Take Two by Stephanie Shea

Take Two
Published: 10/28/22

Book three in the Gia San Franciso gives us Whitney Dimaano’s story. If you haven’t read Chef’s Kiss or Missed Connection, the book where we are introduced to Whitney, stop what you’re doing and read them now. Not that you can’t enjoy this one without reading those, but they are simply too good to miss and the insight we gain into Whitney in Missed Connection enriches the experience while reading this book.

Whitney owns her own fitness center, is establishing relationships with her half brother and sister she’s only recently met, but her love life is stagnant. Not that she hasn’t tried, she’s been seeing a doctor for two months but there’s no spark. She’s only felt that with one person, and she left her.  When Andy reappears in her life, she tries to hold onto the anger she’s felt for the last six years. If only her body didn’t still react to Andy’s nearness and her heart didn’t beat a little faster whenever she simply thought about Andy.

Andy Vahn returns to San Francisco to persuade Jenn Coleman to appear in her documentary but she’s also back to make amends. Six years ago, she fled to London and left everyone behind, her best friend, her parents and Whitney, the only woman she has ever loved. She isn’t sure she deserves Whitney’s forgiveness, but it isn’t going to stop her from trying. Despite the success she’s found, there’s been something missing since the moment she left Whitney.

Last year when I first read Chef’s Kiss, I knew I was reading the words of a special author. That feeling has only been strengthened after Whispering Oaks and Missed Connection. With Take Two, Stephanie Shea continues her ascent into the upper echelon of sapphic authors.  This is the kind of book that reminds me why I love reading so much.  It is filled with angst and humor, but more than anything, it makes me believe in soulmates, because in no universe is there anyone for Whitney but Andy. They were always meant to find each other and then find their way back.

I may possibly be in love with Jenn Coleman from Chef’s Kiss. Truth, if I could bring her to life, I would dump my gf right now and make her mine. So, I was very happy to see her, Val, Avery and Kyla make appearances. I love seeing how everyone from previous books are doing, like checking in on old friends.

Out of the 100 plus books I have read this year, this is the most romantic. It is so painfully beautiful, I had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion.  Stephanie Shea uses flashbacks to show their past relationship which only helped make it more obvious the depth of feelings they shared. I love everything about this book, from the use of imagery that helps me picture so vividly what is happening, to Whitney and Andy’s growth individually and as a couple to the declarations that are so stunningly well written, I have no choice but to continue hyping Stephanie Shea to anyone who will listen. I can’t think of an author who is more deserving.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.





Missed Connection by Stephanie Shea

Missed Connection
Published: 2/25/22

Avery Dimaano just wants to go home. After a disastrous vacation that began with her getting dumped and concluded with her ingesting way too much alcohol, she just wants to get back to the safety of her job at Gia and the comfort of her friends. She doesn’t plan on spending 14 hours on a flight with Kyla Logan, telling each other stories of their lives, holding hands through turbulence and sharing one hot kiss as they leave each other at the airport, seemingly forever. No, Avery didn’t plan for Kyla but who can plan for moments that change your life forever.

Kyla Logan is a travel influencer, jetting around the world taking photos for her socials and mostly avoiding her strained relationship with her mom. After meeting Avery, she can’t stop thinking about her. When Avery reaches out to wish her a happy birthday, a friendship forms, with both trying to ignore their underlying attraction.  Avery needs to be in San Francisco for her best friend’s wedding. She might as well go a few weeks early and see Avery. As fate would have it, an accident at Avery’s apartment forces her to leave for a few weeks and Avery is more than happy to share her rental with her. Of course, the fact that there is only one bed won’t cause any issues at all.

We met Avery in Chef’s Kiss. She is Jenn’s best friend and HR manager at Gia, Jenn’s restaurant. Stephanie Shea gives us characters in Kyla and Avery, who are both struggling with family issues and their undeniable chemistry. While Avery is the “straight” woman in this story, she is the stronger of the two and less afraid of the connection. Avery knows what she wants and doesn’t care if she should be freaked out by being attracted to a woman for the first time. I love Avery’s strength and that she doesn’t experience gay panic. It is what it is and why would she deny herself something that feels so right.

Kyla and Avery have an intense chemistry but what I love even more are the moments of calm that they find with each other. They really are each other’s person. The supporting characters are all wonderful and it was great catching up with Jenn and Val. There are a lot of family dynamics is this book and those characters were vital in showing us how Ky and Avery came to be the women they are and how their views of relationships were formed.

Stephanie Shea is such a phenomenal writer. She writes books that have this beautiful, almost poetic cadence while creating characters that are relatable and endearing. When I think I possibly couldn’t love any characters more than Jenn and Val, she brings Avery and Kyla into my life. With every book, I become more of a groupie.  I’m certain if you read this or any of Stephanie’s books, you will agree she has a special talent and is one of the best writers in our community.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.


Chef’s Kiss by Stephanie Shea

Chef's Kiss
Published: 7/2/21

There are times when I question what I was thinking. Why did I wear blue eyeshadow well into the 90’s? Why did I think I was straight when my basketball apparel was way too extensive for a straight girl?  Why has it taken me so long to read a Stephanie Shea book? I have now read Chef’s Kiss and will be reading everything else she writes as soon as possible. I absolutely love this book!

Valentina Rosa De Leon (Val) has just earned a stage job at San Francisco’s trendy restaurant, Gia, after graduating from the culinary institute.  It’s Val’s dream job and the reason she moved from New York to San Fran, for the opportunity to learn from famed chef Jenn Coleman. Val lives with her roommate and best friend Zoe. She is determined to use this opportunity as a springboard to a head chef position in a few years. But she is unprepared for how her heart skips a beat at the sight of her enigmatic new boss.

Jenn Coleman owns two Michelin starred restaurants. She’s a workaholic and a control freak. She has a thirteen year old son, Tommy, with her ex Rachel, who she is still friendly with. Jenn was always a workaholic. Being a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men precipitated some of her workaholic tendencies. After her mother’s death from breast cancer, she further threw herself into her work to keep from dealing with the pain of the loss. Those who work for her call her Chef OCD behind her back and don’t feel like they have a clue who she is because she keeps everyone at arms length. Only her right hand woman, Avery, and head chef Mel are somewhat privy to what lies behind the mask.

Val begins settling into her new position but wants to improve further. She asks Jenn if she can come in early to train even more. Jenn agrees to meet her a few hours early to help her. These meetings allows them a chance to get to know each other better to Jenn’s dismay. She doesn’t want to like the younger woman and she certainly doesn’t want to be attracted to her. Val begins seeing a different side to her boss. Her sharp sense of humor and charming personality while chatting with Val’s parents on the phone and most surprising of all, her vulnerability, when Val happens upon her having a near panic attack in her car after a concerning doctor appointment. Both know that it’s a bad idea but attraction isn’t so easily ignored.

Where to start with my feelings on this book!  It’s safe to say, I’m a bit in love with Jenn. I love a woman who overcomes personal tragedy to not only success in a male dominated industry, but maintains her morals. While many around her see Jenn as an ice queen she’s really put herself in a position where her career defines who she is. She is a control freak, absolutely, but not to the point that she disregards others feelings. Jenn is just a strong woman who runs a tight ship. If she were a man she would be applauded for her strength and leadership. But so many women who demonstrate the same strength are looked down upon. Like pretty much any woman in American politics who runs for any elected position. We can’t appear weak but can’t appear too strong either.

Jenn is wonderful and it takes someone with Val’s sweetness and persistence to break down some of her well cultivated walls. Val has a lot of hero worship in the beginning. Like if I suddenly started working with Cate Blanchett. I would be lead by the pedestal I have her on as a brilliant actress until I kissed her and we moved things into a more equal setting!  😉  It doesn’t take long for Val to see the woman that Jenn really is and have her admiration turn into attraction and then more.

The supporting characters are all fantastic. Avery, who sees what’s happening before anyone else at the restaurant and gives Jenn some unwanted, yet necessary advice. Tommy, Rachel and Zoe and even Val’s parents on video call add so much to the story with their love and insight into these characters.

I love it when I discover an author whose writing seems like she’s written twenty books instead of a few novels and novellas. Stephanie Shea writes like someone who is simply made to write.  Her writing flows beautifully and she paints a picture that I can visualize perfectly in my mind. My only complaint is that I wish Chef’s Kiss for longer because I wanted to spend more time with my girls Jenn and Val. I adore this book and I adore Stephanie Shea as an author. She is one to watch!