Special thanks to Amanda for all her efforts to get the printed manuscript to me and for the pleasant and encouraging correspondence.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)
***Special thanks to Amanda Tru for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amanda is a former elementary school teacher who now spends her days being mommy to three little boys and her nights furiously writing. Amanda lives in a small town in Idaho where the number of cows outnumbers the number of people.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Elise Hutchins has a secret. She likes to anonymously play matchmaker for people she doesn't really know. But when lawyer Ryan Jenkins discovers she's Seattle's Cupid, he thinks her methods are deceptive and she shouldn't be interfering in the lives of others. Now Elise has 24 hours to present her case and prove her character to Ryan. Otherwise, he will reveal her secret and ruin her reputation along with possibly all of the good she's done. Will following her around on her Cupid errands change his mind about her? And, in the end, will Elise sacrifice her own chance at love to make one final match for her best friend?
List Price: $2.99
File Size: 287 KB
Publisher: Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
X-Ray: Not Enabled
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
My limbs were weak with shock as I rushed through the hallway, dodging past other students like a fish struggling to swim upstream. I had about thirty seconds to fix my mistake and save my best friend from feeling the worst emotion known to a high school girl—embarrassment.
I could hear my other friend, Britney, struggling to follow my trail.
“Hurry, Elise!” she urged. “Chandra was going to talk to him right after class!”
Tears of frustration burned my eyes. I wanted to snap back at Britney, but I couldn’t waste the time. Why hadn’t Britney simply told Chandra the truth herself, instead of running to report to me? As much as I wanted to blame Britney, I knew this whole situation was my fault. It had been my idea. I had handled the details. Now my best friend was going to face the consequences.
I hadn’t intended on embarrassing her. It had just been a stupid prank. Chandra knew we always pulled practical jokes on each other as birthday ‘gifts.’ After all, she had been the one to bless me with a brightly wrapped present of lace panties in Art class on my birthday. Now THAT had been embarrassing!
So when I sent her flowers for her birthday and signed the card as Damon Fiest, the boy she currently had a major crush on, I had assumed that she would immediately recognize her birthday practical joke and see the humor in her friends’ stunt. After all, Chandra didn’t really travel in the same circles as Damon. Since he didn’t seem to know that she existed, she should know right away that the real sender could not be him.
No one outside our small circle of friends was supposed to know about the prank. The flowers were supposed to have been delivered in 7th period, at the end of the school day. But before I could find Chandra after school and see her reaction, Britney had rushed up to me, saying that Chandra was looking for Damon to thank him for the flowers!
Dread had sunk like a rock into the pit of my stomach, making me feel ill. Immediate, intense guilt struck me. I panicked. Chandra was crazy about Damon, and now she was going to be humiliated when she tried to thank him for flowers that he never sent! Damon would probably think she was mentally unstable and never want to have anything to do with her.
I felt terrible! What kind of friend was I? Only an awful person would send flowers and lie about who sent them! Why had I been so stupid?
I burst out of the school doors, my eyes frantically searching the grounds. Chandra would have tried to intercept Damon before he reached his car. Since the star football player always parked his old Mustang in the same spot, then Chandra had to be around here somewhere.
Please! I prayed. Please let me find her before it’s too late!
My eyes tripped over dark hair and a purple jacket halfway hidden by a tree at the corner of the school. I rushed closer, my heart pounding as if I’d just run a race at the Olympics. As I came around the tree, I stopped suddenly, stunned at the scene in front of me. Britney skid to a stop beside me.
I felt my mouth literally fall open in shock as, apparently oblivious to the world around them, Chandra and Damon kissed.
Ten years later
“Please, Elise!” Britney whispered fiercely. “I don’t understand why you won’t help me out just this once. This is your specialty!”
Since ignoring her friend was obviously not going to work, Elise turned away from the computer screen and tried to patiently answer Britney without rolling her eyes. “I already told you it doesn’t work that way!”
“But you’re Cupid!”
“Shh! Elise urged, nervously glancing around the quiet library. “Don’t call me that! Someone might hear you. I am not Cupid! Just because a campus newspaper wrote a stupid article doesn’t make it true!”
“But it is true! Look at how many matches you’ve made in the past ten years. It’s your job; it’s your duty to make matches. So why not for me?”
Elise wanted to remind Britney that this wasn’t the first time she had asked for help, and this wasn’t the first time Elise had refused. Instead, she sighed and repeated her standard answer. “Britney, you know I don’t make matches for close friends. Part of what makes it work is the fact that the couple doesn’t know me well.”
“But you set up Chandra and Damon,” Britney grumbled. “Now they’ve been married for like ten years!”
“Six years,” Elise corrected, wishing this conversation was over. As a librarian at the University of Washington, she had plenty of work to do. Not to mention that Britney should be working too. Britney should be over at circulation, not ‘helping’ Elise at the Reference desk. Though her friend held a stack of books in her arms, Elise was sure Britney was just using them as an excuse to corner her. “You of all people should know that setting Chandra and Damon up was not intentional.”
“That doesn’t matter. The point is that you are the reason they got together. You have a gift, Elise.” Britney bit her lip and turned her gaze in the direction of the handsome man sitting at a table across the room.
After her inadvertent matchmaking for Chandra and Damon ten years ago, Elise had unobtrusively arranged for a few other couples to ‘accidentally’ fall in love, finding that she had a knack for it. Since then, she had carefully arranged circumstances for numerous couples, people who never realized they were being set up, to find each other.
Britney and Chandra were the only ones who knew about Elise’s hobby, and Elise wanted to keep it that way. Unfortunately, she had been so successful at anonymously arranging matches, other people had started to notice as well. It didn’t take much to connect the few random stories from around the University of Washington campus about how mysterious events would bring two people together. After the story in the newspaper, the anonymous Cupid was rapidly gaining publicity.
Now Elise felt the pressure of not only the wildly circulating stories but of the fact that Britney Bowers was one of the two people who knew her secret. Chandra was so busy with her own life, which now included a husband and two adorable children, that she didn’t really pay much attention to Elise’s projects. Britney, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have her own life, and might yet drive Elise crazy! Worse, Britney tended to be impulsive. Elise knew it would be in her best interest to placate Britney if at all possible. Otherwise, there was always the threat of potential disaster if Britney should ever decide to share Elise’s secret.
“He’s my dream guy,” Britney said softly, turning pleading eyes back to Elise. “Won’t you please use some of your magic for us?”
As pitiful as Britney sounded, Elise knew she couldn’t do this favor for her friend. What Britney didn’t realize was that the anonymity of what Elise did was the major reason why she was so successful. The simple facts that the people never realized they were being matched and never connected her involvement gave her the necessary emotional distance to be able to observe people and their relationships without bias. Elise had always been extremely introverted; perhaps because of this, she had always liked to watch people and was pretty good at noticing things that weren’t obvious to others.
Elise wasn’t going to waste time trying to convince Britney or explain her method of matchmaking. Over the years, Brittney had occasionally tried to get Elise to use her skills in the direction of her current crush, but most of the time, Britney didn’t care what Elise did. However, since the paper had run that article, Britney had developed a renewed interest in Elise’s activities, and when Ryan Jenkins had caught Britney’s eye, that interest rapidly bordered obsession.
It was too risky to set up her friend. If the match didn’t go well, then Britney would end up blaming her. Elise had to be very careful if she wanted to continue being an anonymous cupid. Already the story was becoming almost an urban legend around campus, and the Seattle area in general was starting to take notice.
She couldn’t handle the thought of being caught, not to mention that, though her success rate was extremely high, the couples she’d set up over the years might resent that she had meddled in their lives. It was probably better for them to believe they’d been brought together through a little magic. The reality wouldn’t be nearly as romantic.
“No, Britney,” Elise answered flatly. “I will not set you up.” Making sure she had Britney’s undivided attention, she looked right into her friend’s eyes and repeated in no uncertain terms. “The answer is no.”
Intense anger flashed over Britney’s face. Without a word, she loudly dropped the books she’d been holding onto the desk, turned, and walked away.
Elise sighed and turned back to her computer. From their looks, to their personalities, to their likes and interests, she and Britney were opposite in so many ways; it was amazing that they were such good friends. Whereas Britney was tall, blonde, and outgoing, Elise was petite with dark brunette hair and an incurably shy personality. Elise had often appreciated that Britney forced Elise out of her comfort zone, challenging her to dance through life instead of always stand in the corner. But at other times, her friend grated on Elise’s normally calms nerves.
Despite the fact the Elise felt Britney was wrong, she still didn’t like having Britney mad at her. She would have to try to find a different way to make it up to Britney later. As bad as she felt about hurting her friend, she would not match her with Ryan Jenkins. That would be a recipe for disaster, especially since Elise had seen no indication that the man even liked Britney.
After spending the next few minutes trying unsuccessfully to get back to work at her computer, Elise gave up in frustration. She’d always hated to have someone mad at her, and now this situation with Britney was making it impossible to concentrate.
Needing a break, Elise left the computer and picked up the books Britney had left on the desk. She might as well reshelve them since Britney obviously wasn’t going to finish the task. She caught the eye of another librarian and signaled that she would be away from the reference desk for a bit. They definitely weren’t busy, and if by chance anyone needed help, Elise knew that Sheila would take care of it. The library normally used work-study students to do the reshelving, but sometimes Elise liked to do some of it herself. It often added the variety and mental break she needed during the day.
Elise glanced across the room at the object of Britney’s affections. Ryan Jenkins was seated at a table in one of the study areas, focused on his laptop and blissfully ignorant of Britney’s devotion. Elise knew very little about Ryan Jenkins, but from what she did know, he was probably way out of her friend’s league.
Elise had seen him several times at church but had never actually talked to him. The church they attended was very large and boasted a healthy singles group. Though Elise was very involved and enjoyed the church functions, she preferred to keep to herself and fly under the radar. Besides, from the way the other women drooled over Mr. Jenkins, he didn’t need any more female admirers.
Elise did have to admit the attention was understandable; the man was gorgeous. He was tall with black hair and what seemed to be a perpetual tan. Elise had never been close enough to see the color of his eyes, but she had been fortunate enough to see him smile once. Though several yards away, she’d still been blinded by the flash of brilliant white teeth and breathtaking dimples.
Ryan didn’t attend the singles functions often enough for Elise to have gleaned a complete profile, but she did know that he worked at the University and was a graduate student. She thought someone had mentioned his field was Law. He certainly looked the part of a lawyer. Whenever Elise had seen him both at church on Sunday morning and when he came in to the library, he was wearing a suit, which of course made him look more dashing, more desirable, and in Elise’s mind, more unapproachable.
There was no way she was going to set Britney up with him. Historically, Britney seemed to pick either guys that treated her badly or guys who were quite unattainable. And Ryan Jenkins might be the pinnacle of the unattainable variety.
Drat! Britney had given her Anthropology books. That meant she was going to have to go all the way up to the third floor to return them where they belonged. Sometimes Britney’s immaturity was maddening! Elise was sure that Britney had known exactly what she was doing when she’d left those books.
As she marched up the grand staircase to the third floor, Elise rehearsed an angry tirade in her head. Not that she would actually ever have the guts to lecture Britney, but her friend really needed some direction in her life that didn’t involve chasing after men. It was almost as if Britney kept expecting to meet the right guy who would solve all her problems and carry her off into the sunset.
Elise and Britney had been roommates in college, but whereas Elise had stayed with a field until she’d gotten a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, Britney hadn’t taken college seriously and changed her major about five times. Both of them had worked at the library while students, and when Elise got her graduate degree, she was hired as a Research Librarian and Information Services Coordinator. Elise had done well in her position, and her duties now included other responsibilities. The rumor was that Elise would be promoted into her boss’s position when he retired in a couple years.
Britney, on the other hand, had stayed in the same minimum wage library assistant position that she’d had in college. She hadn’t graduated with a degree, yet she still took random classes with no clear purpose. It almost seemed as if she was stuck. She didn’t know what she wanted out of life and was seemingly content to spend her parents’ money while she waited for that Prince Charming to come rescue her.
Britney occasionally went to church with Elise, but she could definitely not be said to be dedicated to her faith or her church. In fact, Elise often suspected Britney only came to church to check out the male selection. Seeing Ryan Jenkins at church had only intensified Britney’s crush on him. After all, she had been scoping him out at the library for months.
Though Mr. Jenkins came in fairly frequently, Elise had never seen any evidence that he liked or was attracted to Britney in any way. Ellise would often cringe as she witnessed her friend find some excuse to interrupt the man’s studies or find ways to ‘help’ him. Mr. Jenkins never approached Britney or instigated a conversation, but he always seemed polite and didn’t seem overly bothered by Britney’s antics. However, Elise still hadn’t seen that spark of interest that would indicate he thought of her as more than just a library employee.
Heading toward the bookshelves, her eyes caught on a group of people occupying one of the study rooms. The window along the front allowed her to easily see the students seated around the table. As she checked the numbers and carefully slid the books alongside their siblings on the shelf, she was also able to unobtrusively watch their study session.
This particular group of six students had been meeting regularly this semester, studying for their upper division history class. Though Elise was familiar with them, she couldn’t say that she really knew anyone in the group. But she actually knew plenty about them. After all, this wasn’t the first time she’d spied on them, though Elise really disliked the term ‘spying.’ She was closely observing with the motive to help. That really couldn’t be termed ‘spying,’ right?
With satisfaction, she saw the girl with long brunette hair, Shelby, steal a glance at the blond guy, Clay. Then, about a minute later, she saw Clay’s eyes light up when Shelby said something. Now she knew for sure that she’d been right. Those two did like each other!
Elise had been watching them interact for weeks. The furtive glances and smiles passed between them had made her suspicious. With a few more observations and well-worded questions when each of them had come for help, she’d learned their names and gathered that each of them was single and more than a little shy. Clay didn’t seem to realize that Shelby was just as attracted to him as he was to her, and vice versa.
Elise put the last book on the shelf with a smile. It was time to put her plan in motion. If she could arrange for Clay and Shelby to have an ‘accidental’ date, she was sure they would be able to overcome their reserve and make a connection. She’d had her eye on the two of them for a while. Valentine’s Day was in just a couple days. If everything went according to plan, Clay and Shelby would be a couple by February 14th.
As she went back down the stairs and returned to the Reference desk, Elise saw Oliver Purdue trying to talk to Britney. Elise smiled in amusement as Oliver followed Britney around the staff area like a puppy dog. Oliver was another library employee and also happened to be hopelessly enamored with Britney. He’d had a crush on her since he started working at the library about a year ago. Elise felt sorry for him. He really was a nice guy, and Elise wished Britney would give him a chance.
But even though Britney knew he liked her, she found him intolerably annoying. Also unforgiveable to Britney, was that he was about two years younger and looked the part of a typical nerd. He wore glasses, was always a bit over-dressed for work, and had a great fondness for computers.
Elise had tried to tell Britney how nice and thoughtful Oliver was, but Britney had no desire to look beyond the stereotype. Instead, Britney was frequently rude and condescending to the poor man, and yet, to Elise’s amazement, he cheerfully kept trying to earn Britney’s favor.
Attempting to focus on the report she was working on, Elise tried to mentally push all the people and problems aside. Five minutes later, she had succeeded in burying her mind to all but the words in front of her.
Elise startled, literally jumping several inches off her chair at the sound of a deep, unexpected voice. Turning, she found the tall, gorgeous Ryan Jenkins standing at her desk.
Copyright © 2013 by Amanda Tru
Cover design by Samantha Bayarr
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format either written or electronically without the express permission of the author or publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
This novel is a work of fiction. Although places mentioned may be real, the names, characters, details, and events surrounding them are the product of the author's imagination and therefore used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons; living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.
All brand names or products mentioned in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names and are the sole ownership of the respective holders. Amanda Tru is not associated with any products or brands mentioned in this book.
All scripture references in this book are used from the English Standard Version of the Bible.