Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple writing contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions contests. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist.
Thursday, June 30, 2022
BLOG TOUR - The Songs That Could Have Been
Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple writing contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions contests. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
BLOG TOUR - The Ex-Husband
I haven’t lived here long. The house is small and a little rundown, but each piece of faded floral wallpaper I peel away feels like unwrapping the second chance I never thought I’d get. I’m finally free to wear what I want, and I don’t flinch when I accidently burn dinner. My new home is warm, and the kids are safe inside. Anywhere would feel idyllic after the nightmare marriage I’ve just escaped.
But then I see my ex-husband Craig stroll past my window and let himself into the house next door. Fear chokes me. How did he find me? Does he want me back, or to destroy me for good?
As the removals van pulls away, Craig tells me it’s just a coincidence, that we can all get along and be good neighbours. But at night I lie awake listening to the sound of laughter and lovemaking through the thin wall that separates us, wondering if his new girlfriend is safe. And in the morning, I rifle through his trash, trying to guess his next move. I know how crazy I look, but I’d do anything to protect my children.
Weeks later, when the night air fills with smoke, and this quiet street dances with blue and red flashing police lights, all the secrets behind our two closed doors will be revealed. But after everything that’s happened, will anyone believe I’m innocent?
An absolutely unputdownable psychological thriller from an Amazon No1. bestseller that will keep you turning pages long into the night. Fans of The Wife Between Us, The Family Upstairs and The Girl on the Train will be totally hooked!
Listen to a sample here: https://soundcloud.com/bookouture/the-ex-husband-by-samantha-hayes-narrated-by-lucy-paterson
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When not writing, Samantha loves to cook, go to the gym, see friends and drink nice wine. She is also studying for a degree in psychotherapy. She has three grown-up children and lives in Warwickshire.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
BLOG TOUR - The German Wife
The enmity between two women from opposing sides of the war culminates in a shocking event as anti-German sentiment sweeps America, when the aristocratic wife of a German scientist must face the social isolation, hostility and violence leveled against her and her family when they’re forced to relocate to Alabama in the aftermath of WWII. For fans of Beatriz Wiliams, Pam Jenoff, and Kristin Harmel.
Berlin, 1934—Ilse Meyer is the aristocratic wife of a scientist whose post-WWI fortunes change for the better when her husband, Jürgen, is recruited for Hitler's new rocket program. Although Ilse and Jurgen do not share the popular political views rising in Germany, Jürgen’s new job forces them to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their financial security. But too late they realize the Nazi’s plans to weaponize Jürgen’s technology as they begin to wage war against the rest of Europe.
Huntsville, Alabama, 1949—Jurgen is one of hundreds of Nazi scientists offered pardons and taken to the US to work for the CIA’s fledgling space program. Ilse, now the mother of four, misses Germany terribly and struggles to fit in among the other NASA wives, who look upon her with suspicion. In a moment of loneliness, she confesses to a neighbor, Rachel Carlson, about Jürgen’s membership in the SS and her resentment for being forced to live in a country that will always see her as the enemy. What she doesn’t know is that she has trusted the wrong neighbor.
When the scandalous news about the Meyer family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart a community and a family before the truth is finally revealed—but is it murder, revenge or justice?
Huntsville, Alabama 1950
“WAKE UP, GISELA,” I MURMURED, GENTLY SHAKing my daughter awake. “It’s time to see Papa.”
After the better part of a day on a stuffy, hot bus, I was so tired my eyes were burning, my skin gritty with dried sweat from head to toe. I had one sleeping child on my lap and the other leaning into me as she sprawled across the seat. After three long weeks of boats and trains and buses, my long journey from Berlin to Alabama was finally at an end.
My youngest daughter had always been smaller than her peers, her body round and soft, with a head of auburn hair like mine, and my husband’s bright blue eyes. Over the last few months, a sudden growth spurt transformed her. She was now taller than me. The childhood softness had stretched right out of her, leaving her rail thin and lanky.
Gisela stirred, then slowly pushed herself to a sitting position. Her eyes scanned along the aisle of the bus as if she were reorienting herself. Finally, cautiously, she turned to look out the window.
“Mama. It really doesn’t look like much…”
We were driving down a wide main street lined with small stores and restaurants. So far, Huntsville looked about as I’d expected it would—neat, tidy…segregated.
Minnie’s Salon. Whites Only.
Seamstress for Colored.
Ada’s Café. The Best Pancakes in Town. Whites ONLY!
When I decided to make the journey to join my husband in America, segregation was one of a million worries I consciously put off for later. Now, faced with the stark reality of it, I dreaded the discussions I’d be having with my children once we had enough rest for productive conversation. They needed to understand exactly why those signs sent ice through my veins.
“Papa did tell us that this is a small town, remember?” I said gently. “There are only fifteen thousand people in Huntsville and it will be very different from Berlin, but we can build a good life here. And most importantly, we’ll be together again.” “Not all of us,” Gisela muttered.
“No, not all of us,” I conceded quietly. Loss was like a shadow to me. Every now and again, I’d get distracted and I’d forget it was there. Then I’d turn around and feel the shock of it all over again. It was the same for my children, especially for Gisela. Every year of her life had been impacted by the horrors of war, or by grief and change. I couldn’t dwell on that—not now. I was about to see my husband for the first time in almost five years and I was every bit as anxious as I was excited. I had second-guessed my decision to join him in the United States a million or more times since I shepherded the children onto that first bus in Berlin, bound for the port in Hamburg where we boarded the cross-Atlantic steamship.
I looked down at my son. Felix woke when I shook his sister, but was still sitting on my lap, pale and silent. He had a head of sandy curls and his father’s curious mind. Until now, they’d never been on the same continent.
The first thing I noticed was that Jürgen looked different. It was almost summer and warm out, but he was wearing a light blue suit with a white shirt and a dark blue bow tie. Back home, he never wore a suit that color and he never would have opted for a bow tie. And instead of his customary silver-framed glasses, he was wearing a pair with thick black plastic frames. They were modern and suited him. Of course he had new glasses—five years had passed. Why was I so bothered by those frames? I couldn’t blame him if he reinvented himself, but what if this new version of Jürgen didn’t love me, or was someone I couldn’t continue to love?
He took a step forward as we shuffled off the bus but didn’t even manage a second before Gisela ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.
“Treasure,” he said, voice thick with emotion. “You’ve grown up so much.”
There was a faint but noticeable American twang in his German words, which was as jarring as the new glasses.
Jürgen’s gaze settled on Felix, who was holding my hand with a grip so tight my fingers throbbed. I felt anxious for both children but I was scared for Felix. We’d moved halfway across the world to a country I feared would be wary of us at best, maybe even hostile toward us. For Gisela and me, a reunion with Jürgen was enough reason to take that risk. But Felix was nervous around strangers at the best of times, and he knew his father only through anecdotes and photographs.
“Felix,” Jürgen said, keeping one arm around Gisela as he started to walk toward us. I could see that he was trying to remain composed, but his eyes shone. “Son…”
Felix gave a whimper of alarm and hid behind my legs.
“Give him time,” I said quietly, reaching behind myself to touch Felix’s hair. “He’s tired and this is a lot to take in.”
“He looks just like—” Jürgen’s voice broke. I knew the struggle well. It hurt to name our grief, but it was important to do so anyway. Our son Georg should have been twenty years old, living out the best days of his life. Instead, he was another casualty of a war that the world would never make sense of. But I came to realize that Georg would always be a part of our family, and every time I found the strength to speak his name, he was brought to life, at least in my memories.
“I know,” I said. “Felix looks just like Georg.” It was fitting that I’d chosen Georg for Felix’s middle name, a nod to the brother he’d never know.
Jürgen raised his gaze to mine and I saw the depth of my grief reflected in his. No one would ever understand my loss like he did.
I realized that our years apart meant unfathomable changes in the world and in each of us, but my connection with Jürgen would never change. It already survived the impossible. At this thought, I rushed to close the distance between us.
Gisela was gently shuffled to the side and Jürgen’s arms were finally around me again. I thought I’d be dignified and cautious when we reunited, but the minute we touched, my eyes filled with tears as relief and joy washed over me in cascading waves.
I was on the wrong side of the world in a country I did not trust, but I was also back in Jürgen’s arms, and I was instantly at home.
“My God,” Jürgen whispered roughly, his body trembling against mine. “You are a sight for sore eyes, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes.”
“Promise me you’ll never let me go again.”
Jürgen was a scientist—endlessly literal, at least under normal circumstances. Once upon a time, he’d have pointed out all the reasons why such a promise could not be made in good faith—but now his arms contracted around me and he whispered into my hair, “It would kill me to do so, Sofie. If there’s one thing I want for the rest of my life, it’s to spend every day of it with you.”
“Many of our neighbors are Germans—most have just arrived in Huntsville in the last few weeks or months, so you will all be settling in together. There’s a party for us tomorrow at the base where I work, so you’ll meet most of them then,” Jürgen told me as he drove us through the town in his sleek black 1949 Ford. He glanced at the children in the rearview mirror, his expression one of wonder, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. “You’ll like it here, I promise.”
We’d be living in a leafy, quiet suburb called Maple Hill, on a small block the Americans nicknamed “Sauerkraut Hill” because it was now home to a cluster of German families. I translated the street signs for the children and they chuckled at the unfamiliar style. Our new street, Beetle Avenue, amused Gisela the most. “Is there an insect plague we should worry about?” she chuckled.
“I really hope so,” Felix whispered, so quietly I had to strain to hear him. “I like beetles.”
As Jürgen pulled the car into the driveway, I couldn’t help but compare the simple house to the palatial homes I’d grown up in. This was a single-story dwelling, with a small porch leading to the front door, one window on either side. The house was clad in horizontal paneling, its white paint peeling. There were garden beds in front of the house, but they were overgrown with weeds. There was no lawn to speak of, only patchy grass in places, and the concrete path from the road to the porch was cracked and uneven.
I felt Jürgen’s eyes on my face as I stared out through the windshield, taking it all in. “It needs a little work,” he conceded, suddenly uncertain. “It’s been so busy since I moved here, I haven’t had time to make it nice for you the way I hoped.”
“It’s perfect,” I said. I could easily picture the house with a fresh coat of paint, gardens bursting to life, Gisela and Felix running around, happy and safe and free as they made friends with the neighborhood children.
Just then, a woman emerged from the house to the left of ours, wearing a dress not unlike mine, her long hair in a thick braid, just like mine.
“Welcome, neighbors!” she called in German, beaming.
“This is Claudia Schmidt,” Jürgen said quietly as he reached to open his car door. “She’s married to Klaus, a chemical engineer. Klaus has been at Fort Bliss with me for a few years, but Claudia arrived from Frankfurt a few days ago.”
Sudden, sickening anxiety washed over me.
“Did you know him—”
“No,” Jürgen interrupted me, reading my distress. “He worked in a plant at Frankfurt and our paths never crossed. We will talk later, I promise,” he said, dropping his voice as he nodded toward the children. I reluctantly nodded, as my heart continued to race.
There was so much Jürgen and I needed to discuss, including just how he came to be a free man in America. Phone calls from Europe to America were not available to the general public, so Jürgen and I planned the move via letters—a slow-motion, careful conversation that took almost two years to finalize. We assumed everything we wrote down would be read by a government official, so I hadn’t asked and he hadn’t offered an explanation about how this unlikely arrangement in America came to be.
I couldn’t get answers yet, not with the children in earshot, so it would have to be enough reassurance for me to know our neighbors were probably not privy to the worst aspects of our past.
Jürgen left the car and walked over to greet Claudia, and I climbed out my side. As I walked around the car to follow him, I noticed a man walking along the opposite side of the street, watching us. He was tall and broad, and dressed in a nondescript, light brown uniform that was at least a size or two too small. I offered him a wave, assuming him to be a German neighbor, but he scoffed and shook his head in disgust and looked away.
I’d been prepared for some hostility, but the man’s reaction stung more than I’d expected it to. I took a breath, calming myself. One unfriendly pedestrian was not going to ruin my first day in our new home—my first day reunited with Jürgen—so I forced a bright smile and rounded the car to meet Claudia.
She nodded enthusiastically. “Since we arrived last week, you are all I’ve heard about from your husband! He has been so excited for you to come.”
“I sure have.” Jürgen grinned.
“Are you and the children coming to the party tomorrow?” Claudia asked.
“We are,” I said, and she beamed again. I liked her immediately. It was a relief to think I might have a friend to help me navigate our new life.
“Us too,” Claudia said, but then her face fell a little and she pressed her palms against her abdomen, as if soothing a tender stomach. “I am so nervous. I know two English words—hello and soda.”
“That’s a start,” I offered, laughing softly.
“I’ve only met a few of the other wives, but they’re all in the same boat. How on earth is this party going to work? Will we have to stay by our husbands’ sides so they can translate for us?”
“I speak English,” I told her. I was fluent as a child, taking lessons with British nannies, then honing my skills on business trips with my parents. Into my adulthood, I grew rusty from lack of speaking it, but the influx of American soldiers in Berlin after the war gave me endless opportunities for practice. Claudia’s expression lifted again and now she clapped her hands in front of her chest.
“You can help us learn.”
“Do you have children? I want Gisela and Felix to learn as quickly as they can. Perhaps we could do some lessons all together.”
“Three,” she told me. “They are inside watching television.”
“You have a television?” I said, eyebrows lifting.
“We have a television too,” Jürgen told us. “I bought it as a housewarming gift for you all.” Gisela gasped, and he laughed and extended his hand to her. I wasn’t surprised when she immediately tugged him toward the front door. She’d long dreamed of owning a television set, but such a luxury was out of reach for us in Berlin.
I waved goodbye to Claudia and followed my family, but I was distracted, thinking about the look of disgust in the eyes of that passing man.
Excerpted from The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2022 by Lantana Management Pty, Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.
Kelly Rimmer is the worldwide, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Before I Let You Go, The Things We Cannot Say, and Truths I Never Told You. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. Please visit her at https://www.kellyrimmer.com/
Author website: https://www.kellyrimmer.com/
Monday, June 27, 2022
BLOG TOUR - For the Love of the Bard
The Offices of Valhalla Literary
I stared morosely at the screen, where "ELF SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND HATHAWAY SMITH'S TO BLAME, SHE GIVES YA A BAD NAME" glared back at me in a rather shouty font. Instead of being a productive human and packing up everything I needed to work from my childhood home this summer, I'd gone down the rabbit hole on SpillThatTea.com, yet another teen social media platform where readers went to blast my latest book.
From the floor, the intern let loose a particularly fragrant dog fart.
"Who gave you duck?" I demanded, but Puck just rolled over and yawned.
I rubbed my temples, tucking a stray wave of crimson hair behind my ears, and wished for the billionth time that I'd never invented Hathaway Smith or the Elf Shot series.
Through the glass panels of my office, I spied Ian, my business partner, and Mathilde Mathison, our accountant, squaring off, their gazes set to stun mode. Like the other handful of employees of Valhalla Lit, I politely pretended not to notice the tender shoots of hipster lust blossoming before our eyes. That, and I didn't want to be collateral damage of that doomed relationship.
Catching Ian's eye, I pointed to the novelty book clock over my desk that he'd given me on my birthday. He nodded and said something to Mathilde that was no doubt both pithy and flirty and strode purposefully toward my office.
After he closed the door, I asked, "Do I have to remind you it's not a great idea to badger or bed the person who keeps our books?"
Ian sighed dreamily. "She is a force of nature."
"What is it with you and French women? Is it the way they tie scarves? Because I'll grant you that's pretty impressive."
"That obvious?" Ian didn't even feign sheepishness. It would have looked all wrong on him anyway. A good-looking man with chestnut hair and eyes the color of shamrocks, Ian had that capable-woodsman-meets-urban-hipster vibe. And it was working for him. At least for ninety-nine percent of the female population. Ian and I were strictly in the "friends who do not take each other's clothes off" zone. "She used to be a yoga instructor before she got her CPA," Ian said wistfully. "Can you imagine how smart and bendy she must be—"
"You know how I always say you need to find some guy friends? This is one of those instances where a dude wouldn't feel obligated to punch you on account of the girl code."
"How are we looking? I haven't had a chance to go through this quarter's numbers yet." Flicking one warning finger toward him, I added, "Don't you dare make some sort of weird accounting and yoga double entendre about flexible balance sheets."
"Why must you stifle my creativity?" Ian pouted, then continued, "The books are fine. I think we can make those upgrades to our firewalls this quarter. Maybe even upgrade the hardware."
"The duct tape on your laptop is getting rather ratty," I agreed.
"Speaking of books, can we talk about yours?"
"Why are you so bad at conversational transitions?"
"Because I've spent two decades getting by on my looks and uncanny ability to quote movies from the eighties?" he offered, not the least bit chagrined.
"I'll remember that the next time I need a Lost Boys reference."
He had me there. "Fine. The beginning's not terrible, but I can't figure out how to move forward. Forget about an ending. After the last one . . ." I trailed off.
"Barnes, how many times do I have to remind you that you can't please everyone? You did the right thing. Readers are a fickle bunch. The critics loved you."
"Critics don't buy books."
Ian smirked. "You know you can do this. You'll find a way, like you always do. Because you're a good writer, and that's what good writers do. They shut out the noise and find the truth in their words."
"Easy for you to say," I mumbled. "I'm still under contract for two more books."
It must have been something he heard in my voice, because Ian's expression sobered. "We can hit pause on this. You can take some time. All the time you need. Or, hell, you can walk away from this. We'll figure it out."
We couldn't walk away, of course. Not if we wanted to keep the agency afloat. But I loved him anyway for offering.
"Hathaway Smith keeps the lights on."
"We can find other ways," Ian insisted.
I shook my head. "You're right. I need to shut out the noise. Get somewhere quiet and reconnect with the characters. I've been buried in reviews and comments and I feel like my fans are breathing down my neck. I don't understand how real writers do this."
"Umm, Barnes? You are a real writer. See, we do this thing where you write books and we sell them for a tidy profit." He flicked his fingers upward. "Lights on, remember?"
"I meant, how do writers ever write under their own names? Who can take that kind of heat? Do you have any idea how pissed my readers are about me killing off Thad? I mean, the guy was a traitor who sold his friends out. And I'm the one they want to strangle? What if a fan figures out I'm Hathaway Smith? What if they start showing up at our door?"
"We'll move out in the night and not tell anyone our forwarding address?"
I growled at Ian. At the sound of it, Puck rose and padded over to him, pressing his head against Ian's thigh in solidarity. Furry traitor.
I glared at them. "You gave him duck, didn't you?"
"What better way to spend ninety minutes in a car than with a mutt who's consumed his weight in waterfowl jerky?" Ian rubbed Puck behind the ears until my dog's tongue lolled out and his eyes rolled up in his head. "Say the word, Barnes. I'll call New York and we'll figure something out."
"I appreciate that," I assured him, "but I'll finish it while I'm home. I write my best stuff in the attic."
"Said every maladjusted writer ever," he said with a practiced eye roll. "When can you get me a draft?"
"You don't get to push me around," I said, jabbing a finger in his direction. "You're basically a glorified beta reader at this point."
Ian clutched his chest. "You wound me. Besides, I don't care what you say. Susannah's great and all, but I'm still your favorite editor. Official or not."
"Susannah's better with grammar than you are."
"Blasphemy," Ian cried. "I taught you what a gerund was, plebe."
"This is exactly why you can't red-pen my stuff anymore," I pointed out, trying to hold in my laugh. "We're supposed to be partners. Equals."
"We will never be grammatical equals," Ian sniffed.
I shrugged. He wasn't wrong. Several years ago, Ian, then a junior agent at a top literary agency in New York, had plucked my manuscript out of the slush pile. He'd offered me representation and we'd spent the next six months trading revisions on my book. The man had an eye for grammar and sentence structure, and though I'd never admit it, he'd helped make me into the semicolon- and run-on-sentence-abhorring writer I was today.
After Ian sold my book to the largest YA publisher and Elf Shot rocketed to the top of the Times bestseller list, I'd taken the train from Boston to New York to meet him in person, and it was instant like at first sight. Ian was not only the fiercest champion of my book, he was everything I never knew I wanted in a best friend: confident, honest, warm and ever the gallant, always offering to show up with a shovel and a bag of lime at any time of night, no questions asked. I'd never wished for a brother, but somehow fate saw fit to send me Ian anyway.
Somewhere between the runaway success of my first book and scrambling to crank out the sequel, One Foot in Sea (a nod to a famous Bard line), to capitalize on the momentum of the first, I'd spent New Year's Eve at Ian's microscopic but trendy studio apartment in Manhattan. After a raucous party that had included body paint artists, contortionists, scores of influencers and all of Ian's clients, we'd taken it upon ourselves as a personal challenge to finish every bottle of champagne left open after the other guests had departed in a haze of glitter and Ubers. It was there in the early hours of the new year that we decided to start our own literary agency.
Six months later, we'd opened the doors to Valhalla with the royalties from my book and Ian's commissions. He taught me everything he knew about being an agent and I fell in love with scouring the slush pile in search of that next voice. And while my introverted ass didn't always love the outward-facing aspects of my job, I'd gotten comfortable enough with it over the years, cultivating relationships with publishers.
After we opened Valhalla, Ian and I had agreed that for the sake of our friendship and business partnership, Ian shouldn't read my drafts professionally anymore. That's where Susannah, my gerund-obliterating editor out of New York, came in. As a bonus, she used less anatomically specific threats about my use of the passive voice than Ian did. So really, I'd traded up.
When Ian and I had decided to embark on this whole "Miranda is a co-owner, but also a client" thing, we hired my sister's law firm to set up some ground rules to clear away any conflicts of interest. I paid for my own overhead as a client: publicity, expenses, etc. Unorthodox? A little. Ethically gray? I'd like to think not so much. It was just easier to continue on with Ian as my agent. I trusted him completely, and it was one less person who knew Hathaway's true identity.
That had been Ian's idea too, after I'd had an epic meltdown shortly after signing my book deal. Far too late, I'd come to the realization that I'd written a slightly racy, though still teen-appropriate, elf hookup scene and that the whole world—including such notables as my third-grade teacher, my dentist and my handful of ex-boyfriends—would be able to not only read my books but comment on them. I'd wanted to pull the plug on the whole thing, until Ian calmly explained that the announcement hadn't gone out yet and I could adopt a pen name, if only I would stop hyperventilating for thirty seconds. And so Hathaway Smith was born to bear the brunt of bad Amazon reviews and fan rants.
The bad Amazon reviews had been so few and far between that I'd almost felt silly about Hathaway Smith. Then my last book dropped. While I'd always appreciated the love and devotion to the series that my readers bestowed on Elf Shot, with that came the ever-rising tide of expectation to make the next book that much more than the last—something I thought I'd achieved with Inconstant Moons, another cheeky nod to the Bard and a veiled reference to the traitorous Thad. My readers thought otherwise and made their displeasure known. And, very much like the Dane's dagger, it cut me to the quick.
But much as I might want to curl into the fetal position, never to take a risk while writing again, Elf Shot was the reason we had an agency. We now had four agents, including Ian and myself, and a client base in the fifties and rising. Valhalla was a neat, cozy operation that kept all of us well-read and relatively well-fed without having to sell organs on the black market to make rent. But maybe someday, it wouldn't need Elf Shot or Hathaway Smith anymore.
"Fine, you can read it as soon as it's finished, before I send it to Susannah. If nothing else, it will give me an excuse to limit my involvement in helping Dad build sets."
Ian's eyes widened. "Pardon, I must be drunk. I thought you said you were going to build sets."
"I see." He waited a beat and said, "Do you remember when you stapled your hand to the bulletin board trying to put up those respectful workplace training materials?"
"I don't recall that."
"Do you recall the time your skirt got stuck in the shredder?"
"That could have happened to anyone. What's your point?"
"That was office equipment. Stage sets imply the use of tools far beyond even your uncanny ability to avoid lasting damage to your person."
"Cut me some slack. Most tools are made with right-handed people in mind."
"I know plenty of left-handed people and none of them have a track record like yours."
I scowled. "Fine, I'm just going to design the sets. Dad will do most of the actual building."
Ian tried and failed to hide his relief.
"Oh, shut up." I jabbed a finger at him. "Or I will tell Little Miss Sun Salutation out there about the time you got your chest waxed."
He threw up his hands in the universal sign of surrender. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just think it would be easier to write your book with all ten digits." He waggled his fingers for emphasis. "Since you're leaving sooner than initially announced, does that mean I can come to town early for the festival?"
"Centennial," I corrected him. "Hundred-year anniversary of the Shakespearean Summer Festival."
"The implication being that this would be bigger and better than the normal festival. Which would imply there would be even more stuff to entertain me. I'll go pack my bag."
"Great plan. Except you're supposed to be running things around here while I'm gone," I teased. "Besides, there won't be any throngs of Bardolators yet for you to gawk at. That's more of an August thing."
"I do adore that term," he said, in reference to the locals' affectionate nickname for the tourists who descended upon our town every summer in search of all things Shakespeare.
"Fly your freak flag proud or not at all."
"You know, Barnes, if you're serious about breaking this bout of writer's block, you could find yourself a comely Bardolator, take him back to your . . ." He faltered.
"Take him back to my parents' place and have my lascivious way with him in my childhood bedroom?" I scoffed. "Also, who says 'comely'?"
"Says the woman who just dropped 'lascivious.'"
I waved him off with a vague hand gesture as I powered down my laptop. "I don't need some sweaty entanglement with a Shakespeare-obsessed tourist to finish my book."
“I’m just saying. It’s a surefire way to cure what ails you.”
“Please tell me that’s not the advice you give our clients.”
“Of course it is. A little no-strings sex to get the creative writing juices going never hurt anyone.”
“Don’t say ‘sex’ and ‘writing juices’ in the same sentence. You’re sullying the craft.”
“Purist.” Ian scoffed, studying me for a long moment. “So why are you leaving a week early, anyway?”
“Because Cordy sent me one of her maddeningly cryptic texts over the weekend telling me I needed to get home as soon as possible.”
Ian’s eyes gleamed with a gluttonous light. “Do you think she’s decided to move down here and open up a restaurant? Or, even better, she’s reconsidered the offer to be my personal chef and culinary muse?”
“You couldn’t afford her.”
“I know,” Ian sighed. “But a foodie can dream.” Sobering, he added, “Everything okay at home?”
I shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine. Cordy’s definition of an emergency runs the gamut from ‘there’s a fluctuation in responsibly sourced cacao prices’ to ‘I burned down the bakery for the insurance money.’”
“The next time I complain about being an only child, please regale me with tales of growing up with Cordy and Portia.”
I checked my watch. “I’ve gotta jet to catch Cordy before the lunch rush. You need anything else?”
“Nah, go write your book.”
“You still okay to look in on my place?”
“Of course. I’ll kill all the plants before you return. Text me if you need anything. Now go get your Bard on,” Ian said, flashing me a cheesy double thumbs-up.
“Don’t sink the agency while I’m gone.”
“Don’t staple your fingers to the stage,” he countered. “No one likes a bleeder.”
“It’s just a flesh wound,” I called over my shoulder.
Fishing my car keys out of my pocket and tucking my laptop under my arm, I nodded my head at Puck. “Gird your loins. We’re going back to our roots.”
Excerpted from For the Love of the Bard by Jessica Martin. Copyright © 2022 by Jessica Martin. Excerpted by permission of Berkley Publishing Group. All right reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.