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She glanced at her watch. Two o'clock. The bridal shower started in one hour, and the drive from Lexington to Danville would take about forty minutes. If she'd known about the sale, she would have left the office at noon. Or maybe she would have skipped work completely. Some people didn't come in at all on Saturday.
But, of course, those people didn't work for Kate Bowman.
Tori thrust thoughts of the office out of her mind. She spent far too much time at work, and even more time worrying about her job when shewasn't there. Anybody who worked as hard as she did deserved a reward. And was there a better reward anywhere than a new pair of shoes?
She tucked her sister's shower gift under her arm and tilted her chin in the air as she pressed her way into the crowded shoe store.
* * *
Ninety minutes later Tori marched up the sidewalk and mounted the stairs to Allie's front door, then paused to examine the dim reflection in the storm door glass. With nervous fingers, she plucked at her hem and guided a stray ringlet back into the Shirley Temple mass on her head.
What was the matter with her? Why didn't she just dash into the mall, pick up Joan's gift, and run straight back to the car? She aimed a smile at the shoes on her feet. They were absolutely adorable, and the matching belt had been on sale too. But she should have ignored the sale sign. Then she could have gotten here in time to pretend to be enthusiastic about Joan's wedding and help set up for this party.
No, it wasn't the shoe store. It was her job. If she had a normal job, she wouldn't be working every Saturday. She would have been here this morning, blowing up balloons or something, and she wouldn't feel like such a loser of a sister now. Kate's constant demands were taking over her personal life lately, and she didn't like it one bit. But what else could she do? Advertising was a fiercely competitive business. If she slacked off even a little bit at work, she'd find herself removed from the prestigious customer accounts and assigned to something dull and unimportant, like Lawton Lawn Service.
Besides, Allie probably didn't need her help planning a bridal shower. No doubt her super-organized oldest sister had everything under control, as always. She probably recruited Gram to bake cookies or other goodies, much better than the bag of Oreos Tori would have grabbed at the store if she'd been put in charge of snacks. Allie could handle anything: the food, the decorations, those silly games you had to play at showers. Besides, both Joan and Allie knew she'd been working on a big project the past few months. They didn't expect her help.
And hopefully they didn't suspect her lack of help with the shower was because of her lack of support for the wedding. They wouldn't think that, would they? No, they wouldn't.
Tori clutched at the shoulder strap of her handbag. So why did she feel like such a slouchy sister?
A burst of muffled laughter sounded from inside the house. The party was under way, and she was missing it. Tori squared her shoulders and opened the door.
Inside, a jumble of clutter and chatter greeted her. Folding chairs lined the perimeter of Allie's tiny living room, each one occupied. Wall-to-wall women, all of them talking and laughing and sipping something orangey out of plastic punch cups. Tori stopped just inside the doorway and scanned the room for a familiar face.
Joan jumped off the sofa and crossed the room in two steps. Tori found herself pulled into an embrace.
"I'm sorry I'm late." She held on to her middle sister for an extra couple of seconds.
Joan returned her hug. "You're just in time. Allie has been hinting at some embarrassing game she's planning to play, and I need an ally." She pushed Tori back, hands clutching her arms as her gaze swept downward. "Look at that dress. On most women it would look like a baggy T-shirt, but on you it's fantastic."
A rush of warmth for her sister thawed the edges of Tori's discomfort. Nobody could spend more than a minute in Joan's company and feel uncomfortable. She exuded happiness, especially since she met her fiancé, a doctor who moved to town last year. Of course, the guy's good looks were spoiled by an over-the-top attitude about religion, in Tori's opinion. An attitude that seemed to be spreading through the Sanderson family at an alarming rate.
"This is for you." Tori thrust her gift into Joan's hands. "I hope you like it."
"What a gorgeous package." Joan ran a finger over the elaborate silver bow. "Go grab some punch while I put this in the other room. Allie and Gram are in the kitchen."
Tori picked her way across the room, nodding a smile at the chatting women. She recognized a few faces. Most of these women went to the church where Tori and her sisters had been raised, and where they still attended.
"Hey, long time no see." Eve Tankersley scooted her folding chair sideways a few inches to allow Tori to squeeze through. "We've missed you at church. Where've you been lately?"
Tori shrugged as she angled through the opening. "Working, mostly."
She escaped to the kitchen without having to offer any further excuses. When she stepped through the doorway, Allie pounced on her.
"There you are! It's about time. Here." She thrust a plastic container into Tori's hands. "Get a tray out of the cabinet above the dishwasher and arrange these brownies on it."
Tori stuck her lower lip out and sniffed loudly. "It's nice to see you too."
Allie paused in the act of reaching for the sink. She returned to squeeze Tori's shoulders in a quick hug. "Sorry, I'm doing the headless chicken dance right now. It is good to see you." She whirled away.
"Hello, Tori." Gram started to rise from her seat at the small table, but Tori hurried to her side to save her the effort. Gram had recovered enough from breaking her hip last year that she no longer used a walker, but she still winced often and moved more slowly than before.
Tori pressed a kiss into a soft cheek. "Hi, Gram."
Wrinkled eyelids drooped over the blue eyes turned up toward her. "We missed you again last week. Sunday dinner isn't the same without the whole family there."
"I missed you too." Tori sidestepped Allie to retrieve the tray. "My job is crazy busy right now. Sundays are the only day I seem to be able to get any work done, when the phone isn't ringing constantly and someone isn't poking their head into my cubicle every few minutes."
Gram's mouth drew into a puckered line. "You shouldn't work on Sundays. It's supposed to be a day of rest."
Tori had a flash of irritation over the lecture, but it evaporated as quickly as it came. Gram meant well. "I know, but apparently my boss doesn't believe in rest." Work wasn't a subject she wanted to discuss right now, certainly not with Gram, so she changed the subject. "Where's Mom?"
"In the nursery, rocking the baby."
Tori brightened. Ten-month-old Joanie could sweeten even the sourest mood. "Oh, goodie! I want to go play with my niece."
She tossed the tray and brownie container onto the table. Before she'd taken half a step toward the doorway, Allie gripped her arm and pulled her to a stop.
"Oh, no you don't. Mom's trying to get her down for a nap. If you go in there, you'll just get her all riled up again and we'll never get anything done." She gave Tori a gentle shove toward the table. "Now get cracking on those brownies. We have to hurry up in here so we can go wrap Joan in toilet paper."
* * *
"Wow, Joan, you pulled in quite a haul." Tori stooped as she shuffled across the living room in her bare feet, her finger held firmly in a chubby little hand. Seemed like Joanie had grown two inches since she last saw her. Bright blonde wisps of hair were starting to curl over her collar and above her ears, and she was a lot steadier on her feet. Not quite ten months old, and she was close to walking already. She turned a happy grin upward and giggled. Tori could feel her stress melting away at the sound.
Mom had left with the last of the shower guests, apologizing for not staying to clean up, but she had just enough time to get to the hospital before her nursing shift began. Tori tried not to think of the piles on her desk back at the office. She'd stuffed a report in her briefcase to work on at home. It was due Monday, and since this afternoon was shot, she'd have to do it tomorrow. That would mean missing the traditional Sanderson family dinner three Sundays in a row, but it couldn't be helped.
Allie wadded up a piece of wrapping paper and shoved it into a bulging plastic garbage bag. "I don't know where you're going to put all this stuff in that tiny little house of Ken's. And this is just the shower. In another month the wedding gifts will start pouring in."
Joan balanced a box on top of an already unsteady pile near the door, ready to be loaded into the car. "Gifts won't be pouring in." She slid the band off her long brown ponytail and combed a couple of stray locks back into place with her fingers before replacing it. "We're only having a small wedding."
Joanie toddled toward the chair where Gram sat dozing. She released Tori's finger and clutched the padded chair arm. Tori straightened and arched her back to stretch muscles stiff from bending. "Three bridesmaids is not a small wedding."
Joan's head dipped in acknowledgment. "True, but I had to have my sisters with me, and I couldn't leave Ken's sister out." She gave a short laugh. "We're going to have more people in the wedding party than guests."
"You might not be sending out a lot of invitations, but I think you'll be surprised at how many people from church show up." Allie gave the contents of the garbage bag a flat-handed shove to make room for more trash. "If you ask me, issuing a blanket invitation to the entire congregation is a mistake. How are we going to estimate a number for the reception?"
To save money, Joan had asked her family to help prepare the food for the wedding reception. And the church sewing circle was making the bridesmaids' dresses. Tori was skeptical about the outcome of that, but it wasn't her wedding.
"We'll work it out." The bride-to-be seemed entirely unconcerned as she dropped to her knees and opened the top of a box. She lifted out a cream-colored cable knit throw blanket and rubbed it on her cheek. "Tori, this feels absolutely glorious. Where in the world did you get it?"
Tori crossed the room and fingered the soft cashmere. "At the mall. The store ordered it in special."
"A Ralph Lauren blanket." An almost fearful look crossed Joan's face. "I'm sure it cost a fortune. Do we dare use it, or should I lock it in a safe and save it for the next time the Queen of England comes for a visit?"
Tori laughed. "Use it. You deserve it more than any old queen. Nothing but the best for my sister." She sobered and gave Joan a stern look. "But keep that giant mongrel away from it."
The thought of the slobbery horse Ken passed off as a dog lounging on her expensive gift sent a shudder rippling through Tori's shoulders.
"Don't worry. I won't let Trigger near this." Joan stored the cashmere throw back in the box and replaced the lid.
Allie thrust the garbage bag into Tori's hands and pointed toward the coffee table, where an array of plastic cups and plates and forks littered the surface. As Tori perched on the edge of the couch cushion and began clearing the trash, Joanie dropped to her hands and knees and crawled across the carpet toward Aunt Joan with surprising speed, her plastic diaper crinkling. A pile of brightly colored bows diverted her attention, and she veered toward them. She cooed a soft "Ooooohhhh" and reached for one with a chubby hand. Laughing, Joan pulled the little girl onto her lap and covered them both with bows.
"I wish you were old enough to be my flower girl." She planted a kiss on top of the baby's head.
Tori kept her smile guileless. "You could wait until she is. Another two years and Joanie will be the perfect age."
Allie paused in the act of folding a chair to send a scowl toward Tori, but Joan's laugh held no trace of hurt feelings. "Oh, I can't do that."
You could if you wanted to. Tori avoided both sisters' gazes and picked up a plate with a half-eaten piece of cake.
"So, have you decided who's going to give you away yet?" Allie leaned the collapsed chair against the wall and reached for another.
Joan's smile dissolved. "No. In fact, I'm thinking about walking down the aisle by myself."
Allie shook her head. "Not a good idea. Trust me, you'll need someone to lean on. My legs were shaking so badly Uncle Edward had to practically carry me down the aisle. I wish he was still alive."
Tori glanced toward Gram at the mention of her deceased brother. The elderly lady's head had nodded forward until her chin rested on her chest. Her shoulders rose and fell in an even rhythm.
"I wish Grandpa was still alive," Joan said quietly. "He's the one who ought to give me away."
Nobody mentioned Daddy. Tori scooped up the last crumpled napkin and shoved it in the bag. He'd lost the right to give the bride away fifteen years ago, when he deserted them after his divorce from Mom. The jerk.
"Mom would do it," she said.
"I know, but ..." Joan plucked at a blonde curl on Joanie's hair. "I don't know. It just doesn't seem right. Mom deserves to be escorted herself, and sit in the place of honor as mother of the bride."
Allie collapsed the last of the folding chairs. "Eric will be glad to walk you down the aisle, you know that."
"But I want him to escort you, not me." Joan heaved a sigh and stuck a bow on the top of Joanie's head.
Tori stood and picked up the garbage bag. "Can we rent a little old man somewhere? Just for a couple of hours."
Allie's eyes twinkled. "Can't you see the ad? Wanted: Distinguished-looking man to give away bride. Must have graying hair and a tux."
Joan laughed. "I don't need anyone to give me away-I'm giving myself to Ken." A pretty blush colored her cheeks. "It's getting me down the aisle I need someone to cover. I'm sure I can find someone at church who'll be happy to do it. I just haven't decided who to ask yet."
It wasn't right, asking someone who was practically a stranger to escort a girl on the most important walk of her life. But what choice did Joan have? Tori clutched the top of the bag and gave it a quick twirl. Some day she'd meet Mr. Right herself, and then she'd be in the same position as Joan, looking for a substitute father for her wedding day.
She hefted the bag and headed for the back door and the big garbage can outside. Allie followed her, and when they stepped onto the back porch, grabbed her arm.
"You have got to stop scowling every time the wedding comes up." Her hiss buzzed in Tori's ear. "This is a happy time for Joan, and she doesn't need her little sister spoiling it for her."
"I'm not spoiling anything. I'm entitled to my opinion, and I think they're moving too quickly." Tori tossed a quick glance toward the door. "She's known him less than a year. It's not right."
"They were made for each other, anybody can see that. Ken and Joan are both mature, intelligent adults who have thought this through. And they're in love. There's no reason to wait."
"There's only one reason they're rushing into marriage." Tori lowered her voice. "They just want to have sex legally. If you ask me, they ought to go ahead and do it. Get it out of their system."
Excerpted from Third Time's a Charm by Virginia Smith Copyright © 2010 by Virginia Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 26, 2010
I have really enjoyed reading the Sister to Sister series by Virginia Smith. This is mainly because I am part of a three sister family so I could easily relate to what the sisters were going through. This time, it's the youngest of the sisters who gets to share their story. Tori's over fast paced career is none too familiar for her age group. It's amazing how some companies and bosses expect you to work round the clock 24/7 and still think you haven't done enough. Competition is cutthroat in these types of businesses and it's completely possible to overwork yourself to do beyond your best and it's still not enough. I could understand Tori's sisters' concern over her working too much and not being fully compensated in terms of rest. However I personally did not like their interfering with her love life. While things might have worked out for the best, I thought at times they went a bit overboard with constantly calling Ryan for updates. If I was Ryan I would have found it really annoying. As it stands, I personally would never try to set up any of my sisters much less keep contacting their date, because I know that they would kill me if you they found out what I was doing!
I really liked Tori perhaps even more so than her other two sisters. One thing I found quite interesting was Tori's reaction to her sister's hasty marriage. She suspects that the reason why they are getting married very fast is due to since the two are both Christians they are doing this so they can have sex faster. Why this might not be the case between Joan and Ken, I do know for a fact that is the sole reason as to why a good deal of Christians marry after a short dating relationship. Therefore I can see why Tori would be very hesitant about seeing this marriage as being welcoming. The story doesn't have a typically happy ending. The issue with the girls' father, while complete, is never really fully resolved the way they and the reader would have liked. I understood the anger and hurt that took place at the revealing of the truth about the girls' father and I could see why there was much pain on all sides. However this is a more realistic outcome and much more satisfying than a fairy tale ending.
I'm really sad that this series is over. I've grown to love the Sanderson sisters and seeing them change throughout the course of the series. The story is just really fun to read and you just don't want it to end. I know though that whatever Virginia writes next will be just as fabulous to read. If you have sisters or have ever wanted one, you will definitely enjoy reading this series.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2010
If you're a sister or you have sisters, you're going to love this book. If you don't have any sisters, Third Time's a Charm will make you wish you did. I absolutely loved-and laughed at-the bickering and mothering that went on between these three sisters. Smith admits the trio in the book bears more than a passing resemblance to her and her sisters, yet they have their own personalities. A hilarious romantic comedy, Third Time's a Charm is written by a master storyteller. A must read, Novel Journey and I give it a high recommendation.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 28, 2014
Wonderful! Absolutely loved it! I know it's the third and last but you could always write another since they now have a younger sister. Truly wonderful Christian author and great books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 21, 2014
I find these books enjoyable to read. I like Stuck in the Middle much better, mainly because I have read that book a million times. I can relate to Tori though, because who wouldn't be a little curious?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 24, 2014
I have enjoyed these books and always check to see if the books are Christian because I like good clean reads and I am a Christian.I was hoping for another book since they found a half sister to tell her story and continue the story line of the others.I recommend these books and will read more of her booksWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2012
I really enjoyed all the books, but this was my favorite. I didnt know that these were Christian books when I started them but enjoyed seeing how each sister found her way to God. I wish there were more to see what happens nextWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2012
these three books are the best ones i've read so far from any author, i just pray you would carry on the story please just don't leave us hanging in suspense as to where our sisters will go from here. i was truly blessed by these and will read them again just say this isnt the last oneWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2012
O.k. For al of you that say that "Third Times the Charm" wasn't as good as the other two in this series was wrong. These books are fantastic! This one was most definately my favourite. I hope that this author comes out with more of this series!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2012
Tori lived a life of luxuary, expensive clothes, gifts, living and fine dining. Underneath the designer tags lived someone aching for the love of an earthly father. With the courage of facing a past helped her find the uncoditional love of our heavenly father and unmask herself from the designer name tags.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2012
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Posted February 28, 2012
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Posted February 3, 2012
Ahh, Tori. She will finally shed those attitudes that made her so easy to dislike in the first two books. Will she finally become a well-rounded Christian woman like her sisters before her?
I loved this series of books. I don't read much in the Christian Fiction genre, but these books could change that for me. Very well-balanced story lines, there is a great message in them without being preachy.
I hope the series doesn't end with this book.
Posted January 24, 2012
Posted December 11, 2011
Not my favorite of the series. I felt it was a bit rushed and there was A LOT of questions left unanswered. Another fast read but it just kind of seemed as if the youngest sister was a bit bitter. It was nice that you got to follow the sisters but it was really just a quick lets wrap things up to end it. Again, reading this one I noticed myself relating to all 3 sisters as my sisters and I. I would for sure read another book by this author especially if involved the sisters again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 5, 2011
I know the author put in the back of the book this was the last Sanderson sisters book but I want more. These books were great. I loved reading them. I recommend these books and hope more will come.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 17, 2011
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Posted May 5, 2011