Tag Archives: chick lit

Book Review: A Will, A Way, And A Wedding

21 May

As Daphne begins making reluctant plans to let Aunt Dee’s house and life go and pick up the pieces of her fractured life, the guy she’s been dreaming about begins to change his tune. Of course, another huge obstacle pops up at about the same time, threatening to ruin what might finally be true love. Meanwhile, she continues writing the advice column, learning more about love and commitment than she ever thought possible. But will she cinch the deal in time?

To purchase, click HERE.

 

 

 

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller”. Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/.

 

My Impressions:

A Will, A Way, And A Wedding had been on my shelves waaay too long. The final installment to Melody Carlson’s Dear Daphne series had been whispering my name for *gasp* a couple of years! I finally succumbed to it, having been shamed by my admission of unfinished series. What had I been waiting for!? This charming and funny finale is a winner!

Daphne Ballinger has spent the better part of a year looking for a husband due to the peculiar terms of her great aunt Dee’s will. But only one man out of many has caught her eye and her heart. Unfortunately there always seems to be something that comes between them. This set-up is the perfect foundation for a fun romance. Carlson puts her main character through the ringer 😉 , as Daphne decides if love and marriage are really in her future, or does God have other plans. I liked that despite the meddling of best friend Sabrina, Daphne puts her plight in God’s hands. Daphne’s faith journey is naturally woven into the story. She relies on God’s wisdom, prays in all situations, and rests in His will. Nothing about the novel seems preachy or contrived. I also liked the small town setting of Appleton and its sometimes quirky residents. A Will, A Way, And A Wedding takes on the small town’s slower pace, even as the deadline Daphne faces looms ahead. Supporting characters are great, especially those closest to Daphne — adopted daughter Mabel and neighbor Sabrina. Daphne comes to the realization that she can face an uncertain future with her friends, family, and God by her side.

I wouldn’t attempt reading A Will, A Way, And A Wedding without first reading the other books in the series. Each novel builds upon each other. But don’t worry, all are great books and are quickly read, so a fun binge is in store for you!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to WhiteFire Publishing for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

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Book Review: Life on The Porcelain Edge

16 May

Tessa Tarrington’s life is swirling out of control. No job. No apartment. Sick Dad…And she’s back in high school! Teaching at her Gibson’s Run alma mater would be tolerable, except she’s sharing purgatory with her mortal enemy, Ryland Jessup. But eight years post-high-school, and after tragedies she can barely understand, Ryland no longer fits her mental image of the over-sized bully he once was. In fact, much to her disgust, he’s finding his way into her heart. After the sudden death of his wife, Ryland hung up his professional shoulder pads and picked up a whistle. Now he’s focused on coaching the high school football team and raising his daughter. The sudden return of his childhood crush, Tessa Tarrington, has reawakened long-ago feelings. But if God’s giving him a second chance to impress Tessa, the Man Upstairs has a funny way of showing it. Just when Tessa starts to lighten up, Ryland’s best friend returns. Will the always-irresistible Joey Taylor stifle any hope Ryland has to ignite the dream of a relationship with Tessa?

 

C.E. (Courtney) Hilbert is the author of new release – Life on the Porcelain Edge (Pelican Books). This marks her second release with Pelican Books (From Scratch) and her third novel (debut: The Wooing of Jane Grey (Deep River Books) – nominated for 2012 Christian Book Awards Best New Author).

Her writing career began when she had to wait a WHOLE week in between Bookmobile visits. To fill the gap, she pulled out a pen and some paper and began to jot down stories while she awaited the next round of books delivered on wheels. And a passion began.

She enjoys the opportunity to share God’s love through her writing in a tangible, real and somewhat quirky way. She is convinced God has a sense of humor which is equal to the size of His patience level!

Outside of writing, she heads up the youth program at her church and one of her greatest passions is reaching young people on behalf of Christ. She is a sports fan (bordering on nut) and is happiest at a hockey game when her team is winning, a Spring Training baseball game soaking up the sun or at a college football game cheering on a victory.

My Impressions:

Looking for humorous chick lit with a serious message? Then you definitely need to check out Life on The Porcelain Edge by C. E. Hilbert. Hilbert has created characters who struggle with the same things as real life people — vulnerability, self-doubt, and fear of rejection — while entertaining the reader and presenting the hope and grace that is promised by God. This charming novel was a delight to read. Although main characters Tessa and Ryland are the ages of my children, I could definitely identify with their dreams and fears.

Tessa returns to her hometown in shame. Her life seems to be circling the bowl — lost job and lost reputation. Faced with her high school tormentor, this self-acknowledged runner is in for a period of growth or stagnation — her choice.

I loved the characters in Life on The Porcelain Edge, especially precociously cute Emma. They could easily be the boy or girl next door, or your nosy neighbor, or best friend. Hilbert has a way of making them fun and funny and true to life. They also grapple with real life issues that go to the core of who we are. In addition, this novel is a wonderfully written romance — there’s plenty of chemistry between Tessa and Ryland. The novel is also firmly grounded in faith, presenting truth to both the characters and the reader.

A quick read, Life on The Porcelain Edge is no puff piece. And for fans of Hilbert, you will recognize characters from her other books. Don’t worry if you haven’t read anything by this author; this one is a standalone. But don’t be surprised when you want to read more!

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Dating, Dining and Desperation

28 Aug

679310Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column.

But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child — whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

 

 

bio_photo5Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the True Colors series and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit Melody’s website at http://www.melodycarlson.com.

 

My Impressions:

Dating, Dining and Desperation is the second book in Melody Carlson’s Dear Daphne series. (You can read my review of book 1, Lock, Stock and Over A Barrel, HERE.) It is just a few month after Daphne’s Aunt Dee has died and named her as her heir, with a catch. Daphne has one year to meet and marry or she will forfeit all claim to the estate. While Daphne feels the pressure from the will, her family and her friends to find Mr. Right, she is sure that the desperation she feels is just not what God wants.

New friends and old characters arrive in Daphne’s life. The perky, Southern divorcee, Sabrina Fontaine, offers comedic touches to the story, while young neighbor, Mabel, touches Daphne and the reader’s heart. I like that Daphne decides to step  away from her own life, problems and the parade of somewhat eligible men and gives her time, money and love to this child in need.

Dating, Dining and Desperation has a small town setting that provides a relief to busy and stress-filled lives. The charming town and its lovable residents will make you want more. I am looking forward to more adventures with Daphne as she discovers what is important and what God wants for her life.

Note: The first two books were published by B&H Publishers. Due to changes at B&H, Carlson will be publishing books 3 and 4 in an ebook form. I am hoping they will be available soon!

Recommended.

Audience: YA to Adults.

(Thanks to B&H for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this novel, click on the image below.

Author Interview and Book Review: The Wooing of Jane Grey by C. E. Hilbert

25 Sep

Jane Grey’s life is fine—fabulous career, fun friend, faithful volunteer. So why is she feeling lumpy, lonely, and lost? Could two handsome suitors be the “tonic” she needs? Successful attorney Paul Wade seems to be the perfect match. But pro hockey player Lindy Barrett might be out of her league. Only God knows the right choice! 

C.E. Hilbert is a Christian novelist making her debut with The Wooing of Jane Grey.

Her writing career began when she had to wait a WHOLE week in between Bookmobile visits. To fill the gap, she pulled out a pen and some paper and began to jott down stories while she awaited the next round of books delivered on wheels. And a passion began.

She enjoys the opportunity to share God’s love through her writing in a tangible, real and somewhat quirky way. She is convinced God has a sense of humor which is equal to the size of His patience level!

Outside of writing, she heads up the youth program at her church and one of her greatest passions is reaching young people on behalf of Christ. She is a sports fan (boardering on nut) and is happiest at a hockey game when her team is winning, a Spring Training baseball game soaking up the sun or at a college football game cheering on a victory.

She currently lives in a 110+ year-old fixer upper with her dog Daisy and she believes that life goes best with Jesus, a cute outfit and SportCenter!

Impressions:

I had the best time sitting down with C. E. (Courtney) Hilbert at the ICRS in Orlando in July. She and her sister Jennifer were in town to promote her debut chick-lit novel, The Wooing of Jane Grey. And I must say, her book is as delightful as

Courtney and I at the ICRS

Courtney. Here are the results of our talk and my impressions of the novel.

Courtney began writing stories as soon as she could write. Not a big risk taker (she likes life lived in a box), she kept them to herself. Her mother was the first to read the 100 page manuscript that would become The Wooing of Jane Grey. She loved it and encouraged Courtney to finish. The first complete manuscript was finished in 2009 after working on it for several years. And following a lot of polite nos, she decided to enter a writing contest she found in a Google search. She was awarded Deep River Books 2011 Writer’s Contest Certificate of Merit and became a published author. Courtney calls her publication a God Thing since He has given her the desire to write a light hearted story with a character with a love for Christ.

The Wooing of Jane Grey finds plain Jane Grey looking for a change. What she first thought was a move to a new career becomes an unexpected attraction to two men — her long time crush and hockey star, Lindy Barrett and the very handsome and Christian attorney, Paul Wade. But Jane has a hard time knowing what she and God want for her love life. What follows is a smart and sassy novel full of engaging characters and laugh out loud moments that I just did not want to end. Courtney wants the reader to take from her story that you have to trust God, because He has our best interest at heart.

I asked what part of The Wooing of Jane Grey is all Courtney. She stated that she is definitely a rule follower and the quirkiness of the characters definitely comes from her. The relationship between Jane and her sister Mollie is drawn from Courtney’s own life. And of course the hockey part is all her. Set in Columbus, Ohio, Courtney enjoyed sharing the city with her readers.

What else should you know about Courtney Hilbert? Courtney works in fashion retailing and serves as her church’s youth director. She unequivocally states that Jesus is her boyfriend. She loves her family and sports and has a dog named Daisy. Her friends say she does too much church stuff. And she enjoys books that entertain, citing her favorite authors as Kristen Billerbeck and Karen Kingsbury. She loves chick-lit and feels it is important to increase this genre within the Christian market.  When I asked her sister Jennifer what one word best describes Courtney, she had trouble coming up with just one. She describes her sister as faithful, determined, convicted and fun to be around.

So, what do I think overall? I loved meeting Courtney Hilbert and I loved her book! I look forward to many more from this talented writer. (She is currently in the writing phase of another book that features one of the secondary characters from her first novel.)

Highly Recommended.

(I received The Wooing of Jane Grey from Bring it On! Communications in return for a review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Weddings And Wasabi

3 Oct

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work at her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family dispute, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life -a tall, dark, handsome biker in form-fitting black leather, who’s Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle – a Harley-Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out? And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

My Impressions:

Camy Tang has written a fun, witty contemporary romance novel that will keep the reader entertained.  Weddings and Wasabi features the extended Sakai family, a Japanese-Chinese American family with one foot in the modern world and one foot in the traditional world.  Jenn has always been the good girl; the compliant daughter and niece.  But when she sees what her family really thinks and expects from her, she begins a course of independence that causes the Aunties to take the offensive to get her back in line.  Jenn’s foray into independence is supported by her cousins and her mother.  And with that support she steps out in faith — getting a new outlook and a new romance.  I enjoyed Tang’s funny look at traditional Asian family life and the struggle to achieve one’s own identity.

Recommended.

For more information about Weddings and Wasabi, click HERE.

(I received Weddings and Wasabi as part of the First Wild Card Tour.  All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Weddings and Wasabi

3 Oct

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Weddings and Wasabi

WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious mutt, Snickers. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher for 9 years, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work for her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family blowout, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker, in form-fitting black leather, and Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414120591
ISBN-13: 978-1414120591

Read my review HERE.

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The goat in the backyard had just eaten tonight’s dinner.

Jennifer Lim stood on her mother’s minuscule back porch and glared at the small brown and white creature polishing off her basil. She would have run shouting at it to leave off her herb garden, except it had already decimated the oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and her precious basil, which had been slated for tonight’s pesto.

Besides, if it bit her, she was peeved enough to bite back.

“Mom!” She stomped back into the house. Thank goodness the pots of her special Malaysian basil were sectioned off in the large garden on the side of the house, protected by a wooden-framed wire gate. Jenn was growing it so that she could make her cousin Trish’s favorite chicken dish for her wedding, which Jenn was catering for her. But everything in her backyard garden was gone. The animal was welcome to the only thing left, the ragged juniper bushes. Were juniper bushes poison? If so, the animal was welcome to them.

“Mom!” Her voice had reached banshee range. “There is a goat—”

“You don’t need to yell.” Mom entered the kitchen, her lipstick bright red from a fresh application and her leather handbag over her arm, obviously ready to leave the house on some errand.

“Since when do we own a goat?”

“Since your cousin Larry brought him over.” She fished through her leather purse. “His name is Pookie.”

Jenn choked on her demand for an explanation, momentarily distracted. “He has a name?”

“He’s a living being. Of course he has a name.” Her mother fluttered eyelashes overloaded with mascara.

“Don’t give me that. You used to love to gross me out with stories of Great-Uncle Hao Chin eating goats back in China.”

Mom sniffed and found the refrigerator fascinating. “That’s your father’s side.”

Jenn swayed as the floor tilted. You are now entering … the Twilight Zone. Her parent had evoked that feeling quite often in the past few weeks. “Where did Larry get a goat and why do we have it now?”

“They were desperate.”

Actually, Jenn could have answered her own question. That goat was in their backyard right now because everyone knew that her mom couldn’t say no to a termite who knocked on the door and asked if it could spend the night.

And outside of physically dropping the goat off at someone’s house—and she didn’t have an animal trailer, so that was out of the question—Jenn wouldn’t be able to get anyone else in the family to agree to take the animal, now that it was here. That meant leaving a goat in a niece’s backyard because no one else wanted to go through the hassle of doing anything about it.

Mom said, “You wouldn’t have me turn away family, would you?”

“Uncle Percy knows, too?”

“No, not Percy.”

“Aunty Glenda?” No way. Even if Larry were thirty-one instead of twenty-one, Aunty would still dictate to her son the color underwear he wore that day—how much more his choice of pet?

“No.” Mom blinked as rapidly as she could with mascara making her short, stiff lashes stick together, almost gluing her eyes shut.

The tiger in Jenn’s ribcage growled. “Mother.” Her fist smacked onto her hip.

“Oh, all right.” Mom rolled her eyes as if she were still a teenager. “It belongs to Larry’s dormmate’s older brother, but really, he’s the nicest young man.” Burgundy lips pulled into what wanted to be a smile, but instead looked hideously desperate.

Jenn tried to count to ten but only got to two. “I know Larry’s a nice young man. If an abundance of immaturity counts as ‘nice’ points.”

“Jenn, really, you’re so intolerant. Just because you’re smart and went to Stanford for grad school …”

The name of her school—and the one dominant memory it brought up—made her neck jerk in a spasm. It had only been for two years, but that was enough. Desperately lonely after spending her undergrad years living with her cousins, Jenn had only formed a few friendships among the other grad students, none of them close. There was only one she’d never forget, although she vowed she would every morning when she got up and saw the scar in the mirror.

“Why. Do we have. A goat.”

“It’s only for a few days—”

“We don’t know a thing about how to take care of—”

“They’re easy—”

“Besides which, this is Cupertino. I’m sure there are city laws—”

“It’ll be gone before anyone notices—”

“Oh, ho, you’re right about that.” Jenn strode toward the phone on the wall. “I’m calling the Humane Society. They’ll take it.” Although they wouldn’t provide a trailer to transport it. How was she going to take the goat anywhere, much less to an animal shelter?

Mom plopped onto a stool and sighed. “That boy was so cute. His name was Brad.”

There went her neck spasming again. But Brad was a common name. She grabbed the phone.

“Such a nice Chinese boy. Related to the Yip family—you know, the ones in Mountain View?”

The phone slipped from her hand and bungee-jumped toward the floor, saved only by the curly cord. She bent to snatch it up, but dizziness shrouded her vision and she had to take a few breaths before straightening up.

“Oh, and he went to Stanford. You two have something in common.” Mom beamed.

No. He wouldn’t.

Yes, he would.

“Brad Yip?”

Mom’s eyes lighted up. “Do you know him?”

Sure, she knew him. Knew the next time he came for his goat she’d ram her chef’s knife, Michael Meyers style, right between his eyes.

Book Review: Restless In Carolina

5 Aug

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Restless in Carolina

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)

***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer, Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamara Leigh began her writing career in 1994 and is the best-selling author of fourteen novels, including Splitting Harriet (ACFW Book of the Year winner and RITA Award finalist), Faking Grace (RITA Award Finalist), and Leaving Carolina. A former speech and language pathologist, Tamara enjoys time with her family, faux painting, and reading. She lives with her husband and sons in Tennessee.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Tree-huggin’, animal-lovin’ Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is on a mission. Well, two. First she has to come to terms with being a widow at thirty-three. After all, it’s been four years and even her five-year-old niece and nephew think it’s time she shed her widow’s weeds. Second, she needs to find a buyer for her family’s estate—a Biltmore-inspired mansion surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled forestland. With family obligations forcing the sale, Bridget is determined to find an eco-friendly developer to buy the land, someone who won’t turn it into single-family homes or a cheesy theme park.

Enter J. C. Dirk, a high-energy developer from Atlanta whose green property developments have earned him national acclaim. When he doesn’t return her calls, Bridget decides a personal visit is in order. Unfortunately, J. C. Dirk is neither amused nor interested when she interrupts his meeting—until she mentions her family name. In short order, he finds himself in North Carolina, and Bridget has her white knight—in more ways than one. But there are things Bridget doesn’t know about J. C., and it could mean the end of everything she’s worked for…and break her heart.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421680
ISBN-13: 978-1601421685

My Review:

Restless In Carolina is a sweet, romantic, chick lit novel.  Set near Asheville, North Carolina, there is certainly an air of all things southern — the food, the accents, the corn mazes and the southern belle heroine.  Oops, Bridget Pickwick may be a southern gal and she might know how to cook southern food,  but she is NO southern belle!  In fact, Bridget is a tomboy from way back, with the dirt under her fingernails to prove it. And though she has been a widow for 4 long years, her family thinks it is time for her to shed her widow’s weeds. Soon she has two men showing her attention, or are they just widow sniffers trying to get the inside track to purchasing the Pickwick estate?  

The 3rd installment in the Southern Discomfort series, Restless in Carolina offers a quick and enjoyable read.  (You do not have to read the books in order, but why not since they are so much fun!)  Bridget comes a long way in this book — in her trust in God and herself — and she may finally be able to believe in the happily after the happily ever after. Although you may figure out what is going on way before Bridget, I think you will still enjoy turning page after page to make sure you and the writer got it right. I know I did.  

Recommended.

 

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Deep breath. “…and they lived…”

I can do this. It’s not as if I didn’t sense it coming. After all, I can smell an H.E.A. (Happily Ever After) a mile away—or, in this case, twenty-four pages glued between cardboard covers that feature the requisite princess surrounded by cute woodland creatures. And there are the words, right where I knew the cliché of an author would slap them, on the last page in the same font as those preceding them. Deceptively nondescript. Recklessly hopeful. Heartbreakingly false.

“Aunt Bridge,” Birdie chirps, “finish it.”

I look up from the once-upon-a-time crisp page that has been softened, creased, and stained by the obsessive readings in which hermother indulges her.

Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, my niece nods. “Say the magic words.” Magic?

More nodding, and is she quivering? Oh no, I refuse to be a party to this. I smile big, say, “The end,” and close the book. “So, how about another piece of weddin’ cake?”

“No!” She jumps off the footstool she earlier dubbed her “princess throne,” snatches the book from my hand, and opens it to the back. “Wight here!”

I almost correct her initial r-turned-w but according tomy sister, it’s developmental and the sound is coming in fine on its own, just as her other r’s did.

Birdie jabs the H, E, and A. “It’s not the end until you say the magic words.”

And I thought this the lesser of two evils—entertaining my niece and nephew as opposed to standing around at the reception as the bride and groom are toasted by all the happy couples, among them, cousin Piper, soon to be wed to my friend Axel, and cousin Maggie, maybe soon to be engaged to her sculptor man, what’s-his-name.

“Yeah,” Birdie’s twin,Miles, calls from where he’s once more hanging upside down on the rolling ladder I’ve pulled him off twice. “You gotta say the magic words.”

Outrageous! Even my dirt-between-the-toes, scab-ridden, snot-on-the-sleeve nephew is buying into the fantasy.

I spring from the armchair, cross the library, and unhook his ankles from the rung. “You keep doin’ that and you’ll bust your head wide open.” I set him on his feet. “And your mama will—

”No, Bonnie won’t.

“Well, she’ll be tempted to give you a whoopin’.”

Face bright with upside-down color, he glowers.

I’d glower back if I weren’t so grateful for the distraction he provided. “All right, then.” I slap at the ridiculously stiff skirt of the dress Maggie loaned me for my brother’s wedding. “Let’s rejoin the party—”

“You don’t wanna say it.”Miles sets his little legs wide apart. “Do ya?” So much for my distraction.

“You don’t like Birdie’s stories ’cause they have happy endings. And you don’t.”

I clench my toes in the painfully snug high heels on loan from Piper.

“Yep.”Miles punches his fists to his hips. “Even Mama says so.”

My own sister? I shake my head, causing the blond dreads Maggie pulled away from my face with a headband to sweep my back. “That’s not true.”

“Then say it wight now!” Birdie demands.

I peer over my shoulder at where she stands like an angry tin soldier, an arm outthrust, the book extended.

“Admit it,”Miles singsongs.

I snap around and catch my breath at the superior, knowing look on his five-year-old face. He’s his father’s son, all right, a miniature Professor Claude de Feuilles, child development expert.

“You’re not happy.” The professor in training, who looks anything but with his spiked hair, nods.

I know better than to bristle with two cranky, nap-deprived children, but that’s what I’m doing. Feeling as if I’m watching myself from the other side of the room, I cross my arms over my chest. “I’ll admit no such thing.”

“That’s ’cause you’re afraid. Mama said so.” Miles peers past me.

“Didn’t she, Birdie?”

Why is Bonnie discussing my personal life with her barely-out-of-diapers kids?

“Uh-huh. She said so.”

Miles’s smile is smug. “On the drive here, Mama told Daddy this day would be hard on you. That you wouldn’t be happy for Uncle Bart ’cause you’re not happy.”

Not true! Not that I’m thrilled with our brother’s choice of bride, but…come on! Trinity Templeton? Nice enough, but she isn’t operating on a full charge, which wouldn’t be so bad if Bart made up for the difference. Far from it, his past history with illegal stimulants having stripped him of a few billion brain cells.

“She said your heart is”—Miles scrunches his nose, as if assailed by a terrible odor—“constipated.”

What?!

“That you need an M&M, and I don’t think she meant the chocolate kind you eat. Probably one of those—”

“I am not constipated.” Pull back. Nice and easy. I try to heed my inner voice but find myself leaning down and saying, “I’m realistic.”

Birdie stomps the hardwood floor. “Say the magic words!”

“Nope.”Miles shakes his head. “Constipated.”

I shift my cramped jaw. “Re-al-is-tic.”

“Con-sti-pa-ted.”

Pull back, I tell you! He’s five years old. “Just because I don’t believe in fooling a naive little girl into thinkin’ a prince is waiting for her at the other end of childhood and will save her from a fate worse than death and take her to his castle and they’ll live…” I flap a hand. “…you know, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.”

Isn’t there? “It means I know better. There may be a prince, and he may have a castle, and they may be happy, but don’t count on it lasting. Oh no. He’ll get bored or caught up in work or start cheatin’—you know, decide to put that glass slipper on some other damsel’s foot or kiss another sleeping beauty—or he’ll just up and die like Easton—” No,
nothing at all wrong with you, Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, whose ugly widow’s weeds are showing.

“See!”Miles wags a finger.

Unfortunately, I do. And as I straighten, I hear sniffles.

“Now you done it!” Miles hustles past me. “Got Birdie upset.”

Sure enough, she’s staring at me with flooded eyes. “The prince dies? He dies and leaves the princess all alone?”The book falls from her hand, its meeting with the floor echoing around the library. Then she squeaks out a sob.

“No!” I spring forward, grimacing at the raspy sound the skirt makes as I attempt to reach Birdie before Miles.

He gets there first and puts an arm around her. A meltable moment, my mother would call it. After she gave me a dressing down. And I deserve one. My niece may be on the spoiled side and she may work my nerves, but I love her—even like her when that sweet streak of hers comes through. “It’s okay, Birdie,” Miles soothes. “The prince doesn’t die.”

Yes, he does, but what possessed me to say so? And what if I’ve scarred her for life?

Miles pats her head onto his shoulder. “Aunt Bridge is just”—he gives me the evil eye—“constipated.”

“Yes, Birdie.” I drop to my knees. “I am. My heart, that is. Constipated. I’m so sorry.”

She turns her head and, upper lip shiny with the stuff running out of her nose, says in a hiccupy voice, “The prince doesn’t die?” I grab the book from the floor and turn to the back. “Look. There they are, riding off into the sunset—er, to his castle. Happy. See, it says so.” I tap the H, E, and A.

She sniffs hard, causing that stuff to whoosh up her nose and my gag reflex to go on alert. “Weally happy, Aunt Bridge?”

“Yes.”

“Nope.” Barely-there eyebrows bunching, she lifts her head from Miles’s shoulder. “Not unless you say it.”

Oh dear Go—No, He and I are not talking. Well, He may be talking, but I’m not listening.

“I think you’d better.” Miles punctuates his advice with a sharp nod.

“Okay.” I look down at the page. “…and they lived…” It’s just a fairy tale—highly inflated, overstated fiction for tykes. “…they lived happily…ever…after.”

Birdie blinks in slow motion. “Happily…ever…after. That’s a nice way to say it, like you wanna hold on to it for always.”

Or unstick it from the roof of your mouth. “The end.” I close the book, and it’s all I can do not to toss it over my shoulder. “Here you go.”

She clasps it to her chest. “Happily…ever…after.”

Peachy. But I’ll take her dreamy murmuring over tears any day. Goodness, I can’t believe I made her cry. I stand and pat the skirt back down into its stand-alone shape. “More cake?”

“Yay!” Miles charges past me.

Next time— No, there won’t be a next time. I’m done with Little Golden Books.

Excerpted from Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh Copyright © 2011 by Tamara Leigh. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.