Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: June 15, 2012
Length: 384 pages
Source: (author) review copy
“How do you get to a “Happily Ever After” when you can’t remember where it began? Carlin “Carlos” Farley’s life is an open book. Unfortunately, she can’t remember most of it. She’s losing her barn manager, Bill, the guy who’s been running her horse drawn carriage business while she’s been in extended care recovering from an accident. Bill has always been there for her, in fact they’ve grown up together, but now he wants to pursue the career he put on hold and Carlin’s resigned to the idea that he’s leaving her. Bill Fantazma is the kind of guy who always tries to do the right thing. But sometimes doing the right thing is not the right thing to do. He’s been in charge of Carlin’s care and the business he helped acquire for her, and has accepted the accident and her subsequent brain damage as a chance for a do-over, since his previous actions to attract her affection were less than honorable. Richard Cooper appears the answer to their business problems. Knowledgeable about horses, willing to step in and take over the barn manager position, helpful and solicitous to Carlin, he’s not put off by her sometimes bizarre and quirky behavior. But when Richard sees an opportunity to move in and draw Carlin’s affection, Bill realizes just what she means to him and must make a decision; come clean about their past and risk her anger, or step away and allow Richard to have a romantic relationship with the woman Bill has loved all of his life. It’s a romance she can’t remember and he can never forget.”
So this book was definitely a change for me since I’ve read nothing like it. At first I thought Carlin and Bill were like used-to-be childhood best friends then at the book they’ve grown up and were teenagers. I was totally wrong lol. They weren’t in their teenage years anymore and even had their business which was a carriage business.
I thought the story was pretty cute. Bill and Carlin are super close. Bill had a crush or ”thing” for Carlin since they were in their youth years till the present time of the book but never had the guts to say it. Sometimes I got confused because Carlin’s nickname is “Carlos” so I always think of a guy character when really it’s a girl. Also I would mixed up the names of the horses with the people because the author would tell us the name and so you would think it was a person but it turned out to be one of the horse’s’ name (or vice versa). For Carlin, her character is unusual since she had a brain damage and lost most of her memory, but it totally fits the story. For Bill, he is a really kind guy and very protective when it comes to Carlin. Although it was a sweet story, I found the pace kind of slow and it struck to me as an ‘okay’ book. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t love it also; it was more in the middle.
Q: What is the setting of The Carriage Trade?
A horse drawn carriage company, located in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah, in the current year.
Q: Is there a reason why you chose ”Carlos” as a nickname for Carlin (the main character) and ”Baby Huey” for Bill?
It’s all about backstory, much of which is not dragged into the current story. As a child, Bill could not pronounce the name “Carlin”, and it eventually morphed into Carlos, which everyone began calling her. With both of her parents dead, and Bill’s parents as her reluctant guardians, there was really no one around who stood up for her or looked out for her best interests. Bill’s nickname, “Baby Huey” is from a Warner Brothers character from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Baby Huey was big (which Bill is) and dopey (which Bill isn’t) but when Carlin gave him that name it was because he followed her around and was a pest. Eventually it became a term of endearment for her to call him, since after her accident she had no idea where their relationship would go.
Q: Which character in the book do you relate the most?
I love Carlin’s feistiness, but admire Bill’s honor. They have both dealt with a lot of loss in their lives, yet they persevere.
Q: How long did it take you to write it?
It took me about a year to write, and another five to finally edit and publish it, and I was revising it constantly up until it hit the press.
Q: Does listening to music help you while writing a book?
Absolutely! Music gives me the pacing and emotion for each chapter. The original manuscript had the titles of songs for chapter names, but I took them out. I’m doing the same for the sequel. I listen to all types of music, from classical to zydeco to alternative. From Vampire Weekend to John Denver, it’s a broad spectrum. My daughter is eighteen, and she makes sure my taste in music stays current.
Q: There’s numerous kinds of business out there, why did you choose a carriage business for your book?
They say write what you know… I’ve been a commercial carriage driver for eight years now. The characters are fictional, but several of the situations are from experience.
Q: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Join a writing group and learn all you can about the craft. And enjoy what you write! I wasted a lot of time writing a story I had no interest in because an agent told me she liked it. Well, I didn’t like it, so it was no fun for me to walk around with those characters in my head 24/7. So I evicted them, and went back to writing what I enjoyed.
Thank you so much!
Thank you, Leigh!
In Carlin ‘Carlos’ Farley’s estimation, today was not the single worst day of her life; that distinction belonged to the day Bill Fantazma’s grieving parents sat her down and told her about the accidental deaths of her mother, father, and big sister, along with their own precious daughter. In hindsight, had she been older than six, Carlos would have immediately recognized that day as a turning point. A significant moment in time that, upon closer examination, would have unveiled to her a future vastly different from the one she once imagined.
It was the day from her past that all other shitty days were judged against, and found to lack the same emotional shock of that particular day.
Still, today certainly counted as a day that sucked ass.
What began as a leisurely Friday off from her job as a private chef, and the promise of an enjoyable evening at her part-time job driving carriage, had, due to an over-zealous process server, morphed into a cluster fuck of epic proportions.
After being served with divorce papers, which were not scheduled to be delivered until the next day, her douche-bag, under-age-girlfriend-impregnating, dick-head of a soon-to-be-ex-husband now had her cornered in the little barn of the horse drawn carriage company owned and operated by his family. Not her first choice of locations for a showdown, and she certainly did not want their toddler son, Oscar, to be a witness to the altercation. But Bill was running late, held up at the university, unable to pick Oscar up and watch him while Carlos worked her shift driving a horse drawn carriage. Plus Jason, her future ex-husband, was not reacting in the joyous, celebratory, “I’m so happy to at last be rid of you, bitch!” manner in which she optimistically hoped he would.
Things were not proceeding the way Carlos had meticulously planned.
So here they were, her best friend, Nora Hobart, keeping Oscar busy in the office while Jason and Carlos engaged in a shouting match. The only saving grace was none of the other employees had arrived to work their shifts.
“It’ll be a frigid day in Hell, missy, when I allow you to dictate what happens to our marriage!”
Jason’s Australian accent made even his threats sound almost charming. But Carlos knew she had him cold. A phone call to the right people would set the wheels of justice in motion. Jason would soon be charged with statutory rape, among other crimes. Even if he wasn’t found guilty of any charges, he would at the very least be deported. She figured out long ago that although it hadn’t started out that way on her end, theirs was a green card marriage. Everyone concerned knew it sure as shit wasn’t because he loved her.
After several years of misery, and a very intense two weeks of debate, Bill finally convinced her that she deserved better. And while Jason stomped around, flailing his arms, shouting and posturing, her heart swelled with the knowledge that, despite everything she and Bill had been through together, and separately, despite every bad thing in their shared past, somewhere ahead there was a future for them together.
“… I’ll work you over until you can’t walk! Now get your fat ass upstairs, and start cooking my supper, you ugly cow!” His once handsome face had lately taken on the translucent and gaunt look of a drug user. Exactly what he was using, she wasn’t sure of, besides herself, of course. Because of his increasingly erratic behavior, she made sure Oscar was never alone with him. Even Jason’s controlling parents had begun to curtail the time they spent in their son’s company.
Carlos inhaled deeply through her nose, blowing all of her rage out across tight lips while contemplating the man she had been coerced to marry. Let’s face it, she reminded herself, I only married him because he got me pregnant. Bill’s parents encouraged it and I settled for him. But I don’t have to settle any longer.
“I don’t think so,” she replied, the freedom within her grasp bolstering her resolve. And when Jason surged towards her, fists clenched at his side, shoulders back, in a feeble attempt to intimidate her, she stood her ground.
Nose to nose, his rage radiated off of him in almost visible waves.
“If you ever lay a hand on me again, I guarantee you will end up as a bad smell in the high Uintas. It’s a well documented fact that people get lost in the mountains all the time, Jason. If you dare touch me or Oscar again, you will become nothing more than a statistic.”
“Are you going to sic that Sasquatch step-brother of yours on me? I’ll press charges against him. I’ll tell the cops he wanted to jump into the Poly Crips gang, and I was his initiation.”
Carlos huffed out a laugh, sidestepping around Jason to get to her locker. Spinning the dial on the combination lock she noted the idea that the Docker pants and Polo shirt wearing, football playing, finance majoring, Bill Fantazma would throw his future away to jump into a gang was just the sort of asinine story that an unimaginative dumbass like Jason would cook up.
“You know he’s not my brother, step or otherwise, and the only thing that’s kept Bill from killing you, is me. Personally, I’m starting to re-think my policy on the situation. Having you dead would save me the trouble and expense of divorcing you.” Carlos opened her locker, grabbed a lead rope, and headed for the halters hanging against the wall.
Extending his middle finger and flipping Carlos off, Jason stomped out the door, throwing a shoulder check as he passed her. Maintaining her balance, Carlos grabbed a halter big enough to fit Tony, the Belgian gelding she was driving that night. Exiting the little barn, she passed her white carriage decorated with pink and purple flowers and headed out to the covered horse pens, taking slow, deep breaths. From past experience she knew the confrontation wasn’t over; he’d be back to spew more verbal abuse on her before she left to go to the carriage stand for the evening.
The crisp smell of pine shavings calmed her as she wound her way through the herd of draft horses. A pat on a plump rump here, a stroke on the neck there, she was alternately followed and nuzzled by various horses as she forged a path to Tony. Placing the halter on his enormous head, she attached the lead rope and walked him out of the gate. At the uneven sound of clanging on the concrete, she stopped and looked at his hooves. Tony was missing a horseshoe.
“Tony, do you deliberately peel off a shoe every two weeks?” With a sigh she turned the massive animal around and led him back into the pen. Removing his halter, she pressed her forehead against his muscular neck and inhaled his warm musky aroma. Grabbing his face, she placed a kiss on his soft nose, and moved on to catch Jack, her second favorite horse co-worker.
Towing Jack behind her, Carlos returned to the small barn and tied him to a rail anchored to the wall. Heading to the equipment rack, she gathered a hoof pick and brushes and began the process of grooming Jack. Once he was clean she retrieved his leather harness out of the tack room and dressed him for work. The monotony gave her a chance to reflect.
It’s almost over, she told herself. Keep all the frustration in check, and focus on the future. Jason had to be served sometime, and while tomorrow would have been more convenient, at least now Oscar and I can move forward. We’ll spend the weekend up at the cabin with Bill, look through the newspaper for a place to live, and move next week.
Finished with getting Jack ready, Carlos entered the driver’s locker room and changed into her work clothes, consisting of black jeans, a white shirt and a dark purple vest topped off by a black cowboy hat. Her preparations complete, she opened the office door and stepped inside to get Oscar.
Nora leaned back in the office chair, feet propped on the desktop, and paged through a tack catalog while Oscar lay sprawled on the floor, coloring book open, scribbling furiously with a fat blue crayon.
“That sounded like a lot of fun.” Nora flipped a dark brown braid out of her face. “Next time, hire a lawyer who doesn’t work out of the basement of his mom’s house and maybe the summons will arrive when it’s supposed to. As it turns out, you do get what you pay for.”
“Mommy!” Oscar dropped his crayons on the floor and jumped up, raising his arms. Carlos lifted her son; love for him flooding through her, as she planted a kiss on his almost white hair and parked him on her hip. He pointed out the door opening into the barn at Jack, patiently standing by the rail.
“Hish,” Oscar said, displaying a toothy baby grin.
“Horse,” Carlos corrected.
“Hish!” Oscar clapped his chubby hands together. “Wide hish! Wide hish!”
“Like mother, like son,” Nora snorted. “Are you taking the little prince to South Gate with you or is he my date for the evening?” Nora walked around the desk and carefully combed Oscar’s hair out of his face, the corn silk blond a stark contrast against her cocoa skin and bright red nails.
“Noowa,” Oscar squealed, reaching to pat Nora’s cheeks with both hands.
“Nor-ra,” Carlos absently corrected him. “No, I’ll take him with me. Bill can pick him up from the hack line when he’s done meeting with his professor. He should only be about an hour or so. It’s early yet, I seriously doubt I’ll pick up any rides between now and then.”
“Has Jason figured out you’re leaving him for Bill?” Nora asked, crossing her arms and leaning against the door frame.
Carlos glanced at her surroundings, cut her eyes towards Oscar, then grimaced. “That’s not the reason I filed for divorce, Nora. Brandy is sixteen, and pregnant. My husband is the father. I’m done.”
“Underage was never a problem for you where Bill was concerned,” Nora smirked.
“There wasn’t twenty years difference between us,” Carlos replied, “only three.” Switching Oscar to her right hip she continued, “Whose side are you on, anyway? Are you jumping over to Team Jason?”
“No, but I want you to be careful.” Nora gave her friend a knowing look. “And smart. I don’t want to see that ass-hat put you in the hospital. Or the morgue. Get moved out as soon as you can. You have a tribe of friends to help, you know?”
An unexpected rush of blood flushed north to Carlos’s face induced by a mix of embarrassment and gratitude at Nora’s remark and tears welled up in her eyes. She did have a support network of friends. She was not as alone as she had believed for the last several years.
“There you go again,” Carlos sniffed back her tears, trying to sound tough, “bossing me around as usual.” But the hand she laid on Nora’s arm and squeezed left no doubt as to her gratitude.
Turning, Carlos hitched Oscar higher on her hip and headed out to her carriage where she settled Oscar in the passenger compartment.
“Stay, baby,” she instructed him.
Collecting Jack from his position on the hitching post in the barn, she proceeded to ground drive him out and harness him to the carriage. When Carlos finished she climbed onto the carriage and patted the spot on the driver’s seat next to her. “Up here, Oscar,” she said, and watched as her nimble son scrambled up over the upholstered seats onto the driver’s box next to her.
“Hish,” Oscar said, pointing at Jack.
“Walk on, Jack,” Carlos instructed the enormous animal.
Jack stepped out and they headed down the carriage company driveway. After passing the stock trailer parked alongside the building Carlos felt the carriage sway. Turning, her heart sank to see Jason, smarmy look on his face, seated in the passenger compartment.
“Jack, ho,” Carlos told the gelding.
“Get out!” she ordered her husband.
“Jack, walk on,” Jason said to the horse.
Carlos tightened the lines, silently instructing Jack to stand still.
The barn office door burst open and Nora emerged, two hundred pounds of attitude and barely controlled animosity. “Problems?” she queried.
Carlos shook her head at Nora.
“Let’s go for a little carriage ride, Carlin. I want to talk about that brother of yours. You know, the one you’re leaving me for.”
Nora and Carlos locked eyes. Sorry, Nora mouthed. Carlos shrugged her shoulders and Nora faded back into the building. Glancing down at Jason she replied, “Once again, not related to me in any manner, we just grew up in the same house.” Carlos slacked the lines and clicked at Jack. The big horse stepped forward.
“You think you have this all figured out, don’t you?”
At Jason’s comment, Carlos swiveled her body so she could watch both Jason and the road. Oscar snuggled up next to her, wrapping his little arms around her waist.
“You think you’re so smart with your fancy private chef job and your butch girlfriends always hanging around, interfering with our lives. Well you know what, missy? I’ll make sure every damn one of them gets fired from this place.”
Carlos rolled her eyes. “That’ll be interesting to see. Your folks won’t have any employees by the time you get through firing all of my friends. Not to mention the ones that’ll just quit. Nobody can stand you, Jason. Nobody will stand by you, either. In the end you’ll be exposed as the pathetic excuse for a man that you are.”
“Is that so?”
Carlos ignored him, snaking her arm around Oscar to tuck him closer to her side. She had no intention of allowing Jason to ruin her life any more than he already had. As Jack plodded down the almost deserted street, she shut out his ranting and focused on piloting the horse and carriage. Turning, she steered Jack as far to the right side of the lane as possible, keeping out of the main flow of traffic.
“Oscar, come down here son. Come to Daddy,” Jason cajoled, followed by a slapping sound.
Carlos felt Oscar turn around. Looking over her shoulder she watched Jason repeat the words and action again, slapping his hands against his thighs.
“He’s not a dog, you monkey-fucker,” Carlos snapped at Jason.
“Money-fuffer!” Oscar squealed, attempting to escape his mom’s grasp and climb into the passenger compartment. Carlos edged closer to the curb as a car passed.
“Nice mouth,” Jason snarled, motioning Oscar to come.
“No, baby-doll,” Carlos corrected, “muf-fa-ler. Muffler.”
“Muf-fa-ler,” Oscar yelled triumphantly as he wriggled away from his mother and scrambled across the seats to Jason’s lap.
“That’s a good boy.” Jason stroked Oscar’s hair. “You stay right back here with me, son, where I can keep an eye on you. You and your mom aren’t going anywhere. I will make sure she never gets to spend another day in your presence if she ever thinks she can pull a stunt like divorcing me.”
The chill Carlos experienced could have been attributed to the shade of the building they passed by, or it might have been due to Jason’s threat. Carlos shook it off, and turned to look at Jason.
“I’m leaving you,” she said through gritted teeth, “I’ve had it with your lies, your drugs, and your fucking anything that can’t outrun you. I know you will never change. I’m taking Oscar with me, and he’ll finally have a father who’s a role model, not a horrible example.” They approached the overpass, and Carlos checked for traffic then veered out of the far right lane and into the left turn lane.
“I know you’ve been with Bill, and you’re dreaming if you think for one minute I’ll just let you walk away from me, and take my child with you,” Jason’s voice rose and took on a mocking tone as he spoke. “Bill’s parents will never allow the two of you to be together; you’ll never be good enough for their son. You’re nothing but trash to them. A burden. A constant reminder of what they lost, getting stuck with you instead.”
A pickup truck loaded with scrap metal rattled past, and Jack flinched a little.
“Easy, boy,” Carlos softly intoned.
Closing her eyes, she shut out the image Jason was creating, trying to replace it with the look on Bill’s face when she finally told him she would divorce Jason. His eyes shining with emotion, the relief on his face and her realization that he worried about her constantly. And the sudden burden lifted from her soul when she finally committed herself to a future with him.
Oscar’s fussing yanked her out of her reverie.
“Lo go, Daddy!” Turning, Carlos watched as Oscar struggled to get out of Jason’s grip, wanting to climb back up onto the box with her.
“Jason, let go of him,” Carlos requested. Her heart jumped as she watched Jason grab Oscar’s arm and wrench him onto the seat beside him. Oscar’s scream sounded of both pain and fear.
“Stop hurting him!” Carlos yelled, her voice lost in the sound of a revving engine. Reaching for the carriage whip, she held it aloft, ready to hit Jason with it should the need arise.
“Wan Mommy!” Oscar cried, sliding off the seat and reaching his arms up towards his mother.
“Look out!” The warning shout came from the office building they’d just passed. She looked to her right and saw a man standing at a window, waving and pointing. She snapped her head to the left just in time to see the delivery truck bearing down on them slam into the carriage.
And then there was nothing.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY (RAFFLECOPTER)