Skinny Dipping Season

Skinny Dipping Season

by Cynthia Tennent


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Skinny Dipping Season by Cynthia Tennent

One Summer Can Change Everything . . .

Elizabeth Lively dresses conservatively, straightens her curly hair into submission, and works hard to uphold her political family's reputation. Her therapist might call it "OCD," but she's just trying her best to live by the rules-until her carefully crafted world comes crashing down when she's fired, painfully jilted, and arrested for a crime she didn't commit. All she can think to do is flee to her grandmother's lakeside house in tiny Truhart, Michigan, a town that's as quirky as it is quaint . . .

No stranger to second chances, Acting Sheriff JD Hardy isn't pleased to have Elizabeth in Truhart for the summer. A former city cop with a painful past, JD now runs a tight ship, and isn't keen on a newcomer with a criminal past, even one as tempting as Elizabeth.

Between lazy summer days and lakeside evenings, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, Elizabeth must decide what the future holds for her, and where her heart belongs. She will learn that sometimes you have to dip a toe in cautiously, and other times you just have to dive in . . .

Praise for A Wedding in Truhart

"Cynthia Tennent has captured the charm, humor, loyalty, and love of small towns, close families, and long-time friends. ..the people of Truhart will find a place in your heart." -Cindy Myers, author of The View From Here

"An A.W.O.L. wedding dress, family feuds, and kinky characters! What's not to love? A Wedding in Truhart is a wedding to remember." -Lois Greiman, award winning author of the Hope Springs series

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601836465
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/12/2016
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Skinny Dipping Season

A Truhart Romance

By Cynthia Tennent


Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Tennent
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-646-5


I loved everything about my grandmother's house, including the creepy garden gnome who stood like a sentinel by the front door. Even though it had been years since I last saw him, he still leered at me with his one remaining eye and dared me to enter the cinder-block house in the middle of the woods. I carried the box I had so carefully color coded and marked as fragile past him on my way to the front door.

"You need to end this farce now."

For a crazy moment I thought the gnome had spoken to me. But the comment came from my father, the Honorable Thomas Lively, who stood inside the doorway with his hands on his hips.

"Your mother says if we don't get her out of here soon her migraine will start up again." He removed his glasses and gazed at me with the same no-nonsense, flinty expression that had helped him win reelection to the U.S. Congress six times.

I didn't have to turn around to know that a rigid figure sat in the front seat of the Lincoln Town Car. My mother hadn't left the car since it had pulled between my Honda and a drainage ditch an hour ago. Some things never changed.

After I left a message with my parents telling them I was moving to Grandma's vacant house in the north woods, my cell phone erupted with a stream of incoming calls. Mom and Dad thought the idea was ridiculous. I hadn't expected them to drop everything and rush away from their vacation home in Harbor Springs with my little brother Elliot in tow. But here they were, not a half hour after I arrived.

Readjusting the weight in my arms, I stepped past my dad and tripped over a fake fern. I lost my grip and the box somersaulted across the room with a jarring crash. As a tightness spread across my chest, I had an irrational thought: If I never opened it, maybe nothing inside would be broken. I could just keep the packing tape on it and imagine that all the pieces were whole.

I shoved the box behind the fake fern and turned to my dad. "I'm not changing my mind."

"I know the situation is bad, but people have short memories, Elizabeth. You don't have to move here," he said, running his palm across his thick gray hair. His eyes darted back and forth like they did when he was getting ready to outmaneuver a political opponent.

"Even the lawyers said I need to disappear for a while, Dad. You're just lucky that you won't have to resign because of me." I hugged my arms across my middle and tried to avoid touching the nicotine-stained walls. "You agreed that I should get away before the national press targets me. And being here will give me the one thing I need: A quiet town where nobody knows me and nobody cares."

My little brother Elliot stomped through the door, dumping one last box in the middle of the living-room floor. A cloud of dust rose from the dingy carpet and caught the day's last rays of sunlight.

"This crap is heavy," he muttered, lifting his black T-shirt and scratching his pale, hairless stomach as he looked around the stark room. "Jeee-sus. I can't get over the fact that this place hasn't changed since Grandma lived here. Shi —"

"Don't talk like that, Elliot. And why are you helping her unload her car? We're trying to convince her to come back with us."

"She wants to stay. I would too if everyone in Ohio thought I was a bitch."

Disappointment from my parents I was used to, but Elliot's words knocked me off balance.

Like I had done a dozen times since March, I studied him for signs that he was hiding something. But he wasn't looking at me as he continued to scratch his belly button. He was gazing up at a crack on the ceiling. "This place is a shit hole."

"I said, watch your tongue young man," Dad said as he started to sit down. He lost his footing and sank into the springless interior of Grandma's orange plaid couch. He landed between the two couch cushions and they made a V from his weight. "What the hell —?"

Elliot snickered. "Watch your tongue, Congressman."

My father reacted the way he always did when Elliot challenged him. He zeroed in on me. "Since your bank account has been wiped out and you have no job anymore, how are you going to get by?"

"I actually have some cash that wasn't used to pay off legal fees."

Dad's face turned red with the effort of extricating himself from the couch. Elliot laughed out loud and I offered my hand, but he waved me away. When his feet were finally underneath him and he was free, Dad looked back at the couch and frowned. "Cracks in the walls, peeling paint. What a mess! No wonder we can't find someone to buy this place. We should have bulldozed the house and sold the property."

The horn of the Lincoln blared from the driveway. Dad ignored it and kept talking. "Listen, I know you don't spend like your sister and mother, but even you would hate to go without your fancy haircuts and yoga classes. I doubt they have a Starbucks near the bait shop."

"Maybe I'll live like everyone else."

Dad leaned down and scrutinized me as if I were still ten years old. "They don't use hand sanitizer and three different kinds of soap around here. I'm not paying for more therapy."

I took a suggestion from my psychotherapist and pictured his words rolling off me like water on wax. "I am staying, Dad."

He disregarded me as usual. "I've been thinking and I don't believe this is quite as drastic as we thought. I know a family in South Africa who needs an au pair. They owe me a favor or two and would be happy to take you in."

That sounded just like my father. It was always about favors and money. "Are they serious? Besides the fact that I'm twenty-seven and too old, what kind of person would take on an au pair with a criminal record as a favor?"

"No, no, Elizabeth. They aren't from Ohio. They would never even have to know about the incident. And remember, the lawyers have said that because it was a first-time offense, it was a misdemeanor. They used that logic to persuade the judge to let you keep your driver's license. The probationary period is over, so whether you are out of state or out of the country, the incident is no longer an issue."

The incident.

I hated how the family called it that. Sometimes I wished they would just come out with it: drug possession.

It was my first offense. Marijuana. In my father's car. The same Lincoln Town Car that sat in the driveway. The one subsidized by the good people of Ohio.

I was innocent.

"It has been almost a full week since the local newspaper printed a story about you. Except for that one parasite, reporters have all but disappeared from my office and my staff only fielded one call from the media yesterday afternoon. Given the circumstances and my position, that is a very hopeful sign. I've even been advised by my public-relations staff that in another year or so my name might be at the top of a short list for the Energy and Commerce Committee."

As my father rambled on about his political plans, my attention drifted out the window to the gnome in the front yard.

How old had I been when I bought my first gnome? Seven? Eight? My father was a newly elected state congressman from the 9th district back then. He and Mom were spending the summer meeting constituents and glad-handing donors. I had just been kicked out of summer camp for repeatedly ignoring the rules and feeding the raccoons that raided the trash bins each night. It was decided that I would stay with Grandma. On my first day in Truhart, Grandma took one look at my long face and declared that it was time that I started a collection like every self-respecting Michigander. She drove me to an antiques store on the edge of town and let me choose anything I wanted. It didn't take long before I had planted myself in front of a cluster of strange little people frolicking on the shelf. I could have chosen the pretty lady figurines with billowing dresses and graceful white necks next to them. But the funny little gnomes enchanted me. I began my collection that summer.

Years later, my little sister, Alexa, and her friends snuck into my room and drew obscenely graphic pictures of body parts all over them with permanent markers. Mom told me I was silly to cry over my tacky collection and threw them in the trash.

Dad was now on to my least favorite subject. "— things with Colin can be worked out. The pressure of all the publicity surrounding your arrest and the media frenzy in Ohio after that was really hard on him. But he is a reasonable man, and once he sees that the fury has settled down he'll be ready to take you back."

Take me back? Everyone assumed we broke up because of my arrest. If Dad knew the truth, he would stop bothering me about Colin. Alexa didn't deserve my protection. The only reason I had never told anyone that I caught my sister in bed with my boyfriend was that by the time I had recovered from the shock of my arrest, I realized that the family didn't need another "incident" to deal with. It wouldn't have helped my case. And as Colin pointed out, it would probably have just given a judge more reason to think I was using drugs to escape my problems.

"You and Colin can work out a long-distance relationship, but it is more likely he would want to visit you overseas or on the east coast rather than Truhart. You and Elliot were the only ones who could ever stand it here."

"I know you hate Truhart, but this is the perfect place for me right now, Dad."

"I'll admit you have to get away from the public eye. But you don't have to do anything this drastic. You'll hate it."

"Grandma lived here and she loved it."

"You just proved my point." A bitter grunt escaped his lips. "You won't last a week!"

I hated it when he talked that way. I didn't stand up to him very often, but being in this house gave me courage. I stepped in front of him and steadied my voice. "Try me!"

Dad straightened and raised his eyebrows. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I saw respect reflected in his blue eyes. But I must have been mistaken. That was something Dad saved for campaign donors.

I didn't have long to savor my triumph. Dad turned toward the door and shrugged his shoulders. "At least come say good-bye to your mother."

Following him outside, with Elliot trailing behind me, I picked up an overturned plastic chair on my way to the Town Car. The gravel driveway bit into the thin soles of my shoes and combined with the sharp sting of the cool air to clear the numbness that had set in.

I smoothed my hair behind my ears and straightened my sweatshirt as I paused beside the passenger door and waited for my mother to roll down the window. When nothing happened, I opened the car door to reach her rigid cheek.

"I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing, Mom. I'll call you to let you know how I'm doing."

My mother, once known in Truhart as Becky Blodget — but now referred to only as Mrs. Thomas Lively — barely shifted as my lips touched her icy skin. I could smell the familiar odor of alcohol on her breath.

"I'm trying to ignore the irony that you are ending up in the very place I spent my life trying to escape," Mom said. Her sunglasses were slightly askew on her face and her dark lipstick was crusting on her lower lip. Other than that, she was perfect.

"Grandma liked it here."

"Ask your father to get my medication out of the trunk."

I looked down at the travel mug cradled in her hand. At least Grandma had never been afraid to leave her alcohol at home.

Dad opened the driver's door and leaned in. "Your medication is right here," he said, handing her a small container. "Do you want to come in and get a glass of water before we hit the road, Rebecca?"

"I'd rather buy water at the gas station than set foot in there."

Elliot snorted. "God, Mom, you need therapy."

"In the car!" Dad ordered.

Elliot ignored him and walked over to me. He stood with his hands in his jeans, caught somewhere between boyhood and manhood, trying to look like he didn't care about good-byes. Where was the little boy I used to make Mickey Mouse pancakes with? His shaggy hair hid the beautiful blue eyes and long lashes that made him look girlish when he was young. I missed his blond locks that curled ever so slightly when they were short and clean.

My father started the car and the headlights flashed on, illuminating the peeling paint on the front door of the little house. For a moment a band of panic tightened in my chest.

"Stay out of trouble, Elliot," I said, reaching out for him.

He stepped backwards. "Me? Mom and Dad wouldn't have overreacted about my grades and I wouldn't have to go to summer school if you hadn't screwed up like you did. Thanks to you, my whole summer is going to suck!"

I smoothed a strand of hair that caught the evening breeze.

"Elliot, just try to be good and make Dad happy."

"That will never happen. You of all people should know that."

He was right, of course. Instead of arguing, I pulled him into an embrace despite his resistance.

"I love you," I said.

He said nothing, but I felt the touch of his hands on my back and swallowed past the boulder in my throat. Elliot ducked his head out of my arms and yanked open the back door of the sedan. He folded his gangly form inside and slammed the door.

I walked around to the driver's side as my father rolled down his window. "I'd tell you to come back to the condo in Harbor Springs with us and get a job there this summer, but I guess that would be expecting too much."

"I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment." How many times had I said that in the past few weeks? He avoided my eyes and shifted the car into reverse. I stood next to the gnome with my fists balled at my sides, my fingernails cutting into my palms.

At the end of the gravel drive, the car paused and Dad rolled down his window. "Clean this dump up while you're doing nothing, will you? Maybe then we can finally sell it." The tires spun on the gravel and kicked up a murky cloud of dust.

I stood for a long time, watching the tail lights fade to nothing.


The sting of the soap on my cracked fingers made me pause. My clothes were folded and put away. The refrigerator was sanitized. Even the crusty chrome on the bathroom faucet sparkled. I had lost track of how long I had been standing at the sink, scrubbing away something that wasn't there. Biting my lip, I stuck my hands under the scalding water and watched the suds run down the drain. Then, with monumental effort, I stepped back.


Hadn't I been standing right here when I first realized there was something was wrong with me?

I must have been twelve or thirteen. I had just endured an unusually difficult phone call from my mother. Something about my progress in my final grades in school and my sister, Alexa, who had made the newspaper again for an award of some sort. At the end of the call she informed me that she had fired our beloved housekeeper. After I hung up, I had stood at this same sink, unaware that I was washing my hands over and over. I had been so mesmerized by the sound of the running water that I hadn't even heard Grandma come up behind me.

"Elizabeth?" My foggy brain barely registered the sound of her voice. "Honey, you have to stop. You've been standing there forever. Didn't you hear me calling you?"

But I wasn't finished and I shook my head. At least, I think I did. I don't know how much time passed, to be honest. When I finally looked up I was startled to see Grandma crying. I had never seen her do that. But she stood next to me with tears running down the wrinkled ruts of her cheeks. It scared me. Then, Grandma lifted up both of my dripping hands until they were in front of my face.

"What isn't clean about this?" Her voice shook with emotion. "Oh darlin', look — you've scrubbed so hard you're bleeding." She walked me into the bedroom and laid me down on her bed, talking softly while she smoothed the hair along my forehead until, somehow, I fell asleep.

Several years of therapy taught me that there were certain triggers that made me worse. A lecture from my mother. A bad grade in school. Or a confrontation with my family ... thus, the cracked skin on my fingers.

My therapist always warned me about relapses. Over the years, I learned to catch myself before my behavior spiraled out of control. I was a little late this time. But at least I caught myself.

Taking a deep breath, I grasped the faucet with both hands and turned it off. I grabbed a towel from the perfectly folded stack I had placed above the sink and patted both hands dry, careful not to abrade my chafed skin any further. It stung, and the pain actually felt good.

That was bad.

When pain felt good, I was in trouble.


Excerpted from Skinny Dipping Season by Cynthia Tennent. Copyright © 2016 Cynthia Tennent. 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.

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Skinny Dipping Season 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
This story surprises me, in a positive way. It is a story of the summer Elizabeth had to face herself, learn to accept herself, just the way she is, faults and all. The journey she takes is not easy, the publicity of the journey makes it even more difficult to deal with. And it seems it follows her where ever she goes, and who she meets. The story is told in first person point of view, and only from Elizabeth's side. In general, I'm not a fan of that POV, but it works here. Elizabeth has so much going on with herself, the family drama seems to endless, and her reactions to its harmful. But this summer she learns to deal with it all in a different way. She takes chances, she dares to do things she never thought she would survive. She digs deep, and finds a woman in her, who is beautiful, passionate, capable, loved and needed. The community around them is like any small town unit in anywhere in the western world, filled with characters, unique, yet familiar, with strong characteristics, opinions, and convictions. J.D and Elizabeth are fun together. The understanding and support between them is adorable, deep, and loving. They get each other, even the oddest things about each other, and cherish them. A young woman takes a leap from her life, escape from the reality that gets to be too much, and ends up jumping into a different kind of real world, into a small town dynamics. During the summer she gets to know herself on a different level than before, learns to love and accept herself, and falls in love, finding passion in herself, she never expected. It is a sweet coming of age story, sort of. It is fun, in a way I didn't know if I should laugh or cry, and it is enlightening, seeing her and J.D is dealing with her dysfunctional family, and adorable when J.D and Elizabeth learns to know, accept, and love each other. ~ Four Spoons
Shanrock19 More than 1 year ago
Skinny Dipping Season had some cute moments, and I enjoyed the humorous aspects. I also loved the small town aspect, and there's some interesting characters. I did have some problems with the main female lead, Elizabeth, towards the beginning; I felt she was a bit bratty, and I don't really get why she is rude to JD so often, and I also don't like how she sort of flies off the handle and does things without thinking about them, and of course that causes problems, but I liked her humor and how she stands up for herself. I did like JD, and I liked that he was a punk kid, who turned his life around. The chemistry was a little weird between JD and Liz; I don't feel like their relationship was given enough build up, but I did enjoy all of their scenes together; they have some fun banter. The story does have heart and I was surprised by some of the ways the author chose to go. The story starts out with Liz moving into her grandmother's house in Truhart because there's a bit of a scandal in her home state because she was caught with pot in a car she was driving, and since her dad is involved in politics, it is a big thing. The majority of her family is horrible by the way; especially her mom and her sister; her sister slept with her boyfriend, so that's another reason Liz wants to get out of town, and Liz also have obsessive compulsive disorder. Liz is doing better with her disorder, but her family makes her more prone to obsessive behaviors. JD is filling in for the sheriff of Truhart, while he is out of town, and he gets called to Liz's place by her neighbor for a possible break-in, so right off the bat Liz and JD get off on the wrong foot because Liz is bratty and JD is a bit straight-laced. So we have, main characters who get off on the wrong foot, interesting small town people, and a crazy family dynamic, and all that creates some fun times. In the end, I did enjoy reading Skinny Dipping Season, and I look forward to more books by Cynthia Tennent!
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
What a fun feel-good story! I loved Elisabeth and her flaws – and who wouldn’t have a flaw or two with the family she had! Her parents and sister were rather unbelievably obnoxious but her brother Elliott seemed alright. J.D. was a hunk and a half and oh-so upright but with a bit of the bad boy in him. Their chemistry and relationship had me smiling and happy and made me keep reading – I liked them alone and together – they cared for one another and it showed. Truhart is a great small town peopled with interesting characters and this book had a Timberfest summer carnival to plan that Elisabeth took charge of. Elisabeth’s summer might not have gone as she planned but I have a feeling it was better in all ways than she had hoped for when she left Ohio behind to spend time in her grandmother’s home. I highly recommend this book and have a feeling I will read it again in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
weluvdopey More than 1 year ago
This is a great book written by Cynthia Tennent. This book is part of the Truhart series. Elizabeth Lively has worked hard to uphold her political family’s reputation. Her world comes crashing down when she is fired, painfully jilted, and arrested for a crime she didn’t commit. She decides to flee to her grandmother’s lakeside house in Truhart, Michigan. Her first night there she has a not so good start with the sexy acting Sheriff JD Hardy. The problem is she can’t stop thinking about the sexy sheriff. If you are looking for a great summer read, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
What a truly fun read! It's a wonderful small town romance with some outrageous characters that made the whole story work. After their first hilarious meeting the H/h are constantly in each other's lives. JD and Elizabeth worked great together with fantastic chemistry between them. Elizabeth definitely has her share of problems but she works through them and doesn't let life get her down....loved that! This story is full of warmth and fun witty banter. Definitely an enjoyable read. I highly recommend this one.
ljtljtljt More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars! Skinny Dipping Season by Cynthia Tennent is a contemporary romance in the small fictional town of Truhart, Michigan. This is the story of Elizabeth Lively, the 27-year-old daughter of an Ohio congressman, that takes the fall for a drug charge that she did not commit. As a result, her life is not her own and she needs to get away from all the media and Washington DC craziness. She escapes to her late grandmother's house in Truhart, where she had spent many happy summers as a child. Truhart is replete with beautiful scenery, gossipy townsfolk, and JD Hardy, the acting sheriff. JD grew up in Truhart and was a known juvenile delinquent. The present sheriff helped him turn his life around and got him involved in law enforcement. JD and Elizabeth's first encounter is quite comical and from that point forward, they are in each other's lives. They are a fun and lovable couple. I truly liked this story, however, I found the pace to be a bit on the slow-side. Elizabeth and JD have great chemistry and their sexy times were very seductive. The secondary characters are unique in their own right and add a ton of history to the present happenings. Nestor, Elizabeth's friend and neighbor, is a true gentleman, and his memories of her grandmother are heartwarming, along with his Pottawatomi pie. Overall, this is a nicely written story and I am looking forward to the third book in the series. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Truhart is a small town that dishes out romance, redemption and light-hearted fun. Cynthia Tennent has done a wonderful job in writing a story that is full of all the sweetness of small town living. In Skinny Dipping Season rule follower Elizabeth Lively's life falls apart when she's not looking and leaves her broken in heart, spirit and reputation. Escape proves the only option for her shattered life. She finds that in Truhart, Michigan where she not only starts to heal, but finds herself despite the opposition of one surly mistrustful citizen. The first thing that drew me to this read was that it uses the state of Michigan as a backdrop. As a lifelong citizen it's fun to see the state through the eyes of others. What left a lasting impression was the spirit of the story. JD and Elizabeth may have been the stars but the supporting cast stole the show.