Loose Screws
  • Loose Screws
  • Loose Screws

Loose Screws

by Karen Templeton

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In the space of a few hours, thirty-year-old Ginger Petrocelli had gone from bride-to-be to bride-who-never-was. So here she sat, alone in her cramped apartment, wedding crinolines askew, drowning her sorrows in a hundred-dollar bottle of Veuve Cliquot, when her doorbell rang. And her trip to hell in a handbasket was about to escalate.

At the door: Nick,

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In the space of a few hours, thirty-year-old Ginger Petrocelli had gone from bride-to-be to bride-who-never-was. So here she sat, alone in her cramped apartment, wedding crinolines askew, drowning her sorrows in a hundred-dollar bottle of Veuve Cliquot, when her doorbell rang. And her trip to hell in a handbasket was about to escalate.

At the door: Nick, Ginger's "first." Only, he's a police officer now, and he wants to find out what she knows about her M.I.A. congressman fiancé. When was the last time she'd seen him? She'd better not leave town….

And the spiral continues: her cozy little sublet (really, she liked having her shower in the kitchen) is about to be yanked away, and the prestigious little design firm where she works is about to go belly-up. So what's a girl to do?

Her answer, born of desperation: move in with her crazy, widowed mother—who Ginger claims sucks the life force out of every creature within one city block of her—and her grandmother, who spends much of her day engaged in heated arguments with her dead husband.

Well, it's a plan. But bizarrely, as the summer progresses, her eccentric but lovable relatives give her the courage to make choices based on what she wants, not what she wants to avoid.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Loose Screws is the latest from veteran romance novelist Karen Templeton (Plain-Jane Princess). When Ginger Petrocelli's groom-to-be doesn't show up for their wedding, it's just the beginning of her problems. Her boss is murdered and the business goes under with him, leaving Ginger out of a job; the woman she sublets an apartment from decides she wants it back. A fire in her new building forces a reluctant Ginger to move in with her good-hearted but taxing mother, Nedra, and batty grandmother Nonna. Despite all this, Ginger somehow manages to keep from cracking up, with the help of her cousin Shelby, good friend Terrie, and Nick, a handsome cop with whom she had a fling years ago. The novel bustles with characters and surprises, including one very unexpected pregnancy. The chummy, conversational tone ("don't look at me like that, I give to charity, jeez") can be grating at times, but overall, it's hard not to hope that things in Ginger's screwy world turn out for the best.

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Loose Screws

By Karen Templeton

Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0373250193

First off, let me just state for the record that I didn't fall for Greg Munson because he was successful, or handsome - even though I sure didn't mind the dirty how-did-you-get-him? glances whenever we went out - or even to piss my mother off. I swear, his being the son of a Republican congressman was pure serendipity.

No. I fell in love with the guy because he gave me every indication that he was normal. And, since the odds of finding such a creature in this town are roughly a quadrillion to one, when he proposed, I pounced. I may not be proud of that, but hey. We're talking survival of the species here.

And I have no doubt we might have had a very nice life together if he'd bothered to show up for the wedding.

Now, granted, it's only been four hours since I smushed twenty-five yards of tulle into a taxi and hauled my sorry self back to my apartment from the hotel, so it's not as if I've had a lot of time to figure any of this out. Not that I expect to.

For one thing, I'm not some infantile twit blinded by infatuation, a condition to which I've never been prone in any case. I'm thirty-one, have lived my entire life in Manhattan and endured a childhood that, trust me, taught me early on how to spot a jerk. Greg and I didn't even date until a good two months after Ifirst schlepped carpet and wallpaper samples up to his new Scarsdale house, didn't sleep together for another couple months after that. I was careful. I didn't cling. Never brought up marriage. Never demanded any more of his time than he was willing to give. If anything, he was one who seemed hot to take things to The Final Plateau.

So, nope. No clues there. Not even a crumb. We held up the ceremony as long as we could. But I knew it was all over when, like a pair of priests being called to give last rites, my mother and grandmother appeared in the hallway outside the hotel ballroom to hold vigil with me and my two bridesmaids: my cousin Shelby (Jewish, terminally married, bubbly) and best friend Terrie (black, twice divorced, cynical). Yet, ever optimistic, I persisted in covering Greg's butt. Not to mention my own.

"Traffic on the parkway must be horrendous this time of day," I said brightly, ten minutes past the point where the pair of ice swans, not to mention some of the more elderly guests, were beginning to melt in the late May heat that had managed to override the hotel's cooling system. When Terrie pointed out to me that Greg's cell phone was like a fifth - or in his case, sixth - appendage, I averred, with only the barest hint of hysteria in my voice, that his battery must have gone dead, of course, that had to be it, because, after all, he'd helped me pick out the lousy flowers, for God's sake, not to mention the cake and the invitations, so why wouldn't he show up for his own goddamn wedding?

"Maybe he's a dead?" We all looked at my grandmother, calmly plucking at her underpants through the skirt of her new pink dress, who, being basically deaf as a post, had delivered this line loud enough to reach the Bronx.

I shot a don't-say-it look at my mother, resplendent in some schmata straight from The Lion King. Although, frankly, as the guests began to filter out in embarrassed silence, as the judge - flanked by Phyllis and Bob Munson, Greg's parents - mumbled his condolences, as I bleakly surveyed the lavishly decorated, now-empty ballroom, I have to admit Kill the bastard had shot to the top of my To Do list.

There's no need for your mother to pay for the wedding, Greg had said. Between us, we can foot the expenses, right?

Considering what we were doing when he laid that proposal on the table - which, come to think of it, pretty much describes our activity at the time - he could have probably suggested just about anything and I would have agreed. But even once again clothed and in my right mind, I still thought, well ... sure. We both had solid careers - Greg had made partner in his midtown law firm before thirty, and my growing client base meant I hadn't had to furtively paw through a markdown rack in years. Although, since Greg thought we should go halfsies, it meant dipping into my savings. Okay, annihilating them. We weren't talking city hall and a reception at Schrafft's. But, hey, Greg Munson was the pot of gold I'd inadvertently tripped over at the end of the rainbow. It was worth it, right?

Do you have any idea how much a Vera Wang wedding dress costs?

Do you have any idea, Shelby had said, appalled, when I'd weakly insisted, my eyes locked on my enchanted reflection in the dressing room mirror, I'd be just as happy with the ivory silk shantung Ellen Tracy suit I'd tried on three days ago in Bergdorf's, how much you'd regret blowing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look like a princess?

Do you have any idea, my mother had said, equally appalled, when I dragged her and Nonna into the Madison Avenue showroom to model the gown (Shelby's princess comment having effectively annihilated my sticker shock), how many homeless people you could feed for what you just threw away on a dress you're only going to wear once?

Damn, girl, Terrie had said, hands parked on rounded hips that have seen action in two marriages and any number of skirmishes, you actually look like you've got tits in that dress.

Could somebody hand me a tissue?

My mother tried to convince me to ride back uptown with her and my grandmother, spend the night with them in my mother's Columbia University-owned apartment. Since I'd basically rather put out my own eye, I declined. Which may seem extremely disrespectful to those of you who have someone other than Nedra Cohen Petrocelli as your mother.

Okay, I suppose I'm being just the teensiest bit unfair. Nedra means well, she really does. It's just that she tends to suck the life force out of anyone unfortunate enough to find himself or herself within a city block of her.

Sometimes, when I look at a photo of my mother when she was younger and skinnier, I swear to God it's like looking into a mirror. The same black springy hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, long limbs, a wide mouth that often gets us into trouble. Personality-wise, though ... well, let's just say genetics took a dive into the deep end of the pool there. While Nedra literally goes limp if she's deprived of human company for longer than two hours, I need solitude in order to recharge. Her reaction to tragedy or stress is to invite a dozen chums over for dinner. Mine is to clutch my mortification - and in this case, a bottle of very expensive champagne - to my flat little chest (genetics played a nasty little trick on me there, too) and retreat to my lair.

A lair that, though miniscule and un-air-conditioned, I am now exceedingly glad I did not give up, even though I'd moved most of my clothes and stuff to the Scarsdale house last week (note to self: new clothes?). So. Here I sit, in a frothy heap in the center of the pseudo-Turkish rug I bought three years ago at one of those Fifth Avenue emporiums that's been going out of business since 1973, swigging the bubbly like it's diet Coke and entertaining myself by counting how many times my answering machine has beeped. Since I'm sure at least half the calls are from my (disgustingly stereotypical) mother, I have no interest in hearing who they're from. Not even if one of them's from Greg.

Especially if one of them's from Greg.

Excerpted from Loose Screws by Karen Templeton Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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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