Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life . . .
There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.
Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect . .
Praise for Mary Ann Marlowe’s Some Kind of Magic
“Marlowe makes a name for herself in this hilarious and sexy debut.”
“Frisky, Flirty Fun!”
—Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times bestselling author of The Total Package
“Fun, romantic and sexy. . . . This love story will make readers smile!”
—RT Book Reviews
“Sexy, engaging and original. . . . An amazing first novel.”
—Sydney Landon, New York Times bestselling author of Wishing for Us
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The vandals had struck again. With a shaky R scrawled on the window pane, they'd redubbed my bookstore the Mossy Stoner.
This sort of thing never used to happen in the sprawling metropolis of Orion — "the small town with the big heart." But over the past few months, I'd scraped unwanted paint off the window three times. At least the latest effort was somewhat clever. Three weeks ago, they'd doodled a crude dick and balls under the Y. Kids.
I fetched my maxed-out Visa card and scratched at the graffiti, thankful they'd only defiled the glass. If they'd painted on the wood, I would've gone Javert on the miserable twerps.
Once I'd more or less rectified the problem, I fished out my keys, but the front door refused to open even when I bumped it with my shoulder. Great. Another problem to fix.
I gave one good hip slam, and I was inside. All at once, a sense of home settled over me. I breathed in the peace like a meditation.
Every morning, as I walked across the threshold into my sanctuary, I said two prayers. First, I'd offer up thanks to the gods for the bookstore that was (mostly) mine now. Second, I'd send out a plea to the universe to drive customers my way so I could keep it. I'd already sacrificed so much to fulfill my dream, failure would be beyond heartbreaking. It would crush my soul.
Six months ago, my fiancé had begged me to abandon my small-town business and follow him to his preferred life in the city. Stubborn as always, I chose to stay. Ever since our paths had forked, I inhabited a strange new dimension where one-half of my dreams could come true, but at the cost of the other, like an ironic twist out of an O'Henry short story. Yeah, I had my bookstore, but because of the same, I'd lost one husband. I wasn't even a widow; I was a never-married. I should have been Mrs. Peter Mercer. Instead, I was still Miss Madeleine Hanson.
I dragged a couple of tables outside with sales books, then grabbed my sidewalk sign and knelt down to chalk in the daily deal. TAKE AN EXTRA 15% OFF CLEARANCE BOOKS. As much as I hated practically giving books away, my shelves were bursting with unsold merchandise.
A gentle breeze stirred, and I closed my eyes to appreciate the dawning warmth of the morning sun, but then I caught the aroma of fresh-baked croissants from Gentry's French bistro, and my nose wrinkled. The no doubt delicious pastries smelled rancid to me, since they would lure all the morning traffic away from my pitiful café.
As if my thoughts had conjured it, a white panel van pulled up to the curb, and I shaded my eyes to watch Max Beckett jump out. He waved, then skipped around to the back, hollering, "Wanna give me a hand, here?"
I trudged over and let him stack a pair of boxes in my arms before he lifted three more. I nearly dropped them, thrusting the front door open. Max followed me to the counter where I inspected the contents. An assortment of muffins, croissants, and other pastries made up the bulk of the baked goods. The boxes I'd carried contained two whole cakes, marble pound and double chocolate.
"How much do I owe you?"
He produced an itemized receipt. As I scanned it, he leaned against the display fridge and said, "Have you considered my proposition?"
I raised my eyes and snorted. "Not so much."
He sucked on the inside of his cheek for a second. The light caught in his hair, revealing layers of browns and reds and auburns dancing together in a combination any colorist would envy, a combination I envied with my ordinary chestnut.
"It would be good for business, Maddie. Both our businesses."
His innocent act didn't fool me.
He claimed he wanted to expand his catering business, the one he ran with his mom, into my bookstore to get a foothold in town. He claimed it would help my bottom line, too. And maybe it would, but it drove me insane that he thought he had all the answers. Always giving me advice I didn't ask for. Like when he'd expressed his concerns about my impending wedding last year.
It only irritated me more when he turned out to be right. Sometimes — usually — I couldn't help suspect he had ulterior motives.
I just needed to figure out why he wanted to insinuate himself into my business. "How would it help me?"
"If we open a legit bakery here, you could draw in more customers."
"I already sell your baked goods. Try again."
He sighed. "Maddie, I've got a degree in marketing. Look at what I've done for my mom."
That was true. She'd focused on the occasional wedding cake until he stepped in with new ideas, and now they cranked out orders for local restaurants and special events.
"I don't see how that's relevant to my situation."
"I've got ideas. Ways to make better use of your space and grow your customer base."
Just like he'd done with his mom's business. I narrowed an eye at him. My stink eye. "You're trying to take over my bookstore, somehow. Is that it?"
He must have counted to ten before answering. "We wouldn't be taking it over. We'd be forming a partnership."
A partnership implied a relationship of equals, but ever since high school, Max had patronized me with unwanted advice when he wasn't straight up trying to best me. It wasn't like I hadn't also studied marketing, and I liked running my business my way.
"Our current arrangement works for me."
We had a solid routine. I placed daily orders, he and his mom baked in their kitchen, and Max delivered the food. I sold their baked goods at a markup. And I didn't have to give any control to Max.
"Come on. You have this amazing kitchen going to waste. Imagine if I could come in at night and bake? I could even open the store early and catch more early morning traffic."
God knew I needed to find some way to increase revenue, but what he was describing sounded a lot like ousting me. I didn't want to give Max a chance to pull a fast one on me. "I'm doing just fine, thanks."
Red spots dotted his cheeks, and I knew my resistance irritated him as much as his pushiness infuriated me. "It's almost like you've completely forgotten all the things you wanted." His tone softened. "Maddie, you lost a fiancé, but you haven't lost your bookshop. Not yet."
I tilted my head at that last dig. "You don't think I can do this?"
He bit his lip, and his chest rose and fell, like he was practicing some new age breathing technique. It pissed me off that he could keep his emotions in check better than me. Score one for Max.
Suddenly, his face lit up, and no trace of conflict remained. "Oh, Mom wanted me to give you this." He opened a pastry box and pulled out a small cupcake with off-white frosting and held it aloft, a wondrous talisman discovered in another realm. "Try this." He arched an eyebrow, in challenge or concession, I couldn't tell.
I glared at him and popped the entire cupcake in my mouth. As if I'd suddenly give in just because he —
"Oh, my God."
His green eyes shone like emeralds. "You like it?"
It was a burst of strawberries. It went down so easy. "What is that?" "It's a mini strawberry shortcake cupcake. Mom's been experimenting." A smile curved the corner of his lip.
I shrugged. "It's okay."
"Uh-huh." His eyes crinkled. "I've seen you hanging around our back door like a stray dog begging for scraps whenever mom used to start gathering strawberries."
I never knew how he could make me drop my defenses and laugh, like when we were kids. He was right, though. I was a sucker for his mom's shortcakes.
He chuckled, knowing he'd won a tiny victory. I blew a raspberry.
"Mind if I bring some tonight to your book club? Push them on your captive audience. Advertising."
Always an angle. "Sure. Whatever."
When I walked him out, I propped open the door to let in some air and invite customers to venture in without having to battle the fortress of the sticky portcullis. Max turned and said, "Have you tried oiling the hinges?"
He acted like he was my dad. Or a more capable older brother even though we were roughly the same age.
I gritted my teeth and tried out his deep breathing technique. "Thanks. I'll give that a try later."
The weather was so nice, I couldn't stay disgruntled for long. Inside, I tuned Sirius radio to the Coffeehouse station and hummed along as I replenished the muffins from the batch Max had delivered. Then I sat back and waited for patrons to pour in.
The Mossy Stone had stood on this tree-lined street for thirty-seven years, since long before my parents had adopted me and brought me to Orion, population two thousand. I'd purchased books here in my youth, and I wanted to keep selling them as long as I could.
As such, the business student in me fretted over the immediate emptiness, but the book lover in me wanted it to stay quiet forever, so I could hide in the corner and read every book on the shelves like I had when I was a kid.
My initial love of reading was born sitting cross-legged on the floor as Mrs. Moore, the original owner, licked her fingers and turned the page of A Wrinkle in Time or The Indian in the Cupboard.
My mom started taking me to our small library up the street when I was old enough to read on my own, but that was about as well stocked as a wet bar in a dry county, and I was a voracious reader. So Mom started letting me buy one book a week from the Mossy Stone. It wasn't until later that I understood the meaning behind the store's name. By then, I'd begun to grow moss myself from sitting immobile in the reading corner.
I savored the musty smell of the old space and the old books. I basked in the muted glow of sunlight that filtered through the antique windows, illuminating ghosts. Dust floated among the high rafters, and the wooden floorboards squeaked in the Mystery section, giving it a bit of spooky ambiance. There wasn't enough room to create a dedicated children's space since the coffee shop consumed a good third of the entire store — and accounted for two-thirds of my revenue — but the cozy corner with soft inviting chairs was a relic of my youth.
There was a space on the front wall, between the new arrivals, where I intended to shelve my own novel. Spending so much time among books had eventually worn off on me, and I'd tried a hand at writing myself, like so many others. Fortunately, I'd managed to land a book deal, but I hadn't made my author identity public yet. I'd decide whether to confess that once my novel was released in a matter of weeks. And then only if it met with a positive reception. That thought gave me a thrill of excited, nervous butterflies.
But that was in the future. For today, it was business as usual.
It wasn't long before one of my regular customers, Charlie Hamilton, strolled in and waved as he crossed over to his favorite table near the front window. He'd sit there grading or working on his laptop all morning, punctuated by long periods of time resting his chin in his hands and watching people pass on the sidewalk outside. Ah, the life.
I hollered over, "The usual?"
He looked up from plugging in his computer cord. "Thanks."
I kept one eye on Charlie while I pressed espresso into the filter.
As a quintessential college professor, Charlie had constantly disheveled dirty-blond curls. He kept a close-trimmed beard and wore black round glasses you'd feel compelled to call spectacles. He reminded me a little bit of Indiana Jones at the beginning of Raiders, cute in a super nerdy way. But I'd be shocked to discover he went on any adventures. Except in his own mind. Like me, he kept one foot firmly rooted in the fictional worlds he'd experienced. We both found life a little more tolerable by imagining we lived a fluid existence, part in and part out of reality.
If Charlie were a character in my fantasy novel, he'd either be the scribe or the droll sidekick. I dubbed him: Charlie the Chronicler.
When I set his latte between a legal pad and his cell phone, he pushed a chair out with his foot. "I don't think the romance in Pride and Prejudice would fly in the real world. At least not the modern world."
That was typical Charlie. He didn't much go for small talk. He started up mid-conversation. He wasn't from here, but since he'd started working at DePauw, he'd made Orion his home. I'd grown fond of him and looked forward to talking to him about literature and his English classes.
"Why not?" I sat and rested my elbows on the table. This could be a good topic for our book club tonight.
"It isn't exactly sparkling with chemistry."
I laughed. "You're joking. I find hate-to-love romance sparks the most chemistry. You have to admit it's hot."
He rolled his eyes. "If you say so. I find it kind of lacking."
I was about to accuse him of being a robot when across the room, my phone went off with the throwback ringtone associated with my author email account: You've got mail!
"Excuse me." I stood, and he returned his attention to his papers.
With trepidation, I ducked behind the cash register to check my phone. Emails to my author account could bring great news, like: "Congratulations! We're going to make an audio book!" But they could also bring terrifying, challenging work. "You need to rewrite the last third of your novel."
This email turned out to be neither — just a disappointing Google alert. Junk.
I'd set up a search on my pen name and the title of my as yet unreleased novel to catch any mention on blogs, but this alert came from some site spoofing a bootleg of my book. I forwarded it to my editor, disgusted at jerks who would try to scam other people by using my creative output as the bait.
Then I saw another link below the first. I clicked it, unaware that three innocuous words were about to flip my world upside down.CHAPTER 2
Funny how so many life-altering moments are accompanied by three little words.
I love you.
Kiss the bride.
Hold my beer.
The three words of advice my editor imparted when she sent me my advance copies were: Don't read reviews. Nevertheless, I settled on the stool behind the cash register and scanned the blog post, blood pulsing in my fingertips, hoping to see the words "Brilliant first novel" and some ego- stroking praise. The few advance reviews I'd already read had been fairly glowing, so despite the prevailing wisdom, I'd started to look forward to the external validation.
The teaser in the email read: "Review of Claire Kincaid's The Shadow's Apprentice," and led to a site called the Book Brigade. I'd never heard of it, but then again, I hadn't recognized the last few blogs I'd come across. Authoring was all new to me. I had so much to learn.
My high school English teacher liked to say the author is dead, and, in literature classes, that was usually literally true, so I never gave much thought to the fact that modern-day writers were living, breathing, in-the-flesh real people with feelings and possibly very strong opinions about wrong interpretations of their works. I figured JK Rowling had better things to do than peek her head into a lecture and listen to arguments about the overarching themes in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
That was before I crossed the Rubicon from reader to writer. Now reviews gave me a weird thrill. Knowing someone out there was reading my book, I couldn't resist spying on their reactions.
Today was my reckoning.
I scanned the review, and my heart stopped in my chest when I hit the final verdict: Three solid stars.
Objectively, I knew most people would consider three stars good enough, and I tried to tell myself it was one disheartening review, not a presage of doom. But I had lofty, and apparently unwarranted, aspirations of literary praise, awards, and interviews with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. My career was over, and it hadn't even started.
Rest in peace.
Like a straight A student receiving a C, I wanted to challenge the teacher.
My three word reaction: Not gonna read.
I barely registered when Charlie gathered his things and approached the counter to pay for his latte. I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. I didn't have the luxury to wallow. I had a business to run.
He paused and cleared his throat. "Are you okay?"
I reached for the stubborn resilience of Anne Shirley and straightened my spine. "I'm fine," I lied.
He narrowed an eye, not convinced. "Gotta go teach, but I'll return before book club."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dating by the Book"
Copyright © 2019 Mary Ann Marlowe.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
New bookstore owner and secret author, Maddie Hanson, is at a literal and figurative crossroads in her life. Struggling to keep it all together six months after a fiancé left her at the altar, but who still has a financial interest in the shop, Maddie also has a debut novel about to drop. As bookstore owners everywhere know, customers are crucial to their survival. She pours her heart into making the store a success while juggling a very chaotic love life. Suddenly it seems several men are interested in Maddie including her first love who found fame as a rock star, the boy next door Maddie grew up with, and an even an online critic of her book that becomes a sort of muse in a backwards way. It is raining men is an understatement when even the man who left Maddie seems to want her back. While Maddie, who writes under a pseudonym, is at first incensed at the criticism of the reviewer known as Silver Fox, their correspondence turns into another kind of relationship and with the anonymity of the internet, Maddie is able to work out some of her fears, testing out fragile thoughts while gaining a few epiphanies. Interwoven into the story is a book club discussion of Maddie’s favorites such as Pride and Prejudice and Little Women that becomes a backdrop for her own life’s challenges. While being a romance, there are some elements of Women’s Fiction including in the “unexamined life is not worth living” navel gazing trope, and the idea of not needing a man to make a life whole, but it sure would be nice to find a true love. Also in this story are interesting themes including that of Maddie being a writer giving readers a view into what authors endure while perfecting their craft and with scornful and unjust reviews. The epistolary form appears when Maddie communicates with Silver Fox though email and messaging. Maddie’s self-referential habit of comparing herself to various fictional women permeates throughout the story. This book is a fun read for classic literature fans as well as those who live a double life of the reader whose book world imaginations sometimes collide with real life.
THis was a sweet story about a bookstore owner in a small Indiana town whose views on romance revolve around the classic tales of romance she discusses in her weekly bookclub. If you can accept the premise that all the attractive single men in this town are attracted to her and are willing to attend a regular bookclub to discuss books such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Little Women, and Gone with the Wind, you’ll enjoy their discussions of these classics and the different take that some of the guys have on the couples in these books. Add in the mysterious “Silver Fox,” who is an ARC reviewer for the fantasy book that Maddie, our heroine, has written and has coming out in paperback. Maddie gets upset when Silver Fox criticizes her portrayal of romance in the book. She emails him and thus begins an increasingly revealing conversation between the two as they tell the other about their troubles in romance. I was a little impatient with Maddie since she seemed blind to what was going on about her and who was really the guy who was her true love for the ages. It took her a long time to wake up and figure out what the reader had figured out a lot earlier. All in all, this was a fun debut novel and I enjoyed the meta-plot lines involving an ARC reader and book discussions. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book that I received from Netgalley; however, the opinions are my own and I did not receive any compensation for my review.
Fans of You've Got Mail will be enthralled! I loved the mystery of the Silver Fox and his witty banter most of all. The book club is a group I wish existed in my personal life, and I felt a kinship with the members. I also enjoyed the perspective from an authors POV - as a reader, you don't realize how much truly goes into the creating of a book, so this was a great eye-opener.
How did author Marlowe know to pen a character after my own heart? Maddie owns a rustic bookstore/café in her small town! Ummmm…This is my absolute dream of all dreams! Since I basically want to be Maddie, I read his book as if I was her - well without the romance. Sadly. Maddie struggles to keep her bookstore afloat due to it being in a small town, few sales, some sabotage from a fellow business owner, a rectangle of a love life and most of all - herself! Yep – for most of this book, Maddie is her own worst enemy! Thank goodness, she clues herself in by the end and we get a happy ending. What I loved about this book is the multiple places it went. It felt like four fully developed novellas that the author artfully intermingled into one really good story! There was never a time when I was unclear as to what was happening but it was all entangled so well – this had to be a bear of a book to develop! Maddie writes a book under a pen name and ends up in an online push/pull electronic relationship with an early critic of her book. They have wildly abandoned conversations while debating the merits of intimacy in romance. They do this while discussing books like The Little Prince, Pride & Prejudice and Little Women! Then there’s her friendship with her best customer, Charlie. This relationship also has ups and downs with unexpressed feelings and emotions between the two of them throughout the book. Charlie seems like a super nice guy! Maddie also has to contend with Dylan, her sexy rock star ex who just happens to be back in town to find himself and his music again – and maybe her if she’ll participate. Peter is her ex-fiancé who left her at the alter when it was determined that she would not leave her bookstore and the town for him and finally, there is Max. Sigh…Max….Max is the guy next door that grew up with Maddie; in fact, she’s best friends with his sister, Layla. Max is everything that Maddie needs and wants but of course – she doesn’t see that! How could she! She is a busy women with a lot of men, feelings and books to juggle! I won’t spoil the book but I will say that I love where it goes and where it ended up! It’s a twisty fun journey that will be sure to make your day at the beach extra fabulous! I sure had a fun time “being Maddie” for just a little while! This is the perfect book for summer! Oh, and it will want to make you re-read some of the classics!
A Rom-Com taking place within the setting of an actual bookstore! What more could a reader ask for! Maddie Hanson is a fledgling author preparing for the release of her very first novel. She’s also trying to keep her quaint little bookstore afloat. She’s received a three-star review for her upcoming first release from a gentleman nick-named the Silver Fox. Slightly miffed, if not down-right incensed, she can’t help but engage Mr. Silver Fox! (Never a good idea)! But for Maddie it may just turn out to be the best thing that could happened to her. Maybe he can help elevate her writing by adding a little extra soul and spice to her books, by way of kindly reminding her what romance truly means. This is a sweet and quaint Rom-Com, though I found it to be somewhat predictable. If you’re in search of a light, lovely read that will put a bit of romance back in your life, Look no further! Thank you to NetGalley, Kensington Books and Mary Ann Marlowe for an ARC to read and review.
Maddie Hanson has experienced a heartbreaking loss recently. Having been left at the altar by Peter, Maddie throws herself into her dream of owning and running her childhood bookshop and writing her novels under a pseudonym . One of Maddie's favourite activities at the bookstore is running a book club. It doesn't hurt that many of it's participants are eligible, sexy men - Dylan, a rock musician and former boyfriend who has just returned to town from being on tour, Max the co-owner of a bakery who she has grown up with, and Charlie the quiet man who spends hours on his computer at the bookshop. Maddie is a romantic whose choices of books discussed at book club seem to be limited to the old classics and their characters who reflect her current male relationships. When she starts corresponding with Silver Fox, a book reviewer of an ARC of her first novel, she feels attacked and defensive and cannot let this go. She begins corresponding with Silver Fox and learns that sometimes what we're looking for is right in front of us. I love the fact that Maddie is a strong female lead who knows what she most desires in her life and goes for it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way Marlowe challenges me to believe that I know who Silver Fox is only to add another twist to change my mind. Add in the location of a small town bookstore - I could not put this book down. I look forward to reading more from Mary Ann Marlowe. I rate this book 4.5/5 stars (rounded up to 5 stars). I'd like to thank Netgalley and Kensington books for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dating By The Book is a trip down memory lane of several novels that I and other bibliophiles love. Each man in Maddie’s life representing a hero in one of the novels her book club is reading. A club that is in fact filled with men; her high school boyfriend Dylan, lifelong friend Max, and dependable customer Charlie. Each of whom could be a romantic interest in the likes of Rhett from Gone with the Wind, Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, and Rochester from Jane Eyre. Let’s not forget about the mysterious Silver Fox who develops into an email pal giving solid advice about life, love, and plot points in her novel. I couldn’t help but picture Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan from You’ve Got Mail each time her mail chimed! Maddie’s journey to find passion and love was intertwined with her need to get her second book finished in time. Each lesson she learns about herself is written into her book, reminding me that each author puts her heart and soul into their novel, regardless of how well that novel is received. Luckily, that’s not a problem with Dating By the Book. Even if it didn’t have all of the literary references to hold my interest the story itself made sense and took me on a journey. It’s one of those books that can be taken as a life lesson to the person who reads it, or it can be tossed into a bag for their summer vacation. Both to be revered and enjoyed. If you have read Mary Ann Marlowe’s two previous novels, Some Kind of Magic and Crazy Kind of Love you will be happy to hear that she does also have a rock star in this book. Is he the man of Maddie’s dreams? Well, he has a lot of competition, that’s for sure! Even with that familiarity, I was happy to see the author try something a little different in this novel which reads more as a Women’s Fiction novel than a Contemporary Romance. Also, for those readers who are fans of a slow burn romance novel, you’re going to love how the relationship between our heroine and hero develops throughout this novel. By the time they get together you are so ready for it, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s summertime and there are so many good books out there to read and not enough time to get to all of them. My recommendation is that Dating by the Book is worth moving up on your TBR pile, putting in your bag when you hit the beach, or digging out of your purse sitting on the train to work in the morning. It’s fun, but it also makes you think about your own choices in life, love and literature. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❣️ I received a free copy of this book from the author for my honest review and it was honest!
Maddie's living in her small home town of Orion, running a bookstore/cafe that's struggling, and she's still reeling from her fiancé Peter walking out on her (even though he owns half the bookstore). However, she's got a book coming out! Yay! Unfortunately, the first review, by a blogger who calls himself Silver Fox, isn't so good and she, unwisely, engages with him. Their back and forth evolves though and eventually they are sharing rewrites of scenes (some of which are pretty steamy) for her next book. But who IS Silver Fox? Is it her ex Peter? Her childhood friend Max? Her high school love and rock god Dylan? Or Charlie a professor who grades papers in the store? This is a nice light tale that touches on some more serious issues, such as fading opportunity in small towns. It's nicely written and plotted so that you'll be guessing til the end who the Fox really is. Thanks to Netgally for the ARC. An enjoyable romp.