From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Daughters of the Bride comes the charming tale about the problem with secrets, the power of love and the unbreakable bond between sisters
Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.
But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.
While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?
Told with Mallery’s trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…
Reviewer’s Note: I have not read this book so cannot give an accurate measure of any profanity or sensuality that may be present.
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2017
Olivia had joined Marilee’s successful real estate business right out of college. She’d started as a secretary and had worked her way up to designing all the company’s marketing. As that wasn’t a full-time gig, she’d tried her hand at selling homes, but had discovered she didn’t have the right kind of personality. Marilee didn’t either, but she was better at faking it.
In an effort to keep from having to fill her day with secretarial duties, Olivia had started taking design classes. She quickly discovered she had a knack for more than putting together a great outfit on a budget and transforming a plain house into something wildly appealing. So far she was offering her staging services for only the cost of supplies, but she was toying with the idea of starting a real business and had the savings account to prove it. This house had been her biggest project by far. She might not be getting the credit, but she had plenty of before and after pictures for her portfolio.
Jenny and Marilee left the house to return to the office. Olivia stayed behind to lock up and look around one more time.
“Your assistant is such a pretty girl,” she heard Jenny say as they walked to Marilee’s Mercedes. “We should all be so young.”
Olivia winced. Marilee would not appreciate being lumped in to Jenny’s over-sixty age group, nor would she like Olivia being complimented. But that was for later.
She checked that the rear slider was locked, pausing to admire the Adirondack chairs she’d found at a garage sale for all of ten bucks each. She’d set a thrift store tray on top of a ratty plastic end table. A few shells in an old mason jar with a little sand transformed the tired poolside into something beachy.
Inside she’d covered Jenny’s lumpy sofa with an off-white slipcover, then added throw pillows in gray blue and pale aqua. A textured throw rug in beige and cream covered most of the 1980s floor tile.
In the master she’d recovered the headboard with striped gray-and-white sheets. She’d splurged on a new comforter, then had rearranged the furniture. A few accessories—starfish, a clock in the shape of a lighthouse and piece of driftwood—continued the theme.
The master bath was pure illusion. Rolled towels and pretty jars of bath salts distracted from the outdated tile. A quick coat of white paint added a sense of freshness. She’d found a darling silk flower arrangement and put it into a child’s sand bucket. The touch of whimsy drew the eye away from the ugly tub.
Her phone chirped. She glanced down and saw she had a text from Logan. They’d met over the weekend and he’d been trying to get together with her ever since. Honestly, Olivia just wasn’t in the mood. Yes, he was Kathy’s boyfriend and stealing him would be good fun, but for some reason the idea didn’t appeal.
She scrolled through other texts and paused when she saw the one that had really caught her attention.
You should come home for a visit. We could hang out. Miss you, babe.
Every woman had her weakness. For some it was brownies, for others it was shoes, for her it was Ryan Burnett.
The man made her crazy. She knew the reason—they’d never had their chance. She’d been cruelly ripped from his arms before they could become the most popular couple in high school. Later, at college, he’d been more interested in baseball than her, something he still had to pay for.
She wanted to forget him and couldn’t. He was the promise of what could have been, of what she could have been. When she was with him, she finally belonged. She needed that—needed him. Ever since he’d moved back to Tulpen Crossing three months ago, he’d been asking her to come up for a visit. Which was ridiculous. That was the last place she wanted to be. Except for Ryan…
She dropped her phone back in her bag and walked outside. After making sure the key was in the lockbox, she checked the front door, then drove back to the office. She arrived in time to hear Jenny raving about the marketing campaign Olivia had prepared.
“I don’t know how you do it all,” Jenny gushed. “Marilee, you’re amazing.” She turned to Olivia. “You must learn so much working for her.”
“I do. Every day.” She turned to Marilee. “The house is ready to go live. Shall I take care of that for you?”
Olivia retreated to her small, windowless office. She went online and uploaded the listing she’d already prepared. Then she checked on their other listings, which didn’t take very long. The number of houses they were selling would pick up again in September, but until then, they were in the real estate dead zone.
An hour later, Marilee buzzed for Olivia to come to her office. Olivia smoothed the front of her sleeveless dress before walking down the carpeted hallway. Marilee sat on the leather sofa in her large, corner office.
“That woman is so tiresome. I thought she would never leave. At least she liked the staging, although I have to say I was a little disappointed.” She wrinkled her nose as best she could, considering the Botox. “Really, Olivia? Starfish and a sand bucket? Is that the best you could do?”
Olivia felt herself flush. “I had a budget of five hundred dollars. There weren’t a lot of choices. I think the unique style will appeal to buyers.”
“We’ll see. Jenny was happy at least, although that’s not saying much.” She leaned back and closed her eyes. “How hot is it out there? Over a hundred?”
“I can’t wait to get out of here. Roger’s place in Colorado is going to be heavenly. The views are amazing. You should go away for a few weeks, Olivia. There isn’t much business over the summer and it would save me having to cut your hours.”
The not-so-subtle hint wasn’t new. Marilee was forever threatening her employees with reduced wages or being fired. The fact that she owned the most successful real estate firm in the city gave her power and she knew it.
When she’d first joined the firm, Olivia had been immune to Marilee’s pettiness and whims, but lately that had changed. Maybe it was inevitable with the passage of time. Maybe it was the fact that Olivia had caught Roger staring at her legs. No matter how much Marilee did to slow the clichéd ravages of time, the truth was she would be fifty in a couple of years. Whatever the reason, Olivia wasn’t Marilee’s favorite anymore. She was just like everyone else.
A familiar ache filled her chest. It had started when she was twelve years old and her mother had simply left. Olivia had been devastated. She and her mother had been so close. They were the two who got each other. Kelly had always been Dad’s favorite and Olivia had been Mom’s, one each, the way it was supposed to be. But when Mom had left, Olivia had been alone.
Ever since then, nothing had been right. There had been moments when she’d felt safe, as if she belonged, but only moments. Except with Ryan. When she was with him, she always knew that she was going to be okay. With him, she could believe in herself, in the future.
She thought of the messages on her phone. The meaningless parties she could waste time on, the women she hung out with. They, like Marilee, were more frenemy than friend. What did she have keeping her here? Kathy’s boyfriend? A career that was going nowhere? She had no idea what she wanted, which meant she was never going to achieve anything. She needed time to think and maybe, just maybe, the chance to make her life perfect again.
She couldn’t go back to being that twelve-year-old girl again, but she could take Ryan up on his invitation. Go back to Tulpen Crossing. That would give Marilee something to chew on and wouldn’t that be fun? Plus she could finally get her man. Because with Ryan, everything was better.
“You know what, Mom? You’re right. I should take some time off.”
Marilee’s expression tightened. “I’ve told you not to call me that. Especially at the office. I’m nowhere near old enough to have a daughter your age.”
“Good thing Kelly doesn’t work for you. She’s even older than me.”
“I have to say I don’t care for your attitude.”
“Sorry. I should probably get out of here, then. I need to pack and close up my apartment.”
“You’re actually going somewhere?”
“Uh-huh. Home. I’m going home for the summer.”
Marilee sat up. “Home? To that backwater town? Are you crazy?”
“No. I think it will be fun. I haven’t visited in forever. I’ll let you know when I’m heading out. And I’ll make sure Cathy has all the information she needs for the listings we have.”
“You can’t simply leave me. You have responsibilities.”
“You’ll be fine, Mom. You always are.” Olivia smiled. “At least this way you don’t have to cut my hours.”
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