From the Publisher
"The Sassy Belles reminded me that the South is like no other place on earth. Kudos to Beth Albright for capturing its spirit so perfectly in this lighthearted debut novel." -Celia Rivenbark, New York Times bestselling author of We're Just Like You, Only Prettier
"By turns tender, witty, steamy, and sharp, Albright's debut novel proves she's a gifted storyteller with intimate knowledge of southern culture. This charming tale is tailor-made for fans of Mary Kay Andrews and Anne George." –Booklist on The Sassy Belles
"...with distinct nods to the strength of family, the friendship sisterhood and the indomitable Southern spirit...Albright's first novel is a frothy, frolicking story..." –Kirkus on The Sassy Belles
"Albright good-naturedly displays her inner redneck while steering this giddy Dixie romp with ease-leaving lots of room at the happy ending for another adventure starring these steel magnolias" –Publisher's Weekly on The Sassy Belles
"Dripping with southern charm and colloquialisms, the novel once again proves Albright's firsthand knowledge of southern culture. The women in Albright's novels are especially well written-happy to challenge the status quo when necessary but also aware of that old adage: 'You catch more flies with honey.' This delightfully campy and romantic read will satisfy fans of Mary Kay Andrews, Alexandra Potter, and Lisa Jewell." –Booklist on Wedding Belles
"The Sassy Belles are back and sassier than ever! ... With clever dialogue and richly drawn characters, Albright shows once again she's a natural-born storyteller who knows how to pen a charming tale. Regardless of game-day colors worn, this sexy and fun Southern series will have readers coming back for more!" –RT magazine on Wedding Belles
Read an Excerpt
I still can't believe Myra Jean, the trailer park psychic, was right about everything! We wouldn't have even talked to the psychic in the first place if Vivi hadn't insisted on a reading as her wedding present. I mean, really, who asks for a visit with the town clairvoyant as a serious wedding gift from her matron of honor? And matron of honor would be me: Blake O'Hara Heart, attorney and lifelong best friend of the bride.
It all blew up after Vivi hung up from the "sample reading" phone call with Myra Jean. We were sitting in Vivi's kitchen at the oversized oak table that took up most of the room. She lived on a gorgeous plantation that had been in her family for generations. It was hot as hell in the middle of a Tuscaloosa summer. The air outside felt as if a dog were breathing on your face. Sweltering is too mild a word to describe the Deep South in early August. Still, nothing was hotter than Vivi's temper at the momentand with a redhead, that's usually a dangerous thing.
"What the hell does Myra Jean mean, there's another woman?" Vivi slammed her hand on the table, fixin' to pitch a bridal hissy fit, which is actually in a category between hissy fit and conniption fit. Much worse than a plain ol' hissy, but not all day long like a conniption.
I watched Vivi jump up and start pacing. The sample reading had only been five minutes long, but Miss Myra Jean had given Vivi an earful, and it was enough to get her fuming. She blew a bright red curl from her eyes in frustration. Vivi Ann McFadden has been at war with her mop of red, wiry hair since childhood, always pushing it from her face or fighting with relentless tangles. But it looked striking against her year-round sheet-white skin. And she had sparkling emerald-green eyes, which she consistently paired with the reddest lips. I always thought she was just beautiful. She and I were best friends and true Sassy Belles. We'd made our little club called The Sassy Belles way back in junior high. We even had a motto: Be sassy, classy and a tad smart-assy. We'd done a pretty good job upholding that motto ever since, and considered ourselves Sassy Belle sisters in every wayexcept in the looks department. I'm taller by an inchall of five foot fourbrunette and busty and tan. My eyes are blue-green just like my grandmother's. But I love Vivi like she's my own flesh and blood. And I hated to see her upset like this, especially with her big day on the way.
In less than two months, Vivi was getting married to the love of her life, the Alabama Crimson Tide's star football announcer and my brother-in-law, Lewis Heart. She was due to have a full, proper psychic reading at her bridal-baby-bash shower later this monthyes, it was a combo shower since the bride would be nearly seven months pregnant at her wedding. She had thought it would be fun for everyone to have a reading as part of the shower festivities, but if this was Vivi's reaction to the sample, I knew we were in trouble.
Vivi stopped pacing long enough to get two glasses down from the cabinet and slam them on the counter. "I can't wait till my shower to see what else that woman has to say."
"Honey," I said, "she's all booked up till then."
"Well, she's just gonna have to unbook somebody." Vivi yanked open the refrigerator, whipped some ice into the glasses, then sloshed some tea on top. Some of the tea even made it into the glass. "I won't sleep a wink till I know what the hell she's talking about."
Vivi tore off a couple of mint sprigs from her plant in the kitchen window like she was ripping off Lewis's limbs. "He wouldn't do this to me," she said, slam-dunking the sprigs into our glasses. And I had to agree, after all these two lovebirds had been through, it was hard to imagine Lewis being unfaithful. I hadn't always been his biggest cheerleader, though. When he and my husband, Harry, had their falling-out years ago, I took Harry's side immediately. I'd spent years viewing Lewis through Harry's eyes, but I'd learned recently what a mistake that had been. It took a long time for me to realize just how jaded Harry was, but now that we'd separated, I'd finally begun to think for myself again. And that's when I began to see what a good man Lewis really was.
"This other woman
Maybe it's the baby," I said, trying to throw something out there that would settle Vivi down. "You've been saying all along that you just know it's gonna be a girl. Maybe Miss Myra Jean is talking about that other womanyour baby girl."
"A woman and a baby are two different things." Vivi sat at the table and crumpled up a cloth napkin before finally exhaling. "Oh, you're probably right. It's gotta be the baby. What other female would my Lewis have in his life besides me."
Vivi's voice trailed off and she looked out the huge kitchen window above the sink. She didn't look completely convinced, and, in my heart, I wasn't so sure I was right. I was just hoping Vivi could get past this news from the reading. Otherwise, that's where her mind would be till she got her answerand right now I needed her mind on better things.
See, in the Deep South, women can wring your neck, hug your neck and bless your heart all in the same day. So I was hopeful we'd be moving away from the whole "wring your neck" mood pretty quickly. At least if she'd just say, "that ol' Myra Jeanbless her heart," then I'd know she was moving past this. I tried to change the subject.
"You know these psychics, Vivi," I said. "They always word things in the most mysterious waysand most of it's just a bunch of malarkey anyway. Besides, we've got so much else to think about right now. I have a conference with some new clients later this afternoon, but first I'm off to meet up with the Fru Fru Affair boys to plan your shower. It's gonna be quite the shindig. They're just full of ideas and are so looking forward to doing your wedding, too." I was trying to get Vivi's mind on something other than the psychic, but I've known her for twenty-five years and she was not about to let this little bombshell go.
"But, Blake, Miss Myra said there is another woman involved. Is. That means current, like now. I'm going crazy." Vivi took a sip of tea, then got up to grab the phone. "I'm gonna call Lewis and ask what he thinks. I'm sure he can explain all this."
Oh, Lord, please don't let him answer. I crossed my fingers under the table. My prayer was answered. Lewis didn't pick up. Vivi left a message and sat back down, ready to chew on the subject some more.
"I love you, Vivi, but I have to run. Don't worry," I said. I knew that was like telling the Pope not to be Catholic.
I kissed her cheek. "Everything's gonna be fine. I promise. Lewis loves you like he's never loved anyone. You know that. I'm sure it's just the baby. And is would be the word the psychic used 'cause that baby is on the way. She's alive and kicking. I felt her myself."
"Don't forget you're meetin' me at the courthouse later to witness us getting our wedding license. Oh, Blake, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it."
"I'll be there, sweetie, wouldn't miss that for the world." The wedding was only a couple of months away, but it already looked like it might be the longest two months of my life.
I grabbed my purse and headed out the front door to my car, waving to Arthur, the gardener and Vivi's longtime friend. He waved back with a smile. Arthur had lived with Vivi's family on the planation since Vivi was a child. They'd always been close, but now that her father had passed away and her mother was living out at Splendor Acres retirement home, Arthur was the closest thing Vivi had to family out at the plantation. Over the summer, Arthur had been building a barbecue business on the side property, getting it ready for the Alabama Crimson Tide kickoff game on the first of September. That would be here before we knew it.
I drove down the gravel drive to the plantation gates and headed to my grandmother Meridee's house, thinking all the while about Miss Myra Jean's comments.
Heaven help us, they just couldn't be true. Sure, Lewis did have a reputation as a ladies' man. After all, he was tall and masculine, with wavy dark hair and adorable dimples, and his blue eyes were just too gorgeous to belong to a man. Women love his confidence and flirty personality, but it was clear to all of us that he really loved Vivi.
But between managing the wedding planning and an emotionally high-strung pregnant bride, I was beginning to feel like a ringmaster overseeing a three-ring circus gone wild. And now, because of Vivi's meltdown, I was probably going to be late to meet with the event planning dream team.
Coco and Jean-Pierre, who we'd hired to plan the wedding and shower, were meeting with me at Mer-idee's about Vivi's upcoming bridal-baby-bash. They owned an event planning and catering business called A Fru Fru Affair, and their choice of a company name pretty much summed up their fun flamboyant personalities.
In high school, they were known as Craig and John-Paul, but in the process of launching their business, they decided they needed something with a little more style. Now almost no one called them by their given names except for my grandmother Meridee and my mother, Kitty, who had both known the boys since they were children.
Coco and Jean-Pierre always disagreed about taste and style, but somehow, in the end, they would pull off the most amazing events. Some of their ideas were totally off the wall. Like the time they wanted the groom to skydive into the ceremony
but his aim was a tad off and he ended up in the Warrior River. Another time they threw a Tarzan-themed wedding and the bride was supposed to swing in on a vine. She hit the minister by mistake. Vivi's dream was much simplerand a whole lot safer. She only wanted to be a princess, and it was my job to make sure they didn't have her ride down the aisle bareback.
A pregnant woman should not be on a horse.
Yet even with this meeting to keep me occupied, I had to admit, I couldn't stop thinking about this other woman the psychic mentioned. I had known Miss Myra Jean most of my life and, strange as it may seem, she was usually right
in her own special way.
Well, I told myself for the hundredth time, Vivi is getting her wedding license in just a few hours and then the other woman, whoever she is, won't matter. I kept repeating that, but somehow I wasn't totally convinced.
Iarrived before Coco and Jean-Pierre, entering the kitchen where Meridee was standing in her apron at the stove, humming "Summertime." I felt that instant sedative that always kicks in the second I enter Meridee's house and see her busy making something delicious to eat. Being here always settled my nerves, no matter what was going on.
"Hey, Nanny." (Hey is the way we greet each other down South. I can't remember anybody ever saying Hi. And hey is almost always followed by a hug, unless you're a man.) I leaned in and hugged her hello. She smiled and kissed my cheek just as the Fru Frus rang the doorbell.
"Hey, baby girl," Coco called, then shot me an air kiss as he stepped inside. He took in my red pencil skirt, sleeveless navy blouse and white pearls. "You are rockin' the patriotic look big-time today."
He hugged me, then stepped back. "Are you wearing MAC Red Ruby Woo lipstick?"
Stunned, I nodded my head. "I knew it. That is the best 1940s red I have ever seen."
Jean-Pierre walked in right behind Coco. "Oh, precious, that red, white and blue outfit is so summer, so July, so America, so
future senator's wife."
Cringing a bit, I hugged Jean-Pierre, too. Harry's run for senator was exactly the reason we'd kept our separation a secret. Despite our differences, I still wanted to support Harry through this major turning point in his career. And I knew how difficult it would be for him to present himself as Senate material with nasty divorce gossip spreading all over town. We'd decided not to announce anything about our split until after the election. And that meant suffering quietly through awkward moments like this one.
He inhaled deeply. "Miss Dior perfume. Heavenly," he said all singsongy.
He hugged Meridee next. "Oh, my, and you are wearing Charles of the Ritz. I am inspired by you already."
They were a sight for sure, both of them tall and skinny and immaculately dressed. Coco had long sandy hair and beautiful ocean-blue eyes. He had an angular jaw and a wide, warm megawatt smile. He was so tan. He loved wearing bright-colored skinny jeans and striped short-sleeved shirts. He usually wore a long knotted scarf around his neck and a beret on his head. He just loved his namesake, Coco Chanel. And French was his style in a nutshell.
Jean-Pierre was a little more understated. He had long spiky dark hair and green eyes. His clothes were usually less flashy, but still fashionable. Today he wore skinny black jeans and a dark dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up, his arms full of books and planning agendas. He looked more studious in his black thick-rimmed glasses. He was sarcastic and dry, while Coco was more quick and funny and much louder.
Coco scanned the room, looking beyond the doorway, as well. "Is this the venue for the big double event? We can work with this, sugar! So much space."
"We can even use the big yard outside," Jean-Pierre said.
My grandmother laughed. "Oh, gosh, honey, not outside unless you want big ol' mosquito bites all over our momma-bride. That yard is a feeding ground this time of year!"
"She sure would be a sight," Coco said. "I hear welts are the new black."
Jean-Pierre smiled. "Very funny. Indoors it is. What are we talking about for space?"
"Mostly the living room, kitchen and dining room," I said. "Meridee has given us the go-ahead to decorate anything we want. We should talk about the shower theme, though. I want it to be really fun."
"Honey, there's no way it won't be a blast," Coco reassured me. "I've already come up with an invitation idea. Picture this
" He gestured as if reading from a theater marquee. "The Bride We Are Lovin' Has a Bun in the Oven. Don't y'all just love that?" Coco was so proud of himself.
Meridee stood in the living room doorway, her eyes bugging out of her head.
"Oh, my, we'll have to talk about that a bit later," I said, trying to be nice. "That theme might need a few revisions."
"Can we run down and see the basement?" JeanPierre said. "We wanna party all over this house."
We all headed downstairs. This had been my playground every rainy day of my childhood, back when the Ouija board was at the height of its popularity. It was a tad musty down there, but it still had the old pool table, TV set and a big octagon-shaped wooden card table. Bookcases lined the wall to the left as you entered the main room. The basement held a lot of memories for me, but I don't think the boys were too impressed.
"Oh, dear, that smell might be an issue," Jean-Pierre said, his nose crinkled with distaste.
"Sometimes it gets damp down here," I explained.