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All That Matters Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQN Books; First Thus edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373773137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373773138
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,950,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stef Ann Holm lives in Meridian Idaho, a small suburb of Boise. She has two beautiful daughters, and one space cadet dog who will stare for hours at any food substance. She loves hot summers, sunshine and floating in water--even if it's a plastic pool in her backyard. Visit her website at http://www.stefannholm.com to read more about her fascinating (hah hah) life. Or you can write her the old-fashioned way at P.O. Box 1206, Meridian, ID 83680-1206

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A smile of approval lifted the corners of Chloe Lawson's mouth as she sampled her latest dessert creation. Rich chocolate from a bittersweet royale torte melted sinfully on her tongue. She'd gotten the cream glaze perfect. Not too thick and with just the right hint of cognac.

She loved being in the kitchen, working hands-on with the pastries and cakes she sold.

The sumptuous aromas of confectionaries floated in the oven-warmed air of her trendy bakery, Not Just Cakes. Having only opened five months ago, business had taken off in ways she'd only dreamed of. She sold a variety of desserts to local restaurants, and had been building a wedding-cake clientele with a steady stream of referrals. She'd had to hire extra help to keep up. Her instructions to Jenny and Candace were uttered succinctly and with time-tested methods that worked flawlessly.

"Chloe, do you want me to start frosting the cupcakes with the génoise?" Candace asked, standing at the worktable. Sandy-colored freckles dusted the bridge of her nose, her red hair pulled back into a loose ponytail.

Responding, Chloe said, "Thanks. That would be great."

Jenny filled piping bags with fresh white icing. "We have an order for six dozen of those cupcakes going to the Borah building later this afternoon. It's some official's birthday."

"Make sure we have the exact name, and I want you to put in a party praline as a special treat for them. In fact, when the stores open downtown, run up the street to the card shop and pick out a birthday card we can all sign."

"Sure, Chloe." Jenny set the piping bag down and jotted notes on a pad of paper.

That settled, Chloe refocused her attention on the torte and sampled another bite. Satisfied she'd done a perfect job, she smiled.

Cake-making was an exact process. Everything had to be calculated and balanced. For example, baking was only done in aluminum cookware. The shiny surface of stainless steel became too heat-reflective, causing the sides of the pan to cook the batter faster than the middle, creating a dry finished product.

Not only did Chloe like the intricacies of baking, but she also loved the variety of textures she created: the silkiness of butter creams and rich, thick mousses. Chocolate and vanilla sauces beneath fresh berries. The tart or sweet fruit fillings of a seasonal offering.

Baking drew out a blissful happiness from within her, linking her to the happy times of her adolescence, an otherwise blur in her young adult life. Decorating cakes had been the silver lining in her dark cloud when she turned fifteen, and the crazy-normal world as she knew it turned topsy-turvy.

Her aimless mother, Wanda, chose her boyfriend over Chloe, and left Chloe behind with Ethel Lumm— her mother's mother.

Chloe wouldn't have the confidence she had today without her grandmother's encouragement. Funny how being suspended from school in the ninth grade had been the catalyst for a new direction in her life. With a suggestion so simple, Ethel had been the driving force behind Chloe's change. Developing her skills in the kitchen had been the start of a fresh perspective during her teenage years.

Chloe had taken to being in the kitchen, rolling out her first fondant in junior high and landing first place in the Western Idaho Fair's junior division with a three-tiered rose cake.

Ethel, nothing like Wanda, had a giving heart, plus a savvy mind. She'd offered the encouragement needed to help Chloe figure out her talent. Today, Chloe was a long way away from that confused fifteen-year-old girl. Her baking skills were second to none and Not Just Cakes was proof of her talent. Chloe's future looked very rosy.

Due in large part to Ethel's suggestion, Not Just Cakes had located in the Grove Marketplace where Ethel had her own business. Ethel's Boutique, a clothing store, racked up sales from the full-figured woman who wanted to be stylish. Ethel wanted her customers to feel good about themselves and not to be identified as a plus-sized shopper. So Ethel was fond of saying that even when Oprah was at her largest, she always looked fabulous because she dressed with class. Given that, Ethel's Boutique marketed the clothing for the "voluptuous and sexy" woman.

Behind Chloe, the heat of the oven radiated next to her back. Sunrise hadn't shown its gingered hues yet, and already the kitchen was uncomfortably hot. She kept cooling fans running, but certain glazes and icings dried out as she applied them, so she took care to make sure the room stayed the proper temperature.

Chloe wore her blond hair in a ponytail. Beneath her kitchen whites, she had on a pair of capris and a thin tank top. Neither fit really well. She'd lost weight. Eleven pounds to be exact. It had taken her months to shed the results of too much sampling and not enough exercising. Now, with little time for shopping, she hadn't fully updated her wardrobe to the next size smaller.

Besides, she wasn't one to be overly concerned about fashion, something Ethel could not understand. If she could have, she would have worn rubber flip-flops from the discount store, but practicality, the desire not to smash her toes if she dropped a heavy pan on them, won out. Instead, she'd laced on a pair of white tennis shoes that already had fallen victim to pink coloring paste.

It was just another day as she began to decorate a cake.

The phone rang and Chloe's hand faltered just a little as she squeezed the piping bag to finish the reverse shell border. Her pulse skipped and she swallowed. The other bakers wouldn't have seen much of a change in her, if anything. But she felt her face flush from a momentary rush of heat.

Just as suddenly as it started, the phone stopped ringing.

Chloe glanced at the clock. 4:48 a.m.

The phone rang once more, startling her.

Setting the piping bag next to her cake turntable, Chloe ran her hands down the sides of her white smock, instead of using the damp cloth for this very purpose.

She grabbed the phone and, in almost an accusatory voice, she answered, "Hello!"

As had been the case from previous calls, nobody spoke into the receiver.

Chloe had had about enough of this. She had caller ID on her bakery phone, but the calls came in as "unknown." Originally, she'd assumed it was only a wrong number, or possibly a high-school prank at this odd hour. She no longer thought that.

An aching curl pooled in her belly, low and tight. She felt sick, as if she'd sampled too much frosting.

"Hello?" she said once more.

Nothing.

Finally, she dared to breathe into the receiver, "Bobby-Tom? I swear, if it's you—"

The line clicked dead and Chloe hung up with a twist of anger knitting her brows.

Attempting to compose herself, she didn't acknowledge either helper. But in her peripheral vision, she saw the women exchanging raised eyebrows. Chloe wouldn't make a big deal about this in case the girls thought there could be something sinister about the call. But she knew the truth. This was the sixth time in five days that someone had called her and hung up without saying a word.

And not just at the bakery. Last night, she'd answered her home phone and had had the same experience. This couldn't be a random incident. Someone knew who she was, but even more frightening, where she lived.

Looking through her reflection in the kitchen's row of narrow windows, all Chloe could see in the alleyway was the predawn gray, and the mellow light of a lamp illuminating the cook's entrance at the back of the Mexican restaurant.

There's nobody out there.

She blinked and her reflection came back into her view. Her appearance seemed unpolished this morning. Usually her ponytail didn't have a single strand out of place. Today, pale wisps framed her face, bracketing its oval shape. Her eyes looked a darker blue, almost a violet shade. The shape of her mouth didn't seem as wide, rather more narrow as she caught herself biting her lower lip again in thoughtful contemplation. She stopped the bad habit, reminding herself that she shouldn't worry.

The only person who'd pull a crappy stunt like this was Bobby-Tom Drake and she wanted to forget her ex-husband existed.

Bobby-Tom had called a handful of times since their divorce, all jacked up on liquor and blithering on about, "Baby, I made a big mistake letting you go." He didn't get drunk on a regular basis but, when he did, he spilled his guts like a roadkill rattlesnake.

He'd been making babies with his new wife since the day he married her, and the whole thought of his fertile procreation caused Chloe to wince as if she'd sliced her finger with a serrated blade.

Chloe had always been attracted to the bad-boy types, thanks to her mother's guiding light. When Wanda Lawson left, the seed had been planted in Chloe that a broken man is better than a good one, because a woman can fix a broken man and make him good if she loves him enough.

Yeah, right. Only if she can have six kids in just about as many years.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment to keep the unexpected sting at bay, Chloe remembered the day she'd first met Bobby-Tom out at the Firebird Raceway in Emmett. The racetrack was known for hard-partying boys who drove fast and liked their women thin and pretty. Bobby-Tom had been in between girlfriends and Chloe slid right in to take up the empty spot. Good old Bobby-Tom oozed more charm than a box of magically delicious cereal.

He had a swagger to his gait that showed off the leanness of his butt in his 501 Levi's. Just about perfect in every way, except he smoked a pack of Marlboros a day. She disliked the tobacco scent that clung to his shirts and skin, but forgot all about that the second he flashed her a straight white grin. He called her "baby" from the start because she looked younger than twenty-one, and it stuck for the nine years they'd been married.

"Baby, bring me another cold one."

"Baby, you sure look pretty today."

"Baby, let's go out and shoot some pool tonight."

"Baby, Bobby-Tom needs some loving."

Nine years was a long time for baby-calling. Long enough for her to try every fertility treatment known to man to try and have...


More About the Author

Stef Ann Holm is a two time RITA finalist, and a USA Today best-selling author of twenty-three novels. Her novella in a Christmas anthology collection appeared on the New York Times best-seller list. She's been the recipient of the Reviewer's International Organization Award of Excellence for Best Contemporary Romance, a National Reader's Choice Finalist in the Historical category, Romantic Times Book Reviews nominee for Career Achievement, Winner of the Romantic Times Book Reviews Storyteller of the Year award, three time winner of the Emerald City Keeper Award and Amazon.com's # 3 Top Pick for Best Romance of the Year in 2002.

She lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, extended family and her squirrel-crazy Yorkshire, Cocoa Puff.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L. Burns VINE VOICE on January 7, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Chloe is 40, divorced, and pouring all her time and energy into making a go of her small bakery in Boise, Idaho. John is a successful attorney who helps her when a large grocery chain threatens to put her out of business. Despite their mutual attraction Chloe is not anxious to get seriously involved and John, a widower, struggles with juggling his responsibilities as a single dad to his teen-age children. This is a pleasant contemporary romance with "mature" characters who struggle with real mid-life dating issues. Not a lot of sizzle; you'll be disapointed if you're looking for a "hot" romance. If you liked "Lucy Gets Her Life Back" or "Leaving Normal" by the same author you'll probably enjoy this one also.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By cb VINE VOICE on November 11, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I like this story picked it p for my vacation. Chloe owns a bakery and John ends up helping her with some legal issues. Chloe is almost 40 and John has teenage children - so this is a mature love story. It was sweet and you can't beat the price. I would also suggest All the Right Angles (Francesca Moretti story).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Judy on November 9, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
All That Matters by Stef Ann Holm is another heart warming tale of family and finding that special someone.

Baker Chloe Lawson has built a successful business in the Grove Marketplace. When not only her plans to expand are shot down, her lease is soon to be terminated. Seems a mega chain grocery is moving into the Grove. Chloe is not going to go down without a fight.

Attorney John Moretti is having some problems of his own. Since his wife died several years ago he has had trouble connecting with his teenage children. He is not sure at first if he has the time to take on a new client as a favor to his brother. But Chloe strikes a chord in him that
he hasn't felt in a long time.

John agrees to try to help Chloe save her business, They both knew it would be an uphill battle. Spending time together turns client and lawyer into more then friends.

Stef Ann Holm's All That Matters will make you believe in love again. Chloe and John's story is deeply moving and sensual. Their story grows and evolves as a true romance should. The secondary characters at another layer of feelings to enjoy. Ms. Holm's books are a must buy for me.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on November 4, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In Boise Not Just Cakes bakery owner Chloe Lawson feels her five month old business is making it. Not only are the local restaurants buying her confectionaries, she hired two helpers since business is booming. She owes it all to her maternal grandma Ethel Lumm, who raised her and encouraged her. Her bakery is next to Ethel's Boutique in the Grove Marketplace. Her only major mistake as an adult was marrying crappy Bobby-Tom Drake, whom she divorced though he still stalks her when he is drunk.

However she is shocked when the leasing company informs her they are terminating her lease so that the Garretson grocery chain can take over the marketplace. One of her best customers Robert Moretti owner of Pomodoro Italian Restaurant asks his widow brother lawyer John to represent her. He agrees unaware that his firm represents Garretson. When they meet, both are stunned by the attraction as he has not enjoyed steeping out since his wife died in three years and she still is scarred by her failed marriage. Adding to the negatives is his two teen children who have not adjusted to life without mom.

This is an entertaining contemporary romance with a touch of suspense that enhances the basic story line. All the key players seem genuine with flaws and doubts; especially the lead couple. Fans will enjoy this fine second chance at love tale.

Harriet Klausner
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