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About the author:
Joslyn Westbrook has been creating stories since grade school. Her passion for writing often led to teachers and college professors reading her stories to the class, showcasing her creativity. Putting her writing on hold, Joslyn pursued a career as a Business Consultant as she raised her two children. While she enjoyed working with business owners, she craved what she believed was her true calling – writing. During her free time, Joslyn began writing her romance novel and series of chick-lit style novellas to curb her passion for writing. Her work as a Business Consultant has spawned the concept of several characters featured in her books. Joslyn is a self-proclaimed foodie, enjoys shopping, cooking, binge watching on Netflix, and spending time with her husband and children at home in sunny California.
What inspired you to write your book?
I am a lover of food and romance, so I decided to write a sexy chick lit style novel that captures the essence of food and romance from the perspective of a feisty food critic.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The Fifty-Two Week Chronicles
I fucking hate Mondays. And yes, I do realize most people on planet Earth also hates Mondays. But not as much as I do. No, most hate this day of the week because it means their bombastic weekend is over; or it signifies the inevitable commencement of an appalling work week; or some hate it because they party too damn much each weekend and subsequently battle a brutal Monday hangover. But as for me, my hatred for Monday far exceeds any one of those prissy explanations. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has happened on a Monday. And I mean everything.
Case in point: a chronological list of every bad event in my life that has occurred on a Monday:
1. Susie Q, my pet hamster, choked on a marble and died.
2. While roller skating, I fell after tripping on a bump in the sidewalk and broke my ankle.
3. My period started – at school. I was wearing a white mini skirt.
4. Michael Zane, the hottest guy in school, dumped me in front of everyone inside the lunchroom cafeteria.
5. During a talent show competition, I slipped on stage and chipped a tooth.
6. After much consideration, I ditched school for the first time – and got caught.
7. Received my first speeding ticket (but the cute officer asked me out on a date which nullified the experience ).
8. I failed my first writing course in college – and my major was Journalism.
9. My heart was shattered by a cheating boyfriend.
10. I got fired.
To make matters worse, #9 and #10 just so happened to occur on the same Monday. Which, by the way, is today. What are the fucking odds of that happening?
Perhaps the odds increased because the heartbreaking cheating ass boyfriend is also my boss. Correction. He was my boss. You see Mr. Jerkboy, thought it was his civil duty to fire me after I caught him screwing the crap out of his big breasted, toothpick waisted, grossly dimwitted, editorial assistant.
In MY office.
How the hell could he do this to me? To US?
The two of us met two years ago. It was my last year in college. Back then, I had applied to countless newspapers for an internship. All of them turned me down; probably because of my low GPA. But please don’t judge me; NYU was a considerably arduous university. I majored in Journalism with a minor in Food Studies. Growing up, my mom and dad were sergeants in the US Air Force. We traveled all over and I was the world-class epitome of a military brat. Our travels led to my obsession with food–not a manic type of an obsession. I mean the type of an obsession that makes a person appreciate the art of fine cuisine. And not only did I love eating food, I also loved writing about it. When most girls were writing “dear diary” entries about boy crushes, bitchy classmates, or evil parents, I was writing diary entries about how exceptional or how horrific a meal was. Naturally, when I got accepted into NYU, I chose a major that would lead me to a career in writing–Journalism, and a minor that would suggest I am well versed in the subject matter of food–Food Studies. I dreamed of one day becoming a food critic; but not any food critic. I dreamed of becoming a notably acclaimed food critic, known only by name. Michelin Star chefs would eagerly read reviews written by me – Penelope Monroe – in hopes they’d still be able to keep their well-merited star rating.
Many newspapers weren’t ready to take on a new writer, let alone a new writer with a passion for food. However, as luck would have it, during a random online search one Saturday night, I came across the following:
The Hudson News Bee is looking for a college intern or recent college graduate who will work with our lead food critic and other food writers to craft our restaurant and food coverage for both online and print platforms. Candidates should be knowledgeable and passionate about food, write and report well, and be very organized. This is full-time staff position with benefits. Applicants should email a resume, cover letter, and samples of their own food writing to [email protected]
It was as if me and that job opening had been majestically betrothed. Without hesitation, I made all of the required submissions; resume, cover letter, and a sample of food writing straight out of my own diary. I waited on pins and needles for some type of a reply.
And then it came.
Exactly four days later.
I had just returned from an early morning kick-me-hard-in-the-ass yoga class in Central Park, comfortably lounging on the hardwood living room floor of the Harlem loft apartment my BFF Sebastian and I moved into earlier that Spring. It was the first July in three years in which I was not enrolled in any NYU classes. My only assignment over the summer was to score an internship with a newspaper or a magazine. I had just about given up on The Hudson News Bee but just so happened to scroll through a barrage of emails on my iPad when I saw it.
An email from the editor.
From: HNB Food Editor
To: Penelope Monroe
Subject: Your Submission
Dear Penelope Monroe,
Thank you for your recent submission for the open position. I am highly impressed with your writing, as you demonstrate a high regard and passion for food. I would like to set up an in-person interview with you, Friday, 9am. Please bring with you, a written review of a restaurant in SoHo called Cristofano Woods. It’s extremely difficult to get a table there, but if you can pull this off, you’ll walk into Friday’s interview ahead of other candidates. Consider this your first assignment. Good Luck.
I nearly pissed my yoga pants twice after reading that email.
Interview in two days? Yay!
Cristofano Woods? Holy shit.
I mean, I had heard of Cristofano Woods. Who hadn’t? It was a trendy new restaurant in SoHo that everyone had been talking about. Sebastian and I had talked about dining there for months, but couldn’t make time in between my classes and his demanding job as a Public Relations Coordinator for Manifique, a thriving PR Firm. Plus, just as the editor mentioned in the email, getting a table at Cristofano Woods was near to impossible. I began to slightly freak out and remember thinking how the hell can I pull this off?
Instinctively, I dialed Sebastian’s cell phone. He always seemed to have answers when I was in distress. The two of us had been best friends since our first year at NYU. I remember our phone conversation as if it occurred just yesterday.
“Hello sexy,” Sebastian said when he answered my call. “What’s up?”
“You’ll never guess what I’m calling about.” I was sure the unconcealed excitement in my voice gave it away.
“Um….spare me the guessing games, sweetie. I’ve got a meeting in ten minutes and I’d like to make a quick run to the little boys’ room. I’ve gotta check out my threads. Demetrio Marks, the super delicious model, is sure to make an appearance. You know first hand how much I’ve been crushing on his gorgeousness,” he said.
You see, when the two of us met during our first year at NYU, Sebastian had just come out to all of his friends and family. However, when I first met him I knew straight away he was gay and I was totally fine with it. Every woman needs a gay best friend. It’s like an unwritten rite of passage.
“Alrighty then,” I said. “I promise not to hold you up. So,” I took in a calming deep breath, “I totally scored an interview this Friday with The Hudson News Bee!” I screamed as I did a happy dance all over the living room floor.
“Shut the fuck up! That’s so freaking awesome!” he paused. “Wait. Why do I feel like a scathing ass caveat is about to be totally tossed my way right now?”
“You’re so psychic,” I laughed. “The scathing caveat, as you put it, is that I will need to dine at a restaurant and write a review about my experience.”
“Piece of cake; you’ve got a ton of those in your diary alone.” Sebastian said.
“Well,” I said, my voice raised an octave, “it’s not that easy. I’m to write a review about Cristofano Woods. Getting a table there is impossible.”
Saying it aloud made the reality far more gut wrenching causing all of the excitement I had stored up to quickly deflate. I remember crashing back down onto the hardwood floor with a sick feeling in my stomach.
“Wait. Hold the freaking phone. Did you just say Cristofano Woods?” Sebastian asked with a hint of excitement in his voice.
“Yes,” I said wondering why he seemed so excited when I felt like shit.
“Baby girl, you must have the best fucking luck in the world,” he let out a muffled scream. “We just signed them as a client two weeks ago!”
“You did what?” I said in disbelief. “And wait. Why haven’t you told me? You know I’ve been so wanting to go there since it opened.”
“I was planning to take you there in two weeks for your birthday….you know, a sur-prize.” He said sounding like a circa-1980s valley girl.
I sat up feeling instantly cured.
“Anyway,” Sebastian continued, “When we signed them on as a client, I got a hold of two guest passes. We can totally go tonight if you want.”
“Of course I want! What time shall I be ready?” I felt like I had just been awarded a grandiose prize from Publishers Clearing House.
“I’ll pick you up at 7,” he said. “And wear your black Kate Spade dress and leopard pumps,” he added before ending the call.
A little after 8pm that night, a taxi dropped me and Sebastian off in front of Cristofano Woods. Even though it was Wednesday, the place was still poppin like a popular nightclub. Eager patrons formed a line that wrapped clear around the block. I can’t begin to tell you the excitement that poured out of me – I mean, I was about to indulge in one of the hottest new restaurants in New York.
Sebastian led the way toward the entrance doors that were manned by two male greeters. People in line glared at us as we made our way to the front.
“Um, the line ends all of the way back there buddy,” one greeter told Sebastian looking him up and down.
“Right, thanks for the info buddy,” Sebastian sarcastically tossed right back. He reached into the interior pocket of his sleek leather jacket and produced a wicked smirk before pulling out the guest passes. “Do these mean anything?”
The greeter glanced at the passes and said, “Yes, of course. Go inside and show those to the hostess, who will gladly seat you.”
Once inside, I immediately switched from excited newbie to full on food critic. I mean I had to, in order to be sure I could write an objectively infused, knock-it-the-hell-out-of-the-park, review for the interview. Sebastian and I spent at least 2 hours there that night indulging in the essence of the restaurant’s unforgettable uniqueness.
Once back home, I stayed up half the night writing and then rewriting what turned out to be–in my opinion–the best fucking wanna-be restaurant review ever.
The day before the interview I shopped for an outfit that screamed ‘I am a food critic for a newspaper’, after Sebastian lent his fashion expertise.
“This is what you need to look like when you walk into that interview tomorrow,” he said as he sipped on a homemade green tea latte. He handed me a page torn out of the latest issue of Vogue London.
“This?” I said feeling somewhat challenged.
“Yep. Don’t fight it, sweetie. Trust me. And the model even has your body type and hair style. I’m thinking the outfit alone will get you the job.”
I rolled my eyes in protest. “Great, I’ll be sure to walk through the doors of the Hudson News Bee fully prepared to call attention to my outfit and leave the review I spent hours crafting crumpled up in a pitiful ball in the trash bin.”
“Put that sarcasm to rest my dear,” he said shaking his head in disagreement while sipping his gourmet style tea latte.
Sebastian had always been about fashion, often dressing better than anyone I had ever known. But he was right about the model. Like me, she was tall, with a slim build, a tiny waist, an ample bosom with long and wavy reddish-brown hair. She looked fashionably chic in a modern suit that consisted of straight legged cropped pants, a crisp white button down blouse that was left tastefully untucked, a matching blazer that seemed to seductively hug her upper body curves, and Penny Loafer style shoes that added a twist of old-school elegance.
Admittedly, she looked pretty impressive. But I personally hated everything about suits.
“Sebastian I’m not too sure about – ”
“Hush now,” Sebastian interrupted holding his hand up as if he were dismissing a defiant teenager. “You know I totally know my shit. Now hop on the train and take your cynical butt to the East Village. There is an adorable boutique called Diamonattos. When you walk in, ask for Tonya and be sure to tell her I sent you. Show her that outfit,” he said pointing to the magazine page, “She’ll hook you up. And she better do it for free,” he paused and took one last sip of his green tea latte, “cause the bitch owes me a favor.”
Then it finally came.
The day of the interview.
I was as nervous as a Black Angus cow at a beef factory. I drank at least five cups of coffee which only intensified the edge more profoundly. I seriously considered taking a shot of tequila but remembered I had sworn off hard liquor after some heavy drinking during my freshman year.
Stylishly equipped with a black leather attache case that protectively held my written review, and smartly dressed in the outfit Sebastian swore would get me the job, I walked into the official headquarters of The Hudson News Bee 15 mins early. The jittery effects of the caffeine I had consumed earlier had since passed and I felt relatively calm and collected.
I was greeted by an awfully chipper receptionist who directed me to a waiting room before mentioning someone would be with me soon.
The waiting room was small but had an upbeat appeal with red walls artistically embelished by black and white framed newspaper articles. There were two black sofas and a round glass coffee table that held copies of Time Magazine and The New Yorker. I was just about to settle down on one of the sofas when a tall thin man walked into the room.
“Penelope Monroe?” he asked.
“Um, yes.” I confirmed.
He approached me and gestured for a hand shake, “Garrett Harrison, food editor for The Bee. ” He smiled.
Meet Garret Harrison – aka – Mr. Jerkboy, as in the one and only cheating ass ex-boyfriend. Anyway, allow me to continue….
His smile was extremely infectious, putting me immediately at ease. Not to mention his stellar appearance. He was absolutely gorgeous.
“Pleasure to meet you,” I said as I shook his hand. He smelled of Calvin Klein cologne and was dressed extremely casual in Levis, a blue-and-white striped oxford shirt, and white Vans. I took note of his dark brown eyes as they were somewhat mesmerizing. His short curly hair was a dirty-blond tone, making him resemble what I envisioned to be the California surfer type, yet his strong New York accent proved otherwise.
“Great, shall we take this to my office?” he asked and motioned for me to follow him. “I’m eager to begin the interview. You’re the last candidate,” he said as he led me through a room of busy office cubicles.
Once in his office, he invited me to take a seat in one of the two chairs in front of his large mahogany colored desk where papers and files were haphazardly scattered.
I took a seat, keeping a tight grip on my attache case that I laid atop my lap. Nerves had definitely crept in.
“So,” he began as he slowly rocked back and forth in his squeaky, ergonomically designed, desk chair. “I’m just gonna cut to the chase here. Did you meet your assigned goal? Did you write a review on Cristofano Woods ?” he asked as he annoyingly drummed all ten tips of his fingers on the arms of the chair.
“Of course I did.” I said feeling exceptionally proud of my accomplishment. I unzipped the attache case and removed the written review. I glanced over it before handing it to him.
He nodded and smiled as he took custody of my review. “As I mentioned in my email to you, I’m highly impressed. Even more so now because you actually did it. A review of one of the newest restaurants in New York.” He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, “How the fuck did you get into Cristofano Woods?”
“With all due respect, Mr. Harrison,” I softly cleared my throat before continuing, “I value my sources and as such can’t possibly, under no circumstances, reveal them. I’m sure you of all people can understand.”
He leaned back into his chair and looked at me with a mystified expression.
Had I gone too far? I anxiously wondered.
He said nothing. At least not verbally. His dark eyes pierced through me like a medieval dagger. He laid one copy on top of his messy desk and handed me the other. “Here, read it aloud, please?”
“Um excuse me? Read it aloud?” I repeated for confirmation. It seemed like a pretty odd request to me.
“Yeah. You see, Miss. Monroe, a good review must sound good when read aloud. So please, indulge me.” He leaned back in his chair and continued rocking back and forth, looking as though he had some sort of trick up his sleeve. It was quite intimidating.
“Okay.” I nervously cleared my throat and read him my cherished review–aloud.
by Penelope Monroe
I arduously searched the Internet for impressive synonyms that would artfully convey meanings of the words trendy, unique, succulent, innovative, superb, ultra chic-hip, and magnificent. Those vibrant words collectively define everything that is Cristofano Woods.
Yet, for the sake of newsworthy elaboration, my proficiently defined details are broken down below:
Trendy – the decor. The small mildly toned-down younger sibling of Marty Raven is a tasteful trendsetter from floor to ceiling.
Unique – the food. I mean yes it’s just pizza, but then again it’s not just pizza. You’ll have to trust me on this one. Hint: it’s not the typical style pizza NY is known for. This is wood-fired pizza. As in baked in real 800 degree Stefano Ferrara ovens straight outta Naples, Italy. Oh and they also bake their signature pasta and veggie dishes wood-fire style as well. In fact everything is wood-fired. Except for their vast selection of wine. But who knows? Maybe that too.
Succulent – back to the pizza. I mean a pizza with clams and white sauce? Yup. And every bite of it seemed to seductively melt in my mouth. And I’ve never been one to use the word seductive to define food. But don’t simply take my word for it. Go now. Get your own–if you like long lines that wrap around the block. But don’t let that stop you. The experience is truly worth the wait.
Innovative – the total concept. Only those Marty Raven folks could pull this off. What’s their secret? If they told us they’d probably have to kill us.
Superb – the service. Actually it was beyond superb. The team really does know how to woo guests so they’ll come back for more and more. And even more. I felt like my waitress was my BFF. In fact, I’m pretty sure she convinced me to name my first born after her. Rebecca. Wait. What if my first born is a boy?
Ultra chic-hip – the vibe. A place where celebrities and everyday people can playfully dine alike while listening to a diverse selection of loud music.
Magnificent – the experience all summed up. Or perhaps I should have chosen the word magnanimous because the experience as a whole was royally cool.
I didn’t want my evening at Cristofano Woods to come to an end. But all good things must…
Perhaps I have inspired you to find your indulgence in the magnificently trendy, uniquely succulent, superbly innovative, and ultra chic-hip, hot spot more famously known as Cristofano Woods.
Cheers to you and yours!
Garett looked at me stone-faced saying absolutely nothing after reading what I thought to be a prized review. He stood up, review in hand, and said, “You’ll have to excuse me for just one moment.” He walked out of his office and closed the door behind him. That moment seemed like an eternity before he returned with another man, who had a very obvious reseeding hairline. He was much shorter and much more rounded out than Garret. He closely resembled an actor from a old 1980s TV show called Taxi that Sebastian and I tried to binge watch on Netflix.
I stood up, not knowing exactly what was happening. The rounded out man held out his hand to shake mine. I nervously wiped the sweat off the palm of my hand onto my pants before going in hard for a firm shake.
“Penelope. Great to meet you. I’m Jake Simms, owner of The Hudson News Bee.”
“Oh wow. Great to meet you Mr. Simms.” I smiled generously and instantly remembered the name of the actor I thought he resembled. Danny Devito….yeah.
“Please, call me Jake,” he insisted, “and please, go ahead and sit back down.”
I quickly sat back down as instructed.
“Penelope, Garret showed me your review and I must say, he and I both think it’s excellent work. Print worthy in fact.”
“Print…um, what?” I asked, scratching my head.
“We’d like to run your review,” Garett interjected. “Like now. As in send to print and publish online.”
I sat there unable to speak.
“And we’d like to offer you the position. Full time. Full benefits. Everything. Your writing is phenomenal. Wreaks of talent.” said Jake, as he paced back and forth.
“And the title, Food Disclosure? Is that something you came up with?” Garett asked.
I nodded yes.
“It’s freaking awesome,” said Jake. He approached me and put his hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes the way my dad used to whenever he wanted to have a heart to heart. “We’d like to give you the opportunity to write a column under that title, every month at first. Then, if it helps us sell more papers and online subscriptions, you’ll eventually write for us every week,” he added.
And that, my friends, is how it all began.
I gratefully accepted their offer, signed an employment contract, and Food Disclosure launched my career as a food critic. My reviews went from a monthly, to a bi-weekly, and then to a weekly column. I visited and reviewed all types of New York based restaurants; Michelin starred to quaint local bakeries. Just as I hoped, I became known only by name, being careful in keeping my identity concealed. Only the newspaper, family, some college classmates, and Sebastian knew I was the Penelope Monroe. Restaurant owners, chefs, and CEOs would religiously read my weekly column, as my written reviews would either make or break them. A good review meant a surge of business. A bad review meant an obvious loss of business, or even a decline in a Chef’s overall reputation as in the case of one semi-famous chef and restaurant owner named Jonathan Knight.
Garett and I began dating about six months after I joined The Bee’s editorial team. We got serious enough that I assumed he was going to propose. I was so freaking in love with him. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find him screwing some stupid bitch in my office.
And now, today, meet the new me: Penelope Monroe, the broken-hearted, unemployed, food critic.
I fucking hate Mondays.