Saturday, July 12, 2014

Construction Beauty Queen

~ I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author to facilitate this review.  I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~



Synopsis (from Amazon): She's on the job…and out of his league.

Chicago socialite Veronica Jamison is determined to shake off her sheltered lifestyle and overbearing parents. She heads to her grandfather’s small town of Kortville, ready to roll up her sleeves and work for the family construction business. She’ll prove her worth, even if it means answering to the company’s ruggedly handsome co-owner, Matt.

Matt Shaw just wants to run his business, spend time with the niece he’s raising on his own, and give back to the townspeople who have stood by him. Managing a spoiled-rotten princess he knows he’ll never be good enough for? Not part of his plan. But as he gets to know Veronica, he learns there’s more to her than her beautiful looks and designer clothes. She’s got a heart as rich as her background. 

With the quirky townspeople rallying against Veronica inheriting her grandfather’s business, it’s up to Matt to try to drive her out of town. But how can he, when instead she’s driving her way into his heart?



One (or more) Sentence Summary: Veronica is a perfect chick lit type of lady!  She could have easily stayed in Chicago in her pampered life, but she had something to prove!  Given I have never been a socialite, but would love to give it a try (!!!), I don't think I would have taken on the challenge.  I love how she doesn't go running back home, even though she has plenty of opportunity and reasons to do just that!

Favorite Character(s):  This is a toss up between Veronica and Matt.  Let's just say I was cheering for both of them.

Setting:  Small town where everyone knows your business.

Fast read/slow read:  Quick read!

Cover:  It works.  I would have loved to have seen Veronica in front of her tailor too!

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: I would, Construction Beauty Queen provided an escape and was a quick read.


Sara Daniel writes what she loves--irresistible romance, captivating drama, and quirky characters. She writes to entertain and to give people hope and a belief that everything can and will turn out happily ever after.

On the personal side, she's a frazzled maid, chef, chauffeur, tutor, and personal assistant. She was once a landlord of two uninvited squirrels. She's crazy about country music and the drama of NASCAR. And she has her own happily-ever-after romance with her hero husband.


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Friday, July 11, 2014

A Magnificent Crime

~ I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author to facilitate this review.  I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~



Synopsis (from Amazon): Cat Montgomery is a natural-born thief with a special talent for stealth--or at least she thought so. Years ago, she stole from the diamond-hording businessman Albert Faulkner III, but he somehow figured out she was responsible. Now he wants revenge, and dares her to swipe the elusive Hope Diamond. If she fails the mission, he'll wreak bloody havoc on her loved ones. But the stakes are raised even higher when Cat discovers that stealing the Hope is not only an impossible task, it's a cursed one. . .

Meanwhile, Cat's boyfriend, FBI agent Jack Barlow, is tracking a fierce criminal known as the Gargoyle, running into Interpol and resistance among his agency. As he follows the trail to Paris, where Cat is, their missions entwine in ways neither of them would have suspected. . .



One (or more) Sentence Summary: I was so excited to be able to read all about Cat's new adventure (can't wait for the next one).  Filled with twists, turns, foul play, good people, evil people, high society mixed with the average joe and so much more.  Let's not forget to mention the two gorgeous men who want her.  It is driving me crazy who she ends up with….Jack, Ethan, Jack, Ethan…..ergh!

Favorite Character(s):  I absolutely love Cat, but I am so torn between Jack and Ethan.  Good boy vs. bad boy.  Erghhh, which one.

Setting:  Paris - Ooh La La!!

Fast read/slow read:  Very fast read

Cover:  It works!

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: I would and I did!  Check out my review on the first Agency of Burglary & Theft book, A Beautiful Heist.


Kim Foster is the author of the Agency of Burglary & Theft Series, a series of novels about a professional female jewel thief. Kim has a typical background for someone who writes thrillers about thieves and spies and criminals: she has a degree in medicine and is a practicing family doctor. (Don't worry, it doesn't make much sense to her friends and family, either.) 

Kim is addicted to yoga, loves to travel, and has a clinical weakness for dark chocolate with sea salt. Online, you can find her blogging about her left-brain, right-brain mash-up on www.kimfoster.com. Kim lives with her husband and their two young sons in Victoria, British Columbia, where she's hard at work on her next book. And drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Damsels in Distress Cover Reveal and 99-cent Kindle countdown sale!

The cover reveal for Damsels in Distress is here! And it’s coinciding with a 99-cent Kindle Countdown deal … so you can get acquainted with all the ladies of Marestam before their stories continue!
In this second installment of the Desperately Ever After series, Belle, Dawn, Snow, Penny, and Rapunzel struggle with love, obligation, old flames, new flames, disappointments, triumphs, and plenty of secrets. (Cinderella takes a bit of a breather in this one, but rest assured she’ll be back!)

About the series:
Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after true love’s kiss? Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, the Desperately Ever After series sprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings.

About Damsels in Distress:
(Warning: If you haven’t read the first book yet, there are some spoilers!)
After watching her fairy tale go up in flames, Belle is finally starting over. With a baby on the way, a business to run, and a new love interest she just can’t shake, things are finally looking up. That is, until she learns her independence might revive broken curses the world over. Could “happily ever after” really mean staying with her unfaithful husband? Or will Belle and her steadfast friends find another way?
Meanwhile, Dawn still longs for the life she had three centuries earlier—before her sleeping curse ended in two kids, an unfamiliar era, and a husband she barely knows. So when she encounters the childhood sweetheart she believed to be dead, Dawn must suddenly choose between the past she once wanted and the present she never knew she did.
As both women struggle between love and obligation, they fail to see a great danger brewing in the capital–one that could change everything forever.
Damsels in Distress takes a whimsical look at our most beloved fairy tale characters several years down the road. Part Sex and the City, part Desperate Housewives, and part Brothers Grimm, it’s ultimately about a group of friends coming to terms with how their lives have turned out. They just happen to live in castles.

Damsels in Distress will be available through Amazon in late August. In the meantime, the book that started it all, Desperately Ever After, is part of a 99-cent Kindle countdown sale. The clock is ticking!
WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE SERIES:

“Laura Kenyon makes happily ever after desperately delicious!” ~ Stephanie EvanovichNew York Times bestselling author of Big Girl Panties

“At times laugh-out-loud funny, and at times very touching, Desperately Ever After is the debut of a real talent.” ~ Elizabeth Blackwell, author of While Beauty Slept and The Letter

“It’s no longer a case of just reading their stories and hoping to meet our prince charming and getting swept away. Kenyon shows that the fairy tale promise is not all that it’s cracked up to be. She keeps it real and enduring for the modern woman.” ~ Janice G. Ross, author of Damaged Girl and Island Hopping

"...while it is a very emotional story it’s witty and funny and full of magical quirks that keep that atmosphere of the worlds the Grimm Brothers first created." ~ RG Dole, author of Immortal Longings

"If you are looking for a fun and gossipy story to satisfy the holes left when Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives had their series finales (or even if you're going through Once Upon a Time withdrawal come season finale time) look no further than Desperately Ever After." ~ Chick Lit Central

"An explosive cocktail that will have you laughing out loud and wanting more and more!" ~ Lost in Chick Lit

“No more damsel in distress, useless without her prince, but modern day woman struggling with and enjoying love. Desperately Ever After is a wonderfully sarcastic, romantic and heartwarming tale about love and friendship with witty conversations, juicy cliches and a healthy dose of humor. I cannot wait to read the sequel!” ~ M’s Bookshelf

"Empowering and hilarious, I think everyone should read this." ~ Tea Party Princess

"It's the perfect book to be reading this summer and it's completely unputdownable!" ~ The YA's Nightstand
While Damsels in Distress won't be available until late August, the first book in the series (Desperately Ever After) is available at Amazon in both print and e-book formats. The price just dropped to99 cents for the Kindle countdown sale, but will steadily rise until it reaches $2.99 on Sunday night. Please use the following links for more information:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

LauraKenyon.com

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Monday, July 7, 2014

In the Mirror


~ I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author to facilitate this review.  I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~



Synopsis (from Amazon): In the Mirror is the story of Jennifer Benson, a woman who seems to have it all. Diagnosed with cancer, she enters an experimental treatment facility to tackle her disease the same way she tackled her life - head on. But while she's busy fighting for a cure, running her business, planning a party, staying connected with her kids, and trying to keep her sanity, she ignores her own intuition and warnings from others and reignites an old relationship best left behind.

If you knew you might die, what choices would you make? How would it affect your marriage? How would you live each day? And how would you say no to the one who got away?
One (or more) Sentence Summary: What a great book.  There were so many different twists and turns - mostly I didn't see them coming.  The characters are great too.  Love some and hate some - which makes for a great read!  

Favorite Character(s):  Jennifer - hands down.  I have no idea how anyone can be so strong with what she was going through.  

Setting:  Primarily in a nursing home/transition care home.  However, the focus was really about relationships.

Fast read/slow read:  In between speed.  Not too slow, but not to fast.

Cover:  Honestly, I don't get it.  Wait.I think I just got it.  Looking back at your life.  Hopefully that is right, because it makes perfect sense to me now!

What Others Are Saying:  "Kaira Rouda has created relatable characters you'll care deeply about. Emotionally gripping and heart-achingly beautiful, In the Mirror will make you think about what's truly important." 
~ Tracey Garvis Graves, New York Times bestselling author

"I was completely absorbed by In the Mirror. This is a moving story from the unique perspective of a seriously ill patient who is a wife, sister, daughter and friend, examining all of those relationships with honesty and humor. This story will stay with you because of the questions it asks and the answers it offers." 
~ Lian Dolan, bestselling author of Helen of Pasadena

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: I would and I have.  I have read Here, Home, Hope.  Click here to see the review.


Kaira Rouda is an award-winning entrepreneur and author. She lives in Southern California with her husband and four children and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, @KairaRouda, and on Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books. For more about Kaira and her books, please visit www.KairaRouda.com.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sorry, I have been MIA

Wow - what a month.  Busy is the norm, crazy in the norm, but it has been OUT OF CONTROL!


My kids just got out of school June 27th.  It has nothing to do with snow days - since we don't ever get any here in NY.  It is just the normal school calendar.  There was a month full of end of school year activities, rec sports wrapping up, travel sports starting, play rehearsals, the play itself, birthday parties, etc.  On top of all the normal crazy, my company is going through a merger and everything was voted and signed July 1.  We have had a lot of extra work in preparation, but we hit crunch time.

To make matters better, or worst, depending on how you look at it…..we went to Sandbridge Beach, Virginia (just 10 miles south of Virginia Beach) this past week.  It was FABULOUS.  We had a wonderful and relaxing time.  I would recommend anyone looking for a vacation spot to check it out.  I loved it so much, I could move there.


We rented a condo through Sandbride Realty and it was beautiful.  We were maybe 50 feet from the beach.  It took more steps to get from the beach to water than the condo to the beach!  We went kayaking with the dolphins through Surf Adventure, another company I would recommend.


We went to the Virginia Beach Aquarium.


We also went to Colonial Williamsburg for a day.


My kids favorite activity was The Adventure Park.  It is owned and operated as part of the aquarium but you need separate tickets.  It is a giant ropes course.  We had a blast.  They take you through a quick but thorough training course (you are locked in the entire time - very safe) and off we went.  They have different levels.  One of my twins was not too excited and I was so proud of her - she did 4 courses.  Of course my son (Mr. Athletic) went through all of them except the double black diamond and only because he ran out of time.  My other twin did all the levels up to the black diamond and was very proud for getting almost as far as her brother (she also ran out of time).  It really is a great activity.


Lastly, we rode out Hurricane Arthur (tropical storm for VB) and it was exciting for the kids.  Having lived in Jacksonville, near the beach, my husband and I had been through much worse.  The storm cleared up by Friday afternoon and the fireworks were spectacular!  The ocean was still crazy with rip tides, so the kids spent the afternoon collecting shells and at the pool. My twins went to grandparents in NC for the week.  Grandpa and Grandma came up for a few days to the beach.


Now we are back home and trying to get ready for the week ahead.  I hope to get a lot of book reviews out this month.  I have plenty to get caught up on and out in reviews.  Again, please forgive the lack of reviews the past month or two.  My life needs to be get back to normal.  Hope you had a great 4th of July and have a wonderful week.



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Monday, June 9, 2014

Return to the Beach House TLC Book Tours


~ I received a copy of this book from the publisher or author to facilitate this review.  I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~


Synopsis (from Amazon): Over the course of one year, in a charming cottage by the sea, eight people will discover love and remembrance, reconciliation and reunion, beginnings and endings in this unforgettable sequel to Georgia Bockoven’s The Beach House and Another Summer.

Alison arrives at the beach house in June to spend a month with her restless grandson before he leaves for his freshman year in college. Over a decade before, Alison lost her beloved husband, and has faced life alone ever since. Now she discovers a new life, and possible new love.
August brings together four college friends facing a milestone. Across summer’s final days, they share laughter, tears, and love—revealing long-held secrets and creating new and even more powerful bonds.
World-class wildlife photographer, Matthew, and award-winning war photographer, Lindsey, arrive at the beach house in January, each harboring the very real fear that it will mark the end of their decade-long love affair. Alone in the house’s warm peace, they will be forced to truly look at who they are and what they want, discovering surprising truths that will change their lives forever.


One (or more) Sentence Summary: Looking for a great beach read.look no further!  All three stories are completely different and hold their own.  I originally thought that the first story about Alison was my favorite, but as I reflect over all three….they are all my favorites for different reasons.  

Favorite Character(s):  I probably connected more with the ABCD girlsfour college friends come together after 5 years.  I would love to plan such a trip and "get real" with my closest friends.  The setting at the Beach House, would make it so much more special.  Each of the four ladies had something special about them, that made them collectively, my favorite!

Alison - new love and many firsts

College girl friends - how true friends can (and should) be relied on

Matthew/Lindsey - true love is real

Setting:  At the Beach House in Northern California - how perfect, eh?

Fast read/slow read:  Perfect pace.  I love that the book is divided up into three separate short stories.  Just the right amount of story at the right pace….perfect for summer/beach reading.

Cover:  LOVE it!  Anything to do with a beach scene is going to get all thumbs up from me!!

What Others Are Saying: Check out what others are saying on the TLC Book Tour.
Tuesday, May 13th: 5 Minutes For Books
Friday, May 16th: Kritters Ramblings
Saturday, May 17th: Open Book Society
Monday, May 26th: Lisa’s Yarns
Tuesday, May 27th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, May 27th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Wednesday, May 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 29th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Monday, June 2nd: The Book Bag
Monday, June 9th: Seaside Book Nook
Friday, June 13th: Every Free Chance Book Reviews

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: Yes, in fact, on my book shelf are the first two beach house books.

LOVE both covers and can't wait to read them.


Georgia Bockoven is an award-winning author who began writing fiction after a successful career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. The mother of two, she resides in Northern California with her husband, John.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pressed Pennies, includes Excerpt


Synopsis: Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige's father nearly destroyed Abby's spirit.

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they're hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She's very protective of the life she's made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn't know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you've dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?


Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love it its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart.




Steven Manchester is the author of The Rockin' Chair, as well as the #1 best seller, Twelve Months (2013 San Francisco, DIY & New England Book Festivals award winner). He is also the author of A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Goodnight, Brian (2013 Southern California Book Festival award winner), and Pressed Pennies (due out May 2014). His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Connect with Steven online or Facebook.


Excerpt:
A mix of playful conversation and alcohol set the night’s happy mood. Rick was tipping his third beer at the season’s final bash when he looked up and saw her. He nearly choked on his drink. She was his age, pretty with an athletic build. She had gorgeous wavy chestnut hair with beautiful dark eyes that matched. She had a mysterious confidence about her and a smile that men would die for. Rick swore she had an aura from her head to her feet. At that moment, he thought, I have to meet her. His mind filled with questions that needed answers: Who does she know at the party? Who can I get her background from? Who can introduce us? As his mind raced, Carol walked over with the beauty. And as they got closer, it hit him. “Oh, my God!” he said.
“Rick, this is…” the friendly hostess began to introduce with a smile.
“Abby!” Rick interrupted. “I can’t believe it.” It was her. It was Abby Gerwitz, his childhood sweetheart. He searched her eyes and a thousand memories—happy childhood pictures—flooded his mind. And then he recalled the pain he’d felt on the day they were forced to say goodbye.

After an unforgettable summer, Abby and the neighborhood gang received the terrible tidings. Rick—then known as Richard—gathered the gang in his backyard. He felt ready to cry. “I’ve got some bad news, guys,” he said.
“Oh, God,” Tracy blurted.
“Yeah?” asked Vinny.
“What’s is it?” Grant asked.
Richard looked at Abby. She was frozen.
“My dad was promoted to lieutenant, and he has to transfer to another prison across the state.” There was a long, painful pause. “We’re going to have to move away…next week.”
It was a lie. They were moving, sure enough, but Richard’s dad hadn’t been promoted. The hospital bills from his mom’s car accident—where a drunk driver had stolen away her life—had finally broken them. It was a matter of money or more precisely the lack of it. Richard silently vowed that he’d never be put in the same position—ever. No matter what I have to do, he swore to himself.
While the rest of his friends hung their heads and complained, Abby burst out crying and ran for her house.
As Rick recalled, it was well past midnight when he finally surrendered to the tossing and turning. Rolling out of bed, he maneuvered past several moving boxes, stepped up to the window and pulled back the curtain. Wilbur Avenue was deserted and silent. From left to right—as if he was branding the picture into his mind forever—he carefully scanned every detail of the place he could no longer call home. Although one good memory after another played out before him, a sharp pain pricked his heart. No one was watching, so he allowed the tears to flow. Once he’d arrived at the farthest reaches of his vantage point, he forced his swollen eyes to work their way back and absorb more of his past. “Why do we have to leave?” he muttered. “Why?” Before long, his shoulders rocked back and forth to the rhythm of his quiet sobs.
The very next morning, gray clouds hovered over Wilbur Avenue. Richard’s dad and grandma made their goodbyes quick and waited in the overstuffed station wagon for Richard.
Richard had never said goodbye before. The pain was alien. It hurt something awful to face Abby. Overwhelmed with emotion, it took him a while to speak. It was the hardest thing he had ever had to do.
“Well, I guess…” Richard muttered, and choked on the words. Not knowing what else to do, he pulled the curled brim of his ball cap down further over his eyes.
Through sniffles, Abby finally said, “You can come back and visit, right?”
“Sure.” Richard was fighting to be strong and dared not speak more than a word.
Abby lifted the brim of his hat. “Goodbye, Richard,” she whimpered.
Richard placed his hand on her shoulder and shook his head. “No Abby…I’ll be seein’ ya,” he whispered, and with one surge of courage kissed her on the lips.
While Abby’s eyes went wide, he pulled his baseball cap back over his eyes, jumped into the family station wagon and never looked back. One cruel moment later, the Giles family drove away.
Though Richard and Abby promised to keep in touch, frequent phones calls and detailed letters gradually became an occasional event until adolescence rearranged priorities and their communication ceased altogether.

Back in the present, Abby gasped. “Richard? Is it really you?”
Rick grinned. “It’s Rick now,” he said.
Her smile turned mischievous. “Okay, Richard.”
He stood to meet her embrace and squeezed her tight. “My God, it’s been so long. How have you been?”
She pulled away to peer into his eyes and, without a word, returned to their embrace.
While they hugged over the unexpected reunion, Carol was clearly pleased with herself—as if she’d known there was history between them. “Abby just moved into the neighborhood, Rick…three houses down from us. It appears that you two have a lot in common, so I’ll leave you to it.” Carol smiled widely before strutting away.
“So you’re living on Freedom Avenue now…near these crazy people?” Rick asked. He couldn’t believe it, but his palms were actually sweaty. He looked into her sparkling eyes and experienced arrhythmia for the first time in his life.
“I am,” Abby said before looking down at his left hand and then back into his eyes. “You’re not married?” she asked, blushing slightly over the impulsive question.
“Happily divorced,” he answered.
“Then you must have a creep for an ex-husband too?” she teased. Her tone was gentle and there was a soft light playing around her eyes.
“I do,” Rick said. “His name’s Rose.”
Abby chuckled and took the seat beside her old friend. Her laugh was absolutely contagious.
For a few moments, neither spoke a word. And then Abby’s face blushed again when Rick caught her staring. She looked away. Rick was thrilled over the obvious chemistry between them.
Rick cracked open a fresh beer and offered it to her. His hands were almost trembling. No one has ever had this effect on me, he thought. No one. He was legitimately nervous.
She shook her head. “Thanks, but I don’t like beer,” she said, and then stared straight into his soul. “So you did the divorce thing too, huh?”
He shrugged. “I did. Seems like the ‘in thing’ these days.”
“Any kids?” she asked, shifting from one hip to the other.
Rick’s eyes lit up. “Zachary…the love of my life. He just turned two.” He took a swig of beer. “I’m thinking about getting him a bigger bowl.”
Abby’s eyebrow rose in confusion.
“Zachary’s my gold fish,” Rick explained, chuckling.
Even through the laughter, Abby kept staring. At one point, she slid closer to him.
Her presence felt so comfortable and familiar to Rick. “And you… any kids?” he asked.
“Paige,” Abby answered, with the same twinkle in her eyes. “She’ll be nine next week…just old enough to be brokenhearted.”
Rick nodded. “Boy problems?”
“No. Daddy problems.” She shook her head, the twinkle gone. “Her father hasn’t made a whole lot of time for her lately,” she explained.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” As a light drizzle began to fall, Rick leaned into Abby’s face. She smelled as good as she looked.
Abby nodded, but quickly changed the subject. “So how long have you known Carol?” she asked.
“Too long,” Rick answered with a smirk. “Actually, I met Danny in college and met Carol after their first date. He was my business colleague for a while. He and Carol have been together for almost three years now. She’s great. She loves Danny’s two boys like they’re her own.”
“Business colleagues?”
“Investments. Stocks, bonds… really, really important stuff like that,” he added, sarcastically.
“You two still together?” she asked.
“Nope. Danny and I have broken up. I recently discovered that I liked sunshine a little more than fluorescent light.” He thought for a moment. “I just started doing some consulting work, and I write a little now.”
“You do? That’s great!” Abby said. She smiled like an angel. “I’d love to see some of your writing.”
Rick’s skin tingled over the suggestion.

Beneath a wet sky, the rest of the night was spent getting caught up. For Rick, it felt like old times—even though he had no idea who Abby was as an adult.
They reminisced first about Rick’s grandma and father. “So how are they?” Abby asked. “I always loved them, you know.”
He smiled. “Dad lives in New Hampshire now, working with delinquent kids.”
She smiled, her head cocked. “Did he ever remarry?”
“No. He’s never stopped loving my mom enough to pursue another woman. I guess in his own way he still grieves her death.”
Abby’s mouth twisted slightly, forming itself into a frown; she was clearly touched by the undying love the man had for his wife.
“I think Grandma’s right,” Rick added. “When my dad passes, I’m betting that he and my ma will spend eternity making up for lost time.”
Abby nearly cooed at the sweet sentiment. “I’ll never forget his dog, Roy,” she said.
Rick took a sip of beer and chuckled. “Believe it or not, he actually has Roy’s grandson now—Ray.”
She shook her head and laughed. “Roy and now Ray. What was the dog’s name in between?”
“Screw Up.”
Abby was sent into a state of hysterics.
Rick shrugged and laughed along with her.
“And Grandma?” she asked, regaining her composure.
Rick nodded. “Still spry and spunky…just a really cool person. You know her motto: ‘The body doesn’t wear out, it rusts.’ She’s still listening to her music and raising holy hell.”
Abby smiled at the familiar phrase.
“And she got married,” Rick said.
“Married?”
“Yep. His name is Bill Stryker and they’re perfect for each other.” He took another swig of beer. “She still makes me sit for dinner every Sunday.” Rick then asked about Abby’s parents.
There was a sad pause. “My mom passed away,” Abby said, “from a lack of purpose, I’d say. And I haven’t spoken to my father for a few years now.” She tried to shake off the pain. “We no longer share a relationship… just some really bad memories. I imagine he’s still committing suicide the long way.”
“Drinking?”
“Yup, still doing laps in his bottle.”
Rick put his beer on the table and quickly changed the subject.
“Have you heard from any of the old Wilbur Avenue gang?”
Abby’s smile returned. “From what I hear, Vinny became an attorney and is living with his wife in Vermont.” She thought for a moment. “I don’t know how anyone could stand to live with him.”
Rick laughed.
Tracy became a psychologist and moved to Utah.”
“Married?” Rick asked.
“A-sexual, I think.”
They both laughed. Rick couldn’t stop staring at her great smile and adorable dimples.
“Actually, I heard she lives with her lesbian lover and goes by the new name Cheyenne.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
Abby shook her head.
“Good for her,” Rick said.
“But I haven’t heard anything about Grant,” Abby added.
Rick leaned forward. “You’re not going to believe this, but the first day I walked into college…there was Grant talking to some pretty, unsuspecting freshman.”
Abby shook her head.
“I still see him every Tuesday night,” Rick said. “We shoot a little pool and a whole lot of bull.
She was shocked. “How is he?”
“The same…emotionally amputated; socially challenged.”
As the laughter continued, she asked, “Do you remember the last time your dad brought us all to Lincoln Park? Believe it or not, I still think about that sometimes.”
“Are you kidding?” Rick said. “I could live a hundred lifetimes and never forget that day!” And without his permission, his mind immediately raced back to the smack of screen doors and the echoes of foolish, barefooted children running toward the future.

As a going away gift to Richard and his friends, Jim Giles announced, “I’m treating you all to Lincoln Park.” It was a local amusement park that was famous for its epic Easter egg hunts and The Comet—the largest and most feared roller coaster on the East Coast. The park also had the reputation of hosting some lifelong memories from early spring until late fall.
Jim Giles pulled the station wagon into the front of the park and shut off the ignition. From sheer excitement, the back doors flew open and Richard, Abby, Grant, Tracy and Vinny piled out like a trained circus act. They waited. Jim Giles never opened his door.
Richard ran around to his father’s window. “Aren’t you comin’, Dad?” he asked, still resentful over their upcoming move.
Jim handed his son some money and winked. “This is your day,” he said, and then looked at Abby beside Richard. “Stay together, all right?”
They both nodded. “Absolutely,” said Richard. “I’ll be seein’ ya.”
“We will,” Abby promised.
Richard’s father smiled. “Meet me back here at six,” he said, and drove away from the curb.
The gang watched as the wood-paneled wagon disappeared into traffic. They looked at each other and smiled. They’d been set loose for one last hoorah. This entire day was going to be their last great adventure together. Past the roller-skating rink and bowling alley out front, they sprinted toward the ticket gate.
Murals of smiling clowns holding balloons and lollipops beckoned them inside. A hand stamp cost five dollars and fifty cents and allowed them to ride all the rides for the day. Once paid, the land of thrill seekers, big crowds and long lines opened up to them. “That’s expensive,” Richard blurted, while Grant discreetly talked Tracy into paying his fare.
Three steps in and a slew of stimuli nudged them into a frenzy of squeals and high-fives. Flashing lights, carnival sounds and joyous screams filled the park. From popcorn to vomit, the smells were overwhelming. A world of vivid colors—dark reds and yellows and blues—covered everything. One look around, and it was clear that romance could blossom here, as well. Richard glanced over at Abby to find her staring at him. Smiling to himself, he turned, waved his friends toward him and ran for the rides. “Come on!”
Everyone took chase.
The gang worked its way through the park. Hidden speakers spouting the moans and wails of ghouls and mutants soon had them standing before The Monster Ride. “Looks like Old Lady MacDonald’s place,” Richard said and everyone agreed. Those who dared to ride were greeted by gaudy, lurking statues of hideous creatures with horns, sharp teeth and insane eyes. Of course, to the older, more discerning eye, the giant plaster of Paris knick-knacks were no less than absurd.
Richard led his friends toward the unknown. Tracy wouldn’t hear of it. “Come on, Scaredy-Cat,” Grant taunted. It didn’t matter. No matter how much teasing they heaped on, Grant and Vinny were forced to share a car. Abby had already jumped in with Richard.
From the moment the car hit the double doors and entered pitch darkness, Abby shut her eyes and never opened them. While hideous mannequins waited in the shadows, the car took jerky turns on a squeaky track. “Eeeek,” Abby squealed, while Richard did his best not to laugh. Through all the screaming, the smells of the midway wafted in, while several rays of sunlight streamed through the cracks in the old, wooden boards. Though these reminded everyone that his or her plight was surreal and only temporary, it still didn’t matter in the belly of the beast. At one point, Abby placed her trembling body against Richard’s.
He’d never felt such warmth. His whole body tingled and he instinctively tightened his grip. It was almost a hug. A swarm of butterflies fluttered in his guts, but even in the blackness he couldn’t bring himself to kiss her. He just couldn’t do it.
As the car came crashing through another set of double doors and back into reality, Richard and Abby released each other. Through squinted eyes, they exchanged a grin. The crush was their little secret.

Once Rick returned to their conversation, he looked hard into Abby’s eyes and his Adam’s apple took forever to travel south. “Those were definitely the days,” he said.
She nodded. “Find a penny, pick it up and all that day you’ll have good luck.”
“As long as it’s heads up,” he added, with a grin.
Between the conversation and shared laughter, the entire night seemed to last all of three seconds.

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