Surprised by Family by Noelle Adams and Stacey Joy Netzel

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Whether it’s a surprise baby landing on his doorstep or six-year-old twin girls who make him rescue them from trees…there’s nothing more irresistible than a hot, alpha hero falling in love with a surprise family at the same time he finds the woman of his dreams.

This boxed set includes two steamy full-length contemporary romance novels about the sweet surprise of family by NYT and USA Today bestselling authors.

**Surprised by Family will be on sale for just $.99 for a limited time, beginning on April 13**

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Blurb of “Revival” by Noelle Adams:

When she was a girl, Leila had an embarrassing crush on Baron James, her brother’s best friend. She’s grown up now, divorced with twin daughters and a new job as a college professor, and she needs to make good decisions. No matter how irresistible Baron is when he reenters her life, she won’t be a fool over him again.

Baron James has been a bad boy all his life, chasing women and seeking thrills, but he’s forced to take on leadership in his family’s company after his father dies. His new role takes everything he has, and he doesn’t have room in his heart to start a relationship with Leila and her daughters.

But his heart doesn’t seem to know this…

Excerpt:

“Good afternoon,” a pleasant male voice said from the open doorway of her office. “Dr. Luther?”

Leila had been trying to fix her hair, and she twirled around too quickly, hating the thought of being caught primping. One of the files in her hand slipped open and several sheets of paper fell out. With a gurgle of frustration, she leaned over to pick them up, dropping the file in the process.

She picked up the papers but unfortunately left the file on the floor. She stepped on it as she stood back up. There was no friction between the file folder and the hardwood floor, and her foot slipped on it.

She lost her balance completely. The pile of files tucked under her arm ended up littering the floor, and Leila ended up on her ass.

She closed her eyes and tried to catch her breath, feeling her cheeks flame red and praying desperately that it wasn’t the dean at the door.

“Are you all right?” the man said, his voice rich with something she knew to be laughter.

“Yes.” She opened her eyes and took the hand the man had extended to her. She didn’t look up at his face, though. She’d pull herself together before she checked to see who’d witnessed her clumsy display.

She dusted herself off while the man bent over to pick up some of her scattered files.

When he straightened up to hand them to her, they recognized each other at exactly the same moment.

“Leila? Leila Johnson?” he asked.

“Baron?” she breathed, almost in unison. Now she wasn’t just flustered and embarrassed. She was completely disoriented.

She hadn’t seen Baron since she’d graduated from high school. He and Dave had gone to different colleges, and they’d drifted apart as Baron’s lifestyle had gotten wilder and wilder. Dave hadn’t heard from Baron in years.

She thought he lived in New York now, working in the James Coffee offices there.

Yet here he was in her office in Boston, watching her make a fool of herself.

She felt like she was twelve years old again.

To her relief, Baron looked just as disoriented as she felt. A frown transformed his handsome face as his dark eyes scanned her from head to toe. “It’s Leila Luther now? I remembering hearing somewhere that you got married.” His gaze tried to follow her left hand.

She showed him her empty ring finger. “Divorced.”

“Ah.” He smiled and arched his eyebrows. “Sorry?”

In spite of herself, Leila choked on a bubble of laughter, the irony in his voice hitting her without warning. “I’m not, so I don’t know why you should be.”

She wasn’t sorry about the divorce. Her academic career had taken its toll on her marriage. After she’d had the girls six years ago, Rick had expected her to drop out of school and take care of them.

She hadn’t. She loved the girls more than anything, but she also loved her academic career, and there was no reason not to have both. Rick hadn’t been happy, though.

He’d shown his unhappiness by having an affair with a new associate at his law firm.

“Sorry about all that,” Leila added, gesturing to the floor and the files he still held. “I seem to be kind of a mess today.”

“No problem.” He stacked the files neatly and placed them on the one clean corner of her desk. “Sorry if I took you by surprise. I’d assumed the student who, er, greeted me would let you know I was on my way up.”

She wondered if he thought she’d known he was coming up and that was why she’d been primping. She’d dressed professionally rather than attractively today in a brown pants suit, but she suddenly wished she’d worn something different.

She’d never be a beauty queen, but she could look decent if she made an effort.

She wasn’t the plain, geeky girl she’d been before.

Blurb of “Autumn Wish” by Stacey Joy Netzel:

Nikki Rowen desires a family of her own–but first comes love, then comes marriage. She thought she had the former, until the moment she mentioned the latter and her boyfriend left her with nothing but a broken heart. Just as she’s beginning to doubt she’ll ever have a ’til death do us part Happily Ever After, she meets her new neighbor in the most unexpected way.

In Sam Mallin’s experience, the word family is synonymous with abandonment; he’s more than content on his own. Yet, in less than a week, he finds himself caring for an infant dropped on his doorstep, and playing house with his beautiful next-door-neighbor. When his feelings for Nikki deepen, he fears he’s nothing more than the ready-made family she so desperately wishes for. How can a self-proclaimed loner hold onto the two females most important to him without history repeating itself in a world of heartbreak?

Excerpt:

He’d just reached into the refrigerator for a beer when the doorbell chimed. The cheery summons grated across his nerves, making him cringe. Could he ignore this unwanted visitor who appeared to have practically been waiting in the bushes for him?

A glance over his shoulder gave him the answer. Nope. His bare windows, glaring lights, and the volume of the TV made it impossible to pretend he wasn’t home. Curtains and blinds seemed a great investment right about now.

Kicking the fridge shut, he twisted the cap from the bottle. The doorbell went off again, twice as long as before, as if the person on the other side held it down. Damn it. If this was another married woman bringing him pie, he was going to—

Smile, and say, “Thank you.” That’s what neighbors did, right?

He took a long, fortifying pull off his beer, then thumped it on the counter on his way to answer the door. Too bad his neighbor right next door hadn’t been one of those pie-wielding visitors. He’d have invited her inside.

Then he got a glimpse through the window…of her standing on his front porch.

“Well, whaddaya know,” he murmured with a sudden grin of anticipation. Maybe she’d come in and watch the game with him. Hell, he wouldn’t even care if she held a pie in her hands.

He swung the door open and smiled his welcome at the pretty blond. His gaze dropped, then froze. Where he would’ve preferred a pie, she held a baby carrier—complete with baby.

Damn, she had a kid. After what his mother put him and his sister through, he didn’t do women with kids.

“Samuel Mallin?”

He lifted his gaze up from all that pink to a pair of guarded blue eyes. Forcing his lips to maintain their upward curve, he answered, “I prefer Sam. And you’re Nicole, right?”

“Nikki.” She frowned. “How’d you—”

“I had some of your mail in my box yesterday,” he admitted.

“Ah.”

Her wry smile was appealing enough to make him forget about the baby. But it faded fast as she took a breath, shifted her stance, then extended her arms, carrier and all.

“Sam, this is yours.”

There was a crumpled envelope clutched between the fingers of her right hand. Tilting his head, he read his name in the crinkled address field and removed it from her grasp with a laugh. He liked that she’d chosen to bring his mail over personally. If he’d been thinking, he’d have done it first—and found out about the kid.

“Thanks,” he said as her baby began to fuss. “I just put your stuff in your mailbox.”

Nikki lifted the carrier higher with an exasperated huff. “You don’t understand. She is yours.”

In the middle of stuffing the folded envelope into his back pocket, his gaze dropped to the baby. Blue eyes, just like her momma. It took his brain a moment to make the connection, and then his pulse jumped as his eyebrows shot skyward. “Uh…I don’t think so.”

The baby sucked hard on a pacifier, her eyes shifting back and forth as she squirmed in the confined seat. Oh, hell no. He lifted his gaze once more, taking note of the woman’s curves on the way up. Yeah, she was pretty, but not worth this level of crazy. He’d have much preferred another pie.

“May I come in?”

“No,” he stated. “She’s not mine.”

He fumbled for the edge of the door. The woman stepped forward as he began to shut her out.

Her chin lifted and those blue eyes of hers glittered with determination. “Her name is Ella. She’s three and a half months old.”

“I haven’t—”

He broke off as she shouldered her way past, into his living room. Sam closed the door and followed her to the couch where she set the carrier and an overflowing diaper bag. He glanced toward the kitchen, searching out his cell phone on the counter. Was he going to have to call the cops to get rid of her?

The baby started to cry, so Nikki picked her up and rocked her while speaking in a soft, crooning voice. The gentle sound soothed his nerves until common sense returned with a vengeance.

Denial shook his head as he moved to stand in front of her. “Listen, I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this, but we’ve never met before, much less done what we would’ve needed to do to create that baby.”

**GIVEAWAY**

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

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**Buy “Surprised by Family”: Amazon   Barnes & Noble   All Romance eBooks

**About author, Noelle Adams: Noelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she teaches English, reads any book she can get her hands on, and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel.

She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances.

**Contact Noelle: Website   Facebook   GoodReads   Twitter

**About author, Stacey Joy Netzel: I fell in love with books at a young age, so for me it seemed only natural to graduate to writing them. I credit my parents for encouraging my dreams of becoming a published author, as well as the very talented friends I’ve made in Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Wisconsin Romance Writers (WisRWA).

An avid reader and fan of movies with a happily ever after, I live in Wisconsin with my husband and three children, a couple horses and some barn cats. In my limited free time I enjoy gardening and canning, and visiting my parents up north at the cabin on the lake with the whole family.

**Contact Stacey Joy: Website   Facebook   GoodReads   Twitter

**Click HERE to see other stops on this Indie Sage Blog Tour!

Dangled Carat

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“Dangled Carat” by Hilary Grossman

Blurb: Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship–why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose. But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn’t ready–and their friends’ meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year’s Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.

Excerpt:

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  But I swear, the way to a girl’s heart is through her closet.  And this closet was the kind of closet that dreams were made of.

“You like?” he asked.

“Like?” I asked.  “Like isn’t the word for it.  This closet is bigger than my bedroom!”

“Yeah, it’s pretty nice. I thought you’d like it.” He turned around.  As I followed him out of the closet, all I could think of was how I wished I could have stayed in that closet forever.  That’s how nice it was.

Who am I kidding?  All I could picture was how amazing it would be if I could live here….

Marc didn’t lead me downstairs.  Instead he walked over to the sliding glass door which opened onto the balcony.  He grabbed my hand and guided me outside.  The smell of the sea was so strong.  “I love this smell,” I remarked as I inhaled deeply.  “And look at the white caps from the crashing wave,” I said as I pointed.  “They’re beautiful.”

“I think someone else is more beautiful,” he said as he moved a little closer to me. I offered him a sly smile in return.  After a few moments of gazing at the ocean in silence, he placed his right hand on the small of my back and his fingers slid under my tee-shirt and slowly across.  His gentle caress stopped when he reached my side.  He squeezed gently.  A small electric current jolted through my body.  I am sure I wasn’t the only one who felt it, but unfortunately he remembered about that drink, and loosened his grip all too quickly.

HilaryGrossman**About author, Hilary Grossman:

Hilary Grossman dated a guy so commitment-phobic that she was able to write a book about their relationship. She is currently the CFO of a beverage alcohol importer and lives on Long Island.

**Contact Hilary: Blog   Facebook – author page   Facebook – blog page   Twitter

**Buy “Dangled Carat”: Amazon   Barnes & Noble – print

**GIVEAWAY**

Click HERE to enter to win a $35 Amazon Gift Card and a $25 Victoria Secret Gift Card!

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**Click HERE to check out other stops on Hilary’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours!

Fun After the Fire

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“Fun After the Fire” by Madeleine Lakewood

Blurb: When Briana and her roommate Dan are left alone at the bonfire, their feelings–kept hidden since she first moved in–finally erupt. Can Briana resist the temptation, or are she and Dan in for a steamy night?

“Fun After the Fire” is a short 2500-word romp that’s sure to tease and please.

My Review: Madeleine Lakewood reached out to me, offering to send me her book for an honest review. I instantly downloaded it, and began reading.

Briana and Dan hooked up pretty quickly, which I didn’t mind at all because they weren’t strangers, and found there to be an innocence about their lovemaking. For any good erotica, I feel that there must be very vivid descriptions, and this book was just that — quite descriptive, but not overly done, and I felt that I was still able to use my imagination, too. Very well-written, Madeleine Lakewood!

If you’re looking for a spicy and erotica read that you can read during lunch, before bed, or perhaps to help you get in the mood, I recommend “Fun After the Fire.”

I give this book 4 stars!

MadeleineLakewoodPic**About author, Madeleine Lakewood:

Madeleine Lakewood is an upcoming erotic romance author. She likes to write stories about unrequited lust gone requited, naughty roommates, and women learning to express themselves. When she’s not writing, she indulges in tea — especially chamomile — and first kisses with naughty boys. “Fun After the Fire” is her first foray into self-publishing, with many more to come.

**Contact Madeleine: Website   Facebook   Twitter

**Buy “Fun After the Fire”: Amazon   Smashwords

A Questionable Friendship

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“A Questionable Friendship” by Samantha March

Blurb: Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small café and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself.

A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Excerpt:

I lay in bed by myself that night, as Trent said he still had some reports to look at. I flipped onto my stomach, my favorite sleeping position, and tried to will myself to sleep. But my mind wouldn’t shut off. I flashed to the papers I found in Trent’s desk last night, purely on accident. I had never thought to snoop on my husband of two years. I was trying to find our tax returns from last year to give to the accountant, as we were severely behind and the April deadline was just around the corner. I had tried calling Trent to see where they were, but his phone was going to straight to voicemail. I knew he was driving home and sometimes his service cut in and out, so I didn’t think anything of it. I decided to find the papers myself, mostly out of boredom and the need to do something.

Trent’s office in our 2200 square foot ranch home was on the first floor, all the way to the east. I rarely ventured in there as I had no reason too, only popping in when Trent was working. It felt a little foreign being there, but I sat at his desk chair and looked around me. His desk wasn’t just some shoddy little thing tucked into the corner, no, the desk ran almost the full length of the wall, big enough for three people to easily fit at. He had one desktop computer set up and a laptop as well, and he carried yet another laptop with him on business trips. A printer that doubled as a scanner sat on one corner, and a fax machine on another. He had multiple calendars hung up with agendas scribbled on the majority of the dates, and another smaller calendar that sat to the right of the desktop. It was opened to that date, March 14, and scribbled on there was “Petosi.” He had been in that town for the past two nights, and was due home late in the night.

After some searching, I finally found the drawer that seemed to hold important records. Our passports were in there, our wedding license, birth certificates, and deed to the house. I found the titles to both our vehicles, but no tax information. I frowned, trying to think of another spot he would have them. I slipped all the papers back in the appropriate files and shut the drawer, and when I did, a single piece of paper had floated down to me, from somewhere at the top of the desk. I grabbed the sheet and read over the words, my eyes growing wide, then squinting as I read and re-read. My body turned cold as I sat in shock, trying to process what I had read. When I realized I’d been sitting there for probably thirty minutes doing absolutely nothing I jumped, understanding that Trent could walk through the door at any minute and find me. Then what would I say?

Carefully, I pushed myself up and climbed onto the office chair, putting the piece of paper back where I thought it had come from. From my new vantage point, I saw the top of his desk was riddled with other papers and…a calendar. I swallowed hard as I peered closer and saw what was written in under March 13. My stomach heaving, I quickly left the office after righting the chair to its original spot, and fled to the bathroom.

I blinked back tears in bed as I forced myself to calm my mind. Trent had some explaining to do sure, but how did I tell him what I had found? Did that really even matter in the grand scheme of things? But knowing the Trent as of lately, he would try to turn this around on me and make me look like the bad person. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for sleep. I just wanted to sleep, to forget about what I had found. The day had been torturous enough, trying to make everything seem like it was hunky dory and nothing out of place. And what would tomorrow bring? More questions. And next week – Trent would be gone for two weeks. Would he be going where he said he was? What was he actually doing on his trips away?

The bedroom door opened and I saw Trent enter the room, already in just his boxers. I let my breathing become even so he would think I was asleep.

He plugged his cell phone in and set it on the nightstand, then pulled the covers back and crawled in. I felt his cold feet touch mine and jerked involuntarily. “Are you awake?” he whispered. I could feel his erection pressing into my back, and knew what he wanted. He probably touched me on purchase.

“Mmmph,” I mumbled, not opening my eyes.

“Port. You awake?” he asked again, clearly not getting the hint as his hand wandered to my breast.

I rolled away and made more sleeping noises, begging in my mind for him to leave me alone. He stayed quiet for another moment, then finally rolled the other way.

I was off the hook – at least for one night.

SamanthaMarchPic**About author, Samantha March:

Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has three published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

**Contact Samantha: Website   Facebook   GoodReads   Twitter

**Buy “A Questionable Friendship”: Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo – eBook

**GIVEAWAY**

Click HERE to enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift card!

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**Click HERE to see other stops on Samantha’s Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours!

Glamour Puss – A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide on Being a Powerful Woman

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“Glamour Puss – A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide on Being a Powerful Woman” by Anna Madsen

Blurb: Today, using womanly cleverness and beauty to get where you want in life is frowned upon by men (and even by other women!). Regardless, French women have always championed feminine skills such as wit, emotional intelligence and sex appeal to get that man, job or handbag, regardless of any labelling that might occur. It’s time to introduce that mindset to the rest of the world too.

What makes certain women irresistible to every man? How do you use the power of feminine attraction to get your way? And where do you find a Trophy Husband?

”Glamour Puss” discusses in a bold and witty way with the voice of ”Generation Y” in ”Erotic Capital”, ”Caveman Communication”, ”The Kate Middleton Method” to ”The Catwoman Effect” and many more how to use your female charm, communicate with simple methods, make a prince to commit and keep him on his toes.

**Click HERE to read a chapter tease!

**Author note: Warning: “Glamour Puss” is not suitable for the radical, Gorilla-feminist who believes women should be firefighters and construction workers just to “prove they can”. Or actually, maybe it might just be?

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AnnaMadsen**Contact Anna: Annammadsen@gmail.com   Website   Facebook   Twitter

**Click HERE to buy “Glamour Puss – A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide on Being a Powerful Woman” on Amazon!

Keep Quiet

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“Keep Quiet” by Lisa Scottoline

Blurb: Jake Whitmore has been trying to mend an ongoing rift with his sixteen-year-old son, Ryan.  Just as they’re enjoying a rare bonding moment, when he’s not competing with the multitude of distractions that vie for Ryan’s attention, disaster strikes.  A tragic car accident with Ryan at the wheel threatens to derail not only Ryan’s chances at college, but his entire future.  Jake makes a split-second decision that saves his son from formal punishment, but plunges them both into a world of guilt, lies, and secrecy.

Making matters even worse, Jake’s wife Pam is up for a federal judgeship, with all the attendant background checks and interviews with the FBI.  Ryan is devastated by the accident, and Jake fears he may not hold up under the scrutiny.  Just when Jake thinks he has everything under control, Scottoline throws yet another curve ball their way, pushing them towards their limits. Powerful and gut-wrenching, KEEP QUIET is the tale of the unraveling—and the ultimate redemption—of a family.

“Keep Quiet” – Chapter One

Jake Buckman knew his son had a secret, because his wife told him so. They didn’t know what it was but they suspected it was about a girl, since Ryan had been texting non-stop and dressing better for school, which meant he actually cared if his jeans were clean. Jake wished he and his son were closer, but it was probably too late to turn it around. Ryan was sixteen years old, and Jake couldn’t compete with girls, friends, the basketball team, Facebook, Call of Duty, Xbox, Jay-Z, Instagram, and pepperoni pizza. No father could, least of all an accountant.
Jake drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting in front of the multiplex for Ryan, who’d gone to the movies with his teammates. The rift between father and son began five years ago, when Jake lost his job. The accounting firm he’d worked for had gone bankrupt in the recession, and he’d been out of a job for almost a year. They’d lived on his unemployment, his wife’s salary, and savings, but he felt ashamed at the brave smile on Pam’s face, the snow globe of bills on the kitchen table, and the endless rejection from jobs for which he was overqualified.
He shuddered, thinking back. Since he hadn’t been able to get a job, he’d done something he’d always wanted to do, start his own financial-planning business. He named it Gardenia Trust for Pam’s favorite perfume and he’d dedicated himself to getting it off the ground. He’d worked days and nights at a rented cubicle, cold-calling everyone he knew to drum up clients. He’d said yes to every speaking engagement, keynote or not. He’d given seminars at retirement villages, Rotary Clubs, and libraries. In time he became one of the top-ten ranked financial planners in southeastern Pennsylvania, but it had taken a toll on his family. He and Pam had fixed their marriage with counseling, but in the meantime, Ryan had grown up. Only Pam believed Jake could still fix his relationship with Ryan before their son left for college. She’d encouraged him, even tonight.
Go pick him up at the movie, she’d said. He’s expecting me, but you go instead.
The movie theater was wedged between Best Buy and Nordstrom, and cars idled out front, their exhausts making chalky plumes. Jake wondered if some of the other parents were in the cars, but he wouldn’t recognize them anyway. He’d only attended one or two parents’ nights, a National Honor Society induction, and assorted basketball finals, because Ryan played varsity. Pam went to all of Ryan’s games, having more flexibility in her work schedule, and Jake had told himself that her being there was the same as his being there, as if he could parent by proxy. He’d been wrong. He’d made himself superfluous in his own son’s life. His wife was the keynote.
A crowd flowed from the multiplex, lighting cigarettes, checking phones, and chatting as they passed in front of his headlights. Jake looked over to see Ryan push open the exit door with his shoulder and roll out of the theater with his teammates, whose names Jake had made a point to memorize: Caleb, Benjamin, and Raj. They were all tall, but Ryan was the biggest at six foot five and 225 pounds, the scruffy tentpole of a shuffling group of shaggy haircuts, black North Face jackets, and saggy pants—except for the two girls.
Jake shifted upward in the driver’s seat, surprised. He hadn’t known Ryan and his buddies were going to the movies with any girls and he was pretty sure Pam didn’t, either. One girl was a redhead and the other a long-haired blonde, who stood near Ryan. Jake wondered if the blonde was the mystery girl and if he could get a conversation going about it with Ryan on the way home. Pam always said her best conversations with him happened spontaneously, while they were driving around. If so, Jake would plan his spontaneity.
The girls waved good-bye, and he waited for Ryan to notice the Audi. He’d texted to say he was coming, but Ryan hadn’t replied, so he couldn’t be sure the text got delivered. Jake didn’t honk, wave, or do something else dorky, so as not to embarrass himself or suburban fathers in general.
Jake saw Ryan slide his iPhone from his pocket and flick his bangs back, so that the phone illuminated his son’s face. Ryan had large, warm brown eyes, a long, thin nose and largish mouth, his handsome features framed by wavy, chestnut-brown hair, which he kept longish. Everybody said Ryan was the spitting image of his father, but Jake knew that was true too many years and twenty-five pounds ago. Jake was forty-six years old, with crow’s-feet, graying temples, and a starter paunch to prove it. He always said that Ryan got his size from his father, but his brains from his mother, which was the best of both.
Jake watched as Ryan looked up from his iPhone, spotted the Audi, and jerked his chin up in acknowledgment, then slapped Caleb’s palm and came toward the car. Jake unlocked the passenger door, and Ryan opened it and slid inside, his jacket sliding against the leather seat.
“Where’s Mom?” he asked, eyebrows lifting.
“She was busy, so I figured I’d come. How was the movie?”
“Okay. You left Moose home?” Ryan kept an eye on his iPhone screen.
“Oops, yeah.” Jake hadn’t thought to take the dog, though Pam carted him everywhere. He disengaged the brake, fed the car gas, and headed for the exit.
“I get you didn’t want him to come. This car is too awesome.” Ryan kept his head down, his thumbs flying as he texted, growing the blue electronic bubble on the phone screen.
“No, it’s not that. I forgot. I’ll bring him next time.”
“Don’t. He’ll drool on the seats. We must keep the machine pristine.” Ryan paused as he read the screen. “You mind if I keep texting? I want to stay with this convo.”
“It’s okay, do your thing.” Jake steered around the back of the King of Prussia mall, where the lights of JCPenney, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus brightened a cloudy night sky. Cars were rushing everywhere; it was Friday night, the busy beginning to the weekend. It should have been colder for February, but it wasn’t. A light fog thickened the air, and Jake remembered something he had learned tonight from the pretty weathergirl on TV.
Fog is a cloud on the ground.
He turned the defrost to maximum and accelerated toward Route 202, heading for open road. Ryan texted away, his hip-hop ringtone going off at regular intervals, punctuated by the Apple-generated swoosh. Jake wondered if his son was talking to the mystery girl. He himself remembered racking up huge phone bills when he first dated Pam, at college. He’d fallen for her their freshman year at Pitt and felt unbelievably lucky when she married him. She was a great wife, and he gave her total credit for Ryan being so well-adjusted and popular, despite his naturally reserved manner. He was earning A’s in AP courses, got solid SAT scores, and was already being recruited by college basketball programs, some Division I.
Jake switched into the slow lane, heading for the exit. He wanted to ask Ryan about the girls, but he’d warm up first. “So, how was the movie?”
“Good. Like I said.”
“Oh, right.” Jake forgot, he had asked that already. “How’s Caleb? And Raj and Benjamin?” He wanted to show he remembered the names.
“Fine.”
“Everybody ready for the finals?”
“Yep.”
Jake was getting nowhere fast. He still wanted to know about the girls, and according to Pam, the trick with Ryan was to act like you didn’t care about the answer to the question you’d asked, or you’d never get an answer. So he said, offhandedly, “By the way, who were those girls at the movie?”
Ryan didn’t look up from his phone, his thumbs in overdrive. Pink and green bubbles popped onto his phone screen, so he was texting with more than one person, like a conference call for teenagers.
“Ryan?” Jake tried again. “The girls at the movie, who were they?”
“Girls from school.”
“Oh. Friends?”
“Yeah.” Ryan still didn’t look up.
“Nice.” Jake let it go, an epic fail, in the vernacular. He pressed a button to lower the window, breathing in the moist, cool air. The fog was thickening, softening the blackness of the night, and the traffic dropped off as they approached the Concordia Corporate Center. They passed glowing signs for SMS and Microsoft, then turned onto Concordia Boulevard, which was lined with longer-stay hotels. He’d eaten enough of their reception-desk chocolate chip cookies to last a lifetime, because even his out-of-town clients were in the suburbs, the new home of American business.
Jake returned to his thoughts. His own office was in a nearby corporate center, and he spent his days ping-ponging between his corporate center and his clients’ corporate centers, after which he drove home to his housing development. Some days the only trees he saw were builder’s-grade evergreens, planted in zigzag patterns. Lately he felt as if his life were developed, rather than lived. He was a financial planner, but he was coming to believe that too much planning wasn’t natural for trees or accountants.
Fog misted the windshield, and the wipers went on to clear his view, and Ryan chuckled softly. “Dad, this car is sick. I love how it wipes the windshield automatically.”
“Me, too.” Jake grinned, feeling the spark of a reconnection. They both liked cars, and last year, when Jake’s old Tahoe hit 132,000 miles, he’d bought the Audi, mainly because Ryan had lobbied for one. Jake was a born Chevy guy, but Ryan had built umpteen online versions of the flashy Audi on the company website and designed what he called a “dream machine”—an A6 sedan with a 3.0 liter engine, Brilliant Black exterior, Black leather interior, and Brushed Aluminum inlay on the dashboard. They’d gone together to pick it up, and Jake had given Ryan a few driving lessons in it, when Ryan had the time.
“Dude.” Ryan shifted forward, sliding the phone into his jacket pocket. “We’re coming up on Pike Road. Can I drive?”
Jake checked the dashboard clock, which read 11:15. “You’re not supposed to drive after eleven o’clock. You only have a learner’s permit.”
“But Dad, I’ve had it for five months already. I only have one month left before I can get my license. I did fifty-five out of the sixty-five hours, and all the nighttime driving hours and bad-weather hours. And you’re with me, you’re an adult.”
“It doesn’t matter, technically.”
Ryan deflated. “Oh, come on, there’s never traffic on Pike, not on the weekends. I can do it, Dad. You know I’m an excellent driver.”
“We’ll see when we get to Pike. If there’s people around, no.” Jake wanted to keep the conversational momentum going, especially when Ryan’s ringtone started up again. “So. It sounds like you’re in demand tonight.”
“I’m blowing up.” Ryan smiled.
“Is something going on, or is it just the usual women beating down your door?”
Ryan snorted. “Yeah, right. I’m a chick magnet.”
“Nobody’s a chick magnet, buddy. That’s why God invented cars.”
“Ha!” Ryan slapped his hands together. “That’s what I’m talking about! Agree!”
Yes! Jake realized he’d said the exact right thing, and Ryan shifted around to face him, with a new grin.
“When I get my license, you’ll lend me the machine, right? I won’t have to drive the Tahoe all the time.”
“I will.” Jake smiled.
“Awesome! Dad, guess what, I’m so stoked. I might have a date tomorrow night.”
Bingo! “Really? Who?”
“Wait. Whoa. Hold on, it’s Pike Road, we’re here. Please, please, pull over.” Ryan gestured to the right side of Pike, where the asphalt ended without a curb. “Right over there.”
“Relax, remain calm.” Jake braked as he approached the street.
“Please let me drive. We’re almost home. Look, the place is dead.” Ryan waved toward the corporate center. The follow-up ringtone sounded in his pocket. “Can I drive?”
“We’ll see.” Jake cruised to a stop, letting an oncoming truck pass, then made a left and pulled over, so he could scope out the scene. Pike Road was a long street that ran between the woods on its right and the Concordia Corporate Center, on its left. It was used mainly as a shortcut to the corporate-center parking lots, and during the week, corporate running teams and athletic teams from Jake’s high school used it to train. There was no traffic on the weekends.
“Dad, please.” Ryan leaned over, his eyes pleading, and Jake didn’t want to ruin the mood.
“Okay, let’s do it.”
“Sweet!” Ryan threw open the door and jumped out of the car. Jake engaged the parking brake, opened the door, and straightened up, but Ryan was already running around the front, slapping him a strong high-five. “Thanks, dude!”
Jake laughed, delighted. “Speed limit is forty, but watch out for deer.”
“Gotcha!” Ryan plopped into the driver’s seat, and Jake walked to the passenger seat, got in, and closed the door behind him. He didn’t have to adjust the seat because they were the same size.
“Now. Hold on. Before you go anywhere, adjust the mirrors, outside and in.”
“On it.” Ryan pushed the button to rotate the outside mirror, then reached for the rearview, and Jake watched him line it up, with approval. His son was careful and methodical, a perfectionist like him. Ryan even enjoyed practicing, especially basketball. Once he had told Jake that it took two-and-a-half hours to shoot a thousand foul shots, and Jake didn’t have to ask Ryan how he knew.
“Don’t forget your harness.”
“I wasn’t going to.” Ryan fastened himself into the seat with a click.
“I have the low beams on. For this street, with no lights, I recommend the high beams.”
“Agree.” Ryan peered at the dashboard and switched them on.
“Take a second and look around.” Jake looked down the street with Ryan, the high beams cutting the light fog. Pike Road was a straight shot the length of the corporate center, then took a sharp curve to the right. Tall trees lined the road, their branches jagged and bare.
“Good to go.” Ryan released the emergency brake as his phone signaled an incoming text.
“Don’t even think about getting that text. No texting while driving.” Jake himself had stopped texting while he drove unless he was at a stoplight, and he talked on the phone only if he had the Bluetooth.
“I know.” Ryan fed the car gas. The follow-up ringtone played but he stayed focused on his driving. “That’s just Caleb, anyway. He’s hyper tonight. He likes one of those girls we were with, the redhead with the white coat.”
“I saw her.” Jake relaxed in the seat, since Ryan had everything in control.
“Anyway, this girl I might go out with tomorrow night? She’s new.” Ryan smiled as he drove, warming to the topic. “Her family moved here over the summer from Texas. She rides horses. Barrel-racing. How baller is that?”
“Baller.” Jake knew baller meant good. They passed Dolomite Road on their left, which ran behind the corporate center. “Was she the other girl at the movie? The blonde?”
“Yes.” Ryan burst into an excited grin. “Did you see her? Isn’t she mad cute?”
“I did see her. She’s very cute.”
“Yo, I’d be so lucky to be with this girl! She’s short, but it works on her, you know?”
“Sure. Short is good. I like short. Your mom is short.” Jake smiled. Pam was only five foot three, and his mother had called them Mutt and Jeff, back in the days when people knew who Mutt and Jeff were. Jake’s mother had died ten years ago of blood cancer, and he still missed her every day. He didn’t miss his father at all, though his father had outlived his mother by six years, which proved that not only was life unfair but death was, too.
“Her name’s kinda weird, not gonna lie. Janine Mae Lamb. Janine Mae is her first name. You have to say both names.” Ryan maintained his speed as they approached the curve, marked by a caution sign with an arrow pointing right.
“I don’t think that’s a weird name. I think it’s pretty. Feminine.” Jake made approving noises to keep up the good vibe. The car’s headlights illuminated the caution sign, setting its fluorescence aglow. “Lower your speed. It’s a blind curve.”
“On it.” Ryan slowed down.
“So what’s she like, personality-wise?”
“She’s funny. She has a Texas accent. She says pin when she means pen.”
“Accents are good. Accents can be adorable.”
“Agree!” Ryan beamed as they reached the curve, and Jake felt happy for him.
“So you’re going out with her tomorrow night? Why don’t you take her someplace nice, on me, like a restaurant?”
“A restaurant? Dude, we’re not olds like you!” Ryan looked over in disbelief as he steered around the curve, and Jake met his eye, bursting into laughter.
But in that split second, there was a sickening thump.
They jolted as if they’d hit something, and Ryan slammed on the brakes, cranking the wheel to the left. The right side of the car bumped up and down, fishtailed wildly, and skidded to a stop.
And then everything went quiet.

**About author, Lisa Scottoline: Lisa Scottoline is a 20 time New York Times best-selling and an Edgar award-winning author with over 20 novels (in 20 years) under her belt, including her latest novel ACCUSED. Her stories have been translated into 25 different languages and her wildly popular, weekly non-fiction column, “Chick Wit,” appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the years Lisa’s books have solidly landed on all the major bestseller lists including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries. Her book LOOK AGAIN was named “One of the Best Novels of the Year” by The Washington Post and honored as one of a select group of books chosen to be part of World Book Night 2013. It has also been optioned for a film adaptation. Lisa, a Philadelphia native, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, earned a B.A. in English in just three years and received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School cum laude. Lisa worked as a trial attorney until the birth of her daughter, Francesca Serritella. She left the firm to raise Francesca and began a part-time career writing legal fiction. Francesca is now an honors graduate of Harvard, author and columnist. Lisa, as a single parent, considers her greatest achievement raising Francesca and now they co-write the “Chick Wit” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Through her writing, Lisa’s contributions have been recognized by organizations throughout the country. Lisa is the recipient of the Fun Fearless Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan Magazine, was named a PW Innovator by Publisher’s Weekly and was honored with AudioFile’s Earphones Award.

Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America and has taught a course she developed, “Justice and Fiction” at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater for which she one an award for Best Adjunct Professor as voted on by the students.

Lisa believes in writing what you know and puts so much of herself into her books. As evidenced in the bond of sisterhood among her characters, family is profoundly important to Scottoline, she has stated, “I come from a very loving, close-knit Italian family.” Lisa says she need not look past her own family, “The Flying Scottolines” for inspiration. In her nonfiction books and columns, Lisareflects in an honest and humorous way what it is like to be a middle-aged woman maneuvering through life and her relationships withher family (Daughter Francesca, Brother Frank, and her hilarious, opinionated, octogenarian, Italian, Mother Mary), men, and food.

Lisa is an incredibly generous person, (she opens her home to a fully inclusive book club party every year), an engaging and entertaining speaker, a die-hard Eagles fan and a good cook. Her iPod has everything from U2 to Sinatra to 50 Cent, she is proud to be a Philadelphian and American and nothing makes her happier than spending time with her daughter. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her array of disobedient pets, loves the coziness of her farmhouse and wouldn’t have her life any other way.

**Contact Lisa: Website   Facebook   Twitter

Fly Away

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“Fly Away” by Kristin Hannah

Excerpt:

Chapter One

September 2, 2010
10:14 pm

She felt a little woozy. It was nice, like being wrapped in a warm-from-the-dryer blanket. But when she came to, and saw where she was, it wasn’t so nice.

She was sitting on a closed toilet seat in a restroom stall, slumped over, with tears drying on her cheeks. How long had she been here? She got slowly to her feet and left the bathroom, pushing her way through the theater’s crowded lobby, ignoring the judgmental looks cast her way by the beautiful people drinking champagne beneath a glittering, nineteenth century chandelier. The movie must be over.

Outside, she kicked her ridiculous patent leather pumps into the shadows. In her expensive black nylons, she walked in the spitting rain down the dirty Seattle sidewalk toward home.

A bright pink Martini Bar sign caught her attention. A few people were clustered together outside the front door, smoking and talking beneath a protective overhang.

Even as she vowed to pass by, she found herself turning, reaching for the door, going inside. She slipped into the dark, crowded interior and headed straight for the long, mahogany bar.

“What can I get for you?” asked a thin, artsy-looking man with hair the color of a tangerine and more hardware on his face than Sears carried in the nuts and bolts aisle.

“Tequila straight shot,” she said.

She drank the first shot and ordered another. The loud music comforted her. She drank another straight shot and swayed to the beat. All around her people were talking and laughing. It felt a little like she was part of all that activity.

A man in an expensive Italian suit sidled up beside her. He was tall and obviously fit, with blond hair that had been carefully cut and styled. Banker, probably, or corporate lawyer. Too young for her, of course. He couldn’t be much past thirty-five. How long was he there, trolling for a date, looking for the best looking woman in the room? One drink, two?

Finally, he turned to her. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he knew who she was and that small recognition seduced her. “Can I buy you a drink?”

“I don’t know. Can you?” Was she slurring her words? That wasn’t good. And she couldn’t think clearly.

His gaze moved from her face, down to her breasts, and then back to her face. It was a look that stripped past any pretense. “I’d say a drink at the very least.”

“I don’t usually pick up strangers,” she lied. Lately, there were only strangers in her life. Everyone else, everyone who mattered, had forgotten about her. She could really feel that Xanax kicking in now, or was it the tequila?

He touched her chin, a jawline caress that made her shiver. The boldness of it, just touching her; no one did that anymore. “I’m Troy,” he said.

She looked up into his blue eyes and felt the bone crushing weight of her loneliness. When was the last time a man had wanted her? She couldn’t even remember.

“I’m Tully Hart,” she said.

“I know.”

He kissed her. He tasted sweet, of some kind of liquor, and of cigarettes. Or maybe pot. She wanted to lose herself in pure physical sensation, to dissolve like a bit of candy.

She wanted to forget everything that had gone wrong with her life, and how it was that she’d ended up in a place like this, alone in a sea of strangers.

“Kiss me again,” she said, hating the pathetic pleading she heard in her voice. It was how she’d sounded as a child, back when she’d been a little girl with her nose pressed to the window, waiting for her mother to return. What’s wrong with me? that little girl had asked anyone who would listen, but there had never been an answer. Tully reached out for him, pulling him close, but even as he kissed her and pressed his body into hers, she felt herself starting to cry, and when her tears started, there was no way to hold them back.

***

September 3, 2010
2:01 am

Tully was the last person to leave the bar. The doors banged shut behind her; the neon sign hissed and clicked off. It was past two now; the Seattle streets were empty. Hushed.

Traffic made the pavement hum beneath her bare feet. She made her way down the slick sidewalk, a little unsteady on her feet. A man had kissed her – a stranger – and she’d started to cry.

Pathetic. No wonder he’d backed away.

Rain pelted her, almost overwhelmed her. She thought about stopping, tilting her head back and drinking it in until she drowned.

That would be good. Drowning.

It seemed to take hours to get home. At her condominium building, she pushed past the doorman without making eye contact.

In the elevator, she saw herself in the wall of mirrors.

Oh, God.

She looked terrible. Her auburn hair – in need of coloring – was a bird’s nest, mascara ran like war paint down her cheeks.

The elevator doors opened and she stepped out into the hallway. Her balance was so off it took four tries to get her key into the lock. By the time she opened the door, she was dizzy and her headache had roared back to life.

Somewhere between the dining room and the living room, she banged into a chrome side table and almost fell. Only a last minute Hail Mary grab for the sofa saved her. She sank onto the thick, down filled white cushion with a sigh. The table in front of her was piled high with mail. Bills and magazines. Junk mail.

She slumped back and closed her eyes, thinking what a mess her life had become.

“Damn you, Katie Ryan,” she whispered to the best friend who wasn’t there. This loneliness was unbearable. But her best friend was gone. Dead. That was what had started all of it. Losing Kate. How pitiful was that? Tully had begun to plummet at her best friend’s death and she hadn’t been able to pull out of the dive. “I need you.” Then she screamed it: “I need you!”

Silence.

She let her head fall forward. Did she fall asleep? Maybe…

When she opened her eyes again, she stared, bleary-eyed, at the pile of mail on her coffee table. A Star magazine lay on top – a small, business card size photograph of her was in the upper right corner. Beneath her name was a single, terrible word.

Addict.

She reached forward, grabbed the magazine. It was a small story; not even a full page.

The Real Story behind the rumors.

Aging isn’t easy for any woman in the public eye, but it may be proving especially difficult for Tully Hart, the ex-star of the once phenom talk show The Girlfriend Hour. Ms. Hart’s goddaughter, Marah Ryan, contacted Star exclusively. Ms. Ryan, 20, confirms that the fifty-year-old Hart has been struggling lately with demons she’s had all her life. In recent months, Hart has “gained an alarmingamount of weight” and been abusing drugs and alcohol, according to Ms. Ryan–
Marah.

The betrayal hurt so badly she couldn’t breathe. She read the rest of the story and then let the magazine slide to the floor.

The pain she’d been holding at bay for months, years, roared to life, sucking her into the bleakest, loneliest place she’d ever been. For the first time, she couldn’t even imagine crawling out of this pit.

She staggered to her feet, her vision blurred by tears, and reached for her car keys. She couldn’t live like this anymore.

Copyright @ Kristin Hannah 2013

KristinHannahPic**About author, Kristin Hannah:

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one novels. A former lawyer turned writer, she is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

**Contact Kristin: Website   Facebook

We’ll Always Have Paris

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“We’ll Always Have Paris” by Jennifer Coburn

Blurb: Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. It’s the reason she drops everything each summer on a quest to travel through twelve European countries with her daughter, Katie, before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, she spends three to four weeks a year jamming Katie’s mental photo album with memories. In this heartwearming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped relinquish her fear of dying…for the sake of living.

* * * * *

My Review: After reading “Tales from the Crib” by Jennifer Coburn, I was a huge fan, and have been ever since. Naturally, I was excited to start “We’ll Alway Have Paris.” Right away, Jennifer’s writing captured me, and sometimes I felt like I was on traveling along with them. I loved how Jennifer and Katie talked to each other, and found their honesty toward each other to be refreshing.

I liked “We’ll Always Have Paris,” but this one just didn’t get me like other books by Jennifer Coburn usually do. In ways of a book, I really wished I could have got more out of it, but didn’t. I really, really wanted to like it, but nothing seemed to really happen, and I found it to be more like a journal.

If you’re one who likes traveling memoirs, then I highly recommend “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

I give “We’ll Always Have Paris” 3 1/2  stars.

* * * * *

“I’m profoundly in love with Jennifer Coburn’s memoir We’ll Always Have Paris!  From Coburn’s picture-perfect travelogue to her hilarious observations, she’s woven together a powerful narrative with a heartfelt and thoughtful examination of what truly makes a family.  I was enthralled from the very first page and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  I want to read this again, tell all my friends about it… and then renew my passport.” –Jen Lancaster, NY Times best-selling author of Bitter is the New Black, Here I Go Again, and the Tao of Martha.

* * * * *

Excerpt:

Katie and I found the Shakespeare & Company Booksellers on the Left Bank across the river from Notre Dame. On la Rue Bucherie, at the edge of the Latin Quarter, stood a seventeenth-century monastery that housed Europe’s largest collection of English language books for sale.

New and used books lined every wall, cluttered and haphazardly organized. A mirrored wall included photos of authors who had visited, including Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, and Allen Ginsberg. A cat snuggled in the corner under a corkboard listing literary events and readings. It was a cozy haven that made me long for a pot of tea and a thunderstorm.

Painted over a threshold of the three-story bibliophilic heaven were the words “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.” Discreetly placed in the landscape was evidence that Shakespeare & Company lived this philosophy. Small cots, bedrolls, pillows, and backpacks were tucked between bookshelves.

“Do people sleep here?” eight-year-old Katie asked the clerk, a young woman with Bettie Page bangs, a vintage dress, and Doc Marten Mary Janes. I imagined her name was something like Prudence or Cleo.

In a posh British accent, Cleo explained that travelers were welcome to sleep at the bookstore if they worked a few hours during the day. These guests were endearingly called “Tumbleweeds” and could stay anywhere from a few nights to several months.

Tapping on her computer, Cleo continued, “Or, if you’re a writer, you can stay as our guest in the studio.”

“My mom’s a writer!” Katie exclaimed, standing on the toes of her white sandals. “Google her.”

Katie’s face begged for the sleepover.

Fear of dying young isn’t an altogether bad thing. Sometimes it makes you try what you might otherwise delay. I found myself agreeing to Katie’s requests, justifying that my indulgence would solidify fond memories.

“Check-in is at midnight,” Cleo told us before returning to her work.

At the appointed hour, Katie and I sat on a bench next to a half-dozen disaffected youth with pierced faces and unnaturally black hair. Their stained canvas backpacks sported logos of bands with names like Blistered Anus.

“Ouch,” Katie commented to a fellow Tumbleweed.

“They’re crap since they lost their drummer,” he returned in a sweet English accent.

In her pigtails and Bedazzled tank top, Katie shrugged. “That can happen.” She had absolutely no idea about how a change of musician could affect a group, but pursed her lips as though she’d been through it a few times herself. I admired her immediate acceptance of and connection to life around her.

Another mother and her young daughter knocked on the locked door apologizing for being late for check-in. Looking like characters from Les Miserables, the mother and barefoot Cosette explained they lost track of time in the Bastille Day festivities.

As we were shown to the Writer’s Studio, I had three thoughts about spending the night in the same bed where Henry James slept. One, they hadn’t changed the sheets since. Two, Katie’s bed was actually a yoga mat on top of a door that was resting on two file cabinets. These cabinets, I should add, were not of equal height. And three, Andy Griffith looked awfully young on that box of Ritz crackers in the corner.

A tornado of gnats came from the water spigot. Our window did not open more than a few inches. The room was situated directly above a row of trash receptacles.

Katie squealed with delight, “We have a view of Notre Dame!”

I, on the other hand, just smelled hot garbage. “Don’t touch a thing!” I warned Katie.

“Isn’t this the best, Mommy?”

* * * * *

**If people pre-order the book any time before April 8th, through any book seller, I will donate my royalties from the first thousand books to the American Cancer Society. Click HERE to pre-order “We’ll Always Have Paris” on Amazon!

Jen-with-tree**Contact Jennifer:

Website   Facebook   Twitter

 

Launching in the US: The Expat Diaries by Michele Gorman

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The Expat Diaries: Single in the City

Michele Gorman’s romantic comedy debut, Single in the City, was a best-seller in the UK, where it was first published by Penguin, but despite being an American author, her books are less well-known in the US. We’d like to help change that!

Notting Hill Press launched Michele’s series, The Expat Diaries, in the US on March 25th, and here’s a bit about the first book.

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Take one twenty-six-year-old American, add to a two thousand year old city, add a big dose of culture clash and stir!

To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That’s been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England’s gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she’s supposed to build the life she’s dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.

The book is available as an eBook and paperback: Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

And if you’re in the UK but missed Michele’s debut there, it’s published as Single in the City on Amazon.co.uk.

**Click HERE to visit Michele’s Amazon page!

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TwelveDaystoChristmas

The Golden Apple

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“The Golden Apple” by Faerl Marie

Blurb: MEET POPPY PARKER, a recent widow who knows she must move forward but has no idea which direction to take. To start fresh, Poppy moves from her idyllic home in Georgia to the grimy glamour of New York City to open up her own boutique and find a way to live and love without her husband.

Austin Bandy has been in love with Poppy since the moment he laid eyes on her years ago, right before her wedding. Now she is back, grieving and broken hearted by her nearly-perfect husband’s death—not Austin’s ideal romantic situation. He needs to wait for her to recover but not so long that someone else has the chance to move in and sweep his dream girl off her feet and keep him as a “good friend” forever.

Poignant, hopeful and fresh, Faerl Marie’s enchanting debut novel will have you hooked and ready to pursue your own hopes and dreams the moment you turn the final page. The Golden Apple is a charming and fashionable novel about loss, love and moving on without betraying your self, your past or those you love.

My Review: Words cannot describe how much I enjoyed this book. It started quickly, and before too long, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

After Poppy moved to New York, her adventure with starting a new life and finding herself started right away. I liked that she had a girlfriend who she could rely on, and seemed to take to Austin almost immediately. While I wouldn’t have been as aggressive as she was (sleeping with him in the same bed, and staying at his home on most nights), I liked how Faerl didn’t make Poppy’s and Austin’s relationship based on sex, but rather romantic and innocent.

There were times when I wanted Poppy to stop thinking, and go with what I thought she wanted all along, which was to be with Austin, but I think that’s what made the book even more dramatic. (I won’t give you any spoilers). :)

Faerl Marie is a very gifted author who has written a wonderful heartwarming and memorable book, and I cannot wait to read what she’ll come out with next.

I give this book 5 stars!

Excerpt: 

“Well,” Vivian hadn’t said a word until then. “That’s quite a morning the two of you had.” After leaving Austin’s Poppy had gone to Vivian’s and took a long shower, soaking away the puffy redness around her eyes. Now she sat across from Viv in a nearby café dressed in a lilac and white striped seersucker dress feeling refreshed and sane.
“Tell me about it.” Poppy swirled a purple grape around in her palm like a marble. It was hot outside even under the shade of the black and white striped awning that covered them. They were the only occupied table and as such had their water and tea glasses refilled after nearly ever sip.
“The thing is Viv, I really thought it was him. When he turned and I saw his face and knew that it wasn’t, I felt okay about it. It didn’t hurt like I would have thought.” She laughed to herself ironically. “Until I broke down in a puddle of tears on the side of the street.” She popped the grape in her mouth and looked at her oldest friend.
“I think if it’s okay with you I’ll leave this bit out of the weekly report card your mom calls for.” Vivian raised one eyebrow and took a bite of her sandwich.
“Does she still do that? It’s been two months.”
Poppy moved her hair behind her shoulder. “What have you told her so far?”
“That you’ve gained at least ten pounds and a dress size,” She raised that eyebrow again, “lie. That you’ve made loads of new friends and stay out late having fun, partial lie.” She took another bite of her sandwich and swallowed. “That you go shopping all the time and spend money so frivolously you can’t afford to move out of my living room. Lie and lie.” She took a drink of her sparkling water. “Oh yeah, and that you’re sleeping at some guy’s house and thinking of opening your own vintage boutique.”
“Well two out of six isn’t bad. Whenever she calls me I just tell her that I think of Josh less often each week and that I don’t fall asleep crying every night, which actually, now that I think about it is true. I didn’t cry at all at Austin’s.” They both looked up from their lunches smiling and said simultaneously, “Except for today.” Poppy rolled her eyes and Vivian laughed.
“I’m sorry Pop.” Vivian looked serious for a moment. “I don’t mean to laugh. I know it’s rough.”
“Oh Viv. It’s either something to laugh about or something to cry about and lock me away in an asylum for.” She smiled. “I’d rather be laughing.” They both finished their lunches before she said, “I do feel pretty bad for Austin. Poor guy, sleeping on his own couch and dragging around a sobbing mess on his weekend.” Poppy dug around in her purse for cash.
Vivian was serious again as she moved crumbs around her plate with the tines of her fork. “He’s in love with you. You know that, right?” Poppy looked back down at the bills in her hand.
“I know he likes me. Love seems like a strong word to come from someone who barely knows me.” She ran one hand through her blonde waves.
“No, he loves you. He’s loved you since that first trip when you came out here and loitered around that photo shoot. You’re different Pop. Different from ‘city girls’,” she raised her hands in air quotes. “You’re different from all girls. I think it broke him when I told him you were about to be married. His jaw literally dropped. I’ve never seen anyone look so disappointed in my life. I’ll never forget that.” She looked away a moment before continuing. “I figured he’d gotten over it until a year or so ago.” She took a sip of her ice water. Poppy waited for her to continue.
“I ran into his sister, London, at some party and we started talking. She wanted to know whom this girl was that occasionally flitted into the city to break her brother’s heart again and again. Every time you came to visit he tried to make an appearance. At least once a year he’d ask if you were still married.” She set her fork down and looked into Poppy’s eyes, blue meeting blue.
“He told me, right after I’d asked if he’d pick us up from the airport, that he would wait as long as it took but that he would be there the moment you were ready. You think all this is just happenstance but really it’s Austin taking every opportunity he sees to be with you.” Vivian gave a half smile. “He’s a really good guy Poppy and I just think you should know.” She laughed then, “But please God! Don’t tell him I told you any of that.” They both stood up and Poppy checked her watch, unsure of how to respond to such a heavy confession.
“Oh! I need to get back to the apartment and change for dinner.”
“Your hot date! What are you going to wear?” Vivian and Poppy had been planning outfits since they were in grade school and started coordinating their scrunched velvet jazz pants and floral leotards.
“I’m thinking elegant-casual with glam accessories.” Poppy wanted to look attractive but not necessarily desirable or sexy.
“Oh,” Vivian’s face fell, “I was thinking sexy-glam with sassy accessories or at least some color. I didn’t even know you owned so much black.”
“I wear color!”
“Only when you’re jogging and you have that super serious runner face which is like the blackest of all faces you can wear,” Vivian retorted.
“Alright,” Poppy conceded. “I’ll wear color as part of my elegant-casual look.” Poppy showered and dressed hurriedly when they arrived back at the brownstone.
“Okay, How do I look?” She stood with one hand on her hip. An eggplant sheath dress skimmed over her body gracefully. A coral skinny belt drew in her waist.
“You look great. I love that dress, it’s the blackest purple I’ve ever seen.”
“This is eggplant!” Poppy adjusted the belt. “Is the dress too short? Am I showing too much skin?” She twirled around for Vivian to see.
“Are you kidding me? The front comes up to your neck and it’s long sleeved.”
“These are three-quarter length sleeves and the hem is pretty short.” Poppy pulled at the dress.
“No, the hem is great and those coral heels aren’t so high. I love the low scoop back; it’s the right amount of sexy.” Vivian looked her over again. “What jewelry are you wearing?”
“These.” Poppy slipped on a pair of gold chandelier earrings that almost brushed her shoulders. “How’s the back of my hair?”
“Good. Did you braid it or just twist it?” Vivian tucked a few strands of Poppy’s hair back into the twist with a bobby pin.
“Both. Is it too… secretarial?” She patted the chignon.
“It’s perfect. You look beautiful.” Vivian put her hands on Poppy’s shoulders. “Are you nervous?”
“A little, but not as much as I would have thought.” She checked her watch. “I better go down and get a cab. Have a good night.” She gave Viv a quick kiss on the cheek.
Vivian stood in the door and called after her, “Have fun Poppy!”
Poppy pulled the belt of her trench tighter as she stepped out of the cab. The restaurant was open except for a few tables and Greg was easy to spot in dark jeans and a striped button up shirt. He stood as Poppy approached the table.

Faerl Marie**About Faerl Marie: Faerl Marie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minors in English and Social Welfare. She has worked as a style consultant, personal shopper and wardrobe curator, among other things. Faerl Marie spends her days writing, dreaming about new stories and characters, walking her dog and adoring her husband. She lives in the idyllic mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The Golden Apple” is her first novel.

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