Spotlight on Salty, Bitter, Sweet (Mayra Cuevas), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to spotlight Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas.
Read on for more about Mayra and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Mayra Cuevas!
Mayra’s YA contemporary #OwnVoices debut SALTY, BITTER, SWEET hits shelves on March 2020. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mayra is a professional journalist and fiction writer who prefers love stories with a happy ending. Her debut fiction short story was selected by best-selling author Becky Albertalli to appear in the Foreshadow YA serial anthology in 2019. She is currently a special projects producer for CNN. She keeps her sanity by practicing Buddhist meditation and serving on the Board of Directors of Kadampa Meditation Center Georgia. She lives with her husband, also a CNN journalist, and their cat, in the charming town of Norcross, Georgia. She is also the step-mom to two amazing young men who provide plenty of inspiration for her stories. Her claim to fame came as she and her husband appeared in Season 2 of Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers. Follow her journey on Twitter @MayraECuevas, on Instagram @Mayra.Cuevas and her website MayraCuevas.com.
Meet Salty, Bitter, Sweet!
“Happiness, like love, arrives through the kitchen. At least that’s what my abuela Lala used to say. I may not know much about love, but I definitely got the kitchen part down.”
Seventeen-year-old aspiring chef Isabella Fields’ family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and his new wife in France, where Isabella feels like an outsider in her father’s new life, studiously avoiding the awkward, “Why did you cheat on Mom?” conversation.
The upside of Isabella’s world being turned upside down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigious and competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isabella, who is desperate to get her life back in order.
But how can Isabella expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and a mysterious new guy and his albino dog fall into her life?
~ Excerpt ~
Fruits, Vegetables, and a Motorcycle Guy
A dozen market vendors cram the town square in what feels like a small gastronomic festival. Baskets of fresh produce gleam on the tables alongside huge slabs of various meats, crusty loaves of bread, and bunches of lavender gathered from the fields of Provence.
It’s heaven. But today St. Peter let in some idiot who is zipping down the street in an old motorcycle with a sidecar. The roaring and crackling of the engine has no place among the sounds of voices and footsteps around me.
The bike turns at the end of the street and heads back in my direction. It’s not the rider who catches my eye but the white bulldog wearing aviator glasses who sits in the sidecar. His tongue flaps all over his face, making him look like he’s smiling.
I snicker in spite myself. Then I turn to give my undivided attention to the vegetables at hand.
Earth and damp saturate my sense of smell as I hold a porcini mushroom near my nose. I press its rubbery surface with my thumb, gently pushing down—checking for the right amount of bounce.
“It’s all the same!” Monsieur Barthélemy waves his arms in the air. “Pick one already. We’re both getting old here.” His French accent is so pronounced that when he spits, he sounds like he’s singing. He turns around to help another customer, but I hear him mumble something about the fille américaine—that’s what he calls me.
I’ve asked him to talk to me only in French so I can practice, but after a misunderstanding over a box of zucchini, he’s been pushing his English on me. I never knew my French was so bad until I came here. Even though Mom and I always spoke French around the house and I took classes in school, I’m not a native speaker. It makes me wonder if Lala lied to me about my Spanish too . . .
Sadly, my first language is English, where a champignon is just a mushroom. I add three more champignons to my basket and move to the tomatoes. These will take a while.
I dig around for a deep-colored tomato, firm but with a little give. As with the mushrooms, I bring them to my nose and sniff, this time searching for a sweet, woody smell.
For an instant, I’m transported to Lala’s kitchen and the herbal smell of her sofrito simmering as part of some guisado. A symphony of garlic, onions, and peppers play among the pots and pans, and I find myself longing for her arms tying an apron around my waist.
I was born to be a culinary artist. But the universe, with its messed-up sense of humor, thought it would be hilarious to give me a French grandma on my Mom’s side who would rather starve than cook her own dinner. And a Cuban abuela who knew nothing of classic French technique but who habitually grew (and killed) her own food.
A loud pop brings me back to the market. The black motorcycle parks across the street from Monsieur Barthélemy’s stand and the rider dismounts. I watch him check the exhaust pipe, which is making all kinds of crackling noises even though the motor has stopped running. That thing belongs in a museum. The rider then sets a bowl by the bike and pours a bottle of water into it. He unloads the dog and ties him next to the bike so he can drink.
At this exact moment, I should turn around to mind my own business. But no, instead I stand there in a daze as the rider takes off his helmet, his riding glasses, and his jacket to unveil the definition of crazy hot.
I drop the tomato.
This guy could melt the icing off a cake with one look. If his lips were fruit, they would be juicy pink plums. The kind you want to sink your teeth into.
I quickly bend down to pick the produce up before Monsieur Barthélemy chastises me for disrespecting his fruit. Motorcycle Guy leaves his white dog tied to the bike and swaggers to Monsieur Barthélemy’s booth. He grabs an orange and tosses it into the air like a ball.
That’s when he starts to lose me. If Monsieur Barthélemy and I agree on one thing, it’s that fruit shouldn’t be disrespected in that way. I don’t care how hot he is.
I go back to my search for the perfect tomato but find myself squeezing them a little too hard.
“A lot of people think tomatoes are vegetables, but they’re actually fruit,” someone says in broken French. My head turns to find Motorcycle Guy next to me, cleaning an apple against his shirt. I realize he is talking to me. “It’s because of the seeds,” he explains, biting into the skin.
I stare at his face for a moment—something about the way his eyebrows bunch up over his dark eyes makes it hard to look away. But then he opens his mouth again. “That one is no good,” he says, eyeing the tomato in my hand.
It takes me all of two seconds to decide this guy’s cockiness greatly outweighs his looks.
I ignore him and drop the tomato into my basket. I step aside and toss three different-colored peppers in as well. I don’t even smell them first. I check off my list and get ready to pay.
“Monsieur Barthélemy, s’il vous plaît,” I say, keeping my eyes on the old man.
“Oh, record time. Only one hour to pick. Only le best for ma fille américaine.”
I ignore his sarcasm. If he didn’t have the best vegetable and fruit stand in the whole market, I wouldn’t bother with him at all. He looks over my basket and adds the amount in his head. “Ten euros,” he declares from behind his stand. My hand digs through my purse, trying to find the right bill, though Monsieur Barthélemy has moved on to Motorcycle Guy, who is carrying a bag of fruit and an oversized bunch of flowers. “They’re for my mom,” he says—this time speaking English with an accent that reminds me of Lala’s singsong-y intonation. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s Spanish.
“I’m visiting for the summer,” he offers.
I nod but don’t say anything. I’m not sure what else I can do to make it clear I’m not interested. This guy reminds me of a flambé gone bad. A little too much alcohol in the pan, a flame that’s too hot and too high, and you can kiss your eyebrows goodbye.
“Are you American?” He cocks his head to the side and smiles.
“Um-hum.” I hold out the ten euro bill for Monsieur Barthélemy, but he gets called away by a woman confused about the weight of a melon.
“Are you here for the summer?” he asks.
Motorcycle Guy steps in closer and leans his shoulder against one of the wooden beams that hold up the stand. I roll my eyes, not that it likely makes a difference.
“I’ll be around all summer and have absolutely nothing to do,” he says, then licks his lower lip. The confidence in his voice leaves no doubt this guy is used to getting his way. I bet where he’s from, girls swoon over his flawless olive skin, broad shoulders, and the toned chest he’s probably hiding under that tight black T-shirt. But his arrogance makes me want to hit him over the head with a cast iron pan.
I’m not one of those swoony girls. And I’m definitely not a fan of the Rico Suave type.
“Right . . .” I say, searching for Monsieur Barthélemy over the boy’s shoulder. He is still dealing with the melon drama.
“I know a great cherry field down the road.” He plucks a cherry from one of the baskets, then casually places it in my hand. I’m too stunned by the exchange to pull away, so the ripe cherry sits on my open palm like a foreign object.
“I can take you there, if you wish. You can pick as many as you want.”
“Wow,” I scoff. “Sure. I would love to disappear into a backwoods field with a complete stranger . . .” To do who knows what. I look over his shoulder again, waving the bill at Monsieur Barthélemy to catch his attention. “That sounds amazing. Every girl’s dream.”
“Huh?” He frowns as if he could somehow read my lewd thoughts.
“Okay . . . I’m leaving now.” I push past him and drop the cherry back inside the display basket.
Monsieur Barthélemy is waving both arms in the air, emphatically defending the weight of his melons. I leave the ten euro note on the counter and walk away.
Sugar, butter, and flour are still on my list. And I may have to stop at the little baking supply shop that had some pretty cake pans in their window display.
I drop my things inside the basket of my bike, then swing my leg over the seat and put my foot on the pedal. I don’t intend to look back, but I do. Motorcycle Guy is standing on the street, leering in my direction and biting into his apple.
I make myself turn back around and push down hard on the pedals.
What a jerk. If I never see him again, it’ll be too soon.
*Published with permission from HarperCollins/Blink.
Salty, Bitter, Sweet
By: Mayra Cuevas
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
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What an eye-catching cover with a beautiful illustration. The synopsis is very unique, and I bet the story will be full of mouth-watering descriptions.