North to You by Tif Marcelo | Review, Author Interview, Excerpt, & Giveaway

North to You by Tif Marcelo | Review, Author Interview, Excerpt, & GiveawayNorth to You (Journey to the Heart) by Tif Marcelo
Series: Journey to the Heart #1
Published by Pocket Star on June 5th, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 315
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon US

In this warmhearted and charming debut from Tif Marcelo, a food truck chef and her long lost Army love clash when they cross paths in San Francisco.

Camille Marino has got a full plate. As the sole guardian of her eighteen-year-old sister and the head chef and owner of a food truck, she’s used to life being a juggling act. With food to cook, social media accounts to manage, and a little sister to look after, she doesn’t have time for much else.

That is, until Drew Bautista walks back into her life.

Drew is Camille’s former high school crush and he returns to San Francisco to repair his relationship with his father before he ships out for deployment. By helping his father renovate his failing Filipino restaurant, he hopes to win back his respect. But when sparks fly between Drew and Camille—his father’s major competition and sworn enemy—Drew is conflicted. Should he join his father in the war against her food truck? Or surrender to the woman who’s given him a second chance at love?

This book may be unsuitable for people under 18 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mature Content

North to You is a sweet story of food, love, family, and second chances that will touch your heart and make your mouth water.

Ten years after she moved out of town with her sister, Camille Marino is back in the Bay Area with a food truck that is slowly building their reputation and gaining loyal customers. While she and her best friend, Jaz, are scoping out the competition at the local food festival, Camille bumps into her childhood crush, Andrew Bautista.

Andrew Bautista is in town for a month to mend things with his father before he leaves for his deployment in Iraq. Instead of a month to relax and catch up with his family, he is dragged in to help renovate the family restaurant and be there for the grand reopening. Things are still testy between father and son, and when a food truck parks in front of their restaurant, Drew has no choice but to help his father crush the competition.

It’s a pleasant surprise when he finds Camille in his arms, but he sees it as an opportunity to catch up with his high school sweetheart and spend time with her again. When he finds out that the competition is none other than Camille, he’s going to have to choose between her or his family.

This book made me giggle like a schoolgirl. Seriously, you guys. Drew and Camille’s romance is so sweet! These two have history and a connection that never really went away. I had so much kilig while reading each interaction between them. Drew was persistent in his pursuit, but he was always the perfect gentleman, and ugh honestly, it made me gush and swoon.

All of the characters were likable, Drew and Camille especially. They both have crosses to bear, but they’re strong and determined to succeed in their endeavors.

Camille is kind, mature, and reliable, but Jaz and her sister both agree she needs to let go. After their parents died and their nonna a few years later, Camille took the role of parent/guardian to Ally. With responsibilities all around her, she never really had time or energy to “let go”. It was nice and sweet to see her finally relax with Drew.

I have so much love for Drew. I related so much to him, with his relationship with his family and his reasons for leaving the nest. He’s also sweet, funny, and affectionate. Plus he’s such a gentleman!

Ms. Marcelo was able to portray such a genuine depiction of a Filipino family—strict and overbearing but well-meaning and caring parents, and close ties with immediate and extended family. Despite the close relationship between family members, sometimes feelings and emotions aren’t the easiest of subjects. It’s why the scene between Drew and his father made me tear up. Those emotional confrontations don’t usually happen, so when they do, it opens up the flood gates.

Food, family, and love. Those three always go hand in hand in a typical Filipino family dynamic. You can’t have one without the other.

My high rating did not come from my bias towards the Filipino aspect of the story, although it’s what peaked my interest. North to You had the perfect mix of the light and fluffy, and the heavy and steamy. The food—Italian and Filipino—made my stomach rumble. And the ending left me happy and satisfied.

North to You is the first standalone in the Journey to the Heart series and is told in alternating POVs. Foodies and romance lovers will definitely enjoy this fresh, light, and heartwarming story.

And just an FYI: the rough translation of kilig is *feels*.

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Above the low hum of the traffic, the people, and the planes passing overhead, a bell chimes. Then two, then three. Soon, surround-sound church bells, signaling the start of the new day, sweep over the breadth of my view.

“Wow.” The music becomes the backdrop of the city I thought I knew. My eyes follow the path of Market Street and the twinkling outline of the Bay Bridge. It scans to the Transamerica Building, which cuts the ombré of the night sky down to the yellow of the city lights. Sights now enhanced, brought to greater depth and meaning.

“Right?” he whispers next to me.


“She is definitely beautiful.”

My breath hitches at Drew’s statement. He leans against the barrier, his back to the city lights. His eyes are solely on me.

This man and I know nothing about each other as adults except for what we revealed in the last hour. He knows nothing of my dreams and hopes. I don’t understand the life he’s chosen. And yet I’m bound to him with leftover feelings that are so innocent and pure, feelings I’m not sure where to place now that they’ve been pulled from memories packed away.

One thing is sure. Right now is perfect.

I approach him, place my hands on his chest.

He rests his fingers lightly on my waist. “Camille—”

I stop him with a kiss. Tonight has been crazy, magical, fuzzy, and weird, and I don’t want to think about consequences, my overloaded plate of responsibilities, of everything waiting for me down there, in the city below.


Describe yourself in five words or less.

Loyal. Dedicated. Empathetic. Enthusiastic. Cheerful.

What are 5 things you must have with you when you write?

I try not to get into the mindset that I need anything but a pen and paper/computer BUT:

  1. Coffee  
  2. My notebook  
  3. Something crunchy (almonds, cucumber rounds, Cheetoh’s—ha!)  
  4. My phone on silent   
  5. Marshmallow, Havanese-extraordinaire

What has been your toughest scene or book to write?

The “darkest hour” or also known as “the black moment.” It hurt my heart to bring these characters’ biggest fears to fruition. And then, to somehow recover from it was difficult because I wanted for it to come realistically and organically.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Oh, hands down, it had to be the research! This book encompassed San Francisco (the city of my child and young adulthood) and food (Filipino food, most especially). I no longer live in San Francisco, so finding another eason to look back at old pictures and to look at maps of the City brought me back! And with food, it’s been a blast cooking and eating these foods just so my descriptions are accurate. The things we sacrifice! ;P  

A la Twitter style, please describe your book in 140 characters or less.

This was my agent story! I participated a PitMad Twitter pitch contest run by Brenda Drake. This is the pitch my now agent liked.

#dv #R Cami’s found a 2nd ch @ love w/Drew, til she finds out it’s his fam’s restaurant that wants her food truck out of business. #PitMad

How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?

I’ve always been a writer, and my imagination have always run amok. Though I went to college and took up nursing and joined the Army, it never left me. I returned to writing through blogging when my second son was born, and continued to do so for over a decade. I began novel writing about six years ago, and was encouraged by my mother, my husband and closest friends. This journey has brought me full circle!

What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a mom of four and a military spouse! Which means not only am I on the go every single day, as a family we are dealing with moving/deploying/temporary assignments quite regularly. Because of this, I practice yoga and run (very slowly). I love to read and binge watch shows I’m always behind on. I also craft! (currently, I’m cross-stitching something I’ve been working on for forever)

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

First and foremost, make a commitment to yourself. Set long and short-term goals in your writerly life. Be kind to yourself.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for supporting this debut author! I hope you fall in love with NORTH TO YOU!

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About Tif Marcelo

Tif Marcelo believes in and writes about heart-eyes romance, the strength of families, and the endurance of friendship. A veteran Army Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Administration, she is a craft enthusiast, food-lover and the occasional half-marathon runner. As a military spouse, she has moved nine times, and this adventure shows in some of her free-spirited characters. Tif currently lives in the DC area with her own real life military hero and four children.

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