BY: NANCY DEROSA

Emma Craven’s four single friends join her at the table in their quest to find love, self-respect, and, above all, great food. Emma and Murry’s Grill chef Gary Parker have much in common. He loves to cook, she loves to eat—a match made in heaven. Or so Emma thinks at the onset until trouble arrives. Gary’s former girlfriend comes back on the scene, reed thin and confident, and wanting him back. Gary’s rejection shakes Emma’s belief in herself, making her question what she has to offer in a relationship. Determined not to become a bitter and disillusioned harpy like her boss’s wife, Emma decides to get over Gary and move on with her life. But that’s easier said than done, especially since every new man she meets and every bite of food she eats reminds her how much she misses the handsome, charismatic chef.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Food for Thought by Nancy DeRosa, Emma Craven is young single woman who loves food. Naturally she is a little overweight, but not too bad. She and her four single friends meet every Saturday night for dinner at different local restaurants. One night they try a new place and Emma meets Gary, the chef. They start a relationship and Emma thinks her life is finally perfect especially since Gary loves to cook for her and she loves to eat. But then trouble arrives in the form or Gary’s ex-fiancée, who wants him back. Never really secure in herself or her relationships, Emma just knows he is going back to the ex.

I especially liked the fact that Emma isn’t a gorgeous bombshell. She’s a little overweight, insecure, and very realistic. The story is cute, clever, and funny, the characters unique and charming.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Food for Thought by Nancy DeRosa is the story of a group of young women looking for Mr. Right—or even Mr. Right Now in some cases. Our heroine, Emma Craven, meets with her four best friends most Saturday nights for dinner at a different restaurant every week. When they decide to meet at Murray’s Bar & Grill, Emma is instantly attracted to Gary, the larger-than-life chef working the grill at the back of the restaurant. By the time she leaves the restaurant after dinner, he’s given her his phone number and begged her to call. When she gets up enough nerve to ignore her insecurities and phone him, they start a fun and loving relationship—until his ex-girlfriend waltzes back into his life, determined to take Gary away from Emma. Confused, insecure, and feeling like yesterday’s unwanted leftovers, Emma backs off, just when she should stand up and fight for what she wants.

It’s rare to see an author with the courage to create an overweight, insecure heroine instead of a tall, willowy, beauty. I found it refreshing and, along with a strong plot, realistic and delightful characters, it makes for a great read.

Chapter 1

Emma Craven sat at her desk Friday afternoon, eating a container of cottage cheese. She sighed as she scooped up the last bit of curd with her spoon.

“Trying another diet?” Kelsey, the company’s receptionist, asked with a slight smirk on her face.

Emma looked up from her container and answered with disdain, “Is there something wrong with eating a healthy lunch? I think you may be misinformed about good food choices versus dieting.”

“I could be,” Kelsey replied lightly. “But I’m thinking maybe you were off track yesterday when you stuffed down that sausage and pepper hero.” She shrugged her shoulders. “That didn’t look all that nutritious to me.”

“Stop spying on me,” Emma snapped, unable to deal with Kelsey’s catty attitude today. “Maybe you should worry about all those Kit Kat bars you eat every day.” Scowling, she laid her hand over her cottage cheese container.

Kelsey ignored Emma’s look and laughed as she buttoned up her coat. She settled her scarf around her neck, adding with marked exasperation, “Oh, come on, you know you ate the entire sandwich in less time than it takes me to swipe on lip gloss.” Her gaze dropped to Emma’s empty container, her voice taking on a sickly sweet note, “Tell me I’m wrong.”

“You need a life.” Emma looked down at her watch and thought with a pang of compassion that she should try to be nicer, but the woman was so annoying. “Aren’t you going out for lunch?”

“Yes, I’m going over to Newman’s deli. Can I get you anything?” Kelsey offered with a contemptuous grin. “Perhaps a Snickers bar?”

“No, thank you.” Of course, Emma’s stomach chose to issue an audible protest, not nearly satisfied by the cottage cheese offering.

Kelsey’s grin grew wider. “Okay, see you in a few.” She slipped out, closing the door behind her.

The phone rang. Her mood soured by Kelsey’s unwanted criticism, Emma snatched up the receiver and barked, “Hello, Marshalls.”

“Hello Emma,” Leah responded cheerfully. “Answering the phone for your ditzy receptionist again, eh?” As Emma’s best friend, Leah knew how much Kelsey annoyed her.

Emma leaned back in her chair and chuckled. “I love it when she’s out of the office, but I despise having to answer her phones.” She blew out a loud sigh. “I can’t win can I? It’s the story of my life. So, tell me something good, what’s going on with you?”

“The usual, absolutely nothing,”

“Same,” Emma replied. As an uneasy silence followed, she became acutely aware how empty life had become lately. Clearing her throat, she said, “Well, uh, I gather we’re doing the usual this weekend, right? Whose turn is it to choose the restaurant Saturday night?”

“Nora’s,” Leah answered. “Dana can’t make it this week, with her Mom’s birthday and all.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” Emma leaned farther back in her chair, suddenly frustrated. She hated that every weekend was the same as the weekend before. “It’s pathetic that every week the five of us are always around unless it’s a family birthday or something,”

“You’re so right. It’s been months since any of us have even been out with a guy on the weekend. Are we losers?”

“We’re not losers,” Emma insisted, her voice louder than intended. She threw her empty container toward the garbage pail. It missed, by at least a foot, and hit the far wall. She lowered her voice, adding, “Any man would be damn lucky to be dating any one of us. It’s not unusual we’re all single at the same time, just coincidence.”

“Not unusual? We’re out together every single weekend.” Leah’s skepticism came through loud and clear.

“Not every weekend,” Emma shot back. “It’s not our fault there are no men out there worthy of us.”

“At least you had a date two weekends ago.”

“One my mom arranged, and it was on a Thursday night,” Emma corrected then groaned. “It was awful. I would rather be home with the flu than repeat that experience. I only went out with him because my mom harassed me for weeks and I was sick of hearing it. His name was Joe Chevise, a deli owner, and he took me to this awful Mexican place with horrible food. I watched a roach crawl up the wall near our table, while deli man held a shouted cursing match with the waiter.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because our daiquiris weren’t frozen to the right consistency and…” Emma continued slowly, as if she were talking to a child, “…because of the roach I just told you about.”

Leah laughed. “Yeah, I get it. Between the roach and the cursing match, the evening does sound horrible.”

“It was awful. I want to forget all about it.” Emma began pulling out the drawers in her desk. “The cottage cheese I ate for lunch is making me queasy. Which means either an antacid or a meatball calzone is necessary for me to feel better.”

“Okay, too much information. Should we share our stories?” Leah didn’t wait for an answer. “I have terrible menstrual cramps.”

“I gained four pounds in the past two weeks. At this rate, I’ll be buying pants with an elastic waistline soon,” Emma lamented. “Since we know men are shallow and only want to be with thin, beautiful women, I’d have a better chance of meeting a great guy if I were thinner. Right now, I’m sporting the beginnings of a muffin top.”

“Stop eating the tops of so many muffins and maybe it will go away,” Leah deadpanned.

“Ha, ha, you’re a riot.” Still, Emma couldn’t stop her snort of amusement. “Where’s my discipline? I should be eating carrot sticks instead of carrot cake.”

“When are you going to stop being so hard on yourself?”

“When you stop having a fast metabolism.” Emma paused and shook her head. “I don’t really mean that. I would never want you to struggle with your weight.”

Leah sighed. “You look wonderful. Why can’t you see that? You have such a distorted view of yourself. You’re feeling lonely right now, so food is your friend.”

Her friend’s comments dug in deep and Emma snapped, “Who the hell is your friend? You’re lonely too, but you only weigh a hundred and fifteen pounds.” She laughed to soften the dig. “You know I love you.”

“We’ll go out Saturday night and have a great time.” The patently false upbeat tone in Leah’s voice grated on Emma’s nerves. “You’ll feel much better about everything.”

“Yeah, and I’ll just eat more,” Emma muttered, tired of always being on a treadmill to nowhere. “Lately, I haven’t felt good about myself. It’s as if I’m missing something important. There has to be more to life than what I have right now.” She paused and added quietly, “All I want is a big–huge–slice of wonderful.”

“Let’s try not to bring everything back to food,” Leah chided.

“It’s just so hard to be hungry all the time. I always find myself planning what I’m going to eat next. I go to sleep thinking of my favorite meals, it soothes me.”

“Please, I have to go back to work, but I’ll leave you with this: maybe what you’re hungry for has nothing to do with food. I wish I could help you with your issues but I don’t think I’m equipped. Love you to pieces, though.”

Resignation settled over Emma as she slowly clicked off the phone. Lately, every day was a struggle, whether it was with food, her family, or her never-ending ache of unbearable loneliness. She needed something to take away the emptiness.

© 2016 by Nancy DeRosa

Readers Favorite:

Emma Craven is looking for love – and a good meal. She thinks she has found it all when she meets the chef at Murry’s Grill, Gary. Gary is ideal for Emma – he cooks, he is a little on the round side like her, is charming, and he cooks. Quickly falling for the charismatic Gary, Emma thinks all the pieces could be falling into place for her. But everything c

hanges once Gary’s ex-girlfriend bursts back onto the scene. Before she can say “seconds please” Gary has decided to give his relationship with her former flame another go, leaving Emma crushed and wondering what it is about her that can’t keep a man. Her close group of girlfriends, all in their own stages of love, lust or heartache, try to keep Emma cheered by convincing her getting out there is only the way to get over him. But Emma desperately misses her chef, and wonders if she can ever truly get over what had barely begun.

The best ingredient in a chick lit/romance novel is a relatable heroine that we can befriend. And Emma fits that description. Self-conscious over her weight, going through family drama, and keeping up with her girlfriends, Emma became a quick friend of mine. Her journey was intriguing to read and follow, with twists and turns and hopeful moments and plenty of laughter course after course. There are plenty of great sub plots in here as well, from her boss and his marriage to her girlfriend struggling with her identity, and the wonderful meals in between. A book to delight the foodie in us all, and a wonderful serving of friendship, romance, and finding self-love. ~ Samantha March, Readers Favorite

Online Book Club:

The story has an unoriginal plot, but a few factors made this book exceptional. First, the heroine has realistic and relatable concerns such as her uneasiness for being single for a long time, her insecurities about being a little overweight, her dilemmas in finding the right man, and her family troubles. Any female reader could relate to her struggles. Nonetheless, these did not stop Emma from rising and emerging as a stronger woman. Secondly, the author also created wonderful secondary characters. For instance, Jenny, one of Emma’s friends, has her own struggles but all she puts it aside to cheer her friend up. Additionally, the story has interesting subplots that give the readers a glimpse of the secondary characters. These subplots help inject variety and humor to the main story. Lastly, I loved how the author used food as the force that binds the characters’ stories together. The conversations over dinner knit the stories of secondary characters to Emma’s story. That made the transition from one story to another smoother.

Overall, Food for Thought: First Course is entertaining, realistic, and relatable with plenty of likable characters. With this, I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. If you enjoy a book with great characters and character development, you might want to give this book a try. READ FULL REVIEW