Stirring Up Trouble (The Stirring Series #1)

Title: Stirring Up Trouble
Author: ZA Maxfield
Publisher: Maxfield Publishing
Buy link: (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (158 paperback pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

Summary Review:  The story and the characters rocked and I laughed in all the right places. If you love flawed characters, a story centered around food, great dialogue, and impeccable pacing, Stirring Up Trouble can’t miss.


Toby Andrews is cooking up more than a little trouble for Evan Blankenship. Because of pranks, indiscretions, and plain bad timing, his ability to work in New York’s temples of haute cuisine is a thing of the past. When Toby’s sister tells him he should look up an acquaintance whose restaurant — Le Potiron –is failing, he doesn’t have much choice.

Pretty soon he’s in bed, literally, with a cook who hates people, trying to save a restaurant that only the neighborhood mothers seem to love, and on the verge of another –possibly painful — lesson or two about what it means to be successful.

Evan hates everyone but Toby. Toby likes to stir things up. See what’s on the menu at Le Potiron, in Stirring Up Trouble.


Toby was fired for cause from his job as a chef at a high-end restaurant, Les Trois Artistes, because he had ruined executive chef Eduardo’s chance to make a good impression with a well known and highly regarded food critic, the god of food Tad Christopher. It didn’t matter that Toby really didn’t mean to screw up this time, but he did bring his 4 year old nephew to work (a no no) because his sister Deb had an important deposition that day and he was the only person available to pick up Adam from preschool. Adorable Adam committed the heinous crime of shooting his action figure into the salad intended for said food critic, which apparently is another no no, and to add further insult to injury, his marbles somehow got away from him, creating chaos as everyone skated on them while trying to remain standing. 🙂

Eduardo didn’t waste any time kicking Tony out, but not before telling him that by the time he was finished blackballing him he would not be fired again because he would never work again in the food industry. Tony soon found out that Eduardo was as good as his word as he couldn’t find a job at a hot dog stand.  Deb came to his rescue by suggesting that he contact a former client who owned a restaurant that was on the verge of bankruptcy and was therefore frantic for help, any help, in the kitchen. When Toby showed up he realized how desperate owner and cook Evan Blankenship was as he looked around the place and took in what was a near disaster. It seemed that Evan’s former partner Dominic had absconded with all the meat, upscale furniture and fittings from Le Potiron when he left the partnership, in addition to taking all the money to open his own epicurean delight, all of  which pushed Evan into bankruptcy. Now the only clients at Evan’s restaurant were new mothers who came mainly for a place to gossip and warm up their baby bottles.

Evan’s and Toby’s courtship was a delight as Toby used all his charm on the somewhat skeptical recipient, his new boss, who saw right through him but couldn’t resist what he offered. Evan was a wonderful flawed character who didn’t even know the meaning of the French name of his restaurant. All he wanted was to be left in peace to cook breakfasts and lunches for his few remaining clients who didn’t care about what was on the menu. Toby realized that he was falling for “pumpkin man” as he called Evan, whom he considered “charmed and dangerous.” Unfortunately Evan hated people, everyone except Toby, and he just wanted to be left alone by the world, but Toby wouldn’t let him hide and insisted on bringing the world into the restaurant. Gradually he weaned Evan away from his life as a misanthrope and made him over, even having him agree to cut his long braid, but his kilt (or skirt as Adam called it) was non negotiable. Toby almost  signed the death warrant on their budding relationship when he went into full Captain Chaos mode by changing something that was very important to Evan without asking permission first, because his credo was: It was better to ask forgiveness than seek permission. The book went into even higher gear after the near disaster of the consequences of his philosophy.

Toby was called Captain Chaos after the character played by Dom DeLuise in the movie Cannonball Run – you have to watch the movie to understand the relevance of the nickname. 🙂 He couldn’t help who he was and he was oblivious regarding how dangerous his various plans were until the consequences could not be avoided. However he was well meaning and really wanted to do the right thing for everyone, (in his estimation), and be the best damn chef that he could be.

The sex between Toby and Evan was just as high voltage and delightful as their courtship, as they recognized they had something together that few lovers ever achieved. There’s some great dialogue in the book and here’s just one example when Toby and Evan were out on their first date:

“You probably didn’t get the memo but as chef/owner it’s your job to keep me on completely uneven ground. I’m supposed to feel that I have one foot on a banana peel and the other in the deep fryer at all times”
“Maybe that’s not how I work. Maybe I carrot-and-stick my employees.”
“Can we skip the carrot? Can we get to the stick already?”
“Has anyone ever told you ……?”
“Yeah, everyone. At least once”

ZAM created in Tad Christopher, writer and food critic, the biggest blow-hard, prick and hypocrite – a wonderful over the top villain whose characterization was priceless. His motto seemed to be  “vengeance is mine ….and where’s the mirror.” Another villain was Eduardo, the puffed up executive chef at Les Trois Artistes, another self important bag of wind. There were so many wonderful characters in Stirring Up Trouble I would have to write another book to do them all justice – from Brendan, Evan’s unholy twin who was always causing trouble; to Adam the cutest nephew anyone would ever want to have; to sous-chef Geoffrey, Toby’s friend who tried to keep his ass out of the fires he created; to the mothers who supported Evan’s restaurant. I smiled at ZAM’s tip of the hat to bloggers in the book.

Ms Maxfield has written another gem and a winner. Run, don’t walk, to get a copy of Stirring Up Trouble today.



I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball


  • GREAT review! Thanks. I am so glad Angel pointed this website out. As I haven’t been reading MM Romance very long, it is hard to pick out what to read. You have helped once again. Thank you!

  • You all are making me blush, and after the 120 degree, fraught with breakdowns, two days on the road from hell, I have to say this feels like slipping into a nice cool pool.

    Thanks everyone! I’ll get right on Brendan after the one I’m working on right now.

    Wave, I’m always happy when I can make you laugh!

    • Hi ZAM
      I responded but it seems that Explorer ate my reply.

      I loved this story as I’m sure you can tell. It was a lot of fun and at times I choked I was laughing so hard. 🙂

      I can’t wait for Brendan’s story and I hope that we’ll see a bit more of Adam – he’s so cute.

  • I loved “Stirring Up Trouble”! I too had been looking for a story that combined romance with humor and this one more than delivers. Although I’m usually also not a fan of kids in the stories I read, ZAM made me fall in love with Adam, he is a small but important part of the storyline. I really can’t recommend this book enough! (And there will be a sequel with Evans brother! Woo-Hoo!

    • Hi Stacy
      At last! Someone who has read Stirring Up Trouble and can attest to the fact that this is a wonderful book. Isn’t Adam the best?

      Somehow I get the sense that Brendan’s story might not be as funny, but I’ll wait and see.

      • “Somehow I get the sense that Brendan’s story might not be as funny, but I’ll wait and see.”

        Oh, I don’t know about that…………I bet when you combine Brendan and a stress management consultant it’s going to be quite the fun & amazing adventure………….

        • Hi Stacy
          Knowing ZAM, I’m sure that Brendan’s story will be funny, I just don’t know if she can top Toby’s and Evan’s story. However I have the utmost trust in her. 🙂

  • Fab review as always, Wave.

    I love a good comedy – as well as pretty much anything by ZAM, so I shall be checking this one out asap.

    • Jen
      I know you don’t like kids in books but Adam is really cute and you will fall in love with him. The other characters aren’t bad either. 🙂

    • Lynn
      I thought of you as I was reading this book. You would have done more justice to the food portion of the story. But it’s all good.

  • I love humor in books, and you are so right Wave, there seems to be a shortage of that….at least in the books I have in my library…, I am off to buy Stirring up Trouble. And really, ZAM is one of my favorite authors, so I know it will be as good as you say 🙂

  • Wow, this sounds great Wave! It has all of the elements that I love: humor, interesting and realistic characters and great dialog. I’m sold. I usually like ZA’s books, and it seems that this won’t disappoint. Great review.

    • TJ
      I think you’ll have a ball with Stirring up Trouble.

      One of the things I complained about recently is that there’s not enough humour in these books, and this one does humour in style. It’s not prat fall humour except when Adam is around, but much more sophisticated adult humour. I guarantee you will love Toby and Evan with all their foibles and flaws. 🙂

  • You`re gushing Wave, and I can`t resist – as always!
    But please tell me what to read first – The “shorts”by Helen Luise Caroll or Stirring Up Trouble?
    (Did you change Stirring Up Trouble to “Cooking” Up Trouble on purpose? 🙂 )
    -Is it my imagination,or is the number of high ratings -4 stars to DIK – slowly but steadily increasing? –
    Thanks for review.

    • Hi Simsala
      Thanks for pointing out that I had the wrong title on the post. LOL. All the time I was writing the review I kept thinking of the book as Cooking up Trouble because that’s what I would have called it. 🙂

      Re the ratings – no, there hasn’t been an increase in highly rated books, it’s just that a few books have been released recently that are excellent, like this one, Counterpoint, Blinded by Our Eyes etc. However we still have our stinkers. Three days ago both Jenre and I posted reviews that were 2 stars and there have been 3 stars and 3.75 stars this week and last. But we lucked out lately with some very good books and I wish there were more of them.

      Re what to read first – it depends on whether you’re in the mood for a paranormal and only have about an hour, then read Hungry or A Special Birthday. Conversely, if you have a few hours then Stirring up Trouble is a delight. 🙂

  • Salina
    You will love this book. I stayed up late to finish it. There’s lots of action and terrific characters as well as a cute 4 year old. 🙂

  • Bought it! You’re charmed and dangerous (to my wallet), yourself, Ms. Wave! Though at $3.50 for 158 pages (PDF) of 5+/5 stars fiction, that’s pretty good actually! It’s midnight now, I might just read it for a little bit before I go to bed (famous last words)!

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