The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week in Susan Mallery’s new novel, CALIFORNIA GIRLS (MIRA). We have an excerpt.
Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.
Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.
Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.
But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.
HERE’S AN EXCERPT OF Susan Mallery’s CALIFORNIA GIRLS
She wrapped her arms around her midsection and rocked on the small bench. She cried out, the keening sound echoing off the empty spaces. Why had he done it? Why had he hurt her? Why had he—
Her phone rang. The sound startled her, then she jumped to her feet, searching for the phone. She spotted it on a shelf
and lunged for it, knowing it had to be Nigel. He’d realized his mistake and he was sorry.
“Hello?” “You were off your game this morning. Are you all right?” The familiar voice should have comforted her, but didn’t.
While Finola’s mother had always been supportive, she wasn’t exactly nurturing. Nor would she understand how her oldest daughter had managed to lose her husband to some country-pop star tramp. In the split second before she spoke, Finola considered blurting out the truth, then knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“I’ve been, ah, fighting food poisoning,” she lied, thinking it was easier to stick with what she’d already told Rochelle and Melody. “I just threw up.”
“Oh, that explains it because you were really stiff with that Treasure person. I didn’t like her song, by the way, but then I’m not her target audience, am I? Are you going to be well enough to fly to Hawaii tomorrow?”
“That’s the plan.” Finola did her best to keep her voice light even as tears poured down her cheeks. “Going to Hawaii with my husband.”
“You should talk to him about getting pregnant. It’s long past time, Finola. More important, I want grandchildren. All my friends have them. Most have several. A few of them have so many they complain about it. You’re the only one who’s married, so it’s up to you.”
The words were meant to induce guilt. Finola doubted even her mother would want to know how much pain they caused. She sank back on the bench and tried to stem the emotional bleeding.
“Ali’s getting married.”
Her mother made a dismissive sound in the back of her throat. “Oh, please. She’ll wait at least a year before getting pregnant. I want grandchildren now.”
“Too bad you can’t order them off Amazon. You’re a Prime member. You could have one by Tuesday.”
“Very funny. All right, I can see you’re going to ignore me, as per usual. Regardless, I love you and I hope you and Nigel have a wonderful time. Once you’re back from your vacation you can help me get the house ready to sell. There’s a lot to go through and I expect you girls to do a lot of the work.”
Not anything Finola could deal with at that moment. “Sure, Mom. I’ll call you when I’m home. Bye.”
She hung up before her mother could say anything else, then dropped the phone on the carpet.
Now what? She had no idea what to do or how to make the pain at least bearable. She wanted to crawl into a dark space and hide like a wounded animal. She wanted to go back in time so she could stop the affair from happening.
How could he have done this to her? He was supposed to love her forever. They were a team, a partnership.
Her phone buzzed as a text message flashed on the screen. She pushed the button to make it appear again. Her heart pounded when she saw it was from Nigel.
We need to talk. I’ll be by Sunday around noon and we can figure out what happens next. There’s the Hawaii trip. You have all the paperwork there. Can you cancel it?
A second text filled in below the first one.
“That’s it?” she shrieked at the screen. “That’s all you have to say? Just that? Where’s my explanation? Why aren’t you making this right?”
There was no answer, no sound, nothing but her phone screen slowly fading to black.
Finola stood. Nigel was gone and she didn’t know if he was coming back. He’d always been there for her, loving her, making her feel amazing and now it was all gone. Just gone. Worse, she didn’t know how much of their marriage had been a lie.
She walked into her own closet and changed into jeans and a sweatshirt. After she washed off her makeup, she went into her small study and booted her laptop. Thank God for the internet, she thought bitterly. It only took a few clicks and zero conversation to undo their trip. Once that was done, she went into the guest room and closed the blinds before crawling into bed and pulling the covers up over her head.
She curled up as tightly as she could and told herself to keep breathing. That was all she had to do. Everything else would take care of itself. Nigel wasn’t an idiot—he would remember how much he loved her and how good they were together. Treasure was just a fling. He would get over her and come back where he belonged. They’d go into couples therapy where he would realize how much he’d hurt her and he would beg for forgiveness. She would refuse at first, but then he would win her over with his love and kindness. The break in their marriage would be healed and they would go on, slightly scarred, but wiser and more in love than ever. They would grow old together, just like she’d always imagined. It was going to be fine. It had to be.
About Susan Mallery
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.
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