The Merchant of Venice Beach

The Merchant of Venice Beach

by Celia Bonaduce

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The Rollicking Bun--Home of the Epic Scone--is the center of Suzanna Wolf's life. Part tea shop, part bookstore, part home, it's everything she's ever wanted right on the Venice Beach boardwalk, including partnership with her two best friends from high school, Eric and Fernando. But with thirty-three just around the corner, suddenly Suzanna wants something more--something strictly her own. Salsa lessons, especially with a gorgeous instructor, seem like a good start--a harmless secret, and just maybe the start of a fling. But before she knows it, Suzanna is learning steps she never imagined--and dancing her way into confusion.

68,000 Words

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601831224
Publisher: eKensington
Publication date: 08/01/2013
Series: A Venice Beach Romance , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 592,141
File size: 813 KB

About the Author

Celia Bonaduce, author of The Venice Beach Romances and the Welcome to Fat Chance, Texas series, has always had a love affair with houses. Her credits as a television field producer include such house-heavy hits as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition; HGTV’s House Hunters and Tiny House Hunters. She lives in Santa Monica, CA, with her husband and dreams of one day traveling with him in their own tiny house.  You can contact Celia at

Read an Excerpt

The Mechant of Venice Beach



Copyright © 2013 Celia Bonaduce LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-122-4


Suzanna knew she was out of her element as soon as she walked up to the dance studio. She couldn't help but compare the place to her own little run-down business on the other side of town. Her combination tea shop and bookstore was her pride and joy. Or the bane of her existence, depending on her mood. The place could have subbed as a location for Fried Green Tomatoes: The Sequel. A location scout had actually asked Suzanna about it. While the tea shop sat smack on the rundown boardwalk in Venice Beach, DIAGNOSIS: Dance! was on more ritzy Main Street — uptown in every sense of the word. Maybe not as uptown as Santa Monica, but Main Street was the best Venice had to offer.

As she walked into the dance studio, the wooden floors gleamed at her and the disco balls suspended from the ceiling threw off sparks of promise. The mirrors — the endless walls and walls of mirrors — showed nary a ghost of a fingerprint. Suzanna sneaked a peek at her reflection because, in all honesty, there was no escaping her reflection. She became instantly aware of the little muffin top peeking out between her T-shirt and jeans.

I look like someone who could use some dance lessons.

She hovered in the back of the studio and checked out the dancers as casually as she could. Some of them were clearly professionals, but Suzanna was relieved to see there were others who seemed like regular people ... just ordinary folks who'd decided they needed to dance. Except even the regular people were beautiful. Everybody was in shape. Everybody had perfect hair. Even the janitor and the staff were fabulous. She could feel her nerve ebbing away.

Suzanna eyed the front door.

Too late for a graceful exit?

She started to leave, but caught sight of the gorgeous dance instructor from the Wild Oats entering through her escape route. He took her breath away, and she doubled her resolve to become a dancer as he glided past. She inhaled his exotic cologne, an intoxicating blend of lavender, peppermint, roasted coffee, tonka bean, and chocolate. Being raised in Napa Valley and running a tea shop gave Suzanna an edge when it came to identifying scents. She tried to focus, looked around, and located the front desk. She was determined to speak to a Beautiful Person in person.

This is going to be worse than signing up at a gym. That's not true. I don't think they are going to weigh me at the dance studio.

Dancers were swirling around in gaspingly ethereal pairs as she beat a path to the front desk. She felt like a colossus bushwhacking her way through gracefully swaying weeping willows.

The Beautiful Person looked up from her computer, looked at Suzanna, and screamed.

No, she didn't. But Suzanna was braced for it, and when it didn't happen, she was grateful for the woman's tiny benevolence. The Beautiful Person was so fragile, she appeared to be made out of lace. She looked like a faerie.

Suzanna started to swell.

"May I help you?" the faerie inquired in a whisper.

"I'm thinking of taking some dance lessons," Suzanna whispered back, trying to keep her feet on the ground. She was swelling so much, she was sure her feet wouldn't stay there for long.

"Private or group?"the faerie continued. Her voice was so wraithlike that Suzanna could barely hear her, even though Suzanna reckoned her ears might be clogged from the swelling. She didn't know which.

The faerie tactfully ignored the fact that Suzanna appeared to be ingesting several canisters of helium. The studio was a business, and Suzanna guessed the girl had seen all kinds. Suzanna knew about that. She owned a business herself.

Suzanna tried to keep her eyes from squeezing shut — the pressure was awful. She felt as if she were about to tip sideways and float to the ceiling, a bouncing, bloated gargoyle looking down on the Beautiful People below.

She hated when this happened. Eric and Fernando always insisted that she wasn't really bloating and floating, but Suzanna thought they were probably just being polite.

The first time she had what she referred to as a "panic swell," she was in junior high school and madly in love with a boy named J. Jay. They had a drama class together and were cast opposite each other as the leads in Romeo and Juliet. In rehearsal one day, Suzanna was standing on a ladder that was serving as the balcony and looking down at J. Jay, with his blond hair and blue eyes. She poured her heart into the dialogue, trying to convey that this was not just Shakespeare talking, but her — Suzanna. She infused adolescent passion into every syllable:

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite ...
I hear some noise within. Dear love, adieu!

Wildly in character, she turned on the ladder to determine what noise she was hearing from within, and bammo, she bumped down the ladder and fell to the floor in a heap. A gasp rose, in unison, from the other kids. As soon as it was clear that she was not dead, this being junior high the gasp turned into suppressed giggles and predictable guffaws. This was not the end of her humiliation, however. A collective gasp once again filled the auditorium as she picked herself up off the floor. She looked around at all the kids laughing and pointing, and that's when she started her first panic swell.

It started, as always, in her ears. She could no longer hear the kids laughing, making it doubly hard to determine what was so hilarious. Then, her body started to expand as the kids continued to point and the full weight of what was going on became clear ...

The straps of her training bra had somehow come loose on her descent into hell, and her bra was circling her waist. At this point, she had liftoff. Her toes could no longer stay on the ground. She floated to the ceiling and bounced along the tiles until she managed to pull her shirt over the offending undergarment. To add insult to injury, J. Jay was leading the pack in their hilarity. Suzanna prayed that she would be able to stay on the ceiling forever, but suddenly, pop! — she was back on the ground, pretending to find the whole thing hysterically funny.

Suzanna pretended to laugh. Then she pretended to laugh harder. In the kill-or-be-killed world of junior high, Suzanna came up with one of her lifelong survival skills. In times of severe humiliation and mortification, she would laugh so hard it looked like she was crying. That way, when she was crying, no one could tell that her heart had been broken into a million pieces. It was really very effective, not to mention a great cover. It was something that she used many, many times in her life.

She recommended this approach to Fernando, who took it with a grain of salt — he had no problem weeping copiously when he was unhappy — and to Eric, who disregarded it. Suzanna thought grimly that she'd had to use this strategy when it came to Eric more than once in her life and that perhaps things would have turned out differently if he hadn't ignored it.

Through swollen eyes, she looked around the studio and saw that the dancers all seemed to be having private sessions. She thought of the hot dance instructor and how much fun it would be to have his entire focus. Even though she would, of course, have to pay for his complete focus.

Would it feel like going to a dancing prostitute?

But dancing was a wholesome, healthful activity ... she wouldn't really be a "john," would she? Another possible plus: a private lesson would lower the risk of public humiliation.

"Private or group?" the faerie inquired again, sounding a little less serene.

Suzanna tried to steady her voice so that she sounded normal; the panic swell brought an elevated timbre to her voice.

"Private ... I guess."

"Great! They are $120 a lesson."

The faerie beamed up at Suzanna, and pop! — she was back on the ground.

"Did I say private? I meant group."

What's a little more public humiliation anyway? I mean, after the bra incident, I'm a veteran.

"Groups are great, too," squeaked the faerie. "We have several different classes. Salsa, ballroom, tap ..."

"Wow ... so much to choose from."

"Level?" the faerie asked, switching gears.

Suzanna was momentarily stumped, but noticed a small anteroom at the studio, where a class was being taught by her handsome dance instructor. He didn't notice her staring as he whirled on assured feet and with his alluring hips.

'Who is ... what is that class?" Suzanna asked.

"That's beginning salsa."

Watching the dance instructor in action, Suzanna felt remarkably ... inspired.

"I'm a beginner," she said. "And I am going to start with salsa."

Suzanna rummaged through her purse and pulled out a credit card. She held it out to the faerie and then snatched it back. Her roommate, co-worker and co-best friend, Eric, in the midst of earning his business degree, had made their method of paying for things so elaborate that she could never keep her credit cards straight. She pulled out another card and handed it over. Suzanna took her receipt and looked at it with pride. She was signed up for classes on Monday nights at seven-thirty.

The faerie breathed, "You don't have to limit yourself to Monday evenings. You can come whenever you want. There are continuous salsa classes here and you can take any of them."

Suzanna felt all warm inside, as if the dance studio wanted to become her second home.

Classes were $15 a session (what a bargain!). The faerie told Suzanna to wear comfortable clothing and, if she were really serious about this, to get dance shoes. This sounded like sage advice: the faerie knitted her tiny brow when she said it. Suzanna stared mutely at her. Dance shoes. She should get dance shoes. But Suzanna had absolutely no idea what that meant.

Shoes in which I will dance, perhaps?

As Suzanna continued to ponder the mystery of dance shoes, the faerie slid a brochure toward her. Suzanna opened it. It was from a store called Dante's Dancewear, where she could buy dance shoes. She choked when she saw the prices. There was nothing in the catalog for less than $130! Maybe she'd see about buying them later, when she was more in the swing of things.

Suzanna thanked the faerie and let her know in no uncertain terms that she would see her Monday, lest she think Suzanna a quitter. She slipped the brochure into her purse and headed toward the door, where she collided with her dance instructor.

"Oh, hi," she said. "We always seem to be running into each other."

The dance instructor blinked languidly at her.

"I'm going to start taking salsa lessons with you," she added.

He looked at her feet.

"Bring the right shoes."

Quivering from her encounter, Suzanna left the studio and the beautiful dancers behind, happy and terrified that she and her new dance shoes — which were now definitely part of the agenda — would be joining their ranks in a few short days.

Suzanna had never been much of a shoe girl. Even during the Sex and the City years, she couldn't imagine hobbling along the mean streets in four-inch heels. Plus, an upbringing in Napa in the eighties and early nineties didn't really lend itself to shoe lust. Napa was a big jeans-and-T-shirt kind of valley. The only place more casual than Napa, as far as Suzanna knew, was Hawaii. She had a friend from there who said he wore flip-flops and shorts every day all the way through high school. The school made the students wear long pants and closed shoes for graduation. Suzanna wondered if they had ever even heard of dance shoes in Hawaii.

It was evening and Suzanna had the bench outside the little library on Main Street to herself. She pulled out her dance shoes catalog and smoothed it open on her lap. She had stopped at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, ordered a Moroccan Mint Tea Latte, and poured it carefully into her bright-red travel mug. She wasn't exactly hiding the fact that she drank tea from a corporate chain, but she knew that many of her own customers would be more than a little surprised — and judgmental — if they knew she patronized such a place when she owned a tea shop herself.

One of Suzanna's little rebellions (and secrets) was that she loved the Bean. Suzanna knew there was no way to whip up those chemical-infused concoctions in her traditional space, but it was always fun to slip off to the Bean and sample whatever new, weird thing was being offered. She hadn't been in love with the Strawberry Crème tea, but, honestly, this chocolate-mint concoction was delicious ... and the pomegranate-blueberry latte was a keeper.

Suzanna thought about her other secret. She had never kept anything from the guys before, and deciding to keep these salsa lessons on the down-low made her feel both guilt-ridden and exhilarated. Sort of like Diane Lane in Unfaithful, when she'd slept with Olivier Martinez and was horrified and proud of herself at the same time. Suzanna flushed. She knew just how Diane Lane's character felt. Powerful, for the first time in ages. Alive. Taking a chance, no matter what anybody thought. Ready for a change.

But too chicken to say it.

Taking a long, soothing sip, she thumbed through the dance shoes catalog, already feeling as if she'd been accepted into a secret club.

I am one with the dance world ... or I will be when I settle on some shoes.

There was much to absorb. There were ballroom shoes, jazz shoes, tap shoes, and various rounded-toe versions of athletic shoes. Suzanna immediately discarded the jazz and tap shoes as they were footwear for avenues she was sure she was not (at this time) prepared to dance down. She was drawn to the athletic shoes, but something told her that these were not going to fly in the steamy world of Latin dancing. She didn't think athletic shoes were what the instructor had in mind when he sneered at her feet. Next, Suzanna rejected the ballroom shoes. They were too fancy, too high, too Beyoncé.

And then she saw them. A whole category called "character shoes." These were the perfect shoes for a woman in her thirties. A woman — grounded and with modest goals.

Well, if you called wanting to nail your new dance instructor a modest goal.


Suzanna was a compulsive watch-checker. Over the years, the checking had become a habit, much like twirling one's hair without thinking. The time didn't always sink in as she twitched her wrist for a quick peek. As she sat contemplating shoes and sipping her tea, she pivoted her wrist and looked at her watch. She was wearing one of her favorites — a Fossil brown-leather cuff that lit up. She loved watches that lit up at night because, even groggy with sleep, she loved to see the time. For Christmas, Eric and Fernando had bought her a clock that projected the time on the ceiling. She thought this was an incredibly thoughtful gift, but when the boys were practically crying with laughter after they gave it to her, she realized they thought it was a big joke.

She took another sip of her latte, then flipped her wrist again. In this instance, the time did register, and she almost choked.

It was three o'clock, the busiest time of day in the tea-shop half of her business. Well, the busiest time of day for the tearoom, anyway; afternoon tea would be in full swing.

Suzanna pedaled to the shop as fast as she could, weaving through the stop-and-go traffic that clogged Main Street, then down Rose Avenue to the boardwalk. She wheeled quickly around the front of the store, glancing up proudly at her six-foot-high hand-carved wooden sign that announced The Rollicking Bun: Home of the Epic Scone. She dismounted, walked to the back and, dropping her bike, snuck in through the backdoor and took a peek into the little section that served as the bookstore. They had taken to calling the alcove "the book nook" as a sort of whimsical joke, but the moniker had stuck. Eric was manning the nook and, thankfully, having a quiet afternoon. He had his long legs stretched out on the weather-beaten counter. Suzanna could see the pencil tucked behind his ear — a clear sign that he was studying. He looked up and waved. Suzanna jerked her thumb in the direction of the teashop ... she could hear the din of afternoon tea going full force.


Excerpted from The Mechant of Venice Beach by CELIA BONADUCE. Copyright © 2013 Celia Bonaduce LLC. 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.

Table of Contents


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Title Page,
Recipe for Medieval Gingerbread,
Teaser chapter,
Copyright Page,

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The Merchant of Venice Beach 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
ysar More than 1 year ago
Suzanna’s life is good in many ways. She has her own business, a great place to live, and her roommates are her best friends in the world. But nearing her thirty-third birthday, she wants something more. Romance. A chance meeting puts a drop-dead gorgeous dance teacher on her radar, and the next thing she knows, she’s signing up for lessons. Unfortunately, it appears that every other woman in the class has the same intentions that she does, but she’s determined not to let that stop her, even if she feels clumsy and out of place when facing the man of her dreams. But...If the synopsis has you thinking this is a romance, think again. Despite its classification as one, The Merchant of Venice Beach is simply a long-winded story about a woman who clearly has no idea what she wants and goes about getting it in all the wrong ways. The cover, while not bad at all, is all wrong in context. I’m not sure who that buff guy is supposed to be, and the bikini girl he’s carrying appears nowhere in the story. Really the only correlation between the cover art and the actual story is the fact that it takes place in a beach town. The Verdict... I kept reading, first expecting the dance teacher to show a better side and be the dream guy Suzanna wanted him to be. Then I started wondering when she was going to realize what a complete jerk he was and find someone better. Then I wondered if that carpenter guy was going to be the solution to her romance dilemma. And then I just wondered why the hell I bothered reading the whole thing. I hate to be completely negative about a book, especially when it’s an author’s debut, but I honestly can’t name anything I really liked about it. While the synopsis promised something fun and possibly great, the story itself was little more than the ramblings of a somewhat whiny woman who was desperate enough for excitement that she allowed herself to be treated terribly by a conceited, selfish, unredeemable man. I suppose you could say the romance bit finally happened there at the end of the book, but it really had almost nothing to do with the rest of the story, and since it popped out of left field, there was no way I could get into it. The general plot was a good idea, but the story really failed to deliver.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the characters' unique personalities and how this influenced their interactions. Imaginative story line which kept my interest to the end. Can't wait to read the next book, which expands on a character introduced in this one.
Paris182 More than 1 year ago
While I took exception to the cover, which did not adequately (or even remotely!) define the book; I could not take exception to new novelist Celia Bonaduce's new book, "The Merchant of Venice Beach". Ms Bonaduce shows a mastery of witty dialogue, clever realistic situations and believable characters. While perhaps the butchest of readers might not enjoy it, it would be hard for most casual readers not to enjoy this amusing book. A great way to spend part of the time at the beach, on your cruise, or even relaxing in the tub!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cute but a bit strange
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not to much going on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't get into this book at all. Not worth continuing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun read, very entertaining.
LOBOPA More than 1 year ago
Three childhood friends after high school, leave Napa Valley in search of adventure in Venice Beach. Suzanne buys a tea shop, Ferdinado, her good friend can bake and keep the customers coming back. Eric a friend, an uncertain friend is the cerbral in the trio friendship. Suzanne has always had a crush on Erin, but it never connects. Erein decides to leave the trio in search of a new identity by taking salsa lessons. Suzanne's life begins to unravel as her once friends also take up new points of adventure. Will the new identities cause a new connecting?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a great fan of this book. It has a tendency to jump around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not what I was expecting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You people should just read this novel yourselves and write youR own review on this novel. I really enjoyed reading this novel very much. ShelleyMA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rockygirl1 More than 1 year ago
I was kind of torn on this one.  On one hand I really, really liked the friendship between Suzanna, Eric, and Fernando.  And I could totally see where living with you three best friend for several years could get to be a bit draggy after a while and you begin to look for a way out.  And this book had such perks and moments to it.  Seriously, there were moments to this book that I really really liked this book. And then as a flip, I would kind of find myself skimming through and getting on, looking for the good parts of the book. I kind of saw what was coming with the book, and it just didn’t excite me all that much. I didn’t feel it and want the happily ever after in this one like I do some times in books.  And trust me, I LOVE when two friends get together and find that amazing love. I really do, but in this one? not so much. It was a cute story, and looking at others reviews, it looks like so many people did love it, so I’m wondering if I just missed something? Or maybe it is the dreary weather that just put me in a funk and reading about happy people living at the beach and enjoying beautiful weather while I am sitting in the snow (and dealing with grumpy children, one or either of which is now for sale as I write this, make me an offer PLEASE!!!) Overall, I just think that with a few adjustments and edits the story would be great and have a wonderful tone. Though I will say it has always been a dream of mine to own a bookstore and bakery.  I could handle a teashop with it!
Lisa-Lou More than 1 year ago
The Merchant of Venice Beach by Celia Bonaduce is the first book in the Venice Beach Romance series. This book focuses of Suzanne and her two business partners/roommates/best friends with special guest appearances from her sister (Erinn) and her other best friend Carla. This book is NOT a steamy, visceral tale of love between the sheets. It is a sedate, humurous tale of friends living a (sorta) laid back life in Venice Beach, remodeling their shop and living life. An enjoyable read when you want something light and fun. I look forward to finding time to dive into Erinn's story next (A Comedy of Erinn).
PureJonel More than 1 year ago
This was a brilliant novel.  Bonaduce takes to the world of writing with a flare seldom seen.  She creates a vivid yet realistic view of LA that doesn’t border on fame & the entertainment industry.  Bonaduce uses wit and intelligent conversation to create a captivating, emotional story for her audience.   Her intricate descriptions create a very unique feel for the world as a whole.  The story itself was entertaining and comedic while remaining realistic and down to earth.  The story centers on friendships and relationships.  Reality and real life play into the relationships that develop throughout.   The characters in this novel are also quite well developed. I loved the main characters.  It was so nice to see them as friends as well as a couple.  It really added a sense of completion to the novel.  The natural dialogue in this novel gives you even further insight into the characters and their relationships.  I also appreciate how her relationships play out in a very captivating and intriguing manner without ever requiring an adult only rating.  Bonaduce easily shows how romance and explicit scenes aren’t inseparable through the intriguing relationships between her characters.   Overall, Bonaduce’s first novel has me quite intrigued.  She has developed a tale that will appeal to a wide audience.  I can’t wait to continue on with this series & anything else this author’s brilliant mind can come up with.   Please note that I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read but also thoughtful.I liked the way the author skipped from present time to the past, giving us, the readers, insight into not only the personalities of the characters but also the path that led them to where they are now. They are "stuck", as we all are sometimes. Stuck with feelings of loyalty and balance created in part by the relationships to their childhood friends; but also stuck with the feeling of wanting to take their lives individually to the next chapter without upsetting the balance that they have. We smart readers, looking in from the outside, know that this is impossible, and it's really fun finding out how they handle the changes that they all want. I look forward to Bonaduce's next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a delightful book. Smart and funny and engaging .I find most chick lit about as satisfying as chiclet gum but this book defied the genre. I am very much looking forward to reading more of Celia Bonaduce's work.
Yosami More than 1 year ago
The Merchant Of Venice Beach is a quick and easy read, full of complex and funny characters. I would not classify it as a romance, exactly, although there were enough men interested in the protagonist, Suzanna, to keep you guessing until the end! The novel revolves around a tea shop called THE ROLLICKING BUN and I wish I could find a place like it - I would hang out there often!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes I'll keep reading a novel out of some OCD need to finish something; I didn't do with "The Merchant of Venice Beach". The writing was so wooden and painful that I finally gave up and went to the last chapter.
SabrinaNedeleaSN More than 1 year ago
I received this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you Itching for Books for letting me join the tour and Celia Bonaduce for giving me the opportunity to read The Merchant of Venice Beach. This story was written brilliant. It was funny, and with a description that will make you enter the story at the same time with the characters. Even the places where they went were perfectly described. That’s a plus side for me, I always love it when a writer manages to pull that off. Anyway... the characters are well formed, the author wrote them as if they were real. Celia hasn’t described LA as a place of just drinking and gambling. She made me wish I could visit that place. I seriously don’t want to give spoilers with this one, it’s to good not to be read. Let’s just say the main character will make you stay with her the entire story. I couldn’t put the book down! The author really did an amazing job! She wrote a story about long time friends growing up and drifting apart, then again meeting after moving to Venice Beach. It’s impossible not to love it! I highly recommend this book! Hurry up and read it, you don’t know what your missing out! 
Bitten-By-Love-Reviews More than 1 year ago
The Merchant of Venice Beach was a good book. There were parts of it that confused me and parts of it that did not interest me, but at the end the parts that confused me made a little bit more sense. While this book had a lot of real life things in it, I wish that it would have drawn in more with more fantasy. I liked the part of the book that talked about not judging people before you get to know them because that is very important. I loved the fact that after the earthquake they friends and family became closer after having a falling out. Running the Book Nook was very well explained and shows how hard it can be to run a business and make it successful. I did like the fact that at the end Suzanna and Eric ended up together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ten words to a line times average number of lines on a page will give you the number to divide into number of words for this books pages. Blurb not worth the effort page counter