Monday, December 10, 2018

All Eyes on Alexandra


It’s a delight to be a part of the WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour for author Anna Levine’s ALL EYES ON ALEXANDRA.

This charming book would be a wonderful Christmas (or any day) gift. As part of the tour, Anna is joining us to talk about “Straight from the horse’s mouth and other anthropomorphic animals.”

In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it's time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel's Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited, but her family is worried.
Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub
ISBN-10: 1512444391
ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and NobleTarget and Thrift Books.

Now please join me in giving Anna a warm welcome to Thoughts in Progress. Welcome, Anna.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” A.A. Milne 
Though many publishers are reluctant to accept anthropomorphic stories and insist on, “no talking animals,” the fact is that most of our favorite classics and modern picture books have animals with human traits.

One advantage of anthropomorphism is that it allows the reader to feel and explore emotional issues without feeling threatened. Though my picture book is about bird migration, it’s also about family relationships.

Animals erase gender, race, and age giving the writer the freedom to write about complex ideological and ethical issues. I wanted Alexandra to be female. When it comes to leading the flock, birds are equal opportunists. And as for this author, living in a country where borders are the cause of a lot of tension, Alexandra and the flocks of birds are, for me, ‘birds without borders,’ a glimmer of hope, perhaps, that if they can all find common ground, so can we.

Topics like immigration, bullying, sharing, loss and acceptance are some of the many subjects an author can tackle through the voices of animal characters.

Anna, thanks for joining us today and sharing this insight into your story.

About the Author, Anna Levine

Author Anna Levine
Anna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds. Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at --
Author website: http://www.annalevine.org/
Twitter: @LevineAnna 
Instagram: @booksfromanna 

About the Illustrator, Chiara Pasqualotto,

Artist Chiara Pasqualotto
Chiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome. 

Since 2008 she's been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at -


If you’d like to find out more about this fascinating book, check out Anna’s  Blog Tour Dates:

December 3rd @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you visit WOW's blog today and read an interview with the author and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 5th @ Cassandra's Writing World
Visit Cassandra's blog where she shares her thoughts about Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 6th @ Break Even Books
Visit Erik's blog where you can read Anna Levine's guest post about how to jog your inspiration.

December 7th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab some coffee and visit Lacey's blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 8th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog today where he joins in the fun of celebrating and shares information about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 8th @ Christy's Cozy Corners
Visit Christy's blog and cozy up while you read her review of Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 9th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's guest post about designing your ideal writing spot.

December 9th @ Christy's Cozy Corner
Visit Christy's blog where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about how she decided to use crane's in her story.

December 11th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.
Make sure you visit Jeanie's blog today and read her thoughts about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog where he interviews Anna Levine, author of All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 13th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.
Make sure you visit Jeanie's blog today and read Anna Levine's guest post about building a theme day around a picture book.

December 13th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book
Visit Erin's blog where she shares her thoughts on Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 14th @ Growing with Science Blog
Be sure to visit Roberta's blog and read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra as well as read Anna's guest post about five fun bird-themed activities.

December 14th @ Wrapped in Foil
Visit Roberta's blog today where Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra gets featured on the weekly STEM Friday post (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math books!).

December 15th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog where she features Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra in a spotlight post.

December 17th @ World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole's blog today where you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 18th @ Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Visit Erin's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post featuring activities for young children to explore their world. 

December 19th @ Cassandra's Writing World
Visit Cassandra's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about naming your characters.

December 19th @ Linda's Blog
Make sure you visit Linda's blog today where you can read her thoughts about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 20th @ Word Magic: All About Books 
Visit Fiona's blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 21st @ Bring on Lemons
Make sure you grab some lemonade and stop by Crystal's blog today where she reviews Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 27th @ Linda's Blog
Visit Linda's blog again where you can read her interview with author Anna Levine.

December 28th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog today you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 31st @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog and read Anna Levine's guest post on learning about families and different cultures.

January 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit author Anthony Avina's blog where he shares his thoughts about Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra. 

January 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about getting into the head of your middle-grade characters.

January 4th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit author Anthony Avina's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about using fiction to write non-fiction.

January 7th @ Strength 4 Spouses Blog
Visit Wendi's blog again where you can read her thoughts about the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine.

Thanks for stopping by today. Doesn’t this book look like it would be a fun gift to give?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Cover Reveal – the Southern Side of Paradise


I’m thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s latest release, THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE, the third installment in her Peachtree Bluff series.

The book will be released in May. For those of us entering the coldest months of the year, doesn’t that cover make you wish that much more for summer?

*  Series: The Peachtree Bluff Series (Book 3)
*  Paperback: 400 pages
*  Publisher: Gallery Books (May 7, 2019)
*  Language: English
*  ISBN-10: 1982116625
*  ISBN-13: 978-1982116620

From internationally bestselling author and “rising star of Southern fiction” (Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author) Kristy Woodson Harvey comes the third novel in her Peachtree Bluff series, in which a secret threatens the tight-knit bond between a trio of sisters and their mother.

With the man of her dreams back in her life and all three of her daughters happy, Ansley Murphy should be content. But she can’t help but feel like it’s all a little too good to be true.
Meanwhile, youngest daughter and actress Emerson, who is recently engaged and has just landed the role of a lifetime, seemingly has the world by the tail. Only, something she can’t quite put her finger on is worrying her—and it has nothing to do with her recent health scare.
When two new women arrive in Peachtree Bluff—one who has the potential to wreck Ansley’s happiness and one who could tear Emerson’s world apart—everything is put in perspective. And after secrets that were never meant to be told come to light, the powerful bond between the Murphy sisters and their mother comes crumbling down, testing their devotion to each other and forcing them to evaluate the meaning of family.

THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.


With Kristy Woodson Harvey’s signature charm, wit, and heart, The Southern Side of Paradise is another masterful Peachtree Bluff novel that proves she is a “Southern writer with staying power” (Booklist).

One of the hottest new Southern writers.” —Parade.com

"Writers come and writers go, but Kristy Woodson Harvey is here to stay. The warmth, wit, and wisdom of this novel pave her way into the exclusive sisterhood of southern writers.” —The Huffington Post 

"The south is known for breeding brilliant storytellers and Kristy Woodson Harvey has proven herself to be one of the south’s most heartfelt female driven authors of our generation.”—Jaime Pressly, star of CBS’s Mom

About the Author
Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born-and-bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons—especially fall in Chapel Hill, where she attended college, and summer in Beaufort, where she and her family spend every free moment.

The author of The Southern Side of Paradise, The Secret of Southern Charm, Slightly South of Simple, Dear Carolina, and Lies and Other Acts of Love, Kristy is also the founder of the popular interior design blog Design Chic. 

For more on Kristy and her writing, visit her website and Design Chic.

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you enjoy reading books with a Southern charm? Have you read any of the previous Peachtree Bluff series (you should)?


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Shopping for a baby's first Christmas (+Giveaway)


Shopping for a Baby’s First Christmas
Julia Kent
(Shopping, #15)
Publication date: December 6th 2018
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance
My mother wants all her kids and grandkids to spend Christmas Eve at her house and wake up on Christmas morning together.
Sounds reasonable, right?
And it would be.
If it weren’t my mother.
My husband, Declan, is protesting any involvement, though he’s openly intrigued by the idea of claiming his territory by suggesting we have sex in my childhood bed.
And by ‘suggest,’ I mean make a series of really hot offers that make me whimper when I have to say no.
Wait – why am I saying no again?
Mom has turned her house into a Christmas showcase that makes Frankenmuth look like the picked-over clearance rack at Target on December 26. You know those crazy people on Etsy who make felted gnomes out of belly button lint and use … a certain kind of hair… to make thatched roofs on little decorative elf homes?
Those people are saner than my mother.
There is no force of nature stronger — and more emotionally volatile — than a fifty-something grandmother determined to create holiday memories.
Wait a minute. Maybe there is.
My husband.
EXCERPT:
“Mmmmm,” I hear myself purring as I open my eyes in the big king-size bed at our Victorian B&B here in the Berkshires. A bed that I can stretch out in, because I smell coffee from afar and Dec isn’t between the sheets.
Neither is our seven-month-old daughter, Ellie.
I have the entire bed to myself. I might be married to a billionaire, but when you’re the mother of a clingy baby, this right here is true luxury.
A whiff of cinnamon accompanies that coffee and now I wonder if I’m dreaming. My naked body rolls against the high-thread-count Egyptian cotton and my legs are smooth. As I stretch, I realize my nipples are free. No one is touching me.
This must be a dream.
In real life, there would be a baby babbling “Da da da da da” in tones that either mean happiness, terror, hunger, or plain old pay-attention-to-me-now-because-I-am-the-center-of-the-universe, you-underling.
But not now.
In real life, there are always busy fingers exploring my ears and pulling my earrings and poking into my my mouth when I try to talk on the phone.
And in real life, little teeth bite down, hard, when my milk runs out.
So I must be dreaming, because as I open my eyes, a handsome, hot, endlessly naked man is smiling at me, hair tousled over his forehead as he holds two steaming mugs of coffee and says in a low, happy voice, “You’re up!”


Author Bio:
Gillian has a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering but prefers to spend her time on happily ever after. She writes the kind of stories she loves to read—the hotter the better!
When Gillian’s not pounding away on the keyboard, she can be found surfing the couch indulging in her latest reality tv fixation, baking something ridiculously tasty (and horrible for her waist line) or snuggling with her husband.
Home is currently in the wilds of Nevada with her amazing husband, ridiculously cute kiddo, and goofy dog.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Accidental Beauty Queen


I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for THE ACCIDENTAL BEAUTY QUEEN by Teri Wilson.

As part of the tour, I have an except from this delightful story to share with you today.

* The Accidental Beauty Queen
* by Teri Wilson
* On Sale: December 4, 2018
* Gallery Books | Trade Paperback Original
* ISBN: 9781501197604 | $16.00
* E-ISBN: 9781501197611 | $7.99
* Audio-ISBN: 9781508283553 | $17.99

In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize. 

          Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.    
She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.       
Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

THE ACCIDENTAL BEAUTY QUEEN is available HERE.

Now the excerpt for your reading pleasure.

My sister has always been the pretty one. The Jane Bennet to my Elizabeth, the Meg March to my Jo.
It’s been this way for so long that I’ve never questioned it. It’s never even bothered me much. It just is.

Ginny is my sister, and I love her, no matter how different our lives are. And trust me, they’re about as opposite as you can imagine. But the chasm between our worlds has never been quite so glaringly obvious as it is now, because instead of restocking books on their respective shelves, I’m standing in an elevator at the posh Huntington Spa Resort in Orlando, Florida, on the first Monday afternoon of summer.
For starters, at five feet seven, I’m by far the shortest person of the half dozen or so on board. This is a rarity for me. As an elementary school librarian, I’m accustomed to towering over people for the majority of my waking hours. I’m also used to sitting in tiny chairs and using tiny, blunt-edged scissors, but that’s beside the point. Five feet seven isn’t short. . . .

                Unless you’re riding an elevator packed with beauty queens.

                I don’t know what I expected when I signed on to spend a week cheering for my sister at the Miss American Treasure pageant, but it wasn’t this. The preliminary competition doesn’t start for another two days, so why are they all wearing crowns and sashes already? And what is going on with their shoes?

                Beauty pageant contestants wear heels. I know this, obviously. I mean, I’ve seen Miss Congeniality at least twenty times over the years, thanks to Ginny. But these are beyond high heels. Gracie Lou Freebush wouldn’t have lasted a minute in them.

                No offense to Sandra Bullock. I’m just saying.

I tighten my grip on the handle of my suitcase, suddenly extremely conscious of the state of my hair. Orlando is one of the most humid places on earth, and the half hour ride on the airport shuttle was not kind. For once, I actually feel sorry for Ginny. It’s one thing to be expected to look perfect onstage, but hotel elevators should be a safe space. I, for one, plan to be roaming the halls in a spa bathrobe and complimentary slippers en route to the vending machine for the majority of my stay.

But to each her own.

                Besides, Ginny chose this life, just as surely as I chose mine. She also gets paid more for one sponsored Instagram post than I make in a week, and when I remember this, I keep my sympathy in check.
The elevator comes to a stop on the fifth floor, which has clearly been reserved for the pageant, because we all disembark in a glamorous, glittering herd.

Myself being the exception.

No one seems to notice my presence, though. The Hogwarts T-shirt I’m wearing might as well be an invisibility cloak. Fine. I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for the chance to stay in Ginny’s luxury hotel room for a week, for free, and completely nerd out at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I’m also here for moral support, of course. I plan on being at every single pageant event, cheering like a maniac while inwardly cringing in horror at the very thought of prancing around in only a tiny swimsuit and a crown. But since the competition doesn’t start until 5:00 p.m., that leaves my mornings and afternoons free to hit up the theme park. I’ve emptied my paltry savings account and invested in a five-day unlimited pass. Bring on the butter beer.

But first, I must locate our room amid a sea of glitz and sparkle. According to the text Ginny sent when I landed, we’re in 511. All of my elevator pals are in rooms along the same stretch of corridor. Half the doors on the floor have hangtags on the knobs that read, Do not disturb! This Miss American Treasure contestant needs her beauty sleep!

I roll my eyes mightily.

Dangling from the knob of room 511 is one such tag, but I highly doubt Ginny is actually sleeping because I can hear the television booming through the door. I knock extra hard so she can hear me above the din of whatever reality show she’s probably watching.

Just please God don’t let it be the Kardashians.

An explosion of barks answers my knock. I take a deep breath. I’ve somehow forgotten all about my sister’s French bulldog mix, Buttercup. Ginny adopted her a month ago as part of her “platform.” I’m not sure exactly what that means. She’s a pageant queen, not a politician. But according to approximately five million posts on Ginny’s Instagram, she volunteers regularly at her local shelter in support of her animal rescue policy.

If memory serves, last year her platform was anti-bullying. But so many other contestants on the pageant circuit had already thrown themselves into the anti-bullying movement that she felt pressured to switch to something else. In other words, she got bullied into giving up her anti-bullying platform. Oh, the irony.

The door to the hotel room swings open, and Ginny is standing there in a white spa bathrobe with her hair piled on top of her head in a messy-yet-artful twist. She’s got one of those serum-soaked sheet masks stuck to her face—the kind that make regular people look like something straight out of a bad horror movie.

                Except Ginny isn’t a regular person. So instead she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow enjoying a quiet day of self-care.

“Charlotte, you’re here!”

“Yep. My flight was right on time.” Thank God. I’m ready to make the most out of day one on my unlimited pass.

“Come on in.” She holds the door open wider.

The room is a double, with side-by-side queen beds and a balcony overlooking a pool flanked by umbrella-covered lounge chairs, a tiki bar, and two perfectly symmetrical rows of palm trees swaying in the balmy Florida breeze. Any spare moments I have this week that don’t include Harry Potter will be spent right there, with my feet up and a piña colada in hand. It’s been so long since I’ve taken an actual vacation that the mental picture I’ve just conjured nearly makes me weep.

“This is gorgeous. Ginny, thanks again for inviting me.”

“Are you kidding? I’m so glad you’re here. Dad and Susan aren’t coming until the finals.” Her smile falters. Behind the face mask, I can see her full lips tip into a frown.

I know exactly what she’s thinking. “You’ll make the finals. I know you will. You’re a shoo-in for the top twenty.”

Ginny always makes the finals. She’s up onstage every year alongside the winner and the runners-up. She’s just never managed to crack the top five.

“This year will be different,” I assure her.

She nods. “It has to be.”

As much as I hate to see my sister devoting her life to chasing a silly crown, and even though I positively loathe the pageant scene, my heart gives a little tug. Sometimes I forget why she got started in all of this. But every once in a while, when Ginny’s composure slips, I remember that this is her way of feeling connected to the mother we barely knew. The crushing sense of loss that inevitably follows always seems to catch me off guard. It’s in those moments— moments like this one—that I understand her dream.
I paste a smile on my face. “It will. I promise.”

I have no right to make that kind of promise. After all, I’m not judging this thing.

Truly, why would anyone want that job?

But it’s so rare to see my sister like this that I can’t stop myself. She’s always been the poster child for confidence.

Which just goes to show how much this particular pageant means to her. More than all the others combined.

“You’re right.” She nods with renewed vigor. “Of course I’ll make the finals. This is my year.”

“Definitely.” Pep talk over for now, I head toward the bed on the far side of the room—the one that’s still neatly made and not covered in anything bedazzled.

                Every item on Ginny’s bed shines like a disco ball, including her official Miss American Treasure tote bag. I’m beginning to understand why she uses one of those sleepmask things like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I might need to invest in one myself.

As I cross the room, Buttercup launches herself at my wheeled suitcase, growling and nipping at it as it drags behind me. By the time I’m within a foot of my bed, she’s fully attached herself to it and I’m hauling both luggage and bulldog.

“Is this normal behavior?” I ask. It can’t be, can it?

Ginny waves a dismissive hand.

I give Buttercup a little nudge with the toe of my Adidas sneaker. She backs away, peering up at me with her bulgy little eyes. They almost seem to point in two different directions. Like plastic googly eyes.

We stare each other down for a second, and then she resumes her attack on my luggage.

“Is she always so”—I pause, struggling for an appropriate adjective—“headstrong?”

Buttercup and I have never been properly introduced. I only know her via Ginny’s Instagram, where she’s usually doing something less destructive and far more adorable.

“Buttercup is shy,” Ginny says by way of explanation.

I look down at the snarling dog. “Sorry, I’m not getting shy here.”

                “You’re stressing her out. She’s not used to strangers and new experiences. She’s a rescue dog, remember? The poor thing sat in the shelter for four months before I adopted her.”

Ginny checks the position of her sheet mask in the large mirror over the bathroom counter. It’s a double vanity, theoretically big enough for both of us. But Ginny’s massive amount of toiletries take up the entire space. “Did you know that seven million dogs and cats enter shelters every year, and half of them end up being euthanized?”

I did not know that, and it’s a horrible, horrible statistic. But her canned delivery prevents me from absorbing the news with the proper level of emotion.

She’s slipped into pageant mode. She’s rattling off more devastating facts and figures about homeless pets, all the while posing with her hand pressed to her heart and her head tilted just so.

I glance at Buttercup. Something tells me she’s heard the speech before.

“Maybe less euthanasia talk in front of the rescue dog?” I suggest. No wonder the poor thing is stressed.

“Oh my God.” Ginny blinks. “Do you think she understands?”

“I have no idea, but why take the chance?” Besides, I can’t handle Ginny’s platform-level intensity right now. I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m.

                “I suppose you’re right.” Ginny scoops Buttercup into her arms.

I take advantage of the cease-fire, lift my suitcase onto the bed, and remove my things, paltry in comparison to the vast wardrobe Ginny has stuffed into the closet and all but one of the dresser drawers. Fortunately, I travel light.

Clotheswise, anyway. Beneath the layers of jeans and T-shirts, four hardback novels line the bottom of my bag. I remove all four and arrange them in a nice, neat stack atop the nightstand closest to my bed.

When I look up, Ginny’s shaking her head. “Are you sure you brought enough reading material?”

“Don’t judge. I’m on vacation, remember?”

“Exactly. You’re a librarian. Your vacation should be book-free.” Ginny makes a zero sign with one of her perfectly manicured hands.

“How are we even related?” It’s not the first time I’ve asked that question, and I know with every fiber of my being that Ginny wonders the same thing sometimes.

How could she not?

“Before you dive into one of those, can you take Buttercup for a quick walk?” She grabs a Barbie-pink leash from her nightstand. And—surprise!—it’s heavily bedazzled. “Pretty please.”

“What? Why me?” My gaze flits toward Buttercup, who’s now positioned on Ginny’s pillow with her plump rear facing me. “She doesn’t even like me. Stranger danger and all that.”

Ginny rolls her eyes. “Stranger danger? You spend too much time with little kids.”

True. She dragged me to yoga once, and I kept referring to easy pose as crisscross applesauce.

Still, Buttercup doesn’t seem any more thrilled by the idea than I am. Also, I’ve already begun typing the address of the theme park into the Uber app on my phone. I’m supposed to be dodging a fire-breathing dragon in Diagon Alley right now, not walking a petulant French bulldog.

“I was kind of hoping to head over to Harry Potter World so I could be back in time for us to have an early dinner. Don’t you have pageant stuff today?” I’m pretty sure she has a date with some spray tanner this afternoon. Her skin tone matches mine right now, and I know from experience that Ginny is usually at least four shades closer to orange when there’s a pageant on the horizon.

“Yes, and of course you can head right over there just as soon as you walk Buttercup. She hasn’t been out since early this morning. I can’t do it—I’m not allowed to leave the room without my sash on.”

I blink. “What?”

“Contestants can’t leave their hotel rooms unless they’re pageant-ready. Outside of this room, I have to wear my sash at all times.”

                I don’t even know what to say, but suddenly the army of beauty queens from the elevator makes more sense. “That’s crazypants. It’s like you’re some kind of pageant hostage. Put your sash on, and take her out yourself.”

Ginny sighs. “Dramatic much? This isn’t some tiny regional pageant. Miss American Treasure is the big time. She’s a role model. You know that.”

I do. I probably know more about that than any of those chattering elevator girls.

“I can’t go out there like this,” she says.

“Fine.” I take the leash from her hands. She’s clearly in no condition to leave the room, although I would pay money to see an Instagram post of Ginny wearing the sash and her sheet mask at the same time.

“Thank you.” Her slender shoulders sag with relief. “I owe you one. We’ll have a great dinner tonight, I promise. It’ll be just like old times.”

Old times?

I don’t believe her for a minute. When we were kids, our favorite dinners included sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese. I can’t remember the last time I saw a carb cross Ginny’s lips.

“Come on, Buttercup,” I mutter.

The portly little dog growls the entire time I’m attaching her leash to her sparkly pink collar. This should be lovely.

“We’ll be right back.” I cast a glance over my shoulder as I lead Buttercup out the door, and Ginny catches my gaze in the mirror.

She gives me a little wave. I wave back, and for a moment, I go still. Rooted to the spot. Ginny’s sheet mask is gone, and her face is bare. Clean. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her makeup-free. Without the airbrushed foundation, the contouring and highlighting, the carefully lined lips and the double layers of false eyelashes, she looks a lot like me.

She looks exactly like me, actually. Same nose. Same eyes. Same heart-shaped face.

Same DNA.

Because even though my sister has always been the pretty one, the beauty queen—the Jane Bennet to my Elizabeth, the Meg March to my Jo—she’s also my twin.

* * * 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the author Teri Wilson, here’s a bit of background on her.

Author Teri Wilson
Teri Wilson is the author/creator of the Hallmark Channel Original Movies Unleashing Mr. Darcy, Marrying Mr. Darcy, and The Art of Us, as well as a fourth Hallmark movie currently in development. Teri is a double finalist in the prestigious 2018 RWA RITA awards for her novels The Princess Problem and Royally Wed.

Teri also writes an offbeat fashion column for the royal blog What Would Kate Do and is a frequent guest contributor for its sister site, Meghan’s Mirror. She’s been a contributor for both HelloGiggles and Teen Vogue, covering books, pop culture, beauty, and everything royal. In 2017, she served as a national judge for the Miss United States pageant in Orlando, Florida, and has since judged in the Miss America system. She has a major weakness for cute animals, pretty dresses, Audrey Hepburn films, and good books.

For more on Terri and her writing, visit her at TeriWilson.net or on Twitter @TeriWilsonAuthr.

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