A Sneak Peek of Pride and Pina Coladas!
The COUNTDOWN is on! Only seven days until PRIDE AND PINA COLADAS comes out.
Until then, a little about the book, and a sneak peek just for you!
But first, a quick note from me:
Welcome back to Paradise Bay, where the drinks are always cold
and the men are the exact opposite! We’ve all been to hell and back
these past three years, so I hope you’re hanging in there and that life
is starting to feel a whole lot better these days. If not, here’s a big
squeezy hug from me.
I write with the intention of providing you with a true escape –
something fun, hopeful, just, and romantic. I’m a huge Jane Austen
fan, so diving into a retelling of Pride and Prejudice has been deliciously
fun—reimagining Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in a
modern-day Caribbean setting, throwing them together for work,
and thinking up a juicy scandal that would rival what Lydia and Mr.
Wickham did (because let’s face it, going away with a guy before
you’re married won’t exactly ruin your family these days).
Anyway, this is my homage to the great Ms. Austen. I hope I do
her justice and I hope this story will make you laugh, feel good, and
Wishing you all the best always,
AND NOW, FOR THE FIRST CHAPTER...
CHAPTER 1 - Martinis and Mums with Ulterior Motives
Nora Cooper, San Felipe, Santa Valentina Island
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman with no romantic attachments must be in want of advice.
However little known the feelings or views of such a woman may be when she first enters her auntie’s house, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of her relatives that her non-existent love life is considered the rightful property of her entire family.
At least that’s how it is in my family anyway. Aunt Beth is about to prove it before I can even get my sandals off. In fact, if my sister Kat had ridden over to the party with me, we’d have made a bet in the car about the first thing that would be said to me upon entering Aunt Beth and Uncle Dan’s house. Kat, who’s much kinder in her opinion of human nature than me, would say that someone will tell me how nice I look in this dress. I’d go double or nothing that I’ll be grilled about my dating status straight out of the gate (and that it’ll be at least an hour before anyone mentions my appearance). As I’ve lost fifteen pounds since the last time I saw the extended family, making that bet is a testament to my lack of faith in humanity. I’m a bit of a skeptic, but years in the service industry tends to do that to a person, whereas my sister has yet to join the workforce in any capacity. She’ll learn. Not tonight, when I’m immediately asked if I have a boyfriend yet, but someday…
Honestly, I hate how much focus the world puts on love and marriage. I have so many more interesting things to discuss than bagging a man (which I have no intention of doing—swiped right, got the dick pics, and am done with dating, thanks). For example, my career. There’s a huge event happening at work, and when I tell them about it, maybe, if I’m really lucky, they’ll be impressed enough to forget all about my relationship status for a few months.
Okay, minutes, but it would be the most exquisite few minutes of my life.
When I walk into the house, the party is already in full-swing. The scent of perfumes and aftershaves fills the air, and multiple conversations compete with the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia.
“Nora, my dear,” Auntie Beth says, her martini sloshing on the hardwood as she makes a beeline for me. “Are you seeing anyone lately?” She mops up the liquid with her stocking-clad foot, smiles at me, and adjusts the “Birthday Girl” tiara on her head.
I don’t even bother to open my mouth, because if there’s one thing Aunt Beth won’t do, it’s wait for an answer.
Yanking the toothpick out of her drink, she aims her olives at me, spraying me with gin and vermouth. “Because if you aren’t, have I got a young man for you.”
Of course she does.
“My insurance broker, Bill. Two kids, so you know he can make ’em. Recently divorced, so he’s ripe for the picking,” Beth says, her voice loud.
Wow. Tempting. This time I do open my mouth, only to be interrupted by her husband, Uncle Dan. “I hope you don’t mean Bill Larkin,” he calls across the crowded living room, which stops everyone mid-conversation.
Spinning around, Beth loses the last half of her drink to the potted palm next to her. “What’s so wrong with Bill?”
“He’s too old for Nora.”
“Nora’s not exactly a spring chicken,” she whisper-yells.
I’m twenty-eight, a fact that for no good reason is causing my cheeks to run hot at the moment.
Uncle Bill counters with, “He’s going bald, for Christ’s sake.”
Swatting her free hand in his direction, she turns back to me. “Never mind that. Bill’s mum told me he’s saving up for hair plugs, so you’ll want to get in there now. Competition is going to be a lot stiffer after.” She offers me a wink, then lifts her glass to her lips, only to appear mystified to find it empty.
“Right, well, thanks for the heads up,” I tell her, turning so she can get a better look at my new physique.
Nope. She’s maintaining eye contact. Sort of. She’s also swaying a little at the same time.
“I’ll just take my shoes off and grab a drink while I think it over.” I slide out of my sandals, hand her the bouquet of pink roses I picked up on the way over, and give her a kiss on the cheek. “Happy birthday, by the way. You look lovely.”
“Thanks! I always thought sixty was so old, but now that I’m here, I’m just thrilled to have all that other stuff over with.”
“What stuff?” I ask, following her to the kitchen.
“You know… everything that happens before menopause.”
“Finding a man, getting him to propose, having babies, raising them…”
“Oh, you mean all the stuff you’ve been trying to talk me into doing.” We stop in front of an impressive assortment of booze on the counter.
Aunt Beth bursts into a loud laugh, clutching my arm with one hand. “Oh you! With the witty remarks all the time. I told Bill you’ll be the type to keep him on his toes.”
“And what did he say?”
“I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was positive,” she says, free pouring gin into the steel shaker. “Martini?”
“Thank you, no,” I say, recalling the one time I took her up on that offer (and woke up face-down on a bench in their sunroom the next morning). “I think I’ll stick with wine tonight.”
“More for me,” she says, dancing shoulders-only style.
“Nora, there you are!” my mum calls, making her way through the crowded room. “I hope you’re not letting Beth talk you into a martini. You do remember the last time you said yes—”
“I don’t remember.” I give her a kiss on each cheek. “Which is why I just said no.”
Mum and her sister couldn’t be more different. For every drink Beth has had in her life, my mother has said two prayers. She and Dad have dedicated their lives to service and are pastors at the Benavente Unity Church. Uncle Dan is a plastic surgeon, so Aunt Beth dedicated her life to having services done, like weekly massages and facials.
Mum points at the bright orange liquid in the punch bowl on the table. “I made a non-alcoholic drink for those of us who want to wake up feeling good tomorrow morning.”
I briefly consider pouring a glass (and adding a hefty serving of vodka) but decide to go with the wine. Fewer calories for the same buzz. “I’m allowing myself one glass of Zin.” I pluck a wine glass off the tray and inch my way towards the open bottles of wine, but Beth blocks me in her effort to retrieve more olives for her drink. That’s fine. I’ll wait. “Did Kat come with you and Dad?”
Mum’s smile drops. “She said she was coming with you.”
Kat is my parents’ “late in life” baby. I was nine when she came along. Up until then, I was a perfectly happy only child, but after nearly a decade, Mum “prayed” her into existence. At least that’s how she explained the birds and the bees to me when I was eleven. Imagine my fear the next time we went to church. Anyway, Kat has been the source of my mother’s wrinkles since the moment she took her first step. She’s always finding creative new ways of stirring the pot. As much as I loathe the whole hook-up thing society’s got going on these days, Kat loves it. She’s swiped right on so many guys, it’s a wonder she doesn’t have carpal tunnel in her index finger. Not that my parents know about that, mind you. I don’t dare say a word, because it would literally give my mother a heart attack. Kat’s latest coup (that they know about) has been to extend her gap year into two, putting off university yet again. Mum is beside herself, but Dad keeps insisting his little girl just needs more time to grow up, after having been coddled by us her entire life. As if he’s not the biggest offender.
“I’m sure she’ll be here right away,” I say, even though I’m guessing she’s dancing on a speaker at the Turtle’s Head Pub by now.
She makes a grunting sound but says nothing else on the topic, clearly not wanting the rest of her judgy family to overhear. My second attempt at getting some wine is blocked by a neighbour of Dan and Beth’s, who swoops in and plucks the bottle of Zinfandel off the counter then walks away with it. I decide to go with the red, except when I pick it up, it’s only the nasty bits at the bottom that drip down into my glass.
Setting it down, I turn to Mum and Aunt Beth. “Say, I have some news.”
“Really?” Mum asks.
“The resort is hosting the World Bartending Championships, and Harrison and Libby have asked me to coordinate it.” I feel a swell of pride. “It’s going to be televised around the globe, and it’ll be incredible advertising for Paradise Bay. Well, for the Benavente Islands as a whole, actually.”
Normally I wouldn’t brag like this, but with family, I figure it’s okay. Also, because I never seem to impress them no matter what I do, when I have the opportunity, I’m not letting it slip by.
Mum and her sister wear matching eyes-glazing-over expressions. “That’s nice, dear.”
“Very. What a lot of fun for you,” Beth says, lifting her glass to her lips. “Oh! Bartenders have a certain je ne sais quoi, don’t they? Maybe you’ll find love… if you and Bill don’t get on, that is.” Wink, wink.
“What’s wrong with bartenders?” Beth asks. Before Mum can answer, she adds, “If you think about it, what they do isn’t all that different than what you do, Lori. You’re both dedicated to serving others, and you both wind up listening to people complain about their lives.”
“It is hardly the same thing, Beth,” Mum tells her.
“I bet these world champion ones make good money.” She turns to me. “Do they, Nora?”
“I have no idea.”
“There must be a big prize,” she says, then, turning in the direction of the living room, she shouts, “Dan! How much do world champion bartenders make?”
He stops demonstrating his golf swing for a group of my male relations and rolls his eyes at her. “How on earth would I know that? And in case you didn’t notice, I’m in the middle of a conversation, Beth.”
“Ballpark it,” she orders.
“Because Nora here is going to be hosting the World Bartending Championships and I want to know if she should try to marry one of them!”
“Oh, really?” he asks me, looking slightly impressed.
“The resort is hosting the event, but as the events coordinator…” I shrug modestly, even though it really is massive that my bosses are letting me take the lead on this. Technically, I’m not the events coordinator. I’m one of the events coordinators. There are two of us: me and Oakley Knowles. No relation to the great Queen B. We pretty much can’t stand each other, to be honest. On my part, it’s because she’s a conniving bitch who’s always trying to steal the best events out from under me. I have no idea why she hates me though. Maybe because I’m better at the job than her, and therefore Libby and Harrison trust me most?
My dad, who was tied up with long-winded Uncle Nester this whole time, finally breaks free and walks over to me. “That sounds like a huge deal, Birdie.” That’s his nickname for me. Embarrassing in certain situations, but I still love it.
I beam. “If all goes well, we expect to be hosting a lot more events, which will mean hiring more coordinators and selecting one of us to be the Senior Events Manager.”
“Are they considering you for that position?” Mum asks.
“I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s a good sign they’ve asked me to take the lead on this one.”
“Well done, you,” Dad says, grinning at me.
“I shouldn’t count my chickens just yet. The film crew from the network shows up next week. Then the contestants. It’ll be like coordinating several events all at once. Very complicated, logistics-wise.”
“You’re going to be so busy,” Mum says. “Stay with us. That way, you won’t have to worry about cooking for yourself.”
“Thanks, Mum, but I’ll be fine.”
“Please, you’re wasting away to nothing,” Dad says, dropping a kiss on my temple.
Hint, hint, Beth! I’ve lost fifteen freaking pounds!
Beth narrows her eyes at me. “Film crew… Now that might be a job more to your mum’s liking. Directors make good cash, don’t they, Gary?”
“I’d say so,” Dad answers. “But my Birdie is too busy for men. She’s a career woman.”
“Nonsense,” Mum tells him. “It’s not like she’s working on the cure for cancer or something.”
“Ooh! Or the cure for a hangover,” Beth adds, glancing at me. “Now that would be important.”
Mum purses her lips. “I’d say that’s a case of an ounce of prevention—”
“Oh shush, you, it’s my birthday!” Beth lifts her glass again, tipping it all the way back. When nary a drop comes out, she lowers it and makes a little grunting sound.
“So, Nora, with this big event happening, I’m guessing you’ll need to bring on some new staff,” Mum says.
Nope. Not doing it.
Dad’s eyes light up. “Kat would be terrific for that type of thing.”
“I don’t think so. I really won’t have time to train someone right now.”
“She could be an intern,” Dad suggests.
“An unpaid intern, Nora,” Mum adds, sweetening the pot. “Please. She really needs some responsibility in her life.”
Oh God, why is there no more wine? “Maybe she could, I don’t know, become a dog walker or something.”
Mum’s eyebrows knit together. “Nora, your sister needs a hand in life. She’s not like you.”
“She’s hardly disadvantaged,” I answer.
“You know what I mean. You were born responsible. She’s going to have to learn it. Besides, she could really use a boost as far as her self-esteem goes.”
If there’s one thing Kat doesn’t need, it’s an ego boost. She’s the most confident nineteen-year-old in the world. “Yes, well, as far as I know, we don’t have any positions open, unpaid or not.”
“But check for us, will you?” Dad asks, wrapping his arm around Mum’s shoulder. “Your mother needs to know Kat won’t be on our couch watching reality TV the rest of her life.”
She nods. “I do. I really need that.”
“Well, put your foot down and tell her to find a job, then,” I say.
“She’s tried,” Mum says, looking suddenly forlorn. “But because she’s got no experience, no one will hire her, and the older she gets without experience, the more of a red flag it is for potential employers.”
As it should be.
“Please, Birdie? For me?” Dad asks, pulling his sad face.
“All right, I’ll ask when I get to work on Monday,” I say, deciding I’ll check on openings in housekeeping. “But chances are not good, so don’t get your hopes up.”
“We won’t,” Mum says, even though the look in her eyes says she has her hopes way, way up.
Uncle Dan makes his way over to pour himself a whiskey. “Say, Nora, you look like you’ve lost weight.”
Finally. Thank you. “I have, actually.”
He looks me up and down. “Well, you better stop. Your bosoms have basically disappeared.”
Beth leans down so her eyes are level with my chest. “He’s right, you know. You won’t find a man if you don’t have anything to grab onto.”
“Jesus wept,” Mum says. “They’re not handles.”
Dan wrinkles his nose as if she’s just said the stupidest thing he’s ever heard. “They make the most lovely handles of all. When they’re there, of course.”
Okay, I’m done. Time to go home for tea and Bridgerton…