For champion professional knitter Dymphna Pearl, inheriting part of a sun-blasted ghost town in the Texas hill country isn’t just unexpected, it’s a little daunting. To earn a cash bequest that could change her life, she’ll have to leave California to live in tiny, run-down Fat Chance for six months—with seven strangers. Impossible! Or is it?
Trading her sandals for cowboy boots, Dymphna dives into her new life with equal parts anxiety and excitement. After all, she’s never felt quite at home in Santa Monica anyway. Maybe Fat Chance will be her second chance. But making it habitable is going take more than a lasso and Wild West spirit. With an opinionated buzzard overlooking the proceedings and mismatched strangers learning to become friends, Dymphna wonders if unlocking the secrets of her own heart is the way to strike real gold.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Welcome to Fat Chance, Texas
By CELIA BONADUCE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Celia Bonaduce LLC
All rights reserved.
"Please don't talk to anyone at the yoga stand," Erinn Wolf said.
"Those people are dead to us."
"That's a bit harsh," Dymphna Pearl said.
"They threw down the gauntlet," Erinn replied. "Not us."
"I just don't want there to be any hurt feelings," Dymphna said, as she loaded two of her Angora rabbits into the hatchback of the car. Erinn, who was her best friend, landlady, and business partner, filled the backseat with knitwear—hats, scarves, bags, and gloves. When Erinn was upset, it was as if she lived in some medieval melodrama—or at least with the New York Mafia.
"Yes," Dymphna said, as she buckled herself into the passenger side of the car. "But we won. We have to see those people every Sunday. Don't you think it would be nicer to offer an olive branch?"
"By 'olive branch' I take it you mean 'carrot cake'?" Erinn asked as she pulled out of the driveway.
Dymphna winced. "How did you know?" she asked, eyes downcast.
"I could smell it as soon as I woke up!" Erinn said. "I could smell it before I woke up. I dreamt the gingerbread man was chasing me—until I realized it was the cinnamon and cloves coming from the guesthouse. I knew to what you were up."
Even when Erinn was in scolding mode, her grammar was perfect.
"I just think we could take the high road," Dymphna said. "I don't want to have enemies at the farmers' market."
"As Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made,'" Erinn said.
Dymphna thought that Erinn might want to rethink that particular philosophy. Did she really want to be judged by these enemies—people offering peace and spinal alignment?
Erinn drove down a deserted Ocean Avenue toward the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Main Street, where Dymphna had a booth called Knit and Pearl. Dymphna was a bit of a celebrity, since she was the host of a video podcast—produced by Erinn—also called Knit and Pearl. The show fueled sales at the farmers' market and the clientele at the farmers' market created new viewers. Erinn, who knew what it took to get attention, insisted that a giant Angora rabbit would trump any display of yoga pants on the aisle, so Dymphna always brought at least two of her six angora yarn–producing rabbits. It seemed like a straightforward business plan, until the owners of the Midnight at the Mirage yoga stand complained the animals were disrupting the quiet zone that was imperative to the success of their business. Dymphna could see their point—people often came to her booth just to pet the fluffy fur of the animals that looked like an explosion in a cotton factory. It was anything but calm.
But Erinn would have none of it. She told the farmers' market board that Dymphna was using the rabbits as educational tools—teaching the public about the proper care of Angora rabbits and their fur. Knit and Pearl was every bit as enlightening as a chakra massage. Erinn won, but Dymphna got a stomachache every time the owners of Midnight at the Mirage looked over at a family squealing with delight over one of her rabbits. Dymphna didn't want to stir up Erinn's wrath, which was formidable no matter what the issue, but she thought maybe she'd sneak the carrot cake over to the yoga instructors when Erinn wasn't looking.
Dymphna understood all too well that sinking feeling when you thought your business was threatened. One of her greatest regrets was that she had never made a go of her shepherding business. She had tried to raise a small herd of sheep in Malibu, but when the land she was renting got sold out from under her it just proved to be too expensive. So she traded in her sheep for six Angora rabbits and moved out of the hills. Sometimes she felt guilty about trying to raise rabbits in Santa Monica. Dymphna wasn't sure city life was healthy for rabbits.
Erinn stopped the car near their allotted space and started to unload the collapsible tables and the knitted accessories, while Dymphna tended to Snow D'Winter and Spot, the two giant Angoras chosen to represent the show at the stall.
By midmorning, the farmers' market was humming. Once the booth was set up and everything was running smoothly, Erinn usually headed off to shop for produce. She offered to go shopping for Dymphna, who was stuck at the booth all day, but Dymphna could never gather up all her various scraps of paper on which she'd written reminders of what she needed. At one point, Erinn tried to relieve Dymphna at the booth so she could do her own shopping, but the customers all wanted to talk to Dymphna Pearl, designer of the knit creations, or they wanted to ask questions about the rabbits—questions to which only Dymphna had answers. Dymphna was perfectly content buying her groceries at an actual grocery store, but she knew better than to share that with Erinn.
Erinn started to gather her shopping bags and her detailed list. She turned to Dymphna and held out her palm. "Let me have it."
"Have what?" Dymphna asked.
"The carrot cake. I don't want you to have a weak moment."
Dymphna handed over the carrot cake and watched Erinn stride purposefully into the crowd. On one hand, Erinn could be exasperating, but on the other you had to hand it to her—she had amazing instincts.
Dymphna gave Spot and Snow D'Winter some fresh water. When she turned back toward the front of the booth, a tense-looking woman was standing in front of a display of knitted scarves. She didn't appear to be all that interested in them, though. Instead she was staring intently at Dymphna.
"May I help you?" Dymphna inquired.
The woman seemed startled that Dymphna was talking to her. Nothing about this woman suggested she resided in a casual beach neighborhood. Dymphna guessed the woman to be in her midfifties, her salon-highlighted hair glinting expensively in the sun. She extended a long French-manicured talon and snatched up a cream- and rust-colored scarf.
"Yes," the woman said. "I want to buy this." She thrust the scarf at Dymphna.
"Great!" Dymphna said, taking a charge card from the woman and sliding it through a contraption on her smartphone. She held her breath. She couldn't believe her phone could actually ring up sales. Dymphna handed the card back to the shopper. The name on the credit card was C. J. Primb.
"Thank you, Ms. Primb," Dymphna said. "Would you like me to e-mail you a receipt?"
Ms. Primb looked startled. "No," she said. "Absolutely not!"
"All right," Dymphna said, handing over the knitwear. "I hope you'll enjoy the scarf."
As the woman took the scarf, Dymphna noticed a small gold band on C. J. Primb's left hand. It was sitting on the index finger, between the first and second knuckle joints. Such odd placement, Dymphna thought. She herself would never be able to get any real work done without losing a ring so precariously placed.
Perhaps that's the point.
Dymphna was happy to turn her attention to another shopper, who was scanning the hats. Ms. Primb was making her nervous. She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was just something about the woman that made her very uncomfortable.
The shopper wandered over to the booth and caressed a green-and-blue beret. She saluted Dymphna with her biodegradable cup of chai tea, purchased from a stall across the asphalt. "I love your TV show," she said.
"Podcast," Dymphna said in a breathy whisper. "It's just on the web. It isn't a real TV show."
The shopper held the hat up to the Southern California sky. The yarns sparkled, changing colors like a prism. She then expertly popped it on her head at a jaunty angle, studying herself in the mirror.
"Video, podcast, TV show, I don't care, I just love it all," the woman said, handing the hat to Dymphna with a smile. "This beret is just fabulous."
Dymphna stared down at the beret. Did the woman want to purchase it? Or was she just handing it back? There were more compliments than sales at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. It was times like these when she wished she were a little more like Erinn—assertive and self-assured. Erinn would just come right out and ask the customer if she wanted to buy the hat. But Dymphna could never bring herself to be so blunt. She would just wait it out, until the woman made whatever decision she was going to make.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but are you going to buy that hat or not?"
Dymphna looked up. Sometimes people could get pushy and she was not one for conflict. It was Ms. Primb. Why was she still here? What did she want?
"So," Ms. Primb said again to the shopper and pointed an accusing finger at the hat in Dymphna's hand. "Are you buying that or not? We don't have all day."
"Yes," said the woman, handing over her charge card to Dymphna and blinking aggressively at C. J. Primb. "I am."
Dymphna hurriedly rang up the sale and started to put the hat in a paper bag. Whatever weirdness was going on with Ms. Primb, Dymphna didn't want to distress one of her customers.
The woman took her charge card back and put her fingertips on Dymphna's arm. "That's OK, sweetie," she said. "I don't need a bag. No need to kill a forest on my behalf."
"I wouldn't," Dymphna said.
"Pardon me?" the woman said as she adjusted her new hat in the mirror. "You wouldn't what?"
"I wouldn't kill a forest on your behalf."
The woman nodded quickly, first to Dymphna and then to C. J. Primb. Dymphna watched her as she drifted down the aisle to the vintage jewelry. Dymphna suddenly realized C. J. Primb was still studying the merchandise—or was she studying Dymphna? Their eyes met. Ms. Primb made no attempt to leave.
"May I show you anything else?" Dymphna asked.
"Not really. I just wanted to get a good look at you."
Dymphna tried not to show her surprise. Many people watched the show and felt as if they knew her—and could say anything they wanted.
"Well, feel free to look around," Dymphna said cautiously while looking around herself—mostly for something to do. She wished Erinn would come back. She started arranging embellished half gloves on a smooth manzanita branch that she used as a display rack. She tried to ignore the woman, who just stood, rooted, in front of her booth.
"Let me ask you something," Ms. Primb said.
"If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with yourself?"
"I ... I really don't know," Dymphna said. "I've never thought about having all the money in the world."
"Oh, really?" Ms. Primb practically snorted in disdain.
"What about you?" Dymphna asked. She had read somewhere that people loved to talk about themselves, and you could get out of practically any uncomfortable situation by asking your tormenters to talk about themselves. "What would you do if you had all the money in the world?"
"I do have all the money in the world," Ms. Primb said as she walked away.CHAPTER 2
On her return trip to Beverly Park Circle—arguably the most expensive avenue in Beverly Hills—Cleo took side streets all the way home. Having lived her entire fifty-two years on the swanky byways of the Westside of Los Angeles, Cleo could get almost anywhere—and, more amazingly, at almost any time—in L.A. without getting snarled in traffic.
Cleo Johnson-Primb had been determined to meet Dymphna Pearl. If that meant a road trip to Santa Monica, then so be it. As she drove, she fingered the scarf Dymphna had knitted. Cleo knew quality and fine workmanship, and this scarf reeked of both.
She turned her white Mercedes E350 onto her steep, quarter-mile, palm-lined driveway. Rolling down the window, she entered the code that would open the wrought-iron gates. She waited impatiently for them to swing far enough apart to permit the Mercedes to pass through. Cleo had misjudged the gates more than once. She always sent a case of beer during the holidays to the men at the Mercedes-Benz body shop who knew her—and her scratched Mercedes—on sight.
She turned into a well-manicured circular driveway at the top of the hill. There was a black Tesla baking picturesquely on the bricks. That meant her family's attorney had arrived. As she passed the electric car, it occurred to her that the automobile was probably just for show. God knows, Wesley Tensaw could afford a tank of gas on what the Johnson family paid him. But Beverly Hills did love all things environmental these days, and keeping Beverly Hills happy was what Wesley did best.
The front door suddenly swung open. A man in a blue suit and red tie stood placidly inside.
"Hello, Jeffries," Cleo said.
"Mr. Tensaw has arrived, ma'am," Jeffries replied. "He's waiting in the drawing room."
"Did he have anything interesting to say?" Cleo asked her butler as he held the door open. Cleo took her bag off her shoulder and dropped it behind her, confident that Jeffries would catch it.
"Not to me," Jeffries said, purse in hand, as he evaporated into the house.
Cleo walked through the marble-tiled foyer. A double staircase led up to the second floor and she really wanted nothing more than to go up one of them and take a nap. But Wesley was here. Hopefully, he would have some good news and she could put all the recent unpleasantness behind her.
She took a deep breath as she reached the drawing room. Putting on a cheerful, practiced smile, she swung open the doors. Wesley J. Tensaw was sitting on the sofa near the fireplace, sipping something amber from a cut-glass tumbler. He stood as she entered. She'd forgotten for the moment that it was Sunday and was surprised to see him out of uniform—a crisp Armani suit in a subdued color. He looked so less imposing in an open-neck polo shirt and khaki pants.
"Wesley, darling, good to see you," she said, offering her cheek. "I see Jeffries has gotten you a drink."
"I helped myself. I hope you don't mind." Wesley wagged the glass at her and settled back easily on the cream-colored sofa. "I can always count on you for good scotch."
"I'm happy you made yourself at home." Cleo tried to keep a pleasant expression on her face. She couldn't stand people who made themselves at home in her house. She took a seat in a winged-back chair opposite the attorney. She noticed his hair had more than a dusting of silver. He was somewhere around her age, but her father always referred to him as "the kid" and she always thought of him as one, too. Wesley had been a young associate when he first started working for Sebastian Pennyfeather—a high-powered Los Angeles lawyer with a reputation for being fearless in business affairs, the perfect attorney for her father. When Mr. Pennyfeather disappeared in a boating accident twenty-some years ago, the financial world had been stunned when her father decided to stay with Pennyfeather's protégé Wesley Tensaw. It was a high-risk move, but her father thrived on those. And it paid off. Over the years, Wesley had built himself a first-rate reputation around town.
"Where were you just now?" Wesley asked. "And please don't lie to me. It's a waste of time and just makes me drink more."
Cleo stared at him. He got up and poured himself another drink from the Waterford decanter.
"Fine," Cleo said, letting her fake smile crash to the Oriental rug. "I went to see Dymphna Pearl. She's—"
"Damn it, Cleo! I know who she is," he said, cutting her off. "I thought we agreed my office would contact everyone."
"But there are six of them ... seven if we include my nephew."
"Which we do ..."
"I just thought, at least this one is local. So I went to see her for myself."
"And did you learn anything?" he asked as he settled back on the couch.
"Not really," Cleo said, getting up and pouring herself a scotch. "I just can't understand what Daddy saw in her."
"Your father was ninety when he died," Wesley said, expertly swiping through the notes on his iPad. "This Dymphna Pearl is only twenty-eight. That this was a love connection seems ... unlikely."
"This whole thing seems unlikely!"
"Yes, well, at least we agree on that." Wesley took a hefty swig. "Ready to go over this once again?"
"All right." Cleo returned to her chair, sat back, and closed her eyes. "Daddy died a month ago. He left specific instructions with you to contact seven people ... six of whom no one in our family has ever heard of. They are all different ages and live all over the country. Some had no mailing addresses."
Excerpted from Welcome to Fat Chance, Texas by CELIA BONADUCE. Copyright © 2015 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Intriguing premise for a book! Take a handful of people and put them in a Texas ghost town with electricity, water, some implements to work with and a place to stay and you get a cross between Giligan’s Island and Survivor. In some ways this is a quest by each of the characters to find their true self and in other ways it is a story of community and how friendships and bonding take place. Well written, sometimes comical, always fun – I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for an interesting read. Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book to read and review.
I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway from Kensington Publishing Corp and Celia Bonaduce on June 20, 2015. Thank you for allowing me a chance to be a first reader of this book! Welcome to Fat Chance, TX is a very interesting book, not your standard romantic novel in that the characters are very well rounded and the plot is intricate. I think anyone interested in the Texas Hill Country, or who enjoy romance books without a lot of sex will get a kick out of Celia Bonaduce and her books.
I found this book completely entertaining! While outside the usual genre of book for me, I found the premise of this one fascinating. What would happen if a handful of relative strangers were put in a situation where they had to live for 6 months in a small ghost town in Texas? While they all start this journey with the motivation to go being money, but in the end they find they end up with so much more! A very well done story that I would recommend.