Spotlight & Excerpt: Chasing the Bride + Giveaway


I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the CHASING THE BRIDE by Erica Ridley Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!


(Lords in Love #6)

Author: Erica Ridley

Pub. Date: June 9, 2023

Publisher: WebMotion

Formats:  Paperback, eBook

Pages: 197

Find it: Goodreads, books2read 


In this fast, feel-good romp from a New York Times bestselling author, forbidden love blooms between a runaway bride and the man sent to find her…

Lady Tabitha Kerr was promised at birth to be the Viscount Oldfield’s bride. Their families had warred for generations, and this union will heal the longstanding rift. But Tabitha doesn’t want to be a pawn—or a consolation prize. She dreams of a love match, and failing that, at least one night of true love. Even if she has to run away to find it!

As Viscount Oldfield’s trusted man of business, Mr. Hudson Frampton is his lordship’s right-hand man, attack dog, and fixer. When a nervous bride jilts the viscount at the altar, Hudson is meant to find and return her to his employer posthaste. He is not supposed to fall in love. Or kiss his employer’s bride. Or say yes when Tabitha makes an indecent proposal that will ruin them both…





London, 1818

Lady Tabitha Kerr stood just outside the door to her father’s sickroom, trying to catch her breath. Although he had never been particularly demonstrative, her father was a good man. She knew this. It was why she had spent a lifetime trying her hardest to please him. And yet what the marquess was forcing his only child to do would confine Tabitha to a life of misery.

She rolled back her shoulders. She could no longer postpone the inevitable. She was a lady now. It was time to act like one. Tabitha tapped her knuckles against the door. It opened instantly. Mr. Hudson Frampton had beaten all other servants to the soft knock. Or else he’d been standing within reach of the handle, which was unlikely. Her betrothed’s guard dog never left his employer’s side, except to follow a direct order. Mr. Frampton always seemed to be everywhere at once, and capable of absolutely anything.

At the moment, he was gazing at her gravely. His solemn expression did nothing to lessen his distracting handsomeness. He was no gentleman, and it showed. His brown hair was a little too long, his cravat creased carelessly, his strong jaw already shadowed with stubble at three o’clock in the

afternoon. The omnipresent air of danger emanated from his conspicuous muscles.

He looked like a highwayman, not a viscount’s man of business. Though perhaps the two roles were not so dissimilar. A highwayman robbed passing carriages. Lord Oldfield’s infamous man of business had his fingers in every investment opportunity in London, often reaping greater rewards for the viscount than enjoyed by the poor souls who owned or executed the various operations.

“He’s waiting for you,” Mr. Frampton said softly, his dark brown eyes unreadable.

“Don’t you mean they’re waiting for me?” Lady Tabitha murmured, her correction tinged with bitterness. Viscount Oldfield might be Mr. Frampton’s employer, but both men were in the sickroom of Tabitha’s father.

Mr. Frampton’s dark eyes glittered. “You are, of course, correct. My apologies.”

“It’s all right,” she mumbled under her breath.

It was not all right. Life as she knew it would soon be over. The father she adored, dead. And the sly viscount of equally advanced age standing at the marquess’s bedside… would soon own Tabitha outright, thanks to the legal glories of holy matrimony.

Mr. Frampton stepped aside to let her in.

Tabitha pasted on a smile and went straight to her father, passing both the odious Viscount Oldfield and the kindly physician Dr. Collins in her hurry to kiss her father’s pale forehead and assure herself he would not be leaving her this day, at least.

“Daughter,” the marquess rasped. “A welcome sight for sore eyes.” Her own eyes stung. That was one of the kindest things he had ever said to her. Perhaps confronting his mortality had likewise caused him to cherish the sole familial connection he had left.

“Always my pleasure, Father.” She lifted his frail hand in hers and sent a questioning look toward the physician.

“Stable,” Dr. Collins pronounced, loud enough for the marquess to hear. Then he dropped his white-whiskered mouth to Tabitha’s ear. “But not for long. A month or two, at best. And at worst…”

She pulled her ear away before she could hear the rest of the good doctor’s diagnosis. Tabitha patted her father’s hand instead. A wasting disease was one of the worst ways to die. It stretched on too long. Day after day of knowing death was coming, wiggling its hook in a little more with each passing breath.

It had been two months already. When her father was first diagnosed, they had thought the marquess might hold on for six more months, mayhap another year. But he grew weaker by the day and had been bed-bound for over a month, unable to rise without assistance. This past week, her father had ceased being able to feed himself. The effort of lifting a cup or a fork was too much. Every limb trembled, and every part of him ached.

Tabitha hated seeing him like this. He’d once been so vibrant. Afternoons spent fencing with his friends, or riding his favorite stallion in the park. As much as she appreciated having the opportunity to say goodbye, watching her father die a little more each day was torture.

For his sake, she wished a swift end to his suffering. But for her sake… Father’s inevitable demise was the worst thing that could happen. “You haven’t… greeted your… betrothed,” rasped the marquess. Tabitha gritted her teeth behind a brittle smile and turned the pleasantest face she could muster toward Viscount Oldfield—who, it must be noted, had not greeted her either.

According to legend, such lack of manners was one of the many reasons their families had warred for generations. Both sides believed the other beneath them. Neither side was willing to bend.

Until Father. Bless him and curse him.

Tabitha did not curtsey to her betrothed. “Lord Oldfield. Please forgive my tardiness in greeting you.”

The viscount ran his eyes over her as though he were imagining her naked. “Bah. I’ve no need for a wife who talks,” he murmured, too low for her father to overhear.

Yes. This man thirty-plus years her senior desired her for reasons unrelated to conversation.

Such was her impending marital bliss.

She turned and dropped to her knees beside her father’s sickbed. “Papa, surely you can see—”

“This union will heal a centuries-old rift,” he reminded her, sensing the direction of her plea and putting a stop to it before she could embarrass them both in front of the viscount. “You should be proud to be a vessel of peace.”

A vessel. That was exactly what she was going to be. A hard, empty vessel for Lord Oldfield to fill at his whim and to use as he saw fit. Such unceasing attentions might break her.

“He’s a lord,” the marquess said hoarsely. “You should be grateful I’ve given you to such a fine friend. You might recall that Oldfield saved my life. I can never fully repay him for that. From the moment he and I first guarded the trenches together—”

Another war story. Heaven save her, Lady Tabitha had heard them all, dozens or hundreds of times each.

Father and Viscount Oldfield had met as British soldiers stationed together in the French revolutionary war, in the early 1790s. They’d both been raised to despise the other’s family, but nonetheless had become unlikely friends, united against a common foe. And when it had mattered most, Oldfield had been there for the marquess.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Father continued.

Tabitha wanted to scream, You wouldn’t betroth your daughter to your brother, much less whilst still in the womb, but she held silent. It didn’t matter what she said. Father was the marquess, and his word was law.

“Besides,” her father said gently. “You’ve always hated to see people upset or at odds. Your marriage will wipe clean a century of bigotry and prejudice. You should be proud to play such an important role, daughter. You love to restore peace. And a titled match makes you the envy of your peers. You have better fortune than most.”

Yes, yes, all of that was true, but…

Still on her knees at her father’s side, Tabitha cast a despairing glance up at Viscount Oldfield. He leered at her, displaying the multicolored teeth jockeying in his mouth. He’d lost several in the war. All of which had been replaced by teeth scavenged from the French corpses littering the battlefield.

She would get to think of that every time the viscount kissed her. Tabitha shuddered. She couldn’t help it.

“It’s your turn to serve the greater good, daughter.” Father tilted his head toward the viscount. “Can you procure a special license?” “No!” Tabitha scrambled to her feet. “I cannot marry yet. I’m not ready. This is… It isn’t a good time. In fact, I won’t have a free moment for a fortnight. I’m…” What could she conceivably be doing that would be more important than marrying a viscount? “I-I’ve already promised to attend the May Day festival in Marrywell. It lasts a week, and I must leave by morning to arrive for the opening ceremony.”

Father held her gaze, then cast his exhausted eyes up toward Dr. Collins. “If we read the banns first, what are the chances I will live long enough to attend the wedding ceremony?”

Tabitha sagged with relief—and guilt. She did not wish to disappoint her father or to cause him pain. A good daughter knew her duty and

fulfilled it without question. Was she being selfish by not rushing into an unwanted marriage with a lecherous roué over twice her age? “Shall you last another three weeks, milord? I should think so,” said the physician. “You’re not quite at death’s door yet.”

“But I have arrived outside its residence,” the marquess said dryly, only to be wracked by a rattling cough.

Viscount Oldfield jerked his gaze toward his attack dog. “Hudson, see that the first banns are read tomorrow.”

Mr. Frampton nodded. “It will be done.”

Lady Tabitha let out her breath. The banns would be read three consecutive Sundays. Fifteen days total, from the first reading to the last. It was not much of a reprieve, but it was at least something.

“Oldfield,” rasped the marquess. “Procure a special license as well. If I should worsen faster than expected…”

Tabitha swallowed. Her final fortnight of freedom would be curtailed in a second if there was cause to believe her father unable to hold on for the full reading of the banns.

“Consider it done,” Mr. Frampton assured both men, without looking at Tabitha.

The marquess’s pale blue eyes found his daughter. “Daughter…” “I know, Father,” she murmured. “I promise to make you proud.” Even if it destroyed any hope of her own happiness.

Seeing his only child wed to his old comrade-in-arms was the marquess’s literal dying wish. The marriage would bring peace after generations of fighting. And the promise had already been made.

Only a monster would prioritize her own selfish preferences above the wishes of her dying father and the peace and happiness her sacrifice would bring future generations.

She sighed. A daughter’s duty was to her father. Any other, less privileged young lady wouldn’t even view this marriage as a sacrifice.

Viscount Oldfield was wealthy and titled. An unattainable dream, for most. A coup Tabitha had lucked into from birth, no effort required. She was fortunate. The envy of debutantes everywhere, who would take her place at the altar in a heartbeat.

Tabitha wished she could let them.

“As it happens,” said Viscount Oldfield, as he resumed his open leering, “I have plans to attend the May Day festival as well.”

Oh no.

The viscount dipped his eyes toward Tabitha’s bodice. “You can ride with me.”

An eight-hour drive trapped in a private carriage with him? Untenable. “Of course,” the viscount continued, “I cannot leave until Wednesday —”

Tabitha seized on the opening. “I cannot wait that long. I’ve several appointments to keep, and must be off at first light. I’m very sorry the timing doesn’t—”

Viscount Oldfield gestured at Mr. Frampton. “Go with her.” “What? There’s no need to send your—” Attack dog. “—man of business,” she protested. “Mr. Frampton belongs with you. Besides, I already have a maid. One who is well-versed in playing chaperone.” “Tabitha,” gasped the marquess. “Do as your future husband commands. You will soon vow to love and obey him. It wouldn’t hurt to start practicing that obedience now.”

She ground her teeth behind a tight smile. “Very well. I’ll take Mr. Frampton. We’ll meet you at the festival, Lord Oldfield.”

His eyes still hadn’t left her bodice. “See that you do.”

Tabitha nodded woodenly. Her fortnight of freedom had become anything but free. Instead, she was trapped.

Tomorrow’s long journey was the beginning of the end.

About Erica Ridley:


Erica Ridley is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of of witty, feel good historical romance novels, including THE DUKE HEIST, featuring the Wild Wynchesters. Why seduce a duke the normal way, when you can accidentally kidnap one in an elaborately planned heist?

In the 12 Dukes of Christmas series, enjoy witty, heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. After all, nothing heats up a winter night quite like finding oneself in the arms of a duke!

Two other popular series, the Dukes of War and Rogues to Riches, feature roguish peers and dashing war heroes who find love amongst the splendor and madness of Regency England.

When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found eating couscous in Morocco, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.

Sign up for Erica’s newsletter! Sign up today and get a FREE BOOK—plus giveaways, discounts, insider info, contests, sales, & more!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Group | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC courtesy of Rockstar Book Tours, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ends June 20th, midnight EST.

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post


Cara North

Excerpt/IG Post


Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post





#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post


The Reading Life

Excerpt/IG Post


A Dream Within A Dream



The Momma Spot



Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post


Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

Week Two:


Confessions of the Perfect Mom

Review/IG Post


A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review


Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Review/IG Post



IG Review


Brandi Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post


More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post


The Chirpy Bookaholic

Review/IG Post



IG Review/TikTok Post


Fire and Ice

Review/IG Post



IG Review


Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Unseelie’s Wallflower + Giveaway

The Unseelies Wallflower Blitz Banner

The Unseelie’s Wallflower
by Elisa Rae
(Courts of Conflict, #1)
Publication date: June 6th 2023
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Greyson hides many things from the Unseelie Court when they invade his estate each autumn for the Wild Hunt. During his required appearance as host, he is surprised to find a human among the glittering fae. She can see him even when he is using his stealth magic, which means only one thing—they are soul mates. Can he protect her amidst the swirl of fae politics and a plot against her life?

Lyra has grown up among the fae. She has been trained to be the perfect servant. Then her master brings her to the Unseelie Court event of the year and demands she demonstrate her skills to nobles. With the promise of freedom as a motivator, she willingly agrees. Then she realizes her master’s true plan thanks to the intimidating fae lord hosting the event. Though why he would be invested in her fate is a mystery.

The Unseelie’s Wallflower is a light, fantasy romance novella about a relationship between an Unseelie and a human woman. It features faes, fated mates, and a romance between a noble and a servant, all played out against a backdrop of the peril, politics, and maneuverings of the Unseelie Court.

Goodreads / Amazon



Then I noticed her, the singular human. A female, small even for her species, hid among the ferns at the foot of one of the massive pillars supporting the soaring ceiling. Dressed simply, she watched the crowd with wary attention, burrowing deeper into the plants’ accommodating fronds every time a guest wandered near her hiding place.

Curious, I meandered that way. Slipping around the far side of the pillar, I settled in the deepest shadows of the plant next to her fern and set my back against the stone. She had chosen a good spot for spying. Most of the foot traffic flowed around this central point, but few of the passersby glanced in our direction. They ignored the greenery placed around the walls and bracketing the windows of my entryway.

“Bored with eavesdropping?” she asked.

I glanced over at her. Fronds framed her features as her bright eyes scanned the mingling crowd. She hadn’t turned my way, but somehow, I was certain she spoke to me. Assessing our surroundings, I noted no one else stood close enough to overhear or be the object of her query.

“Are you speaking to me?” I asked.

“Who else?” She flicked a glance over her shoulder. Blue eyes focusing on my face and the softening of her mouth hinted at a smile.

“You see me?” Utter surprise brought a great rush of excitement. No one saw me when I wished to be hidden. Not even my own kind could detect my passing. Yet this slender human, magicless and helpless, not only saw me but didn’t hesitate to speak to me. It meant one thing. My breath caught in my chest. She was my soul mate.

“Of course, I see you.” Her mouth deepened into a suppressed smile while hidden laughter brightened her eyes. “You are a bit hard to miss.”

Author Bio:

A reader of fairytales and folklore, Elisa Rae loves a happy ending. Noblebright characters, dastardly villains, and chemistry between characters delight her. When she isn’t writing, she loves to watch superhero movies and literary dramas.

Elisa Rae is the pen name of Rachel Rossano.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spotlight & Excerpt: Pillars + Giveaway

PILLARS banner

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the PILLARS by Claire Theriot Mestepey Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!


Title: Pillars
(Madeline’s Magic #1)

Author: Claire Theriot Mestepey

Pub. Date: February 3, 2022

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 488

Find it: Goodreads, books2read

Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited membership!


Madeline Jourdain is starting a new life in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, she has always been popular and smart, recently graduating from college. She has been blessed with adoring parents and friends who saw Madeline’s true self, beyond her disability. But deep down, Madeline longed for something she never knew she missed. With a touch of a welcoming hand, Madeline’s heart opens to find true love. With an opening of a book, Madeline discovers the magic lying dormant in her, as magic is reintroduced throughout the world. This fills Madeline’s heart with more possibilities but also more danger than she could ever have imagined. With help from witches, storm giants, and a Pixie named Charlie, Madeline learns about true love, magic, and even dragons.


Chapter 1 

Madeline Jourdain has recently moved from her hometown, Houston, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana,  for a paid Internship at a new art gallery. Not in her wildest dreams could she have imagined starting  such a fantastic position at the young age of 22, a week after graduating with a liberal arts degree.

The last few weeks are a blur. Madeline, of course, received a standing ovation at graduation. She felt  beet red, humiliated. In a wheelchair, you receive applauds for the dumbest stuff. The only way she got  through it was to lock eyes with Jane Summers, who was sitting behind her parents, as instructed. This  gave Madeline the courage to smile at the well-meaning but patronizing crowd. Her parents received  her beaming smile as a sign of excitement. No one ever suspected that the reason she looked so giggly  was that Jane was standing up behind her parents, rolling her eyes, doing a mock golf clap. No one on  earth will ever understand Madeline Jourdain better as she winked at Jane, and their eyes kissed.

Madeline Jourdain knew she should be more gracious about these things. It had been a long road  getting here from being an abandoned baby found in the back parking lot in a church in a tiny town in  Louisiana. The small parish priest, Peter’s oldest and dearest friend, asked if he and his wife would foster  this abandoned baby. That was that. Her adopted father, Peter, although she never thought of him that  way, says she was their serendipitous angel. And even if she was born on the other side of the world,  they would have found their daughter. Madeline has never considered searching for her birth parents.  Not even for a second, Linda Vu Jourdain, adopted mother sent from heaven, was her mama.

Linda was a very loving but stern mother. Yet, she had a dry wit that could send Madeline into hysterical  laughter. She was fiercely protective, never allowing Madeline to be treated differently, even though her  daughter was in a wheelchair. And to Peter’s dismay, Linda and Madeline bonded over food and  shopping, as often as schedules would allow. These Mother and daughter dates fizzled out during the  high school years. Still, they made a strong comeback during Madeline’s college career.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond, kind of their jam. Linda has taken her on a shopping spree for the last four years  before moving Madeline into her dorms. The move to New Orleans should have felt routine, but  somehow this felt bigger, not just because college was downtown and her Internship was in a different  state. Something was pulling Madeline East.

Luckily the Internship came with a furnished apartment. Caravanning two cars from Houston to New  Orleans was a simple move. Mostly clothes, kitchen stuff, and art supplies. And no one ever knew that  Madeline played sad songs for the entire drive down I-10, sobbing. Knowing that this moved ended a  chapter that did not have a happily ever after.

The apartment was a smudge bigger than her dorm room but felt like a palace to Madeline. It had three  rooms counting the kitchen and the bathroom/closet combo. The main area was about 700 square feet,  cute rugs defined the kitchen and living area. A futon faced a tiny tv that looked 15 years old. Linda made Madeline promise to make her bed every night, including fresh linen. Peter smirked, knowing this  was unlikely, but a mother could dream. The broken brick walls made the tiny, very ordinary efficiency  apartment feel magical. The front door opened into a small courtyard.

For a second, Madeline dreaded trying to get into the bathroom in her wheelchair, even though her  employer guaranteed everything she needed would be accessible. Because it did help on at least a spiritual level, Madeline held her breath as she rolled into the small but oddly large bathroom.  Somehow her wheels did not even come close to touching the doorframe.

Peter inspected every inch of the apartment, frowning at the number of deadbolts on the door, knowing  his daughter would lose interest after one or two clicks. He immediately researched getting an alarm.  Madeline smiled and nodded, knowing this was one battle she should not even express an opinion on.

Madeline twirled in her new apartment, giggling like she was drunk the second Peter and Linda left. Of  course, her folks wanted to stay longer, to help her really settle in. She somehow convinced them to  return in a month when they all could enjoy the city. Madeline said she had to get to work immediately,  and on their next visit, her mom could take her shopping for bathroom stuff. This seemed to appeased  mom, a little more than it should have.

To ease the guilt of sending her parents home early, Madeline would go into the gallery in the morning  for a few hours just to soak in the vibe. Then she sort of had a week off, and Jane and Steven were  coming up for a few days the minute Peter and Linda headed back to Houston. Madeline was just glad  she was not stuck in a 6-hour car ride with neither the departing nor the arriving visitors. Even though  they were her four most favorite people in the universe, they were most enjoyable when separated.

Madeline Claire Jourdain is 22 years old. Her birthday is celebrated on October 22nd. The priest found  her when she was a few days old, and since she was four, Madeline has persuaded her dad, Peter, into  celebrating her birth week, in case they were off by a few days.

Peter and Linda headed to Louisiana the day after Father Michael called to pick up their baby girl. It was  truly textbook, love at first sight. Father Michael had warned that the baby looked to have special  needs. And for the past 24 hours, that is all the couple could talk about. Could they love and support a  child with a disability? Would that be all that they saw when they looked at the baby?

The second that Father Michael put baby Madeline in Linda’s arms, their world changed. Linda could not  stop smiling, and Peter kissed her tiny fingers a hundred times. And that was that.

For the next 5 years, Peter, Linda, and Madeline visited 20 doctors and specialists in four countries. They  also visited different historic churches and supposedly sacred places where miracles had taken place.  Somewhere in a dusty album, there is a picture of young Madeline in a wheelchair at the Marian shrine  of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. In front of a row of crutches, the cured had left. This was the only  family picture ever taken that made Madeline extremely sad.

Doctors spoke in different accents and speeds. Some expressed empathy, too many were blunt and  dismissive. One even suggested Madeline was just extremely lazy and stubborn. Well, ok, he was half  right…

Overall, the consensus was the same; besides being paralyzed from the waist down, Madeline was one  of the healthiest kids they had ever seen. But even with the hundreds of scans, MRI’s, blood tests, and x rays from a million different positions, no one could explain why she could not walk.

On Madeline’s 7th birthday, she received the best gift ever. Her parents promised her that aside from  wellness checkups, they were done. She was their perfect miracle, as is, no questions asked. And for a  very long time, this fairy tale kept away her demons late at night.


There was a knock on the door early the next morning; luckily, Madeline had been awake for hours. She  did not sleep well on her first night in her new apartment in her new city. Her lack of rem sleep was a  mixture of nervousness, really weird dreams, and maybe she missed her mom, oh the horrors!

“Hey Madeline,” The light knocked at the door came with a familiar voice. “It’s Danny Boudreaux, from  NL Foundation.” She rushed to the door, cursing the 4 locked deadbolts that her father stood outside,  impatiently waiting to hear the clicks before they headed back to Houston the night before.

“Finally, we meet in person.” Madeline opened the door and was pleasantly surprised. She had been  talking to Danny almost every day for the last few months. He oversaw the foundation that hired her to  open the new art gallery. He was instrumental in finding her apartment and mentioned he looked  forward to having a new neighbor. She knew he was also part owner in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant  across the street from her new home. He, however, neglected to mention how gorgeous he was.  Looking back, this may have been a very good thing.

“Umm, you knew I was in a wheelchair, right?” Madeline suddenly felt self-conscious. Why was this man  staring at her? Like almost stalker-like? At least most of her boxes were still packed. Steven and Jane  could help her make a quick exit back to Houston if needed.

“No,” Danny started backtracking, which restored the cuteness and safety factor.

Madeline grinned again. He was leaning against the tiny bar that separated the kitchen from the living  area. Although she didn’t focus on his voice during the hundreds of phone calls over the last month,  Madeline quickly found a new appreciation for it. His voice was deep but friendly. Which kind of  matched his three-piece suit. She really didn’t know what to expect.

It made sense that he was wearing a suit since Danny was an attorney and board member of the NL  Foundation that hired her. He just sounded less business-like on the phone. He stood about 5’11. It was  a strange knack that Madeline had; she was very accurate in telling people’s height. Probably because  she had always felt short in her wheelchair.

Danny Boudreaux had salt and peppered hair, a little premature for his age, maybe late twenties, but it  fit him. His eyes were hazel, and his skin more olive than white. He probably went to the gym as an  obligation, not as a fun outing. He was just very attractive physically, and his warm personality added to  his charm.

“No. Yes… What I meant was,” Danny grinned from embarrassment. “Did I mention I’m an eloquent  speaker in court? I apologize; yes, I knew you were in a wheelchair. You are not what I envisioned during  our conversations, you’re stunning. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I blurted that out.”

“Coffee?” Madeline offered, breaking the awkward silence, feeling herself blush. Luckily the coffee  maker was the only thing unpacked and ready for duty.

“Coffee.” And except for one more very unexpected moment later that week, they immediately talked  like they knew each other all their lives. There was something about him that felt like home.

Danny finished his 2nd cup of coffee, apologizing for the 4th time that he had to be in court most of the  day, ruining his “Welcome to New Orleans tour extravaganza.” But he did offer to be Madeline’s personal tour guide that weekend. Madeline debated sharing him with Jane but figured she owed her  after what Jane is currently doing and figured it might make her less grumpy. Danny seemed pleased  that there would be a group and promised a good time would be had by all. Madeline was less certain,  but stranger things have happened.

On a piece of paper, Danny jotted down directions to the art gallery, which was only three blocks away,  and the alarm code. And handed her a set of keys. They laughed as they felt a spark. Madeline usually  hated static electricity sparks…

She tried to hide how pleased she was as she closed the apartment door behind her. The two left the  quaint courtyard together but parted ways at the main street. Danny now rushing, not realizing where  the morning had gone.

Madeline didn’t remember anything about her swift roll from her apartment to the gallery, but she will  always remember every detail of the new art space. The building itself was an old house, outside kept to  the original structure as much as possible. Three sides of the house untouched except for replacement  bricks. The fourth updated to look more like a modern business. The front had two huge windows on  each side, double doors in the middle, made from cypress wood, with colored broken mosaic stain glass  as panels. Three steps led up to the door, and a side ramp lined with flowers led to the same entrance.

Madeline didn’t think she had been in front of the store that long, but when the 4th stranger walking by  asked if she needed help, Madeline forced herself to go in. The lock felt a little stuck, but as Madeline  turned the key, both doors swung open, as if a light breeze pushed them.

Besides the somewhat accessible path, this looked like a scene from extreme hoarders. The peaks of the  stacks of treasures, trash, and junk towered over Madeline’s head, And for the first time, she wondered  if she should have asked for hazardous pay. She looked around and started playing eye spy. Just off the  top of her head, she spotted two bikes, four TVs, stoves, broken furniture, books, paintings, some in one  piece, others not so much, clothes, jewelry, and boxes and boxes of general crap.

“Hey Danny,” Madeline left a message, knowing he was doing lawyerly things, trying to sound firm. “The  outside looks spectacular, but unless our first exhibit is ‘1960s junkyard’, I really don’t see a finish line  within our three-month target date. Please call me asap. Hope you’re having a good day.” She smiled at  the phone as if he could see her.

“Hope you’re having a good day?” Madeline mumbled to herself, what the hell? That kind of nulls and voids the urgency of the message, dummy.

Madeline felt completely turned around, somewhere towards the back, mentally sifting through another  mountain of stuff when she heard an alarm beep announcing that someone had come in.

“Hello,” She began her introduction speech she had been rehearsing in her head for a week. “ Welcome  to the Phyllis L Art Gallery. Please excuse the mess…” her voice trailed off.

“Hi.” He said softly as if asking for permission. He was an athletic-looking guy in khaki shorts and a  purple polo shirt, in his mid-twenties. Too pretty and cocky for boyfriend material, unless you were into  that. Madeline certainly wasn’t, anymore.

“Hi,” Madeline whispered, with sadness in her voice; her heart was a different matter. He bent to his  knees to kiss her. Madeline tried to resist but giggled as she gave in. “Jane is going to kill me, but I did  find her a new distraction,” Steven laughed and kissed her forehead as he stood up, now looking at the  space in disbelief.

“Muffaletta. Let the food fetish weekend begin.” Jane suddenly appeared, as if magically. Madeline  didn’t hear the door open. Steven jumped away from Madeline as if he was a 5-year-old who got caught  putting gum in the hair of the girl he loves. “Oh damnit, Madds. You promised.”

“He was just saying hello.” Madeline was trying not to grin because Jane seemed genuinely irritated, and  Madeline really wanted a Muffaletta. “I promised that he wouldn’t get to third base. Besides, what is  the proper way to greet your ex-boyfriend?”

“I’m pretty sure Emily Post would strongly suggest… No. Tongue.” Jane was hiding her smirk behind the  big bag of food she was laying out over a picnic tablecloth on the floor in one of the clearings.

“Do I get a vote…” Steven asked, knowing what the answer was.

“Nope.” The girls sang in sync. Madeline laughed until Jane joined in. Finally greeting her best friend  with a kiss on the cheek.

Jane was Madeline’s most favorite person on earth. They met freshman year on the first day of  orientation and have not gone 48 hours without talking since. They met Steven on the 2nd day of  orientation, so of course, they still tease after 5 years that Steven was the third wheel. And to some  extent, it was true.

Jane Summers was a gorgeous girl. A little too gorgeous for Madeline’s taste, but we all have our own  cross to bear. To Jane’s absolute disgust, Madeline frequently referred to her as a Greek goddess. With  perfect cream skin, green eyes, graceful, and long spirally red hair, how else would anyone describe her  besides the Greek goddess? To add insult to injury, she was very smart. A month ago, Jane finished  culinary school after getting her B.A. in three years. They really should not be friends at all.

“Can we just have a really fun weekend?” Madeline asked, raising a can of soda. Trying to shake the  feeling that this would be the last weekend the threesome could be together, pretending they were  sophomores when things were still pure.

“Cheers.” Jane winked at Madeline and leaned into Steven’s arm.

“Cheers,” Steven added. “Hey, Madds said she found you a shining new plaything.” “Ooh, do tell.” Jane smiled. “Is he cute?”

“Oh my god, I’d definitely tap that,” Madeline admitted.

“Hey!?!?” Steven screamed, almost choking on his sandwich.

“He is gorgeous.” Madeline continued, ignoring Steven’s outburst. “And he owns a restaurant. You may  flirt with him, but no hokey pokey until I’m hired permanently, then you have my blessings.”

“Hey!?!?” Steven screamed again, this time louder and with more feelings. Madeline and Jane burst into  uncontrollable laughter.

The quick lunch lasted far into the night. They did discuss Danny a little more, but it was just nice to have  a long, flowing conversation like they used to, before things got complicated, before words broke  hearts. They talked about almost everything from Steven starting his Master’s Program in the fall in  Atlanta to Jane’s plans now that she just finished culinary school. They mostly enjoyed watching  Madeline trying to roll around the gallery, pointing out her ideas for projects she could not wait to start.

The next morning, Danny appeared at Madeline’s door with coffee and fresh beignets.

“Hey, you must be Danny. “ Jane opened the door and invited him in. “Have you met Steven?  Madeline’s boyfriend?” She giggled, her signal to Madeline that Danny would do just fine.

“I’m so getting to third base; your bodyguard just approved,” Steven whispered in Madeline’s ear before  getting up from a sleeping bag to shake Danny’s hand. Madeline felt embarrassed, but she wasn’t sure  about whom or why.

And so began a wonderful weekend. A little warm for late June, but the low clouds tamed the sun to a  pleasant temperature. It was interesting to Madeline that even though her dad was born in a small town  west of New Orleans, they rarely visited this amazing city. Everything Danny introduced them to was  fresh and wonderful.

Of course, the three were obsessed with the food equally as the next meal seemed better than the last  fabulous one. For lunch, they ate at Oceana. Danny called it a local favorite; no one argued. Everyone  ordered a different entrée and shared bites. The winner with an overwhelming clean plate was the  blackened duck stuffed with crawfish.

After the amazing lunch, the foursome wandered around the French Quarter, just enjoying the relaxing  day. Steven loved the architecture, Jane stopped to read every menu, and Madeline had to stare into  the window of every gallery, making mental notes of what she needed.

But indisputably, the favorite outing Saturday was Preservation Hall. In all the churches in the world that  Madeline had visited, she had never felt a stronger presence of a higher being than here.

Preservation Hall was a small space. Maybe held 150 people, most of them sitting on the floor. Danny  had gotten them a VIP table, but Madeline would have been just as happy on the floor. The hall featured  local old school jazz bands. The youngest musician in the band they saw was 75 years young.

Maybe it was the candles or the old brick building that looked like it had survived hundreds of fads and  was still standing, almost as is after decades of change. Opened in 1961, the music venue features  acoustic concerts featuring over 100 local master jazz musicians.

Madeline was surprised as tears ran down her cheek when the crowd was brought to their feet as the  band played “When The Saints Go Marching In.” She looked around her, finding unexpected comfort  that the other three had tears too.

Madeline promised herself that she would return to Preservation Hall as much as she could. A tiny part  of her worried it would get old. But in all the years she would live in the city, she went at least once a  month, Usually for their Sunday brunch. And never once did it feel old.

After this spiritual event, the four agreed the only way to end the night was drinking and dancing,  celebrating the true essence of the French Quarters. And that they did.

“Oh, damn,” Danny mumbled as the four stepped out of the third bar of the night. “I didn’t see this text.  My grandfather is short-staffed tonight. I should go help close up. Will y’all join me for brunch there  tomorrow? I saved the best for last.”

“That sounds fantastic.” Madeline nodded as Steven shook his hand, thanking him for the day.

“Can I tag along?” Jane offered, dying to see the restaurant Danny had been telling her about. Madeline  giggled, wondering what Jane was more excited about, getting her hands on a kitchen or Danny. The  group said their goodbyes, and Jane and Danny disappeared into the crowd on Bourbon Street.

“We should go get coffee and Beignets,” Steven suggested. Madeline suddenly felt nervous. They once  bonded over coffee. They decided they were best friends over coffee. Steven confessed he was madly in  love with her over coffee. And two years later, Steven confessed something else, again over coffee.

“Stupid coffee,” Madeline muttered under her breath as they were seated at Café Du Monde. She had  been here a few times on family trips, but the night had a different feel to the airy restaurant, tables,  and people packed in like sardines, even after midnight.

They ordered six Beignets, square-looking doughnuts that tasted better than any pastry should.

“So.” Steven started. Madeline bribed herself. If she could get through this conversation without either  bursting into tears or stabbing him, preferably in the penis. Then, she could buy an insanely expensive  brush Monday.

“So…” Madeline’s devilish grin hid the tears she felt swelling.

“Excuse me,” Their moment was interrupted by two ladies. “We hate to bother you, but we’d be so  honored if you could say a blessing; my mother just got into a car accident. And she would be in awe if  she was blessed by a direct descendant.”

“I’m…” Madeline didn’t see this conversation. “I’m sorry, I’m from Houston, but I certainly will keep her  in my prayers.” The words just came out. Madeline didn’t want to sound mean, but this was bizarre.

“We are so sorry; please accept our apologies. Have a good evening.” The other lady said, now kind of  bowing. They both insisted on shaking Madeline’s hand. This was beyond weird as the last one cuffed  her hand for what felt like an eternity. The two backed away and disappeared into the crowd.

“Ok, they did drink too many Hurricanes.” Madeline tried to laugh it off, feeling very uneasy. Now very  annoyed that Steven seemed glued to a card that one of the ladies must have left on the table.  “Steven!” Madeline hissed. Holding the card up so she could see it, he looked directly at her with a very  strange expression.

It was a laminated card, 2×3. On the front, one of those old-timey portraits, the back, a paragraph. It  looked like a Saint’s card from the Catholic Church.

“You have her cheeks.” He continued to study the picture. “And her eyes. Look, Madeline.”

“And we are extremely drunk.” Madeline flat out lied. Madeline had maybe a total of half a drink the  entire day. Between her new co-worker and her ex-boyfriend, she wanted to keep a clear head. Steven  did have a drink or two but wasn’t even tipsy. Madeline took the card from Steven, ignoring the picture  and the shiver that ran up her spine the second she touched the paper.

“Listen to this crap.” Madeline read the back of the card. “I seek protection and sound my alarm, my  body, mind, and spirit be safe from harm. My aura a shield to help me stay strong. I block negativity and  all that is wrong. Blah blah blah. WHAT!?!?”

“That paragraph is written in French.” Steven leaning towards Madeline, angrily whispered. “You do not  speak French! You speak English, Vietnamese, and a little bit of Spanish. NOT French! How the hell are  you reading this?”

“This is NOT in French.” Madeline tried not to raise her voice. How in the world was this turning into a  fight? Madeline wondered as she felt her blood boiling. Worse playful fight and excuse for makeup sex  ever!

“Come on.” Steven said forcefully, “I texted Jane. She’s going to meet us back at the apartment.” He got  up and left, hoping Madeline would follow. He knew her. She would have stubbornly sat at that table at  Café Du Monde until she could prove she was right, or at least less wrong than Steven. Madeline  followed against her better judgment. At least Jane would bitch Steven out for the strange game he was  playing, And Madeline would win. And everything would be fine.


About Claire Theriot Mestepey:

Whimsy Word Search Game Ups the Fun Level of Word Searches

Whimsy Word Search has launched a new style of game that triples the fun with its genius mix of color and word search.

Claire Theriot Mestepey’s love affair with word games and word searches has been going on for as long as she can remember. Then about a few years ago, Claire had a novel idea to create a book that combined both coloring and word searches in one game. She immediately got to work to ensure this idea came into fruition. After a lot of trials and mostly errors, Whimsy Word Search was born.

Whimsy Word Search debuted with two never-seen-before puzzle styles: normal and pictogram. The normal Whimsy Word Search is a prettier and more colorful take on the regular word search, but the difference is that it allows one to color each letter in the words they find.

As for the pictogram style, Claire has her husband to thank for the idea. “My husband suggested there might be a way to make these puzzles even more challenging. Why use simple letters when you can challenge your puzzle lovers with pictograms? So have each pictogram represent a letter and then find the connecting pictograms that form the words. Hence Whimsy Word Search, Pictogram Style was created.”

As the owner and creator of the Whimsy Word Search, Claire is in charge of the entire process. “I do everything from coming up with the ideas for different books to creating the pages to publishing the books.” It is particularly noteworthy that Claire does all this even with a severe physical disability. “What gives my story of a strong woman trying to build a business while raising a happy family a twist, is that I have cerebral palsy.”

Nonetheless, Claire shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
“Recently we have added American Sign Language too. My latest book is Shakespearean Insults, which features letters from guttersnipe to roundtable wench! These words and insults work in a pinch! It’s probably my favorite book word search that I have created to date.”

Claire also added a new feather to her cap when she and her work were featured in the Texas County Reporter. An experience she is most thankful for.

Claire also finished her first full-length novel recently, Pillars, which is about a heroine in wheelchair who uses her magic powers to combat evil. The novel is set to be part of a trilogy that chronicles the epic battles between good and evil. Claire is currently writing the second novel, while a detailed outline of the third novel is already penned down.

Sign up for Claire’s newsletter!

Website | Twitter | FacebookInstagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International.

3 winners will receive an eBook of PILLARS, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ends July 7th, midnight EST.

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


A Dream Within A Dream



The Chirpy Bookaholic

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two:


Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post


Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post


Cara North

Excerpt/IG Post


#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post


YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Three:


Fire and Ice




Review/IG Post


Lifestyle of Me




IG Review



Review/IG Post

Week Four:


Locks, Hooks and Books



A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic/TikTok Post



IG Review


Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post


the original B00K nerd

IG Review/FB Post

Week Five:



IG Review


Review Thick And Thin

Review/IG Post


The Momma Spot



Confessions of the Perfect Mom

Review/IG Post



IG Review


Scroll Up