Who doesn't love a story about best friends who will do anything for one another? The Friendship List by Susan Mallery follows two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live their lives to the fullest, only to discover that possibilities are everywhere especially in the least likely of places. Big thanks to Harlequin for having me on the blog tour, for my part I'll be sharing an exclusive excerpt. Enjoy!
|Pub Date: 8-4-20|
Adult - Contemporary
“I should have married money,” Ellen Fox said glumly. “That would have solved all my problems.”
Unity Leandre, her best friend, practically since birth, raised her eyebrows. “Because that was an option so many times and you kept saying no?”
“It could have been. Maybe. If I’d ever, you know, met a rich guy I liked and wanted to marry.”
“Wouldn’t having him want to marry you be an equally important part of the equation?”
Ellen groaned. “This is not a good time for logic. This is a good time for sympathy. Or giving me a winning lottery ticket. We’ve been friends for years and you’ve never once given me a winning lottery ticket.”
Unity picked up her coffee and smiled. “True, but I did give you my pony rides when we celebrated our eighth birthdays.”
A point she would have to concede, Ellen thought. With their birthdays so close together, they’d often had shared parties. The summer they’d turned eight, Unity’s mom had arranged for pony rides at a nearby farm. Unity had enjoyed herself, but Ellen had fallen in love with scruffy Mr. Peepers, the crabby old pony who carried them around the paddock. At Ellen’s declaration of affection for the pony, Unity had handed over the rest of her ride tickets, content to watch Ellen on Mr. Peepers’s wide back.
“You were wonderful about the pony rides,” Ellen said earnestly, “And I love that you were so generous. But right now I really need a small fortune. Nothing overwhelming. Just a tasteful million or so. In return, I’ll give back the rides on Mr. Peepers.”
Unity reached across the kitchen table and touched Ellen’s arm. “He really wants to go to UCLA?”
Ellen nodded, afraid if she spoke, she would whimper. After sucking in a breath, she managed to say, “He does. Even with a partial scholarship, the price is going to kill me.” She braced herself for the ugly reality. “Out-of-state costs, including room and board, are about sixty-four thousand dollars.” Ellen felt her heart skip a beat and not out of excitement. “A year. A year! I don’t even bring home that much after taxes. Who has that kind of money? It might as well be a million dollars.”
Unity nodded. “Okay, now marrying money makes sense.”
“I don’t have a lot of options.” Ellen pressed her hand to her chest and told herself she wasn’t having a heart attack. “You know I’d do anything for Coop and I’ll figure this out, but those numbers are terrifying. I have to start buying lottery scratchers and get a second job.” She looked at Unity. “How much do you think they make at Starbucks? I could work nights.”
Unity, five inches taller, with long straight blond hair, grabbed her hands. “Last month it was University of Oklahoma and the month before that, he wanted to go to Notre Dame. Cooper has changed his mind a dozen times. Wait until you go look at colleges this summer and he figures out what he really wants, then see who offers the best financial aid before you panic.” Her mouth curved up in a smile. “No offense, Ellen, but I’ve tasted your coffee. You shouldn’t be working anywhere near a Starbucks.”
“Very funny.” Ellen squeezed her hands. “You’re right. He’s barely seventeen. He won’t be a senior until September. I have time. And I’m saving money every month.”
It was how she’d been raised, she thought. To be practical, to take responsibility. If only her parents had thought to mention marrying for money.
“After our road trip, he may decide he wants to go to the University of Washington after all, and that would solve all my problems.”
Not just the money ones, but the loneliness ones, she thought wistfully. Because after eighteen years of them being a team, her nearly grown-up baby boy was going to leave her.
“Stop,” Unity said. “You’re getting sad. I can see it.”
“I hate that you know me so well.”
“No, you don’t.”
Ellen sighed. “No, I don’t, but you’re annoying.”
“You’re more annoying.”
They smiled at each other.
Unity stood, all five feet ten of her, and stretched. “I have to get going. You have young minds to mold and I have a backed-up kitchen sink to deal with, followed by a gate repair and something with a vacuum. The message wasn’t clear.” She looked at Ellen. “You going to be okay?”
Ellen nodded. “I’m fine. You’re right. Coop will change his mind fifteen more times. I’ll wait until it’s a sure thing, then have my breakdown.”
“See. You always have a plan.”
They walked to the front door. Ellen’s mind slid back to the ridiculous cost of college.
“Any of those old people you help have money?” she asked. “For the right price, I could be a trophy wife.”
Unity shook her head. “You’re thirty-four. The average resident of Silver Pines is in his seventies.”
“Marrying money would still solve all my problems.”
Unity hugged her, hanging on tight for an extra second. “You’re a freak.”
“I’m a momma bear with a cub.”
“Your cub is six foot three. It’s time to stop worrying.”
“That will never happen.”
“Which is why I love you. Talk later.”
Ellen smiled. “Have a good one. Avoid spiders.”
When Unity had driven away, Ellen returned to the kitchen where she quickly loaded the dishwasher, then packed her lunch. Cooper had left before six. He was doing some end-of-school-year fitness challenge. Something about running and Ellen wasn’t sure what. To be honest, when he went on about his workouts, it was really hard not to tune him out. Especially when she had things like tuition to worry about.
“Not anymore today,” she said out loud. She would worry again in the morning. Unity was right—Cooper was going to keep changing his mind. Their road trip to look at colleges was only a few weeks away. After that they would narrow the list and he would start to apply. Only then would she know the final number and have to figure out how to pay for it.
Until then she had plenty to keep her busy. She was giving pop quizzes in both fourth and sixth periods and she wanted to update her year-end tests for her two algebra classes. She needed to buy groceries and put gas in the car and go by the library to get all her summer reading on the reserve list.
As she finished her morning routine and drove to the high school where she taught, Ellen thought about Cooper and the college issue. While she was afraid she couldn’t afford the tuition, she had to admit it was a great problem to have. Seventeen years ago, she’d been a terrified teenager, about to be a single mom, with nothing between her and living on the streets except incredibly disappointed and angry parents who had been determined to make her see the error of her ways.
Through hard work and determination, she’d managed to pull herself together—raise Cooper, go to college, get a good job, buy a duplex and save money for her kid’s education. Yay her.
But it sure would have been a lot easier if she’d simply married someone with money.
More info about the book can be found here!