Get carried away with this CUTE BUT CRAZY crowd!
A fake husband, a color-blind painter, a pair of frustrated nudists, crazy neighbors, a cowboy doctor, a tipsy pig and more.
Laugh at their antics as they bring love and joy into UNIQUE AND UNPREDICTABLE adventuress.
Enjoy fun-filled stories with diverse settings. From an English garden to the shores of Sicily, a billionaire’s lair to the Tucson desert with a stopover for a glass of dandelion wine at Algonquin Park, Canada.
Grab your Kindle and get ready for a laugh-filled ride into the world of make-believe in this Romantic Comedy Box Set created by nine New York Times, USA Today, and Award-winning authors of THE AUTHORS’ BILLBOARD.
Susan Jean Ricci – The Charming Chameleon: Can karma inspire a mismatched couple to forgo masquerading and reveal their true selves for love?
Dani Haviland – The Wizard of Odds: Two co-workers take on an impossible challenge and wind up with a menagerie of unusual animals looking for a second chance in the desert. Will the mismatched couples get one, too?
Mona Risk – Husband for a Week: Sicilian vendetta, fake husband, and an irascible matchmaking grandmother complicate their lives. Can love conquer all?
Leanne Banks – Cowboy MD: Could he cure what ails her?
Susanne Matthews – The Tipsy Pig: A socialite, a recluse, and a tipsy pig—the perfect recipe for romance?
Katy Walters – Love Your Neighbor: Moving into a new neighborhood has more challenges – and nuts – than they thought possible.
Angela Stevens – Whitewash: The Tricks of the Trade: What could go wrong when a Pinterest addict lets a color-blind painter and decorator fix up her dream home?
Patrice Wilton – Night Music: A little magic can make anything happen in South Beach.
Stephanie Queen – Small Town Hot Shot Bride: Will Tammy foolishly get swept up by charming out-of-towner Roark and his runaway train attraction? Or will she derail him for good?
Here’s a sneak peek at The Tipsy Pig.
Childless, divorced, unemployed, and almost forty. A fate worse than death, and yet there wasn’t one damn thing I could do about it. I couldn’t decide which of the dreaded Four Horsemen of my Apocalypse was the worst, although at this moment, the unemployed option stung the most. Not that I really needed to work. I’d lost a fortune, but I wasn’t penniless. It was just that I’d worked at one job or another my entire adult life, dedicating myself to the family business, and now I would have nothing to do. It sucked.
Before I’d reluctantly assumed the position of CEO for Larson Pork Enterprises, I’d worked my way up from graphic design to head of the marketing department, constantly searching for ways to keep up with the competition in this dog eat dog—or rather pig eat pig—world, forced to work long hours to try and hang on to our market share, especially once COVID 19 hit, creating havoc in the meat processing plants which led to shortages. Finding ways to stay competitive without raising prices or cutting employees had been a delicate balancing act, but then the virus had hit too close to home, and everything had changed.
Sadly, after only nine months in the big chair, I was forced to sell the pork processing company that had been in my family since 1890 when Toronto had been known as Hogtown. No more bringing home the bacon. Not exactly a banner line for the resumé or a plus at a job interview. I could picture the scene now.
So, Ms. Martin, I see you’re applying for the position of CEO. I can see you have experience in the field, but tell me, why did you leave your last job?
I sold the company to an international competitor after I fired myself on the grounds that I’m an idiot who didn’t have enough commonsense to realize my ex-husband was robbing me and my company blind.
I see, and would you consider that a strength or a weakness?
I groaned. It would probably be even worse than that.
I sat behind my great-great-grandfather’s ebony desk one last time, staring down at the Moroccan leather blotter. I ran my fingers over the S M L I’d carved into the material a lifetime ago, and sighed. I wasn’t ready for this, not now, not ever. I reached for the cooling cup of coffee I’d picked up from the Java Shack on my way to the office.
According to my best friend Miranda who’d dropped by before going to court this morning, I was giving an Oscar-winning performance as a corpse, even though I’d narrowly escaped being one. It was all a matter of perspective. As she put it, with a little effort I could probably land a walk-on in the filming of the next zombie apocalypse movie. She was exaggerating, but sadly there was too much truth there to ignore.
I’d always been slender, but following weeks in the hospital, the black pantsuit and shell I wore under it hung from my emaciated frame, the only color other than the waxy pallor of my skin coming from my grandmother’s pearls, a fitting costume for a corporate funeral. Saying goodbye to the company and the only jobs I’d ever known was so much harder than I’d expected.
“What the hell are you going to do now, Sahara?”
My voice echoed in the office devoid of family paintings, books, and the soft-surfaced furnishings I’d opted to keep, bouncing off the Lavish Lavinia Larson pig statuette.
A single tear trickled down under the frame of my dark, tortoise-shell glasses. I swiped at it. I would not cry—not now, not ever again. As Dad had always said, tears were for sissies, and while I might be a lot of things—naïve, anxious, and disheartened, despite being a girl, I wasn’t a wimp. I was a survivor.
When I’d turned twenty-one and had graduated from university with a degree in Fine Arts, Dad had given me a job in the marketing department. It had been a far cry from my imagined future restoring masterpieces and creating some of my own, but since I’d spent most of my life trying to make up for the fact that I’d been born without a dick, if that was what Dad wanted, then that was what he would get.
I reached for the statuette on the desk, my biggest success. Lavish Lavinia Larson, the company mascot, was a cartoon pig, loosely based on Miss Piggy, the Muppet character I’d loved. In her silver sequined gown and tiara, holding a lorgnette up to her eyes, she ruled over the porcine realm selecting only the best of her subjects for Larson Bacon. While my father had had his doubts, claiming people would be appalled by the idea which in some ways smacked of cannibalism, I’d pointed out that it was really no different from Charlie the tuna, Chiquita banana, the life-sized M & M candies, or Mr. Peanut—all products selling themselves.
Eventually, he’d backed down, and after a consumer study that showed the pig immensely popular with children and female shoppers, Lavish Lavinia became the star of all Larson bacon ads and commercials. Within a year, the Lavish Lavinia slogan, a cut above the rest, and her cute piggy face had graced Larson bacon products.
As another means of drawing in more consumers, I’d added unusual bacon recipes under our package labels, along with mini pig stickers that could be saved and redeemed for a Lavish Lavinia plush toy. Shoppers loved the idea, and the sale of Lavish Lavinia products increased until our bacon was our most popular commodity. Larson’s might be a far cry from the industry giants, but we had a firm grip on our markets.
Within five years, in addition to selling trademark items like lunch bags and t-shirts, we’d put out two Lavish Lavinia Cookbooks, with recipes for everything from Bacon Stuffed Artichokes, Bacon Brownies, and Bacon and Cheese Baked Ziti in Zucchini Boats to cocktails. After all, love made the world go round, and everybody loved bacon.
Shortly before my father’s untimely death, we’d expanded our product line, adding bacon-flavored simple syrup, candied bacon, bacon-flavored potato chips, and pre-cooked woven bacon taco shells to our list of products. We’d partnered with a micro-brewery and had given our blessing to bacon flavored beer, with Lavish Lavinia on the label, and most recently, after we’d joined forces with McPhee’s Distillery, she’d been featured on their newest product, premixed Tipsy Pig cocktails, a favorite of mine, the perfect drink anywhere, anytime. What I wouldn’t give for one of those now—I would even settle for just the three ounces of bourbon in it.
Stiffening my spine, I placed the statuette back on the desk, stood, and paced the floor, the heels of my Jimmy Choo’s rat-tat-tatting on the polished oak, sounding like some demented woodpecker, as I waited for Saul Levett, the company lawyer.
While selling Larson Enterprises had been the only thing to do, doing so had left a hole in my heart—as if the damn thing didn’t already resemble Swiss cheese.
I glanced at my watch. Where was Saul? He’d been gone almost two hours. The meeting shouldn’t have taken this long.
Nature abhorred a vacuum, and the longer I waited to hear my fate, the more worries and memories combined to fill the void.
How I wished for a do-over, a mulligan, a chance to go back in time to change something, make a different decision, run away from what would turn out to be the biggest mistake of my life—even if I hadn’t been the one to orchestrate it—but karma never gave anyone a second chance. I’d lost it all. Whatever I had left was all I would ever have, and while the Coronavirus had been the last straw, stealing my father from me, it had been my ex-husband who’d taken everything else.
I wrung my dry, chapped hands, desperately searching for answers. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t used to disappointment, but this time, there didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
Glancing at the mirrored wall behind the empty display shelves, I examined my reflection. I’d never deluded myself with the idea that I was a great beauty. I resembled my father, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. While he might’ve been considered handsome in a Nordic sort of way, I was as plain as they came, with a wan complexion that could burn in the shade, a nose that might be slightly too big for my face, thin, colorless lips that had long ago forgotten how to smile, and myopic, watery blue eyes that necessitated the constant wearing of glasses. I’d tried contact lenses, but putting them in and taking them out was far more trouble than they were worth. I’d considered laser surgery, but the severity of the myopia meant I would still have to wear glasses, so why bother?
Blonde hair, pulled back into a chignon, exposed the inch of dark roots that would probably grow even longer before I could do anything about them. With this area of the province still in partial lockdown, it was almost impossible to get an appointment with a hairdresser, and the last time I’d tried to do my own, my hair had come out a most unattractive shade of mauve. Thankfully, we’d been in total lockdown, and I’d been working from home. Eventually it had washed out.
The pale face staring back at me had dark circles under overbright eyes, visible behind thick frames, and bloodless lips. I suppose I could’ve made an effort, put on some of the makeup I’d started to wear when I’d been introduced to Randy, a little blusher for color, lipstick, maybe even eyeshadow to draw the observer’s eyes away from what was really there, but to what end? There was no one left to impress.
I reached for the Financial Observer lying on my desk and glared at the headline on the front page of the rag that passed itself off as a newspaper. Larson CEO Sells to Sapphire, Cuts Randy Loose. Not quite the truth, but what had I expected? Sensationalized headlines sold more papers than facts ever did. I dropped the broadsheet into the recycling bin and resumed my pacing.
The ancient intercom on the desk, a holdover from my Dad’s years as CEO, buzzed, and I reached for it.
“Saul Levett is here, Mrs. Smithers.”
I cringed at the name. How many times had I asked her not to call me that?
“Not Smithers, Nancy. It’s Larson, remember? Send him in.”
If she couldn’t remember something as simple as my name, which was still the same damn one on her biweekly paychecks, maybe it was a good thing she was retiring—or rather being retired. While Sapphire Foods, the company absorbing mine, had agreed to keep some employees, she wasn’t among them.
I reached for the Van Gogh Sunflowers’ mask on the desk and put it on.
You can get your copy of Cute But Crazy 3, Unique and Unpredictable for any Amazon retailer. It’s also free to read in Kindle Unlimited.