Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (July 10, 2018)
Book descriptionLife is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.
But starting over can be messy. Callie and Keira fit in with each other, but not with their posh new lifestyle, leaving Malcolm feeling like the odd man out in his own home. He was clever enough to turn a sleepy Seattle mail-order food catalog into an online gourmet powerhouse, yet he can’t figure out how to help his new sisters feel secure. Becoming a family will take patience, humor, a little bit of wine and a whole lot of love. But love isn’t Malcolm’s strong suit…until a beautiful barista teaches him that an open heart, like the family table, can always make room for more.
In this emotional, funny and heartfelt story, Susan Mallery masterfully explores the definition of a modern family—blended by surprise, not by choice—and how those complicated relationships can add unexpected richness to life.
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#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.
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ExcerptShe went over to one of the empty chairs by the window and pretended to read her library book, all the while secretly watching everyone else.
There was a young couple who couldn’t stop smiling at each other. Newlyweds, she decided, noting the modest diamond ring on the woman’s left hand. They were probably saving for their first house. There was a family in the corner. The kids were running around while the parents carefully avoided looking at each other.
Uh-oh. They were fighting big-time. Neither of them wanted to back down. That was never good. One thing she’d learned over the years was the power of saying I’m sorry. People didn’t say it nearly enough.
“Can you read to me?”
Callie looked at the pretty little girl standing in front of her. She was maybe three or four and held a big picture book in her hands. Callie’d seen her mom come in with two other kids and more laundry than she could manage. In the flurry of finding empty washers and loading clothes, the toddler had been forgotten.
“I can,” Callie said. “Is this a good story?”
The girl—with dark hair and eyes—nodded solemnly. “It’s about a mouse who gets lost.”
“Oh, no. Not a lost mouse. Now I have to know if he finds his way home.”
The girl gave her a smile. “It’s okay. He does.”
“Thank you for telling me that. I was really worried.” She slid to the front of her chair and held out her hand for the book. “Would you like me to start?”
The girl nodded and handed over her precious book. Callie opened it and began to read.
“‘Alistair Mouse loved his house. He loved the tall doors and big windows. He loved how soft the carpet was under his mouse feet. He liked the kitchen and the bathroom, but most of all, Alistair loved his bed.’”
Callie pointed to the picture of a very fancy mouse bed. “That’s really nice. I like all the colors in the bedspread.”
The girl inched closer. “Me, too.”
Callie continued to read the story. Just as she was finishing, the girl’s mother walked over and sank down into a nearby chair. She was in her midtwenties and looked as if she had spent the last couple of years exhausted. She waited until Callie was done to say, “Thanks for reading to her. I didn’t mean to dump her like that. It’s just the boys are hyper and there’s so much laundry and damn, it’s so hot in here.”
“It is hot,” Callie said. “No problem. I enjoyed reading about Alistair and his troubles.”
“Again,” the little girl said, gently tapping the book.
“Ryder, no. Leave the nice lady alone.”
“It’s fine,” Callie told her. She flipped back to the front of the book and began again. “‘Alistair Mouse loved his house.’”
This was nice, she thought as she continued with the story. A few minutes of normal with people she would never see again. A chance to be like everyone else.
She read the story two more times, then had to go move her laundry into a dryer. By then Ryder, her brothers and her mother had gone outside where it was slightly cooler and the boys could run on the grass. Callie watched and wondered about them. Where did they come from and why were they here now? Ryder’s mother must have gotten pregnant pretty young—her oldest looked to be seven or eight. So she’d been, what, seventeen?
Unexpected tears burned in Callie’s eyes. Force of habit had her blinking them away before they could be spotted. Tears were a weakness she wasn’t allowed. She’d learned that lesson pretty quick. Only the strong survived.
She and Ryder’s mother were probably the same age or at least within a year of each other, yet Callie felt decades older. Once she’d wanted normal things—to have a good man in her life, get married, have kids, some kind of a career. It had all been so vague back when she’d been eighteen, but it had never occurred to her it wouldn’t happen. That in a single, stupid night she would destroy her future and set herself up for a life of having to explain herself over and over again.
She got her clothes out of the dryer and quickly folded them into her tote before starting the walk back to her small room. Each step on the sidewalk sounded like a never-ending refrain. Convicted felon. Convicted felon. She’d served her time, had, in theory, paid her debt to society, but she was marked forever.
She couldn’t rent a decent apartment because no one wanted a convicted felon in their building. She couldn’t work at a kid’s party as part of the serving staff because no one wanted a convicted felon near their children. She couldn’t get a job in a restaurant, despite having learned all about the food service industry while serving her time, because no one wanted a convicted felon near their customers. She’d earned her GED and had started on her associates degree while behind bars and that didn’t matter, either.
One stupid, foolish, thoughtless act—robbing a liquor store with her loser boyfriend—and her eighteen-year-old self had destroyed her future.
Callie gave herself the entire walk home to mentally beat up on herself but once she walked into her room, she drew in a breath and changed the subject. She’d learned that, too. That a downward spiral was nearly impossible to stop, so she had to make sure she stayed positive as much as she could. She had a plan. It was going to take a while, but she had a plan.
She was saving every penny she could while working two jobs. When she had the money, she would buy a small condo that would be hers—no matter what. Right now having a home was priority one. She hadn’t figured out exactly what she wanted to do, career wise, but she was open to possibilities. As for the great guy and a couple of kids, well, that was unlikely. She was wary of men and not very trusting of anyone who was willing to accept her past, so she was mostly alone, which was fine. One day it would all be better. It had to be. It just had to be.
The Taste of Seattle Gift Bag includes:
An “I [Heart] Happy Books” tote bag
Starbucks Pike’s Place ground coffee
Seattle Chocolates gift set (3 truffle jars)
Cucina Fresca marinara sauce
Sahale Snacks (6 packs)
Maury Island Farms jam (2 jars)
Monday, June 18th: From the TBR Pile
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