Real Women Wear Red Excerpt


“Dear Abby, I’m over 40 and my life sucks.”

I sipped my Hazelnut Roast in the break room of TGI Graphics, placed my cup on the table, and continued reading from the Los Angeles Times to my co-worker Maggie.

“Dear Abby, I’ve been divorced for five years, and I still haven’t found my second chance.”

“Dear Abby, I’m over 40, divorced, and don’t know how to compete in a young world.”

“Say what?” Maggie interrupted.

“No, wait, there’s one more—it’s the real clincher.”

“Dear Abby, I’m over 40, and I’m dating a much younger man who wants to have kids. Am I too old to start a family?”

“BS. Why should life be any different after 40 than before 40?”

Never mind the obvious reason—I wanted to believe Maggie. But underneath it all, I felt the same way as the letter writer. It had been five years since my divorce and my “second chance” still hadn’t materialized. I got the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach something was wrong whenever I thought about it. I tried to dismiss it, but then sleep became harder and harder to sustain throughout the night. I tossed and turned, woke up, and stared at the ceiling, searching my mind for answers that never came. If I dared mention it, people snickered and suggested something about “hot flashes” and “that age.”

“Well, I’ll tell you I wasn’t going through that.” Not yet. But I was at an age when I came to the depressing realization my life wasn’t working. It wasn’t so much I was unhappy. It was the uneasy feeling my life wasn’t moving forward.

“You’re not going through what, Cyn? Are you still moaning about being over 40? You’re still young yet.”

“So, how come my second chance hasn’t arrived?”

“Okay, listen to Mother Maggie cuz I’m gonna tell you what you should do. Book a Caribbean cruise, dye your hair blonde, and paint your toes pink. People will think you’re a young girl of 30.”

That was easy for Maggie to say. She was still in her thirties and never married, so how did she know what it was like to feel over the hill at 40-something? Maggie did seem to have her finger on the pulse of the singles’ world. But did I want to be a “girl?” And what was up with the color pink? Guess it went along with being a “girl.

Maggie had an answer for that too. “L.A. men are fake. Isn’t that why it all went wrong with your ex?”

Actually, my ex and I were both from the Midwest—Ohio, to be exact. But knowing that didn’t phase her—Maggie was on a roll.

“Besides, on a cruise, you’re bound to meet men from other parts of the country. In civilized areas such as the East Coast.”

She might have a point about men from outside of L.A. Maggie was from New England and she swore the men were different there—nice without being boring. If only it weren’t so darn cold, we’d probably both go back there to find one. Maggie said a cruise would be a way to meet a guy from colder climes without enduring the cold. Would they relocate to L.A.? Hmmm. Wasn’t so sure about this plan, but it was worth a shot.

“If I book a cruise, will you come with me?”

“No, Cyn. Women in groups scare men. You’re much more approachable by yourself. You must go alone. Leave it to me—I’ll book just the right cruise for you.”

Two days later I was face down on Maggie’s bed in her apartment, L’Oreal (“because I’m worth it”) Preference for Blondes, #9½-NB for Natural Blonde piled on my head with my nose stuck in a Cosmo—the magazine, not the drink. A vodka martini, straight up, was my drink. None of these silly, girly drinks for a woman like me, although Maggie insisted I was going to attract an old geezer if I kept drinking martinis.

“Get with it—you gotta drink a colored ’tini. There’s Appletini, Baby Blue Martini, Berry Berry Martini, Bacardi Limon Martini, Key Lime Martini, Chocolate Martini, and the Ultimate Cosmopolitan just for starters,” she said the last time we were enjoying “Ladies Night” at the downtown Embassy Suites bar just two blocks from the office.

I flipped through the magazine, back to front, in my usual fashion. “Older Women and Young Men—How to Snag a Boy Toy” caught my attention. Hmmm… a younger man? There it was again. First Dear Abby and now Cosmo. Boy toys, pink, and girls.

Not sure if I could start drinking pink drinks and call myself a girl, but if that’s what you had to do these days to get a boy, I would consider it.

But did I really want a boy? That sounded like a plaything. I was looking for something more serious. But how did I really feel about having kids? Women my age who found younger men were pressured into having a family. On the other hand, women my age who had met older men were stuck with grown children. They were the second wife and the kids didn’t always accept them. So which way did I want to go?

“Here, stick out your toes,” Maggie commanded, holding a giant bottle of hot pink polish.

“No pink,” I protested.

“Oh, yes, Cyn, you must do pink.”

Maggie had started calling me Cincy, or Cyn for short, because I was originally from Cincinnati, but my real name was Kate, or rather Katherine. I’ve now changed my name, my hair color, and even got a pair of special prescription contact lenses—for those with “eyes over 40.” Who would recognize me now? Taking on a new identity was one thing but wearing pink was another.

I handed Maggie the bottle of “New York Red.”

“No, that’s where I draw the line. I may dye my hair blonde, I may drink pink drinks, but I am not doing pink toe polish. Red, that’s my color. After all, real women wear red.”


Thanks for listening. To check out book 1 and book 2 of this series, go to Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in book 3.


The Book Review Club: Red, White & Dead

Red, White & Dead is book 3 in Laura Caldwell’s Izzy McNeil mystery series (I reviewed books 1&2 in previous reviews). I was so impressed with books 1 and 2, I wondered how I would feel about book 3. It was the best yet.


Izzy McNeil is hot on the trail of one of Chicago’s most notorious gangsters. Not that he realizes the crimson-tressed enchantress, a self-proclaimed “lapsed lawyer,” is moonlighting as a private investigator. But when an unexpected run-in trashes Izzy’s cover, she’s swept into an evil underworld where she is definitely not safe.

That is until Izzy receives help from an unlikely source: the ultimate guardian angel. And the last person she ever dreamed she’d see again. Now Izzy is racing from Chicago to Rome, all the while battling personal demons, Mafiosi killers and red hot emergency desires….

What I loved about this was it got even more personal, plus Laura returned to one of her favorite settings – Italy! I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to give it away.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Red Blooded Murder

Red Blooded Murder is book 2 in Laura Caldwell’s Izzy McNeil mystery series (I reviewed book 1, Red Hot Lies, for last month’s review). I was so impressed with book 1, I wondered how I would feel about book 2. It was even better.

The first book was very fast-paced and introduced many characters and at times I was on overload and had to take breaks now and then. I’m not used to reading such fast-paced books, especially since Laura Caldwell’s earlier books were more of a slower-paced suspense, ramping up to thriller, and now mystery. As mystery readers know, there are a lot of details in a mystery and probably why many are drawn to them – and the fast pace with page-turning excitement.

But what made me enjoy book 2 even more than book 1 (and I loved book 1) is that the mystery in book 2 centered around personal relationships even more than book 1. And that’s what I love about Laura Caldwell’s writing. Even in her mystery series, she has strong characters with interesting relationships, so you don’t just feel like you’re solving a mystery. No, there’s dating, dive bars, Blue Moon Beer, and in the case of book 2, hot, hot, hot sex – or the illusion of it. That’s where I prefer mysteries over romance – Laura Caldwell has romance in her mysteries, the sexual heat is suggested, but the door is mostly closed. I don’t need to read pages and pages of intimate details. I’d love to give you an example and share the best line of book 2, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. 🙂 Instead, I’ll leave you with an excerpt and blurb on the back cover:


For the first time in my adult life I was flying without a net. Fear was nibbling at my insides, creeping its way into my brain. I was buzzing with apprehension. But the job offer from Jane was a bolt of calm, clean sunshine breaking through the murky depths of my nerves.


Chicago is the Windy City, and these days the winds of change are whipping Izzy McNeil’s life all over the map. A high-profile job on Trail TV lands her in the hot seat. After a shocking end to her engagement, she finds herself juggling not only her ex-fiance, but a guy she never expected. And a moonlighting ndercover gig has her digging deep into worlds she barely knew existed.

But all of this takes a backseat when Izzy’s friend winds up brutally murdered. Suddenly, Izzy must balance the demands of a voracious media and the knowledge that she didn’t know her friends as well as she thought.

Next month: you guessed it – book 3, Red, White, & Dead– it just gets better and better.


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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Red Hot Lies

When middle grade author Barrie Summy, creator of “The Book Review Club,” heard I was going to review Red Hot Lies by Laura Caldwell for the July meeting of the club, she said, “…so you’re into titles with “red” and “hot.” LOL! (For those who don’t know, I published a novel called Real Women Wear Red.)

When middle grade author Barrie Summy, creator of “The Book Review Club,” heard I was going to review Red Hot Lies by Laura Caldwell for the July meeting of the club, she said, “…so you’re into titles with “red” and “hot.” LOL! (For those who don’t know, I published a novel called Real Women Wear Red.)

But red is just one thing that Laura Caldwell and I have in common. We also credit Jerry Cleaver of Chicago “The Loft” fame for our early writing. And there’s something about Laura’s voice that resonates with my own and I’ve always said that if I had to point to an author who was most like me, it would be Laura Caldwell – in a teeny tiny way.

I first discovered Laura Caldwell after I wrote the first draft of my second manuscript and read her first published book, the first chick lit novel I’d ever read – Burning the Map. I rewrote my manuscript to be more chick lit after that – I was hooked on chick lit and on Laura Caldwell. With her second book, Look Closely, I could see that Laura was moving toward suspense. And each book moved more and more in that direction until she fully switched to mystery/suspense/thriller when she moved from Harlequin’s Red Dress Ink to Harlequin’s MIRA.

Red Hot Lies is the first book of an Izzy McNeil trilogy – followed by more red: Red Blooded Murder and Red White & Dead. And if I thought we shared similarities in our writing, well Laura leaves me in the dust with the introduction of this trilogy. Wow! Her legal background serves her well, but she retains the personalization of her characters that is so Laura Caldwell. And that’s what I love most about her writing and why I have all of her books and follow her from genre to genre. She’s the only author I can say that about.

So now what is Red Hot Lies about? Here’s the excerpt and blurb on the back cover of the book:


Usually I pride myself on my intuition. I listen to that voice that says, “Something bad is happening…” or maybe “Get out. Now.” But on that Tuesday at the end of October, my psyche must have been protecting the one remaining day I still believed life was orderly and the universe liked me. Because I didn’t hear that voice. I never saw it coming.


They say bad things happen in threes. When her fiancé, Sam, disappears on the same day her mentor and biggest client is killed, hotshot Chicago attorney Izzy McNeil starts counting. But trouble keeps coming. Sam is implicated in the client’s death, her apartment is broken into and it’s not just the authorities who are following her.

Now, to find Sam and uncover her client’s murderer, Izzy will have to push past limits she never imagined. Lucky for her she’s always thrived under pressure, because her world is falling apart. Fast. And the trail of half-truths and lies is red-hot.

I love one reviewer’s quote on the front cover that really captures the essence of the novel:

“Aims for the sweet spot between tough and tender, between thrills and thought–and hits the bull’s-eye. A terrific novel!”–#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

After reading Red Hot Lies, I’m inspired to finish my suspense wip, something that keeps getting put aside. But starting the second book Red Blooded Murder (which is even better than the first), should keep the motivation going, although Laura Caldwell is a tough act to follow.

For more information about Laura Caldwell and her books, visit her web site. For more book reviews of this month’s “The Book Review Club,” click on the icon below.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: April Fool’s Day: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew

With the April meeting of The Book Review Club – hosted by the fabulous I So Don’t Do Mysteries middle grade author Barrie Summy – landed on April Fool’s day, I knew I had to review a book especially appropriate for the day. Especially since Barrie is such a prankster herself. Hmmm… I wonder if there’s an April Fool’s “I So Don’t Do” mystery in the future…

After searching online I found the perfect book to review: April Fool’s Day: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene, of course. And it was available on Kindle. And because our household just got a Kindle, it was the perfect book for me to take Kindle out on a test drive. So I downloaded it on Saturday and finished reading it by Sunday. Being able to immediately download a book was a huge plus – my order for my print books just arrived yesterday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Nancy Drew book. My last Nancy Drew sighting was the movie, Nancy Drew: The Mystery of Hollywood Hills. Used to experiencing Nancy Drew the teenager, this was the first time I was introduced to Nancy Drew, the middle grader – but up-to-date with cell phones, gamer girls, and computers. I would think the middle grade set would love it! Hmmm… I’m sounding rather old just saying that…

Apparently, the Clue Crew was started in 2006 and there are now 24 titles in this series. Here’s the blurb for April Fool’s Day:

Nancy, George, and Bess have been invited to an April Fool’s Day party at their new schoolmate’s house. It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun — each guest is bringing a gag to the party, and the best prank will win a special prize.When two of the guests’ fancy new electronics go missing, Nancy knows something’s up. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? The Clue Crew certainly isn’t laughing, and they’re on the case to find the missing gadgets.

It really was a lot of fun to read, even for me. It took me back to my childhood reading all about Nancy, George, Bess, and Housekeeper Hannah Gruen. But I missed the teen-aged Nancy and boyfriend Ned Nickerson. The best thing about this is that for those middle-graders being introduced to Nancy Drew at this age, they have a whole lot of fun awaiting them with the entire Nancy Drew series. I kinda wish I had a middle grader to introduce Nancy Drew to.

To read more April reviews from The Book Review Club

The Book Review Club: Bet Me

My next review for “The Book Review Club” is Bet Me by Jennifer Cruse. For book reviews by other club members, see Barrie Summy‘s blog.

Where have I been? I must be the last person on the planet to discover how brilliant Jennifer Crusie is. And Bet Me is an example of a practically-perfectly written book. Not only did I love her writing style, but it passed every example of good writing in Margie Lawson’s “Deep Editing” class.

Min Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man like Cal Morrisey, who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Cal Morrisey knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal are dealing with meddling friends, wedding cake, a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kremes, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a frantic bride, Chicken Marsala, a mutant cat, snow globes, two Mothers-from-Hell, great shoes, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of including the biggest gamble of all–unconditional love.

The above blurb excerpt is from the web site of Jennifer Crusie followed by an interesting note about the 10-year history of this book before it made it to publication. Writers especially may want to check it out.

Speaking of which, I mostly read today from a writer’s point of view. And the story behind the story was fascinating to me. Jennifer Crusie is definitely one of those authors a writer can learn from. But it really helps when you love their work. Bet Me stands out because not only is it character-focused with snappy dialogue that is so Jennifer Crusie, but, to me, straddles chick lit and romance. Okay, if chick lit turns you off, let’s call it romantic comedy.

Some people call it romance because there is romantic conflict throughout, but I call it a romantic chick lit or romantic comedy because the characters are flawed, interesting, and self-depracating at times. They are real. Everything about this book is so real. And that’s what I loved about chick lit, but I am also a romantic so it serves up both to me.

You read it and you feel like you are Min, sitting comfortably in your apartment in your sweats with your cat, both licking your chops in anticipation of eating the Chicken Marsala delivered by a man so handsome and suave you call him “The Beast.” Only he doesn’t see your flaws, or if he does, instead of being turned off by them, he celebrates them. Min, always on a diet to please her skinny mother, is emphatic about turning down all carbs. Except that “The Beast” has a way of seducing her with fresly-baked Italian bread and pasta so delicious the look of extreme pleasure envelopes her face until Cal lives for the day he can put that look on her face. Is that hot or what? That’s my kinda guy.

The only drawback in the book may be for regular die-hard romance readers who are going to want more physical romantic payoff more often than what Bet Me delivers. But it tops my favorite books list and I’ll be looking for more Jennifer Crusie titles.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Girlfriend Material

As you may recall, I reviewed Melissa Kantor’s The Breakup Bible for my first book review for Barrie Summy’s “The Book Review Club.” I loved this book so much I had to get Melissa Kantor’s next book Girlfriend Material. Here’s the blurb, courtesy of

If Kate were Lady Brett Ashley, the devastating heroine of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, she’d spend her summers careering around the Riviera in her coupe, breaking hearts by the dozen–because why not? In reality, Kate’s never even had a boyfriend, and she’ll be spending the summer abetting her mom’s lame ploy to make her dad jealous: running off to Cape Cod and crashing at the seaside home of her wealthy friends, the Cooper-Melnicks. To add to the shame, the Cooper-Melnicks’ gorgeous daughter Sarah is a bit like Lady Brett, and she seems less than thrilled to hang out with her new houseguest. Any dreams Kate once had of a perfect summer are ruined.

That is, until Sarah’s cute, witty friend Adam starts drawing Kate into the fold–and seems intrigued. With Adam around, Kate feels like she just might have a bit of heartbreaker potential after all. But when a breezy summer romance quickly grows more complicated can Kate keep pretending her relationship with Adam is just a carefree fling? Or will she take the risk and tell him her real feelings? Suddenly Kate is asking herself a question she never thought she’d stoop to: Is she girlfriend material?

As usual, Melissa Kantor captures teen-age anst in such a way that I, as an adult, can totally relate. So much so, it’s almost painful to relieve some of those feelings – of having to answer to parents, of not being in control of your own life – as much as any adult is in control of their life, that is, being hung up on a guy who seems too smooth to be true, and forced to be with a peer who treats you as if you’re not quite good enough.

Location in a book is very important to me, so, naturally, as a beach lover, I enjoyed the Cape Cod setting, and was so happy the book had little to do with the character’s home town in Utah. 🙂

Melissa Kantor, being a high school English teacher, must have more inside information than I do regarding what teens are doing today, but I do question some of the insights that a teen is supposed to have. I hate to say anything negative, but in some young adult books I’ve read, and this one included, it feels a bit too much like author intrusion, imparting the author’s life experience into the life of the teen character. But, then, it could just be me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and Melissa Kantor is a master at weaving plot elements together for the perfect ending to a book.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.