Three sisters. One wedding. It’d be enough to drive anybody crazy.
NEELY: Reliable, hardworking, pragmatic…and single. That is until new beau Robert suddenly pops the question. Neely’s as stunned as the rest of her opinionated Southern family. But she’d rather drink warm ice tea before introducing Robert to that clan.
SAVANNAH: Suburban, almost-empty-nester Savannah is having the mother of all midlife transformations. Sure, she’s still gorgeous, married to a doctor and a whiz in the kitchen. But lately she’s just been feeling so darn invisible. Only one way to change that…
VI: What’s going on with the Mason family? Composed Neely is cracking jokes, Savannah has lost her perky glow and Vi…well, infuriating, eccentric, contrary baby-girl Vi is actually making sense for once. Could it be she’s finally growing up?
Tanya Michaels enjoys writing about love, whether it’s the romantic kind or the occasionally exasperated affection we feel for family members. Tanya made her debut with a 2003 romantic comedy, and her books have been nominated for awards such as Romantic Times BOOKclub’s Reviewer’s Choice, Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award, the National Readers’ Choice and the Maggie Award of Excellence. In 2005, she won the prestigious Booksellers’ Best Award. She’s lucky enough to have a hero of a husband, as well as family and friends who love her despite numerous quirks. Visit www.tanyamichaels.com to learn more about Tanya and her upcoming books, or write to her at PMB #97, 4813 Ridge Road, Suite 111, Douglasville, GA 30134.
The Good Kind of Crazy
In honor of my sister and dear friend, Lara Spiker
So this is what it feels like to be the unpredictable one in the family. A definite first for Neely Mason. One of four siblings, forty-five-year-old Neely was known for being reliable, hardworking, pragmatic…and single, much to the chagrin of her cheerfully opinionated Southern relatives.
But running the risk of becoming a sixty-year-old unwed cat lady had been Neely’s sole nod toward eccentricity; it was her twenty-six-year-old sister, Vidalia, who habitually caught people off guard. Vi had been a surprise from the moment Mrs. Mason learned that her “early menopause” was actually a pregnancy. The unexpected late-in-life baby had grown into a quirky career student who still delighted in startling others. For a change, Vi’s pretty bow-shaped mouth was hanging open in the same gape as everyone else’s.
Ten minutes ago, the clank of silverware had been the background music to Savannah fussing that everyone got enough to eat and Douglas charming their parents with the latest anecdote starring Douglas. Now, silent shock was as tangible in the dining room as the heirloom mahogany furniture and the brass antique chandelier—the one Neely had always thought looked like a spider with lightbulb feet. Though rarely fanciful, Neely could swear her announcement had halted not only conversation but the rhythmic ticking from the wall clock.
Well, how did you expect them to take it?
Since she’d never actually told her family that she’d been seeing Robert Walsh for the past six months, possibly the last thing they’d expected to hear from Neely was, “I’m getting married.”
“To a man?” It was Vi who finally spoke. “I mean, you never bring guys home and rarely date, so I always wondered if you were a les—”
“Vidalia Jean!” Mrs. Beth Mason flushed red and actually crossed herself.
Neely rolled her eyes. “Mom, we’re not Catholic. And, Vi, I’m not a lesbian.”
“Well, congratulations on your engagement,” Savannah put in smoothly. “I’m sorry Jason couldn’t be here today, he’d want to pass on his felicitations, as well.”
“Felicitations?” Vi snorted at their older sister— Savannah beat out Neely by eleven months. “I’m working on a second Master’s, and even I don’t talk like that. Can’t you just say ‘Way to go, sis’?”
Douglas, their thirty-nine-year-old brother, stopped eating long enough to tease Vi. “Criticism from someone who had to ask the fiancé’s gender?”
Vi shot him a look that was the slightly more mature version of sticking out her tongue, then studied Neely’s left hand. “So, where’s the rock?”
“We’re going to pick it out together.”
Robert had proposed last night, on her birthday, giving her two small jewelry boxes after the sumptuous dinner he’d prepared. The first had held a pin, the infinity sign in her birthstone, aquamarine. The second had been empty; he’d told her he’d found his perfect woman, and that if she’d do him the honor of spending the rest of her life with him, they’d find something perfect to fill the ring box. Her lips curved, remembering. He was such a sap, she thought affectionately, not at all who she would have pictured for her husband. Robert was definitely a surprise.
Especially to her family.
Beth cleared her throat, staring pointedly toward her own husband, Gerald Mason, who sat at the head of the table. “Don’t you have something to add, dear?”
“Hmm?” The Professor, as everyone called Neely’s father, glanced up, his faded blue eyes characteristically preoccupied behind his bifocals.
“For instance,” his wife prompted, “asking about who this young man is we’ve never heard of before today!”
“You’ve heard of Robert lots of times,” Neely said. “I’ve worked with him for three years, ever since I left the accounting firm and went to work in-house at Becker. I think some of you have even met him.”
“Yeah, but that’s hardly the same as knowing you’re bumping uglies with him.”
“What?” Vi looked at their mother, all owl-eyed innocence. “She just turned forty-five. You don’t think she’s a virgin, do you? Douglas isn’t married anymore, but I’ll bet no one expects him to lead a celibate lifestyle.”
“Hey,” Douglas protested around a mouthful of potato salad, “my love life isn’t the issue today.”
Beth could have been a ventriloquist with the way she enunciated her words from behind primly set lips. “Some topics are not appropriate to the dinner table.”
“But hearing about Uncle Darnell’s colonoscopy last month was okay?” Vi muttered.
Savannah stood, a purposeful smile on her attractive face. “Vi, darlin’, why don’t you help me clear the table and get candles for Neely’s cake? Mama did all the work preparing dinner and it’s Neely’s celebration, so I think we should