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Cheri on Top

Cheri on Top

3.9 42
by Susan Donovan

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Sun-drenched beaches, designer-label clothes, drop-dead-gorgeous boy-toys…all paid for with a series of high-risk real estate deals. That's the lifestyle Cherise Newberry and her BFF Candy enjoy after leaving rural North Carolina for Tampa—until the market tanks and they lose everything. Cheri is surviving on Ramen Noodles and temp jobs when she gets a


Sun-drenched beaches, designer-label clothes, drop-dead-gorgeous boy-toys…all paid for with a series of high-risk real estate deals. That's the lifestyle Cherise Newberry and her BFF Candy enjoy after leaving rural North Carolina for Tampa—until the market tanks and they lose everything. Cheri is surviving on Ramen Noodles and temp jobs when she gets a call from home to come back and run the family's small-town newspaper. Just one catch: She'll become the boss of her high school crush—and former brother-in-law—who might have the power to crush her all over again…

But Cheri is surprised to see how "bad boy" J.J. DeCourcy has grown into the hard-working and principled managing editor of The Bigler Bugle. Still, according to Cheri's bitter sister, he's not to be trusted. If Cheri's going to co-exist at the with this sexier-than-ever man from her past, she needs to stay professional—and keep her distance —even though he sets her on fire. When they're handed the biggest news story in the town's history, Cheri must trust J.J., even it means putting her life in danger.…and her heart on the line.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This second in Donovan's stories of dog-walking friends is a wonderful combination of love and laughter, with serious moments as well as some intrigue. The animal characters are a delightful addition to the story.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews on THE NIGHT SHE GOT LUCKY

The Night She Got Lucky is a sexy, sweet, and simply delicious contemporary romance.” —Joyfully Reviewed

“A cute, funny, and sexy tale from beginning to end.” —Romance Reviews Today on THE NIGHT SHE GOT LUCKY

“Donovan whips up a fine frappe of romantic comedy and suspense.” —Publishers Weekly on AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG

“A delightful new series.” —RT BOOKreviews on AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG

“This is a terrific book and one that fans of Ms. Donovan, and new readers of first-class romantic comedies, don't want to miss.” —RTR Reviews on AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG

“An exceptional novel with humor and pathos and rich in detail, and the finely put together characters make this a story worthy of our Perfect 10 award and a must-read. You'll laugh, cry, and your heart will break over this brilliant story of a man and woman--what most wondrous stories end up being about.” —Romance Reviews Today on THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO...

“A wonderfully convoluted tale of love lost and found, secret pregnancies and spousal abuse, Donovan's latest shows us the healing power of forgiveness and the strength found in the love of family. It's peopled with complex characters who learn much about themselves and those they love through the course of this compelling story.” —RT BOOKreviews on THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO...

“Sexy and funny. Donovan takes the marriage-of-convenience plot and gives it a fun update that will leave readers grinning.... These characters are filled with genuine warmth and charm.” —RT BOOKreviews on THE KEPT WOMAN

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


The phone rang out like an air-raid siren, causing Cherise to nearly dump her ramen noodles onto the dining nook floor.

“Woo-hoo!” her roommate shouted from the plastic lawn chair in the living room. “I hope it’s Tampa Electric—I was starting to worry they just aren’t into us anymore!”

Cherise set her bowl on the dinette table and blew on her burning fingers, chuckling at her friend’s sarcasm. Everybody had their own way of dealing with stress, she supposed. Candy’s was sarcasm. Cherise preferred cheap carbohydrates. Who could say which was better?

“I made a good-faith payment on the electric bill just last week,” Cherise told her roomie as she headed toward the kitchen wall phone. “This is probably Bank of America.”

“In that case, the suspense is killing me. Will this be in reference to your grossly overdue account, or mine?”

The ringing continued to ricochet off the studio apartment’s bare walls.

“Don’t answer it,” Candy suggested.

“Ignoring them only makes matters worse.”

“I’m not sure that’s possible.”

Cherise peered at the caller ID, and took a step back in astonishment. She’d expected to see the words “Incomplete Data,” the euphemism for collection agencies and accounts receivable departments from Memphis to Mumbai. Instead, the caller ID display read “Newberry, Garland.”

She snatched up the phone. “Granddaddy?”

“Hello, Cheri! How’s my favorite redheaded Southern belle today?”

Cherise blinked. The sound of her childhood nickname spoken in her grandfather’s North Cack-a-lacky twang left her breathless. She turned in time to see Candy run into the kitchen, looking as scared as Cherise felt.

How had everyone back home heard what happened? Their bankruptcy paperwork hadn’t even been filed, and Cherise and Candy had sworn they’d never breathe a word to anyone back in Bigler.

Oh, God. This was bad.

“Did I lose you, darlin’?”

“Granddaddy Garland? Is that you?”

He laughed. “Of course it’s me, silly.”

“Did someone die?”

It wasn’t that Cherise hoped anyone had passed, but she prayed there was a reason for her grandfather’s call—other than the obvious.

He laughed. “No one I know of, but I’m hangin’ on to life like a hair in a biscuit, myself.”

“Don’t say that!” Cherise tried to ignore Candy’s interpretive dance of anxiety. Her friend was now waving her arms in circles over her blond head while twisting her face into a series of panicked expressions.

Cherise placed her hand over the receiver. “I don’t know yet!” she whispered, gesturing for Candy to give her some space. “Just calm down and let me find out what’s going on.”

Candy retreated to one of the dinette chairs, where she propped her elbows on the table and let her head fall to her hands.

“Uh, hi again, Granddaddy,” Cherise said. “So, Aunt Viv’s okay? Tanyalee’s okay? You’re not ill or anything?”

“Everyone’s fine. You’ve been on my mind lately, is all.”

That was a fib, of course. The Newberrys didn’t just think about each other out of the blue, and they sure as hell didn’t call each other on a lark. Cherise’s nuclear family had blown up a long time ago. Her extended family went for long periods without communicating. The Newberrys were estranged in addition to being just plain strange. So that meant only one thing: somehow, the family had found out what happened down here in Florida and Granddaddy was calling to get in his “I told you so”s.

He cleared his throat.

Here it comes.

“I suppose I should just fess up, Cheri. I’m calling you for a particular reason. You got to promise you’ll hear me out.”

They know.

Cherise sighed heavily and leaned her butt against the refrigerator. She knocked the back of her head repeatedly against the freezer door, dreading the lecture that was about to come, a lecture that was wholly unnecessary. Anything Granddaddy Garland could say to her she’d already told herself many times during the last nine months.

Fourteen million dollars’ worth of real estate had slipped through her fingers, and she had no one to blame but herself. She’d been imprudent and selfish. She’d been materialistic and shallow. She’d allowed possessions to define who she was. She’d been drunk on greed and easy money and she hadn’t exactly shared her bounty with the less fortunate. She deserved whatever misery had befallen her.

“Cheri, sugar, I want you to take over the Bigler Bugle for me. I want you to run the family business. I want you to come home.”

Cherise straightened and pulled away from the fridge, not quite certain she’d heard correctly. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t tell me to go suck eggs quite yet, darlin’. I know we haven’t been close, but you’re the logical choice. I’m near on eighty, and everything’s changing far too fast for me to keep up.”

She gulped.

“The paper’s circulation is in the toilet and I’ve had to lay off nearly half the employees. Ad revenues are down. The technology is mystifying to me. I want the comfort of knowing the Bugle is in capable Newberry hands when I go to meet my maker. That means you, my darlin’ girl.”

Cherise slapped one of those capable hands to her forehead in disbelief. “But what about Tanyalee? She still lives in Bigler, doesn’t she? She’d be interested, wouldn’t she?”

It took a few seconds before her grandfather responded. “Your sister’s talents lie elsewhere, bless her heart.”

Cheri bit her lip, trying not to laugh at that classic example of Newberry-style diplomacy. Indeed, Tanyalee’s talents were legion, and occasionally illegal.

“Besides, you’re the only one in the family with a finance degree.”

And without a criminal record.

“You would make an excellent publisher.”

Cherise glanced at Candy, now staring with huge blue eyes, waiting for news. Cherise quickly gave her a thumbs-up to assure her friend that from what she could tell, no one back home had a clue that they’d lost everything.

Candy clasped her hands as if in prayer and raised her eyes toward the ceiling.

“Granddaddy?” Cherise asked. “Why me? Why didn’t you just ask, well, you know—” It was embarrassing that she was incapable of saying her ex-brother-in-law’s name aloud. Ridiculous. She was thirty years old. Yes, J.J. DeCourcy had been her first love, but it wasn’t like she had any claim to him. Nor would she want any, she reminded herself. The sweet and funny kid she’d known had become a cruel man with a tendency to lie and cheat, a man who had treated Tanyalee like garbage. But all that pregnancy-wedding-divorce chaos had ended more than five years ago. J.J. DeCourcy meant nothing to her. So of course Cherise should be able to say his name.

“Why haven’t you asked him to run the paper?”

“You’re referring to J.J.?” her grandfather asked.

“He’s a real journalist, right? And I thought he was the trustworthy type—you know, at least when it comes to his work.”

She heard her granddaddy take a deep breath. “I love Jefferson Jackson DeCourcy like a grandson and I always will. He knows this newspaper inside and out. I’ve asked him to stay on as managing editor.”

Cherise rubbed her eyes. This was getting worse by the second. Granddaddy was asking her to be J.J.’s boss?

“I need my own flesh and blood in the publisher’s chair, Cheri. You know the Bugle is your birthright. The paper was started by our family right after the great unpleasantness.”

“Yes, I know,” she said, shaking her head. Over a hundred and forty freakin’ years have passed since the end of the Civil War! Say the words! Just say the freakin’ words!

But no, that wasn’t the way things were done back home. Euphemisms were big in Bigler.

“It’s the state’s only surviving daily this side of Asheville,” he added, as if she didn’t know.

“I remember, Granddaddy.”

“Your father had just taken his rightful place as publisher when—” Her grandfather’s voice began to crack, which was something Cherise had never heard from him before. But he caught himself. “You’re my only hope, Cheri girl. Please at least say you’ll consider it.”

Cherise looked around the depressing studio apartment she’d been sharing with Candy for the past six months, and had to ask herself, what, if anything, is left for me in Tampa?

Their on-paper residential and commercial real estate fortune had vaporized. She’d had to walk away from the mortgage on her own four-bedroom, three-bath home in Harbour Island. The Audi had been repossessed. The Miu Miu bags, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, and Stuart Weitzman peep-toe booties had found new owners via eBay. And Evan, the beautiful, go-all-night man-boy she’d shared two years of her life with, had turned out to be as shallow as piss on concrete and had hit the road at the first sign of insolvency.

This meant the only thing in Tampa that mattered to Cherise was Candace Carmichael, her lifelong best friend and business partner, who remained at the dinette set with her eyes heavenward, no doubt thanking the gods that no one back home had gotten wind of their spectacular fuckup.

“Maybe you could take a sabbatical of some sort from your business down there,” Granddaddy said. “I know you have a successful life in Tampa. But would you at least consider my proposition? At least give it a try?”

Just then, the call waiting cut in. Cherise checked the display. “Incomplete Data” was on the line.

“The lake house is rightfully yours, so you could move right on in.” Granddaddy paused. “After a good sweeping-up, anyhow. And I’ll pay you fifteen hundred a week to start.”

Her heart began to pound. Fifteen hundred a week? That was three times what she made at the temp agency!

“Oh, and of course Aunt Viv will set you up with some home cookin’ until you get settled. I know you were never a big cook.”

Cherise took a sideways glance at her bowl of ramen noodles, a staple she bought in bulk for five cents a pack at the Dollar Store. True, cooking wasn’t her thing, and that had never been a problem when she was dining out every night. But nowadays, she never “dined” at all, not out or in or anywhere in between. Her meals were consumed at the secondhand walnut veneer dinette set and consisted of freeze-dried noodles, canned goods, and off-brand frozen entrées.

Suddenly, visions of Aunt Viv’s thick-sliced country ham began to dance in her brain. Her stomach clenched. She pictured a big slab of crumbly, hot, cast-iron-skillet cornbread slathered with sweet butter. Her head throbbed. She saw a helping of heirloom green beans cooked to desiccated perfection with onion and bacon. She began to get light-headed from hunger.

“I know how you’ve always loved Viv’s sweet potato and pecan casserole.”

Cherise gasped at her grandfather’s cruelty! That was so unfair …

“And of course, there’s her banana puddin’.”

Cherise pursed her lips in anger as the breath sawed in and out of her nostrils. Clearly, her grandfather could be downright ruthless. Like all the Newberrys.

“Well, whad’ya say, darlin?”

“Uh…” Cherise glanced at Candy. Of course, the two of them would have to talk this over before Cherise made any decisions. They’d been a team since fourth grade. Maybe she could convince Candy to go back home to Bigler with her, just temporarily.

She put her hand over the phone again. “He wants me to run the Bugle!” she whispered to Candy excitedly. “Do you think you might ever consider—”

A look of horror spread over Candy’s face.

“Never mind,” Cherise said, returning her attention to the phone call. “I can’t make you any promises, Granddaddy, but I’ll think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

Crafty old coot, she thought, hanging up on her grandfather and the anonymous bill collector in one motion.

Why did he have to go and mention the banana pudding?


Copyright © 2011 by Susan Donovan

Meet the Author

Susan Donovan's novels are witty, sexy, and entertaining—"brain candy for smart women," as she puts it. Her books include Not That Kind of Girl, The Night She Got Lucky and Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Susan is a former newspaper journalist with degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and has worked as a reporter in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. Her other jobs have included fine arts fundraiser, freelance journalist, painted furniture artist, horse stall mucker, proposal writer, and aide to a U.S. Senator. Susan lives in rural Maryland with her family and dogs.

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Cheri on Top 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
The_Reading_Reviewer More than 1 year ago
Cheri Newberry thought leaving the one horse town she grew up in, walking away from the love of her love, and changing her name to Cherise would fix everything that ailed her. It was tough living with a horrid younger sister, trying to recover from the loss of your parents as a child, and finding out your boyfriend who swore to love you forever got your sister pregnant. Setting out with her best friend Candy, Cherise built a new life in Florida as a real estate genius, which made her a millionaire several times over. Then the market crashed and took everything back and then wanted more. Cherise lost their home, lavish life style and even designer shoes - seriously, what could be worse than that? Well apparently answering the phone and saying yes to your grandfather who asks you to come back and run the family newspaper. Not sure what she was thinking but Cherise goes back to Cheri and starts her first day off at the newspaper with a decades old unsolved murder mystery come back to life. To add to the delight of that mishap there stands J.J. DeCourcy the man who broke her heart. He can still stir her fire as well as heat up her temper with his oh so charming ways but Cheri is here on serious business and then packing up her bags to get back out of town. Cheri's grandfather and her great-aunt have other ideas and make sure that more than the murder mystery is going to keep her in town, mostly with the intention of feeding her to death. As Cheri untangles the newspaper's finances she is also trying to figure out what an editor does besides pick out what color paint they want for their office. However, the murder of the young woman so many years ago is a huge ghost that will not go away and all the pieces of one puzzle seem to be fitting into another. There are so many questions about how she wound up in the lake and just how deep does the list of suspects run? Cheri needs to find out what kind of an editor she is and how she can best serve the needs of J.J. - ah wait she meant the newspaper, no she is pretty sure that it is J.J. she is in a lip lock with and the years and heartache seems to have disappeared, dang that man is fine. This book is a romance at the core with a mystery on the side, which is as it should be with contemporary romance. The mystery is not hard to figure out but the reader is never disappointed since you are focused on the interaction between Cheri and J.J. This relationship makes up for all the other slower spots. The family dynamics are phenomenal because they are so typical of everyone's family, which is what makes them so fun to read.
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This book is really good . It keeps you in there book .
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good read
YNCRTD More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a great book. It was my first from Susan Donovan, and I have already started reading her other books also.
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Judy_F More than 1 year ago
Cheri On Top is another wickedly funny and sexy story by Susan Donovan. Cherise Newberry thought she had the world by its tail. She was brokering high risk real estate deals with her BFF Candy and enjoying the good life. Then the market went belly up and so did all their money. When her grandfather offers her a job running the families newspaper it seems to be the answer to her prayers. The only glitch in the plan is she will be the boss of her former high school crush and ex brother in law. J.J. DeCourcy never forgot the girl that got away. He doesn¿t even mind that she will be calling the shots. He will do anything to get Cheri to realize that her place is back home with him and those that love her. But a life long town secret is putting them both in danger. Can they solve the mystery of the lady of the lake and find their own happiness? Cheri and J.J. are delightful to watch bicker and fight their attraction to each other. The secondary characters add such richness to an already sensational story. You are drawn into the feel of a small town and all its layers. Cheri and J.J. are funny and sexy and you find yourself routing for them to win it all. Looking forward to Cheri¿s BFF Candy to get her own story soon.
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