Title: AUNTIE MOMMIE
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
In her family, Meave Brody was known as List Girl. When her twin sister died suddenly, Meave’s list grew long. The shortest one said:
1) Learn to share guardianship of niece and nephew with Max Wheelock, her despised late brother-in-law’s best friend
2) Give up dream job
3) Move 2000 miles back home to rear children
4) Don’t fall in love with Max.
The tall man standing beside her sighed deeply and tugged his modestly striped tie loose enough to flick the top button of a sartorially elegant sea blue silk shirt open. “Ordeal is definitely the operative word,” he agreed. “One of the corner office suits from the law firm buttonholed me before the service and said he’d like to talk to both of us after the luncheon. You okay with that, Mrs. Brody?”
“I’m fine,” Meave lied. Given her rathers, attorneys of any kind would be stripped from her life in the future. The fact that the man they had to deal with was an associate of Dean’s really rubbed her nerves raw. Fionna would have gloried in the attention, not caring whether the circumstances that brought her into a moneyed man’s aura were sad or not. Was it that Fi was a better actress than she was, Meave wondered, or simply that her twin had always been more self absorbed?
The thought made her feel like a traitor to her sister’s memory, even if the evaluation was accurate. Fi would also have managed to waltz into the coming interview looking incredibly beautiful and self assured.
She, on the other hand, probably looked like an old crow in her serviceable black linen sheath and jacket and small pearl earrings. Next to Fionna she had never appeared to be anything but her sister’s fainter shadow anyway.
Odd that at this moment in time they were both back where they had begun. Back in southwestern Ohio. Fionna wouldn’t be leaving, but as soon as she could get Izza and Petes packed for the trip, Meave intended to be back in her snug house in California. Back to her own daughter and her career. Izza and Petes were young enough to soon accept the changes in their lives. Young enough to be happy once more. And Max Wheelock was in no position to take on the care of two preschoolers even if he was listed as one of their guardians.
A doll dangling in her hand, Izza scrambled out of the car. “Are you coming too, Auntie Mimi?” she asked.
But it wasn’t Izza Meave saw staring up at her from the girl’s face, it was Fionna as she had looked when they were children.
The emotion she’d managed to hold in check threatened to break free. Meave took a quavering breath, hoping that her voice wouldn’t break when she answered the child.
As if understanding her control was slipping, Max stepped into the breach. He swooped in to scoop Izza up in his arms. “No, Auntie Mimi and I are stuck having lunch with a bunch of sour-faced grownups. Only you and Petes get to have any fun this afternoon. Now, let’s get you buckled into that snazzy seat of yours so Mrs. Rule can head out.”
Somehow, while distracting Izza he had managed to reach into an inner pocket of his suit jacket. But it wasn’t until he passed her his neatly ironed handkerchief that Meave realized her cheeks were damp with tears.
“What’s the matter, Auntie Mimi?” Izza asked, her high-pitched voice registering concern.
Before Meave had a chance to answer, Max came to her aid yet again. “It’s pretty windy here,” he declared. “I’ll bet your aunt got some dust in her eyes that made them water.”
She took up the suggestion readily as she patted her cheeks dry. “That’s exactly right, but I think it’s washed away now.”
“Are you sure you can’t come have ice cream too and then play with us in the park?” the girl persisted.
“I think you’ll have a lot more fun playing with Mrs. Rule’s grandchildren than you would with me,” Meave said. “Besides, you’ll see me later on. Didn’t we decide to watch a movie and have pizza tonight?
“Pizza!” Peter shouted from inside the car, a wide smile on his face. He was already seated in his car seat, patiently waiting to be buckled in place.
“Shh,” Max requested, putting a finger to his lips in admonition as he bent to let Izza climb back into the vehicle. “Not so loud, squirt. We don’t want anybody else to horn in on that treat, do we?”
Any worry that she had over the children’s realization of how their young lives had changed disappeared. Was it that children were more resilient or that Fionna and Dean had left them in the care of others so often the children would barely miss them? She was torn over what she wanted the answer to be.
“Will you be bringing the pizza later on, Unca Max?” Izza asked as he slipped the restraining buckles in place. Mrs. Rule had already secured Peter’s and had pulled open the driver’s side door. It was time for the day to move forward, for life to continue.
Max glanced back at Meave over his shoulder, as if waiting for her acquiescence to him sharing yet another meal with them that day. “Just cheese on my part, please,” she said softly. She couldn’t keep considering him an interloper. Not where the children were concerned, at any rate. His was the familiar face, not hers. Despite what others considered an uncanny cloning of Fi’s features on her face, the children knew she wasn’t their mother. They knew her for the stranger she was. “I’m sure you know what Izza and Petes favorite toppings are,” she added.
“Same as yours, it seems, Mrs. Brody,” Max said, his deep voice warm and slightly amused. His mouth curved up at one corner, in a gentle, unexpected grin.
Warning bells went off in Meave’s brain. Fi had written to her about how dangerous Max Wheelock’s smile was. She simply hadn’t thought that any man who appealed to her sister would affect her the same way.
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
Actually, although the story itself has nothing in common with real life, the title does. Because my aunt had moved from Ohio to Yonkers, NY when she married, every other year my mother forced us all to visit her sister. When that sister had children of her own, they were younger than some of us and they got confused. They heard us calling my mother “Mommy” but they knew she was their aunt. So, my oldest cousin began calling her “Auntie Mommy” and when those cousins grew up and had their own kids and husbands, they all called her Auntie Mommy as well, as did their spouses when they married! It simply sounded like a great romantic comedy title to me, though I changed the spelling to Mommie so it had the same ending as Auntie. So why is this a “must-read”? Well, I suppose just because my mother would like you to enjoy it!
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BETH HENDERSON spent a dozen years writing and rewriting the same three books during the 1980s but all those rewrites paid off via a romance spinning career now 30+ years long. Romantic-comedy and historical romantic adventure are her forte, but the story that took the longest to tell – nearly 30 years, because it was nothing like her other stories – is still the one featuring the hero she’d run away with if he crooked his finger her way. Yeah, she’s given her heart to Paul Montgomery of SUPERSTAR.
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