AVAILABLE JANUARY 23RD 2018/ MIRA BOOKS
The grass is always greener on your sister’s side of the fence…
Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgeling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.
Spending half her life in school hasn’t prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn’t inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey’s husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she’s already six months pregnant.
Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor.
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She thought of the stack of bills on her desk and how every month was a struggle. It was the house, she admitted to herself. She’d wanted to keep it after the divorce so that Becca wouldn’t have to move and she didn’t want to be forced to sell it when her daughter turned eighteen. Buying out Terence had decimated her half of their joint assets, meaning he got to keep all the cash, savings and most of their retirement accounts. In return she had the house and little else.
“I take my income very seriously. At some point I’ll switch out the craft room with my office, but not yet. The craft room makes me happy.”
“I doubt that. It’s a constant reminder of how you have to be perfect.”
The unexpected insight caught her off guard and made her feel embarrassed and exposed. Like he’d walked in on her going to the bathroom.
Lucas was like that. Not that he walked in on her doing anything, but every now and then he was uncomfortably intuitive.
They returned to the living room, where he put the hurricane lanterns on the sideboard. She wrapped rose and gold ribbon around the bases before setting them in place. After scattering the glass beads down the center of the table, she studied the effect.
“It’s beautiful,” Lucas told her. “Becca’s going to love it.”
“Bunny will complain I haven’t done enough.”
“Want me to take her on for you?”
“You’d never take the chance,” she told him. “What if you got old lady cooties?”
“There is that.” He followed her back into the kitchen where she pulled the garlic spread out of the refrigerator.
“So who is Great-Aunt Cheryl anyway?” he asked.
“Terence’s great-aunt. I first met her when he and I were still dating. She was wonderful. Funny and irreverent. She never married, but there were always very interesting men hanging around. She had a million stories and they were all so interesting. Just when I started to think she was making it all up, she’d pull out something like a letter from President Truman thanking her for her invaluable aid to our country.”
She sliced the French loaf lengthwise. Lucas leaned against the counter.
“You admired her.”
“I did. Very much. She was always very sweet to me.”
“Bunny hated her and was jealous of your relationship.”
Harper stared at him. “How did you know?”
“Come on. Really? Your mother is the most traditional person I know, and she’s convinced you that if you buy bread instead of making it, the sun won’t rise in the morning. Bunny is all home and hearth. Great-Aunt Cheryl would make Bunny’s teeth hurt. Worse, she would have violated every one of Bunny’s core beliefs.”
“They weren’t close,” Harper admitted. “Over the past couple of years, Great-Aunt Cheryl and I weren’t in touch as often. I thought she was busy. It was only after I found out she’d died that I learned she’d been sick.”
Harper still felt guilty for not pushing harder to find out what was going on. “She didn’t want to be any trouble, or something like that. I wish I’d been with her at the end.”
“Was she alone?”
“No, she had Ramon.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Ramon?”
“Great-Aunt Cheryl was a little like you when it came to her lovers.”
“Good for her. Why didn’t you go to the memorial?”
Harper had all her socially correct excuses at the ready, but with Lucas, she found herself blurting out the truth.
“It’s nearly a day to drive to Grass Valley and I didn’t want to be in the car that long with Terence and her.”
“Alicia?” Lucas asked sweetly. “Is there a reason you can’t say her name?”
“Yes. It’s like Beetlejuice. If you say her name too many times, she’ll rise up with horrific powers and do unspeakable things. I’m being cautious.”
“The world thanks you.”
“As it should.”
She finished coating the bread. After slicing it, she wrapped it in foil so it was ready to pop in the oven.
“Expecting anything from Great Aunt Cheryl?” he asked.
“No. We were friends and that’s plenty.”
She went into the pantry and scooped flour into a sifter, then sorted through her folder of stencils before finding the one she needed. Technically it wasn’t Easter until Sunday, but she wanted something fun for her daughter’s return.
Lucas didn’t speak as he followed her outside. She stopped at the end of the walkway, then put the stencil on the concrete path before straightening and gently turning the handle on the sifter.
Flour drifted down, landing on the stencil. When she lifted it up, there was a perfect set of rabbit footprints.
Lucas stepped around her and headed for his car. “You’re a scary woman, Harper Szymanski. I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
“Does it actually matter?”
He got into his white Mercedes convertible, turned to her and winked. “Honestly, it doesn’t.”