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by Eliza Knight

Publication Date: 6/30/2020

Toran Fraser encounters a mysterious rebel, and he can’t resist being recruited to her cause…

Toran Fraser is hell-bent on taking down the Jacobites. On a late-night mission, he’s intercepted by a woman known only as “Mistress J,” who’s determined to put Prince Charlie back on the throne of Scotland. Toran can’t resist her appeal—especially with her pistol pointed at his heart—and suddenly finds himself joining the rebellion…

By day, highborn Jenny Mackintosh runs her estate in the Highlands. By night, she’s one of Prince Charlie’s Angels—a band of Jacobite rebels. Scoffing at mortal danger, she raises coin, delivers weapons, and recruits soldiers for the rebellion. When she encounters a handsome Highlander who is clearly on the run, she is more than a little intrigued. She isn’t expecting to be his enemy…

ELIZA KNIGHT is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty sizzling historical romances. Under the name E. Knight, she’s known for riveting tales that cross landscapes around the world. When not reading, writing, or researching, she chases after her three children. In her spare time she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, and visiting with family and friends. She lives in Maryland.

Author Website: http://www.elizaknight.com

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Excerpt:

Toran jerked around. Suddenly, figures melted out from the shadows. Scots, but in the dark and dressed as they were, he couldn’t make out what clan they hailed from. At the center of the five men stood a lass. Aye, she wore trews and had her hair up under a cap, wisps of golden strands peeking through, but there was no hiding the curves beneath her shirt and waistcoat. In the moonlight filtering through the trees, she looked bonnie—high, arching cheekbones, a mouth that puckered into a frown. But what struck him most was the spark of fire in her gaze. Her eyes reflected the light of the moon, almost making her look like she was glowing.

And the muzzle of her pistol was pointed right at him. Outlaws… Of all the bloody luck. He reached for his own pistol tucked into his belt.

“Dinna move,” the lass said. Her voice was throaty, sensual. “Else I put a bullet through your heart.”

A slow grin formed on Toran’s face. “What’s to say I won’t put a bullet in yours first?”

The lass looked down at Archie and then flicked her gaze back to his. “Ye’re outnumbered. Let’s say ye were willing to pull your weapon before I took my shot, and then ye were to waste your bullet, there’d be five more cutting through ye before ye were able to see the result.” Again, she looked at Archie. “And your friend doesna seem like he will be much help.”

“We’re verra close to the English garrison, lass. Any shot ye make will be a beacon to the dragoons lurking about. And trust me, there are hundreds of them headed this way as we speak.”

“Is that so?” She glanced at Archie once more. “A prison break? So ye two are rebels, aye?”

Toran didn’t answer. Let her come to her own conclusions.

“We have horses.” She kept her gaze on his, and he had the intense urge to draw closer. “Ye and your friend can have one when we return to my camp—for a price. Why not donate your coin to the cause and join us? We’ve a need for more rebels.”

Toran did not want to join her. Now, if she’d asked him to join her for some mutual warmth under a plaid, that would be another story. Then again, she had a point about the bullets. And he truly did not want to die.

“I’m guessing from your current circumstances ye are in need of a helping hand, sir.” Her voice was smooth, even melodic, but still filled with authority. And considering that she was the one speaking, she certainly gave the impression that she was the one in charge. Fascinating.

A group of men led by a woman? Not a common thing, and intensely intriguing. Whoever she was, she had ballocks as full of steel as his own. And if he weren’t trapped in the woods with her, a hundred redcoats on his tail, he might have asked her to join him for a dram.

“Who are ye?” Toran asked.

A soft laugh escaped her, and her hand waved dismissively. “Not yet, sir. Ye’ll have to prove yourself first.”

Prove himself? He gritted his teeth. “All right, we’ll join ye.” There really was no other choice. He and Archie needed a quick escape, and her horse would provide that. Just because he was taking her up on the offer now didn’t mean he had to stick it out. In fact, as soon as he could, he’d steal the horse and somehow get Archie back to Fraser lands where he could make certain the rest of his family was safe from Boyd.

“Good.” She nodded to Dirk. “Search them for weapons, and then help the wounded man onto your horse.”

Toran stood still for the inspection, gritting his teeth as his weapons were removed. “I’ve said we’d join ye. Why then are ye treating me like a prisoner?”

The lass cocked her head to the side, a slight grin curling her upper lip. “We must first see that ye are trustworthy.” With an added challenge echoing in her words, she said, “Ye can ride with me. And dinna try any tricks, else ye find yourself verra dead.”

The lass didn’t beat around the bush, and there was no hint of humor in her tone at all. She meant what she said.

Toran climbed onto the back of her horse, his cold, wet body flush to her warmer, dry back. Beneath the icy exterior was a lass full of lush curves. Mo chreach… Good heavens, but she felt good. Hesitantly, he placed an arm around her waist.

She shuddered. “Blast, but ye’re soaked,” she hissed. “Ye should have warned me. And ye smell like the devil’s own chamber pot.”

Toran chuckled. “A hazard of escape, lass.”

Mistress J? Why did that sound familiar?

Her back straightened, and she leaned forward, away from him. “Ye can call me Mistress J.”

“And ye are?” she urged.

“I’m called Toran,” he said slowly as realization struck him. The night had taken a very interesting turn. For he was holding onto the woman he suspected might be responsible for his mother’s death.

***

Excerpted from The Rebel Wears Plaid by Eliza Knight. © 2020 by Eliza Knight. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

by Kari Lynn Dell

Publication Date: 6/30/2020

There’s a reason they call this cowboy relentless

Gil Sanchez was once rodeo’s biggest and baddest hotshot. Now he’s thirteen years sober and finally free of the pain that ended his skyrocketing career. Given one last, near-miraculous shot to claw his way back to rodeo glory, he can’t let fantasies of happily-ever-after dull his razor edge…but Carmelita White Fox is every dream he’s never let himself have. 

And from the moment he saw the spark of challenge in her eyes, he hasn’t been able to look away. 

Carma may come from a Blackfeet family noted for its healing abilities, but even she knows better than to try to fix this scarred, cynical, and incredibly sexy cowboy. Yet she’s the only one who can reach past Gil’s jaded armor, and the fiercely loyal heart buried beneath the biting cynicism is impossible to resist. Gil needs Carma just as much as she needs him, but as the pressure builds and the spotlight intensifies, they’ll have to fight like hell to save the one thing neither can live without.

KARI LYNN DELL brings a lifetime of personal experience to writing western romance. She is a third generation rancher and rodeo competitor existing in a perpetual state of horse-induced poverty on the Blackfeet Nation of northern Montana, along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog.

Author Website: http://www.karilynndell.com/

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Excerpt:

If following Carmelita was a bad idea, it was going to be one of the more interesting mistakes Gil had made. He didn’t just want her. He craved her…and that rarely boded well for him. But just this one time… 

When the back door of the bar thumped shut behind them, Carmelita stopped and dragged in a long, deep breath. Her words came out in puffs of vapor. “God, that was suffocating.” 

The closeness of the overcrowded bar? The argument with her cousin? The attention? “Why did you come?” 

“My grandmother volunteered my services. Fund-raisers are the worst, though. Everyone is so…” Her hands fluttered in a broad circle, encompassing the tearful outpourings of gratitude that marked benefits. 

“You’re used to being in the spotlight.” 

“I prefer an audience to a crowd,” she said flatly. And the difference was in the separation. She could walk off a stage without interacting with the masses. 

She tipped her head back to gaze into the heavens and her body language slowly shifted, as if she was drawing in the stillness. When she started off through the parking lot, she once again moved with fluid grace. Gil matched her stride, closing the space between them so his coat sleeve swished against hers. 

“Bing told me about you, and introduced me to your… friend,” she said. 

With that slight hesitation, she summed up Gil’s uncertainty about his relationship with Hank, past and future. “I’m his sponsor,” he corrected stiffly. 

“Mmm.” A sound that translated to if that’s what you want to tell yourself. “We lack many things up here on the rez, but we do not have a shortage of recovering addicts.” 

“I watched Hank grow up. I understand him.” 

She angled a searching glance beneath lowered lashes. “I see.” 

Yes, she did. There was something in the way she looked at him—through him—that made him want to both hide and move closer. He did neither. The breeze caught her hair, sending a strand fluttering and carrying the scent of pine needles and snow down from the mountains. He swung around to face her as they stopped beside the door to his truck, and when he looked into her eyes, he felt as if he was losing his balance, falling into one of the bottomless mountain lakes—only much warmer. He could just keep sinking and sinking… 

She caught him, pressing her hands flat against his chest, but her smile was tinged with regret. “I wish I could stay. You and I would be very good together, I think.” 

The image of Carmelita naked and lush under his hands sent heat shuddering through him. Then he registered what she was saying. 

“You’re leaving?” Gil frowned at her in disbelief. 

The hitch of her shoulder set the moonlight shimmering through her hair. “I can’t leave my grandparents with a sick baby.” 

“His mother didn’t seem overly concerned.” Gil’s voice was harsh, along with his judgment of her charming cousin. Even when he’d been regularly popping Vicodin like breath mints, he’d managed to stay clean on the weekends he’d had his son. 

Carmelita smoothed her palms over the front of his jacket. “Next time?” 

“I won’t be back.” 

She angled her head to give him another searching look, then nodded. “You’re taking Hank home. That explains it.” 

“What?” 

“This.” Her hand moved down, pressing with unerring accuracy over the clutch in his gut. She reached up with the other to brush cool fingers over the knot of tension in his forehead. “And this.” 

He wanted to lean into that touch—into her—and let her wipe his mind clean for a few hours. 

“I’m sorry I can’t do more.” She stroked a blissful circle on his temple. “But I can give you something for that headache.” 

“A fistful of ibuprofen?” 

“A promise.” Her eyes were steady, her tone certain. “Hank will be fine. He’s stronger than you think, and whatever you’re keeping from him, he’ll understand it was for the best. So will the others.” 

Gil jerked his head back. “I never said anything to Bing about that.” 

Her hands fell away and she angled her gaze upward, eyes going distant. In the Panhandle the stars were painted on the sky. Here it seemed as if they were standing among them. 

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just feel it. But I’m almost always right.” 

Without warning, she tipped onto her toes and pressed her mouth to his. Her lips were cool, but at the touch of her tongue the glowing embers they’d been gathering between them burst into flame, whooshing through him like a prairie fire. His thoughts, the last of his reservations, the ability to think at all were consumed by a wall of heat. He gripped the lapels of her coat to drag her hard against him, and she fisted her hands in the sides of his jacket, pressing even closer. Her tongue slid over his, the friction setting off more sparks. 

A palpable shudder ran through her. She braced her hands on his shoulders, slowly, inexorably separating her mouth from his. Then she smiled, a copper-skinned Madonna with fathomless eyes, and pressed a palm over his thundering heart. “You should get some rest, Gil Sanchez. You’ve got a long drive tomorrow.” 

***

Excerpted from Relentless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell. © 2020 by Kari Lynn Dell. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved

Never Let Me Go:

Tender, emotional contemporary romance—you’ll fall in love with this band-of-brothers and the strong women they’re determined to win.

Architect Maxwell Devers is laser-focused on winning the contract to build a new cultural arts center–his biggest project yet. But as a single dad of a beautiful baby girl, he has to find some help if he’s going to stay on track.

Yvonne Markham is thrilled to get her first nanny assignment. She knows the high-paying job will speed her progress toward owning a child care center of her own. Maxwell’s daughter is a delight, and she quickly comes to love the bouncing baby girl. Falling for her handsome new boss, however, was not part of the plan…

Hang on to your heartstrings: This multicultural romance features a single father, a sweet baby daughter, and the nanny who falls in love with them both.

About Kianna:

Like any good Southern belle, Kianna Alexander wears many hats: loving wife, doting mama, advice-dispensing sister, and gabbing girlfriend. She’s a voracious reader, an amateur seamstress and occasional painter in oils. Chocolate, American history, sweet tea and Idris Elba are a few of her favorite things. A native of the TarHeel state, Kianna still lives there with her husband, two kids, and a collection of well-loved vintage 80’s Barbie dolls. For more about Kianna and her books, visit her website at: http://authorkiannaalexander.com/

by Jennie Marts

Publication Date: 6/30/2020

The town of Creedence, Colorado, gets involved in horse rescue in bestseller Jennie Marts’ brilliant new series

Zane Taylor has a gift for communicating with animals, particularly horses, but he’s at a loss when it comes to women. He’s a scarred and battered loner who has sworn off love—except he can’t seem to stay away from Bryn Callahan.

Bryn Callahan has a heart for strays, as evidenced by the assembly of abandoned animals that have found their way to her doorstep. But she is through trying to save damaged men. She vows to date only nice guys, which is a category that does not include Zane Taylor. Too bad he’s the one who sets her pulse racing every time she’s around him.

A chance encounter with a horse headed for slaughter brings Zane and Bryn together. Although starting a horse rescue ranch wasn’t in the plan, now Zane and Bryn have a chance to save not just the animals, but maybe each other…

Jennie Marts is the USA Today bestselling author of award-winning books filled with love, laughter, and always a happily ever after. She is living her own happily ever after with her husband, two dogs, and a parakeet that loves to tweet to the oldies, in the mountains of Colorado.

Author Website: https://jenniemarts.com/

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Excerpt:

The still-nameless dog jumped into the cab as Zane Taylor opened the door of his pickup, and he absently patted its head and rubbed behind its ears. The dog leaned into him and got that blissed-out look on its face, and Zane’s tension eased a little as it always did when he interacted with an animal. The late spring sun warmed Zane’s back, and as soon as he turned his attention away from the dog, he felt the weight of the decision he bore on his shoulders. His former boss, Maggie, had been nagging him to come back to his old job on her Montana ranch. She’d taken in a herd of wild stallions, and she needed him. He’d gotten by so far with vague replies, but it was time to give her an answer. Time to get back on the road and out of Creedence. Except the reason he was so fired up to leave was also the reason he wasn’t ready to walk away.

He shrugged the soreness from his shoulders. He’d had a good morning with Rebel, the headstrong black stallion he’d been working with for weeks now. Maybe the horse could feel the warmth in the air as well. Although it was Colorado, so they could still get a snowstorm or two before spring reluctantly slid into summer.

“Nice job today, horse whisperer,” Logan Rivers, his current boss, and friend, hollered from the corral where he was putting another horse through the paces.

Zane waved a hand in his direction, ignoring the comment, as he turned the engine over and pulled the door shut. He wasn’t fond of the nickname, even though Logan had been using it since they were in high school and working summers at Logan’s family’s ranch.

Zane could admit grudgingly that he did have a gift with horses, especially the dangerous or wild ones, somehow connecting with the animals better than he ever did with people.

The black-and-white border collie mix rested her head on Zane’s leg, and he stroked her neck as he drove toward Creedence, where no one was a stranger and everyone knew not just your business, but your cousin’s as well.

He lowered the windows and turned on the radio, contemplating the errands he needed to run after he grabbed a plate of biscuits and gravy at the diner. The thought made his mouth water. So did the thought of hopefully seeing a certain blond waitress who had been taking up way too many of his thoughts these last few months.

He slowed, his brow furrowing, as he recognized that same waitress’s car sitting empty on the side of the road. The car was an old nondescript blue sedan, but there was no mistaking the colorful bumper stickers stuck to the trunk. A bright blue one read “What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?” and the hot-pink one above the back taillight read “It was me. I let the dogs out.”

His heart rate quickened as his gaze went from the empty vehicle to a hundred yards up the road, where a woman walked along the side of the highway, her ponytail bouncing with each step and a light-colored dog keeping pace at her heels. Which was pretty impressive, in and of itself, since the dog had only three legs.

But then, everything about Bryn Callahan was kind of bouncy, and she was just as impressive as her dog. The woman was always upbeat and positive. Even now, with her car sitting busted on the side of the road, her steps still seemed to spring, and the bright sunlight glinted off her blond hair.

He drove past the abandoned car and onto the dirt shoulder as he slowed to a stop beside her. “Need a ride?”

She turned, her expression wary, then her face broke into a grin, and it was like the sun shining through the clouds after a rainstorm.

“Hey, Zane,” she said, the smile reaching all the way into her voice as she grasped the door handle. She looked steadily into his eyes, her gaze never wavering, never sliding sideways to stare at the three-inch, jagged scar starting at the corner of his eye and slicing down his cheek. Most people couldn’t keep their eyes off it, but Bryn acted as if it wasn’t there at all. “I sure do. I was supposed to start my shift at the diner ten minutes ago.”

She opened the door, and the dog bounded in, hitting the floorboards, then springing onto the seat to wiggle and sniff noses with the border collie. They could have powered a wind farm, the way their tails were wagging and their little butts were shaking.

“Hey, Lucky.” He leaned in as the dog leapt over the collie’s back and into Zane’s lap, where it proceeded to drench his face in fevered licks and puppy kisses. Lucky was like a hyper three-legged Tigger as he bounced from Zane’s lap back to the collie, over to Bryn, and back to Zane.

“Lucky, get off him,” Bryn scolded. She tried to push her way into the truck as she got her own slobbery reception from the collie.

Zane chuckled and grabbed her hand to help her into the cab. But his laugh stuck in his throat as heat shot down his spine and his mouth went dry. He swallowed and tried to focus on assisting her, instead of staring at the area of bare skin he glimpsed as the top of her dress buckled and gaped from her movement. It was just the side of her neck, but it was the exact spot he’d spent too much time thinking about kissing.

Silly mutts.” She laughed as she tossed her backpack on the floor and plopped into the seat. Her hand was soft, but her grip was solid, and for a moment, he wondered what would happen if he didn’t let go. “Wow, what a greeting,” she said, as she released his hand to buckle herself in.

Zane’s eyes were drawn to her legs like bees to honey. The woman had great legs, already tan, and muscular and shapely from her work at the diner. Her white cross-trainers were scuffed with the red dirt from the road, and she had a smudge of dust across one ankle that Zane was severely tempted to reach down and brush away so he could let his fingers linger on her skin.

Bryn wore a pink waitress dress, the kind that zips up the front, with a white collar and a little breast pocket, and the fabric hugged her curvy figure in all the right spots. For just a moment, Zane imagined pulling down that zipper—with his teeth. His back started to sweat just thinking about it.

Simmer down, man. He took a deep breath, utilizing the stress-reducing exercise he’d learned in the military, and tried to think of something witty to say. He didn’t usually let himself get carried away with those kinds of fantasies. But he didn’t usually have Bryn in his truck, filling his cab with the sound of her easy laughter and the scent of her skin—traces of honeysuckle and vanilla and the smell of fresh sheets off the line on a warm summer day.

“That dog is serious about kissing. I haven’t had that much action in months.” He winked, then laughed with her, pulling his hand back to ruffle Lucky’s ears as the dog settled into the seat next to the collie. He tried to play it off like a joke, to settle his pounding heart, when what he really wanted to do was pull her into his lap and kiss her face and throat the way Lucky had done to him. Well, not exactly the same way.

Bryn snorted and scratched the ears of the collie, who was softly whining as she pressed into Bryn’s shoulder. “He’s just happy to see you. It’s been a while, ya know?”

“Yeah, I know.” It had, in fact, been months since he’d seen her.

“Well, Lucky has noticed you haven’t been around much.” She dropped her gaze and her voice as she focused on petting the dog. “We both have.”

Both?

“Are you saying you missed me?”

“I didn’t say missed. I said noticed.”

She playfully nudged his elbow, and he felt the heat of her skin against his arm.

His shoulders slumped. Of course she hadn’t missed him.

“Of course I missed you. You all but disappeared after the great Christmas pie bake-off in December.”

He chuckled as he shook his head. “I still can’t believe we made fifteen pies in four hours.”

“I still can’t believe you wore a frilly apron with a glittery cupcake on the front.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What other kind of cupcake is there? And I liked that glittery color. I’m thinking of having it added to the paint job on my truck.”

A laugh burst from her. “I dare you to.”

He let his voice drop and offered her what he hoped was a flirtatious grin. “I do enjoy a good dare.”

She chuckled, then lowered her gaze to the dog’s shoulder, where she scratched its fur. “So, why didn’t I hear from you? Was it something I said or did?”

Yeah, it was everything you did—everything that made me want and hope and wish for something more. “Nah. I was going to call you, but we got real busy at the ranch. Then I heard you started dating some rough-stock cowboy, and I didn’t want to overstep.”

“Is it overstepping to be my friend?”

He cocked his head, eyeing her. “Is that what you want me to be? Your friend?”

“Of course. I didn’t give you my number for you to not call me.”

Wrong question, dumbass. Should have asked her if all she wanted was to be his friend. He offered her a shrug. “I’m not much of a talker.”

“That’s perfect. Because I can talk up a blue streak, and I’m always on the lookout for a good listener.”

He chuckled. “I can do that. I can probably even throw in an occasional grunt of agreement just so you know I’m paying attention.”

She giggled softly, and the sound swirled in his chest, melting into him like molasses on a warm pancake. “That sounds great.”

*******

Excerpted from Cowboy State of Mind by Jennie Marts. © 2020 by Jennie Marts. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.

Up, close and personal with the author herself……and the new book in the wings…

About the Novel

Title: If You Must Know

Author: Jamie Beck

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Publisher: Montlake

IfYouMustKnowGraphic

Summary

Sisters Amanda Foster and Erin Turner have little in common except the childhood bedroom they once shared and the certainty each feels that her way of life is best. Amanda follows the rules—at the school where she works; in her community; and as a picture-perfect daughter, wife, and mother-to-be. Erin follows her heart—in love and otherwise—living a bohemian lifestyle on a shoestring budget and honoring her late father’s memory with a passion for music and her fledgling bath-products business.

The sisters are content leading separate but happy lives in their hometown of Potomac Point until everything is upended by lies that force them to confront unsettling truths about their family, themselves, and each other. For sisters as different as these two, building trust doesn’t come easily—especially with one secret still between them—but it may be the only way to save their family.

Author Biography

JamieBeck

Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than two million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah and dancing around the kitchen while cooking. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family. Fans can get exclusive excerpts, inside scoops, and be eligible for birthday gift drawings by subscribing to her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/b7k7G5. She also loves interacting with everyone on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks.

Social Media

Website – https://jamiebeck.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/writerjamiebeck

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8020971.Jamie_Beck

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Q&A with Bestselling Author Jamie Beck

How do you describe your newest novel If You Must Know?

This book is a “beach book” in the best sense. It’s not angsty, yet it has a page-turning plot and a bunch of interesting, relatable characters. I think it’s entertaining and heartfelt at the same time, which is exactly what many enjoy reading while on vacation.

What inspired the novel?

The external plot came to me as a result of the influence of two people in my life. My dear friend’s husband is a forensic accountant, so some of his stories about how people hide money and flee their families provided one point of inspiration. The second is my mother’s best friend who, in her seventies, sold her house and bought a boat, which she and her husband live on full-time. The impetus for the oil-and-water sisters was to provide myself an opportunity to explore the sibling-rivalry dynamic.

Tell us about the two main characters in the story—sisters Amanda and Erin.

Amanda is the middle child. She’s diligent, earnest, hard-working, and generous. She wants the people she loves to be happy and feel her love. Her weakness is a deep-seated insecurity—a sense that she is not interesting enough to be lovable. This leads her to overlook when she is being taken for granted because her need to be pleasing is omnipresent.

Erin is the baby of the family and her late-father’s pet. She is outgoing, fun-loving, and views her average intelligence as a blessing (rather than lamenting that her siblings are smarter). She is willful and has her own way of moving through the world. The big weakness she has is her impulsiveness, whether with jobs or relationships. As she approaches her 30th birthday, she’s looking to mature and create a more stable life for herself.

What kind of relationship do the sisters have?

I think they share a typical relationship insofar as their differences cause many misunderstandings and instill in each a sense of being judged by the other, and yet they do care about and love each other, too. They simply do not know how to be true friends and trust the other—at least not at the outset of this tale.

This book focused on the main female characters growing and learning about themselves. What prompted this ‘women’s fiction’ approach to the story?

Partly market forces and partly my own need to stretch. At 53, it was becoming more difficult to write a 20-something woman facing the challenges of dating. The shift to women’s fiction allows me to write late-30 and early 40-something characters, which comes more naturally to me. I also enjoy exploring family and friendship dynamics, and absolutely love having endless options for story arcs (as opposed to having to follow a traditional romance arc).

What does your new Potomac Point series have in common with your previous books?

All my books to date have focused on critical relationships and some type of redemption theme. I find damaged people to be very interesting and believe that there is good in most everyone, so I prefer to populate my stories with flawed people who must confront their inner demons in order to be happy. My new books will also focus on relationships and redemption, but the non-romantic relationships (or even the relationship with one’s self) will be more central.

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IfYouMustKnow

Excerpt

I rolled onto my side with a groan, coming face-to-face with one of my favorite family photos. We’d taken our annual family summer trip to Hilton Head—the one real splurge my dad had made sure we enjoyed every year. We had a tradition of having lunch at a little open-air cabana bar and restaurant called Coco’s on the Beach.

Between the deck and the volleyball court in the sand stood a tall pole with colorful arrow-shaped signs pointing in different directions. Each one was painted with the name of a different city somewhere on the globe, along with the mileage to get there. We’d dream about all the places we might go, and after high school I’d had the chance to see many. In this picture, our whole family is standing around that sign, smiling at the camera. My dad has his hand on my shoulder, and if you look closely, you can see Amanda holding my hand. I must’ve been only five or six—young enough that she hadn’t given up trying to be my second mother. At the time, I’d felt smothered by her attention, but looking back, I’d also felt loved.

I grabbed my phone and called my sister, but it went to voice mail. A heaviness pressed on me, but I couldn’t tell if it was from looking at that picture of our family that would never again be whole or from the fact that I’d disappointed my mom and sister today.

They loved me in their way even if they couldn’t love and accept me as I am. My dad had, though, and to honor his memory and wishes for our family, I couldn’t continue to drift out of their lives as I’d been doing.

After the beep, I said, “Hey, it’s moi. Surprise! My plans have changed and I’ve got a little time. If you get this message, let me know where you are and I’ll try to catch up.”

I hit “End,” my feet restlessly kicking the foot of my bed. The small bedroom seemed claustrophobic, but I didn’t want to talk to Max. Not that I could avoid him in here, either, where his dirty laundry, sandals, and other items lay about. Rather than take a match to it all, I decided to organize some of his things to help with his packing. Hauling myself off the bed, I then went to the armoire to get to the vintage albums my dad had left me in his will.

Some were fairly valuable, like the Beatles collection box set from 1982, valued at roughly a thousand bucks. Or the Led Zeppelin first pressing with the turquoise label, which should net around eight hundred or so dollars. U2’s Joshua Tree collection box set from 1987—maybe worth six or seven hundred. Then there were others worth less than one hundred dollars. But each one had infinite sentimental value.

Every song resurrected a specific memory of time spent with my father playing cards, washing cars, grilling hot dogs … anything. Whatever he’d wanted to do, I’d done with him, and he’d always chosen the perfect background soundtrack for every activity. Those stolen moments had also been a great way to escape my mom’s endless lectures and demands. She’d never yelled at me for skipping out on chores or being messy when I’d been spending that time with him. Probably because he wouldn’t let her.

At present, my restlessness matched the mood of a typical Bob Seger song, so I grabbed Beautiful Loser and slipped the record from its sleeve, resisting the urge to hug it as if it were my dad. I set it on the old turntable he’d also left me. As the few first drumbeats clangored, my heart kicked an extra beat or two—partly happy, partly sad. I glanced toward the bedroom door, picturing Max on the sofa, and then got to work.

It didn’t matter where life led me next. I had faith because my own personal angel was looking out for me now.

Que será, será.

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