*Thank you TLC Book Tours for providing the excerpt*
Title: Sisters by Choice
Author: Susan Mallery
Release Date: February 11th, 2020
Cousins by chance, sisters by choice…
After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.
Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.
Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?
Told with Mallery’s trademark humor and charm, Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.
Heather Sitterly carried two plates across the Blackberry Island Inn dining room. As usual, there was a large breakfast crowd, even on a Monday morning. The customers were a mix of visitors and locals, all here for great food at reasonable prices. The bacon and spring vegetable frittata was moving briskly this morning.
“Here we go,” she said, setting the plates in front of an older couple who had been at the inn all weekend. “Avocado on the side and extra bacon for the gentleman.” She smiled. “Let me refill your coffee cups, then I’ll check back to see how you’re enjoying your breakfast.”
“Thank you, dear,” the woman said. She was probably in her midsixties, with soft-looking gray hair and dark eyes. She looked a lot like Heather’s maternal grandmother, but Heather knew better than to say that. No one appreciated being told they looked like a grandparent.
She smiled before quickly walking to the coffee station. She saw the decaf pot was nearly empty, so started the brewer going before picking up one of the regular pots and heading back toward her tables. She filled a half-dozen cups before returning to the older couple.
“How’s your breakfast so far?” she asked as she poured coffee.
“Excellent as always,” the woman said, glancing at her name tag. “Heather, is it? Are you a local?”
“Born and raised.”
“Are you in college?” the woman’s husband asked.
“I go to community college. There’s one on the mainland, not too far from here.”
“It’s so nice there’s a bridge,” the woman added. “You don’t have to worry about waiting for a ferry.”
“That’s true. The ferries can’t travel when the weather’s bad, but the bridge is always open.”
The older man winked at her. “Ever dream about escaping to somewhere?” he asked, his voice teasing. “A big city?”
Nearly every day. But Heather didn’t say that. These nice people didn’t want to know about her personal trials and how much she longed to be almost anywhere but here.
“Blackberry Island is such a lovely place,” she said instead, then excused herself to attend to her other customers.
Exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes later, Heather’s shift ended. She cashed out, pocketed her tips and picked up the to-go box Helen, the cook at the dining room, always left for her. As requested, Helen had scribbled Amber on the top of the container. At first the cook had written Heather’s name, as she was the one placing and paying for the order. But Amber had complained about that.
“The food is for me. Why is your name on the container? Shouldn’t it be my name?”
Heather had wanted to tell her mother that it didn’t really matter whose name was where. Breakfast was being delivered, free and delicious. Was the name that important? But it wasn’t a fight worth taking on.
Heather set the take-out container in the basket on the front of her bike, then strapped on her helmet. She had a car, but for short trips, it was faster and cheaper to take her bike—not to mention good exercise. As she pedaled toward the house where she’d grown up, she planned out the rest of her day. She would be home by nine fifteen. That gave her nearly two hours to study for finals before she took her mother car-shopping.
Amber had been rear-ended three weeks ago at the island’s only stoplight. Her car had been totaled and Amber had sustained soft tissue injuries that had put her on disability. Heather felt bad about her mother’s pain and hoped she would heal quickly, only there was a tiny part of her—a wretched, mean-spirited, bad part of her—that wondered if Amber had been injured much at all. Because being on disability was a whole lot easier than going to work.
Heather rode the last half mile to the house telling herself not to cast judgment. It was her mother’s life—she shouldn’t get involved. Only being involved had always been her job and therein lay the problem.
She pulled up in front of the old rambler where she lived. The front yard was big, with a nice lawn and wide plant beds. Right now everything looked scraggly after the long winter, but there were already the first green shoots from the daffodils and tulip bulbs poking out of the dark soil. In a week or so the flowers would make their first appearance.
The house itself needed a coat of paint, not to mention an overhaul of the kitchen and bathrooms. But pretty much everything was functional and that was much more important than how things looked.
She locked up her bike on the rear porch and went in the back door.
“It’s me,” she called.
“Heather?” Her mother’s voice was weak. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Mom. Who else would it be?”
“You never know. Someone could break in and slit my throat. It’s happened before.”
“Not to you,” Heather said, going for cheerful because sarcasm never worked and she really needed to get to her studying as soon as possible. “I think we’re all pretty safe on the island.”
“Did you bring me breakfast? I’m in so much pain and I can’t take my pill until I eat.”
Heather popped the frittata onto a plate, then put it in the microwave for a quick heat. She poured coffee before carrying everything into the small, shabby living room where her mother lay on the sofa.
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