Susan Mallery’s ‘Sisters By Choice’ [EXCERPT]

Beach chairs

Three cousins as close as sisters build their dreams on Blackberry Island. (Photo courtesy Canva)

We’ve always loved island life. There’s just something about the simplicity of it that beckons to us and appeals to our nature. Perhaps it’s the scent of the sea, the waves on our toes, or the closeness of a small community where everyone knows everybody else. Few people capture this as well as Susan Mallery does in her Blackberry Island books, and it is always a joy when we get to visit her picturesque community one more time. In her latest volume in the series, she introduces us to three girls who really love one another and help each other over some seemingly insurmountable hurdles. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek into Sisters By Choice.J&H


EXCERPT

Amber made a feeble attempt to sit up, then squeezed her eyes shut and whimpered. Heather gently helped her raise herself so Heather could put pillows behind her back. Once Amber was comfortable, Heather handed her the plate and left the coffee within reach.

“I need to go study, Mom. I have my last final tomorrow.”

“But we’re still going car-shopping later this morning, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we are.”

Susan Mallery's SISTERS BY CHOICE - Credit Mira

Mira

Heather thought about the conversation she’d been putting off and knew she’d run out of time. Reluctantly, she sat in the club chair opposite the sofa.

“Mom, the insurance check was nine thousand dollars. You’re talking about wanting to get a late-model SUV. All the ones you’ve shown me are at least twenty thousand, even used. Are you going to take out a loan for the rest?”

Amber, a heavyset, dark-haired woman with brown eyes, put down her plate. “What are you saying?”

Amber was only thirty-eight, but she looked at least forty-five. She’d been pretty when she’d been young, but whatever good looks she’d had seemed to have faded, along with any ambition.

“Just there’s tax and the license fee, so a twenty-thousand-dollar car is going to end up being about twenty-three thou­sand. That’s a loan for what, fourteen thousand? You might want to put some savings toward the balance to bring down the loan amount.”

Tears filled Amber’s eyes. “Savings? I don’t have any savings. Barely a thousand dollars. I work at that hideous job where they pay me nothing. With all the expenses around here, there’s nothing left over.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s not fair. That man hit me and totaled my car, but he gets off easy. I’m the one who’s going to have to pay for his carelessness. I wish they’d thrown him in jail. He deserves that. The police barely gave him a ticket. I doubt they would have if I hadn’t insisted.”

“Mom,” Heather said gently, ignoring the knot in her stom­ach. “The car?”

Her mother’s lower lip trembled. “I guess there isn’t going to be a car for me. I’ll have to take the bus. It’s only a mile from the bus stop to the house. Once my back heals, I should be able to manage that.”

“You really only have a thousand dollars in savings?”

Amber stared at her. “Would I lie about that?”

Heather was pretty confident she would, but she couldn’t be sure and with Amber’s accounts all online, there was no way to check. As for affording a payment…

Don’t, she told herself. Just don’t even try.

“Do you have any money?” her mother asked, her voice small. “Some you could loan me?”

And there it was. The thing Heather had been avoiding. The question she’d known was coming from the second she’d heard about the accident. Because the financial buck stopped with her. She was only twenty, but she’d been supporting the household since she was sixteen.

She thought about how she’d scrimped and saved hoping to, one day, have enough to finally escape. She wanted to take more than two classes each quarter at the local community college, she wanted to have one good job, not three or four part-time ones. And most of all—please, God—one day she absolutely did not want to have to be responsible for her mother.

“Loan?” she asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of her tone.

Amber jerked as if she’d been slapped. “Why would you say it like that? I’m your mother. I’ve taken care of you all your life. If I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I could have gone to college and made something of myself. I’m here for you all the time, Heather. You’re lucky to have me.”

Which may or may not be true, but at the end of the day, her mother never paid her back. No matter how many times she’d “borrowed” money.

“How much do you have?” her mother asked.

Heather wanted to lie. She desperately wanted to make up a smaller number so she could keep some of it for her future, but she couldn’t. She didn’t have the lying gene. She’d tried, but she always sounded funny and instantly confessed.

“Six thousand dollars.”

Amber’s eyes lit up. “That’s perfect. I’ll only have to borrow eight thousand. That’s a very doable loan payment.” She waved toward the bedrooms. “Study away, then we’ll go buy me a car. I’m so excited. I hope they still have the blue one. It’s so pretty and has really low miles.”

She wiggled in her seat as if her back pain had suddenly dis­appeared.

Heather walked to her room, trying not to be angry about the fact that her mother was going to clean out Heather’s sav­ings while leaving her own intact. She’d just opened her com­puter to review her notes, when her phone rang. She glanced at the screen, then smiled.

“Hey, Sophie,” she said. “How’s it going?”

“Great. I am standing in my new warehouse. It’s not perfect, but I will make it work.”

Sophie, Amber and Kristine were cousins who had grown up together. Amber was a few years older. Heather remembered Sophie and Kristine babysitting her when she’d been little.

“I still can’t believe you leased a warehouse you’ve never seen,” Heather told her.

“I had to grab it while I could. The alternative would have been something on the mainland and I didn’t want that.”

“When did you get here?”

“Late Saturday.”

“And you’re already at the warehouse?”

“Business first. CK Industries is about to be back up and run­ning. First staff and inventory, then the world. I’m off to try to find the house I rented. I move in the end of this week. Be­tween now and then, I’m staying at the inn. Have dinner with me Wednesday? It’s supposed to be some special menu.”

“Sure. I’m free. I doubt Mom’s doing anything.”

“Then let’s meet at the inn at six and take it from there.”

“We’ll see you then.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Heather hung up. Sophie was moving her successful busi­ness to the island. Running the business meant hiring people. Heather was going to ask if she could get a job shipping stock or something. If she withdrew from the spring quarter at com­munity college, she could get her fees back. Hopefully, Sophie would have some part-time work so Heather didn’t have to give up her breakfast shift at the inn’s dining room. The tips were great, and she would need them to help replenish her savings account. Plus, hanging out with Sophie was always fun. Sophie saw the world as a welcoming place with a lot of opportunity. Heather wanted to be like her one day.

Study, she told herself, returning her attention to her com­puter. Then the car, then dinner later this week with Sophie. And if she had an extra five minutes in there somewhere, she was going to close her eyes and imagine what her life would be like if she ever got away.

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ABOUT SISTERS BY CHOICE

From the New York Times bestselling author of California Girls comes an all new original Blackberry Island novel told with Susan Mallery’s trademark humor and charm. Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice…

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?

Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery
(Photo by Annie Brady)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Mallery is the number one New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom. Visit Susan online at SusanMallery.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on TwitterPinterestGoodreadsInstagramBookBub, and Amazon.

SISTERS BY CHOICE
By Susan Mallery
400 pp. Mira. $27.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase Sisters By Choice at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Harlequin, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

Sisters By Choice is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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