14 January 2017

I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions by Erin Lyon: Blog Tour with Review & Giveaway

Title: I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions (Contract Killers #1)
Author: Erin Lyon
Publication Date: Jan. 10, 2017
Find: Amazon | Goodreads | B&N | Book Depository

27 Dresses meets Bridget Jones’s Diary for the millennial set in Erin Lyon's I Love You Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions.

In a world where marriage doesn’t exist—only seven-year contracts—you don’t marry, you sign. You don’t divorce, you breach. And sometimes, you just expire.

Kate is struggling to find her footing. She gave up a career she hated to pursue the law, and now she’s buried in debt and unemployed. At least she’s signed to an amazing guy—hot, sweet, and committed.

Enter the contract killer, the man who pursues only signed women. No commitment, no hassle, all the fun. But Kate has enough fun on her plate… until her partner doesn’t re-up their contract.

After an epic but well-deserved meltdown, Kate gets practical. She accepts a job with her uncle’s law firm, practicing signing law—the one type of law she swore she’d never do. And the contract killer? Now that Kate is single, she’s no longer his type, but he still wants to be friends. Yeah, that’ll work. Kate may be heartbroken, but she’s not impervious to this sexy, smart, and complex man. But hey, it looks like he may not be impervious to her either—signed or not.

Hilariously relatable, with biting wit and charm, The Contract Killers is 27 Dresses meets Bridget Jones’s Diary for the millennial set.

Erin Lyon is a practicing attorney who spends her free time writing novels about lawyers. I Love You* Subject to the Following Terms and Conditions is her debut novel. Visit her online at: www.erinlyon.net.

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It's been a long time since I've read a story and have been able to immerse myself in a romantic comedy so completely. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy them immensely! But, I usually find, even the most enjoyable ones, just enough removed from reality that I can't relate to the characters as much as I'd like to.

So, I Love You is a refreshing story about Kate, a woman--who just so happens to be my age--who finds herself in a transition period of life. And, while I am in no way able to relate to the romantic side of her life, I can still understand her conflictions as they come up.

Career-wise, Kate is finding out that sometimes we have to make compromises. Add that with the fact that her personal life takes a turn that she never saw coming...I can't help but feel for poor Kate.

Except that, I mean, the men that enter Kate's life at this point...I just can't help but think how lucky she is!

There is a bit of a "triangle". Okay, it's a bit more of a square, I guess. And, while I definitely do have my favorite, I can't help but get caught up in the confusion right along with Kate as each of her men continually confuse her.

Kate also has a fabulous friend in Logek. These two are my friendship goals, seriously. You can tell that even though they have their own lives going, for better or worse, these two will always have each other's backs.

This book has moments that are smart, funny, and awkward--much like Kate, herself. And I can really appreciate that Kate is a strong, independent woman who just needs a little emotional support every once in awhile and isn't afraid to admit it. Kate has her limitations but I don's see them so much as weaknesses but as ways for her character to become more self-aware.
It's okay to need people every once in awhile.
And it's possible to "need" a man's comfort without depending on him completely.

The writing is splendid and the characters are engaging!

The only thing that frustrated me about this book was that there wasn't more of it! It definitely ends on a cliffhanger. But, that's a given since it's just first in a series. I'm really anxious for the rest!

I mean, it's kind of pitiful how much I can't stop thinking about Kate and what's going to happen to her!

So, Ms. Lyon--you have a reader for life!!! And, possibly, a new social-media stalker. ;)

Dream Cast...

Kate: Alexandra Daddario. Dark hair, light blue eyes, fair skin. I guess she pretty much matches how I see Kate in my head! She’s even 5’8” – almost as tall as Kate!

For Logek: Margot Robbie. I see Logek as a scene-stealer, someone striking enough that she overshadows everyone in the room. And Margot Robbie definitely shines.

Adam: This is tough because he’s so clear in my mind. Tall, dark, broody, rugged. He’s a little older than my character, but I’m thinking Jason Momoa because he’s just so sexy and beautiful. And tall. And look at those eyes!

And for my Latino hot tamale, Jonathan: how about Cuban-born William Levy. Sexy and adorable.

And last, but not least, Dave: Channing Tatum totally fits Dave to me because he’s pretty, but also looks like he can be kind of an arrogant ass…and Dave is kind of an ass sometimes.

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Thank you to Erin Lyon for the awesome book and dream cast! And thank you to Jean of Jean's Book Nerd Tours!
To see the other stops on the tour:

13 January 2017

Fated Destinations: Book Blitz & Giveaway

Fated Destinations
(Crimson Tree Publishing)
Publication date: December 27th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction

FATED DESTINATIONS: A Contemporary, Paranormal, and Science Fiction Romance Boxed Set

Escape from the everyday with this set of 7 all-new travel-based romances from award-winning authors. These exciting stories span the globe (and beyond!) to spin tales of love and intrigue in exotic locations. Take a mental vacation today with the Fated Destinations box set.

A Royal Problem by Julie Wetzel

Jessie is tasked with saving a set of jewels from pirates that attack her cruise ship. She jumps overboard and swims for shore, knowing only that she must find Lord Marcus at the majestic castle in Ospioria…

Mandatory Vacation by Kelly Risser

When workaholic Natalie Olsen is forced to take a vacation by her new boss, she books a cabana at the private island resort of Hibiscus Cay. But instead of relaxing, she finds herself intrigued by the handsome resort manager who seems to be hiding something…

Guide Me Gently by Peggy Martinez

Alyssa Monroe always dreamed of escaping to exotic locales as a photographer, so she’s thrilled as she sets off for Dasia Island. But only one guide is willing to take her deep into a forbidden forest… a sexy, tattooed local who sets her blood on fire and gets her camera finger itching.

Hawaiian Sunrise by Melissa J. Cunningham

Betrayed just before her wedding day, brokenhearted Jamie rents a bungalow on the beautiful island of Maui. Will the tour guide who shows her the island also be able to show her how to trust again?

Jessie’s Girl by Susan Harris

After she lost her mother to cancer, Maxine Fox threw herself into drugs, drink, and partying to cope with the loss. When she is expelled from her third school, her father decides to send her to a catholic private school in Ireland. But tattooed bisexual Max is probably not going to fit in easily…

Prisms by Kendra Saunders

The invitation was to a diplomatic peace ceremony on the desert planet of Quassdar. But Quassdar is also known for its steamy sex magick rituals, and it seems like Griffin may have gotten things a little bit mixed up…

Ashes Overboard by Sandy Goldsworthy

For graduation, Aubrey Sheppard’s fiancé gave her a dream Caribbean Cruise vacation. The only problem is, their relationship ended before the ship ever set sail. Now Aubrey—an inexperienced traveler—sets out alone, nervous and unsure. A shared cab ride introduces her to someone new, who’s also trying to move on with his life…

Goodreads / Amazon


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12 January 2017

#Blur: Book Blitz & Giveaway

Title: #Blur
Author: Cambria Hebert
Publication Date: Jan. 10, 2017
Find: Amazon | Goodreads | B&N | Kobo | iBooks
Nothing but a #blur…

There’s a new kid in town, and he’s hell on wheels.
From what we’ve heard, it may be because
he knows exactly what hell’s like.
You may know his brother, the NRR hotshot
(and former GearShark cover model)
It’s only natural a driver with his background and family connections
has sped his racecar into the newest, hottest division.
But that’s not all.
Arrow may be following in big bro’s tread marks,
but he doesn’t plan to stay there.
He’s swerving onto the road less traveled…
and a lot more controversial.
He’s opening up about his private struggles with sexuality
to tell a story that’s gone unheard until now.
One thing’s for sure; Arrow may have a painful past,
but his foot is heavy on the accelerator.
With speed like this, he’s bound to leave everything behind in
nothing but a #blur.

Check out the full feature article inside…

Cambria Hebert is an award winning, bestselling novelist of more than twenty books. She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major, and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair.

Besides writing, Cambria loves a caramel latte, staying up late, sleeping in, and watching movies. She considers math human torture and has an irrational fear of chickens (yes, chickens). You can often find her running on the treadmill (she’d rather be eating a donut), painting her toenails (because she bites her fingernails), or walking her chorkie (the real boss of the house).

Cambria has written within the young adult and new adult genres, penning many paranormal and contemporary titles. Her favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense. A few of her most recognized titles are: The Hashtag Series, Text, Torch, and Tattoo.

Cambria Hebert owns and operates Cambria Hebert Books, LLC.

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11 January 2017

The Life Group: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Title: The Life Group
Author: Maura Jortner
Publication Date: Jan. 9, 2017
Find: Amazon | Goodreads | B&N

Every day since her sister vanished, Rachel has visited the radical church where Leah was last seen. There are still no suspects or leads, but Rachel’s positive clues lie in that church somewhere.

Thirteen days on from Leah's disappearance, the pastor introduces Rachel to Tim, a devout worshiper of his Lord. To avoid dealing with his own demons, he agrees to spend the day helping Rachel search for her sister.

It’s Saturday, March 14. Maybe today will be the day. Maybe today Rachel will be reunited with Leah. Or maybe today will change Rachel’s life forever.

For fans of GONE GIRL, this gripping Young Adult thriller will keep you guessing until its explosive climax.

'...a truly original storyline and taut pacing that pulls the reader relentlessly toward the devastating conclusion.' USA Today Bestselling author Lisa Stormes Hawker

'Teens and adults alike will devour this rollercoaster story...' Emily Bleeker, author of WRECKAGE and WHEN I'M GONE

Maura Jortner grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in Waco, Texas with her patient husband, two amazing daughters, and one unruly cat. She teaches literature and writing classes at Baylor University. A lifetime ago, she used to direct plays and put on puppet shows for kids, which led to a Ph.D. in Theatre History. Currently, when Maura’s not writing, she’s spending her time like every native-born Texan: worrying about how many chiggers might be hidden in the grass outside her house or if she put enough sunscreen on her kids.

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The house is a two-story nestled into the side of a hill. The lake shines in the distance between the trees and the tall grass. The sun reflects brightly off the calm water, making the sliver of blue look like it’s covered with golden jewels.
“I’ll scout around the property. Why don’t you try whatever tricks you have to get inside?” I say.
Tim throws me a smile and something like a wink. He jaunts off.
I circle the house, looking for clues, hoping to spot something of Leah’s. What could Mason have been staring at that night? He gawked out the window every time Kaylee mentioned Leah, that’s what Kaylee said. So what was he looking at? There’s nothing suspicious in the back or the front, nothing of hers. Maybe a grave? I should search for newly turned earth. An open question: If I were to bury someone, would I dig the hole on my property or someone else’s? My first impulse would be to plant the evidence far away from me—to throw the cops off my trail. But what if the neighbors saw me? I’m digging up my own lawn, they’d leave me alone. If I’m messing up someone else’s ... or worse, theirs? Then they’d bother me for sure, and if I’m a murderer, that’s the last thing I’d want.
I decide I need to look harder, to comb the property, to find the hidden, secret places. I’m on my hands and knees crawling under a bush when Tim finds me.
“Won’t you join me inside, or are you doing something really important under there?”
I clamber out and stand. “You got in?”
“I did.” He leans close, conspiratorially. “Although it would seem ill-advised, they left the back door unlocked.”
I’m not sure if I believe him.
With his dark eyes shining with mystery, he says, “Come see what I found.”
My heart does a kind of jump that’s almost painful. “What?” I say with a sharp inhale. “What is it?” I can’t breathe. Did he find a bloody knife or a hammer? Leah’s body?

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10 January 2017

In Truth & Ashes: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Title: In Truth & Ashes
Author: Nicole Luiken
Publication Date: Jan. 2, 2017
Find: Amazon | Goodreads | B&N | Kobo
Other Books in Series: Through Fire & Sea | Amid Wind & Stone
What she can’t remember could ruin her life.

The Mirror Worlds are but dull reflections of the True World, where magic and technology blend together…

On the True World, Belinda Loring has known from childhood that she must Bond with the son of another noble First Family. Uniting the families ensures hers will hold onto its powerful position, and so she’s always pushed down the tender feelings she has for her best friend—gorgeous, steadfast Demian, who isn’t noble.

But when the ceremonial magic goes disastrously wrong, Belinda becomes a national disgrace. Scorned as Broken, she turns to Demian for help getting revenge on the man who ruined her: the radical Malachi.

But the seeds of Malachi’s murderous plans lie buried in Belinda’s past, in the dark days of her kidnapping—a period of which she has no memory. And Demian may hold the key to recovering all that she’s lost—and saving the worlds.

Nicole Luiken wrote her first book at age 13 and never stopped.
She is the author of nine published books for young adults, including Violet Eyes and its sequels Silver Eyes and Angels Eyes, Frost, Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Dreamfire and the sequel Dreamline. Through Fire & Sea, book one of Otherselves, and Amid Wind & Stone, book two of Otherselves, are her most recent releases. She also has an adult thriller, Running on Instinct, under the name N.M. Luiken and a fantasy romance series, Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith.
Nicole lives with her family in Edmonton, AB. It is physically impossible for her to go more than three days in a row without writing.

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Fire World

Leah wept in her sleep. And dreamed:

She was a dragon, floating on an orange sea of molten rock. Far above her was a hole like an eye, the Volcano Lord Thunderhead’s caldera. At first, the heat felt pleasant, soaking away the lingering chill of death, but then it increased in intensity as the magma invaded every nerve and lit them each on fire. She screamed through her ruined throat and convulsed—

Leah bolted upright and found herself in the Aerie, the top room of Qeturah’s Tower. She must have fallen asleep on Gideon’s bed.

She was shaking, her heart trying to beat its way out of her chest. Her skin felt clammy. What a terrible, awful nightmare.

One whole side of the Aerie opened out onto a large natural stone balcony. Outside, the sun silhouetted Thunderhead’s steep-sided black cone against the red sky. Thin trails of lava trickled down his sides as he erupted again.

The Volcano Lord grieved for the loss of his son, just as Leah grieved.

Leah had met Gideon here in this very room. He’d been feverish, and she’d been spying for her father, Duke Ruben, trying to prove that the evil sorceress Qeturah had something to do with the dragon attacks on their valley. Only, by the time she found out Gideon shape-shifted into the dragon at night and his mother Qeturah used a magic amulet to control him, Leah had already fallen in love with Gideon, and turning him in had been unthinkable.

But in the end, she’d been unable to protect him from her father. Duke Ruben’s army had shot the dragon down with a huge crossbow, and Gideon had died. And his death had signaled the beginning of the end of Fire World.

Gideon’s father, Thunderhead, had erupted and killed Duke Ruben and three other dukes. Their deaths, in turn, had sent the Volcano Lords linked to them into a mindless fury, and they’d all exploded. Those not killed in the eruptions would likely starve in the next year, since falling ash had blighted all the crops.

And Leah could barely bring herself to care.

Gideon was dead. Duke Ruben, her father, whom she’d alternately feared and wanted to please, was dead. Likely so were Jehannah, her half-sister, and her mother, Beulah. Her childhood home was destroyed.

Leah had spent all her time since the cataclysm struggling to stop Qeturah. But now Qeturah was dead, too. And Leah had no purpose.

Oh, the war hadn’t ended: Qeturah had had a mentor named Malachi who had supported her. He was still out there, no doubt still scheming to shatter the other Mirror Worlds, but Leah had run out of energy to fight. Let someone else take him down, someone from the True World.

Malachi wasn’t her problem.

Leah would just stay here with her memories. Alone.

Only the thought of the nightmare returning kept her from sleeping the rest of the day away.

A Day in the Life of Nicole Luiken...

I am very lucky right now in that I do not have to work outside the home because of my husband’s support.

7:00 am --The Dreaded Alarm goes off.

Me: Whose turn is it to get up with the kids?
Husband: Yours
Me: (grumble, grumble)

7:30 -- Wake up Middle Child then Walk Youngest Child to Bus Stop and Wait in the Freezing Cold

She has warm ski pants to wear on -20 Celsius days. I don’t.

8:05 -- Last Child Leaves House, But It’s Too Late Now. I’m Awake.

Actually, my husband and I take turns getting up with the kids on school days. So when it’s not my turn, or it’s the weekend, I sleep in until 8:30 and then start my day with a lazy hour in pajamas, reading. Bliss.

9:00 am --Time to Start Writing

10:00 am --Really Time to Stop Doing Facebook and Start Writing, I Am Not Kidding, Buster

I’m something of an oddity in that I don’t drink coffee or tea. I do however drink way too much Coke Zero. I have a very strict rule that I’m only allowed to drink it while I’m working on my novel. So essentially, I bribe myself.

10:30 -- Update Wordcount on Spreadsheet

My morning writing tends to be full of stops and starts. Write a hundred words, stop, stuck on some silly detail. Go check Facebook and email. Write another paragraph, stop, play a game of Spider Solitaire (or two or three..) Reopen document file, type some more… My goal for the morning is a mere 500 words.

Noon -- Lunch! Cuz I’m Starving

Lunch is often accompanied by a chapter or so of whatever book I’m currently reading

12:30 or 12:45 -- Put Down the Book and Go Back to Work

The afternoon usually goes a bit smoother. Write 200 words, pause, update my wordcount, check my email. Write 300 words. Stop and research a nagging detail and while I’m online, check Facebook again. Write some more.

I aim to write 500-1000 words in the afternoon, but this varies wildly. If I’m stuck, it may take me until 2 pm to type more than a couple of paragraphs and I end up not finishing my quota or finishing it in the evening. Other days, if I’m writing a scene I’m excited about, I may be finished by 2 pm and either stop or push on to 2000 words.

But, I’ll let you in on a secret. Writers like to talk about their wordcount because it’s quantifiable. If you say “I wrote four pages today!” or “I wrote 1500 words today” people can tell that you’ve accomplished something. But, in fact, I have three distinct writing phases: plotting or brainstorming, drafting, and revision. If I’m brainstorming, I aim for about a page of notes and ideas a day. Revision is even more difficult to quantify. I may be writing a new scene or working on a particular subplot or doing pen-and-paper editing of a scene, thus my goals change from day-to-day. For pen-and-paper editing, I aim for a scene per day.

3:00 -- Pause Writing, Do Chores (Unless I’m on a hotstreak, then all bets are off.)

My children start coming home from school at 3:15. From about 3 - 4:15 pm I often try to do something in the kitchen like dishes or baking so that I’m mentally available to chat with them about their day instead of head-down into a story.

4:15 -- Back to the Computer

I either type furiously, trying to make quota, or if I’ve already made quota, surf around, play more solitaire, do a small jigsaw puzzle.

5:10 - 6:45 pm -- Family Time

My husband comes home from his work and we talk about our respective days. Then it’s time to prepare and eat supper.

6:45 - 7:30 -- Free Time

I may read or do puzzles or surf the web. Occasionally I do some writing if I’ve fallen behind.

7:30 - 8:15 -- Ugh, Homework Time

No, I’m not in school, but I still dread homework time. This means helping my youngest and nagging the older ones.

Me: “Do you have homework?”
Son: “I don’t think so. There’s one thing but I don’t think it’s due until Friday.”
Me: “Are you sure? Do you have a test coming up?”
Son: “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. And my textbook is at school.”
Me *headdesk*

8:15 - 9 pm -- Bedtime for the kids.

Why does this take so long? We have a family tradition of reading out loud to the kids while they have a fruit snack before bed. I expected the kids to tire of this once they could read on their own, but they haven’t, and I’m glad. I love sharing stories that I enjoyed as a kid with my children in turn. I’m currently reading a Trixie Belden mystery to my daughter, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle to my junior-high age son, and Dragonstar by Barbara Hambly to my oldest.

9 - 11:30 pm -- Me Time

After nine is reserved for reading and, a few evening a week, an hour of TV.

Husband: Do you want to watch TV tonight?
Me: Not really. I want to finish reading this book tonight...
Husband: We haven’t watched any TV this week and we’re four episodes behind on all our programs.
Me, grumpily: Okay, but let’s watch Big Bang Theory since that will only take half an hour.

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09 January 2017

Sweet Southern Hearts: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Title: Sweet Southern Hearts
Author: Susan Schild
Publication Date: Jan. 10, 2017
Find: Amazon | Goodreads | Kobo | iTunes | B&N | Google
Other Books in Series: Linny's Sweet Dream List | Sweet Carolina Morning
Susan Schild welcomes you back to the offbeat Southern town of Willow Hill, North Carolina, for a humorous, heartwarming story of new beginnings, do-overs, and self-discovery…

When it comes to marriage, third time’s the charm for Linny Taylor. She’s thrilled to be on her honeymoon with Jack Avery, Willow Hill’s handsome veterinarian. But just like the hair-raising white water rafting trip Jack persuades her to take, newlywed life has plenty of dips and bumps.

Jack’s twelve-year-old son is resisting all Linny’s efforts to be the perfect stepmother, while her own mother, Dottie, begs her to tag along on the first week of a free-wheeling RV adventure. Who knew women “of a certain age” could drum up so much trouble? No sooner is Linny sighing with relief at being back home than she’s helping her frazzled sister with a new baby…and dealing with an unexpected legacy from her late ex. Life is fuller—and richer—than she ever imagined, but if there’s one thing Linny’s learned by now, it’s that there’s always room for another sweet surprise…

“This charming and well observed novel about finding the courage to love after loss will make you smile as well as cry more than a few happy tears. Be prepared for a story of true tenderness, humor, and sometimes nail biting tension. Sweet Southern Hearts delivers all this and more.” --Holly Chamberlin, author of Summer with my Sisters

Susan Schild writes wholesome and sunny Southern fiction. She likes stories about charming men, missing money, adventuresome women, sweet dogs, and happily ever afters at any age.

Susan is a wife and a stepmother. She enjoys rummaging through thrift store for treasures like four dollar cashmere sweaters and amateur watercolor paintings. She likes taking walks with her Lab mix, Tucker, and his buddies. She and her family live in North Carolina.

Susan has used her professional background as a psychotherapist and a management consultant to add authenticity to her characters.
SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS, the final book in the Willow Hill series, will be released in January of 2017. Readers can look forward to more adventures, new beaus, sinister ministers, lovebirds over fifty, a road trip for Mama and her pals, and maybe even an “I Do”...or two.
You can follow Susan on Facebook, Twitter and on her website or subscribe to her quarterly newsletter for inside scoop, sneak peeks and giveaways.

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Back home, after they’d unpacked Jack left to pick up Neal at his ex-wife’s house and Linny hopped in her trusty old Volvo to drive the ten miles from their farmhouse to her mother’s house. She bumped down the long gravel road lined by rows of bushy tobacco plants thriving on the land her mama owned and leased out to other farmers. Rolling down the window, she breathed in the country fragrance of loamy earth, mown grass, and honeysuckle. She caught a whiff of skunk and it didn’t bother her a bit. It just smelled like her childhood.
Slowing, she approached the driveway of the aqua blue trailer—the one her mother had let her stay in for free when Linny’s second husband had stolen her money and then died on her. The trailer had become such a haven for her while she’d rebuilt her life. She peered down the driveway, but it was too overgrown for her to see much. She spied a clothesline strung with brightly colored T-shirts and dresses that danced gracefully in the breeze and felt better. Mama said the new renters were a real nice young couple who adored the trailer Linny had turned into a little jewel box with new drywall, fresh paint, and reclaimed wood floors from Habitat Re-Use Center.
Linny pulled in to the driveway of her mother’s tidy ranch, right beside the carport that housed her mother’s Buick. Trotting up the front walkway, Linny knocked on the screen door and looked inside. “Mama? Mama?” she called. In the background she heard a man’s voice on the TV, which was turned up to her mother’s usual blare level. Linny rapped harder and peered in the crack between the door and the frame. Her mother had a hook and eye holding the door shut, her version of home security. Linny pulled her cell from her purse and dialed Dottie but heard the ring and ring of the phone from inside the house. No one picked up. Her heart fluttering faster, Linny cupped her hands and called more loudly, “Mama! Mama!”
A clatter sounded and Curtis barreled down the hallway, woofing a baritone bark that would have sent burglars straight into cardiac rehab at Raleigh Memorial. Her mother followed, cooing to the dog, “Now, sugar, you just hush. That’s just our Linny.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Linny broke into a smile. Though she’d always loved Mama, she’d only recently begun to really like her. Once Dottie shared the truth about how empty her marriage had been to Linny’s father, some weight had been lifted from her. Dottie had become sunnier, warmer, and more real—and Linny wanted all the time she could get with her. So if Dottie had a cold, Linny worried it was budding pneumonia. If she had a headache, it was a sign of an impending stroke. Dottie was a fit fifty-nine with no real health problems. And ever since she’d met the dapper Mack and begun to play pickle ball and dance the tango with him, she’d lost ten pounds and started doing a Jane Fonda DVD every morning. She could probably lap Linny in a 5K. Trying to hide how rattled she’d been, Linny waved too animatedly and made a big show of fussing over Curtis whose face was now pressed to the screen. “How are you, baby dog?”
Curtis began to wag his long, thick tail—the one that could clear side tables and buckle you if he clipped your knees.
“Sorry for not hearing you sooner, honey. I was snoozing with that Inspirational Living channel on in the background to keep me company,” Dottie said.
Linny tried to be surreptitious in sizing up Dottie as she shooed away the dog and unlocked the door. Her hair was bunched up on either side like she’d slept on it funny, but she was steady on her feet and her eyes were bright. “Hey, Mama.” Linny wrapped her mother in a hug, comforted by the familiar smell of Jergens hand cream and baby powder with a hint of Aqua Net.
“How are you, shug?” Dottie asked, motioning Linny to follow her back into the living room. “How was your trip and why are you back early?”
Dottie sank into her velour chair and reclined and Curtis gracefully curled into a loop on the carpet beside her. Linny filled her in on the honeymoon, omitting the part about Vera’s dramatics and talking instead about Jack needing to get back for a work issue. As her newly tech-savvy mother scrolled through the trip pictures on Linny’s phone, Linny noticed she was wearing a faded, polyester pink zip-up housecoat and those awful white Velcro-shut sandals that she thought had been relegated to the Goodwill box. Those were remnants of the bad old days when disappointment had made Dottie dress like a frumpy woman twenty years older than her actual years.
These days, Dottie had a nice lady at Belk who helped her pick out sassy but age-appropriate clothes. So why was the frumpiness back?
After her mother’s final so pretty! and that looks so sweet, Linny settled back on the couch and cocked her head. “How are you feeling, Mama?”
“Oh, I’m bumping along,” Dottie said, not meeting Linny’s eyes.
Trying to sound casual, Linny persisted. “So you didn’t feel up to going to the RV show?”
“It’d be real crowded, plus my stomach was bothering me.” Dottie picked an imaginary piece of lint from her housecoat.
“I thought it was your feet and your sugar,” Linny said, raising a brow.
Flushing guiltily and probably trying to remember her original ailments, Dottie nodded her head vigorously for emphasis, “It was all three. Stomach, sugar, and feet.”
The poofs on her mother’s hairdo bobbed as she nodded, and Linny pictured Precious the poodle with the faux tummy-toothache-itching issues. Linny was such a bad person. She bit the inside of her cheeks and tried to keep a straight face. “What’s really going on, Mama?”
Her mother blew out a gust of a sigh. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “Maybe I’m just getting cold feet about the whole trip.”
“Why, Mama?” Linny asked. All she and her two friends talked about was Graceland versus Dollywood, interstates or secondary roads, and how to find the most accurate reviews of campsites on the internet.
Dottie paused and blurted out, “I’m scared. What if we have a flat tire or pick up a murdering hitchhiker or fight with one another the whole way? What about beavers with rabies coming after us? That happened in a campground in Arkansas just last weekend. Dragged the man under while he was swimming at the lake. What if we drive over a steep ravine?” She made a swooping downward hand motion to simulate driving off a cliff.
Linny hid her smile. She’d had the same awful visual of the motor home flying off a cliff when she’d first heard about the US of A trip. Clearly, Mama was the genetic link to her own worrywart streak. “Anything else on your mind?”
“Well, none of us are world trotters.” She glanced at Linny and smoothed the lace doily on the arm of the chair.
Linny suppressed a grin. World trotters. Globe travelers. Dottie could mix an idiom, mash a metaphor. But it was a big deal that Mama and her girlfriends, who had been homebodies for most of their lives, were taking this trip. Travel could be daunting, especially when they were all in their late fifties and early sixties and planning on driving a giant bus of a motor home/camper thingy.
Her mother went on, her words rushing as she let them go after penning them up for so long. “I’d never been out of the state before the big cruise and the girls had only been to South Carolina. Ruby went to Myrtle Beach once and Dessie went to Dillon, South Carolina, because she was underage and wanted to marry her first husband, who…”
Linny raised a hand to try to head off the inevitable spelling, but it was too late.
“…turned out to be G-A-Y.” Her mother nodded, looking proud of herself for being so wildly progressive as to know a G-A-Y person. “Anyhow, what if we can’t handle it? What if we get lost? What if Mack finds another lady friend while I’m gone? What if Curtis forgets all about me?” Looking stricken, she leaned over to scratch under the giant dog’s chin and stare at him soulfully.
“You’ve been worrying about this a lot, Mama,” Linny said softly.
Dottie nodded, poodle poofs bobbing again. Linny felt like reaching over and gently smoothing them down but didn’t. Dottie was feeling inadequate enough right now, the way her husband Boyd had made her feel for most of their marriage.
“All of you are smart, competent women, and you did so well on that cruise,” Linny said in a soothing tone. “And you went to all of those islands and had different languages to deal with, and you flew in and out of some of the busiest airports. That’s pretty impressive.” Linny didn’t think she needed to mention that none of them had ever even flown before.
Her mother considered this, a little smile playing at her lips. But after a moment doubts must have crept back because she threw up her hands and shook her head wearily. “I don’t know, sugar. I don’t think I’m up for this.”
“What could make you feel more comfortable about taking this trip, Mama?” Linny’s mind was in high gear, sifting through options. Was there a Triple A deal for RVs or campers? Could the three women pool their money and hire a driver or…
Her mother didn’t miss a beat. “I'd feel better if you came with us on the first week of the trip.” Dottie’s gaze was steady. “You can help us learn the ropes.”
Linny opened her mouth and closed it again. Her big mouth. But she watched her mother patting Curtis and saw the thin gold band she still wore despite her husband’s betrayal. Linny understood every one of her mother’s fears and was so proud of her for all her courage. But Linny’d been married less than a week. She breathed out a sigh. “I can’t, Mama. Jack and I are just getting settled in and Neal’s coming to stay with us for a while.”
“I shouldn’t have even asked,” Her mother nodded, but her lower lip trembled and she looked as though she might cry. “I’m afraid I need to cancel on the girls, then.”

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