who have been friends since their days at West Point. While it’s definitely a suspenseful “Whodunit” I tried to give my readers the same amount of heat and romance they’ve come to know in my previous books. There’s also a pooch for readers to fall in love with. But I’ll warn you up front, Otto is a working K-9 who, like the other heroes in this series, puts his life on the line every day. Just keep in mind as you’re reading about Otto that I’m in the business of writing happy endings. 😊
I was impressed with your understanding of the inner workings of the White House as well as your attention to detail in describing areas within the building that typically are off-limits to the public. How did you obtain your White House store of knowledge?
You caught me! I’m a huge history buff particularly if it involves Washington, DC since I spent nearly half my life living there. I’ve been inside the White House numerous times for holiday tours—including one time when my younger brother decided to play with the dimmer switch in the Green Room and turn out the lights! You should have seen the Secret Service agents that night! For this book, however, I needed more behind the scenes info and that’s where my friend Google came to the rescue. The White House Museum has a fabulous website complete with an interactive map of the entire White House. It was invaluable helping me to navigate my characters' steps from one place to another on the grounds and within the House itself. Information on the artwork and decorations came from The White House Historical Association website. For details on the pastry kitchens, I watched a C-SPAN documentary on the White House and its staff. Where would we be without the Internet? Any mistakes in the book are mine and there’s no excuse because the information is out there! 😊
I adored Marin even though her pastry and culinary creations throughout the book had me drooling all over my Kindle. 😉 Do you enjoy getting creative in the kitchen? And, I have to ask: Is the butternut squash ravioli (such a sigh-worthy scene) actually on the menu at Old Ebbitt Grill? If so, I see a trip to Washington, DC in my future!
I enjoy cooking, but baking is my jam. I look for any excuse I can to bake a cake, cookies or breads for my family and friends. They are always grateful, but my thighs, not so much. I didn’t have a go-to recipe for lemon bars when I had Marin bake them, so of course, I had to try out multiple recipes. As it turns out with most things, the simpler recipe ended up being the best.
Since it’s been over a decade since I’ve eaten there, I took some liberties with the menu from Old Ebbitt Grill. When I wrote the dinner date on the Truman balcony, I could still taste the butternut squash ravioli I had at a restaurant the evening before. It was so delicious, I had to memorialize it in a book.
What was your favorite scene to write in this book? What was the most difficult?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. This was one of those books where the scenes seemed to come easily. I enjoyed writing the parts that took place in various rooms of the White House because it gave me a chance to pretend I was actually there! The most difficult scene for me to write is always the Black Moment. Griffin was a bit of a dunderhead and wasn’t sure what he was losing until he walked away. I didn’t want to make him too much of a clod that Marin would be better off without him!
Griffin’s my new book boyfriend. I fell so hard for this guy. How would he describe himself to our readers?
“I’m much more than just a pair of dimples. Women can’t seem to see past them or my wavy hair. But I’m a guy who works hard, plays hard, loves my family, and is loyal to my friends. Serving my country is my number one mission in life. There’s no room for any other commitments. Period.”
What can you share about future books in the series and when do you expect them to be published? Will Adam and Ben both have books? What about a certain female FBI agent?
I’m finishing up Ben’s story right now. It’s called Between Love and Honor and readers can expect it in the fall. Writing this one has been a bit like walking on a tightrope. Quinn, the heroine, has hurt Ben before and I needed to make her worthy of not only Ben’s trust, but the readers’ as well. The friendship between the three men gets tested in this book, too. Adam, the sniper, will get his story in Shot in the Dark when he is injured on the job and has to serve on the protective detail of the First Lady’s younger half-sister, an animal-rights activist who is against guns. Needless to say, the sparks fly from the get go. I can’t leave Leslie hanging either. She might have to meet up with another FBI agent who has dropped into several of my other books. Ava, Marin’s cousin, could also kick-off another series involving the Chevalier Hotel chains. But only after she’s matured a bit.
Otto (a Belgian Malinois) was one of my favorite characters in this book. Do you share your life with any four-legged family members? How do they inspire you?
I do! Harper, my sweet black Labrador retriever, will be four next week. She keeps me healthy by providing a ready excuse to get out of my chair to take lots of walks—not to mention the exercise from vacuuming up the dog hair!
Summer is almost upon us. If money and time were no issue, where in the world would you choose to visit and what would you most want to see/do while there?
I really want to spend some time in Glacier National Park where my book, Smolder, is set. I’m headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in July to hike and visit the national parks there, so maybe next summer. Of course, I seem to remember your photos and blogs from the Amalfi Coast being spectacular. That’s a place on my list, too!
Where can readers connect with you online?
Will you be attending any events this year where readers can meet you in person?
I’ll be in Denver July 21st signing at Romance Writers of America’s Readers for Life Literacy Autographing.
October 6th, I’ll signing at Georgia Romance Writer’s Moonlight and Magnolias’ book fair at the Atlanta Hilton.
Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Tracy! Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?
Have you ever been to Washington, DC? If so, what was your favorite place to visit?
The prize (U.S. winner) is a White House apron and a print copy of Recipe for Disaster. (International winner will receive a digital copy of Recipe for Disaster only.)