Authors: Allison Hobbs
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Allison Hobbs continues to create novels demonstrating that she is a prolific and talented writer.
This time she delves into the cooking reality show world and stirs up controversy with a couple, Cori Brown, hostess of
Cookin' with Cori
, and her former NFL star husband, Maverick. The popular chef who once owned a soul food restaurant in Harlem finds herself entrenched in scandal and sex, while Maverick seeks pleasureâwith sidepieces. But she must ensure that a clean image remains in the head- lines. Her ten-year marriage is at stake, and the two are challenged to maintain their brand they've fought hard to protect.
Throughout the story, Cori moves through life with flashbacks and memories of her deceased Grandmother Eula Mae, a former madam and a key influence. Along with Cori's glam squad, the show's quirky competitors make a wildly entertaining cast of characters as they concoct dishes for the winning spot.
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For Jason Frost
Book Connoisseur and Dear Friend
averick and I were not ready to become parents. But after ten years of marriage, the pressure was on us, not only from our families, but also from the media and our fans.
While Maverick was in Los Angeles filming a Lexus commercial, I had the task of interviewing potential candidates that the surrogacy agency considered good matches for us. We'd both agree on the final candidate, but I wanted to get the ball rolling and at least start vetting the women.
There was no medical reason that prevented me from carrying a baby full term; I simply didn't want to put my body through that kind of trauma. Also, my husband and I were still building our brand and there was no way for me to fit a pregnancy into my hectic schedule.
God forbid if I suffered a bout of morning sickness and vomited while tasting some of the disgusting food the contestants prepared on
Cookin' with Cori,
my food-based reality show.
Unlike other celebrities, I decided not to fake my pregnancy by wearing prosthetics. I was going to be fully transparent, documenting and sharing my journey every step of the way.
If the blogosphere exploded with accusations that I was buying my way out of morning sickness, labor pains, stretch marks, hanging boobs, and postpartum depression, then they were right. Why should I suffer through any of the inconveniences of pregnancy when I didn't have to?
There would be controversy over our decision, but I was certain my husband and I would stand together, hand-in-hand, and face the critics. We'd argue that Maverick's career wouldn't have to be interrupted by a pregnancy, so why should mine? People could say and think what they wanted, but I felt it was empowering for a woman to keep her career intactâlike a manâand still bring a child into the world.
Though the haters would probably say:
Cori Brown is so selfish! So shallow! So unwomanly!
I had so much influence over women in the age range of twenty-one through forty, I was certain that many out them would agree with me and come to my defense.
Nonetheless, controversy sold and I was looking forward to all the free publicity my husband and I would receive once the news got out that we were using a surrogate and were proud of it!
The media had dubbed us, “Mavcor,” a blending of our first names, Maverick and Cori. Maverick earned the lion's share of our income, but I was no slouch. Though we were already worth tens of millions, our goal was to become billionaires. The way things were going, it was entirely possible that we'd reach that goal within the next five years.
Maverick Brown and I had been inseparable since college when he was the star quarterback of the school's football team, and I was his devoted girlfriend who'd won her way to his heart with superb cooking skills.
Maverick received the Heisman Trophy and of course, various NFL teams were pursuing him. I wasn't about to let him leave me behind, and so I persuaded him to marry me a few weeks before graduation. Although I would have preferred a big, dream wedding, I agreed to a simple ceremony before he ran off to training camp. Unfortunately, his newly hired agent butted in our business and convinced Maverick to hit me with a prenup. It was the worst
prenup in history with nothing in it that benefited me, but I signed it, anyway. I had to if I wanted to marry Maverick Brown. From the day I signed that horrible prenuptial agreement, I made a decision that Maverick and I would be permanently joined at the hip. No separation, ever. And absolutely no divorce. We were going to stay together, foreverâno matter what it took.
Before being sidelined by a knee injury, Maverick had a stellar nine-year professional football career that included two Super Bowl wins and numerous lucrative endorsement deals. With Maverick's money, I opened a soul food restaurant in Harlem called Bay Leaf, made it a success, and then made a hefty profit by selling it. The rest of my story became history: three bestselling cookbooks and a series of instructional DVDs. I also had my own reality TV show where I whipped up Southern cuisine while blindfolded contestants, who were not told any of the ingredients, had to rely on their palates and sense of smell to duplicate the dish I'd prepared.
The contestants on my show were mainly untalented assholes with huge egos, but their obnoxious personalities combined with my sassiness, killer wardrobe, sexy apron, and stilettos had helped make my show a smashing success during the first season. I was set to begin taping season two in a few days.
Back in the early years of our relationship, I used to keep Maverick happy with the soul food recipes passed down by my grandmother, Eula Mae Barber, a former madam from back in the forties. After her brothel was shuttered, she opened a restaurant and a hotel and was able to earn a good living. Though she was considered successful, she didn't want her twin daughters to ever have to hustle the way she had, and she sent them off to college to find good husbandsâpreferably doctors. Grandma Eula Mae had a thing about doctors. Even before she became senile, she spoke of doctors as if they were gods and the only men worth marrying.
She was sorely disappointed when both her girls became college professors and married businessmen. She was even more disappointed when they put their careers first, allowing their marriages to crumble.
Out of all of Eula Mae's descendants, I was the only one who had an interest in cooking. I was the only one in the family who was interested in braising short ribs or frying catfish to perfection. For me, standing next to Grandma Eula Mae while she eyeballed the measurements for banana-blueberry pancakes was fascinating, like watching a scientist at work. Everyone else sat at the table and gobbled up her food, but couldn't care less about the masterful skill it took to prepare the meal. While my cousins ran out of the house, holding their noses and complaining about the stench of chitterlings, I had my hands immersed in water, helping my grandmother clean those pig guts.
I was raised on soul food, but rarely touched the stuff, anymore. Maverick and I were extremely picky about what we put into our bodies. We practiced a healthy lifestyle, and neither of us would dream of stuffing ourselves with the high-fat food that had made me famous. But we didn't share that information with the public.
With maturity, my husband had become even more smoking hot than he'd been back in college. At age thirty-three, Maverick Brown was increasingly sought after to promote not only the usual sports gear and custom brews but also luxuries that most viewers could only imagine. Currently an analyst for a major sports network, Maverick was in negotiations for his own Sunday evening show.
Recently, a Hollywood casting director had offered him a juicy role in an action movie. That deal hadn't been finalized yet, but it was only a matter of time before my hubby was showing off his ripped body on the big screen.
We were indeed a power couple, living our dream, and the idea of me slowing down for a pregnancy was unthinkable.
En route to the hotel where I would conduct interviews with potential surrogates, I tweeted to my 5.85 million Twitter followers that the search had begun for the perfect gestational surrogate for Maverick's and my future bundle of joy. Within minutes of posting the tweet, my assistant, Ellie, was ringing my phone.
“Your fans don't need to know about your plans to hire a surrogate. You should delete that post, immediately,” Ellie said, sounding panicked.
“I'm not deleting the post, so get your panties out of a bunch. My fans are going to love being included in my pregnancy journey.”
“But you're not pregnant, and there's nothing wrong with your reproduction system.”
“That's the beauty of it all. I'm going to start a movement. After a certain age, women are badgered to put their careers on hold and start a family, but men don't have to deal with that kind of pressure.”
have babies, Cori. There's a difference in equal rights and what mother nature intended.”
“True, but before the women's movement, people believed that a woman's place was in the homeâcooking, cleaning, and popping out one baby after another. And those who did go out into the workforce had to cater to their male bosses while on the job.”
“I agree that things were bad for women back in the day, but what does that have to do with your going public about your search for a surrogate?”
“Everything! Did I mention that my grandmother was one of thirteen children? My great-grandmother was a human breeding machine. Can you imagine having that many kids?”
“Having thirteen kids is insane. God only knows the condition of her poor tummy. And with no surgery to fix it, it must have been a sight to see.”
“It was a different era, Cori. Women accepted the effects of childbirth as natural. Having a large brood of children was normal before there was safe and effective birth control,” Ellie commented.
“That's my point. Do you think my great-grandmother would have given birth to all those goddamn babies if she'd had a choice?”
“Of course not.”
“Right. She would have been on the pill or using an IUD if they'd been invented back then, right?”
“Their homemade birth control practices were pitiful. Between you and me,” I said conspiratorially, “my Grandma Eula Mae ran a whorehouse. She used to make her girls stuff their coochies with globs of Vaseline as a form of birth control. Now, how primitive is that?”
“Sounds pretty antiquated.”
“But it goes to show you that women have always sought methods to have control over their bodies. The invention of the pill was revolutionary, and for a long time, only the privileged had access to it. Just like abortions. Do you think the wealthy elite didn't have unplanned pregnancies? Their asses got pregnant just like common folk. But only the poor were stuck with the stigma of having illegitimate children because rich people could terminate pregnancies discreetly.”
“I'm not following you, Cori. What do abortions have to do with your using a surrogate?”
“Currently, only a privileged few can afford to hire a gestational surrogate, but I believe that in the future, the option to carry a child or pay someone to do it for you will be as common as butt injections.”
“It's still not a good idea,” Ellie said worriedly. “Going public with your plans to hire a surrogate when you have no medical issues will make you appear vain andâ¦” Ellie paused. “Never mind.”
“No, finish what you were saying. I'll seem vain and what?”
“You'll seem vain and heartless!”
“I don't agree. My target audience is sophisticated, progressive thinkers.”
“Wrong! You're striving to expand your brand to include sophisticated, progressive thinkers, but at the moment, your average fan can't get rid of the extra weight she picked up during pregnancy. She prepares your Southern-style recipes for her own comfort and also because she believes the food will keep her husband from straying. Your target audience believes in your mottoâ¦
Food is the
way to your man's heart and don't you forget it,”
Ellie said, mimicking the slogan I used at the conclusion of each episode of my TV show.
“Well, it's a true statement. As you are well aware, I snagged Maverick with my food. The man was addicted to my cooking, among other things,” I said in a mysterious voice, alluding to naughty sex tricks.
“Sure, you initially enticed Maverick with your cooking, but now that both of you subsist on kale juice, bean sprouts, and arugula, your catchphrase is deceptive, and it's my job to make sure that no one finds out that you two have become vegetarians.”
“I'm not completely deceptive. I taste the cooked food that's prepared on my show and I've been known to eat a hog maw or two for promotional pieces. Only last month, Maverick ate a ton of burgers while he was filming that commercial for Five Guys.”
Ellie sighed audibly. “You and Maverick are greatly admired. You're considered America's sweetheart couple, so why risk ruining your popularity by revealing an aspect of your private life that many may find offensive? Let me put out a story about your failed pregnancy attempts and several heartbreaking miscarriages. Let's get some sympathy for you instead of contempt.”
“You're wrong, Ellie. My gut tells me that the public is going to eat this up. And I always go with my gut.” Before my assistant
could utter another word, I blurted, “Listen, Ellie, my driver is pulling into the parking lot of the agency, so I'll have to talk to you later. Ohmigod, this is so exciting. Wish me luck in finding the perfect carrier for my baby!”