Excerpt for THE SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS by Susan Mallery

A Captivating Story about Sisters, Secrets and Second Chances

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters: A Captivating Story about Sisters, Secrets and Second ChancesKelly Murphy's life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing's prodigal son, who's set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia's return isn't as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She's determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Told with Mallery's trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…

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Reporting for work at 5:00 a.m. was not for sissies but there were a few things that could mitigate the horror. One was the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven. The other was Billy Joel blasting at a volume just short of hearing loss.

Helen Sperry walked in the front door of The Parrot Café at two minutes to five. Being on time wasn’t difficult what with her basically living around the corner. She paused to inhale the glorious, gooey scent, then smiled when she heard the opening line to “Uptown Girl.”

“I’ll bet Billy can afford to buy all the pearls he wants now,” she called as she flipped on lights. “What do you think, Delja?”

There was no answer from the kitchen, but that was okay. Delja America wasn’t much of a talker. Instead she expressed herself through her amazing cooking and baking.

Helen hummed along with the song as she walked into the kitchen. “Morning. Everything okay?”

Delja had been with the diner since she graduated from high school nearly forty years before. She was barely five feet tall, but had the build of a linebacker. The muscles of one, too. She could flip a fifty-pound bag of flour onto the counter like it was a small baggie filled with grapes. And the things the woman could do with eggs bordered on miraculous. She was a widow, with one son—the current mayor of Tulpen Crossing—and a daughter who lived in Utah.

Delja looked up at Helen and smiled. Helen crossed the kitchen to receive her morning hug—the one that nearly squeezed the air out of her body. She hung on as tight as she could, trying to return the body crushing with equal force, but suspected Delja was not impressed by her upper body strength.

Delja released her, then held her at arm’s length.

“You good?”

The question was asked in a low, gruff voice. It was the same one Delja had asked every single morning for the past eight years—ever since Helen had taken over the diner from her aunt.

“I am. Did you talk to Lidiya? Are you going to stay with her this summer?”

Every year Delja visited her daughter for three weeks. The entire town wept as the supply of cinnamon rolls dried up. Tempers grew short and people counted the days until Delja’s return.

“September.”

“Okay, then. You’ll email me the dates?”

Delja nodded once, then turned back to frosting the rolls.

There was more they could discuss. Their personal lives, what supplies might be running low, whether or not the Mariners were going to have a winning baseball season, but they wouldn’t. Delja preferred a single-word response to actual conversation and did most of her communicating via email. If something had to be ordered, she would have already sent a note to their supplier.

As for checking on her work, Helen knew better. Delja started her day at two in the morning. By five there were biscuits in the oven, all the omelet extras had been prepped and oranges squeezed. At The Parrot Café, the back of house ran smoothly—all thanks to Delja.

Helen went to her office and tucked her handbag into the bottom drawer of her desk. She glanced in the small mirror over the sink by the door. Her black hair was pulled back in a French braid, her bangs were trimmed and her makeup was subtle. All as it should be. The fact that she couldn’t see below her shoulders meant she didn’t have to notice that her last diet had failed as spectacularly as the previous seventeen. Which was not her fault. Really. How could she be expected to eat Paleo while living in a world that contained Delja’s cinnamon rolls?

She returned to the front of the store and started the morning prep. There were place settings to be put out and sugar shakers to be filled. Silly, simple tasks that allowed her to collect herself for her day. And maybe, just maybe, give her a second so that the butterflies in her stomach calmed down from their current hip-hop to a more stately waltz.

The Parrot Café (named for parrot tulips, not the bird) had been around nearly as long as the town. Helen’s aunt had inherited it from her parents and when she’d married, her husband had joined the team. From what Helen could tell, the two of them had been very happy together. The café was open from 6:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., seven days a week. Until Helen had come along, the childless couple had shut down every August and had traveled the world. Then Helen’s parents had been killed in a car accident, leaving the only child an orphan. There had been no other family, so Helen had come to Tulpen Crossing.

She supposed her aunt and uncle had tried. As much as her world had been thrown into chaos, theirs had been as well. They’d done what they could to make her feel welcome, but she’d known the truth. They hadn’t wanted children. It had been a choice—yet they were stuck with her.

She’d done her best to not be any trouble, and to learn the business. By the time she was thirteen, she was already waiting tables. The patrons loved her and no one knew that she cried herself to sleep every night for the first three years after her parents died.

Her parents had been poor but happy—both musicians. That meant there hadn’t been any money for well, anything. The only thing she still had of her parents’ was the piano they’d played and their wedding rings. She kept the former in her living room in her small house and the latter made into a pendant she wore every day. She hadn’t inherited much of their musical gifts, but like them, she did love Billy Joel. He was her connection to the past.

By five-thirty Helen had the coffee brewing. The rest of the wait staff showed up at five-forty-five and the first customer would walk through the door exactly at six. By seven-thirty every booth would be full, as would the counter seats. There was always a lull around ten that lasted until the lunch crowd showed up. By then Delja had clocked out and the culinary students from the school up in Bellingham were hard at work in the kitchen, prepping for lunch.

It was a system that worked. The students got to practice in a real world restaurant, her customers had an opportunity to try new and fun food, along with traditional favorites, and she had a steady supply of labor. Many students signed up for weekend shifts and those who lived local often wanted a job with her for a couple of years to get experience for their resumes before moving on to somewhere a lot more elegant than The Parrot Café.


About the Author:

Susan Mallery#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming and humorous novels about the relationships that define women's lives—family, friendship, romance. She's best known for putting nuanced characters into emotionally complex, real-life situations with twists that surprise readers to laughter. Because Susan is passionate about animal welfare, pets play a big role in her books. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide, her books have been translated into 28 languages.

Critics have dubbed Mallery "the new queen of romantic fiction." (Walmart) Booklist says, "Romance novels don't get much better than Mallery's expert blend of emotional nuance, humor, and superb storytelling," and RT Book Reviews puts her "in a class by herself!" It's no wonder that her books have spent more than 200 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list.

Although Susan majored in Accounting, she never worked as an accountant because she was published straight out of college with two books the same month, January of 1992. Sixteen prolific years and seventy-four books later, she hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time with Accidentally Yours in 2008. She made many appearances in the Top 10 before (finally) hitting #1 in 2015 with Thrill Me, the twentieth book in her most popular series, the Fool's Gold romances, and the fourth of five books released that year.

Susan lives in Washington state with her husband and two ragdoll cats. Her heart for animals has led Susan to become an active supporter of the Seattle Humane Society.

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