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Forever Home by Elysia Whisler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A retired Marine hoping to see her dreams of owning a motorcycle repair and sales garage finds her late father’s motorcycle stolen from her shop, and the detective who has found himself enamored with her goes to work to solve the crime in author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home”.

The Synopsis

If home is where the heart is, Dogwood County may have just what Delaney Monroe needs.

Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.

Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.

Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in – both human and canine – helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.

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The Review

This is such a well-balanced and engaging story. The way the author is able to weave themes of PTSD, how military service impacts those who come home, loss and opening ourselves up to the possibility of love into this narrative set against the backdrop of a crime mystery and a slow-burn romance was truly entertaining. The vibrant yet muted imagery of the story’s setting really felt cinematic in its delivery, making this such an incredible read.

What was so mesmerizing was the character’s arcs in this narrative. The heavy exploration of romance between the two protagonists felt so realistic to real life. I’ve always felt there is a time and place for both magical-inspired fairytale romances and real-world, gritty romances that take time to build, and that’s what makes this novel shine so brightly. The strength and courage these two find in one another, both in challenging each other and then in working together, was inspired to see, and how each helped the other overcome past pains were so fun to watch come together in this novel.

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and gripping romance, author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home” is such a unique and entertaining women’s fiction and contemporary romance read. A true one-of-a-kind read that shows romance in an entirely new setting and creates a love that feels very real and relatable all at once, this is one novel you will not want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Virginia, in true military fashion. If she’s not writing she’s probably working out, coaching, or massaging at her CrossFit gym. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @ElysiaWhisler

Facebook: @ElysiaWhisler

Instagram: @Elysiawhisler

Goodreads

Here is an Excerpt From Forever Home

ONE

Three Rebels Street.

Delaney should’ve known that this was where she’d end up. This was the kind of street a woman went down when all the big changes in her life were happening at once. You simply couldn’t hit a retirement ceremony, the road and a funeral all in one week and not end up on Three Rebels Street.

Small is not the right word. I prefer quaint.” The real estate agent, Ronnie, gazed around the studio apartment situated on Three Rebels Street, and nodded her head in approval. “You said it was just for you, right? Which means it’s the perfect size.”

Stop trying to sell me on the apartment. Ronnie had described it as an “alcove studio”—not just a studio—because even though the living room and kitchen were all in one large space, the bedroom was situated in a little nook, with its own door. Delaney didn’t care. The living quarters didn’t really matter. Right now the place was dumpy. Dust everywhere, the ceiling fan hanging crooked with exposed wires, and debris in the corners, like the previous tenants hadn’t taken care of the place and then left in a hurry.

“We didn’t have a chance to get this cleaned before your showing,” Ronnie said, following Delaney’s gaze. “Remember, I suggested waiting until Friday.”

But Delaney hadn’t been able to wait.

Ronnie lowered her voice to a near whisper. “They were evicted. But this place cleans up nice, I promise.”

“Can we go back down to the shop?” Delaney ran her hands through her hair, rubbing the weariness from her scalp. Ronnie had whisked them through the front bay door and up the stairs, like the apartment was the prize inside the cereal box. And Delaney supposed it was—small, an add-on, not really the point. For Delaney, the shop downstairs was the entire point.

“Of course.” Ronnie’s voice was bright, forced, like she didn’t give two shits. This was probably her last showing of the day and she wanted to get home, into a hot bath with a glass of red as soon as possible. She clacked down the stairs in her high heels.

Delaney followed, the earthy clunk of her motorcycle boots the bass drum in the cacophony of their feet.

“The shop.” Ronnie swept out her arm. “Look how much space.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice. Ronnie, who probably did mostly living spaces, had no idea how to sell the garage.

Didn’t matter. Delaney sized up the shop herself: concrete floor, perfect for working on bikes. It was kind of dinged up, but that was okay, she was already envisioning painting it beige with nonslip floor paint. Modern fluorescent lighting. Large bay door, wide-open to the cool air, excellent for ventilation. A countertop with a register. Empty shelves on one side for parts and motor clothes. Showroom space for custom bikes, and enough room for at least two workspaces out front. The rest, Delaney would provide. Hydraulic lifts. Workbench. Parts tank. Tools. Parts. Bikes.

She wanted to pinch herself, but chose a poker face. Ronnie stood in the center of the floor, like she was trying to avoid touching anything, to avoid getting any grease or oil on her smart red suit. The shop was in better condition than the apartment, but it still looked like the last occupants had left quickly—or, if they’d truly been evicted, perhaps reluctantly was a better word. Nothing important remained, but the place hadn’t been swept or washed or readied for sale in any manner.

“I’ll consider this.” Delaney rubbed her chin as she strode through the shop. “It’s a little small.” It was actually larger than she’d expected. “Light’s good, but might get a little cold in the winter.” It was winter now, technically. Mid-March. Delaney loved this time of year, when winter and spring intersected, like lovers making up after a nasty fight, the weather edgy and unpredictable.

“There’s a lot of interest in this space.” Ronnie clutched her clipboard to her chest as she looked around. She could be looking at the inside of a spaceship and hold that same expression.

Motorcycle shops were going out of business, all over the place, including the one that had recently vacated. After suddenly finding herself on Three Rebels Street last week, in front of a shop-apartment combo for sale, Delaney had done her research. The previous tenants, who she now knew had been evicted, were brothers who ran a shop by day and lived upstairs by night. They sold mostly new bikes and motorcycle gear. Repairs and maintenance were basic. Their website was still up, despite the fact that Dude’s Bikes had closed. Dude’s appeared to focus mostly on male riders, leaving Delaney to wonder if Dude’s was just about dudes or if one of the owners was, indeed, named Dude. 

“What’s the story on this place?”

Ronnie glanced at her clipboard. “The owner wants to sell. After the last renters’ lease ran out, they were given the option of buying or moving. I don’t think their shop was doing well, because they couldn’t afford to buy. They weren’t even paying their rent. And they weren’t quick about moving. The rest, as they say, is history.”

If the last motorcycle shop had failed, buying would be a gamble. But any business venture was a gamble.

Life was a gamble.

“There are a couple of people looking, after you.” Ronnie continued, “About five.”

Delaney could respect white lies in the sales biz but seriously? Five? Five or so people were waiting to check out the bike shop with an overhead apartment suitable for one small, low-maintenance tenant? She had no idea how two brothers had managed up there.

She strolled through the space, wanting a good feel. She needed to touch things, inhale the shop, draw its molecules into her lungs and taste its history before she could decide on the symbiosis of her dream space. Triple M Classics—short for Martin Monroe’s Motorcycles, named after her father—would own her as much as she would it, so this relationship was going to be deep and mutual. Through the front window, she could see the parkway that ran the length of the county. At just past eighteen-hundred hours, rush hour was a jam of red taillights in the waning daylight. No amount of time would erase Delaney’s memory of her last tour here, when she had to commute to work every day. Pure hell. It would be nice to go right upstairs to her cozy little apartment after closing, rather than having to sit in that mess.

Across the street was a row of shops, including a grocery story and an Italian restaurant. Food. Check. 

On the south side, the shop butted up to the woods, which had a downward slope of grass and weeds that led to the trees. Privacy. Double check. Plus, Delaney figured if there was a tornado, that slope could count as a ditch, and would probably be the safest place to run. She laughed at herself. This wasn’t Omaha. Virginia tornado season consisted of a few warnings that rarely panned out.

Delaney withdrew the listing, printed from the internet, from her back pocket, crammed together with a grocery receipt for extra firm tofu, Tater Tots and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. “This is the price, right?” She handed over the paper. Money would be tight, but Delaney should be able to manage for a little while until things got going.

That is, if she was going to do this.

Was she really going to do this?

All her adult life Delaney had moved around, from station to station. Forts, camps, bases. Not shops. Not homes. She’d never put down roots. Never had anything permanent other than her childhood home with Dad. Never owned a thing she couldn’t cram into a duffel bag.

Ronnie looked at the paper. “No.” She sniffed. “There’s a newer listing.” She flipped through her clipboard, laid it on the counter and pointed. “Here we go.”

Delaney looked at the asking price, choked a little bit, almost thanked Ronnie for her time and left. That would be the smart thing to do. Sometimes childhood dreams just needed to stay dreams.

She strode around once more, mentally saying goodbye to everything that she’d never even made hers. Even though all of this had been a panster move, it felt like all the blood in her veins had been replaced with disappointment. She stopped by the far wall, where a ratty piece of paper hung by a sliver 

of tape. Delaney smoothed out the curled edges and read the flyer.

Fiftieth Annual Classic Motorcycle Show.

Dogwood County Fairgrounds.

The event was in July. There was a contest, including prizes. The grand prize for the winning classic cycle was five grand plus a feature article in Ride magazine.

The disappointment started to drain away. Five grand wouldn’t pay all the bills, but exposure in a major motorcycle magazine would be a boon for business. Plus, there was something about that poster, just hanging there like that.

It seemed like a sign.

Excerpted from Forever Home by Elysia Whisler, Copyright © 2021 by Elysia Whisler. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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Q&A with Elysia Whisler

Q: This is the second book in a series? Do you have plans to write more books in this series?

A: Yes! “Becoming Family” is Book 3 in the Dogwood County series. It will be out in August of 2022. I have hopes for a couple more books in the series after that, too!

Q: What should the reader know if they have not read the first book in the series?

A: So far, the early readers think Forever Home does really well as a standalone if you have not read Book 1. The only thing I’d add, if you have not read Book 1, be prepared that I always have 3 points of view. Some traditional romance readers like to see the POV go between two love interests but I always have a third POV that typically sets up the next book. This third POV does not get as much space as the other two but just be prepared for it. I know it’s unusual but I’m okay with that. 

Q: Where do you get your story ideas from?

A: My stories usually start with a single scene or idea that I build around. With Rescue You I worked around the idea of how everyone (human or animal, male or female)  can be either the hero or the saved in life, depending on the situation. With Forever Home, I wanted a super strong female lead to match up for my detective character from Book 1. My teen daughter had just finished getting her motorcycle license and it hit me … my heroine was going to be a badass biker chick. We see so many guys on motorcycles in romance and the women are always on the back. I wanted a heroine who drove her own bike and a man strong enough to love that.

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing?

A: Mostly a pantster. I usually have a broad concept of the story, have a beginning and an end and usually a midpoint idea. Then I start writing and once I’ve got the opening (first 30-50) I’ll go back and outline a little more. Then write. Then outline. Etc.

Q: What is a fun fact about you?

A: I love to read horror, especially literary horror. I read everything — I don’t care about genre, only good storytelling and solid writing — but 75% of my TBR pile is horror/thriller/mystery. 

Q: You grew up in the military and moved around quite a bit. Did you enjoy this? How do you think it has affected the stories you write?

A: Moving around was a mixed bag. I loved getting to travel and go to new places. I actually adored the traveling part — by plane, train, car. I made up stories in my head about being a fugitive running off to new lands. I’d spend a lot of plane/car time writing by hand. The hard part was getting to the new places and having to establish all new friendships and schools. I barely ever got to see extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). I never had that community of people I grew up with. That said, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I got to experience so many different lands, cultures, climates. Living in Alaska at a young age in particular instilled in me a great love for the natural world that I’m grateful for to this day. All of that informed my writing in a big way. There’s definitely something to be said for seeing the world, getting outside your bubble and having that experience. The best compliments I get are on my characters being complex and real and I credit that directly to all the moving around I did. When you’re always new you have to be quiet, pay attention, watch and understand. You learn a lot that way.

Meet Me In London by Georgia Toffolo Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A hustle and bustle businessman hoping to convince his powerful parents that he isn’t alone asks a local bartender and working designer to pretend to be his girlfriend during the holidays, and soon sparks begin to fly in author Georgia Toffolo’s “Meet Me In London”, the first in the Meet Me series.

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The Synopsis

What do you do when your fake engagement starts to feel too real?

Aspiring clothes designer Victoria Scott spends her days working in a bar in Chelsea and her evenings designing vintage clothes, dreaming of one day opening her own boutique. But these aspirations are under threat from the new department store opening at the end of her road. She needs a Christmas miracle, but one is not forthcoming.

Oliver Russell’s Christmas is not looking very festive right now. His family’s new London department store opening is behind schedule, and on top of that his interfering, if well-meaning, mother is pressing him to bring his girlfriend home for a visit. A girlfriend who does not exist. He needs a diversion. Something to keep his mother from interfering while he focuses on the business.

When Oliver meets Victoria, he offers a proposition: pretend to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store and he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon becomes something more tempting, as the fake relationship starts to feel very real. But when secrets in Victoria’s past are exposed, will Oliver walk away, or will they both follow their hearts and find what neither knew they were looking for?

The Review

The author did such a great job of finding that perfect balance between slow-burn romance and in-depth character development. The theme of the class difference between the working class trying to keep their businesses afloat in the face of a massive launch of a megastore in the same neighborhood paired well with the wealthy businessman desperate to find a way to maintain his business and help out the local community all at once.

Yet it was the characters themselves that brought the romance aspect of this holiday read to life. The haunting past that Victoria is desperate to steer clear of and the struggle of Oliver to reconcile the man his family expects him to be with the man he wants to be is so fascinating to read, and the way this plays into their growing feelings for one another makes this such a heartwarming holiday romance.

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The Verdict

A heartwarming, engaging, and truly thoughtful read, author Georgia Toffolo’s “Meet Me in London” is the perfect first installment in this brilliant romance series. The harmonious way the holiday setting and the character growth came together in this story and the twists and turns this relationship takes the characters into, especially when neither was looking for a romance, to begin with, was so entertaining to read and readers will be eager for more entries in this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Georgia Toffolo is a broadcaster and TV personality. She has been a firm favourite with the public right from the start of her TV debut, Made in Chelsea, all the way to winning over the hearts of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2018.

Georgia turned her eye to fashion and has curated two sell out collections with fashion retailer Shein. An ambassador for many British brands, both large and small, Georgia has also collaborated with Dyson, Baileys, Emma Bridgewater, Great British Racing, Foreo and Malibu amongst many more.

Most recently, Georgia has dived into the world of fiction by publishing her debut novel Meet Me in London with publishing house Mills and Boon. This is the first of an original series of four books following a group of lifelong friends and bringing personal anecdotes to life with humour and charm.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @ToffTalks

Twitter: @ToffTalks

TikTok: @georgiatoffolo

Instagram: @georgiatoffolo

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Here is an Excerpt from “MEET ME IN LONDON”

1

OLIVER RUSSELL COULD wrangle a wayward balance sheet back into the black, take failing stores apart and breathe new life into them, make difficult calls on staffing and personnel issues, make his shareholders happy and very, very rich. But he had never managed to curb his mother’s meddling in his private life.

Some things were just impossible.

Earth to Oliver. This is your mother asking about your Christmas Day plans. Will I need to set an extra place at the dinner table? Hint, hint. Your mother xx

Sitting on a stool at the bar in the upmarket wine bar The Landing, Oliver groaned as he interpreted the “hint” as yet another badly veiled attempt to discover his relationship status. Great one, Mum. Way to put pressure on a guy.

Could this week get any worse? He threw his mobile phone onto the sticky, beer-stained counter, gripped the tumbler in front of him and took a sip of a much needed fifteen-year-old Scotch. As the honey-colored syrup oozed down his throat and hit his stomach with a warming buzz he silently counted all the ways things had gone wrong in such a short space of time.

First mistake: allowing his mother to believe he was finally settling down when in reality his love life could only be described as…nonexistent. And now having to think up all the ways he could appease his parents over the holidays without going quietly insane.

Whereas other families had jolly traditions of games and church on Christmas Day, his parents’ idea of fun was to corner him in the living room, pin him down with laser stares and interrogate him for signs of commitment, a potential wife and progeny. A grandchild, or preferably many grandchildren, to spoil and give meaning to their later years, someone to carry on the family name and also an heir to entrust the business to. As an only child Oliver was expected to do so, as his father had done before him.

Trouble was, after his last romantic failure, settling down was not on Oliver’s bucket list. At least, not for a very long time.

Second mistake: in the spirit of keeping the family business afloat he’d agreed to clean up the mess his cousin was making of the new build. Ollie should have let him fall on his sword, but that would have meant his parents suffering too and there was no way he was going to allow that. So, here he was in a rowdy bar in Chelsea at ridiculous o’clock at night—or was it early morning?—having only just finished work, with the prospect of another seventeen-hour day tomorrow and the next day, and the next…

He took another sip of whiskey but almost choked as someone bumped into his hip, jolted his arm and sloshed the Scotch, rich but burning, down his throat.

“Hey, gorgeous.” A woman old enough to be his mother—and even though deep down he loved his mum, Lord knew he didn’t need two of them—appeared at his shoulder and beamed at him. Her eyes were wine-glazed and the lipstick smudged over her mouth almost up to her nostrils made her look like a startled fish. “I’ve got mistletoe, you know what that means, right?”

“That it’s time I left?” Scraping his stool back he stood, steadying the woman as she swayed, and then handed her into the waiting arms of her friends who were all dressed as…well, he wasn’t entirely sure, but there were glitter wings and feathery haloes involved, so he imagined they were supposed to be Christmas angels. In November?

As if knowing all about his work stress and family dilemmas even the music in the bar seemed to mock him. Too loud and too cheery and all about being home and in love at Christmas. He shuddered. No thanks.

Which brought him to his third mistake: choosing the bar from hell to drown his sorrows in. It wasn’t even December and yet here they all were screeching Christmas carols at the top of their tone-deaf voices. Christmas was everywhere. In the glittery tinsel that hung in loopy garlands across the ceiling and the fake tree in the corner. The soundtrack to the evening. The clothes people were wearing. Christmas was hurtling fast towards him and he was running out of time. He had so much to do to fix his first mistake before the doors of the new Russell & Co. department store opened, way behind schedule, but in time for the busiest, and therefore most lucrative time of the year.

He just needed some kind of miracle to make it happen.

On the counter his phone vibrated. He picked up and grimaced at another text, knowing what was bound to be coming but also knowing if he ignored her it would only get worse: Oliver? It’s a simple question. Blink once for yes. Twice for no. Are we finally going to meet your new girlfriend? Your mother xx.

Uh-oh. She was dropping the veiled interest and taking a more direct approach. This was serious.

He flicked a text back:

When your message flashes onto my screen it identifies you as my mother. There is also a little photo of you smiling at me at the top of your texts. You don’t need to tell me who you are.

He added two kisses, because, well, she was his mother: Ollie xx.

A pause while he watched three gray dots dance on his screen and then:

Not a single blink. How do I interpret that? We just want to see you happy. Your mother xxx

By happy, she meant married. As if you couldn’t be otherwise. Although he knew just as many people who were married and miserable as married and happy.

How was he even meant to send a blink by text anyway? He rolled his eyes instead. Nothing confirmed as yet.

Before he could say “Bah Humbug” her reply flashed on his screen:

When will you know? Your mother xx

Oliver: I don’t know.

If he told her the delightful Clarissa had moved on to a more malleable boyfriend his mum would be trying to arrange dates for him.

As if on cue another text arrived:

Is there something you’re not telling us? Is it over? So soon? Again? Oh, Oliver.

He could feel the disappointment coming through the airwaves as her next text quickly followed:

Perhaps I should invite the Henleys over on Christmas Day. I heard Arabella’s back from her Indian ashram trip and SINGLE. And stop rolling your eyes at me. Your mother xx

He couldn’t help but laugh at that, despite his growing frustration. He tried to stay noncommittal. Apparently, according to his ex, noncommittal was a strength of his:

Do NOT set any more dates up for me. Nothing’s confirmed re Xmas. I’ll let you know when I know.

Mum: At the new store opening then?

Just a matter of weeks away. She clearly wasn’t giving up. She never gave up. She wouldn’t give up until she was holding his first child. Or maybe his second—his second set of triplets.

That was the problem; she wasn’t giving up. He just needed to appease her. Or ignore her. So, he chose the latter.

Realizing he hadn’t finished his drink and grateful that the bar staff were now shuffling the off-tune singers outside, he sat back down and resumed his contemplation of the whiskey in front of him. At some point the staff would shuffle him out too, but for now he craved this brief peace and quiet, save for his mother’s infuriating but well-meaning texts and a muted conversation between the servers coming from a little room off to the side of the bar.

He could hear Paul, the guy who’d served him earlier say, “Hey, Vicki, are you OK to close up tonight? I promised Amanda I’d get home early. It’s our anniversary.”

“Of course.” A soft voice filtered through. “You helped me out by taking the early shift so I could teach my class, so I’m more than happy to hang around here for the stragglers. Sara said she’d stay on and help me clear up.”

Stragglers? Was that what he was now? Ollie looked around the bar at the three other solo drinkers—all male, all staring hopelessly into glasses of alcohol. He laughed to himself. Yeah, damned right he fitted that description; moving slowly. He didn’t want to hurry because the sooner he went home, the sooner tomorrow would arrive bringing with it all his problems.

“So how did class go today?” he heard Paul ask the owner of the soft voice. “Any more visits from the local cops?”

Police? Interesting. Ollie leaned forward to hear the mystery woman’s answer.

“Oh, that was all just a misunderstanding. Her brother gave her the iPad, Jasmine didn’t know it was stolen.” A pause. “Um. By her brother.” A rumble of soft laughter that sounded so free and bright had Ollie straining to see who the voice belonged to. It wasn’t the other woman who worked here because she was now collecting glasses from empty tables and her accent was Cockney through and through. This Vicki woman was from somewhere else. Southwest maybe, a tiny hint of something he recognized from holidays down in Cornwall. Laughter threaded through her intonation. “We sorted it out. The police dropped the charges against her.”

“So, one of the kids you’re teaching is harboring stolen goods. Great. You really need to stay away from trouble like that, Vicki.” Paul came back into the bar and started to wipe down the counter with a dishcloth.

The woman followed. “If I stayed away there’d be even more trouble for her, I’m sure. She’s so talented. You should see her designs, they’re stunning. Really fresh ideas. She could go a long way with the right guidance. I’m pulling out all the stops.”

“You’re too good to those kids.” Paul frowned. “Instead of focusing on your own career you’re spending all your energy on a bunch of no-hope teenagers who probably have never even heard the word gratitude.”

The Vicki woman turned and put her hands on her hips, giving Ollie full view of her face. Wow.

She was wearing a dress that looked like it had come straight out of the nineteen fifties; all slash neck and cinched waist in a fabric of cream and scarlet flowers. Her glossy, dark hair was loosely tied into a ponytail that was pulled forward over one shoulder. She had bright red lipstick on full lips—not smudged in the slightest, and the most intense dark eyes he’d ever seen.

In stark contrast her skin was pale; he wasn’t sure whether it was makeup or natural and he didn’t care. Oliver Russell had known a lot of beautiful women in his time, but she was next level. Quite simply, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

That gorgeous red mouth curled into a smile, but a little frown appeared over her eyes. “Paul, honestly, they’re struggling in so many ways. They have so much hope and potential and no one else seems to care. If I don’t help them, then who will?”

“I’m just saying, be careful, that’s all. Your heart’s too soft, Vicki, you’re going to get hurt.”

“It’s a fashion design class for underprivileged kids, Paul. Not target practice in the ’hood. Trouble is, we’re fast running out of opportunities for them to showcase their work. All the design schools have organized shows already and we’re lagging behind. I’m going to have to be creative with my thinking.” Her eyes wandered over the bar and settled on Oliver, just for a moment.

Instinctively, he smiled. She gave him the faintest of smiles back and didn’t look away immediately. A look of surprise flickered behind her eyes. Even from here he could see the flush of her cheeks as their gazes met and, as if someone had flicked a switch, a rush of heat hit him too. Interest. The flicker of awareness. Brief. So brief he checked himself; maybe he’d imagined it?

Excerpted from Meet Me in London by Georgia Toffolo. Copyright © 2021 by Georgia Toffolo. First published in 2020 by Mills & Boon. This edition published in 2021 by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. 

Harlequin Series Winter Tour Special Posts: Opening His Holiday Heart by Renee Ryan

Hello everyone! Throughout the next month, I am honored to be sharing some special posts sharing an upcoming holiday or winter-themed reads from Harlequin Books as part of the Harlequin Series Winter Tour 2021. Each of these posts will have this intro, followed by a prepared post featuring info on the latest book on this tour and where you can find it. I hope you will check out this amazing tour and support the authors and Harlequin Books, who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these last couple of years and can’t wait to continue reading their amazing catalog of authors. Enjoy this next selection.

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OPENING HIS HOLIDAY HEART by Renee Ryan (on-sale Nov.30, Love Inspired): With a little boy’s help, can he let go of painful memories? Casey Evans wants no part in the holidays, which is a major problem for Mayor Sutton Wentworth. Sutton has her heart set on their town winning a national Christmas contest, and Casey’s refusal to decorate his coffee shop could ruin everything. Thankfully, her precious son has worked his charms on Casey. But can one little boy—and his mother—change the mind of the local grinch?

About Renee Ryan: Renee Ryan grew up in a Florida beach town outside Jacksonville, FL.  Armed with a degree in Economics and Religion from Florida State University, she explored various career opportunities, including stints at a Florida theme park and a modeling agency. She currently lives in Savannah, Georgia with her husband and a large, fluffy cat many have mistaken for a small bear.  Renee can be contacted through her website at www.reneeryan.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Opening-His-Holiday-Heart-Inspirational-ebook/dp/B095M3R8XQ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=OPENING+HIS+HOLIDAY+HEART+by+Renee+Ryan&qid=1637073717&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opening-his-holiday-heart-renee-ryan/1139540765?ean=9781335758958 

Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335758958_opening-his-holiday-heart.html

Woulda Shoulda Coulda Guest Blog Post From Author Robert Hoffman

I am happy to share this amazing guest blog post from author Robert Hoffman, as part of his blog tour for his book, Blind Spot. Enjoy!


My father wasn’t a man prone to using cliches.  My mother, that’s a horse of a different color.  For example, if my mother heard one of her friends who was financially well off complain about money, she would say after she had left their presence, “You shouldn’t cry poverty with a loaf of bread under each arm.”  Or if you told her how crazy life was because you were so busy and stretched for time, she would say, “You know Robbie, you can’t dance at two weddings at once.”  Yes, for every occasion she was ready with a cliche’.  My father, not so much.  Oh, that’s not to say he didn’t have a few he liked to utilize if it suited the situation.  It’s just that most of his cliches were in Yiddish so it’s more about the attitude he conveyed  than the actual phrase..

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Once in a while however he would drop a well-worn expression in English if he thought it was pertinent.  One of his favorites was one of my least growing up.  You see, whenever I didn’t complete a chore I had been asked to perform, or if I brought home a report card from school that was, oh I don’t know, underwhelming let’s say, he would ask for an explanation for whatever responsibility I had failed to come through on, and in turn, had disappointed him over.  I would say, “Dad, I would have done better, except the teacher didn’t give us a fair chance to study.” Perhaps I might say that I could have done better, but I didn’t think it would be so hard.”  There was also the ever-popular, “I know I should have cleaned up the family room, but I was doing the homework that I barely had time to do.”  

At this point, he would look at me and say, with just the right amount of sarcasm and venom, “Yeah, woulda, coulda, shoulda, but you didn’t.”  It cut me to the quick I tell you.  It led me immediately towards that most depressing and fruitless of human feelings, regret.  The problem with regret is that you can’t change what you did, you can only hope to learn from what you did and do better next time.

Doug Kaplan, the protagonist in my novel, Blind Spot, has, as a result of his selfishness, done something that he is indeed regretful over, but the problem is, while he feels regretful, his regret is really for himself, and as such, he doesn’t see a way out of his predicament.  However, as Anthony Avina explains in his writing, “Hope is never out of reach.”  Hope is not out of reach for Doug Kaplan, if he’s willing to do what is necessary to reach the salvation he craves.

About Blind Spot:

In this comedy/drama, based very, very loosely on my own experiences, a middle aged father of three named Doug Kaplan appears to have it all.  An attractive and supportive wife, three healthy boys, and a successful career.  He doesn’t shy away from his responsibilities as a father or as a son to his aging parents, and he is valued and respected at work.  However, all his life he has been plagued by the accusation that he does suffer from one significant character flaw, a subtle but substantial penchant for being selfish, a flaw that he is largely oblivious to.  

Doug Kaplan’s life was progressing about as well as he could have hoped for.  In addition to his loving wife and family, he and his wife Kelly had finally purchased a house in lovely Seaford, Long Island, and while it may have been a fixer-upper, it was still going to be their dream home.  Despite his selfish streak, which by his wife’s own admission could be off-putting, he might never have found his blessed existence sidetracked, until he encountered the elderly woman next door who proved to be a seemingly unavoidable obstacle.  Who knew that their home on the cul-de-sac known as McGregor Court would be nestled next to the biggest know-it-all and budinsky in the entire Metropolitan area.  Yes, Trudy Fleischmann was a force to be reckoned with.  Emigrated from Germany as a little girl at the end of World War Two, Trudy has known suffering and sacrifice, but she is also wise and caring, and why shouldn’t she share her knowledge and opinions with the young couple who has just moved in next door.

Already having to look after Kelly’s widowed mother as well as their growing family, Doug and Kelly end up seeing their responsibilities increase exponentially as not only does Trudy’s husband Burt die, and remove the one pleasant buffer that lay between Doug and Trudy, but Doug’s father passes as well, and now he and Kelly must provide care for three elderly widows as well as their three young boys.  However Doug’s entire existence will become, much to his chagrin, inextricably tied to Trudy after he accidentally runs her over with his car one beautiful summer’s day in a supermarket parking lot.  Can Doug overcome his selfishness and provide the care and patience that the badly injured Trudy requires?  Doug’s family, career, and sense of who he is as a person are all on the line as he tries to summon his better angels and do the right thing.  

Purchase your copy now available on Amazon. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list too.

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About the Author

It’s about time somebody asked that question.  Rob Hoffman is originally from a town on Long Island called North Massapequa.  He attended SUNY Oswego where he majored in Communications, a degree that it turned out he had little use for.  He did however meet  the woman who would eventually become my wife, the former Michelle Lindell.  Rob and Michelle lived in the aptly named Flushing, Queens for six years before moving to a town called Clifton Park, New York just south of Saratoga Springs.  Finding little value in his degree in communications, Rob became a social studies teacher, teaching in Long Island City, Queens for four years before spending the remainder of his career in Rensselaer, New York, a small city on the banks of the Hudson River just across the water from Albany.  Rob taught for 31 years before retiring in June of 2021, only to come back as a part-time teacher in September of 2021 at Rensselaer High School.  Rob had always been interested in becoming a writer and he began his blogging career as a contributor at the “Times Union” of Albany for six years.  In this time Rob also blogged for a variety of sites including Fark.com, Crooks and Liars.com, Albany.com, and Knees and Fists.com.  Rob has remained happily married to Michelle for 34 years and counting, and has two grown sons, Andrew and Alex, ages 29 and 23.  Most recently, Rob and Michelle became grandparents to the newest addition to the family, Sam Hoffman, son of Andrew and his wife Katie.

“Blind Spot” represents Rob’s first true attempt at writing fiction, an experience Rob both fun and exhausting.  Rob had thrown around several ideas as he began to think about what it was he wanted to write about, and then one day his wife had sent him to the supermarket on an errand where he saw somebody he really didn’t want to spend anytime talking to, so he raced out of the store, got in his car, turned it on, slammed it into reverse and was about to speed out of the spot when he stopped himself and said, “Dumb-ass, be careful, you could hit somebody.”  Then, as Rob began to slowly and carefully pull out of his parking spot, he thought for another second and it occurred to him how ironic it would be if he accidentally hit the person he was trying to get away from and “Blind Spot” was born.  The character of Doug Kaplan, while not autobiographical, is sort of based on the best and worst of Rob’s traits.  Doug is at times the guy Rob always wanted to be, and yet at the same time, Doug also represented the guy Rob was relieved to know he never became. The other characters according to Rob are combinations of people that he knew from his childhood, as well as college and work experiences. 

Follow the author online at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robert.s.hoffman.7/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/burtpurdy

Linked-in – https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-hoffman-43999348/

Instagram – hoffman_files

Website – https://thehoffmanfiles.wixsite.com/website

— Blog Tour Calendar

November 22nd @ The Muffin  

Join us at The Muffin for an author interview, giveaway, and blog tour launch post for Robert Hoffman’s “The Blind Spot”

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

November 23rd @ Lisa Haselton Book Reviews and Interviews

Today, Lisa Haselton interviews Robert Hoffman about his humorous work of fiction titled “Blind Spot”. Find out more about this debut novel and it’s author!

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

November 24th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples

Readers at Choices will hear from guest author Robert Hoffman with his post titled ” Man Plans and God Laughs “. Don’t miss this guest post and an opportunity to hear about Hoffman’s debut novel “Blind Spot”. 

http://madelinesharples.com/

November 26th @ The Faerie Review

“The Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman is the highlighted book today at the Faerie Review – don’t miss a chance to learn more this work of humorous fiction by an accomplished blogger!

https://www.thefaeriereview.com/

November 29th @ Word Magic with Fiona Ingram

Robert Hoffman pens today’s guest post at Word Magic (fellow author Fiona Ingram’s blog). Don’t miss this great article titled: “Sorry isn’t Enough” and an opportunity to learn more about Robert and his latest work of humorous fiction – “Blind Spot”. 

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 2nd @ The Knotty Needle

Judy reviews “Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman for readers at the Knotty Needle. Don’t miss this opportunity find out more about Hoffman’s humorous work of fiction! 

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

December 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird

“Do I Have a Story to Tell” is today’s post at Beverley A. Baird. This post is penned by none other than Robert Hoffman who recently released “Blind Spot”, a humorous novel readers are raving about! Don’t miss your chance to learn more from Hoffman himself! 

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

December 4th @ Author Anthony Avina

Readers at Anthony’s blog will delight in today’s guest post “Woulda Coulda Shoulda” by author Robert Hoffman. Don’t miss this guest post and opportunity to learn more about Hoffman’s new book “Blind Spot”. Stop back in a few days (on the 11th) to read Author Anthony Avina’s review of “The Blind” spot as well! 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 7th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles

Readers at World of My Imagination are in for a special treat! Not only is Nicole going to review “Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman, but she also will be offering a giveaway! This is your chance to learn more about this humorous book and maybe even snag a copy of your own!

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

December 9th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto

Crystal Otto reviews “Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman for readers at Bring on Lemons – Otto has hinted that she would give this book 5 stars and said “it made me laugh out loud so often” – so don’t miss your chance to hear more about this debut novel!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 11th @ Author Anthony Avina

Fellow Author Anthony Avina reviews “Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman. 

http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 14th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro

Fellow Author Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her thoughts about Robert Hoffman’s “Blind Spot”. Find out what an accomplished Memoirist and Psychotherapist thinks of this humorous work of fiction.

http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

December 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte

Michelle DelPonte, a Wisconsin mother, healthcare worker, autism advocate, and history buff shares her review of “Blind Spot” by Robert Hoffman. You won’t want to miss Michelle’s insight into this humorous book! 

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 16th @ Bring on Lemons with 14 Year Old Carmen Otto

14 year old Carmen Otto heard her mom laughing out loud while reading “Blind Spot” and couldn’t help from grabbing a copy to read for herself. Find out what a young reader things of this debut novel by Robert Hoffman!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 18th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen

Wisconsin business owner and educator Cathy Hansen offers insight into what she thought after reading Robert Hoffman’s debut novel “Blind Spot”. Will this be a lemon or sweet lemonade? Stop by Bring on Lemons to find out!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 24th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog

Stop by Jill Sheet’s Blog today and hear from Robert Hoffman as he pens his guest post titled “Aren’t We All Just a Little Bit Selfish?” just in time for the holidays! Learn more about this topic as well as Hoffman’s novel “Blind Spot”! 

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

Backstage Benefits by LaQuette Featured Post

Hello everyone! Throughout the next month, I am honored to be sharing some special posts sharing an upcoming holiday or winter-themed reads from Harlequin Books as part of the Harlequin Series Winter Tour 2021. Each of these posts will have this intro, followed by a prepared post featuring info on the latest book on this tour and where you can find it. I hope you will check out this amazing tour and support the authors and Harlequin Books, who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these last couple of years and can’t wait to continue reading their amazing catalog of authors. Enjoy this next selection.

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BACKSTAGE BENEFITS by LaQuette (on-sale Nov.30, Harlequin Desire): When show business leads to secret pleasures, how can they resist in this Devereaux Inc. novel by LaQuette.Their daytime partnership sets the night on fire. Who said they can’t have it all? Lyric Smith didn’t become the nation’s most successful lifestyle guru by losing focus. Yet Josiah Manning, daytime television’s hottest—and sexiest—young Black producer makes her do just that. Publicly, Josiah wants Lyric to star in a new talk show. Privately, he’s headlining her sexiest fantasies. But when their explosive chemistry leads to complications instead of contracts, will Lyric find the ultimate partner to help her crush her rivals…or exit stage left alone?

About LaQuette:An activist for DEIA in the romance industry, LaQuette writes bold stories featuring multicultural characters. Her writing style brings intellect to the drama. She crafts emotionally epic tales that are deeply pigmented by reality’s paintbrush. This Brooklyn native’s novels are a unique mix of savvy, sarcastic, brazen, & unapologetically sexy characters who are confident in their right to appear on the page. Find her at LaQuette.com & at LaQuette@LaQuette.com.

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Backstage-Benefits-Devereaux-Inc-2/dp/133573533X/ref=tmm_mmp_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1637071199&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/backstage-benefits-laquette/1139481805?ean=9781335735331
Harlequin.com: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335735331_backstage-benefits.html 

Her Christmas Dilemma by Brenda Minton Featured Post

Hello everyone! Throughout the next month, I am honored to be sharing some special posts sharing an upcoming holiday or winter-themed reads from Harlequin Books as part of the Harlequin Series Winter Tour 2021. Each of these posts will have this intro, followed by a prepared post featuring info on the latest book on this tour and where you can find it. I hope you will check out this amazing tour and support the authors and Harlequin Books, who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with these last couple of years and can’t wait to continue reading their amazing catalog of authors. Enjoy this next selection.

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HER CHRISTMAS DILEMMA by Brenda Minton (on-sale Nov.30, Love Inspired): Searching for a safe haven and a new beginning. Returning home for the holidays after an unexpected pregnancy, Clara Fisher needs a fresh start. And working as a housekeeper for Tucker Church and his teenage niece is the first step. Clara still has hard choices to make, but Tucker might be just the person to help her forget her fears. Could the path to her new future also lead to love?

About BRENDA MINTON: Brenda Minton lives in the Ozarks. She’s a wife, mom to three, foster mom to five and grandma to a princess.  Life is chaotic but she enjoys every minute of it with her family and a few too many dogs. When not writing she’s drinking coffee on the patio, wrangling kids or escaping for an evening out  with her husband.  Visit her online at http://www.brendaminton.net

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Her-Christmas-Dilemma-Uplifting-Inspirational-ebook/dp/B095M2YFQ6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=HER+CHRISTMAS+DILEMMA+by+Brenda+Minton&qid=1637073679&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-christmas-dilemma-brenda-minton/1139540763?ean=9781335758934 

Harlequin.com:  https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335409577_her-christmas-dilemma.html 

Interview with Author Neil McKee for Kid on the Go! 

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I started my career as a volunteer teacher in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo) during 1968-70. There, I became an international filmmaker and later a multimedia producer, working for development agencies and living in or traveling to countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Russia until 2013. I had written three technical books and many journal articles during my career, for example on the role of communication in defeating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But I never had time to write creatively until I retired. I started by taking an evening course and drafting stories at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland. After my wife and I moved to Albuquerque in 2015, I attended Master’s-level workshops in creative nonfiction and poetry at the University of New Mexico. That’s when I started writing my Borneo travel memoir, Finding Myself in Borneo, and another travel memoir on my ancestors, Guns and Gods in My Genes. These have both won awards. Simultaneously, I also began drafting short pieces of what became Kid on the Go! for review by my professor and fellow students in those workshops, and revised them after feedback. So, it’s my third book from to be released from the time I became a creative writer. 

2) What inspired you to write your book?

I spent the first 19 years of my life in Elmira, Ontario, Canada—a formative place for me. It’s where I learned life skills which helped me as I went farther and farther away from my hometown. As I recall in my memoir, I had to work for monetary rewards from a very young age. My father’s father was killed in a farm accident in 1933 and my dad and most of his brothers had to quit school and take over the farm. In spite of this, they all became successful businessmen. Only one of them stayed on the farm. So, my role models included men who overcame obstacles and succeeded in life by using their brains. But I also had a lot of fun and great freedom in Elmira and that sometimes got me into trouble with authority figures of all kinds—especially in my rebellious teenage years. Such experiences are life skills building too. I have dedicated the book “To my late parents. Russell and Alma McKee, who gave me the time and space to wonder, and wander far from home.”  

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that readers conclude that it is possible to write an interesting childhood and/or youth memoir even if you had loving parents, supportive siblings, and haven’t suffered from abuse, neglect, discrimination, war, terror, etc. So many top-selling memoirs are written by people who have beaten such odds and risen to a successful life, accomplishing great things. But many more of us have stories worth telling if we dig into our memories and let our creative juices flow. It does help to have an antagonist to fight against. In my case, it was my hometown’s polluted environment in which I lived from 1945 to 1965—a chemical factory that produced insecticides and herbicides, the latter employed in the making Agent Orange for the American Army’s use in Vietnam. Although few people in town knew about that ugly fact at the time, we all knew the place often stank from by-products of that factory, as well as a fertilizer plant, a foundry, and more—all proud signs of the post-war boom. The pollution provided conflict in my stories, allowing me to use the theme of “escape” by just about any means possible—finding various routes out of town, fishing, hunting, building or renovating “escape vehicles,” working on my dad’s farm in the summer, dreaming about girls instead of paying attention in school, confronting authority in my teenage “rock n’ roll” years, being introduced to philosophy and Zen Buddhism in senior high school, taking “existential leaps” out of airplanes, going out West to Calgary, Alberta for clear air, big blue skies, and mountains to complete my B.A., and finally leaving Canada in 1968 for the verdant Island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

By genre, I believe you mean creative nonfiction memoir. I was drawn to it because I have had such a rich and varied experience in life, both in my formative years and my 45-year career traveling and working all around the globe. In my mid-70s, I am lucky to have the health and good memory to write about experiences in a creative, nonlinear way. During my career, I wrote technical books and articles in my field and wanted to do something different in my final decades. Creative nonfiction seemed to be a natural thing for me. I was never much interested in fiction, except for watching movies for relaxation. 

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5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Quite frankly, I am not sure. I do post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, linking people to my website, hopefully. But I haven’t seen evidence that this drives up sales. I have a large email list which I use to send out updates when I have something significant to announce. Social media might increase your visibility in google searches. But I’m of the opinion that most people only spend a few seconds on each post in this age of minimum attention span. I love to present and discuss issues in person or on zoom and connect with potential readers that way. I also take my books on blog and review tours, like WOW! Women in Writing; enter contests and try different innovative ways such as Shepherd.com: https://shepherd.com/best-books/exotic-asian-travel

https://shepherd.com/best-books/to-understand-the-true-founding-of-america

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

a) Be prepared for very hard work. I put in about seven hours of research, writing, corresponding, and promotion each day. b) Get reviews from readers and other writers before you publish, and make revisions accordingly, if you feel they are helpful. After all, readers should know. In my former communication work we call it “pretesting.” c) If you have five or more years to wait, you can try to get a publisher. I had a couple of late offers for my Borneo memoir but the companies involved wanted to start over on the editing and didn’t want to put any money into promotion. So I set up my own company and employ a good literary editor, copy editor/proofreader, and designer. I print and distribute through IngramSpark. This company sends out your book and e-book files to many distributors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, a chain bookstore in Canada called Indigo.com, to many other ebook distributors, and my books are available through most independent bookstores and libraries. It is one way to begin no matter what age you are. You have to be prepared to put a lot of time into promotion, however. I think that is the case for any author because every day about 1,000 new titles are released in all genres in North American. 

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I have completed over half of the first draft of my next manuscript on my career as an international filmmaker and multimedia producer, working for two Canadian development agencies, UNICEF, Johns Hopkins University, and my last job in an agency called FHI360 in Washington, D.C., where I was director of a communication project with 150 staff and a large budget. 

During my career, I lived for four years in Malaysia, four years in Bangladesh, seven years in Kenya and Uganda (East Africa), and my last overseas posting was in Moscow, Russia during 2004-2007. Besides that, I traveled to about 80 countries on short-term assignments. All this has given me significant experience in learning about the issues within so many fields of endeavor that aim to improve human life in the developing world: volunteering during your youth; the role of science and technology in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture; finding solutions for delivering health care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene; empowering girls, women, and young people to take charge of the their lives, while attempting to change the behaviors and social norms that restrict them from reaching their full potential. I think there’s a good story here. I’ve set up a website on my main projects, including most of the videos, comic books, and other media products that I have been able to retrieve, so far. 

My challenge is to write about my career creatively and coherently in a way that will entertain and educate—that is, make readers smile, wonder, and think about the present state of our planet. I am also including thoughts on what was achieved or wasn’t achieved in the projects I documented or created, my advancement in skills, personal development, marriage and family life, and memories of many of the people I met in my travels and those who influenced me and propelled my way forward. 

I hope to complete this book by the end of 2022. In the meantime, I also want to begin a new writing project, probably involving travel through New Mexico and America’s Southwest. That project is gradually taking shape through reading and thinking about the history, ethnicities, and cultures I have encountered here.

Book Summary

In this new book, McKee takes readers on a journey through his childhood, adolescence, and teenage years from the mid-40s to the mid-60s, in the small, then industrially-polluted town of Elmira, Ontario, Canada—one of the centers of production for Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. 

McKee’s vivid descriptions, dialog, and self-drawn illustrations are a study of how a young boy learned to play and work, fish and hunt, avoid dangers, cope with death, deal with bullies, and to build or restore “escape” vehicles. You may laugh out loud as the author recalls his exploding hormones, attraction to girls, rebellion against authority, and survival of 1960s’ “rock & roll” culture—emerging on the other side as a youth leader. 

After leaving Elmira, McKee describes his intensely searching university years, trying to decide which career path to follow. Except for a revealing postscript, the story ends when he accepts a volunteer teaching position on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia.

Purchase your copy now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list too.

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About the Author

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Neill McKee is a creative nonfiction writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has written and published three books in this genre since 2015. His latest work is Kid on the Go! Memoir of My Childhood and Youth, a humorous and poignant account of his growing up in an industrially-polluted town in Ontario, Canada, and his university years. This memoir is a stand-alone prequel to his first travel memoir Finding Myself in Borneo: Sojourns in Sabah (2019) on his first overseas adventures in Sabah, Malaysia (North Borneo), where he served as a Canadian volunteer teacher and program administrator during 1968-70 and 1973-74. This book won the 2019 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Biography–(other than a New Mexico/Arizona subject) and a Bronze Medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (Ippy Awards). 

In late 2020, McKee also released Guns and Gods in my Genes: A 15,000-mile North American search through four centuries of history, to the Mayflower—an entertaining account of how he searched for his roots in Canada and the US, in which he employs vivid descriptions, dialog, poetic prose, analytical opinion, photos and illustrations. In this work, McKee slowly uncovers his American grandmother’s lineage—ancestors who were involved in almost every major war on North American soil and others, including a passenger on the Mayflower, as well as heroes, villains, rascals, and ordinary godly folk. Through his search, McKee exposes myths and uncovers facts about the true founding of America.

McKee, who holds a B.A. Degree from the University of Calgary and a Masters in Communication from Florida State University, lived and worked in Asia, Africa, Russia and traveled to over 80 countries on assignments during his 45-year international career. He became an expert in communication and directed/produced a number of award-winning documentary films/videos, and wrote a many articles and books in the field. McKee is now busy writing another travel memoir on his career. He does readings/book signings and presentations with or without photos. He prefers lively interactive sessions.

Follow the author online at:

Author’s website: www.neillmckeeauthor.com

Kid on the Go! book page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/kid-on-the-go

Kid on the go! buy page: www.neillmckeeauthor.com/buy-3

Author’s digital library: www.neillmckeevideos.com/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/neill-mckee-b9971b65/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/McKeeNeill/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MckeeNeill

NBFS: www.northborneofrodotolkien.org

— Blog Tour Calendar

November 8th @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the launch of Neill McKee’s newest memoir, Kid on the Go. Come by and read an interview with the author, find out more about his newest book, and enter to win a copy for yourself.

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

November 10th @ Quiet Fury Books

Visit Darcia’s blog today where she features an excerpt from Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://quietfurybooks.com/

November 12th @ Choices

Visit Madeline’s blog and read Neill McKee’s guest post on surviving the 1960’s Rock n’ Roll culture.

https://madelinesharples.com/

November 15th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and read her insights into Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

November 15th @ Katherine Itacy’s Blog

Stop by Katherine and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!. You can also enter to win a copy of the book for yourself too!

https://katherineitacy.com/

November 17th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Join Beverley as she features a guest post by author Neill McKee on issues on writing about your hometown. 

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

November 20th @ Sweet Silly Sara

Visit Sara’s blog and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.sweetsillysara.com/

November 24th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Visit Beverley’s blog again and read her review of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

November 24th @ C. Lee McKenzie

Join C. Lee McKenzie today as she interviews author Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.cleemckenziebooks.com/blog/

November 26th @ StoreyBook Reviews

Visit Leslie’s blog where she shares an excerpt of Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://storeybookreviews.com/

November 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Join Anthony as he interviews Neill McKee, author of the memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/category/interviews/

December 2nd @ The Mommies Reviews

Visit Glenda’s blog today where she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://www.themommiesreviews.com/

December 4th @ Mother Daughter Bookclub

Join Cindy today when she reviews Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://motherdaughterbookclub.com/

December 5th @ Fiona Ingram’s Blog

Join Fiona today when she shares Neill McKee’s guest post on writing a memoir in a youth’s voice but with present-day adult reflections.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 7th @ CK Sorens’ Blog

Make sure to stop by CK Sorens’ blog today and check out a feature of Neill McKee’s memoir and enter to win a copy of the book too.

https://www.cksorens.com/blog

December 8th @ World of My Imagination

Join Nicole as she shares her thoughts about Neill McKee’s memoir Kid on the Go!. You’ll also have the chance to win a copy for yourself too.

https://worldofmyimagination.com/

December 10th @ Bookshine and Readbows

Join Steph as she shares Neill McKee’s guest post about how mentors changed his life.

December 10th @ Jill Sheets’ Blog

Join Jill as she interviews Neill McKee and features his memoir Kid on the Go!.

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again as he shares his thoughts on Neill McKee’s newest memoir Kid on the Go!.

https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/category/reviews/

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COVER REVEAL: Tangents & Tachyons by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Tangents & Tachyons - J. Scott Coatsworth

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi collection out: Tangents & Tachyons. And there’s a giveaway!

Tangents & Tachyons is Scott’s second anthology – six sci fi and sci-fantasy shorts that run the gamut from time travel to hopepunk and retro spec fic:

Eventide: Tanner Black awakes to find himself in his own study, staring out the window at the end of the Universe. But who brought him there, and why?

Chinatown: Deryn lives in an old San Francisco department store with his girlfriend Gracie, and scrapes by with his talent as a dreamcaster for the Chinese overlords. But what if a dream could change the world?

Across the Transom: What if someone or something took over your body on an urgent mission to save your world?

Pareidolia: Simon’s not like other college kids. His mind can rearrange random patterns to reveal the images lurking inside. But where did his strange gift come from? And what if there are others like him out there too?

Lamplighter: Fen has a crush on his friend Lewin, who’s in a competing guild. But when the world goes dark, only a little illumination can save it. And only Fen, Lewin and their friend Alissa can light the spark. A Liminal Sky short.

Prolepsis: Sean is the closeted twenty-five-year-old editor of an 80’s sci-fi ‘zine called Prolepsis. When an unabashedly queer story arrives from a mysterious writer, it blows open Sean’s closet door, and offers him the chance to change the world – and the future.

Plus two flash fiction stories – The System and The Frog Prince, never before published.

This is the first time all of these stories have all been collected in one place.

Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Scribd | Thalia | Vivlio


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a full set of his previously self-published eBooks to one lucky winner:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47214/?


Excerpt

From Pareidolia

(Never Before Published)

Simon slammed the lid on his sugar-free, two-pump, pulse-heated vanilla latte, before he might accidentally get a good look at the pattern on the coffee’s surface.

Ethan, the barista, usually covered it for him, but he’d forgotten this time. Simon, distracted by the coffee shop’s textured wall, had almost missed it.

He’d jerked his gaze away when the whorls and lines in the plaster had shifted into a mountain landscape. He looked around as casually as he could manage, hoping no one had noticed the wall moving.

Simon put his prescription glasses back on. They blurred his vision just enough to block his curse from shifting any other patterns. If anyone ever found out what he could do, they’d stick him in a cage like a lab rat.

Fooling the optometrist had been easy enough—he’d just pretended that the clear letters were fuzzy and vice versa. Unfortunately, they made the handsome barista fuzzy too.

Simon sighed under his breath. An imperfect solution to an unwanted gift. He waved. “Have a good one.”

“You too.” Ethan winked at him.

Simon hurried out of the Student Union, keeping his eyes pointed forward, avoiding the patterns that flocked to him like birds to seed—clouds in the sky, the grains of wood on a table… even the swirls on Tracey Martin’s designer bag in class. He emerged into the fresh morning air, ducking as a drone zipped past overhead carrying a pizza to someone’s dorm.

He’d learned to control his curse in elementary school. Mostly. The glasses helped, and if he blurred his vision when the patterns started to become actual things, they stopped. Usually. Still, he’d gone to detention more than once for, “whatever you just did to your desk.”

There was a name for seeing things in random patterns—pareidolia. But most people didn’t seem to do it so literally.

“Ally, what’s the time?”

His PA responded in his ear in her usual chipper Italian accent. -It’s eleven-fifty-seven, Simon. You have a class in three minutes.-

“Crap.” He ran down the steps, knocking the wallet out of a woman’s hands. He grabbed it and tossed it to her. “Sorry!”

Then he bolted down the sidewalk, dodging a group of students flicking data over their wrists, and leapt like a track star over a short hedge to shave off fifteen seconds.

One of the Sac State professors shouted after him, “Slow down!”

“Sorry! Late for a lecture!” He hated being late—it drew attention to himself, and he liked to blend in. Plus, it’s a damned good course.

Professor Dandrich’s course—Finding Meaning in Interstellar Noise—was one of his favorites. If he could just find a job like that where he could use his strange ability…

Simon slipped into the hall and slammed into his seat in the front row of the lecture hall at a minute past noon, splashing his latte all over his arm. “Dammit.”

Everyone turned to look at him, and heat rushed to his face. So much for blending in.


Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth Avatar

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jscottcoatsworth/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

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The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young Jewish woman working in secret as a Christmas romance writer must delve back into her Jewish roots to sell a book about Hanukkah while contending with a childhood rival, while discovering things may not be as contentious as she once thought in author Jean Meltzer’s “The Matzah Ball”.

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The Synopsis

Oy! to the world

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.

But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.

Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book! It was so engaging right from the beginning. The author did a brilliant job of crafting a narrative that was exciting and allowed readers to find themselves within the throng of characters the author crafted. Of course, the big hook and amazing twist on this holiday read was the focus on Hanukkah and the Jewish community, which often gets overlooked during this time of year. The tight-knit community within the Jewish people and the emphasis on culture within the narrative were so refreshing and heartwarming to read. 

The characters were the show stealers of this read to be sure. What was so interesting, and something I always enjoy is when a writer crafts a narrative that features such a diverse cast of characters that we could find someone in the narrative to identify with for one reason or another. As someone with several chronic diseases, seeing protagonist Rachel’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome and the struggle with how she is perceived by others is a struggle I am all too familiar with, and it was great to see that representation in the book. The chemistry and heated moments, both good and bad, between Rachel and Jacob, were truly memorable and allowed the story to feel very cinematic in its approach.

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The Verdict

A heartfelt, emotional, and entertaining twist on the holiday romance genre, author Jean Meltzer’s “The Matzah Ball” is a must-read novel this winter. The perfect holiday read the author created a book filled with vivid imagery, captivating characters, and memorable representation that will make all readers feel welcome. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Author Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch, and served as creative director at Tapestry International, garnering numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. Like her protagonist, Jean is also a chronically-ill and disabled Jewish woman. She is an outspoken advocate for ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), has attended visibility actions in Washington DC, meeting with members of Senate and Congress to raise funds for ME/CFS. She inspires 9,000 followers on WW Connect to live their best life, come out of the chronic illness closet, and embrace the hashtag #chronicallyfabulous. Also, while she was raised in what would be considered a secular home, she grew up kosher and attended Hebrew School. She spent five years in Rabbinical School.

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Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @JeanMeltzerAuthor

Instagram: @JeanMeltzer

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Here is an Excerpt from “The Matzah Ball”

1

She just needed one more.

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt stared at the collection of miniature Christmas figurines spread across her desk. She owned 236 of the smiling porcelain Santas from the world-famous Holiday Dreams Collection. When her best friend, Mickey, arrived, she would complete that collection with the addition of the coveted Margaritaville Santa.

Oh, the Margaritaville Santa. How she had dreamed of the day when that tiny porcelain Santa, in a Hawaiian shirt and wear-ing Ray-Ban sunglasses, would sit atop her prized collection.

Rachel had scoured eBay for the tiny limited-edition figurine, set up price alerts and left frantic (somewhat drunken) posts at three in the morning on collector blogs. Now, after six years, five months and seven days of hunting, the Margaritaville Santa would finally be hers.

The anxiety was killing her.

Rachel glanced out the window of her apartment. It was snowing outside. Gentle flakes fell down onto Broadway and made New York City feel magical. She was wondering when Mickey would actually get here when there was a knock at the door.

“Finally!” Rachel said. Excitement bubbled up inside her as she raced to the front door, throwing it open. And then, disappointment. Her mother stood in the threshold.

“I was in the neighborhood,” she said, a perfectly innocent smile spread across her two round cheeks.

Her mother was always in the neighborhood.

It was one of the downsides of living on the Upper West Side while her mother, a top New York fertility specialist, worked out of Columbia Hospital just ten blocks away.

Rachel had to think quickly. She loved her mother, and was even willing to entertain her completely intrusive and unannounced visits, but the door to her home office was still open.

“Mickey’s about to stop by,” Rachel warned.

“I won’t be but a minute,” her mother said, lifting up a plastic bag from Ruby’s Smoked Fish Shop as a peace offering. “I brought you some dinner.”

Dr. Rubenstein pushed her way inside, letting her fingers graze the mezuzah on Rachel’s doorpost before entering. Making her way straight to the refrigerator, she began unloading “dinner.”

There was a large vat of chopped liver, two loaves of pum-pernickel bread, three different types of rugalach. Dr. Ruben-stein believed in feeding the people you love, and the love she had for her daughter was likely to end in heart disease.

“How are you feeling?” her mother inquired.

“Fine,” Rachel said, using the opportunity to close her office door.

Dr. Rubenstein looked up from the refrigerator. Her eyes rolled from Rachel’s hair, matted and clumped, down to her wrinkled pink pajamas.

She frowned. “You look pale.”

“I am pale,” Rachel reminded her.

“Rachel,” her mother said pointedly, “you need to take your myalgic encephalomyelitis seriously.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. Outside, the gentle snow was gathering into a full-blown storm.

Dr. Rubenstein was probably one of the few people who called Rachel’s disease by its medical term, the name research scientists and experts preferred, describing the complex mul-tisystem disease that affected her neurological, immune, autonomic and metabolic systems. Most everyone else in the world knew it by the simple and distasteful moniker chronic fatigue syndrome.

Which was, quite possibly, the most trivializing name for a disease in the entire world. The equivalent of calling Alzheimer’s “Senior Moment Syndrome.”

It did not begin to remotely describe the crushing fatigue, migraines, brain fog or weirdo pains that Rachel lived with daily. It certainly did not describe the 25 percent of patients who found themselves bed-bound or homebound—existing on feeding tubes, unable to leave dark rooms for years—or the 75 percent of patients who could no longer work full-time.

For now, however, Rachel was one of the lucky ones. She had managed to graduate college with a degree in creative writing and, over the last decade, build a career working from home.

“Ema,” Rachel said, growing frustrated. “My body, my choice.”

“But—”

“Change the topic.”

Dr. Rubenstein pressed her lips together and swallowed the words on her tongue. It was not an easy feat for the woman. “And how’s work?”

“Good.” Rachel shrugged, returning to the couch. “Noth-ing that interesting to report.”

“And the freelance work you’re doing—” her mother craned her neck to peep around her apartment “—it’s keeping you busy?”

“Busy enough.”

Dr. Rubenstein raised one eyebrow in her daughter’s di-rection.

Rachel knew what her mother was really asking. How can you afford a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side simply by doing freelance editorial work? But Dr. Rubenstein had learned an important halachic lesson from her husband, Rabbi Aaron Goldblatt, early on in their marriage; you don’t ask questions you don’t really want the answers to.

For all Rachel knew, her mother believed her to be a web-cam girl. Or a high-class prostitute. Or the mistress of some dashingly handsome Arabian prince. All of which, Rachel was certain, would be preferable to what she actually did for a living.

“Ema,” Rachel said, steering the conversation away from her career. “What is it you’re really here for?”

“Why do you always think I have an ulterior motive, Rachel?”

“Because I know you.”

“All right!” Dr. Rubenstein threw her hands up into the air. “You caught me. I do have an ulterior motive.”

Baruch Hashem.”

“Now, it’s nothing bad, I promise,” her mother said, taking a seat on her couch. “I simply wanted to see if you were available for Shabbat dinner this Friday?”

There it was. The real reason for her mother’s visit. Shab-bat at Rabbi Goldblatt’s house was not just a weekly religious occurrence, it was a chance for Dr. Rubenstein to kidnap her daughter for twenty-five hours straight and force her to meet single Jewish men.

Over the years, there had been all sorts of horrible setups. There was the luxury auto dealer who used his sleeve as a napkin during dinner. The rabbinical student who spent an entire Saturday afternoon debating aloud with only her father over what to do when an unkosher meatball falls into a pot of kosher meatballs.

And then, there was her favorite blind date setup of them all. Dovi, the Israeli mountain climber, who had traveled the world in his perfectly healthy and functioning body, before telling Rachel that he didn’t think chronic fatigue syndrome was a real disease.

Chas v’chalilah.

Rachel had no intention of spending another Friday night, and Saturday afternoon, entertaining her mother’s idea of a dreamboat. Especially not when that dreamboat had the word Titanic embroidered across the bottom of their knitted kippah.

“No,” Rachel said.

“Rachel!” her mother pleaded. “Just hear me out.”

“I’m too busy, Ema.”

“But you haven’t been home in ages!”

“You live in Long Island,” Rachel shot back. “I see you and Daddy all the time.”

Her mother could not argue with this factoid.

“Jacob Greenberg will be coming,” her mother finally said. Rachel nearly choked on her tongue. “What?”

“You remember Jacob Greenberg?”

The question sounded so innocent on the surface. Jacob Greenberg. How could Rachel forget the name? The duo had spent one summer together at Camp Ahava in the Berkshires before the seventh grade.

“Jacob Greenberg?” Rachel spit back. “The psychopath who spent an entire summer pulling my hair and pushing me into the lake?”

“I recall you two getting along quite well at one point.”

“He set me up in front of everyone, Mom. He turned my first kiss into a giant Camp Ahava prank!”

“He was twelve!” Dr. Rubenstein was on her feet now. “Twelve, Rachel. You can’t hold a grown man accountable for something he did as a child. For heaven’s sake… The boy hadn’t even had his bar mitzvah.”

Rachel could feel the red rising in her cheeks. A wellspring of complicated emotions rose up inside her. Hate and love. Confusion and excitement. Just hearing his name again after all these years brought Rachel smack-dab back to her ado-lescence. And sitting there beside all those terrible memories of him humiliating her were the good ones. Rachel couldn’t help herself. She drifted back to that summer.

The way it felt to hold his hand in secret. The realiza-tion that there was more to their relationship than just dumb pranks and dead bugs left in siddurs. Jacob had gotten Rachel to open up. She had trusted him. Showed him a side of herself reserved for a select few. Aside from Mickey, she had never been so honest with anybody in her entire life.

Dr. Rubenstein dismissed her daughter’s concerns with a small wave of the hand. “It was eighteen years ago. Don’t you think you’re being a tad ridiculous?”

“Me?” Rachel scoffed. “You’re the one who’s hosting my summer camp archenemy for Shabbat.”

“He’s in town from Paris for some big event he’s throwing. What would you have me do—not invite him?”

“While you’re at it, don’t forget to invite Dana Shoshan-ski. She made me cry every day in third grade. In fact, let me get you a list of all the people who made fun of me for being Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt growing up. I want to make sure you don’t miss anybody.”

Her mother did not blink. “I’m sorry it was hard for you…being our daughter.”

Just like that, her mother had twisted all those feelings back around on her.

Rachel bit back her words, looking up to the ceiling. She loved her parents more than anything in the world. They had been there for her at every stage of her life, doting and won-derful. Still, the Rubenstein-Goldblatt name came with pres-sures. They were pressures that, even as an adult, still managed to follow her.

A knock at the door drew their attention away.

“Let me get that for you,” Dr. Rubenstein said sweetly, ris-ing from the couch.

“Ho, ho, ho-oooooooh… .” Mickey said, standing at the door, his smile fading into panic. He was holding a medium-sized red gift bag in the air. He glanced at Rachel, who sig-naled the immediate danger by running one finger across her throat. Quickly Mickey hid the bag behind his back.

“Dr. Rubenstein!” he said, his eyes wide. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Not to worry, Mickey,” Dr. Rubenstein said, adjusting her scarf. “I was just getting ready to leave.” She turned back to her daughter one last time. “Just think about coming to din-ner, okay? Daddy and I won’t be around forever, and there may come a time in your life when you miss spending Shab-bat at your parents’ house.”

Mickey waited for the door to shut firmly behind him and the elevator at the end of the hall to ding before turning to his best friend. “Whoa,” he said. “That woman is a pro when it comes to Jewish guilt.”

“Tell me about it,” Rachel said, collapsing on the couch.“So what did our fine rebbetzin want this evening?” Mickey asked, taking his boots and jacket off at the front door.

“You’ll never believe it if I tell you.”

To everyone that knew them, it seemed that Mickey and Rachel had been bashert, soul mates, since time immemorial, having met at Camp Ahava when they were eight years old.

Since Rachel couldn’t be sure what drew the pair together, she assumed it had something to do with how other people at their camp had treated them. Mikael, the adopted son of a powerhouse lesbian couple from Manhattan, was Black. And Rachel, as everyone who met her cared to remind her, was the daughter of Rabbi Aaron Goldblatt. The Rabbi Aaron Goldblatt.

Whether they liked it or not, when Mickey and Rachel walked into a room, people noticed them. People watched them. This shared experience formed the basis of their com-radery and, later, extended far beyond Jewish summer camp.

“She wanted to set me up with Jacob Greenberg,” Rachel said.

Mickey finished pulling off his boots. “Jacob Greenberg? From Camp Ahava?”

“The one and only.”

“Wow,” Mickey said, coming over to sit beside Rachel. “That’s a name I haven’t heard in forever. Didn’t he give you mono?”

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut. She did not want to think about that first kiss with Jacob Greenberg. “Can we seriously not talk about this right now? I’ve waited seven long years for this moment, Mickey…and just like some of the other most important moments of my life, Jacob Greenberg is ruining it.”

“You’re right,” Mickey said, laying the red bag on the coffee table between them. “And I have just the thing to take your mind off He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

This was it. The moment she had waited for. With eager fingers, Rachel reached into the bag, pulled out the tiny fig-urine and gently removed the plastic bubble wrapping that protected it.

It was even better than she had imagined.

Excerpted from The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer, Copyright © 2021 by Jean Meltzer. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.