Following my review of Better In The Morning yesterday (see review here), I’m thrilled to give you an extract of the book. Thanks again to the author for the book in return for an honest review and of course for the extract! Remember it’s only $0.99 at the moment!
Barnes and Noble
Length: 293 pages
Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book
What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.
Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.
Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.
“‘Overnight parking. Ten dollars an hour.’ That’ll cost ya a pretty penny,” Grandpa Sal said.
“‘Intermix. Sale.’ Look at that. They’re havin’ a big sale,” Grandma Ant pointed out.
I sat between my grandparents in the back of a cab. It was impossible to go two blocks without one of them reading a sign aloud.
“‘P.J. Clarkes.’ I knew a P.J. years ago. Peter Joseph. The Scarpettas. Nice family. Owned a butcher shop.”
I was squished, my knees high up as my feet rested on the hump in the middle.
“‘Haru.’ That’s that sushi stuff you like, right, Veronica?” My grandmother patted my leg. “She enjoys her sushi, our Veronica. Gah bless her.”
I studied the back of her head as she looked out the window. Her tight, white curls were sprayed in place.
“Why don’t you try sushi, Antoinette?” my grandfather teased.
“Why don’t you try it, Salvatore? Big shot. I’d like to see ya try that raw fish.”
My grandfather laughed without making a noise, his chubby hands on his big belly as he cracked himself up. “With a little gravy, a little mozzarella, I might like it.”
I smiled at the pronunciation. “Mootzadel,” I whispered to myself. My non-Italian friends always laughed at how I said it.
“I’ll believe that when I see it.” My grandmother leaned past me to look over at my grandfather.
“‘High-End Home Furnishings.’” My grandfather pointed. “That’s where they try to sell ya a ten-dollar vase for a hundred dollars. They call it high end.”
I laughed. I had bought a hundred-dollar vase there when I moved to the city.
“They got some beautiful stuff,” Grandma Ant countered.
The cab stopped at a red light, and I sat up to stretch my back. My grandmother took that opportunity to push my long, brown hair to the side and rub my back. The woman can’t keep her hands off me.
We were on our way to get cupcakes. I reminded myself that, technically, I was sleeping. And technically, I wouldn’t really eat a cupcake. And technically, my grandparents were dead.
But it all felt real—the cupcake, the cab, my grandparents—and technically, that was all that mattered.
I looked up as the light turned green. On our next visit, we’ll be discussing the big news.
“Right here,” I told the taxi driver as we pulled in front of The Cupcake Shop on West Seventy-Second Street. We hopped out without paying the cabbie. That was how it worked there—the waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers on the other side never expected to get paid. Grandpa Sal would say that was why they called it Heaven.
As my grandmother and I surveyed the selection in the glass case, my grandfather tapped my shoulder. “They don’t sell cannoli here? What kinda bakery is this?”
“Oh, um…” I looked up at the blackboard menu above the counter. “Nope. Sorry, Gramp. They have really good cupcakes though.”
“Cupcakes? Who wants a cupcake?”
“Don’t listen to him, Veronica,” my grandmother said. “He’s a pain in the coolie. What are you getting? I’m gonna have the red velvet. My friend Ruth was here with her grandson last week and said the red velvet is out of this world.”
“I’ll have the red velvet too,” I said.
My grandmother ordered, and as we left with our cupcakes, she stopped at the condiment bar to grab a handful of sugar packets. Before I could say “Gram, seriously?” she shrugged. “What? For my coffee later on.”
At restaurants, she used to take the leftover bread from the basket, wrap it in a napkin, and stuff it in her pocketbook. It mortified my mother and me, but she would say something about living through the Great Depression and ‘going without’ and ‘It’s a sin to let it go to waste.’
In front of the bakery, the three of us squeezed on a bench that I couldn’t recall ever having seen there before. My grandfather bit into a cannoli that came from I don’t know where. Another reason they call it Heaven.
The weather was perfect—a clear, crisp day, cool in the shade, warm in the sun.
I hope the weather is just like this tomorrow night.
“It’ll be like this tomorrow night,” Grandma Ant said. She was concentrating as she slowly pulled off the wrapper of her cupcake.
“I’m excited, but I don’t want to say too much,” I said. “I’m always afraid of jinxing things.”
I thought I heard Grandpa Sal make a noise. A “Ha” or a “Huh.” I turned to him as he furiously wiped cannoli powder off his sweater.
“Did you say something?”
“Me? No.” He wiped faster.
I peeled the wrapper off my cupcake and took a big bite. I closed
my eyes, enjoying the sun on my face as I worked my mouth around the perfect combination of cream cheese frosting and moist red cake.
“Look out!” my grandfather shouted.
I bolted up, eyes wide open. “What the fu—” I caught myself. “What?” I swiveled my head up and down the street and turned to look behind me toward the bakery, but I saw nothing amiss.
“That biker almost slammed into that car over there.” My grandfather motioned to the street with a jut of his chin.
“Or ya could say the car almost slammed into that bike rider,” my grandmother said.
“What? Stuff like that doesn’t happen here.” I looked around, still trying to find the biker and car in question.
“Nah, but ya know”—my grandfather held the cannoli wrapper in a tight ball in his fist—“close calls are always good reminders.”
“Gotta brace yourself,” Grandma Ant whispered. “For what?” I asked.
“Ya know—this, that, the other thing. Life, Veronica. Life.” Finished with her cupcake, she ran her pinky along each side of her mouth, making sure her orangey-red lipstick was still intact.
I looked back toward the street. Couples were holding hands as they walked. Young mothers pushed strollers.
“I don’t want to hear that,” I said. “Don’t I brace myself enough? Aren’t I nervous enough? Can’t I enjoy this?” I let out a satisfying exhale. “Can’t I enjoy this cupcake?” I sat back and took another bite. I chewed slowly when I felt my grandmother reach over and start smoothing my hair. I tried not to flinch or swat, but I did a sort of ducking motion instead. “Can you—can you—just please, Gram. Can I savor this in peace? Please.”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, sweetheart, of course. You enjoy.”
“You wanna have your cupcake and eat it too?” Grandpa Sal laughed. Grandma Ant laughed too.
I stifled an eye roll. “Yes.”
“Good luck, my little brasciole,” Grandpa said.
They know something. I can feel it, and I know I should ask them directly.
But I didn’t ask. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do up to that point: I ignored that uncomfortable feeling and focused on my cupcake. Cream cheese frosting is Heaven.
About the author:
Nobody says it better than the author herself! Read about Fern Ronay on her website here