Just a quick post to tell y’all that Hope*Writers is open until midnight tonight (Monday, May 25 2020) for a $1 week trial! If you want to check things out but not sure if it’s for you, give it a try this week! Click HERE!
Today is the last day to sign up for Hope*Writers! This is such a great writing opportunity where they help writers with the writing process, as well as with the publishing process! You can get great tips from best selling authors, AND one-on-one coaching with those in the industry! Check out the webinar to see what they are about, HERE.
This year, they are especially focused on writing motivation because of this crazy time! They are truly such a great and helpful resource! Sign up HERE to join!
Hey y’all! It’s that time of year again! This only comes around a couple times so I’m so excited to bring you Hope*Writers sign ups and writer’s opportunities!
Links for sign-ups and freebies below!
First of all, what is Hope*Writers?!
- We write meaningful words without sacrificing our meaningful life.
- We are still real writers even if we never write a book.
- We build benches, not platforms.
- We know how to hustle without losing our heart.
- We champion the success of other writers.
- We don’t wait to write until we feel qualified, picked, or inspired.
- We believe we have a message to share and a reader to serve.
- We refuse to take our work or ourselves too seriously.
- We understand fear is normal, but courage gets the final say.
- We celebrate progress and take our next right step in love.
Who is struggling with writing?
Hope*Writers support team spoke with 80+ members after the
COVID-19 social isolation period hit and recorded their
Everyone is going through a season of loss.
The 5 major areas of loss writers
are experiencing right now:
- Loss of Routine
● Completely disrupted schedule means no time
to write or writing can’t happen during my
● How do I start over again and find my writing
● How do I do this when I’ve lost my quiet space
● Where and how do I establish a rhythm?
- Loss of Focus
● Brain fog.
● People are feeling more stressed and that is
leading to an inability to focus, be productive,
and keep motivated.
● Loss focus of who they are writing for and
about with all that is going on.
● Stuck in a loop of non-action.
- Loss of Confidence
● Imposter Syndrome
● Who am I to address all these hurting people?
● Someone more accomplished should be doing
● They want to provide hope but don’t want to
add to the noise.
- Loss of Connection
● Literal isolation.
● Feels untethered.
● Can’t go to the writing conference.
● Can’t meet up with writer friends.
- Loss of Income
● May have lost day job or furloughed.
● Added pressure to provide for their families.
● Makes writing feel that much less important,
like a “want” and not a “need” right now.
● Writer goes from dreaming to “How dare I
If any of this is you, guess what? There is hope!
While Hope*Writers doesn’t offer a quick plan for “making it” they do simplify what might feel complex.
A determined writing path helps to cut through the brain fog and re-establish a routine.
A supportive community to help close the gap of isolation.
A resource library to make progress towards writing goals.
The world needs your hope-filled words, now more than ever!
Instagram Writing Challenge
Mon, 5/11 = Rewrite
Tue, 5/12 = Reach
Wed, 5/13 = Remember
Thu, 5/14 = Restore
Fri, 5/15 = Rest
Sat, 5/16 = Reconnect
Sun, 5/17 = Reimagine
Enrollment Open Week – Live Events
Monday, May 18 – Webinar (2pm, 8pm)
Wednesday, May 20 – 17 Ideas Webinar (2x)
Friday May, 22 – Cart Closes (11:59 PM EST)
May 2020 Webinar
Discover your writing rhythm, uncover your creative call, and finally bring your
writing to life in only 20 minutes a day.
You are not behind and you are not alone. The world needs your hope-filled words now more
than ever and we can help you share them. It’s never too late to start writing again. We’re
saving you a seat!
— discover what’s really keeping you from finding your writing rhythm
— uncover your giftedness and your unique creative calling
— design a simple plan for progress in only 20 minutes a day
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Genre: YA Fantasy, Dragons
Adventure Rating: 4 Stars
I am starting to learn something about myself, I think I review books based on how entertaining they are to me vs. intricacies. If I am super entertained, I don’t care if such and such didn’t add up. Or if characters are boring or whatnot.
Anyways, I say that because this book was really entertaining but it had some slight problems. Just not enough for me to dock another star.
I always like to start with the problem areas so then we can end on a good note! And really, I only had one problem. The characters.
The characters were boring. It’s hard to explain because they didn’t have a lot of personality, while still having 5 very different people.
Hyperia: She is the “mean girl” with a past of abuse
Lucien: The good looking, goody-goody boy scout
Emilia: The smart girl who doesn’t know she’s pretty
Vespir: The shy, quiet, gay girl
Ajax: The class clown
I liked them, they were just a bit bland. They get better the last half of the book when they start to use what they are good at to shine during the trials.
WITH THAT BEING SAID: I ENJOYED THIS BOOK!
There were dragons galore! There was adventure, a mysterious plot, and plenty of action. THOSE are the things that make me love a book! I was entertained! Dog, Ajax’s dragons, was my favorite! He acts like a puppy! Cluess knows how to write dragons! And I loved it! Each dragon had it’s own personality that sort of matched their riders! It was so cool!
The trials to become emperor were sooooo much fun to read about! The Hunt, The Game, The Race, and The Truth. In The Hunt, they had to hunt a basilisk and that was my favorite! They were all on an island hunting it and it was so intense! LOTs of adventure going on. Each character tried to use their skills to win (or not to win in Lucien’s case), and it was interesting to see how they would use those skills. Emilia was probably my favorite to read about, just because she had the added element of dark magic she had to try to control and keep secret, while trying to compete.
Maybe 70% of the way through, the book changes gears. Meaning, there was a huge twist that I am here for! I won’t spoil it, but it’s so good! I definitely can’t wait for book 2!
I am going to try something new. Novel Heartbeat (follow her, she’s amazing!) has star ratings for each aspect of the book. I would love to try my own hand at that! Here are mine:
Characters: 2 🌟
Entertainment: 5 🌟
Plot: 5 🌟
Adventure: 5 🌟
Writing: 4 🌟
Let’s talk DRAGONS! Tell me your favorite book that has dragons in it!
*Amazon link is my affiliate link*
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
I am so excited to feature this gorgeous book on my blog today! It seems like the perfect read for Summer, especially if you were/ are in drama!
With a setting inspired by the real-life Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires where stars like Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, and Chris Pine have performed, THE SUMMER SET (Graydon House Books; May 12; $17.99) is a salacious rom-com, beach read perfect for Broadway nerds and Hollywood gossips alike.
Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she’s pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career—and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.
It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history.
Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current “It Girl,” is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she’s been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.
I MISSED YOU TOO
Charlie studied herself in her bathroom mirror. In just a week her bruised eye had faded to the dull gray of rancid meat, now easily disguised by concealer. She flat-ironed her raven hair, securing it in a sleek, low ponytail, then rummaged the closet for her most professional-looking getup: that slim black suit, pale pink silk blouse with the bow at the neck and the stilettos she only wore when she felt compelled to impress. Her wardrobe from that perfume ad a decade earlier but timeless nonetheless, just like the moniker that had been etched in script on the curved bottle of the fragrance.
Outside, Boston did its best impersonation of her supposed hometown, London. (Though she had lived away from there enough during childhood to have eluded the accent.) The dreary May rain made her think of her mom: the estimable Dame Sarah Rose Kingsbury. News of Charlie’s incident had warranted mentions in a few celebrity weeklies and, unfortunately, made the hop across the pond. Her mother had called, texted and finally, after no response, emailed: Charlie, Did you receive my voice mail and text? I trust you’re alright. Another of your stunts? Please respond. Love, Mum. Her mom’s correspondence always scanned like a telegram, full of stops and full stops—much like their relationship itself. Charlie, reveling in being briefly unreachable and not in the mood to answer questions, hadn’t yet bothered to replace her phone and had indeed missed the call but wrote back assuring her mom that she was fine, though the accident had not, in fact, been performance art.
By the time Charlie reached the foreboding Suffolk County Courthouse, her lawyer/friend Sam—who had shepherded her through the theater purchase (while questioning her sanity)—was already there pacing, barking into her phone.
“This should be easy,” Sam told her, hanging up, hugging her while scrolling her inbox. Sam wore suits and radiated responsibility, two things Charlie found comforting in a lawyer. “Be contrite and it should be open-and-shut for community service.”
The sterile courtroom’s pin-drop silence made Charlie shiver. Next to her, Sam tucked her phone in her bag and rose to her feet, gesturing for Charlie to stand as the judge materialized at the bench. Charlie found it oddly reassuring that the judge was the kind of woman who wore pearls and a frilly collar outside her robe.
“You were okay with my email, right?” Sam whispered, as they sat again.
“What email?” she whispered back.
“My email. An hour ago? You have got to get a new phone,” Sam scolded.
“I know, I know—”
“There was this arrangement, last minute, I hope you’ll be amenable to but—”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie pleaded.
The judge had begun speaking, so Sam hushed her. Too late.
“Ms. Savoy, this is the part where I get to talk.” The judge looked up from the paper she had been reading aloud. “Maybe it was different in your episodes of Law & Order?”
“No, ma’am, I mean, Your Honor, sir, ma’am, no,” Charlie stumbled. She had been wrong about the judge. The woman continued on about the damage Charlie caused and the significant hours of service required like Charlie was the honoree at one of those Comedy Central roasts, albeit one that could end with her in a jail cell.
Until finally, the judge cut to the chase: “…an assignment has presented itself,” she said slowly. “Which will make fine use of Ms. Savoy’s expertise…” Charlie caught Sam’s side-eye. “So Charlotte Savoy shall be required to complete sixty days with the Chamberlain Summer Theater in—”
“NO!” Charlie expelled the word, an anaphylactic response. The judge scowled as though jail might still be an option. “Sorry, Your Honor, I just mean—can I object?” Sam shot her a lethal glare. “It’s just that, well—” Charlie tried again as a door at the back of the courtroom creaked open, footsteps echoing. She turned to discover the equivalent of a ghost.
Nick Blunt—director, ex, first love, disappointment, invertebrate—heading her way.
“Mr. Blunt, thank you for joining us,” the judge said, unimpressed.
Charlie’s posture straightened, heartbeat ticking faster than seemed medically sound. She felt betrayed by her own being, muscles, nerves, ashamed of this reaction.
“Sorry, Your Honor,” he said in that deep rasp.
Charlie wished she hated that voice. And it seemed an abomination that he could still be attractive—physically at least.
Rugged with an athletic build, he wore black jeans, a blazer and aviator sunglasses, which he pulled off as he walked (pure affectation since, to her knowledge, it was still raining outside), tucking them into the V of his slim sweater.
He took his place beside Charlie, flashing that smile he deployed when he aimed to be his most charming.
“Hi there,” he said, as though surprised to be meeting this way.
“Shouldn’t you be wearing a cape?” Charlie rolled her eyes, focused on the judge reading again, and returned her body to its proper slouch, recalibrating her expression between boredom and disgust.
“I missed you too, Charlie,” he whispered back.
From the corner of her eye, Charlie spotted the sharp beak of that tattoo—the meadowlark—curving around from the back of his neck. It was still there, which gave her a pang of affection, a flare-up she forced herself to snuff out. She imagined how they might look to those few people sitting in the rows behind them. Nick and her with these identical birds inked onto the backs of their necks, midflight and gazing at each other anytime he stood on her right side, as he did now. Mirror images, bookends, the birds’ once-vibrant golden hue as faded as the memory of the hot, sticky night she and Nick had stolen away from campus to get them together.
Over the years, she had considered having hers removed or morphed into some other design, but why should she? She liked it. At face value. Charlie sighed again, more loudly than intended, as her mind sped to how this summer would now be.
“Ms. Savoy, is there a problem?” the judge asked, irked.
“Your Honor, I just wondered—is there a littered park or something? Instead?”
“We’re fine, Your Honor.” Sam patted Charlie’s arm in warning.
“Ms. Savoy will report to service June 1.” The judge slammed the gavel, which, to Charlie, sounded like a nail being hammered into a coffin.
“I had a client last week who’s cleaning restrooms at South Station this summer,” Sam said apologetically as they walked out.
Charlie just charged ahead down the hall, an urgent need to escape, her mind struggling to process it all.
“So, craziest thing happened,” Nick launched in, catching up to them at the elevator. “I was reading the news and saw about your little mishap—” He sounded truly concerned for a moment.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t have a Google alert on me,” Charlie cut him off, stabbing the down button too many times.
“You always were a terrible driver—”
“That river came outta nowhere—”
“But a stellar swimmer—”
She nodded once. She couldn’t argue with that.
He went on, “So I made a few calls and—”
“Don’t be fooled by…that.” She waved her hand back toward the courtroom. “You need me more than I need you.”
The elevator opened.
“We’ll see about that.” He let them on first. Charlie hit the button again-again-again to close the doors, but he made it in. “How long has it been, anyway?”
“You know how long it’s been,” she said as the doors closed so she was now looking at their reflection. It had been six years, three months, two weeks and two days since they last saw each other. At the long-awaited premiere for Midnight Daydream—which should’ve been a thrilling night since a series of snags had pushed the film’s release date back two years after filming. But instead of celebratory toasts, it had ended with a glass of the party’s signature cocktail—a messy blackberry-infused bourbon concoction the shade of the night sky—being thrown. In retrospect, she thought, there’d been so many signs the movie was cursed.
“You’re just mad your self-imposed exile is over.” He smirked.
“Always with the probing psychoanalysis.” She watched the floor numbers descend, doors finally opening.
Sam scurried out ahead of them. “My work here is done. I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.” She gave Charlie an air-kiss before striding off.
“Wait, no, I just need to—” Charlie tried to stop her, but Sam had already hopped in a cab.
“So, I have an office not too far, off Newbury Street, off-season headquarters for Chamberlain—” Nick started.
“Luckily you’re usually phoning it in, so I haven’t had the privilege of running into you around town.” She walked ahead in the cool, pelting rain.
He stayed where he was. “I’d invite you out for a drink—”
“It’s, like, 10 a.m. That’s too early. Even for you—” She glanced back.
“Summer is gorgeous in the Berkshires, as you may recall,” he shouted, sunglasses back on, absurdly, and that smile again. “Welcome back to Chamberlain, Charlie.
Excerpted from The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti, Copyright © 2020 by Aimee Agresti.
Published by Graydon House Books.
Q&A with Aimee Agresti
Q: Please give your elevator pitch for The Summer Set.
A: Gladly! THE SUMMER SET is a romp about a former Hollywood It Girl—Charlie Savoy—who flamed out, left the film world and now is almost 40 and back at the summer Shakespeare theater where she got her start as a teen….and where her ex is the artistic director. Drama and hijinks ensue! But it’s really a universal story about old flames, old friends, old rivals and second acts: having the courage to shake up your life!
Q: Which came first: the characters or plot line?
A: They sort of arrived together! This idea has been with me for a long time: I always had Charlie, my main character, and this sense of wanting her to be embarking on a “second act.” I wanted to tell the story of a bold, wild child kind of star who flamed out early and had to start over and figure out what she truly wanted. I always knew this character would be the type who seemed confident to anyone watching but was actually much more vulnerable deep down. Someone who’s acting as much offstage as onstage!
Q: Why do you love Charlie and why should readers root for her?
A: I really loved writing this character: she’s impulsive and aggressive and tough and uncontrollable. But all of her bravado is covering up how out of place she feels, how nervous she is to be back in the theater world after feeling like she failed in her film career. Anyone who has ever tried to act like they had it all together while actually being unsure on the inside (which I think is all of us, right?!) will understand Charlie and feel she’s a kindred spirit.
Q: We can see from your bio that you have written extensively about entertainment topics. Have you ever been involved in theatre yourself? If so, in which capacities? If not, what fascinates you about the theatre world?
A: As anyone who saw me as Miss Jones in Sherwood High School’s 1994 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying would know: I am that drama geek who loves theater as much as humanly possible while having no actual talent. 😉 I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town with a fantastic theater—the Olney Theatre in Olney, MD—and I volunteered there (offstage!) all through high school. It was an amazing place because the actors were incredible, they were New York-based, and they would come and actually live together at a residence on the theater property. I’ve always had an overactive imagination so I remember wondering what went on there: which ones were friends, which ones weren’t, was anyone hooking up?! I was fascinated. That experience hanging around there definitely sowed the very early seeds of this novel!
Q: Obviously you’ve interacted with many celebrities. Who were the most fascinating to talk to?
A: Oooh, there were so many fun ones: George Clooney is my all-time favorite (he’s EVERYONE’S favorite!) because he’s just a supernice guy and is that type who seems to always be having a great time. Some more of my favorites who also had that same warm spirit and were so much fun to chat with: Sarah Jessica Parker, Angelina Jolie, Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Hugh Grant, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the list goes on!
Q: If you could star in a movie or Broadway show, which one would you choose and why?
A: HA! OMG, I love this question! Since THE SUMMER SET is set at a summer theater, I’ll choose Broadway! Wow, there are just. So. Many! I would love to be Angelica in Hamilton and Mimi in Rent and Roxie in Chicago! I assure you I would be absolutely TERRIBLE in all of these roles but it would be tons of fun!
Q: What was your last 5 star read?
A: I just re-read a favorite–THE LOST VINTAGE by the wonderful Ann Mah! It’s an absolute gem of a novel about love, secrets and drama in French wine country. Beautiful writing, fantastic storytelling and it also satisfies the wanderlust we’re all feeling these days.
Q: What is one thing about publishing you wish someone would have told you?
A: Oh wow, I feel like even five books in, I’m still learning! But I think one thing I never would’ve expected before I published my first novel is that every time a book comes out you feel that HUGE excitement but also that little rush of nerves, like: “OMG this thing that, for years, only lived in my head and on my laptop is now out there!!! Aaaah!” Or maybe that’s just me? 😉
Q: What inspired you to become a writer?
A: A love of reading! My mom is a librarian so I grew up reading everything in sight and I’ve just always loved escaping into books. I went to journalism school and worked in magazines, which I absolutely adored, but I always dreamed of writing novels, so I feel incredibly lucky to get to do this!
Q: What was your journey to get your first book published?
A: Great question! My first novel was ILLUMINATE, the first of my YA Gilded Wings Trilogy. I tend to write the book I most want to read at any given time and I got lucky that when I was in the mood for YA, so were a lot of other people, so that worked out! But I actually wrote another book BEFORE that one—it was a totally different vibe and not YA–that just didn’t hit things right, for whatever reason. I always say that publishing–the fiction world especially–is like falling in love and you need the right person to read the right manuscript on the right day and have the right connection to it in order to get published. I feel very lucky every time a book gets published!
Q: Let’s talk about your writing, what is your writing process like? Do you follow an outline or do you just see where the story leads you?
A: I’m a major outliner! I need to have everything mapped out. I need to know this journey has a destination. I admire writers who can let things unfold as they go—how freeing that must be!—but I’m a planner, it gives me comfort. Although, there are plenty of twists that only present themselves when you’re in the middle of writing so I do always let myself deviate from my outline too, great stuff comes out of that!
Q: Do you share your work along the way or wait until it is complete to have others read?
A: My sister is my beta reader and she is amazing! Sometimes I’ll give her the book as I’m writing it, as I did with THE SUMMER SET, and other times I’ll wait until it’s all finished (like with my previous novel, CAMPAIGN WIDOWS), it mostly depends on how tight the deadline is! She’s incredible and I’m so grateful for her close eye and the time she spends doing this for me. Since she enjoys the same books/films/stories/genres as I do, I know that if there’s something in my novel that isn’t working for her then it’s not going to work for any reader! She’s the best! If you’re reading this: Hi, sis!
Q: What inspired you to write The Summer Set?
A: I’ve always loved the film/TV/theater/music universe. I started out writing for entertainment magazines—Us Weekly, Premiere—and those jobs were incredible and offered me this amazing glimpse into that celebrity world with all of its ups and downs and drama and excitement. I’m an arts girl so I think there’s something magical about the way a great show, whether on stage or screen, can transport you or connect with you or seem to understand you. And I think the people who are able to bring those stories to life are fascinating!
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
A: I’m (slooooowly) at work on the next novel! It’s in those early stages but it’s an idea I’ve had for a long time so I’m excited! Wish me luck!!
Q: What’s your favorite genre?
A: Oooh, that’s tough! I actually will read anything and everything! For me, it just depends on the story. I’m always on board for great writing and the kind of storytelling that keeps me hooked and turning pages!
Q: Who is your favorite author?
A: I could never choose just one! I grew up on the classics (Austen, the Brontes, Hemingway, Salinger, on and on!) and I adore them so much and revisit them often like checking in on old friends! As for contemporary authors, I love Tom Perrotta, Nick Hornby, Emma Straub, Dave Eggers, Elizabeth Gilbert, to name a few! There are so many that I love and admire!
Q: What are your top 3 favorite books of all time
A: Oh man, this is REALLY tough because there are just soooo many. But I’ll go with these:
–Pride and Prejudice: I could read this every day! I’m completely Jane Austen-obsessed so I actually feel that way about all of her books. Even now, I’m thinking: should I choose Emma?! Or Persuasion?! How do you choose?!
–The Catcher in the Rye: I love everything Salinger. But Holden Caulfield was my first literary crush!
–A Moveable Feast: I also love everything Hemingway but I’ll go with this one because I’m pretty sure I belong in Paris in the ‘20s. (Aside from my very bad French.)
Q: How do you decide what kind of journey you want your characters to go on?
A: That’s a fantastic, huge question! Those first flashes I always have of a novel are of the main character in some sort of inner turmoil. So I tend to know the reason I’m going to be telling their story in the first place, but figuring out how to show it all and get from point A to B to C, takes a lot of mapping out!
Q: Would you ever write YA fantasy novels again?
A: I love this question! Absolutely, if the right story sparked! I had so much fun writing the Gilded Wings Trilogy, I miss those characters and still think of them and what adventures they might still be having! And I do miss writing magic and superpowers, it was always exciting to get to dream up those elements. So, you never know, I might just have to get back to that! 😉
Aimee Agresti is the author of Campaign Widows and The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee table book Inside Hollywood. Aimee’s work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, and she has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. Aimee graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: April 28, 2020
I am so excited to feature this beautiful book today on my blog! It definitley makes me want to go to a villa in Italy! Check out an excerpt below! Thank you so much to Mira Books for having me on the blog tour!
It was just a little white lie. A way to kick-start her freedom.
And Kim Weston was now officially a runaway.
She couldn’t help but laugh at the idea as she stared out the window of the airplane into the abyss around her. Thirty years old—an adult—and here she was, running away from home.
She’d boarded a flight from JFK earlier and watched as the sky turned from pale blue to black. They were already six hours into a nine-hour journey and she was tired but couldn’t sleep.
There wasn’t a star to be seen, no way to discriminate the ocean below from the sky above. Nothing but emptiness.
Ironic because it was exactly how Kim felt inside. She had no reason to, or so everyone told her.
She had everything—the luxurious Manhattan apartment,a personal driver to take her wherever she wanted to go, generous expense accounts at all the best Fifth Avenue stores, and a black Amex to service every last one of her spending needs.
She and her friends were the crème de la crème of New York’s Upper East Side society set and partied with celebrities and VIPs alike. By all accounts she had the quintessential dream life.
So why was she running away?
She could still hear her parents’ voices in her head and her own guilt in her heart as she sat quietly nursing a vodka and orange juice.
Most of the cabin’s passengers were asleep, and the crew was moving around less frequently, but Kim’s mind simply wouldn’t quit.
For once, she wasn’t playing the role she’d been allotted. If she was expected to assume her part in the Weston family script for the rest of her life, then she needed a chance to play the rebel, even if only briefly.
Everything was planned to ensure that her parents wouldn’t find her—at least not for a little while.
Her destination (and certainly choice of accommodation) wasn’t somewhere Peter or Gloria would ever think to look for her, since it was so far removed from the kind of places the Westons usually frequented.
No five-star luxury hotel suite awaiting Kim when she arrived. Instead she was staying at a tumbledown villa she’d found on the internet, where she’d be sharing living space and possibly even a room with other guests. She shuddered involuntarily.
Kim was roughing it, in as much as someone like her could. The house had no on-site staff, apparently there was someone who’d come by daily to tidy and meet and greet, but that was it. No concierge, butler, in-house chef—nothing.
For once, she was going to have to cater for herself—in more ways than one.
That gave her some sense of unease; she wasn’t exactly Martha Stewart, which was why she also planned to maybe enlist herself in an Italian cooking class, as suggested by the booking site she’d used. Failing that, she’d just survive on pizza and pasta. It was Italy after all.
And she could afford that much, for a little while at least.
It was early afternoon when the flight landed at Naples airport and the transfer service she’d arranged (her final luxury—she wasn’t going to rough it entirely after a transatlantic economy flight) picked her up outside the terminal.
“Signorina Weston?” the driver holding the sign with her name on it queried as she approached.
“Buongiorno. Right this way,” the young Italian man instructed as he directed Kim to a waiting black Mercedes.
She stepped outside of the terminal, her long slender legs clad in white jeans, which complemented her hot pink poncho. Sunglasses protected her eyes from the bright sun but she still held a hand to her forehead to shield them as she stared up at an almost cloudless Italian blue sky.
“I am Alfeo,” the driver introduced himself as they walked, taking her luggage along with him. “How was your flight?”
“Long,” she answered. She was bone-tired, a little cranky and not particularly in the mood for small talk.
Alfeo nodded and opened the car door for her. “The journey will take just over an hour and a half depending on traffic. But we can stop along the way if you need anything.”
“That’s fine,” Kim replied as she slid into the back seat and tipped her head against the leather headrest. She closed her eyes, suddenly spent and exhausted from worrying now that she was here.
She was really doing this…
It seemed as if only a few minutes had passed when she was woken by Alfeo’s voice announcing arrival at their destination.
Kim blinked several times as she tried to gather her bearings, then lowered the window to look out at her surroundings. They were parked down some kind of laneway, and up ahead she could make out a grubby wall of peach-colored plaster, and a paint-chipped wooden door—the only interruption on an otherwise blank facade.
Unimpressed, she regarded the weather-worn door and its tarnished brass ring, and hid a frown as she dragged manicured nails through her tousled blonde mane, pulling her hair partially over her shoulder.
Her heart fell. This place looked like a complete dump. She sincerely hoped the inside was a helluva lot better.
“This is Villa Dolce Vita, right?” she asked, casting a fatigued gaze at Alfeo as she stepped out onto the dusty gravel pathway.
“Sì. Villa Dolce Vita.”
“I’ll need your number,” she stated as she walked toward him with her phone in hand. “Just in case.”
Alfeo complied, assuring her that he’d be available whenever she needed, the suggestive grin on his face indicating he meant for more than just transportation. Were Italian men really such unabashed flirts?
“Can you maybe just help get my cases inside before you go?”
“Of course.” He duly took her suitcases out of the boot, while Kim wandered further along the perimeter wall to where a break in the trees gave way to a view of the sea.
Realizing that they were on an elevated site, high above the glittering Gulf of Naples, she glanced to her left to see a group of impossibly beautiful pastel-colored buildings and terra-cotta roofs, clinging and huddled together.
The setup immediately put her in mind of a huge piñata cake: the center of the green and gray mountain cut open to release a tumbling selection of irresistible pastel-colored candy.
Now this is more like it…
Further along down the coast, rock promontories jutted out above diverging bays, beaches and terraces, all presiding over cerulean waters. Hills dotted with lush vineyards, olive trees and citrus groves looked down over the colorful shops, cafés, hotels and historic buildings scattered below.
Sailboats dotted the clear blue waters and, looking down from where she stood, Kim could see snaking wooden steps leading all the way to the rocky shore below.
The whole thing was dizzying in every sense of the word.
By the time she returned to the villa entrance, Alfeo was gone, but the old wooden door had been left ajar.
Kim slipped through into the courtyard area to discover a hidden garden of sorts.
The dark pea gravel of outside gave way to a lighter-colored, more decorative kind, and she noticed heavy stone planters dotted throughout the small courtyard area, housing rows of mature lemon and olive trees.
Coupled with vibrant magenta bougainvillea tumbling down the edge of an old stone building—evidently the villa itself—the garden was a riot of color and, against the azure sky and glittering water on the bay, made for a picture-perfect entrance.
Citrus scent from the lemon trees followed as Kim walked to the front of the property, her senses now well and truly awakened.
The villa was of the same blotchy peach plaster as the out. The side wall, a pretty two-story house with a terra-cotta roof and rustic windows trimmed with dull cast-iron railings that had long since seen better days.
Turning to check out the view from the front of the house, Kim noticed a terraced area beneath the gardens, accessible by four or five stone steps leading down to a small pool bordering the edge of the entire site overlooking the panoramic bay.
Without the ornate bougainvillea-laden perimeter railings holding everything together, it was as if the entire site could easily slip right off the edge and plummet down to the rocky shore below.
OK, so this place was old, but surprisingly charming, and while Kim didn’t have high hopes for the quality of accommodation, given the crumbling exteriors, she already felt a weird sense of calm at just being here.
It was as if Villa Dolce Vita had already cast a spell on her.
A chipped wooden front door with a ringed black-painted knocker at its center stood wide open, and Kim hesitated momentarily as she listened for noise from inside.
She wasn’t sure if there were other guests staying there already or if anyone was even expecting her, but there was no going back now.
She took a deep breath. She was really here. Doing her own thing, finding her own path.
Time to take the plunge.
Here goes nothing…
Excerpted from The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill, Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Hill. Published by MIRA Books.
MELISSA HILL lives in south Dublin with her husband and daughter. A USA TODAY and international #1 bestseller, she is the author of 13 novels, including The Gift of a Charm and A Gift From Tiffany’s. The Gift of a Charm was a USA TODAY bestseller. Hailed “the queen of the big plot twist,” she combines all the warmth and humor of contemporary women’s fiction with plots that keep readers guessing from page to page. Melissa also cowrites forensic thrillers with her husband, Kevin, under the pseudonym Casey Hill, featuring crime scene investigator Reilly Steel. For more information, visit www.caseyhillbooks.com.
Author Website: http://www.melissahill.ie/
Publication Date: April 20, 2020
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars
*I received an e-arc from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review*
THIS WAS SO CUTE! Okay, I just had to say that right off the bat. I loved this book. This is one of my favorite contemporaries ever which is saying something because I’m very picky about them!
I don’t know if it was the southern setting or just the general cute vibes I got but I loved it. Sloane and Brady were so perfect. I love a good fake dating trope and this did not disappoint. They were on fire! She was quirky and cute and he was stoic and grumpy. They made a hilarious balance.
I think I just identified with Sloane a lot. She blushed a lot and always wore her emotions. That’s me! People can always tell what I am thinking based on my facial expressions! Sloane was so enjoyable to read about. She got herself into some hilarious hi jinks where I found my self laughing aloud. And it was so sweet each time how Brady came to her rescue! I loved her growth. She took an extremely embarrassing situation and turned it around for good. She always wore her heart on her sleeve. Plus she had great relationships all around her! From her brother to her best friend, she is just someone I would totally want to be friends with!
Anne Harper writes romantic comedy that embodies the shenanigans of an I Love Lucy episode and the awkwardness of saying “you too” after the waiter tells you to enjoy your meal.” So. True. That’s exactly what this book was! I can’t say enough good things about it!
Let’s discuss! What is your favorite contemporary?
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