cover image You Say It First: Happily Inc., Book 1

You Say It First: Happily Inc., Book 1

Susan Mallery. HQN, $8.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-373-79933-6

Veteran romance author Mallery’s signature blend of endearing characters and charming stories sets the tone for her new series, set in a small Southern California desert town. Pallas Saunders, owner of Wedding in a Box, has a theme wedding in less than an hour and is one Roman soldier short. In desperation, she asks the good-looking carpenter sitting in her office to fill in. Nick Mitchell, a world-renowned artist, is applying for a part-time carpenter job to pass the time while he waits for word on an anticipated two-year project in Dubai. After a hectic weekend of weddings, Pallas and Nick settle into an easy camaraderie. Pallas needs a sounding board: there is no pleasing her domineering mother, and her business needs a plan to grow. A budding attraction evolves through delightfully flirtatious and deceptively easy dialogue as Pallas and Nick fall into a satisfying arrangement, but the comfortable intimacy is shattered when Nick’s demons surface. Mallery (the Fool’s Gold series) excels at creating protagonists who grow individually as well as together on the way to their destined happy ending. A colorful cast of secondary characters with riveting background stories provide a great setup for future stories. Agent: Annelise Robey, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Aug.)