Friday, July 21, 2017

"Cookie Cutter" by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter
by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter by Jo Richardson

Cookie Cutter by Jo Richardson is currently on tour with Promo Star Services. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Iris Alden and Carter Blackwood couldn’t be more different.
Recently divorced, newly-employed, cookie-baking, PTA super mom Iris likes her life neat and organized, while house-flipping Carter’s itchy feet means he never stays in the same place for very long.
When Carter purchases the home across from Iris to renovate it for a quick sell, he has no intention of putting down roots. He certainly doesn’t plan on getting involved with the local community, let alone the town committee mom.
But life doesn’t always coincide with what we think we want.
With an unexpected family crisis pulling Carter back to the city, and Iris’s ex-husband doing his best to sabotage anything resembling a new life for her and their teenaged daughter, Iris and Carter soon find, love isn’t always sweet.

Chapter 1. Iris
I breathe.
I count.
One, two, three . . .
Allison Rose Alden! It. Is. Time. To. Go.”
I swear, if I had a nickel for every time I was late to work because of this child . . .
Um, I have nothing to wear, Mother! Her voice booms from upstairs.
She has plenty to wear. Its October for Christs sake. We just went school clothes shopping last month.
I did your laundry yesterday.” I sing it loud and proud, as I open the front door to give my daughter a hint. Im not waiting for her.
Good luck hitchhiking.
I remember one more thing I meant to tell her this morning, as I check to make sure I have everything. And please stop using my tampons, Ally; Im more than happy to pick some up for you but─”
I stop short, shell-shocked, when I look up to see my path is blocked by a very tall, dark-haired, bright-eyed, and hard-bodied man.
And hes blatantly chuckling. At me.
Rough morning? His brown eyes reflect amusement. His grin is wide. And cocky.
Why exactly is this strange man on my doorstep at zero dark thirty? And why is he laughing at me?
This is the last thing I need first thing in the morning when I havent even had my coffee yet.
Seriously, why does he have to smirk like that?
I . . .” Damn. Where are my words? Use your words, Iris.
Im Carter, he says. Blackwood.” He hooks a thumb over his shoulder, still grinning ear-to-ear. I moved in a few days ago.” He looks like he recently walked off of a photo shoot for some sort of construction worker of the year award.
His words sink in and I dont want to look. But I do it anyway.
As I lean slowly to one side, I recall a conversation I had the other day with my friend and realtor, Carl Burbanks. He told me all about how the new owner of Cindy and Sams old place got quite the deal and it was his understanding that the gentleman planned to flip it for profit. Cindy would cry if she knew. Sam would roll over in his grave.
Its him, alright the night owl home renovator that doesnt seem to know the meaning of the phrase quiet time[1] . And is also, apparently, a morning person.
I stand upright again.
Iris, I tell him, hesitantly.
He peeks around me, into the house. Your husband home, Iris?
I put myself directly in his line of sight so he has no choice but to pay attention to what I have to say next. There is no husband, Carter. I give him the same touch of sarcasm he threw at me.  
His brown eyes flicker with interest and I question myself for a moment.
Should I have let that tidbit slip?
For all I know he could be a mentally unstable human being who flips houses as a cover for murdering innocent single mothers.
Or maybe he killed the house flipper, has taken over his identity, and Im next on his list of victims!
Hes not a murderer, Iris. Were in Spangler for Gods sake.
Note to self, stop binge watching Dexter on Netflix.
Got a hammer I could borrow, then? His eyebrows bounce and his smile grows wider, if thats even possible. His teeth are ridiculously white. Like, fake white. Theres no way thats a natural white.  He must be paying thousands to keep his teeth that perfect. And who has eyelashes that thick? I blink when I realize Im gawking at the man. Then it strikes me that what hes asked for is odd. If I wasnt wary before, I am now.
You remodel homes and you dont have a hammer? I ask him with suspicion behind my voice.
How did you—” His brow pulls together, then he shakes his head as though he wants to forget whatever it is he thought.  Never mind. Mine broke.”
The splintered tool is held up for me to see hes not lying, and I narrow my eyes at it. I know for a fact theres a hardware store within ten minutes of here. Everything is within ten minutes in Spangler.
Cant you just go buy a new one?
He steps inside, right past me. As though he plans to stay a while, he gently sets the tool down  on my entryway table. Hes definitely not staying a while.  I dont have that kind of time. Allys about to be late for school, therefore making me late for work, and thats simply unacceptable.
Im still staring at the hammer when he answers. Id rather not.”
Then I point at my neighbors house. What about—”
They werent home.”
His grin is annoying. Way too annoying to be a murderer. And yes, I realize how nonsensical that sounds.
I snarl. I dont mean to. Its a knee jerk reaction I have to pushy people. Especially pushy people who have an answer to everything. I have a choice to make here. I can: a) stand here arguing with him over it while debating whether or not hes a murderer when in all actuality, if he was a murderer, he probably wouldve killed me by now, or b) I could go get my damn hammer for him. Since battling him will do nothing but make me later than I already am, I opt out of an early morning, pre-caffeine argument and spin on my heels. I hurry toward the garage, and as I pass the stairs, I holler up to my daughter again.
Five minutes!
She groans in dramatic pain and I shake my head. I cannot wait for this phase to be over.
Got yourself a handful there, I take it, my temporary neighbor jokes from behind me.
None of your business, I say under my breath.
His voice is closer than it should be, so I stop and turn. Hes following me. Why is he following me? I put a hand to his chest. And holy. Its hard as a rock. I didnt think that was a real thing.
I force my eyes away from his pecs and look up at him.
You. Stay here.” Just in case.
Carter puts his hands up in defeat and stays put.
I finish my strut to the garage and open the door only wide enough for me to slip through without him seeing past me. I dont need him making a list of all the things in here. Or judging my hoarder tendencies. They arent really my hoarder tendencies, to clarify. My ex managed to pack all his things, but never managed to pick them up after the divorce. I somehow cannot bring myself to get rid of the boxes that now litter my garage.
Call me sentimental. Or maybe Im a glutton for punishment.
When I flick on the light, I sigh deep and heavy. I have no idea where I put the hammer last time I used it.
Hell, I dont remember the last time I used the thing. I step down three deep stairs into my overcrowded garage and walk around. I glance inside boxes as I pass them to see if I can figure out which one might have some freaking tools. The first is full of papers that look like they date back to the nineteen eighties. The second and third host an array of knick-knacks my ex has collected over the years. Football memorabilia, college player bobbleheads, things like that.
And then, I see it, finally.  The box, that is. And only because its clearly marked. Its in a bin on the highest peak of the tallest shelf.
I check the time on my watch. Its getting ridiculously late, now, so I throw myself into overdrive.
really dont have time for this.
I grab the ladder from its corner. Its not in the best of shape. Im pretty sure we bought this thing right after we were married and that was a good seventeen or eighteen years ago. As I open it up and prop it against the wall, Im not so sure this is a good idea, but I find myself climbing up the rickety steps, regardless. At the top, I struggle to open the box and keep my balance at the same time but manage to find a hammer buried inside. I grumble all the way down the ladder and leave it be, which might have been a good decision except that I trip over the corner leg and stub my toe.
Mother effffffff. Ohmygod that hurt that hurt that hurt.
Ow.” All the way back to the stairs, I curse the ladder. I curse my toe. I curse the hammer and the man who came into my home asking for it. I limp up the first two steps, but on the third, I misjudge my footing and slip. I try to regain my balance but I cant. The hammer goes soaring and my eyes widen. My scream sounds like a wild banshee as I fly backwards. I frantically attempt to decipher the best way to land that will cause me the least amount of pain when suddenly, Im not falling anymore.
The hammer clangs against the concrete floor as Im jerked forward and for a moment I think someone is helping me up from behind. Its not until Im pressed firmly against a warm, solid body, that smells an awful lot like saw dust, that I realize Ive been pulled not pushed. He holds my wrist tightly while my arm wraps itself around his waist to hold on. When my senses return, I look up.
Perfect, dark chocolate irises stare back at me.
Soooo not a murderer.
Gotcha.”  The corners of his luscious mouth lift only slightly. Just enough to make me lose my breath.
Yes.” Im mesmerized with the sound of his voice. You do.”
He stands me up straight and holds me steady. The corners of his eyes crinkle as his body vibrates with laughter. Im about to ask him what in the hell he thinks is so funny when I notice where were standing.
What happened to you staying where you were? I place a hand on my hip after I push away from him. Sort of.
Its a good thing I didnt, he says with an even bigger smirk on his face.
I want to slap it right off of him.
Then maybe kiss the lips that created it.
Do you always double book yourself? That cant be healthy on any level.”
Im confused by his question until I see my day timer in his free hand. Its enough to snap me back into reality.
What are you doing with my day timer?
I pick the hammer up off the floor, then snatch my book out of his hands and stalk back toward the foyer. As I tuck the tool under my arm, I flip through the pages of my calendar. God only knows what he read while I was looking for that stupid tool.
Please tell me he did not read my reminder to pick up the tampons this afternoon.
It was sitting there. Open. And I was bored.”
Bored? My life is anything but boring. I spin on him, fuming. I think my eye is twitching and I blink to try and control the horrid tick.
He shrugs then laughs again. Yeah.”
And its like hes finding humor in the fact that while my day has already started out on a chaotic note, he has all the time in the world to sit and read my personal notes.
In my defense, I didnt realize it was a day timer at first, I mean this thing looks more like a journal.”
So you wouldnt have picked it up if it was my day timer, but because it was a journal, all bets are off?
Like I said, it was sitting there. Open. I thought that was an invitation. For bored people.
Its clear now, hes not a murderer. Hes simply an ass. I open my mouth to tell him he can take his pompous attitude and shove this hammer right up his derriere when . . .
Allison makes her way down the stairs, her book bag in hand. Her hair is perfect and as per usual, a scowl is spread across her face. Were going to be late and youre holding social hour? Seriously?
This child. I love this child. I close my eyes. I breathe in deep. Then let it go.
Carters fine.” Hes not laughing anymore, but the way he presses his lips together tells me that he still finds humor in my pain.
Ive never been one to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing they got one over on me, though. So, instead of telling him off, I smile and pull the hammer out from under my arm to hand over to him.
Have a nice day.”
His eyes zero in on mine for what feels like an eternity before taking the thing. When he twists his mouth, Im drawn to his lips. Theyre soft . . . full . . . beautiful. I hate them.
Thanks.” He nods to my daughter as he strides past the stairway. He picks up his broken hammer and heads out the front door, one hand dangling the broken one, the other hooking mine over his shoulder. The way his jeans hang from his hips shows enough ass, but not nearly enough.
I bite my lip.
My head snaps to my daughter, whos still standing at the foot of the stairs. Gross! She hurries out the front door to wait for me by the car.
Excuse me? I pull the door closed behind me and lock up before racing off myself.
Seriously, she says, I dont need to witness you ogling the new neighbor guy.”
I wasnt ogling anybody. I have such a smart ass of a daughter. Lucky me.
Outside, I pull the car door open and throw my bag inside. I dont have time to ogle. How dare she accuse me of ogling.
I start the engine and pull out of the driveway. We head down Sprit Drive, into our respective busy days, but not before I adjust the rearview mirror to get one last decent look at the way Carter Blackwoods jeans hang off of him.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"I loved the story. There was much laughter in the book, yet also a serious story woven between the giggles. Both characters struggle to overcome their pasts and move forward with their lives, and it takes finding the right person to do so. It just takes them a while to realize that person is living right across the street. I loved the book, the writing and the characters - Cookie Cutter is a read I would definitely recommend." ~ Melanie Moreland
"Reading this book really reminded me of watching a Nora Ephron movie, and anybody who knows me will understand that’s a huge compliment. It was funny, sexy and above all heartwarming. An overall fantastic read!" ~ Carrie Elks
"This steady paced novel doesn't strictly focus on handyman meets harried mom. It brings out the attraction and growing magnetism naturally. The author provides a well rounded view into a neighborhood and into the personalities of the principles. A wonderful, sometimes hilarious, vacation or escape read that will make you look more closely at the people around you. What secrets are hidden in plain sight?" ~ Laura Reading
"I enjoyed immensly in Cookie Cutter finding the story vividly compelling, portraying all the funny, awkward, sweet, scary, sensual, but also sad, hard, painful and beautiful nuisances of life." ~ Snow
"Cookie Cutter is a light and fun read that easily flows. The angst is not too over the top. I think everything wraps up too quickly in the end; however, this story will pull at your heart a little and reflect that sometimes change can be a good thing. Overall, Cookie Cutter made me smile!" ~ GraceMyBookSnack

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
When Iris meets her new neighbor, Carter, sparks fly. But he's only around long enough to flip a house. Besides, they're both getting over relationships and not really looking to start anything new. Things are complicated by a problematic sixteen-year-old daughter, an amorous boss, a persistent ex-husband, and a best friend who isn't acting like one. Will Iris and Carter ever be able to get past their differences?
This is a gorgeous story told from the points of view of both Iris and Carter. It's full of humor, romance, family drama, and populated by a cast of quirky neighbors.
My only complaint: after so much talk about cookies, I just wish the author had included the recipe for those sugar cookies!
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes.

About the Author
Jo Richardson
A movie fanatic, a writer of stories, a lover of life.
I grew up in Maryland with four siblings, three parents and an endless number of cousins within the vicinity – but it was too cold up North for this thin blooded girl. Today, I live in Florida with my two girls and a husband who shares my same sense of humor and basic take on life as we know it.
Life is too short to put dreams on the back burner.
I write both contemporary and paranormal stories that include mystery, suspense, humor, action, romance, and anything else I can think up.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card or a signed copy of Cookie Cutter by Jo Richardson (US only).