Author: Rowena

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Posted July 14, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’LearyReviewer: Rowena
The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

The Road Trip was one of the first books that I read by Beth O’Leary and while I did enjoy it, there were things about it that I didn’t really care for. The biggest thing was the back and forth between the past and the present. I almost DNF’d this book because I hated the jumping between the past and the present. If I wasn’t so invested in what happened to break Dylan and Addie up, I probably wouldn’t have finished this one. Also, the lightness of the illustrated cover made me think this was going to be a lighter romance than it actually was, and normally, it’s not a big deal to me but for some reason, it just didn’t completely work for me in this one. It might have been a mood thing because while I didn’t LOVE the book, it was still a pretty solid story.

This is a second chance love story between Dylan and Addie. They met while Dylan was vacationing in the house that Addie was working at over the summer. Dylan comes from money and Addie works for every penny she has but they found love in that French villa and things were going swimmingly…until it wasn’t and they break up. It’s been two years since they’ve broken up and they haven’t spoken to each other since. When their mutual friend, Cherry, gets married they know that they’ll probably see each other at the wedding but they didn’t expect circumstances to make it to where they had to squeeze into the smallest car on the planet and road trip it to the wedding together.

Like I mentioned earlier, this story is told between the past and the present, and in the beginning, it gave me whiplash. I was so anxious to find out what happened in the past to make their present so weird and awkward that it made me a little grumpy when the story didn’t move fast enough to suit me. I preferred the past until the shit hit the fan and the road trip to the wedding was full of Dylan longing for Addie that I rolled my eyes a lot. I also wanted to punch Markus in the junk at every turn too. Past and present, though present Markus less so. Sure, I wanted to knee him in the balls in the present a time or two but he’s a different Markus from the past and I eventually came to not hate him.

This was a heavier book than I anticipated but I am glad that I finished it. I was satisfied with the way that the book came together in the end. I did end up enjoying Dylan and Addie’s characters and seeing them come together again after years and years of pain made for a satisfying end so I would recommend that you read this book if you’re in the mood for a love story that is heavy on the angst, but solid all around.

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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The Monthly Recap: June 2021

Posted July 4, 2021 by Rowena in Features, Giveaway Winners | 2 Comments

To all of our American friends, we hope that you’re enjoying your Independence Day weekend and we hope that you’re safe while doing so. If you were too busy to check the blog last month, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s what you missed on Book Binge.

What We Reviewed

Holly’s review of Fate of Dragons (Dragon Dojo Brotherhood #2) by Olivia Ash | 3.5 out of 5
Holly’s Throwback Thursday review of Love in the Afternoon (The Hathaways #5) by Lisa Kleypas | 4.5 out of 5
Casee’s review of Karma (Dark Protectors #13) by Rebecca Zanetti | 4 out of 5
Rowena’s review of Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1) by Kat Cho | 4 out of 5
Casee’s series review of The Disciples by Cassandra Robbins | 2.5 out of 5
Rowena’s review of The Intimacy Experiment (The Roommate #2) by Rosie Danan | 4 out of 5
Holly’s review of Darkest Heart (Dominion #1) by Juliette Cross | 4 out of 5
Holly’s review of Hardest Fall (Dominion #2) by Juliette Cross | 3.5 out of 5
Judith’s Throwback Thursday review of The Bliss Factor (FBI #1) by Penny McCall | 4.5 out of 5
Holly’s review of Coldest Fire (Dominion #3) by Juliette Cross | 4.25 out of 5
Holly’s review of Heart of Fire (Legends of the Storm #1) by Bec McMaster | 4 out of 5
Casee’s review of Gypsy King (Tin Gypsy #1) by Devney Perry | 3 out of 5

What We Posted

Books to Binge On: June 2021
What Are You Reading? (567)
WTF Cover Saturday (402)
Sunday Spotlight: Karma by Rebecca Zanetti
The Monthly Recap: May 2021
What are You Reading? (568)
WTF Cover Saturday (403)
Sunday Spotlight: Murder at Sunrise Lake by Christine Feehan
What Are You Reading? (569)
WTF Cover Saturday (404)
Sunday Spotlight: To Sir with Love by Lauren Layne
What Are You Reading? (570)
WTF Cover Saturday (405)
Sunday Spotlight: When Stars Collide by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Giveaway Winners


Chris H.
B N
Cassandra D.

Monthly Reads: May 2021

Ray C.

Sunday Spotlight: June 2021

Winners: Please shoot us an email at admin[at]thebookbinge.com then let us know which book you choose, and where you would like us to send your prize. You have two weeks to get back to us before we choose another winner.

That does it for this week’s recap. How was your week in books? Get any new books you want to share? Please share in the comments.


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What Are You Reading? (571)

Posted July 2, 2021 by Rowena in Features | 3 Comments

Holly

I re-read White Lies by Linda Howard, which is an old favorite. Then I read The Monster MASH by Angie Fox. It was just okay. I read Waking the Dragon by Juliette Cross. It didn’t really work for me. I had a hard time buying what the author was trying to sell. I may try another book in the series, but I’m going to hold off for awhile.

I started reading The Adversary by Thea Harrison, but I realized I didn’t remember enough from The Unseen and decided to re-read it instead. I’ll go back to The Adversary after I finish.

Rowena

It’s been such a long week for me at work so I’m looking forward to the long holiday weekend. I’m trying to relax and not do anything that I don’t want to do for three days straight. As busy and long as my week has been, I still managed to read two books. Yay me. I finished The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and really enjoyed it. I adored the note writing, the friendships, and the romance so that was a sweet romance. I also read So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park and enjoyed that one as well. Jess and Danny were an adorable couple and even though there were times when I wanted to smack Jess upside her head, that romance was another sweet one that made my work week a little better.

Right now, I’m reading Sweethand by N.G. Peltier and though it’s still early days, I’m liking it. I should finish it over the weekend and then I plan on jumping into Battle Royal by Lucy Parker. Have a great weekend, guys!

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


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Joint Review: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

Posted July 1, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry ThomasReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Marsdens #2
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: May 19, 2009
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 354
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Sherry Thomas is one of the hottest new voices in historical romance, garnering the highest praise from today’s bestselling writers (“Entrancing.” —Mary Balogh; “Ravishingly sinful, intelligent and addictive.” —Eloisa James). Now Sherry delivers this powerful story of a remarkable woman and the love she thought she’d never find—with the man she thought she’d lost forever.…

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

Holly: I am a total sucker for second chance romances. When our book club suggested this novel, I was really excited. I was frustrated with Bryony in the beginning, because I didn’t understand why she was so cold toward her former husband. But my heart really ached for her after we found out her reasons for pulling away.

Rowena: I haven’t been in the mood for historicals so I wasn’t all that enthused about starting this one but I am glad that I read and finished it. Like you, I spent a lot of the beginning of this story frustrated with Bryony. I was impatient and just wanted to know why she hated her husband so much. He had to have done something but even he was clueless about what he did so I thought I was going to be pissed at Bryony because it was going to be something stupid but that wasn’t the case at all.

I will say that I spent a good chunk of this book annoyed at one thing or another but I couldn’t stop reading it so I guess that’s a good thing?

Holly: It’s funny because I felt the same way. I wanted to keep reading and find out what was going to happen, and why they were at odds when they both clearly loved the other. But man was I annoyed through a good chunk.

I especially struggled with the dubious consent on both sides.

Rowena: Yes. The dubious consent on both sides pissed me off. Every single time that he did it, I wanted to smack him upside his head and then knee him in the balls because what is wrong with him?? I was so mad on her behalf because she was trying so hard to stay away from him and he just kept right on coming back while she had her guard down…so when she ups and does the exact same thing that I was pissed at him for doing, I wanted to pull her hair and poke her eyes out.

Holly: Exactly. I was so angry at him, and then she went and did the exact same thing. I wanted to smack them both.

Rowena: Once all of their drama is out in the open and they start working together to figure out where to go from here (especially during the attack), I was glad. I will say that Sherry Thomas’ writing style is hard to stay away from. No matter how many times I wanted to smack a bitch in the book, I never once wanted to stop. This was a quick read for me and alls well that ends well so for me, I’d give this one a 3.75 out of 5 rating. You?

Holly: Like you, I didn’t want to stop reading, though. This was a fast read and I easily finished it in one sitting.

I’d give it 3.5 out of 5. It was easy to read and I liked the story overall, but there were some problematic themes for me.

Holly: 3.5 out of 5
Rowena: 3.75 out of 5

The Marsdens

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

Posted June 20, 2021 by Rowena in Features, Giveaways | 4 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. 🙂

Lauren Layne is one of my favorite authors and I’m super thrilled to be featuring the first chapter of her upcoming release, To Sir, with Love. This book releases on June 29th so there’s not a long wait at all.

Sunday Spotlight: To Sir, with Love by Lauren LayneTo Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

This book is a cute contemporary romance that features two characters that don’t get along at first but come to fall in love with each other. Their journey made for an entertaining few hours so check out this excerpt and be excited about this release with me.

Excerpt

My dear lady,

I’m not sure how to say this politely, so I’ll just say it. You’re incorrect in every sense of the word. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a lemon sorbet on a hot summer day in the city. Ice cream, by comparison, is so very pedetrian. I thought I knew you.

Yours in gentle contempt,
Sir
______________________________________

To Sir, with equal contempt, less gentle:

I stand by my assertion that sorbet is an affront to frozen treats everywhere. I’ll see your lemon sorbet and raise you a pistachio gelato any day of the year.

Lady

One

“What am I looking at here? What is that smile?”

I drop my cell phone back into my bag and turn my full attention to the baby settled on my thighs, my hand resting protectively over his warm tummy. I wipe a tiny bit of drool from his adorable mouth. “That smile is me plotting to steal this baby. And maybe the baby’s beautiful daddy.”

My best friend is unfazed by my threats to steal her child and husband. “Never going to work. Felix assures me he’s partial to Jewish women. Oh, and he likes big boobs.”

“I can convert.” I make a cooing noise at the baby. “And get a boob job.”

“I hope those fake boobs produce milk. Because Matteo here’s still breastfeeding.”

“You’re a boob man already, hmm?” I ask the baby, who wraps tiny fingers around my own and shakes, grinning at me.

“Not for long,” Rachel says. “I’m trying to wean the little bastard, but bottles make this one gassy.”

“Farts from bottles?” I look over. “That’s a thing?”

“Oh, trust me,” Rachel says in a dark tone. “It’s a thing. Too bad there’s not a return or exchange policy for children.”

“No need.” I make smooching noises at the baby. “I’m stealing him, remember?”

“So you said in your attempt to distract me, but back to your Disney princess smile over whatever you were looking at on your phone. I’ve known you for over twenty years, and I know that smile. You’re in your Cinderella mode.”

“I do not have a Cinderella mode.”

“You totally do,” Rachel says. “I just watched you feed half your sandwich to the pigeons. Who you named.”

“Are you even a real New Yorker if you don’t befriend pigeons in Central Park?”

“And then you sang to them,” Rachel continues.

“I hummed. A slight but crucial distinction.”

“Mmm-hmm, and what song did you hum?”

I purse my lips and refrain from answering the question.

I’d been humming “It Had to Be You,” Frank Sinatra style. To the pigeons. Which, when not in my so-called Cinderella mode, I know are basically sky-rats.

This isn’t looking good for me, and we both know it.

Rachel very slowly shakes her head. “Gracie Madeleine Cooper, you are in love and you didn’t tell me.”

I snort. “That’d be a hell of a feat, considering I haven’t been on a second date in almost six months and waaaaay too many first ones.”

She holds out her palm. “Phone.”

“What?”

“That dreamy smile comes on your face every time you check your phone.” She reaches over me to grab my purse in the confident, overbearing way of a best friend of twenty years. “Let me see it.”

“What? No! Here,” I say, trying to maneuver Matteo into her arms. “Let’s trade. Your baby for my privacy.”

Her jaw drops. “You never want privacy! You have a secret!”

“I do not have a secret!”

I do. I totally have a secret, and it’s delicious and also a tiny bit embarrassing to admit, even to someone who’s held my hair back over the toilet of a Coney Island bathroom after too much blue cotton candy.

I manage to safely get the baby back into her arms, and Matteo takes my side and starts to fuss, granting me a brief reprieve from my best friend’s prying. As though reading my mind about the hair thing, Rachel shifts Matteo to her shoulder and hands me a hair band. “Tail me,” she orders, turning her back to me.

Obediently, I gather her thick hair and attempt to wind the elastic around her mass of gorgeous curls. I smile as a childhood memory bubbles up. Me, on the first day of third grade at a new school, my ponytail a lumpy mess, courtesy of my widowed father who did his best but didn’t know the first thing about little girls’ hair.

Rachel, the definitive alpha of Jefferson Elementary’s third-grade class, had taken one look at my stricken face, marched over, and announced that she needed to practice her French braiding and that I was her muse.

We’ve been styling each other’s hair ever since.

“You have the best hair,” I say, tucking an errant curl into the band and studying my handiwork.

“Attempt to distract from the matter at hand rejected,” she says, turning back around.

“You’re such a weirdo.” But I sigh and relent. “Okay, if I tell you what’s going on, you have to promise not to lecture.”

She makes a mock-wounded face. “If you care about me at all, you wouldn’t ask me to deny my true nature.”

“Fine,” I relent. “But as you lecture, at least try to remember that I already have an older sister who has yet to grasp that I’m thirty-three and not ten.”

“I will take it into consideration. Proceed.”

I take my time, leaning back on the green park bench, studying the cheerful energy of Central Park at lunchtime on a late summer’s day.

I exhale. “So there’s this dating app.”

“Tinder?”

“No.”

“Hinge?”

“No.”

“eHarmony?”

“Okay, you rattled those off way too quickly for someone who’s been married for seven years,” I say. “And it’s called MysteryMate.”

Rachel makes a face. “Oh, I don’t like the sound of this at all. There is no good use for the word mate outside of the Discovery Channel.”

“Yeah, the name’s not great,” I say.

Their tagline’s even worse: Love at no sight. And that’s not even the embarrassing part of my secret.

“So how does it work?” she asks.

I reach over and rip off a piece of her unfinished sandwich and toss it to my pigeon friends, Spencer and Katharine, as in Tracy and Hepburn.

“So, you know how Tinder is all about first impressions based on someone’s photo?” I say. “Well, this is sort of the opposite. There are no photos. No names, even. Instead you choose from these little cartoon avatar things and a screen name, and the app matches you with potential mates.”

I emphasize the word deliberately with a grin, and she rolls her eyes. “Okay, I get it. The app is all ‘beauty is on the inside.’ What happens after you’re matched?”

I shrug. “You message each other. If you click, you set up a meeting in person.”

“But what if the other person’s hideous?”

I give her a gently chiding look, and she shrugs as she rubs the baby’s back. “It’s a fair question. A meeting of the minds is nice, but physical attraction is hot.”

“Well, so far, none of the guys I’ve decided to meet in person have been hideous.”

“But one of them was hot, huh? Oh wait, no. You said you hadn’t been on any second dates.”

“I haven’t,” I say a little glumly. “All of the men have been perfectly nice, all pleasant looking in their own way. But no chemistry. None.”

Rachel tilts her head. “Then why the Cinderella mode? You only ever revert to that when you’ve got a crush.”

I take a deep breath. “Okay. Here’s the part where you’re going to want to dust off your best lecturing voice.”

Rachel taps her throat and hums like a singer warming up her voice. “Okay, ready. Hit me.”

“There’s this guy on the app I really like talking to. But . . . we haven’t met.”

“Hmm.” She purses her lips. “No lecture yet. But why not just meet him and see if you have chemistry?”

I bite my lip. “He’s not really available.”

“Then what’s he doing on a dating app?”

“He didn’t actually sign up for the app. He was at a friend’s bachelor party, and I guess one of them got drunk and thought it would be hilarious to steal his phone and set up a profile on his behalf.”

“Okay, but if you guys hit it off—”

“He has a girlfriend,” I interrupt.

“Ohhhhhhhh,” Rachel says, eyes widening. “That’s tricky. Wait. You’re having a cyber affair! With a cheater!”

“I’m not. I’m really not!” I repeat at her look. “And he’s not a cheater. After we matched, I messaged him, and he explained right away what had happened and that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. If he were looking for some sort of weird Internet affair, would he have told me about his girlfriend right away?”

“No,” she admits. “But then why are you two still talking?” “We’re just friends,” I say, shrugging. “After he replied to my message, I replied saying no problem, and then he replied, and then I replied. Somewhere along the line we discovered both of our first crushes are from Empire Records—”

“I’d forgotten about that! You loved A.J.”

“Still do,” I say with a nod. “He had a thing for Corey. We both live in Manhattan, we’re both highly suspicious of oatmeal, we both lost our dads to lung cancer four years ago, we both put mustard on our scrambled eggs—”

“So gross.”

“We don’t, however, like the same ice cream, apparently.” “You’re smiling that smile again,” Rachel says. “Sweetie. I’m not buying this just friends thing. You’re in love with this guy.”

“I’ve never met him!”

Rachel’s lips purse as she shifts Matteo to her other shoulder. “Does Lily know about this?”

“That I sometimes message a male friend? Why would I bring it up?”

I don’t add that I might have mentioned it, if the last time we had dinner Lily had not been going on and on about a documentary she’d just watched about online predators.

“Caleb?”

“Yes,” I say sarcastically. “My younger brother loves to hear all about his sister’s love life.”

“Ah-ha! So it is a love life.”

Whoops. I definitely walked right into that one.

“Did I tell you Caleb moved to New Hampshire?” I ask in an admittedly lame attempt to change the subject.

“Yes, and I still don’t fully comprehend moving out of a rent-controlled loft in SoHo to a barn in New Hampshire, but quit trying to distract me. Does anyone know about this? I need backup that this is nuts.”

“Keva knows,” I say, referring to my friend and upstairs neighbor.

Rachel looks away with just the slightest flinch, and I feel instant regret. She and Keva have met a couple of times and get along, but I sense she’s sometimes jealous of the friendship.

“Hey,” I say gently, pushing my finger into her forearm. “You’re still First Bestie.”

“I know,” Rachel says with a sigh. “It’s just another reminder that living out in freaking Queens means I don’t get to see you as often or get to know the daily details of your life anymore.”

“But you have a yard,” I point out.

“It’s more like a patch of dirt, but . . .” Rachel grins. “Yeah, I have a yard. My mother is scandalized. I swear, half the reason she wanted me to bring the kids into Manhattan today was because she’s worried they’re not getting enough concrete.”

Amy and Sammy, Rachel’s other two kids, are spending the day with her mom in Morningside Heights, which is the only reason I’m not fussing more that I don’t get to see my de facto niece and nephew. Grandma trumps best friend, and though I’m careful not to mention it, Rachel’s fears about Astoria being too far away from her old life aren’t totally unfounded. It’s at least an hour by train, which means I don’t get to see her or her family as much as I’d like.

Rachel gives me a sly look. “What do you think he looks like?”

Medium height. Wiry build. Longish brown hair, warm brown eyes. Big smile.

“I haven’t thought about it,” I say casually.

“Uh-huh. Liar. In these fantasies of yours, is he by any chance a musician and a Sagittarius?”

“Okay, that’s impressive,” I admit.

“I know,” she says, looking mollified to have best-friend status restored. “But you forget that we spent all of middle school and most of high school discussing our future husbands in very specific detail.” She pauses. “Damn, I was far off.”

“You mean your hot Puerto Rican husband isn’t a blond surfer named Dustin? Get out.”

“Oh, Dusty. What might have been,” she says dreamily before turning back to me. “Aren’t you worried your mystery guy could be, like, a hundred? With gout and gingivitis? What if his girlfriend is a caretaker at his nursing home, and the most action he gets is a sponge bath?”

“That would be fine,” I say primly. “I can be friends with someone of a different generation.”

I send out a silent plea to SirNYC. Please don’t get sponge baths.

Rachel takes a last bite of her sandwich, then scrunches the paper wrapping into a ball with a sigh. “I want to warn you about catfishing, but honestly this is too adorable, assuming you don’t do anything dumb. Like agree to meet him in a back alley.”

I let my eyes go wide. “Wait, so I shouldn’t have wired my life’s savings to his overseas account and then given him my home address when he asked to see my panty drawer?”

“Aren’t you funny. Here, want to give my arms another break?”

“Absolutely,” I say, taking the baby and kissing his head. “How’d you manage to escape with this one? Grandma Becca would have snatched him right up.”

“Oh, she tried. But though she’d die for her grandkids, she’s not big on diapers, so all it took was a casual mention of eruptive poops to secure some Auntie Gracie time.” She gives a slight sniff. “Joke’s on me though. I think he’s just backed up my lie with a very real diaper situation that needs to be addressed.”

“You want to change him at the shop?” I ask, gathering up the remnants of our lunch as she straps Matteo to her chest in some fancy-looking sling thing.

One of the best things about the champagne shop I own and run is that it’s just across the street from Central Park.

Rachel gives me an apologetic look, and I shake my head before she can speak. “You need to get back. Don’t worry about it.

“I do. Ugh. I’ve become one of those moms, huh? Can’t be apart from her Littles for more than two hours.”

“Those are the good kind of moms,” I reassure her as we begin making our way toward the west side of the park.

Rachel tosses our garbage into the green trash can and links her arm in mine, careful not to jostle Matteo. “You don’t have to walk this way with me,” she says, checking her watch. “Doesn’t the shop open at noon?”

“Josh and May are there. Plus, I need to get flowers for the counter, and Carlos on Seventy-Fourth and Broadway always has the best ones.”

“Damn, I miss those pop-up Manhattan flower carts. Almost as much as I miss May. Give her a squeeze for me, it’s been way too long. And wait, who’s Josh?”

“Newish hire. Mostly helps with inventory and stocking, but it’s sweet to watch him overcome his shyness customer by customer.”

“I’m surprised you even know what shyness looks like. Have you ever met a human being who didn’t instantly adore you?”

“Blake Hansel, fifth grade.”

“No, he just really adored you, in the pull-her-pigtail kind of way,” Rachel says as we exit the park and step onto the bustling Central Park West sidewalk. We embrace, careful not to smoosh the baby between us.

I pull back and give Matteo a proper goodbye, unapologetically inhaling his sweet baby smell, mingled with—yep, there’s the eruptive poop. “Goodbye, handsome. You sure you don’t want to run away with me?”

“You, young lady, will text me more often,” Rachel orders with a pointing finger as she begins walking backward uptown toward her parents’ place in Morningside Heights.

I salute in acknowledgment and wave goodbye.

The second my best friend’s back is turned, I pull out my phone to see if I have more messages from him.

Okay, fine. So maybe I’m a tiny bit in love with a man I haven’t met.

My dear Lady,

Pistachio gelato, you say. That’s my mother’s favorite, on the very rare occasions she lets herself eat food with actual flavor or calories. Alas, I confess the often-added green food coloring creeps me out.

Yours in renewed devotion to sorbet,
Sir
______________________________________

To Sir, with alarm,

Did you just compare me to your mother? Not sure how I feel about that…

Lady
______________________________________

My dear Lady,

I hear it now. I take it back and reassure you that in no way do I think of you as my mother.

Yours in apology,
Sir

Copyright © 2020 by Lauren Layne. From TO SIR, WITH LOVE by Lauren Layne , published by Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.

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Sunday Spotlight: June 2021

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About Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.


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