August 21, 2023

HTP Romance Reads Promo Post: Suddenly This Summer by Susan Mallery, Synthia Williams, and Stefanie London

at 8/21/2023 01:30:00 AM

Nothing is sweeter than the first kiss of summer...

SAY YOU'LL STAY by Susan Mallery. Shaye Harper has sworn off men for good. But when she meets army vet Lawson Easley during a pit stop on the road to a fresh start, she’s drawn in by the quirky town—and the handsome stranger she can’t resist. Lawson knows there’s no place better than Wishing Tree. Too bad the woman he's certain is “the one” is just passing through…unless he can convince her to give him and his hometown a chance at forever.

THE TIME FOR KEEPS by Synithia Williams. Home to care for her ailing father, Michaela Spears is on a mission: reconcile with the one man she can’t forget. She broke his heart years ago, so when Khalil appears on her parents’ doorstep in his scrubs, she knows it’s her last chance. Khalil Davenport shouldn’t have taken the job as her dad’s home nurse, but he couldn't resist her. Their timing was never right, but now can he trust that she’s home to stay?

BEST MAN NEXT DOOR by Stefanie London. For Sage Nilsen, coming back to her small Massachusetts hometown for a family wedding feels like high school all over again. Except Jamie Hackett has gone from charming boy next door to handsome best man. And sparks are suddenly flying between the popular guy and the so-called outcast. As the wedding gets closer, Sage finds herself on the edge of something unexpected—a second chance in the town she left behind…with the guy she’s never forgotten.

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Suddenly This Summer

Best Man Next Door by Stefanie London


Before today, Jamie Hackett had thought he’d already faced death.

Like the time he dove off a cliff on a dare, plunging into the ocean with the speed of a bullet. Or

the time he’d come face-to-face with a territorial goose who’d gone apeshit at him for getting too

close to her goslings. Or when his car skidded across a patch of black ice in the middle of winter

and he’d narrowly missed crash- ing into a big oak tree.

He’d been cool as a cucumber, every single time.

But it turned out he hadn’t really faced death. Now that he’d confronted it for real, he understood

what it felt like.

Jamie glanced around the sterile white hospital hall- way, feeling weirdly disconnected from it

all. If some- one had told him he was floating in the air, watching everything happen from above,

he would have believed it. Giving himself a shake, he reached one hand to his opposite arm and

pinched himself. Hard. He winced from the pain.

Still alive.

But the quicker he was out of here the better.

His mom stood at the administration desk, her shoulders hunched. Exhaustion seeped into her posture and made her look even smaller than usual. When she turned to face him, he noticed her blouse was buttoned wrong and her curly ginger hair was sticking out in all directions like it always did when she didn’t have time to style it.

“Ready to go, hon?” She tried to smile, but her eyes were watery and the dark shadows circling underneath made her look hollowed out.

You did that to her.

He nodded.

“Your dad has gone to get the car so he can meet us out front.” She slipped her arm into his and held him close, her fingernails biting into his skin, as if she was worried he’d float away like a discarded balloon if she didn’t hold on tight enough. “No need to rush—we’ll walk slow.”

“You didn’t have to wait around. I could have gotten a cab,” he said quietly. He kept his gaze averted from the goings-on around him, not wanting to see the people being wheeled about and the elderly folk shuffling along, walking their fluid bags like strange, lifeless pets.

It freaked him out.

He was thirty-two for crying out loud. Thirty-two with his whole life ahead of him. With decades ahead of him.

“Jamie Hackett, if you think I would let my child come home from hospital in a cab then I don’t even know…” Her voice broke as she shook her head, still clutching him tightly. He could hear the tears she was holding back, companions of the ones she’d been shedding ever since she’d arrived at the hospital yesterday. “Of course we were going to take you home.”

There was no point arguing. Patty Hackett was an overprotective mama bear at the best of times, let alone when one of her own was hurt. Although really, aside from a few stitches in the back of his head and some chest pain that felt like a couple of boulders had been propped there, Jamie was walking away from this situation a lot better than he could have.

A lot better than what would have been if his best friend hadn’t saved him.

When they made it outside, Jamie sucked in as much air as his lungs would allow, and even though doing so burned, he had to clear the hospital smells from his nostrils. It was warm and sunny out, with a clear blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. The perfect early summer day.

Perfect like it had been the previous evening when he’d decided to get a good sweaty workout in. Perfect like when he’d jogged across the gym floor, warm sunshine streaming in through the windows and the high-quality shock-absorbent flooring cushioning his feet. Perfect like when his fists had sailed at the heavy punching bag, the repetitive pounding motion better than any form of therapy he’d found to date.

Perfect…until he’d almost died.

Jamie shook the dark thoughts from his head as his father pulled the family SUV up in front of the hospital’s pick-up area. His mom rushed forward to open the passenger side door for him.

“I can open the door myself, okay?” he said. He hated seeing her worry like this. Hated knowing that he caused it. “You don’t need to wait on me.”

“Just get in the car, James,” she sighed and shot him a look that told him there was no point arguing. It was easier to do what he was told. And if she was calling him by his full name, it meant she was a hair away from clipping his ear.

So he climbed into the car without another word.

“Son.” His father looked over to him with a crinkled brow. “Let your mother fuss. She needs it.”

Jamie nodded. “You’re right.”

His father turned to face the road as the back door opened and Patty climbed in, scrambling to hoist her small frame up into the giant SUV like she always did. The ride home was filled with rapid-fire questions from the back seat.

Why didn’t you tell us you were stressed out?

Should you be talking to a professional about your problems?

Is it happening again?

The last one made a weird acidic taste burn in the back of his throat. No matter how many years he put between himself and The Great Breakdown of his early twenties, he was frequently reminded that nobody would ever forget it happened.

Because when you were a world-class athlete, your failures didn’t only become gossip—they became lore.

“The doctor said you need to keep your stress levels down and take a break from work,” his mother relayed. “This could happen again. She said that panic attacks can be triggered by working too much and not getting enough rest, and—”

“I know, Mom. I was there.”

“We care about you, Jamie.” His father’s voice was gruff. “This isn’t about blame or trying to make you feel bad. You know that, right?”

Despite everything that had happened in the past, his parents had never once made him feel like he was to blame for what had happened…even if he himself had felt like a giant failure.

“Yeah,” he said. “I know.”

“And the doctor said we need to keep an eye on you for the next twenty-four hours to make sure there are no complications,” Patty continued. The car rolled smoothly along the highway, other vehicles passing them at a rapid pace thanks to his dad’s careful—read: slow—driving. “I got your sister to set up the spare bedroom at our place. And don’t bother protesting about going home by yourself because I won’t have it.”

Jamie glanced at his father, who simply shrugged as if to say, she’s the boss. Too right. Nobody was under any illusions about who was head of their household, that was for damn sure.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Mom. But what about—”

“Flash is staying at Clay’s house,” she said without letting him finish. “He said we could leave him there until you were ready to go home.”

Whenever Jamie wasn’t feeling himself, the first thing he wanted to do was to hang out with his dog. They really were man’s best friend. No doubt Jamie’s business partner, Clay Harris, would spoil him rotten with treats and belly scratches, so it wasn’t like he’d be sad having a sleepover.

Jamie watched the scenery roll along outside the window. Soon they were approaching Reflection Bay, the town where he’d spent most of his life—a town that wasn’t even big enough for its own hospital.

He’d driven along this road so many times he’d lost count, watching the silvery blue of the ocean flicker between patches of green and rugged cliff faces, the tourist-favorite red-and-white lighthouse rising up in the distance. It was the same as it had always been and yet…it felt different now.

Everything felt different.

Forty-eight hours after returning home from the hospital, Jamie was “discharged” from the Hackett Family Hospital. But not without needing to pass a rigorous interrogation from his mother. If someone had overheard the conversation, they might mistake Patty Hackett for an actual doctor rather than the elementary school art teacher she was.

But now that Jamie could taste the sweet air of freedom, he was happier than ever to be alive. Especially since he had been reunited with his canine best friend.

“Isn’t it glorious? The sun is shining. The birds are singing.” Jamie glanced down at his dog, Flash, who ambled with the kind of gait that could only be described as “walking under duress.” “Oh, come on, bud. It’s not that bad.”

The chunky fawn-and-white bulldog looked up at him with imploring eyes as if to say, please make it stop. Flash, named in the most ironic fashion, hated working out as much as Jamie loved it. In fact, it was somewhat of a local joke that the two fittest guys in town had adopted the laziest dog ever as the mascot for their gym.

But Jamie loved Flash with everything he had. The dog might not be able to move faster than a drunk snail, but he had a heart of gold. Flash was always happy to see Jamie, never judged him for working too long or for stressing out too much about his business, and loved nothing more than just hanging out. No expectations, no bullshit.

That was love.

The pair ambled along the street. His business, Reflection Fitness, sat right at the end of the main strip, on a corner. It never failed to make pride surge through Jamie’s veins to see what he and Clay had built together. Their goal had been to create a gym that catered to all the people in their small town, leaving no one to feel like they didn’t belong. Reflection Fitness had clients who were training for big goals like marathons and fitness competitions, as well as clients like Jamie’s grandpa—who was combating osteoarthritis with regular, low-intensity workouts—and Jamie’s favorite personal training client—a bubbly woman in her forties who’d decided to try weight lifting after years of thinking cardio was the only option for women. They had a trainer on staff who specialized in pre- and post-natal fitness and another who ran classes for seniors aimed at improving joint mobility. They had built the gym to be accessible for clients with mobility needs. It was important to both Jamie and Clay that everyone who came to the gym felt welcomed and catered to.

“Let’s get you inside where there’s some air-conditioning, huh?” Jamie looked down at Flash, who was taking each plodding step with great effort. To be fair to the dog, it was unseasonably hot for so early in the summer. “We’re almost there.”

Jamie turned the corner to access the gym from the back door, which led directly into the office he and Clay shared. He tried not to take Flash through the front if he could help it, in case anyone working out had asthma or allergies. But when Jamie got to the door and tried to turn the handle, he found it locked.

“Weird,” he muttered.

The back was usually open if Clay was working, which he should be, given the hour. But perhaps he’d stepped out.

Jamie tried unlocking it. Only…the key wouldn’t fit.

“What the heck?” He tried again. No dice.

He stared at the key, wondering if the knock he’d taken to the back of his head had done more damage than he’d realized. But no, it was definitely the right key.

Befuddled, Jamie walked Flash around to the front of the gym, where a sleek set of glass doors opened to a small reception area. The space was light and welcoming, with a big potted plant and a white couch in one corner. An old black-and-white photo hung on the wall, showing Clay and Jamie in their high school days, arms around each other—a tennis racket in Jamie’s hand and a basketball in Clay’s.

“Jamie!” The receptionist, Sara, brightened when she saw him. She wore a blue Reflection Fitness uniform polo shirt and her long, dark brown hair hung over her shoulder in twin braids. “How are you feeling?”

“Never better,” he replied breezily. “And thank you for sending those flowers to Mom’s place. That wasn’t necessary.”

“Everyone was thinking about you.” Her brow wrinkled. “We were all so worried when Clay told us what happened!”

Ugh, Clay. The guy had a big mouth.

“I told him to keep it quiet,” Jamie muttered. “In any case, I appreciate the gesture. Mom commandeered the flowers right away for her living room.”

Sara laughed. “That’s why I picked tulips. I had a feeling she would end up with them.”

Mama Hackett was a favorite among the staff since she often made oatmeal cookies, energy balls and other healthy treats for everyone who worked at Reflection Fitness.

“Is Clay in?” Jamie asked. “I tried the back door, but I think something’s wrong with my key.”

“Uh…” Sara’s expression turned strange, and she reached for the phone on the desk. “Let me call him through.”

“It’s okay, I’ll head in.” Jamie had his swipe pass on hand, like always, and he tapped it against the electronic reader which activated the gate into the gym.

The screen flashed red and made an angry beep sound.

First his key didn’t fit the lock and now his pass wasn’t working. What the—


He looked up and saw Clay striding through the gym toward the foyer, a no-nonsense look on his face. At six foot five with shoulders that could bridge two cities, Clay had the perfect build for the sport he’d loved as a child—basketball. He had dark brown skin, warm eyes and close-cropped curly black hair. Usually, Clay would be flashing his signature charming smile—a smile that had won over just about every cheerleader the guy had ever encountered in his high school and college days. A smile that, now, was conspicuously absent.

“You locked me out.” Jamie shook his head in disbelief. “You changed the locks on the office without telling me?”

“Outside, now.” Clay pointed to the front doors as he strode through the gate. “We’re not doing this in front of the clients.”

Sara dropped her head and pretended to bury herself in work, ignoring Jamie’s gaze pleading for support.

He let out an irritated huff. “Fine.”

The two men walked back outside and Jamie felt a pang of guilt as Flash made a noise of protest about returning to the hot summer day. The trio rounded the corner away from the front of the gym so they could have it out.

“This is for your own good, Jamie.” Clay held up his hands, signaling he didn’t want a fight. Despite being strong enough to beat most men in anything physical, Clay was a gentle giant with a big heart.

He was also, however, stubborn as an ox.

“We’re partners, Clay. You can’t lock me out of my own damn business.” Jamie gestured with his free hand toward the building next to them. “That’s…that’s got to be illegal.”

Clay folded his arms across his chest. “I had a feeling you wouldn’t take this seriously. The doctor said you need to rest and your mom told me to keep an eye on you, because she’s worried, too.”

Typical Patty. Jamie made a sound of disbelief. “I rested.”

“For two days.” Clay shook his head. “That’s not enough.”

“Man, it was nothing. You’re overreacting.”

“I am not overreacting. Do you have any idea what it’s like to walk up on your best friend lying unconscious on the floor? I thought you’d had a heart attack or something. I thought you were dead.”

He felt terrible for putting Clay through that, but he was already feeling vulnerable about this whole thing. He couldn’t let his friend see how much it had shaken him.

“So dramatic.” Jamie rolled his eyes.

“See, this—” Clay circled a finger at his face just like his mom used to when they were naughty kids “—is why I know you’re not listening to what the doctor said. You came right here to go back to doin’ exactly what you were doin’ before.”

“Building our business?” he replied, biting back his frustration.

“Running yourself into the ground. Wake up, Jamie.” Clay shook his head. “You might not be so lucky next time.”

“It’s my call to determine whether I’m ready to come back, not yours.”

“It sure is, because I won’t give you a new key until I’m sure you’re actually taking this thing seriously.”

Jamie’s mouth popped open. “You can’t do that!”

“Sure I can. It’s my name on the lease, remember?”

Oh yeah. That. He’d been meaning to get that bit of paperwork updated for almost three years now, but it was one of those things that kept falling off his to-do list in favor of more impactful items. Besides, he’d always thought Clay would never do him dirty, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.

“It’s our business, no matter what the lease says.”

“Jamie, I’m doing this because you’re my best friend. I want you to take care of yourself.” Clay looked genuinely concerned. “Coach always used to say a heart that pumps too fast is no better than one that doesn’t pump at all. Rest is as important as work.”

Jamie let out a groan. “Sitting at a desk isn’t exactly strenuous. I just need to answer some emails—”

“And then you’ll just need to look at some spreadsheets and make some calls and then some new client will come to you with a sob story and you’ll squeeze them in even though you said you weren’t going to take on any more PT clients yourself.” Clay shook his head. “I know your tricks, man. Don’t try to play me.”

“But what about the clients I have—”

“I split them up between the other trainers. It’s already done.”

“You called everyone already?” Jamie scrubbed a hand over his face. “I told you I didn’t want anyone to know.”

“I said you were helping me plan stuff for the wedding. Best man shit.” Clay grinned and Jamie found his anger withering away. It really was hard to hate the guy when he smiled. “You’re loyal like that.”

He let out a strangled noise of frustration. “I’ll call the locksmith myself.”

“Then he’s gonna have to get through me.”

Jamie considered his options. Anyone who didn’t know Clay might be too intimidated to try changing the locks against his wishes and anyone who did know him would be too charmed to want to try. Fact was, his best friend had him over a barrel.

“What am I supposed to do with myself, huh?” Jamie hated the panic in his voice. Who on earth felt panicked at the prospect of time off?

“I don’t know. Play ping-pong with your dad, go up to the Cape, sleep in. You’re a big boy—you’ll figure it out.”

Clay’s hand came down hard on Jamie’s shoulder, earning him a soft grunt. There was no reasoning with the guy, that much was clear.

Maybe Clay and his mom were right and this was serious. Jamie could have died. When he’d woken up in the ambulance, everything had flashed before his eyes—his whole life. His family. Work. His failed professional tennis career. His business. Long hours at his computer after longer days on the gym floor. Chasing the next thing, expanding the business, more clients, more money. Never satisfied. Always restless.

Was that all his life was about?

He’d always been hyper competitive, driven, and ambitious. But what if he had died the other day? What would he have left behind?

Jamie realized then that Clay was looking at him, as if waiting for him to speak. “No sweat. You want me to chill for a bit, fine. I can do that. You’ll see this isn’t a big deal.”

But even as he brushed off the severity of the incident, he knew the earth had shifted beneath his feet. What he’d thought was solid ground was now loose earth and uneven terrain. He needed to find his footing again. He needed to get himself straight. Most of all, he needed to prove to everyone that this was just a one-off. That he could handle pressure—unlike when he was younger.

Because he couldn’t ever go back to being Jamie Can’t-Hackett ever again.

Excerpted from Suddenly This Summer by Susan Mallery, Synithia Williams, Stefanie London. The Best Man Next Door by Stefanie London Copyright © 2023 by Stefanie Little. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

About the Authors

Photo Credit: Annie Brady

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women's lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations," and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live. Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She's passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the ragdoll cat and adorable poodle who think of her as mom. Visit Susan online at

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Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Goodreads

Photo Credit: Kristen Gordon, Lavish Moments Photography

Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since reading her first one at the age of 13. It was only natural that she would one day write her own romance. When she isn’t writing, Synithia works on water quality issues in the Midlands of South Carolina while taking care of her supportive husband and two sons. You can learn more about Synithia by visiting her website,

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Photo Credit: Jimmy America

Stefanie London is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary romances and romantic comedies. Her books have been called “genuinely entertaining and memorable” by Booklist and have won multiple industry awards, including the HOLT Medallion and OKRWA National Readers’ Choice Award. Originally from Australia, Stefanie lives in Toronto with her very own hero and is doing her best to travel the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, lipstick, romance novels and anything zombie related. Visit Stefanie online at

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