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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Giveaway: The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group, I have the opportunity to give away 5 copies of The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik!

This book sounds great and I can't wait to get my review copy!! (Watch for my review to be added soon)

From the Hachette site:
When Ava Nickerson was a child, her mother jokingly betrothed her to a friend's son, and the contract the parents made has stayed safely buried for years. Now that still-single Ava is closing in on thirty, no one even remembers she was once "engaged" to the Markowitz boy. But when their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Ava's prodigal little sister Lauren comes home to Los Angeles where she stumbles across the decades-old document.

Frustrated and embarrassed by Ava's constant lectures about financial responsibility (all because she's in a little debt. Okay, a lot of debt), Lauren decides to do some sisterly interfering of her own and tracks down her sister's childhood fiancé. When she finds him, the highly inappropriate, twice-divorced, but incredibly charming Russell Markowitz is all too happy to re-enter the Nickerson sisters' lives, and always-accountable Ava is forced to consider just how binding a contract really is . . .

Read an excerpt here or see below:

Chapter 1

Your sister is on the phone," Jeremy said as Ava approached his desk and snagged a Hershey's Kiss out of his candy dish. Jeremy was a perfectly good assistant in other ways, but his endless supply of chocolates made him an indispensable one, in Ava's opinion.

Ava looked at her watch. "She wants to talk now?"

"Should I tell her you'll call back?" he asked. Jeremy had sweet big brown eyes and thick, tousled hair. There was something slightly babyish about his round chin and full lips that made Ava feel mildly maternal toward him, though he was only a few years younger than her.

"No, it's all right. I'll take it." Ava went into her office, shut the door, and punched the speaker button on her phone.

"Transferring," Jeremy's voice said, and then there was a beep and Lauren's voice came out of the speaker. "Ava? Are you there?"

"Yep. Just got here." She shrugged off her coat.

"Really? So late?" Lauren's voice had the breathy quality of a young girl, but she lingered on her s's in a way that was oddly sultry. The combination suited her: in person she managed to be simultaneously childlike and alluring, with wildly curly dark hair, big eyes, a pointed chin, and a small, curvy figure.

In theory, she and Ava resembled each other—they were both small and dark-haired and anyone could immediately identify them as siblings—but Ava, whose hair was straight and who knew herself to be neither childlike nor alluring, didn't see it at all.

"It's nine a.m.," Ava said. She hoisted her heavy briefcase onto her desk. "Three-hour time difference—remember?" She extracted her laptop and a few folders, which she arranged in a neat pile on her desk, squaring the corners.

"Yeah, I know. I just figured you got up with the sun and made it to the office by six. Hey, A?"


"How seriously do you have to take letters from a collection agency?"

Ava digested that for a moment and then the weight of it made her sink into her desk chair. "You want to start at the beginning?"

"Not really."

A pause. "Okay, then it depends a little on how many you've gotten and how much time has passed since the initial notice, but . . . I'd certainly take them pretty seriously. Who's sending you the letters?"

"Who isn't?" Lauren said with a little laugh. "I'm up to my ass in debt, Ava. No, deeper. Up to my ears."

"Why?" Ava said. "I mean, you rent your apartment, you have a job, you don't have kids—"

"My job is the problem," Lauren said. "I can't go out there and buy stuff for the boutique without seeing things I want for myself."

"Wanting something and having to own it are two different things."

"Not for me."

"Well, that explains why you're up to your earholes in debt," Ava said. "So do you need me to lend you some money?"

"No, no," Lauren said. "I don't want your money. Unless, you know . . . you feel like you want to—" She cut herself off. "No, really, I don't. But I thought maybe if you wrote some of these debt collectors—you know, on your letterhead—maybe used some legalese, sounded official—"

"And tell them what exactly?" Ava said. "That you're above the law and shouldn't have to pay money you owe?"

"Would that work?" said Lauren with a hopeful little laugh.

"You need to talk to a debt counselor, Lauren. Someone who'll contact your creditors, consolidate all your debts, and set up a payment schedule for you. Do you want me to get some names for you?"

"Would I still have to pay it all back?"

"Of course."

"What about declaring bankruptcy? Don't people do that all the time?"

"It's a morally corrupt way to avoid accountability," Ava said seriously.

Another little laugh. "But besides that—"

"It should only ever be a last resort," Ava said. She stood up, which made her notice a small stain at the bottom of her sweater that hadn't been visible in the mirror of her badly lit bedroom that morning. "I'll e-mail you about the debt counselors as soon as I get some references. In the meantime, cancel all your credit cards and stop buying stuff. Make yourself a strict budget and stick to it. And if you can't stand being around beautiful, expensive things, get a different job. Did I mention that you should stop buying stuff?"

"I get it," Lauren said. "How are you doing?"

"Fine," Ava said. "I got my TiVo fixed."

"Woo-hoo. It's an exciting life you lead."

There was a knock on the office door and Ava walked over and opened it. "It had been broken for a while," she said, raising her voice so Lauren could still hear her. "I was missing all my favorite shows." Jeremy was waiting outside the door, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand. She mouthed her thanks as she took the cup, then said out loud, "I need to get to work, Lauren."

"Yeah, okay," Lauren said. "Bye. Oh, wait—one last question. I almost forgot."


"Hypothetically . . . A landlord can't just suddenly evict you for not paying your rent, right?"

Ava groaned.

* * *

Lauren's boss had asked her to cover the boutique that afternoon. Normally Lauren was the one who went to trunk shows and designer showrooms while her boss manned the store, but Saralyn had promised a friend with a new handbag line that she would check it out herself. Lauren didn't mind. She liked working with customers. She knew what looked good on people and enjoyed creating outfits for them. And once she had put them in something really spectacular, she was often inspired to try on something similar, so she frequently ended a day in the store with a bag of her own purchases—bought, of course, with her employee discount.

It was a fairly slow weekday, and after she had helped a preteen and her mother find something they could agree on for the girl's first middle school dance—the girl wanted it to look sexy, the mother didn't, and Lauren got them to compromise on a tube dress that was form-hugging but didn't actually reveal anything— she was all alone in the store until a young man entered.

He was probably about twenty-eight, in good shape, and wearing a blue wool suit and a dark red tie. He could have wandered in from any of the financial or legal offices that surrounded their downtown store. She wasn't crazy about his goatee, but it didn't matter: any guy who came into their store was taken, or he wouldn't be shopping there.

"Hi there," she said, looking up from the sweaters she was refolding and stacking. "How are you doing?"

"Great." He studied her briefly. Lauren was wearing a very short skirt with go-go boots and a tight heather-brown cropped sweater that was much shorter than the crimson tissue tee she wore underneath. "I have a feeling you'll be a big help," he said with a pleasant nod. "You're so stylish. I need a present for my girlfriend."

"What's the occasion?"

"Birthday," he said. "It's today, actually."

"Today?" Lauren said. "You sure put it off till the last minute, didn't you?"

"I kind of forgot." He gave a sheepish smile. "She had to remind me this morning."

"Ouch," she said. "That's why BirthdayAlarm-dot-com was invented, you know."

He held out his hands in a gesture of supplication. "So long as I get it in before midnight, I'm okay, right?"

"Don't worry—we'll find her something fantastic. Did you have anything in mind?"

He indicated her outfit. "How about that sweater you're wearing? I wouldn't mind seeing her in that."

She adjusted the sweater slightly. It was one of her favorites. For that month. But she hadn't bought it at the boutique. "You sure you don't want to go with jewelry? You don't have to worry about size and everyone loves to get it."

"You know best."

"Let me show you what we've got." She circled around behind the jewelry counter, which was also the cash register stand, and sorted through the necklaces hanging on the wooden display tree. She slid a long silver link chain off a branch and held it up. "This is really popular right now. It's extra-long, but it can be doubled up if she wants to wear it choker-length. I bought one myself a couple of weeks ago."

"How much?" he said.

She squinted at the tag. "A hundred and twenty-nine dollars."

He gave a low whistle. "That's a little more than I was hoping to spend."

That was actually fairly inexpensive for their store. "Okay," Lauren said, slipping the necklace back into place. "We'll find something else." She poked through the other necklaces, checking the price tags, and then pounced on one that was less than a hundred dollars and very simple, just a teardrop red stone hanging from a delicate silver chain. It wasn't exciting but it was completely unobjectionable.

She slid the necklace off the post and laid the stone across the palm of her hand. "This is it," she said. "This is the one you want." Men shopping for gifts liked to be led to a decision—that much she had learned from her years of selling to them.

"It's pretty," he said obediently. "How much?"


"You know what would help?" he said. "If you put it on. So I could see what it looks like. Would you mind?"

"Not at all," Lauren said, but the clasp was a tricky one and the little hook kept slipping out of the link.

The guy said, "Let me help," so she handed the necklace to him and gathered her long hair in one hand to bare her neck as she turned her back to him. He leaned over the counter that was between them and strung the chain out above her chest, then brought it around to the nape of her neck. His fi ngers brushed against her skin—possibly more than was necessary, but she wasn't sure and decided to ignore it.

Once it was fastened, she turned again with a bright smile, letting her hair drop back into place. She touched the necklace to reassure herself that the stone hit just below the hollow at the base of her neck. "There," she said. "How beautiful is that? If you don't buy it for your girlfriend, I might have to buy it for myself. And I can't afford to go around buying myself any more jewelry, so you'd better take it."

"It looks great," he said. "But I'm not sure the necklace can take the credit. I bet everything looks good on you."

"Hardly." She reached up behind her neck again. Fortunately, it was easier to undo the clasp than to fasten it. "Shall I wrap it?"

"It's a go," he said with a nod.

While she was tying a ribbon around the box, another customer walked in. Lauren looked up and said, "Hi—be right with you," and the woman said "Take your time" and wandered over to the sweaters.

"There you are!" Lauren said, slipping the box into a bag and handing it to the guy. "I hope she enjoys it."

"Me too," he said and took the box out of the bag and held it out to her. Lauren stared at it uncomprehendingly. Then he said, "It's for you."

"Excuse me?"

"It looked so good on you," he said. "I think you should have it."

"You're so funny," Lauren said, trying to pass it off as a joke, give them both an out. Flirting with a male customer was one thing—it was practically in her job description—but the flirting was supposed to end as soon as the charge was approved.

Apparently he hadn't read the rulebook. "No, really. Take it." He put the box on the counter between them and pushed it toward her.

"I can't." She folded her arms. "Take it home and give it to your girlfriend. She's going to love it."

"If you're not comfortable taking a gift from a stranger, then give me a chance to get to know you. Have dinner with me tonight."

"I doubt there'll be enough birthday cake for all three of us," Lauren said.

"That's not what I meant—"

"I know." She gave the box a backhanded slap. It flew across the counter and the guy had to make a dive for it before it hit the floor. She took advantage of the moment to escape from behind the counter and quickly hail the new customer, who had some question about hat sizes.

The guy lingered for a little while longer, trying to catch her eye, but she pointedly ignored him, and eventually he gave up and left, carrying the little box with him.

At least his girlfriend would get a pretty necklace, Lauren thought, though she suspected it might get thrown back in his face sometime in the not too distant future.

* * *

A few weeks later, Ava returned to her office from a meeting to find that her father had sent her and Lauren a joint e-mail. The subject line said, "Serious news."

The entire body of the e-mail read "Your mother has cancer. Call home."

"Oh my God," she said out loud and grabbed the phone. Her parents' line was busy: her father refused to get call waiting because he thought clicking over to a new call was disrespectful to the original caller.

She kept trying, dialing with trembling fingers that fumbled and hit the wrong buttons, but the line stayed busy. After a few minutes of this, Jeremy buzzed in to tell her that she had a call.

It was Lauren, who didn't bother to greet her, just said, "Have you spoken to Mom and Dad yet?"

"Not yet. I was in a meeting and only just got Dad's e-mail. My God, Lauren, Mom . . ."

"I know, I was freaking out, too, but it's okay." The normalness of Lauren's voice was the most reassuring thing Ava had ever heard. "I can't believe Dad told us like that. The man is insane. Mom's fine, Ava. They just found a few cancer cells in one of her breasts—I mean, literally, we're talking a few cells. They'll blast them with some mild chemotherapy and she'll be fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I talked to Mom about it. She was actually laughing at me for being so upset. Dad sent that e-mail without even asking her. Anyway, you should call them, of course, but don't worry. Everything's okay." Her voice broke on the last word and there were little sighing sounds. It took Ava a few seconds to realize that her sister was crying. "I'm sorry," Lauren said, her voice thick. "I've been doing this ever since I got the e-mail, even though I know everything's fine. I think it was the shock of thinking Mom could be that sick."

"I know what you mean," Ava said. "But she's not, right?"

"But what if something goes wrong? Or there's a next time and it's more serious? They're getting old, Ava." She took an audible deep breath. "Anyway, you should call Mom now. But remember—don't overreact."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Ava said. She hung up on Lauren and called home.

Her father answered. "Finally you call."

"I only just got your e-mail a few minutes ago," she said. "But I spoke to Lauren and—"

"You called her before you called us?"

"Your line was busy," Ava said. "And she called me, which by the way is what normal people do when they have to give scary bad news. They pick up the phone—they don't send mass e-mails telling people their mother has cancer."

"I had to do it by e-mail," he said. "You know how touchy you girls are. No matter who I called first, the other one would have been hurt."

"That's not true," Ava said.

"It is true," he said. "Lauren called us right away, you know."

Ava let out a slow breath between her teeth. "May I talk to Mom?"

"I think you should," he said seriously and put her mother on the phone.

Her mother sounded oddly cheerful. "It's good to hear from you, sweetie!" she said. "How are things at work?"

"Fine," Ava said. "How are you?"

"I'm so fine it's embarrassing," Nancy said. "I'm sorry about that e-mail. Your father wanted you girls to know as soon as possible that I'm dealing with this thing, but it's really nothing all that serious."

"Tell me exactly what the doctor said."

"He said I have a few cancerous cells in my breast. It's hardly even a lump—just the beginning of one."

"How'd they find it?"

"Oh, something showed up on a mammogram and then they did a biopsy and it came back positive."

Ava felt vaguely that a good daughter would have already known that her mother was having breast cells biopsied, but she hadn't. She wondered if Lauren had.

Her mother was still talking. "—the thing about this family," she said. "I love you all dearly, but little things become big ones. First your dad with that over-the-top e-mail, and then Lauren calling up sobbing as though the world had ended and insisting on coming home—"

"She's coming home?" Ava said. "She didn't tell me that."

"Day after tomorrow. I told her not to, but she insisted. She's been living across the country from us for years and suddenly she can't be apart from me for one more day. She can be so melodramatic."

"Yeah," Ava said. "I've met her."

"But since she is coming, I thought we could all have dinner together Friday night. Can you make it?"

"I've got to check," Ava said, pulling her keyboard closer so she could get to her online calendar.

"You have to come," her mother said. "It's my dying wish. You have to honor your mother's dying wish to get her family together."

"That's not funny," Ava said.

"It's a little bit funny," her mother said. "See you on Friday."

Copyright © 2008 by Claire LaZebnik

Click here to view the Reading Group Guide, or visit the author's site here.

To be included in the giveaway:

1. Leave a comment here and include your email if it is not in your profile (1 entry)
2. Post a link to the giveaway on your blog and/or Facebook and report it here (1 entry)
3. Become a follower and leave a comment here (or "remind" me you are already a follower so I know you want to be included in this giveaway) (1 entry)

The drawing will be held September 30th. Winners: I will send you an email, please reply with your address so I can forward your contact information to the publisher!

This giveaway is open to residents within the United States and Canada, no PO Boxes.

~ Wendi


Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great -- and I love the cover art! Thanks for the chance :)

writing.meg [at] gmail.com

bermudaonion said...

This sounds so good! Please enter me! milou2ster(at)gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Please enter my name in your draw. I am a new follower of your blog.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Esme said...

thanks for the giveaway-sorry to hear about your SPAM

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

mrsshukra said...

I would like to be entered, thanks!


mrsshukra said...

Already follow!


The Book Chick said...

No need to enter me, I'll be receiving a copy! Just wanted to say that I'll be looking forward to your review! This one looks GREAT!

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

I'm a Follower. Great contest and thanks Wendi!

seattlesnoops at aol dot com

Unknown said...

I'm a follower, thanks Wendi

seattlesnoops at aol dot com

Unknown said...

I glad I never signed any marriage contracts when I was a kid! Please enter me!


Unknown said...

I am a follower!


Caity said...

Looks like a good read! I'd love to enter. Thanks!

RAnn said...

I'd love to enter. ruthjoec at aoldotcom

Esme said...

Please enter me-this looks so girlish and beach appropriate.

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I follow in Google Reader and I've been wanting to read this one! Definitely enter me, please!


tawndam said...

sounds wonderful

tawndam said...

google follower

Luanne said...

Count me in - sounds like a great fun read! email in blogger profile.

Luanne said...

And I'm a subsriber/follower

Anonymous said...

This looks like a nice easy read. Something I am in the need of...


Belle said...

This sounds like a fun read!

Julie J. said...

Please enter me. It looks like a great read!


Julie J. said...

Please enter me. It looks like a great read!


Julie J. said...

I am a follower!


Beth (BBRB) said...

This looks great! Please enter me!

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

Beth (BBRB) said...

I'm a follower.

BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

Julie J. said...

Posted the giveaway on the sidebar of my blog http://molcotw.blogspot.com


Linna said...

I would like to read this book. Please enter me. :D

linna.hsu at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

please enter me in the giveaway

Anonymous said...

I'm a follower

M.A.D. said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Hi Wendi :) Please enter me to win this one, I've been wanting this book ever since I read my first review!!!
Thanks and have a Safe & Super Labor Day ~

M.A.D. said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

And I just became a new Follower on Google :)

Sarah Z said...

Sounds like a great read - love finding new authors!
believedreamcourage (at) gmail.com

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Hi...I would love to enter this contest. My e-mail is chezraine@yahoo.com.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Hi again..I just signed up as a follower.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I blogged about this contest on http://laurel-rain-snow.blogspot.com

jpetroroy said...

Sounds great! I'd love to be entered.


I'm also a follower. (+1)

jpetroroy said...

I'll add a separate entry, too--I also follow you.

Jo-Jo said...

I would love to win this one.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Debbie F said...

Please include me!

dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Jo-Jo said...

I recently hopped on your bandwagon and became a follower!
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Jo-Jo said...

And I blogged about your contest here.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

I would like to be included in this giveaway.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

cqueen2 said...

sounds great

wadesherry@hotmail dot com

cqueen2 said...

i follow

wadesherry@hotmail dot com

renee said...

This sounds great, please enter me
reneetaylor at sympatico dot ca

Anonymous said...

count me in please!

plur268 at yahoo dot com

Deborah Wellenstein said...

I would like to read this book. Thank you!

intensev5 said...

Please count me in to win :)

Sunnyvale said...

I'd really like to have this, the title is a phrase in one of our family private jokes

Mllbs3 said...

It sounds like a great read!


Dawn said...

This sounds like a good book. I would like it.


slb3334 said...

Looks like good reading.

chromiumman said...

this sounds really good

Lentil said...

The title alone makes me want to read this one!

409cope said...

This sounds like a read that I could really get into. cardshark42(at)hotmail(dot)com

mindy said...

this looks like a great read thanks

SusanB said...

Would love to win this book. Sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway.

linett said...

would love to read this, thanks

Ellie Wright said...

Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me.
eswright18 at gmail dot com

Rebecca N. said...

This sounds like a really good read! I would love to be entered to win! Thanks for the great giveaway!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Rebecca N. said...

I follow your blog!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

wwrk said...

I would love to win this book.


demmi said...

please enter me in the book giveaway

Lori (sugarandgrits) said...

Great giveaway! I've been seeing this book everywhere, so I decided to enter to win a copy ~ thanks!

+1 = leaving a comment

+1 = posted on my blog here: http://sugarandgrits.blogspot.com/2009/09/giveaway-smart-one-and-pretty-one.html

+1 = I'm a new follower

Thank you,
~ Lori

sugarandgrits {at} hotmail {dot} com

Renee (BlacknGoldGirlsBookSpot) said...

Hi Wendi! Thanks for the chance to win this book, it looks terrific!!!

I'm already a follower :-) +1

I commented +1

I blogged +1

XOXO~ Renee

Anonymous said...

Would LOVE to read this book...thanks for the oportunity.

karen k

janeh said...

sounds like an entertaining story.....

Smooshy said...

enter me!

tatertot374 said...

I would love to win
Thank you

Becky said...

I would love to read this.

sweetsue said...

This book sounds both romantic and fun-please enter me.
smchester at gmail dot com

sweetsue said...

I'm a follower of your blog.
smchester at gmail dot com

kerri69 said...

This book sounds wonderful thanks !

Margaret Metz said...

Sorry about the spam, the book sounds really interesting.

I'm a new follower of your blog (love the butterflies). Thanks for holding the drawing!

Krab said...

Looks like an interesting book, thanks for the giveaway!


Alicia said...

Would love to read this.

Thanks for the giveaway >^..^<

bloggyig at gmail dot com

Tammy said...

Thanks for the chance!

wantsandwishes said...

I would like to read this book.

wantsandwishes said...

I became a follower of your blog.

Anonymous said...

count me in please lynnbeaniethethird@yahoo.ca

Sheila Hickmon said...

Please enter me!


Sheila Hickmon said...

I follow your blog now! mom2anutball


Carol EL said...

Looks like a good read! I'd love to enter. jelly15301@gmail.com

Carol EL said...

Already following. jelly15301@gmail.com

HeartsMakeFamilies said...

Please count me in. I'm already following you and would love a chance to win. My email address is tamiziegler@gmail.com. I will post it right away on Facebook.

I wanted to let you know to stop over at Patiently waiting which is at: http://nanathena.blogspot.com/2009/09/hey-yall-its-paula-deen.html for that Paula Dean giveaway that you were interested in.

HeartsMakeFamilies said...

I would love a chance to win. I'm already a follower. My email is tami@heartsmakefamilies.com. I have posted about it on Facebook and tweeted about it. Thank you.

Melanie Montgomery said...

I would love a chance to read this!


Anonymous said...

Happy Autumn!


Unknown said...

The excerpt sounds very interesting! Makes me want to read more!!!! Thanks for the chance!

sherri419 at gmail dot com

Katy said...

I'd love to read this book! :)

susansmoaks said...

oh yeah i would love to read the rest!

Kimberly said...

This looks like a good read that I can be sure my boyfriend won't steal from me. :)

Erica G said...

I would love to read this! count me in!

egreca (aT) hotmail {dot{ com

JACLYN said...

Would enjoy reading this!!

Gloria's Bits and Pieces said...

Thanks for entering me!


Gloria's Bits and Pieces said...

follow your blog as kngmckellar


packerfantimmy said...

I would love to win this for my wonderful wife.

SantaFe said...

This sounds like a great read. Thanks for the chance.

Ronda said...

Yay! I love Chic lit!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a fun book. I am a total book addict! Thanks for the chance to win!
pjgirl74 at aol dot com

Jinxy and Me said...

I'm following your blog!

Wendi P said...

I would love a chance to win this book!

parodi821 at yahoo dot com

Mishia said...

Sounds like a great book! Im in!

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