Valentine's Day Extravaganza: Day 1 - Galentine's Day

Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Hi, everyone!

Welcome to Day 1 of my Valentine's Day Extravaganza!

Since Valentine's Day is on Sunday this week, I thought it would be fun to get an early start on the blog festivities. I've been doing something special for Valentine's Day for the past four years and it's one of my favorite posts to plan for. This year, I have planned 5 days of collaborations for all of you. I'm so excited for all the fun content this week and I sincerely hope you'll enjoy them! Also, be sure to stay tuned for the pretty epic giveaway at the end of the post, sponsored by me and some of the authors participating this week.

Before I get started, I wanted to say a big thank you to all the wonderful authors, bloggers, and readers for their entries. I could not have done this without them and I am truly grateful that they took the time to submit contributions!

My goals with this event every year are to:
1. Have a blast and celebrate Valentine's Day
2. Provide authors with a fun way to promote their writing
3. Allow readers to reconnect with their favorite characters
4. Perhaps help you discover a new author or two

For day 1, I gathered authors to work on a Galentine's (or maybe Palentine's because we do have a group of boys) Day scene. I only provided them with the prompt and gave them creative freedom to interpret it however they wanted. Please enjoy the delightful contributions.

Ashish Rastogi

ALL THE LINES TO CROSS

by Ashish Rastogi
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: 
Amazon - Other Retailers


Boys Day Out

© Ashish Rastogi, 2021

"Jon, why the hell are we here? It's Valentine's day in two days, and I am yet to buy a gift for Emily." Jason calls from the kitchen, where he is busy browsing for cupcakes. 

He ain't gonna find any. Nate and I hid them yesterday evening. "Don't gripe. You should have done your shopping a week ago." I will have a word with him later. My sister deserves better. 


"You better have a solid reason to drag us all out here at this hour," Kevin grumbles, pissed at me for destroying his Sunday morning slumber. 

"Guys, we are celebrating Boylentine's day." I prep them for my plan. 

"What the heck is Boylentine's day?" Jason strolls back to the game room, biting the large piece of rum cake in his hand. 

How the hell did he find the last slice I hid from Nate? Now, I will have to persuade Sharon to make another one using all my flirting skills to ask her to waive off the one cake in two weeks rule she had me and Nate sign off. But that can wait as I have more pressing matters to discuss. "It is celebrated two days before Valentine, where friends spend time together." I hope these nit-picks buy into this shit.

"That's a girly thing, dude, and it's called Galantines day. A girls' day out before the fourteenth." Kevin, the sourpuss lawyer, is not going to make this easy.

"Are we being gender-biased? If the girls can have their day, why can't we?" I counter my fussy cousin.

"Somethings fishy, Jon never invites us on a Sunday since he proposed to Sharon." Jason puts the plate down and wiggles his eyebrows. 

Hmm, he misses the card games we played here every weekend. I miss them too, but Sharon works through the week. Sunday is the only time we get to spend together, and even those were scarce once my team qualified for the playoffs. Time to fess up. "I need a grand gesture." 

"What did you do now?" Kevin straightens himself on the couch. 

"Hold your sneers. It's our first Valentine's day, and I wanted to run some ideas by you guys." I admit to the real reason I called them in. After running through a list of options and Nate refusing to help, I had to pull in the cavalry.

"But why the grand gesture. You already asked Sharon to marry you. Weren't thousands of fans at the stadium enough for your spectacle." Jason smirks.

"Not to mention a million viewers on TV." Tom rolls his eyes. 

I glare at him for butting in, despite his silence being bought yesterday. "Puff. You are all so dumb. Stay, and you can learn from the Pro. You need grand gestures out of bed to keep things sizzling between the sheets." Tom and Kevin snort their beer. Sputtering and coughing. 

"Guys, it is Couples Playbook 101. Besides, I am sure Tigress is up to something. She has been sweet and less prank-sy for the past week, and Nate has been sneaking around." Sheesh, my own son will not help me. The six-year-old blabbermouth has decided not to take sides. 

"So, what's your plan." Kevin dabs his t-shirt with a tissue. It is not going to help; the beer has soaked into the cotton material.

"Not before you take the Boylentine day oath." Over the years, I have managed to learn a few things from my lawyer cousin.

"What the fondant is that." Like the rest of my family, Jason is fast catching up to Sharon's penchant for culinary cuss words.

"An oath of secrecy." I extend my open palm towards the three sitting in front of me. They grumble and mumble before adding their hands to mine. We shake, firming our pact.

"If it is such a big secret, then why is he here?" Jason points to Tom.

"Hey. Did you forget who got these two thick-headed dumb shucks to sort out their differences?" Tom shoves Jason. 

"Yeah, I agree with Jason. What if you are a double agent? You do work with Sharon." 

Kevin is right. Tom and Sharon are close. He did help some. Ok, a lot. He was my only chance at recovering the fumble. "Tom won't unless he wants to miss out on season tickets to our home games. Will you, Dr. Thomas?" I remind him of our deal.

"My lips are ticketed." Tom zips his lips.

Once the three settle, I pass the brochure to Kevin. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Kevin gives it to Tom; whose eyes bug out when he reads the flyer. "Woohoo. This is perfect for the adrenaline junkie."

"Shh. Keep your volume down, doc. That pesky son of mine might hear you."

Jason snatches the flyer from Tom and pouts after reading it. "Aww, Cho-chweet." 

"Shuddup." I snap the brochure from him. I will do anything for my Tigress. 
"Jon, you have our blessings. Perfect plan." Kevin stands and pats my back, eager to leave and resume his Sunday snooze. 

"Hold on, grizzly bear. This is no time to hibernate." I push Kevin back to the couch. He slumps with a groan. Ignoring the grumbles from the three, I strut my way to the locked drawer next to the shelf with the game consoles.

"What the hell are you up to?" Jason holds up his hands when I return with a stack of books. Nine, if you are the counting types.

"The real reason I invited you here is to help me with these." I distribute the books between them. At first, I bought two DIY books on baking, with a plan to do it myself. The recipes left me flummoxed, so I bought a few more until I gave up trying to make sense of them. Give me a football playbook, and I will explain it to you in my sleep. But baking? This is so out of my league. "You, gentlemen, are going to help me bake a perfect chocolate truffle cake for Sharon."

"Oh! No."
"No. No."
"No," Tom, Kevin, and Jason rise in unison, dropping the books like hot potatoes.

"Oh. Yes. Yes." Nine books in Jon's hands cannot bake a cake, but three wise men with nine will help make a chocolate delight for my Tigress.


Find Ashish:
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Carly Bloom

MUST LOVE COWBOYS

by Carly Bloom
Publisher: Forever Romance
Publication Date: April 27th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


Galentine’s Day with the Big Verde Book Club

© Carly Bloom, 2021

Alice Martin swallowed loudly in the deafening silence. Nobody knew how to kill a conversation like she did. “Sorry. Maybe it was a bad idea to kick off our Galentine’s Day party with a lurid recounting of the darker origins of Valentine’s Day.”

Next year she’d go heavier on the hearts and chocolate, and lighter on the executions and flagellation. 

Claire Kowalski took a bite out of a heart-shaped cookie. “Oh, please,” she said with a dismissive wave. “Executions can be festive.”

Claire’s best friend, Maggie Blake, nodded in agreement. “And that part with the whipping in the streets was kind of—"

“Sexy?” Claire asked, raising a single eyebrow.

“No,” Maggie said. “I don’t know what I was going to say, but that wasn’t it.”

Trista Larson leaned forward on the couch. “Alice, did you say Galentine’s Day? I thought that was a typo on the invitation.”

Both Galentine’s Day and the lecture on the darker origins of V-Day had gone over really well in Alice’s self-partnered group, which met monthly and consisted of intentionally single women. But this wasn’t the self-partnered group. This was the Big Verde book club, and as its leader—not to mention, the town’s librarian—Alice should have known better. But the truth was, she kind of sucked at reading the room.  

Miss Mills fanned herself with a copy of her Ladies’ Daily Devotions. “I thought we were here for a Gallant Times party. It’s why I wore a ribbon in my hair. I assumed it was a Renaissance theme.” 

“Galentine’s Day celebrates friendship,” Maggie said. “It gives us an opportunity to focus on the friends we love, instead of—”        

“The troublesome cowboys we love,” Claire finished.

Both Maggie and Claire were married to ranchers. And even though it might seem as if that was all they had in common, the two were inseparable. They often finished each other’s sentences, and honestly, Alice was a little jealous. While she had plenty of delightful acquaintances, she couldn’t truly say she had a best friend.

Maggie laughed. “I can’t trash-talk Travis right now, because he’s at Henry’s science fair.”

“Oh?” Alice asked. “What did Henry make for the fair?”

“Nothing,” Maggie said. “But Travis made a volcano.”

“I’m not going to trash-talk Ford either,” Claire said. “When I left, he was changing a poopy diaper.”

“I am one-hundred percent here to trash-talk Bubba,” Trista said. “He has no idea that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.”

Irritation crept up Alice’s spine. It was impossible to keep the subject of men from popping up among this group. All of them, including Trista, adored their husbands. And Miss Mills was basically dating Jesus. So even she worshipped a man. 

While Alice had nothing against men, she certainly didn’t need (or want) one. And most of the ones around Big Verde were ranchers and cowboys. Alice didn’t have an agricultural background, so finding things to talk about with local men was difficult. And when Alice couldn’t talk with someone, she tended to talk at them.

It was just one of the many things that made her not-so-fun at parties.

“Enough about men,” she said. “We’re here to talk about friendship, remember? Friendships among gals!”

She tripped over the word gals. Was this what it felt like to be Leslie Knope? Plopping a basket of cellophane bags on the coffee table, she announced, “I even have goodie bags!”

Each one contained fancy tea, chocolate, a bookmark, fuzzy socks, and…

“Oh my God,” Maggie said, pulling something small and pink out of a bag. “Is this what I think it is?”

“It’s a bullet vibe,” Alice said, beaming.

Miss Mills pulled hers out and turned it on. “It vibrates! What on earth is it for?”

Oh dear. Alice took sexual health very seriously, and she assumed everyone did. Orgasms had benefits galore. 

Claire cleared her throat, indicating she was willing to step up to the plate. “It vibrates, because it’s a vibrator.”

Trista laughed. “And if you’re thinking it’s too small for a pair of shoulders, you’re right. That’s not where it goes.”

“Goodness!” Miss Mills said. “I don’t think this is something a church-going woman needs to have in her possession.” She slipped the bullet vibe into her purse and zipped it up tight, an action that wasn’t lost on anybody.

Someone knocked quietly on the door. It was probably Alice’s neighbor, Dolly. She always popped in when Alice had company.

Alice answered the door and—yikes! A gigantic non-womanly chest encased in a starched white button-up shirt took up the entire doorway. There were jeans and boots below the chest, and a straw Stetson and twinkling blue eyes above it.

What was Beau Montgomery doing on her front porch?

“Hi, Allie. I just stopped by to drop Nonnie’s books off. The library is closed, and well, she’ll kill me if they’re late.” He glanced through the door, where things were silent except for the buzzing of a bullet vibe dancing in the center of the coffee table. 

“Good evening, ladies,” Beau said, removing his hat to show off a head of thick sandy blonde hair. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

Alice took the small stack of books from his hands. “There’s a night drop box at the library. And these are officially late, but I won’t tell your grandmother.”

“Thank you,” Beau said, not budging an inch. 

Good Lord, was he expecting to be invited in? Because that wasn’t going to happen. “Goodnight, Beau.”

He shrugged and replaced his hat. “Goodnight, Allie.” 

The grin was ridiculous. So was the dimple in his left cheek. Alice nodded once and closed the door. When she turned around, everyone was smiling.

“What?” 

“Oh, honey,” Claire said. “Everybody knows there’s a night drop box at the library.”

Obviously not everybody. Why else would Beau Montgomery turn up on her doorstep after hours with a stack of books?



Find Carly:
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Casey Dembowski

WHEN WE'RE THIRTY

by Casey Dembowski
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication Date: Spring 2021
Publisher Website


Find Casey:
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Eli Wray

PRINCIPLED PERVERSIONS

by Eli Wray
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: February 1st 2021
Amazon


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Elizabeth Everett

A LADY'S FORMULA FOR LOVE

by Elizabeth Everett
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

HOW SECRET SCIENTISTS CELEBRATED GALENTINE’S DAY

© Elizabeth Everett, 2021

“Good afternoon, ladies.” Sam Fenley strode to the front of the room and bowed to the assembled company.

The contest among the women scientists of Athena’s Retreat to develop an innovation to sell at London’s most famous emporium, Fenley’s Famous Fripperies, had been intense. So intense, there were doubts that the sisterhood of scientists would hold firm against the lure of profit. 

Letty Fenley sat next to her friend, Violet, and watched her younger brother with affectionate apprehension. Sam loved finding innovative wares for the Emporium and was fascinated by the scientist’s work.

To one side of them stood a long table piled with various objects. Three jars of an odd green liquid were there, as well as a plate filled with a pile of glistening black cylinders, a glass perfume bottle, and various boxes of differing heights. The smell of saltpeter and raised expectations permeated the air.

“Is there someone who wishes to tell me about their innovation?” Sam asked. “Who will be first?”

Mildred Thornton, otherwise known as Milly, stood with a regal air, and the crowd hushed. Everyone had speculated about what she and Wilhelmina Smythe, also known as Willy – her partner in science and in life – had entered in the contest. What might the two of them concoct, and would the field of explosives ever be the same again?

Milly strode to the front of the room and glanced over at the table but did not reach for anything — not the small red box, not the bundle of cylinders, and not the large black bag with scorch marks on the bottom. 

Letty blinked. Why was the large black bag moving?

“Wilhelmina and I have thought long and hard about this competition,” Milly began. “We were initially inspired by our fellow member, Mrs. Pettigrew. She always described herself as having an unquiet mind. She could not consider a mechanical object without wanting to take it apart and make it better or more efficient.”

She paused as the ladies took a moment to reminisce about Caro Pettigrew and her inventions. 

Willy continued. “Athena’s Retreat celebrated Mrs. Pettigrew’s talent not because it would prove to be profitable.”

The chatter quieted, and an air of expectancy settled in the room. 

“Even if Mrs. Pettigrew spent her days making machines that would never work, we supported and encouraged her. She was a woman scientist, part of the sisterhood we have created here, unique in England. A place to follow our passions and exercise our talents. Here, we are free to fail. We are free to follow tangents. Our dreams are limited only by our scope for imagination.”

Violet rose and joined Willy at the front of the room. By now, the members were nodding along and smiling at one another for the first time in weeks. Watching her friends — her sisters —stand together, a powerful sense of rightness filled her belly. Letty felt an enormous fondness for all these women. 

“You are correct. A scientist’s goal is to understand why and how things happen,” said Violet. “If we continue to create purely for profit, we would instead be asking what people wanted and how to sell it to them. We would be abandoning the very reason we came together in the first place.”

The women of Athena’s Retreat murmured among themselves, 

 “Science isn’t always pretty, or easy, or sweet-smelling,” Violet continued. “Sometimes, it doesn’t have any practical use whatsoever.”

Miss Alice Somerset piped up from the back of the room. “I cannot put a price on the knowledge of the stars, but that doesn’t mean we should stop our study of celestial mechanics.”

Willy acknowledged Miss Somerset’s comment with a nod. “Exactly. Mildred and I worked diligently to develop an idea for Mr. Fenley to sell in his shop. For hours on end, we sat in our laboratory and experimented. The result was . . .”

Sam leaned forward in his chair, eyes alight with excitement. 

“The result was boredom, frustration and I ruined two dresses,” Milly announced. She glared at Sam. “I refuse to minimize profound questions about the elemental nature of fire and heat. I want to know why the world works the way it does, not whether a lady will buy one of my discoveries if I dress it up in bright colors.”

Sam frowned. “I beg your pardon, but I didn’t ask you to stop your discoveries. I would never tell you, ladies, to abandon what brings you joy. However, . . .” He groped for words at the sight of the various other contraptions that littered the table. “Science is the pursuit of knowledge, certainly. Why can’t it be the pursuit of knowledge in service to others? Is it simply the act of putting a price on your discoveries that makes it unpalatable to you?”

Violet gently explained. “The motivation of assisting others is one thing. Science in the pursuit of profit is something else entirely. I think everyone can agree this competition goes against the very nature of Athena’s Retreat.”

Miss Somerset called out, “Hear, hear.” She burst into applause that was quickly echoed by the rest of the room. 

“We see this club as a haven.” Willy glanced over at Violet, then back again at the women seated before her. “Athena’s Retreat is more than a place. It is an ideal.”

Milly ceremoniously picked up the charred bag and tossed it into a rubbish bin. When Althea did the same with her contest entry, the mood in the room took on a celebratory air, with the members one by one disposing of their creations. Luckily, someone thought to open a window. Women left their seats, chatting amiably with one another. Laughter broke out amid a cluster of members who surrounded Milly and Willy. Someone suggested tea and biscuits, and the crowd drifted to the common area.

“Did I do something wrong?” Sam asked as he plonked down in the seat next to Letty. 

“No, Mr. Fenley. You did something right,” Violet answered as she approached the siblings. 

“This place isn’t special simply because of the workrooms or the discoveries herein.” She turned and watched the women with such great affection that Letty’s eyes filled with tears.

“Athena’s Retreat is a place constructed by women, for women and the spirit of this community is as vital as its mission. Thank you for that reminder.”

Sam shook his head in confusion but gave Letty a grin and a wink when he took his leave. For the rest of the afternoon at the club, a festive atmosphere prevailed. By the time evening rolled around, champagne had been opened, three fires put out, and the soon-to-be infamous “Mad Centipede Escapade” discretely handled. 

“Who knew a gloomy Saturday in February would turn out to be so memorable?” Letty asked as she and Violet joined their fellow scientists in a celebration remembered long afterward.


Find Elizabeth:
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Hettie Bell

KNIT, PURL, A BABY AND A GIRL

by Hettie Bell
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: March 30th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


My upcoming novel KNIT, PURL, A BABY AND A GIRL, coming out next month from Carina Adores, stars Poppy and Rhiannon, two stitch n’ bitch seatmates who become girlfriends in a romance that’s also a love letter to knitting and the way crafts bring us together. 

So this Galentine’s Day, whether you’re celebrating with your best friend or your girlfriend, why not knit her this cute vintage heart-shaped keyhole scarflette from the winter 1948-1949 issue of McCall Needlework? 

You’ll need 200 yards of DK or Sport weight yarn, a set of size 2 US (2.75 mm) knitting needles, a size 1/B crochet hook, a stitch holder, and either a 3rd knitting needle or darning needle to graft the two halves of the scarf together. 

First Scarf End:

Cast on 42 stitches. 

Row 1: Slip first stitch, * k1, yo, k7, slip 1, k1, psso, p2tog, p7, yo, p1, repeat from *, k last stitch

Row 2: Slip first stitch, * k10, p10, repeat from *, k last stitch

Rows 3-46: Work rows 1 and 2 alternately

Row 47: Slip first stitch, * k2tog 5 times, p2tog 5 times, repeat from *, k last stitch (22 stitches)

Band:

Ribbing: slip first st, * k1, p1 , repeat from *, k last stitch

Work ribbing pattern on 22 stitches until band measures 7¼”. 

Break working yarn and transfer live stitches to a stitch holder or scrap yarn.

Second Scarf End:

Work as for first scarf end until 47th row.

Band:

Row 1: Work one row of ribbing as before.

Slit: Work first 6 stitches ONLY in ribbing for 14 rows, break working yarn and move live stitches to holder. Reattach yarn and work next 10 stitches in ribbing for 14 rows, break working yarn and move live stitches to holder. Reattach yarn and work last 6 stitches in ribbing for 14 rows.

Return previous 16 stitches to needle from holder and work across all 22 stitches in ribbing as established.

Work ribbing until band measures 7¼”.

To Finish:

Return 22 stitches of first band to needle from stitch holder and use either the three needle bind off or Kitchener stitch to graft live stitches at ends of both bands together.

Edging: Using crochet hook, join with slipped stitch in last stitch of scarf end before band; ch 1, * 1sc in each of next 2 stitches, ch 3, repeat from * all around scarf end, join with slipped stitch in last stitch of scarf end before band; fasten off. Work edging on second scarf end to correspond.

Weave in ends and block to finish. 

Happy Galentine’s and happy knitting! 

XOXO

Hettie


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Jen DeLuca

WELL PLAYED

by Jen DeLuca
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: September 22nd 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


A Tale of Two Galentine’s Days: A Group Chat

© Jen DeLuca, 2021

(Author’s Note: The first group chat takes place during the events of WELL PLAYED, while the second takes place after.)

Stacey: Happy Galentine’s Day!! 

April: *Valentine’s. Also, that’s tomorrow. 

Emily: No she means Galentine’s

Stacey: GALENTINE’S

April: WTF is a Galentine

Stacey: Have you not seen Parks & Rec

Emily: It’s from Parks & Rec

Emily: lol

April: No I haven’t

Stacey: GASP

April: Oh whatever

Stacey: Anyway

Stacey: Galentine’s Day is the day before Valentine’s

Stacey: Where we celebrate our important lady friendships

April: Lady friendships? Is that an actual phrase?

Stacey: IDK. I think so?

Emily: Works for me. 

April: Sure. Me too. Especially since two out of three of us are single for actual Valentine’s Day

Emily: Sorry you two. I promise I won’t rub it in your faces.

April: Oh, it’s okay. I have big plans tomorrow night.

Emily: ??????

April: Yes. Me, Chinese takeout, and my vibrator collection. We’ll all be very happy together.

Emily: …

Emily: I have no response to that 

Emily: Stacey, you’ve been awfully quiet

Stacey: I’m recovering from April’s vibrator thing. 

Emily: Same. 

April: Oh come on. We’re all adults here. You telling me I’m the only one with fun toys in the drawer of my nightstand?

Emily: I mean, Simon’s pretty capable in that regard. No accessories required.

April: Cunning linguist that guy, huh?

Emily: …

Emily: No comment.

Stacey: STOP IT I WENT TO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH SIMON I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT

April: What about you, Stace, no toys in your life?

Stacey: Nah … walls are pretty thin around here. The last thing I need is my dad to ask me what power tools I had running in the middle of the night

April: Welp, my Christmas shopping for you two just got a lot easier.

Stacey:  CAN WE GET BACK TO GALENTINE’S DAY PLEASE

Emily: Sorry

April: Sorry, yes. Where were we? Lady friendships?

Stacey: Lady friendships. Normally we’d celebrate with brunch but we’re all at work so that’s blown. 

April: How about breakfast for dinner? Not the same, but I’ve got a wafflemaker. Why don’t y’all come over after work? Em, you and Simon don’t have plans, right?

Stacey: YESSSSSSS

Emily: No plans here! I’ll bring the mimosas

April: Stacey, you’re as single as I am, you don’t have to unattach yourself for the evening.

Stacey: Yeah

Stacey: True

Stacey: I’m totally single

Stacey: No one’s sending me a Valentine

April: See, this is why you need a vibrator

Emily: I don’t tho

Stacey: LALALALALA NOT LISTENING


********************


Stacey: Happy Galentine’s Day! 

April: Right back atcha

Emily: Stacey! I miss you so much! How’s life on the road? 

Stacey: It’s fun! Did you get the packages I sent? 

April: The one marked DO NOT OPEN UNTIL GALENTINE’S DAY? Sure did

Emily: Me too! Can we open?

Stacey: Yes

Stacey: Now I know it’s not the waffles we made last year, but at least this year we won’t trash April’s kitchen

April: No shit

Emily: Lesson learned: waffles first, THEN mimosas. 

April: OMG

Emily: Are these

April: DONUTS

Stacey: The funnel cake guy at this Faire is also a master of the mini donut. 

Stacey: He made these for me two days ago, and he said they’d stay fresh enough if I sealed them up. 

Stacey: Hope they’re okay

Emily: They’re amazing

April: Holy shit. I renounce waffles

April: wait

April: there’s something else in my package

Stacey: hehehehe

April: STACEY

April: Why did you send me a GLASS DILDO

April: I am AT WORK

Emily: WHAT

Stacey: LMFAO

Stacey: It’s for your collection!

Stacey: You’re the only one of us now who’s single

April: It’s … very realistic

April: Do I want to know how you got this

Stacey: A vendor at the Faire

April: Sells GLASS DILDOS?

April: ????

Stacey: I mean, not out in the open. He has a special locked chest

Emily: I bet he does

Emily: Hey I didn’t get a glass dildo

Stacey: You don’t need one

April: Yeah, Simon still working accessory-free?

Stacey: still traumatized by that

Emily: hahahaha

April: Well, thank you Stacey for my gift. I will … uh, use it in good health. Or something.

April: Speaking of which, is Daniel with you?

Stacey: EXCUSE ME

April: oh stop

Stacey: why does a dildo make you think of my boyfriend

April: Shut UP. Is he there?

Stacey: Yeah

April: Ask him what he has for you

Emily: Uh … I don’t need to know about this

Stacey: Uh, ok

Stacey: APRIL

April: Oh good

Stacey: He just gave me the cutest earrings! He said they’re from you!

April: Surprise

Stacey: they’re little WAFFLES

Emily: Awwwww

April: Happy Galentine’s Day. I miss you trying to drunkenly make waffles in my kitchen

Stacey: I’m gonna cry these are so CUTE

Emily: Send pics!

Stacey: I will

Emily: April, are we still on for Jackson’s tonight?

April: Yep, be there after work

Stacey: Find April a man, will you? A girl cannot live on glass dildoes alone

Emily: I’ll try

April: No thanks, I’m good

Emily: Someday the right person will come along, April

April: Meh. Seriously doubt the love of my life is gonna plop down on the barstool next to me at Jackson’s but ok.

Stacey: I’ll see what I can do when I come home this summer

April: Deal


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Jenny Holiday

SANDCASTLE BEACH

by Jenny Holiday
Publisher: Forever Romance
Publication Date: March 9th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

Maya’s Galentine’s Day Tequila cocktails
© Jenny Holiday



In times of trouble (or in times of no trouble—basically in any and all times) friends Eve, Nora, and Maya congregate in Maya’s apartment to drink tequila. While Maya prefers a no-nonsense shot, for Galentine’s Day, she’s making a tequila-based drink that matches each friend’s tastes and life circumstances. Eve gets a Paloma—a perfect mixture of sweet and tart, and it’s pink to match her room at the Mermaid Inn. Nora is a classic, on-the-rocks margarita type, but since she’s knocked up, she’s gonna have to have a virgin one. Luckily, Maya’s nemesis, the town bartender, has sourced a non-alcoholic spirit for her to use so the drink doesn’t get too sickly sweet for Nora, who would honestly rather have bourbon.

***

Eve (Mermaid Inn), Nora (Paradise Cove), and Maya (Sandcastle Beach, coming March 9, 2021) are the heroines of the Matchmaker Bay books by Jenny Holiday. These romantic comedies are set on the shores of a Lake Huron beach town full of meddling elders. Think Star’s Hollow moves to Canada. 

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Katee Robert

QUEEN TAKES ROSE

by Katee Robert
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: November 10th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


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KD Fisher

THE SECRET INGREDIENT

by KD Fisher
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: October 27th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


© KD Fisher, 2021

Intro:

Hi, everyone! I’m thrilled to share an excerpt from The Secret Ingredient, my queer rivals-to-lovers foodie romance. When classically trained chef Adah Campbell and intuitive baker Beth Summers meet, their attraction…and competitiveness…is immediate. The two women couldn’t be more different, but their intense passion for food and undeniable chemistry draw them together. Below is a sneak-peak of Adah and Beth’s fraught and sexy first kiss.

We may not be able to go out for romantic Valentine’s Day meals this year, but I hope The Secret Ingredient can take you on a sexy and delicious foodie date! Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy!

Excerpt:

Beth sat down on the back stoop, a narrow flight of three wooden stairs and gestured for me to sit next to her. Try as I might to leave space between us, it was in short supply and our arms brushed. Heat bloomed on my neck. It had been a long time since I’d been this close to anyone other than Peter or Jay. My body felt weird, sensitized and heavy all at once.

“Okay, so your turn.” Beth turned to me, leaning in a little like we were sharing a secret. Freckles dusted her nose. She smelled like campfires and summertime with a hint of lavender. My gaze crashed down to the weathered wooden slats of the stairs.

“Um.” I cleared my throat. “You already know my name—”

“I don’t know your middle name. Or your sign. That shit is important.” Beth’s voice glimmered with mirth.

“Oh, well I don’t really like it. And I, uh, don’t know what sign I am.”

“Why, were your parents, like, super hippies? Is it something like Storm, or Rainbow? Probably not since you don’t know your sign. We’ll get to that later…depending on how the night goes, I just might do your star chart.”

I barked out a laugh and again my body relaxed just a little bit more. Taking a sip of my beer, which was, as promised, delicious and perfectly balanced, I shook my head. “No way. All of us kids have biblical names. My dad was a pastor.”

“Ah, okay. So is it, like…Ezekiel? Elijah? Sorry, we never went to church.”

“Gosh, no. It’s Delilah. I’m just telling you so you stop guessing. Even I’ve never met anyone named Ezekiel.”

“Aw that’s pretty. I think it suits you. Adah Delilah Campbell.”

I shrugged. “It’s a mouthful.”

“Do you have a lot of siblings then?” Beth asked, bending forward to grab a slice of bread from the plate resting on the ground. The purple crystal she wore around her neck glittered in the waning sunlight.

“Yeah.” I didn’t want to elaborate so I followed her lead and scooped up a piece of pizza. The perfectly baked crust had to be sourdough, with big air bubbles. It was topped with fresh corn, chiffonaded basil, and what smelled like sharp cheddar. I took a bite and couldn’t suppress my groan. It was perfect. The crust was chewy with just enough crunch and the toppings just worked. Simple but really, really good, each flavor bringing out the best in the others. “Holy cow!” I said when I swallowed one more bite. “This is fantastic.” The words were out of my mouth before I could even try to rein them in. Crap. This was Beth. The Yellow House. The dang competition.

As much as I wanted to find flaws, though, it seemed there were none. Even at this casual event, everything from the music to the food was perfect. Effortless, tasteful, and…I grudgingly admitted to myself, delicious.

“I love corn and basil together.” Beth enthused. “What do you think of the crust though? I just started using a locally milled wheat. Does it overwhelm the toppings?”

“Wait, you actually made this?” My voice broadcasted my disbelief.

Beth tipped her head to the side. “Um, yes?”

I stuffed another bite of pizza in my mouth to avoid saying anything else stupid. But Beth’s whole demeanor had shifted, back to the prickly woman she’d been when we first met. I didn’t understand why my brain refused to believe that Beth was capable of all of this. That she could make delicious food, and own her own restaurant, and for it all to be so…perfect. It felt unfair somehow, that a woman as beautiful as her could run an award-winning restaurant and make it seem so easy. Fun even. And crap, now I felt as misogynistic as my dang manager. Of course she was capable of running her own place.

“Sorry,” I groaned, running a hand over my face. “I guess I kinda hoped you were…” I weighed the pros and cons of being honest, but my virtuous upbringing won. “I don’t know. The pretty face and the money behind it. I mean I knew it was your family business and I just figured—”

Beth shot off the stoop in a clatter of bracelets and a swirl of warm summer air. And boy, did she look mad. I hadn’t seen someone that fired up since I left home. My spine stiffened and my heart started racing, unwelcome adrenaline coursing through my limbs.

“You figured what?” She glared down at me. “That I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I’m not clueless. And even if I was, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re being an asshole. I work really fucking hard and gave up a hell of a lot to open this place. And some days I don’t even know if I like doing this. If I even want to be here.” She took a deep breath and seemed to be fighting to calm herself down. “Look, my mom ran this place as the local greasy spoon for decades. And my dad was a goddamn fisherman. We weren’t exactly rolling in it. And yeah, I guess I could have gone your route, the whole degree and prestigious restaurant thing, but it really wasn’t for me. And guess what? It wouldn’t make this place any better. You have no idea what I’ve sacrificed to get here. I barely even sleep anymore. And I fucking love sleeping!”

Even though her words made sense, should have made me take back my stupid assumptions, somehow, they had the opposite effect. “Oh, sure. Having to give up your beauty rest sounds real hard.” I scoffed and stood, glad I was a few inches taller than her. Suddenly we were so close I could feel the heat and anger rolling off her skin. “You have no idea what sacrifice is.”

Then her lips were on mine and she was pushing me back until my body slammed against the rough wood of the cottage. Her hands fisted in the fabric of my shirt and for a long moment I was too stunned to kiss her back.


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Renee Dahlia

 

MAKING HER MARK

CRAVING HIS SPOTLIGHT

by Renee Dahlia
Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Publication Date: 
Books2Read (Making Her Mark) - Books2Read (Craving His Spotlight)

Galentines Day: A Guest Post

Even though we have been fortunate to be spared the worst of the COVID19 pandemic in Australia, the various lockdowns and work-from-home or school-from-home edicts throughout 2020 (and now into 2021) did highlight one thing for me. Most of my friends are situational; they are cricket parents, school parents, online writing friends, and the odd friend collected over the years from old hobbies or high school. 

In a typical, non-COVID week, this doesn’t matter. I chat to the cricket parents at cricket training and games, I talk to the school parents at after-school pick up and occasionally have coffee with them during the day if our work schedules fit. My online friends are always there if I want to chat (waves to Lina, MV Ellis, and Ebony), and while Craig from school might live in a different country to me, we still chat online often enough to maintain a friendship. Before COVID we used to meet in person at least once a year when we travelled to each other’s nations. 

For some reason, the pandemic made my current in-person friendships feel shallow. When there isn’t sport on, or school to collect kids from, these people (temporarily) disappeared from my daily life. Are we really friends if we don’t casually hang out at other times? Or am I putting too much pressure on these friendships and expecting too much? Some of the people in these situations have definitely crossed into real friendship, so it’s not an either/or situation. 

Today I’ve spent a couple of hours going to the gardening shop (yes with a mask on) to get the well-named “Rooting Hormone” so I could take a cutting from the curry leaf tree in our backyard and attempt to grow one in a pot to give to my friend Sneha. Years ago, our daughters went to pre-school day care together, then to school together, and now they play in the same cricket team. We spend a lot of time with them, and funnily enough (to answer my own question above), we often spend time just hanging out together at our house or their house, chatting and being friends. Yes, some friendships do transcend the situation and become deeper. 

One of my goals for 2021 is to gather some new friends in my life. People that I wouldn’t normally meet in my daily routine, people I have to make an effort for, and hopefully they will make the same effort in return. 

My first foray into this was a complete and utter disaster. I joined a queer group on Facebook designed for the purpose of meeting local people, and mentioned that I’d like to meet new friends. A bunch of women said they’d be keen to catch up for a beer (in Australia, this is fine with social distancing, compulsory masks indoors, and contact tracing). We organised a place and time to meet. While I was on my way, two of them messaged me to say they couldn’t make it. I continued on, hopeful that others who’d said they’d come would arrive. No one came. A failed experiment, and unfortunately for me, one that nearly stopped me from ever trying again. When I was 11, a bully at school told everyone to boycott my birthday party, and so when, once again, no one arrived, I was thrust back to that dreadful experience. I came home in tears. A week later, one of the women who had apologised for not being able to make it asked if I wanted to try again. I figured I’d already done the hardest part, so I dug deep to find some bravery, and said yes. Not only did Dro arrive on time, but she brought along four other women and so I met five new people and had a wonderful time. As a bonus, Katie’s wife went to university in America with the incredible lesfic author Fiona Zedde, so I might have fan-girled just a little (a lot!). 

For Galentines Day 2021, we are going out again together. Just a bunch of gal pals; all of us queer and all of us willing to take risks to meet new friends. I really hope this is the beginning of new friendships and even if it’s not, it’ll be okay because I’m brave enough to try. 

As for my awful 11th birthday party, I wrote it into a book, Making Her Mark, in an attempt to rewrite the script a little. My latest release is an mm romance called Craving His Spotlight; the CEO of an advertising company is tasked with doing the PR for a washed up pop star trying to relaunch his career. The CEO’s best friend gets her own book in February with Her Pregnant Rival, which is a lesfic enemies to lovers novella. I’m currently writing a new series set at a Burlesque Club and all the books are planned as friends to lovers tropes. There will be one mm novella and three ff novels. 


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Stacey Agdern

MIRACLES AND MENORAHS

by Stacey Agdern
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publication Date: October 13th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


Good Books and Good Friends

A Friendships and Festivals Short

© Stacey Agdern, 2021


Dedication:

To Romance readers everywhere. ☺ This one is for you



Chapter One

Sarah

Hollowville: Three days before Galentines Day

Sarah Goldman had plans and checklists and orders for chocolate.

Why?

Carol had finally agreed to her pleas to let her host a Galentines event at ‘Tales from Hollowville’ on Saturday night, which meant that plans had to be organized, and quickly.

Melanie Gould, bestselling historical romance writer, genuine good sport, and famous romance novel advocate, had agreed to come and be the event’s centerpiece, which was the last thing Sarah had expected. “The Empires have a late night practice up in Hollowville,” she had explained, “so your timing is perfect.”

Melanie Gould-Emerson was also a wife of a hockey player, which meant that her schedule was more chaotic than other writers. “I’d wanted to come up to the store for a while, but my schedule has been a mess.”

Once Melanie had agreed, the rest of the necessary items fell into place. Books were ordered from the publisher, Batya had created invitations, and she’d asked a few of Isaac’s friends for some decorations. They were not only willing but genuinely excited to help out, and her coworkers had agreed to help with the set up. Even Chana, who didn’t like the concept of Valentine’s Day on principle, was contributing baked goods and a special version of her famous soofganiyot latte called the ‘chaverah latte.’

Things were going along rather swimmingly. RSVP’s were coming in faster than Sarah had expected, even though she knew Melanie was a pretty popular author with a very excited and mobile fan base.

Except as Sarah fell into the depths of planning and organizing, Melanie Gould called again.

“So,” Melanie (call me Mel please), had said.  “I have an idea.”

And after listening to the plan, Sarah’s heart went wild. She beamed. “Oh wow, this is wonderful. I would love this so much.”

But the next morning, three days before the Galentines day event, Sarah realized two things.

One: she would need more help than she expected to pull this off.

And.

Two: She needed her best friend to be in town for this event. No matter what Sarah had to do to get Anna there. Anna would never forgive Sarah if she’d missed the opportunity that Mel was organizing.

The first was easy; extra orders from the publisher, who’d agreed to get the new books from the surprise special guest up to her by Friday, “or, I will drive the books up myself if need be on the morning of the event,” said the harried publicist on a phone call,

Next was the fact that an announcement like the one being made at the event had to be filmed. There were people who would be interested in attending but couldn’t do so in person. Batya was so much better at any of her coworkers at filming things, which meant Sarah had to ask her friend if she would be willing to do it.

“Hey,” she said during their weekly coffee. “I have a question for you.”

“What’s going on?” Batya asked.

“I need help,” Sarah explained exactly what she needed from her friend.

Batya nodded. “Absolutely. But,” Batya tapped a finger against the table. “You know who needs to be here for this, right?”

Sarah nodded. “I know. Anna.”

But how was she going to get her friend to leave work and the city for the weekend and come to Galentines without telling her why?

How in the world?

**

Anna

Brooklyn

Anna Cohen’s apartment was a mess.

It was if someone had dumped an entire pound of index cards, reference books, photocopied articles, pens, and random computer printouts over the space, and mixed it with takeout containers and too many mugs to fit in the sink.

But the next section of her boss’s exhibit required much more time than she had at work, considering she had more responsibilities than just completing her boss’s exhibit cards. That translated into all-nighters at home that carried into work, and calls to her parents telling them she wouldn’t make Friday night dinner. Two weeks in a row.

She hadn’t been a complete recluse though; she’d called Sarah, of course and Batya came to the city to meet them for brunch with Isaac last Sunday.

But it wasn’t the same and she was way too stressed to think about it further. Instead, she picked up one of Penina Alton Schrader’s books and started reading through the story. It was a historical, the romances she loved the most. The story was about the British Stock Exchange, and the conspiracy a young Marquess discovered while standing in an alleyway. The details were meticulously researched, after all, and she could let herself fall into the story the author had written.

But after Penina Alton-Schrader had finished writing this series, she’d stopped writing. Anna’s copy of this particular book was falling to pieces, and she needed to buy yet another one. Each time she had to do this, she wished, she hoped, her favorite author would find the inspiration to write again, and not just the forthcoming non-fiction title about the American Stock Exchange.

And tonight, tonight, she needed this book. She needed this moment, to breathe, to read this particular story. To believe for a minute that love would conquer all.

Even if it didn’t for her.

And as she turned the page, to the best moment of the story, as the first Bow Street runner and the math genius daughter of one of those who got swindled said “I love you”, the back cover fell off.

It was just too much.

The tears came like rain. They didn’t stop. Not just because of the book, but because she missed her friends, New York was cold, almost hostile in February and she hadn’t seen much except the inside of her apartment and the inside of her office in the museum for way too long.

Not just because of the part of her life she’d lost in December.

Nope. Not that.

But Anna pulled herself together. It made no sense crying over a book, right?

She checked the clock and realized it was way too late to call anybody; not her friends, and not a store where she could make sure they actually had this title.

So, she put the book down and went to bed, resolved to ask for help in the morning.



Chapter Two

Sarah

Hollowville, Day before Galentines Day

Sarah was drinking coffee when her email buzzed. It wasn’t the delivery notification she was expecting, but it was an email from Anna. She clicked on the notification and squealed in delight.

“What?”

She felt Isaac’s arm come around her, his head rest on her shoulder. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Anna,” she said. “Anna wants a book.”

“And this is squeal-worthy because?”

“Because it’s by her favorite author, and I think I can get her the best surprise.”

“Mmm?” The raw rumble of his voice resonated against her, and she sighed. “This for tomorrow?”

“It is,” Sarah said, leaning in to him. “She broke her favorite book again.”

Isaac nodded, and when she turned towards him, she saw the slight confusion in his eyes. “Is this a regular occurrence?”

“Somewhat? It’s an older book and it’s a reread of hers. And even though she tries to be careful with it, every copy eventually breaks on her.” Which was about as clear as she could get without explaining the details.

“Fair enough,” he said. “So, you’re getting her a new one?”

“Better,” she replied.  “I’m getting her a signed one. And if I play my cards right, she’ll get to meet the author.”

“You think that’s a good idea? I mean her meeting her idol?”

Sarah thought for a second before she nodded. “It is.  It will  be a good moment and Anna will love to be there for it, and I think it’ll be good for her to be there.”

“Well,” he said, smiling. “I hope she’ll make it.”

Me too, Sarah thought as she leaned in, meeting Isaac’s lips with her own. Me too.

**

Anna

Manhattan

Anna blew out a frustrated breath.

What was her friend thinking? What? What the heck was Sarah thinking?

She adored her best friend, truly, but the last thing Anna wanted to do was leave Manhattan at five on a Friday evening, reverse commute into Hollowville with the entire world, go to an event and then take the train back, through the wildness of Valentine’s Day, by herself.

Not that they were going to make a big deal of it, as they’d both assured her that they were going to play up the wildness of Tu b’av instead, but this was going to be Sarah and Isaac’s first Valentine’s Day. And even if they were going to ignore it, they’d be together ignoring it.

Even worse, she didn’t want to be reminded of what she’d lost in December, the phantom limb that still sat in the depths of her chest.

Instead of thinking of that, she called Sarah. At work.

“Hello,” her friend said in the professional bookseller voice Anna knew all too well, “Tales from Hollowville, Sarah Goldman speaking. How can I help you?”

“I adore you, I adore Melanie Gould, so much, but I can’t come up to Hollowville for Melanie Gould.”

Sarah sighed on the other end of the phone. “Oh, come on, Anna. Look. You need to get the book, and I miss you.”

“I adore you, Sarah,” Anna replied, trying to clarify her words. “But I don’t want to travel on Valentine’s Day.”

“You don’t have travel on Valentine’s Day,” Sarah replied. “Valentine’s Day is on Sunday, which you would know…never mind. Anyway, you can come up Friday, have dinner with your parents like you’ve wanted to for weeks, stay over in Hollowville, come to Galentines Day on Saturday night, and hang out afterwards. We’ll have brunch with Batya on Sunday morning and drink a lot of sweet wine. Which means you can avoid the city entirely, and then go back on Monday.”

Which was a thought. A good one.

“Is Chana doing anything for Valentines at Caf and Nosh?”

“Nope,” Sarah replied. “Chana’s going to do Tu’ b’av this year. No Valentine's Day. I promise.”

And reassured, she realized that maybe, maybe she needed this. A weekend with good friends and good books.

“Okay,” she said. “Okay. I’m in.”

**

Sarah

Once she got over her moment of excitement, Sarah turned to unpack some of the boxes that had arrived from the publisher.

“You have a special delivery.”

Sarah looked up to see Carol’s smiling face. “Thank you,” she said as she took the paper from her boss. “I…”

Jacob Horowitz-Margareten, of all people, was ordering Penina Alton-Schrader’s stock market history.

Why the heck was he doing that?

Sarah had no idea, and decided that if she was going accede to his request to get it signed, thankfully not personalized, she needed to make sure Anna didn’t see it. The last thing Anna needed now was to know the guy who’d broken her heart was ordering a copy of one her favorite author’s books. For himself, of course, but still ordering.

“So, things are going well?” Carol asked.

Sarah nodded, deciding not to tell her boss about her friend’s romantic drama. “Yes. Unexpected mystery author announcing a new project, which means extra publisher assistance and more books. So, yes.” She paused, smiled up at her boss. “Thank you for letting me do this. Really.”

Carol smiled back. “You’ve been working so hard, that it almost feels like this is the reward you deserve. Besides, if it goes well, you know you’re getting more floor space for the section.”

Sarah couldn’t help but squeal. She would have thrown the paper and the book up in the air, but this was a professional moment and she was not the best at aim or throwing anything. “Thank you,” she managed. “Thank you for everything.”

And now all she had to do was make this night work. It would be a success, right?

Right.

**

Anna

Batya picked Anna up at the Hollowville train station, no questions asked. It was actually hard to keep Batya away.

“I really appreciate this,” Anna told her friend as she closed the door of the car, having fought her way through the wildness of Hollowville’s train station on a Friday on the first train arriving after rush hour. “There are taxis and hired cars and other ways I can use to get from the train station to my parent’s house by myself.”

“Yeah,” Batya said with a grin as she drove away. “But I haven’t seen you in a while. And I miss you. Not to mention what kind of friend would I be if I let you fight through this on your own?”

“True. Definitely not a good one.”

And as Batya caught her up on the town’s goings on, Anna was glad she’d taken the opportunity to come back and take a breath, and a break with the people she loved the most.


Chapter Three

Sarah

Hollowville, Galentines Day

Max, Liam, and Oliver joined Isaac at the bookstore Saturday morning. Max laid out his design, and Sarah very happily helped the rest of the group turn it into reality. The signs that Oliver and Liam had made, as well as Jamie’s special bookmarks celebrating both Galentines at Tales from Hollowville, and the anthology were ready to be distributed.

Chana arrived right on time with the food, as well as the coffee cart to set up at the back of the store.

Things were going just swimmingly.

There were even enough people to help Sarah bring in and unpack the missing shipment of books when it arrived, as well as reassure the exhausted publicist that everything was going to be okay.

“So, this shipment,” Sarah explained, “is going to go onto this table.” The table itself was Isaac’s contribution to the event; he’d added locking wheels to an older wooden table. “And once our surprise mystery guest is announced, I’ll bring out the books.”

“I’m excited,” the publicist said, looking at the way Max’s design had come to life; the draping and the cushions and the lights turned the bookstore into a beautiful cozy space. “This is going to be a special event.”

Sarah did her best not to preen too much. “I’ve seen so many other stores do events like this,” she said, not explaining to the publicist exactly how many busmen’s holidays she’d taken to go to these events. “I’m so glad I get to host one.”

All that had to happen, was that Anna needed to arrive, and not discover what her Galentines present would be.

Probably not too much to ask; at least Sarah hoped.

**

Anna

Anna was supposed to meet Batya outside Tales from Hollowville at five, which meant she had a beautiful day of nothing. And it was gorgeous. Sleeping in, catching up with her parents, and watching Katie Feldman cook kosher meals on tv, then reading a few of the books she’d brought with her for Melanie Gould to sign, especially the MG Emerson series about a Jewish family and their far-flung journeys and loves.

If nothing else, talking to Melanie Gould about history would make her night.

And that Sarah had made sure she’d come? That was a gift in itself.

At four-thirty, she was leaving her parent’s house and heading down to the bookstore. There was going to be food and drink there, so she didn’t need to stop and get any on the way.

And when she arrived, Batya threw her arms around her friend. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “Sarah said she’ll see you after the signing because she’s got a whole bunch of stuff to deal with. Moving pieces and all.”

Anna nodded. “Sounds good,” she replied. She knew how that went; this was Sarah’s event and she’d be focused on making things perfect from beginning to end. But all the same, Anna was ready and excited.

As she stepped into the store, she could see the work that had been put in; the colors, the chairs, the tables organized with the new titles and some of Melanie Gould’s old ones.

The signs were posted everywhere, drawings pink and purples and blues and reds. Friendships and joy celebrated in all of its forms on posters that must have been drawn by a professional artist. Which was not entirely surprising; it seemed like Isaac’s friends were also in town.

She could see Tom with his camera off to the side, ready to take photos of the signing; Max looking at a sheet of paper and up at the rows of chairs; Liam had drawn the pictures, of course, and Oliver had clearly colored them in.

“This is beautiful,” Anna said.

Batya nodded. “Isn’t it?”

It was. Now all she had to do was wait.

**

Sarah

The Galentines event started in minutes.

Sarah had done everything she could, and now all that was left was to watch and wait.

She wasn’t on the floor, of course; she was in the back of the store, watching through the peephole window. Two reasons for this.

One was Anna. This was a surprise for many people in the room, but for Anna especially. And if she was on the floor, greeting everyone as they came in, passing out the gift bags…there was no telling what she’d say and to whom.

That meant that she was the perfect person to watch over the table with the mystery author’s books. Once she got her cue from Carol, she’d roll out the table. But for now, she could watch as everyone arrived and settled in.

“Can I put my stuff here?”

Sarah nodded, smiling at Melanie Gould.

“I’m Sarah. Thank you so much for this, Ms. Gould.”

Melanie beamed. “Of course I’m here. And please, call me Mel.”

“Mel, then. Nice to meet you.  I’m really excited we’re doing this,” Mel replied as she put her coat down on one of the chairs in the break room. “I can leave my bag here too?”

Sarah nodded back. “Absolutely. It'll be safe back here. ”

Mel put the bag down and sighed, relieved. “Thank you I think I’m going to head out.”

It was perfect timing because when Mel stepped through the storage room door, Carol was there to greet her.

When everybody got quiet; Carol headed to the front of the store, to huge applause and began the evening.

Sarah watched as Mel settled down on the stage in front of the group, giving a bit of a talk about the importance of friendships, and the joy of Galentines day. And romance novels.

But as Mel and Carol talked on stage, Sarah focused on what she could see of Anna. Anna was sitting up straight, devouring each and every word. That made her smile.

“Any questions from the audience?” Carol asked, heralding the beginning of the Q&A portion.

Once again, the questions came, fast and furiously, making Sarah so very happy she’d organized this event.

“So, what have I learned from the MG Emerson books?” Mel asked after a while. “That’s the question?”

The excited reader who’d asked the question nodded. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from these stories and I wanted to know what they taught you, if anything?”

Mel thought for a minute before responding and Sarah sat back and waited for the answer.

“They taught me the importance of writing Jewish characters,” Mel finally replied. “Each and every single person who told me that they finally were able to see themselves in these characters, in these stories, reminded me of how important it was to see Jewish characters in stories and Jewish history centered.”

“Good answer. Next question?” Carol asked.

“So,” the next reader asked, “does this mean you’re done writing Melanie Gould romances? I miss them.”

Mel beamed.  “I’m so glad you asked me that question. Because yes, the M-G Emerson books do deliberately fall into the romantic historical women’s fiction category, and deliberately so for a lot of reasons. But the thing is, I’m not done writing romance, because romance is my first love.”

Sarah could feel the cheers from the back room.

“But,” Mel continued, “the thing is that writing the kinds of stories I wrote before…feels like going backwards. So, my next Melanie Gould series is going to focus on Jewish characters in leading roles. Which means yes, there will be more Melanie Gould books, and they will be romances, ones centering Jewish characters.”

The excitement and the joy that filled the room at the announcement filled Sarah with happiness.

And then one hand rose towards the back of the room.

This was the moment.

As they’d discussed, Carol called on the lone woman, sitting by herself in the back of the room. “Yes. You in the back.”

“How are you going to introduce this new series?”

“Well,” Mel replied, a smile on her face as bright as the lights on Broadway, “funny thing, my friend. Oh, and by the way, I want to introduce you to the audience. Penina, come up here and join me.”

And Sarah held her breath as Penina Alton-Schrader took off her coat, and stood, making her way to the front of the room, amidst excitement and surprise, her traditional business suit and heels replaced with a comfortable red dress and boots.

This, Sarah decided, was going to be fun.

**

Anna

Anna had no idea how she’d managed not to notice when Penina Alton-Schrader entered the bookstore, but she’d chalk it up to the excitement she felt when listening to Melanie Gould talk about the importance of Jewish history.

And that would bring up Penina Alton-Schrader?

Wait.

“So,” Penina said. “Yes. It’s very fortunate I’m here tonight. Because I haven’t been writing historical romance for a while. And I think it was partially because I enjoyed the stories I told, but I also found myself writing away from my own voice, my own story.”

“And so,” Melanie Gould interjected, “I asked her what she thought she wanted to write, like if there were no limits in the world, what would she write, and she had one answer.”

And that was when her favorite author smiled, beamed. “Us. I wanted to write our history, our stories. Romance novels that tell our history.”

Anna had no idea how she managed to sit through the rest of the Q&A and the announcement that their next project would be an anthology of Jewish Historical Romances, the two of them plus one other author, who they’d find through a contest.

“This has to be an own voices Jewish story,” Melanie said. “Jewish history, Jewish characters, Jewish love. Because we matter. Because our stories matter.”

Anna almost lost her mind. And the excitement she felt being there, with them, that night… she’d never forget it.

She owed Sarah more than life itself. All she had to do was find her best friend.

**

Sarah

Anna beamed, in a way that made Sarah glow.

Her friend carried multiple books, each of them signed, and Sarah had heard Anna had offered both authors a guided tour of the museum and their research archives if either of them wished.

But then, with the huge stack of books, and the parcel, Anna was staring at her. Her friend was crying.

“I never would have come,” her friend confessed, “if you hadn’t pushed me. I never would have taken a break, held my breath if you hadn’t told me I should. Thank you. Thank you.”

“You need to know,” Sarah said, “that no matter where you go, wherever I go, you are always my best friend.”

And as Anna put her arms around her best friend, she smiled. “You’re an amazing friend and I adore you. And will adore you.”

And after a moment, Anna asked the question that was bothering her the most. “You’ll always have time for me?”  

“I’ll always have time for you. Always,” Sarah replied,  as if there was no arguing the.” You’ll always have time for me?”

Anna smiled, hearing her friend’s hesitancy in the question. “I’m going to be a happy, single crone for the rest of my life.”

Batya snorted as she came to join them. “Uh oh,” she said as she put her hand on Anna’s shoulder. “That means you’re next. In romance novel language.”

Anna shook her head. “Nope. Nope. Not happening. I’m absolutely done with love. I’m not risking that again.”

“Again,” Batya said. “You are setting yourself up for a story, my friend. I’ve read too many romance novels to know what those words mean.”

Sarah snickered at her friends. “I adore the both of you and cannot wait to see what happens next. Happy Galentines, my friends.”

“Happy Galentines.”

THE END…for now


Authors Note:

Sarah, the heroine of Miracles and Menorahs, has a job I did for ten years. So many readers, so many moments, and so many books ordered, so many signings held, all to put joy on the faces of my fellow romance readers. To all the booksellers, this is for you. ☺

I never hosted a Galentines Day event as a bookseller, but I’ve attended one in my capacity as a romance fan. Word Bookstores has had a Galentines Day event for the past few years and it’s a LOT of fun. One day I will attend as an author ☺

I introduced the character of Melanie Gould in a story I wrote called ‘Playing Her Game’ in the Going All In Anthology. You get a snippet of her writing career and the origin of the MG Emerson books in a story called ‘Caught in the Crossfire’  that appears in the Roughing It Anthology, as well as the other New York Empires Anthologies. ☺

Penina Alton Schrader and her books appear as side characters in a paranormal romance story with historical book travel elements that I will eventually maybe revisit. She was inspired by my love for books who centered anticipated characters, romance fandom, and a long-ago book signing I attended for one of my favorite authors.

An anthology like I’ve described doesn’t exist, not yet at least, but if this story makes you want to read more own voices historical romances featuring Jewish Characters, Rose Lerner and Felicia Grossman are great places to start. 

And as we all know, Batya is right. In romance novels or films, most of the time when a character states that they are done with romance, in actuality the author is foreshadowing the fact that their book is next.

The other thing you might notice is that Anna gets a POV in this story.

Put those two ideas together, and the answer to that unasked question is, in fact yes. Anna’s book is next. ☺ History of Us releases on June 24, 2021 from Tule Publishing. More information will be forthcoming, but I hope you liked this little taste of Anna’s voice.

Thank you for reading,

Stacey 

Acknowledgments:

Thank you, as always, to Felicia Grossman for holding my hand all the way through the writing of this.

Voule Walker for the proofread. You are my ace in the hole, my friend.

And to Nick for letting me participate. I’ve had a LOT of fun with this and cannot thank you enough for the joy you bring to my timeline. I hope you love this. ☺



Find Stacey:
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That's a wrap on day 1!

I hope you enjoyed these Galentine's Day contributions! Check back tomorrow for another day post full of author contributions!

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