Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"The Scent of Rain" by Anne Montgomery

The Scent of Rain
by Anne Montgomery

Author Anne Montgomery stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from her latest novel, The Scent of Rain. Keep an eye out for my review coming later this year.

Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away.
Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl - Rose - running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.
With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father's age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust?

Rose Madsen couldn’t risk staying out much longer. She still felt the paddle blows—what her mother called “appropriate corrective measures”—from the last time she’d disappeared for too long. But the chill of the spring morning had eased following sun-up, a full two hours after Rose had risen to do her pre-breakfast chores, and now the high desert sky was a cloudless blue. When she got back, she’d have to bathe, dress, and feed Becky, a chore she didn’t mind doing, but right now all she wanted was to wade in the creek and feel the sun on her face. Becky could wait a little while longer.
“Recalcitrant,” her mother often said, referring to her seventh daughter. Rose rolled the word around in her mouth, but the term had too many sharp edges. Other folks in town didn’t use words like recalcitrant. Children were either good or bad. She’d overheard people say Mother’s vocabulary was too prideful, a sin that needed correcting, and struggled with the thought of Mother as a sinner.
Rose dipped a hand into the stream and marveled that just a day earlier it had been dry as a bone, nothing but fine sand and loose rock. But then the snow high in the mountains had melted, delivering a clear, cold flow that Rose knew would quickly disappear.
She dabbed at the milk splotches on the hem of her ankle-length cotton dress. She’d been milking cows for over ten years, but no matter how often she squeezed those velvety teats, she could never avoid splashing her clothes. Rose scrubbed at the almost invisible stains on the sky-blue fabric knowing that Mother would probably spot them no matter how hard she worked. She’d be shut up in that tiny room in the barn, forced to study her dog-eared book of scriptures and go without food because “dirty clothes proved one harbored dirty thoughts.” No matter how often Mother said that, Rose had no idea what it meant.
She removed her Nikes and socks and stepped into the current, bunching her skirt with one hand, lest the garment trail in the water providing proof she’d sneaked away. The water rushed around her legs, numbing them to mid-calf. She shivered. It was exhilarating. She closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sky. If only she could stay here as long as she wanted.
She drew in a deep breath of cool, desert air and started to step back out onto the creek bank when a rock beneath the sparkling surface caught her eye and drew her hand into the flow. The stone was egg-shaped, spotted with the remains of multi-colored pebbles. She remembered learning in science class that stones like this were made up of smaller rocks that had been forced deep into the earth, melted, and fused together, only to reemerge countless years later to be washed and tumbled by the river, edges softened, rounded. She held the stone in her palm and ran her thumb over its smooth surface.
How long had this transformation taken? Mr. Wayland, who had proudly passed his rock samples around the classroom, might have known the answer. But he was gone, and the school was closed. Large goats had eaten away the greenery that once surrounded the building that housed the classrooms. A sign above the doorway still read Colorado City Unified School District #14. Trash littered the grounds that were hemmed in by a chain link fence. The Prophet had decreed that all children should be home schooled. And so they were.
Rose wanted to keep the stone, but that was impossible. The telltale smoothness of the rock would surely shout out that its life had been spent tumbling in the riverbed, one of the many places Rose was never allowed to go. Mother had warned her repeatedly about the terrible flash floods that could barrel down the mountain without warning, sweeping away everything near Short Creek. Rose wriggled her toes in the frigid stream, then sighed and dropped the stone back into the water where it landed with a plunk.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Very disturbing, but also compelling. Montgomery's voice is a no-holds-barred approach to a terrible truth disguised as the love of God. Just the thing for a stormy night's read." ~ Anna Baker
"Anne Montgomery has a great way of mixing local knowledge of Arizona with excellent story telling!" ~ PHX38
"The Scent Of Rain is a book that stays with you, that you continue to think about long after finishing to read it." ~ Sandra Richardson
"The Scent of Rain is the story of a tragic, intolerable situation, but it is a story of Hope and love as well." ~ Michelle Kidwell
"A heartrending, heartwrenching, fictional narrative set in the excessively strict, narrow world of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hurricane, Utah, The Scent of Rain is true-to-life real- life horror. Make no mistake, this novel will chill your spine; but this type of abuse of women, children, boys, and animals, committed in the guise of strictest religion, needs revealing. Even in the midst of tribulations, The Scent of Rain celebrates the resilience and persistence of the human spirit." ~ The Haunted Reading Room

Interview With the Author
Author Anne Montgomery stops by today to discuss her latest novel. The Scent of Rain takes on some difficult topics – polygamy, cults, misogyny, illegal immigration, and deportation – just to name a few, so what was your inspiration, Anne?
I have lived in Arizona for about 25 years. As an avid consumer of current events – yes, I’m a news junkie – it was hard to ignored the reports coming out of the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. I was astonished when I learned about the radical Mormon sect that lives on what is called the Arizona Strip and their tradition of marrying underage girls, some as young as twelve, to old men. The fact that this behavior could thrive inside the confines of the United States continues to shock me. I wanted to learn more about these people, who – in this time of technology with its cellphones and Internet and 24-hour news cycles – live mostly without any connection to the outside world.
What did you do to research for this book?
As a former reporter, I greatly enjoy digging for a story. I read articles about Colorado City and conducted interviews with people who had lived and worked in the community, including Flora Jessop, who escaped twice from the cult and today works with the Child Protection Project: an anti-child abuse group that helps women and girls escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stories Flora told me were so harrowing that to this day I have not listened the three-hour recording of our interview session. The images were burned into my brain. I also interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby, who bravely confronted the cult members, asking them to refrain from marrying and reproducing with their close relatives, after he discovered that the cause of the awful birth defects in the community were the result of incest. Unfortunately, Dr. Tarby was ignored.
I find it impossible to write stories without actually visiting the locations where my characters live, so I recruited a dear friend, Patty Congdon, and we drove to Colorado, City. We concocted a story about looking for a place to retire. As we studied the community, children stared at us as if we were monsters. They are told that outsiders are devils. I am not afraid of many things, but I have to admit that I was uncomfortable while doing my research on site and have no desire to go back.
You have a background in broadcasting, sports writing, and other freelance work. When did you decide to start writing fiction? Why?
As most women who ply their trade in front of a TV camera will tell you, we have a shelf life. Once one is nearing forty, we are suddenly no longer qualified to do our jobs. When my contract at ESPN was not renewed, I began writing fiction. (I was unemployed and rather desperate for something to occupy my time.) However, all my novels are based on real events or situations. In A Light in the Desert, a novel about the deadly sabotage of the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train that was derailed in the Arizona desert in 1995, I wrote about child abuse, teen pregnancy, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as the crime. My historical fiction novel Nothing But Echoes, details the problems of archaeological looting, black market sales of antiquities, and the question of when Europeans first inhabited the Americas. In The Scent of Rain, I again tackle child abuse and also polygamy, and cults. So the theme, I guess, is that while I write fiction, my stories are based on facts: not the plot line, necessarily, but the details that support the story line.
What is your favorite part of The Scent of Rain? What did you enjoy writing about the most? Why?
I am most happy in the wilderness. The state of Arizona is one of the most wondrous wild areas I have ever explored. We have the incredibly diverse Sonoran Desert, as well as mountains and canyons and rivers and forests. I have seen much of the state because I’m a rock collector. (It’s true. I have about 400 specimens just in my living room. Friends know not to ask about them if I’ve had a glass of wine because I then feel compelled to explain when and where I found each one, whether they want to know or not.) Before researching The Scent of Rain, I had not traveled to the Arizona Strip. I was thrilled by the stark beauty of the area. Zion National Park is just a short drive from Colorado City. The thing I enjoyed most about writing the manuscript was incorporating descriptions of the landscape into the story.
Who is your favorite character? What role did he or she play in moving the plot forward?
That’s a tough question. Like asking a mom to name her favorite child. Still, there would be no story without Rose. I’m a high school teacher, and to have a student like her would be a delight. I admire her enthusiasm, her determination to find answers to the natural world around her, and her efforts to reconcile the beliefs of the strange community in which she was raised with all the new things she learns about the outside world. My second favorite character is Adan. Through some strange twist, I became a foster mom at 55. As I never had any biological children, you can imagine what suddenly having a 15-year-old boy in my home was like. Adan reminds me of my first son, Brandon. I now have three boys who call me mom.
How did you find a balance between light and dark/humor and levity in your narrative?
The subjects I write about tend toward darkness, however, I know as a reader that I search for the element of hope in stories. I feel it’s my job as a writer to provide characters with a positive way out, faith that their lives will get better. In real life, most of us have days that are generally sprinkled with all kinds of emotions, so in the interest of making the characters multi-dimensional, there must be balance. Also, I’m fortunate that there is a lot of humor in my world, thanks to my beau of 23 years. We laugh a lot. Whenever my students or my boys ask me about dating, I tell them to make sure they find someone who makes them laugh.
What do you think readers will enjoy most about The Scent of Rain?
Readers of my other novels have told me that they truly enjoy my diverse cast of characters. I think the same will be true of The Scent of Rain. But I also think it’s interesting to read about places that look and feel and smell differently than those we normally inhabit. I consider a book’s setting like a main character. In this case, I hope the readers will delight in the wild lands of northern Arizona.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
I am active on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Readers can also find me on Wikipedia, Amazon, and LinkedIn.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Anne. It's been a pleasure.

About the Author
Anne Montgomery
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award winning SportsCenter. She finished her on camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Her novels include: The Scent of Rain, Nothing But Echoes, and A Light in the Desert. Montgomery teaches journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, is a foster mom to three sons, and is an Arizona Interscholastic Association football referee and crew chief. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, football officiating, scuba diving, and playing her guitar.


Monday, July 24, 2017

"Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend" by Cheryl Carpinello

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend
by Cheryl Carpinello

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is the second book in the Guinevere series by Cheryl Carpinello. Also available: Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend (read my blog post).

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is currently on tour with BeachBoundBooks. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

"Think before acting," her father always warned. But Princess Guinevere is ruled by her heart. Her betrothal to King Arthur has not changed this.
When Guinevere and Cedwyn’s latest adventure takes a dangerous turn, they find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle as foretold by Merlyn’s Goddess of the Stones.
Renegadesn - foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess - steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger. The plan quickly unravels, and Guinevere’s impassioned decisions come crashing down as Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality. Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

His finger on her lips stopped her rebuttal.
“Not now. Other issues demand the attention of the knights and kings.”…
“But Father…I promised.”
“So you did, daughter mine, but kings must rule with their heads not their hearts. This discussion is over. You are dismissed to go to your room. I have a knight there who will make sure your rest tonight isn’t disturbed.”
Her legs refused to move. She opened her mouth, but no words came.
“Go. Now Guinevere. Before I forget you’re my own flesh and have you flogged for the dangers you’ve brought upon us. Go!”
Guinevere ran from the room, fists clenched, tears streaming down her face.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is the sequel to Cheryl Carpinello's first Guinevere story, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. Both books take the fascinating Arthurian legends and create stories that will entice even the most reluctant of readers. With realistic characters and an exciting plot full of adventure, the reader will be pulled along to an unexpected conclusion. Young readers will certainly easily associate with Guinevere and Cedwyn, who, at their young age, take risks and disobey their parents, while at the same time they reach out to help others. A great way to entice readers, even reluctant ones, to follow the adventures found in legends. " ~ 5-Star Review from Readers' Favorite
"At the Dawn of Legend is the second book in a trilogy about Guinevere and her friend Cedwyn. Although I haven't read the first book, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of this sequel. The plot is pretty straight-forward, fast-paced, and overall suitable for its target, middle grade audience. The book heavily points out the loyalty and love between the two friends, serving as a good role-model for young readers. Another thing I really liked are the Questions for Discussion and Enrichment found at the end of the novel, because not only do they serve to remind the reading group of major plot points or finer details, but they also prompt you to dig deeper, read up, and think on your own." ~ Valentina Markasović
"What a lovely tale! This book, which is the second in a trilogy is aimed at 9-15-year-olds [...] The language was good for the audience, the flow was pacey and the chapters a good length to be digestible for younger or less advanced readers. I thought the 'talking points' at the end were a nice way to engage the reader afterwards if this was part of a YA group read, the character summaries are also helpful for any younger readers unfamiliar with the legend." ~ Jackie
"A beautiful story. [...] Easy to understand language usage. [...] It is quite enjoyable and suitable for everyone. You should try reading it. And especially, do get it for the younger ones. They do need to know about legendary characters from around the world." ~ Amutha

About the Author
I’m a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Tales and Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

This Week on Books Direct - 22 July 2017

This Week on Books Direct -
22 July 2017

This Week on Books Direct - 22 July 2017

Here's a list of some great articles you may have missed this week. Enjoy!

A Brief History Of My Writing by Jacob Geers for Thought Catalog

A Brief History Of My Writing by Jacob Geers for Thought Catalog

What's The Point Of A Reading Challenge? by Kathleen Keenan for Book Riot

What's The Point Of A Reading Challenge? by Kathleen Keenan for Book Riot

The Perfect Summer Reading For Every Myers-Briggs Personality Type by Anne Bogel for Modern Mrs Darcy

Libraries Gone Digital: 4 Ways Libraries Expand Your Reach As An Author by Gordon Warnock for Digital Book World

Test Your Knowledge of Jane Austen’s Life - and Afterlife by Jennifer Schuessler and Mary Jo Murphy for The New York Times

Test Your Knowledge of Jane Austen’s Life - and Afterlife by Jennifer Schuessler and Mary Jo Murphy for The New York Times

Note To All Creatives: Marketing Is Your Job by Ryan Holiday for Goins, Writer

Note To All Creatives: Marketing Is Your Job by Ryan Holiday for Goins, Writer

Journaling Can Be A Life Changing Tool (You Just Need To Know How To Take Advantage Of It) by Bryan Hutchinson for Positive Writer

From Writing Books To TV Shows – Making The Adjustment by Taylor Jenkins for Writers Digest

From Writing Books To TV Shows – Making The Adjustment by Taylor Jenkins for Writers Digest

How To Pitch Yourself To Land Bigger Opportunities Online with Jennifer Berson for Amy Porterfield

How To Pitch Yourself To Land Bigger Opportunities Online with Jennifer Berson for Amy Porterfield

If you enjoyed this blog post, please visit the other This Week posts for links to more great articles.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Cookie Cutter" by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter
by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter by Jo Richardson is currently on tour with Promo Star Services. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Iris Alden and Carter Blackwood couldn’t be more different.
Recently divorced, newly-employed, cookie-baking, PTA super mom Iris likes her life neat and organized, while house-flipping Carter’s itchy feet means he never stays in the same place for very long.
When Carter purchases the home across from Iris to renovate it for a quick sell, he has no intention of putting down roots. He certainly doesn’t plan on getting involved with the local community, let alone the town committee mom.
But life doesn’t always coincide with what we think we want.
With an unexpected family crisis pulling Carter back to the city, and Iris’s ex-husband doing his best to sabotage anything resembling a new life for her and their teenaged daughter, Iris and Carter soon find, love isn’t always sweet.

Chapter 1. Iris
I breathe.
I count.
One, two, three . . .
Allison Rose Alden! It. Is. Time. To. Go.”
I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I was late to work because of this child . . .
Um, I have nothing to wear, Mother! Her voice booms from upstairs.
She has plenty to wear. Its October for Christs sake. We just went school clothes shopping last month.
I did your laundry yesterday.” I sing it loud and proud, as I open the front door to give my daughter a hint. Im not waiting for her.
Good luck hitchhiking.
I remember one more thing I meant to tell her this morning, as I check to make sure I have everything. And please stop using my tampons, Ally; Im more than happy to pick some up for you but─”
I stop short, shell-shocked, when I look up to see my path is blocked by a very tall, dark-haired, bright-eyed, and hard-bodied man.
And hes blatantly chuckling. At me.
Rough morning? His brown eyes reflect amusement. His grin is wide. And cocky.
Why exactly is this strange man on my doorstep at zero dark thirty? And why is he laughing at me?
This is the last thing I need first thing in the morning when I havent even had my coffee yet.
Seriously, why does he have to smirk like that?
I . . .” Damn. Where are my words? Use your words, Iris.
Im Carter, he says. Blackwood.” He hooks a thumb over his shoulder, still grinning ear-to-ear. I moved in a few days ago.” He looks like he recently walked off of a photo shoot for some sort of construction worker of the year award.
His words sink in and I dont want to look. But I do it anyway.
As I lean slowly to one side, I recall a conversation I had the other day with my friend and realtor, Carl Burbanks. He told me all about how the new owner of Cindy and Sams old place got quite the deal and it was his understanding that the gentleman planned to flip it for profit. Cindy would cry if she knew. Sam would roll over in his grave.
Its him, alright the night owl home renovator that doesnt seem to know the meaning of the phrase quiet time[1] . And is also, apparently, a morning person.
I stand upright again.
Iris, I tell him, hesitantly.
He peeks around me, into the house. Your husband home, Iris?
I put myself directly in his line of sight so he has no choice but to pay attention to what I have to say next. There is no husband, Carter. I give him the same touch of sarcasm he threw at me.  
His brown eyes flicker with interest and I question myself for a moment.
Should I have let that tidbit slip?
For all I know he could be a mentally unstable human being who flips houses as a cover for murdering innocent single mothers.
Or maybe he killed the house flipper, has taken over his identity, and Im next on his list of victims!
Hes not a murderer, Iris. Were in Spangler for Gods sake.
Note to self, stop binge watching Dexter on Netflix.
Got a hammer I could borrow, then? His eyebrows bounce and his smile grows wider, if thats even possible. His teeth are ridiculously white. Like, fake white. Theres no way thats a natural white.  He must be paying thousands to keep his teeth that perfect. And who has eyelashes that thick? I blink when I realize Im gawking at the man. Then it strikes me that what hes asked for is odd. If I wasnt wary before, I am now.
You remodel homes and you dont have a hammer? I ask him with suspicion behind my voice.
How did you—” His brow pulls together, then he shakes his head as though he wants to forget whatever it is he thought.  Never mind. Mine broke.”
The splintered tool is held up for me to see hes not lying, and I narrow my eyes at it. I know for a fact theres a hardware store within ten minutes of here. Everything is within ten minutes in Spangler.
Cant you just go buy a new one?
He steps inside, right past me. As though he plans to stay a while, he gently sets the tool down  on my entryway table. Hes definitely not staying a while.  I dont have that kind of time. Allys about to be late for school, therefore making me late for work, and thats simply unacceptable.
Im still staring at the hammer when he answers. Id rather not.”
Then I point at my neighbors house. What about—”
They werent home.”
His grin is annoying. Way too annoying to be a murderer. And yes, I realize how nonsensical that sounds.
I snarl. I dont mean to. Its a knee jerk reaction I have to pushy people. Especially pushy people who have an answer to everything. I have a choice to make here. I can: a) stand here arguing with him over it while debating whether or not hes a murderer when in all actuality, if he was a murderer, he probably wouldve killed me by now, or b) I could go get my damn hammer for him. Since battling him will do nothing but make me later than I already am, I opt out of an early morning, pre-caffeine argument and spin on my heels. I hurry toward the garage, and as I pass the stairs, I holler up to my daughter again.
Five minutes!
She groans in dramatic pain and I shake my head. I cannot wait for this phase to be over.
Got yourself a handful there, I take it, my temporary neighbor jokes from behind me.
None of your business, I say under my breath.
His voice is closer than it should be, so I stop and turn. Hes following me. Why is he following me? I put a hand to his chest. And holy. Its hard as a rock. I didnt think that was a real thing.
I force my eyes away from his pecs and look up at him.
You. Stay here.” Just in case.
Carter puts his hands up in defeat and stays put.
I finish my strut to the garage and open the door only wide enough for me to slip through without him seeing past me. I dont need him making a list of all the things in here. Or judging my hoarder tendencies. They arent really my hoarder tendencies, to clarify. My ex managed to pack all his things, but never managed to pick them up after the divorce. I somehow cannot bring myself to get rid of the boxes that now litter my garage.
Call me sentimental. Or maybe Im a glutton for punishment.
When I flick on the light, I sigh deep and heavy. I have no idea where I put the hammer last time I used it.
Hell, I dont remember the last time I used the thing. I step down three deep stairs into my overcrowded garage and walk around. I glance inside boxes as I pass them to see if I can figure out which one might have some freaking tools. The first is full of papers that look like they date back to the nineteen eighties. The second and third host an array of knick-knacks my ex has collected over the years. Football memorabilia, college player bobbleheads, things like that.
And then, I see it, finally.  The box, that is. And only because its clearly marked. Its in a bin on the highest peak of the tallest shelf.
I check the time on my watch. Its getting ridiculously late, now, so I throw myself into overdrive.
really dont have time for this.
I grab the ladder from its corner. Its not in the best of shape. Im pretty sure we bought this thing right after we were married and that was a good seventeen or eighteen years ago. As I open it up and prop it against the wall, Im not so sure this is a good idea, but I find myself climbing up the rickety steps, regardless. At the top, I struggle to open the box and keep my balance at the same time but manage to find a hammer buried inside. I grumble all the way down the ladder and leave it be, which might have been a good decision except that I trip over the corner leg and stub my toe.
Mother effffffff. Ohmygod that hurt that hurt that hurt.
Ow.” All the way back to the stairs, I curse the ladder. I curse my toe. I curse the hammer and the man who came into my home asking for it. I limp up the first two steps, but on the third, I misjudge my footing and slip. I try to regain my balance but I cant. The hammer goes soaring and my eyes widen. My scream sounds like a wild banshee as I fly backwards. I frantically attempt to decipher the best way to land that will cause me the least amount of pain when suddenly, Im not falling anymore.
The hammer clangs against the concrete floor as Im jerked forward and for a moment I think someone is helping me up from behind. Its not until Im pressed firmly against a warm, solid body, that smells an awful lot like saw dust, that I realize Ive been pulled not pushed. He holds my wrist tightly while my arm wraps itself around his waist to hold on. When my senses return, I look up.
Perfect, dark chocolate irises stare back at me.
Soooo not a murderer.
Gotcha.”  The corners of his luscious mouth lift only slightly. Just enough to make me lose my breath.
Yes.” Im mesmerized with the sound of his voice. You do.”
He stands me up straight and holds me steady. The corners of his eyes crinkle as his body vibrates with laughter. Im about to ask him what in the hell he thinks is so funny when I notice where were standing.
What happened to you staying where you were? I place a hand on my hip after I push away from him. Sort of.
Its a good thing I didnt, he says with an even bigger smirk on his face.
I want to slap it right off of him.
Then maybe kiss the lips that created it.
Do you always double book yourself? That cant be healthy on any level.”
Im confused by his question until I see my day timer in his free hand. Its enough to snap me back into reality.
What are you doing with my day timer?
I pick the hammer up off the floor, then snatch my book out of his hands and stalk back toward the foyer. As I tuck the tool under my arm, I flip through the pages of my calendar. God only knows what he read while I was looking for that stupid tool.
Please tell me he did not read my reminder to pick up the tampons this afternoon.
It was sitting there. Open. And I was bored.”
Bored? My life is anything but boring. I spin on him, fuming. I think my eye is twitching and I blink to try and control the horrid tick.
He shrugs then laughs again. Yeah.”
And its like hes finding humor in the fact that while my day has already started out on a chaotic note, he has all the time in the world to sit and read my personal notes.
In my defense, I didnt realize it was a day timer at first, I mean this thing looks more like a journal.”
So you wouldnt have picked it up if it was my day timer, but because it was a journal, all bets are off?
Like I said, it was sitting there. Open. I thought that was an invitation. For bored people.
Its clear now, hes not a murderer. Hes simply an ass. I open my mouth to tell him he can take his pompous attitude and shove this hammer right up his derriere when . . .
Allison makes her way down the stairs, her book bag in hand. Her hair is perfect and as per usual, a scowl is spread across her face. Were going to be late and youre holding social hour? Seriously?
This child. I love this child. I close my eyes. I breathe in deep. Then let it go.
Carters fine.” Hes not laughing anymore, but the way he presses his lips together tells me that he still finds humor in my pain.
Ive never been one to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they got one over on me, though. So, instead of telling him off, I smile and pull the hammer out from under my arm to hand over to him.
Have a nice day.”
His eyes zero in on mine for what feels like an eternity before taking the thing. When he twists his mouth, Im drawn to his lips. Theyre soft . . . full . . . beautiful. I hate them.
Thanks.” He nods to my daughter as he strides past the stairway. He picks up his broken hammer and heads out the front door, one hand dangling the broken one, the other hooking mine over his shoulder. The way his jeans hang from his hips shows enough ass, but not nearly enough.
I bite my lip.
My head snaps to my daughter, whos still standing at the foot of the stairs. Gross! She hurries out the front door to wait for me by the car.
Excuse me? I pull the door closed behind me and lock up before racing off myself.
Seriously, she says, I dont need to witness you ogling the new neighbor guy.”
I wasnt ogling anybody. I have such a smart ass of a daughter. Lucky me.
Outside, I pull the car door open and throw my bag inside. I dont have time to ogle. How dare she accuse me of ogling.
I start the engine and pull out of the driveway. We head down Sprit Drive, into our respective busy days, but not before I adjust the rearview mirror to get one last decent look at the way Carter Blackwoods jeans hang off of him.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I loved the story. There was much laughter in the book, yet also a serious story woven between the giggles. Both characters struggle to overcome their pasts and move forward with their lives, and it takes finding the right person to do so. It just takes them a while to realize that person is living right across the street. I loved the book, the writing and the characters - Cookie Cutter is a read I would definitely recommend." ~ Melanie Moreland
"Reading this book really reminded me of watching a Nora Ephron movie, and anybody who knows me will understand that’s a huge compliment. It was funny, sexy and above all heartwarming. An overall fantastic read!" ~ Carrie Elks
"This steady paced novel doesn't strictly focus on handyman meets harried mom. It brings out the attraction and growing magnetism naturally. The author provides a well rounded view into a neighborhood and into the personalities of the principles. A wonderful, sometimes hilarious, vacation or escape read that will make you look more closely at the people around you. What secrets are hidden in plain sight?" ~ Laura Reading
"I enjoyed immensly in Cookie Cutter finding the story vividly compelling, portraying all the funny, awkward, sweet, scary, sensual, but also sad, hard, painful and beautiful nuisances of life." ~ Snow
"Cookie Cutter is a light and fun read that easily flows. The angst is not too over the top. I think everything wraps up too quickly in the end; however, this story will pull at your heart a little and reflect that sometimes change can be a good thing. Overall, Cookie Cutter made me smile!" ~ GraceMyBookSnack

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
When Iris meets her new neighbor, Carter, sparks fly. But he's only around long enough to flip a house. Besides, they're both getting over relationships and not really looking to start anything new. Things are complicated by a problematic sixteen-year-old daughter, an amorous boss, a persistent ex-husband, and a best friend who isn't acting like one. Will Iris and Carter ever be able to get past their differences?
This is a gorgeous story told from the points of view of both Iris and Carter. It's full of humor, romance, family drama, and populated by a cast of quirky neighbors.
My only complaint: after so much talk about cookies, I just wish the author had included the recipe for those sugar cookies!
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes.

About the Author
Jo Richardson
A movie fanatic, a writer of stories, a lover of life.
I grew up in Maryland with four siblings, three parents and an endless number of cousins within the vicinity – but it was too cold up North for this thin blooded girl. Today, I live in Florida with my two girls and a husband who shares my same sense of humor and basic take on life as we know it.
Life is too short to put dreams on the back burner.
I write both contemporary and paranormal stories that include mystery, suspense, humor, action, romance, and anything else I can think up.

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