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Before Mother's Day, an homage to great boyfriends.

One of the advantages of an ongoing novel series is getting to do a deep-dive into the lives of your characters. In the Totlandia series, where four moms meet and become friends in moms-and-tots group—despite the group leader's tendency to run it like The Hunger Games—we see these women's friendships and love lives go through many ups and downs.

I’ve made the men in their lives are varied. And the good ones are also nurturing as parents.

In this excerpt from Book 7, one of the characters—Ally, a single working mom pretending to be married in order to live up to the club’s rules in which she’d be out on both these counts—has an opportunity to connect to the father she never knew, thanks to some detective work by the love of her life, who knows of her paternity quest. What he doesn’t know is that helping her may break them apart, since her biological father is someone he despises.

It was fun keeping the plot threads for these moms and their nemesis tangled with some interesting results. I always hope the series' readers find it sometimes funny, sometimes maddening, and that a few tears are shed along the way.

Enjoy this excerpt! And, if you feel like it, enter the contest to win a 4-eBook Bundle (the first four novels in the series).



8:10 a.m.

Brady, up early for his run, had left the envelope on Ally’s bedside table.

Handwritten in small block letters were the words:

Paternal Suspect’s Identity

It wasn’t in Brady’s handwriting. Ally realized that it must have belonged to Francesca Upton, the private investigator Brady had hired to find Ally’s biological father.

The envelope was still sealed.

Brady never opened it.

With trembling hands, Ally nudged the flap open.

The only thing inside was a folded sheet of paper. A name and phone number were typed on it.

She stared down at the name:

Garrett Mitchell Hartley

All these years she’d wondered what he called himself. Seeing it in black and white gave her a chill.

Now I know.

When her shock subsided, questions flooded her thoughts. What did he do? Was he still married? Do I have siblings?

She stuck it in her pocket.

She waited until eight-thirty—when Brady was busy making breakfast with Oliver and Zoe—before calling.

The line rang six times before a man’s voice barked, “Yeah?”

“I’m…Ally Thornton,” she declared.

Dead silence.

Except for the slight breeze tickling the ivy outside her window, time seemed to stand still. Finally, she said, “Do you know who I am?”

The man murmured, “Yes.”

Ally took a deep breath. “Are you…my father?”

The man sighed, but said nothing.

Impatiently, Ally added, “Am I supposed to take that as a yes?”


Then, from him: “I guess you’d like to meet me?”

It was her turn to let that one sit for a while. Finally: “Only if you make it worth my while.”

His chuckle was more like a cackle. As it flowed over her, so did memories of bear hugs, Old Spice, being tossed high in the air, scratchy kisses—

And her mother’s endless crying jags.

She was about to hang up when he said. “Let me buy you lunch today.”

“I…have a previous engagement.” Had she said it was a mommy meet-up, would he have been disappointed?

Probably, but for the wrong reason: not because she’d have chosen to be with her child instead of him, but because he’d have viewed her choice as mundane.

In his eyes, her mother had been mundane. It was why he’d left her.

He’d thrown down the gauntlet.

She’d made a promise to herself—and to Brady—to pick it up.

“I’ll make it worth your while.” Realizing that he was now using her taunt to him against her, she smiled grudgingly.

“I’ll re-arrange my meeting then. Where should we meet?”

“My home. Saratoga.” He paused. “Twelve-thirty. If need be, I’ll send a helicopter for you.”

Her laugh was mirthless. “How generous. But, no need to go to extremes. I’m in San Francisco, and the traffic isn’t that bad—yet.”

“Yes, I know where you are. I’ve always known.”

Hearing that, she murmured, “What does that say about you?”

He didn’t respond at first. Finally: “Don’t pass judgment yet.”

He was right. She did not know his side of the story. For that matter, she didn’t know her mother’s either. All she had were her scattershot childhood memories.

“Text me the address. I’ll see you at twelve-thirty.”

She hung up before she could change her mind.

A small piece of her was afraid he might change his mind as well.

Now, to break the news to Brady.

No, maybe that wasn’t a great idea after all.

Oliver’s squeal in response to Zoe’s giggle reminded her that she needed coverage for today’s meet-up.

She needed to call Jade.

Suddenly, she was frightened.

* * *

Each time she tried Jade’s number, it rolled over to voicemail.

Frustrated, Ally turned to Brady. “Why won’t Jade pick up her phone?”

“She’s not in town, silly. She and Reggie are skiing. His aide, Sam, has a cabin in Tahoe. Remember?”

“What?” Ally stared down at her cell phone. “But I thought they were gone just through the weekend!

I mean…doesn’t Reggie have school today?”

Brady snorted. “It