*I received a paperback copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Y’all, I LOVED this book! Like, why aren’t more people talking about it? I feel like it should be popular! Honestly, this would make an epic movie! It does give me major Outlander vibes in terms of pacing, star crossed lovers, and the bit of magic that is in them. It just feel similar!
Juliet throughout her lives is interesting. She definitely changes but at the same time keeps her core personality traits I think. My favorite was Nora. She was the most relatable.
Luke. Oh poor Luke. He is the administrator demon of Juliet’s curse. He is not supposed to love her, and yet he does every time. It’s heart breaking to watch them over and over make mistakes that lead to their destruction basically.
And Auguste. He, I did not really like. He seemed like a coward in each of his lives.
The whole premise was super interesting! It is all about the repercussions of a curse gone wrong, and the people who paid for it. I really liked going through the book as Helen, as she gets her memories back from her past lives, and finds out just how strong she really is. I also really liked the administrator demon thing. That was a cool little twist.
I won’t spoil the ending, but IT’S REALLY GOOD.
I cannot wait until Sayers next novel comes out in 2021, The Ladies of the Secret Circus!
*Thank you to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow books for the free book in exchange for an honest review!*
I know, not my normal genre I review, BUT I am trying to branch out into the wild unknown! And guess what, I loved it. So happy I decided to give this one a try!
This one is pretty character driven so let’s talk about them first! I love Gia. I am actually an oldest of three myself and even though Gia is the youngest, I actually related to her the most. She is an extreme people pleaser like I am! She just wants her family together again. Plus she has an amazing skill of professional kite making?! So cool! She is the sweetest and I love her fake dating/ friends to lovers/ romance going on in this book!
Shelley. Oh, Shelley. She and Madison probably have the most character growth. Shelley is the wild child of the three sisters. She is crazy and impulsive. She has made some bad decisions that have led her to where she is. But her willingness to put aside her pride is also what gets her to where she belongs.
Madison is a control freak. She has to have everything her way or the highway. She tried to shelter and take over the “mother” roll for her sisters when she didn’t have to. She is an extreme perfectionist with a huge pride issue. Which, I can also relate to. I do mostly feel bad for her BUT she could have opened her eyes to some things going on that she had been doing!
Each character has a secret. Including their grandmother! I loved the romance, and the plot line where they have to come together and save their beloved Inn. The ONLY thing that caught me by surprise (although looking back I should have seen it.) is the secondary romance in the book. Just saying, I thought a strong friendship was really sweet and nice to see without there being a romance involved… Guess I was wrong. I didn’t really like the secondary romance. But that’s just me.
I ended up really enjoying this overall! It was sweet and I loved that it was set in Texas! Because that’s where I live! I would definitely want to read more of Wilde’s books! And I would love a sequel to this one!
Lori Wilde is the New York Times, USAToday and Publishers’ Weekly bestselling author of 87 works of romantic fiction. She’s a three-time Romance Writers’ of America RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Readers’ Choice Award. She has won numerous other awards as well. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her breakout novel, The First Love Cookie Club, has been optioned for a TV movie.
Lori is a registered nurse with a BSN from Texas Christian University. She holds a certificate in forensics and is also a certified yoga instructor.
A fifth-generation Texan, Lori lives with her husband, Bill, in the Cutting Horse Capital of the World; where they run Epiphany Orchards, a writing/creativity retreat for the care and enrichment of the artistic soul.
I am so excited to be featuring this lovely book on my blog today! Plus there is an excerpt AND an author Q&A!Thank you so much to Harlequin for having me on the tour!
Olivia shoved her hands into her pockets against the damp Seattle afternoon. Nothing would take the chill from her bones, though. She knew that. Even five days of sick leave, huddling in her bed and mindlessly bingeing on cooking shows hadn’t done anything but make her crave cake.
She couldn’t hide away in her apartment forever. Eventually she was going to have to reenter life and go back to work, which was why she stood outside this coffee shop in a typical spring drizzle with her heart pounding and her stomach in knots.
This was stupid. The odds of anything like that happening to her again were ridiculously small. She couldn’t let one man battling mental illness and drug abuse control the rest of her life.
She could do this.
She reached out to pull the door open, but before she could make contact with the metal handle, her cell phone chimed from her pocket.
She knew instantly from the ringtone it was her best friend from high school, who still lived in Cape Sanctuary with her three children.
Talking to Melody was more important than testing her resolve by going into the Kozy Kitchen right now, she told herself. She answered the call, already heading back across the street to her own apartment.
“Mel,” she answered, her voice slightly breathless from the adrenaline still pumping through her and from the stairs she was racing up two at a time. “I’m so glad you called.”
Glad didn’t come close to covering the extent of her relief. She really hadn’t wanted to go into that coffee shop. Not yet. Why should she make herself? She had coffee at home and could have groceries delivered when she needed them.
“You know why I’m calling, then?” Melody asked, a strange note in her voice.
“I know it’s amazing to hear from you. You’ve been on my mind.”
She was not only a coward but a lousy friend. She hadn’t checked in with Melody in a few weeks, despite knowing her friend was going through a life upheaval far worse than witnessing an attack on someone else.
As she unlocked her apartment, the cutest rescue dog in the world, a tiny, fluffy cross between a Chihuahua and a miniature poodle, gyrated with joy at the sight of her.
Yet another reason she didn’t have to leave. If she needed love and attention, she only had to call her dog and Otis would come running.
She scooped him up and let him lick her face, already feeling some of her anxiety calm.
“I was thinking how great it would be if you and the boys could come up and stay with me for a few days when school gets out for the summer,” she said now to Melody. “We could take the boys to the Space Needle, maybe hop the ferry up to the San Juans and go whale watching. They would love it. What do you think?”
The words seemed to be spilling out of her, too fast. She was babbling, a weird combination of relief that she hadn’t had to face that coffee shop and guilt that she had been wrapped up so tightly with her own life that she hadn’t reached out to a friend in need.
“My apartment isn’t very big,” she went on without waiting for an answer. “But I have an extra bedroom and can pick up some air beds for the boys. They’ve got some really comfortable ones these days. I’ve got a friend who says she stayed on one at her sister’s house in Tacoma and slept better than she does on her regular mattress. I’ve still got my car, though I hardly drive it in the city, and the boys would love to meet Otis. Maybe we could even drive to Olympic National Park, if you wanted.”
“Liv. Stop.” Melody cut her off. “Though that all sounds amazing and I’m sure the boys would love it, we can talk about that later. You have no idea why I called, do you?”
“I… Why did you call?”
Melody was silent for a few seconds. “I’m afraid there’s been an accident,” she finally said.
The breath ran out of Olivia like somebody had popped one of those air mattresses with a bread knife.
“Oh no. Is it one of your boys?” Oh please, she prayed. Don’t let it be one of the boys.
Melody had been through enough over the past three months, since her jerkhole husband ran off with one of his high school students.
“No, honey. It’s not my family. It’s yours.”
Her words seemed to come from far away and it took a long time for them to pierce through.
Fear rushed back in, swamping her like a fast-moving tide. She sank blindly onto the sofa.
“Is it Caitlin?”
“It’s not your niece. Stop throwing out guesses and just let me tell you. It’s your mom. Before you freak out, let me just say, first of all, she’s okay, from what I understand. I don’t have all the details but I do know she’s in the hospital, but she’s okay. It could have been much worse.”
Her mom. Olivia tried to picture Juliet lying in a hospital bed and couldn’t quite do it. Juliet Harper didn’t have time to be in a hospital bed. She was always hurrying somewhere, either next door to Sea Glass Cottage to the garden center the Harper family had run in Cape Sanctuary for generations or down the hill to town to help a friend or to one of Caitlin’s school events.
“She had a bad fall and suffered a concussion and I think some broken bones.”
Olivia’s stomach twisted. A concussion. Broken bones. Oh man. “Fell where? Off one of the cliffs near the garden center?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know all the details yet. This just happened this morning and it’s still early for the gossip to make all the rounds around town. I assumed you already knew. That Caitlin or someone would have called you. I was only checking in to see how I can help.”
This morning. She glanced at her watch. Her mother had been in an accident hours earlier and Olivia was just finding out about it now, in late afternoon.
Someone should have told her—if not Juliet herself, then, as Melody said, at least Caitlin.
Given their recent history, it wasn’t particularly surprising that her niece, raised by Olivia’s mother since she was a baby, hadn’t bothered to call. Olivia wasn’t Caitlin’s favorite person right now. These days, during Olivia’s regular video chats with her mother, Caitlin never popped in to say hi anymore. At fifteen, Caitlin was abrasive and moody and didn’t seem to like Olivia much, for reasons she didn’t quite understand.
“I’m sure someone tried to reach me but my phone has been having trouble,” she lied. Her phone never had trouble. She made sure it was always in working order, since so much of her freelance business depended on her clients being able to reach her and on her being able to Tweet or post something on the fly.
“I’m glad I checked in, then.”
“Same here. Thank you.”
Several bones broken and a long recovery. Oh dear. That would be tough on Juliet, especially this time of year when the garden center always saw peak business.
“Thank you for telling me. Is she in the hospital there in Cape Sanctuary or was she taken to one of the bigger cities?”
“I’m not sure. I can call around for you, if you want.”
“I’ll find out. You have enough to worry about.”
“Keep me posted. I’m worried about her. She’s a pretty great lady, that mom of yours.”
Olivia shifted, uncomfortable as she always was when others spoke about her mother to her. Everyone loved her, with good reason. Juliet was warm, gracious, kind to just about everyone in their beachside community of Cape Sanctuary.
Which made Olivia’s own awkward, tangled relationship with her mother even harder to comprehend.
“Will you be able to come home for a few days?”
Home. How could she go home when she couldn’t even walk into the coffee shop across the street?
“I don’t know. I’ll have to see what’s going on there.”
How could she possibly travel all the way to Northern California? A complicated mix of emotions seemed to lodge like a tangled ball of yarn in her chest whenever she thought about her hometown, which she loved and hated in equal measures.
The town held so much guilt and pain and sorrow. Her father was buried there and so was her sister. Each room in Sea Glass Cottage stirred like the swirl of dust motes with memories of happier times.
Olivia hadn’t been back in more than a year. She kept meaning to make a trip but something else always seemed to come up. She usually went for the holidays at least, but the previous year she’d backed out of even that after work obligations kept her in Seattle until Christmas Eve and a storm had made last-minute travel difficult. She had spent the holiday with friends instead of with her mother and Caitlin and had felt guilty that she had enjoyed it much more than the previous few when she had gone home.
She couldn’t avoid it now, though. A trip back to Cape Sanctuary was long overdue, especially if her mother needed her.
What made you write this story? (The “story behind the story”)
That’s a very long “story behind the story”! My husband of 34 years was adopted at birth to a wonderful loving famiy and never knew anything about his birth parents. He was never really interested, though I always wondered. He took a DNA test a few years ago before going in for a major surgery, just out of curiosity so our kids could know something about his ethnic heritage, and was astonished a few months later when results from Ancestry.com came in linking him to several close relatives on his maternal side. He wasn’t going to do anything about it but through a very strange sequence of events, he eventually connected with three half-brothers, an aunt and several uncles (including one who has been our neighbor and friend for more than twenty years without either us knowing the connection!). Unfortunately, my husband’s birth mother died several years ago so he never had the chance to meet her but my husband now has a wonderful relationship with his brothers, who have embraced and welcomed him. I have heard of these kind of stories before and after living through the amazing results from a simple DNA test, I wanted to write about someone trying to trace her father. That’s one of the underlying subplots to THE SEA GLASS COTTAGE.
Which character do you most relate to in the story and why?
I love all of them but probably am most drawn to Juliet, who yearns for those she loves to be happy. That’s a universal mom need, I think. Also, she hesitates to lean on others even when she really needs the help because she doesn’t want to be a burden and feels as if her role is to caretake those she loves instead of the other way around. I can definitely relate to this one!
Do you have a place you go to in order to clear your head like Olivia did?
I don’t live by the ocean, unfortunately, but I do live in the mountains of Utah. Ten minutes from my home, I can be in a gorgeous wilderness area where I can walk and think and meditate. We are heading into the most beautiful time of year here, where the mountains turn green with new growth and wildflowers begin to pop out. I can’t wait!
Is this based on a real place?
Cape Sanctuary is kind of an amalgamation of some of my favorite spots along the Pacific coast, a mix of Carmel, California and Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s loosely based near Trinidad, California. I only wish it really existed!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I started out in journalism in high school and discovered I loved telling stories. After graduating in journalism, I spent ten years at a daily newspaper as a reporter and editor but dreamed of writing a romance novel some day. When I was on maternity leave with our oldest (who is now 30!), I started my first book. It took me about 5 years of tinkering with it, dealing with rejections, rewriting and starting something new before I sold my first two books to Bantam Loveswept in 1995. I’ve been writing full time since 1997 when our second child was born. The Sea Glass Cottage is my 63rd book. I get a little overwhelmed when I think about all those words!
What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Like all my books, the core story is that we’re all here to learn how to take care of each other. All my books have the underlying theme that our lives become better and more fulfilling when we reach out to help and lift someone else. The world can sometimes feel ugly and angry. I feel like there’s an increasing need for us all to focus on trying a little harder to be kind. Life is filled with pain and trials but it can also be beautiful and joyful at the same time.
What drew you into this particular genre?
I still consider all my books romance novels at heart because that is the genre I have adored since I was eleven years old. My books will always have some kind of love story in them! But my hardcovers also have provided a wonderful chance to explore deeper relationship issues: Healing a rift between a mother and a daughter, finding peace when a relationship with a sister ended in tragedy, finding common ground between an aunt and a niece.
If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I would probably ask Juliet why she kept so many secrets from those who might have been able to help her deal better with the challenges she faces.
What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Right new I think it’s a close tie between Facebook and Instagram, probably weighted a little more to Facebook. I don’t use Twitter much.
What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Focus on the emotions you want your readers to feel in your stories. Readers love finding authors who can carry them away with their storytelling, making them feel what the characters feel. They want that emotional ride! Find the kind of stories you love to tell, focus on your strengths and constantly keep stretching yourself in new directions.
What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Yes! Always ☺ The last book in my Haven Point series, SUMMER AT LAKE HAVEN, comes out June 23. This is Samantha Fremont’s book, for those who have read others in the series. It also includes a surprise novella. Next up will be a standalone Christmas book in an all-new community, Silver Bells, Colorado. CHRISTMAS AT HOLIDAY HOUSE will be out in late September. And I recently spent three days at a California beach house with writer friends plotting my next hardcover and can’t wait to start writing it! THE PATH TO SUNSHINE COVE (tentative title!) will also be set in Cape Sanctuary and will be out April 2021.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I am the luckiest of writers because I have my own office. Several years ago, we made the impulsive decision to buy the house adjacent to ours. It was rundown and unsightly and kind of blighted the view from our backyard. Our plan was to fix it up to increase our own property value and then rent it out but after the renovation, I loved it too much to rent it out so I took it over. I have loved it! With a special needs son who has multiple disabilities and requires total care, life at my house is at times chaotic and messy but I always have such a sense of peace and calm when I go to my office. And I love that I can walk through the backyard in my jammies to go to work.
What do you like best about your new book?
I love the peace and healing that came to the characters from being honest with their loved ones and opening their hearts to second chances.
Do you have a favorite character in The Sea Glass Cottage?
This is a hard question because all my characters become cherished friends when I’m writing a book and I love them all but I really adore Henry. He is just an amazing hero for Juliet ☺
What inspired you to become a writer?
I have been a voracious reader all my life and have loved romance novels since I used to steal them out of my mom’s room when I was still a preadolescent! I always used to tell stories to my friends, usually involving our latest celebrity crushes. I didn’t know I was destined to become a writer at the time but when I look back, I see all the things that set me on the path. I actually wanted to be an actress and was very involved in drama in high school, including performing in a repertory theater company, but my mom persuaded me to take a journalism class my junior year and I fell in love with telling stories. Even as I went into journalism through college and my subsequent career as a reporter and editor, I dreamed of writing a romance novel. I never imagined some day I could say I’ve written sixty-something of them!
New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.
*Amazon link is my affiliate link, I might get paid by Amazon if you use my link*
I was so nervous going into this one! It has SO MUCH HYPE. And I know people both who have hated it and others who have loved it. I ended up loving it! I am so glad I buddy read it with my friend, Alexandra (Bookstagram: @Bookish_Euphoria She has seriously GORGEOUS photos)
I just want to talk real quick about the religious aspect of the book. It made me nervous at first because I am a Christian and some of the baddies are religious. BUT I am a non-denominational Christian and I believe very differently than what the religious beliefs are in the book. It was more align with old Catholicism, which was really scary and horrible back then. I normally don’t bring up religion from books but because they talk a lot about the Bible and Bible verses, I felt weird about it.
ANYWAY. Reid and Lou are definitely one of my new OTPs! They are perfect opposites and I loved their enemies to lovers romance. They balance each other out really well. And they help each other see the good (and sometimes bad) in each other. Lou has a fighting spirit that is enviable. She wants a different world than the two that are offered to her. Eventually, she inadvertently gets a group together to fight for that future. I am all for it!
I love the plot. It was super intense, with Lou constantly on her toes and always keeping vigil. There were a couple surprising plot twists that I actually didn’t see coming! I’ve never wanted to spoil anything more because it was crazy sauce.
The magic system was way cool! Mahurin managed to keep things unique! I like it when magic takes a toll on the person. It makes it as real as it can get. AND that there are different magics. Lou has a give and take kind. If you want to break a lock, you have to break something of your own. And Coco’s magic is blood magic. She has to bleed to use magic.
Random thoughts: I actually want Coco and Ansel together.
Lou’s mother is… the stuff of nightmares.
Can I get a recipe for Pan’s Sweet Rolls?
Can I get book 2, Blood and Honey now?
Can Lou and Reid please not kiss after she throws up?
Please don’t kill sweet cinnamon roll Ansel.
LET’S TALK IT OUT. Have you read this book?! Do you like or not like it? And why?
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
First of all, this cover… not my fave. Secondly this book was so cheesy I LOVED it. It was cheese in the good way. I have been really into Adult Fantasy Romance lately and this hit the spot! I don’t know why, but I feel like this would make a good Anime? Weird. I know.
I loved Ellysetta. I thought she was a strong female lead that kept Rain in check. She has power that she doesn’t understand and that I’m interested to know more about (as well as the other characters)! Rain. Oh gosh. He was ALPHA male, man. I mean, I guess he has to be to be the King of the Fae. But that man needed a women strong enough to go head to head with him. I think he met his match. It is pretty cool that he turns into a flying cat that can breath fire.
There is actually a really strong, intriguing plot other than them being mates. There is a lot of political intrigue and a deathly plot waiting to be sprung. I have so much anxiety over how this book ended. I need to know more! There are some really cool fight scenes/ magic scenes. Bel is my favorite character I think!
Below, is the photo I took for this series. I read it on my kindle. I could have photoshopped the cover in buuuut again, that cover…
*Amazon link is my affiliate link
*Book sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code to save: STORIED10
I’ve got another really great Christmas book feature and excerpt again today! This sounds so cute and the perfect read for Christmas. This just feel like it would give you all the warm fuzzy feelings!
From Chapter Two
Caleb Dalton hadn’t had much to smile about for a long time. It had been a bear of a few years, since his best friend’s death, and while time might ease a wound, it wouldn’t ever bring Clint back. But that permanence made space for movement, around the grief, around the pain. And finally toward a future he’d been planning for a long time. Clint had been, honest to God, one of the best men on earth. The hole he’d left behind had been huge, and Caleb had dedicated himself to caring for his friend’s widow and child in his absence. That had been his life, his whole life, for nearly five years. And it was fair, because it had been Ellie’s life, too. He cared for Ellie. A hell of a lot. He’d met her because of Clint, but she’d been in his life now for more than ten years. His feelings for Ellie were complicated. Had been from the beginning. But she’d been with Clint. And there was no doubt Clint was the better man. More than that, Clint was his brother. Maybe not in blood, but in every way that counted. Caleb had never claimed to be a perfect friend. Clint was one of those people who’d drawn everyone right to him. He was easy to like. Caleb’s own parents had been bowled over by Clint from the time they were kids. And Caleb’s jealousy had gotten the better of him once when they’d been younger. Something that made him burn with shame even now. He hadn’t let it happen when they’d been adults. No matter how tempting it had been. No matter how much he’d… A muscle in his jaw ticked. He gave thanks that there was a space in front of the Gold Valley Saloon, and he whipped his truck there up against the curb, ignoring the honk that came from behind him. He turned around and saw Trevor Sanderson in his Chevy, giving Caleb the death glare. “Hold your damn horses, Trevor,” he muttered as he put his truck in Park. He should have been quicker. Hell, that was life in a nutshell. Sometimes, you were just too late. For parking spots, and for women. He’d tried to get that image out of his head. More times than he could count over the past decade. Had tried to erase that first time he’d seen Ellie. It was at his parents’ barbecue. Late one summer afternoon. He’d been talking and laughing with his brothers, and he’d lifted a beer to his lips and looked out away from the party. Then he’d frozen. It was like the world had slowed down, all of it centering on the beautiful blonde walking toward him. The golden light from the sun illuminated her hair like a halo, and her smile seemed to light him up from the inside out. As she’d gotten closer, he’d taken in every last detail. The way the left side of her cheek dimpled with that grin; her eyes, a mix of green and blue and a punch in the gut. Her lips were glossy pink, and he wondered if it was that stuff that women wore that smelled and tasted like cherries. He couldn’t decide if he hoped that it was or not.
Twenty years old, more experienced with women than he probably should be, and ready right then and there to drop down to his knees and propose marriage to the one walking in his direction. It took him a full minute to realize that the beautiful blonde was holding hands with someone. And that that someone was Caleb’s best friend on earth. It was a surreal moment. It had been a sea change in his soul. When his feelings for Ellie had tipped over from nothing to everything. A revelation he hadn’t been looking for, and one he sure as hell hadn’t enjoyed. It was like the whole world had turned, then bucked, like a particularly nasty-ass bull, and left him sprawled out on the ground. It had been the beginning of a thorny, painful set of years. As he’d gotten to know Ellie, as his feelings for her had become knit deep into his heart, into his soul. She’d become more than his friend’s woman, and more than a woman he’d desired. She’d become a friend to him. In many ways he was thankful for the depth of the feeling, because it was the reason he’d been able to put aside the lust. The idea that he’d fallen in love with her at first sight. When Clint had first started dating her, she’d been in school, so she hadn’t been around all the time. But during the summers, and on breaks, she came around with Clint. Went to the lake with them. Went fishing. Came to Christmas and Thanksgiving. The summers at the lake, though, that had been a particular kind of torture. All of them swimming out in the water, her and her swimsuit. A tiny bikini that had left little to the imagination. And he had been so very interested in imagining all the things that it did conceal. And he’d felt like the biggest, most perverse asshole. Then there had been the time that Clint had asked him to take her out riding. Just the two of them. Because Clint trusted him. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he trust his best friend? So he’d done it. Had taken her out on the trails that wound behind the Dalton family property, up to the top of a mountain. And he looked over at the view with her, watched the sunset. And everything in him had wanted to lean over and kiss her on the mouth. To act on the feelings that were rioting through his chest. For just a breath she’d looked back at him, met his eyes. And he’d thought maybe she’d wanted it, too. Yeah, it would have exploded his relationship with Clint, but for a minute it seemed like it might be worth it. Then she’d looked away. And then he’d come back to himself. Clint was his brother. In every way but blood. And he couldn’t betray his friend like that. Anyway, Ellie loved Clint. She didn’t love Caleb. And no matter how much he might not want to, he had to respect that. So he hadn’t kissed her. They had ridden back down that mountain, and nothing happened between them. But late at night, Caleb had taken himself in hand and fantasized that it had. Two days later Clint and Ellie had been engaged. Caleb had agreed to be the best man. She’d married Clint. And while his feelings for her had remained, they’d shifted. As they’d had to. He wasn’t perfect. He’d never touched Ellie. Not like a man touched a woman, though that hadn’t stopped him from going over the accidental brush of fingertips, of their elbows touching, over and over in his mind if it had happened on accident.
It hadn’t stopped him from keeping and cherishing secrets with her, even when he knew he shouldn’t. Hadn’t stopped him from pushing some boundaries that not even Ellie had realized he’d been pushing at. Ellie was the one who’d realized, for the first time, that he was dyslexic. And he’d sworn her to secrecy. And in that secrecy had come secret reading lessons. And he’d…well, he’d lost control of his own feelings again. And once he’d recognized that, he’d cut them off. Cut her off. But then Clint had died, just a month later. And everything changed again. Since then, his relationship with Ellie was about their coming together to try and fill the gap Clint had left behind. His helping where she needed it. Helping with the house, with her grief, with Amelia. That was all.
New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit.
I am very excited to be featuring Christmas from the Heart and I get to share an excerpt! It already sounds so good. I love all of the warm and cozy Christmas movies, books, and music! I can’t wait to read this! I am loving the cover. I want to live there, or at least visit for a long time.
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 2-14-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Subject: Holiday Joy Dear Ms. Thompson, Happy Valentine’s Day to you! I’m following up our January newsletter with a special greeting as this is, of course, the month for love. Love for our sweethearts, our family and friends, and for those in need. As you could see from the newsletter, we put the money our loyal supporters donated to us to good use. So many families benefited from your generous donation to Christmas from the Heart last year and I just wanted to remind you that, even though the holidays seem far away they will be here before we know it. I hope we can count on Hightower Enterprises again this year. We have such a history together. Let’s keep up the good work! Warmly, Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Date: 2-14-19 To: Ms. Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Subject: Holiday Joy Dear Ms. Berg, Thanks for reaching out. Our fiscal year is just ending and I haven’t yet received word as to how our charitable donations will be dispersed this year. I will keep you apprised. Best, Marla Thompson CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 2-14-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Subject: Holiday Joy Thank you so much. Looking forward to hearing from you! Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 5-1-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Subject: Happy May Day! Dear Ms. Thompson, just wanted to wish you a happy May Day. The flowers here in Pine River are now in full bloom, and our organization has been busy helping people make their dreams bloom, as well. As you know, while our focus is primarily the holidays, Christmas from the Heart tries to help people all year round when needs arise. Of course, Christmas is our big thrust, and as there is no other organization working in this area, we are much needed. As are your kind contributions. I still haven’t heard and I do hope we can count on you. Warmly, Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson Subject: Just checking Reaching out again in case my last email went astray. I’m wondering if you have any news for me regarding Hightower’s involvement with our cause for this coming year. Thanks! Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Olivia Berg Subject: Just checking Ms. Berg, sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you sooner. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. It appears that the company is going to be scaling back on their charitable giving this year and funds have already been budgeted for other causes. I’m aware of the fact that in the past we’ve donated to your organization and I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. I do wish you all the best in your search for other funding. Best, Marla Thompson CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson Subject: Just checking There must be some sort of misunderstanding! Hightower has always donated to Christmas from the Heart. The company’s founder, Elias Hightower, was my great-grandmother’s first contributor, and he promised her that Hightower would always be there for this organization. This is a company tradition! Please speak to your director. Hopefully, Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Olivia Berg Subject: Just checking I’m sorry. The decision is out of my hands. Marla Thompson CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Marla Thompson Subject: Just checking Then please tell me who I need to talk to. Who’s your CFO? Olivia Berg Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference
From: Marla Thompson, CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises Date: 5-5-19 To: Ms. Olivia Berg Subject: Just checking Our CFO is Guy Hightower, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org Good luck! Marla Thompson CSR Director, Hightower Enterprises
From: Olivia Berg, Director, Christmas from the Heart Date: 5-5-19 To: Guy Hightower, CFO, Hightower Enterprises Subject: Please reconsider
Dear Mr. Hightower, I understand from your corporate social resources director that Hightower isn’t planning on making any donation to Christmas from the Heart this year. There must be some mistake! Surely you’re aware of the long-standing relationship between your company and our organization. I’m sure I can count on you for some small amount. Best, Olivia Berg
Christmas from the Heart Giving from the heart makes all the difference Guy Hightower frowned when he saw the email from Olivia Berg in his in-box. Marla Thompson had been forwarding her emails to him, keeping him abreast of Olivia Berg’s varied begging tactics, and had finally even come into his office, trying to dump the load of guilt the woman had laid on her from her shoulders to his. “Don’t open it,” he told himself. He opened it anyway. Then he read it and swore. Actually, he’d been swearing ever since meeting with his brothers to discuss the budget back in December. If either of them had listened to him three years ago, they wouldn’t be having to pull the company belt so tight now. This was the problem with being the youngest. It didn’t matter how many degrees you had, how smart you were or what your job title was. Big brothers never listened. Hard to listen when you were going through your third divorce. That was Mike’s excuse. What was Bryan’s? Oh yeah. He was a wuss. He always agreed with Mike, no matter what. And Mike hadn’t wanted to change directions. Never mind that the company was struggling, keep on doing the same thing. The definition of insanity. Sorry, Little Miss Christmas. Times were tough all over. Hightower had kept its commitment to the more visible causes and turned the little fish loose. And that was how it worked in the corporate world. He typed his reply.
Dear Ms. Berg, I regret that Hightower can’t help you this year. We’ve had to reassess our commitments to various causes. I’m sure you’ll understand.
Then he signed off with the time-honored adios: Respectfully, Guy Hightower. And if she didn’t understand, well, not his problem. He had his hands full trying to keep the family company afloat. Maybe now Mike would be ready to take his advice and diversify. Olivia Berg—Livi to her family and friends—read the email from Guy Hightower a second time. Yes, the message was the same. Really? Really? Who was this man, Ebenezer Scrooge the Second? She plowed her fingers through her hair, the birthstone ring Morris had given her for her birthday catching in the curls. She was so angry she barely noticed. With a snarl, she began to type. You should be ashamed. Your great-grandfather is probably turning in his grave right now. What’s the matter with you, anyway, you selfish bastard?
She pulled her fingers off the keyboard with a gasp. What was she thinking? Was this any way to get someone to contribute to her cause? And what kind of language was this? Her great-grandmother would be turning in her grave right now, along with Elias. Adelaide Brimwell had been a lady through and through. So had Livi’s grandmother, Olivia, as well as Livi’s mom. The thought of her mother made her tear up. How she wished Mom was still around to advise her. They’d always planned that Livi would take over running the organization one day, but neither had dreamed that day would come so soon. Her mother’s heart attack had struck like lightning. Livi’s brother had left town, moving to Seattle, which was just far enough south to keep the memories at bay. Livi had stayed put, holding on to every single one, weaving them together into a lifeline to cling to as she kept Christmas from the Heart afloat. Oh, Mom. What should I do? Try again came the answer. Yes, her mother never gave up. She’d chased one potential donor for two years before he finally came through. Livi still remembered the day her mom left the house, clad in a Mrs. Santa costume she’d created—requisite white wig along with a frilly white blouse and a red skirt topped with a red-striped apron. She’d taken with her a batch of home-baked cookies nestled in a red basket and returned home with a check for five hundred dollars. The man had been a loyal contributor ever since. Livi still took him cookies every year. “Persistence pays,” she told herself as she deleted what she’d typed. She started over. I’m asking you to reconsider. Your company is our major donor, and without you so many people will have little joy this Christmas. Any amount you can give will be greatly appreciated. There. He’d have to be a heartless monster not to respond to that. Guy trashed the guilt-inflicting email. What was he, Santa Claus? He had his hands full keeping his company solvent. But then, people like Olivia Berg never considered the fact that a company might have needs of its own. What made them feel so entitled to sit at the edge of the salt mine while a man slaved away and then greet him with their hands out when he emerged broken and bruised? Maybe some of those people always begging for money should get out there and actually earn a living. Let them work their tails off, putting in seventy-hour weeks. Sheesh. Anyway, the company had already met their good deed quota for the year. The only cause Guy was interested in now was Hightower Enterprises. By the end of the workday, Guy Hightower still hadn’t responded to Livi’s last email. “You are a heartless monster,” she grumbled, glaring at her empty email in-box. “No word yet?” her part-time assistant, Bettina Thomas, asked as she shut down her computer. Livi sighed and shook her head. “That is so wrong,” Bettina said in disgust. It sure was. “They’ve been our major donor ever since my great-grandmother founded Christmas from the Heart. Without their contribution how will we put on the Christmas dinner at the community center? How many families won’t have presents under the tree or Christmas stockings or a Christmas turkey?” There was no Salvation Army in Pine River, no Toys for Tots— none of the usual organizations serviced this area. There had been no need. Christmas from the Heart had it under control. Until now.
“We’ve had to reassess our commitments,” Livi quoted. The words left a bad taste in her mouth and she frowned. “It sounds like something your boyfriend says when he’s dumping you.” “They are dumping us,” Bettina pointed out. “But don’t worry. We have time. We’ll find someone else to come through.” “Not like Hightower. There must be something I can do,” Livi mused. “There is. Go home and eat chocolate.” And try not to think bad thoughts about Guy Hightower. In all fairness, he probably didn’t grasp the situation. She’d call him the next day and invite him to come to Pine River for a visit so she could let him see the need, show him a little of what Christmas from the Heart did for the community. She could take him to lunch, introduce him to some of the people in town, put a face—or better yet, several—to Christmas from the Heart. She’d top it all off by following in her mother’s footsteps and baking him cookies. Then how could he help but catch the vision his great- grandfather and her great-grandmother had shared? Yes, that would do it. Sometimes you had to be a little patient, give people a second chance.
Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book, Angel Lane, was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel, The Nine Lives of Christmas, was made into a movie for Hallmark . You can visit Sheila on Twitter and Facebook or at her website (http://www.sheilasplace.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.