Author: Holly

Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Posted May 10, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

We had a system glitch and this didn’t post as scheduled yesterday. Let’s hear it for Sunday Spotlight on Monday!

Sunday Spotlight: Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlaneJust Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: Harper Collins, William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 416
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction...

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?

Excerpt

Excerpted from the book JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane. Copyright © 2021 by Mhairi McFarlane. From William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

 

Before

“We’re going to win tonight,” Ed says. “I can feel it. I can smell it. I could slice it like a frittata. The air is thick with the odor of our imminent victory. Breathe it in, my bitches.”

He pretends to scent the air.

“Are you sure that’s not Leonard?” Justin says. “He had chili con carne for tea. Got up on the counter and had his face in the saucepan before I could stop him, the fool. He’s been farting in spicy beef flavor ever since.”

“Maybe victory smells exactly like mince and kidney beans working its way through a very small dog’s digestive system,” I say, as Susie says: “BLURGH.”

“How would we know how it smells, after all? None of us have ever been successful,” I say, directing this at Ed.

“Speak for yourself. My GP said my hemorrhoids were the most prominent he’d seen in thirty years practicing medicine.”

I guffaw. (This is a standard joke format with Ed; I assume his bum is fine.)

I reflexively reach out to pet Leonard, who has his own chair, sitting atop Justin’s coat, protecting the upholstery.

Leonard is a “Chorkie”—a Chihuahua crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier. He has beady eyes peering out from under a comical fringe of gray-white hair, spiky in the middle like he’s had Paul Weller’s Mod cut, bat ears, and a lopsided little grin, full of toothpick teeth.

He looks, as Ed says: “Like an enterprising cartoon rat doing some kind of stealthy cosplay as a canine. We’ve been infiltrated by a rodent master criminal.”

Leonard, an omnivorous eater and troublesomely impromptu urinator, is one of the loves of my life. (The rest of them are around, and also sometimes under, this table.)

“You say we’re going to win this quiz every week, Ed,” Susie says, worrying at a coaster, shredding it into a pile of soft cardboard shards. “And we are always fucked by the same five determined men in Lands’ End packable anoraks.”

“Describing my best holiday in Wales, there,” Justin says. Justin is a self-proclaimed “tiresome show-off and performative middle child” and one of the funniest men you’ll ever meet, but you absolutely do not go to him for good taste.

The quizmaster’s voice booms out, cutting through conversation, like the Voice of God:

“Question TEN. Who is Michael Owuo? Who is, Michael Owuo?

The usual seconds of post-question hush fall.

“Is he . . . the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East?” Ed whispers, faux-earnestly.

“Seriously?” Susie says.

“No,” I say, rolling my eyes, and Ed taps the pen on his lips and winks at me.

“You three do know who he is, right?” Justin says, doing a double take. “UGH. So we are the millennial cast of Last of the Summer Wine.”

“Did he play the villain in the last Bond?” I ask, and Ed says: “YES! ‘Doctor Pardon.’ What was his gimmick again?”

“He had bejeweled ear gauges,” I say. “And a walker, with tinsel wound ’round it.”

Ed laughs. I love the way he laughs: it starts in his shoulders.

“OK, who is joking, and who isn’t?” Susie says. “I mean obviously, they are,” she grimaces at myself and Ed. “Do you genuinely know who he is, Justin?”

“He’s Stormzy,” Justin hisses. “God, you can tell you lot are thirty-four.”

“You’re thirty-four, Justin,” Susie says.

“There’s thirty-four and then there’s, like, ‘Who are the Stormzys?’ thirty-four,” Justin says, pulling an “old geezer” rubbery face.

“A ‘stormzy,’ you say,” Ed says, in a creaky High Court judge voice. “Whatever a Stormzy is,” and writes “Mr. Storm Zee” on the paper.

Ed has really nice hands; I’m a sucker for nice hands. He cycles a lot and can mend things, and I am now mature enough to appreciate practical skills like that.

Susie takes the pen from Ed, scribbles his words out, and writes Stormzy correctly.

“Don’t your pupils keep you up to date with this stuff?” I ask Ed. “Hip to the jive, daddio?”

“It’s my job to teach them Dickens, not theirs to teach me grime.”

Ed is head of English at a nice county school. You know how they say some people look like police? Ed looks like a teacher—a film or television, glossy young teacher—with his unthreatening, handsome solidity, strawberry-blond, close-cropped hair. In a crisis in a situation full of strangers, Ed’s would be the kind, reliable face you’d hope to see. He’d be the guy offering his necktie as a makeshift tourniquet.

Part of the pleasure of this weekly pub appointment to lose the pub quiz, I think, is it brings out and defines all the roles in our foursome. Ed and I clowning around together, Justin refereeing, with his caustic wit, Susie playing exasperated mother.

Sometimes I stop participating in the conversation and just hum happily inside myself, enjoying our togetherness, reveling in the way we all broadcast on the same frequency. I watch us from the outside.

. . . didn’t she marry the singer from the Mumfords? I’d rather be a Sister Wife. (Susie)

. . . this cherry Stolichnaya that Hester brought back from duty-free, it’s amazing, tastes like baby medicine. Or so babies tell me. (Ed)

. . . he was a right grumpy carrot top. I said to him, do you know why gingerism is the last acceptable prejudice? Because it’s acceptable. (Justin, of course)

“Shhhhh,” I say, as I can see the quizmaster adjusting his readers, as he squints at a piece of paper.

“Question ELEVEN. The word ‘CHRONOPHAGE’ is an Ancient Greek word for what is now an idiomatic expression in English. But what does it mean? Clue: your mobile phone may do this. That does not mean you can check your phones, hahaha!”

The quizmaster blows air out of his nostrils in a windy gust, directly into the bulb, and you can hear his spit.

The looks on the faces of our hiking anorak nemeses suggest they’re considerably more confident about this than they were about Mr. Stormzy.

“Chrono means time . . . ,” Ed whispers. “Chronograph watches.”

“Chronological.” Susie nods. “In order of timing.”

“Phage,” I say. “Hmmm. Coprophagic is eating poo. Fairly sure the copro’s poo, so the phagic must be eating.”

“Eve!” Susie barks, with a potato chip halfway into her mouth. “How do you even know that?”

“I’ve lived a full life.”

“I’ve been around for most of it so I know that isn’t true. A quarter full, at best.”

“. . . Eating time?” Justin hisses. “It must mean eating time. Your phone does that. Boom. Write it down.”

Ed obliges.

We come to The Gladstone every Thursday. I would say without fail, but we are thirty-somethings with lives and jobs and other friends and—some of us—partners, so there are some fails. But we’re here more often than not.

“Question TWELVE, before we take a short break. What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? I’ll give you a clue. It involves a mistake.”

We stare blankly at each other. Packable Anoraks are frantic-whispering instead of writing or looking sneaky-smug, which means they’re not sure either.

“Is it choice of first wife? As in they’ve all had more than one?” Ed says.

“We don’t call people we divorce mistakes now,” Susie says.

“My mum does,” I say.

“Remember when our religion teacher said, ‘People are too quick to divorce nowadays,’ and you said, ‘I think they’re too slow,’ and you got a detention for it?” Susie says and I guffaw.

“Ah, there she is,” Ed says, as the door slaps open and his girlfriend, Hester, appears, her nose wrinkling in distaste at the slight stench of “armpit.”

My heart sinks a notch, but I ignore that it has done this and paste on a strong, welcoming smile.

To be fair, The Gladdy does have a bit of an aroma sometimes, what with the sticky floor, but that’s part of its charm. It’s a dartboard-and-devoted-regulars pub.

I love it, year-round, with its scrappy concrete beer garden with flower planters on the fire escape. I think they are supposed to simulate “verdant urban oasis” in a yard full of lager and smokers. But it’s at its best in autumn and winter. Frosted-leaf mulch and dark skies with bright stars on the other side of the steamed-up panes. Serious hygge to be had, on this side of the window.

Well, mostly.

Hester moved to Nottingham for Ed, a fact she likes to relitigate about once a month.

She looks like a colorized picture has walked into a black and white, kitchen sink realism film: skin the color of ripe peaches and shimmering champagne-blond hair. She’s like a human Bellini.

Her balled fists are thrust in her coat pockets, a Barbour with a fawn cord collar, as if she’s smashed into a saloon in a Western and going to draw two guns.

It’s not that I don’t like Hester . . .

“Are you all drunk by now, then?” she says, bullishly. She glances at me. “Eve looks drunk.”

Oh, why do I bother. It’s absolutely that I don’t like Hester.

 

“And once again for the cheap seats! What do Marcus Garvey, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, and Alice Cooper have in common? It involves a mistake. A mistake. An error. OK, back soon.”

“Hemingway was in a plane crash, were any of the others?” I whisper.

“Bit of a stretch to call a plane crash ‘a mistake’ though?” Ed whispers back and I shrug, nodding in concession.

“And Rudyard Kipling’s a bit too yesteryear for planes, isn’t he?” Justin says. “Not exactly doing his Instagram Story with a Prosecco claw holding a flute aloft in the airport bar.”

He mimes trying to photograph his pint glass, and Susie snorts.

“They were wrongly given awards that had to be taken back,” Hester says, dragging her coat off her shoulders. “Where’s the pen?”

Justin makes a skeptical face and Ed tries to look persuadably neutral as he hands it over. His sense of humor doesn’t evaporate, exactly, around Hester, but he goes more no absolutely of course I didn’t mean that formal.

Hester’s late joining tonight as she’s been out with friends at a tapas restaurant, and understandably, given the number of babies that the rest of the circle have between them, they wind things up by nine p.m. Hester only joins us at The Gladdy quiz intermittently, anyway. “Sometimes it gets wearying, with all your in-jokes,” she says. Even though she’s known us all for so long as Ed’s girlfriend, I am not sure how there’s an “in” she’s outside of.

“Are you sure?” Susie says.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Hester says. Qualifying: “. . . Well, have you got anything better?”

“Sure, sure—or four-Proseccos-deep-and-we-haven’t-got-anything-better-yet, sure?” Susie persists, smiling in a “Wicked Queen with a red apple” sort of way.

She dares with Hester in ways I absolutely do not dare. Susie dares with most people. Most people don’t dare back.

Susie has long, thick blond-brown hair she wears in a horse-mane-length ponytail, or loose and bunched up into a scarf like she’s Streisand in a seventies film. She has a full mouth with an emphatic pout to her top lip, which looks as if it’s being pulled upward by her tilted nose, which I think is a thing called “retroussé.”

“What award did Marcus Garvey get?” Justin says.

“Rear of the Year?” I say, and Ed hoots. Hester’s fuming, I know.

“OK, ignore me then!” Hester says. “Pardon me for trying to participate, guys.”

“No, no! It’s good! I think you’re right,” Ed says, hastily. “None of us have anything better. Write it down.”

I always respect Ed for leaping chivalrously to Hester’s defense, while wishing it was for someone who better deserved it. Hester scribbles while Justin, Susie, and I try not to meet each other’s eyes.

“More drinks I think, what’s everyone having?” Justin says and gets up to go to the bar.

I go to the loo and, after I flush, I see I have a text from Susie. (Not a WhatsApp, because it would risk appearing in full on a lock screen. Canny.)

When I open it, I see it’s been sent to myself and Justin. I know how they’re triangulating the signal, next door—Justin nonchalantly studying his handset while waiting to be served, Susie slightly angled away from the couple, feigning picking up her messages.

 

Susie: WHY IS SHE SUCH A BOSSY ARSEHOLE THOUGH

Justin: She can get away with anything due to the fabulous breasts, darling

Susie: I have great tits and you don’t see it affecting my personality. That answer is SO OBVIOUSLY WRONG. And why is Ed such a wimp about it. Oh yes write that bollocks down, my precious little poison dumpling. ARGH

Justin: Again, boobs

Eve: The poisoned dumplings

Susie: I swear she knows it’s the wrong answer and is doing it to fuck with us

 

I lean against the pleasantly chilly wall in the loo and type, grinning.

Having been in stone-cold love with Hester’s other half for the best part of two decades means I never know how much of my dislike is plain old envy. Susie and Justin continually—and inadvertently, because they absolutely don’t know—reassure me I’d have disliked her anyway. I often play Nice Cop in regards to Hester, to further throw everyone off the scent.

 

Eve: You wait, she’ll be right and that’ll show us

Susie: She’s not right, she doesn’t even know who Marcus Garvey was, you could see that when Justin challenged her

Justin: She probably thinks he won Best Video 2007 at the Grammys

Susie: Lol. And I’d just point out that Eve’s suggestion got shot down and she didn’t get the hump

Eve: Does this say anything bad about my breasts

Susie: Only that they’re not a carbon offsetting scheme for being a horror

Justin: Sigh. Let us get drunk.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Mhairi McFarlane

Author headshot

Mhairi was born in Falkirk, Scotland in 1976. She went to school in Nottingham, studied English Literature at Manchester University and then returned to Nottingham to delight its citizens with her journalism. After roles as trainee reporter, reporter, feature writer and columnist, she realised she’d climbed to the very top of the mountain at the Nottingham Post and at age 31 decided to write a novel. Some very skint years followed, during which she thought she might’ve made a huge mistake.

Her debut novel, the romantic comedy You Had Me At Hello, was an instant hit upon being published in December 2012. It’s since become HarperCollins’ best selling ebook to date, has been translated into 16 languages and is being developed as a major feature film, with Mhairi writing the screenplay. The follow up, Here’s Looking At You, was published in December 2013 and made the Sunday Times Bestseller list.

Mhairi’s first hardback title for HarperFiction, It’s Not Me, It’s You, is published on November 6th 2014.

She’s currently working on her fourth novel, adapting You Had Me At Hello for screen and developing a comedy-drama script for television.


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What Are You Reading? (563)

Posted May 7, 2021 by Holly in Features | 4 Comments

Casee: I’m reading a series by Jessica Gadizala called The Henchmen MC. It’s very Kristen Ashley-esque with the “babe” and “bitches” talk every other page. It was eye-rolling at first, but just like Kristen Ashley, I got used to it. I read Reign, the first book in the series & am now reading Cash. There’s something like 20 books in the series so I’ll be busy for awhile.

I was listening to Wild Wind by Kristen Ashley. I still haven’t finished it and it’s been something like two months.

Holly: I finished Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas, which I enjoyed, though there were some problematic themes. I read The Princess and the Pea and Beauty and the Beast by K.M. Shea, which are part of the Timeless Fairytales series. I enjoyed elements of both, but I don’t know that I’ll continue the series. While I liked the individual stories, I’m not really interested in the over-arching plotline.

I re-read Honor’s Splendour and The Wedding by Julie Garwood and listened to How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper for the second time. All three are so good. Definitely worth revisiting.

I read Darkest Heart by Juliette Cross, the first book in the Dominion series. I believe it’s part of another series, but I don’t feel like I missed anything by starting here. I really liked the world and the romance. I immediately started the second book, Hardest Fall, which features two characters I’m very curious about.

Rowena: I’ve discovered anime and right now, I’m all about Demonslayer. I watched the first season and then the movie that just released a couple of weeks ago. I’m loving everything about this world and the characters. I’m super curious to see where the creators take Tanjiro and his crew. I’m telling you, once Tanjiro and his crew finish their training, it’s over for those demon bitches. Team Rengoku! I love this anime so much that I started reading the manga’s. I read books 7 and 8 this week and now I’m reading book 9. I’m starting the storyline that follows the movie and I’m super excited!! I have books 10 and 11 lined up once I’m finished and I plan to jump into those right away.

What are you reading this week? Any new favorites or books that drove you crazy? Share!


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Lightning Review: Hauntings and Humbug: A Steampunk Christmas Carol by Melanie Karsak

Posted May 5, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Lightning Review: Hauntings and Humbug: A Steampunk Christmas Carol by Melanie KarsakReviewer: Holly
Hauntings and Humbug: A Steampunk Christmas Carol by Melanie Karsak

Publication Date: February 2nd 2020
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Steampunk
Pages: 77
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

Humbug! This Christmas, Ebony Scrooge will learn the true meaning of the holiday season.

It’s Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and Ebony Scrooge is hard at work tinkering weapons of mass destruction and avoiding all things Christmas. When the spirit of her deceased partner, Jacqueline Marley, warns Ebony that she will be visited by three ghosts, Ebony writes the visitation off as a dream. But on this Christmas Eve, the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future must try to pull off a miracle, restoring Ebony’s heart before it’s too late.

Hauntings and Humbug is a retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, set in New York Times bestselling author Melanie’s Karsak’s steampunk universe.

Set in Victorian London, Hauntings and Humbug is a Steampunk retelling of A Christmas Carol. I really enjoyed Ebony Scrooge and the way her backstory unfolded. The secondary characters were well-drawn and I thought Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future were interesting.

This was an emotional retelling of A Christmas Carol. I enjoyed Ebony Scrooge and the people in her life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Lightning Review: Goblins and Snowflakes by Melanie Karsak

Posted May 3, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Lightning Review: Goblins and Snowflakes by Melanie KarsakReviewer: Holly
Goblins and Snowflakes by Melanie Karsak
Series: Steampunk Fairy Tales #5

Publication Date: November 13th 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Steampunk
Pages: 111
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Never bargain with goblin men.

Scarlette Rossetti thought her stay at Strawberry Hill Castle during the Christmas holiday would pass by uneventfully. She couldn't have been more wrong. Enticed by the delights of the nearby village of Twickenham, Scarlette's life would change in unimaginable ways.

She never expected to be drawn magnetically to The Two Sisters Doll Shop and Toy Emporium.

Scarlette didn't guess that tinkering clockwork gnomes could have supernatural consequences.

And she didn't know that one should never, ever, bargain with goblin men.

But during the Christmas season, magic is always brewing.

Charles Dickens meets Supernatural in this magical retelling of The Elves and The Shoemaker. Dive into New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak's award-winning fairy tale world set in gaslamp England.

Scarlette Rossetti is visiting her uncle for Christmas and secretly helping some dollmakers in the village, when she starts seeing a traveling caravan in the woods. She doesn’t think much of it until she realizes she’s the only one who can see them. They offer her the thing she most desires, in exchange for a bargain. Even though she knows she should resist, the temptation proves too much. Now she must figure out how to outsmart the tricky goblins before it’s too late..

This was a quick, cute story. I liked Scarlette and her giving nature, not to mention how clever she was. The romance came on quick, but I enjoyed it for all that.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Steampunk Fairy Tales

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Suntano

Posted May 2, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

The cover of this book caught my attention, and the blurb sealed it for me. I can’t wait to read this. DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q Suntano sounds amazing and hilarious.

Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q SuntanoDial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder2 thousand wedding guests3 (maybe) cursed generations4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body.

Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
Story Locale: Southern California

Excerpt

Excerpt from DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

I open the car door, heart thundering. “Ma, you scared me!”

She frowns at me. “What is it, Meddy? What’s wrong?”

I wasn’t planning on telling her anything. Of course I wasn’t— the last person I want to tell is Ma. She wouldn’t know what to do, or say, or—

“Ma, I killed him.” Tears spring into my eyes when I hear myself say those words out loud. I killed him. How many more times would I have to say that?

“Kill him? Kill what? Aduh, Meddy, how many times must I tell you, don’t drink so much. You see, now you’re not making any sense.”

“I killed him, Ma. Jake. The guy you set me up with!” And now, finally, I let the tears flow, because saying his name is awful. It’s not just some body in my trunk; it’s a body who used to be a someone.

Ma stops her nattering mid-sentence. Her mouth claps shut, and she stares at me for a while. When she next speaks, it’s in halting English. “This is like what you and Selena like to say? You kids always saying, ‘Wah, you killing it!’ Like that, ya?”

“No!” I cry. “I mean I literally killed him, Ma!” Not knowing what else to do, I take out my car key and hit a button. The trunk pops open with a click that might as well be a gunshot inside our small garage. All noise is suddenly amplified; I can hear my own heartbeat, and Ma’s sharp intake of breath.

“Meddy,” she whispers, “this is joke, right? You just joking with me?”

“No, Ma, this isn’t a joke.”

A strangled laugh from Ma; then she shakes her head. “You kids, ya, you always think you are so funny.” She wags a finger at me and strides to the back of the car, still shaking her head. “My daughter, such a joker, so—AIYA wo de tian ah!” She stumbles back, hands covering her mouth.

I wince.

“Meddy,” she hisses. “Meddy! This is not funny.” She looks back and forth between me and the trunk. “Are those fake legs? What you call it—man-ee-kween?”

I shake my head, fresh tears springing to my eyes. “No, Ma, it’s not a mannequin. It’s really Jake, I swear.”

She utters a noise that’s somewhere between a howl and a whimper, then takes a moment to steel herself before peering closer into the trunk. She whimpers again when she sees the rest of the body. I imagine what she’s seeing from her vantage point. First the shoes—brown loafers, no socks—then the legs, the torso, and then the hoodie covering his face.

“Why you cover the face?” she says. “Something horrible happen to it, is it?” She shudders. “Is there something sticking out of the eye? Aiya, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” She flaps, grimacing. “Is it broken glass in his eye?”

“No, Ma. There’s nothing sticking out of his eye. I just thought it would be, I don’t know, more respectful.”

“Oh.” She nods. “Yes, you right, more respectful.” She pats me on the cheek. “I raise you so well.”

Hysteria rises from deep in my stomach and I have to swallow it. Trust Ma to take pride in my etiquette when I’ve just shown her my date, whom I’ve killed, in the trunk of my car.

“I did just kill a person, so I don’t know that you can say you’ve raised me well.”

“Oh, he must deserve it.”

I bite my lip to keep from bursting into tears again. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to explain myself to her.

From DIAL A FOR AUNTIES published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Jesse Q. Sutanto

Jesse Q Sutanto is the author of Dial A for Aunties, The Obsession, and Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Oxford University, though she hasn't found a way of saying that without sounding obnoxious. The film rights to her women’s fiction, Dial A for Aunties, was bought by Netflix in a competitive bidding war. The novel will be out in April 2021. Jesse lives in Indonesia with her husband, her two daughters, and her ridiculously large extended family, many of whom live just down the road.


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