Virtual Tour: Called Up by Jen Doyle

There are two things Max “Deke” Deacon can always count on: 
his old high school teammates and Fitz Hawkins.
CALLED UP by Jen Doyle
A Calling It Novel
Releasing Aug 29, 2016
Carina Press

There are two things Max “Deke” Deacon can always count on: his old high school teammates and Fitz Hawkins. But no matter how much Deke might secretly fantasize otherwise, a relationship with one of his best friends is off limits. Until one unexpectedly smoldering encounter has Deke and Fitz looking at each other in a whole new way.

Angelica “Fitz” Hawkins knows for a fact that it is not better to have loved and lost. After losing her parents, she’d rather lock up her heart and throw away the key than endure that kind of pain again. If that means giving up any hope of a lasting relationship, then so be it.

With Deke, Fitz finally feels like she's back in the land of the living. But she won’t risk another broken heart—even if it means saying good-bye to Deke for good. It’s up to Deke to convince her that the safest place she could ever be is right here with him.

   Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo

A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. Jen is a member of the Romance Writers of America, as well as a member of the New England, New Jersey Romance Writers and Music City Romance Writer chapters of RWA. She is represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. She has an M.S. in Library and Information Science and, in addition to her work as a librarian, has worked as a conference and events planner as well as a Communications and Enrollment administrator in both preschool and higher education environments (although some might say that there is very little difference between the two; Jen has no comment regarding whether she is one of the “some”).


Blog Tour: Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
Publication date: August 30, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.
Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

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Been Here All Along

(P. 12, Kyle’s POV)

When I get outside, Gideon’s leaning on my car, checking his watch like it holds the secrets of the universe.

I’m about to apologize when he starts talking.

“Do you like pep rallies?” he asks.

“I can’t stand them,” I tell him honestly, shuddering a little at the very thought.

“Awesome,” he says, climbing into the passenger side.

“You have lipstick on your forehead.”

“Damn it,” Gideon says, pulling down the visor and checking himself in the mirror.

“Should be a napkin in the glove compartment,” I say.

He roots around in there while I pull out of the driveway and head in the direction of the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through.

“So what’s up?” he asks.


“Why were you running late?”

I shrug.

“No, really, you seem weird,” he says, side-eyeing me. “You’re all twitchy.”

“Um, well, I think I’m going to come out to Ruby.”

“What? Seriously? Why?”

“Well, um . . .” I can’t find my train of thought, and I have no idea why I’m so nervous.

“I mean, like, why now? What changed?”

“It kind of feels like I’m lying to her.”

          About Sandy
I’m a teen librarian from New Jersey where I was born and raised. I have a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When I’m not writing, or teen librarian-ing, I enjoy reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT is my first novel.



Waiting On [168]: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Waiting on Wednesday [Wow] is a weekly event hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser 
Expected Publication: March 28, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Why I Can’t Wait
All I can say is this one sounds so good! I like how it is filled with mystery and secrets which in my opinion have all the makings of a great read! This one is at the top of my must reads for next year.


Limited Special: The Complete Heart Series by Claire Contreras

I’m so happy to spread the word on one of my favorite authors and series!
Claire Contreras’s wonderful Heart series is finally available as a box set. It will ONLY be on sale for .99 for 48 hours, so tell your friends, your family, your teachers, and whoever else you think may want to read this series! 
I highly recommend this series so do yourself a favor and give it a read!

Buy NOW!
iBooks and Kobo are coming soon.

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published: May 12, 2015 [paperback]
Publisher: Penguin
Format: via publisher
Rating: 4/5

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, drama, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

My Thoughts
Everything I Never Told You had me from the very start. It all starts with the missing Lydia and that sets off a string of events that shows us how fractured this family really is. We see how her parents met and how each one of them was looking to escape their own families. We then see how in the Lee family each child is seen to their parents and what is expected of them.

The eldest son just wants out and can’t wait to leave his family behind. All he wants is to get into college and impress his father. The youngest daughter is practically invisible to both her parents. It’s Lydia who is the one who has the most pressure upon her. Her father wants her to be popular and excepted by the kids at school, while her mother wants her to be a doctor something she never finished before becoming a wife and mother. So what is Lydia to do? She lies and just wants to please her parents so she lives a lie becoming the popular and stellar student her parents want. So when she isn’t found one morning everything her parents thought she was comes to light and when she is found dead they realize they didn’t know their daughter at all.

While I loved this beautifully written novel what I thought was a suspense novel really wasn’t. I thought it was going to be more of a who done it when in actuality it was a novel of a family on the brink of destruction. The pressures that the parents put on Lydia were so much but were it enough to make her break or was there something more? I enjoyed the unpeeling of layers that this story provided and it showed us why each parent acted the way they did. This is one novel that is a page turner and a treasure of a read.


Mini Review: Mixtapes & Rollerskates by Tracy Krimmer

Mixtapes & Rollerskates by Tracy Krimmer
Published: September 25, 2015
Rating: 4/5

Angie was a 90s girl with it all figured out, but after a disastrous marriage, she's not sure she knows how--or where--to find the right guy. A crash while roller skating lands her in the arms of Owen, a sweet and handsome forty-something widower. As the soundtrack of her high school years plays in the background, flirtation leads to what feels like a real connection. Can Angie trust her heart enough to move on and make a new soundtrack to her life?

My Thoughts
This is a VERY short read about 30 pages or so but it's super cute and lots and fun. Angie is getting over a divorce and one night while roller skating she bumps into Owen who is a widower and with that a whole night of talking might just lead into something that both weren’t looking for but might be what they both need. I loved the cute and flirty interaction between both of them and the chemistry was off the charts. This is definitely one quick read that has the feel of a full-fledged novel.


Book Blitz: Under A Million Stars by Rita Branches

Click Here to enter to win a $15 Amazon GC

Under A Million Stars by Rita Branches
Published: August 8, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Can a beating heart bleed from the shattered pieces?
Her heart cracked when her best friend walked away; it completely shattered when she lost her family in a tragic accident.
Now orphaned at seventeen, Charlotte Peterson is forced to live with her former best friend, Jacob Parker. Charlie, a talented pianist, desperately wants their loving friendship back, but something is holding Jake back. The more she spirals into the darkness of depression, the more she needs him.
Jacob vowed to stay away from her—no matter how much he still loved her. Armed with secrets that would have destroyed both of their families, he chose to end their friendship and walk away, which nearly killed him. As he watches the girl he once knew begin to fade away, however, he realizes that their relationship is more important than the truth he’s hiding.
Now it’s up to Jacob to put the pieces of Charlie’s broken heart back together—even if it means revealing the secrets he so desperately wants to protect her from.
Will Jacob find a way to bring back the carefree, talented girl he once knew, or is it too late for both of them?
These two weeks had been hell for me.
I didn’t know how I was going to pull this off for the eight months I still had left in this hell of a town. My parents didn’t get me, and she was around all the time, suffocating me. My heart skipped a beat every time I heard her voice, and it doubled in speed when she was near me. I wouldn’t be able to stay away, I knew it. She was breaking my heart all over again.
I heard her at night, when she thought everyone was sleeping. I just sat on the floor, resting my head against the wall, and listen to her cry and throw up every other night.
I stayed there like a jerk, as if I didn’t give a crap about her or her feelings, but I cried. I missed her. I wanted to hold her at night and tell her that everything would be alright, but I couldn’t. I promised I would stay away—I couldn’t hurt her, anymore. I pushed my knees to my chest to hold myself together and to keep me from crumbling. Sometimes, I had to place my closed fist against my mouth, so she wouldn’t hear me sob. I wished she would have, though. I wished she would have opened the door and saw me sitting there, caring about her, suffering like she did.
My mom was getting suspicious about me. She knew about her, or at least that something wasn’t right. My face, the permanent dark circles under my eyes, and my lack of appetite wasn’t normal, though. I was okay, before her parents’ accident—I had started to pull myself together.
This night was especially bad. She stayed in the bathroom for hours. I had been on the other side, hearing her cry and wishing I could take it all away.
I was starting to get really scared for her. I left before my parents woke up, unable to face them and those disapproving looks, anymore, like I wasn’t doing anything right with my life. They wanted a perfect son and they didn’t have one.
I was in no condition to go to college—I couldn’t even imagine myself being closed behind four walls for another four or five years. I needed something to take my thoughts away—something that would fuel me with adrenaline. They wouldn’t approve of the plans I’d been making. They’d hate them, in fact, but I didn’t care, anymore, I just needed to get away.

Author Bio:
Rita Branches is an independent YA (young adult) author who enjoys spending every free moment (when she´s not reading) writing emotional stories. Visit: http://ritabranches.wordpress.com/

 Under a Million Stars


Twentytwofourteen - The Album Leaf
Bring me to life - Evanescence
Untitled - Simple Plan
Fire and Rain - Birdy
Shelter - The XX
Wings - Birdy
Grow Old with Me - Tom Odell
The power of Love - Gabrielle Aplin
Home - Gabrielle Aplin


When or at what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved to read and build up stories in my mind, but I started writing in high school.
What is the earliest age you remember reading your first book?
My mother always read to me, since I can remember, I suppose I started reading those children’s books as soon as I was able to. In English (my first language isn’t English, for those of you who don’t know), it was Harry Potter. I couldn’t wait for the next book to be available in Portuguese, so I bought it in English and realized it was easy to understand, so I started reading more and more in English.
What genre of books do you enjoy reading?
Right now, it’s New Adult and Young Adult (which is what I write) but I read almost anything.
What is your favorite book?
It’s difficult to say. I went to my goodreads’ favorite’s bookshelf for this question and I have 67 books there and I try to be selective with the books I put there. The firsts that come to my mind are: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (really depressing but beautiful), The Host by Stephenie Meyer (like the whole concept of that world), A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (it’s Nicholas Sparks, I don’t need to mention it’s depressing). Harry Potter, of course.
But the most well built and that I felt was not understood, was Hunger Games, I think it’s much deeper than people think, I watched the last movie (I read the books long ago) and kept linking the story to what’s happening now in the world, with the refugees, with the world leaders… and I think the public didn’t understand what was under the romance (which is next to nothing and very well done, realistically speaking).
You know I think we all have a favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?
It’s the same with favorite books, it’s hard to say. I think J. K. Rowling is brilliant, and for the reasons I stated above, Suzanne Collins is as well.
If you could travel back in time here on earth to any place or time. Where would you go and why?
Have you watch documentaries on the health problems? The lack of hygiene? I’m kidding - but not really. I like to visit historic places and imagine what it would be like to live there in the past, but I can’t say I would like to live in the past - I’m more curious about the future.
When writing a book do you find that writing comes easy for you or is it a difficult task?
It depends on the day, there are days I can’t write a sentence that sounds right. When I finished Under a Million Stars, I wrote 10k words in one day and it came out perfectly (even though I went to bed with sore eyes).
Do you have any little fuzzy friends? Like a dog or a cat? Or any pets?
Two amazing dogs, both rescued from the street.
What is your "to die for", favorite food/foods to eat?
I love sushi and pasta.
Do you have any advice for anyone that would like to be an author?
Write, write, write, the more you write, even if it isn’t a story you wish to publish, writing, like with everything in life needs practice. You’ll get better with each paragraph. Then take a chance and publish it. Don’t get stuck on the idea that no one wants to read your stories.



Waiting On [167]: When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

Waiting on Wednesday [Wow] is a weekly event hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

When all the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
Expected Publication: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Berkley

When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished. 

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.  

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way.

Why I Can’t Wait
I’ve quickly become a huge fan of Jayne Ann Krentz. I love her fast paced writing style and she gives us storylines that don’t disappoint. I can’t wait for this new one!


Blog Tour: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase
Published: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 4/5

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

My Thoughts
 In Results May Vary we meet Caroline who is forced to decide what to do when she finds out her husband had an affair with a man. What I loved most about this read is the fact that it is so real. I like how Caroline went through a mixed bag of emotions and wasn’t sure what she should do. She was mad and hurt of course and at one point she thought that she could forgive him but when he continues to lie that was it for Caroline. I love how she isn’t too quick with her decisions and goes through all her options.

With the help from family and friends, Caroline puts the pieces of her life back together and soon falls back in like with a fellow co-worker. He has his own hurdles to go through but it was nice seeing Caro being open again. To be able to enjoy life again and not let the past determine her future. Her emotions were very understandable she was in love with a man for over a decade but once everything was relieved it wasn’t so much the affair that was the big issue it was that she never really knew this person at all.

Bethany Chase gives us a story of hope and determination to pick up the pieces of your life when you think you can’t. Life and marriage is complicated and messy and Caro’s actions were just that. I like how Bethany Chase doesn’t sugar coat it and make it all nice and tie it up in a bow. I can’t say enough good things about this messy [in a good way] portrayal of a love story gone wrong which shows us the best thing one could do after a betrayal is finding your true self and know that life will always workout in the end.

Writing Playlist – Results May Vary

This is an interesting thing to write about because this book has such a different musical personality from my first book, The One That Got Away. When I was writing that, I was listening to a lot of classic soul and 70’s rock (think Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack), and that made its way into the book in many places. Results May Vary’s playlist is a lot more eclectic, both on purpose and by accident.

  1. Sugar & the Hi Lows, “Right Time to Tell You”: This song is gorgeous. The melody and harmonies are about as pretty as it gets, and the lyrics are incredibly apropos to Adam’s situation—the narrator has something to confess, has been waiting for the right time to do it, but no time is ever the right time.
  2. Fountains of Wayne’s gorgeous “Valley Winter Song”: This is a quintessential New-England-in-winter song for me. It talks about short, dreary winter days and snowstorms and hanging in there till the summer. (True, perfect fact: the Fountains guys are Williams alums just like Caroline and me.)
  3. Band of Horses, “No One’s Gonna Love You”: Really sums up Caroline’s feelings toward Adam in the early part of the book.
  4. Amos Lee, “Chill in the Air”: Another beautiful breakup song (in this one, it’s the steel guitar that cinches it), and a nod to Caroline’s predilection for mopey singer-songwriters. I think Amos is fantastic, but the man sure can write a good mopey song.
  5. The Grateful Dead, “Fire on the Mountain”: This is one of my personal favorite songs that I was delighted to give to a character. I am only an entry-level Deadhead, but the guitar riff on this song is just so mellow and pretty that I could listen to it for hours. Or, you know, 13 minutes, which is the length of the longest live version of it that I own.
  6. The Apache Relay, “Katie Queen of Tennessee”: Very pretty little love song from one of Jonathan’s favorite bands.
  7. Jo Dee Messina, “Downtime”: Ruby wasn’t kidding that Jo Dee is the queen of upbeat breakup anthems. I’ve always loved this song because it’s about the process of recovering yourself while you get over a breakup, which is really what the book is about. I especially love the line where she says “Your memory’s taking second to a good book and a nice, long bath.”
  8. Duke Ellington, “Jeep’s Blues”: this piece gets a very specific call-out in the book because good lord, is it sexy. I’ve always thought blues is the sexiest music there is. (And this stood me in good stead when one of the questions on my online dating survey was “What’s your favorite music to get you in the mood” and I referenced something about one of the Allman Brothers barn-burners, which impressed the musician who is now my husband.)
  9. Rogers & Hart, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”: I have an Ella Fitzgerald recording of this song that is one of my favorite all-time pieces of music. Ella’s voice is so beautiful, and the song’s lyrics have this sly, witty charm that—yes, I sound like an old person—you so rarely find anymore. “I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again…” It’s such a great description of being infatuated.
  10. First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”: Stunning harmonies in this song, and sweet, upbeat lyrics that remind me of Caroline and Neil. Especially where she says “I’m not asking much of you, just sing, little darling, sing with me” and “Things just don’t grow if you don’t bless them with your patience.

RESULTS MAY VARY by Bethany Chase
Chapter 1
We two, you know have everything before us, and we shall do very great things—I have perfect faith in us. —Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murry, May 18, 1917
There are these two little words I know, that we all know; we learn them so early that we can’t remember when we did. They have a gravitational attraction to each other, I would say: the one-word love, and the other word story. ’Cause you can have a story without love, sure; but when it comes to the kind of love you fall in, whether it’s a slow glide or a blind plunge over the edge . . . you can’t have a love without a story.
I thought I knew mine.
Adam and I had promised we would grow old together, and we had already started to. The finest creases had etched them- selves into the tender skin at the corners of his eyes, delicate as spider silk. They weren’t visible most of the time; only in our bed, when the sunlight elbowed in on us and my eyes opened to his face. I remember brushing my fingertips against them, the morning of the day I found out, in the stillness after I switched off my alarm. I remember the little pat on the butt he gave me as I hurried out the door to work. The way he nodded when I reminded him to be ready to leave by two, so we could make it to the city on time.
Because the thing that kills me the most, when I think about that day, is how damn eager I was to get there. The three of us were spilling along the Chelsea sidewalk through the early evening warmth, dodging across Twenty-first Street in front of an oncoming delivery van, hurrying to the gallery because the opening had started twenty minutes ago and the crowd around the photographs would be starting to thicken. I was walking so fast that I stubbed the toe of my favorite wedges on a piece of fractured concrete, and the ugly scratch across the beige leather made me so irritated, because, at that moment, it was the most upsetting thing I could imagine going wrong all evening.
I had been looking forward to it all week. A trip into the city with Adam: the long drive from the Berkshires, down the lush green tunnel of the Taconic Parkway, then meeting up with Jonathan for this gallery opening, followed by dinner at some new restaurant in the Meatpacking District that one of Jonathan’s chef buddies had opened. I could hardly wait for the people watching: the gallerinas with their sleek ponytails, and the col- lectors, and the wannabe collectors, and all the other art world acolytes who would be idling around the party, drifting up to and away from conversations like fireflies in my yard. I would wear my new sundress and bask in the familiar pleasure at the pride Adam took in me when we were out together. After the meal, we’d stumble home to our little walk-up apartment at one o’clock in the morning and fall asleep after some tipsy sex, lulled by the distant horns of the cabs on Ninth Avenue.
And, of course, I was excited to meet Patrick, the photographer whose show it was—I’d had a migraine the night of the party for his representation with Jonathan’s girlfriend’s gallery a few months back, though I’d made Adam go without me. I’ve thought about that, since: whether things would have turned out differently if I’d been by Adam’s side that very first night. I’ve wondered it more than once. I’ve wondered what would have happened if I’d missed the night of the opening, too. But the thing about what-ifs is that you can drive yourself crazy, spinning your thoughts around and around until you’re dizzy; and for all that, you only ever end up in the same place you’re standing. All you can work with is what happened. What might have happened only haunts you.
So the night of Patrick’s show, I was hurrying.
Beside me, Jonathan was hurrying, too; his girlfriend was going to be pissed at him for being late because Jonathan is the kind of man you want to show off when you’re dating him. Look what I snagged! I captured him myself, from the wild.
But Adam, I remember, was quiet. I wonder now what was shuffling through his brain as we careened toward the party. He must have been nervous. His mind must have been one long unsettled stutter of It’s going to be fine; he’s not going to say any- thing. He has no reason to say anything. He won’t say anything. He wouldn’t. He won’t. I honestly believe that Adam had no idea what was about to happen, because as selfish as he is, as heedless and self-indulgent and emotionally greedy as I now know him to have been, he has never actually been mean.
It seems strange now that I didn’t notice how quiet he was being, but of course, there’s no reason I would have paid it any particular attention on that particular walk on that particular evening. I do remember, though, that he didn’t laugh at the comment Jonathan made about Patrick’s name when we spotted it on the poster in the gallery’s window.
“By the way,” Jonathan said, pointing at the poster, “Patrick Timothy? Alicia told me his real name is Patrick Rubinowitz. But apparently, that didn’t sound cool enough.”
“WASP-washing one’s ethnic surname is a time-honored tradition, Jonathan,” I said.
“Yeah, for actors and musicians. Artists are usually a little more real than that.”
“Maybe you just don’t understand,” I said. “Your last name is five letters long.”
“True,” he said and swung open the door to the end of my marriage as I knew it.
It was quite a big deal, this opening. Patrick Timothy—or Patrick Timothy Rubinowitz, as his birth certificate would have it—was the (latest) toast of the New York art scene. Only twenty-five years old, he was being hailed as the next Mapplethorpe; in the year or so since he’d started coming to people’s attention, he’d been universally anointed by everybody who mattered as photography’s Next Big Thing. In an artistic landscape where for so long the focus had been on what could be done with the digital, Patrick was obstinately old-school. Critics fawned over his impeccable classical technique, the richness of light in his images, the depth of contrast and range of tone he coaxed from his film. And, of course, the beauty of his compositions.
The rooms of the gallery rattled with activity. Voices and laughter ricocheted off the walls and polished concrete floor, competing in volume with the Vampire Weekend song blazing out of the speakers. The crowd was exactly as I had expected: gallery girls, their equally polished but not-quite-as-artsy friends who roamed the space like nervous gazelle, and legions of downtown chicerati in Warby Parkers and high-water trousers. Next to me, a cat-faced woman flung bangled wrists wide and exclaimed to her damp-looking assistant, “This photograph . . . is . . . stunning. have to have it for the Zolkows’ dining room. Saskia . . . will . . . love it.
As I reached for a second glass of cold sauvignon blanc from a passing server, Jonathan poked the side of my waist. “Easy now, darlin’. Don’t want you gettin’ blitzed before we even make it to dinner.”
I smacked his hand away and seized my wine. Jonathan has been teasing me about overdrinking for the last fifteen years, ever since the night my freshman-year roommate introduced me to vodka—cleverly concealed in cranberry juice—and my stomach rebelled several hours later by rejecting the vodka and the cranberry juice all over the floor of Jonathan’s dormitory bathroom. Since my roommate had disappeared into the filthy bedroom of one of the rectangle-shaped football players with whom Jonathan had been assigned to share a suite, Jonathan was the one who shepherded me back to my room across campus and somehow, out of that ignominy, our friendship was born.
I turned to see if Adam needed another glass, but he was scanning the room for something, or someone.
“Babe, wine?”
He shook his head without looking at me. “Nah, I’m good.” “What about this photo?” I said, pointing to the one the decorator had been so enamored of. “Do you agree that Saskia . . . will . . . love it?”
But instead of the eager humor I’d expected to send him leaping into the game, all I saw in his face was confusion.
“Never mind,” I said, and stepped closer to the photograph I had been studying. Shenanigans with his honest Jewish name aside, Patrick was extravagantly talented. The subject of his work was bodies. Sometimes his own, sometimes other people’s, but, in this exhibition at least, they were all men. There were a few images of Patrick with his subjects, too—nothing played for shock value, simply snapshots of the interaction between two bodies, some more overtly sensual than others. The emphasis was on the shapes created: the contrast between two different tones of skin, or the negative space defined by the curve of a hand. Patrick presented the swells and dips and curves and ridges of the human body as a landscape, in lush black and white. Most of the images were close-ups, rendering the subject almost abstract—here the arch of a flexed calf, there the graceful terrain where the shoulder merges into the neck. I wondered: Did he already have the compositions in his mind’s eye when he pressed the shutter? Or did he set the camera to keep shooting over the space of a few breaths, and then go back through the negatives to see what arrested his attention?
A voice behind me interrupted my scrutiny. “Hey, guys.” Patrick himself was standing arm in arm with Jonathan’s girlfriend Alicia, or, should I say, Patrick was tolerating Alicia while she dangled off him, giggly and friendsy-wendsy. Aside from his unquestionable talent, it was easy to see why people got so worked up about him—the kid was beautiful. He had the kind of face that cried out for magazine editorials: full lips, arresting cheekbones, puppy-dog brown eyes with curving lashes, smooth tan skin. A slightly cleft chin added dimension to his otherwise regular bone structure. This was a face that could launch a thousand crushes.
There was an awkward moment while I waited for Jonathan or Adam to introduce me, then I gave up and offered my hand. “Hi, I’m Caroline, Adam’s wife. It’s great to finally meet you.”
“I’m glad to meet you too,” Patrick said. His handshake was firm, and it lingered. “You had a headache the night of the party, right?”
“I did. But I’m in fighting shape this evening,” I said, lifting my wine glass briefly. “Your work is remarkable. Absolutely gorgeous.”
“Agreed,” said Jonathan. “Incredible stuff, man.”
“Thank you,” Patrick said. He was studying me so intently that my skin prickled with self-consciousness. It wasn’t a sexy stare— Patrick’s artwork broadcast resolute disinterest in women—but there was a curiosity about it that I wasn’t expecting. The guy was looking at me like I was a foreign exchange student who’d showed up in the middle of homeroom. In a Stormtrooper outfit. “You had a little help showing it off,” whined Alicia in a way I suppose she thought was cute, and bumped her hip against him chidingly. Patrick didn’t remotely strike me as the kind of gay man who calls his female friends “gurlfriend” and swaps catty observations from behind fruity cocktails, but apparently Alicia had never gotten that memo, because she was trying to make it happen. The predictable effects of Jonathan’s Tennessee growl and rugged, unstudied masculinity had led me to dub him “the Panty Blaster” by the end of our freshman year—and when he got lazy, he tended to end up with physically ripe but intellectually low-hanging fruit. And then we all suffered.
“Indeed I did,” Patrick said, favoring Alicia with a lazy smile. His eyes drifted to Adam, like he was expecting something.
“It’s great,” said Adam, flicking his gaze to Patrick briefly be- fore returning it to the gallery floor.
“Thank you, Adam,” murmured Patrick, after waiting a beat to see if my husband would elaborate. “Well, if you guys will excuse me, I need to continue with the mix and mingle routine. Please go ahead and drink all of our wine.”
After he drifted away, I resumed my study of the photographs. They really were something special. The museum where I worked, MASS MoCA in northwest Massachusetts, didn’t ac- quire artwork for a permanent collection, but a vital part of my job as a curator was to keep my eye out for developing talent to potentially showcase in an exhibition.
“Hey, Alicia,” I said, tapping her on the arm. “Can we talk a little shop for a few minutes?”
“Suuuure!” she breathed, as if I’d offered her a free first-class flight upgrade. And it belatedly occurred to me that, of course, this was why I had been invited here tonight . . . not because I was Jonathan’s friend. Because I was a museum curator. And now was trapped arm in arm with her as she wheeled us around the gallery, pointing out some of her favorite pieces, extolling Patrick’s talent, his craftsmanship, his vision.
“You know what?” she whispered conspiratorially at one point. “There are a few other photographs I want you to see. Patrick didn’t want us to put them in the main show, but I don’t know why, because I think they’re some of his strongest work.”
My interest was piqued, as it was meant to be. “Sure, yeah, I’d love to see them.”
“Come on, follow me!” she said, and towed me toward the back office of the gallery.
“Top secret,” I mouthed to Adam, as she pulled me past him, and he instinctively moved as if to come with us. Just as he detached from his group, though, he was hailed by a filmmaker friend of his mother’s. I smiled to myself, knowing how the un- satisfied curiosity would itch him.
Inside the storage room, the noise of the party was muffled. As I watched Alicia in her tight dress and Louboutins struggle to manhandle a couple of large, crated canvases out of the way, I almost felt bad for her, but . . . best to let her handle them. Wouldn’t want to be held liable if I damaged anything.
“Aha!” she said, tugging forward a crate with a number of mounted, unframed photographs inside. “Here we go.”
As soon as she lifted the first print out of the crate, I could tell that these were different—and I could see why Patrick had wanted to withhold them from the main show. Although, curiously, he’d had no problem turning them over to the gallery for sale. They were similar to the rest of the collection in that they were beautifully composed nudes, but these had a different character. Gone was the frozen, art-directed style of the other photographs; these were vivid, active. Full of erotic tension. As with the other images, none of these overtly depicted sex; their power derived from what was implied, yet not shown. Patrick could only have taken them in the midst of making love with his partner—the images crackled with sensuality.
“Oh wow,” I said, feeling at once turned on and uncomfortably voyeuristic. Which, of course, is exactly how Patrick intended the viewer to feel. The face of his lover was cropped from all of the photos; curiosity tickled like a feather on my skin.
“I know, right?” said Alicia. “They’re something.”
“They are,” I said. She was reaching the end of the stack now. I was pretty sure none of these were going to be right for the museum—we didn’t shy away from nudes, obviously, or erotic undertones, but these were probably too strong to be hung in a family-friendly museum. The photographs in the main show were better suited. But still, I wanted to see all of them. I wondered what Patrick’s partner felt about these intimate images being put up for sale—if he even knew.
A burst of laughter and conversation broke my concentration as the door opened and Adam poked his head inside.
“What are you girls doing in here?” He sounded irritated, almost strained.
“I knew you couldn’t wait until I came back. Alicia’s showing me some of Patrick’s other work,” I said. “Come see.”
Hesitantly, he walked forward.
“Aren’t these amazing?” I said. “Probably a little too risqué for the museum, but they’re so powerful.”
He nodded so faintly I wasn’t sure his head had even moved.
Come on, I thought. You cannot be this weirded out by the sight of two guys together.
Alicia pulled one more photograph from the case. It was another arresting image: Patrick’s partner was leaning diagonally across the frame, his body cropped between chest and thighs. He was caught in a half-turning motion, tension pulling the side of his torso as he moved. Patrick was kissing him, just above his hip, and one of his arms was bent in a V across his partner’s body, down and up. I studied the lines of Patrick’s arm, the way his skin made such a bold stripe of contrast across his lover’s body. The shutter had frozen him in a breathtakingly sensual moment of the kiss—I could see the negative space between his arched lips and his partner’s skin.
And then, I noticed it. A little blob of a birthmark, floating under the right side of the partner’s ribs, almost out of sight. As if someone had daubed him with a paintbrush, just the slightest little touch, leaving behind the shape of a checkmark.
“Hey, Adam,” I said, laughing. “Check it out, this guy has a birthmark exactly like yours! Isn’t that—”
But when I turned and saw my husband’s face, the words piled up in my throat. He was staring at the photograph in shock, his face knotted with horror. It wasn’t some other man with an oddly identical birthmark in Patrick’s photograph.
It was Adam.