Title: California Girls
Author: Susan Mallery
Genre: Woman’s Fiction
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
The California sunshine’s not quite so bright for three sisters who get dumped in the same week…
Finola, a popular LA morning show host, is famously upbeat until she’s blindsided on live TV by news that her husband is sleeping with a young pop sensation who has set their affair to music. While avoiding the tabloids and pretending she’s just fine, she’s crumbling inside, desperate for him to come to his senses and for life to go back to normal.
Zennie’s breakup is no big loss. Although the world insists she pair up, she’d rather be surfing. So agreeing to be the surrogate for her best friend is a no-brainer—after all, she has an available womb and no other attachments to worry about. Except…when everyone else, including her big sister, thinks she’s making a huge mistake, being pregnant is a lot lonelier—and more complicated—than she imagined.
Never the tallest, thinnest or prettiest sister, Ali is used to being overlooked, but when her fiancé sends his disapproving brother to call off the wedding, it’s a new low. And yet Daniel continues to turn up “for support,” making Ali wonder if maybe—for once—someone sees her in a way no one ever has.
But side by side by side, these sisters will start over and rebuild their lives with all the affection, charm and laugh-out-loud humor that is classic Susan Mallery.
Morning came early, despite the lack of an alarm. Zennie showered, drank a protein-packed smoothie, then did about a half hour of stretching before heading off to meet Ali.
The bridal shop in Sherman Oaks was by appointment only and very elegant. Zennie thought maybe wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt had been a mistake, then told herself it didn’t matter. She would be undressing anyway.
Ali was already there, practically dancing with excitement as Zennie entered the store.
“Hi. The dresses are here and they’re so beautiful. You’re going to look great. Probably better than me. Finola will, for sure. It’s hard having beautiful sisters.”
Zennie hugged her. “You’re going to be the bride. The bride is always the prettiest one.”
Ali rolled her eyes, even as she grinned. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see. I tried on my dress last week. It’s good I didn’t get the smaller size. I seem to be the only bride in history who didn’t bother sticking to her diet.”
Zennie didn’t know what to say to that. When Ali had first gotten engaged, she’d come to Zennie and asked for a diet and exercise program. Zennie had done her best, but Ali had never been one for either. She’d carried an extra twenty pounds since puberty and claimed spending a day working in a warehouse was enough exercise for anyone. Zennie had tried to point out that being on her feet wasn’t the same as exercise, but Ali would never be a believer. Still, she had a wholesome, girl-next-door kind of beauty, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was the shortest of the sisters, and the curviest. Finola was the tall blonde beauty who kept herself TV-thin by eating sparingly and avoiding carbs. Zennie had tried to convince her of the importance of variety in her diet, but Finola had refused to listen.
“Ready to see your dress?” Ali asked. “Finola had her fitting with me last week.”
“I’m excited,” Zennie lied, then chided herself for not being more with the program. The wedding was a big deal— she should be happy and a willing participant.
It was just the whole getting married thing, she thought as Ali led the way into the dressing room. No, she amended. It was more than that. It was the two-by-two expectation. She’d grown up with the assumption that when she was an adult, she would pair up, just like the animals on Noah’s Ark. Falling in love followed by marriage followed by family. Only it hadn’t happened and to be perfectly honest, she wasn’t sure she wanted it to.
“Ta-da,” Ali sang as she pushed open the dressing room door.
A long navy dress hung from an ornate hook on the wall. The dress had cap sleeves and a sweetheart neckline, and was fitted to the waist before gently falling to the floor. Finola’s dress was the same color but a different style. Ali had been determined to find styles they both liked, which was a lovely quality in a bride-to-be. One of Zennie’s friends had gone full-on bridezilla, dressing her crew in hideous frilly, lime green concoctions.
Ali had requested they wear navy and had otherwise left the decision up to them.
“It’s beautiful,” Zennie murmured, thinking it was perfectly fine and actually nice for a bridesmaid dress.
“Did you bring your shoes?” Ali asked.
Zennie patted her tote bag. “Right here.”
She was sure Finola would have picked a designer some thing with a four-inch heel. Zennie had gone with a simple ballet flat. No way she was wearing heels, even for her sister.
She toed out of her slip-on athletic shoes, then pulled off her yoga pants and T-shirt. She hadn’t bothered with a bra, so didn’t have to worry about straps showing. After unzipping the dress, she stepped into it and pulled it up. Ali moved behind her and took care of the zipper, then Zennie slipped on her shoes. They both stared at her reflection.
“Perfect,” Ali breathed. “Come on. Let’s look at you in the big mirror. The dress fits great. I doubt there’ll be many alterations.”
The sales associate met them in the main room. Zennie found herself stepping up onto a platform in front of a huge mirror that was more than a little intimidating. As she stared at herself she thought maybe she should have put on a little mascara or fluffed her hair or something.
Instead she looked as she always did. Fresh-faced, with short, spiky hair and not a lick of makeup. She pushed the guilt away, telling herself she put in the effort when she was on a date and wasn’t that enough?
About the Author
#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives-family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages.Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.
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