“Love, Reality Style” by Judith Natelli McLaughlin
Blurb: When cake-loving third-grade teacher Mary Grace Falcone receives a proposition of marriage from her germ-phobic boyfriend Ralph Ichy, her comfortable life is thrown into a tailspin. Should she marry Ralph? The man dubbed “the CEO of Antiseptic Hands”? Reluctantly, and despite the differing opinions of her best friends Jayde and Annie, Mary Grace accepts. Her decision gets her meddling mother off her back, but also lands her on a reality wedding show where handsome host, Nick Charmin, unexpectedly falls for her.
Will Mary Grace choose hot Nick or faithful Ralph? Is the decision really hers to make? And, is a slice of cake actually the answer to all of life’s problems?
Mary Grace took her second bite of cake when the phone rang. She checked the caller ID. It was her mother.
“I have to get this. Hello?”
“Mary Grace, it’s your mother.”
“I know, Mom. I know it’s you.”
“Why haven’t you returned my calls? I’ve been calling you. I was starting to think you were dead. You don’t return my calls, what is a mother to think? Her daughter is dead in a ditch.”
“Mom, move on. I’m not dead. I just talked to you this morning…”
“What is this world coming to when a woman’s only daughter is too busy for her own mother?” Angela said, not allowing Mary Grace to finish her sentence. “A mother who, by the way, has some news.”
“Oh God, Mom, I don’t know which issue to address first.” Mary Grace rolled her eyes for Ralph’s benefit. He returned the eye roll, smiled, and ate another bite of his cake.
“Don’t be fresh, young lady. Just because you’re engaged doesn’t mean you can be fresh.”
“I’m not engaged, Mom.”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t say yes yet?”
“Oh, so you DID hear me.”
“I hear everything, Mary Grace. You’re the one who needs to listen. You have a nice man who wants to marry you. I can die knowing you are taken care of. And you don’t say yes? That’s not the way I raised you, Mary Grace. My news will help that.”
“Yes. You know my friend Mrs. Lunt?”
Mary Grace’s voice was pleading. “Just get to the news.”
“Right. My news,” Angela said with a laugh. “Remember Mrs. Lunt’s daughter? Her name is Tess. Anyway, Tess is this great, big television producer.”
“So, Tess told Mrs. Lunt and Mrs. Lunt told me her daughter is in a bit of a pickle. Ratings are down on her show.”
“I Do. She is the producer of the show I Do. The one where America plans the couple’s wedding in its entirety, from invitations to the honeymoon. It’s kind of like a modern version of Jim Lang’s Dating Game. Remember the Dating Game, Mary Grace?”
“Yes, I remember Jim Lang’s Dating Game, Mom. And Bob Eubank’s Newlywed Game. And I also remember Billy Preston was the fifth Beatle.”
“Billy who was what? You make no sense, Mary Grace. No sense whatsoever. Now listen to me. I wonder what Jim Lang did when his ratings were down.”
“I don’t know, Mom.”
“I know what Tess Lunt did. She asked her mother for help.”
“Good for her, Mom. Good for Tess Lunt.”
“You could learn from Tess, Mary Grace. I’m a problem solver too, you know. So Tess told Mrs. Lunt and Mrs. Lunt told me that I Do is in trouble. So I told her my daughter just got engaged and she and her fiancé would be just perfect for the show.”
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**About the author: Judith Natelli McLaughlin is an author/illustrator whose work crosses over many genres. Her novel, This Moment, appeared on the Amazon bestseller list. Her children’s poetry has been published alongside idols like Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Judith Viorst. Her children’s classic, Poems on Fruits and Odes to Veggies – Where Healthy Eating Starts with a Poem, is a staple in the world of healthy eating, making good food choices fun. Her middle grade novels include Dear Diary, E.P. Thompson Here, and the first in her chapter book series, Mackenzie Goode Makes a Mistake – A Big One, was published in 2015. She lives in the Garden State with her husband, Brian, three daughters, Katie, Lindsay, and Maggie, and a Westie named Duke. She is proud to call herself a New Jersey native.