Monday, May 10, 2021

New Release Spotlight/GIVEAWAY: The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

 


The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

by Xio Axelrod

Publication Date: 5/4/2021

 

Her name’s Antonia “Toni” Bennette (yeah, she’s heard all the jokes before) and she’s not a rock star. Neither are the Lillys—not yet. But the difference between being famous and being almost famous can be a single wrong note…or the start of something that’ll change your life forever.

 

Growing up in dive bars up and down the East Coast, Toni Bennette’s guitar was her only companion...until she met Sebastian Quick. Seb was a little older, a lot wiser, and before long he was Toni’s way out, promising they’d escape their stifling small town together. Then Seb turned eighteen and split without looking back.

 

Now, Toni’s all grown up and making a name for herself in Philadelphia’s indie scene. When a friend suggests she try out for a hot new up-and-coming band, Toni decides to take a chance. Strong, feminist, and fierce as fire, Toni B. and the Lillys are the perfect match…except Seb’s now moonlighting as their manager. Whatever. Toni can handle it. No problem. Or it wouldn’t be if Seb didn’t still hold a piece of her heart…not to mention the key to her future.

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ls7kDE

B&N: https://bit.ly/2EpLLCT

Apple: https://apple.co/2Qpyc8Q

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3jtxDZx

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3aWoeVX

BAM: https://bit.ly/2YAkCE7

Books2Read: http://bit.ly/3oKLVG2

 

Excerpt:

 The smile on Toni’s face faltered as Seb approached, eyes wide with disbelief. She banged the sharp edge of her guitar case into Jordan’s leg, and he made a pained sound. 

Toni winced. “Oh God! I’m so sorry.” 

Jordan laughed it off. “It’s okay. Seb has that effect on people.” 

Her hair had fallen into her eyes, hiding her from him. It wouldn’t do. Seb itched to reach over and brush it back. After so many years apart, he needed to see her, to look into her eyes. He needed to apologize, though no apology would ever be enough for what he’d done. 

As if steeling herself, Toni took a deep breath and raised her head to meet his gaze. 

Seb watched as confusion morphed into suspicion before giving way to unmistakable anger, which coalesced white-hot as her gaze narrowed. 

After a few moments of awkward silence, Jordan cleared his throat. “Toni Bennette, this is Sebastian Quick,” he said. “Seb, Toni the phenom.” 

Lilly nodded to Seb in greeting and pulled Tiff over to the piano, where a pile of headshots lay spread out on its ebony top. 

Seb’s heart hammered in his chest. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. The connection between his brain and his vocal cords had been severed, which was just as well. He had no idea 

what to say. 

“Nice to meet you.” A flush spread across her cheeks, but the ice in her voice sent a chill down Seb’s spine and made his jaw snap shut. Nice to meet you? 

Despite the greeting, Toni made no move to shake his hand, clutching her phone in one and her guitar in the other. Her eyes were steely and there was a clear statement in them: I don’t know 

you. Or, maybe, I don’t want to. 

Seb managed to nod. He wasn’t sure how to play this but thought maybe it was best to follow her lead. He owed her that. 

Jordan arched an eyebrow as if to say What the fuck is wrong with you? 

From his left, Seb could feel Candi’s stare burning into the side of his face. He needed to get his shit together. 

“Nice to meet you, too,” he finally said. And kudos to him for not screwing that up. “Nice stuff.” 

“Nice stuff,” Candi repeated, mocking his stiff tone. She stuck her hand out to Toni. “You know your shit, missy.” 

Toni held Seb’s gaze for a beat before she turned to her, giving her a warm smile as she shook her hand. 

“Thanks so much. You’re Candi, right?” 

“The one and only,” Candi replied pointedly before dropping her hand and walking over to Lilly. 

Again, Toni’s smile faltered. 

“Okay,” Jordan said loudly, his eyes still on Seb. He turned to Toni. “We’ll definitely be in touch.” 

“That’s great, thanks,” Toni replied, her eyes kind for Seb’s best friend. “I’ll keep my phone charged.” 

Jordan gave Seb one last look, sent Toni a little salute, and jogged over to the others. 

Seb found Toni studying him again, her expression indecipherable. 

Finally, she rolled her eyes with a huff and moved toward the door. 

Before he could think better of it, Seb followed. Grabbing the door before it could close behind her, he trailed Toni into the hall. 

She was moving fast, giving him a healthy dose of déjà vu. 

“Wait up!” He caught up to her in front of the bank of elevators. Seb watched her shoulders rise and fall on heavy breaths. 

Despite her distress, Toni’s voice came out even. Measured. Glacial. “You’re the last person I expected to see. Again.” 

“Yeah, well…” Seb rubbed the back of his neck. 

Slowly, Toni turned to face him, and they stared at each other for a long moment. 

Seb couldn’t read her at all. “You sounded good in there. Great, actually.” His words were so fucking inadequate. 

“Thanks.” 

Now that she was in front of him, Seb floundered. He needed to organize his thoughts. Figure out a way to approach her that didn’t cause her to shoot daggers out of her eyes. 

“I, uh… How—?” 

The elevator doors opened, interrupting whatever Seb thought he might say. 

Lifting her eyes to his, Toni walked slowly backward until she was inside. 

“See you around,” she said, dropping her gaze. “Maybe.”

***

Excerpted from The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod. © 2021 by Xio Axelrod. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.


 



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About the Author

Xio Axelrod is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of contemporary romance. In 2017, she founded the Philadelphia RWA chapter. Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn't writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, not-so-secret name). She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and several part-time cats.


New Release Spotlight: Like Cats and Dogs/ GIVEAWAY

 



Like Cats and Dogs

by Kate McMurray

Publication Date: 5/4/2021

 

The fur flies in this hilarious romantic comedy where the owner of a Brooklyn-based cat café and the local vet go ahead to head. The attraction is instant, but can you fight like cats and dogs and still be perfect for each other?

 

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Café and gets on the wrong side of café owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start...

 

Lauren can’t ignore her attraction to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren’s doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that’s been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens getting them ready for adoption is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they’ll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IZaFvz

B&N: https://bit.ly/376Z5q5

Apple: https://apple.co/3fxrmtE

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3jtxDZx

Bookshop: https://bit.ly/3m53bW8

BAM: https://bit.ly/3l1QKZT

Books2Read: https://bit.ly/3v5PKJu


Excerpt:

Evan walked into the Whitman Street Cat Cafe, pushing through the second door and grinning at Lauren like he’d already had three cups of coffee.  

“Derek got married this weekend,” Lauren said by way of greeting.  

“Aw, honey, I’m sorry,” said Evan. “Anything I can do?” 

“Drive to New Hampshire and punch him in the face?” 

Evan tilted his head and seemed to consider doing just that. “As fun as that sounds, Derek is kind of a big guy. He might punch back, and I bruise like a peach.” 

Lauren laughed despite herself. She shoved her phone in her pocket. “I’m over it. So my ex got married? It’s fine. I’m fine.” 

“Attagirl.” Evan looked up at the menu like he didn’t get coffee here nearly every morning.  

“Not that I’m sad for the business,” said Lauren, “but where did all these people come from?” 

“Didn’t you hear? The Star Cafe closed last week.” 

The Star Cafe was a great independent coffee shop that had, apparently until last week, been right across the street from the Cat Cafe. If it had closed, that explained all the people here, the last place that served coffee between Henry Street and the subway entrance on the next block.  

“I’m devastated,” Evan continued.  

Lauren raised an eyebrow at him. “If anything, this is probably better for your health. There are only so many cups of coffee you can drink per day because you think the barista is cute before the caffeine gives you heart palpitations.” 

Evan sighed and leaned against the counter next to Lauren. “Pablo gave me heart palpitations.” 

“Any idea what he’s up to now?” 

“When I got my caramel vanilla latte on Friday, he told me he’d applied to work at that little indie bookstore a few doors down. Hope springs.” 

“Crazy idea, but you could, like, ask him out.” 

Evan gasped dramatically. “Where’s the romance in that? We’re performing an elaborate dance.” 

“Right.” Lauren glanced behind the counter, where Monique looked panicked as she took another order. “Maybe I should hire him.” 

“He makes a mean caramel vanilla latte.”  

A bewildered man with light brown hair walked into the cafe then. Lauren had never seen him before, and she would have noticed. He was so handsome, Evan sucked in a sharp breath.  

Lauren had sworn off men ever since Derek had announced his engagement, because she was tired of getting her heart stomped on, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t look. Because this man was pretty foxy. He was tall and fit, with neatly trimmed hair, a square jaw, and blue eyes that sparkled even from behind the dark-rimmed glasses he wore.  

“Hello,” said Evan.  

The man looked around. When Sadie trotted over to investigate him, he looked a little startled by her presence.  

“Oh,” he said, catching Lauren’s eye. “I’ve heard about places like this, but I guess it didn’t occur to me that the cats would just be… out.” 

“Only Sadie has free rein in the cafe,” said Lauren. “She’s in charge. She’s also terrified of cars, so she doesn’t try to escape. The rest of the cats are through that door.” She pointed.  

“Ah.”  

Lauren wasn’t really sure what to say next. Evan elbowed her, though, so she said, “Did you want to see the cats, or—” 

“I just need a cup of coffee for now. This place is hopping.” 

“Go on,” Lauren said. “I’m not in line and you look like you’re in a hurry.” 

The man pulled a phone from his pocket and glanced at the time. “Yeah, a little.” He slid forward. “Thank you.” 

“Are you new to the neighborhood?”  

“Yeah. Just moved to Brooklyn a week ago, actually.” 

“Welcome!” 

He shot her a bashful half smile and nodded. “Thanks.” 

Monique said, “Next!” 

The light-haired man nodded at Lauren and then walked to the register.  

Victor, the other barista, must have noticed this guy was a little twitchy, probably with a job to get to—he was wearing a blue oxford shirt tucked into navy blue slacks, the uniform of the Midtown office worker—and he grabbed the pot and poured a cup of coffee right away. Once the man paid, Victor handed him the cup and said, “Milk and sugar are at the end of the counter.” 

“Great.” The man took his cup.  

“The usual,” Lauren said to Monique now that the line had dissipated. Then she walked over to the man as he shook a sugar packet. “I’m Lauren, by the way.” 

The man gave her a genuine smile this time. “Caleb. Maybe I’ll see you around, Lauren.” Sadie meowed and sat at his feet. “And you, too, Sadie.” 

Handsome and he liked the cats. No wedding ring. This had some potential.  

Oh, except for the part where Lauren was not dating in order to concentrate on making a fulfilling life for herself without a man.  

Caleb walked back outside.  

“Girl,” said Evan. “He was totally checking you out.” 

Warm excitement spread through Lauren’s chest. It had been a while since she’d met anyone who made her pulse race like this. She wondered if Caleb would come back.  

“Boss, your coffee’s ready,” said Monique.  

Lauren took it gratefully. “All right. Do you have to work today, Ev, or do you want to meet our newest resident? We’ve got a gorgeous new calico named Lucy.” 

“I’m meeting a client at ten, so I gotta go, but you can tell me all about Miss Lucy and report back on that tall guy over drinks tonight.” 

“Pop at seven?” 

“Perfect.” 

Monique handed Evan his coffee, which he took with a grin. He blew Lauren a kiss with his free hand and then walked out the door.  

“Come on, Sadie,” said Lauren. “Let’s get to work.” 

***

Excerpted from Like Cats and Dogs by Xio Axelrod. © 2021 by Xio Axelrod. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.



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About the Author

Kate McMurray writes smart, savvy romantic fiction. She likes creating stories that are brainy, funny, and, of course, sexy. She advocates for romance stories by and for everyone. When she’s not writing, Kate edits textbooks, watches baseball, plays violin, crafts things out of yarn, and wears a lot of cute dresses. Kate lives in Brooklyn, NY, with two cats and too many books.


Discover Pam Jenoff's The Woman with the Blue Star

 


The Woman with the Blue Star

Pam Jenoff

On Sale Date: May 4, 2021

9780778389385, 0778389383

Trade Paperback

$17.99 USD, $22.99 CAD

Fiction / Historical / Jewish

336 pages




 

About the Book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.


1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.


Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.


Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.


Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Blue-Star-Novel/dp/0778389383/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-pam-jenoff/1137387567

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-9780778311546/9780778389385

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778389385

Libro.fm: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488211706-the-woman-with-the-blue-star?bookstore=betweenthecovers

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Woman-Blue-Star/Pam-Jenoff/9780778389385?id=8140224153967

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-woman-with-the-blue-star-by-pam-jenoff-paperback/-/A-81225916

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/The-Woman-with-the-Blue-Star-Original-Edition-Paperback-9780778389385/304633554

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-woman-with-the-blue/9780778389385-item.html

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-woman-with-the-blue-star

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-woman-with-the-blue-star/id1524947358

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/The_Woman_with_the_Blue_Star_A_Novel?id=De_yDwAAQBAJ&hl=en&gl=US


Excerpt Teaser (Prologue):

Kraków, Poland

June 2016

The woman I see before me is not the one I expected at all.

Ten minutes earlier, I stood before the mirror in my hotel room, brushing some lint from the cuff of my pale blue blouse, adjusting a pearl earring. Distaste rose inside me. I had become the poster child for a woman in her early seventies—graying hair cut short and practical, pantsuit hugging my sturdy frame more snugly than it would have a year ago.

I patted the bouquet of fresh flowers on the nightstand, bright red blooms wrapped in crisp brown paper. Then I walked to the window. Hotel Wentzl, a converted sixteenth-century mansion, sat on the southwest corner of the Rynek, Kraków’s immense town square. I chose the location deliberately, made sure my room had just the right view. The square, with its concave southern corner giving it rather the appearance of a sieve, bustled with activity. Tourists thronged between the churches and the souvenir stalls of the Sukiennice, the massive, oblong cloth hall that bisected the square. Friends gathered at the outdoor cafés for an after-work drink on a warm June evening, while commuters hurried home with their parcels, eyes cast toward the clouds darkening over Wawel Castle to the south.

I had been to Kraków twice before, once right after commu­nism fell and then again ten years later when I started my search in earnest. I was immediately won over by the hidden gem of a city. Though eclipsed by the tourist magnets of Prague and Berlin, Kraków’s Old Town, with its unscarred cathedrals and stone-carved houses restored to the original, was one of the most elegant in all of Europe.

The city changed so much each time I came, everything brighter and newer—”better” in the eyes of the locals, who had gone through many years of hardship and stalled progress. The once-gray houses had been painted vibrant yellows and blues, turning the ancient streets into a movie-set version of them­selves. The locals were a study in contradictions, too: fashion­ably dressed young people talked on their cell phones as they walked, heedless of the mountain villagers selling wool sweaters and sheep’s cheese from tarps laid on the ground, and a scarf-clad babcia who sat on the pavement, begging for coins. Under a store window touting wi-fi and internet plans, pigeons pecked at the hard cobblestones of the market square as they had for centuries. Beneath all of the modernity and polish, the baroque architecture of the Old Town shone defiantly through, a history that would not be denied.

But it was not history that brought me here—or at least not that history.

As the trumpeter in the Mariacki Church tower began to play the Hejnał, signaling the top of the hour, I studied the north­west corner of the square, waiting for the woman to appear at five as she had every day. I did not see her and I wondered if she might not come today, in which case my trip halfway around the world would have been in vain. The first day, I wanted to make sure she was the right person. The second, I meant to speak with her but lost my nerve. Tomorrow I would fly home to America. This was my last chance.

Finally, she appeared from around the corner of a pharmacy, umbrella tucked smartly under one arm. She made her way across the square with surprising speed for a woman who was about ninety. She was not stooped; her back was straight and tall. Her white hair was pulled into a loose knot atop her head, but pieces had broken free and fanned out wildly, framing her face. In contrast to my own staid clothing, she wore a brightly colored skirt, its pattern vibrant. The shiny fabric seemed to dance around her ankles by its own accord as she walked and I could almost hear its rustling sound.

Her routine was familiar, the same as the previous two days when I watched her walk to the Café Noworolski and request the table farthest from the square, sheltered from the activity and noise by the deep arched entranceway of the building. Last time I had come to Kraków, I was still searching. Now I knew who she was and where to find her. The only thing to do was to summon my courage and go down.

The woman took a seat at her usual table in the corner, opened a newspaper. She had no idea that we were about to meet—or even that I was alive.

From the distance came a rumble of thunder. Drops began to fall then, splattering the cobblestones like dark tears. I had to hurry. If the outdoor café closed and the woman left, every­thing I came for would be gone.

I heard the voices of my children, telling me that it was too dangerous to travel so far alone at my age, that there was no reason, nothing more to be learned here. I should just leave and go home. It would matter to no one.

Except to me—and to her. I heard her voice in my mind as I imagined it to be, reminding me what it was that I had come for.

Steeling myself, I picked up the flowers and walked from the room.

Outside, I started across the square. Then I stopped again. Doubts reverberated through my brain. Why had I come all of this way? What was I looking for? Doggedly, I pressed onward, not feeling the large drops that splattered my clothes and hair. I reached the café, wound through the tables of patrons who were paying their checks and preparing to leave as the rain fell heavier. As I neared the table, the woman with the white hair lifted her gaze from the newspaper. Her eyes widened.

Up close now, I can see her face. I can see everything. I stand motionless, struck frozen.

The woman I see before me is not the one I expected at all.

 

Excerpted from The Woman With the Blue Star @ 2021 by Pam Jenoff, used with permission by Park Row Books.

 

About the Author:



Pam Jenoff is the author of several books of historical fiction, including the NYT bestseller The Orphan's Tale. She holds a degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her JD from UPenn. Her novels are inspired by her experiences working at the Pentagon and as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and 3 children near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.

 

Social Links:

Website: https://www.pamjenoff.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PamJenoffauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PamJenoff

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamjenoff/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/213562.Pam_Jenoff

Mailing List: https://pamjenoff.com/mailing-list/


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Discover A New Girl in Little Cove today

 


NEW GIRL AT LITTLE COVE

Author: Damhnait Monaghan

ISBN: 9781525811500

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher: Graydon House Books



Book Summary:

 

Take a literary trip to Newfoundland: the island of the world’s friendliest people, the setting for the award-winning musical Come From Away, and home of the delightfully quirky and irresistibly charming debut, NEW GIRL IN LITTLE COVE (May 11; $16.99; Graydon House Books) by Damhnait Monaghan! After being utterly scandalized by the abrupt departure of their school’s only French teacher (she ran off with a priest!) the highly Catholic, very tiny town of Little Cove, Newfoundland needs someone who doesn’t rock the boat. Enter mainlander Rachel O’Brien —technically a Catholic (baptized!), technically a teacher (unused honors degree!)— who is so desperate to leave her old life behind, she doesn’t bother to learn the (allegedly English) local dialect. Stuck on an island she’s never known surrounded by a people and culture she barely understands, Rachel struggles to feel at home. Only the intervention of her crotchety landlady, a handsome fellow teacher, and the Holy Dusters – the local women who hook rugs and clean the church – will assure Rachel’s salvation in this little island community.


 

Buy Links:

BookShop.org

Harlequin

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

 

Excerpt Sneak Peek:

1

 

September 1985

Little Cove: Population 389

 

The battered sign came into view as my car crested a hill on the gravel road. Only 389 people? Damn. I pulled over and got out of the car, inhaling the moist air. Empty boats tilted against the wind in the bay below. A big church dominated the valley, beside which squatted a low, red building, its windows dark, like a row of rotten teeth. This was likely St. Jude’s, where tomorrow I would begin my teaching career.

“You lost?”

I whirled around. A gaunt man, about sixty, straddled a bike beside me. He wore denim overalls and his white hair was combed neatly back from his forehead.

“Car broke down?” he continued.

“No,” I said. “I’m just … ” My voice trailed off. I could hardly confide my second thoughts to this stranger. “…admiring the view.”

He looked past me at the flinty mist now spilling across the bay. A soft rain began to fall, causing my carefully straightened hair to twist and curl like a mass of dark slugs.

“Might want to save that for a fine day,” he said. His accent was strong, but lilting. “It’s right mauzy today.”

“Mossy?”

“Mauzy.” He gestured at the air around him. Then he folded his arms across his chest and gave me a once-over. “Now then,” he said. “What’s a young one like you doing out this way?”

“I’m not that young,” I shot back. “I’m the new French teacher out here.”

A smile softened his wrinkled face. “Down from Canada, hey?”

As far as I knew, Newfoundland was still part of Canada, but I nodded.

“Phonse Flynn,” he said, holding out a callused hand. “I’m the janitor over to St. Jude’s.”

“Rachel,” I said. “Rachel O’Brien.”

“I knows you’re staying with Lucille,” he said. “I’ll show you where she’s at.”

With an agility that belied his age, he dismounted and gently lowered his bike to the ground. Then he pointed across the bay. “Lucille’s place is over there, luh.”

Above a sagging wharf, I saw a path that cut through the rocky landscape towards a smattering of houses. I’d been intrigued at the prospect of a boarding house; it sounded Dickensian. Now I was uneasy. What if it was awful?

“What about your bike?” I asked, as Phonse was now standing by the passenger-side door of my car.

“Ah, sure it’s grand here,” he said. “I’ll come back for it by and by.”

“Aren’t you going to lock it?”

I thought of all the orphaned bike wheels locked to racks in Toronto, their frames long since ripped away. Jake had been livid when his racing bike was stolen. Not that I was thinking about Jake. I absolutely was not.

“No need to lock anything ’round here,” said Phonse.

I fumbled with my car keys, embarrassed to have locked the car from habit.

“Need some help?”

“The lock’s a bit stiff,” I said. “I’ll get used to it.”

Phonse waited while I jiggled in vain. Then he walked around and held out his hand. I gave him the key, he stuck it in and the knob on the inside of the car door popped up immediately.

“Handyman, see,” he said. “Wants a bit of oil, I allows. But like I said, no need to lock ’er. Anyway, with that colour, who’d steal it?” I had purchased the car over the phone, partly for its price, partly for its colour. Green had been Dad’s favourite colour, and when the salesman said mountain green, I’d imagined a dark, verdant shade. Instead, with its scattered rust garnishes, the car looked like a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Still, it would fit right in. I eyeballed the houses as we drove along: garish orange, lime green, blinding yellow. Maybe there had been a sale on paint.

As we passed the church, Phonse blessed himself, fingers moving from forehead to chest, then on to each shoulder. I kept both hands firmly on the steering wheel.

“Where’s the main part of Little Cove?” I asked.

“You’re looking at it.”

There was nothing but a gas station and a takeout called MJ’s, where a clump of teenagers was gathered outside, smoking. A tall, dark-haired boy pointed at my car and they all turned to stare. A girl in a lumber jacket raised her hand. I waved back before I realized she was giving me the finger. Embarrassed, I peeked sideways at Phonse. If he’d noticed, he didn’t let on.

Although Phonse was passenger to my driver, I found myself thinking of Matthew Cuthbert driving Anne Shirley through Avonlea en route to Green Gables. Not that I’d be assigning romantic names to these landmarks. Anne’s “Snow Queen” cherry tree and “Lake of Shining Waters” were nowhere to be seen. It was more like Stunted Fir Tree and Sea of Grey Mist. And I wasn’t a complete orphan; it merely felt that way.

At the top of a hill, Phonse pointed to a narrow dirt driveway on the right. “In there, luh.”

I parked in front of a small violet house encircled by a crooked wooden fence. A rusty oil tank leaned into the house, as if seeking shelter. When I got out, my nose wrinkled at the fishy smell. Phonse joined me at the back of the car and reached into the trunk for my suitcases.

“Gentle Jaysus in the garden,” he grunted. “What have you got in here at all? Bricks?” He lurched ahead of me towards the house, refusing my offer of help.

The contents of my suitcases had to last me the entire year; now I was second-guessing my choices. My swimsuit and goggles? I wouldn’t be doing lengths in the ocean. I looked at the mud clinging to my sneakers and regretted the suede dress boots nestled in tissue paper. But I knew some of my decisions had been right: a raincoat, my portable cassette player, stacks of homemade tapes, my hair straighteners and a slew of books.

When Phonse reached the door, he pushed it open, calling, “Lucille? I got the new teacher here. I expect she’s wore out from the journey.” As he heaved my bags inside, a stout woman in a floral apron and slippers appeared: Lucille Hanrahan, my boarding house lady.

“Phonse, my son, bring them bags upstairs for me now,” she said.

I said I would take them but Lucille shooed me into the hall, practically flapping her tea towel at me. “No, girl,” she said. “You must be dropping, all the way down from Canada. Let’s get some grub in you before you goes over to the school to see Mr. Donovan.”

Patrick Donovan, the school principal, had interviewed me over the phone. I was eager to meet him.

“Oh, did he call?” I asked.

“No.”

Lucille smoothed her apron over her belly, then called up the stairs to ask Phonse if he wanted a cup of tea. There was a slow beat of heavy boots coming down. “I’ll not stop this time,” said Phonse. “But Lucille, that fence needs seeing to.”

Lucille batted her hand at him. “Go way with you,” she said. “It’s been falling down these twenty years or more.” But as she showed him out, they talked about possible repairs, the two of them standing outside, pointing and gesturing, oblivious to the falling rain.

A lump of mud fell from my sneaker, and I sat down on the bottom step to remove my shoes. When Lucille returned, she grabbed the pair, clacked them together outside the door to remove the remaining mud, then lined them up beside a pair of sturdy ankle boots.

I followed her down the hall to the kitchen, counting the curlers that dotted her head, pink outposts in a field of black and grey.

“Sit down over there, luh,” she said, gesturing towards a table and chairs shoved against the back window. I winced at her voice; it sounded like the classic two-pack-a-day rasp.

The fog had thickened, so nothing was visible outside; it was like watching static on TV. There were scattered cigarette burns on the vinyl tablecloth and worn patches on the linoleum floor. A religious calendar hung on the wall, a big red circle around today’s date. September’s pin-up was Mary, her veil the exact colour of Lucille’s house. I was deep in Catholic territory, all right. I hoped I could still pass for one.

 

Excerpted from New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan, Copyright © 2021 by Damhnait Monaghan

Published by Graydon House Books



Author Bio:


 

 

DAMHNAIT MONAGHAN was once a mainlander who taught in a small fishing village in Newfoundland. A former teacher and lawyer, Monaghan has almost sixty publication credits, including flash fiction, creative non-fiction, and short stories. Her short prose has won or placed in various writing competitions and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions. Her Lessons in Little Passage placed in the top six from more than 350 entries in the 2019 International Caledonia Novel Award.


Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @Downith

Instagram: @Downith1

Facebook: @AuthorDMonaghan

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