Spotlight & Giveaway: Effie Olsen’s Summer Special by Rochelle Bilow

Posted May 23rd, 2024 by in Blog, Spotlight / 19 comments

Today, HJ is pleased to share with you Rochelle Bilow’s new release: Effie Olsen’s Summer Special




These childhood best friends swore they’d never speak again. But that was before a surprise summer reunion gives them a chance to turn up the heat.

Effie Olsen thought she’d never settle down on the tiny Maine island where she grew up, but she’s returning from a whirlwind sixteen years as a professional chef in far-flung countries for one summer and one summer only. Her hometown boasts one of the best restaurants in the US, and lucky for her, Brown Butter needs a sous chef. Effie is eager for a chance at redemption after her last job went up in flames, but reluctant to set down roots in a place that reminds her of the ghosts of her past.

Until, that is, she runs into Ernie Callahan, her onetime best friend who now works in the very same restaurant. Early morning swims and late-night games of truth or dare with Ernie remind her of what she’s been missing while traveling the world. He knows her better than anyone, and it doesn’t hurt that his smile lights her up brighter than the lighthouses dotting the craggy coastline.

But Brown Butter has a secret that’s bursting at the seams, and if Effie doesn’t keep it, her job will vanish into the foggy Maine air. As summer draws to a close, she realizes a second chance at her dream job and the perfect guy are both within reach. The salty seaside town of Alder Isle is the key to Effie’s sweet ending…. All she has to do now is learn to let her heart lead the way.


Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Effie Olsen’s Summer Special 

Until this stupidly sunny morning in early June, Effie had never given much weight to the phrase “Walk of Shame.” But here she was, literally scuffling home at sunrise. She turned her head toward the harbor as she passed The Gull’s Perch. It was open early, serving breakfast for the lobstermen. Effie was sure Gertie was still cooking up pancakes and bacon. She was hungry, but didn’t want to run into the first employer she’d ever had. Not like this.
Back on Haven Street, Effie slipped in the back door. Her dad never locked it when she was growing up, and he apparently didn’t now. On an island with 1,500 people, “Why bother?” he’d said. She tiptoed up the stairs, skipping the creaky one at the top. She willed him to stay asleep as she slipped past the primary bedroom into her own, thankful for the rug that muffled her footsteps. It was a dance she’d done dozens of times as a teenager, sneaking in late. She snuck not because she would’ve gotten in trouble. She didn’t have a curfew, and her dad had never once grounded her. She snuck because waking him up meant suffering through an hour of chitchat and a mug of his overly bitter, very yellow turmeric tea.
She collapsed onto the navy blue papasan chair and screwed up her face. Deep inhale. Bigger exhale. She let out an effortful howl, like a feral kitten, but no tears came. Effie wasn’t a crier. She didn’t cry when her parents divorced and her mom left for good. Effie had been fourteen and angry; her sister, four years old and confused. Effie didn’t cry when, on graduation night, her best friend Ernie told her to forget he ever existed. She didn’t cry during any of the hundreds of times her male coworkers and bosses berated her during dinner service.
Effie didn’t cry when, three weeks ago, she was fired from her job as the head chef at Cowboy Bean, one of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco. In California. In the whole country.
Effie didn’t cry because if she cried, she felt weak, and her entire career had been one long test of her strength. She wasn’t weak. She sat up straighter which, irritatingly, was difficult to do in a papasan chair. She slowed her breathing enough to calm her mind.
She let her eyes wander over the bookshelves, past the collection of cookbooks and onto the stack of yearbooks. Magnetically drawn to the one with the year 2007 embossed on the spine, she pulled it from the stack and let it fall open on her lap. Her senior year. The book had landed on a page of extracurricular photos, and she smiled before realizing she was doing it. There was a shot of track practice; of Ernie and her and some other kids, Olive and Luke. Effie remembered teaching Olive how to clear hurdles without losing any speed. In the picture, she had her hand on Ernie’s shoulder and was stretching her quad. They both looked so young. She flipped to the senior portraits and found Ernie’s. She shook her head, her hair shimmering down around her shoulders. How could I have not seen it?
She slammed the yearbook shut, sixteen-year-old wounds stinging as sharply as though they’d been doused with an ocean’s worth of salt. When she was a kid, her friendship with Ernie had been the only thing on the island that didn’t feel awkward and tight; the only thing that felt remotely like home. And now they were strangers. But it wasn’t her fault, what happened on graduation night.
She re-shelved the yearbook, and her mind fast-forwarded a few weeks from now. She pictured her future self at the restaurant pass, inspecting each plate of risotto or striped bass or roasted chicken before it went out to customers in the dining room. Garnishing each one with torn basil leaves and snipped chives. Adding a crack of black pepper. Making it look perfect. Keeping her mind on the food; not getting involved in restaurant drama. Not letting her emotions get in the way. She pictured herself a few months from now, with enough money saved up to move somewhere new. Maybe somewhere in Scandinavia this time. She could vibe with a menu full of tiny tree roots and pickled moss, or at least she could pretend to. The important thing was to keep moving. She imagined herself brave enough to take on another head chef role. It was the title she’d been working toward her whole career. Too bad her first shot at it had turned into such a disaster.
She pictured herself far away from Alder Isle, with a second chance at the top job. She pictured herself happy.
It would happen. She could make it. All she had to do until then was keep her head on straight, do her job for three months, squirrel away those paychecks, and not get distracted. Nobody and nothing, especially not some tiny island, was going to keep Effie down.
However. That new job didn’t start until tomorrow, and right now what Effie needed was exercise. Restaurant workers had a reputation for living the hard and fast life—late nights; greasy, salty food at 3 A.M.; cocaine and hard liquor—but Effie was part of a smaller faction who fought against that stereotype (last night being a regrettable, if rare, exception). There was no room for that sort of thing if you wanted to rise through the ranks. Rule breakers weren’t disciplined enough to stick around the cut-throat, perfection-required environment of a restaurant. She’d learned that fast, and now she lived a rigid and regimented life, in and out of the kitchen. Effie thrived on rules. Rules about relationships (don’t get too close to anyone, ever) and rules about routines (stick to them).
It hadn’t always been that way. When she was younger, Effie had been wild and free, spontaneous, and chaotic; the type of kid who would accidentally put on two mismatched socks and forget to comb her hair for three days. The type of kid who yelled too loud when she got excited, laughed at everything, and spoke without thinking. She’d been a handful; that was the word she regularly heard her mother use. And look how that had worked out. Nobody wanted a handful. So slowly, she changed. When she was at work, Effie tried to make herself small and neat and tidy and helpful.
Rules made her feel safe.
Routines helped her feel calm.
It was almost funny how, after less than twenty-four hours back on Alder Isle, she was leaping before she looked—or thought about the consequences.
Almost funny.
She brushed her teeth and splashed water on her face, then took the stairs two at a time, down to the yard to retrieve the red Schwinn that was glossier and sleeker than any decades-old bike had the right to be. She shoved her towel into a tote bag and heaved it up over her shoulder. She swung one leg over the bike, then pedaled away from town. She had decided to do what teenager-Effie would’ve done after a hard night. She’d go for a swim.

Excerpted from Effie Olsen’s Summer Special by Rochelle Bilow Copyright © 2024 by Rochelle Bilow. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Excerpt. ©Rochelle Bilow. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Giveaway: 1 Finished copy of EFFIE OLSEN’S SUMMER SPECIAL (U.S. Only, 18+)


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Meet the Author:

Rochelle Bilow is a food and romance writer who previously worked as the social media manager at Bon Appétit and Cooking Light magazines. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute, she has also worked as a line cook, a baker, and a wine spokesperson. Her first book, The Call of the Farm, a swoony farming memoir, was published in 2014. Raised in Syracuse, New York, Rochelle now lives in northern Vermont.

19 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Effie Olsen’s Summer Special by Rochelle Bilow”

  1. Patrica Barraclough

    It is obvious from the excerpt that Ms Bilow is most familiar with the restaurant scene and just how difficult it is to be successful in the business. It gives us a good peek at who Effie is.

  2. psu1493

    I enjoyed reading about Effie and look forward to learning more about her.