Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday's Film Adaption: Mermaids by Patty Dann

"Mrs. Flax was happiest when she was leaving a place, but I wanted to stay put long enough to fall down crazy and hear the Word of God. I always called my mother Mrs. Flax."

So begins this extraordinary first novel about one wild year in the life of fourteen-year-old Charlotte Flax, when she and her sister Kate move with Mrs. Flax into a sleepy 1960's Massachusetts town. Mrs. Flax is a woman who wears polka-dot dresses and serves hors d'oeuvres for dinner every night, and Kate is a child who basically wants to be a fish.

And then there's Charlotte, who in Patty Dann's hands, is transformed into a young woman of infinite whim and variety. Charlotte's main ambition in life is to become a saint, preferably martyred, though she's Jewish. She's smitten with the shy young caretaker at the convent at the top of the hill. Dann has created a young girl who accepts the unkindness of the mad universe in which she's whirling and takes it on with a savage glee.

Charlotte Flax is like no one you have ever met -- and someone you know very well.

Chapter 1
Mrs. Flax was happiest when she was leaving a place, but I wanted to stay put long enough to fall down crazy and hear the Word of God. I always called my mother Mrs. Flax. She had driven my little sister Kate and me in the blue Buick station wagon for three days this time, racing from Oklahoma to New England. Skinny Burt LeForest, who had a bulging Adam's apple and was in my high school, tore behind us in a truck full of our furniture, driving wildly to keep up. I had seen Mrs. Flax kiss Burt by the stove a week before, when he came by to change a light bulb we couldn't reach.

We arrived in Grove on a round moon night, with lilacs blowing sweet against our new house in the breeze. We rented the place; we always rented. I lay in the back seat, holding Kate, with her curly red hair, on top of me as I stared up at the windshield, which was still covered with Oklahoma dust. Mrs. Flax turned off the motor. I shut my eyes and prayed this would be the town where I heard a voice. Joan of Arc heard voices at thirteen; I had just turned fourteen, but I hadn't given up hope.

"But Charlotte," Mrs. Flax said when she found me at age six, kneeling in the middle of the kitchen on a hot Arizona afternoon, "Charlotte, you're Jewish." Mrs. Flax didn't believe in ritual or tradition. "Religion weighs me down," she said. I, however, decided I wanted to repent the first time I saw a girl with ashes on her forehead cross herself and chant Hail Marys before a spelling bee. That was when we lived in Wisconsin; the next day I stole an old piece of charcoal from a neighbor man's barbecue and walked around with a smudge between my eyebrows for a week and a half.

Iwas eight years old when Mrs. Flax was pregnant with Kate. While she drove with her belly pressed up against the steering wheel, I knelt way in the back of the station wagon. I solemnly clipped two curls of my hair and placed them in the Cracker jacks box where I saved my baby teeth. I prayed these relics would be kissed by miles of crusaders, who would wait piously in line someday.

I always had trouble trying to be holy, though. First of all, I liked to lie a lot; second of all, I kept falling in love.

Mrs. Flax climbed the porch steps in her high heels and polka dot dress. "Girls," she called out into the night, "come give this nice young man a hand."

People said Mrs. Flax and I looked alike green eyes, dark curly hair, medium height; not that we ever were the kind to stand giggling back to back. I listened to Burt drag boxes and furniture inside. New England was only a donkey head shape on the map to me. I hadn't come across a Massachusetts saint so far; I didn't know what the odds would be not that I knew anything about odds, but I prayed this would be the place where I'd find divine inspiration.

"Wake up, Kate," I said finally. "Welcome to home sweet home number eighteen."

Kate woke up yawning, with her hands over her ears. I adored Kate; everybody did. When she was born, I wanted to name her Gobnet, after the virgin beekeeper saint. "I worry, Charlotte, I really do," said Mrs. Flax.

Kate hopped up the steps on one foot and I followed her onto the porch. Burt was trying to lift the couch up onto his shoulders and through the front door. I held my breath, trying not to breathe in Mrs. Flax's perfume, as I clutched a leg of the couch; I didn't believe in perfume or make up or anything artificial. I washed with icy water whenever I could stand it; I was going to lead a pure life, free of sin. After Burt yanked the couch up through the doorway, Mrs. Flax followed him inside.

I held Kate's hand and stared sleepily out at the dark yard, breathing in the pine air. It seemed as if we'd been on the road forever. I had calculated that I'd wasted far too much of my life in a car. No saints, either male or female, had ever heard the Word at seventy miles an hour on the interstate. I needed to stand very still and as quiet as possible, and then inspiration would pour through my soul. I was losing patience, though. I had tried to be charitable, taking care of Kate all the time and trying not to kill my mother, but lately I was worried I'd succumb to a life of sin. Lots of saints had led secular lives before they turned to the monastic path; I just wasn't sure. I'd read everything to find the answer the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, and every book I could find on martyrdom. In sixth grade, while a circle of girls sat around reading horse books, I sat alone at my desk, reading about Simone Weil, the Jewish girl who starved her head off trying to become a saint.

Suddenly Mrs. Flax gave one of her loud laughs, and a few moments later Burt was back outside. He slapped me on the shoulder, then jumped off the porch and into his truck and drove off down the road. As soon as he left, I took Kate inside. The place smelled of tomato sauce and toy trains. Burt had stuck the couch in the middle of the living room, and there was a jumble of boxes piled in front of the fireplace. Our room was down the hall, with bunk beds set up against the waft. Kate climbed onto the top bunk right away; she liked the top because she said it was like floating on water. I always preferred to be close to the ground.

I wandered through the house, avoiding Mrs. Flax, who was sitting on the counter next to the sink, humming "The Star Spangled Banner." I stared at the double bed in her room, trying to figure out if she'd done it with old Burt; she seemed to do it with everyone else. I considered stealing the car right then and running away forever. Within the last year, Mrs. Flax had taught me how to drive. I was underage, but she said being able to drive was the most important skill a woman could have; she taught me one morning in Oklahoma at five A.M., behind the supermarket, as the orange sun came up. I was a slow driver, a very slow driver, driving as if there was something wrong with my mind, according to Mrs. Flax; I put on my signal lights miles before I turned. If there was a church in Grove, I knew I'd be able to drive there if I wanted, but I'd decided long ago that church was not the place for divine inspiration. Saints were called while they were out herding sheep or staggering around the desert or down at the river, getting water in a bucket. Saints were not called while listening to a hot faced man yell at them. I walked down the hall, past .a room with RED SOX carved into the door. The .floor was covered with boxes of Mrs. Flax's personal possessions, which she had decided bored her to tears.

When I got back to our room, Kate was curled up like a snail, sound asleep, with her dress, on; but I could never sleep the first night in a place. I never could sleep until I made the room look like it did in every previous house. I opened one of the boxes Burt had dumped in the corner and carefully took out Kate's rock collection. I dusted the rocks twice, then laid them out on a low shelf against the wall. Kate was crazy about those rocks. She picked them up wherever we lived. Now there were a good number stuck to cardboard. Her method was to wrap adhesive tape around each rock, then label it with a made up name. The large rocks were too heavy to glue to cardboard, though. Those she just labeled and lined up in a shoebox, like fat sailors with their white belts.

I took out Kate's swimming trophies, which I'd wrapped individually in towels at our last house. I dusted them off and lined them in a row on the window ledge. Then I took out my old Cracker Jacks box, which I'd dragged all over America. I hadn't opened it in six years; I held my breath, then ripped the top and emptied the relics into my hand. As the years passed and we'd moved from state to state, the baby teeth had turned yellow and the curls now lay like dry apostrophes, and still God had not spoken to me. I put them back in the Cracker Jacks box and leaned the box next to Kate's Children's Encyclopedia of Fish of the World on the shelf.

Then I took out the tom picture of a pair of grown up brown tie shoes on yellow grass that I was certain belonged to my father. Kate had a different father, but I never told her that, it was one of those lies I just kept telling and telling. I didn't know if it was to protect Kate or because I liked to have secrets, but I always lied. Mrs. Flax never corrected me, either. When I was a kid I liked to refer to my father as Our Father Who Art in Heaven, and when Kate learned to talk baby talk she called him by the same name. I wondered every minute if my father was ever coming back. Saint Barbara became a Christian while her father was away; she became a hermit and lived in a bathhouse. When her father came back he almost killed her for becoming a Christian, but then he was struck by lightning and died with a sizzled smile on his face. My father called Mrs. Flax a few times a year, but he never introduced himself to me. Men called Mrs. Flax every day of her life, and I drove myself nuts trying to figure out which one was Dad. Every few months Mrs. Flax said he'd be visiting soon, but the guy hadn't made an appearance yet.

I found a thumbtack on the floor and stuck the picture of his shoes to the closet door. I kissed the picture, then kissed Kate's curls, which smelled faintly of chlorine. Then I lay down on the lower bunk and tried to sleep, but I kept remembering, a pair of hands, which might have been my father's. When I was younger than Kate, in a town in Idaho, a man slid a pair of cardboard glasses on my face, lightly touching my ears, so I could watch an eclipse of the sun without going blind. I stood backward at the window, holding Mrs. Flax's powdery compact mirror, trying to see the sun, but all I could see was my own mouth. And then those hands lightly took the glasses away.

I liked the new house and I prayed we wouldn't be leaving right away. I prayed I would stop lying all the time. I prayed my father would return. I prayed I wouldn't fall crazy in love so much, and then I prayed that I would.

The phone rang early the next morning, and I was the one who stumbled out of bed to the kitchen to answer it after twelve rings. Mrs. Flax always insisted on having the phone connected before she moved into a place so she wouldn't miss a single gentleman caller. A man with a faraway voice that sounded like potatoes asked if my mother was home. I thought it could have been the guy who planted his seed, but I couldn't tell. Mrs. Flax finally got to the phone and sat on the kitchen table, puffing her bathrobe around her, then letting it fall open as she crossed her leg, swinging it back and forth. She wouldn't give a clue who it was, though. All I knew was I'd never seen her so friendly at that hour of the morning. The only people she consistently liked, aside from Kate, were Avon ladies; it was true wherever we lived.

Before we moved to Grove I had almost begun to think I was going to graduate in Oklahoma; not that I loved the place, not that I liked squinting until I'd go blind, and not that I liked the taste of dust when I licked my lips, but we'd lived there longer than anywhere else. Then Mrs. Flax began dating her boss, and although the pattern wasn't predictable, it often meant we'd be moving soon. A few days later she came home from work early one afternoon, ran a bath, and sat splashing around, hitting her fists on the water. She reached under the sink for the atlas, opened it up, and placed a dripping finger down on Grove. The next day she dialed information and found the name of Pine & Timber Realtor and spoke to Linda Jenkins, who had never dealt with a long distance tenant before.

Mrs. Flax hung up the phone after talking to the man with the potato voice and stood gripping the sink, with her back to me.

"Would you kindly see if Kate has fallen out of bed again?" she said as she opened the empty refrigerator.

"Who was that? Was that him?"

Kate appeared in the doorway, rubbing her eyes, wearing the wrinkled dress she had slept in. "'Do they give us food in this place?"

"Not yet, baby, we'll go to the store later," said Mrs. Flax. "But I have some candy bars in my purse."

This is probably the best time to say a word about Mrs. Flax and food. The word is hors d'oeuvres. That's all the woman cooked. Fun Finger Foods was her main source book, except for when Kate was a baby and we lived on Hors d'Oeuvres for Your Infant, which she found at a tag sale in El Paso.

Anyway, that first morning in Grove we ate Mars Bars, sitting on the kitchen table because old, Burt had forgotten to pack the chairs.

"The Pilgrims live here," said Kate, swinging her legs. "My teacher said they sleep on a rock near here."

There was a knock on the door and Mrs. Flax slid off the table. "I hate Pilgrims," she said as she went to see who was there.

I ran to the window; there was a man, a tall man with black hair and the smoothest skin I'd ever seen, standing on the porch. I remember I thought he looked like a pirate. Although it was warm out, he was wearing a thick sweater and heavy corduroy pants, and he had Indian moccasins on his feet.

"Ma'am," he said, Pressing his forehead to the screen door.

" 'Ma'am'?" said Mrs. Flax through the screen. "'What can I do for you, sir?"

"I work up the hill. My name is Joe Peretti and I just wondered if you got moved in all right."

"And what is up the hill, Mr. Joe Peretti?"

"The convent, Protectors of the Blessed Souls."

I crossed myself and leaned against the refrigerator. "'This is a sign," I whispered. "This is a real sign."

Mrs. Flax opened the door wide. "If I need you, I'll call, thank you. How old did you say you were?"

"Twenty nine," said Joe.

"'Well, there is one thing, the porch swing. Would you mind putting it up? I can't reach."

Joe cleared his throat, and Mrs. Flax stood inside at the living room window, strumming her fingernails along the Venetian blinds, while Joe fumbled with the chains of the squeaking swing.

That night we were sitting on the kitchen table, eating little gems called Cheese Ball PickMe Ups and Wagon ho Miniature Franks, with toothpicks, when Mrs. Flax said, "That Mr. Joe Peretti is a most attractive man."

Kate giggled something about him looking like Joe Poseidon, King of the Sea, who was her favorite god, but I threw my toothpick on the floor.

"Don't you think so, Charlotte?" said Mrs. Flax. "You're old enough to have a boyfriend now, don't you think?"

"If I'm old enough, maybe you're too old," I said and walked out of the kitchen.

I had never actually had a boyfriend, although I'd fallen in love ninety one times so far. Once at a pep rally in the crowded gymnasium in Oklahoma, when everyone was jumping up and down, a small group of boys bumped into me on purpose and touched my breasts. I had always been embarrassed about not being flat-chested; I wanted to be flat and strong like Joan of Arc going into battle, but I was getting as many curves as Mrs. Flax. I'd fallen in love with every single one of the male teachers I'd ever had, especially the history teachers. I loved to hear them talk about Hannibal as if they knew what they were talking about, as if they knew what it was like to cross the Alps on elephants who had snow in their ears. I lay down on my bed and put the pillow over my face. I wanted to be a virtuous person. I wanted to have a holy soul, but I was beginning to doubt I had a prayer.

"What do you think, Charlotte?" called Mrs. Flax. "D'you think it's Divine Providence that our nearest next door neighbors are nuns?"

Mrs. Flax's parents had been bakers in Poland, and when they moved to America they opened the first kosher bakery in Minerva, Ohio. As a child, Mrs. Flax had stood in the kitchen by the oven, twisting pieces of dough into messy, uncookable knots. She thought cooking bread was pointless, let alone cooking kosher. Her oldest sister was the one who stayed home and later took over the bakery, but Mrs. Flax left town on the last day of high school. The night before, she had stood in her parents' kosher kitchen, eating a ham sandwich and a glass of milk and making her mother cry.

The next morning I got up at sunrise when I heard a bell ringing from up the hill, and I put on a navy blue dress. I always wore dresses, never pants. If I ever went on a crusade I'd wear pants, but I thought a truly holy person should try to be proper at all times. I also wore a pair of beige vinyl boots. The boots were the only thing my father ever sent me; they arrived in a ripped box one day from California. They were ugly, I knew that, they had no grace, but they were a gift from him, and I wore them as often as I could stand it. I was always too hot, and the boots made my heels sore, but I thought it was best to always be slightly in pain, as an act of penance for my sins.

I walked across the yard full of daffodils and started up the steep hill to the convent. I tried to walk on tiptoe the whole way so I wouldn't disturb the nuns. At the top of the hill was a wrought iron gate with a sign that said NO TRESPASSERS ALLOWED. The gate was open, though, and I could see three nuns walking by the bell tower, their heads bent in prayer. I'd seen a convent once before, when we lived in Oregon when I was very young. My class had gone on a field trip, and a forest ranger made me count out loud the rings of a giant sequoia tree. On the way home we stopped for a picnic in a field outside the convent.

That first time I saw nuns, they were playing horseshoes. A bunch of them were standing in a crooked black line on the lawn, laughing as each one threw into the sky and missed. Rusty horseshoes landed all over the grass. When the game was over, the nuns zigzagged across the lawn, scooped up the horseshoes, and dropped them, clanging, into a wood box. Then the nuns picked up their prayer books from a neat stack in the shade of a tree and walked away in rows of black skirts, chanting Latin. "My mommy and daddy are in fifth grade. My mommy and daddy are in fifth grade," I thought they said.

I walked through the gate of the Protectors of the Blessed Souls, whispering "Trespass not against those who trespass against you," and felt suddenly calm as I entered the grounds. It was a bursting spring day, all the blossoms were out, the dogwood and apple, and the lawns were freshly cut. I snuck across the grass, past the bell tower, to the stone chapel with stained red and yellow windows. I put my ear to the oak door but I didn't hear a sound. As a child, I once spent an hour with my ear pressed to the door of some nuns' car in a shopping center, but all I heard was a loudspeaker blaring "Swiss steaks, two for the price of one."

I walked deeper into the convent, back on a curving path through the woods. I hid behind a tree when I heard the sound of digging in the ground. I was scared rd discovered secret catacombs, but when I squinted my eyes I could see a man kneeling in a vegetable garden, surrounded by small tomato plants. He had his back to me, but I could see it was Joe Peretti, Joe Poseidon Peretti himself. I shut my eyes. "Dear God," I prayed, "don't let me fall in love and want to do disgusting things." I watched him dig up weeds, then throw them off into the woods. "Dear God," I prayed, "I love the way he throws." When Joe stood up I held my breath, but he didn't walk toward me; he walked the other way. The second he was gone I missed him, I swear. I wrapped my arms around the tree and pressed my ear to the rough wood. A few minutes later I heard something being dragged along the ground, and I ducked behind the tree to watch. Joe was returning with a sledge hammer and long wooden stakes in one hand and a large roll of chicken wire in the other. This is it, I thought. I'm going to be tortured by rods and rack and fire, just like Saint Agatha. I watched Joe all morning, digging deep holes for the stakes, then pounding them into the ground. He covered his precious tomato plants with chicken wire, pricking his fingers until they were beaded with blood. Then he suddenly began ripping the wire away from the stakes. He looked like he was having a fit; I wanted to run over to him and lick his fingers and ask if he was having supernatural revelations. He threw everything to the ground, then stormed off the other way. I leaned against the tree and crossed myself; I decided I'd wait forever for him to return.

Set in 1963, a mother is reluctant to settle down even at the request of her two teenage daughters.

Release Date: December 14, 1990
Release Time: 110 minutes

Cher as Rachel Flax (credited as Mrs. Flax
Winona Ryder as Charlotte Flax
Christina Ricci as Kate Flax
Bob Hoskins as Lou Landsky
Michael Schoeffling as Joe Peretti
Caroline McWilliams as Carrie

Author Bio:
Patty Dann is the author of THE GOLDFISH WENT ON VACATION: A MEMOIR OF LOSS and THE BABY BOAT: A MEMOIR OF ADOPTION. She has also published three novels, SWEET & CRAZY, MERMAIDS and STARFISH, which is a sequel to MERMAIDS. Her work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. MERMAIDS was made into a movie, starring Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci.

Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Christian Science Monitor, O Magazine, The Oregon Quarterly, Redbook, More, Forbes Woman, Poets & Writers Magazine,"The Writer's Handbook," “ Dirt:The Quirks, Habits, and Passions of Keeping House" and “This I Believe: On Motherhood.”



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Paper Love by Aubrey Wynne

Title: Paper Love
Author: Aubrey Wynne
Series: A Chicago Christmas #2
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Release Date: October 16, 2016
Growing up in a Papua New Guinea mission, Joss Palmateer is a gentle soul with a unique view of life. Still adjusting to a new home in the U.S and the sudden loss of her mother, love is the last thing on her mind. Sexy physical therapist, Ben Montgomery, meets his sister’s friend and the sparks fly. He takes it as a challenge when she ignores his advances, but it’s her extraordinary inner beauty that captures his heart. With the help of a stray homing pigeon and an old origami legend, Ben sets an unwavering course of romance to win her love.

As they walked past the fountain, he stopped, swallowed, and plunged into the speech he’d planned for the last week. “Joss, I know you are hesitant to date me, and I understand your reasons. I can’t blame you but it’s also not my fault that I’m...popular.”

She opened her mouth to speak, and he gently put a finger on her lips. “Hear me out. Since I laid eyes on you that night, my world has tilted. I feel a connection to you that I’ve never felt before, and I think you feel the same.”

She took his finger in her hand. “I don’t know if I’m in a place where I can move forward with a relationship.” Her eyes held a pain that threatened to rip his chest open. He wanted to heal her, remove the hurt from her eyes now and forever.

“I know that. I’ve just finished my internship, and I’m starting a permanent position at the clinic.” He paused, stroking her cheek with the back of his finger. “Let’s take a month to get to know each other. You decide if you are staying or going back to your old life. I’ll get settled into my new job. We see each other as friends, no pressure or romance.”

“So no strings.”

“Exactly. Except I won’t be seeing anyone else. I need to prove to you that I’m not a player. Then in a month, we’ll reassess. If you are in a good place by then, we’ll make it official and start dating.” He let out a sigh. He couldn’t read her face at all.

“One month?” She looked up at him, her eyes narrowed. “You’ve thought this through, haven’t you?”

He nodded, hoping this brilliant idea didn’t backfire on him. “It’s a deal. So I’ll see you without any romantic overtures?”

He hesitated. Not kissing her over the next month would be one of the hardest things he’d ever done. “No romance starting tomorrow.”


“I want you to know what you may be missing. Over the next month you can think about this.” He cupped her face in his hands, brushing his lips softly against hers. Every muscle in his body jumped to attention at the touch. His desire flared, and his head dipped again, covering her lips, coaxing her to respond.

Her hands gripped his biceps, clinging to him as if she might fall. A soft sigh escaped her, and he thought he would explode. He buried his face in her shoulder, her silky hair caressing his cheek as he breathed in the scent of her. Joss had been sent to him. He would start the next phase of his life with her by his side. And he would pull her through her troubled waters. Ben gave her one more lingering kiss then pulled her hand through his arm. They walked silently toward the parking garage.

His heart thumped slow and steady as he realized he’d found love. No sweaty palms. No racing heart. No panic. It was more like an enchantment, this discovery of a person who filled him with peace and hope, who made him want to be better, be a hero for someone else. But his usual bulldozer style would not work on Joss. Exuberance and charm would bounce off her shield. Patience and determination were the key; Joss would pay attention to his actions not his words.

Just like his beating heart, slow and steady would win this race.

Dante's Gift #1
Winner of the Golden Quill, The Aspen Gold and the Heart of Excellence RWA awards.

Kathleen James has put her practical side away for once and looks forward to the perfect romantic evening: an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. She is not prepared to hear that he wants to bring his grandmother back from Italy to live with him.

Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.

When Antonia’s sister dies, she finds herself longing to be back in the states. An Italian wartime bride from the ‘40s, she knows how precious love can be. Can her own story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?

Merry Christmas Henry #3(Coming December 15, 2016)
**Based on the short story of the same title.**

Henry, a shy and talented artist, moonlights as a security guard at a museum and loses his heart to a beautiful, melancholy woman in a painting. As his obsession grows, he finds a kindred soul who helps him in his search for happiness. On Christmas Eve, Henry dares to take a chance on love and fulfill his dream.

Author Bio:
Bestselling and award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas.

Her short stories, Merry Christmas, Henry and Pete's Mighty Purty Privies have won Readers Choice Awards and Dante's Gift received the 2016 Golden Quill and Heart of Excellence award, as well as being a Maggie and Aspen Gold finalist.

Besides her Chicago Christmas novellas, Aubrey will release "A Vintage Romance" series inspired by tales of her stepfather, who served for the British Air Force in WWII. The stories will be set in the 40s & 50s. Her medieval fantasy series will launch in 2017 with Rolf's Quest.

Subscribe to Aubrey's newsletter for new releases and exclusive excerpts and free stories.

A place of handsome knights, dashing gentlemen, beautiful, sassy women, and romance from the past to the present. You’ll also have some opportunities to help promote Aubrey with her upcoming releases if you feel so inclined. There is fun to be had, prizes to be given, and heroes and heroines to fall in love with. Come join Aubrey's street team.


Paper Love #2

Dante's Gift #1

Merry Christmas Henry #3(Coming December 15, 2016)

Brought to you by: 

Pre-Order Blitz: A Matter of Trust by Jill Blake

Title: A Matter of Trust
Author: Jill Blake
Series: Silicone Beach Trilogy #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance Suspense
Expected Release Date: November 7, 2016
Venture capitalist Vlad Snezhinsky excels at two things: making money and being a dad. Still struggling to get over a disastrous marriage, he has zero interest in starting a new relationship. That is, until he meets Klara Lazarev.

Klara’s done living in her older sister’s shadow. Determined to forge her own path, she completes a prestigious fellowship program before returning to college. Now scrambling to fulfill her graduation requirements, Klara has no time for distractions like Vlad and his daughter. Especially after an unfortunate first encounter leaves Klara doubting Vlad’s integrity.

But when a shocking murder throws their world into chaos, can they trust each other enough to uncover the truth and embrace the possibility of love?

**Content warning: For mature audience only. Rated 18+ for occasional profanity and explicit sex scenes. Also includes off-stage murder (though no graphic description of violence).**

Vlad Snezhinsky paused mid-sentence as the newest member of the Talbot household let out a wail.

“Sorry,” Ethan said. “Maya’s teething. Go on.”

Vlad watched as the man draped a fresh burp cloth over his shoulder, adjusted his hold on his six-month-old daughter, and patted the baby’s back.

In the year since Vlad joined the Talbot Fund, he’d been to Ethan Talbot’s home office twice. For a venture capitalist, Ethan did a remarkable job keeping his business life from encroaching on family time. Today’s meeting proved the rare exception. Not that Vlad blamed him. The allure of first-mover advantage was hard to resist.

“The market’s at least $500 million,” Vlad said, picking up where he left off. “They want six million, in exchange for sixty percent of the company—”

A peremptory knock cut him off. The door swung open, and a dark-haired woman popped her head inside. “Sorry, Ethan. Anna needs you. The Pack ’n Play won’t fold, and she’s wigging out.”

Vlad set aside his laptop and rose from the visitors’ chair.

The woman glanced his way. A flicker of something—recognition? awareness?—crossed her face, but before he could interpret it, her expression smoothed into polite disinterest. She turned back to Ethan. “If you want, I can watch Maya while you go fix things.”

Ethan got up and rounded the desk, transferring his daughter into the woman’s care. “She may need a diaper change.”

The baby cooed and kicked her legs. The woman laughed—a smooth, husky sound that trickled like warmed oil down Vlad’s spine.

He forced himself to remain still, knees locked, fingers digging into his palms.

Ethan, apparently unaffected, removed the burp cloth from his shoulder and offered Vlad an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Our first big trip with Maya. You know how it is.”

Vlad nodded.

“Anyway,” Ethan said, “let’s do the due diligence, and if everything pans out, we’ll set up a preliminary meeting. I’m available by phone if you need me.”

The door closed. Silence descended.

Vlad waited to see what the woman would do next.

“Pee-yew.” She wrinkled her nose and headed for a brightly decorated corner equipped with an array of baby paraphernalia. “Your daddy’s right, kiddo. You do smell like you need a diaper change.”

She placed Maya atop the padded changing table and rummaged through the top drawer with one hand, while keeping the other on the squirming infant.

“Looks like we’re in business, kid.” She cleaned, re-diapered, and dressed Maya in a fresh outfit. “Now what?”

Vlad cleared his throat, and the woman jumped, as if she’d forgotten he was still in the room.

“There are toys,” he said. “In the cupboard to your right.”

At least that’s where they’d been the last time he was here, shortly after Maya was born.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. Her eyes—green, with flecks of brown and gold—widened at Vlad’s approach. Her lips parted, and he nearly groaned.

Damn, what was he doing?

“Sorry.” He stopped a couple feet away. “I don’t think we’ve met. Vladislav Snezhinsky. My friends call me Vlad.”

Maya chose that moment to grab a handful of the woman’s hair and pull.

“Oww.” She winced and turned her attention to disentangling her curls from the baby’s fist. “Let’s see about those toys, shall we?”

In the few minutes it took to settle Maya on a brightly colored floor mat with an assortment of plush musical toys and rattles, Vlad studied the woman’s profile. She was tall—maybe half a head shorter than him—and dressed for comfort in an oversized T-shirt and faded jeans. When she leaned down and reached across the mat to grab a toy, Vlad got a glimpse of what her loose clothing concealed: a narrow waist, generous hips, and a rounded bottom that made his mouth water and his fingers itch.

Hoping to disguise his body’s reaction, Vlad hunkered down at the edge of the mat. “Okay, let’s try this again,” he said, stretching out his hand. “My name is Vlad. And you are…?”

“Klara. Anna’s sister.” She withdrew her fingers as quickly as possible, but not before he felt the slight tremor.

Nerves? Attraction? She averted her eyes, focusing on the baby. The pulse at the base of her neck fluttered.

He swallowed a smile. “So, Klara. Why haven’t we met before?”

That got her attention. And not in a good way. Her brows drew together and she narrowed her eyes. “We have. A couple years ago, at your brother’s wedding.”

“Oh.” He blinked away the unpleasant memories that threatened to swamp him. It was unfortunate that he’d forever associate his brother’s wedding with the beginning of the end. That’s when Vlad and Oksana started on a long downward spiral, culminating in an acrimonious divorce that was still dragging on today.

He studied Klara more closely. Something stirred at the back of his mind.

A brief impression of thick black curls swept up in an elegant twist, the body poured into some barely-there excuse for a dress, the lips smiling at him. And then—

Oh, God.

The red lipstick smeared, the eyes dripping mascara-tinged tears, his cheek stinging from the impression of her hand.

And then—nothing…until he woke up the next morning, head pounding like an entire battalion of jackhammers doing demolition work.

Beyond the Ivory Tower #1
2016 IAN Book of the Year Award Finalist

If there’s one thing math professor Anna Lazarev believes in, it’s the value of higher education. So when her younger sister announces she’s dropping out of college, Anna places the blame squarely on the man who inspired her sister’s rebellion.

Venture capitalist Ethan Talbot claims the US academic system is broken. His solution? Pay top students to “opt out” and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without wasting time and money on a university degree.

In a passionate battle for the hearts and minds of a new generation, Anna will do whatever it takes to prove Ethan wrong. But when his demands take a more personal turn, will she sacrifice her principles to come out on top?

Sweet Indulgence #2
2016 East Texas Writers Guild Book Award, Romance Category Finalist

Becca Markham spent the last six years trying to please everyone but herself. So when she ditches her cheating boyfriend and quits her high-stress job as a software engineer, she decides it’s time to pursue her own dreams. At the top of her list? Transforming her life-long love of baking from a part-time hobby into a full-time business.

Leo Kogan spent years scrambling to escape a life of poverty—first in Russia, then in the U.S. Now a successful surgeon, he needs just one thing to complete his American dream: the perfect woman. But making the leap from casual friends to lovers proves harder than he expects.

Despite a sizzling attraction, Becca and Leo disagree on important things—like love and money. She’s looking for sex without strings; he wants a partner for life. She stakes her future on a risky new business; he’s obsessed with financial security.

Can love bring two headstrong people together…or will their differences end up tearing them apart?

Author Bio:
Jill Blake loves chocolate, leisurely walks where she doesn’t break a sweat, and books with a guaranteed happy ending. A native of Philadelphia, Jill now lives in southern California with her husband and three children. During the day, she works as a physician in a busy medical practice. At night, she pens steamy romances.


A Matter of Trust #3

Beyond the Ivory Tower #1

Sweet Indulgence #2


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