Title: Backstage Butter Brittle
Author: Elizabeth John
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Novella)
Her thirtieth birthday is Anna’s deadline to succeed as a theatrical performer…only six months away. A crucial audition in her hometown puts her into the path of her ex-boyfriend. After only a few minutes together, she realizes she’s missed James. More shocking is that she receives an invitation to help with his family’s summer camp theater program. Farmer James Tucker can’t believe the woman he once thought he’d marry is back in town, auditioning at the theater next to his ice cream parlor. He hopes for the impossible—that she’ll stay this time. But she wants bright lights, and he leads a simpler life. Can this reunion be their second chance at love?
The instant James Tucker heard the familiar voice vibrating through the thin walls, he recognized the angelic sound. Anna was here? Singing? He hurried to finish with a customer and raced past the party room and through an inconspicuous side door of the ice cream parlor to the adjoining building. What was happening?
He grabbed the drapery and jerked his head back. He soaked in a vision of the most beautiful woman in the world. His ears hadn’t deceived him, and neither had his eyes. Anna was here.
Her thick, red hair fell past her shoulders, styled a bit longer than when he had last seen her. Her toned body moved with the grace of an experienced dancer.
His pulse raced. Fond memories slammed into his mind. He stayed hidden and watched her performance.
The crowd burst into applause.
Riveted, he joined in.
Anna beamed with an upturned face and bubbly laugh, but then she frowned and shook her head.
He gritted his teeth, watching Anna’s reaction when she found out she’d auditioned for the ice cream parlor. No Sherlock Holmes’ deduction skills necessary. An error had occurred, and his gut twisted. James slipped from the audition room, careful Anna couldn’t spot him. She had no idea he was part owner of the ice cream parlor. Already having had a bit of a shock, he wanted to give her a few minutes to collect herself. How would she react when she saw him?
The people cheering were right. She was magnificent. But he had known all along she was special, had since they were kids.
Her being here was perfect timing. His grandfather ran the theater’s summer camp program, and an unforeseen problem with the camp had plagued Gramps the last few days. Could Anna be the solution? James had no idea of her circumstances, but he had to convince her to stay and help, if only temporarily. He texted Gramps Anna was in town. After he entered the ice cream parlor, he gazed through the freshly cleaned front windows.
Anna sat outside on a bench with her back toward him. One arm flailed in the air, and the other pressed her phone against her ear. Her animated body language signaled her frustration.
James raced behind the counter to make her a sundae. Ice cream had always made her feel better. He scooped two heaping spoonsful of Butter Brittle into a metal dish, drizzled caramel syrup, squirted a swirl of whipped cream, arranged two chocolate chips for eyes and a cherry for a nose, and topped the treat with an upside-down sugar cone. Then he opened the front door, ready to surprise her.
She spoke into her phone. “Sylvia, can you double-check your notes? The theater is closed. A bunch of kids is auditioning at this ice cream parlor.” Her loud sigh traveled through the sea breeze. “Yes, I can hold on while you call them.”
The desperation in her voice stabbed at his heart. The cheery ice cream clown mocked him. He hid the sundae behind his back, waiting for her to end her conversation.
“The time unexpectedly changed to three o’clock this afternoon? And your new assistant didn’t think to tell you? Don’t be too hard on him. Everyone makes mistakes. At least the audition hasn’t been cancelled.” Anna’s voice quivered. “I need this. My bills are piling up. And you know the pressure I’m getting from my parents. Thanks, Sylvia.” She disconnected with a groan and rummaged through her bag. Her shoulders jiggled and heaved. She whipped out a tissue and blew her nose.
Oh, God. She was crying? James hated intruding on her private moment, but he couldn’t bear to see her upset. “Anna?”
She twisted her head. When she saw him, her tears-soaked lashes widened, and she jumped. “James? What are you doing here?”
“I saw your audition.”
She smoothed away a wisp of hair on her cheek. “You did?”
He nodded, leaning forward. “You knocked them dead. Isn’t that what they say in the acting world?”
She sniffed and cleared her throat. “You think I did well?”
“I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it.”
“Thanks. Doesn’t matter now anyway. Just a mix up. I thought I was auditioning for a role in the play at the theater, but I wound up auditioning for a singing server job. Like a waitress.” She pointed toward the ice cream parlor. “The audition for the touring company isn’t until later. Something happened to one or more members of the cast. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to take a temporary spot, but I’m hoping they ask me to join the company after they see my magnificent performances.” She sent him an exaggerated wink.
A vein on his neck throbbed. I need you, he wanted to say. “You’ll do great, but I heard them offer you the job here,” he said instead. “Didn’t you tell me about a famous restaurant in New York City where the wait staff sing and perform? You said that was an opportunity for unemployed actors. You could always take the ice cream job, if you need the money.”
Anna tilted her head to the side and wrinkled her nose.
He couldn’t contain his smile. Whenever she had made that bewildered expression in the past, he had found her particularly adorable.
“When did I tell you about that restaurant? We haven’t seen each other in forever.”
“You told me at our tenth-year high school reunion last year. Don’t you remember?” He never forgot a word she had said.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Here’s a review from a reader:
Backstage Butter Brittle is a sweet romance set at the Jersey shore which has all the feel-good touches a beach read should have. In this reunion story with a second chance at love, Elizabeth John has created well-drawn characters who will charm you in this delightful novella. I received an arc of this book from the author in the hope I'd review it. My thoughts are my own.
Enter to win a $25 Amazon US or Amazon Canada gift card
Open Internationally. You must have an active Amazon US or CA account to win.
Runs July 18 – July 26, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on July 27, 2022.
Elizabeth John creates tender romances with a touch of intrigue. She writes at sunrise before her busy day as an elementary school teacher. Admittedly, she’s a TV and movie junkie and has noble intentions to practice yoga daily. In her spare time, she can be found walking her two rescue dogs, researching her family’s ancestry, gardening, or relaxing at the beach with her nose in a good book. She is a member of New Jersey Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, Liberty States Fiction Writers, and Sisters in Crime.
Elizabeth loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website:
Social Media Links: