*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?
Thank you so much to NetGalley for the e-arc and to Inkyard Press for having me on the tour!
This book surprised me with how much I loved it. I honestly thought it was going to be a cute, fun read, which it was BUT there was a lot more depth than I was expecting. And some really good quotes! I have a lot to say about this book so hang on to your horses.
Grandison covered a lot of issues. Race, feminism, community, stereotypes to name a few. I actually thought she did a really good job of it. The way she didn’t go super into each topic but enough to get young readers interested in the seriousness of what is going on.
Tyson, that sweet boy, is amazing. He comes from a neighborhood and home life that wasn’t good. He made the choice to not become a product of his environment. It’s a HARD choice. My husband comes from a similar home life as Tyson (minus the good mom and minus the shooting), so I know it is hard to leave everything you know and were raised to be, to be a better person. The courage Trice had to walk a better path is something to be commended.
Another issue Grandison brought up was how boys are not taught emotions growing up, resulting in them acting out in inappropriate ways. And them thinking they don’t need help/ therapy. This is a HUGE problem with our society.
Nandy was a bit stand offish in the beginning but I liked her character development. She judged Trice (Tyson) to be someone bad, just because where he came from. And she quickly found out she was wrong about him. She then turned quite likable and a great character to read about. I loved how she saw the good in everyone.
And lastly, the lerrrrve. Okay, it was cute. They met and were friends as kids then reconnected as teens. It sort of reminded me of Sweet Home Alabama in that sense. Absolutely adorable. And they went from friends, to enemies, to lovers. It’s my favorite trope.
I honestly could write a lot more about this book but I don’t want to give away spoilers and what the characters have to go through! And I don’t want this to take a million years to read.
1 | TRICE
Getting shot isn’t the worst part. It’s the aftermath that really fucks you up.
Six months ago, on a dark December night, I was lying in a pool of my own blood on the living room floor. Six months later, I was sitting in a car on the way to a new town to start fresh. In some ways, yeah, the wound had healed. In others, it never would. I didn’t care, though. The last thing I’d cared about got me where I was.
“You’ll like it there, Tyson. The Smiths have prepared a new home for you,” Misty from social services was saying as she drove the long stretch of highway toward Pacific Hills. It was only an hour away from where I used to live in Lindenwood, California.
I didn’t respond. Home was a meaningless word to me now.
Misty peeked at me. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I can leave as soon as I turn eighteen, right?” That was all that mattered. Fuck the rest. Five months, aka one hundred and sixty days, to go. On November twelfth, I’d be free.
Misty sighed. “Look, I know what you’re going through—”
“Word? You’ve been shot too and all’at?” I glanced her way. This lady was going home to a million-thread-count sheet-and-pillowcase set, resting easy once I was off her hands.
Fuck outta here.
“Well, no, but—”
“Then shut up.” I faced the road ahead, done talking.
Misty let out a breath, her light tan skin no doubt holding a blush upon her cheeks. “Do you kiss your—” She caught herself, as if realizing where she was about to go. “I—I’m sorry. You just shouldn’t speak that way.”
I felt an ache in my chest, but I let it go.
I didn’t care.
Half a beat later Misty was rambling on about food. “Do you wanna stop and get something to eat, you must be starving.”
“I told you I wasn’t hungry.”
“Oh, well, are you nervous?”
I hadn’t thought about being nervous or the fact that I would never return home again and lead a normal life. Not like I’d ever led one to begin with.
“Well, good. Think of it as going to a sleepover at an old friend’s house.”
One thing was true, the Smiths were old friends, but this setup was for the next five months.
“It’s been ten years since I last saw them,” I spoke up. “This ain’t no damn sleepover, and it’s not about to be all kumbaya, neither.”
At least they were black. Moving into the uppity setting of Pacific Hills was sure to be hell, but at least I would be with a black family. Even if I wouldn’t exactly fit in.
I didn’t look the same. I didn’t act the same. I wasn’t the same. And I didn’t care.
“It’s Trice.” I had asked her to call me that from jump street. No one called me Tyson.
I didn’t want to think about that. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t care.
“Trice, please, try? I know it’s been rough these past few months, but you have a chance at something fresh. The Smiths are good people, and Pacific Hills is a lovely town. I’m sure soon you’ll be close to your old self.”
Misty had no clue what she was talking about. My old self? She obviously hadn’t paid attention to my file, or she would’ve been smart enough to leave it at fresh and not bring up my past.
Tyson Trice was dead.
He died on the f loor in the living room that day, and he was never coming back.
When I didn’t respond, Misty let up, probably getting that I didn’t give a shit either way.
I didn’t care.
2 | Nandy
I told myself I didn’t care about the juvenile delinquent my parents were moving into our home. I told myself it was no big deal an ex-con would be sleeping right next door to me. I told myself that my parents hadn’t made the worst decision in everdom.
It was just an everyday occurrence in the Smith household.
Still, it wasn’t fair.
As I paced around the pool in my backyard and complained to my best friend, Erica Yee, over the phone, I expected her to be on my side and console me.
“This was supposed to be a great summer and they pull this?” I whined.
“You can still have a good summer,” Erica responded. “This doesn’t have to be the end.”
But it was the end. My parents hadn’t gone into detail about the boy’s situation, just that he was in a “rough spot” and would be living with us for now. And that he was from Lindenwood, otherwise known as the ghetto.
I’d never gone there, but I’d heard enough stories to know to be cautious. When my parents watched the news, there was always a segment on some tragedy that had happened in Lindenwood. Some high-speed chase, or little kids killed during a drive-by, or a robbery gone wrong among the usual clutter of crime that kept the LPD busy. Lindenwood was notorious for its drugs, thefts, assaults, and murders.
It probably hadn’t been the best idea to stay up lurking on the local news feeds right before the delinquent moved in.
Everything would be ruined.
“It is the end,” I insisted. “I mean, they spent all this time whispering and having these hushed conversations behind closed doors, and they barely revealed last night that he’s from Lindenwood!”
Maybe I was acting childishly, but I felt like a kid with the way my parents had shut me out on the biggest detail of all when it came to the boy coming to stay with us out of nowhere. For two weeks, they’d been scarce on the topic and evaded any and all questions. Now it felt like they’d dropped a bomb on me.
For all I knew, this kid was a total ex-gangbanger and my parents were intent on opening our home to wayward souls.
Precautions? I was definitely taking them.
“Right now, you’re probably pacing around your pool in a Gucci bikini while your happily-in-love parents are inside preparing dinner together. God, Nan, your life is incredibly boring. You could use this delinquent to spice things up.”
Well, it was a Sunday evening, and the sun was beginning to set. My parents always made dinner together on Sundays, because they were both off work and able to do so.
I stopped pacing and glanced down at my white Gucci bikini. “Yee, you try new hobbies to spice things up, not invite ex-cons to move in with you. Look, whatever, let’s just get away for a few hours. The longer I put a halt on this, the better.”
“When is he supposed to show up?”
“Sometime today. I just wanna blow it off. Maybe you, me, and Chad could grab a bite at the club or something.”
My boyfriend’s family had a reserved table at the local country club. Anything would be better than dinner with the delinquent. I wasn’t 100 percent sure he was a criminal, but I wasn’t taking any chances. When it came to Lindenwood, you couldn’t be too sure.
“You in?” I asked.
“If we must.” Erica pretended to sound exasperated. “Call me with the details in twenty, okay?”
“Deal.” I hung up and sighed, tilting my head back toward the darkening sky and questioning what I had done to deserve this.
It was the first week of June, and school had ended last week. I intended to spend this summer before senior year going to beach bonfires and parties with my friends, lounging around, preparing for cotillion, and just staying as far away from home as possible.
With a plan in motion, I went around my pool and stepped into our family room through the patio doors.
“Shit!” I jumped back, dropping my phone and barely registering the sound of its rough slap against the hardwood floor.
My parents were standing in the room with an Asian woman who was dressed in a violet-red pantsuit. But it was the boy beside her that startled me. He towered over my father, with broad shoulders and a wide chest, and arms that let me know he worked out, even though he seemed drenched in black with his long-sleeved shirt and matching pants. He had deep, dark brown skin with a clean complexion. But what really stood out was his hair. The boy had cornrows braided to the back of his head—well-aged cornrows.
Ugh, he looked so unpolished.
Suddenly I remembered my fallen phone and looked down to discover the screen was cracked. Because things aren’t messed up enough already.
“And you remember our daughter, Nandy.” My mother played it cool, gesturing toward where I’d frozen near the patio doors.
Everyone faced me, looking just as uncomfortable as I felt.
Great, I was making my first impression completely inappropriate in a bikini.
Awkwardly, I waved and forced a smile onto my face, showing off the result of two years of braces.
“Nandy, this may be a little bit of a surprise, but you remember Tyson Trice, don’t you?” my father asked, looking between the two of us.
At first, the name vaguely rang a bell, but then it hit me. Tyson, the boy I’d played with when I was younger. He used to come by in the summers when his grandfather would do lawn work around our subdivision. There’d been a few times during the school year when he’d come by too, but it was mostly a summer thing. Until he stopped coming altogether.
The revelation brought a sense of relief followed quickly by a foreign anger that I couldn’t explain.
That was then; this is now.
Now Tyson Trice had hit a mega growth spurt and stood before me nearly a man, appearing not at all like the seventeen years young that we both were.
“Right.” I nodded my head. “Tyson, hey.”
Tyson didn’t shift focus to my body. He stared straight into my eyes and bore no friendly expression or a tell of what he was thinking. He was far across the room, but I didn’t need to be right up on him to know that he had the angriest eyes I’d ever seen. Dark, soulless abysses stared at me, making me shiver.
Right on, Dad. Thanks for inviting a possible murderer into our home.
“And this is our son, Jordy.” My mother didn’t miss a beat as she went on, downplaying how awkward everything was.
Jordy, my eleven-year-old little brother, was sitting against the ottoman, playing a video game on his handheld.
Tyson glanced at Jordy, and I felt protective, seeing curiosity briefly cross his face as he laid eyes on my Thai brother.
Jordy looked up from his game. “Hey.”
Tyson lifted a brow and turned to face my parents in that familiar way most outsiders looked at my family once they realized a black family was raising a Thai son.
Jordy smirked, shaking his head. “They wish they could’ve spawned a kid as good-looking as me.”
My father chuckled. “We spoke about adopting for years after having Nandy, and right around the time she was eight, we got approved and Jordy came into our lives.”
“He was just two years old,” my mother gushed. “He was so adorable, we fell in love with him instantly.”
I came more into the room, wanting to shield my brother from Tyson. Someone had to think of the kids.
“Nandy, why don’t you go put some clothes on.” It wasn’t a question. My mother was ordering me to cover up and look more presentable for our guests.
“I was actually on my way out to meet up with Erica, we’ve got this—”
“Right now?” she asked. “We’ve got company.”
I glanced at Tyson, hating him again for spoiling my summer. I’d seen him, and I’d spoken to him. What more did she want?
“Yeah, but Erica and I had plans to go to the country club and talk about cotillion.”
My mother pursed her lips. “Nandy—”
“You know what,” my father stepped in, “that’s a great idea. Nandy could take Tyson and the two could get reacquainted, and that’ll give us time to talk to Ms. Tran here.”
My eyes practically shot out of their sockets. There was no way in hell I’d share a car with Tyson.
After thinking it over, my mother seemed to agree. “That is a great idea. We can all sit down together later.”
My jaw hit the ground.
I shook my head. “You know, never mind, suddenly I’m not as hungry as I thought. In fact, I feel sick to my stomach. I think I’ll go lie down.”
By the way my mother narrowed her eyes, I knew she’d be giving me hell later about my behavior. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fair to me to force some scary-looking guy into my hands to be babysat.
With one final look at the newest arrival to the Smith household, I picked up my phone from the floor and made my way up to my room.
Long after Ms. Tran had left and my mother had scolded me in our family office, I sat in my room, maneuvering with a broken phone as I texted my boyfriend. Going on a hunger strike didn’t last long for me. After having refused to go down for dinner, I was starving.
My cell phone chirped as Chad texted me back.
Me: Thank God
My parents were probably still up, no doubt discussing either my punishment or how we were going to work Tyson into the family.
With their bedroom being in a different wing of our house, sneaking out was always an easy feat. Still, I made sure to keep extra quiet as I crept out of my room and slipped down the staircase.
Chad was waiting for me out front. He’d been pacing back and forth in front of our walk as he waited, and as I stepped outside I was elated to see him.
“I’m thinking sushi, you in?” I asked as I walked past him, heading for his car.
“Yeah, sure. What’s going on?” Chad asked as he caught up to me and fell into step.
I peered up into his blue eyes. “You don’t want to know.”
Chad ran a hand through his auburn hair, appearing confused but conceding. “O-kay, let’s go get some sushi.”
At the feeling of being watched, I glanced back at my house. On the second floor, through one of the large bay windows, I caught sight of a silhouetted figure.
It was him.
I turned back to Chad and reached out and caught his hand. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”
This was my summer, and no one was getting in the way of that.
Whitney D. Grandison was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she currently resides. A lover of stories since she first picked up a book, it’s no surprise she’s taken to writing her own. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers.
I am very excited to share an excerpt from The Little Bookshop on the Seine! A book about love and books in Paris is my kind of read! Hope you enjoy!
With a heavy heart I placed the sign in the display window.
All books 50% off.
If things didn’t pick up soon, it would read Closing down sale. The thought alone was enough to make me shiver. The autumnal sky was awash with purples and smudges of orange, as I stepped outside to survey the display window from the sidewalk.
Star-shaped leaves crunched underfoot. I forced a smile. A sale wouldn’t hurt, and maybe it’d take the bookshop figures from the red into the black—which I so desperately needed. My rent had been hiked up. The owner of the building, a sharp-featured, silver-tongued, forty-something man, had put the pressure on me lately—to pay more, to declutter the shop, claiming the haphazard stacks of books were a fire risk. The additional rent stretched the budget to breaking level. Something had to change.
The phone shrilled, and a grin split my face. It could only be Ridge at this time of the morning. Even after being together almost a year his name still provoked a giggle. It suited him though, the veritable man mountain he was. I’d since met his mom, a sweet, well-spoken lady, who claimed in dulcet tones, that she chose his name well before his famous namesake in The Bold and the Beautiful. In fact, she was adamant about it, and said the TV character Ridge was no match for her son. I had to agree. Sure, they both had chiseled movie star cheekbones, and an intense gaze that made many a woman swoon, but my guy was more than just the sum of his parts—I loved him for his mind, as much as his clichéd six-pack, and broody hotness. And even better, he loved me for me.
He was the hero in my own real-life love story, and due back from Canada the next day. It’d been weeks since I’d seen him, and I ached for him in a way that made me blush.
I dashed inside, and answered the phone, breathlessly. “The Bookshop on the Corner.”
“That’s the voice I know and love,” he said in his rich, husky tone. My heart fluttered, picturing him at the end of the line, his jet-black hair and flirty blue eyes. He simply had to flick me a look loaded with suggestion, and I’d be jelly-legged and lovestruck.
“What are you wearing?” he said.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I held back a laugh, eager to drag it out. So far our relationship had been more long-distance than anticipated, as he flew around the world reporting on location. The stints apart left an ache in my heart, a numbness to my days. Luckily I had my books, and a sweeping romance or two helped keep the loneliness at bay.
“Tell me or I’ll be forced to Skype you and see for myself.”
Glancing down at my outfit, I grimaced: black tights, a black pencil skirt, and a pilled blue knit sweater, all as old as the hills of Ashford. Not exactly the type of answer Ridge was waiting for, or the way I wanted him to picture me, after so many weeks apart. “Those stockings you like, and…”
His voice returned with a growl. “Those stockings? With the little suspenders?”
I sat back into the chair behind the counter, fussing with my bangs. “The very same.”
He groaned. “You’re killing me. Take a photo…”
“There’s no need. If you’re good, I’ll wear the red ones tomorrow night.” I grinned wickedly. Our reunions were always passionate affairs; he was a hands-on type of guy. Lucky for him, because it took a certain type of man to drag me from the pages of my books. When he was home we didn’t surface until one of us had to go to work. Loving Ridge had been a revelation, especially in the bedroom, where he took things achingly slow, drawing out every second. I flushed with desire for him.
There was a muffled voice and the low buzz of phones ringing. Ridge mumbled to someone before saying, “About tomorrow…” He petered out, regret in each syllable.
I closed my eyes. “You’re not coming, are you?” I tried not to sigh, but it spilled out regardless. The lure of a bigger, better story was too much for him to resist, and lately the gaps between our visits grew wider. I understood his work was important, but I wanted him all to myself. A permanent fixture in the small town I lived in.
He tutted. “I’m sorry, baby. There’s a story breaking in
Indonesia, and I have to go. It’ll only be for a week or two, and then I’ll take some time off.”
Outside, leaves fluttered slowly from the oak tree, swaying softly, until they fell to the ground. I wasn’t the nagging girlfriend sort—times like this though, I was tempted to be. Ridge had said the very same thing the last three times he’d canceled a visit. But invariably someone would call and ask Ridge to head to the next location; any time off would be cut short.
“I understand,” I said, trying to keep my voice bright. Sometimes I felt like I played a never-ending waiting game. Would it always be like this? “Just so you know, I have a very hot date this afternoon.”
He gasped. “You better be talking about a fictional date.” His tone was playful, but underneath there was a touch of jealousy to it. Maybe it was just as hard on him, being apart.
“One very hot book boyfriend…though not as delectable as my real boyfriend—but a stand-in, until he returns.”
“Well, he better not keep you up half the night, or he’ll have me to answer to,” he faux threatened, and then said more seriously, “Things will slow down, Sarah. I want to be with you so much my soul hurts. But right now, while I’m freelance, I have to take whatever comes my way.”
“I know. I just feel a bit lost sometimes. Like someone’s hit pause, and I’m frozen on the spot.” I bit my lip, trying to work out how to explain it. “It’s not just missing you—I do understand about your job—it’s…everything. The bookshop sales dwindling, the rent jacked up, everyone going on about their business, while I’m still the same old Sarah.”
I’d been at this very crossroad when I’d met Ridge, and he’d swept me off my feet, like the ultimate romance hero. For a while that had been enough. After all, wasn’t love always the answer? Romance aside, life was a little stagnant, and I knew it was because of my fear of change. It wasn’t so
much that I had to step from behind the covers of my books, rather plunge, perhaps. Take life by the scruff of the neck and shake it. But how?
“You’ve had a rough few weeks. That’s all. I’ll be back soon, and I’m sure there’s something I can do to make you forget everything…”
My belly flip-flopped at the thought. He would make me forget everything that was outside that bedroom door, but then he’d leave and it would all tumble back.
What exactly was I searching for? My friends were getting married and having babies. Buying houses and redecorating. Starting businesses. My life had stalled. I was an introvert, happiest hiding in the shadows of my shop, reading romances to laze the day away, between serving the odd customer or two—yet, it wasn’t enough. In small-town Connecticut, there wasn’t a lot to do. And life here—calm, peaceful—was fine, but that’s just it, fine wasn’t enough anymore. I had this fear that life was passing me by because I was too timid to take the reins.
It was too hazy a notion of what I was trying to say, even to me. Instead of lumping Ridge with it, I changed tack. “I hope you know, you’re not leaving the house when you get home. Phones will be switched to silent, computers forgotten, and the only time we’re leaving the comfort of bed is when I need sustenance.” A good romp around the bedroom would suffice until I could pinpoint what it was that I wanted.
“How about I sort out the sustenance?” he said, his voice heavy with desire. “And then we’ll never have to leave.”
“Promises, promises,” I said, my breath hitching. I hoped this flash of longing would never wane, the sweet torture of anticipation.
“I have to go, baby. I’ll call you tonight if it’s not too late once I’m in.”
“Definitely call tonight! Otherwise, I can’t guarantee the book boyfriend won’t steal your girlfriend. He’s pretty hot, I’ll have you know.”
“Why am I jealous of a fictional character?” He laughed, a low, sexy sound. “OK, tonight. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
He hung up, leaving me dazed, and a touch lonely knowing that I wouldn’t see him the next day as planned.
I tried to shake the image of Ridge from my mind. If anyone walked in, they’d see the warm blush of my cheeks, and know exactly what I was thinking. Damn the man for being so attractive, and so effortlessly sexy.
Shortly, the sleepy town of Ashford would wake under the gauzy light of October skies. Signs would be flipped to open, stoops swept, locals would amble down the road. Some would step into the bookshop and out of the cold, and spend their morning with hands wrapped around a mug of steaming hot tea, and reading in any one of the cozy nooks around the labyrinth-like shop.
I loved having a place for customers to languish. Comfort was key, and if you had a good book and a hot drink, what else could you possibly need to make your day any brighter? Throw rugs and cushions were littered around seating areas. Coats would be swiftly hung on hooks, a chair found, knitted blankets pulled across knees, and their next hour or two spent, in the most relaxing of ways.
I wandered around the shop, feather duster in hand, tickling the covers, waking them from slumber. I’m sure as soon as my back was turned, the books wiggled and winked at one another, as if they were eager for the day to begin, for fingers of hazy sunlight to filter through and land on them like spotlights, as if saying, here’s the book for you.
Imagine if I had to close up for good, like so many other shops had in recent times? It pained me to think people were missing out on the real-life bookshop experience. Wasn’t it much better when you could step into a dimly lit space, and eke your way around searching for the right novel? You could run a fingertip along the spines, smell that glorious old book scent, flick them open, and unbend a dog-eared page. Read someone else’s notes in the margin, or a highlighted passage, and see why that sentence or metaphor had dazzled the previous owner.
Secondhand books had so much life in them. They’d lived, sometimes in many homes, or maybe just one. They’d been on airplanes, traveled to sunny beaches, or crowded into a backpack and taken high up a mountain where the air thinned.
Some had been held aloft tepid rose-scented baths, and thickened and warped with moisture. Others had childlike scrawls on the acknowledgment page, little fingers looking for a blank space to leave their mark. Then there were the pristine novels, ones that had been read carefully, bookmarks used, almost like their owner barely pried the pages open so loath were they to damage their treasure.
Rebecca Raisin is the author of several novels, including the beloved Little Paris series and the Gingerbread Café trilogy, and her short stories have been published in various anthologies and fiction magazines. You can follow Rebecca on Facebook, and at http://www.rebeccaraisin.com
I am SUPER excited to feature Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery today on my blog! When I was a teenager, a friend and I had it all planned out that we were going to be wedding planners together. That did not work out but it is still so fun to think about. So when I saw the synopsis for this, I knew I wanted to feature it and hopefully soon read it! Plus that cover is GORGEOUS!
“It might just be okay,” wedding coordinator Renee Grothen murmured softly to herself as she surveyed the wedding reception. She wouldn’t risk admitting everything had turned out as planned until the last guest had left, but four and a half hours in, things were going really well.
Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.
Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.
Renee walked around the perimeter of the indoor reception space, looking for problems. So far, so good, she thought with cautious optimism. The cake had been cut, the bar service was about to end and the tone of the party had faded from raucous to comfortably tired—exactly as it should. With a little luck, things would wrap up on time and without a crisis. This was Monica and Jim’s day—Renee wanted it to be as perfect as possible. While she always took care of her clients, she tended to unleash her mother bear instincts for her special couples and Monica and Jim certainly qualified.
She spotted Pallas Mitchell, her boss, walking toward her. It was nearly ten on a Saturday night and Pallas, a pretty brunette only recently returned from maternity leave, yawned widely. When she spotted Renee she held up her hands, palms up.
“What can I say? I’ve been home with an infant. These wild late-night hours are going to take some getting used to.”
“No one’s judging,” Renee told her. “As I said at seven, at eight and again at nine, go home. I can handle this. You’re barely back and you need to give yourself time to adjust to the schedule.”
“You’ve been running things for nearly six months. You need a break.”
In truth, Renee was a little ragged around the edges, but she’d loved handling Weddings Out of the Box while Pallas had been gone. She’d enjoyed the challenges each unique wedding presented and watching all the details fall into place on the big day.
“I had lots of help,” Renee pointed out. “Hiring college students on summer break was a good idea.” And what they’d lacked in experience, they’d made up for in energy and enthusiasm.
“Now that I’m back, things can return to normal,” Pallas said, covering another yawn.
“Go home,” Renee urged. “Please. I can handle things here. I promise.”
“Okay. I will. Thanks. Don’t you dare come in tomorrow.” Pallas’s voice was firm. “For once, we don’t have a Sunday wedding. Enjoy the break.”
“I will.” Renee would probably pop in to do a little paperwork, but she wouldn’t stay long. “Are you coming to The Boardroom on Monday night?”
In a wedding destination town, the rhythms of the residents were determined by weekend weddings. Happily Inc’s workweek started on Wednesdays as the businesses geared up for the dozens of nuptials that occurred in multiple venues. Which meant the town’s Friday night was actually on Monday.
The Boardroom, a local bar, hosted game nights on Mondays. Board games ruled and tournaments were heated and fun as friends crushed each other at everything from Candy Land to Risk.
Pallas shook her head. “I’ll admit to being a bit of a worrier. When we went a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan. He’s only five months old. It’s too soon to leave him at night.”
Renee held in a smile. “Sure. I get that.”
“I know you don’t, but thank you for pretending. Have fun for me, too. Oh, Jasper’s back, so tell him hi, if you think of it.”
Jasper was back? Renee hadn’t heard. She liked knowing he’d returned from his big book tour. Not for any reason in particular, she amended hastily. Sure, he was nice, but there were a lot of nice guys in the world. There was just something about Jasper. Maybe it was because in addition to being good-looking and just a little dangerous, he wasn’t a forever kind of guy.
“I saw that!” Pallas grinned. “I totally saw that. You did the predatory smile thing I was never good at. You want to use him for sex! Did I know this?” She stomped her foot. “Did this happen while I was on maternity leave? What else went on while I was off having a baby?”
Renee laughed. “You’re reading way too much into my smile. I’m happy he’s home from his book tour. That’s all.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Jasper and I are not involved. I doubt we’ve had more than a three-sentence conversation.”
Not that it took many sentences to ask Your place or mine? And while the description of predatory was nice, it gave her too much credit. Would she stalk him and pounce? Not even on her best day. Would she say yes if the man asked? She smiled again. Oh, yeah, she would. Definitely. Okay, probably. If she was feeling brave. Because while she worked her butt off to give her couples their perfect happily-ever-after day, she knew it was never going to happen for her. Those who could—did. Those who couldn’t became wedding planners.
Avoiding relationships might be the smart choice, but it was also a lonely one. She knew Jasper was into the long-term, monogamous, not-serious kind of thing and she was pretty sure she could handle that. Assuming she was his type and he was interested. They could have some laughs, lots of sex and walk away completely unscathed in the heart department. Where was the bad?
“There’s something going on and you can’t convince me otherwise,” Pallas said. “You have depths. I’m very impressed. Okay, use Jasper and then tell me the details because hey, he’s got to be great.” She yawned again. “I’m such a lightweight. I’m leaving now.”
“Good night. Hug Ryan for me.”
“You know I will.”
Pallas walked out of the reception hall. Renee continued to circle the space, looking for any forgotten handbags or phones, and noting how long it would take the cleaning service to return the huge room to order. Doing her job and not thinking about the fact that Jasper was back—that was her.
A loud whoop got her attention. She turned and saw three teenaged guys running through the fountain at the far end of the big, open room. Each of them jumped, trying to touch the arc of water dancing overhead.
The younger brother, she thought as she made her way toward them. And his friends. No doubt they were bored after so many hours with not very much to do. Regardless, she was not going to have them disrupt the reception when it was so close to being over.
As she approached the running, jumping teens, she saw both sets of parents, along with the bride and groom, still dancing. They swayed in time with the music, oblivious to the fountain and the idiots messing with it. Then several things happened at once.
The younger brother started an extra long run toward the fountain. Jim let go of Monica and spun her out the length of their arms. Monica bumped her mom, who stumbled a little. Dad grabbed Mom, moving all of them closer to the fountain and the younger brother running, who had to swerve suddenly to avoid them. As he swerved, he lost his balance and slipped, tumbling into the fountain mechanism. One of the hoses broke free, wiggling and spraying water everywhere.
Renee saw it all happening and knew there was no way she was going to allow her beautiful bride to get soaked. She lunged for the hose, caught it and held it tightly against her chest as the bride’s father rushed to turn off the water to the hose. It took only seconds, but by then the entire fountain had spilled over and Renee was drenched, shivering and had water up her nose even as she wondered if she looked half as ridiculous as she felt.
The new Mrs. Martinez hurried over. “Renee, are you all right?” She turned on her brother. “How could you? This is a wedding, not a water park.”
Aware that end-of-wedding exhaustion could easily lead to emotions spiraling out of control, Renee quickly faked a smile.
“Monica, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Keeping you and the rest of the wedding party dry was my only concern.” She glanced at the water draining onto the floor and realized part of the fountain was still pumping out water. That couldn’t be good. If she couldn’t get everything turned off, she was going to have to call in one of those companies that took care of disasters like flooding. “Really. It’s no problem.”
“You’re dripping and the water’s rising. My dad went to find the main shutoff.”
Renee wrung out her hair and hoped her makeup wasn’t too badly smudged. Then she realized the water level in the reception hall was indeed climbing and hoped Monica’s father found the shutoff soon.
She was just about to go help him when he returned.
“All turned off.” He glanced at the mini flood. “Sorry about this.”
“It’s fine,” Renee lied, her tone soothing, because that was part of her job. To pretend all was well even when they needed to be figuring out how to build an ark.
The rest of the guests were heading out. Nothing like the threat of an unexpected flood to get people moving, she thought, trying to find the humor in the situation.
“I’m so sorry,” Monica told her as she held her dress out of the water and slipped out of her shoes.
“Don’t be. You had a wonderful wedding and reception. Why don’t you and Jim start gathering your things? I have a spare set of clothes in my office. I’ll get changed, then help you make sure you have everything.”
As she spoke, she noticed the water seemed to have settled at about the six- or seven-inch level. Yup, she was going to have to call someone. No doubt she would be here all night. Oh, joy.
“I’m really sorry,” Jim said. “We thought we’d planned for every contingency.” He glared at his new brother-in-law. “Except for stupid.” He turned back to her. “Let us know the cost of cleanup. We’ll pay for it.”
“Thank you. I think the deposit should take care of it but I’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Now if you’ll let me go get changed, I’ll be back with you in ten minutes.”
Renee slipped out of her shoes and walked through the ankle-deep water. When she reached her office upstairs, she carefully closed the door behind her before undressing, then slipped on jeans and a T-shirt. Not exactly professional, but she wasn’t going to worry about that right now. Before she returned to her bride and groom, she looked up the local disaster cleaning service. The number was in her files, but wasn’t one she had had to use before.
They picked up on the first ring.
“Happily Inc CleanUp. This is Hilde. How can I help you?”
“Hi. I’m Renee Grothen at Weddings Out of the Box. We had a firefighter wedding tonight with a big fountain. There was an accident with one of the hoses and now our main reception hall is flooded.”
There was a pause. “Um, did you say firefighter wedding? Never mind. How much water?”
“About six inches.”
“That’s a lot.”
“It was a big fountain.”
“Give us thirty minutes and we’ll be there.”
Renee hung up, gave herself a second to catch her breath, then headed back to deal with the bride, the groom, the flood and anything else that might happen tonight. Because with a wedding, it was always something.
SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live. Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.
“Ten years ago, Becky Waters fled her hometown and moved to Houston, heartbroken and pregnant. After a long and contentious fight with her parents and Child Protective Services to get back the son her family stole from her, she finally has everything she’s ever wanted. Her life seems like it’s finally on the right track until the father of her child shows up, demanding to know why she hid the existence of their son from him for so many years. As old hurts are brought to the surface, the feelings Becky has fought for the last ten years return with a vengeance. Can she forgive and forget, or will she let the past ruin her chance with the only man she’s ever been able to imagine in her future?Reese Petrov has spent most of his adult life alone, licking his wounds after the devastation of a first love gone wrong. He’s focused on his career and nothing else, keeping everyone in his life at a distance. When he moves and meets his new partner at the Houston Police Department, he’s unexpectedly forced to face the one who got away. As he fights for a place in Becky and his child’s lives, a family tragedy brings him to his knees and forces him to realize that letting people in is the only way he can survive. Can he learn the lesson quickly enough to rebuild two of the most important relationships in his life?”
I’m a Montana born, Texas raised New Jersey transplant with a degree in hospitality. At 29 years old, I decided it was finally time for me to pursue my real passion in life – writing. I’ve been writing princess stories and LOTR fan-fiction since I was in middle school, so the transition into romance has been fun!
When I’m not writing, I’m reading (fantasy, sci-fi and romance are my genres) or working. I’m currently obsessed with Brooklyn Nine Nine which should tell you all you need to know about my sense of humor.
Finally, I am 100% an old cat lady. My cats Socks and Kaz are little weirdos and I love them more than most people.
Seriously check out Erin Rylie and series! It’s a must read if you love romance!
I don’t normally read contemporaries, but I’m glad I picked this up! I had just read a heavier book and was in a bit of a funk over it, so this was the perfect fun, fast, cute read! It was sort of a pallet cleanser for me. And even though I had a couple of issues with it, I am still interested in reading the other books in the series!
The thing I did really like was the plot! I’m a sucker for a fake dating plot! I think they are so funny and cute and how could it not create a little va-va-voom between the characters?!
Okay the issues I have are a little sporadic. I liked all of the characters but they all had some major flaws. Maybe it’s my age (27), so I couldn’t relate anymore, I don’t know. Also, let me say, that I have had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Lara Jean when I was in high school.
Lara Jean. She was so cute and naive. But I hated that she had a crush on her sister’s ex, Josh. Not that she did in the first place, but that she did after they broke up. Now, I don’t have sisters, only brothers, so maybe I don’t understand how she could do that. It just seemed kind of icky.
Josh. I know a lot of people liked him, but he was my least favorite character. He was kind of a schmuck, but acted like the nicest guy. Maybe he was both?
Peter. He was kind of the opposite of Josh. He was a sarcastic meanie some of the times, but he was actually really nice.
Also, I’ve got to say Margot was kind of annoying. She dumps her boyfriend so she can have fun in college. Wow. So mature…
Do y’all read contemporaries? What do you like?
*Disclaimer for CONTENT WARNING. This is so parents can make a decision. It does not necessarily reflect my personal views.
CONTENT WARNING: They are in high school so lots of sex talk and some bullying. Kissing scenes. Minor swearing.
OTHER CONTENT: Strong friendships, family bonds, forgiveness, how to navigate bullying.
*Gorgeous sign by Bookish Signs! I have a code too! Lauren20 to save on two or more items!*
“I was born on the first day of school, and I grew up and old in just two hundred days . . .”
Sixteen-year-old Leo has a way with words, but he doesn’t know it yet. He spends his time texting, polishing soccer maneuvers, and killing time with Niko and Silvia. Until a new teacher arrives and challenges him to give voice to his dreams.
And so Leo is inspired to win over the red-haired beauty, Beatrice. She doesn’t know Leo exists, but he’s convinced that his dream to win her over will come true. When Leo lands in the hospital and learns that Beatrice has been admitted too, his mission to be there for her will send him on a thrilling but heartbreaking journey. He wants to help her but doesn’t know how—and his dream of love will force him to grow up fast.
Having already sold over a million copies in Italy, Alessandro D’Avenia’s debut novel is considered the Italian The Fault in Our Stars. Now available in English for the first time, this rich, funny, and heartwarming coming-of-age tale asks us to explore the meaning—and the cost—of friendship, and shows us what happens when suffering bursts into the world of teenagers and renders the world of adults speechless.
Plot. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. This was pitched as the Italian version of The Fault in Our Stars. I hated that book. (Please don’t hate me!!) But let me tell you, I LOVED this book! I cried. I NEVER cry while reading. I have no idea why. I just don’t. But this had the hope that The Fault in Our Stars was missing for me. I had so many feels! And it was just a beautiful story!
Characters. Leo was actually really sweet. The way he talked about his love and the way he treated her was just unheard of in today’s time. He wrote songs and letters to her. It was seriously the cutest thing ever! And I loved how steady Silvia was there for Leo. She was always there when he fell or needed something. I also adored his teacher! What an awesome guy to get involved and to care for his students. More teachers should be like that.
Final Thoughts. This was a relatively short book, but it was beautifully written. Again, I was super surprised how much I loved this book. I normally do not go for contemporaries, I usually find them boring. But this one had some missing piece that isn’t there in other books. I loved the overall message of this book, to never give up on your dreams, but to maybe reexamine them sometimes, and make them into something better and stronger.
*I received a finished copy from TLC book tours for an honest review! I’m on the Instagram tour for this on September 12!*
“Everyone has problems, honey. Everyone. The question is can you love each other knowing full well that there is an imperfect human being staring right back at you.”
Book: Melody’s Key
Author: Dallas Coryell
Publisher: AsherRain Publications
Type: New Adult Contemporary Romance
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Description taken from Goodreads:
Tegan Lockwood’s dreams were dead, sacrificed on the noble altar of duty before they ever had a chance to live. Her entire existence was disappearing into the abyss of apathy as she labored her days away keeping her family’s struggling business alive. There would be no emotion, no color, no beauty in her life. That is, until a mysterious visitor begins to draw her out of the darkness of her past towards something that will challenge the boundaries of her world, and unlock the most deeply held secrets of her heart.
Let’s get into this adventure starting with the good stuff. I thought it was a really cute love story. I couldn’t help but think of a Hallmark movie when I was reading it. Not in a bad way (I love Hallmark movies) but just in the way that it was cheesy but a feel good story.
I thought that the characters were relatable in the sense that they handled their problems like a normal person. Which means they handled them badly but then they crawled out of despair and kept living on. It happens to everyone. I really liked Tegan’s personality. She sacrificed going to art school to stay and help her parents company. I liked Mason enough. He seemed like a nice guy but some of his lines were just super cheesy. Now, let me tell you, my favorite characters were Tegan’s parents. I thought they were hilarious and great parents (with the exception of Tegan’s younger sister, who was 16 and got drunk a lot, had a lot of sex, and dressed very scandalously… What the heck parents?) Anyways, I loved them. Tegan’s dad was the one who said the quote above.
Unfortunately there were things I didn’t like. For one, the writing was overly flowery and had too many adverbs. In other places, the book would just jump to a different scene. It wasn’t a smooth transition. I had to try and figure out what was going on and then just keep reading. Another thing was, Mason’s lines were way too cheesy at some points and made me roll my eyes. I get it, he’s a musician, but come on man! Speak normally! I also didn’t like that he took her to an EDM show (love that music but it’s where they were in the building) but he took her to the VIP lounge where they were offered drugs and people to have sex with. She was clearly uncomfortable but he was just like I don’t do those things but it’s normal for this industry. Um, okay, so like, why are you there?! Then they got completely plastered and called it a great night! Wow. You probably don’t even remember that night… So yeah, there were a few things I didn’t like.
Cute, cheesy, contemporary romance that I liked overall.