Almost Homeby Debbie Macomber, Cathy Lamb, Judy Duarte, Mary Carter
Old flames reignite and new passions burn when lovers follow their hearts back to the place they once called home. . .
"Whale Island" by Cathy Lamb
Family secrets and imposing friends are making Chalese feel like an outsider in her very own home on beautiful Whale Island. But it's only when a shocking revelation makes her feel truly lost that she opens/b>
Old flames reignite and new passions burn when lovers follow their hearts back to the place they once called home. . .
"Whale Island" by Cathy Lamb
Family secrets and imposing friends are making Chalese feel like an outsider in her very own home on beautiful Whale Island. But it's only when a shocking revelation makes her feel truly lost that she opens her heart to the possibilities the past offersincluding a chance at love with the last man she expected. . .
"Queen Of Hearts" by Judy Duarte
Her high school reunion is coming up, and advice columnist Jenn Kramer couldn't be dreading it moreuntil she lays eyes on Marcos. Jenn hardly noticed him when they were kids, but now he's all grown up. . . and how deliciously he's changed. . .
"The Honeymoon House" by Mary Carter
It doesn't get more romantic than Andy Beck's cottage on Martha's Vineyard. But love is the last thing on his mindhe just wants to get the cottage ready for his best friend's honeymoon. At least that's the plan, until he finds the gorgeous Maid of Honor ransacking his housein the most irresistible way. . .
"The Marrying Kind" by
#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber
High school sweethearts Katie and Jason haven't seen each other in ten yearsand now she's walked back into his life. With one look, the love they shared comes flooding backonly now the odds seem stacked against them. But when something's meant to be, all bets are off. . .
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Read an Excerpt
By Debbie Macomber Cathy Lamb Judy Duarte Mary Carter
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI could not believe I was going to climb up on Stephen's roof in a black burglar-type outfit so I could spy on him through his skylight.
"I have gone over the edge," I muttered, adjusting my black leather knee-high boots. "I'm completely whacked. Brainfried. Crazed."
"Our mission," Brenda whispered to me before we scurried onto the roof, the stars our only witnesses to this sheer stupidity, "begins right now. One for all, all for one, and don't leave a wily woman behind!" She shimmied her hips, then stuck both thumbs up, her black gloves cutting through the cool night.
My sister Christie and I smothered our laughter.
"Never give up, ladies!" Christie ordered as she pulled a black-knit hat over her blond hair and down her face, her green eyes twinkling through the eyeholes. "Never surrender! Never accept defeat!"
"Women unite!" I said as we high-fived each other.
Brenda fiddled with her night-vision goggles then grabbed the gutter and shimmied her way up the roof. Her agility was impressive, as she'd had a number of strawberry daiquiris.
I yanked my black-knit hat over my face, pulled the eye and mouth holes into the appropriate places, tucked in my black curls, and followed her, tryinghard not to laugh. If I laughed while I was climbing I might wet my pants.
"I'm a spy!" Brenda whispered as she climbed. She hummed the James Bond theme song. She has a full head of curling reddish hair, now hidden by her full-face black-knit hat, a huge mouth, huge eyes, and a biggish nose. Men went wild for her. "A sexy spy!"
My laughter broke free, and I had to cross my legs. Don't wet your pants! Brenda was wearing black leather pants and a black motorcycle jacket, like me. My sister was wearing a black cowboy hat over the face-hiding knit hat, which was so hilarious, and a black coat that wouldn't close over her stomach because she is gigantically pregnant with twins. Normally she is the size of Tinkerbell. Now she is the size of a small bull.
"Chalese is not a sexy spy," I said about my sorry self as I grabbed the gutter to hoist myself up. "Chalese has been dumped. Damn that snaky Stephen." I hadn't even liked Stephen. But I didn't appreciate being dumped. Nothing is worse than being dumped by someone you dated because he was there, a breathing male, and you desperately hoped he was more than he was but you had to quit lying to yourself in the face of overwhelming evidence of his jerkhood.
A voice inside my blurry head said, Since you believe him to be a jerk, why are you on his roof in the middle of the night dressed like a burglar?
Why? Because the three of us, me, Brenda, and Christie, together, are lethal. Daring. Truly ridiculous. And a little drunk. Although Christie is stone-cold sober. She never drinks when she's pregnant.
But, really, there was no harm in seeing whom Stephen was dating, even if I had to do it via a skylight. I didn't care, not at all, but knowledge is power. "Knowledge is a daiquiri," I intoned as I scrambled up, my black gloves offering a little traction. "Strawberry daiquiri, lemon daiquiri, peach daiquiri ..."
Stephen's roof was flattish, so our climb to the skylight was not too perilous, even in my fuzzy state. I hummed the Rocky fight song, stopping to pump the cool night with my fists, like Rocky did in the movies.
"What's going on, Chalese?" my sister hissed from the ground below, her voice coming in from the walkie-talkie on my hip.
I giggled and held my walkie-talkie to my mouth. "I'm not Chalese! I'm a spy! A secret agent! I am on a serious mission!"
Why are you talking about a mission? Why aren't you home reading a romance novel?
Brenda burped. She says it's her best quality. That is patently not true. Her best quality is writing screenplays for major motion pictures that make women alternately laugh and cry like banshees. She's living with me until she smashes through her writing block.
Christie said, "Copy that, Ms. Bond. All right, 007, carry on."
I carefully-as carefully as I could with two strawberry daiquiris under my belt, well, three, actually, but who's counting-scuttled over to Brenda, who was peering through Stephen's giant skylight, quiet as a tiny drunken mouse dressed all in black with night-vision goggles.
I could see the butcher-block island in the middle of the kitchen. "Mission fuzzy," I whispered.
Brenda put her black-gloved hands over the skylight to angle a better view. "Command center, I report zero activity."
I leaned on the skylight a smidgen, balancing most of my weight on the roof. I could smell Brenda's perfume, sultry and earthy.
Brenda said, "Holy Tomoly."
It was Alanna. Alanna Post.
I had known Alanna the Man-eater for years. I avoided her at all costs. She was perfect. Blondish hair, highlighted just so, curling under right at her shoulders. Heavy, but annoyingly perfect, makeup. Thin. Oh, I hated how thin she was! Probably a size six. Designer clothes. And always, always, a condescending sneer or raised eyebrow to make it clear that she thought I was a chubby spider beneath her feet. An awkward orangutan with a poofy butt.
And there she was in Snaky Stephen's house, the doctor that I was going to dump anyhow! I leaned over the skylight, scooching toward the center, then hissed, "It's the female praying mantis."
Why are you spying on Stephen on his roof? What about that romance novel? How about getting down?
I gurgled as Alanna the Man-eater slipped off her dress. Underneath, she was wearing a red negligee, black fishnet tights, and black heels.
This I could not have! Stephen had dumped me a month ago. I hadn't even slept with him, and already he was getting in the flesh with Alanna the Man-eater?
"She has deplorable taste!" Brenda whispered. "If I had an outfit like that on, I would have added a halo and tail."
"That patronizing witch," I muttered. "Did I ever tell you Stephen has a flabby bottom?"
We leaned over for better viewing angles.
"Those boobs!" Brenda said, dismayed. "They have to be fake. No one has boobs that upright, do they?"
"No one should have boobs that bouncy-ball perfect, even if they're fake. It isn't fair. It's against the sisterhood of women, the Society of Decent Females."
Brenda and I scooched a bit more onto the skylight. Alanna had stretched out in front of the fire on the fake thick white fur. If I was wearing that red getup my stomach would be slouching over like a bag of red flour, with the wrinkles etched through my thighs doing little for my sex appeal.
"I wanna be up there, I wanna be up there," my sister whined from the ground. "Why don't I ever get to do any of the fun stuff with you two?"
"That's easy," I snapped. "It's because you're always pregnant, Fertile Myrtle!" Christie had three kids at home with her husband, Cary, the nicest man on the planet.
"Well ... well ... well!" she sputtered. "Poop!"
I sucked in my breath as Stephen with the flabby bottom stepped into view. He paused when he saw Alanna the Maneater. I could see his shock. I pushed my feet hard into the roof so I wouldn't fall off of it.
I'm thirty-five, and I'm climbing on roofs to spy on my ex-boyfriend. What's wrong with this picture?
"I have got to use this in my next movie. Do you mind, Chalese?" Brenda asked, pushing her night-vision goggles on top of her head.
"If I said I did, would you not use it?"
"Silly lady. I'd use it anyhow." She winked at me.
"Brenda," I snapped, "how do you think I feel seeing myself in your movies? All the dumb things we've done? Everything stupid I've said in my life since we were kids streaming out of some actress's mouth?"
"Think of it as being famous without the fame. You're never mobbed by paparazzi, are you? There's something to be said for that, sweetie. And you don't need to hire bodyguards."
I grunted and tugged at the eyeholes in my hat. Brenda and I wrote wild, crazy, thrilling, romantic stories, sometimes with talking animals, when we were kids. She went on to write screenplays, and I went on to be a children's book writer and illustrator. Who knew we'd end up clinging to a roof?
We moved onto the skylight a smidgen more when the Man-eater stood up.
"Can't he see the piranha beneath the makeup?" I asked.
"Nope. He's a man. All he can see is the negligee and bra cup."
"Men are beasts." I growled for effect, slashing the air with my claws. Brenda growled back at me, gnashed her teeth.
It was at that beastly second that I heard a crack beneath my hands, then another one.
My face froze in terror.
"Oh no. Move slowly," Brenda panted. "Slowly."
I felt the crack beneath my knees. I couldn't breathe. Couldn't move. This couldn't be happening. The skylight was not breaking, was it? What was I doing on top of a skylight anyhow?
I watched the alarm in Brenda's eyes grow to free-flowing fright as another crack ripped through the night. My mouth went dry as stone, and my body started to shake.
"Back up, Chalese!"
I tried, I did, but panic turned my bones to liquid.
Another crack. As Brenda and I locked mortified gazes, the skylight shattered completely, the noise deafening, and we went smashing through it, our fall broken by Snaky Stephen's butcher-block counter below.
Brenda swore. I screamed. Then she screamed. I swore.
We landed hard, on our knees, but I did not hear any bones crack, any heads splitting open, any limbs disengaging. A piece of glass conked me on the head and splintered.
I groaned. Brenda moaned.
I heard the Man-eater screeching and Stephen yelling "What the hell? What the hell?"
Perhaps he wouldn't recognize us with our black-knit hats on? Our black leather biker jackets? Our leather pants?
The Man-eater was still at it with her high-pitched, earsplitting howls.
I turned to Brenda and whispered, "Let's get out of here."
"Ya think, Sherlock?" she whispered back.
We scrambled off the counter, averting our covered faces, hoping we could slink right out of that house. I'd pay Mervin Tunnel to come in and clean up the mess tomorrow. He'd keep his mouth shut; he owed me a favor anyhow.
We had almost limped our way to the kitchen door, glass trailing in our wake, when I heard Stephen say, incredulously, "Chalese, is that you?"
* * *
Crashing through a skylight like a drunken angel was not the worst part of my week.
Stepping on the scale and noting that, yes, all by myself, I had bravely packed on an extra fifteen pounds was not the worst, either. Nor were the two zits on my cheek, as the zits will undoubtedly complement my hot flashes.
Resisting pressure from Gina Martinez, my friend the pet communicator, who was pestering me to stage a "pet rescue" of a horse she was convinced was "depressed and anxious," was not on my list for Most Terrible Part of the Week.
Knowing that my next children's book was already late and I was nowhere close to being done with it had my nerves hyperventilating, but it had not made the list.
Also not on the list was Brenda's dance on top of a bar in town singing the Pretty Woman theme song. That I went up there with her does not need to be mentioned, except it was one more humiliating thing in my life that I have done, especially since I cannot sing.
The worst part of my week was when the reporter arrived.
It was the morning after the skylight incident. I limped out of my car after collapsing on the sofa at Christie's for the night, and Aiden Bridger was there, at my yellow house, on my white front porch, one of my slobbery dogs, Mrs. Zebra, in his lap. I was dressed all in black, with a truly pounding hangover and scrapes on my face that made it appear I'd been attacked by a temperamental rat. My long, black, curling hair resembled a dead pelt on my head.
He had that gorgeous, roughed-up, been-around-the-block appearance. He was super tall, a human skyscraper with a lanky build and longish thick brown curls, and I knew that he was gonna be a problem, and not simply because my body about lost all its breath as I took him in. He was ... all man. A manly man. A manly muscled man.
"Hello. You must be Chalese." He stood up, and Mrs. Zebra rolled off his lap and whined. She has no loyalty. If I was ever robbed, she would slobber on the robber. "I'm Aiden Bridger from the Washington Review."
I knew who he was. Oh boy, did I know who he was.
With one look at him, I knew I was toast, too.
Why? Not because he was cursedly, dangerously hot, but because that he-man reporter could blow my quiet, private life to Kingdom Come. Everyone would know who I was now, and who I was in my other life, and the scandal would be revived again, the shame, the humiliation, and I'd have to deal with all the other bubbling, sordid, sad memories and secrets.
That, definitely, was the worst part of my week.
And, somehow, the best.
Chapter Two"I've told you I don't want to talk to you."
I grimaced as I limped up the porch steps and tried to glare at him without salivating. Why did he have to be so yummy-rugged and full of such glorious testosterone? That wasn't fair.
"Yes, I know." For a few long seconds Aiden stared right at me. His eyes were greenish, and he had long lusty eyelashes. The corners of his mouth tilted up, then back down again.
"What happened? Were you in an accident?"
"Did you fall?"
Pause. "Not really." I glanced away from those bright eyes and reminded myself that men are cagey, deceptive beasts and hairy vermin.
"Did someone hurt you?"
I did not miss the outrage in his tone, the beginning of incredulous fury. My heart didn't miss it, either, but I told my heart to shut up.
"No, no man would ever hit me, because they know I'd flatten them into a kidney-smeared mass of flesh. I don't want to talk about it."
He exhaled, his hands on the waistband of his jeans. "Can I help you? Are you hurt in other places, too?"
Can he help me? Geez. That one little question stopped me right up. How often had a man said "Can I help you?" to me and really meant it? Not often.
"I don't need help Mr. Bridger. I'm perfect. One hundred percent. Fine. Dandy. Do I seem weak? Some damsel in distress who needs an effeminate white guy with skinny thighs charging up on a white horse for a pathetic rescue?"
"No, ma'am, you don't." He grinned. "And I did not bring my white horse anyhow or my skinny thighs."
I immediately stole a peek at his legs. Long, muscled, not skinny, powerful. Big mistake.
My breath caught and I glanced longingly at my front door, wanting to escape from He-Man here. I had saved every penny and had this house built in a farmhouse style seven years ago. It was small, fifteen hundred square feet, but there were no walls in the downstairs, so it felt bigger. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and my studio, flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows and two skylights. I did not want to think about skylights.
"You have a very nice home," he said, quite serious.
And you have very nice hips. And your shoulders aren't so bad, either, under that beige, outdoorsy jacket you're wearing. And sheesh. That jaw. Even the scar above your eyebrow turns me on. Oh, do shut up, Chalese. To distract myself from the prince's thighs, I said, "Thank you.
"Your view is incredible."
"It calms my nerves." You, however, have set my nerves on fire.
"I'll bet." He laughed, low and rumbly. "I think it would calm anyone's nerves."
My yellow home sat on five bucolic acres on Whale Island off the coast of Washington, with a view of the ocean and two neighboring islands through towering pine trees. The pine trees acted as a natural frame for the moving, changing post-card. I watched sailboats and rowboats glide in and out of a small harbor as I worked.
"I'm detecting a longing note in your voice," I said. "Do your nerves need calming?"
"Uh, yes. More than I can tell you at this time."
I nodded. We smiled at each other. Couldn't help myself. My smile hurt my aching face.
"The deer think they own the place," I rattled out to fill the silence. "The raccoons have almost formed a union, there's so many of them. The squirrels have raucous, argumentative family reunions on my back deck, and the birds are bossy and rule the sky."
He shrugged. "Deer are possessive, raccoons should be unionized, squirrels never get along, and birds always have to see what's going on in everyone's lives because they're nosy. Didn't you know that?"
Oh no. A he-man with a sense of humor.
He gazed around, his eyes stopping at my seriously dilapidated barn and then the building with the heated kennels for various abused/stray dogs I had taken in over the years until I could adopt them out to happy homes. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Almost Home by Debbie Macomber Cathy Lamb Judy Duarte Mary Carter Copyright © 2009 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Mary Randolph Carter, author of American Junk, Garden Junk, and American Family Style (all Viking Studio), is the Vice President of Advertising at Polo/Ralph Lauren. Carter lives in New York City and Dutchess County, New York.
- Port Orchard, Washington
- Date of Birth:
- October 22, 1948
- Place of Birth:
- Yakima, Washington
- Graduated from high school in 1966; attended community college
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Almost Home by Debbie Macomber and others I love the idea of having 4 themed books in one big book. What I don't like is finding out I've read all of them as they were first published in 2009. If you've not read them they are fantastic reads and you might find a new author that you gotta go get all of their books to read cuz they are so good. Whale Island by Cathy Lamb Chalese is with her accomplish Brenda and they are on their way to the police station because the Chief requested them to confess. The night before they had some drinks and climbed on top of Stephens flat roof and spied through the skylight and it crashed into the house with them. She's having a bad day, Aiden from the newspaper wants an interview cuz he's figured out who she really is under her alias name, and she's having hot flashes and she has zits on her face. And she gained 15 more pounds. She is a children animal book author that depicts them with to their environment, etc She is also a pet communicator and takes care of quite the bunch of animals, not only dogs. He gets bits and pieces over the upcoming weeks. He's not sure what is real and what isn't but he finds out about her, Ginny, Brenda and her sister, Christie escapades. The reason it takes this long is because she needs to finish writing her book and with her sisters pregnancy interruptions and her friends thinking she works too hard she's not able to concentrate. He digs and finds out more than he ever told her and then some. Her past is a mess and she learns more at the hospital... . Queen of Hearts by Judy Duarte Jennifer Kramer, divorced, mother of one girl lives with her mother and writes a love advice column. He recalls Marco from school but nobody can locate him in time for the class reunion. She's been given the job of reporting all about, so now she will have to go. Marc Alvardo is in town and has moved his business to the area and they offer a high school scholarship. Takes them some time to realize who he really is... . The Honeymoon House by Mary Carter Andy Beck is on Martha's Vineyard getting the cottage ready for the bride and groom. He interferes when a Maid of Honor is caught ransacking the house, and he will get to the bottom of it all... . The Marrying Kind by Debbie Macomber Katie and Jason were married once. Upon the annulment they had both disappeared and now in CA he's about to be married and he sees her at the restaurant and they agree to meet. It ends up with more than a meeting and over the next several days he finds out what happened to her to make her sign and she finds out where he moved to and why. Is it possible they can recover what they once had as he's about to be married, to Elaine..
“Whale Island” by Cathy Lamb 3 1/2 stars This was very humorously written and the characters are very likable. I enjoyed the plot but the tone and language was a bit baser or lusty for my tastes. Still a fun, light read. “Queen of Hearts” by Judy Duarte 5 stars This was my favorite story and I am looking forward to reading more from this author. It is a sweet story of how people change after high school. The geek excels the cheerleader learns that there is more to life than popularity. It is about 2nd chances and making something of yourself outside the box that everyone places you in. It is also about forgiveness. “The Honeymoon House” by Mary Carter 2 stars I did not like the plot of this story or the negative tone it seemed to take. Most of it was discouraging, arguing, destroying and hateful with everything coming together in the last chapter. NOT for me. “The Marrying Kind” by Debbie Macomber 3.5 stars This was different from most of her books and I was a bit disappointed. She included a sex scene which was disappointing for me. I also had a hard time with how difficult it seemed for the characters to reach a satisfactory resolve. I could emphasize however with the magnitude of the choice that needed to be made. It ended up being a choice between lasting love and compromising for what was easiest.