Fresh starts aren’t nearly as glamorous as they appear. And love isn’t any easier the second time around.
Avery Broussard was savoring her long-dormant optimism. It was the first anniversary of her husband’s death, and she was fi nally going to buy the dress boutique from her former mother-in-law. After a year of saving, the deal was nearly done. Avery was about to get her life back.
But every deal in Samford, Louisiana, can change at the whim of a Broussard. After being unceremoniously ejected from the very boutique she planned to buy—the boutique she herself had rescued from ruin—she becomes a woman without a future . . . suddenly at war with her late husband’s family.
When carpenter T. J. Aillet begins working for the Broussards doing manual labor, he overhears enough to know that Avery is being victimized. Soon enough, T. J. is lassoed into the squabble by his family connections, his good heart . . . and the undeniable attraction he feels toward Avery.
But the Aillets are no strangers to Samford society—and T. J. knows what happens when you cross the Broussards. Could these two misfi ts ever make a start together? Or will the pressures of Samford society pull them apart before they even get a chance to try?
About the Author
Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor. She is the author of the Green series of novels including Gone to Green. A fan of primitive antiques and porch swings, she blogs from her green kitchen couch at www.judychristie.com. She and her husband live in northern Louisiana.
Read an Excerpt
By Judy Christie
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Judy Christie
All rights reserved.
Avery Broussard rearranged a stack of cashmere sweaters on the antique cypress table and straightened the lamp shade. The cozy glow settled her nerves on the gloomy Louisiana afternoon.
She moved behind the counter, then shuffled a stack of credit-card receipts, a small smile visiting her face. Devoted customers, undeterred by a steady January rain, had swooped in for the shipment of Mardi Gras gowns, extra profit flying through the stained-glass door. Only a couple of women had whispered loud enough for her to overhear, but today their snide words did not sting.
Last year had been tough, but the store was at its peak. Everything was in order.
She savored her long-buried happiness.
The tinkling of the bell on the front door snuffed her optimism, though, and she glanced down for a quick assessment of her appearance. The form-fitting knit dress and leather boots whispered style and competence. Her white-gold bracelet reminded her of what was at stake.
Prepared, she plastered on a smile—but balked before the practiced words of welcome escaped.
The guest was not who she expected.
A man, more than six feet tall, stood under the blue awning, just beyond the threshold. His khaki canvas jacket was soaked, and his short, dark hair—brown or black, it was hard to tell—glistened with rain.
Despite the blast of frigid air, warmth washed through Avery at his easy grin. When he stepped to the threshold, his presence infused the space with a dose of male energy that caused Avery's heart to thud.
He was as unlike the rare males who dashed in for a gift certificate as the boutique was from a Dollar Store.
The attraction fizzled when he stomped his boots, leaving a pile of mud at the entrance.
"Sorry for the mess." His attention didn't leave her as his deep voice, with a trace of southern drawl, preceded him into the store. "Your intercom out back isn't working."
He carried an olive-drab tool bag and looked vaguely familiar. He wasn't their regular deliveryman—and surely not a customer.
She straightened her shoulders.
Whoever he was, she wanted him on his way before Evangeline arrived.
He set his tools down and stood on the terra-cotta tile inside the door. "I'm here to start on the repairs. I'll add that intercom to the list."
She shook her head, hoping her smile would soften the words. "I'm afraid you've got the wrong address. This is Evangeline's Boutique."
His dark brown eyes narrowed, forming a tiny furrow between his brows.
"I'd be happy to take one of your business cards," she added. "I'll need to have a few repairs done in the spring."
The furrow deepened, and he glanced at his black sports watch. "I was sure we agreed on five." The grandfather clock in the corner punctuated his remark.
The five somber chimes caused Avery to draw in a breath. "I hate to send you back out into this weather, but I have a business meeting. Would you like to use the phone to—?"
The creak of the back entrance interrupted her, and she scurried past the sweaters to grab the guy by the arm. "I need to lock up now."
He looked at her hand on his arm, his eyes lingering before moving back to her face.
"Please," she whispered, trying to tug him toward the door.
But his work boots didn't budge as Evangeline glided around the corner. Despite the messy weather, she wore a white wool suit that cost more than most people spend on rent. She propped her umbrella against the counter, a puddle dripping onto the heart-of-pine floor Avery had spent most of Sunday afternoon hand-polishing.
Perfect coral lipstick accentuated the smile Evangeline bestowed upon the man. A glimpse of what looked like relief ran through his eyes.
"You're early!" she chirped. "What a doll you are for working me in." Her words bore the saccharine tone usually reserved for social occasions and never bequeathed to employees. And doll? Rugged, handsome, appealing perhaps. Definitely not doll.
Evangeline's stare went to Avery's hand, still resting on the muscular arm. A familiar look of disapproval returned.
Snatching her fingers away, Avery took a step back, then fidgeted with her heavy bracelet. His smile slight, the man looked from her to Evangeline. "I'm afraid I caught Avery off guard. We finished our last job ahead of schedule."
He knew her name? Evangeline had expected him? Avery scrolled through her memory. Was he a new handyman for the family's rental property?
"I'm sorry." Avery's gaze locked with those dark eyes, which surprisingly calmed her. "I didn't have an appointment on my calendar."
Evangeline swooped between them and placed her hand on the man's back in a movement so unlike her that Avery caught her breath. "You can wait in the workroom while I finish up with Avery. It won't take long."
"Don't rush on my account." His eyes met Avery's again, reflecting something she feared was pity. Evangeline's eyes, on the other hand, were as cold as the temperature outside.
Avery didn't blink. She had learned early on that Evangeline seized upon any sign of weakness, and Avery would show none. "You didn't mention you'd scheduled repairs," she said as the man picked up his tool bag and headed to the back. "I didn't budget for that."
Evangeline responded with a royal wave of a hand. "Our property manager suggested we take care of a few things."
"We agreed to wait until the closing." Avery's stomach churned. "The bank needs the final paperwork from your lawyer. Didn't you get my messages?"
"Avery, Avery." Evangeline made her name sound like a criticism. "There's been a change in plans."
"We don't have time for a change in plans. The closing is next week." The man had begun hammering in the back room, and the noise mirrored the pounding in her head.
Evangeline stared at the back door, her face impassive. "Creswell's attorney advised us to go in a different direction. Another buyer approached us."
"But ... what ..." A moment passed before Avery regained control. "I held up my end of our deal. The shop had its best year ever."
Evangeline stroked a scarf draped around a vintage dress form. "I'll admit you've got a good eye, but that is not sufficient."
"The details are set!" Avery gestured around the showroom. "I made this profitable."
"That you have." Evangeline took the scarf from the display and draped it around her neck. "You increased the value of my little shop quite a bit."
Avery closed her eyes for a second, then nodded. "I'll pay more. Amend the contract. I'll sign. Let's get this over with."
"That doesn't suit Creswell and me."
Avery shook her head so hard that a few whisps of blond hair escaped her updo and fell around her face. "Cash flow is good, and I have a little in savings. I can handle the note." It wouldn't be easy, but she would do whatever it took to make the boutique hers, to get her life back.
"Without our assistance, the bank doesn't find you the caliber of customer they want. Everyone agrees it's time for you to leave Samford." Evangeline's mouth was pinched, as though someone had taken a key and tightened her lips.
"My future depends on this!" Avery shouted over the hammering. "And I am not leaving Samford. It's my home."
"Must you make everything difficult? Creswell should have seen to this a year ago. The house, the car, the job—all of it."
Avery gripped the bracelet so tightly its ridges stung her hand. "I worked hard for all of that. Without me, this shop would have gone under five years ago."
Evangeline, moving from behind the counter, reminded Avery of a water moccasin about to strike. "Our name has been raked through the mud far too long. This is over." She brushed at her skirt as she said the word mud, as though a speck could have landed on her outfit. "You don't belong here." One more swipe. "You never did."
Anger and betrayal erupted within Avery, and she stepped toe-to-toe with Evangeline. "I'm not the one who tarnished the perfect family. I've done everything you asked. Everything." The hammering stopped, causing the words to reverberate through the store.
Gripping the counter, Avery met Evangeline's gaze, holding it until she looked away. A small victory, at least.
As the quiet grew, the handyman stepped from the rear of the store. He exchanged a quick look with Evangeline, who distanced herself from Avery. "Everything all right?"
"It will be," Avery said. It has to be. Focusing on an upholstered chair near the dressing room, she willed the tears not to gather. She had not cried before, and she would not cry now.
The carpenter shrugged. As he strode into the back, his steps and the ticking of the clock accentuated the heavy silence between Avery and Evangeline.
"I lost far more than you did," Evangeline said after a moment. For an instant, she looked less like a shrew and more like a grieving mother. Maybe somehow they could heal together. Then she spoke again. "You must go."
"Whoa." The handyman reappeared with two bottles of water and took a step backward at the comment. He looked from one to the other, as though weighing what to say next. "Do you think you should sit down? Maybe calm down a little?"
Avery whirled, accidentally bumping his arm. The man didn't flinch when one bottle flew out of his hand, splashing onto his faded chambray shirt.
"Honestly, Avery," Evangeline snapped, "have some dignity. And I do not need to calm down. What gives you the right to come in here and give me advice?"
"My bad." He headed toward the back but, after a couple of steps, stopped and swiveled to face them. "Would you like me to give Ross a call?"
So he knew Ross too. But then almost everyone knows Ross.
"Absolutely not. He's out of town, and I won't have him bothered." Evangeline snatched up the designer handbag she had given Avery two Christmases ago. "Give me the keys, Avery. Now. This debacle is over."
"Just a minute." The carpenter's voice was calm. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"This is not your concern," Evangeline hissed. "Get your own life straightened out before you interfere with ours." She marched to the front door and yanked it open.
The bells mocked Avery with their happy sound, and she looked through the rain-splashed windows. Streetlights had already come on, and the rain sputtered into sleet. "Without this shop, I have nothing," she whispered, as much to herself as to Evangeline.
The guy moved closer. "Let me drive y'all home."
"That's not necessary," Avery said.
"I told you to stay out of this."
Back straight, Avery headed toward a wrought-iron coatrack at the rear exit and threw a glance at the man. She wasn't certain what his part in this was, but he was no casual handyman. Their eyes fixed on each other for another moment before she spoke. "I apologize for drawing you into our ... negotiations."
Evangeline made a production of locking the front door, then twirled Avery's key on her index finger. The man shook his head and followed Avery to the door, where she was putting on her jacket. "You shouldn't be driving." His gaze was full of a look she knew too well.
She had recoiled from that look for months. But on this day, from this stranger, it gave her the strength she needed.
With Broussard support or not, she had to make a change.
"I'll be fine. But thanks." She walked through the door.
"This is for the best," Evangeline said before the door clicked shut.
Sleet hit Avery's face, its sting almost welcome.
* * *
The house was dark when Avery pulled into the driveway.
The pale yellow cottage, once welcoming, looked forlorn. Most of the trees and bushes were bare. The giant live oak, which Avery had dreamed would hold a swing for their children, loomed over her, tiny icicles forming on its branches.
She slipped on the steps but regained her balance, stumbling again when she saw the overstuffed envelope with its familiar scrawl peeking out of her mailbox. Thankfully her dad wasn't here to see the mess her life had become.
Sticking the package under her arm, she jiggled the brass lock, stubborn in the icy dampness. A small click sounded as the key snapped off in her hand.
Clutching the package and her purse, she slid onto the porch and stared out into the night. All those self-help books she'd read had lied. Fresh starts weren't as glamorous as promised.CHAPTER 2
T.J. Aillet stood under the back awning at Evangeline's Boutique, sleet hitting his head. He should have listened to Bud and worn a cap. And Bud should have listened to him and turned down this job.
Evangeline peeled out of the parking lot, her Mercedes fishtailing on Vine Avenue, and he blew out his breath.
After a brief hesitation, he drew out his phone—and then stuck it back into his pocket. This was the kind of mess he had vowed to stay out of when he came back to Samford. He had more important things to deal with than a couple of rich women arguing about money.
But Avery, with those sad blue eyes—and, okay, that clingy knit dress that hugged her curves—had punched him in the gut.
He looked down Vine Avenue, neither woman's taillights anywhere in sight. He'd never seen anyone—male or female—do battle with Evangeline with such vigor. "Negotiations," Avery had called it. A big mess was more like it, but she hadn't seemed cowed.
With that long blond hair piled in a knot and those high-heeled boots, she looked every bit fancy society—but had shown a kind side. Instead of shoving him back out into the cold, she had asked for one of his business cards. Classy.
No one had mentioned how pretty she was, nor how much spunk she had.
T. J. gave his head a quick shake. He needed to stay as far away from this situation as possible.
He walked toward the parking lot, his boots crunching on the growing carpet of ice, his hands freezing as he opened the truck door. His phone buzzed before he could start the engine, and he looked at the number, tempted to let it roll to voice mail.
But he couldn't.
He jabbed at the button with a thumb that had gone numb. "I figured I might hear from you."
"Are you at the dress shop?" Ross Broussard sounded nothing like his usual upbeat self.
"How bad was it?"
"Pretty ugly." He cranked his engine. "Where are you?"
"Baton Rouge." Ross sighed. "I don't know what to do. My mother called from your parents' house, huffing and puffing about Avery attacking her. Said you witnessed it."
"Not exactly. I was there for a few repairs." Just what he needed. His mother involved. "They were fighting about the store."
Ross cleared his throat. "Today's the one-year anniversary of Cres's death."
"Man, I'm sorry." T. J. looked at the ice gathering on the street, annoyed at Ross for reasons he didn't understand. "No wonder they were on edge."
"Mother says Avery backed out of the deal and is moving back to Lafayette. Too many bad memories."
"That's not what it sounded like to me." Despite hammering as hard as he could, T. J. had overheard plenty of the conversation. He had packed up his tools to leave—but when he rounded the corner, Avery looked like someone had jabbed her in a tender spot, and he decided to intervene.
Which hadn't worked out particularly well.
"I want her to stay in Samford, put the past behind her." Ross's voice was hoarse. "She and my mother have never been close, but I hoped they'd work out some sort of peace." He exhaled. "We all could use that."
T. J. wasn't a betting man—not anymore—but he would never put money on peace between those two. "Avery thinks your mother tricked her, but I didn't catch the details." He gave a small cough. "I was doing my best not to eavesdrop."
"Is Avery still at the shop?"
"She took off before your mom. I offered to drive her home, but she wouldn't listen." He adjusted the heater. "It's a lousy night to be out, especially as upset as she was."
"I hate to ask, T. J., but could you check on her? Maybe go by her house?"
T. J. rubbed his neck. The alarm had gone off early that morning, the weather sending him and Bud out for a handful of emergency repairs. He was tired. Besides, Avery was the kind of Samford woman he wanted to avoid. "I don't think she's in the mood for company."
"I'll owe you one. If you check on her, I'll make sure Atilla the Mom got home. My father should be there by now, but Avery ... she doesn't have anyone."
Avery alone. Uncertain. Mourning. T. J. could fix a broken intercom or piece of furniture. But working on a broken heart? Not going to happen. "How about I call Marsh? He's better at this sort of thing."
Excerpted from Magnolia Market by Judy Christie. Copyright © 2014 Judy Christie. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Friday, October 10, 2014 Magnolia Market by Judy Christie, © 2014 A Trumpet and Vine series, Book 2 Magnolia Market is located at the intersection of Trumpet and Vine, where lives intersect. --author Judy Christie I loved this book!! What a great story. Avery Broussard thinks she is investing in her livelihood of running the family boutique she has successfully brought to the top in women's apparel, until her mother-in-law pulls it out from under her. Without a future in what she has shaped, Avery leaves to gather her thoughts, heading home in the cold and sleet. To top it off, a handyman overheard their conversation ~ one-sided, so it seemed. Tomorrow she would return and reclaim what was rightfully hers. The house key doesn't work, and as luck would have it, a truck stops and twice she runs into him in the same day. But... he knows how to get her inside. Freezing! There must be a line down with a power outage. On her morning stop for coffee to warm up, another adventure begins at the local grocer. Leaving, she accelerates and goes forward on the ice instead of back, managing to bring the car next to her along right into Magnolia Market. How many more days of this?! Kathleen Manning, the owner of the other car, comes flying out to get insurance information. Who should appear? T. J., the now on first-name basis carpenter... again. A call to her insurance agent, it appears Avery's insurance is expired. Add to that expired tags and a ticket from the investigating officer, who happens to know T. J., as he offers to give Avery and Kathleen a lift to where they need to go. Knocking at her door the next morning, Kathleen informs Avery the check she gave her for repairs has bounced at the bank. Further checking, she finds she has no funds. Her account has been closed. Everything is owned and rescinded by her late husband's family ~ the boutique, her car, her house, and monies, including her savings toward the purchase of the boutique. Even her attorney is secured by the Broussards. What is a girl to do? I loved how this story plays out and the richness of friendships Avery discovers after being away from family and friends since the death of her husband a year earlier. Comically written, the above chaotic events bring a very satisfying outcome to her life. The daily lives of those around her add to the story, including Bill, the owner of Magnolia Market who has his suspicions about her. This story will bring a smile and is a page-turner. I really liked it. I recommend it to all age groups ~ very well written. Judy Christie started her writing life by keeping a diary when she was nine ~ and still has all of them. A former newspaper editor and reporter, she blogs from her green kitchen couch at her Website and loves visiting with readers at book clubs and online on Facebook and Twitter. A fan of books, pen and paper, primitive antiques and porch swings, she writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor. She and her husband live in northern Louisiana. ***Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for this review copy during the book tour of Judy Christie's Magnolia Market. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
Magnolia Market is centered around the life of Avery Broussard, a recent widow who is trying to figure out what to do with her life after her husband's death. Avery had been managing a shop for her mother-in-law and had made plans to buy it when her mother-in-law decided to sell it to someone else for more money. After selling the shop out from under Avery, her in-laws also close her bank accounts, put her house up for sale and start doing everything in their power to get Avery to leave Samford to return to her hometown. As her in-laws are trying to get her to leave, Avery manages to crash into the front of Magnolia Market changing her life as she knew it. In order to pay her debts to market owners Bill and Martha, Avery start working at the market while Martha is in the hospital recovering. During her time in the market Avery finds an unlikely friend in Kathleen, whose car she destroyed during the market crash, and the two of them set out to bring the market back to its former glory. As they set out to do this, they are helped along by T.J. Aillet who is helping to rebuild the front of the store. T.J. manages to save Avery from many situations and helps encourage her to fight against her in-laws and do what she wants to do. With the help of T.J. and Kathleen, Avery is able to get out from under the thumbs of her controlling in-laws and is able to start her life anew as the owner of Magnolia Market. This book was a very quick read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved seeing how Avery overcame adversity and how she didn't let anyone keep her down. In the end she fought for what she wanted and she got what she wanted. She didn't let anyone, not even her crazy in-laws, stand in her way. Avery's character is everything I love in a female protagonist of a book, but I also liked that as strong willed as she was, she was still willing to let love in and to let T.J. help her along the way. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who is looking for a quick and inspiring read. This book will definitely inspire you to go after your dreams and to not let anyone, not even family, stand in your way!
I'm a fan of anything southern (being from the South and all!) and Magnolia Market is a great southern read. While it doesn't highlight the best the south has to offer (initially, at least), it does give readers a glimpse into what "old southern money" is all about. I liked Avery right away and found myself constantly frustrated by the things that kept happening to her. It was all just so unfair! But, alas, life is not fair ... and neither is Avery's. However, for every bad thing that is done TO her, a new friend comes along and helps her—even if it's in a totally unexpected way. I thought it was a great lesson in accepting help graciously and knowing we weren't intended to go through life on our own. The other characters in town were a great addition to the book and helped round out the story. From eccentric and grumpy to rich and snooty to kind and generous and everything in between, we get a little bit of everything. The middle of the book seemed to lag a bit for me, but otherwise, I truly enjoyed this book! I'm excited to read more of the Trumpet & Vine series! [4 stars] I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Magnolia Market By Judy Christie Published by Zondervan Magnolia Market is a great succession to Sweet Olive. One of the most light-hearted, sweetly written, novel that takes you between the lines and into the characters lives. Magnolia Market was based around a store on the corner of Trumpet & Vine. The market was a center fold for the old history in Samford and the story that unfolds around is beautiful. Avery Broussard has had a difficult life but somehow makes it work with great determination and some old Samford help. Her life gets entwined with a certain man named T.J Aillet. Her life spirals out of human control but later she comes to realize who God is and His undying love, plans and protection for His children. This particular book out of the two, was very suspenseful. I worried for the heroine. But the author was great in protrraying her battles even if there was no physical fights. The romance in this book was light-hearted. I felt antsy waiting for the hero to come and whisk Avery off her feet, but T.J wasn’t mentioned as much as I would have liked but it was good enough for this kind of book. Moving on to the plot, I want to say I wasn’t the most happy camper when going through chapters 10-30. “That’s most of the book!” I know, but the thing is, I felt so bad for the heroine, Avery. Her problems became so real to me, I felt I should jump in there and beat up a few faces for her. I could see myself in her best friend whose named Kathleen. But the book had it’s moments where it drifted from her main problems with her In-laws and focused on her as a person. This book made it to me, right in the moment I need it. Challenging me to faithfully remember God, even though I don’t feel like my life is in any shape to say that I rely on God. I feel as if I was plucked out of Samford, with all those characters who seem to be going through the same things as me. The message to not give up on God and to remember His ever faithful Words, was a good wake-up call, something that had me whispering with the character as it was recited in the book. This book was filled with so much Grace. The kind that God gives when we seem to sink in our mess when no ones looking. I highly recommend this book. ~~~~~~~~~ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” B’Sweet~Stay Sweet, Annie ♥