The Boardwalk Bookshop : A Novel
On Sale Date: May 31, 2022
About the Book:
With her unique brand of witty, emotional storytelling, Susan Mallery’s latest is a heartfelt tale of friendship between three women brought together by chance who open a bookshop together on the boardwalk of the California beaches and ultimately become one another’s family. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs will love The Boardwalk Bookshop!
Brought together by chance, Bree, Mikki, and Ashley become fast friends and open up a beachfront bookshop together, bringing together their three different businesses. To celebrate, each Friday at sunset they pop open champagne on the beach and enjoy the sunset together. Little did they know that that chance meeting and this simple ritual would make them one another’s family.
Bree owns the bookshop. Funny that she can’t stand authors. They’re far too demanding. But when NYT bestselling author Harding Burton, the memoirist who wrote about being paralyzed as a teenager and how he fought his way back, comes in, Bree never expected to actually like him. But anything beyond casual sex is out of the question for her. She trusts no one—a brutal first marriage and a painful childhood taught her well. Still as much as she wants to walk away, she can’t quite do it…
Ashley, Harding’s brother, owns the muffin shop and she has her own problems. She’s been happily in love with her boyfriend, Seth, for eight years. He’s thoughtful, supportive, kind, generous…but he hasn’t proposed and, she can’t hold it in any longer. When he announces that marriage isn’t for him, she’s shocked. And as much as she wishes this was enough, the truth is that she wants to be married. But what now?
And Mikki, the gift shop owner, is getting a second chance. She married her high school sweetheart, but three kids and completely different interests made them drift apart until they divorced a few years ago. They’re still close for the kids, but when someone new enters her life, he makes her feel appreciated and alive. Suddenly Mikki’s ex is making her dinner and asking her advice and Mikki must choose between the man she loved and let go of—and a chance for a brand new beginning.
About the Author:
Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.
Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.
Q&A with Susan Mallery
What are your Favorite: food, beverage, pet, place visited, place you would like to visit, car, etc?
Favorite food: Chocolate and bread are tied for first place.
Favorite beverage: wine—I’m a big fan of Washington wines, which is why I wrote The Vineyard at Painted Moon, a book that came out in 2021.
Favorite pet: A mom isn’t supposed to have favorites, but I’ll confess just to you—Alex, my cat, is my guy. He always wants to be close to me, and I love that, too. You’ll often see him when I do virtual events, usually demanding dinner and affection, in that order. I do love my dog Kelli, too, but she’s more into her daddy than she is me.
Favorite place visited: My husband and I enjoy cruises. We’ve visited so many wonderful places, but one country whose beauty surprised me was Estonia. It’s filled with historical character and charm, and the people are warm and delightful.
I also love visiting my hometown, Los Angeles. That’s why I set The Boardwalk Bookshop in LA, so I could spend a few months in California—in my imagination, that is.
Place I would like to visit: Our next cruise will be to the British Isles, and I’m very excited. I’ll share pictures on Facebook and Instagram. I’m @susanmallery in both places, if you’d like to travel there vicariously.
Favorite car: My husband’s a total car guy. I’m mostly indifferent, though there are features I love. Heated seats are very nice, but a heated steering wheel is true luxury. When I need to know what kind of car a character would drive, I describe the character to Mr. Mallery and let him decide.
Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?
The Boardwalk Bookshop is about three strangers—Bree, Mikki and Ashley—who lease a beachfront retail location together and the friendship that blossoms among them. Bree owns the bookshop, Mikki the gift shop, and Ashley the bakery. I wanted to explore the transformative power of friendship. Because they have one another, these women are empowered with the strength and courage to change their lives. The Boardwalk Bookshop is an emotional, uplifting story that you’ll finish with a happy sigh. And I hope it will inspire you to strengthen your own bonds of friendship.
Bree is one of the most wounded characters I’ve ever written—hurt by neglectful parents when she was young, and by repeating that pattern with the man she married. Now widowed, she’s determined to protect herself at all costs. Then Ashley’s brother comes to her bookshop, a motivational author and adventurer who has inspired the world with his story. . . and teaches her that loneliness is a choice she doesn’t have to make. If only she can find the courage to risk her heart again.
Mikki is kind of rocking her divorce, or so she thinks. She and her ex have remained friends, and the whole family still celebrates holidays together. But when she starts dating again and meets a guy with real potential, things get messy fast. Mikki is one of those women who goes into mom mode for anyone in need of nurturing. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a very special, secret relationship that I know will make readers laugh. And maybe blush.
The youngest of the three friends, Ashley is deeply in love with the guy of her dreams. And he loves her, too! Finally, she found The One. Except she’s about to discover that Seth doesn’t believe in marriage. He believes that love is stronger when people make a choice every day to stay together. Can she be happy with him forever, even if she never becomes his wife?
Which of the characters in The Boardwalk Bookshop would you want to have a drink/coffee and a chat with?
I love them all, but if I have to choose, I’ll go with Bree. She’s the most complicated and the most snarky, and I find snarky, complicated women endlessly amusing. Plus, she owns a bookshop! Hello!
Three women, three business ideas.
When Bree, Mikki and Ashley see a store for rent on the California coast, they all have very different ideas for how they would use the store if it were theirs
Driftaway Books, The Gift Shop and Muffins to the Max: three very different businesses. How do they solve this problem?
The Boardwalk Bookshop is born.
The women have very different problems in life and very different pasts.
Will The Boardwalk Bookshop help the women forget their pasts and move on?
The Boardwalk Bookshop is my seventh book by Susan Mallery and I have enjoyed all the ones I have reviewed by her so far.
The Boardwalk Bookshop is the perfect summer novel and Susan’s signature writing style, great way to create settings and characters is something I always like.
Thanks to Susan Mallery and MIRA Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
Author website: https://www.susanmallery.com/
Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble:
“I thought there’d be more sex.”
Bree Larton stared at her seventy-something-year-old customer, not sure how to respond. Bursting out laughing would be inappropriate and Ruth would take offense. “You need to tell me what you want so I can get you the right book,” Bree said with a gentle smile. “You wanted a political thriller. Most of them aren’t sexy.”
Ruth, barely five feet tall but feisty as a badger, pursed her lips. “Not true. James Bond has sex all the time and he spends his day saving the world. I want a book like that. Ticking bombs, financial collapse, kidnappings and then everyone jumps into bed.” She winked. “That would be a good book.”
“I can do a sexy thriller. Maybe international?” Bree started walking toward that section of the bookstore. “A couple of options come to mind. Now, on the sexy part—do you want monogamy or can the partners play around?”
Ruth’s eyes brightened. “I’d like them to play around, but nothing too kinky. And no groups. That’s just too hard to keep track of.”
Bree held in a chuckle. “All right. We’ll limit the body parts, add a little European flair.” She held out a book with a hunky guy on the cover. “If you like this one, the author has five more stories waiting for you.”
Ruth, an unnaturally yellow blonde wearing cherry-red lipstick, clutched the book to her narrow chest. “I’ll take it.”
Bree suggested several additional authors. Ruth browsed for a few more minutes, then carried a stack of books to the register.
“I think I would have been a good sidekick for James Bond.” Ruth passed over her credit card. “Back in the day, I was quite the looker.”
“You still are,” Bree told her.
Ruth waved away the comment. “I’m too old for espionage, but I wouldn’t say no to dinner with a charming man.” Her smile turned sly. “I’ll just have to keep living vicariously through you.”
“Sadly, I’m lacking a man these days.”
Ruth leaned close. “What I admire about you, Bree, is that you’re not holding out for love. You go after what you want. When I was your age, that wasn’t an option. Not in polite society anyway. I was born in the wrong time.”
Bree honest to God had no idea what to say. “I guess we have to work with what we have.” She tucked a flyer into the shopping bag. “Harding Burton is signing here in a couple of weeks.”
Ruth looked at the poster next to the counter. Her bright red lips curved into a smile. “He’s a good-looking man.”
Bree mentally shrugged. “I suppose.”
“You don’t think he’s exceptionally handsome? Those eyes, that smile. Isn’t he the one who was hit by a car and left for dead on the side of the road when he was just a teenager?” Ruth clucked her tongue. “So tragic. But he pulled through and walked again and now look at him.” Her gaze darted to Bree. “You should have your way with him and then tell me all about it.”
Bree held in a wince. “First, I’d never tell you about it and second, I don’t date authors.”
Between her late husband and her parents, she knew enough about the type to want to avoid them forever. At least on a personal basis. Work-wise, she was stuck. What with owning a bookstore and all.
“Harding seems exception-worthy,” Ruth told her. “He might have some interesting scars you could trace and—”
Bree held up her hands in the shape of a T. “Stop right there. If you’re interested in Harding’s scars, go for him. How could he resist you?”
“I’m old enough to be his mother.”
Grandmother, Bree mentally corrected, but kept silent. She had a soft spot for the ever-outspoken Ruth.
“Maybe he’s into older women,” she said instead.
“Wouldn’t that be nice.”
Ruth was still laughing when Bree walked her out of the store. Anson, Ruth’s driver, was waiting in the no-parking fire lane. Anson helped Ruth into the Mercedes. Bree stayed outside until the car drove away.
Early evening on the beach in Los Angeles was nearly always magical but in June, if the skies cleared, it was the stuff of dreams. Warm air, palm trees, sand and surf. Honestly, she shouldn’t admit to having any real problems in her life. Even Ruth’s impossible book requests were insignificant when compared with the view outside the front door of her store.
Until six months ago, Driftaway Books had been located about two miles north and a good three blocks inland from the actual beach. Last fall, when the current space had come up on the market, Bree had stopped in to drool and dream. But beachfront came at a premium, and the square footage had been nearly double what she’d needed.
In one of those rare moments when fate stepped in and offered an unexpected opportunity, that very day two other women business owners had also been swooning over the same retail space. They’d agreed it was an unbelievable location, right there on the sand, but it had also been too big and expensive for each of them.
Impulsively, Bree had suggested they go get coffee together. Over the next hour they’d discussed the possibility of sharing the lease. Bree generally didn’t trust people until she got to know them, but there had been something about Mikki and Ashley that had made her want to take a chance. By the end of the week Driftaway Books, The Gift Shop and Muffins to the Max had signed a ten-year lease and hired a contractor to remodel. Bree had changed the name of Driftaway Books to The Boardwalk Bookshop, the final step in fully claiming the business as her own. The first Monday after the holidays, they’d moved in together.
Bree looked at the long, low building. Huge display windows were shaded by blue-and-white-striped awnings. The large glass doors could slide completely open, blurring the line between retail and sand. She and Mikki, the gift-store owner, had their stores on either side, with Ashley’s muffin selection taking up the middle space.
Big, bright displays showcased books, gifts and muffins, grouped together in seasonal themes. An array of beach books, sunscreen, flip-flops and wide-brimmed hats enticed tourists who had shown up to the beach unprepared.
Bree headed back inside, aware of the approaching sunset. She collected blankets and champagne glasses, then paused to straighten the poster announcing a book signing by Jairus Sterenberg, author of the popular Brad the Dragon children’s books. Jairus lived in next-door Mischief Bay and was always a pleasure at signings. He was one of the few authors Bree liked. He arrived early, stayed late and asked only for a desk and a glass of water. The man even brought his own pens.
At the other end of the spectrum was a not-to-be-named famous mystery author who was a total nightmare. Demanding, slightly drunk and very handsy, he’d patted her butt one too many times at his last signing and had been banned from the store. Despite pleas from his publicist and a written apology from the author himself, Bree had stood firm. She owned The Boardwalk Bookshop and she made the rules. No literary books, no existential anything and no guys touching women without their permission. Not exactly earth-shattering, but she could only control her little corner of the world.
Mikki saw her and smiled.
“Once again, we’re waiting for Ashley. Have you noticed that?”
“Young people today,” Bree teased.
Mikki, a generally upbeat kind of person, with thick blond hair and more curves than Bree and Ashley combined, laughed. “I like that. I’m only ten years older than her, so if she’s young, then I’m less old than I thought. Maybe I won’t mind turning forty this fall.”
“You’re not seriously worried about it, are you?”
Mikki wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know. Sometimes. Maybe. Forty sounds a lot worse than thirty-something.”
“Forty is the new twenty-five.”
Mikki’s humor returned. “If I’m twenty-five, then Ashley’s barely eleven. That could create some legal issues with our lease.” She waved the bottle of champagne she held. “Come on. This needs our attention. When Ashley’s done texting love notes to Seth, she knows where to find us.”
They left the store and walked out onto the sand. With the approach of sunset, the temperature had cooled and the Friday crowd had cleared. The sky had started to darken, while the part that kissed the ocean still glowed bright blue with a hint of yellow.
To their left were a grove of palm trees, a handful of kiosks and a boardwalk that went all the way to Redondo Beach. To the right were more shops and restaurants, benches, parking and hotels. In front of them was the Pacific Ocean. Big, blue and tonight, unexpectedly calm.
They stopped about thirty feet from the shore and sat on the blankets. Mikki held up the champagne.
“Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé,” she said proudly. “Ladies Know Wine gave it 93 points and said it had ‘delicious hints of sweet earthiness that complement fruit flavors including strawberry and peach with a hint of spice in this perfectly balanced rosé champagne.’”
Bree grinned. “I don’t know which is more impressive. That you’re branching out from traditional champagne or that you can quote a Ladies Know Wine review that well.”
“I love Ladies Know Wine. I savor every issue. If Ladies Know Wine were a man, I would make him fall in love with me. Then we’d have sex.”
“Earl would be crushed.”
Mikki unwrapped the pink foil and tucked it into her khaki pants pocket. “Earl would need to get over it.” She held up the bottle. “Look at the shape of that. It’s beautiful. And the label. Kudos to the design team.”
She held the cork in her left hand and used her right to grip the bottom of the bottle. Instead of pulling on the cork, as often happened in movies, she rotated the bottle several turns until the bottle and cork separated without a hint of a pop.
Last fall the three of them had signed the lease late on a Friday. They’d been so excited, they’d driven out to their new location. The sunny, warm day had promised a beautiful sunset. Bree happened to have a bottle of champagne in her car and had suggested they share it to celebrate their new venture. The following Friday they’d done the same and a tradition had been born.
The first time Bree had opened a bottle of champagne with her business associates, she’d popped the cork and the frothy liquid had spilled over. Mikki’s expression of horror had been so clear as to be comical.
“You’re letting out all the bubbles,” she’d explained. “It changes the essence of the champagne and ruins the experience.”
“Ruins is kind of strong,” Ashley had pointed out. “It’s still really good champagne. Better than what I usually have. Of course most of my champagne drinking is done at weddings where they’re buying for two hundred, so price is a concern.”
“Champagne needs to be treated with reverence,” Mikki had told her. “Don’t drink bad champagne.”
From then on they’d alternated providing the Friday night sunset champagne. Ashley always ran her selection past Mikki, but Bree took her chances by picking it herself.
Mikki poured them each a glass, then put the bottle into the sand, pushing down a little to keep it upright.
“To us,” she said, touching her glass to Bree’s. “And to perfect sunsets.”
Bree smiled and then took a sip. She closed her eyes as she let the bubbly liquid sit on her tongue for a second before swallowing. Mikki was going to ask her how she liked it, and saying it was fine was never an option.
“Delicious,” she said, holding in her smile. “I taste a lot of berry with a hint of citrus. It’s surprisingly creamy.”
Mikki looked at her with approval. “That’s what I get, too. It’s really drinkable. I like it.”
“Noooo! You started without me!”
The shriek came from behind them. Neither of them turned around. Instead, Bree held out the third glass and Mikki filled it. Ashley, a tall, slim redhead with big blue eyes and a full mouth, plopped down next to Mikki. Her lips formed a pout.
“You didn’t wait,” she accused. “You’re supposed to wait.”
“You’re supposed to be on time,” Mikki reminded her. “Every Friday you text with Seth and run late. You agreed either you show up on time or we’re starting without you.”
Ashley ducked her head. “I thought the pressure would help. Instead, I just feel guilty.”
Mikki sipped her champagne. “I’m sure your chronic tardiness has to do with your mother.”
Ashley laughed. “My mom can take your mom anytime.”
Mikki grinned. “I don’t know. Rita would bring her Eeyore self to the party and then talk about how everyone’s good time depressed her.”
“I can see that happening,” Ashley admitted. “Then I’ll toast to both our mothers. And Seth, who is amazing. I in no way feel guilty about texting with him. He loves me and I love him.”
Bree held in a groan. “Yes, we know. It’s all so wonderful.”
Mikki bumped shoulders with Ashley. “She’s jealous.”
“No, no.” Bree held up her glass. “You are welcome to your cooing and clucking relationship.”
“We don’t cluck. What does that even mean?”
“I have no idea,” Mikki admitted. “Bree?”
“It’s just an expression.”
“Clucking is an expression?”
Bree chuckled, then glanced out at the sinking sun. Light reflected on the moving water. A family walked along, close to the waves. An older boy ran ahead, while the parents held hands with a younger child.
They looked happy, she thought, studying them the way she would an unfamiliar species. No doubt the mom and dad loved their children, took care of them. Mikki did that, too, with her two kids. And Ashley’s parents were wonderful. But not all parents were good.
Mikki refilled their glasses. “Ashley, a lot of customers are talking about your brother’s book signing. When are we going to meet him?”
“Monday,” Ashley said. “He’s moving into his new place.”
Harding, Ashley’s brother, after several months on the road for book signings and research, had returned to Los Angeles. He’d leased a house and was supposedly hard at work on book number three. In the meantime, he would be signing at The Boardwalk Bookshop where he would, no doubt, pull in a crowd.
Authors, Bree thought with a silent sigh. An annoying but necessary species. Customers liked book signings, so she had authors come in.
“I can’t wait to meet him,” Mikki said. “Such an interesting story. Bree, are you excited about the signing?”
“More than words can say.”
Mikki studied her. “That’s sarcasm, right?”
Bree laughed. “Yes. That’s sarcasm.”
“How can you own a bookstore, love books and hate writers?”
“I don’t hate them. I just don’t want them in my life.”
“You’re so weird.” Mikki turned to Ashley. “Help me out here. Tell her how weird she is.”
Instead of joining in the teasing, Ashley dropped her gaze. “Yes, well, we should talk about Harding. Or more specifically, him and you.”
Bree shifted back so she could angle toward Ashley. “I’ve never met the guy.” Which meant there shouldn’t be a problem. Unless…
Excerpted from The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2022 by Susan Mallery Inc. Published by MIRA Books.