WOMEN'S FICTION TODAY *
Discover the next novel that will take your book club's breath
away! From unconventional love stories to emotional roller coaster rides, from historical
sagas to powerful contemporary voices, Graydon House Books is the new home for all your
women's fiction needs. Download this FREE e-sampler and get an exclusive preview of four
of the most talented voices in women's fiction today. Includes extended excerpts from:
SOMETHING LIKE HAPPY by Eva Woods
Thirty-something Annie is looking for a fresh start. Her
new friend Polly knows every day could be the last. Together they embark on an
unforgettable adventure: learning to be happy in just one hundred days. But what happens
if time runs out?
“A special book that will make you laugh through your tears.”—Amy E.
Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
BEST DAY EVER by USA TODAY bestselling author Kaira Rouda
The perfect couple is the perfect illusion
Paul Strom is the perfect husband—that's why he's planned a romantic
weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house. He's promised today will be the best day
ever. But as Paul and Mia drive toward the countryside, doubts begin to arise. How perfect
is any marriage—and what are Paul's secret plans for their weekend at the lake?
“Best Day Ever is a creepy, spine-tingling and utterly addictive tale of domestic suspense.”—LIZ
FENTON and LISA STEINKE, bestselling authors of The Good Widow
PERFECTLY UNDONE by Jaime Raintree
Sometimes you have to lose your way to find yourself
A romantic proposal from her long-time boyfriend Cooper should be the crown jewel in Dr.
Dylan Michaels's perfect life. But now Dylan must face her past and the haunting guilt
over her sister's death—and the role she played in it—before she and Cooper stand a chance
at a future. Can she find her way back to the man she loves, especially when Cooper makes
his own startling confession that changes everything?
“Perfectly Undone is an emotionally complex
tale of unresolved grief and the secrets we keep, both from those who love us and from
ourselves.”—Lorrie Thomson, author of What's Left Behind and Equilibrium
HOUSE OF SHADOWS by USA TODAY bestselling author Nicola Cornick
The wooded hills of
Oxfordshire conceal the remains of the aptly named Ashdown house—a wasted pile of cinders
and regret. Once home to the daughter of a king, Ashdown and its secrets will unite three
women across four centuries in a tangle of deceit, romance and destiny.
“Fans of Kate
Morton will enjoy this gripping tale.”—Candis
Welcome to Graydon House—open the door to your next great book
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About the Author
Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that explores what goes on beneath the surface of seemingly perfect lives. Her domestic suspense novel, Best Day Ever, is a USA TODAY bestseller translated into more than eight languages. Her next novel,The Favorite Daughter, is out May 21st. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Southern California and is at work on her next novel.
Jamie Raintree is voracious student of life, which is why she became a writer, where she could put all that acquired information to good use. She is a mother of two, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. She also teaches writers about business and productivity. Since the setting is always an important part of her books, she is happy to call the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado her home and inspiration. www.JamieRaintree.com
International bestselling author Nicola Cornick writes historical romance for HQN Books and time slip romance for MIRA UK. She became fascinated with history when she was a child, and spent hours poring over historical novels and watching costume drama. She studied history at university and wrote her master’s thesis on heroes. Nicola also acts as a historical advisor for television and radio. In her spare time she works as a guide in a 17th century mansion.
Read an Excerpt
Book Club Must-Haves: A Graydon House Sampler
By Claire McGowan, Kaira Rouda, Jamie Raintree, Nicola Cornick
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2017 Harlequin Books S.A.
All rights reserved.
Day One — Make a New Friend
No answer. The receptionist carried on clacking the computer keys. Annie tried again. "Excuse me." That was a level-two "excuse me" — above the one she'd give to tourists blocking the escalator and below the one reserved for someone with their bag on a train seat. Nothing. "Sorry," she said, taking it to level three (stealing your parking spot, bashing you with an umbrella, etc.). "Could you help me, please? I've been standing here for five minutes."
The woman kept typing. "What?"
"I need to change the address on a patient file. I've already been sent to four different departments."
The receptionist extended one hand, without looking up. Annie gave her the form. "This you?"
"Well, no." Obviously.
"The patient has to change it for themselves."
"Um, well, they can't actually." Which would be clear if anyone in the hospital ever bothered to read the files.
The form dropped onto the counter. "Can't let another person change it. Data protection, see."
"But ..." Annie felt, suddenly and horribly, like she might cry. "I need to change it so letters come to my address! She can't read them herself anymore! That's why I'm here. Please! I — I just need it changed. I don't understand how this can possibly be so difficult."
"Sorry." The receptionist sniffed, picked something off one of her nails.
Annie snatched the paper up. "Look, I've been in this hospital for ten hours now. I've been sent around from office to office. Patient Records. Neurology. Outpatients. Reception. Back to Neurology. And no one seems to have the slightest idea how to do this very simple task! I haven't eaten. I haven't showered. And I can't go home unless you just open up your computer and type in a few lines. That's all you have to do."
The receptionist still wasn't even looking at her. Clack, clack, clack. Annie felt it swell up in her — the anger, the pain, the frustration. "Will you listen to me?" She reached over and wrenched the computer around.
The woman's eyebrows disappeared into her bouffant hair. "Madam, I'm going to have to call security if you don't —"
"I just want you to look at me when I'm speaking. I just need you to help me. Please." And then it was too late and she was definitely crying, her mouth suddenly filling with bitter salt. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just — I really need to change the address."
"Listen, madam ..." The receptionist was swelling, her mouth opening, no doubt to tell Annie where to go. Then something odd happened. Instead, her face creased into a smile. "Hiya, P."
"He-ey, everything okay here?"
Annie turned to see who was interrupting. In the doorway of the dingy hospital office was a tall woman in all shades of the rainbow. Red shoes. Purple tights. A yellow dress, the color of Sicilian lemons. A green beanie hat. Her amber jewelry glowed orange, and her eyes were a vivid blue. That array of color shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did. She leaned toward Annie, touching her arm; Annie flinched. "So sorry, I don't mean to jump in front of you. Just need to very, very quickly make an appointment."
The receptionist was back clacking, this time with a jaunty beat. "Next week do ya?"
"Thanks, you're a star. Sorry, I've totally queue-jumped!" The rainbow beamed at Annie again. "Is this lovely lady all sorted, Shonda?"
No one had called Annie a lovely lady for a long time. She blinked the tears from her eyes, trying to sound firm. "Well, no, because apparently it's too hard to just change a patient record. I've been to four different offices now."
"Oh, Shonda can do that for you. She has all the secrets of this hospital at her fabulous fingertips." The woman mimed typing. There was a large bruise on the back of one hand, partly covered by taped-on cotton wool.
Shonda was actually nodding, grudgingly. "All right, then. Give it here."
Annie passed the form over. "Can you send care of me please? Annie Hebden." Shonda typed, and within ten seconds, the thing Annie had waited for all day was done. "Um, thanks."
"You're welcome, madam," said Shonda, and Annie could feel her judgment. She'd been rude. She knew she'd been rude. It was just so frustrating, so difficult.
"Brill. Bye, missus." The rainbow woman waved at Shonda, then grabbed Annie's arm again. "Listen. I'm sorry you're having a bad day."
"I — what?"
"You seem like you're having a really bad day."
Annie was temporarily speechless. "I'm in the bloody hospital. Do you think anyone here's having a good day?"
The woman looked around at the waiting room behind them — half the people on crutches, some with shaved heads and pale faces, a shrunken woman hunched in a wheelchair in a hospital gown, bored kids upending the contents of their mums' bags while the mums mindlessly stabbed at phones. "No reason why not."
Annie stepped back, angry. "Listen, thank you for your help — though I shouldn't have needed it, this hospital is a disgrace — but you've no idea why I'm in here."
"So, I'm going now."
The woman said, "Do you like cake?"
"What? Of course I — what?"
"Wait a sec." She dashed away. Annie looked at Shonda, who'd gone back to her blank-eyed keyboard stare. She counted to ten — annoyed at herself for even doing that — then shook her head and went out down the corridor, with its palette of despair blue and bile green. Sounds of wheeling beds, flapping doors, distant crying. An old man lay on a trolley, tiny and gray. Thank God she was finally done. She needed to go home, lose herself in the TV, hide under the duvet —
"Wait! Annie Hebden!"
Annie turned. The annoying woman was running down the corridor — well, more sort of shuffling, out of breath. She held a cupcake aloft, iced with wavy chocolate frosting. "For you," she panted, thrusting it into Annie's hand. Each of her nails was painted a different color.
Annie was speechless for the second time in five minutes. "Why?"
"Because. Cupcakes make everything a little better. Except for type 2 diabetes, I guess."
"Uh ..." Annie looked at the cake in her hand. Slightly squished. "Thank you?"
"That's okay." The woman licked some rogue frosting off her hand. "Ick, I hope I don't get MRSA. Not that it would make much difference. I'm Polly, by the way. And you're Annie."
"Have a good day, Annie Hebden. Or at least a slightly better one. Remember — if you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain." And she waved, and skipped — was it the first time anyone had ever skipped down the Corridor of Doom? — out of sight.
* * *
Annie waited for the bus in the rain, that gray soupy rain that Lewisham seemed to specialize in. She thought what a stupid thing it was the woman had said. Rain didn't always lead to rainbows. Usually it just led to soaked socks and your hair in rattails. But at least she had somewhere to go. A homeless man sat beneath the bus shelter, water dripping off his head and forming a puddle around his dirty trousers. Annie felt wretched for him, but what could she do? She couldn't help him. She couldn't even help herself.
When the bus came it was rammed, and she stood squeezed up between a buggy and a mound of shopping bags, buffeted by every turn. An elderly lady got on, wobbling up the steps with her shopping trolley. As she shuffled down the bus, nobody looked up from their phones to offer her a seat. Annie finally snapped. What was wrong with people? Was there not a shred of decency left in this city? "For God's sake!" she barked. "Could someone let this lady sit down, please?" A young man with huge headphones slouched out of his seat, embarrassed.
"No need to take the Lord's name in vain," said the old lady, tutting disapprovingly at Annie as she sat down.
Annie stared at her feet, which had left grimy marks on the wet floor of the bus, until she got to her stop.
How had her life come to this? she wondered. Losing it in public over a change of address? Weeping in front of strangers? Once it would have been her raising her eyebrows as someone else had a meltdown. Offering tissues, and a soothing pat on the arm. She didn't understand what had happened to that person. The one she used to be.
Sometimes it felt to Annie like her life had changed in the blink of an eye. Eyes shut — she was back in the bedroom of her lovely house on that last sunny morning, and everything was good. She was filled with excitement, and hope, and slightly exhausted joy. Perfect. Eyes open — she was here, trudging back to her horrible flat, catching the bus in the rain, lying awake full of dread and misery. One blink, perfect. Two blinks, ruined. But no matter how many times she closed her eyes, it never went back to how it used to be.CHAPTER 2
Day Two — Smile at Strangers
The doorbell was ringing. Annie woke up with a jerk, her heart shock-started. What was it? The police again, the ambulance ... but no, the worst had already happened. She sat up, registering that she'd fallen asleep on the sofa again, in the clothes she'd worn to the hospital. She couldn't even remember what she'd been watching on TV. Tattoo Fixers, maybe? She liked that. It was always comforting to see there were people who'd made worse decisions than she had.
Riiiinnnngg. She moved aside the blanket Costas must have laid over her. As she stood up, crumbs and tissues and a remote control fell out of her clothes. It was as if she'd come home drunk, but drunk on misery, on grief, on anger.
Riiiiinnnnnng! "All right!" Jesus. What time was it, anyway? The TV clock read 9:23 a.m. She had to hurry or she'd miss visiting hours. Costas would have left ages ago to do the breakfast shift, in and out without her even seeing him. A feeling of shame rolled over her — the Annie of two years ago would never have slept in her clothes.
"Annie Hebden! Are you in there?"
Annie winced. Through the door chain she could see a blur of jewel green — it was the strange woman from the hospital. Polly something.
"I've got your hospital letter." A hand appeared in the gap, this time with silver nails, and waved an envelope under Annie's nose. It had her name on it, but a different address. One in a nicer part of town. "You probably got mine," said the woman cheerfully.
Annie looked at the pile of letters on the mat. Bills. A subscription to Gardening Monthly, which she really should have canceled by now. And a bright white envelope addressed to Polly Leonard. "How did that happen?"
"I guess Shonda got mixed up when you changed the address. I called her to change them around, no harm done."
Was the hospital supposed to give out her address? "So you came all the way here, just to give me this?" It would have taken more than half an hour from Polly's home in Greenwich to Annie's in Lewisham, especially at rush hour.
"Sure. I've never been to this part of town before, so I thought why not?"
There were a million reasons why not. The area's soaring crime rates. The monstrosity of its seventies shopping center. The fact they'd been digging up the heart of it for years now, creating a traffic-clogged hellhole full of thundering drills and melted tarmac.
"Well. Thanks for bringing it." She stuck Polly's letter out the gap. "Bye, then."
Polly didn't budge. "Are you going to the hospital today?"
Every instinct told Annie to lie, but for some reason she didn't. "Oh, yeah. I will be, but —"
"Not exactly." She didn't feel up to explaining.
"I'm going in, too. I thought we could travel together."
Annie had been known to stay in the office for an extra twenty minutes some days, just to be sure her colleagues were gone so she wouldn't have to catch the bus with them. "I'm not dressed," she said.
"That's okay. I can wait."
"But ... but ..." Annie's stupid brain couldn't think of a single reason not to let this annoying, overly colorful stranger into her home. "I guess ... okay, then."
* * *
"So this is your place." Polly stood in Annie's drab living room like a Christmas tree. Today, she wore what looked like an ankle-length cocktail dress in crème de menthe satin, and underneath it, biker boots. A fake fur jacket and a knitted hat completed the look. The hem of the dress was damp and dirty, as if she'd just walked through Lewisham in the rain. She looked like a model on an urban fashion shoot.
"I'm not allowed to decorate. Landlord won't let me." The tenth-floor flat still had its depressing laminate floorboards and seventies knobbly walls. It smelled of damp and other people's cooking. "Um, I need to shower. Do you want — you want tea or anything?"
"That's okay. I'll just stay here and read or something." She looked around at the shabby room, the laundry on the rack — Annie's overwashed pants and leggings — which had dried all crispy. Polly picked something up from the dusty coffee table. "How to Obtain Power of Attorney. This looks interesting." Was that sarcasm? A slim pamphlet with a sad stock photo of someone holding an old person's hand. When really getting power of attorney was more like grabbing that old person's hand and tying it to their side before they could hurt themselves. Or someone else.
"Well, okay. I won't be long."
Annie went into the bathroom — rusty mirror, moldering shower curtain — and wondered if she'd gone mad. There was a strange woman in her house and she was just letting it happen. A woman she knew nothing about, who could be crazy, and quite likely was, judging by her clothes. Maybe that was why they'd met in the neurological department. Maybe she'd had a blow to the head and it had turned her into a person with no boundaries, who came to your flat and read your depressing private pamphlets.
Annie had the world's quickest wash, what her mum would have called a lick and a polish. For many months after her life fell apart, the shower used to be the place she cried, her fist stuffed in her mouth to muffle the sound. But there was no time for that today, so she threw on a near-identical outfit to the one she'd worn yesterday. No point in looking nice. Not for a place where people were either dying, or wished they were.
On her way out — no makeup, wet hair bundled up — she heard voices from the living room. Her heart sank. He must be on a short shift today.
"Annie!" Polly beamed at her as she went in. "I was just meeting your lovely friend here!"
"Hiya, Annie!" Costas waved. Costas was Greek, gorgeous and had abs you could crack eggs on. He was also twenty- two, had turned Annie's spare room into a festering rubbish dump and hilariously enough worked in Costa Coffee. At least, he thought it was hilarious.
"He's my flatmate. I need to go now."
"In a minute. Costas brought back some pastries!"
"Boss says I should take away. Still good, though!" He was holding open a brown paper bag full of croissants and Danish pastries. He smiled at Polly. "You come to Costa sometime, I make you special Greek coffee. Strong enough to blow off your head!"
Suddenly Annie was angry. How dare this woman come here and lift the lid on Annie's life, the sordid flat, the unwashed dishes? "I'm going now," she said. "Costas, could you wash up your pans? You left green stuff all over the baking dish last night."
"Spanokopita — needs to soak."
"Oh, I love spanakopita!" cried Polly. "I backpacked in Greece when I was eighteen. Kyria!"
"Kyria!" Costas gave her a thumbs-up, and his widest white grin. He was always smiling. It was wearing. "Very good, Polly."
Annie put her coat on, as passive-aggressively as she could. "I'll be late."
"Oh! Right, let's split. Lovely to meet you, Costas — Annie's friend."
"He's my flatmate," she said, opening the door crossly. She wasn't entirely sure why.
* * *
"Ladies and gentlemen, the bus will now stop to change drivers. It will take, er ... we don't know."
The carriage filled with a gust of sighs. "I'll definitely be late now," Annie muttered to herself.
"Bloody wasters," grumbled an elderly man next to her who was wearing a hairy suit that smelled strongly of damp. "Two pound a journey for this. Lining their pockets, they are."
Polly said, "Well, it gives us a chance to look around." Annie and the man exchanged a quick incredulous glance. The view out the window was of a large Tesco and a patch of waste ground with a burned-out car on it. "Or chat," Polly went on. "Where are you off to, sir?"
"Funeral," he grunted, leaning on his stick.
Excerpted from Book Club Must-Haves: A Graydon House Sampler by Claire McGowan, Kaira Rouda, Jamie Raintree, Nicola Cornick. Copyright © 2017 Harlequin Books S.A.. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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
ContentsSomething Like Happy by Eva Woods,
Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda,
Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree,
House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick,