Friday, January 8, 2016

"The Relationship Riddle" by Susan Paulson Clark

The Relationship Riddle
(Stairstepz Book 2)
by Susan Paulson Clark

The Relationship Riddle is the second book in Susan Paulson Clark's Stairstepz series. The author stops by to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review. Also available: The Relationship Shoppe.

Not your typical love story ...
Vince, a football coach who foster-parents a five-year-old boy, dodges romantic commitment like a shifty running back. Belle, who runs her own business, has sworn off chasing men like Vince. A strong attraction comes into play - but with all their objections and temptations, will the spark ignite into a flame? When Vince and his foster son find themselves in harm’s way, Vince and Belle’s involvement takes a surprising new direction.

Chapter 1 ~ Belle
Belle loved Stairstepz, the store she and her best friend, Marian, had launched. So much so that, during her breaks, she’d often come around from their office in the back room to simply admire it—as she did now. Standing behind the small curtain, she gathered the muslin fabric in her hands and drew it aside, pausing and relishing the sight of personal-growth inspired books and breathing in the faint aroma of nerve-soothing scented candles. And so she stood, rather smugly, in that catchall area of unshelved books and a wall poster that read, “Smile!” Taking it all in.
Their young, part-time help, Hannah, chatted up a customer near the cash register. With surprise, Belle noticed something else, beyond the sales transaction, past the front window, out on the sidewalk. Through the distorted, rippling effect of the scorching Texas heat, she saw someone she knew. Could it be Vince Anderson?
Blond hair. Cheekbones. Muscular physique. Yes, Vince. As he approached the entrance and pulled open the glass door, Belle quickly snatched the fabric panels together, retreating behind them. As her curious eyes peeked through the narrow curtain opening, she felt her pulse and breathing quicken. Their boutique-sized store would afford her a good view.
Vince remained near the entrance, the customer left and Hannah came out from behind the counter, her eyes locking onto his body so intently, you would think he didn’t even have a head—and in so gawking, she nearly ran into a book carousel. 
Hannah gingerly straightened a book in the carousel, as if it had been her intention all along, and cleared her throat. “Well, hello! May I help you?”
“Sure,” he said with a warm smile. “I’m looking for a book.”
“What’s the title?”
“I just need to find your parenting section,” he said.
The store’s phone rang once, then twice, but Hannah didn’t rush over to get it. “You have kids?”
“No, well, not yet.”
“Oh, I see,” Hannah said. “You must be looking for a gift.”
The phone’s ringing seemed to grow louder. 
“Darn it,” Hannah said, “I mean, just a minute while I get that.”
Belle snickered to herself. Parenting, huh? Marian had said Vince never even had a girlfriend. She squinted; his right hand bore no wedding band.
Vince and Belle had met briefly before through Marian, who had loved him at one time. Hearing so much about him, Belle felt like she knew him quite well. He used to ask Marian for lunch or coffee, but never took her on a date. Marian had misinterpreted his attention as romantic interest.
So then, he didn’t need parenting books at all, just more ego strokes from Marian.
Belle shook her head. If Marian, her dearest friend and just about the strongest person she knew, fell for him, then how could she be immune to his charms? Better to remain behind the curtain and spy.

Praise for the Book
"To bill this book as a romance in the traditional sense, even though romance is a big part of the story line, would be to do it an injustice. It's really about life's unpredictability and its choices. The rest is up to the protagonists … and up to the reader to follow with bated breath." ~ Midwest Book Review
"What will you get from The Relationship Riddle? You will find a heartwarming story of love between not only a man and woman, but also between child and parent, and even between friends. You’ll get a well-written story with a strong plot and story structure. You’ll find loveable characters you’ll want to cheer for, and maybe one or two that you might throw your book at, if they were standing in the room with you. [...] I found myself glued to the story, waiting anxiously to find out what was going to happen, as I knew some kind of danger was coming to mess things up for poor Vince. And of course it did come. Great job, Susan. Keep on writing." ~ Victoria Schwimley
"It is an unusual romance but one which is very realistic. It is told in alternating chapters by Belle and Vince. It made a welcome change to romance novels. I loved reading it." ~ P. Blevins
"The Relationship Riddle touches on many social topics current today. Single parenting, fostering children, males fostering children, elder care. and women entrepreneurs. [...] The writing is good, the characters are believable, and what is refreshing to me is, there isn't graphic sex in the book. I like to read good stories, and if you enjoy romance on the lighter side, then you'll enjoy The Relationship Riddle." ~ Nana58
"The Relationship Riddle was a very enjoyable read. It was well written and left me wanting more. I thought Clark did a tremendous job with character development. I was hooked and I could identify with the main characters in the story. I appreciated very much that it was clean and appropriate for anyone. Grammatically speaking it was excellent as well. I would love to read more of this author's work. I want to know how the relationship between Belle and Vince progresses. I also really appreciated the questions at the end, it's not just an entertaining read but it is also thought provoking." ~ imfchik

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Belle and Marian are co-founders of the Stairstepz bookstore. One day Marian's old flame Vince Anderson walks through the front door looking for a parenting book. Turns out he wants to foster a child - on his own! When Belle doesn't tell Marian about Vince's visit, you just know they're in for trouble. Belle knows she should stay away from him, but something about him draws her in. With Vince reluctant to commit to a relationship because of his past experiences, will these two ever get together?
Although there are a few references to things I assume are in the previous book, the story is still easy to follow and stands on its own merits. Some pretty difficult issues are raised (alcoholism, child abuse, drug making, fostering, adoption, divorce, sexual harassment - both male and female, single parenting, domestic violence, surgery, physical therapy, aged care, death, prison), but they seem to be resolved a little too easily. Still, this is an entertaining read and a lot lighter than these issues might indicate.
While this story line is complete, the ending leaves it open for a sequel. I look forward to reading more about these characters.

About the Author
Susan Paulson Clark has been writing for fifteen years. She's an avid reader of women's fiction, mysteries, and non-fiction titles. Susan enjoys painting (acrylic and oil) and spending time with her husband. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in English and Education - and she's an avid believer in writers' critique groups!
The Relationship Shoppe and The Relationship Riddle are part of her Stairstepz series. A third book will be released in 2016!

Second Chance (2014) by Susan Paulson Clark