Hi friends! We’ve got first time guest Jayne Denker here sharing an excerpt from her July 25th release with us!
Jane Austen’s Emma made a habit of meddling in other people’s lives, but Melanie Abbott has turned it into a cottage industry.
As “modern American royalty” living in Abbott’s Bay, Massachusetts, a town founded by her ancestor, Melanie Abbott feels it’s her right—even her duty—to employ her uncanny knack for knowing exactly what everyone needs to improve their lives. She eagerly shares her wisdom and insight with her friends and neighbors . . . whether they ask for it or not. If only Conn Garvey, her dearest friend, agreed with her.
Connacht Garvey has been keeping an eye on Melanie since they were kids. A bit older, far more level-headed, and infinitely patient, Conn feels it’s his duty to pull Melanie back from whatever cliff’s edge she’s about to wander off. Conn thinks Melanie is egotistical, self-centered, irritating, infuriating, relentless, ridiculous . . . and irresistible. Not that Conn’s confessed to that last one. Yet.
When Melanie impulsively starts up a new advice-giving business, it’s an instant hit. Conn doesn’t approve, as usual, which is too bad, because Melanie’s convinced he needs her VIP package. (Of advice!) His coffeehouse is showing signs of financial trouble, plus his toxic ex is suddenly sniffing around, acting like she’s having second thoughts about their breakup. Will their friendship be blown to bits because of Melanie’s meddling . . . or will it become something more?
Not to say this project hasn’t had its drawbacks. I was sort of hoping to get more clients like the first two who started this thing, back on Memorial Day: the summer people. The well-connected. The secretly needy and inherently insecure. The ones with the most important feature: deep pockets. If this thing is going to work, I’m going to need more cash than what the permanent residents of Abbott’s Bay can offer. I’ve been scaling my fees according to everyone’s financial situation, but I can’t save Deep Brew C if I keep getting paid in sponge cake and lobster bisque.
The latest food payment, in the form of an apple kuchen, came from Jewel Loftus. I certainly couldn’t turn her down when she asked me to help her plan a farewell for her beloved Reginald, including the wake, the ceremony, and the buffet lunch reception afterward. It’s not appropriate to say it was enjoyable, of course, but I was happy to use my party planning and social skills to take some of the pressure off Jewel.
Now here it is, a week later, and she’s asked me to pick up Reginald, because he’s “ready.”
So I do…and before I deliver Reginald to Jewel, I take him to Deep Brew C for a drink. Okay, I’m the one who needs a drink, but it’s the thought that counts. I’ll put one in front of him as well, and we’ll toast Jewel.
“What the hell is that?”
I love it when Conn gets all wild-eyed.
“Glass of pinot grigio, please, darling? Oh, and one for my friend, here. It’s downright balmy outside, so something chilled would be wonderful right about now.”
Conn doesn’t get my drink order. He does, however, loom over me, bracing his hands on the edge of the counter until the muscles stand out on his arms. I’m so busy staring at those, I almost miss his snarled words, “Get that thing off my bar.”
“I thought you were more egalitarian than that, Mr. Garvey.”
He looks closer at my companion. “…Reginald?”
“Dear departed Reginald Loftus—yes indeed. He’s visiting before settling into his final resting place, most likely Jewel’s mantel. Or maybe her grand piano. We’re going to try him out in a few different places to see what he prefers.”
“Why don’t you go do that right now?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Move along. Reginald is scaring off my customers.”
I glance around. There are individuals on both sides of me looking askance at my drinking companion, but no one has set their glass down and retreated.
“It’s not like he’s going to go for their jugular.” To emphasize my point, I pick up Reginald and bob him toward Conn, adding a little “Raarr,” for effect.
Not like ferrets ever say “Raarr,” even when they’re alive and not stuffed with sawdust as Reginald, poor thing, is now and forever shall be. Long may his glass eyes glitter as he holds what I can only assume is a typical ferret-y pose, long and lean on his wooden base, one front paw raised yet curled, as though he were about to knock on your door and ask if you happened to have any spare rodents he could snack on.
Conn stares me down, so I sigh and stuff Reginald unceremoniously into my handbag. I leave his little nose sticking out so he can get some fresh air, though.
“I think this side business of yours is getting to you,” Conn says as he finally pours my glass of wine.
“We’ve had this conversation already. I told you, I’m fine.” Never mind that I contradict my words by grabbing the wine he hands me and chugging it like it’s Gatorade.
“You’re toting around a taxidermied, recently deceased ferret.”
“Shhh. Reginald is very sensitive about his current state. And where’s his glass of wine?”
“We don’t serve his kind here. If you want two drinks, say so.”
“And risk you labeling me as an alcoholic?”
“Not an alcoholic. A self-medicater, maybe.”
“How’s your dad’s campaign coming along?”
I watch him pour, and I wiggle my fingers, urging him to get that blessed liquid sunshine a little closer to the rim. “Dad’s campaign can run itself.” At my friend’s inevitable skeptical look, I wave my hand dismissively and say, “We talked about it on Sunday, when we went for a nice drive and Father’s Day dinner. We’re good.”
I raise my eyebrows. “What about Hannah?”
“Have you seen her lately?”
When was the last time I’d hung out with Hannah? Long enough that I have to stop and think about it.
“You are one of her only friends here,” he reminds me.
“I’ll call her,” I promise. I take one more swig of wine and stand up, only a touch lightheaded, and swing my bag onto my shoulder. Reginald’s nose nudges my armpit. “Better get going. I don’t want Jewel to think Reginald and I have run off together.”
Conn nods and pats the bar in a goodbye gesture on his way to the kitchen.
“You don’t have to be anywhere right this minute, do you?” I ask my companion once we’re on the sidewalk. Reginald grins up at me, which I assume means he’s flexible—well, as flexible as you can be when you’re nailed to a board—so I take a little walk to Hannah’s place.
The rental looks nice and neat from the outside, with a pot of purple lobelia and hot pink dahlias on the clean stoop. I’m glad my father won’t have anything to complain about if he ever stops by to check on things. I think I’ve scared him off sufficiently enough that he won’t be peeking in any windows anytime soon, but with him you never know. I use the brass knocker to rap on the red lacquered front door, but Hannah doesn’t open up. She must be out. Maybe she’s painting a lovely landscape somewhere.
I don’t have time to check the beach, or call her to see if she’s nearby, because I have to deliver Reginald before it’s time to meet another client for dinner. I check my phone and find four missed calls, three voicemails, and seven texts. And Conn thought this was a dumb idea. He still might be right, but it’s definitely a popular dumb idea. I add two items to my to-do list: check on Dad and connect with Hannah. Now I have to find the time to squeeze it all in.
Ah, Emma. And Emma, right? [Character and book!] What did you think? Do you enjoy the lighthearted romantic comedies? Thanks for sharing with us, Jayne, and congratulations on your upcoming release!