The riot grrrl and the bookworm—just the pair to get the whole town talking…
Liam Byrd loves Halikarnassus, New York. He loves its friendliness, its nosiness, the vibrant library at the center of it all. And now that Joanna Green is home, the whole town sizzles. A rebel like her stirs up excitement, action, desire—at least in Liam.
Joanna never thought she’d have to come back to her dull, tiny fishbowl of a hometown ever again. She almost had a record deal for her all-girl rock band. She almost had it made in L.A. And then her deal went sour and her granny broke her leg . . . and now here she is, running into everybody’s favorite librarian every time she heads to a dive bar or catches up with old friends.
He has charm, he has good taste in music—and the sight of him in running shorts is dangerously distracting. But when he loves her old town and she can’t wait to check out, their new romance is surely destined for the book drop...
Praise for The Undateable
“Socially aware and laugh-out-loud funny, with a love story that’s real enough to imagine reading about on Twitter. A delightful start to Librarians in Love.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review
“Title launches her Librarians in Love contemporary romance series with a hilarious and charming first installment . . . Funny, engrossing, and delightfully written.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
About the Author
Sarah Title has worked as a barista, a secretary, a furniture painter, and once managed a team of giant walking beans. She currently leads a much more normal life as a mild-mannered(ish) librarian in North Carolina. She is the author of the Southern Comfort series, set in small-town Kentucky; Kentucky Home, her first novel, was published in 2013. She comments irregularly and insightfully on her blog, Title, Author, at www.sarahtitle.com, and if you like pictures of elderly poodles, follow her on Instagram (@titleauthor), Twitter (@titleauthor), and Facebook (facebook.com/sarahtitlebooks).
Read an Excerpt
Falling for Trouble
By SARAH TITLE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Susan Maguire
All rights reserved.
"Jo? Joey Green?"
And that, in one frustrating nickname, was the reason why Joanna Green never came back to Halikarnassus. The fact that it was a nosy little town with one bar and few people worth drinking with, she could deal with. It was more the fact that everyone in town seemed obsessed with the Joanna she had been in high school — a screwup and a hell-raiser and a general bad influence. She hadn't been home in years, and that one nickname made it abundantly clear that no one was going to try to get to know Joanna the Adult.
Not that Joanna the adult was any less of a screwup. Hell, that was why she was standing in the airport, waiting in baggage claim for the suitcase holding all of her worldly possessions (with the exception of her guitar, which she would never, in a million years, trust to baggage handlers).
Coming home as an abject failure with your tail between your legs was one thing, Joanna thought. Having to explain that failure to a bunch of people who didn't expect anything more from you was a new level of humiliation she wasn't sure she could deal with. Just keep an eye out for your suitcase, she told herself. You don't have to talk to anyone. You just need to grab your bag, convince a cab to take you all the way to Halikarnassus, and hope that Granny is home to lend you cab fare.
Totally an adult.
"I thought it was you!"
Joanna could no longer ignore the persistent nostalgia at her elbow. A young woman in an enormous gray scarf was looking at her expectantly. Joanna tried to place her ... she looked vaguely familiar ...
"Oh my gosh, you don't remember me. Skyler Carrington?" Scarf Girl gave her a hopeful look.
"Holy crap, Skyler? I thought you were like ..." The last time Joanna had seen Skyler, Joanna was getting in big trouble for making her cry because she wouldn't let her play with her very expensive guitar. Skyler had been what, five? Seven? She was ten years younger than Joanna, a fact that had caused Trina, Joanna's best friend and Skyler's big sister, a minor adolescent breakdown because they now knew where babies came from and she didn't want to think about her parents doing that. Of course, once Skyler was born, Trina was ruthlessly protective of her sister, who was, frankly, a brat.
Skyler had been three. Or five. Or whatever. That was a long time ago. She was probably much less bratty now. And wasn't that why Joanna had avoided coming home? Because she knew people would only see her as she had been back then? Pot and black kettle and all that.
Back then Joanna was a foul-mouthed, rebellious, broke teenager. Now she was ... well, she wasn't a teenager.
God, how depressing. She'd left town to shake off the image everybody had of her, only to find that the reason they had that image was because it was who she was.
Except that now she was old. And Skyler Carrington was as tall as she was.
And Skyler Carrington was leaning forward to give Joanna a hug. "Trina's not going to believe this! What are you doing here?"
"Just, uh ..." Skyler Carrington didn't need to know the whole sad, sordid story, and it made Joanna feel a little better that news of her epic failure had not reached Halikarnassus yet. At least, not the airport two hours from Halikarnassus. "Just visiting."
"Granny! How is Granny?"
"Good, fine." She hoped, anyway. She hadn't spoken to Granny in a few days, despite Granny's best efforts. But Joanna knew she would just want to hear all the details of the big concert, as she called it, and Joanna wasn't ready to go there yet. Or ever. Granny probably wouldn't ask any questions when Joanna showed up unannounced on her doorstep, right?
God, she wasn't just a failure. She was a delusional failure.
And Skyler was looking at her expectantly. "What are you doing here?" Joanna asked. "Love the scarf."
"Oh my God, I just finished a semester in France. I'm, like, so not used to speaking English! And everyone here is so ... American!"
"You'll get that, what with being in America," Joanna suggested.
"I'm just having, like, culture shock. Literally everything in France is, like, so much better. I can't even with this." Skyler waved her hand around.
Joanna couldn't even with the baggage claim, either. She also couldn't with this kid having adventures in France while Joanna had been working hard, making music, then throwing it all away in one stupid night. Skyler had probably done more in her teenage life than Joanna had in her ... more than teenage life. They both talked big; this kid had actually done big things.
Fortunately, the baggage carousel started to move and, as if the gracious gods of Joanna's hometown shame were looking down upon her struggle to keep it together in a conversation with her old friend's formerly bratty toddler little sister, her suitcase came out first.
"Well, this is me. Nice to see you."
Skyler reached forward to help Joanna with her suitcase. "Are you going to be home for a while? Trina is going to die when I tell her I saw you."
Joanna pretended not to hear. She just waved and lost herself in the crowd, dragging all of her worldly possessions behind her.
* * *
"You okay back there?"
Liam looked in the rearview mirror long enough to see Peggy weakly wave a hand at him, then turned back to the road. He was not entirely comfortable driving her car, but his ancient Sentra didn't have a very roomy backseat, and when Doris had called to instruct him to pick Peggy up from the hospital, those instructions included figuring out a way to enable Peggy to elevate her leg on the drive home.
He wasn't entirely sure how he, of all of Peggy's friends in Halikarnassus, was chosen to pick her up from the hospital.
Not that he thought of saying no. Not even for a second. He'd been there when Peggy fell, and he still felt responsible for her broken leg, despite everyone's reassurances to the contrary. It wasn't his fault her dog was crazy and her phone rang. But she always came out of the house to wave and chat with him when he went on his morning run. If he didn't run, she wouldn't have come out.
So picking her up from the hospital was literally the least he could do.
Then he discovered that Doris intended for him to drive Peggy's car.
And he understood why the responsibility had fallen to him.
Nobody wanted to drive Peggy's car. It ran fine, great, even, especially considering its age. But it was massive. It was the kind of old-person car his grandparents used to drive. It didn't suit Peggy at all. She was old, sure, but not, like, old old. Not like grandparents old.
Although, he supposed, she was grandparents old, since she had a granddaughter who wasn't that much younger than he was.
The mysterious Joanna Green, whose music he knew from his post-college punk days. The girl could wail on the guitar. She could beat a lick into submission and get up for more. He was half in love with her the first time he heard her play with the Slutty Brontes, a kick-ass post-punk riot grrl group that made him want to break things, in a good way. He was heartbroken — way more than he should have been — when they split up. But then she formed Bunny Slippers and they were ... well, they were loud. But it was kind of like when he found out Dave Grohl had been the drummer for Nirvana. Sure, the Foo Fighters were great, but they weren't Nirvana.
Liam couldn't believe that he now lived in the town she grew up in, that he was friends with her grandmother, and that he waived overdue fines for people who knew her back when she was just starting out.
Not that anyone else was that impressed with her talents or her success. The general opinion about Joanna Green in Halikarnassus was that she was nothing but trouble, and an inadequate granddaughter to boot.
He wondered if she knew about Peggy's broken leg. Last he'd heard (not that he stalked her, but the mayor's wife had an inexplicable habit of keeping him informed of Joanna's movements), her band had signed with a major label and was touring with the Penny Lickers.
This made him love her a little less.
Which probably wasn't fair. He knew he was a music snob, and he shouldn't begrudge anyone for making a living. But the Penny Lickers? Widely acknowledged to be the twenty-first century's most boring rock band?
"Is there a reason you're driving so slowly?"
Peggy was half sitting, her head held up by a stack of pillows and a matching set elevating her broken leg. Liam had managed to wrangle the seat belt around her, but still. He wanted to be careful.
Also, he wasn't entirely sure where the outside of the car ended, and he was deathly afraid of taking out an innocent side mirror.
"Just being careful," he said with a smile.
"You and your careful," Peggy teased. At least she was teasing him. She must not be in too much pain if she could still tease him.
Then he heard a snore from the backseat, and he was reminded of the copious amounts of painkiller the hospital had given her.
"Oh, Peggy," he said, and she snored in response.
As he continued his crawl to her house, pulling over occasionally to let other cars pass, he admitted his selfish hope that Peggy would be well enough to attend the next town council meeting. She, like a lot of the older Halikarnassians, didn't have a very high opinion of their mayor, Hal Klomberg Jr. His father had been mayor for years before he finally retired, and though everyone voted for Hal Jr. thinking he'd fulfill his promises to follow in his father's footsteps, nobody seemed to appreciate the job he was doing.
Liam hadn't lived in Halikarnassus for most of that — he'd moved to town after the election but before Mayor Klomberg Jr. decided a course of fiscal responsibility was the only way to get the town out of the financial mess it was in. As far as anyone knew, the town wasn't in a mess. Sure, the economy wasn't great, but Halikarnassus had never depended on manufacturing like so many of the towns around them.
It seemed Mayor Jr. had a fetish for cutting budgets.
The library was next on his list.
Or it had been, until Peggy and her self-appointed White-Haired Old Ladies stepped into the fight.
"The last council meeting ... that was a classic," he told his sleeping passenger. "Although I'm glad Councilman Weber cut off your time. While I'm sure everyone would have enjoyed watching you take Mayor Klomberg over your knee, I'm pretty sure you would have been arrested."
Of course, if she'd been in jail, she wouldn't have been rushing outside to greet him, and she wouldn't have broken her leg.
"We're in a mess, Peggy." He needed his staunchest defender. Mayor Klomberg's plan was to cut the library's budget in half. Half. It wasn't an exorbitant budget to begin with, but Liam had dutifully worked on a plan to deal with the eventuality. It involved cutting hours and giving up on new books and, worse, firing a lot of people who'd worked at the library for a long time.
"Damn Junior," Peggy muttered.
Okay, so maybe she wasn't as asleep as he'd assumed. It was just as well, he thought as he slowly, carefully, pulled into her driveway. He had bigger things to worry about than library budgets. Like how he was going to get Peggy inside.CHAPTER 2
Joanna sat in the backseat of the Carringtons' car, between the triumphantly returned Francophile Skyler and the Great Dane, Max. Max needed to stick his head out the window, Mrs. Carrington explained when she ushered Joanna into the middle seat. Seeing the amount of slobber flying past the window took some of the sting out of sitting in what felt like a built-in booster seat. Riding with her knees under her chin was a small price to pay for a free — and slobber-free — ride from the airport.
Between the highway wind, the blaring French pop music, and the shouted conversation among the three Carringtons, Joanna was having a hard time focusing on anything other than holding onto the front seat as Mr. Carrington switched lanes with reckless abandon. She remembered that about him now. If there was a way to drive faster, he would take it, no matter how green his middle-seat passengers got.
Of course, her greenness wasn't just from the bad driving.
"I can't get over how sweet it is that you're coming home to take care of Peggy," Mrs. Carrington said from the comfort of the front seat.
Joanna squeezed her hands together. The truth was, she had had no idea that Granny had been in the hospital, which made her feel like a monster. Joanna had seen the missed call from Granny's cell when she was at LAX. She hadn't felt up to talking to her, explaining to her that due to her stupendous badness, she had destroyed the first good thing to come from her musical career. She knew she'd have to do that eventually, but Joanna foolishly thought doing it in person would be easier.
No, she hadn't. She just wanted to put it off for as long as possible.
She'd spent her last dime on the baggage fees that came with her one-way ticket. Her plan was to show up on Granny's doorstep with a big "surprise!" and a plea for cab fare. She totally took it for granted that Granny would be there. Granny was good like that.
Now, even though Granny had foiled Joanna's plan, she still provided a convenient explanation for why Joanna was back. Not at all because her career had blown up in her stupid face. Nope, she was home to play the dutiful granddaughter that nobody in town really believed she was. This made her feel like an opportunist in addition to being a bad granddaughter.
Well, nobody had to know the truth. Her heartlessness could be her little secret, tucked away where her soul used to be, before she sold it to rock and roll.
Joanna would feel a lot better about it if she wasn't sick with worry.
"I haven't talked to her in a bit," Joanna said, hoping she sounded casual through her gritted teeth. "How's she doing?"
"Of course, you've been on the plane. She's coming home from the hospital today. Doris Sampson arranged one of those care calendars for meals. She must not have known you were coming home."
"Nope. I wanted it to be a surprise." Ha ha, surprise.
"Well, I'm glad you were able to tear yourself away from that rock-star life." Mrs. Carrington giggled.
She really giggled.
Joanna turned to Skyler to commiserate over Mrs. C's persistent un-hipness, but Skyler was asleep, her chin tucked into her enormous scarf.
"I used to tell Peggy, I can't imagine what I would have done if Trina had followed in your footsteps. You were always such a troublemaker! Trina could never keep up with you!" Mrs. Carrington's laugh sounded a little forced.
Joanna reminded herself that she should be grateful for the free ride from the airport. Not that she'd had much of a choice — Skyler had trapped her in a bear hug (she had always had a bit of hero worship for Joanna, that kid), then dragged her over to her parents, who battered her with questions she tried to avoid. Mrs. Carrington had always looked at her with a vague sort of pity. That poor girl, her parents ran off, nobody but her and her grandmother in that old house. Still, that pity made Mrs. C much more forgiving of Joanna's bad behavior (just acting out, she explained). Teenage Joanna had enjoyed watching the conflicted look on Mrs. C's face as she tried to maintain her self-appointed reputation of being a cool mom while also protecting Trina from a girl who was clearly a terrible influence.
Hey, Joanna didn't put that joint in Mr. C's nightstand drawer.
Sure, she took it up to Trina's tree house and taught her how to smoke it. But it wasn't Joanna's fault that it was there in the first place. Besides, Trina was not as innocent as Mrs. C thought she was. Whose idea was it to drive to Schenectady to sneak into frat parties? Who made out with her math tutor while her parents were watching television in the next room? Who decided to perform the uncensored version of "Add It Up" by the Violent Femmes at the eighth grade talent show?
Okay, that one was Joanna's idea. But still.
Poor, deluded Mrs. Carrington.
So, back at the airport, when the Carringtons embraced her (literally) and insisted on giving her a ride to Halikarnassus, Joanna's guilt at her spoiled, misbegotten childhood ways made her resist. She wasn't going to Halikarnassus, she insisted. Even though her grandmother was currently on her way home from the hospital, the Carringtons asked. Once her panic-induced deafness subsided and her blood was flowing normally again, Joanna quickly changed her story. Yes, she was going to nurse Granny and her broken leg, why else would her only next of kin be at a nearby baggage claim.
Excerpted from Falling for Trouble by SARAH TITLE. Copyright © 2017 Susan Maguire. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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