- N. N. Light
UnderCut by Lisa J. Lickel is an Indie Reads event pick #romanticsuspense #romance #indiereads
Author: Lisa J Lickel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
When you are loved, you have everything to lose… Lily Masters was born with a deformity that shaped her life. When she, white and rural-raised, and Cam Taylor, a biracial army medic and literary professor who left his work under a cloud of suspicion, meet, fall in love, and get engaged, Lily decides it’s time to take control of her body in order to feel whole. She schedules plastic reconstructive surgery in Texas and leaves Cam and her nephew Kenny, also of mixed heritage, who they’re planning to adopt, back home in Wisconsin to wait. Just when they thought they were safe, terror strikes again when a ring of human organ black marketers exact revenge. As their friends and family gather around them, Cam and Lily wonder about their future together and whether being whole is a solitary or communal endeavor.
TUESDAY JUNE 21
On the first achingly bright morning of summer, Lily Masters stood ready to conquer her source of shame. She posed in front of her mother’s rusty, full-length wall mirror in her Wisconsin childhood home and hesitantly opened her robe. She kept her eyelids welded shut before she endured a last lengthy look. A quick, shallow inhale did nothing to balance her nerves as chills ran the length of her arms to her fingernails. She squinted, daring herself. Then Lily caught a flash of her diamond engagement ring, the reason she could finally make the decision. She forced her gaze back toward her torso. Taunts in her mother’s creaky voice echoed in a shroud of childhood phantom sounds. “You’re a freak! You’ll never get a man! Better be smart, reject. Learn to take care of yourself ’cuz I’m not feeding and housing you as a freeloader forever when you finally figure out no one could love you.” Lily had long ago stopped needing anyone to take care of her. Except last summer when she had crawled back to Barter Valley. Downsized. Her magazine editing career in the Twin Cities dried up and home meant moving in with her stepbrother Art. Mom had moved to the cemetery twenty-two years ago when Lily was six and Berta two and a half. Wincing, she let the edges of her robe fall across her shoulders. She reached to finger the ravages of the defect. A puddled baby soft mound of flesh over a protruding march of ribs instead of a left breast. Misaligned nipple. No armpit hair to shave was the only positive. That, and it didn’t hurt. On the outside. No scars…not yet. She inhaled and watched her normal right breast rise and pucker. Stepmom Marge had joined the family a couple of years after Mom left. Marge never bothered to look at her new stepdaughters much. Lily and Berta learned early not to need anyone. Until Cam. An ethereal vision of Lily’s fiancé appeared behind her in the mirror. Cam stared into her reflected eyes while his slow smile made her toes tingle. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look… His spectral arms reached around to enfold her. She shivered as she imagined the solid weight of his chin resting on her shoulder. She was helpless to halt the downward sweep of his eyes, a lover’s regard that would soon be filtered through the lens of wedding vows. Worse than the expected revulsion was his brow-crinkling sorrow. She never wanted to make him sad. She thrust her elbows backward and Cam’s image evaporated. Lily was absolutely ready to fix this. Decision made. No going back. The plastic surgeon had shown her pictures of what she and her team could do to make Lily normal. Create a fold along her armpit that everyone took for granted, build a normal breast, even make that wretched nipple match the other. It wouldn’t be useful, as in letting a baby suckle, but replacing the savagery of the Poland Syndrome would erase her lifelong sense of humiliation. The worst part would be healing from the surgery to take muscle from her back to transplant in her chest wall. Small price. She would soon be proud of her body and gladly share it after Cam became her husband.
Cameron Taylor had been a stranger in the woods who’d rescued her when she’d gotten turned around in a blizzard six months ago. They hadn’t been able to resist their attraction in the storm-fueled intimacy of being snowed in together. Their bond was borne of patient discovery and mutual agreement to respect the act of marriage, and in his goodness, he’d accepted her ten-year-old nephew Kenny as part of her package. Cam told her he didn’t care about the Poland Syndrome, and Lily believed him. But all of her life she’d been a freak with a body even her mother couldn’t love. She’d taken such care to hide herself away and strapped on a padded bra to cower behind. No more. Lily had planted Dear Old Jailbird Dad and horrible Stepbrother Art next to Bad Mom and Wicked Stepmother six months ago. Quite the little family plot the Masters clan had going in Peaceful Rest Cemetery. Lily couldn’t wait to shed the Masters name and move out of this tainted house. Lily pulled her robe up over her shoulders and went to finish packing for her stay at the medical complex down in Houston. After a little slicing and repackaging, she’d come home, better than new. A few weeks of healing and therapy and she’d be racing down the aisle come September. Kenny would be theirs, and they’d have more kids together to fill up their cabin in the woods. They would be a family at last. A normal blended one. No more fostering, not kinship care, not being forced to take government funds to raise her own nephew or having to report to an impersonal caseworker. Berta had Kenny the first ten years of his life. Lily hoped it wasn’t too late to save him from embedded dysfunction. The cheap flight meant spending most of the rest of the day traveling to one layover after another hop-skipping around the States. Tomorrow was more pre-op and prep. The next day, bright and earlier than decent, loomed the first day of freedom from freakhood. On the way out of the door, she stopped to caress a photo of her and Kenny with Cam, surrounded by his dogs, on the front porch of his home in the woods.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Reviewers say: Lickel has done it again with this medical suspenseful novel. Adding layer upon layer of suspense and tension in this nerve-wracking--but oh so spell-bounding novel--is a work of art that she creates with a masterful hand and mind. Both protagonists are flawed in their pursuit of happiness and a peaceful life, but how can that dream ever come to pass when one faces a serious surgery and is targeted by a vicious, from-the-past terrorist? Love drama, action grounded in contemporary issues, and sympathetic characters? Undercut has them all. You’ll steal time to sneak away and read so you can find out the fates of victim Lily, her fiancé Cam, and the child they hope will be theirs, the ten-year-old Kenny. Well researched with twists that will have you guessing until the climax, Undercut is sure to engage your imagination. And after finishing, you might just sign up as an organ donor.
Enter to win a $35 Amazon gift card:
Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs December 13 – December 21, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on December 22, 2022.
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author of inspiring fiction who loves books, collects dragons, and travels. She loves to encourage authors. Lisa is a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association, the Chicago Writers Association, and Assistant Director and book coach for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, editor, and manager of Wisconsin Writers Association Press. Lisa and her husband enjoy travel, gardening, and love spending time with their family. They have two grown sons, daughters-in-law, and lots of adorable grandchildren. Find more at www.LisaLickel.com.
Social Media Links: