Lenora Stone used to say if she didn't have bad luck, she wouldn't have any luck at all. At age thirty-eight, instead of socializing with Baltimore's A-list, she photographs them for Baltimore Scene, a glossy magazine filled with beautiful people who, unlike Lenora, never have to worry about car trouble and overdue bills. As much as she'd love to slam the door on her overbearing boss, quitting isn't an option. She's barely making her mortgage payments and, though her condo might not be a palace, it's hers. Lately even things with her boyfriend Gerald haven't been right. They've been together for three years but he can't seem to ask the one question she's been waiting for. But what Lenora doesn't know is that her luck is about to change...
Just when she thinks things can't get worse, Lenora wins the jackpot in the Maryland lottery. In a heartbeat, all her dreams become possible. She quits her job and indulges her every desire-starting with a shiny, silver BMW and a million-dollar mansion. Gerald is finally ready to put a ring on her finger and the city's most exclusive women's group is dying for her to join, officially moving Lenora from behind the lens, into the limelight. But in Lenora's lavish new world, all that glitters definitely isn't gold. Her old friend's are concerned about her sudden changes, and Ray, a sexy, young landscaper Lenora covered for the magazine is looking for more than a purely professional relationship.
As her life starts to come together, the things Lenora holds dear begin to fall apart. Has her world really changed for the better, or does fortune come with a heavy price?
|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Connie Briscoe has been a full-time published author for more than ten years. Born with a hearing impairment, Connie never allowed that to stop her from pursuing her dreams...writing. Since she left the world of editing to become a writer, Connie has hit the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
Connie lives with her family in Maryland.
For more information visit www.conniebriscoe.com/
Read an Excerpt
Money Can't Buy Love
By Briscoe, Connie
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2011 Briscoe, Connie
All right reserved.
Lenora stood above the polished chrome faucet in her master bathroom, razor blade held firmly in one hand, and thought of slashing her wrist. She had just stumbled through the most turbulent year of her life, filled with highs and lows, ups and downs. And now she was at the bottom of the pit. Her fiancé had dumped her, her girlfriends had deserted her, and her brand-new BMW had been repossessed. Last month she had to give up her prized photography studio because she could no longer pay the mortgage.
And just now she got the news she dreaded most of all. The bank was going to foreclose on her beautiful five-thousand-square-foot, million-dollar dream house. After months of receiving default notices and frantic calls to the lender begging for time and patience, she had been served with the papers that morning. Every time she thought her rotten life couldn’t possibly get any nastier, it did.
Lenora’s eyes shifted back and forth between the sharp edge of the blade and her bare brown wrist. Go on, you pitiful bitch. Go on and end the misery right now. You’re beyond feeling pain anyway at this point.
She squinted and touched the blade to her skin. The sharp prick jolted her eyes open. She grimaced. Maybe this isn’t the answer to my troubles after all, she thought. As bad as things had become, taking her life was something she could not bring herself to do. She was afraid to go on living, but she was terrified of death.
She lowered her arm and placed the razor blade on the countertop just as the front doorbell rang. “Shit!” she muttered as she pushed her dark unkempt shoulder-length hair back off her face and stared at her puffy eyes in the mirror. Who else would disturb her at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday morning? She had no job, no friends, no man. They had taken her car and her house. So now what the hell?
The bell chimed again, and Lenora dragged her bare feet across the ceramic tile floor to the carpeted master bedroom suite. Paws, her white-haired Lhasa apso, scurried from her doggy cot near the fireplace and bounded down the stairs as Lenora grabbed a dingy terry-cloth robe from the foot of her unmade bed.
Downstairs in the foyer, she peered through the glass on the double front doors to see a petite blond woman standing on the threshold. The woman’s hair and jacket were damp from a steady, unrelenting rain that had been falling all morning, and she had an anxious expression on her thin face. Lenora knew instantly that this was another pesky reporter, and she was tempted to turn around and flee back up the stairs. But the woman had already seen Lenora, and her eyes pleaded to be allowed inside.
Lenora cracked the door open.
“Hi. Are you Lenora Stone?” came the woman’s voice beneath the patter of rain on the pavement.
“My name is Donna Blackburn. I’m a reporter with the Baltimore View. We’re doing a roundup of people who won a million dollars or more in the Maryland Lottery over the past few years. A feature with the theme ‘Where are they now?’ ” Donna held a business card in her outstretched hand.
“So I figured,” Lenora said with impatience, pushing the card away. “You’re the umpteenth reporter wanting to talk to me since I won last year. Most of them had the decency to call first.”
“Sorry, but I couldn’t get through to you. I don’t have your landline number and your cell is, um, discontinued.”
That’s when Lenora remembered that her cell phone service was disconnected a few days earlier; she hadn’t paid that bill either. Still, she didn’t feel like talking to any damn reporters. She was a photographer herself and had worked around a ton of them. She knew how persistent they could be. How they would dig into your personal stuff if you let your guard down for even a minute. Then they would go out and blab your business to the entire world.
“I’ve said all I have to say,” Lenora said. “Go away.”
“I won’t take up much of your time,” Donna pleaded. “You won five million dollars in the Maryland Lottery almost a year ago, and I’ve heard about some of your recent misfortunes.”
“You and everyone else,” Lenora said sarcastically.
“It would give you a chance to air things out if we talk.”
“Sorry, I’m all fucking aired out.” Lenora stepped back and reached for the doorknob.
“Sure you don’t have just a few minutes?” Donna asked as her eyes darted around the room behind Lenora. Lenora could tell that the reporter had noticed that the large foyer and living room were practically bare, with no furniture, no lamps, no memorabilia. Lenora had sold all of that in a futile attempt to stay afloat. The reporter’s expression had changed from mild curiosity to eagerness as she suddenly sensed a much bigger story than the one she imagined when she knocked on the door.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Lenora responded and hastily began to shut the door.
Donna stuck a damp shoe in the crack, and Lenora glared at her, ready to punch this interloper smack in the mouth. How dare she intrude so brazenly! Lenora knew that she might be about to lose the house, but right now it was still hers. “Bitch, who the hell do you think you are coming in—”
“I’ll treat you to dinner,” Donna blurted out. “Steak, seafood, pasta. The restaurant of your choice.”
Lenora paused at the mention of free food at a real restaurant, not a quickie meal at McDonald’s or a bag of stale chips in her bed. Lenora considered herself a bit of a foodie, so this was like promising drugs to a junkie. Lenora had a sneaking suspicion that the reporter somehow knew this, that she had discovered this tidbit in her research. She pulled her robe tighter around her bulging waistline and cracked the door wider.
“Legal Seafood in Baltimore,” Lenora said, thinking of one of her favorite seafood restaurants. She could already taste the steamed littleneck clams.
“You got it,” Donna said. “But you have to be open with me. Answer all my questions. We do the interview here first, then go to dinner later this evening.”
Lenora glanced down at her bare feet on the cold slate floor of the foyer, the place where an antique Oriental carpet once lay, until she sold it on eBay last month. She was still tempted to turn the reporter down. Even a nice seafood dinner in Baltimore might not be enough to compensate for having to relive the most traumatic months of her thirty-eight-year life. She wanted to forget everything that had happened, not rehash it. She wanted to banish the lottery, Gerald, Ray, Alise, the house, and the studio from her mind forever. But the thought of staying alone inside these half-empty rooms just after getting a foreclosure notice was even more depressing.
Lenora opened the door. “Come on in. Find a chair and give me a minute to get decent.” She needed to shower, something she had not done for a few days. There had been no need since she had not left the house or seen anyone.
“No problem,” Donna said as she stepped eagerly through the doorway.
Fifteen minutes later, Lenora and Donna were seated across from each other in the kitchen, the dream kitchen Lenora knew she was going to lose soon. It had everything—travertine flooring and granite countertops, a Viking range and two sinks. They sat at the kitchen table, the only piece of furniture Lenora had left besides her bed, and nursed two mugs of hot instant coffee. A couple of months ago, Lenora sold her nine-hundred-dollar coffee and espresso machine on eBay for a fraction of what she’d paid for it, and she had learned to tolerate the microwave variety of coffee.
Lenora now saw the extravagant coffeemaker as one in a long series of greedy, foolish decisions that she had made over the past year after winning the lottery. Her ex-fiancé Gerald had warned her to slow down. “Five million dollars won’t last forever with you spending like this,” he said repeatedly. Lenora now wished she had listened to him about the money and a whole lot more.
“So, tell me what’s happened with you since you won five million dollars in the lottery,” Donna said.
Lenora sighed. “Long story short, I fucked up everything, that’s what happened.” She twisted her lips. “But you don’t want the short version. You want the whole sad story.”
One Year Earlier
Lenora’s eyes opened and shot toward the clock. “Oh, no!” she yelled, springing up from the bed. She had done it again, slept straight through the alarm going off at seven a.m. on a workday. What was wrong with her?
Paws, the one-year-old Lhasa apso she had rescued from the dog pound a few months earlier, ran to the bed and wagged her tail in anticipation as Lenora tossed the covers aside. She gave Paws a quick pat, stuck her feet into slippers, and raced across the floor of her two-room condominium. Her boss was going to kill her for being late to work again, she thought as she entered the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Why was she having so much trouble getting out of bed these days? Late-night drinks with her boyfriend Gerald were no excuse.
She grabbed her toothbrush from the holder and quickly applied toothpaste. There was a time when she would never have stayed out until two a.m. on a weeknight. Her job had been too important to her to allow that. But she was starting to get supremely frustrated with work, especially with Dawna Delaney, the new managing editor at the Baltimore Scene magazine, and a woman whose middle name should be “evil.”
So she found herself needing more time to wind down in the evening, more time to chill with her boyfriend or hang out with her girlfriends. Still, she had a mortgage on the condo and a gazillion other bills to pay. She definitely could not afford to do idiotic things like making her boss angry by repeatedly being tardy for work.
She slipped in and out of the shower in two minutes. She had no time for makeup other than a dash of lipstick. That was just as well. She hated putting the stuff on anyway. It was only because she was thirty-seven years old and starting to see a few lines around her mouth that she bothered at all. Some women craved jewelry; others makeup, shoes, or clothes. Her thing was freedom from all of that nonsense.
And food, she thought as she quickly grabbed a pair of baggy cargo pants from the closet, one of only a few pairs that still fit. She muttered obscenities as she squeezed them over her hips. One of these days she was going to admit to herself that her five foot, four inch frame was no longer a size six or even an eight and buy clothes that fit properly, she thought as she tugged at the zipper and squeezed the snap. This was why she avoided shopping as much as possible. She hated looking at her short, roundish figure in a mirror. People often told her she had a cute face but rarely commented on anything below the neck, unless it was to suggest that she needed to lose a few pounds.
Slacks or jeans were customary for her, and not just because of her weight. As a photographer for a city magazine, she needed the freedom to bend over, climb, kneel, or do whatever a photo shoot demanded without snagging some nice designer fabric on a nail or having to worry about anyone’s trying to sneak a peek up her skirt.
Today she added a loose-fitting berry-colored top to disguise her bulges. Then she glanced at her watch and muttered more obscenities at the late hour as she grabbed her black camera bag off the chair near the small desk in the living area. Her morning commute into Baltimore was at least a forty-minute drive during rush hour. She didn’t have time for breakfast, not even a glass of juice, which was just as well, she thought, given that she should be on a diet anyway.
She ran to the door and was about to open it when she looked down and saw Paws staring up at her with those big brown puppy-dog eyes. “Dammit!” she said aloud. She had to walk the poor dog or Paws would pee all over the condo. Lenora dropped her camera bag on the couch and quickly put the leash on her dog. “C’mon, sweetie,” she said as she opened the door. Paws followed happily as Lenora ran down the back stairs of the two-story building and across the parking lot to a grassy field.
“Hurry and do your thing, girl. You want me to be able to buy your dog food, don’t you? That means I gotta get to work.” Paws seemed to understand and quickly carried out her business. Then they both ran back up the stairs. Lenora dashed into the kitchen, filled Paws’s water bowl and scooped some dry dog food into her dish, patted the pooch on her furry little head, and ran back out. In the parking lot, she slipped behind the wheel of her ten-year-old Honda just as her cell phone rang. She dug into the side pocket of her camera bag, pulled out the phone, and saw from the number that it was Dawna.
She agonized over whether to answer for a second, then tossed the phone onto the passenger seat next to the bag. She knew what Dawna wanted—to know why the hell she was already more than an hour late for work. Again. And frankly, Lenora didn’t want to hear all the snapping and cussing, which for Dawna went with having her morning cup of coffee.
Lenora would take her licks when she got to the office. Dawna wouldn’t fire her—at least Lenora didn’t think so. Good photographers were hard to come by, and Dawna, who started at the Baltimore Scene only six months ago, was eager to make her mark at the magazine. Lenora had been there for seven years now and Dawna needed her. Yet Lenora realized that she couldn’t continue to press her luck.
She turned the key in the ignition and the worst thing possible happened. The crappy car didn’t start. It made some strange noises, sputtered pitifully, and then died. Lenora held her breath and tried again. Same thing. She smacked the steering wheel. She couldn’t believe this was happening to her. One of these days she was going to win the lottery. Or get that boyfriend of hers to marry her. With two incomes, she wouldn’t have to freak out about losing her job and her only source of income.
The cell phone rang, and Lenora could see that it was the boss calling again. It took every ounce of her willpower not to grab the blasted phone and fling it out the window. Instead, Lenora closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and turned the key again.
Excerpted from Money Can't Buy Love by Briscoe, Connie Copyright © 2011 by Briscoe, Connie. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
<b>The Price of Greed</b> We've all, at some point or another, fantasized about what we would do if we won, inherited or had a substantial amount of money. For me, I'm not greedy, I'd pay my tithes, God first; buy a modest home; set up college funds for my children; and help my immediate family, friends and my community. Sounds simple enough, right? But for Lenora Stone, it isn't so easy. After months of dodging creditors, dealing with a boss she absolutely hates and dreaming of joining the ranks of Girlfriends, Lenora wins the Maryland lottery and life as she knows it is over. Before she can bask in her winnings, she can't stomach the thought of what this money may do to her life. After confiding in a few of her closet friends, her boyfriend, parents, and a client, Lenora is finally ready to claim her winnings. As she upgrades her car, home and loses a few pounds, she is still on the fence about her job, her friends and even Gerald, her boyfriend. When Ray, the sexy, landscaper, starts giving her the time of day, Lenora can't help but appreciate all that he brings to the table. Is she willing to risk what she and Gerald have had for three years? MONEY CAN'T BUY LOVE by Connie Briscoe was just all right. While predictable, it's interesting, but I felt so much of the story was skimmed over that readers would've benefited from. Reviewed by: Crystal
Oh. My. Word. I wanted to reach into the book, snatch that woman up by her throat and slap her around. And I'm not a violent person. But Lenora Stone like to have driven me to drink. And I don't drink. Yes, her crazy was that bad. Without giving the book away, let's just say that Lenora did everything wrong that you could possibly do when you've won the lottery. Furthermore, she was the least sympathetic character I've read about in a long time. And, honestly, I think that's why I became absorbed in the story. I kept hoping and wishing that Lenora would show some signs of growth, development, maturity, wisdom, something. But, um, no, she didn't. I also felt like the writing on this book wasn't as tight as it usually is with a Connie Briscoe book. Lenora was incredibly frustrating as a character and, as a person, I would have cut her loose as a friend. And the other characters in the story were just there. They didn't do anything to add or subtract to the story, they really seemed to serve as emotional punching bags for Lenora. I think if you're looking for a quick read, this is the book. If you're looking for something with a little more depth, pass on this one.
The Price of GreedWe've all, at some point or another, fantasized about what we would do if we won, inherited or had a substantial amount of money. For me, I'm not greedy, I'd pay my tithes, God first; buy a modest home; set up college funds for my children; and help my immediate family, friends and my community. Sounds simple enough, right? But for Lenora Stone, it isn't so easy. After months of dodging creditors, dealing with a boss she absolutely hates and dreaming of joining the ranks of Girlfriends, Lenora wins the Maryland lottery and life as she knows it is over. Before she can bask in her winnings, she can't stomach the thought of what this money may do to her life. After confiding in a few of her closet friends, her boyfriend, parents, and a client, Lenora is finally ready to claim her winnings. As she upgrades her car, home and loses a few pounds, she is still on the fence about her job, her friends and even Gerald, her boyfriend. When Ray, the sexy, landscaper, starts giving her the time of day, Lenora can't help but appreciate all that he brings to the table. Is she willing to risk what she and Gerald have had for three years? MONEY CAN'T BUY LOVE by Connie Briscoe was just all right. While predictable, it's interesting, but I felt so much of the story was skimmed over that readers would've benefited from. Reviewed by: Crystal
First time reader of Connie Briscoe, loved this book could'nt put it down!
Page-turner great plot, and great ending. This is definitely a must read!
Lenora is a 37 year old who has a boyfriend named Gerald. She really wants to get married, but he keeps putting the subject off. They have been together for 3 years, and she wonders if he will ever be ready. He is trying to get his business off the ground and wants to get their finances in order before getting married. I didn't like Gerald at all. He made comments about Lenora's weight (I have had to deal with this problem myself, and it doesn't help matters at all...just makes me feel worse), and he was always so busy. He seemed like he never had time for her. On top of all that, she doesn't like her boss and is having trouble paying her bills. She buys a lottery ticket and kind of forgets about it. She ends up finally finding it a few days later and has the surprise of her life! She wins the lottery. All her problems are solved right? Well, her life will never be the same, that's for sure. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was really easy to follow, and the characters sound like real people. I got a little annoyed with Lenora when she waits so long to bring her ticket in and with some of the other things she does. I kind of had an idea of what was going to happen, but I didn't know exactly how things would turn out in the end. I was surprised at her conversation with Ray at the end. I'm glad she said what she did. It would have been nice to know what happened next for her though! Will there be another book to follow up? Also, I still wonder about Gerald. Was he really that busy with work? Even though Lenora made some dumb decisions and she was annoying at times, I wouldn't have changed anything about this story. I highly recommend it! Cheryl Black Diamond's Book Reviews
Connie Briscoe is a talented writer and creates well-developed characters with whom most women can identify. In Money Can't Buy Love, the main character, Lenora Stone, is a 37 year old woman who is attractive, but not beautiful, overweight, but not obese, and works in a 9 to 5 job at which her adversary also happens to be her boss. Lenora is a professional photographer and is one of the best in the business. However, she suffers from low self-esteem which is obvious in the choices she makes when she wins the five million dollar Maryland Lottery. The money changes Lenora in ways of which she is unaware, but her friends and lover, Gerald, are readily aware. Of course, Lenora's sudden wealth also changes the behavior of those around her. Gerald has strung her along for 3 years and is suddenly willing to marry her and she is accepted into a social club in which the "snobbish" members had rejected her only a year prior. Lenora is not prepared to deal with her sudden wealth/popularity and makes unwise decisions both in love and in life. She finds out the hard way that a top of the line automobile, a large mansion and the sudden interest of a handsome and much younger man, do not lead to happiness. Money Can't Buy Love grabs the reader's interest and won't let go. It also makes one stop and ponder if our behavior would be the same. I would highly recommend this novel and give it a rating of 4 out of 5. Shana Plummer Sweet Soul Sisters Book Club Beltsville, MD