Out-lanta by Tina DeSalvo is a must read addition to your e-reader! Grab your favorite cocktail or glass tumbler filled with your drink of choice. Then settle in for a roadtrip from Atlanta to Cane, Louisiana!
I’ve been to Atlanta and New Orleans and there is something majestic about the plantations, food, and culture. When you add a Polish bride on the run and new friends, this story is the escape right before the weekend. I loved reading Gone With the Wind with the southern vibe and rich history. When I read this, I felt immersed into a world of blended culture, rich tradition and loyalty. While I can’t jet off to either city at the moment, this book is the next best thing!
Our hero Luck Marcelle is in for the ride of his life when he encounters Ania Darska, she’s on the run and he needs to figure out why. Luke’s world will never be the same and that means this story delivers in spades! Tina’s attention to the little nuances and details of Ania, Izzy, and Ruby, beloved characters, is a emersion of wit, charm, sass and a little spice ;)!
A two peppers spicy latte hot delight with the perfect amount of sizzle to make you tingle. Oh, and yes, it’s for mature readers 18+.
I received this ARC for a fair and honest review. Don’t wait to download your copy, it’s at a one-click price of $0.99!
“Okay ladies, I’m all yours,” Luke Marcelle said as he climbed into his sleek, deep red BMW M3 convertible. He’d left the Jeep he used for work back home in Louisiana, choosing to make the road trip to Atlanta in what he called his recreational vehicle. Luke put his Nikon digital camera into his backpack on the center console between the front seats. He turned to look at his passengers in the back seat. “I got my photos from the beautiful Swan House and boxwood gardens for work. I’m finished here at the Atlanta History Center. The rest of the afternoon is for your pleasure.”
“And we are here for youz pleasure, too,” eighty-eight-year-old Izzy Bienvenu said from the back seat where she sat under an enormous floppy straw hat to the right of her fifty-something year old niece, Ruby. Both women were from Cane, Louisiana where Luke had moved his business a few years ago. “It’s nice we’ze all happened to be in Atlanta at da same time. We’ze are ready to party wit you and take youz mind off of work.”
Tanté Izzy and Ruby looked like they were ready for a NFL Sunday game in the Superdome rather than ‘partying’ in the springtime with him. Luke appreciated their team loyalty and got a chuckle seeing them in their bedazzled black and gold New Orleans Saints t-shirts and huge black, sunglasses that looked like bumblebee eyes. Even though football season was months away, Tanté Izzy said they were wearing the Saint’s t-shirts because they wanted the Atlanta Falcon fans to know that their rival Who-Dat fans were around. She sure enjoyed making the sport of fan-mania an all year long fandom. The fancy sunglasses they wore had nothing to do with being a super-fan, though. According to Tanté Izzy, she and Ruby wore them because they looked sexier with them on while riding in his red-hot convertible with the top down.
“Party?” Ruby said, shaking her head, causing her bright red bangs to swish across her forehead from under the giant hat she wore. “Don’t you think that’s an overstatement. Luke here doesn’t want to go out dancing and clubbing with us, Tanté Izzy. He’s too busy for that. He’s just going to spend an afternoon with us. Remember, he’s got a lot to do for that big project he’s bidding on. It’s for that new neighborhood that he wants to build not too far from Cane. The one he’s taking all those pretty pictures for.” She looked at Luke. “What’s it called again?”
“He’s going to grow his construction company from building houses and commercial buildings one client at a time to building thousands of houses for just one client.” Ruby explained to Tante’ Izzy who was adjusting her own huge hat on her tiny head.
“He hasn’t gotten dat big job, yet,” Tanté Izzy whispered to Ruby, but he heard her just fine from the front seat. “He’s still got to win da bid over two other companies. We’ze here to take his mind off of dat. So hush youz mouth.” Then in a louder voice she spoke directly to Luke. “Ruby and I are ready to go on da Walking Dead Tour.”
“From the Classical 1928 Swan House, or as you ladies refer to it as President Snow’s Mansion from The Hunger Games, to the Walking Dead tour.” He started the car and closed his eyes, enjoying the sound of the powerful engine purring to life. Just then, the passenger door flung open and a rustle of noisy fabric and feathers along with a blur of bright white filled the front seat.
“What the hell?” Either he was hallucinating or a beautiful dark haired bride had just jumped in his car.
“Go, Go, Go,” the stranger in white screamed, banging on the dash. Even though she’d only spoken three short words, he could tell she had a foreign accent. The bride looked past him with big blue eyes focused on the woodland path on the other side of the parking lot.
“Hell no. I’ve seen this movie and I’m not interested in Buford T. Justice chasing me across Georgia.”
“Oh. I get out then if you do not drive.” The woman started to shift to get out of the car, struggling with the dress. The top of the dress fit like shrink wrap on her very shapely body making it difficult for her to bend and move. Yet, as stingy that part of her dress was with fabric, the bottom more than compensated for it. Starting with a huge flare around her knees, there seemed to be miles of voluminous fabric there. It equally made movement a problem for her. How had she even managed to get into his sports car?
She looked somewhere past him again.
“No. He drive,” Ruby said, unintentionally speaking like the runaway bride had.
“Yes?” she asked, her voice shaky one second and in the next her hand flew to her mouth and she shouted with complete assertiveness. “I need you driving. Now. They are coming. Hurry.” Her accent was heavier than it was at first. She was now adding a “k” at the end of her ing words.
“Go. Go. Go.” Tanté Izzy and Ruby screamed at the same time.
“One of those three men wearing the tuxedoes, has a gun,” Ruby shouted. “God, he must be the jilted groom.”
“I gotz my gun too,” Tanté Izzy yelled, reaching into her purse. Hearing that was all the incentive Luke needed. The thought of a shoot-out between an angry fiancé and an elderly Cajun woman had him punching his foot on the accelerator. The powerful engine responded as it was engineered to and they sped off.
The bride’s veil blew up behind her like a kite tail, whipping Tanté Izzy and Ruby in the face as it trailed to the trunk of the car.
“Oh, no,” the bride cried, tugging on the material flying behind her head. It caught the wind and came around to cover Luke’s face. He slammed on his brakes.
“Are you trying to get us killed?” he yanked the white fabric off of his face as she tried bundling it up into a ball. That’s when a ping sounded near the side of the car. All three women screamed.
Luke flinched and floored it. “Holy crap, lady. I’ve heard of shotgun weddings before, but this is ridiculous.”
“Oh, God, I’m going to be dead,” she said, folding over onto her lap and giving Luke a full view of the back of her dress and the deep plunge which left a view of more fair skin than not. Hell, there was hardly any dress in the back at all.
“I’m calling 9-1-1,” Ruby shouted. “A person should be able to say no and leave a wedding if they want…even the bride.”
“Nie. No. Please.” The woman jerked up, reached around and grabbed the phone from Ruby’s hand. A tear slid down her cheek. “No police. I get out of car,” she offered and looked back to see if anyone was following them.
Luke did the same. Two cars cut the corner behind them. He sped up and took the next turn and then three after that without slowing down. His car was a performance dream. The women were grabbing onto the back and bottom of their seats to keep from falling over, even though the car hugged each turn smoothly. Luke hooked a hard, fast left and pulled into what looked like an old office parking garage. He hit the brakes, turned the wheel and stopped the car facing in the direction they had just come it. He turned off the headlights and the darkness from the empty garage closed in around them. He left the engine running.
“Where can I drop you off?” he asked the woman with the white-knuckled grip on his dash.
Tanté Izzy smacked him in the back of the head and leaned between the console seats. “You liked drivin’ fast too much.”
“Hey, I was just trying to keep us from getting shot.”
“You are crazy driver,” the bride said, letting go of the dash. “Thank you for keeping us not getting dead.”
“Youz talk funny. Where are youz from?”
The woman looked over her shoulder to Tanté Izzy, then back toward where cars were passing on the street outside of the parking garage. “Lithuania,” she replied, but something in her tone told Luke she was lying. “You have an accent too. Where are you from?”
“God’s country.” Tanté Izzy said with a big smile. Ruby nodded next to her.
“That’s for sure,” Ruby added. “We’re from a town called Cane in Louisiana. It’s near New Orleans.”
“Ruby and I is Cajun,” Tanté Izzy piped in, as if that explained everything. “Luke’s not Cajun by birth but he’z Cajun by friendship.”
The probably not-Lithuanian bride’s dark brows lifted. She clearly didn’t understand what any of that meant, but didn’t ask for an explanation. She was looking around the quiet parking garage.
Luke pulled out his phone. “Shall I call you a cab?”
“No. I can walk.” She picked Ruby’s phone up off the floor where it had fallen in the mad getaway, and handed it back. “I’m sorry for taking it.” Luke frowned hearing her insert a k again in an ing word – to make taking sound like takink. Her accent made her sound more vulnerable somehow. She opened the door, the bottom of her wedding dress poured out like a flooding river over the banks.
“No. Don’t go,” Ruby said, squeezing her broad shoulders into the small space next to Tanté Izzy so she could get closer to the bride. “It’s not safe for you to walk through the streets with an angry fiancé and his posse of groomsmen chasing after you. Not to mention that it will be impossible to drag that long Cathedral train behind you.” Ruby lowered her sunglasses down her nose and looked over the top of them. “From what I can see—spilling out the door like that—it sure looks like a real pretty train.”
“We’ze ain’t goin’ to throw her to da wolves.” Tanté Izzy said looking at Luke.
He shook his head. “You must have friends or family you can call.”
She sighed. “I can walk.”
Oh hell. That wasn’t the response he wanted to hear. Luke grabbed the steering wheel and looked out his window into the dark, dusty garage.
“Luke Marcelle,” Tanté Izzy said, “dis girl needs our help and we’ze goin’ to give it to her. Don’t make her feel bad about it either. It took a lot of courage to walk out of her own weddin’ when all da people came to wish her a happy life.”
The woman looked at Tanté Izzy. “You are a good Babcia. I thank you but I don’t want trouble for you or your grandson and daughter.”
“Dey aren’t my grandson and daughter,” Tanté Izzy corrected. “Dey are family, Ruby by blood and Luke by friendship. Dey also are da peoples who are gonna help you.”
Get your copy here:
Tina DeSalvo, a fresh, humorous voice in romance, brings her knowledge and passion for the culture, traditions and people of Cajun Country (where she lives) and New Orleans (where she grew up) to her Second Chance Novel series-Elli, Jewell and Abby (coming this summer!). Tina is also a journalist who spent her career in television news and as one of the first female sports broadcasters in Louisiana. A Breast Cancer Survivor, Tina donates her proceeds from Elli to help individuals fight the disease. She loves to write, but she especially loves spending time with readers…sharing laughs, tears and hugs. Learn more about Tina at tinadesalvo.com
Rae: If we were meeting at a coffee shop I’d be drinking an Iced Latte with Coconut Milk. What would you order?
Jay: Well, it varies based on the day. I am not a monogamous coffee drinker! But my favorites are a caramel macchiato, a mocha latte, or when they are in season, a peppermint mocha or a salted caramel mocha – yum!
Rae: Thank you for being here. I wanted to showcase a blogger that had a genre I don’t usually review. While I’ve featured M/M, M/M/F books on the blog, it’s not a regular post on my blog. I know that I have readers out there who want to know where to go for M/M books that are hot and not so hot and Joyfully Jay is just the place!
Jay: Thanks so much! It is great to be here, and welcome to all your readers! I hope you have a chance to stop by the blog!
Rae: How do you get through all of your books? I feel privileged and blessed to read a book before it’s released. Are you an e-book reader or a paperback junkie?
Jay: I used to be a die hard paperback reader, but since starting my blog, I read almost exclusively electronically. Almost everything I read at this point is a review book and we get them all as ebook copies. Now I am never far from my Kindle!
Rae: So, that begs the question, how did you get your start? Did you start out with associate reviewers? How often do you add associate reviewers?
Jay: I started out as just me. I never planned for it to be a book only blog, I just figured I’d use my blog as a place to ramble about assorted things. But honestly, within weeks I was pretty much exclusively a review blog. I was on my own for about 8 months, at which point I added two reviewers. We have grown quite a bit over the past 5+ years, and I currently have nine fabulous folks who review for me. People have come and gone over the years as other interests or obligations have come up, but I am usually at about 7-9 reviewers. That seems to be about the sweet spot for us, as we review about 20 books a week.
Rae: Is blogging your only job or do you balance with another career?
Jay: I have worked from home part time since I had my oldest daughter, so about 16 years. That makes it a little easier for me to blog, because as you probably know, it can be a full time job in and of itself. So I try to stay off the blog for a chunk of time each day to focus on work, but they are both time consuming.
Rae: Who would you say is a must read for a new reader in this genre?
Jay: Oh, that is a hard question. We review pretty much exclusively GLBT romance, with a focus on male/male. So that includes all sort of other combinations, but primarily we are all about the dudes. This is such a rich genre that is growing every day, and there are so many wonderful books. If your readers are interested in getting their feet wet, I’d suggest they check out our Favorite Books lists. These are lists of our favorite books in a variety of tropes/themes. For example, we have virgin heroes, vampire/shifter pairings, amnesia stories, rock stars, men in uniform…. So you can check out those lists for themes you like and then see our favorite books in those themes. You can find the lists here: https://joyfullyjay.com/favorite-books-by-topic/
Rae: There are so many conferences out there to connect with professionals and authors in this industry, which ones are at the top of your list?
Jay: Well, my favorite event of the year is always GayRomLit (https://gayromlit.com). It is a great event celebrating all things gay romance. We are a growing community, but still a relatively small one, with a really close relationship between authors and readers. So GRL is a great event to catch up with friends who you only get to talk to online the rest of the year. This year it is being held in Denver in October so I am really excited. It will be my 6th year and I wouldn’t miss it!
I also love the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention (which was just last week) and this was my fourth year. RT is a totally different vibe from GRL. Big and bustling and full of excitement. It is also a great chance to connect with the larger romance community and I always have a wonderful time there.
Rae: If readers and authors want to find you, where will you be in the upcoming months.
Jay: Well, the best places to find me are on the blog (https://joyfullyjay.com), as well as on social media on Twitter (https://twitter.com/jayhjay432), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/joyfully.jay) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/joyfullyjay/). After RT, the next event I think I will be at is GRL, and then hopefully a few more things early next year.
***** 8 Tantalizing Tidbits *****
1. What is a must read book and why? Oooh, this is a hard one because I have so many favorites. But I would say, read Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk (https://amzn.to/2pk3ZeK). It is a historical/paranormal mix with amazing characters. It is a long running series and I have yet to meet a reader who doesn’t love it. Jordan is an amazing author with several other wonderful series, but if you haven’t read Widdershins, you should definitely try it.
2. What is one place that I should see if I visit your hometown?
Well I live in the DC suburbs, so my town itself is nothing particularly exciting. Great place to live, but not sure you would want to go out of your way to visit. But since I live so close to DC, I would say when you come to town, you need to visit the Smithsonian. We have wonderful museums and beautiful monuments. And if you come in the next few weeks, you may make it here before it gets unbearably hot!
3. Castles or Beaches? Beaches. Always beaches. We go every year since I was a kid and now we try to make it to the beach at least 2-3 times a year.
4. If you had an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Australia. I have always wanted to go, and it is so far away that it is one of those places that you really need to have time and money to get the most out of a trip.
5. What are you afraid of? I’m deathly afraid of anything in the rodent family. I even hate squirrels. They are just rats with fluffier tails!
6. Organized or Free Floating? Oh, organized. Well OCD is probably a better description. I am a planner in every way.
7. Binge watcher or weekly viewer? Which show(s)? Mostly a weekly viewer. I live by my DVR. Never watch anything live. But I occasionally binge watch, especially in the off season. I watched all of Orange is the New Black in about three weeks.
8. Are you a crafter? If so, what is your go to “thing” to create? I am a knitter. I picked it up about two years ago and now you will find me knitting needles in hand, watching tv most nights.
** To leave a comment for Jay be sure to click the Title of the post – Coffee With Jay from Joyfully Jay and then you will be able to comment. At the moment there are technical difficulties with the comment feature. We are working to correct this.**
Welcome back to the bridal shop that has connected four women since their teens. Now grown women, they are running the show and are about to embark on a journey of love. Discover what happens as they help one woman plan her dream wedding and introduce us to The Bridal Squad by Samantha Chase.
If you love characters that are real and dialogue that make you laugh and cry, download this book! The characters and relationships Samantha creates are woven together seamlessly and includes all the messiness that makes life worth living.
Do you have friends who judge, feel entitled, or assume they know best? How about a family member who insists that they would do things differently if they were in the same situation? Samantha peels back those delicate layers to show us what really happens when a bride reaches out to the ones she loves to help plan her most important day.
Do perfect weddings equate to a perfect marriage? Life is messy and full of ups and downs. This book captured the emotions of these women perfectly from start to finish. I hope there is more to this series as I can’t get enough of her writing and I’m sure you will too!
A two peppers spicy latte hot delight with the perfect amount of sizzle to make you tingle. Oh, and yes, it’s for mature readers 18+.
I received this ARC for a fair and honest review.
“You remember when I said this was going to be awesome, exciting and the best thing ever?” Hailey asked late Saturday night.
“I do,” Becca said as she slowly sat down with her Frappuccino.
Beside her, Angie and Ella nodded. Ella let out a very loud groan of disapproval as she sat down. Her short blonde hair was completely mussed up and she looked ready to fall asleep.
“I think I was wrong. So, so very wrong,” Hailey said with a sigh.
“I wouldn’t say you’re wrong as much as I’d say you lied. You totally lied. This was brutal,” Angie said around a yawn. “I’m just glad I don’t have to be here as much as you three do.”
“Thanks,” Becca murmured. “That’s helpful.”
“Look, you all get to go home and sleep tonight. I’m going to go home and get woken up at least twice by a very demanding man,” Angie said as she stood, slipping her purse strap over her shoulder.
“Are you talking about Sean?” Hailey asked. “Because you can’t be referring to my sweet and perfect godson. That baby boy is a dream.”
Angie rolled her eyes so hard she almost fell over. “Tell you what, how about we let you and Jack have my dreamy little Connor for a sleepover? I can guarantee you Sean will say yes. We’re both so sleep deprived that I’m sure I could convince him to bring Connor to your house right now.”
Hailey gave her a bland look. “I wouldn’t say yes tonight, but any other night…”
“Tomorrow. Done,” Angie said as she began to move away from the table in Becca’s coffee shop section of the new and improved Enchanted Bridal.
“Wait!” Hailey called out. “You can’t leave yet. We need to discuss a few things.”
They all groaned and Angie sat back down.
“We had a lot of browsers in today and I think that’s a good thing. They gave us some solid leads and with everything we’re able to offer, I don’t doubt that we’ll be seeing several of them back within the next few weeks.”
“Agreed,” Becca said. “I have a few leads on doing food for some bridal showers. I didn’t think people would go for that but…they did!”
“That’s great,” Hailey agreed and then sighed. “Okay, the one bridal party that confirmed today…” She paused and shook her head. “I think we’re going to have some issues.”
“Why?” Ella asked. “That was the small bridal party, right? Bride, matron of honor, maid of honor and one bridesmaid.”
Hailey nodded. “The size of their party is the only thing working in our favor right now.”
“Again, why?” Angie asked with another yawn.
“The bride seemed like a very no-nonsense kind of girl – she knew what she wanted and she didn’t see the need to try on a dozen dresses. If anything, it was almost as if she didn’t really care that much about it, as long as it fit and looked good on her.”
“Sounds like a dream bride,” Becca commented.
“Normally, yes,” Hailey went on. “But it was the reaction from the rest of the party that worried me.”
“Oh, no…” Angie groaned and rested her head on the table.
“The matron of honor…”
“Natalie Walsh hyphen Michaels, you mean?” Ella asked with a grin.
“Oh, right,” Becca said slowly. “You know, I think she’s the first person I ever met who actually says the word ‘hyphen’ when introducing herself! Yeah, she’s going to be a trip to work with.”
“Not only that, but she’s a newlywed who seemed to want to talk a lot about her wedding and how she did things. I know I got annoyed after the first fifteen minutes, and by the look on everyone else’s faces, I can see the rest of the bridal party has issues with that too,” Hailey said. “I think I did a good job of diverting her today, but I have a feeling that’s going to turn into a full-time job.”
“So, we have an underwhelmed bride and a know-it-all matron of honor,” Angie said. “We just need to amp up the enthusiasm of the bride and do our best to keep the matron of honor quiet.” She turned to Becca. “You’ll need to have plenty of muffins on hand on the days they’re here so we can just keep shoving them in Hyphen’s face.”
They all laughed but Hailey quickly cleared her throat. “As fun as that sounds, we can’t just force muffins down people’s throats. We’ll get a bad reputation.”
Becca grinned. “Not if the muffins are really good…”
“That’s my girl!” Angie said as she sat back up. “Can I go now?”
“Not yet,” Hailey said, holding up her hand. “The bride’s sister. Did anyone catch her story?”
“Three broken engagements,” Ella said sadly. “I really feel bad for her.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Becca said. “She got dumped three times? Please tell me none of them were at the altar!”
“No, they never made it that far,” Ella replied. “From what she said – and it wasn’t much – she just knew none of those guys were the one.”
“Couldn’t she figure that out before she accepted the proposals?” Angie asked with more than a hint of sarcasm. “I mean, it’s okay to date, but why would it take getting a ring on your finger for you to figure out they weren’t the one?”
“I have no idea, but I think she’s going to be a bit of a handful too,” Hailey said with a sigh.
“She was quiet enough,” Hailey said, looking at her notes. “But the mother kept dropping little zingers about the whole thing. A few times I heard her say things like ‘Remember when we started looking for your gowns?’ and ‘Was it wedding number two or three when you were thinking of the blue silk for the bridal party?’” She shrugged. “I feel like we’re going to have to deflect a bit on her behalf.”
“You know it’s not our job to do that kind of thing, right?” Becca asked as she got up and went and snagged a small bag of cookies. “I mean, it’s okay to have some sympathy for them, but our job is to find people their dream dresses and help them plan amazing weddings. If we need a psychologist on staff, then that’s fine with me, but I can’t keep up.”
“I don’t think we need a psychologist,” Hailey said with a hint of annoyance. “I’m just saying that with each of us having our own strengths and weaknesses, if we understand the people we’re working with, we can help them. And if we make the whole experience as painless as possible by dealing with the difficult ones so the bride doesn’t get upset, that’s going to help business too.”
“I don’t remember your mom having to play therapist like this,” Becca murmured.
“She did that and more,” Hailey replied. “Trust me. I spent a lot of time here in the shop growing up and it used to amaze me how she had a way of knowing who to separate and who to distract. It was like a gift.”
“Then maybe we need to bring her in for this group,” Angie said.
“Normally I’d agree, but her and Dad are finally leaving on their cruise so we are officially on our own and this wedding will be our first.”
There was a collective groan around the table.
“Did anyone get to talk to the bridesmaid, Kayla?” Becca asked. “That chick has the most amazing job! She travels around the world doing nature photography. She freelances for a bunch of different magazines and she’s just so damn cool! I can’t wait to tell Max about her. I saw some of her pictures…”
“On her phone,” Angie said. “Although I was pretty damn impressed. I can only imagine what they look like in person as a full-size print.”
“That is so cool!” Ella said. “So she just decides where to go and takes pictures and sells them?”
Becca shook her head. “From what she was saying to me, she gets a lead on certain weather conditions or events and just goes. Most of the time it’s spur of the moment and she has to leave in the middle of the night or without any real notice. She said she keeps a suitcase by the door at all times. How crazy is that?”
Hailey frowned. “Very, because it means she could get called away during the wedding or before. I know she talked about it a bit and Julianne – the bride – kept saying how the odds were low that Kayla would miss the wedding. But I know I’d be pissed if one of my bridesmaids missed my wedding.” She gave a pointed look to each of them.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it,” Angie said with a huff. “We all know you’re getting married next year and no one is planning on leaving the country in the middle of the night and missing it.”
Hailey beamed. “Thank you.” Then she looked at the two carat solitaire on her finger and smiled even more.
“Ugh, she’s doing it again,” Becca groaned.
“Leave her alone,” Ella said. “It’s very sweet.”
“You were just as bad when you and Dylan got engaged,” Becca said, “so of course you’re going to defend her.”
“And when you and Max get engaged, you’ll be the same way,” Ella countered.
Beside them, Angie cleared her throat. They all looked at her. “In case any of you have forgotten, I didn’t do that.”
“That’s because you were never engaged properly,” Ella said sweetly. “You and Sean just ran off and got married.”
And then in a very un-Angie-like move, she blushed. “Yeah we did. And check out the rock I got! Two of them in one day!” She waved her left hand to show off her own wedding ring set which was stunning.
“See? You do it too,” Hailey said. “You just get the two-for-one version and therefore have more to brag about.”
“I do enjoy that,” Angie replied with a sassy grin.
“I do have a suggestion,” Becca said hesitantly.
“About bragging about our rings?” Ella asked.
“No, um…last night after the show, Penny Blake came and talked to me.”
“Oh, no,” Hailey said wearily. “Is she quitting the shows? Because I have to tell you, she has been a lifesaver! She helps with everyone’s hair and makeup and she looks great in just about anything we put on her.”
“No, no, no,” Becca said with a small laugh. “She asked if we were looking for help here.”
They all stared at her blankly for a minute.
“Like…here? At Enchanted?” Ella asked.
Becca nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“Did she say in what capacity she was looking for work? Did she want to work with you doing the coffee shop or with Ella doing the nursery or assisting here in the shop?” Hailey asked.
“I think she’s looking to work wherever we need her,” Becca said. “And personally, I think she would be awesome helping you up front with the dresses.”
“Why?” Hailey asked, but she had a knowing smile on her face.
Becca, Angie and Hailey all turned and looked at Ella with big smiles on their faces.
Ella’s smile was bright as she let out a happy giggle. “Because I’m pregnant and won’t be able to assist Hailey as much as I normally do once I get further along!”
“I have no objection to hiring Penny,” Hailey said.
“Just like that? You’re not even going to interview her?” Angie asked.
“Why would I? She’s been modeling for Enchanted for over a year, she’s a whiz with helping out behind the scenes for the shows and have you ever heard her talk about how many weddings she’s been in?”
“Something like a dozen already,” Ella commented.
“Damn…that’s a lot of weddings,” Becca said.
“Screw that,” Angie said, “that’s a lot of dresses! And she’s only, what…twenty-five?”
“I think it’s safe to say that she knows a thing or two about wedding dresses and bridal parties. I think she could be a great asset to us and if we work on finding where her strengths are, we can all breathe a little easier knowing she can help us with some of the tasks that drive us crazy,” Hailey said logically. “So? What do you think? Everyone in agreement?”
There was a round of yesses and praise for another pair of hands to help them out.
“And if she makes it through this first round of difficult bridal parties, we’ll know she’s a keeper!” Ella said with a grin.
“Here, here,” Becca agreed.
“Excellent,” Hailey said. “I’ll call her on Monday to tell her the good news and see what her schedule is like. Hopefully she’ll be free on the weekends since that’s when we need the most help.” She looked at Becca. “Penny didn’t happen to mention her availability to you, did she?”
“No, but she’s familiar enough with what we do to know when we would need her. And I’m in total agreement with you – let’s get her directly involved with Julianne and her party.”
“Done and done,” Hailey said.
Angie stood up. “Sounds like a plan. Now if you’ll excuse me, I don’t care about any more bridal parties. They’re going to be a handful but they’re our first official wedding as owners of this crazy business and we are going to do an awesome job! Who’s with me?” She put her hand down in the middle of the table.
Hailey, Becca and Ella each slammed their hands down on top of hers.
“Okay,” Hailey said with a big grin, “here’s to Julianne and her bridal party…”
“I think we need to change that up,” Becca said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, bridal party is the proper term but this little group deserves something fun – like something we can call them to make them feel special,” Becca said excitedly.
“You mean like a nickname?” Angie asked.
“Exactly! Julianne said they’d be coming in on Saturday mornings because of their work schedules and so maybe something to incorporate that?” she suggested.
“Saturday morning…party?” Ella asked.
“Doesn’t sound like a party to me,” Angie murmured.
“No, no, no…we can do this,” Hailey said. “They’re young and they’re all really close and when you take the negative stuff away, they seem to have a lot of fun with each other. I heard them sharing some great stories about things they’ve done together.”
Becca nodded. “Definitely. I kept hearing Julianne talk about her Zumba classes and then saying something about squad goals. God, I have always wanted to try Zumba but I’m not coordinated enough. She tried to explain how it’s not so hard once you get the moves down, but I keep picturing me dancing left when everyone else is dancing right. Ugh. They really…”
“That’s it,” Angie said, pulling her hand from the pile. “That’s who they are!”
“What’s it?” Ella asked. “Who are they? Is this about Zumba? Are we going to refer to the Zumba classes?”
“No,” Hailey said with a growing smile. “Squad, right? That’s what you were thinking?”
“This quirky little bridal party is going to be our Saturday Morning Squad!”
Three e-books of The Bridal Squad are up for grabs. Tell us — Were you ever in a Bridal Party where the request to do something was just over the top? Brides – did you let your bridesmaid’s pick out the dress or did you plan ever detail?Are you a wedding day dreamer or elopement adventurer?
Three winners will be randomly drawn from all comments. Winners will have 5 days to claim their prize or a new name will be drawn. Contest ends 5/15/17 at 11:59 PM.
** To leave a comment for Samantha and/or the giveaway be sure to click the Title of the post – Happy Book Birthday The Bridal Squad by Samantha Chase. You will then be able to comment. **
Get your copy here:
Rae: Thanks for meeting up. What a cute shop! What do you recommend?
Julianne: Thank you! Isn’t this place great? And what a fabulous idea to have a coffee shop right next to the bridal shop. I know that more than once we’ve had to run over and re-fuel during a fitting session.
Natalie: Well, we don’t over-indulge, though. We need to fit into our gowns, right?
Harper: Ugh…no one has ever bust a seam over a scone have they?
Kayla: Rae, in answer to your question, they have a great chocolate chip Frappuccino that you should try. And a piece of the lemon pound cake. It’s awesome.
Rae: So tell me, how did you all meet? I know Harper is Julianne’s sister but the rest of you…how long have you known the blushing bride to be?
Kayla: Julianne and I have been friends since elementary school. We got paired up for field day in the fifth grade and bonded over our love of athletics. We didn’t meet Natalie until high school.
Natalie: That’s right, I’m sort of the newbie of the group, but I like to think that I helped make our little group complete.
Harper: Um…not to burst anyone’s bubble, but I didn’t really start hanging out with you guys until you were out of high school so technically, I helped make the group complete.
Natalie (huffing): You just couldn’t let me have that one, could you?
Julianne: Could we please play nice for the interview? Please??
Rae: How did you find the bridal shop? Aren’t the girls amazing! I hear they can make magic happen.
Julianne: We live locally and they are kind of legendary. A couple of my friends had used them and referred them to me and I’m so glad I listened! They have made this experience such a breeze for me.
Natalie: I wish I had known about them when I got married last year. My wedding gown I got from a bridal shop up in New York and all of our bridesmaid gowns we chose from a boutique up there as well that we had shipped to a seamstress here in Raleigh and…
Kayla: Not the point of the story, Nat.
Natalie: Oh. Right. Sorry.
Rae: Julianne – Zumba. Ok…I tried that once. I have a friend who’s an instructor and she’s trying to get me to try it. After attempting at home with a video… I could not seem to get myself moving in the same direction as the instructor in the tape. Any tips? I’m thinking I need to attend one of your classes!
Julianne: The key is to relax. No one gets it perfect the first, second or even the tenth time out.
Julianne: Really, you need to just go and give it your all and have fun and not worry about if you’re doing everything right. It’s about moving and to keep moving and get your heart rate up. But mainly, have fun!
Rae: Natalie – You must have so many ideas for Julianne. How long ago were you married? Is this the first wedding you’ve been in since you walked down the aisle?
Natalie (smiling brightly): Oh, I really do! I got married a year ago and my wedding was absolutely perfect. People are still talking about it.
Harper: Not including you…
Natalie (glaring): Our wedding was featured in several newspapers and it was all about how elegant it was. This is the first wedding I’ve been in since my own and while it’s a very different experience, I wouldn’t say it’s…bad.
Kayla: Of course not, because that would be…bad.
Rae: Harper – So tell me…are you able to keep your sister sane? You must be close 🙂 I was only a matron of honor once, for my younger sister. I hope your able to dodge the family squabbles 😉
Julianne, Harper and Kayla all laugh hysterically.
Harper: One thing you should know about my sister, she keeps her cool no matter what. It’s like some weird gift that she has.
Julianne: I don’t think it’s weird…
Kayla: it’s totally weird. Hush. I need to hear how Harper avoids family squabbles.
Harper: The other thing you should know is that I attract all of the squabbles. All of them. Even when they don’t involve me, somehow that’s how it ends up.
Julianne: Dramatic much?
Harper (sighing dramatically): Yes, I’m sure it’s a burden being perfect, Jules. But for me, I like to think that because we’re so close, that Jules can come to me and talk about the things she’s frustrated about.
Julianne: That’s because normally you’re the one I’m frustrated with.
Kayla: Girls! Don’t make me send you to separate corners!
Julianne: Seriously though, Harper really is a great sounding board for me – especially when it’s our mother who is making us crazy.
Harper: Which is all the time.
Rae: Kayla – I’m so jealous…photography. Your job sounds amazing – travel to exotic places and still have time to hang with friends and family.
Kayla: It’s not always glamorous, but it’s always amazing.
Rae: Are you photographing the wedding?
Julianne: Oh, lord…please don’t get her started on wedding photography!
Kayla: Okay, fine. Let’s just say that I’m not the wedding photography kind of girl. I prefer taking pictures of nature rather than posing the pretty people. That’s doesn’t make me a bad person?
Kayla: However…if I was needed, I would totally step in. You know, in the name of friendship.
Rae: Ladies – tell me…bachelorette party? Where are we going? A night of wild parties? Who’s job is it to keep the bride in check? Any method to the system?
Natalie: We’ve talked about all of the obvious choices like Vegas or New York, but I think we should…
Kayla: We should totally do whatever it is that Jules wants to do because it’s her party. You had your day in the spotlight, princess. Let someone else have a turn.
Julianne: Honestly, we are probably going to do something low key. My vote is for a weekend at the beach or a spa. I can totally get on board with someone bringing me fruity drinks while I’m getting a massage.
Harper: I second that!
Natalie: I think that is the best option too. Then, no need to keep anyone in check and we can all just relax.
Kayla: Or unclench, because…you know (nodding toward Natalie)
Rae: Have you all decided on a bridesmaid dress? Colors? Oh… the fun of it all!
Julianne (holding up her hand before anyone else can talk): I had no idea how crazy people will get over this sort of thing. We are normally four level-headed women and yet talking about dresses and colors turns us into rabid competitors. We’ve looked through magazines and talked but until we get in the shop with Hailey and the girls, I’m just going to say that we’re all open to suggestions.
Harper: Some of us are…
Kayla: I’m with you.
Natalie: I have a file I’ve been adding suggestions to on Google. Have you all been getting the emails when I update it?
Julianne: Eloping is looking more and more attractive by the minute…
Rae: Thanks again ladies! Good luck with the wedding plans and enjoy the rest of the day.
For more information on The Bridal Squad click here.
** To leave a comment for Samantha be sure to click the Title of the post – Coffee With The Bridal Squad (Samantha Chase) and then you will be able to comment. **
New York Times and USA Today Bestseller/contemporary romance writer Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Although she waited until she was in her 40’s to publish for the first time, writing has been a lifelong passion. Her motivation to take that step was her students: teaching creative writing to elementary age students all the way up through high school and encouraging those students to follow their writing dreams gave Samantha the confidence to take that step as well.
When she’s not working on a new story, she spends her time reading contemporary romances, playing way too many games of Scrabble or Solitaire on Facebook and spending time with her husband of 25 years and their two sons in North Carolina.
For more information, please visit Samantha’s website – www.chasing-romance.com
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Jaded: Luke, Laurel Creek Series
Haunted by PTSD and a failed marriage, Luke Hamilton returns home to Laurel, Montana. Going home isn’t an easy fix, but it beats ending up in prison or dead. At first the familiar surroundings and open land seem to set things right, but soon his old demons rear their ugly heads and he realizes it’s the wrong time to enter any relationship.
Leah Morgan’s experience in the corporate world has prepared her to prosper her father’s ranch in Montana. She knows everyone expects her to fail, but nothing will stop her from turning the ranch around and selling it to the highest bidder – especially not a rancher. The quicker she closes the deal, the sooner she can get out of Laurel and move on with her career.
But when Luke and Leah cross paths, they both discover that starting over can be a complicated business.
Nothing much scares Luke Hamilton these days, except maybe hope…
Except from Jaded: Luke by Hildie McQueen
Needing fresh air, Leah went to the front door and stepped out to the wide porch that ran across the entire front of the house. Although some of the white paint on the walls and columns was chipped, it remained steadfastly beautiful. The wide porch with rockers had always made a perfect first impression to the graceful home she’d grown up in.
A truck rambled toward the house and she glanced at her watch. Whoever it was came early. The meeting was not for half an hour.
“Damn it,” she looked down at her worn jeans and bare feet. She’d hurriedly pulled on a t-shirt and jeans to cook and planned to change before the meeting. Too late now.
The truck stopped and a man surfaced. Over six foot of muscles, tattoos with the blank expression of someone who would snap your neck and spit down your throat sauntered toward her.
Eyes wide, she took a step back. This was not one of the Hamilton’s at least not someone she remembered. Of course she’d seen Tobias and Taylor in the last couple weeks. Luke, Tobias’ twin was gone, lived in Texas, or somewhere south last she heard.
“Who are you?” She said having made it just inside the doorway with one hand on the doorknob so she could close it before he reached the porch.
“He stopped in his tracks giving her a chance to study him.
This was not your typical Montana rancher. Instead of a Stetson, he wore a baseball cap. No plaid shirt for this man, instead his form fitting black t-shirt, left no illusions of the muscular body underneath. If it weren’t for the flatness in his eyes and the stoic expression, she’d find him utterly gorgeous.
At the moment, however, she’d describe him as more of a serial killer than a hunk.
A hunky serial killer. She moved back and closed the door a bit. “Who are you?”
“Luke. I’m Luke Hamilton. And you’re Pesky Morgan.”
No one had called her that since…well since middle school. Then it was Luke Hamilton who’d started everyone at school calling her that.”
“I hate that nickname. Don’t ever call me that again.” She relaxed and opened the door wider. “What are you doing here? Where’s Tobias, or Taylor. We have a meeting.”
His wide shoulders lifted and lowered and his upper lip lifted in what she could only describe as an Elvis snarl. “Neither want to deal with you. So they sent me.”
“From Hell. I’m the devil.” His right eyebrow rose, the only hint he was kidding.
Leah blew out an annoyed breath. “Well come in Lucifer. I have to get brownies out of the oven.”
All were shocked at the announcement of the “cursed” Lady Claire Cavensham to Lord Alexander Hallworth, the Marquess of Pembrooke, especially since she is already engaged to another unfortunate Lord. Perhaps she will make it to the altar this time with one of these fine gentlemen! —Midnight Cryer
No one is left breathless at the imperious pronouncement of her engagement to Lord Pembrooke more than Claire. She hardly knows the dangerously outrageous man! But after three engagements gone awry and a fourth going up in glorious flames, she isn’t in a position to refuse…
Alexander requires the hand of his enemy’s fiancée in marriage in order to complete his plans for revenge. It’s his good fortune that the “cursed” woman is desperate. However, what begins as a sham turns into something scandalously deeper…
Excerpt: Alex smiled in earnest. “I would never allow you to be humiliated in front of society. I’m trying to help you.” Somehow, he had to convince her of that fact, then the idea of marrying him would be much easier to accept.
She blinked rapidly, then turned back to him and, for an instant, appeared startled to see him there. “That’s very gallant, my lord. Truly, thank you for the effort. But I must leave.”
This night could not end with her escaping, so he tried another tactic. “You need to protect your Wrenwood estate and your wealth from lechers who would feed upon your vulnerability. Not to mention stop that ridiculous curse.”
“I have two.” She held up two gloved fingers.
“Two? Two what? Curses?” No one at his club had uttered a peep about another curse.
“Estates. I have two estates, Wrenwood and Lockhart.” She returned his stare.
Her answer was unexpected, but his business experience had taught him to show nothing. The report from his private investigator had not mentioned additional properties. Thoughts were percolating if she chose to disclose this information.
A razor of lightning split the sky. She flinched and took a step closer to him, but her reaction had nothing to do with him. It was the storm.
Her gaze darted to the exit of the alcove, then she returned her attention to him. With a slight shrug of her shoulders, his evening jacket fell into her hands. She offered it to him. “My lord, good night.” Outside their hideaway, the voices of a man and a woman floated in the air.
Alex put his hand on her shoulder to prevent her escape. “Will you give me some assistance? I seem to have lost my valet.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Besides, if you leave now, whoever is out there will see us.”
She ventured a halfhearted grin and held his jacket in two hands. With a little persistence, he wrestled his way into the evening coat. Her hands smoothed the material across his shoulders and back, causing a pleasant sensation to cascade through him at the slight touch.
Claire took several steps toward the pathway. In a flash, he moved beside her and grasped her elbow. When he brought her close, something flared between them as he gazed into her haunted eyes. Whether the desire to keep her next to him was passion or the need to protect a vulnerable woman made little difference. He pulled her into the shadows and brought his mouth to her ear. “Wait until they pass.” The warmth from her skin beckoned.
A flash of lightning lit the gardens and the alcove.
With a gentle hand, he pushed her against the wall and stood to the side so he blocked her body from view.
A clap of thunder cracked as if the sky were breaking. It rolled into a loud rumble that refused to die.
“Please.” Her whisper grew ragged as she struggled for breath. In one fluid motion, she pulled the lapels of his evening coat toward her. She buried her face against his chest and pressed the rest of her body to his, almost as if she sought sanctuary inside. “Don’t leave me.” Her voice had weakened, the sound fragile, as if she’d break into a million pieces.
“I won’t. I promise.” Alex pulled her tight. One hand sank into the soft satin of her skirts while the other slid around the nape of her neck to hold her close to his chest. It was the most natural thing in the world to hold her. Her body fit perfectly against his.
With the slightest movement, she pulled away. Her eyes wildly searched his. For what, he couldn’t fathom.
He lowered his mouth until his lips were mere inches from tasting her. Madness had consumed him. All he wanted was to kiss her thoroughly until she forgot her fear—until she forgot everything but him.
Her breath mingled with his, and the slight moan that escaped her was intoxicating. Nothing in his entire life felt as right as this moment. He bent to brush his lips against hers.
“Pembrooke? Have you seen Lady—”
Claire leaned back and released his lapels. Without her warmth, he experienced a sudden loss of equilibrium. He turned with a snarl to greet the intruders.
Immediately, Lord Fredrick Honeycutt and his sister, Lady Sophia, took a step back as their eyes grew round as dinner plates.
The first to recover, Honeycutt announced, “I see you found Lady Claire.” He bowed his head slightly, then lowered his voice. “The Duke of Langham is looking for his niece and is directly behind us.”
A sense of wariness flooded Alex’s mind when Claire’s uncle strolled forward and came into sharp focus. As he stood, his feet spread shoulder width apart, the duke’s presence commanded everyone’s attention. His visage held the hint of a smile, but the two large fists resting by his sides were the real barometer of his mood. “Claire, are you all right?” The affection in his voice was at odds with the fury flashing in his eyes.
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Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and a smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pug. She loves to hear from readers.
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