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Coming Soon

AUGUST 25, 2020

Escape with three warm-hearted romantic comedy novellas with I LOVED YOU FIRST, a sparkling new anthology from beloved authors Suzanne Enoch, Molly Harper, and Karen Hawkins.

The Last Chance Motel by Karen Hawkins

Every big romance deserves a second chance. But Evan and Jessica Cho Graham are looking at the last chance: more specifically, The Last Chance Motel in Dove Pond, NC where Jessica has escaped to start a happily independent life, separate from her smart, sexy, but driven husband.

Evan has been wildly successful in every endeavor, except keeping the heart of the one woman he loves more than anything. If he’s going to repair this mess, he’s going to need all the help he can get—even if it's from the crankiest handyman in B&B history—to turn his second chance with Jess into a perfect storybook happy ending.

Take Two by Suzanne Enoch

Eleanor Ross has it all: fame, fortune—and Brian MacCafferty, the perfect combo of bodyguard and assistant who makes every day a breeze. MacCafferty anticipates her needs, puts out her fires, and—once upon a time—nearly put a ring on her finger.

And when a scandal erupts that could ruin El, it’s Brian who rushes to the rescue and joins her in hiding. Will El discover there’s no hiding from true love? And is she finally ready to take a second chance for her own, real life Happily Ever After?

Pasties and Poor Decisions by Molly Harper

Anastasia Villiers has hit rock bottom. And that rock is named Espoir Island.

Abandoned by her disgraced investment banker husband who liquidated all of their assets and fled the country, Anastasia is left with nothing—except for Fishscale House, a broken-down Queen Anne in the Michigan hometown she swore she’d left for good.

If Ana quickly renovates and flips the dilapidated building, she can get back to Manhattan and salvage her life. The problem? The only person on the island with historical renovation cred is Ned Fitzroy—Ana’s first love—who insists she help him with the labor herself. As Ana gets reacquainted with Ned, and her hometown, she realizes home may be just what she’s always wanted.


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Dove Pond NC Series, Book II
MARCH 2, 2021

From New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins comes another “mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author) in her Dove Pond series—and this time Ava’s famous tea leaves spell trouble ahead.

Ava Dove—the sixth of seven daughters of the famed Dove family, and owner of Ava’s Landscaping and Specialty Gourmet Tea—is frantic.

Just as she is getting ready to open her fabulous new tearoom, her herbal teas have gone wonky. Suddenly, the tea that is supposed to help people sleep is startling them awake with vivid dreams; the tea that infuses romance back into tired marriages is causing people to blurt out their darkest secrets; and the tea that helps people find happiness is making them spend hours staring into mirrors.

Meanwhile, living four doors down the road from Ava, sixteen-year-old Kristen Foster’s life has just crashed down around her. After her mother’s death, Kristen’s grandmother Ellen has arrived in town to sweep Kristen off to a white mansion on a hill in distant Raleigh. But Kristen has had enough ‘life changes’ and is desperate to stay with her friends in her beloved hometown of Dove Pond. But to do so means Kristen must undertake a quest she’s been avoiding her entire life—finding her never-been-there-for-her father.

With the help of an ancient herbal remedy book found in her attic by her sister, Ava realizes that Kristen holds the key to fixing her unstable tea leaves. So Ava throws herself into Kristen’s search, even convincing Kristen’s grandmother Ellen to help, too. Together, the three embark on a reluctant but magical journey of healing, friendship, and family that will delight fans of Alice Hoffman, Kate Morton, and Sarah Addison Allen.



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Ava Dove had a secret.

Not a small, unassuming secret, one easily forgiven with no more than a sincere apology and a box of chocolates, but one so deep and dark that Ava had trapped the ornery thing in a shoe box, duct taped it closed, and then hidden it under her bed.

She told herself that when the time came, she’d confess all and let the secret free. But somehow that time never came. Sadly, the longer she waited, the more potent the secret became, thumping late at night, fighting to break out of its prison.

At first, when the thumping began to wake her in the middle of the night, Ava – then a mere twenty-two years of age -- would turn over, pull a pillow over her head, and eventually go back to sleep. But as time passed, and she grew older and wiser to the effects her secret would have on those she loved, and the old shoe box thumped louder, “going back to sleep” became nothing more than a hollow hope.

Ava knew the dark secret was determined to escape. She also knew that, unless she found a way to destroy it, the time would come when it would rip through its duct-taped prison and her world as she knew it would fall apart.

Secrets begin their lives as simple if painful truths that, if shared, would exact a cost to the bearer. But locked away, chained in darkness, a simple truth will grow into something sharper edged. Deprived of light and air, it can become angry. And the longer it’s locked away, the more the pain of sharing it increases, which makes the bearer all the more desperate to silence it.

Ava knew she was fortunate she was a member of the Dove family and had the ability to contain her secrets in such a way. Everyone in Dove Pond knew the Doves were special, especially when they had seven daughters as they did now. It was said that when the Dove family had seven daughters, good things happened to their town, which was something Ava’s mother had taken very, very seriously.

Momma Dove had taught her daughters, who each had their own special ability, that with great gifts come great responsibility. And Ava, ever aware of the weight of her gift, had done what she could to make life better for the people of Dove Pond. Her specialty teas were in high demand as they cured incurable pains, eased broken hearts, breathed ease into troubled souls, and more. Over the years, every single inhabitant of Dove Pond had benefited in some way from Ava Dove’s magical brews. No one in town – not one single person – could imagine sweet, gentle, always-helping-others Ava Dove of ever having done wrong.

But oh, the things people will do when they want something.

She hadn’t told anyone about her horrible secret, not her closest friend Kat Carter, not her preacher, not even her beloved Aunt Jo who’d become like a mother to Ava after Momma Dove passed away from a stroke the year after Ava had graduated from high school.

But she’d especially kept it from her youngest sister Sarah, whom Ava loved with all her heart. Ava could still remember the day their mother had brought Sarah home from the hospital. It was three days after Ava’s fifth birthday and Momma had sat Ava and her five older sisters on the couch in a row. Then, one at a time, she’d let them hold their newest sister.

Thus Sarah, the seventh Dove sister, was introduced to the family.

Ava remembered vividly how it had felt when it was finally her turn to hold baby Sarah. How tiny and doll-like Sarah had been, and how she’d gurgled with happiness as if just as pleased to meet Ava as Ava was to meet her. Ava had loved that Sarah had smelled of clean linen and baby powder and that her smiles were so bright, they lit up the entire room. And since Ava had just celebrated her fifth birthday a few days ago, she’d believed with all of her heart that baby Sarah was Ava’s own special birthday present, hers and no one else’s.

When no one was looking, Ava would tickle her sister which made her grin a big toothless baby grin that made Ava feel nine feet tall. Sometimes, if Sarah was fussy, Ava would tuck her favorite doll into Sarah’s bassinette and sing songs that Ava would make up as she went. Mom, who’d never been healthy after Sarah’s birth, was often tired and she appreciated Ava spending time with the baby. And since their older sisters rolled their eyes and complained when asked to baby sit, playing with Sarah became Ava’s expected chore, one she enthusiastically accepted.

As she grew older, it seemed right that she should take care of Sarah and, over the years, nothing happened to change that.

The day Ava turned seven, she was outside pushing Sarah in a stroller up and down their long driveway. Every time Ava rolled the stroller past Momma’s Floribunda rose bush, no matter how Ava steered, the long branches would reach out and rake the side of the stroller and tangle in the wheels. The fourth time it happened, Ava had gotten irritated, and without thinking, she’d snapped, “Stop that!”

There had been a startled moment when she and the plant stared at each other – she with her hands still gripped around the stroller, and the plant with its thorny tendrils still tangled in one of the wheels.

It hears me.

The thought had appeared in her mind with startling clarity.

And indeed, after a stilted minute, the plant had rustled in apology. Then, leaf by leaf, it had curled back from the stroller and, moving so slowly it was hard to see, had carefully moved out of the way.

The next time Ava walked past the bush, there was plenty of room for both her and her stroller.

After that, Ava found herself touching each plant as she walked around their house, a delightfully big and rambling if somewhat decrepit Queen Anne style home surrounded by a thick overgrowth that had been left untended for far too long. As she trailed her fingertips over every leaf, every petal, every fresh bud, Ava discovered that she was connected to plants in a way she couldn’t explain. They didn’t speak – plants didn’t use words, so there was nothing as solid as that. But plants felt and Ava discovered that she could read their feelings and, even more fascinating, understood their purpose with a simplicity that made it seem as if she could always do it, but just hadn’t noticed.

Deeply intrigued, Ava began tending the plants around the house, carefully trimming the overgrown plants, opening them to the sun and air. And they began to thrive in ways they never had, blooming colorful flowers, even those plants that weren’t supposed to have flowers. Not satisfied with just these plants, Ava began to grow her own, first in the old and somewhat cracked pots that had been stacked and then forgotten in the paint-flecked shed behind the house, and then in their huge backyard. As she grew her flora and spent hours tending them, she noticed that her hands had a faint green tinge. It worried her, but when she’d shown them to Momma, she’d just smiled and said was it “a typical Dove family blessing.” So Ava accepted the faint hint of green that her hands soaked in from her beloved foliage.

With her momma’s encouragement, once the backyard was filled with beautiful plants, Ava expanded her garden to the front yard, until it looked as if their house had been plunked down in the middle of an exotic garden. Soon, the neighbors asked if she’d do their yards as well, and by the time she was sixteen, she was running a successful landscaping business.

Ava never thought of making teas from her plants until, at age sixteen, on an impulse she made one for Momma, who’d been feeling extra tired. Ava didn’t know it, but Momma’s heart was slowly giving out, but at that particular time, ‘tired’ just meant ‘we should all be quiet so Momma can sleep.’ Ava, listening to the plants, made the tea from magnolia bark, dried peppermint leaves, and two dandelion petals she’d placed on a china plate and left for one full night under a half moon. Ava’d been helped by an old journal Sarah had found in a pile of tattered books in the attic. The book had once been owned by their great, great aunt Mildred Dove, and she’d written up scores of tea recipes and then scribbled copious notes in the margins using such words as “EFECCTIVE” and “HARVEST DURNG SUMMER SOLTISE OR NO GUD.” The notes rather than the recipes had helped Ava the most. Because of the tea, Momma slept better and longer than she had in a long time, so from then on, Ava had made sure the tea was always in the cupboard.

But making that first tea for Momma and seeing it work had lit a fire in Ava’s youthful heart. She could help others; all she had to do was listen to the plants and apply her great, great Aunt Mildred’s notes.

And so, in the winter when her summer landscaping business was dormant, Ava set up shop in the old, leaning-to-one side shed in the back yard of their huge, shabby house, and began to make teas. At first, she just made them for the people she knew well – her family, Aunt Jo who was her mom’s best friend, and their piano teacher Mrs. . But as time passed, and word of mouth began to spread, just like her landscaping business, Ava found herself making more and more of her specialty teas until she was making a brew for just about every family in town. By the time she was eighteen, Ava was making efficiently running her own business, AVA DOVE’S LANDSCAPING AND SPECIALTY TEAS.

But even flush with success, every single night, well after everyone else was asleep, the secret thumped and bumped under her bed and reminded Ava that all was not well. In the quiet hours before dawn, Ava searched for some way to reverse the harm she’d caused so long ago. For hours and hours, and then for months and months, and finally for years and years, she dug through moth-eaten books searching for an answer, but so far, she’d found none.

Every morning the shoebox looked more tattered, the tape more frayed, and Ava’s soul ached with the growing realization that she might have to face the painful results of her own regrettable actions from one impulsive day long, long ago.


Chapter 1


Dove Pond Cemetery
January 29th, 2020

As she stood beside her daughter Julie’s gravesite, Ellen Foster pressed her fingernails into her palms as the annoying sound of a kazoo lifted into the air.

A kazoo.

At a funeral.

Worse, the kazoo wasn’t playing anything remotely appropriate like Amazing Grace or The Lord is My Sheppard but was instead snappily buzzing out ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

Behind her thick sunglasses, Ellen closed her aching eyes. It was all so tasteless. But then every single aspect of the memorial service Julie had planned for herself during her final few months was tasteless and bizarre and uniquely annoying. Or it was to Ellen, who felt the entire production a planned, obvious afront to her love of organization and tradition.

But then Julie had always delighted in irking her mother. From a frightfully young age, she’d excelled at doing just that, and she’d never lost an opportunity to do so, even now.

Over the years, Ellen had come to realize that her daughter would go well out of her way to throw shade on her mother, even when (or perhaps especially because) her mother was an internationally recognized architect who lived and breathed order and calmness – and was rightly proud of it, too. However it was, Ellen was now standing in the tiny Dove Pond Cemetery listening to Dancing Queen played on a kazoo, while around her a group of Dove Pond residents tried not to tap their feet or sway to the catchy tune.

Two elderly women wearing Game of Throne t-shirts – Ellen wasn’t sure who they were as she’d zoned out of the preacher’s endless chatter – stepped up to Julie’s shiny black casket, which was adorned with outrageous red glitter flames along each side and signed in Julie’s familiar swooshing signature. With military funeral, they unfolded a huge, purple dragon flag and draped it over the casket, nodding at the preacher when they finished and then rejoined the other mourners.

The dragon flag fluttered in the unusually balmy January breeze, one heavily lashed eye seemingly locked on Ellen.

You’re doing it on purpose. I know you are. Julie was never happy unless she was shocking people. Especially me. Ellen glanced at the sky. It’s not funny.

A memory of Julie’s laugh rang through Ellen’s head, so painfully clear that she glanced up, a flare of hope flaming so bright that she . From the time Julie was a child, she’d had a peculiarly hearty laugh, one that made anyone who heard it want to join in. And Ellen had just heard that merry laugh, her heart lurching in recognition—

Her throat tightened, and she grit her teeth, her eyes burning. I don’t have time for this; I have work to do. I have to focus on my granddaughter. Come hell or high water, I’m going to rescue Kristen. She deserves a happy life. A normal life.

To accomplish Project K, as Ellen had labeled it in her Louis Vuitton Noir Epi leather agenda, she had three Action Items to accomplish.

Item One: To make it through the funeral without crying. Ellen never wept in front of strangers.

Ever. Even when.

Item Two: Once the funeral was over and done with, and Kristen had some time to adjust, Ellen would put Julie’s house up for sale and place the money in a trust for Kirsten. That meant, of course, that all necessary repairs would need to be made. Ellen’d had no to little hope that her daughter’s house was up to date, organized, or even clean, and one look as confirmed her expectations. Neither order, common sense, or house chores had been Julie’s forte, as evidenced by her reckless desire to become an artist rather than having a real job, as well as her poorly thought out decision to have a child without the benefit of either a father or a steady income.

That was Julie in a nutshell – she wanted things, but she wasn’t capable of applying herself to getting them in a logical, thought out manner. Rather she careened through life like a runaway horse, usually at the cost of her desired outcome.

Fortunately for Kristen, Ellen was ready and able to handle things from here. She’d fix up Julie’s ramshackle house and, with some thoughtful upgrades and a far more tasteful décor than the wild hodge-podge hippie/artist melee it currently held, she’d make Kristen a tidy little fortune.

One that was done, Ellen would move on to Item Three: She would whisk her granddaughter Kristen out of the madness that Julie had exposed the poor child to and take the teenager back to Raleigh where she could begin living a normal life. Ellen slipped a look at Kristen now, trying not to linger too long on the teenager’s pink and purple streaked hair or the small diamond set in her nose. If Ellen looked at either of those things too long, it gave her a headache. Thanks to Julie, Ellen and her granddaughter didn’t yet have the sort of relationship where Ellen could calmly point out the societal costs to such fashion statements. But Ellen was certain that, with some effort, she and Kristen would grow closer. Sadly, they were the ones who’d paid the price for Julie’s stubbornness; Ellen and her granddaughter barely knew one another.

With a flourish, Kristen finished Dancing Queen and lowered her kazoo.

Ellen gave a sigh of relief which was cut short when Kristen took a deep breath and then launched into The Macarena. A delighted murmur arose from the other mourners who began to sway even more, some of them making the hand gestures, which irritated Ellen to death. She hated that some of them were smiling. This was a funeral, darn it. And yet not only were some of them smiling, but they were all arrayed in a wide range of mis-matched gloves and socks and weird clothes in horridly bright colors, just as the handwritten funeral invitations had requested.

Good lord, that invitation. Ellen had received hers five days ago. It had been written in Julie’s hand, and had breezily invited her mother to ‘the funeral of all funerals.’ The invitation had requested that everyone who attended come wearing not just one or two bright colors, but seven or eight at the least, as Julie didn’t wish to leave this earth in a dull parade of black and gray. In addition to instructions on what to wear, and a request to smile often, Julie had added that she wanted no weeping, at least not too much, as dying wasn’t really so hard once one got over the surprise of it.

When Ellen had first read the invitation, she’d thought it a horrible joke. It had been ten years since she’d heard from Julie, who’d stormed out of Ellen’s life the same way she’d entered – screaming and red-faced, refusing to be held or told what to do. Since that last argument, Ellen had attempted to contact Julie repeatedly, but had been flatly ignored. Eventually, Ellen’s pride had made her stop reaching out.

She’s told herself that Julie would come around once her daughter Kristen reached the troubled age and Julie was forced to face the frustrations of being a parent. Then and only then would she understand what had moved Ellen to do the things Julie had found so offensive, namely ‘being a mother.’ Ellen had been sure that once Julie was older, calmer, and wiser, they’d become friends, if not a conventional mother and daughter.

But no call came. All Ellen had gotten was the invitation to this funeral, made on cheap construction paper with one of Julie’s overblown flowers painted on one corner, the words written in crayon. Stuffed in a plain manila envelope, the invitation had shown up in the ornate brass mailbox on the front of Ellen’s majestic colonial home in Raleigh. A stupid and cruel joke, Ellen had thought angrily, too hurt to think it anything else as she’d wadded the invitation into a tight ball and thrown it away, refusing to be mocked by her only child.

But later that same day, Kristen had called, sobbing over the phone that Julie was really gone. Ellen had learned in between Kristen’s hiccupping sobs and blurry words that Julie had been fighting breast cancer for over six months.

The invitation was real and Julie was gone.

Stunned and instantly numbed, Ellen had assured Kristen that as soon as she could pack, she’d be on her way. Ellen had then hung up the phone and had found herself staring down at her feet. She’d been wearing a pair of brand-new Manolo Blahnik Decebalo pumps in blue with gold trim, a rather bold crystal brooch sparkling near her toes. As odd as it was, if she closed her eyes now, she could still see her long, narrow feet in those bold stilettos while her tears, which had fallen to onto her new shoes, shimmered beside the crystal brooches.

She’d thrown the shoes away because she couldn’t look at them without also remembering what happened next. How she’d let out a moan like a wounded tiger and then dropped to her knees and desperately dug the crumpled invitation from the trash.

When her fingers had closed over the discarded and torn paper, the tears had turned into sobs, her pain tinged a bitter blue with anger caused by the blithely worded, non-personal invitation Julie had sent.

But that crushed invitation was all Ellen had of Julie.

And so, Ellen had sat there on the floor in a pile of rubbish from her trashcan, hugging the ridiculous invitation, and weeping for what she’d lost, and – perhaps even more – what she’d never have – a relationship with the daughter she loved more than anything else in the world . . . .